The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 95

emotion took possession of him. It was none
other than a desire to atone in some way for his words. What wonderful
transformation was taking place in the heart of the Kelly gangster?

"Say!" he blurted out suddenly.

Barbara Harding turned questioning eyes toward him. In them was the
cold, haughty aloofness again that had marked her cognizance of him upon
the Halfmoon--the look that had made his hate of her burn most fiercely.
It took the mucker's breath away to witness it, and it made the speech
he had contemplated more difficult than ever--nay, almost impossible.
He coughed nervously, and the old dark, lowering scowl returned to his

"Did you speak?" asked Miss Harding, icily.

Billy Byrne cleared his throat, and then there blurted from his lips
not the speech that he had intended, but a sudden, hateful rush of words
which seemed to emanate from another personality, from one whom Billy
Byrne once had been.

"Ain't dat boob croaked yet?" he growled.

The shock of that brutal question brought Barbara Harding to her feet.
In horror she looked down at the man who had spoken thus of a brave and
noble comrade in the face of death itself. Her eyes blazed angrily as
hot, bitter words rushed to her lips, and then of a sudden she thought
of Byrne's self-sacrificing heroism in returning to Theriere's side in
the face of the advancing samurai--of the cool courage he had displayed
as he carried the unconscious man back to the jungle--of the
devotion, almost superhuman, that had sustained him as he struggled,
uncomplaining, up the steep mountain path with the burden of the
Frenchman's body the while his own lifeblood left a crimson trail behind

Such deeds and these words were incompatible in the same individual.
There could be but one explanation--Byrne must be two men, with as
totally different characters as though they had possessed separate
bodies. And who may say that her hypothesis was not correct--at least
it seemed that Billy Byrne was undergoing a metamorphosis, and at
the instant there was still a question as to which personality should
eventually dominate.

Byrne turned away from the reproach which replaced the horror in
the girl's eyes, and with a tired sigh let his head fall upon his
outstretched arm. The girl watched him for a moment, a puzzled
expression upon her face, and then returned to work above Theriere.

The Frenchman's respiration was scarcely appreciable, yet after a time
he opened his eyes and looked up wearily. At sight of the girl he smiled
wanly, and tried to speak, but a fit of coughing flecked his lips

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