The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 96

with
bloody foam, and again he closed his eyes. Fainter and fainter came
his breathing, until it was with difficulty that the girl detected any
movement of his breast whatever. She thought that he was dying, and she
was afraid. Wistfully she looked toward the mucker. The man still lay
with his head buried in his arm, but whether he were wrapped in thought,
in slumber, or in death the girl could not tell. At the final thought
she went white with terror.

Slowly she approached the man, and leaning over placed her hand upon his
shoulder.

"Mr. Byrne!" she whispered.

The mucker turned his face toward her. It looked tired and haggard.

"Wot is it?" he asked, and his tone was softer than she had ever heard
it.

"I think Mr. Theriere is dying," she said, "and I--I-- Oh, I am so
afraid."

The man flushed to the roots of his hair. All that he could think of
were the ugly words he had spoken a short time before--and now Theriere
was dying! Byrne would have laughed had anyone suggested that he
entertained any other sentiment than hatred toward the second officer of
the Halfmoon--that is he would have twenty-four hours before; but now,
quite unexpectedly, he realized that he didn't want Theriere to die, and
then it dawned upon him that a new sentiment had been born within him--a
sentiment to which he had been a stranger all his hard life--friendship.

He felt friendship for Theriere! It was unthinkable, and yet the mucker
knew that it was so. Painfully he crawled over to the Frenchman's side.

"Theriere!" he whispered in the man's ear.

The officer turned his head wearily.

"Do youse know me, old pal?" asked the mucker, and Barbara Harding knew
from the man's voice that there were tears in his eyes; but what she did
not know was that they welled there in response to the words the mucker
had just spoken--the nearest approach to words of endearment that ever
had passed his lips.

Theriere reached up and took Byrne's hand. It was evident that he too
had noted the unusual quality of the mucker's voice.

"Yes, old man," he said very faintly, and then "water, please."

Barbara Harding brought him a drink, holding his head against her knee
while he drank. The cool liquid seemed to give him new strength for
presently he spoke, quite strongly.

"I'm going, Byrne," he said; "but before I go I want to tell you that of
all the brave men I ever have known I have learned within the past few
days to believe that you are the bravest. A

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