The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 8 out of 8
As Barbara was borne toward the east, Billy Byrne rode
steadily northward. It was his intention to stop at Jose's hut
and deliver the message which Pesita had given him for the
old Indian. Then he would disappear into the mountains to
the west, join Pesita and urge a new raid upon some favored
friend of General Francisco Villa, for Billy had no love for
He should have been glad to pay his respects to El Orobo
Rancho and its foreman; but the fact that Anthony Harding
owned it and that he and Barbara were there was sufficient
effectually to banish all thoughts of revenge along that line.
"Maybe I can get his goat later," he thought, "when he's
away from the ranch. I don't like that stiff, anyhow. He orter
been a harness bull."
It was four o'clock in the morning when Billy dismounted
in front of Jose's hut. He pounded on the door until the
man came and opened it.
"Eh!" exclaimed Jose as he saw who his early morning
visitor was, "you got away from them. Fine!" and the old
man chuckled. "I send word to Pesita two, four hours ago that
Villistas capture Capitan Byrne and take him to Cuivaca."
"Thanks," said Billy. "Pesita wants you to send Esteban to
him. I didn't have no chance to tell you last night while them
pikers was stickin' aroun', so I stops now on my way back to
"I will send Esteban tonight if I can get him; but I do not
know. Esteban is working for the pig, Grayson."
"Wot's he doin' fer Grayson?" asked Billy. "And what was
the Grayson guy doin' up here with you, Jose? Ain't you
gettin' pretty thick with Pesita's enemies?"
"Jose good friends everybody," and the old man grinned.
"Grayson have a job he want good men for. Jose furnish
men. Grayson pay well. Job got nothin' do Pesita, Villa,
Carranza, revolution--just private job. Grayson want senorita.
He pay to get her. That all."
"Oh," said Billy, and yawned. He was not interested in Mr.
Grayson's amours. "Why didn't the poor boob go get her
himself?" he inquired disinterestedly. "He must be a yap to
hire a bunch o' guys to go cop off a siwash girl fer him."
"It is not a siwash girl, Senor Capitan," said Jose. "It is one
beautiful senorita--the daughter of the owner of El Orobo
"What?" cried Billy Byrne. "What's that you say?"
"Yes, Senor Capitan, what of it?" inquired Jose. "Grayson
he pay me furnish the men. Esteban he go with his warriors. I
get Esteban. They go tonight take away the senorita; but not
for Grayson," and the old fellow laughed. "I can no help can
I? Grayson pay me money get men. I get them. I no help if
they keep girl," and he shrugged.
"They're comin' for her tonight?" cried Billy.
"Si, senor," replied Jose. "Doubtless they already take her."
"Hell!" muttered Billy Byrne, as he swung Brazos about so
quickly that the little pony pivoted upon his hind legs and
dashed away toward the south over the same trail he had just
AN INDIAN'S TREACHERY
THE Brazos pony had traveled far that day but for only a
trifle over ten miles had he carried a rider upon his back. He
was, consequently, far from fagged as he leaped forward to
the lifted reins and tore along the dusty river trail back in the
direction of Orobo.
Never before had Brazos covered ten miles in so short a
time, for it was not yet five o'clock when, reeling with fatigue,
he stopped, staggered and fell in front of the office building at
Eddie Shorter had sat in the chair as Barbara and Billy had
last seen him waiting until Byrne should have an ample start
before arousing Grayson and reporting the prisoner's escape.
Eddie had determined that he would give Billy an hour. He
grinned as he anticipated the rage of Grayson and the Villistas
when they learned that their bird had flown, and as he mused
and waited he fell asleep.
It was broad daylight when Eddie awoke, and as he
looked up at the little clock ticking against the wall, and saw
the time he gave an exclamation of surprise and leaped to his
feet. Just as he opened the outer door of the office he saw a
horseman leap from a winded pony in front of the building.
He saw the animal collapse and sink to the ground, and then
he recognized the pony as Brazos, and another glance at the
man brought recognition of him, too.
"You?" cried Eddie. "What are you doin' back here? I
gotta take you now," and he started to draw his revolver; but
Billy Byrne had him covered before ever his hand reached the
grip of his gun.
"Put 'em up!" admonished Billy, "and listen to me. This
ain't no time fer gunplay or no such foolishness. I ain't back
here to be took--get that out o' your nut. I'm tipped off that
a bunch o' siwashes was down here last night to swipe Miss
Harding. Come! We gotta go see if she's here or not, an' don't
try any funny business on me, Eddie. I ain't a-goin' to be
taken again, an' whoever tries it gets his, see?"
Eddie was down off the porch in an instant, and making
for the ranchhouse.
"I'm with you," he said. "Who told you? And who done
"Never mind who told me; but a siwash named Esteban
was to pull the thing off for Grayson. Grayson wanted Miss
Harding an' he was goin' to have her stolen for him."
"The hound!" muttered Eddie.
The two men dashed up onto the veranda of the ranchhouse
and pounded at the door until a Chinaman opened it
and stuck out his head, inquiringly.
"Is Miss Harding here?" demanded Billy.
"Mlissy Hardie Kleep," snapped the servant. "Wally wanee
here flo blekfas?", and would have shut the door in their faces
had not Billy intruded a heavy boot. The next instant he
placed a large palm over the celestial's face and pushed the
man back into the house. Once inside he called Mr. Harding's
"What is it?" asked the gentleman a moment later as he
appeared in a bedroom doorway off the living-room clad in
his pajamas. "What's the matter? Why, gad man, is that you?
Is this really Billy Byrne?"
"Sure," replied Byrne shortly; "but we can't waste any time
chinnin'. I heard that Miss Barbara was goin' to be swiped
last night--I heard that she had been. Now hurry and see if
she is here."
Anthony Harding turned and leaped up the narrow stairway
to the second floor four steps at a time. He hadn't gone
upstairs in that fashion in forty years. Without even pausing
to rap he burst into his daughter's bedroom. It was empty.
The bed was unruffled. It had not been slept in. With a moan
the man turned back and ran hastily to the other rooms upon
the second floor--Barbara was nowhere to be found. Then he
hastened downstairs to the two men awaiting him.
As he entered the room from one end Grayson entered it
from the other through the doorway leading out upon the
veranda. Billy Byrne had heard footsteps upon the boards
without and he was ready, so that as Grayson entered he
found himself looking straight at the business end of a sixshooter.
The foreman halted, and stood looking in surprise
first at Billy Byrne, and then at Eddie Shorter and Mr.
"What does this mean?" he demanded, addressing Eddie.
"What you doin' here with your prisoner? Who told you to
let him out, eh?"
"Can the chatter," growled Billy Byrne. "Shorter didn't let
me out. I escaped hours ago, and I've just come back from
Jose's to ask you where Miss Harding is, you low-lived cur,
you. Where is she?"
"What has Mr. Grayson to do with it?" asked Mr. Harding.
"How should he know anything about it? It's all a mystery to
me--you here, of all men in the world, and Grayson talking
about you as the prisoner. I can't make it out. Quick, though,
Byrne, tell me all you know about Barbara."
Billy kept Grayson covered as he replied to the request of
"This guy hires a bunch of Pimans to steal Miss Barbara,"
he said. "I got it straight from the fellow he paid the money
to for gettin' him the right men to pull off the job. He wants
her it seems," and Billy shot a look at the ranch foreman that
would have killed if looks could. "She can't have been gone
long. I seen her after midnight, just before I made my getaway,
so they can't have taken her very far. This thing here
can't help us none neither, for he don't know where she is
any more'n we do. He thinks he does; but he don't. The
siwashes framed it on him, an' they've doubled-crossed him. I
got that straight too; but, Gawd! I don't know where they've
taken her or what they're goin' to do with her."
As he spoke he turned his eyes for the first time away from
Grayson and looked full in Anthony Harding's face. The
latter saw beneath the strong character lines of the other's
countenance the agony of fear and doubt that lay heavy upon
In the brief instant that Billy's watchful gaze left the figure
of the ranch foreman the latter saw the opportunity he craved.
He was standing directly in the doorway--a single step would
carry him out of range of Byrne's gun, placing a wall between
it and him, and Grayson was not slow in taking that step.
When Billy turned his eyes back the Texan had disappeared,
and by the time the former reached the doorway
Grayson was halfway to the office building on the veranda of
which stood the four soldiers of Villa grumbling and muttering
over the absence of their prisoner of the previous evening.
Billy Byrne stepped out into the open. The ranch foreman
called aloud to the four Mexicans that their prisoner was at
the ranchhouse and as they looked in that direction they saw
him, revolver in hand, coming slowly toward them. There was
a smile upon his lips which they could not see because of the
distance, and which, not knowing Billy Byrne, they would not
have interpreted correctly; but the revolver they did understand,
and at sight of it one of them threw his carbine to his
shoulder. His finger, however, never closed upon the trigger,
for there came the sound of a shot from beyond Billy Byrne
and the Mexican staggered forward, pitching over the edge of
the porch to the ground.
Billy turned his head in the direction from which the shot
had come and saw Eddie Shorter running toward him, a
smoking six-shooter in his right hand.
"Go back," commanded Byrne; "this is my funeral."
"Not on your life," replied Eddie Shorter. "Those greasers
don't take no white man off'n El Orobo, while I'm here. Get
busy! They're comin'."
And sure enough they were coming, and as they came their
carbines popped and the bullets whizzed about the heads of
the two Americans. Grayson, too, had taken a hand upon the
side of the Villistas. From the bunkhouse other men were
running rapidly in the direction of the fight, attracted by the
Billy and Eddie stood their ground, a few paces apart. Two
more of Villa's men went down. Grayson ran for cover. Then
Billy Byrne dropped the last of the Mexicans just as the men
from the bunkhouse came panting upon the scene. There were
both Americans and Mexicans among them. All were armed
and weapons were ready in their hands.
They paused a short distance from the two men. Eddie's
presence upon the side of the stranger saved Billy from instant
death, for Eddie was well liked by both his Mexican and
"What's the fuss?" asked an American.
Eddie told them, and when they learned that the boss's
daughter had been spirited away and that the ranch foreman
was at the bottom of it the anger of the Americans rose to a
"Where is he?" someone asked. They were gathered in a
little cluster now about Billy Byrne and Shorter.
"I saw him duck behind the office building," said Eddie.
"Come on," said another. "We'll get him."
"Someone get a rope." The men spoke in low, ordinary
tones--they appeared unexcited. Determination was the most
apparent characteristic of the group. One of them ran back
toward the bunkhouse for his rope. The others walked slowly
in the direction of the rear of the office building. Grayson was
not there. The search proceeded. The Americans were in
advance. The Mexicans kept in a group by themselves a little
in rear of the others--it was not their trouble. If the gringos
wanted to lynch another gringo, well and good--that was the
gringos' business. They would keep out of it, and they did.
Down past the bunkhouse and the cookhouse to the stables
the searchers made their way. Grayson could not be found. In
the stables one of the men made a discovery--the foreman's
saddle had vanished. Out in the corrals they went. One of the
men laughed--the bars were down and the saddle horses
gone. Eddie Shorter presently pointed out across the pasture
and the river to the skyline of the low bluffs beyond. The
others looked. A horseman was just visible urging his mount
upward to the crest, the two stood in silhouette against the
morning sky pink with the new sun.
"That's him," said Eddie.
"Let him go," said Billy Byrne. "He won't never come back
and he ain't worth chasin'. Not while we got Miss Barbara to
look after. My horse is down there with yours. I'm goin'
down to get him. Will you come, Shorter? I may need help--I
ain't much with a rope yet."
He started off without waiting for a reply, and all the
Americans followed. Together they circled the horses and
drove them back to the corral. When Billy had saddled and
mounted he saw that the others had done likewise.
"We're goin' with you," said one of the men. "Miss Barbara
b'longs to us."
Billy nodded and moved off in the direction of the
ranchhouse. Here he dismounted and with Eddie Shorter and Mr.
Harding commenced circling the house in search of some
manner of clue to the direction taken by the abductors. It was
not long before they came upon the spot where the Indians'
horses had stood the night before. From there the trail led
plainly down toward the river. In a moment ten Americans
were following it, after Mr. Harding had supplied Billy Byrne
with a carbine, another six-shooter, and ammunition.
Through the river and the cut in the barbed-wire fence,
then up the face of the bluff and out across the low mesa
beyond the trail led. For a mile it was distinct, and then
disappeared as though the riders had separated.
"Well," said Billy, as the others drew around him for
consultation, "they'd be goin' to the hills there. They was
Pimans--Esteban's tribe. They got her up there in the hills
somewheres. Let's split up an' search the hills for her.
Whoever comes on 'em first'll have to do some shootin' and the rest
of us can close in an' help. We can go in pairs--then if
one's killed the other can ride out an' lead the way back to
where it happened."
The men seemed satisfied with the plan and broke up into
parties of two. Eddie Shorter paired off with Billy Byrne.
"Spread out," said the latter to his companions. "Eddie an'
I'll ride straight ahead--the rest of you can fan out a few
miles on either side of us. S'long an' good luck," and he
started off toward the hills, Eddie Shorter at his side.
Back at the ranch the Mexican vaqueros lounged about,
grumbling. With no foreman there was nothing to do except
talk about their troubles. They had not been paid since the
looting of the bank at Cuivaca, for Mr. Harding had been
unable to get any silver from elsewhere until a few days since.
He now had assurances that it was on the way to him; but
whether or not it would reach El Orobo was a question.
"Why should we stay here when we are not paid?" asked
one of them.
"Yes, why?" chorused several others.
"There is nothing to do here," said another. "We will go to
Cuivaca. I, for one, am tired of working for the gringos."
This met with the unqualified approval of all, and a few
moments later the men had saddled their ponies and were
galloping away in the direction of sun-baked Cuivaca. They
sang now, and were happy, for they were as little boys playing
hooky from school--not bad men; but rather irresponsible
Once in Cuivaca they swooped down upon the drinking-place,
where, with what little money a few of them had left
they proceeded to get drunk.
Later in the day an old, dried-up Indian entered. He was
hot and dusty from a long ride.
"Hey, Jose!" cried one of the vaqueros from El Orobo
Rancho; "you old rascal, what are you doing here?"
Jose looked around upon them. He knew them all--they
represented the Mexican contingent of the riders of El Orobo.
Jose wondered what they were all doing here in Cuivaca at
one time. Even upon a pay day it never had been the rule of
El Orobo to allow more than four men at a time to come to
"Oh, Jose come to buy coffee and tobacco," he replied. He
looked about searchingly. "Where are the others?" he asked,
"They have ridden after Esteban," explained one of the
vaqueros. "He has run off with Senorita Harding."
Jose raised his eyebrows as though this was all news.
"And Senor Grayson has gone with them?" he asked. "He
was very fond of the senorita."
"Senor Grayson has run away," went on the other speaker.
"The other gringos wished to hang him, for it is said he has
bribed Esteban to do this thing."
Again Jose raised his eyebrows. "Impossible!" he ejaculated.
"And who then guards the ranch?" he asked presently.
"Senor Harding, two Mexican house servants, and a Chinaman,"
and the vaquero laughed.
"I must be going," Jose announced after a moment. "It is a
long ride for an old man from my poor home to Cuivaca, and
The vaqueros were paying no further attention to him, and
the Indian passed out and sought his pony; but when he had
mounted and ridden from town he took a strange direction
for one whose path lies to the east, since he turned his pony's
head toward the northwest.
Jose had ridden far that day, since Billy had left his humble
hut. He had gone to the west to the little rancho of one of
Pesita's adherents who had dispatched a boy to carry word to
the bandit that his Captain Byrne had escaped the Villistas,
and then Jose had ridden into Cuivaca by a circuitous route
which brought him up from the east side of the town.
Now he was riding once again for Pesita; but this time he
would bear the information himself. He found the chief in
camp and after begging tobacco and a cigarette paper the
Indian finally reached the purpose of his visit.
"Jose has just come from Cuivaca," he said, "and there he
drank with all the Mexican vaqueros of El Orobo Rancho--
ALL, my general, you understand. It seems that Esteban has
carried off the beautiful senorita of El Orobo Rancho, and the
vaqueros tell Jose that ALL the American vaqueros have ridden
in search of her--ALL, my general, you understand. In such
times of danger it is odd that the gringos should leave El
Orobo thus unguarded. Only the rich Senor Harding, two
house servants, and a Chinaman remain."
A man lay stretched upon his blankets in a tent next to
that occupied by Pesita. At the sound of the speaker's voice,
low though it was, he raised his head and listened. He heard
every word, and a scowl settled upon his brow. Barbara
stolen! Mr Harding practically alone upon the ranch! And
Pesita in possession of this information!
Bridge rose to his feet. He buckled his cartridge belt about
his waist and picked up his carbine, then he crawled under the
rear wall of his tent and walked slowly off in the direction of
the picket line where the horses were tethered.
"Ah, Senor Bridge," said a pleasant voice in his ear;
Bridge turned quickly to look into the smiling, evil face of
"Oh," he replied, "I'm going out to see if I can't find some
shooting. It's awfully dull sitting around here doing nothing."
"Si, senor," agreed Rozales; "I, too, find it so. Let us
go together--I know where the shooting is best."
"I don't doubt it," thought Bridge; "probably in the back;"
but aloud he said: "Certainly, that will be fine," for he
guessed that Rozales had been set to watch his movements
and prevent his escape, and, perchance, to be the sole witness
of some unhappy event which should carry Senor Bridge to
the arms of his fathers.
Rozales called a soldier to saddle and bridle their horses
and shortly after the two were riding abreast down the trail
out of the hills. Where it was necessary that they ride in single
file Bridge was careful to see that Rozales rode ahead, and the
Mexican graciously permitted the American to fall behind.
If he was inspired by any other motive than simple espionage
he was evidently content to bide his time until chance
gave him the opening he desired, and it was equally evident
that he felt as safe in front of the American as behind him.
At a point where a ravine down which they had ridden
debauched upon a mesa Rozales suggested that they ride to
the north, which was not at all the direction in which Bridge
intended going. The American demurred.
"But there is no shooting down in the valley," urged
"I think there will be," was Bridge's enigmatical reply, and
then, with a sudden exclamation of surprise he pointed over
Rozales' shoulder. "What's that?" he cried in a voice tense
The Mexican turned his head quickly in the direction
Bridge's index finger indicated.
"I see nothing," said Rozales, after a moment.
"You do now, though," replied Bridge, and as the Mexican's
eyes returned in the direction of his companion he was
forced to admit that he did see something--the dismal, hollow
eye of a six-shooter looking him straight in the face.
"Senor Bridge!" exclaimed Rozales. "What are you doing?
What do you mean?"
"I mean," said Bridge, "that if you are at all solicitous of
your health you'll climb down off that pony, not forgetting to
keep your hands above your head when you reach the
ground. Now climb!"
"Turn your back toward me," commanded the American,
and when the other had obeyed him, Bridge dismounted and
removed the man's weapons from his belt. "Now you may go,
Rozales," he said, "and should you ever have an American in
your power again remember that I spared your life when I
might easily have taken it--when it would have been infinitely
safer for me to have done it."
The Mexican made no reply, but the black scowl that
clouded his face boded ill for the next gringo who should be
so unfortunate as to fall into his hands. Slowly he wheeled
about and started back up the trail in the direction of the
"I'll be halfway to El Orobo," thought Bridge, "before he
gets a chance to tell Pesita what happened to him," and then
be remounted and rode on down into the valley, leading
Rozales' horse behind him.
It would never do, he knew, to turn the animal loose too
soon, since he would doubtless make his way back to camp,
and in doing so would have to pass Rozales who would catch
him. Time was what Bridge wanted--to be well on his way to
Orobo before Pesita should learn of his escape.
Bridge knew nothing of what had happened to Billy, for
Pesita had seen to it that the information was kept from the
American. The latter had, nevertheless, been worrying not a
little at the absence of his friend for he knew that he had
taken his liberty and his life in his hands in riding down to El
Orobo among avowed enemies.
Far to his rear Rozales plodded sullenly up the steep trail
through the mountains, revolving in his mind various exquisite
tortures he should be delighted to inflict upon the next gringo
who came into his power.
EDDIE MAKES GOOD
BILLY BYRNE and Eddie Shorter rode steadily in the direction
of the hills. Upon either side and at intervals of a mile or
more stretched the others of their party, occasionally visible;
but for the most part not. Once in the hills the two could no
longer see their friends or be seen by them.
Both Byrne and Eddie felt that chance had placed them
upon the right trail for a well-marked and long-used path
wound upward through a canyon along which they rode. It
was an excellent location for an ambush, and both men
breathed more freely when they had passed out of it into
more open country upon a narrow tableland between the first
foothills and the main range of mountains.
Here again was the trail well marked, and when Eddie,
looking ahead, saw that it appeared to lead in the direction of
a vivid green spot close to the base of the gray brown hills he
gave an exclamation of assurance.
"We're on the right trail all right, old man," he said.
"They's water there," and he pointed ahead at the green
splotch upon the gray. "That's where they'd be havin' their
village. I ain't never been up here so I ain't familiar with the
country. You see we don't run no cattle this side the river--
the Pimans won't let us. They don't care to have no white
men pokin' round in their country; but I'll bet a hat we find a
Onward they rode toward the little spot of green. Sometimes
it was in sight and again as they approached higher
ground, or wound through gullies and ravines it was lost to
their sight; but always they kept it as their goal. The trail they
were upon led to it--of that there could be no longer the
slightest doubt. And as they rode with their destination in
view black, beady eyes looked down upon them from the very
green oasis toward which they urged their ponies--tiring now
from the climb.
A lithe, brown body lay stretched comfortably upon a bed
of grasses at the edge of a little rise of ground beneath which
the riders must pass before they came to the cluster of huts
which squatted in a tiny natural park at the foot of the main
peak. Far above the watcher a spring of clear, pure water
bubbled out of the mountain-side, and running downward
formed little pools among the rocks which held it. And with
this water the Pimans irrigated their small fields before it sank
from sight again into the earth just below their village. Beside
the brown body lay a long rifle. The man's eyes watched,
unblinking, the two specks far below him whom he knew
and had known for an hour were gringos.
Another brown body wormed itself forward to his side and
peered over the edge of the declivity down upon the white
men. He spoke a few words in a whisper to him who watched
with the rifle, and then crawled back again and disappeared.
And all the while, onward and upward came Billy Byrne and
Eddie Shorter, each knowing in his heart that if not already,
then at any moment a watcher would discover them and a
little later a bullet would fly that would find one of them, and
they took the chance for the sake of the American girl who
lay hidden somewhere in these hills, for in no other way could
they locate her hiding place more quickly. Any one of the
other eight Americans who rode in pairs into the hills at other
points to the left and right of Billy Byrne and his companion
would have and was even then cheerfully taking the same
chances that Eddie and Billy took, only the latter were now
assured that to one of them would fall the sacrifice, for as
they had come closer Eddie had seen a thin wreath of smoke
rising from among the trees of the oasis. Now, indeed, were
they sure that they had chanced upon the trail to the Piman
"We gotta keep our eyes peeled," said Eddie, as they
wound into a ravine which from its location evidently led
directly up to the village. "We ain't far from 'em now, an' if
they get us they'll get us about here."
As though to punctuate his speech with the final period a
rifle cracked above them. Eddie jumped spasmodically and
clutched his breast.
"I'm hit," he said, quite unemotionally.
Billy Byrne's revolver had answered the shot from above
them, the bullet striking where Billy had seen a puff of smoke
following the rifle shot. Then Billy turned toward Eddie.
"Hit bad?" he asked.
"Yep, I guess so," said Eddie. "What'll we do? Hide up
here, or ride back after the others?"
Another shot rang out above them, although Billy had been
watching for a target at which to shoot again--a target which
he had been positive he would get when the man rose to fire
again. And Billy did see the fellow at last--a few paces from
where he had first fired; but not until the other had dropped
Eddie's horse beneath him. Byrne fired again, and this time he
had the satisfaction of seeing a brown body rise, struggle a
moment, and then roll over once upon the grass before it
came to rest.
"I reckon we'll stay here," said Billy, looking ruefully at
Eddie rose and as he did so he staggered and grew very
white. Billy dismounted and ran forward, putting an arm
about him. Another shot came from above and Billy Byrne's
pony grunted and collapsed.
"Hell!" exclaimed Byrne. "We gotta get out of this," and
lifting his wounded comrade in his arms he ran for the shelter
of the bluff from the summit of which the snipers had fired
upon them. Close in, hugging the face of the perpendicular
wall of tumbled rock and earth, they were out of range of the
Indians; but Billy did not stop when he had reached temporary
safety. Farther up toward the direction in which lay the
village, and halfway up the side of the bluff Billy saw what he
took to be excellent shelter. Here the face of the bluff was less
steep and upon it lay a number of large bowlders, while others
protruded from the ground about them.
Toward these Billy made his way. The wounded man
across his shoulder was suffering indescribable agonies; but he
bit his lip and stifled the cries that each step his comrade took
seemed to wrench from him, lest he attract the enemy to their
Above them all was silence, yet Billy knew that alert, red
foemen were creeping to the edge of the bluff in search of
their prey. If he could but reach the shelter of the bowlders
before the Pimans discovered them!
The minutes that were consumed in covering the hundred
yards seemed as many hours to Billy Byrne; but at last he
dragged the fainting cowboy between two large bowlders close
under the edge of the bluff and found himself in a little,
natural fortress, well adapted to defense.
From above they were protected from the fire of the
Indians upon the bluff by the height of the bowlder at the
foot of which they lay, while another just in front hid them
from possible marksmen across the canyon. Smaller rocks
scattered about gave promise of shelter from flank fire, and as
soon as he had deposited Eddie in the comparative safety of
their retreat Byrne commenced forming a low breastwork
upon the side facing the village--the direction from which
they might naturally expect attack. This done he turned his
attention to the opening upon the opposite side and soon had
a similar defense constructed there, then he turned his attention
to Eddie, though keeping a watchful eye upon both
approaches to their stronghold.
The Kansan lay upon his side, moaning. Blood stained his
lips and nostrils, and when Billy Byrne opened his shirt and
found a gaping wound in his right breast he knew how
serious was his companion's injury. As he felt Billy working
over him the boy opened his eyes.
"Do you think I'm done for?" he asked in a tortured
"Nothin' doin'," lied Billy cheerfully. "Just a scratch. You'll
be all right in a day or two."
Eddie shook his head wearily. "I wish I could believe you,"
he said. "I ben figgerin' on goin' back to see maw. I ain't
thought o' nothin' else since you told me 'bout how she
missed me. I ken see her right now just like I was there. I'll
bet she's scrubbin' the kitchen floor. Maw was always a-scrubbin'
somethin'. Gee! but it's tough to cash in like this
just when I was figgerin' on goin' home."
Billy couldn't think of anything to say. He turned to look
up and down the canyon in search of the enemy.
"Home!" whispered Eddie. "Home!"
"Aw, shucks!" said Billy kindly. "You'll get home all right,
kid. The boys must a-heard the shootin' an' they'll be along in
no time now. Then we'll clean up this bunch o' coons an'
have you back to El Orobo an' nursed into shape in no
Eddie tried to smile as he looked up into the other's face.
He reached a hand out and laid it on Billy's arm.
"You're all right, old man," he whispered. "I know you're
lyin' an' so do you; but it makes me feel better anyway to
have you say them things."
Billy felt as one who has been caught stealing from a blind
man. The only adequate reply of which he could think was,
"Say," said Eddie after a moment's silence, "if you get out
o' here an' ever go back to the States promise me you'll look
up maw and paw an' tell 'em I was comin' home--to stay.
Tell 'em I died decent, too, will you--died like paw was
always a-tellin' me my granddad died, fightin' Injuns 'round
Fort Dodge somewheres."
"Sure," said Billy; "I'll tell 'em. Gee! Look who's comin'
here," and as he spoke he flattened himself to the ground just
as a bullet pinged against the rock above his head and the
report of a rifle sounded from up the canyon. "That guy most
got me. I'll have to be 'tendin' to business better'n this."
He drew himself slowly up upon his elbows, his carbine
ready in his hand, and peered through a small aperture
between two of the rocks which composed his breastwork.
Then he stuck the muzzle of the weapon through, took aim
and pulled the trigger.
"Didje get him?" asked Eddie.
"Yep," said Billy, and fired again. "Got that one too. Say,
they're tough-lookin' guys; but I guess they won't come so
fast next time. Those two were right in the open, workin' up
to us on their bellies. They must a-thought we was sleepin'."
For an hour Billy neither saw nor heard any sign of the
enemy, though several times be raised his hat above the
breastwork upon the muzzle of his carbine to draw their fire.
It was midafternoon when the sound of distant rifle fire
came faintly to the ears of the two men from somewhere far
"The boys must be comin'," whispered Eddie Shorter hopefully.
For half an hour the firing continued and then silence again
fell upon the mountains. Eddie began to wander mentally. He
talked much of Kansas and his old home, and many times he
begged for water.
"Buck up, kid," said Billy; "the boys'll be along in a minute
now an' then we'll get you all the water you want."
But the boys did not come. Billy was standing up now,
stretching his legs, and searching up and down the canyon for
Indians. He was wondering if he could chance making a break
for the valley where they stood some slight chance of meeting
with their companions, and even as he considered the matter
seriously there came a staccato report and Billy Byrne fell
forward in a heap.
"God!" cried Eddie. "They got him now, they got him."
Byrne stirred and struggled to rise.
"Like'll they got me," he said, and staggered to his knees.
Over the breastwork he saw a half-dozen Indians running
rapidly toward the shelter--he saw them in a haze of red that
was caused not by blood but by anger. With an oath Billy
Byrne leaped to his feet. From his knees up his whole body
was exposed to the enemy; but Billy cared not. He was in a
berserker rage. Whipping his carbine to his shoulder he let
drive at the advancing Indians who were now beyond hope of
cover. They must come on or be shot down where they were,
so they came on, yelling like devils and stopping momentarily
to fire upon the rash white man who stood so perfect a target
But their haste spoiled their marksmanship. The bullets
zinged and zipped against the rocky little fortress, they nicked
Billy's shirt and trousers and hat, and all the while he stood
there pumping lead into his assailants--not hysterically; but
with the cool deliberation of a butcher slaughtering beeves.
One by one the Pimans dropped until but a single Indian
rushed frantically upon the white man, and then the last of
the assailants lunged forward across the breastwork with a
bullet from Billy's carbine through his forehead.
Eddie Shorter had raised himself painfully upon an elbow
that he might witness the battle, and when it was over he sank
back, the blood welling from between his set teeth.
Billy turned to look at him when the last of the Pimans was
disposed of, and seeing his condition kneeled beside him and
took his head in the hollow of an arm.
"You orter lie still," he cautioned the Kansan. "Tain't
good for you to move around much."
"It was worth it," whispered Eddie. "Say, but that was
some scrap. You got your nerve standin' up there against the
bunch of 'em; but if you hadn't they'd have rushed us and
some of 'em would a-got in."
"Funny the boys don't come," said Billy.
"Yes," replied Eddie, with a sigh; "it's milkin' time now, an'
I figgered on goin' to Shawnee this evenin'. Them's nice
cookies, maw. I--"
Billy Byrne was bending low to catch his feeble words, and
when the voice trailed out into nothingness he lowered the
tousled red head to the hard earth and turned away.
Could it be that the thing which glistened on the eyelid of
the toughest guy on the West Side was a tear?
The afternoon waned and night came, but it brought to
Billy Byrne neither renewed attack nor succor. The bullet
which had dropped him momentarily had but creased his
forehead. Aside from the fact that he was blood covered from
the wound it had inconvenienced him in no way, and now
that darkness had fallen he commenced to plan upon leaving
First he transferred Eddie's ammunition to his own person,
and such valuables and trinkets as he thought "maw" might
be glad to have, then he removed the breechblock from
Eddie's carbine and stuck it in his pocket that the weapon
might be valueless to the Indians when they found it.
"Sorry I can't bury you old man," was Billy's parting
comment, as he climbed over the breastwork and melted into
Billy Byrne moved cautiously through the darkness, and he
moved not in the direction of escape and safety but directly
up the canyon in the way that the village of the Pimans lay.
Soon he heard the sound of voices and shortly after saw
the light of cook fires playing upon bronzed faces and upon
the fronts of low huts. Some women were moaning and
wailing. Billy guessed that they mourned for those whom his
bullets had found earlier in the day. In the darkness of the
night, far up among the rough, forbidding mountains it was
all very weird and uncanny.
Billy crept closer to the village. Shelter was abundant. He
saw no sign of sentry and wondered why they should be so
lax in the face of almost certain attack. Then it occurred to
him that possibly the firing he and Eddie had heard earlier in
the day far down among the foothills might have meant the
extermination of the Americans from El Orobo.
"Well, I'll be next then," mused Billy, and wormed closer to
the huts. His eyes were on the alert every instant, as were his
ears; but no sign of that which he sought rewarded his
Until midnight he lay in concealment and all that time the
mourners continued their dismal wailing. Then, one by one,
they entered their huts, and silence reigned within the village.
Billy crept closer. He eyed each hut with longing, wondering
gaze. Which could it be? How could he determine? One
seemed little more promising than the others. He had noted
those to which Indians had retired. There were three into
which he had seen none go. These, then, should be the first to
undergo his scrutiny.
The night was dark. The moon had not yet risen. Only a
few dying fires cast a wavering and uncertain light upon the
scene. Through the shadows Billy Byrne crept closer and
closer. At last he lay close beside one of the huts which was
to be the first to claim his attention.
For several moments he lay listening intently for any sound
which might come from within; but there was none. He
crawled to the doorway and peered within. Utter darkness
shrouded and hid the interior.
Billy rose and walked boldly inside. If he could see no one
within, then no one could see him once he was inside the
door. Therefore, so reasoned Billy Byrne, he would have as
good a chance as the occupants of the hut, should they prove
to be enemies.
He crossed the floor carefully, stopping often to listen. At
last he heard a rustling sound just ahead of him. His fingers
tightened upon the revolver he carried in his right hand, by
the barrel, clublike. Billy had no intention of making any
more noise than necessary.
Again he heard a sound from the same direction. It was
not at all unlike the frightened gasp of a woman. Billy emitted
a low growl, in fair imitation of a prowling dog that has been
Again the gasp, and a low: "Go away!" in liquid feminine
tones--and in English!
Billy uttered a low: "S-s-sh!" and tiptoed closer. Extending
his hands they presently came in contact with a human body
which shrank from him with another smothered cry.
"Barbara!" whispered Billy, bending closer.
A hand reached out through the darkness, found him, and
closed upon his sleeve.
"Who are you?" asked a low voice.
"Billy," he replied. "Are you alone in here?"
"No, an old woman guards me," replied the girl, and at the
same time they both heard a movement close at hand, and
something scurried past them to be silhouetted for an instant
against the path of lesser darkness which marked the location
of the doorway.
"There she goes!" cried Barbara. "She heard you and she
has gone for help."
"Then come!" said Billy, seizing the girl's arm and dragging
her to her feet; but they had scarce crossed half the distance
to the doorway when the cries of the old woman without
warned them that the camp was being aroused.
Billy thrust a revolver into Barbara's hand. "We gotta make
a fight of it, little girl," he said. "But you'd better die than be
As they emerged from the hut they saw warriors running
from every doorway. The old woman stood screaming in
Piman at the top of her lungs. Billy, keeping Barbara in front
of him that he might shield her body with his own, turned
directly out of the village. He did not fire at first hoping that
they might elude detection and thus not draw the fire of the
Indians upon them; but he was doomed to disappointment,
and they had taken scarcely a dozen steps when a rifle spoke
above the noise of human voices and a bullet whizzed past
Then Billy replied, and Barbara, too, from just behind his
shoulder. Together they backed away toward the shadow of
the trees beyond the village and as they went they poured shot
after shot into the village.
The Indians, but just awakened and still half stupid from
sleep, did not know but that they were attacked by a vastly
superior force, and this fear held them in check for several
minutes--long enough for Billy and Barbara to reach the
summit of the bluff from which Billy and Eddie had first been
Here they were hidden from the view of the Indians, and
Billy broke at once into a run, half carrying the girl with a
strong arm about her waist.
"If we can reach the foothills," he said, "I think we can
dodge 'em, an' by goin' all night we may reach the river and
El Orobo by morning. It's a long hike, Barbara, but we gotta
make it--we gotta, for if daylight finds us in the Piman
country we won't never make it. Anyway," he concluded
optimistically, "it's all down hill."
"We'll make it, Billy," she replied, "if we can get past the
"What sentry?" asked Billy. "I didn't see no sentry when I
"They keep a sentry way down the trail all night," replied
the girl. "In the daytime he is nearer the village--on the top
of this bluff, for from here he can see the whole valley; but at
night they station him farther away in a narrow part of the
"It's a mighty good thing you tipped me off," said Billy;
"for I'd a-run right into him. I thought they was all behind us
After that they went more cautiously, and when they
reached the part of the trail where the sentry might be
expected to be found, Barbara warned Billy of the fact. Like
two thieves they crept along in the shadow of the canyon
wall. Inwardly Billy cursed the darkness of the night which
hid from view everything more than a few paces from them;
yet it may have been this very darkness which saved them,
since it hid them as effectually from an enemy as it hid the
enemy from them. They had reached the point where Barbara
was positive the sentry should be. The girl was clinging tightly
to Billy's left arm. He could feel the pressure of her fingers as
they sunk into his muscles, sending little tremors and thrills
through his giant frame. Even in the face of death Billy Byrne
could sense the ecstasies of personal contact with this girl--the
only woman he ever had loved or ever would.
And then a black shadow loomed before them, and a rifle
flashed in their faces without a word or a sign of warning.
"YOU ARE MY GIRL!"
MR. ANTHONY HARDING was pacing back and forth the
length of the veranda of the ranchhouse at El Orobo waiting
for some word of hope from those who had ridden out in
search of his daughter, Barbara. Each swirling dust devil that
eddied across the dry flat on either side of the river roused
hopes within his breast that it might have been spurred into
activity by the hoofs of a pony bearing a messenger of good
tidings; but always his hopes were dashed, for no horseman
emerged from the heat haze of the distance where the little
dust devils raced playfully among the cacti and the greasewood.
But at last, in the northwest, a horseman, unheralded by
gyrating dust column, came into sight. Mr. Harding shook his
head sorrowfully. It had not been from this direction that he
had expected word of Barbara, yet he kept his eyes fastened
upon the rider until the latter reined in at the ranchyard and
loped a tired and sweating pony to the foot of the veranda
steps. Then Mr. Harding saw who the newcomer was.
"Bridge!" he exclaimed. "What brings you back here? Don't
you know that you endanger us as well as yourself by being
seen here? General Villa will think that we have been harboring you."
Bridge swung from the saddle and ran up onto the veranda.
He paid not the slightest attention to Anthony Harding's
"How many men you got here that you can depend on?"
"None," replied the Easterner. "What do you mean?"
"None!" cried Bridge, incredulity and hopelessness showing
upon his countenance. "Isn't there a Chinaman and a couple
of faithful Mexicans?"
"Oh, yes, of course," assented Mr. Harding; "but what are
you driving at?"
"Pesita is on his way here to clean up El Orobo. He can't
be very far behind me. Call the men you got, and we'll get
together all the guns and ammunition on the ranch, and
barricade the ranchhouse. We may be able to stand 'em off.
Have you heard anything of Miss Barbara?"
Anthony Harding shook his head sadly.
"Then we'll have to stay right here and do the best we
can," said Bridge. "I was thinking we might make a run for it
if Miss Barbara was here; but as she's not we must wait for
those who went out after her."
Mr. Harding summoned the two Mexicans while Bridge ran
to the cookhouse and ordered the Chinaman to the ranchhouse.
Then the erstwhile bookkeeper ransacked the bunkhouse for
arms and ammunition. What little he found he
carried to the ranchhouse, and with the help of the others
barricaded the doors and windows of the first floor.
"We'll have to make our fight from the upper windows," he
explained to the ranch owner. "If Pesita doesn't bring too
large a force we may be able to stand them off until you can
get help from Cuivaca. Call up there now and see if you can
get Villa to send help--he ought to protect you from Pesita. I
understand that there is no love lost between the two."
Anthony Harding went at once to the telephone and rang
for the central at Cuivaca.
"Tell it to the operator," shouted Bridge who stood peering
through an opening in the barricade before a front window;
"they are coming now, and the chances are that the first thing
they'll do is cut the telephone wires."
The Easterner poured his story and appeal for help into the
ears of the girl at the other end of the line, and then for a few
moments there was silence in the room as he listened to her
"Impossible!" and "My God! it can't be true," Bridge heard
the older man ejaculate, and then he saw him hang up the
receiver and turn from the instrument, his face drawn and
pinched with an expression of utter hopelessness.
"What's wrong?" asked Bridge.
"Villa has turned against the Americans," replied Harding,
dully. The operator evidently feels friendly toward us, for she
warned me not to appeal to Villa and told me why. Even
now, this minute, the man has a force of twenty-five hundred
ready to march on Columbus, New Mexico. Three Americans
were hanged in Cuivaca this afternoon. It's horrible, sir! It's
horrible! We are as good as dead this very minute. Even if we
stand off Pesita we can never escape to the border through
"It looks bad," admitted Bridge. "In fact it couldn't look
much worse; but here we are, and while our ammunition
holds out about all we can do is stay here and use it. Will you
men stand by us?" he addressed the Chinaman and the two
Mexicans, who assured him that they had no love for Pesita
and would fight for Anthony Harding in preference to going
over to the enemy.
"Good!" exclaimed Bridge, "and now for upstairs. "They'll
be howling around here in about five minutes, and we want
to give them a reception they won't forget."
He led the way to the second floor, where the five took up
positions near the front windows. A short distance from the
ranchhouse they could see the enemy, consisting of a detachment
of some twenty of Pesita's troopers riding at a brisk trot
in their direction.
"Pesita's with them," announced Bridge, presently. "He's
the little fellow on the sorrel. Wait until they are close up,
then give them a few rounds; but go easy on the ammunition
--we haven't any too much."
Pesita, expecting no resistance, rode boldly into the
ranchyard. At the bunkhouse and the office his little force halted
while three or four troopers dismounted and entered the
buildings in search of victims. Disappointed there they moved
toward the ranchhouse.
"Lie low!" Bridge cautioned his companions. "Don't let
them see you, and wait till I give the word before you fire."
On came the horsemen at a slow walk. Bridge waited until
they were within a few yards of the house, then he cried:
"Now! Let 'em have it!" A rattle of rifle fire broke from the
upper windows into the ranks of the Pesitistas. Three troopers
reeled and slipped from their saddles. Two horses dropped in
their tracks. Cursing and yelling, the balance of the horsemen
wheeled and galloped away in the direction of the office
building, followed by the fire of the defenders.
"That wasn't so bad," cried Bridge. "I'll venture a guess
that Mr. Pesita is some surprised--and sore. There they go
behind the office. They'll stay there a few minutes talking it
over and getting up their courage to try it again. Next time
they'll come from another direction. You two," he continued,
turning to the Mexicans, "take positions on the east and
south sides of the house. Sing can remain here with Mr.
Harding. I'll take the north side facing the office. Shoot at the
first man who shows his head. If we can hold them off until
dark we may be able to get away. Whatever happens don't let
one of them get close enough to fire the house. That's what
they'll try for."
It was fifteen minutes before the second attack came. Five
dismounted troopers made a dash for the north side of the
house; but when Bridge dropped the first of them before he
had taken ten steps from the office building and wounded a
second the others retreated for shelter.
Time and again as the afternoon wore away Pesita made
attempts to get men close up to the house; but in each
instance they were driven back, until at last they desisted from
their efforts to fire the house or rush it, and contented
themselves with firing an occasional shot through the windows
"They're waiting for dark," said Bridge to Mr. Harding
during a temporary lull in the hostilities, "and then we're
goners, unless the boys come back from across the river in
"Couldn't we get away after dark?" asked the Easterner.
"It's our only hope if help don't reach us," replied Bridge.
But when night finally fell and the five men made an
attempt to leave the house upon the side away from the office
building they were met with the flash of carbines and the ping
of bullets. One of the Mexican defenders fell, mortally wounded,
and the others were barely able to drag him within and
replace the barricade before the door when five of Pesita's
men charged close up to their defenses. These were finally
driven off and again there came a lull; but all hope of escape
was gone, and Bridge reposted the defenders at the upper
windows where they might watch every approach to the
As the hours dragged on the hopelessness of their position
grew upon the minds of all. Their ammunition was almost
gone--each man had but a few rounds remaining--and it was
evident that Pesita, through an inordinate desire for revenge,
would persist until he had reduced their fortress and claimed
the last of them as his victim.
It was with such cheerful expectations that they awaited the
final assault which would see them without ammunition and
defenseless in the face of a cruel and implacable foe.
It was just before daylight that the anticipated rush
occurred. From every side rang the reports of carbines and the
yells of the bandits. There were scarcely more than a dozen of
the original twenty left; but they made up for their depleted
numbers by the rapidity with which they worked their firearms
and the loudness and ferocity of their savage cries.
And this time they reached the shelter of the veranda and
commenced battering at the door.
At the report of the rifle so close to them Billy Byrne
shoved Barbara quickly to one side and leaped forward to
close with the man who barred their way to liberty.
That they had surprised him even more than he had them
was evidenced by the wildness of his shot which passed
harmlessly above their heads as well as by the fact that he had
permitted them to come so close before engaging them.
To the latter event was attributable his undoing, for it
permitted Billy Byrne to close with him before the Indian
could reload his antiquated weapon. Down the two men went,
the American on top, each striving for a deathhold; but in
weight and strength and skill the Piman was far outclassed by
the trained fighter, a part of whose daily workouts had
consisted in wrestling with proficient artists of the mat.
Barbara Harding ran forward to assist her champion but as
the men rolled and tumbled over the ground she could find
no opening for a blow that might not endanger Billy Byrne
quite as much as it endangered his antagonist; but presently
she discovered that the American required no assistance. She
saw the Indian's head bending slowly forward beneath the
resistless force of the other's huge muscles, she heard the crack
that announced the parting of the vertebrae and saw the limp
thing which had but a moment before been a man, pulsing
with life and vigor, roll helplessly aside--a harmless and
inanimate lump of clay.
Billy Byrne leaped to his feet, shaking himself as a great
mastiff might whose coat had been ruffled in a fight.
"Come!" he whispered. "We gotta beat it now for sure.
That guy's shot'll lead 'em right down to us," and once more
they took up their flight down toward the valley, along an
unknown trail through the darkness of the night.
For the most part they moved in silence, Billy holding the
girl's arm or hand to steady her over the rough and dangerous
portions of the path. And as they went there grew in
Billy's breast a love so deep and so resistless that he found
himself wondering that he had ever imagined that his former
passion for this girl was love.
This new thing surged through him and over him with all
the blind, brutal, compelling force of a mighty tidal wave. It
battered down and swept away the frail barriers of his new-found
gentleness. Again he was the Mucker--hating the artificial
wall of social caste which separated him from this girl;
but now he was ready to climb the wall, or, better still, to
batter it down with his huge fists. But the time was not yet--
first he must get Barbara to a place of safety.
On and on they went. The night grew cold. Far ahead
there sounded the occasional pop of a rifle. Billy wondered
what it could mean and as they approached the ranch and he
discovered that it came from that direction he hastened their
steps to even greater speed than before.
"Somebody's shootin' up the ranch," he volunteered.
"Wonder who it could be."
"Suppose it is your friend and general?" asked the girl.
Billy made no reply. They reached the river and as Billy
knew not where the fords lay he plunged in at the point at
which the water first barred their progress and dragging the
girl after him, plowed bull-like for the opposite shore. Where
the water was above his depth he swam while Barbara clung
to his shoulders. Thus they made the passage quickly and
Billy stopped long enough to shake the water out of his
carbine, which the girl had carried across, and then forged
ahead toward the ranchhouse from which the sounds of battle
came now in increased volume.
And at the ranchhouse "hell was popping." The moment
Bridge realized that some of the attackers had reached the
veranda he called the surviving Mexican and the Chinaman to
follow him to the lower floor where they might stand a better
chance to repel this new attack. Mr. Harding he persuaded to
Outside a dozen men were battering to force an entrance.
Already one panel had splintered, and as Bridge entered the
room he could see the figures of the bandits through the hole
they had made. Raising his rifle he fired through the aperture.
There was a scream as one of the attackers dropped; but the
others only increased their efforts, their oaths, and their threats
The three defenders poured a few rounds through the
sagging door, then Bridge noted that the Chinaman ceased
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Allee gonee," replied Sing, pointing to his ammunition
At the same instant the Mexican threw down his carbine
and rushed for a window on the opposite side of the room. His
ammunition was exhausted and with it had departed his
courage. Flight seemed the only course remaining. Bridge
made no effort to stop him. He would have been glad to fly,
too; but he could not leave Anthony Harding, and he was
sure that the older man would prove unequal to any sustained
flight on foot.
"You better go, too, Sing," he said to the Chinaman,
placing another bullet through the door; "there's nothing more
that you can do, and it may be that they are all on this side
now--I think they are. You fellows have fought splendidly.
Wish I could give you something more substantial than
thanks; but that's all I have now and shortly Pesita won't
even leave me that much."
"Allee light," replied Sing cheerfully, and a second later he
was clambering through the window in the wake of the loyal
And then the door crashed in and half a dozen troopers
followed by Pesita himself burst into the room.
Bridge was standing at the foot of the stairs, his carbine
clubbed, for he had just spent his last bullet. He knew that he
must die; but he was determined to make them purchase his
life as dearly as he could, and to die in defense of Anthony
Harding, the father of the girl he loved, even though hopelessly.
Pesita saw from the American's attitude that he had no
more ammunition. He struck up the carbine of a trooper who
was about to shoot Bridge down.
"Wait!" commanded the bandit. "Cease firing! His ammunition
is gone. Will you surrender?" he asked of Bridge.
"Not until I have beaten from the heads of one or two of
your friends," he replied, "that which their egotism leads them
to imagine are brains. No, if you take me alive, Pesita, you
will have to kill me to do it."
Pesita shrugged. "Very well," he said, indifferently, "it
makes little difference to me--that stairway is as good as a
wall. These brave defenders of the liberty of poor, bleeding
Mexico will make an excellent firing squad. Attention, my
children! Ready! Aim!"
Eleven carbines were leveled at Bridge. In the ghastly light
of early dawn the sallow complexions of the Mexicans took
on a weird hue. The American made a wry face, a slight
shudder shook his slender frame, and then he squared his
shoulders and looked Pesita smilingly in the face,
The figure of a man appeared at the window through
which the Chinaman and the loyal Mexican had escaped.
Quick eyes took in the scene within the room.
"Hey!" he yelled. "Cut the rough stuff!" and leaped into
Pesita, surprised by the interruption, turned toward the
intruder before he had given the command to fire. A smile lit
his features when he saw who it was.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "my dear Captain Byrne. Just in time
to see a traitor and a spy pay the penalty for his crimes."
"Nothin' doin'," growled Billy Byrne, and then he threw his
carbine to his shoulder and took careful aim at Pesita's face.
How easy it would have been to have hesitated a moment
in the window before he made his presence known--just long
enough for Pesita to speak the single word that would have
sent eleven bullets speeding into the body of the man who
loved Barbara and whom Billy believed the girl loved. But did
such a thought occur to Billy Byrne of Grand Avenue? It did
not. He forgot every other consideration beyond his loyalty to
a friend. Bridge and Pesita were looking at him in wide-eyed
"Lay down your carbines!" Billy shot his command at the
firing squad. "Lay 'em down or I'll bore Pesita. Tell 'em to
lay 'em down, Pesita. I gotta bead on your beezer."
Pesita did as he was bid, his yellow face pasty with rage.
"Now their cartridge belts!" snapped Billy, and when these
had been deposited upon the floor he told Bridge to disarm
the bandit chief.
"Is Mr. Harding safe?" he asked of Bridge, and receiving an
affirmative he called upstairs for the older man to descend.
As Mr. Harding reached the foot of the stairs Barbara
entered the room by the window through which Billy had
come--a window which opened upon the side veranda.
"Now we gotta hike," announced Billy. "It won't never be
safe for none of you here after this, not even if you do think
Villa's your friend--which he ain't the friend of no American."
"We know that now," said Mr. Harding, and repeated to
Billy that which the telephone operator had told him earlier in
Marching Pesita and his men ahead of them Billy and the
others made their way to the rear of the office building where
the horses of the bandits were tethered. They were each armed
now from the discarded weapons of the raiders, and well
supplied with ammunition. The Chinaman and the loyal Mexican
also discovered themselves when they learned that the
tables had been turned upon Pesita. They, too, were armed
and all were mounted, and when Billy had loaded the remaining
weapons upon the balance of the horses the party rode
away, driving Pesita's live stock and arms ahead of them.
"I imagine," remarked Bridge, "that you've rather
discouraged pursuit for a while at least," but pursuit came sooner
than they had anticipated.
They had reached a point on the river not far from Jose's
when a band of horsemen appeared approaching from the
west. Billy urged his party to greater speed that they might
avoid a meeting if possible; but it soon became evident that
the strangers had no intention of permitting them to go
unchallenged, for they altered their course and increased their
speed so that they were soon bearing down upon the fugitives
at a rapid gallop.
"I guess," said Billy, "that we'd better open up on 'em. It's
a cinch they ain't no friends of ours anywhere in these parts."
"Hadn't we better wait a moment," said Mr. Harding; "we
do not want to chance making any mistake."
"It ain't never a mistake to shoot a Dago," replied Billy.
His eyes were fastened upon the approaching horsemen, and
he presently gave an exclamation of recognition. "There's
Rozales," he said. "I couldn't mistake that beanpole nowheres.
We're safe enough in takin' a shot at 'em if Rosie's with 'em.
He's Pesita's head guy," and he drew his revolver and took a
single shot in the direction of his former comrades. Bridge
followed his example. The oncoming Pesitistas reined in.
Billy returned his revolver to its holster and drew his carbine.
"You ride on ahead," he said to Mr. Harding and Barbara.
"Bridge and I'll bring up the rear."
Then he stopped his pony and turning took deliberate aim
at the knot of horsemen to their left. A bandit tumbled from
his saddle and the fight was on.
Fortunately for the Americans Rozales had but a handful
of men with him and Rozales himself was never keen for a
fight in the open.
All morning he hovered around the rear of the escaping
Americans; but neither side did much damage to the other,
and during the afternoon Billy noticed that Rozales merely
followed within sight of them, after having dispatched one of
his men back in the direction from which they had come.
"After reinforcements," commented Byrne.
All day they rode without meeting with any roving bands
of soldiers or bandits, and the explanation was all too sinister
to the Americans when coupled with the knowledge that Villa
was to attack an American town that night.
"I wish we could reach the border in time to warn 'em,"
said Billy; "but they ain't no chance. If we cross before sunup
tomorrow morning we'll be doin' well."
He had scarcely spoken to Barbara Harding all day, for his
duties as rear guard had kept him busy; nor had he conversed
much with Bridge, though he had often eyed the latter whose
gaze wandered many times to the slender, graceful figure of
the girl ahead of them.
Billy was thinking as he never had thought before. It
seemed to him a cruel fate that had so shaped their destinies
that his best friend loved the girl Billy loved. That Bridge was
ignorant of Billy's infatuation for her the latter well knew. He
could not blame Bridge, nor could he, upon the other hand,
quite reconcile himself to the more than apparent adoration
which marked his friend's attitude toward Barbara.
As daylight waned the fugitives realized from the shuffling
gait of their mounts, from drooping heads and dull eyes that
rest was imperative. They themselves were fagged, too, and
when a ranchhouse loomed in front of them they decided to
halt for much-needed recuperation.
Here they found three Americans who were totally unaware
of Villa's contemplated raid across the border, and who when
they were informed of it were doubly glad to welcome six
extra carbines, for Barbara not only was armed but was
eminently qualified to expend ammunition without wasting it.
Rozales and his small band halted out of range of the
ranch; but they went hungry while their quarry fed themselves
and their tired mounts.
The Clark brothers and their cousin, a man by the name of
Mason, who were the sole inhabitants of the ranch counseled
a long rest--two hours at least, for the border was still ten
miles away and speed at the last moment might be their sole
means of salvation.
Billy was for moving on at once before the reinforcements,
for which he was sure Rozales had dispatched his messenger,
could overtake them. But the others were tired and argued,
too, that upon jaded ponies they could not hope to escape and
so they waited, until, just as they were ready to continue their
flight, flight became impossible.
Darkness had fallen when the little party commenced to
resaddle their ponies and in the midst of their labors there
came a rude and disheartening interruption. Billy had kept
either the Chinaman or Bridge constantly upon watch toward
the direction in which Rozales' men lolled smoking in the
dark, and it was the crack of Bridge's carbine which awoke
the Americans to the fact that though the border lay but a
few miles away they were still far from safety.
As he fired Bridge turned in his saddle and shouted to the
others to make for the shelter of the ranchhouse.
"There are two hundred of them," he cried. "Run for
Billy and the Clark brothers leaped to their saddles and
spurred toward the point where Bridge sat pumping lead into
the advancing enemy. Mason and Mr. Harding hurried Barbara
to the questionable safety of the ranchhouse. The Mexican
followed them, and Bridge ordered Sing back to assist in
barricading the doors and windows, while he and Billy and
the Clark boys held the bandits in momentary check.
Falling back slowly and firing constantly as they came the
four approached the house while Pesita and his full band
advanced cautiously after them. They had almost reached the
house when Bridge lunged forward from his saddle. The Clark
boys had dismounted and were leading their ponies inside the
house. Billy alone noted the wounding of his friend. Without
an instant's hesitation he slipped from his saddle, ran back to
where Bridge lay and lifted him in his arms. Bullets were
pattering thick about them. A horseman far in advance of his
fellows galloped forward with drawn saber to cut down the
Billy, casting an occasional glance behind, saw the danger
in time to meet it--just, in fact, as the weapon was cutting
through the air toward his head. Dropping Bridge and dodging
to one side he managed to escape the cut, and before the
swordsman could recover Billy had leaped to his pony's side
and seizing the rider about the waist dragged him to the
"Rozales!" he exclaimed, and struck the man as he had
never struck another in all his life, with the full force of his
mighty muscles backed by his great weight, with clenched fist
full in the face.
There was a spurting of blood and a splintering of bone,
and Captain Guillermo Rozales sank senseless to the ground,
his career of crime and rapine ended forever.
Again Billy lifted Bridge in his arms and this time he
succeeded in reaching the ranchhouse without opposition
though a little crimson stream trickled down his left arm to
drop upon the face of his friend as he deposited Bridge upon
the floor of the house.
All night the Pesitistas circled the lone ranchhouse. All
night they poured their volleys into the adobe walls and
through the barricaded windows. All night the little band of
defenders fought gallantly for their lives; but as day
approached the futility of their endeavors was borne in upon
them, for of the nine one was dead and three wounded, and
the numbers of their assailants seemed undiminished.
Billy Byrne had been lying all night upon his stomach
before a window firing out into the darkness at the dim forms
which occasionally showed against the dull, dead background
of the moonless desert.
Presently he leaped to his feet and crossed the floor to the
room in which the horses had been placed.
"Everybody fire toward the rear of the house as fast as they
can," said Billy. "I want a clear space for my getaway."
"Where you goin?" asked one of the Clark brothers.
"North," replied Billy, "after some of Funston's men on the
"But they won't cross," said Mr. Harding. "Washington
won't let them."
"They gotta," snapped Billy Byrne, "an' they will when
they know there's an American girl here with a bunch of
Dagos yappin' around."
"You'll be killed," said Price Clark. "You can't never get
"Leave it to me," replied Billy. "Just get ready an' open
that back door when I give the word, an' then shut it again in
a hurry when I've gone through."
He led a horse from the side room, and mounted it.
"Open her up, boes!" he shouted, and "S'long everybody!"
Price Clark swung the door open. Billy put spurs to his
mount and threw himself forward flat against the animal's
neck. Another moment he was through and a rattling fusillade
of shots proclaimed the fact that his bold feat had not gone
unnoted by the foe.
The little Mexican pony shot like a bolt from a crossbow
out across the level desert. The rattling of carbines only served
to add speed to its frightened feet. Billy sat erect in the saddle,
guiding the horse with his left hand and working his revolver
methodically with his right.
At a window behind him Barbara Harding stood breathless
and spellbound until he had disappeared into the gloom of the
early morning darkness to the north, then she turned with a
weary sigh and resumed her place beside the wounded Bridge
whose head she bathed with cool water, while he tossed in the
delirium of fever.
The first streaks of daylight were piercing the heavens, the
Pesitistas were rallying for a decisive charge, the hopes of the
little band of besieged were at low ebb when from the west
there sounded the pounding of many hoofs.
"Villa," moaned Westcott Clark, hopelessly. "We're done
for now, sure enough. He must be comin' back from his raid
on the border."
In the faint light of dawn they saw a column of horsemen
deploy suddenly into a long, thin line which galloped forward
over the flat earth, coming toward them like a huge, relentless
engine of destruction.
The Pesitistas were watching too. They had ceased firing
and sat in their saddles forgetful of their contemplated charge.
The occupants of the ranchhouse were gathered at the small
"What's them?" cried Mason--"them things floating over
"They're guidons!" exclaimed Price Clark "--the guidons of
the United States cavalry regiment. See 'em! See 'em? God!
but don't they look good?"
There was a wild whoop from the lungs of the advancing
cavalrymen. Pesita's troops answered it with a scattering
volley, and a moment later the Americans were among them in
that famous revolver charge which is now history.
Daylight had come revealing to the watchers in the
ranchhouse the figures of the combatants. In the thick of the fight
loomed the giant figure of a man in nondescript garb which
more closely resembled the apparel of the Pesitistas than it did
the uniforms of the American soldiery, yet it was with them he
fought. Barbara's eyes were the first to detect him.
"There's Mr. Byrne," she cried. "It must have been he who
brought the troops."
"Why, he hasn't had time to reach the border yet,"
remonstrated one of the Clark boys, "much less get back here with
"There he is though," said Mr. Harding. "It's certainly
strange. I can't understand what American troops are doing
across the border--especially under the present administration."
The Pesitistas held their ground for but a moment then they
wheeled and fled; but not before Pesita himself had forced his
pony close to that of Billy Byrne.
"Traitor!" screamed the bandit. "You shall die for this,"
and fired point-blank at the American.
Billy felt a burning sensation in his already wounded left
arm; but his right was still good.
"For poor, bleeding Mexico!" he cried, and put a bullet
through Pesita's forehead.
Under escort of the men of the Thirteenth Cavalry who
had pursued Villa's raiders into Mexico and upon whom Billy
Byrne had stumbled by chance, the little party of fugitives
came safely to United States soil, where all but one breathed
sighs of heartfelt relief.
Bridge was given first aid by members of the hospital corps,
who assured Billy that his friend would not die. Mr. Harding
and Barbara were taken in by the wife of an officer, and it
was at the quarters of the latter that Billy Byrne found her
alone in the sitting-room.
The girl looked up as he entered, a sad smile upon her face.
She was about to ask him of his wound; but he gave her no
"I've come for you," he said. "I gave you up once when I
thought it was better for you to marry a man in your own
class. I won't give you up again. You're mine--you're my girl,
and I'm goin' to take you with me. Were goin' to Galveston
as fast as we can, and from there we're goin' to Rio. You
belonged to me long before Bridge saw you. He can't have
you. Nobody can have you but me, and if anyone tries to
keep me from taking you they'll get killed."
He took a step nearer that brought him close to her. She
did not shrink--only looked up into his face with wide eyes
filled with wonder. He seized her roughly in his arms.
"You are my girl!" he cried hoarsely. "Kiss me!"
"Wait!" she said. "First tell me what you meant by saying
that Bridge couldn't have me. I never knew that Bridge
wanted me, and I certainly have never wanted Bridge. O Billy!
Why didn't you do this long ago? Months ago in New York I
wanted you to take me; but you left me to another man
whom I didn't love. I thought you had ceased to care, Billy,
and since we have been together here--since that night in the
room back of the office--you have made me feel that I was
nothing to you. Take me, Billy! Take me anywhere in the
world that you go. I love you and I'll slave for you--anything
just to be with you."
"Barbara!" cried Billy Byrne, and then his voice was
smothered by the pressure of warm, red lips against his own.
A half hour later Billy stepped out into the street to make
his way to the railroad station that he might procure
transportation for three to Galveston. Anthony Harding was going
with them. He had listened to Barbara's pleas, and had finally
volunteered to back Billy Byrne's flight from the jurisdiction
of the law, or at least to a place where, under a new name, he
could start life over again and live it as the son-in-law of old
Anthony Harding should live.
Among the crowd viewing the havoc wrought by the raiders
the previous night was a large man with a red face. It
happened that he turned suddenly about as Billy Byrne was
on the point of passing behind him. Both men started as
recognition lighted their faces and he of the red face found
himself looking down the barrel of a six-shooter.
"Put it up, Byrne," he admonished the other coolly. "I
didn't know you were so good on the draw."
"I'm good on the draw all right, Flannagan," said Billy,
"and I ain't drawin' for amusement neither. I gotta chance to
get away and live straight, and have a little happiness in life,
and, Flannagan, the man who tries to crab my game is goin'
to get himself croaked. I'll never go back to stir alive. See?"
"Yep," said Flannagan, "I see; but I ain't tryin' to crab
your game. I ain't down here after you this trip. Where you
been, anyway, that you don't know the war's over? Why
Coke Sheehan confessed a month ago that it was him that
croaked Schneider, and the governor pardoned you about ten
"You stringin' me?" asked Billy, a vicious glint in his eyes.
"On the level," Flannagan assured him. "Wait, I gotta
clippin' from the Trib in my clothes somewheres that gives all
He drew some papers from his coat pocket and handed one
"Turn your back and hold up your hands while I read,"
said Byrne, and as Flannagan did as he was bid Billy unfolded
the soiled bit of newspaper and read that which set him
a-trembling with nervous excitement.
A moment later Detective Sergeant Flannagan ventured a
rearward glance to note how Byrne was receiving the joyful
tidings which the newspaper article contained.
"Well, I'll be!" ejaculated the sleuth, for Billy Byrne was
already a hundred yards away and breaking all records in his
dash for the sitting-room he had quitted but a few minutes
It was a happy and contented trio who took the train the
following day on their way back to New York City after
bidding Bridge good-bye in the improvised hospital and exacting
his promise that he would visit them in New York in the
It was a month later; spring was filling the southland with
new, sweet life. The joy of living was reflected in the song of
birds and the opening of buds. Beside a slow-moving stream a
man squatted before a tiny fire. A battered tin can, half filled
with water stood close to the burning embers. Upon a sharpened
stick the man roasted a bit of meat, and as he watched it
curling at the edges as the flame licked it he spoke aloud
though there was none to hear:
Just for a con I'd like to know (yes, he crossed over long ago;
And he was right, believe me, bo!) if somewhere in the South,
Down where the clouds lie on the sea, he found his sweet Penelope
With buds of roses in her hair and kisses on her mouth.
"Which is what they will be singing about me one of these days,"
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