The Return of the Mucker

Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Return of the Mucker
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
BILLY BYRNE squared his broad shoulders and filled his deep lungs
with the familiar medium which is known as air in Chicago. He was
standing upon the platform of a New York Central train that was
pulling into the La Salle Street Station, and though the young man was
far from happy something in the nature of content pervaded his being,
for he was coming home.
After something more than a year of world wandering and strange
adventure Billy Byrne was coming back to the great West Side and
Grand Avenue.
Now there is not much upon either side or down the center of long and
tortuous Grand Avenue to arouse enthusiasm, nor was Billy particularly
enthusiastic about that more or less squalid thoroughfare.
The thing that exalted Billy was the idea that he was coming back to
SHOW THEM. He had left under a cloud and with a reputation for
genuine toughness and rowdyism that has seen few parallels even in the
ungentle district of his birth and upbringing.
A girl had changed him. She was as far removed from Billy's sphere as
the stars themselves; but Billy had loved her and learned from her, and
in trying to become more as he knew the men of her class were he had
sloughed off much of the uncouthness that had always been a part of
him, and all of the rowdyism. Billy Byrne was no longer the mucker.

He had given her up because he imagined the gulf between Grand
Avenue and Riverside Drive to be unbridgeable; but he still clung to
the ideals she had awakened in him. He still sought to be all that she
might wish him to be, even though he realized that he never should see
her again.
Grand Avenue would be the easiest place to forget his sorrow--her he
could never forget. And then, his newly awakened pride urged him
back to the haunts of his former life that he might, as he would put it
himself, show them. He wanted the gang to see that he, Billy Byrne,
wasn't afraid to be decent. He wanted some of the neighbors to realize
that he could work steadily and earn an honest living, and he looked
forward with delight to the pleasure and satisfaction of rubbing it in to
some of the saloon keepers and bartenders who had helped keep him
drunk some five days out of seven, for Billy didn't drink any more.
But most of all he wanted to vindicate himself in the eyes of the
once-hated law. He wanted to clear his record of the unjust charge of
murder which had sent him scurrying out of Chicago over a year before,
that night that Patrolman Stanley Lasky of the Lake Street Station had
tipped him off that Sheehan had implicated him in the murder of old
man Schneider.
Now Billy Byrne had not killed Schneider. He had been nowhere near
the old fellow's saloon at the time of the holdup; but Sheehan, who had
been arrested and charged with the crime, was an old enemy of Billy's,
and Sheehan had seen a chance to divert some of the suspicion from
himself and square accounts with Byrne at the same time.
The new Billy Byrne was ready to accept at face value everything
which seemed to belong in any way to the environment of that exalted
realm where dwelt the girl he loved. Law, order, and justice appeared to
Billy in a new light since he had rubbed elbows with the cultured and
He no longer distrusted or feared them. They would give him what he
sought--a square deal.

It seemed odd to Billy that he should be seeking anything from the law
or its minions. For years he had waged a perpetual battle with both.
Now he was coming back voluntarily to give himself up, with every
conviction that he should be exonerated quickly. Billy, knowing his
own innocence, realizing his own integrity, assumed that others must
immediately appreciate both.
"First," thought Billy, "I'll go take a look at little old Grand Ave., then
I'll give myself up. The trial may take a long time, an' if it does I want
to see some of the old bunch first."
So Billy entered an "L" coach and leaning on the sill of an open
window watched grimy Chicago rattle past until the guard's
"Granavenoo" announced the end of his journey.
Maggie Shane was sitting on the upper step of the long flight of stairs
which lean precariously against the scarred face of the frame residence
upon the second floor front of which the lares and penates of the Shane
family are crowded into three ill-smelling rooms.
It was
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