The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 11

youth, heavy eyed but
sleepless, watched the two through half closed lids. A qualm of disgust
sent a sudden shudder through his slight frame. For the first time he
almost regretted having embarked upon a life of crime. He had seen
that the two men were conversing together earnestly, though he could
over-hear nothing they said, and that he had been the subject of their
nocturnal colloquy, for several times a glance or a nod in his direction
assured him of this. And so he lay watching them--not that he was
afraid, he kept reassuring himself, but through curiosity. Why should
he be afraid? Was it not a well known truth that there was honor among
thieves?

But the longer he watched the heavier grew his lids. Several times they
closed to be dragged open again only by painful effort. Finally came a
time that they remained closed and the young chest rose and fell in the
regular breathing of slumber.

The two ragged, rat-hearted creatures rose silently and picked their
way, half-crouched, among the sleepers sprawled between them and The
Oskaloosa Kid. In the hand of Dopey Charlie gleamed a bit of shiny steel
and in his heart were fear and greed. The fear was engendered by the
belief that the youth might be an amateur detective. Dopey Charlie had
had one experience of such and he knew that it was easily possible for
them to blunder upon evidence which the most experienced of operatives
might pass over unnoticed, and the loot bulging pockets furnished a
sufficient greed motive in themselves.

Beside the boy kneeled the man with the knife. He did not raise his
hand and strike a sudden, haphazard blow. Instead he placed the point
carefully, though lightly, above the victim's heart, and then, suddenly,
bore his weight upon the blade.

Abigail Prim always had been a thorn in the flesh of her stepmother--a
well-meaning, unimaginative, ambitious, and rather common woman. Coming
into the Prim home as house-keeper shortly after the death of Abigail's
mother, the second Mrs. Prim had from the first looked upon Abigail
principally as an obstacle to be overcome. She had tried to 'do right by
her'; but she had never given the child what a child most needs and most
craves--love and understanding. Not loving Abigail, the house-keeper
could, naturally, not give her love; and as for understanding her one
might as reasonably have expected an adding machine to understand higher
mathematics.

Jonas Prim loved his daughter. There was nothing, within reason, that
money could buy which he would not have given her for the asking; but
Jonas Prim's love, as his

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