The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 18

too; but he puffed a mile away from the
searchers and he walked more rapidly than they, for his muscles were
younger and his wind unimpaired by dissipation. For a time he carried
the small automatic in his hand; but later, hearing no evidence of
pursuit, he returned it to the pocket in his coat where it had lain when
it had saved him from death beneath the blade of the degenerate Charlie.

For an hour he continued walking rapidly along the winding country road.
He was very tired; but he dared not pause to rest. Always behind him he
expected the sudden onslaught of the bearded, blear-eyed followers
of The Sky Pilot. Terror goaded him to supreme physical effort.
Recollection of the screaming man sinking to the earthen floor of the
hay barn haunted him. He was a murderer! He had slain a fellow man.
He winced and shuddered, increasing his gait until again he almost ran
--ran from the ghost pursuing him through the black night in greater
terror than he felt for the flesh and blood pursuers upon his heels.

And Nature drew upon her sinister forces to add to the fear which the
youth already felt. Black clouds obscured the moon blotting out the soft
kindliness of the greening fields and transforming the budding branches
of the trees to menacing and gloomy arms which appeared to hover with
clawlike talons above the dark and forbidding road. The wind soughed
with gloomy and increasing menace, a sudden light flared across the
southern sky followed by the reverberation of distant thunder.

Presently a great rain drop was blown against the youth's face; the
vividness of the lightning had increased; the rumbling of the thunder
had grown to the proportions of a titanic bombardment; but he dared not
pause to seek shelter.

Another flash of lightning revealed a fork in the road immediately
ahead--to the left ran the broad, smooth highway, to the right a dirt
road, overarched by trees, led away into the impenetrable dark.

The fugitive paused, undecided. Which way should he turn? The better
travelled highway seemed less mysterious and awesome, yet would his
pursuers not naturally assume that he had followed it? Then, of course,
the right hand road was the road for him. Yet still he hesitated, for
the right hand road was black and forbidding; suggesting the entrance to
a pit of unknown horrors.

As he stood there with the rain and the wind, the thunder and the
lightning, horror of the past and terror of the future his only
companions there broke suddenly through the storm the voice of

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