The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 19

a man
just ahead and evidently approaching along the highway.

The youth turned to flee; but the thought of the men tracking him from
that direction brought him to a sudden halt. There was only the road to
the right, then, after all. Cautiously he moved toward it, and at the
same time the words of the voice came clearly through the night:

"'... as, swinging heel and toe,

'We tramped the road to Anywhere, the magic road

to Anywhere,

'The tragic road to Anywhere, such dear, dim years

ago.'"

The voice seemed reassuring--its quality and the annunciation of the
words bespoke for its owner considerable claim to refinement. The youth
had halted again, but he now crouched to one side fearing to reveal his
presence because of the bloody crime he thought he had committed; yet
how he yearned to throw himself upon the compassion of this fine voiced
stranger! How his every fibre cried out for companionship in this night
of his greatest terror; but he would have let the invisible minstrel
pass had not Fate ordained to light the scene at that particular instant
with a prolonged flare of sheet lightning, revealing the two wayfarers
to one another.

The youth saw a slight though well built man in ragged clothes and
disreputable soft hat. The image was photographed upon his brain for
life--the honest, laughing eyes, the well moulded features harmonizing
so well with the voice, and the impossible garments which marked the man
hobo and bum as plainly as though he wore a placard suspended from his
neck.

The stranger halted. Once more darkness enveloped them. "Lovely evening
for a stroll," remarked the man. "Running out to your country place?
Isn't there danger of skidding on these wet roads at night? I told
James, just before we started, to be sure to see that the chains were on
all around; but he forgot them. James is very trying sometimes. Now he
never showed up this evening and I had to start out alone, and he knows
perfectly well that I detest driving after dark in the rain."

The youth found himself smiling. His fear had suddenly vanished. No one
could harbor suspicion of the owner of that cheerful voice.

"I didn't know which road to take," he ventured, in explanation of his
presence at the cross road.

"Oh," exclaimed the man, "are there two

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