The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 27

resultant light the man saw with a quick glance a large room
furnished with an old walnut bed, dresser, and commode; two lightless
windows opened at the far end toward the road, Bridge assumed; and there
was no door other than that against which he leaned. In the last flicker
of the match the man scanned the door itself for a lock and, to his
relief, discovered a bolt--old and rusty it was, but it still moved
in its sleeve. An instant later it was shot--just as the sound of the
dragging chain ceased outside. Near the door was the great bed, and
this Bridge dragged before it as an additional barricade; then, bearing
nothing more from the hallway, he turned his attention to the two
unconscious forms upon the floor. Unhesitatingly he went to the boy
first though had he questioned himself he could not have told why; for
the youth, undoubtedly, had only swooned, while the girl had been the
victim of a murderous assault and might even be at the point of death.

What was the appeal to the man in the pseudo Oskaloosa Kid? He had
scarce seen the boy's face, yet the terrified figure had aroused within
him, strongly, the protective instinct. Doubtless it was the call of
youth and weakness which find, always, an answering assurance in the
strength of a strong man.

As Bridge groped toward the spot where the boy had fallen his eyes, now
become accustomed to the darkness of the room, saw that the youth was
sitting up. "Well?" he asked. "Feeling better?"

"Where is it? Oh, God! Where is it?" cried the boy. "It will come in
here and kill us as it killed that--that--down stairs."

"It can't get in," Bridge assured him. "I've locked the door and pushed
the bed in front of it. Gad! I feel like an old maid looking under the
bed for burglars."

From the hall came a sudden clanking of the chain accompanied by a loud
pounding upon the bare floor. With a scream the youth leaped to his
feet and almost threw himself upon Bridge. His arms were about the man's
neck, his face buried in his shoulder.

"Oh, don't--don't let it get me!" he cried.

"Brace up, son," Bridge admonished him. "Didn't I tell you that it can't
get in?"

"How do you know it can't get in?" whimpered the youth. "It's the thing
that murdered the man down stairs--it's the thing that murdered the
Squibbs--right here in this room. It got in to them--what is to prevent
its getting in to us. What are doors to such

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