The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 38

silence of the awful night a
woman's shriek.

Instantly Bridge leaped to his feet. Without a word he tore the bed from
before the door.

"What are you doing?" cried the girl in a muffled scream.

"I am going down to that woman," said Bridge, and he drew the bolt,
rusty and complaining, from its corroded seat.

"No!" screamed the girl, and seconding her the youth sprang to his feet
and threw his arms about Bridge.

"Please! Please!" he cried. "Oh, please don't leave me."

The girl also ran to the man's side and clutched him by the sleeve.

"Don't go!" she begged. "Oh, for God's sake, don't leave us here alone!"

"You heard a woman scream, didn't you?" asked Bridge. "Do you suppose I
can stay in up here when a woman may be facing death a few feet below
me?"

For answer the girl but held more tightly to his arm while the youth
slipped to the floor and embraced the man's knees in a vice-like hold
which he could not break without hurting his detainer.

"Come! Come!" expostulated Bridge. "Let me go."

"Wait!" begged the girl. "Wait until you know that it is a human voice
that screams through this horrible place."

The youth only strained his hold tighter about the man's legs. Bridge
felt a soft cheek pressed to his knee; and, for some unaccountable
reason, the appeal was stronger than the pleading of the girl. Slowly
Bridge realized that he could not leave this defenseless youth alone
even though a dozen women might be menaced by the uncanny death below.
With a firm hand he shot the bolt. "Leave go of me," he said; "I shan't
leave you unless she calls for help in articulate words."

The boy rose and, trembling, pressed close to the man who,
involuntarily, threw a protecting arm about the slim figure. The girl,
too, drew nearer, while the two yeggmen rose and stood in rigid silence
by the window. From below came an occasional rattle of the chain,
followed after a few minutes by the now familiar clanking as the iron
links scraped across the flooring. Mingled with the sound of the chain
there rose to them what might have been the slow and ponderous footsteps
of a heavy man, dragging painfully across the floor. For a few moments
they heard it, and then all was silent.

For a dozen tense minutes the five listened; but there was no repetition
of any sound from below. Suddenly the girl breathed a deep sigh, and
the spell of terror was broken. Bridge felt rather than heard the youth
sobbing softly against his

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