The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 39

breast, while across the room The General
gave a quick, nervous laugh which he as immediately suppressed as though
fearful unnecessarily of calling attention to their presence. The other
vagabond fumbled with his hypodermic needle and the narcotic which would
quickly give his fluttering nerves the quiet they craved.

Bridge, the boy, and the girl shivered together in their soggy clothing
upon the edge of the bed, feeling now in the cold dawn the chill
discomfort of which the excitement of the earlier hours of the night had
rendered them unconscious. The youth coughed.

"You've caught cold," said Bridge, his tone almost self-reproachful, as
though he were entirely responsible for the boy's condition. "We're a
nice aggregation of mollycoddles--five of us sitting half frozen up here
with a stove on the floor below, and just because we heard a noise which
we couldn't explain and hadn't the nerve to investigate." He rose. "I'm
going down, rustle some wood and build a fire in that stove--you two
kids have got to dry those clothes of yours and get warmed up or we'll
have a couple of hospital cases on our hands."

Once again rose a chorus of pleas and objections. Oh, wouldn't he wait
until daylight? See! the dawn was even then commencing to break. They
didn't dare go down and they begged him not to leave them up there
alone.

At this Dopey Charlie spoke up. The 'hop' had commenced to assert its
dominion over his shattered nervous system instilling within him a new
courage and a feeling of utter well-being. "Go on down," said he to
Bridge. "The General an' I'll look after the kids--won't we bo?"

"Sure," assented The General; "we'll take care of 'em."

"I'll tell you what we'll do," said Bridge; "we'll leave the kids up
here and we three'll go down. They won't go, and I wouldn't leave them
up here with you two morons on a bet."

The General and Dopey Charlie didn't know what a moron was but they felt
quite certain from Bridge's tone of voice that a moron was not a nice
thing, and anyway no one could have bribed them to descend into the
darkness of the lower floor with the dead man and the grisly THING that
prowled through the haunted chambers; so they flatly refused to budge an
inch.

Bridge saw in the gradually lighting sky the near approach of full
daylight; so he contented himself with making the girl and the youth
walk briskly to and fro in the hope that stimulated circulation might at
least partially overcome the menace of the damp clothing and

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