The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 41

dining room and kitchen, inspected the two small
bedrooms off this room, and the summer kitchen beyond. All were empty;
then he turned and re-entering the front room bent his steps toward the
cellar stairs. At the foot of the stairway leading to the second floor
lay the flash lamp that the boy had dropped the night before. Bridge
stooped, picked it up and examined it. It was uninjured and with it in
his hand he continued toward the cellar door.

"Where are you going?" asked The Oskaloosa Kid.

"I'm going to solve the mystery of that infernal clanking," he replied.

"You are not going down into that dark cellar!" It was an appeal, a
question, and a command; and it quivered gaspingly upon the verge of
hysteria.

Bridge turned and looked into the youth's face. The man did not like
cowardice and his eyes were stern as he turned them on the lad from
whom during the few hours of their acquaintance he had received so many
evidences of cowardice; but as the clear brown eyes of the boy met his
the man's softened and he shook his head perplexedly. What was there
about this slender stripling which so disarmed criticism?

"Yes," he replied, "I am going down. I doubt if I shall find anything
there; but if I do it is better to come upon it when I am looking for it
than to have it come upon us when we are not expecting it. If there is
to be any hunting I prefer to be hunter rather than hunted."

He wheeled and placed a foot upon the cellar stairs. The youth followed
him.

"What are you going to do?" asked the man.

"I am going with you," said the boy. "You think I am a coward because I
am afraid; but there is a vast difference between cowardice and fear."

The man made no reply as he resumed the descent of the stairs, flashing
the rays of the lamp ahead of him; but he pondered the boy's words and
smiled as he admitted mentally that it undoubtedly took more courage
to do a thing in the face of fear than to do it if fear were absent.
He felt a strange elation that this youth should choose voluntarily to
share his danger with him, for in his roaming life Bridge had known few
associates for whom he cared.

The beams of the little electric lamp, moving from side to side,
revealed a small cellar littered with refuse and festooned with
cob-webs. At one side tottered the remains of a series of wooden racks
upon

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