The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 42

which pans of milk had doubtless stood to cool in a long gone,
happier day. Some of the uprights had rotted away so that a part of the
frail structure had collapsed to the earthen floor. A table with one leg
missing and a crippled chair constituted the balance of the contents of
the cellar and there was no living creature and no chain nor any other
visible evidence of the presence which had clanked so lugubriously
out of the dark depths during the vanished night. The boy breathed
a heartfelt sigh of relief and Bridge laughed, not without a note of
relief either.

"You see there is nothing," he said--"nothing except some firewood which
we can use to advantage. I regret that James is not here to attend me;
but since he is not you and I will have to carry some of this stuff
upstairs," and together they returned to the floor above, their arms
laden with pieces of the dilapidated milk rack. The girl was awaiting
them at the head of the stairs while the two tramps whispered together
at the opposite side of the room.

It took Bridge but a moment to have a roaring fire started in the old
stove in the kitchen, and as the warmth rolled in comforting waves about
them the five felt for the first time in hours something akin to relief
and well being. With the physical relaxation which the heat induced came
a like relaxation of their tongues and temporary forgetfulness of their
antagonisms and individual apprehensions. Bridge was the only member
of the group whose conscience was entirely free. He was not 'wanted'
anywhere, he had no unexpiated crimes to harry his mind, and with the
responsibilities of the night removed he fell naturally into his old,
carefree manner. He hazarded foolish explanations of the uncanny noises
of the night and suggested various theories to account for the presence
and the mysterious disappearance of the dead man.

The General, on the contrary, seriously maintained that the weird sounds
had emanated from the ghost of the murdered man who was, unquestionably,
none other than the long dead Squibb returned to haunt his former home,
and that the scream had sprung from the ghostly lungs of his slain wife
or daughter.

"I wouldn't spend anudder night in this dump," he concluded, "for both
them pockets full of swag The Oskaloosa Kid's packin' around."

Immediately all eyes turned upon the flushing youth. The girl and Bridge
could not prevent their own gazes from wandering to the bulging coat
pockets, the owner of which moved uneasily, at last shooting

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