The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 5

rolled cigarets. Blear-eyed
and foxy-eyed, bearded and stubbled cheeked, young and old, were the men
the youth looked upon. All were more or less dishevelled and filthy; but
they were human. They were not dogs, or bulls, or croaking frogs. The
boy's heart went out to them. Something that was almost a sob rose in
his throat, and then he turned the corner of the building and stood in
the doorway, the light from the fire playing upon his lithe young figure
clothed in its torn and ill fitting suit and upon his oval face and his
laughing brown eyes. For several seconds he stood there looking at the
men around the fire. None of them had noticed him.

"Tramps!" thought the youth. "Regular tramps." He wondered that they had
not seen him, and then, clearing his throat, he said: "Hello, tramps!"

Six heads snapped up or around. Six pairs of eyes, blear or foxy,
were riveted upon the boyish figure of the housebreaker. "Wotinel!"
ejaculated a frowzy gentleman in a frock coat and golf cap. "Wheredju
blow from?" inquired another. "'Hello, tramps'!" mimicked a third.

The youth came slowly toward the fire. "I saw your fire," he said, "and
I thought I'd stop. I'm a tramp, too, you know."

"Oh," sighed the elderly person in the frock coat. "He's a tramp, he is.
An' does he think gents like us has any time for tramps? An' where might
he be trampin', sonny, without his maw?"

The youth flushed. "Oh say!" he cried; "you needn't kid me just because
I'm new at it. You all had to start sometime. I've always longed for
the free life of a tramp; and if you'll let me go along with you for a
little while, and teach me, I'll not bother you; and I'll do whatever
you say."

The elderly person frowned. "Beat it, kid!" he commanded. "We ain't
runnin' no day nursery. These you see here is all the real thing. Maybe
we asks fer a handout now and then; but that ain't our reg'lar way. You
ain't swift enough to travel with this bunch, kid, so you'd better duck.
Why we gents, here, if we was added up is wanted in about twenty-seven
cities fer about everything from rollin' a souse to crackin' a box and
croakin' a bull. You gotta do something before you can train wid gents
like us, see?" The speaker projected a stubbled jaw, scowled horridly
and swept a flattened palm downward and backward at a right angle to a
hairy arm in eloquent gesture of finality.

The boy had stood with his

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