The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 52

but then he paused. If he told
all he knew he saw plainly that either the carrier or his father would
profit by it and collect the reward. Fifty dollars!! Willie gasped.

"Well," said Jim, "I gotta be on my way. Here's the Tribune--there ain't
nothin' more fer ye. So long! Giddap!" and he was gone.

"I don' see why he don't carry a whip," mused Jeb Case. "A-gidappin' to
that there tin lizzie," he muttered disgustedly, "jes' like it was as
good as a hoss. But I mind the time, the fust day he got the dinged
thing, he gets out an' tries to lead it by Lem Smith's threshin'
machine."

Jeb Case preferred an audience worthy his mettle; but Willie was better
than no one, yet when he turned to note the effect of his remarks on his
son, Willie was no where to be seen. If Jeb had but known it his young
hopeless was already in the loft of the hay barn deep in a small,
red-covered book entitled: "HOW TO BE A DETECTIVE."

Bridge, who had had no intention of deserting his helpless companions,
appeared at last to yield reluctantly to their pleas. That indefinable
something about the youth which appealed strongly to the protective
instinct in the man, also assured him that the other's mask of
criminality was for the most part assumed even though the stories of the
two yeggmen and the loot bulging pockets argued to the contrary. There
was the chance, however, that the boy had really taken the first step
upon the road toward a criminal career, and if such were the case Bridge
felt morally obligated to protect his new found friend from arrest,
secure in the reflection that his own precept and example would do
more to lead him back into the path of rectitude than would any police
magistrate or penal institute.

For the girl he felt a deep pity. In the past he had had knowledge of
more than one other small-town girl led into wrong doing through the
deadly monotony and flagrant hypocrisy of her environment. Himself
highly imaginative and keenly sensitive, he realized with what depth of
horror the girl anticipated a return to her home and friends after the
childish escapade which had culminated, even through no fault of hers,
in criminal tragedy of the most sordid sort.

As the three held a council of war at the rear of the deserted house
they were startled by the loud squeaking of brake bands on the road in
front. Bridge ran quickly into the kitchen and through to the front
room

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Do you understand?" "Yes," said Willie.
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I can hear them.
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