The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 53

where he saw three men alighting from a large touring car which
had drawn up before the sagging gate. As the foremost man, big and
broad shouldered, raised his eyes to the building Bridge smothered an
exclamation of surprise and chagrin, nor did he linger to inspect the
other members of the party; but turned and ran quickly back to his
companions.

"We've got to beat it!" he whispered; "they've brought Burton himself
down here."

"Who's Burton?" demanded the youth.

"He's the best operative west of New York City," replied Bridge, as he
moved rapidly toward an outhouse directly in rear of the main building.

Once behind the small, dilapidated structure which had once probably
housed farm implements, Bridge paused and looked about. "They'll search
here," he prophesied, and then; "Those woods look good to me."

The Squibbs' woods, growing rank in the damp ravine at the bottom of the
little valley, ran to within a hundred feet of the out-building. Dense
undergrowth choked the ground to a height of eight or ten feet around
the boles of the close set trees. If they could gain the seclusion
of that tangled jungle there was little likelihood of their being
discovered, provided they were not seen as they passed across the open
space between their hiding place and the wood.

"We'd better make a break for it," advised Bridge, and a moment later
the three moved cautiously toward the wood, keeping the out-house
between themselves and the farm house. Almost in front of them as they
neared the wood they saw a well defined path leading into the thicket.
Single-file they entered, to be almost instantly hidden from view, not
only from the house but from any other point more than a dozen paces
away, for the path was winding, narrow and closely walled by the budding
verdure of the new Spring. Birds sang or twittered about them, the mat
of dead leaves oozed spongily beneath their feet, giving forth no sound
as they passed, save a faint sucking noise as a foot was lifted from
each watery seat.

Bridge was in the lead, moving steadily forward that they might put as
much distance as possible between themselves and the detective should
the latter chance to explore the wood. They had advanced a few hundred
yards when the path crossed through a small clearing the center of which
was destitute of fallen leaves. Here the path was beaten into soft mud
and as Bridge came to it he stopped and bent his gaze incredulously upon
the ground. The girl and the youth, halting upon either side, followed
the direction of

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