The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 6

straight, black eyebrows puckered into a
studious frown, drinking in every word. Now he straightened up. "I guess
I made a mistake," he said, apologetically. "You ain't tramps at all.
You're thieves and murderers and things like that." His eyes opened a
bit wider and his voice sank to a whisper as the words passed his lips.
"But you haven't so much on me, at that," he went on, "for I'm a regular
burglar, too," and from the bulging pockets of his coat he drew two
handfuls of greenbacks and jewelry. The eyes of the six registered
astonishment, mixed with craft and greed. "I just robbed a house in
Oakdale," explained the boy. "I usually rob one every night."

For a moment his auditors were too surprised to voice a single emotion;
but presently one murmured, soulfully: "Pipe de swag!" He of the frock
coat, golf cap, and years waved a conciliatory hand. He tried to look at
the boy's face; but for the life of him he couldn't raise his eyes above
the dazzling wealth clutched in the fingers of those two small,
slim hands. From one dangled a pearl necklace which alone might have
ransomed, if not a king, at least a lesser member of a royal family,
while diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds scintillated in the
flaring light of the fire. Nor was the fistful of currency in the other
hand to be sneezed at. There were greenbacks, it is true; but there were
also yellowbacks with the reddish gold of large denominations. The Sky
Pilot sighed a sigh that was more than half gasp.

"Can't yuh take a kid?" he inquired. "I knew youse all along. Yuh can't
fool an old bird like The Sky Pilot--eh, boys?" and he turned to his
comrades for confirmation.

"He's The Oskaloosa Kid," exclaimed one of the company. "I'd know 'im
anywheres."

"Pull up and set down," invited another.

The boy stuffed his loot back into his pockets and came closer to the
fire. Its warmth felt most comfortable, for the Spring night was growing
chill. He looked about him at the motley company, some half-spruce in
clothing that suggested a Kuppenmarx label and a not too far association
with a tailor's goose, others in rags, all but one unshaven and all
more or less dirty--for the open road is close to Nature, which is
principally dirt.

"Shake hands with Dopey Charlie," said The Sky Pilot, whose age and
corpulency appeared to stamp him with the hall mark of authority. The
youth did as he was bid, smiling into the sullen, chalk-white face and
taking the clammy hand

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