The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 61

grewsome clanking of a chain from the dark interior of the hovel.

The youth, holding tight to Bridge's sleeve, strove to pull him away.

"Let's go back," he whispered in a voice that trembled so that he could
scarce control it.

"Yes, please," urged the girl. "Here is another path leading toward the
north. We must be close to a road. Let's get away from here."

The digger paused and raised her head, listening, as though she had
caught the faint, whispered note of human voices. She was a black haired
girl of nineteen or twenty, dressed in a motley of flowered calico and
silk, with strings of gold and silver coins looped around her olive
neck. Her bare arms were encircled by bracelets--some cheap and gaudy,
others well wrought from gold and silver. From her ears depended
ornaments fashioned from gold coins. Her whole appearance was barbaric,
her occupation cast a sinister haze about her; and yet her eyes seemed
fashioned for laughter and her lips for kissing.

The watchers remained motionless as the girl peered first in one
direction and then in another, seeking an explanation of the sounds
which had disturbed her. Her brows were contracted into a scowl of
apprehension which remained even after she returned to her labors, and
that she was ill at ease was further evidenced by the frequent pauses
she made to cast quick glances toward the dense tanglewood surrounding
the clearing.

At last the grave was dug. The girl climbed out and stood looking down
upon the quilt wrapped thing at her feet. For a moment she stood there
as silent and motionless as the dead. Only the twittering of birds
disturbed the quiet of the wood. Bridge felt a soft hand slipped into
his and slender fingers grip his own. He turned his eyes to see the
boy at his side gazing with wide eyes and trembling lips at the tableau
within the clearing. Involuntarily the man's hand closed tightly upon
the youth's.

And as they stood thus the silence was shattered by a loud and human
sneeze from the thicket not fifty feet from where they stood. Instantly
the girl in the clearing was electrified into action. Like a tigress
charging those who stalked her she leaped swiftly across the clearing
toward the point from which the disturbance had come. There was an
answering commotion in the underbrush as the girl crashed through, a
slender knife gleaming in her hand.

Bridge and his companions heard the sounds of a swift and short pursuit
followed by voices, one masterful, the other frightened and whimpering;
and a moment afterward the

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