The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 73

mind another obtruded itself to
shoulder aside the first. It was recollection of the boy's words: "Oh,
Bridge, I don't want to leave you--ever."

"I couldn't do it," mused Bridge. "I don't know just why; but I
couldn't. That kid has certainly got me. The first thing someone knows
I'll be starting a foundlings' home. There is no question but that I am
the soft mark, and I wonder why it is--why a kid I never saw before
last night has a strangle hold on my heart that I can't shake loose--and
don't want to. Now if it was a girl I could understand it." Bridge
stopped suddenly in the middle of the road. From his attitude he might
have been startled either by a surprising noise or by a surprising
thought. For a minute he stood motionless; then he shook his head again
and proceeded along his way toward the little store; evidently if he had
heard anything he was assured that it constituted no menace.

As he entered the store to make his purchases a foxeyed man saw him and
stepped quickly behind the huge stove which had not as yet been taken
down for the summer. Bridge made his purchases, the volume of which
required a large gunny-sack for transportation, and while he was
thus occupied the fox-eyed man clung to his coign of vantage, himself
unnoticed by the purchaser. When Bridge departed the other followed him,
keeping in the shadow of the trees which bordered the street. Around
the edge of town and down a road which led southward the two went until
Bridge passed through a broken fence and halted beside an abandoned
mill. The watcher saw his quarry set down his burden, seat himself
beside it and proceed to roll a cigaret; then he faded away in the
darkness and Bridge was alone.

Five or ten minutes later two slender figures appeared dimly out of the
north. They approached timidly, stopping often and looking first this
way and then that and always listening. When they arrived opposite the
mill Bridge saw them and gave a low whistle. Immediately the two passed
through the fence and approached him.

"My!" exclaimed one. "I thought we never would get here; but we didn't
see a soul on the road. Where is Giova?"

"She hasn't come yet," replied Bridge, "and she may not. I don't see how
a girl can browse around a town like this with a big bear at night and
not be seen, and if she is seen she'll be followed--it would be too much
of a treat for the rubes

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