The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 85

bowed head ascended the
steps, guided and assisted by the detective. She did not look up at the
expectant butler waiting for the greeting he was sure Abigail would have
for him; but passed on into the reception hall.

"Your father and Mrs. Prim are in the living room," announced the
butler, stepping forward to draw aside the heavy hangings.

The girl, followed by Burton, entered the brightly lighted room.

"I am very glad, Mr. Prim," said the latter, "to be able to return Miss
Prim to you so quickly and unharmed."

The girl looked up into the face of Jonas Prim. The man voiced an
exclamation of surprise and annoyance. Mrs. Prim gasped and sank upon
a sofa. The girl stood motionless, her eyes once again bent upon the
floor.

"What's the matter?" asked Burton. "What's wrong?"

"Everything is wrong, Mr. Burton," Jonas Prim's voice was crisp and
cold. "This is not my daughter."

Burton looked his surprise and discomfiture. He turned upon the girl.

"What do you mean--" he started; but she interrupted him.

"You are going to ask what I mean by posing as Miss Prim," she said. "I
have never said that I was Miss Prim. You took the word of an ignorant
little farmer's boy and I did not deny it when I found that you intended
bringing me to Mr. Prim, for I wanted to see him. I wanted to ask him to
help me. I have never met him, or his daughter either; but my father and
Mr. Prim have been friends for many years.

"I am Hettie Penning," she continued, addressing Jonas Prim. "My father
has always admired you and from what he has told me I knew that you
would listen to me and do what you could for me. I could not bear to
think of going to the jail in Payson, for Payson is my home. Everybody
would have known me. It would have killed my father. Then I wanted to
come myself and tell you, after reading the reports and insinuations in
the paper, that your daughter was not with Reginald Paynter when he was
killed. She had no knowledge of the crime and as far as I know may not
have yet. I have not seen her and do not know where she is; but I was
present when Mr. Paynter was killed. I have known him for years and have
often driven with him. He stopped me yesterday afternoon on the street
in Payson and talked with me. He was sitting in a car in front of the
bank. After we had

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