The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 89

we are both innocent--"

"Oh, shut your damned mouth," interrupted another of the crowd.

Bridge shrugged his shoulders and turned toward the youth who stood very
white but very straight in a far corner of the cell. The man noticed the
bulging pockets of the ill fitting coat; and, for the first time that
night, his heart stood still in the face of fear; but not for himself.

He crossed to the youth's side and put his arm around the slender
figure. "There's no use arguing with them," he said. "They've made
up their minds, or what they think are minds, that we're guilty; but
principally they're out for a sensation. They want to see something die,
and we're it. I doubt if anything could stop them now; they'd think we'd
cheated them if we suddenly proved beyond doubt that we were innocent."

The boy pressed close to the man. "God help me to be brave," he said,
"as brave as you are. We'll go together, Bridge, and on the other side
you'll learn something that'll surprise you. I believe there is 'another
side,' don't you, Bridge?"

"I've never thought much about it," said Bridge; "but at a time like
this I rather hope so--I'd like to come back and haunt this bunch of rat
brained rubes."

His arm slipped down the other's coat and his hand passed quickly behind
the boy from one side to the other; then the door gave and the leaders
of the mob were upon them. A gawky farmer seized the boy and struck him
cruelly across the mouth. It was Jeb Case.

"You beast!" cried Bridge. "Can't you see that that--that's--only a
child? If I don't live long enough to give you yours here, I'll come
back and haunt you to your grave."

"Eh?" ejaculated Jeb Case; but his sallow face turned white, and after
that he was less rough with his prisoner.

The two were dragged roughly from the jail. The great crowd which had
now gathered fought to get a close view of them, to get hold of them, to
strike them, to revile them; but the leaders kept the others back lest
all be robbed of the treat which they had planned. Through town they
haled them and out along the road toward Oakdale. There was some talk of
taking them to the scene of Paynter's supposed murder; but wiser heads
counselled against it lest the sheriff come with a posse of deputies and
spoil their fun.

Beneath a great tree they halted them, and two ropes were thrown over
a stout branch. One of the leaders started

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