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The Oakdale Affair by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part 3 out of 3

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"He said that he could take us right to where Abigail
is," Mr. Prim was explaining to Burton, "and that this
Oskaloosa Kid is with her, and another man and a for-
eign looking girl. He told a wild story about seeing
them burying a dead man in the woods back of
Squibbs' place. I don't know how much to believe, or
whether to believe any of it; but we can't afford not
to run down every clew. I can't believe that my daugh-
ter is wilfully consorting with such men. She always
has been full of life and spirit; but she's got a clean
mind, and her little escapades have always been en-
tirely harmless--at worst some sort of boyish prank. I
simply won't believe it until I see it with my own eyes.
If she's with them she's being held by force."

Burton made no reply. He was not a man to jump to
conclusions. His success was largely due to the fact
that he assumed nothing; but merely ran down each
clew quickly yet painstakingly until he had a foundation
of fact upon which to operate. His theory was that the
simplest way is always the best way and so he never be-
fogged the main issue with any elaborate system of de-
ductive reasoning based on guesswork. Burton never
guessed. He assumed that it was his business to KNOW,
nor was he on any case long before he did know. He
was employed now to find Abigail Prim. Each of the sev-
eral crimes committed the previous night might or might
not prove a clew to her whereabouts; but each must be
run down in the process of elimination before Burton
could feel safe in abandoning it.

Already he had solved one of them to his satisfac-
tion; and Dopey Charlie and The General were, all un-
known to themselves, on the way to the gallows for the
murder of Old John Baggs. When Burton had found
them simulating sleep behind the bushes beside the road
his observant eyes had noticed something that resem-
bled a hurried cache. The excuse of a lost note book had
taken him back to investigate and to find the loot of the
Baggs's crime wrapped in a bloody rag and hastily
buried in a shallow hole.

When Burton and Jonas Prim arrived at the Case farm
they were met by a new Willie. A puffed and important
young man swaggered before them as he retold his tale
and led them through the woods toward the spot where
they were to bag their prey. The last hundred yards was
made on hands and knees; but when the party arrived
at the clearing there was no one in sight, only the hovel
stood mute and hollow-eyed before them.

"They must be inside," whispered Willie to the detec-

Burton passed a whispered word to his followers.
Stealthily they crept through the underbrush until the
cabin was surrounded; then, at a signal from their leader
they rose and advanced upon the structure.

No evidence of life indicated their presence had been
noted, and Burton came to the very door of the cabin
unchallenged. The others saw him pause an instant
upon the threshold and then pass in. They closed be-
hind him. Three minutes later he emerged, shaking his

"There is no one here," he announced.

Willie Case was crestfallen. "But they must be," he
pleaded. "They must be. I saw 'em here just a leetle
while back."

Burton turned and eyed the boy sternly. Willie
quailed. "I seen 'em," he cried. "Hones' I seen 'em. They
was here just a few minutes ago. Here's where they bur-
rit the dead man," and he pointed to the little mound of
earth near the center of the clearing.

"We'll see," commented Burton, tersely, and he sent
two of his men back to the Case farm for spades. When
they returned a few minutes' labor revealed that so
much of Willie's story was true, for a quilt wrapped
corpse was presently unearthed and lying upon the
ground beside its violated grave. Willie's stock rose once
more to par.

In an improvised litter they carried the dead man
back to Case's farm where they left him after notifying
the coroner by telephone. Half of Burton's men were
sent to the north side of the woods and half to the road
upon the south of the Squibbs' farm. There they sep-
arated and formed a thin line of outposts about the
entire area north of the road. If the quarry was within
it could not escape without being seen. In the mean
time Burton telephoned to Oakdale for reinforcements,
as it would require fifty men at least to properly beat the
tangled underbrush of the wood.

o o o

In a clump of willows beside the little stream which
winds through the town of Payson a party of four halted
on the outskirts of the town. There were two men, two
young women and a huge brown bear. The men and
women were, obviously, Gypsies. Their clothing, their
head-dress, their barbaric ornamentation proclaimed the
fact to whoever might pass; but no one passed.

"I think," said Bridge, "that we will just stay where we
are until after dark. We haven't passed or seen a human
being since we left the cabin. No one can know that
we are here and if we stay here until late to-night we
should be able to pass around Payson unseen and reach
the wood to the south of town. If we do meet anyone
to-night we'll stop them and inquire the way to Oakdale
--that'll throw them off the track."

The others acquiesced in his suggestion; but there
were queries about food to be answered. It seemed that
all were hungry and that the bear was ravenous.

"What does he eat?" Bridge asked of Giova.

"Mos' anything," replied the girl. "He like garbage
fine. Often I take him into towns late, ver' late at night
an' he eat swill. I do that to-night. Beppo, he got to be
fed or he eat Giova. I go feed Beppo, you go get food
for us; then we all meet at edge of wood just other side
town near old mill."

During the remainder of the afternoon and well after
dark the party remained hidden in the willows. Then
Giova started out with Beppo in search of garbage cans,
Bridge bent his steps toward a small store upon the
outskirts of town where food could be purchased, The
Oskaloosa Kid having donated a ten dollar bill for the
stocking of the commissariat, and the youth and the
girl made their way around the south end of the town
toward the meeting place beside the old mill.

As Bridge moved through the quiet road at the out-
skirts of the little town he let his mind revert to the
events of the past twenty four hours and as he pon-
dered each happening since he met the youth in the
dark of the storm the preceding night he asked him-
self why he had cast his lot with these strangers. In his
years of vagabondage Bridge had never crossed that in-
visible line which separates honest men from thieves and
murderers and which, once crossed, may never be re-
crossed. Chance and necessity had thrown him often
among such men and women; but never had he been of
them. The police of more than one city knew Bridge--
they knew him, though, as a character and not as a
criminal. A dozen times he had been arraigned upon
suspicion; but as many times had he been released with
a clean bill of morals until of late Bridge had become al-
most immune from arrest. The police who knew him
knew that he was straight and they knew, too, that he
would give no information against another man. For
this they admired him as did the majority of the crim-
inals with whom he had come in contact during his

The present crisis, however, appeared most unprom-
ising to Bridge. Grave crimes had been committed in
Oakdale, and here was Bridge conniving in the escape
of at least two people who might readily be under po-
lice suspicion. It was difficult for the man to bring him-
self to believe that either the youth or the girl was in
any way actually responsible for either of the murders;
yet it appeared that the latter had been present when a
murder was committed and now by attempting to elude
the police had become an accessory after the fact, since
she possessed knowledge of the identity of the actual
murderer; while the boy, by his own admission, had
committed a burglary.

Bridge shook his head wearily. Was he not himself
an accessory after the fact in the matter of two crimes
at least? These new friends, it seemed, were about to
topple him into the abyss which he had studiously
avoided for so long a time. But why should he permit
it? What were they to him?

A freight train was puffing into the siding at the Pay-
son station. Bridge could hear the complaining brakes
a mile away. It would be easy to leave the town and his
dangerous companions far behind him; but even as the
thought forced its way into his 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--

"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 surpris-
ing thought. For a minute he stood motionless; then he
shook his head again and proceeded along his way to-
ward 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 fox-
eyed 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 pur-
chaser. 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 ap-
peared 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. Immedi-
ately the two passed through the fence and approached

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

"She hadn'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 ever to be passed up--and if
she's followed she won't come here. At least I hope she

"What's that?" exclaimed The Oskaloosa Kid. Each
stood in silence, listening.

The girl shuddered. "Even now that I know what it
is it makes me creep," she whispered, as the faint clank-
ing of a distant chain came to their ears.

"We ought to be used to it by this time, Miss Prim,"
said Bridge. "We heard it all last night and a good
part of to-day."

The girl made no comment upon the use of the name
which he had applied to her, and in the darkness he
could not see her features, nor did he see the odd ex-
pression upon the boy's face as he heard the name
addressed to her. Was he thinking of the nocturnal
raid he so recently had made upon the boudoir of Miss
Abigail Prim? Was he pondering the fact that his pock-
ets bulged to the stolen belongings of that young lady?
But whatever was passing in his mind he permitted
none of it to pass his lips.

As the three stood waiting in silence Giova came pres-
ently among them, the beast Beppo lumbering awk-
wardly at her side.

"Did he find anything to eat?" asked the man.

"Oh, yes," exclaimed Giova. "He fill up now. That mak
him better nature. Beppo not so ugly now."

"Well, I'm glad of that," said Bridge. "I haven't been
looking forward much to his company through the
woods to-night--especially while he was hungry!"

Giova laughed a low, musical little laugh. "I don'
think he no hurt you anyway," she said. "Now he know
you my frien'."

"I hope you are quite correct in your surmise," re-
plied Bridge. "But even so I'm not taking any chances."

o o o

Willie Case had been taken to Payson to testify be-
fore the coroner's jury investigating the death of Giova's
father, and with the dollar which The Oskaloosa Kid
had given him in the morning burning in his pocket had
proceeded to indulge in an orgy of dissipation the mo-
ment that he had been freed from the inquest. Ice
cream, red pop, peanuts, candy, and soda water may
have diminished his appetite but not his pride and self-
satisfaction as he sat alone and by night for the first
time in a public eating place. Willie was now a man of
the world, a bon vivant, as he ordered ham and eggs
from the pretty waitress of The Elite Restaurant on
Broadway; but at heart he was not happy for never be-
fore had he realized what a great proportion of his anat-
omy was made up of hands and feet. As he glanced
fearfully at the former, silhouetted against the white of
the table cloth, he flushed scarlet, assured as he was that
the waitress who had just turned away toward the
kitchen with his order was convulsed with laughter
and that every other eye in the establishment was glued
upon him. To assume an air of nonchalance and thereby
impress and disarm his critics Willie reached for a tooth-
pick in the little glass holder near the center of the ta-
ble and upset the sugar bowl. Immediately Willie
snatched back the offending hand and glared ferociously
at the ceiling. He could feel the roots of his hair being
consumed in the heat of his skin. A quick side glance
that required all his will power to consummate showed
him that no one appeared to have noticed his faux pas
and Willie was again slowly returning to normal when
the proprietor of the restaurant came up from behind
and asked him to remove his hat.

Never had Willie Case spent so frightful a half hour
as that within the brilliant interior of The Elite Restau-
rant. Twenty-three minutes of this eternity was con-
sumed in waiting for his order to be served and seven
minutes in disposing of the meal and paying his check.
Willie's method of eating was in itself a sermon on
efficiency--there was no lost motion--no waste of time.
He placed his mouth within two inches of his plate
after cutting his ham and eggs into pieces of a size that
would permit each mouthful to enter without wedging;
then he mixed his mashed potatoes in with the result
and working his knife and fork alternately with bewild-
ering rapidity shot a continuous stream of food into his
gaping maw.

In addition to the meat and potatoes there was one
vegetable in a side-dish and as dessert four prunes. The
meat course gone Willie placed the vegetable dish on
the empty plate, seized a spoon in lieu of knife and
fork and--presto! the side-dish was empty. Whereupon
the prune dish was set in the empty side-dish--four deft
motions and there were no prunes--in the dish. The en-
tire feat had been accomplished in 6:34 1/2, setting a
new world's record for red-headed farmer boys with one
splay foot.

In the remaining twenty five and one half seconds
Willie walked what seemed to him a mile from his seat
to the cashier's desk and at the last instant bumped into
a waitress with a trayful of dishes. Clutched tightly in
Willie's hand was thirty five cents and his check with a
like amount written upon it. Amid the crash of crockery
which followed the collision Willie slammed check and
money upon the cashier's desk and fled. Nor did he
pause until in the reassuring seclusion of a dark side-
street. There Willie sank upon the curb alternately cold
with fear and hot with shame, weak and panting, and
into his heart entered the iron of class hatred, searing
it to the core.

Fortunately for youth it recuperates rapidly from mor-
tal blows, and so it was that another half hour found
Willie wandering up and down Broadway but at the
far end of the street from The Elite Restaurant. A mo-
tion picture theater arrested his attention; and pres-
ently, parting with one of his two remaining dimes, he
entered. The feature of the bill was a detective melo-
drama. Nothing in the world could have better suited
Willie's psychic needs. It recalled his earlier feats of
the day, in which he took pardonable pride, and raised
him once again to a self-confidence he had not felt since
be entered the ever to be hated Elite Restaurant.

The show over Willie set forth afoot for home. A
long walk lay ahead of him. This in itself was bad
enough; but what lay at the end of the long walk was
infinitely worse, as Willie's father had warned him to
return immediately after the inquest, in time for milk-
ing, preferably. Before he had gone two blocks from the
theater Willie had concocted at least three tales to ac-
count for his tardiness, either one of which would have
done credit to the imaginative powers of a Rider Hag-
gard or a Jules Verne; but at the end of the third
block he caught a glimpse of something which drove
all thoughts of home from his mind and came but
barely short of driving his mind out too. He was ap-
proaching the entrance to an alley. Old trees grew in the
parkway at his side. At the street corner a half block
away a high flung arc swung gently from its support-
ing cables, casting a fair light upon the alley's mouth,
and just emerging from behind the nearer fence Willie
Case saw the huge bulk of a bear. Terrified, Willie
jumped behind a tree; and then, fearful lest the animal
might have caught sight or scent of him he poked his
head cautiously around the side of the bole just in
time to see the figure of a girl come out of the alley be-
hind the bear. Willie recognized her at the first glance--
she was the very girl he had seen burying the dead man
in the Squibbs woods. Instantly Willie Case was trans-
formed again into the shrewd and death defying sleuth.
At a safe distance he followed the girl and the bear
through one alley after another until they came out upon
the road which leads south from Payson. He was across
the road when she joined Bridge and his companions.
When they turned toward the old mill he followed them,
listening close to the rotting clapboards for any chance
remark which might indicate their future plans. He
heard them debating the wisdom of remaining where
they were for the night or moving on to another loca-
tion which they had evidently decided upon but no
clew to which they dropped.

"The objection to remaining here," said Bridge, "is
that we can't make a fire to cook by--it would be too
plainly visible from the road."

"But I can no fin' road by dark," explained Giova. "It
bad road by day, ver' much worse by night. Beppo no
come 'cross swamp by night. No, we got stay here til

"All right," replied Bridge, "we can eat some of this
canned stuff and have our ham and coffee after we
reach camp tomorrow morning, eh?"

"And now that we've gotten through Payson safely,"
suggested The Oskaloosa Kid, "let's change back into
our own clothes. This disguise makes me feel too con-

Willie Case had heard enough. His quarry would re-
main where it was over night, and a moment later Willie
was racing toward Payson and a telephone as fast as his
legs would carry him.

In an old brick structure a hundred yards below the
mill where the lighting machinery of Payson had been
installed before the days of the great central power-
plant a hundred miles away four men were smoking as
they lay stretched upon the floor.

"I tell you I seen him," asserted one of the party. "I
follered this Bridge guy from town to the mill. He was
got up like a Gyp; but I knew him all right, all right.
This scenery of his made me tink there was something
phoney doin', or I wouldn't have trailed him, an' its a
good ting I done it, fer he hadn't ben there five min-
utes before along comes The Kid an' a skirt and pretty
soon a nudder chicken wid a calf on a string, er mebbie
it was a sheep--it was pretty husky lookin' fer a sheep
though. An' I sticks aroun' a minute until I hears this
here Bridge guy call the first skirt 'Miss Prim.'"

He ceased speaking to note the effect of his words on
his hearers. They were electrical. The Sky Pilot sat up
straight and slapped his thigh. Soup Face opened his
mouth, letting his pipe fall out into his lap, setting fire
to his ragged trousers. Dirty Eddie voiced a characteris-
tic obscenity.

"So you sees," went on Columbus Blackie, "we got a
chanct to get both the dame and The Kid. Two of us
can take her to Oakdale an' claim the reward her old
man's offerin' an' de odder two can frisk de Kid, an'--

"An' wot?" queried The Sky Pilot.

"Dere's de swamp handy," suggested Soup Face.

"I was tinkin' of de swamp," said Columbus Blackie.

"Eddie and I will return Miss Prim to her bereaved
parents," interrupted The Sky Pilot. "You, Blackie, and
Soup Face can arrange matters with The Oskaloosa Kid.
I don't care for details. We will all meet in Toledo as
soon as possible and split the swag. We ought to make
a cleaning on this job, boes."

"You split a mout'ful then," said Columbus Blackie.

They fell to discussing way and means.

"We'd better wait until they're asleep," counseled
The Sky Pilot. "Two of us can tackle this Bridge and
hand him the k.o. quick. Eddie and Soup Face had
better attend to that. Blackie can nab The Kid an' I'll
annex Miss Abigail Prim. The lady with the calf we
don't want. We'll tell her we're officers of the law an'
that she'd better duck with her live stock an' keep her
trap shut if she don't want to get mixed up with a mur-
der trial."

o o o

Detective Burton was at the county jail in Oakdale
administering the third degree to Dopey Charlie and
The General when there came a long distance telephone
call for him.

"Hello!" said the voice at the other end of the line;
"I'm Willie Case, an' I've found Miss Abigail Prim."

"Again?" queried Burton.

"Really," asserted Willie. "I know where she's goin' to
be all night. I heard 'em say so. The Oskaloosie Kid's
with her an' annuder guy an' the girl I seen with the
dead man in Squibbs' woods an' they got a BEAR!" It
was almost a shriek. "You'd better come right away
an' bring Mr. Prim. I'll meet you on the ol' Toledo road
right south of Payson, an' say, do I get the whole re-

"You'll get whatever's coming to you, son," replied
Burton. "You say there are two men and two women--
are you sure that is all?"

"And the bear," corrected Willie.

"All right, keep quiet and wait for me," cautioned
Burton. "You'll know me by the spot light on my car--
I'll have it pointed straight up into the air. When you
see it coming get into the middle of the road and wave
your hands to stop us. Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Willie.

"And don't talk to anyone," Burton again cautioned

A few minutes later Burton left Oakdale with his two
lieutenants and a couple of the local policemen, the car
turning south toward Payson and moving at ever ac-
celerating speed as it left the town streets behind it and
swung smoothly onto the country road.

o o o

It was after midnight when four men cautiously ap-
proached the old mill. There was no light nor any sign of
life within as they crept silently through the doorless
doorway. Columbus Blackie was in the lead. He flashed
a quick light around the interior revealing four forms
stretched upon the floor, deep in slumber. Into the
blacker shadows of the far end of the room the man
failed to shine his light for the first flash had shown
him those whom he sought. Picking out their quarry the
intruders made a sudden rush upon the sleepers.

Bridge awoke to find two men attempting to rain
murderous blows upon his head. Wiry, strong and full
of the vigor of a clean life, he pitted against their
greater numbers and cowardly attack a defense which
was infinitely more strenuous than they had expected.

Columbus Blackie leaped for The Oskaloosa Kid,
while The Sky Pilot seized upon Abigail Prim. No one
paid any attention to Giova, nor, with the noise and con-
fusion, did the intruders note the sudden clanking of a
chain from out the black depths of the room's further
end, or the splintering of a half decayed studding.

Soup Face entangling himself about Bridge's legs suc-
ceeded in throwing the latter to the floor while Dirty
Eddie kicked viciously at the prostrate man's head. The
Sky Pilot seized Abigail Prim about the waist and
dragged her toward the doorway and though the girl
fought valiantly to free herself her lesser muscles were
unable to cope successfully with those of the man. Co-
lumbus Blackie found his hands full with The Oskaloosa
Kid. Again and again the youth struck him in the face;
but the man persisted, beating down the slim hands
and striking viciously at body and head until, at last,
the boy, half stunned though still struggling, was
dragged from the room.

Simultaneously a series of frightful growls reverber-
ated through the deserted mill. A huge body cata-
pulted into the midst of the fighters. Abigail Prim
screamed. "The bear!" she cried. "The bear is loose!"

Dirty Eddie was the first to feel the weight of Beppo's
wrath. His foot drawn back to implant a vicious kick in
Bridge's face he paused at the girl's scream and at the
same moment a huge thing reared up before him. Just
for an instant he sensed the terrifying presence of some
frightful creature, caught the reflected gleam of two
savage eyes and felt the hot breath from distended
jaws upon his cheek, then Beppo swung a single terrific
blow which caught the man upon the side of the head
to spin him across the floor and drop him in a crumpled
heap against the wall, with a fractured skull. Dirty
Eddie was out. Soup Face, giving voice to a scream more
bestial than human, rose to his feet and fled in the oppo-
site direction.

Beppo paused and looked about. He discovered
Bridge lying upon the floor and sniffed at him. The
man lay perfectly quiet. He had heard that often times
a bear will not molest a creature which it thinks dead.
Be that as it may Beppo chanced at that moment to
glance toward the doorway. There, silhouetted against
the lesser darkness without, he saw the figures of Co-
lumbus Blackie and The Oskaloosa Kid and with a
growl he charged them. The two were but a few paces
outside the doorway when the full weight of the great
bear struck Columbus Blackie between the shoulders.
Down went the man and as he fell he released his hold
upon the youth who immediately turned and ran for the

The momentum of the bear carried him past the body
of his intended victim who, frightened but uninjured,
scrambled to his feet and dashed toward the rear of the
mill in the direction of the woods and distant swamp.
Beppo, recovering from his charge, wheeled in time to
catch a glimpse of his quarry after whom he made with
all the awkwardness that was his birthright and with
the speed of a race horse.

Columbus Blackie, casting a terrified glance rear-
ward, saw his Nemesis flashing toward him, and dodged
around a large tree. Again Beppo shot past the man
while the latter, now shrieking for help, raced madly
in a new direction.

Bridge had arisen and come out of the mill. He called
aloud for The Oskaloosa Kid. Giova answered him from
a small tree. "Climb!" she cried. "Climb a tree! Ever'one
climb a small tree. Beppo he go mad. He keel ever'one.
Run! Climb! He keel me. Beppo he got evil-eye."

Along the road from the north came a large touring
car, swinging from side to side in its speed. Its brilliant
headlights illuminated the road far ahead. They picked
out The Sky Pilot and Abigail Prim, they found The
Oskaloosa Kid climbing a barbed wire fence and then
with complaining brakes the car came to a sudden stop.
Six men leaped from the machine and rounded up the
three they had seen. Another came running toward
them. It was Soup Face, so thoroughly terrified that he
would gladly have embraced a policeman in uniform,
could the latter have offered him protection.

A boy accompanied the newcomers. "There he is!" he
screamed, pointing at The Oskaloosa Kid. "There he is!
And you've got Miss Prim, too, and when do I get the

"Shut up!" said one of the men.

"Watch this bunch," said Burton to one of his lieuten-
ants, "while we go after the rest of them. There are some
over by the mill. I can hear them."

From the woods came a fearfilled scream mingled
with the savage growls of a beast.

"It's the bear," shrilled Willie Case, and ran toward
the automobile.

Bridge ran forward to meet Burton. "Get that girl and
the kid into your machine and beat it!" he cried. "There's
a bear loose here, a regular devil of a bear. You can't do
a thing unless you have rifles. Have you?"

"Who are you?" asked the detective.

"He's one of the gang," yelled Willie Case from the
fancied security of the tonneau. "Seize him!" He wanted
to add: "My men"; but somehow his nerve failed him at
the last moment; however he had the satisfaction of
thinking it.

Bridge was placed in the car with Abigail Prim, The
Oskaloosa Kid, Soup Face and The Sky Pilot. Burton
sent the driver back to assist in guarding them; then he
with the remaining three, two of whom were armed
with rifles, advanced toward the mill. Beyond it they
heard the growling of the bear at a little distance in the
wood; but the man no longer made any outcry. From
a tree Giova warned them back.

"Come down!" commanded Burton, and sent her
back to the car.

The driver turned his spot light upon the wood be-
yond the mill and presently there came slowly forward
into its rays the lumbering bulk of a large bear. The
light bewildered him and he paused, growling. His left
shoulder was partially exposed.

"Aim for his chest, on the left side," whispered Bur-
ton. The two men raised their rifles. There were two re-
ports in close succession. Beppo fell forward without a
sound and then rolled over on his side. Giova covered
her face with her hands and sobbed.

"He ver' bad, ugly bear," she said brokenly; "but he
all I have to love."

Bridge extended a hand and patted her bowed head.
In the eyes of The Oskaloosa Kid there glistened some-
thing perilously similar to tears.

In the woods back of the mill Burton and his men
found the mangled remains of Columbus Blackie, and
when they searched the interior of the structure they
brought forth the unconscious Dirty Eddie. As the car
already was taxed to the limit of its carrying capacity
Burton left two of his men to march The Kid and Bridge
to the Payson jail, taking the others with him to Oak-
dale. He was also partially influenced in this decision by
the fear that mob violence would be done the principals
by Oakdale's outraged citizens. At Payson he stopped
long enough at the town jail to arrange for the reception
of the two prisoners, to notify the coroner of the death
of Columbus Blackie and the whereabouts of his body
and to place Dirty Eddie in the hospital. He then tele-
phoned Jonas Prim that his daughter was safe and would
be returned to him in less than an hour.

By the time Bridge and The Oskaloosa Kid reached
Payson the town was in an uproar. A threatening crowd
met them a block from the jail; but Burton's men were
armed with rifles which they succeeded in convincing
the mob they would use if their prisoners were molested.
The telephone, however, had carried the word to Oak-
dale; so that before Burton arrived there a dozen auto-
mobile loads of indignant citizens were racing south to-
ward Payson.

Bridge and The Oskaloosa Kid were hustled into the
single cell of the Payson jail. A bench ran along two
sides of the room. A single barred window let out upon
the yard behind the structure. The floor was littered
with papers, and a single electric light bulb relieved the
gloom of the unsavory place.

The Oskaloosa Kid sank, trembling, upon one of the
hard benches. Bridge rolled a cigaret. At his feet lay a
copy of that day's Oakdale Tribune. A face looked up
from the printed page into his eyes. He stooped and
took up the paper. The entire front page was devoted to
the various crimes which had turned peaceful Oakdale
inside out in the past twenty four hours. There were
reproductions of photographs of John Baggs, Reginald
Paynter, Abigail Prim, Jonas Prim, and his wife, with a
large cut of the Prim mansion, a star marking the bou-
doir of the missing daughter of the house. As Bridge
examined the various pictures an odd expression en-
tered his eyes--it was a mixture of puzzlement, incredu-
lity, and relief. Tossing the paper aside he turned to-
ward The Oskaloosa Kid. They could hear the sullen
murmur of the crowd in front of the jail.

"If they get any booze," he said, "they'll take us out
of here and string us up. If you've got anything to say
that would tend to convince them that you did not kill
Paynter I advise you to call the guard and tell the truth,
for if the mob gets us they might hang us first and listen
afterward--a mob is not a nice thing. Beppo was an angel
of mercy by comparison with one."

"Could you convince them that you had no part in
any of these crimes?" asked the boy. "I know that you
didn't; but could you prove it to a mob?"

"No," said Bridge. "A mob is not open to reason. If
they get us I shall hang, unless someone happens to
think of the stake."

The boy shuddered.

"Will you tell the truth?" asked the man.

"I will go with you," replied the boy, "and take what-
ever you get."

"Why?" asked Bridge.

The youth flushed; but did not reply, for there came
from without a sudden augmentation of the murmur-
ings of the mob. Automobile horns screamed out upon
the night. The two heard the chugging of motors, the
sound of brakes and the greetings of new arrivals. The
reinforcements had arrived from Oakdale.

A guard came to the grating of the cell door. "The
bunch from Oakdale has come," he said. "If I was you
I'd say my prayers. Old man Baggs is dead. No one
never had no use for him while he was alive, but the
whole county's het up now over his death. They're
bound to get you, an' while I didn't count 'em all I
seen about a score o' ropes. They mean business."

Bridge turned toward the boy. "Tell the truth," he
said. "Tell this man."

The youth shook his head. "I have killed no one," said
he. "That is the truth. Neither have you; but if they
are going to murder you they can murder me too, for
you stuck to me when you didn't have to; and I am go-
ing to stick to you, and there is some excuse for me be-
cause I have a reason--the best reason in the world."

"What is it?" asked Bridge.

The Oskaloosa Kid shook his head, and once more he

"Well," said the guard, with a shrug of his shoulders,
"it's up to you guys. If you want to hang, why hang and
be damned. We'll do the best we can 'cause it's our duty
to protect you; but I guess at that hangin's too good fer
you, an' we ain't a-goin' to get shot keepin' you from get-
tin' it."

"Thanks," said Bridge.

The uproar in front of the jail had risen in volume
until it was difficult for those within to make themselves
heard without shouting. The Kid sat upon his bench and
buried his face in his hands. Bridge rolled another smoke.
The sound of a shot came from the front room of the
jail, immediately followed by a roar of rage from the
mob and a deafening hammering upon the jail door.
A moment later this turned to the heavy booming of a
battering ram and the splintering of wood. The frail
structure quivered beneath the onslaught.

The prisoners could hear the voices of the guards
and the jailer raised in an attempt to reason with the
unreasoning mob, and then came a final crash and the
stamping of many feet upon the floor of the outer

Burton's car drew up before the doorway of the Prim
home in Oakdale. The great detective alighted and
handed down the missing Abigail. Then be directed that
the other prisoners be taken to the county jail.

Jonas Prim and his wife awaited Abigail's return in
the spacious living room at the left of the reception
hall. The banker was nervous. He paced to and fro the
length of the room. Mrs. Prim fanned herself vigorously
although the heat was far from excessive. They heard
the motor draw up in front of the house; but they did
not venture into the reception hall or out upon the
porch, though for different reasons. Mrs. Prim because
it would not have been PROPER; Jonas because he could
not trust himself to meet his daughter, whom he had
thought lost, in the presence of a possible crowd which
might have accompanied her home.

They heard the closing of an automobile door and
the sound of foot steps coming up the concrete walk.
The Prim butler was already waiting at the doorway
with the doors swung wide to receive the prodigal
daughter of the house of Prim. A slender figure with
bowed head ascended the steps, guided and assisted by
the detective. She did not look up at the expectant but-
ler 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 un-

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

"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 bring-
ing 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 Payn-
ter 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 talked a few minutes two men came
out of the bank. Mr. Paynter introduced them to me. He
said they were driving out into the country to look at a
piece of property--a farm somewhere north of Oakdale
--and that on the way back they were going to stop at
The Crossroads Inn for dinner. He asked me if I
wouldn't like to come along--he kind of dared me to,
because, as you know, The Crossroads has rather a bad

"Father had gone to Toledo on business, and very
foolishly I took his dare. Everything went all right un-
til after we left The Inn, although one of the men--his
companion referred to him once or twice as The Oska-
loosa Kid--attempted to be too familiar with me. Mr.
Paynter prevented him on each occasion, and they had
words over me; but after we left the inn, where they
had all drunk a great deal, this man renewed his atten-
tions and Mr. Paynter struck him. Both of them were
drunk. After that it all happened so quickly that I could
scarcely follow it. The man called Oskaloosa Kid drew
a revolver but did not fire, instead he seized Mr. Paynter
by the coat and whirled him around and then he struck
him an awful blow behind the ear with the butt of the

"After that the other two men seemed quite sobered.
They discussed what would be the best thing to do and
at last decided to throw Mr. Paynter's body out of the
machine, for it was quite evident that he was dead. First
they rifled his pockets, and joked as they did it, one of
them saying that they weren't getting as much as they
had planned on; but that a little was better than noth-
ing. They took his watch, jewelry, and a large roll of
bills. We passed around the east side of Oakdale and
came back into the Toledo road. A little way out of town
they turned the machine around and ran back for about
half a mile; then they turned about a second time. I
don't know why they did this. They threw the body out
while the machine was moving rapidly; but I was so
frightened that I can't say whether it was before or after
they turned about the second time.

"In front of the old Squibbs place they shot at me and
threw me out; but the bullet missed me. I have not seen
them since and do not know where they went. I am
ready and willing to aid in their conviction; but, please
Mr. Prim, won't you keep me from being sent back to
Payson or to jail. I have done nothing criminal and I
won't run away."

"How about the robbery of Miss Prim's room and the
murder of Old Man Baggs?" asked Burton. "Did they
pull both of those off before they killed Paynter or af-

"They had nothing to do with either unless they did
them after they threw me out of the car, which must
have been long after midnight," replied the girl.

"And the rest of the gang, those that were arrested
with you," continued the detective, "how about them?
All angels, I suppose."

"There was only Bridge and the boy they called The
Oskaloosa Kid, though he isn't the same one that mur-
dered poor Mr. Paynter, and the Gypsy girl, Giova,
that were with me. The others were tramps who came
into the old mill and attacked us while we were asleep.
I don't know who they were. The girl could have had
nothing to do with any of the crimes. We came upon
her this morning burying her father in the woods back
of the Squibbs' place. The man died of epilepsy last
night. Bridge and the boy were taking refuge from the
storm at the Squibbs place when I was thrown from
the car. They heard the shot and came to my rescue. I
am sure they had nothing to do with--with--" she hesi-

"Tell the truth," commanded Burton. "It will go hard
with you if you don't. What made you hesitate? You
know something about those two--now out with it."

"The boy robbed Mr. Prim's home--I saw some of
the money and jewelry--but Bridge was not with him.
They just happened to meet by accident during the
storm and came to the Squibbs place together. They
were kind to me, and I hate to tell anything that would
get the boy in trouble. That is the reason I hesitated.
He seemed such a nice boy! It is hard to believe that
he is a criminal, and Bridge was always so considerate.
He looks like a tramp; but he talks and acts like a gentle-

The telephone bell rang briskly, and a moment later
the butler stepped into the room to say that Mr. Burton
was wanted on the wire. He returned to the living
room in two or three minutes.

"That clears up some of it," he said as be entered.
"The sheriff just had a message from the chief at Toledo
saying that The Oskaloosa Kid is dying in a hospital
there following an automobile accident. He knew he
was done for and sent for the police. When they came he
told them he had killed a man by the name of Paynter
at Oakdale last night and the chief called up to ask
what we knew about it. The Kid confessed to clear his
pal who was only slightly injured in the smash-up. His
story corroborates Miss Penning's in every detail, he also
said that after killing Paynter he had shot a girl witness
and thrown her from the car to prevent her squealing."

Once again the telephone bell rang, long and insist-
ently. The butler almost ran into the room. "Payson
wants you, sir," he cried to Burton, "in a hurry, sir, it's a
matter of life and death, sir!"

Burton sprang to the phone. When he left it he only
stopped at the doorway of the living room long enough
to call in: "A mob has the two prisoners at Payson and
are about to lynch them, and, my God, they're innocent.
We all know now who killed Paynter and I have known
since morning who murdered Baggs, and it wasn't
either of those men; but they've found Miss Prim's jew-
elry on the fellow called Bridge and they've gone
crazy--they say he murdered her and the young one
did for Paynter. I'm going to Payson," and dashed from
the house.

"Wait," cried Jonas Prim, "I'm going with you," and
without waiting to find a hat he ran quickly after the de-
tective. Once in the car he leaned forward urging the
driver to greater speed.

"God in heaven!" he almost cried, "the fools are go-
ing to kill the only man who can tell me anything about

o o o

With oaths and threats the mob, brainless and heart-
less, cowardly, bestial, filled with the lust for blood,
pushed and jammed into the narrow corridor before
the cell door where the two prisoners awaited their
fate. The single guard was brushed away. A dozen
men wielding three railroad ties battered upon the grat-
ing of the door, swinging the ties far back and then in
unison bringing them heavily forward against the puny

Bridge spoke to them once. "What are you going to do
with us?" he asked.

"We're goin' to hang you higher 'n' Haman, you
damned kidnappers an' murderers," yelled a man in the

"Why don't you give us a chance?" asked Bridge in an
even tone, unaltered by fear or excitement. "You've
nothing on us. As a matter of fact we are both inno-

"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 pock-
ets of the ill fitting coat; and, for the first time that
night, his heart stood still in the face of fear; but not for

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

"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 to search them; and when he drew his hands out
of Bridge's side pockets his eyes went wide, and he
gave a cry of elation which drew excited inquiries from
all sides.

"By gum!" he cried, "I reckon we ain't made no mis-
take here, boys. Look ahere!" and he displayed two
handsful of money and jewelry.

"Thet's Abbie Prim's stuff," cried one.

The boy beside Bridge turned wide eyes upon the
man. "Where did you get it?" he cried. "Oh, Bridge,
why did you do it? Now they will kill you," and he
turned to the crowd. "Oh, please listen to me," he
begged. "He didn't steal those things. Nobody stole
them. They are mine. They have always belonged to
me. He took them out of my pocket at the jail because
he thought that I had stolen them and he wanted to
take the guilt upon himself; but they were not stolen,
I tell you--they are mine! they are mine! they are mine!"

Another new expression came into Bridge's eyes as he
listened to the boy's words; but he only shook his head.
It was too late, and Bridge knew it.

Men were adjusting ropes about their necks. "Be-
fore you hang us," said Bridge quietly, "would you mind
explaining just what we're being hanged for--it's sort of
comforting to know, you see."

"Thet's right," spoke up one of the crowd. "Thet's fair.
We want to do things fair and square. Tell 'em the
charges, an' then ask 'em ef they got anything to say
afore they're hung."

This appealed to the crowd--the last statements of
the doomed men might add another thrill to the eve-
ning's entertainment.

"Well," said the man who had searched them. "There
might o' been some doubts about you before, but they
aint none now. You're bein' hung fer abductin' of an'
most likely murderin' Miss Abigail Prim."

The boy screamed and tried to interrupt; but Jeb
Case placed a heavy and soiled hand over his mouth.
The spokesman continued. "This slicker admitted he was
The Oskaloosa Kid, 'n' thet he robbed a house an' shot a
man las' night; 'n' they ain't no tellin' what more he's
ben up to. He tole Jeb Case's Willie 'bout it; an' bragged
on it, by gum. 'Nenny way we know Paynter and Abi-
gail Prim was last seed with this here Oskaloosa Kid,
durn him."

"Thanks," said Bridge politely, "and now may I make
my final statement before going to meet my maker?"

"Go on," growled the man.

"You won't interrupt me?"

"Naw, go on."

"All right! You damn fools have made up your minds
to hang us. I doubt if anything I can say to you will
alter your determination for the reason that if all the
brains in this crowd were collected in one individual he
still wouldn't have enough with which to weigh the
most obvious evidence intelligently, but I shall present
the evidence, and you can tell some intelligent people
about it tomorrow.

"In the first place it is impossible that I murdered Abi-
gail Prim, and in the second place my companion is not
The Oskaloosa Kid and was not with Mr. Paynter last
night. The reason I could not have murdered Miss Prim
is because Miss Prim is not dead. These jewels were not
stolen from Miss Prim, she took them herself from her
own home. This boy whom you are about to hang is
not a boy at all--it is Miss Prim, herself. I guessed her
secret a few minutes ago and was convinced when she
cried that the jewels and money were her own. I don't
know why she wishes to conceal her identity; but I
can't stand by and see her lynched without trying to
save her."

The crowd scoffed in incredulity. "There are some
women here," said Bridge. "Turn her over to them.
They'll tell you, at least that she is not a man."

Some voices were raised in protest, saying that it
was a ruse to escape, while others urged that the women
take the youth. Jeb Case stepped toward the subject
of dispute. "I'll settle it durned quick," he announced
and reached forth to seize the slim figure. With a sud-
den wrench Bridge tore himself loose from his captors
and leaped toward the farmer, his right flew straight
out from the shoulder and Jeb Case went down with a
broken jaw. Almost simultaneously a car sped around a
curve from the north and stopped suddenly in rear of
the mob. Two men leaped out and shouldered their
way through. One was the detective, Burton; the other
was Jonas Prim.

"Where are they?" cried the latter. "God help you if
you've killed either of them, for one of them must know
what became of Abigail."

He pushed his way up until he faced the prisoners.
The Oskaloosa Kid gave him a single look of surprise and
then sprang toward him with outstretched arms.

"Oh, daddy, daddy!" she cried, "don't let them kill

The crowd melted away from the immediate vicinity
of the prisoners. None seemed anxious to appear in the
forefront as a possible leader of a mob that had so
nearly lynched the only daughter of Jonas Prim. Bur-
ton slipped the noose from about the girl's neck and
then turned toward her companion. In the light from
the automobile lamps the man's face was distinctly visi-
ble to the detective for the first time that night, and as
Burton looked upon it he stepped back with an ex-
clamation of surprise.

"You?" he almost shouted. "Gad, man! where have
you been? Your father's spent twenty thousand dollars
trying to find you."

Bridge shook his head. "I'm sorry, Dick," he said,
"but I'm afraid it's too late. The open road's gotten into
my blood, and there's only one thing that--well--" he
shook his head and smiled ruefully--"but there ain't a
chance." His eyes travelled to the slim figure sitting so
straight in the rear seat of Jonas Prim's car.

Suddenly the little head turned in his direction.
"Hurry, Bridge," admonished The Oskaloosa Kid, "you're
coming home with us."

The man stepped toward the car, shaking his head.
"Oh, no, Miss Prim," he said, "I can't do that. Here's
your 'swag.'" And he smiled as he passed over her jewels
and money.

Mr. Prim's eyes widened; he looked suspiciously at
Bridge. Abigail laughed merrily. "I stole them myself,
Dad," she explained, "and then Mr. Bridge took them
from me in the jail to make the mob think he had
stolen them and not I-- he didn't know then that I was
a girl, did you?"

"It was in the jail that I first guessed; but I didn't
quite realize who you were until you said that the jewels
were yours--then I knew. The picture in the paper gave
me the first inkling that you were a girl, for you looked
so much like the one of Miss Prim. Then I commenced to
recall little things, until I wondered that I hadn't known
from the first that you were a girl; but you made a bully
boy!" and they both laughed. "And now good-by, and
may God bless you!" His voice trembled ever so little,
and he extended his hand. The girl drew back.

"I want you to come with us," she said. "I want Father
to know you and to know how you have cared for me.
Wont you come--for me?"

"I couldn't refuse, if you put it that way," replied
Bridge; and he climbed into the car. As the machine
started off a boy leaped to the running-board.

"Hey!" he yelled, "where's my reward? I want my re-
ward. I'm Willie Case."

"Oh!" exclaimed Bridge. "I gave your reward to your
father--maybe he'll split it with you. Go ask him." And
the car moved off.

"You see," said Burton, with a wry smile, "how simple
is the detective's job. Willie is a natural-born detective.
He got everything wrong from A to Izzard, yet if it
hadn't been for Willie we might not have cleared up
the mystery so soon."

"It isn't all cleared up yet," said Jonas Prim. "Who
murdered Baggs?"

"Two yeggs known as Dopey Charlie and the Gen-
eral," replied Burton. "They are in the jail at Oakdale;
but they don't know yet that I know they are guilty.
They think they are being held merely as suspects in
the case of your daughter's disappearance, whereas I
have known since morning that they were implicated
in the killing of Baggs; for after I got them in the car
I went behind the bushes where we discovered them
and dug up everything that was missing from Baggs'
house, as nearly as is known--currency, gold and

"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Prim.

On the trip back to Oakdale, Abigail Prim cuddled
in the back seat beside her father, told him all that she
could think to tell of Bridge and his goodness to her.

"But the man didn't know you were a girl," suggested
Mr. Prim.

"There were two other girls with us, both very pretty,"
replied Abigail, "and he was as courteous and kindly to
them as a man could be to a woman. I don't care any-
thing about his clothes, Daddy; Bridge is a gentleman
born and raised--anyone could tell it after half an hour
with him."

Bridge sat on the front seat with the driver and one
of Burton's men, while Burton, sitting in the back seat
next to the girl, could not but overhear her conversa-

"You are right," he said. "Bridge, as you call him, is a
gentleman. He comes of one of the finest families of Vir-
ginia and one of the wealthiest. You need have no
hesitancy, Mr. Prim, in inviting him into your home."

For a while the three sat in silence; and then Jonas
Prim turned to his daughter. "Gail," he said, "before we
get home I wish you'd tell me why you did this thing.
I think you'd rather tell me before we see Mrs. P."

"It was Sam Benham, Daddy," whispered the girl. "I
couldn't marry him. I'd rather die, and so I ran away. I
was going to be a tramp; but I had no idea a tramp's
existence was so adventurous. You won't make me marry
him, Daddy, will you? I wouldn't be happy, Daddy."

"I should say not, Gail; you can be an old maid all
your life if you want to."

"But I don't want to--I only want to choose my own
husband," replied Abigail.

Mrs. Prim met them all in the living-room. At sight of
Abigail in the ill-fitting man's clothing she raised her
hands in holy horror; but she couldn't see Bridge at
all, until Burton found an opportunity to draw her to
one side and whisper something in her ear, after which
she was graciousness personified to the dusky Bridge, in-
sisting that he spend a fortnight with them to recuper-

Between them, Burton and Jonas Prim fitted Bridge
out as he had not been dressed in years, and with the
feel of fresh linen and pressed clothing, even if ill fitting,
a sensation of comfort and ease pervaded him which the
man would not have thought possible from such a source
an hour before.

He smiled ruefully as Burton looked him over. "I ven-
ture to say," he drawled, "that there are other things in
the world besides the open road."

Burton smiled.

It was midnight when the Prims and their guests arose
from the table. Hettie Penning was with them, and ev-
eryone present had been sworn to secrecy about her
share in the tragedy of the previous night. On the mor-
row she would return to Payson and no one there the
wiser; but first she had Burton send to the jail for Giova,
who was being held as a witness, and Giova promised
to come and work for the Pennings.

At last Bridge stole a few minutes alone with Abi-
gail, or, to be more strictly a truthful historian, Abigail
outgeneraled the others of the company and drew
Bridge out upon the veranda.

"Tell me," demanded the girl, "why you were so kind
to me when you thought me a worthless little scamp of a
boy who had robbed some one's home."

"I couldn't have told you a few hours ago," said Bridge.
"I used to wonder myself why I should feel toward a
boy as I felt toward you,--it was inexplicable,--and then
when I knew that you were a girl, I understood, for I
knew that I loved you and had loved you from the mo-
ment that we met there in the dark and the rain be-
side the Road to Anywhere."

"Isn't it wonderful?" murmured the girl, and she had
other things in her heart to murmur; but a man's lips
smothered hers as Bridge gathered her into his arms and
strained her to him.

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