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ERB Summary Project


Jonas Prim

Abigail Prim

Mrs. Prim

Sam Benham

Sky Pilot

Oskaloosa Kid

Dopey Charlie

Soup Face

Columbus Blackie

The General

Dirty Eddie

John Baggs

Reginald Paynter


James (invisible butler)




Billy Burke

Jeb Case

M'randy Case

Willie Case

(Dick) Burton


Hettie Penning


First National Bank of Oakdale


Squibb house




Elite Restaurant


Oakdale Tribune


Beppo (bear)

The Oakdale Affair

Summarized by
James D. Bozarth


The Oakdale Affair is one of several "contemporary" novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This lightweight mystery novel features Bridge, a character who also appeared in the much longer and more gritty The Mucker. Written in 1917, "Bridge and the Oskaloosa Kid" (ERB's working title) appeared in the March 1918 issue of The Blue Book Magazine. The first hard back edition paired The Oakdale Affair with The Rider, another contemporary tale written by Burroughs about the same time as Oakdale, and was published in 1937 by ERB, Inc.

James notes: "Because The Oakdale Affair is so plot heavy, unlike most of ERB's works, I had a hard time synopsizing the tale using only 250 wds. per chapter: the last chapter being 1/5th of the entire work which is itself only 10 chapters long. Therefore, I have given you two synopses. One is the smallest * I can get and still not strip away all of the story plot and the other is the full plot including all details of the mystery which are needed to solve the killings. So very little of the story is given descriptive terms. Even less is given in personal thoughts. Almost everything is action and plot. This story reads much like the movie synopsis on which it is based."

*[Ed. Note: the shorter summary was used and further condensed by the managing editor, so any errors introduced are probably mine! Oakdale is 41266 words in length, Chapter Ten is 7486 words, fully 18% of the novel--the 250 word per chapter requirement is waived for this Summary Project for Chapter Ten -- DBB]

Chapter 1

A burglar breaks into the chauffeur's rooms, stealing a suit of clothes, before entering the home of Jonas Prim, president of the First National Bank of Oakdale. The young and inexperienced crook heads directly for daughter Abigail's hidden safe, taking money and jewelry, and a gun. Pausing outside the dining room where Jonas and Mrs. Prim discuss the recent departure of Abigail to visit Sam Benham, the burglar departs. Later, coming to a barn inhabited by hoboes, the burglar must show his loot to join them. The leader, Sky Pilot, a former minister, invites the boy in. One hobo calls the boy the Oskaloosa Kid. Sky Pilot introduces Dopey Charlie, Soup Face, Columbus Blackie; The General, and Dirty Eddie. Dopey and the General plot to kill the Kid and escape with the loot. When everyone is asleep, Dopey stabs the kid in the chest.

Chapter 2

Mrs. Prim wants Abigail to marry Sam Benham, but Abigail thinks he's fat, bald and old. Mrs. Prim discovers the burglary. She suspects the servants and demands Mr. Prim call the police. Before he can call, the phone rings and Prim learns Abigail did not arrive at Benham's sister's residence. When Prim reports the theft he discovers that not only has his daughter and valuables disappeared, but John Baggs was assaulted and robbed in his home. Baggs is not expected to live; also, Reginald Paynter was murdered, thrown from a car. Paynter was seen with two men and a GIRL. The Oakdale Tribune prints an extra hinting that Abigail might be involved with the murder of Paynter. Jonas hires a private detective.

Chapter 3

Dopey's knife catches on the Kid's gun who then shoots Dopey. Dopey falls screaming. The Kid flees, chased by the others. Dopey, barely wounded, follows. The Kid outstrips his pursuers. A storm breaks as a hobo, named Bridge, approaches the Kid, suggesting they shelter in the deserted Squibb's farmhouse where Squibb, his wife, two sons and a daughter were murdered years ago. The Kid confesses to shooting Dopey. Bridge tells the boy he could not have killed Dopey because Dopey was screaming. The Kid tells Bridge he is The Oskaloosa Kid. Bridge, who knows the real Oskaloosa Kid, wishes James, his invisible valet, were there to make a cocktail. Near the house a car careens out of the dark, a shot rings out as a woman screams and is thrown from the car. Bridge carries the girl into the house. Inside, the Kid trips over a body. Using Bridge's flashlight, the Kid discovers a gaudily dressed corpse. Suddenly they hear a heavy body, dragging a chain, ascending the cellar stairs. Bridge herds them upstairs. At the top of the stairs the terrified Kid drops the flashlight to the floor below, bringing on a sudden and menacing silence.

Chapter 4

Bridge orders the Kid to light a match, and as the match flares the Thing begins to move. The Kid stifles a shriek. Bridge sees an open door. They enter the room. The Kid faints. Bridge sets the girl on the floor, strikes a second match, and bolts the door as the chain dragging Thing stops just outside. Despite the fact the girl might be shot, Bridge first turns to the Kid. As the chains rattle again, the Kid buries his face in Bridge's shoulder. Bridge reminds the Kid of his reputation for fearlessness. The Kid promises to do better. When Bridge strikes another match to examine the girl, who is not wounded. The flare, shining through the window, alerts the Kid's pursuers. The Thing retreats downstairs as the girl wakes. She confesses she was with Paynter, the Oskaloosa Kid and a driver named Terry. When the Oskaloosa Kid murdered Paynter, she refused to keep quiet, so the Oskaloosa Kid had shot at her as he had thrown her out of the speeding car. The pursuing hoboes enter the house and find the body as the Thing comes out of the cellar. The hoboes scatter, two going upstairs. To save their lives Bridge lets them in room just before the Thing assaults the door. Panicked, the Kid shoots through the door.

Chapter 5

Bridge takes the Kid's gun. The Thing retreats downstairs. For two hours they talk, the girl repeating parts of her story. The General asks who Bridge is. Bridge mentions Dink and Crumb, Billy Burke and Billy's sidekick, himself. Later, when the storm is a drizzle, they hear footsteps below and the sound of the Thing coming out of the cellar. Suddenly a woman shrieks. Bridge leaps to the door but both the girl and the Kid beg him to stay. Bridge finds he cannot leave the Kid even though a dozen women were in danger. Below stairs they hear the dragging chain and ponderous footsteps, then silence. The five descend the stair only to find the dead man gone. Bridge makes a fire in the stove. The hoboes demand a cut of the Kid's swag or they will turn the Kid in for the murder last night. Bridge forces them to leave empty handed.

Chapter 6

Bridge dries his clothes but the other two refuse to dry theirs. The Kid volunteers to get food. At a farm house the Kid pulls out the roll of money and says he wants to buy food. The farmer, Jeb Case, thinks they might have something. M'randy, his wife, doesn't want to sell anything until her greedy eyes see the bills. When asked where he spent the night, the Kid says the Squibb's place where they found a body. While his parents get the food, Willie Case admires the Kid who brags about his exploits: robbing a house and shooting a man and being the Oskaloosa Kid. Suddenly regretful for bragging, the Kid offers Willie a dollar to keep quiet or else. The parents bring out the food. The Kid pays and returns to high praise. The Kid denies he is a burglar but Bridge simply looks at a loop of pearls hanging from the Kid's pocket. A gloom settles over the breakfast. Bridge rises to leave. The Kid and the girl beg him to stay. Meanwhile, Jim, the postman, gossips with the Cases, revealing old man Baggs beating and robbery, Paynter's murder, Abbie Prim's disappearance and the Prim house burglary. Also the Paynter car carried not only Paynter, but Abigail Prim and the Oskaloosa Kid. Mr. Prim, has offered a reward of $50.00.

Chapter 7

Suddenly, a car pulls up outside the Squibb house and three men alight. Bridge recognizes Burton, the private detective. Bridge and his companions flee to the woods. At the Case farm, Burton elicits Jeb's admission that hoboes came out of his barn that morning, but fled down the road to Millsville. Willie extracts the promise of the $50 reward and another $50 from Burton to repeat his story about the visit of the Oskaloosa Kid. Willie reveals the Kid had a string of pearls. Burton says the pearls were stolen from Abigail. After Burton's departure Willie disappears. Burton sees two men climb a fence. Following, he apprehends Dopey Charlie and the General who pretend to be asleep. Charlie says they spent the night in the Squibb's place with the Oskaloosa Kid, his pal Bridge and a girl. Burton asks who the girl is. Charlie doesn't know her name but says she told about the Oskaloosa Kid killing a guy in Oakdale. Arresting the two hoboes as material witnesses, Burton stops at the fence saying he has lost his notebook. He disappears into the bushes and returns 5 minutes later, saying he found it.

Chapter 8

Bridge and his companions discover a log shack and a gypsy girl digging a grave. Willie Case, hiding in the bushes, sneezes. The gypsy girl captures him. Willie leans close to the gypsy girl, stares at Bridge's hiding place and whispers in her ear. Bridge steps out and says he followed her from the Squibb's place. The girl threatens to call Beppo if Bridge doesn't leave. Bridge calms her by saying he hasn't said she was a murderer. The gypsy girl agrees to tell her story if Bridge tells his. Bridge calls his companions from hiding. Bridge tells his story, ending with the statement they had followed the footprints of her and the bear. The gypsy girl says her name is Giova. Her father, a drunken thief so evil that even the gypsies threw him out, died of a fit. Bridge suggests they work together. Giova agrees but wants to know about Willie. Willie promises silence, but Bridge doesn't trust him. The Kid offers Willie $100 if he'll say nothing. Bridge admonishes the Kid. The girl draws away from the Kid. Bridge tells her not to judge the Kid too harshly. He asks if she is Miss Prim. The girl refuses to reveal her identity. While the others bury the dead gypsy, Willie disappears. Giova disguises them as gypsies. As Beppo growls Bridge explains how he discovered the Thing was a bear.

Chapter 9

Willie races home to call Burton's headquarters and obtains a promise that Jonas Prim would pay the reward before he reveals the fugitives whereabouts. Jonas and posse meet Burton on his way to town. They send Dopey Charlie and the General to town under guard. Burton reveals he found the loot from the Baggs crime hidden where Dopey and the General were caught. The posse picks up Willie and he leads them to the shack, but the fugitives have left. To prove he isn't lying he points out the grave. The body is exhumed for the coroner. Burton calls for reinforcements. Meanwhile, the fugitives stop near Payson. Giova leaves with Beppo to feed the bear. Bridge, using $10.00 donated by the Kid, goes for food. The girl and the Kid head for the old mill where all are to rendezvous. Bridge, heading for the meeting place, is unaware he is followed. The shadow fades into the darkness with Bridge reaches the mill. The girl and the Kid arrive before Giova and Beppo. The girl shudders at the sound of the chain. Calling her "Miss Prim," Bridge comments they should be used to the sound by now. Earlier that day Willie Case testified for the coroner's jury about the gypsy's death, then goes on an eating spree, ending up at the Elite Restaurant. Willie sees a detective/action movie. Later, after dark, Willie observes Giova, Beppo, Bridge, and friends at the mill. He races off to find a phone.

Chapter 10

Columbus Blackie, who followed Bridge to the mill, reports to Sky Pilot and the others that Bridge called the girl "Miss Prim." They plot Bridge and the Kid's murder, theft of the loot, and returning Miss Prim for the reward, to later meet in Toledo. Meanwhile, Burton questions Dopey Charlie and the General, leaving off when Willie calls. After midnight Soup Face and Dirty Eddie assault Bridge, Columbus Blackie has trouble overpowering the Kid, Sky Pilot grabs Miss Prim. Roaring from the darkness, Beppo fractures Eddie's skull. Soup Face flees. Blackie has the Kid outside when Beppo knocks them down. The Kid races away as Beppo follows Blackie into the swamp. Burton and the posse arrive, capturing Sky Pilot, Miss Prim, the Kid and Soup Face. Bridge warns Burton about the bear, but is arrested when Willie fingers Bridge as a gang member. Beppo kills Blackie, then is killed by Burton's men. The car is overloaded, Bridge and the Kid are marched to Payson. Burton heads for Prim's home. Bridge and the Kid are jailed, a lynch mob gathers. Bridge views a newspaper with pictures of the crime victims, recognizes something with incredulity and relief. Bridge urges the Kid to tell the truth to avoid being lynched. The Kid learns Bridge expects to hang, whatever happens, and says they can murder him, too, because he will not abandon Bridge. The mob breaks into the jail. Meanwhile, Burton discovers the girl is Hettie Penning, who confesses she met Paynter in front of the bank in Payson. She joined him, the Oskaloosa Kid, and another man on a drive out of town. Drunk, the Oskaloosa Kid got fresh. Paynter tried to intervene and was beaten to death, robbed, and thrown from the car. The Oskaloosa Kid later shot at Hettie and threw her from the car by Squibb's place, where she met Bridge and a boy who claimed to be the Oskaloosa Kid. Burton asks about the rest of the gang. Hettie knows nothing about the others, but Bridge and the Kid were kind to her. Reluctantly, she admits the Kid, who wasn't the Oskaloosa Kid, bragged of robbing Miss Prim. A phone call interrupts. The Oskaloosa Kid, dying from car accident injuries in Toledo, confessed to Paynter's murder and shooting Hettie. Another phone call sends Burton and Prim to Payson where a mob is intent on lynching Bridge and the Kid. Meanwhile, at the Payson jail as the mob hammers on the cell door, Bridge comforts the Kid with his arm around the boy's shoulder. When the door collapses the two are parted. Jeb Case strikes the Kid. Bridge says he'll haunt Case for his brutality if he doesn't get a chance in this lifetime. The mob drags them to a tree, nooses are placed around their necks, and Miss Prim's jewels are found in Bridge's pocket. The Kid yells, "The jewels aren't stolen. They're mine!" Bridge asks what are they charged with. The leader says Bridge abducted and probably killed Miss Prim. The Kid tries to protest but Jeb claps a hand over his mouth. The Kid, the charge continues, robbed a house and murdered a man and was seen with Paynter and Miss Prim. Calmly Bridge points out that the Kid is Miss Prim. An examination by he women in the crowd will prove it. Jeb Case says he'll settle the question quick and reaches for Abigail. Bridge breaks Jeb's jaw. Burton and Prim arrive. Abigail begs her father save Bridge. Burton removes the nooses and fully sees Bridge for the first time, exclaiming that Bridge's father has spent $20,000 to find him. Bridge says he'd rather hobo except for one thing, but there is no chance of that happening. He returns Abigail's "swag," but before he can leave Abigail insists he accompany them. Willie demands his reward. Bridge says he gave his reward to Willie's father. Burton reveals Dopey Charlie and the General killed Baggs. Abigail tries to convince her father Bridge is a gentleman. Burton confirms Bridge is from one of the finest, wealthiest families in Virginia. Jonas asks why Abigail ran away; she could not marry Sam Benham. She wants to choose her own husband. At dinner everyone is sworn to secrecy. Hettie returns to Payson with Giova as her maid. Drawing Bridge out on the verandah, Abigail asks why Bridge was so kind to one he thought a thief. Bridge admits, despite her disguise, he must have loved her from the beginning. They kiss.