Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/100

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“Broken—by you?” said David rather quietly.

Frank smiled. “Not entirely—but you couldn’t have been broken without me—yet. You need some sort of a string to tie the loose sticks together into a club. I’ve been the string. It’s taken four years, but I’ve tied the sticks together—in spite of your spying and watching—in spite of all you could do——”

“So you noticed my—spying,” said David, and smiled.

“But now,” said Frank, unheeding, “the spying must stop. Stop—do you understand? You can spy on me all you like—but you'll leave Shirley alone! I don’t know what your idea was in spying on her—but this is the end of it! Do you hear?”

“Yes,” said David, going on with his writing. “This is the end of it. I sha’n’t bother her any more.”

“Very well,” said Frank. “Then——” And suddenly, in spite of the conclusiveness of his victory, he was irritated by the other’s calm. “What are you writing?” he ended, illogically.

“A letter.” David smiled. He came to the end of a paragraph, hesitated, and carefully signed his name. “Here,” he said, and passed the papers over to Frank.

“What on——” said Frank, amazed.

“Read it,” said David, and sank back in his chair.

Frank took the pages gingerly. He glanced at the heading of the letter. It began “My dear son.” He looked at David, astounded, but David gave no sign. Frank settled himself to read.

My Dear Son:

“I had at one time hoped to make this explanation of certain matters to you in a different manner—but I am a sick old man, now, and talk tires me. Besides, there are other reasons. So you will receive this letter in the approved manner —either after my death, or when I am so near it that there need be no hesitancy on your part in believing what I say. The doctor gives me a little while now—if I live piddlingly— which I do not intend to do.

“You may, perhaps, have wondered at many things in my attitude toward you, before you discovered what seemed to you the logical explanation of that attitude. The real