Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/152

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out by way of hospital attendants and doctors, were voluminous. She had heard the damning words, she had seen the brick picked up, the blow struck. She breathed out fire and threatenings between relapses into post-alcoholic grief. The news of her accusations was all over West Brookins. From early breakfast-time the Boynton telephone rang continually as prelude to messages satirical or humorous. Even families in Brookins, the town to which West Brookins was a remote and superior suburb, had heard and added their messages to the nearer ones. Boynton, going out to the box to mail a letter in the middle of the morning, found Mrs. Boynton waiting in the study for him when he came back.

“I don’t know whether you'll like it, Edward; I’ve just had a ‘phone from Charlie.”

"If I don’t like it, I suppose you won’t have had it. What does Charlie have to say? Offer to defend me?”

‘Something like that. He said he was coming down as soon as he could get out of court, and—and to keep you from talking.”

“To keep me from it?”

“That’s what it sounded like. The ‘phone wasn’t working very well.”

“That’s probably what it was,’’ Boynton agreed. ‘It has the ring of Charlie’s advice. Well, run along, dear, and I’ll get back to writing. Let me know if he favours us with any more suggestions.”

Inwardly, though, he was pleased. Charlie was his younger brother and in a mild way the black sheep of the family. That is, he had given up an irreproachable law practice in Los Angeles for the sake of criminal practice in San Francisco, and had added to that the extra offence of taking a somewhat holier-than-thou attitude over the change.

“It'll be good for him,”’ Boynton mused, while he glanced over the notes on his desk. “To come racing down and find us all going about our business—— It’s what I’ve tried to tell him about those clients of his he gets so excited over. If a man lives in a decent place and leads a decent life, he’s out of reach of accidents. Now with me——”

He let his mind go, house by house, down the street. There were people he disliked in some of the houses, people no doubt who disliked him; but there was not one house of them all—