Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/158

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while ago about going off for a visit for a while? It’s just till we’d have time to get our hands on some clues and get in first with them. When you're up against a combination like this———”

Professor Boynton got to his feet. His face was suddenly as old as his gray hair. He swallowed hard before he spoke.

“No,” he said. He stood looking down into the fire. “It’s Helen I’m thinking of, of course. She’s just at that age—— But no! Whatever I’ve done——”

“But it’s what you haven’t done! Good God, Ed, if you’d done anything to him——”

‘I don’t mean that,’’ Boynton said. For a little while he resumed his contemplation of the fire. “What I mean is this: all my life I’ve prided myself on being a good citizen. If I haven’t been——-”” He paused. “Since I haven’t been, to take the consequences of not being——”

“But you couldn’t have turned the thing—not single-handed.”

“I could have helped. In a place as small as this, if I’'d set the example——” He stopped: the telephone, which had been quiet longer than at any other time in the day, was ringing again. “Cara’s gone upstairs, I think. Ill answer it."

I’ll answer it! The less you talk, the better. If it’s anybody trying to get a statement out of you-——” He went out to the instrument. Inside the study, his brother could hear the quick bark of his responses.

“Hello. . . . Yes. . . . Yes. . . . No, he can’t come just now. This is his brother. . . . Yes. . . Yes. What! . . . What’s that? . . . Yes, I got you!”

There was a long listening silence. Then the receiver crashed down on the hook and Charlie came back into the study. His face was queerly mottled with red and his teeth ate at his unsteady lower lip.

“God’s good to you, Ed! The widow got up when they weren’t watching her and got hold of something she thought was whiskey. She’s just made a statement in expectation of death. She threw the brick herself—came round from behind you. He’d been chasing her with a knife the night before and that was her answer. It was a Judge Somebody