Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/160

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From Forum

IT WAS late in August. I had been attached to the General Medical Foundation since my professional graduation in June of the preceding year and was now on my way to a remote settlement known as Bell's Brake, where I was to continue my monotonous and personally distasteful routine of hookworm investigations. The inspiration of the physician's ideal seemed far-fetched to me that day, and its forlorn drudgeries their own reward.

Bell's Brake lies twenty miles west of Dalby, the nearest railway stop. At Dalby I hired horse and vehicle for ten days and set out across country according to schedule.

It was a hot, sandy plod all the afternoon, through typical bottom country, forest spaces alternating with rail-fenced corn and cotton clearings, and the light of other days broke on me in the colour, odour, and grand passiveness of it all. South is South, and emotionally I was in the heart of home. Nevertheless, I was a casual and transient through the particular region, and loneliness for things vanished took possession of me. I was jaded from long travel.

The accident that befell me about eight miles from Bell's was nothing extraordinary, but it brought on a futile delay. The rack-boned horse quietly pulled the swingletree in two, and I found myself without the means to repair. At last, however, an old Negro drove up in a tottering buckboard. He had a half roll of cotton bagging with him, and from the cordage around this and a hickory pole I had cut he accommodated me with an African's best splice. After losing a full hour I got under way again, precariously. It was nearing six