Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/162

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“Bell’s, huh?—Might’ poor place, Bell’s.” He seemed to weigh some delicate proposal. “Tell you what you might do. Suppose you put up here to-night. Feed that hoss, eat supper, get a good night’s rest. There’s a shop down the fork a ways, have your buggy fixed up there. Care to stop? Agard’s my name, Mr.——

He had come to the point. I introduced myself and alighted.

“Oh, John!” Agard called. “Come over here—I want to ask you a favour.”

“Comin’ right now, Doctor. Yes, suh! Git up, mule.” This ready reply came from a big-muscled Negro field hand who had ridden up the road behind me.

“John,” said my host, “I want you to unharness this gentleman’s horse for him, unload his baggage, and take his buggy down with you to Mr. Comer’s shop. Tell him this gentleman had a breakdown on the road, and ask him if he can’t put on a new s’ingletree soon in the mornin’.”

“’Deed I will, Doctor,” said John, beginning to unfasten the traces. Within five minutes he had mounted and started away, with a shaft in one hand.

“Look here, John,” I suggested, “hadn’t you better tie that thing to the saddle? You’ll get pulled off.”

“No, boss,” he grinned, “I reckin I better take ’er dishere way—mule’s got all she kin do to ca’y me. San’s heavy rollin’. We’ll git ’er dar all right!”

The two of them dragged my buggy away. I had forgotten to offer John a quarter. “He didn’t expect one,” said Doctor Agard. My heart began to warm. It was the kindly feeling of my boyhood; I was getting nearer home.

The doctor and I had supper in the small dwelling house near by. Agard was a bachelor, I learned.

Toward the end of the meal he excused himself and crow-hopped across the hallway into another room. He and the servant, a bedizened young Negress named Sarah, were talking there in a low tone for some minutes. As he returned, I saw his hand on the door and heard his dismal voice:

“You might as well get Number Four ready. . . . Yes, but you never can tell. And take those ear-rings off, like I told you.”