Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/164

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from the west—the monotonous plodding of heavy feet. Agard listened to this, and as it continued he hobbled in and came back with a lamp in his hand. Two men presently arrived in the lighted circle. Negroes again, one black as the ace of spades, the other yellow. Their faces were shining with sweat. They carried a tossing form between them on some sort of stretcher which they laid flat on the ground, grunting as they did so, then looked up toward the porch.

“Who’s that?” Agard demanded.

“Bob Tolliver an’ Morgan Luckett,” the black one answered.

“You’re Bob?”

“Yas, suh.”

“Where you from?”

“Down Craney Bayou.”

“Got your wife there?”

“No, suh, my sister, Pearline—Morgan’s wife.” Morgan seemed to shoulder some part of a man’s responsibility at this. They stood looking up with foolish expectancy.

“When was she taken?”

“’Bout sundown.”

The nature-of the case needed little explaining.

The doctor seemed to wrestle with some loathsome incubus. “Well,” he concluded, smiling feebly at me, “I reckon you might as well take her to the back.”

They lifted their burden again, and Morgan started up the front steps without more ado.

“Hold on there,” Agard abruptly asserted himself. ”Go around to that side gate. There’s no way for you through here.”

The mulatto backed away, muttering, whereupon Agard checked him peremptorily. It is a knack requiring practice and a clear-cut point of view.

“Mope along dar, Morgan, an’ shet yo’ damn’ mouf,” his brother-in-law mumbled urgently as they shuffled away.

“Sarah!” Agard called. “Side gate! Number Four fixed?” The reply seemed to be in the affirmative.

He turned to me, complaining. ‘Woman drug in here from a saw-mill for me to look after. Seems like I never can get any rest. You go on and turn in—you’ll find your room ready.”