Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/17

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INTRODUCTION

xi

leap of the pulses will rush through the final words that tell not only of Shakspere's winning the game but flash the thousands of performances of the most beautiful play belonging to his latter days—a play argent bright in the dust of centuries.

Finally, only one dissenting voice urged "The Most Dangerous Game"; the judge who had cast his vote for Mr. Steele's story joined those favouring "The Spring Flight." Having the largest number of votes, therefore, "The Spring Flight" was awarded the first prize, $500.

All the remaining stories considered for first prize were considered in awarding the second prize. "Uriah's Son" was praised for its sentiment and delicately firm treament of an original situation. One judge, however, could not accept as basically possible this situation in spite of the skill expended by the author to make it convincing. Another believed that Frances Jerome was a trifle stupid throughout the years not to see what the reader sees in the first episode whereby David Davenant tests the courage of his stepson. The author had to steer his craft through narrow straits. He must let the reader see—otherwise the end would not be credible—and he must prevent, apparently, the stepson's understanding what his stepfather had been about. A difficult feat and of necessity attended by incomplete success. But it is a noble effort.

"The Most Dangerous Game," by the author of the second-prize story of 1923, is distinctive among the year's horror stories. One judge wrote of it: "Impossible situation, of course, but most interesting to the last word." Another recalled that it absorbed 100 per cent. of his attention, provoked him to sit erect and hold his breath while awaiting the outcome of the struggle to the death between the champion hunters, Rainsford and General Zaroff. In its final phases the struggle is over-condensed, but the ultimate thrill more than compensates. Poe would have envied the author this tale.

"The Courier of the Czar," by Elsie Singmaster, will be recognized as one of the Shindledecker sisters series by Saturday Evening Post readers, most of whom will agree with the committee in thinking it the best of those centring about the two Pennsylvania German women. No writer of recent