Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/189

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.





From Saturday Evening Post

HEARING the clock strike twelve Betsey Shindledecker opened her eyes. She had not been asleep, she had merely been waiting for her sister Tilly who lay by her side to be asleep. At eleven o’clock Tilly had spoken, at half past she had turned from one side to the other; but now, for half an hour, she had been lying quietly.

Betsey lay blinking and looking round the room. The windows were dim rectangles outlining a sky which was only a little brighter than the black wall; the ancient bureau and washstand and dower chest showed only as indistinct masses. All other objects were lost: the two coloured prints on the wall, one of “Marianna,” one of “Julianna,” the mirror, the chairs, one draped with the plain Mennonite garb of Betsey, the other with the plain Mennonite garb of Tilly. The two white caps hanging on the tall posts at the foot of the bed were lost and so were the stripes in the carpet and the gay pattern of the coverlet. It would be impossible for any night to be darker, or for any wind to whistle more ominously than the wind whistled at this moment round the corners of the house.

Her mind relieved by Tilly’s quiet breathing, Betsey explored with hand and foot. Her foot sought her woollen slipper, her hand the thick flannel gown which hung on the post near her head. Finding both, she stood in a moment slippered and robed. Still Tilly breathed quietly.

Moving slowly Betsey approached the door. When a board creaked beneath her great weight she stood still a long time; when Tilly sighed, she put out her hand to clutch the corner of the bureau and thus to support herself. She grew