Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/19

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INTRODUCTION

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work, beautifully made, beautifully thought out, "Margaret Blake" was unanimously awarded the second prize—$250.

Of the remaining stories, Raymond S. Spears's "A River Combine—Professional" ranks among the first for its interpretation of the river spirit, for poetry half revealed through dialect, the élan of life when life is young. To read it is to watch through Prenaux's violin the motion of geese and cranes flying through the blue sky, wings flashing in the sunshine, to see May Gardner translating that motion in the dance, flying down the stage "like great white swans fly down the line travelling out of the north, white, strong, shimmering. Lawse! Lawse!" To hear "Caving Bends" is to hear the water "suckling an' sawing—an' then lumping-lumping down as the ground falls in, a tree swings out and falls a splashing." Here are the apotheosis of river sound and motion, an idyllic love story and a struggle that ends right.

The Forum offered, in 1924, a prize of $1,000 for the best story submitted in the first six months of the year. The contest closed on July first, with an entry of nearly six hundred stories. Out of these six hundred the best were passed on to a committee which unanimously selected "The Secret at the Crossroads," by Jefferson Mosley, as most worthy of the award. The committee from the Society of Arts and Sciences are glad to add their appreciation of its strength. In the first place, it is a story—no mere sketch or mood. It presents through the climactic events of a single evening the heroic struggle Doctor Agard made for his black brothers among a people suspicious of them, of whom they were suspicious. Perhaps the locale is purposefully veiled; but mosquitoes, swamps, rail-fenced corn, and cotton clearing are of the South, whatever the particular section. The epic is one that could be adventured nowhere else; only this region affords the conditions. One judge suggests that the ending loses by the introduction of the name of Lincoln, but most readers will hear in the name the whip crack which snaps out the significance of what has gone before.

In connection with this prize story, Harper's contests demand a word. The editors offered, in 1924, $10,000 in prizes. For the best story submitted before March 31, $1,250; for the second best, $750; for the third best, $500. Similar prizes were offered in contests closing June 30th, September