Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/198

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such as this that we’re given strength. We’ve done our duty all our lives, let’s not now break our rules when we’re old.”

The rain fell soddenly, the tears of Betsey fell steadily, Tilly sat motionless and blind on the settle.

“The cat is getting all the time fatter,” said Betsey, achieving a brief composure.

There was no reply.

“But the dog gets a little thinner now that he goes so often out rabbit-chasing.”

There was no answer.

“Sister,” said Betsey. “Won’t you talk to me?”

“I have nothing to talk about,” said Tilly. ‘Dogs, cats, rabbits, baking, rain—how sick I am of all these subjects! I'd like something new to talk about. I’d like to know what became of that poor old woman with the sword pointing at her and the whip held over her. I’d like to talk about her.”

“It’s a book of the world’s people.” Betsey buried her face in the starry quilt. “I cannot. I cannot!”

The sun rose at six o’clock and its earliest beam, shining in the face of Betsey, woke her from sleep and to the consciousness of a leaden heart. It was Sunday and all her life until a few weeks ago she had wakened cheerfully on Sunday. She enjoyed the rest from labour, she loved to go to meeting, she loved all the day’s peace and opportunity for meditation. The meeting-house stood across the road and there had never been a rain so heavy or a snow so deep that attendance was impossible. A few times there had been no one else there but William Hershey and once even William had not been able to get through the drifts on the mountain road, but the sisters never missed.

Betsey waked now with no sense of peace or assurance. She repressed a groan, as, turning, she looked at the bandaged head on the pillow beside her. Six weeks had passed since the doctor’s first visit, but Tilly’s eyes were still useless. She slept quietly and her mouth below the black cloth was not unhappy. The blind are said to resign themselves more quickly than the deaf—perhaps Tilly had resigned herself. Or, her fate still hanging in the balance, she may have felt hope.

Betsey had not only her acute and tender anxiety about