Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/200

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and the Schaffers—all will be amazed. Wait, Betsey, wait.”

“No,” said Betsey aloud to the empty room. “I’ll not wait. I’ll leave my poor sister to find her way down, but I'll not wait.”

Walking to the foot of the stairs she called up to Tilly.

“It’s time for me to go to meeting, Sister. Can you eat your breakfast alone, do you think? It’s everything ready.”

“Yes,” answered Tilly. “Or perhaps I'll lay till you come back.”

“Yes, well,’’ said Betsey. “You can call the dog to you.” Betsey shuddered—she had told a lie, it was not quite time to go; only William Hershey had driven up to the meeting-house and he came early to make the fire. But she dared not wait.

On the porch she lingered and breathed in the sweet air. If she could only breathe enough, perhaps she could ease her heart. But contemplation of nature could not heal sin, that was certain as the sin itself. She went slowly down the path to the gate and across the road and into the meeting-house. William Hershey was putting coal into the stove, Mary Hershey sat with her baby in her arms, little Amos and little David walked sedately about.

"Good morning,” said William. “How are you, Betsey, and how’s poor Tilly? We’re coming soon to see you."

‘‘She’s not good,’’ answered Betsey, selecting a seat. She did not smile at the children or answer William’s announcement of his visit; she merely turned her face to the wall and sat motionless. Her black bonnet hid her eyes, her stout shoulders were bent, her woe was so apparent that the members entering happily from the morning sunshine were cast down. Was poor Tilly, indeed, doomed to blindness?

Elder Nunnemacher did not appear and William Hershey preached a short sermon. He selected his subject for the benefit of Betsey, pointing to the joys of Heaven as a reward for the sufferings of earth, not dreaming that Betsey believed herself shut out of Heaven. Her heart sank lower and lower, her lips trembled, she could scarcely restrain herself from crying out. She knew that everybody was looking at her and feeling sorry for her and the devil tempted her again through self-pity.