Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/203

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a long time in the dark. She knows the Bible and the Martyr Book and the hymns and now her mind has to work all the time on itself.”

“You're reading this to her?”

“I’m reading it aloud,” said Betsey, stubbornly. “If she listens I can’t help it.”

“Sit down,” bade William, gently and commandingly. “It’s here something that this sister must decide. She must do what she thinks is right. Let us sing Number Thirty-seven.”

But Betsey was not through.

“I like this reading,” she confessed, wildly. “I don’t feel wicked in my sin. It makes me feel good, it sort of clears out my soul. I would rather read than quilt. And we have fifty-eight quilts. Many times Tilly and I wept over the poor martyrs—why should we not weep over these poor others? Our forefathers fought with wolves where this meeting-house now stands. The Hersheys were in it, I'll bet, and the Stauffers and the Erlenbaughs—all had to fight. I forgot to say that when this poor courier of the K-zar and the young girl were floating down the fiery river the wolves got after them. They——”

William Hershey was alarmed; he despaired of Betsey’s reason. He started Hymn Number Thirty-seven.

The stewed chicken and the mashed potatoes and dried corn and slaw and cherry pie which composed the Shindledecker dinner were consumed and all evidences of the meal removed. The cat lay on his chair; he slept, then woke and looked about, then slept again. Betsey went to the porch to hang up the dish-towels and the dog came back with her. He had an expectant air and when he lay down he did not rest his head on his paws, but kept it high. Below her black bandage Tilly’s mouth looked happy. Betsey was pale, but she, too, looked happy. Tilly’s head turned, following her sister as though she could see. She looked impatient.

Betsey opened the door of the ancient cupboard and got out a book. The doctor knew now where his book was and he had promised Tilly to bring her others by the same author. One was called “A Journey to the Moon,” another “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” But Tilly knew there