Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/204

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

170

PRIZE STORIES OF 1924

was no book like this in the world and she meant to ask Betsey to read it again and perhaps again. Her necessity knew no consideration for others; she would take all the blame for Betsey’s Sin if there were blame; but Betsey must read.

“I’m ready,” she said. The smile on her face was beatific.

Betsey opened the book. Forsaking one of the unities, the author had brought the villainous Ivan into the foreground of the narrative. Himself disguised as the Courier of the Czar he had entered the besieged city and was about to betray it. Upon him in a room of the Grand Duke’s palace, having escaped the burning river, came the real courier led by his faithful maiden. In terror, Betsey laid the book upon her knee.

“Now everything is at an end,” she warned her sister. “Remember he cannot see, and here is this wicked Ivan who can see. What can he do?” Her face was pale. “You must be prepared, Sister.”

Tilly clasped her hands.

“Go on,” she said, weakly. ‘I’m ready.”

Betsey’s eyes travelled down the page.

“Oh, Sister!” she cried, sharply.

“What is it?” asked Tilly.

“Oh, listen!”

“Go on!” urged Tilly.

“Ivan uttered a cry,’” read Betsey. “‘A sudden light flashed across his brain. "He sees!” he exclaimed, “he sees!”? And like a wild beast trying to retreat into its den, step by step, he drew back to the edge of the room.’”

“He’s not blind, then?” gasped Tilly. “But it said he was blind!”

Betsey read on:

“‘Stabbed to the heart the wretched Ivan fell.’”

“But how——”

Betsey lifted her hand for silence. Here were medical words she could not pronounce, but she could give the blessed sense of what she saw.

“Listen once! When they held the hot sword before his eyes, he was crying to think of his poor mother and his tears saved his eyesight.”

“Oh, I'm thankful to God,” cried Tilly. "Oh, read that part again, dear sister.”