Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/205

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THE COURIER OF THE CZAR

171

Betsey looked out the window; she needed suddenly a wider view than she could get across the kitchen, broad as it was. She looked out the window to the east then out the window to the west. She rose and walked first to the one then to the other.

“Oh, do read it again!” besought Tilly. “Just once, Sister. I’ll ask for no more. Oh, please!”

Betsey gazed out as though at some strange phenomenon. There was a truly strange phenomenon to be seen.

“Oh, I would like to hear it again,” begged Tilly. When Betsey did not answer she was terrified. “Why don’t you speak to me, Betsey?”

Another person spoke for Betsey. The door opened and the two Stauffer sisters came in. They were about the same age as the Shindledeckers and like them one was tall and stout and the other tall and thin. From under their black bonnets they looked out, at once eager and guilty and excited.

“We came——” began one and looked at her sister.

“We came to see how that fine man got through,” finished the sister. “We came to see if he’s yet alive. It’s surely no sin!”

Betsey stood looking at them and then out the window. Utterly bewildered, Tilly sat turning her bandaged face first in one direction then in the other.

“Spare your wraps,” invited Betsey, pleasantly. She looked across the fields to the south and saw Eleazar Herr approaching with his long stride, and down the road to the east and saw six Erlenbaughs walking in procession, and up the road to the west and saw William Hershey’s heavily laden buggy. If she was not mistaken Mary was in it and the baby and the little boys.

Her heart swelled; William’s approach removed her last lingering sense of wrong-doing. It had been delightful to have Tilly hang upon her words, it had been thrilling to hold the Improved New Mennonite congregation spellbound; now she would have both pleasures in one. She would make these people sad and then how happy! The muscles of her arms tingled as though preparing for dramatic gestures.

“Wait once a little,” she said, addressing Tilly. “Then I will begin again in the beginning.”