Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/206

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From Harper’s

FORTUNE had long since ceased to smile on the last master of Holmacres. Then, suddenly, with the advent of the strangers and the coincident creation of ’Lijah, came, too, the visit of the angels.

The two strangers—being strangers—of course, knew nothing of the evil days that had befallen Judge Holmsted, nor were they particularly interested, since their mission concerned not the fortunes, either good or ill, of others but the betterment of their own. What they knew concerning the Judge and Holmacres—other than the fact that the two were intimately connected with the business which was bringing them to the place—was furnished by the aged Negro, who, with his ramshackle surrey and ancient nag, eked out a precarious existence driving occasional transients about the countryside. They had found him at the railway station in Wynnesborough, the county seat, and he had driven them along the five miles of deep-rutted road that stretched from the town to Holmacres. Being old, he was naturally garrulous.

For a long time he had sat fidgeting on the front seat of the vehicle, one ancient ear cocked rearward, listening to the unfamiliar accent of the strangers’ speech. Finally, during a lull in their conversation, curiosity overpowered him and he half-faced about.

’Scuse me, gen’lemens,” he observed, ingratiatingly, “I don’t mean no hahm by astin’ it, but—you all is Yankees, ain’t you?”

“Northerners—yes,” one of them answered, smiling. “Why do you ask?”