Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/21

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INTRODUCTION

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"inventin' somethin' to carry you over the country so fast you can't see nothin' you're a passin'." The dénouement binds together tightly the preceding threads: Camel train wound into the settlement—and his mother was gone; locomotives thundered upon their scheduled way—and soon Jenny's place knew her no more; in the airplane Jem sees his own signal for departure. That signal gives the reader a moment of startled wonder over the future—"What next?" The wife of Admiral Welles knows and loves most of the earth— except possibly the sea, the desert best of all. Skilfully she has introduced the history of camels in America and made them subservient to her purpose. Her passage from "The Seven Lamps of Architecture" recalls her "According to Ruskin," which at last accounts had been translated into the twenty-fifth foreign tongue.

"Old men stories go so far and no farther," one judge commented on reading "Horse and Horse." Perhaps that very comment implies a sincerity to life, a faithfulness to character. Hank is a Western Ulysses who cannot rest from travel; he is strong to strive, to seek, and—having yielded once to temptation that proved his undoing—not to yield again. Some of the judges enjoy the neat architecture of this narrative. Unobtrusive clues—connections between ground plan and superstructure; building and balancing of character—stone on stone making for height and symmetry; the final emotional thrust—which is the topmost tower; these satisfy the demand that a story be put together featly, for strength and whatever of beauty the design permits. And the light in the house is that honour and pride scorn the taking of a secret advantage. Charles Caldwell Dobie is a master of the art by which one tells a story or paints pictures with words. A resident of San Francisco and member of the Bohemian Club, he knows the alkali desert and the trout brooks, which he has unobtrusively, perhaps symbolically, employed in this Odyssey.

"'Lijah" will recall to readers of the 1923 volume Edgar Valentine Smith, who was awarded the first prize for "Prelude." One judge said of "'Lijah," "A darling story—not so well done." Another commented upon the resemblance of Judge Holmsted to Colonel Carter of Cartersville. But, remarked another, who had lived four years on the Tombigbee, "What are you to do about it if those old aristocrats