Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/218

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his elderly companion. "I’d divide it into pastures with good fences, build up-to-date barns and pig houses, and stock it with blooded cattle and hogs. You’ve your grasses for spring and summer. And I understand that those river cane-brakes make fine winter grazing.”

“I may try something of the kind next year,” the Judge admitted. "I’ve been thinking for some time of venturing along that line.”

Venturing! Blooded cattle and hogs! Fences and barns, when the burning question was one of bare existence! Not that he had never had dreams. Many times he had pictured his broad lands dotted with droves of sleek cattle and herds of swine, with an income assured that would again crown Holmacres with its fair name for hospitality. But the realization of this dream would require money. . . .

It was the next morning that a mocking bird, nesting in a near-by tree, awakened the serious-faced stranger with its early song. Arising, he crept softly to the window and stood listening. And suddenly, as he looked out, he started and stared fixedly. Then a ‘dull red flush mounted slowly to his cheeks. He withdrew from the window even more softly than he had approached it and lay down again without wakening his companion.

But that morning brought consternation to Judge Holmsted. Modern plumbing had not been installed at Holmacres, and he remembered suddenly that his guests must shave. And there was one item that he had overlooked.

“I suppose, gentlemen,” he remarked at the breakfast table, “that ’Lijah—you see I have to keep close check on him—brought you hot water?”

They admitted that he had not.

“He’ll be the death of me yet,”’ the Judge said, hopelessly, “if I don’t wring his neck soon. He’s getting more worthless every day.”

The young stranger laughed. "You’re more lenient with your servants, Judge, than we’d be in the North. They must attend to their duties there or they’re discharged.”

“But it’s different with us, sir." The Judge smiled. “Take ’Lijah, for example. Been on the place all of his life—going on fifty years. I couldn’t get rid of him. If I were