Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/220

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mop eee suh,”’ she remarked, meaningly, “’Lijah is been ’mongst de chickens agi’n.”

“What of it?” Judge Holmsted smiled on his guests. ’Lijah, he explained, was probably giving a party for some of his friends. “A few chickens, more or less, don’t matter, do they, ’Bama?”

"But left dese is fattenin’ chickens, suh; de onlies’ ones I had left."

“You don’t mind ’Lijah entertaining his friends, do you?” the talkative stranger asked.

“Not gen’ally; no, suh. But he’s been gittin’ entirely too entertainin’ lately.”

“Doesn’t he catch enough fish for his feasts?”

“Yessuh; he ketches plenty fish. But catfish, you knows, is just a nigguh’ s reg’lar eatin’ victuals. Dey uses de chickens kind o’ foh dessert.”

“You must find his parties something of a drain on your resources.”

“’Tain’t no pahty, suh, he’s givin’ ’is time. It’s just a shindig—a plain shindig.”

The Judge explained’ that a shindig was a dance.

“Dance?” The younger stranger seemed amazed. "An old man like ’Lijah?”

“Him dance?” ’Bama gave answer. “Just de thoughts of a fiddle’ll send him shufflin’ his feets ’cross de flo’—right now! Age ain’t purified him none.”

’Bama, strictly orthodox in her religious beliefs, was patently outraged by this latest of the hapless "Lijah’s escapades, for as she left the room they heard her muttering:

"An’ him wid gran’chillun! I’s gwine to have him churched—I sho’ is!”

Between themselves the strangers discussed the business which had brought them to Holmacres.

“It’s showing up even better than the estimate we received,” the older man said one evening.

“One of the richest deposits I ever saw,” the other admitted.

When they went to their room he complained of not being in the mood for sleeping. The rays of that Southern moon, he said, must have affected him. He felt restless; he’d walk round a bit.

Five minutes later he returned quietly to the house,