Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/243

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WHAT DO YOU MEAN—AMERICANS?

209

Where are they going, hoisting their feet so industriously along the clam-shell metal of this road? Where and why?

“We might drop around and see Sam White a minute, the night’s so fine.”

“So we might. I hear tell he was ailin’ a trifle yesterday.”

Two shafts of light, streaming from nowhere, wheel across the dark. Two orbs, sudden and blinding, fetch up with a snort to eye the vivid old men.

“Here they are now,” comes a voice out of the creature.

“Why,” gasps Andy, “if ’tain’t the White boys!’’ Isaiah, blinking into the headlights, lifts a reedy voice: “We was bound your way, boys.”

“Well, Ma said we should stop by and tell you, and save you the trip. It'll be Friday at two, the fun’ral.”

The monster squats there on its rubber haunches, purring, reading their stupid faces. After a little it says: “You'd heard about Gran’pa, hadn’t you? Went last evenin’, quiet, no pain. And it’s Friday at two.” Presently it gives them over for dumb ones, bounces around in the road and streams off up the vale, leaving their eyes full of stars.

“Sam!” says one.

“Sam!” says the other. That’s all.

Perhaps it’s the way it happened, the stage-effects; perhaps it’s something long predestined in the calendar of their years. No matter, the night has turned a corner and become apocalyptic.

Sam White is gone.

In silence they plod back. They plod back toward the cage of the netting, the eighty-year prison of the dark house. Sleep. Dreams.

But, no-sir! Not by a dang sight, they won’t. They bolt the road and flee it at right angles across the tricky footing of the poverty-grass.

"They seek water, and die in the open.” ‘That’s rats.

But why all this? They knew Sam had to go sooner or later and give over his much of room to the returning wilder- ness and the climbing tides. Just as they know that Benjie and Ember will have to give over theirs, and they themselves, and let the tired Cape go down. Didn’t they know that?

They’re silly, but you can’t argue it. It’s something in this night, something let loose, something that pursues and