Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/249

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ing sheep. One sheep over the fence; two sheep over the fence; three sheep over the fence. There’s a nigger-looking fellow herding them. Land! he’s got no head. Manny the Lisbon! That’s a dirty port, Lisbon. And he had the gall to say—this headless Portugee Eyetalian fly-by-night——

What’s that? There! Again! Passing like spirit footfalls across the turf outside!

The hall clock is still—still these years—but Molly’s alarm-clock sends in a tinny cheeping from the kitchen. Where can Molly be?

Five sheep over the fence; six sheep over the——

What’s that? “Andy!”

“Yes, Isaiah?”

Isaiah slides out of bed, tiptoes across the chamber, creeps in beside his elder brother. Neither of them says anything. It’s nearly seventy years since Isaiah did that. But neither of them speaks.

They’re not used to lying awake. It’s this night. This night of supernal license, weird air-quakes, invasions crepuscular and fleering of little peoples from beyond the pale.

Seven sheep over the fence——

“What’s wrong, boy?”

“I hear a mosquito in the room, dang him, and I can’t sleep.”

“Pshaw, Isaiah, now you turn over and shut your eyes and———” Andy sits bolt up, a listener. “Hark!”

Thud! A fault in the atmosphere, small, echoless. A gunshot, unmistakable. Thud! Thud! Thud! An imponderable fusillade.

Is it ghosts, in this land of the dead? Memories? All inside the brain?

Andy tries Isaiah: “Isaiah, did you hear anything?”

The youngster lies there with the quilt tight over his chest. It’s a terrible thing, when you’ve been equal to anything and everything, to find yourself suddenly like this. His voice comes as thin as eel-grass.

“Where’s that girl?”

It’s too much for Andy, and he joins in: “Why don’t she ever come home? What’s she thinkin’ on, this hour of the night?”

’Tain’t decent, Andy. What’ll folks say?”