Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/250

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“What does she care for that?”

“What does she care if she keeps us wakin’ for her?”

“Who are we, anyhow? What do we ’mount to?”

“What does anything ’mount to these days; anything but cavortin’ about with foreigners, dancin’, huggin’ maybe, carryin’ on, forgettin’ your religion, your elders, your upbringin’—anything to make the time go quick?”

“And devil take the hindmost!”

There’s a cry, chambered in distance. The devil taking the hindmost, perhaps. The empty moors and dunes where men used to live give it out; one lone articulation, anger, terror, mortal pain, who can tell from the spent whisper creeping in through the Brewster blinds?

“A-n-d-y, I wish—I wish that girl was to home.”

“I—I wish she was.”

The shame of it, confessed at last, mutually, out loud! Isaiah Brewster, who in the name of the Great Republic stood up on his feet and told the port-bashaw of the Emperor of Siam to go to Jericho! Andy Brewster, who with his own hands put half his crew in irons at the height of the Seventy-one Typhoon! The two of them now, praying nothing but the sound of Molly’s dance-shoes on the floor beyond the wall; the comfort of even Molly’s doomsday youthfulness under the roof with them!

Prayers aren’t half-ton trucks, though, for beggars to ride.

Or are they? Wait!

Isaiah is up now, sitting as bolt and gray as Andy.

Another mosquito? No. Hardly louder than a mosquito, to be sure, and oddly like the insect’s silky whine—that whine of springs and beams and gaskets, all in one, a mile away.

“'Tis him!”

“’Tis! ’Tis!”

“He’s to the marsh now—or—or no——”

“N-n-no—no——. Isaiah!”

“You mean it don’t sound like ’twas on——”

"’Tain’t on. ’Tain’t on any road I know of, Isaiah. That’s clear to the north’rd somewheres. Sounds to me——”

“Sounds to me like it was all adrift somewheres up Borneo Plain——”

Thud! The shadow of the phantom of a shot! That’s gone.