Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/281

This page has been validated.



down the line. . . . What is it that that is? . . . Sincerity! . . . I like that! . . . Just like sayin’, ‘Jenny, you buy good calico ’stead of sleazy poplin!

Jem, lounging by the fireplace, proffered comment: “When you live outdoors you don’t have to bother ’bout what’s good or bad, it’s all the best.”

“I s’pose so—but ev’ry one ain’t tough enough to stay out winter’n summer, the way youdo. They have to come in to sleep at least.”

‘That’s where they begin makin’ theirselves lots of trouble! Read it again—where it tells about the houses folks build.”

She opened the book. ‘As regards domestic buildings, there must always be certain limitations to views of this kind in the power, as well as in the hearts of men, still I cannot but think it an evil sign of a people when their houses are built to last for one generation only.

He interrupted: “I’ll bet the thin shacks down to the railroad town don’t last no generation! They commence to sag ’fore they’re finished!”

“That’s true. I used to want to run outside the eatin’-house ev’ry time the wind blowed.” She took up the book in. “Don’t this sound like it was tellin’ ’bout places we could put the name to?

‘And I look upon those pitiful concretions of lime and clay which spring up, in militant forwardness, out of the kneaded fields about our capital—upon those thin, tottering, foundationless shells of splintered wood and imitated stone—upon those gloomy rows of formalized minuteness, alike without difference and without fellowship, as solitary as similar—not merely with the careless disgust of an offended eye, not merely with sorrow for a desecrated landscape, but with a painful foreboding that the roots of our national greatness must be deeply cankered when they are thus loosely stuck Into their native ground, that those comfortless and unhonoured dwellings are the signs of a great and spreading spirit of popular discontent, that they mark the time when every ‘man’s aim is to be in some more elevated sphere than his natural one, and every man’s past life is his habitual scorn—” She stopped to cough, then glanced further down the page: “Here’s some about you, Jem,” she laughed; ‘—the crowded tenements of a struggling and restless population differ only