Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/289

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PROGRESS

255

"Maybe not. But anyhow you're too sick to be left here all by yourself."

"Did you . . . hear the roarin' . . . overhead, jus' 'fore you come in? What was it?"

"An airplane."

There was no gleam of understanding in the old man's eyes.

The aviator stared at him. "Can't you understand me? A flying machine! Don't you know what that means? . . . The invention which makes it possible for men to travel through the air like birds! The greatest achievement of modern progress!"

"You mean that . . . even here on the mountain tops. . . . I can't get away?"

"'Away,' from what? A plane can go anywhere!"

Jem Brown clambered weakly to his feet and stumbled to the doorway. In the centre of the clearing a strange, huge, grasshopper-like object stood at rest. It was silent now—but around it everything seemed changed and troubled—and at what moment might it not come to life again, hideously challenging the protesting echoes? How—how—could he get rid of it and of its master? Determinedly he faced the aviator: "I'm all right . . . have them setbacks real often!" He gasped as a stab of pain brought beads of perspiration to his forehead. With visible effort he stifled a groan. "I've got a map . . . of this distric'; if I give it to you . . . will you go away?"

The aviator shook his head. "I couldn't conscientiously go away and leave you here alone. The remembrance of how you look would haunt me! You’re too sick to realize that—you need medical attention."

Jem Brown was driven to desperation: "If you'll go away—an' not come back for a month—I'll give you the deeds to the Guayule . . . an' on 'em I'll mark plain where the lost lode takes up again! I've knowed it for forty year . . . but I learnt long since that money don't buy you nothin' but confusion . . . an' I wasn't a-goin' to have folks a-spoilin' this mountain like they spoiled the rest!"

Then, as the aviator stared at him, the old man's eyes filled with tears: "There'll be plenty . . . so's you can buy all the things you've ever wanted. . . . But now that I've seen your machine . . . and know that never, any