Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/35

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From McCall's

THE first chilling shadows of the April dusk had settled over London when Shakspere drew rein in front of the wigmaker’s. The day had been untimely hot. His horse was in a lather and he too was dusty and tired; fretted. The city smells caught him; and in that mood he was prepared to dub Silver and Muggle the foulest corner in London. For a moment, nobody within seemed to take note of his arrival and then a sudden babble burst. “’Tis Will, husband! ’Tis Will Shakspere!” he caught the characteristic tinkle of Mistress Montjoy’s voice, turned shrill with delight. In an instant both the Montjoys were hurrying through the doorway on to the cobbles; Mistress Montjoy, an azure dart, swift and sure and smooth as a swan; the long side-ruffles of her white muslin overdress shearing the air, her iron-gray curls maintaining their perfect alignment. Montjoy himself, big-nosed, mottle-faced, dull-eyed, the puce of his suit the exact shade of his hard cheeks, not a hair of his glossy brown wig disturbed, moved more slowly from force of weight, bulk, or perhaps from his instinctive dislike of Shakspere. Behind, the doorway filled for an instant with crop-headed ’prentice lads, gaping; then emptied precipitately as Montjoy threw his heavy glance back on them. But by this time, Mistress Montjoy had Shakspere’s hand; had smacked him heartily.

“Well, well, lad!” she exclaimed. “Welcome and plenty! We did not expect thee for a month yet. How camest thou to London so early?”

Shakspere shook hands with his host. He laughed, but not mirthfully. “Upon my word, mistress, of that you know as much as I. A whim! An impulse! I work not well these days. I’ve worked not well for months. There’s a