Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/52

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gray hulk of the Tower. Between them, as though offering sacred barricade against social admixture—huge as a great ship, but anchored—bulked St. Paul’s. Beyond them all, made soft by the city’s spire-pierced smoke, rolled vivid green hills. Across the river, the theatres and gardens, the stews and bagnios huddled together as though in a desperate effort to conceal the true quality of their entertainment. And apart from them all, wrapped in austerity, St. Mary’s Overy mourned and meditated. The breeze flawed. One moment it brought strongly to his nose the odours from the palace gardens; another it carried faintly to his ears the roar of the lions in the Tower.

After a while, he moved—almost without direction—on. His professional eye, sweeping the South Bank, had noted that no flag hung out at the Globe. No performance that day. He wondered vaguely why. In the same apathy, but following his habit, he looked up as he passed off the bridge to the superstructure which topped it. Yes, his luck symbol of other days—the skull of some poor long-dead, traitorous devil which had always seemed, most amiably and encouragingly, to grin on him—still stuck to its pike.

He had thought he would continue on to the Globe, but the absence of the flag changed his mind. After a moment of indecision, he turned to the left, plunged into a maze of tiny streets. They grew broader and more residential in character as they pulled away from London Bridge. Finally, he came to a trim little common. On the daisy-specked grass, children were playing. A line of geese drew a white streak over the green as they rocked toward the watering trough in the centre. At one of the small houses, half-timbered and of a smiling domestic appearance, Shakspere paused, knocked.

“Why, it’s Master Shakspere!” exclaimed the black-eyed, warmly hued woman who opened the door to him. And frankly she held up the bursting bloom of her lips to his kiss. “How now, Mistress Harvard,” Shakspere answered, saluting her. “How dare’st flower so in the London air? Or is it Stratford roses that still glow in thy cheek? And how fairly you are placed!” he added, as she conducted him inside.

The room they entered was bigger than, from the outside,