Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/61

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MARGARET BLAKE

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they had a garden and some flowers, and they were gradually making the interior of the house pretty after the fashion of the day, which wouldn’t be much admired now, but I thought it was wonderful. Maggie seemed to be blooming like the flowers. Her face was rounder and had more colour; her arms were rounder, and she must have gained thirty pounds in weight. People said she “was the picture of health,” and the neighbours expressed delight that our climate agreed with her so thoroughly, because it didn’t agree with every one; the dryness was especially damaging to pretty complexions. Women whose faces were burned by the dry wind and who lost weight until their collar-bones became painfully prominent used to talk a great deal about Maggie’s good fortune.

I was out with my dog one morning chasing rabbits on a hillside in the pasture when I saw old Doctor Wren drive up to the Blake place. I ran back home and told my mother. She put on her bonnet and went over there at once. The next day I was introduced to Howard Blake, Junior, who lay blinking at the sunlight with eyes so exactly like his mother’s that it seemed he was already doing his best to smile a welcome as she did.

About five days later Howard and Maggie and I went hunting together, and Howard killed a deer. To me her going was nothing remarkable, but I can recall that it was the one subject of conversation at our table when women neighbours visited my mother. What interested them just as much was the fact that Maggie’s pregnancy had never been apparent; she was evidently one of those rare women who enjoy the very zenith of good health in that condition.

I was very fond of the baby; the idea that boys do not like babies is a mistake growing out of the fact that dislike attracts more attention. They used to ask me sometimes to stay with the baby, and I never counted it a service. I remember how the little fellow used to crow like a young rooster when his mother returned, and his tiny little legs and hands would all be going at once, not feebly, but so rapidly and vigorously I doubt if one could have counted the motions of a single hand or foot. When she picked him up he would give a great sigh of happiness and then become very still, but his eyes would follow her face every moment until he fell asleep. When they sat looking at each other so, the picture