Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/68

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to her. As it was, one had to admire her pluck and independence.

When a fence was blown down or broken Maggie would not report it to her neighbour. She would go out and fix it herself. That act of consideration for their feelings cut deep. It is all very well to turn your back on someone, but if you discover that he is assisting you in a kindly and unobtrusive manner, your gesture is robbed of much of its meaning. The sting may be there for the other person, but certainly you can get no pleasure out of it.

The community was mystified by Maggie's knowledge of its sick list. No one talked to her any more, but she always knew who was sick. I suppose the farm hands told her. I still visited her sometimes, but I didn't tell her. It seemed humiliating to be helping people who hated her, and I wanted her to fight. In her sick visits she was considerate just as she was in other contacts. She would not go with things to eat that had to be presented. She would go quietly in and wash some clothes or scrub a floor. She could perform such tasks with astonishing rapidity. Those were real helps to sick housewives. Maggie was not winning her way back into the community's social life, but she was winning toleration. She continued to go to church, and I remember that her strong voice rose clear and good-natured above most of the others. She liked to sing, and it would be like her to sing a little more loudly than most other women. After a few months the scandal ceased to be news, and most persons forgot about it. One day when I visited Maggie I learned that several other young men also did. They were secretive about it, just as I was; but there was no change in her, so her company was as pleasant as ever. The pleasure of a visit haunted one, and I found it not easy to remain away a long time. There was a glow and thrill about those visits and something vitalizing and stimulating about coming in contact with so much health. Anywhere else gingerbread was just gingerbread, but at Maggie's house it seemed to burst out of the oven for sheer joy of living.

And then Godfrey Wickwire began to call on Maggie. He had a hardware store in the town. He used to ride out on his horse late in the afternoon. He called about twice a week, one visit usually being on Sunday afternoon. People