Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/87

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From Red Book

CERTAIN stories have a way of repeating themselves: the transfer of Naboth’s vineyard turns up in the real-estate columns; the steel-and-concrete walls of a modern Jericho crumble at the blast of the strong man’s trumpet; a businesslike Jacob in a battered derby tricks a hungry Esau into signing away his rightful inheritance on the dotted line. Life may have more possible permutations than a hand of cards, but certain combinations recur—only sometimes the sleight of circumstance provides a new and unexpected ending to an ancient gambit. It was so with David Davenant and Frances Jerome.

David, king over Israel, was a strong, cunning, diverse man. So was David Davenant—and a little king in the New York of his day, as well. As for Frances—no, the sumptuous beauty of Bathsheba, pale and burning, was hardly hers, though she was beautiful. She was kind, forgiving, and gentle, with cool hands and a delicate gaiety when she was pleased—the kind of woman life seems to delight in forcing into traps that would break the strong.

Everybody expected her to marry badly—for she had what people considered a terrible weakness for taking care of crippled things. So everybody was disappointed—most favourably, of course—when she married Dicky Jerome.

Dicky was your fortunate youth, par excellence—you know the school legend—the life of the party, the man who can arrive as late as he pleases, anywhere, and always be more than forgiven. He was handsome in his youth, without a trace of slickness—the pleasantest of company—dogs adored him—success came rubbing against his legs like an affectionate cat. Life had no corners for him, as it had for David