Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/89

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White women with young children do not go to Cholopan if they want to live—or did not, then; and even the strictest living "of white men used to come back shaken. As for the other white men, they did not last long. Dicky did not last Long.

A year and a half after his death, Frances married David Davenant. Then the whispers began. The kindest said that he must have terrified her into it, and told tales of the implacable, bearish strength that had always got him the thing he desired. Or else, that of course it was for the child, poor thing, and they pitied her. Indeed, Dicky’s death had left her in actual poverty; it is really astonishing how much it costs for even the most fortunate of pleasant young men to maintain a home in a properly agreeable way. As for what the more malicious agreed about the whole affair—but why bother with them? The one point on which all were agreed was that Frances certainly had no right to seem at all happy in her second marriage. And she did seem—not unhappy, at least—at first.

David must have reckoned that a king could crush such gossip like a snapping little animal under his heel, by mere strength. But gossip is fog that comes seeping in through the tiny cracks of existence—seeping in and in, no matter how firmly one tries to stuff the cracks.

As it was, he broke one twenty-year friendship in the first months of his marriage—when Rufus Malone, who feared neither God nor David, greeted him one day with: “Well, David—and how is the fair Bathsheba to-day?” David turned on his heel and never spoke to the man again. The incident made more gossip—and after that, David may have thought, with some wisdom, that the best thing to do was to wait and let the gossip wear out with time. But Frances wore out first.

She died four years after her second marriage—taking leave of life as gently and civilly as she had always taken leave of her friends. And the friends who had thought her first apparent happiness unseemly were satisfied, for when she died, she had certainly not been what the world calls happy for along time. The gossip had reached her and touched her—and some natures cannot endure a lifelong warfare with fog. Toward the last, I think, she lived wholly for her boy—but