Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/92

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PRIZE STORIES OF 1924

“I left a box of cigars in the closet under the stairs. Go and get it for me, please.” The request left Frank aghast. Why, even the lights in the hall were not on yet—not that they helped much! The hall was packed with shadows. ‘Well, Frank? What’s the matter?” “N-nothing.” ‘““What’s the matter?” “‘C-can’t I ask Miss Tyler? I-——” “Frank, are youafraid? Afraid of the dark?” The gaunt face stiffened—the last words were a delicate lash of scorn. ‘“Y-yes!’’—defiantly. The set visage relaxed a trifle. “Why? ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of. Nothing will hurt you.” But he didn’t know. How could he know? Even the shadows would be afraid of Aim. ‘Frank, go and get that box.” Slowly, rebelliously, Frank turned to face the shadows. There were even more of them than he had feared. But he could feel David’s eyes on his back, burning. He caught his breath and walked straight into the heart of the darkness. “On the second shelf, Frank.” He wanted to grab with icy hands and run back, but he could not. If he did he would be ashamed in the sight of those hateful eyes. He found the box, and turned, trembling, to face the terrible shadows again. Why—they were only shadows! Just ordinary shadows! He gasped with astonish- ment—and walked back slowly—even dallying a little, in fearful defiance. After that, he could not afford to be afraid of the closet, for he never knew when David might send him there again. But at times he felt quite sure that David had hated him, and had been disappointed that he had not failed in the cruel adventure. That, more than anything else, helped him to conquer his fear. And then he felt more certain than ever that David hated him, for a month or so after the incident, David suddenly informed him that he was to be sent away to school. | He didn’t want to go to school—it meant discomfort, change, a whole host of possible terrors. But being his father’s son, when he got to school, he prospered—he had