Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/95

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URIAH’S SON

61

“I want to talk to you, sir.”

“Well, Frank? Getting tired of the grind?”

“No. I want to ask you some things about my father.”

The knotty fingers of David’s hand clenched suddenly about his cigar. Then, gradually, they unclosed. “I’ve spoiled my cigar,” he said, in a musing voice. He took an- other cigar from the box, clipped, lighted it. Then he turned to Frank.

“So? Well?”

Frank told him what he had heard. As David failed to reply, sitting stiff in his chair, the accusing voice grew more passionate. There was nothing young about that voice any longer—the heat in it was the heat of a deep, steady flame, too white-hot to sputter or roar.

When Frank was quite done, the composed figure stirred a little.

“Well? Is that all?”

“You don’t deny it?”

“No,” said the quiet image, “I don’t deny it.”

Frank passed his hand over his forehead with an odd, mechanical gesture. He had expected raging denial—mountainous anger—lies that stuck in in the throat—anything but this quietude. He could hardly believe his own accusation, even now. There had been hate between them before— strong hate—but nothing like this, nothing crawling. He looked at David as a child might look at a monster. A sudden horror seized him—a horror that, if he looked long enough, he might see blood upon David’s hands—and he shook.

“You don’t deny it?” he repeated, stupidly.

“No,” came the quiet answer again. “I don’t deny it. Your father was worthless and useless——”

“You liar! Oh, I’ve heard! He was——”

“Worthless and useless. He crossed me—I put him out of my way. What are you going to do?”

"I'm going to kill you, I think,” said Frank; and he believed it—then.

“Well,” said the figure, with a certain horrible mockery, “as you will. I’ve lived a long time.”

The hands that were almost at David’s throat dropped away.