Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/96

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



“No,” said Frank, in a cracking voice, “that wouldn’t be enough. I’d rather have everybody know what you are—and they will. I'll put you in jail for my father’s murder, if it takes me——

“It would be like your father's son,” said David, “to dirty your mother’s memory—if he could.”

“You devil!” said Frank, half sobbing. He pressed his hands against his eyes.

David carefully extinguished his cigar.

“If you are quite through——” he said.

“No,” said Frank, and this time the eyes that looked into David’s eyes were calm as his own. “I can’t kill you—I can’t disgrace you—but I can break you. You don't care about God or death or disgrace—but you care about D. Davenant and Company! And I’ll break D. Davenant and Company! I think that would hurt you more than anything else.”

“Try it,” said David Davenant, and rose to his feet. He laughed. “If you were my son—perhaps. But not the son of your father. He was worthless and useless—and you are too much like him. It would take a strong man to break me, Frank—not you.”

“You lie,” said Frank, steadily. “You were afraid of my father. You murdered him because you were afraid. You could because he trusted you. But I know you—and you sha’n’t murder me—and I’ll break you.”

“Try it,” said David Davenant again, and walked out of the room.

Hot resolutions cool between night and morning, as a rule. The next morning Frank’s resolution had not cooled, but he began to realize the enormous difficulty of his task.

He realized it even more in the next few months. But when a man is willing to work twenty-four hours a day for purpose, and subordinate everything else in life to that purpose, he either breaks himself or accomplishes his task.

The first step took him two hard and discouraging years. But the time had long been ripe in the trade for an organized fight of the independents against D. Davenant and Company, and Frank found himself at last a small but growingly important figure in the forces preparing for that fight.