Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/99

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



I can stand his spying on me, but he sha’n’t touch you. I'll stop it, I tell you—I'll stop it———” His voice rose harshly. “Oh, I know him, Shirley—God knows what he’s up to now; but he’s a devil, I tell you—a devil——”

Shirley managed to quiet him for a time. But when he left her, he went straight to David’s house. He walked there —it was a long way—but he felt no fatigue. The consuming rage that burned in him was too intense. It made his body feel light as pith and very strong—he was quite calm, but he felt as if, this time, he could take David and break him in his hands like a crust.

He noticed with strange detachment, as he sat there, waiting for David, that the gloomy living room had not changed since the last time he had seen it, years before. There was David’s cigar box on the table, and the picture of Frances above the fireplace. The room was terribly full of David’s presence. For an instant Frank was a haunted small boy again, looking round the room with scared eyes, listening for the majestic footfalls of a great, gaunt figure that stalked over gloomy carpets with the terrifying pride of a damned archangel. Then his courage and rage returned—for David came in.

David had not altered in the years. The deep eyes still burned; the grim, imperious face kept its lean and haughty repose. His walk was not quite so certain—that was all.

He carried a bundle of papers in his hand. “Well, Frank,” he said, without surprise, “sit down.”

He sat down himself and began to look through the papers, now and then making a little correction with a fountain pen. The sudden assurance of triumph flared up in Frank’s mind. The papers were a shield—and an ineffective shield. David was afraid of him, at last.

Frank began to speak, and his voice had the intense composure of a man who has finally mastered his bitterest enemy. David heard him out, toward the end his pen moving slowly over a fresh sheet of paper as he listened. His attitude seemed to acknowledge defeat.

“I told you I’d break you,” Frank ended, “and I’m going to. You'll be broken within six months, no matter what happens. This is the end.”