Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/174

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140

PRIZE STORIES OF 1924

edge of the kind and quantity of solution that Agard had put into the syringe for the worst emergency.

"Well, men, let's adjourn and go home," said Clifford several minutes later. "It looks like this raid was a mistake, and I apologize all round. Doctor Agard, here's sixty-eight dollars and some change. I don’t think the boys will bother you much in your work after this. Here's my hand on it—never mind the blood."

More affirmations were received, hands shaken, and the crowd at last was gone—all but my cousin. We three tarried a short while in the shanty and then walked up the rise together.

Agard and I went into the "hospital." It was less of a wreck than I had anticipated, though there was some breakage. Sarah was still there, cowed, with the two other women and her green glass pendants. She announced her intention of leaving at once, but I helped to dissuade her with reassurances and a present of money.

"Well, you see what's happened to this night's rest," Agard tried to joke gaily as hes set to work again, this time with the woman in the throes of childbirth. His ordeal had made him look sallower, older, more utterly insignificant. There was still a mystery about the man. He was expiating some doom that I had not penetrated.

It was a sombre reunion for my cousin and me, but the late night air was refreshing as we walked down the fork between the pines, through cool sand and dewy tufts of bitterweed.

"Cliff," I asked at last, "how did you fellows ever get so down on Agard?"

"Oh, his immorality, I reckon," my kinsman replied, moodily.

"Humbug. I tell you, he's not immoral."

"Well—oh, you know—the nigger business just attracted attention."

"He let his zeal outrun his discretion?" I suggested.

"Yes," Clifford declared, testily, "just like every fool Yankee will, with niggers."

"Yankee?" I gasped, "Why, I took him for one of our own people, born and bred."

"Well, yes, he was born and raised right there at the forks.