Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/244

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climbs up their legs like a travesty of strength, another childhood. So they clamber for all they’re worth, in silence, their mouths open, as if it were true that the valley behind was filling up with the flood.

They look back when they reach the crest of Sheep Hill, and from the height they see the country familiar to them, rod by rod of its folded moors, its dunes and winding marshes, spread of a sudden fantastic and pixy-peopled under this night. Will-o’-the-wisps and ghost-fires.

There’s John Champion’s house, under the shoulder of Finback, a mile to the east. John died a good twenty years ago, and his daughter’s family moved to Iowa. Yet there looks to be a light in it, a goblin cheer. Dave Burch passed on in the ’nineties; his children live in Los Angeles; the homestead, hidden under the cottonwoods in the Flat, opens an eye in distant banshee mockery. And there again. As if there were people, populations! And there again. Like a lamp on Borneo Plain!

There’s one element that never betrays, but always plays fair. If the land is playing tricks with your eyes, old fellows, turn them to the sea.

Across the water the sky toward Boston shows a late loom of dusk, doubled upside down in the mirroring plain. Not far offshore, across the mouth of the Cove, a fisherman sails, his dim masts erect in the meagre breeze. Farther distant, toward the lights on Provincetown shore, a monster lies at rest on the sea.

So the sea, too, is corruptible to-night, even the sea. It abides Leviathan. Leviathan blowing a leaden, lazy spout; prodigious creature, ink-black, and incandescent-striped.

“She come in weeth engine-trouble,” says a voice.

There’s another watcher on Sheep Hill. He arises from a beach-plum bush at their feet, headless, because he has his coat shawlwise over his head.

“I never seen her beefore, thees ship, and that’s funny because my boy goes een her, and she’s lak a city, he says. Fifty-nine t’ousand ton! What you know about that?”

What, indeed, do they know about that? Except that the night is trying to play them another trick. Painting that shadow on the shadows out there, enormous; as though a master and a mate of an incomparable Sea Glory were to