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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919.

“Please say to your father that I will spend the evening as usual with him.  My people will pass on.”

THE TRIAL IN TOM BELCHER’S STORE

BY SAMUEL A. DERIEUX

From The American Magazine

It was a plain case of affinity between Davy Allen and Old Man Thornycroft’s hound dog Buck.  Davy, hurrying home along the country road one cold winter afternoon, his mind intent on finishing his chores before dark, looking back after passing Old Man Thornycroft’s house to find Buck trying to follow him—­trying to, because the old man, who hated to see anybody or anything but himself have his way, had chained a heavy block to him to keep him from doing what nature had intended him to do—­roam the woods and poke his long nose in every briar patch after rabbits.

At the sight Davy stopped, and the dog came on, dragging behind him in the road the block of wood fastened by a chain to his collar, and trying at the same time to wag his tail.  He was tan-coloured, lean as a rail, long-eared, a hound every inch; and Davy was a ragged country boy who lived alone with his mother, and who had an old single-barrel shotgun at home, and who had in his grave boy’s eyes a look, clear and unmistakable, of woods and fields.

To say it was love at first sight when that hound, dragging his prison around with him, looked up into the boy’s face, and when that ragged boy who loved the woods and had a gun at home looked down into the hound’s eyes, would hardly be putting it strong enough.  It was more than love—­it was perfect understanding, perfect comprehension.  “I’m your dog,” said the hound’s upraised, melancholy eyes.  “I’ll jump rabbits and bring them around for you to shoot.  I’ll make the frosty hills echo with music for you.  I’ll follow you everywhere you go.  I’m your dog if you want me—­yours to the end of my days.”

And Davy looking down into those upraised beseeching eyes, and at that heavy block of wood, and at the raw place the collar had worn on the neck, then at Old Man Thornycroft’s bleak, unpainted house on the hill, with the unhomelike yard and the tumble-down fences, felt a great pity, the pity of the free for the imprisoned, and a great longing to own, not a dog, but this dog.

“Want to come along?” he grinned.

The hound sat down on his haunches, elevated his long nose and poured out to the cold winter sky the passion and longing of his soul.  Davy understood, shook his head, looked once more into the pleading eyes, then at the bleak house from which this prisoner had dragged himself.

“That ol’ devil!” he said.  “He ain’t fitten to own a dog.  Oh, I wish he was mine!”

A moment he hesitated there in the road, then he turned and hurried away from temptation.

“He ain’t mine,” he muttered.  “Oh’ dammit all!”

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