O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 406 pages of information about O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919.

“You said you had heard from her—­again?”

“I had this morning my orders, under Glorianna’s own fair hand, either to depart to-morrow into France or else to come to-morrow to Windsor.  I need not say that in the circumstances I consider France the more wholesome.”

Now the girl’s voice was hurt and wistful.  “So, for the thousandth time, is it proven the Queen’s business means more to you than I do.  Yes, certainly it is just as I said, George.”

He observed, unruffled:  “My dear, I scent unreason.  This is a high matter.  If the French King compounds with Rome, it means war for Protestant England.  Even you must see that.”

She replied, sadly:  “Yes, even I! oh, certainly, my lord, even a half-witted child of seventeen can perceive as much as that.”

“I was not speaking of half-witted persons, as I remember.  Well, it chances that I am honoured by the friendship of our gallant Bearnais, and am supposed to have some claim upon him, thanks to my good fortune last year in saving his life from the assassin Barriere.  It chances that I may perhaps become, under providence, the instrument of preserving my fellow countrymen from much grief and trumpet-sounding and throat-cutting.  Instead of pursuing that chance, two weeks ago—­as was my duty—­I have dangled at your apron-strings, in the vain hope of softening the most variable and hardest heart in the world.  Now, clearly, I have not the right to do that any longer.”

She admired the ennobled, the slightly rapt look which, she knew, denoted that George Bulmer was doing his duty as he saw it, even in her disappointment.  “No, you have not the right.  You are wedded to your state-craft, to your patriotism, to your self-advancement, or christen it what you will.  You are wedded, at all events, to your man’s business.  You have not time for such trifles as giving a maid that foolish and lovely sort of wooing to which every maid looks forward in her heart of hearts.  Indeed, when you married the first time it was a kind of infidelity; and I am certain that poor dear mouse-like Mary must have felt that often and over again.  Why, do you not see, George, even now, that your wife will always come second to your real love?”

“In my heart, dear sophist, you will always come first.  But it is not permitted that any loyal gentleman devote every hour of his life to sighing and making sonnets, and to the general solacing of a maid’s loneliness in this dull little Deptford.  Nor would you, I am sure, desire me to do so.”

“I hardly know what I desire,” she told him ruefully.  “But I know that when you talk of your man’s business I am lonely and chilled and far away from you.  And I know that I cannot understand more than half your fine high notions about duty and patriotism and serving England and so on,” the girl declared:  and she flung wide her lovely little hands, in a despairing gesture.  “I admire you, sir, when you talk of England.  It makes you handsomer—­yes, even handsomer!—­somehow.  But all the while I am remembering that England is just an ordinary island inhabited by a number of ordinary persons, for the most of whom I have no particular feeling one way or the other.”.

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O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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