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.

His word was law in the herd.  And slowly he began to overcome the doubt that the great bulls had of him—­doubt of his youth and experience.  If he had had three months more of leadership, their trust would have been absolute.  But in the meantime, the slow herding toward the keddah had begun.

“We will need brave men to stand at the end of the wings of the keddah,” said Ahmad Din.  He spoke no less than truth.  The man who stands at the end of the wings, or wide-stretching gates, of the keddah is of course in the greatest danger of being charged and killed.  The herd, mad with fright, is only slightly less afraid of the spreading wings of the stockade than of the yelling, whooping beaters behind.  Often they will try to break through the circle rather than enter the wings.

“For two rupees additional I will hold one of the wings,” replied old Langur Dass.  Ahmad Din glanced at him—­at his hard, bright eyes and determined face.  Then he peered hard, and tried in vain to read the thoughts behind the eyes.  “You are a madman, Langur Dass,” he said wonderingly.  “But thou shalt lie behind the right-wing men to pass them torches.  I have spoken.”

“And the two extra rupees?” Langur asked cunningly.

“Maybe.”  One does not throw away rupees in Upper Burma.

Within the hour the signal of "Mail, mail!" (Go on, go on!) was given, and the final laps of the drive began.

The hills grew full of sound.  The beaters sprang up with firebrand and rifle, and closed swiftly about the herd.  The animals moved slowly at first.  The time was not quite ripe to throw them into a panic.  Many times the herd would leave their trail and start to dip into a valley or a creek-bed, but always there was a new crowd of beaters to block their path.  But presently the beaters closed in on them.  Then the animals began a wild descent squarely toward the mouth of the keddah.

"Hai!" the wild men cried.  “Oh, you forest pigs!  On, on!  Block the way through that valley, you brainless sons of jackals!  Are you afraid? Ai! Stand close!  Watch, Puran!  Guard your post, Khusru!  Now on, on—­do not let them halt! Arre!  Aihai!

Firebrands waved, rifles cracked, the wild shout of beaters increased in volume.  The men closed in, driving the beasts before them.

But there was one man that did not raise his voice.  Through all the turmoil and pandemonium he crouched at the end of the stockade wing, tense, and silent and alone.  To one that could have looked into his eyes, it would have seemed that his thoughts were far and far away.  It was just old Langur Dass, named for a monkey and despised of men.

He was waiting for the instant that the herd would come thundering down the hill, in order to pass lighted firebrands to the bold men who held that corner.  He was not certain that he could do the thing he had set out to do.  Perhaps the herd would sweep past him, through the gates.  If he did win, he would have to face alone the screaming, infuriated hillmen, whose knives were always ready to draw.  But knives did not matter now.  Langur Dass had only his own faith and his own creed, and no fear could make him betray them.

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