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Lord Oakhurst's Curse
[This story was sent to Dr. Beall of Greensboro, N. C., in a letter in 1883, and so is one of
O. Henry's earliest attempts at writing.]
Lord Oakhurst lay dying in the oak chamber in the eastern wing of Oakhurst Castle.
Through the open window in the calm of the summer evening, came the sweet fragrance
of the early violets and budding trees, and to the dying man it seemed as if earth's
loveliness and beauty were never so apparent as on this bright June day, his last day of
His young wife, whom he loved with a devotion and strength that the presence of the
king of terrors himself could not alter, moved about the apartment, weeping and
sorrowful, sometimes arranging the sick man's pillow and inquiring of him in low,
mournful tones if anything could be done to give him comfort, and again, with stifled
sobs, eating some chocolate caramels which she carried in the pocket of her apron. The
servants went to and fro with that quiet and subdued tread which prevails in a house
where death is an expected guest, and even the crash of broken china and shivered glass,
which announced their approach, seemed to fall upon the ear with less violence and
sound than usual.
Lord Oakhurst was thinking of days gone by, when he wooed and won his beautiful
young wife, who was then but a charming and innocent girl. How clearly and minutely
those scenes rose up at the call of his memory. He seemed to be standing once more
beneath the old chestnut grove where they had plighted their troth in the twilight under
the stars; while the rare fragrance of the June roses and the smell of supper came gently
by on the breeze. There he had told her his love; how that his whole happiness and future
joy lay in the hope that he might win her for a bride; that if she would trust her future to
his care the devotedness of his lifetime should be hers, and his only thought would be to
make her life one long day of sunshine and peanut candy.
How plainly he remembered how she had, with girlish shyness and coyness, at first
hesitated, and murmured something to herself about "an old bald-beaded galoot," but
when he told her that to him life without her would be a blasted mockery, and that his
income was £50,000 a year, she threw herself on to him and froze there with the tenacity
of a tick on a brindled cow, and said, with tears of joy, "Hen-ery, I am thine."
And now he was dying. In a few short hours his spirit would rise up at the call of the
Destroyer and, quitting his poor, weak, earthly frame, would go forth into that dim and