Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/224

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From Argosy All-Story

I DON’T know ’f I eveh told you about Stepping May or not. She came down the river awhile back in a clinker-built skiff. She was so blamed pretty it was a wonder they ever let her come down the banks onto old Mississip’ at all; but theh she was, big as life—about five foot seven tall, and her lips straight and resentful, but her eyes twinkling. You see, a lady lots of times keeps her jaw set square when she’d rather be smiling two foot wide. Lots of men can’t let a lady grin without thinkin’ she’s soft on ’em.

The first test I seen of Stepping May was along about Hickman, Kentucky, one of those mean, miserable days when the autumn northers begin to whisper an’ growl down out o’ the ice cap mountains. Hadn’t begun to rain yet, but hit was mean. I was into my green cabin boat which I bought off a feller who built it up the Alleghany in N’York State to trip down to N’Orleans, but found the Ohio so big he neveh had the grit to see old Mississip’ at all. Theh I was, jes’ plumb comfy, an’ this blamed gal come along—pretty as a picture, an’ jes’ about as accommodating.

She hearn my fiddle talking along, so she pulled up an’ hailed. I stepped outside, not thinkin’ what I was doing, an’ course, the minute that wind hit my warm fiddle strings, snp! An’ I had two broken.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” she said, the way a girl does when she knows what she’s talking about. “I didn’t mean to do that!” She was cold, her cheeks red, an’ her hands reddish. You know how a man feels when he knows he ought to ask a lady something, but expects she’ll sure miscue ’im. I had a good