Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/226

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professional, I could see that—but more than professional, too, somehow. She had to ’dapt her stepping to the music, finding which was best, if shuffling and sliding or tap-tap or lifting and floating. Seemed like I played twict as good as I’d eveh played in my life before.

My cabin was six foot four high, an’ there was about eight by ten foot square she could dance in; hit wan’t any too much, but she used all the floor an’ most of the roof, so to speak. She’d dance a round or two, an’ then she’d sit an’ ask me questions. That was about the busiest afternoon I remember, and ’fore I knowed hit, night had come, closing down on the riveh like a door, taking me right by surprise!

“Oh, it’s dark!” she cried, waking up

I jumped out, give a look around, an’ then pulled for the west bank. Lucky hit was the foot of a long bend, an’ I anchored in the eddy at the head of the bar—I don’t know which bar, either. Somewhere below Putney Bend, anyhow, an’ she stood nervous and doubtful as she looked out into that black night.

“We better cook supper,” I told her. “You've a tarpaulin so’s you can sleep into your skiff?”

“Oh, yes!” she said. “I sleep into it.”

I lighted a big round burner lamp I had, and we stretched her tarpaulin over the hoops, for it seemed like rain was right theh. Then we cooked supper on my oil stove, she being mighty good at hot bread, while I ain’t no slouch cooking meat. Course, I’m one of those people that always has a plenty to eat on board, even if I am a fiddler. I made good money. I’d come down the rivers just so I wouldn’t be pestifered by neighbours and anybody, practising my music all day an’ all night, too, ’f I wanted to. We had a regular meal, which she ate of hearty, as I did, both being right hungry after an the work that afternoon—work we loved, but work, at that.

Afteh supper we cleared the table, washed the dishes—a man sure goes low down, leaving dishes to wash, if he’s in a shanty boat. Women can do things like that, but if a man does it, soon he ain’t shaving, he don’t take his cold bath, an’ fustest he knows he’s shiftless, no ’count, ragged, dirty, miserable.

I wondered who this girl was, course. She was brave—