Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/231

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

A RIVER COMBINE—PROFESSIONAL

197

on special. I was jes’ in my old pants, for I hadn’t any other, an’ a weollen shirt. I played for her to come a walking. Lawse! She’d jes’ had them old knickers practising. Now she was like a white rose grown up around a pink rose, for she was white an’ pink dressed—and step? Seemed just like she’d practised till now she was right.

Yes, suh! She was like a chimney swift flying, like a tall tree leaning before a strong wind, like the running waves on the flowing riveh—she just danced as natural as anything pretty you all eveh saw in motion, and not one step that wasn’t beautiful. She danced fourteen minutes—that’s how long it takes to play “Crossing Ripples” the way I do it, an’ she faded out on it the way the riveh runs down a crossing into the fog, or night in a fast, bright sunset.

Yes, suh! Those people, up the bankers an’ steamboaters, didn’t make a sound or motion till long afteh I’d took down my fiddle an’ was tightening up the E string. Seemed like the best we had to do wa’n’t nothing to them. I felt like it wa’n’t no use. I wanted to take May in my arms an’ tell her we didn’t cyar a whoopin’ damn what they thought—them—slam!

Yes, suh! Those quality folks, who was spreein’ down to Palura’s, come down on the floor with both feet, an’ split their gloves or stung their palms. I’d be’n afeared maybe Palura’d welch on that five dollars an’ we’d be hongry. Instead of that, when we was back in, he come an’ handed May a twenty-dollar note, an’ me the same. Forty dollars! I looked at hit. Seemed like it was a mistake—me twenty dollars! Just for fiddlin’ that riveh piece.

Then Palura shoves us out on the stage again. I stood there flustered an’ ready to cut an’ run. May put her arm around my shoulders.

“Dear old boy! Dear old boy!” she exclaimed. “Let’s have that ‘Flying Swans’ piece!”

’Tain’t much of a piece. Watching the black geese, an’ whooping cranes, an’ brent an’ Canadian geese flying by away up in the blue sky, their wings flashing in the sunshine, I’d—well, kind of set their motion to music. She always liked that piece. Course, no man can really set birds a-flyin’ to music. Not Chopin, or Beethoven, or Wagner—not anybody. But I’d made kind of a pitiful little stagger at it,