Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/232

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which she loved, account of how much she thought of me. You know the way women is—anything somebody they like does is sorta int’restin’ to them.

So I played what she said. I couldn’t think of nothin’ else. So she danced, which took their attention off what I was playing—and watching her, you know, she carried my music right along! I almost forgot I was playing. Yes, suh—she flew down the stage like great white swans fly down the line travelling out of the north, white, strong, shimmering. Lawse! Lawee! Seemed just like those quality folks sporting in Palura’s inspired her to dance. An’ I felt an ache in my heart, yes, suh!

You know how a man feels about a beautiful woman. He wants her to know how much he admires her. He wants to put at her feet all that he’s got, all that he eveh can be in God’s world. He’d put down his bleeding heart, with all its aches, for her to walk on; an’ the pain of hit ’d be the greatest joy that he’d eveh known! All that kind of stuff—you know what I mean. An’ he knows he cain’t he’p her none. He cain’t make her no better than he can he’p an oriole to sing, or an American lotus blossom to be lovely. All he can do is jes’ wish he mout he’p some. An’ then his heart aches, for all he’d like to do—an’ afteh all, it’s somebody else that can he’p her. Theh those folks was—an’ she danced like she’d neveh danced before, for them.

An’ afteh hit was all oveh, those quality men came a walking up, a bowing in their dress suits, an’ the women who’d split their gloves came up, and account of there bein’ such a crowd around May they come to me, to talk, and tell me how nice it all was, May’s dancing. And I stood there in those old clothes of mine, feelin’ like the shanty-boater I was. Yes, suh. I don’t s’pose theh’s any more miserable feelin’ in this world ’an I had, seein’ those men around May, an’ how she laughed, her cheeks colouring up. Lawse! Lawse! How mighty triflin’ a man is, if he ain’t much ’count out in the world!

They was one feller there, he come from the op’ry house, an awful swell, dressed right up to the handle. He took May off, by herself, an’ she called me in, too. I wondered about that, but seems he wanted her to come up an’ dance on his stage, too. Palura he cussed and squabbled around about