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PRIZE STORIES OF 1924

wouldn’t marry me. I’m jes’ a fiddlin’ shanty-boater. She’s a stepper.”

“Not married!” this woman exclaimed. “But—but—oh—yes! I’ve heard on the river—— I suppose she wouldn’t—— How honourable of you to put it that way!”

She sniffed—at May! Course, I hadn’t thought anything before. We were jes’ two professional people. There wasn’t any real violinist May could find, no real musician, so she’d put up with me. Lots of geniuses is thataway, putting up and getting along with what they have, not complaining or anything.

“Who’s that woman you were talking to?” May asked me afterward.

“Why, I don’t know—one of those uptown women——

“Oh—was it?”

I knowed right away that May knew I’d blundered, saying something. I hadn’t thought anything. Imagine me thinking anything about May! She was awful quiet, along. There was a tall, handsome man come to her, with flowers, saying it, as they tell around. I sure despised that up-the-banker. He wa’n’t fitting for May. The bestest man in the world wasn’t fit for her. He come to me once. He wanted to know if May wasn’t my wife? I told him, the same as I would anybody, how it was. We were only professional people.

Those were mighty lonesome days for me. Seemed just like May an’ me was being tore apart, stretching the aching strings of my heart. Course, I jes’ knowed hit didn’t matter to her. She was thinkin’ about her dancing. She was busy having new clothes made and was studying the new life that was opening up to her.

“Lucien!” she told me one day, down on the boat. “Just think—the world wants us!”

“Us!” I laughed, but it hurt. “Hit’s you!”

She gave me one of those quick, birdlike looks as though I was plumb ridiculous. I knowed I was, too, or she wouldn't be making fun of me, as if I was much more’n jes’ somebody to mark time for her. She could dance to “Patting Juba,” making it sound like the “River Voices” when old Joe Parmer plays hit.

I had some jobs fiddling at private houses; ten, twenty,