Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/235

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fifty dollars they’d pay me. They paid May five hundred dollars one night to dance at a business men’s dinner, on the table. She came down to the boat crying mad. I don’t know what happened. She scolded me, rearing right down on me.

“Don’t you know what I want?” she told me. “Don’t you see what they think? Oh, you poor idiot—have I got to say it?”

“Say what?” I asked; an’ then she reared at me. She'd been awful patient with me, one time and another. I couldn’t always he’p showin’ her what I thought, even if it was insulting for me to love her. I just couldn’t bring myse’f to ask her to marry me, account of when you do that to a girl she’s always sorry for you, an’ she promises to be your sister an’ don’t know you the next time you meet her.

If I asked her to marry me, course, she’d cut loose, prob’ly go uptown, an’ all that’d be left for me would be to trip off down the river, with just her picture on my heart, a picture burned in deep, beautiful, but a scar as big as a Texas brand. I didn’t feel like I could ever stand a hurt like that—the hurt of losing her, never seein’ May again, not her dancing, nor her eyes brimming with laughter and sympathy—and her lips that smiled free for me, until she begun to dance, and we needn’t to wonder if we’d have enough for breakfast the next morning to eat.

That woman I was telling about come down to the ferry in her automobile one day. May’d gone uptown, so she asked Jim Horseshoe to come up the bayou to bring me down. I come down, course, so she took me with her account of May not being there, she said, my music being good, if there wasn’t anybody to dance but her.

She was an awful high-toned woman, an’ you know she wanted to dance herself, trying the riveh music. So I played for her. Course, if you dance riveh music, you got to know the riveh—know the rocking of the boat in the eddies an’ the swing of the current. But this Alice Haven was quite a stepper at that. She said my music just carried her right along. She danced bold, though, not the way May did. Course, she was a good flinger an’ had a little kick to her that was graceful—but she didn’t have to be professional. She was rich. And when she was tired, she come and laid her