Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/237

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to show her my face, for fear I would betray the joy I was enduring.

An’ I took her hands in mine. I kissed them, grateful as a dog for the friendly pat of his mistress. I’d neveh in God’s world deserve any happiness that dancing girl had given me; the rewards of heaven couldn’t have tempted me away from what it dawned on me was coming to be mine—account of her being jealous of that up-the-bank woman!

Course, d’rectly I was standing up. I was standing in the cabin of my shanty-boat, on the floor where Steppin’ May’d been practising. An’ she was right theh, with my arms around her, an’ her face turned up to me.

“May,” I said, “yo’ don’t mean—yo’ don’t want me to ask yo’ to marry yo’, do you?”

“Don’t I?” she asked, awful sarcastic. “What do I want, then?”

I couldn’t believe it, even then, an’ her in my arms, all limp—to have for my own, to kiss those lips, to claim those eyes! Lawse! Lawse! Fiddling Luce come to this down old Mississip’!

Hit wan’t jes’ professional people. Hit warn’t jes’ me fiddlin’ for her practice steppin’, come the time when she’d have somebody that’d be able to play.

Hit were me loving that lovely woman, with her arms around my neck, and my lips worshipping temple lips, looking into the gem-light windows of her soul. Yes, suh! How come hit that woman let on she loved me? How could she—that woman, like a statue alive?

I married her. We cut loose from Mendova, trippin’ down. When night come, I couldn’t believe hit were so, that she wouldn’t, an’ I wouldn’t either, go out into that skiff alongside, to sleep under the tarpaulin—but this was our cabin, our room, and she’d sit on my lap. Sho! Sho!

Yes, suh! Lots drap down old Mississip’, an’ the farther down they go, the more miserable they are. They’d better quit, ’fore they roll out at the Passes. But some—some that hear the music, some that see the flash and spread of the colours, some that listen to the birds and feel the soothing in the sting of the north wind, an’ smell the fragrance of the blossoms in the dank of the swamp brakes—they’d sure better keep on trippin’ down; yes, indeedy!