Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/60

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26

PRIZE STORIES OF 1924

had to be, but he knew how to work and he liked it. Maggie—in a rural community Margaret would inevitably become Maggie—was usually with him. She helped him build the house, the barns, sheds, fences, chairs; she even helped him skin a calf when it had been killed. Meat had no commercial value then, but hides could be sold. As they worked they talked. It was evident they were very much in love with each other. In all my life I have never knows another woman who so easily and naturally entered into the thoughts as well as the work of a man. I was always delighted to be with them. Sometimes when it rained, or on Sunday afternoons, they would lie down together on a pallet of wolf hides on the front porch, and Howard would laugh almost continuously for two or three hours, a pleasant sort of chuckle.

It was not until years later that I realized Howard was laughing because he was so happy he couldn’t keep from laughing. She was his wife, his mistress, his sweetheart, his business partner, and the person he liked best to talk with. Such complete happiness must come to two people only rarely. I never heard them quarrel, and it is my honest opinion that they never did, for both were overflowing with generosity of spirit, and each was more than equal to any of the demands our primitive life made upon their energy.

Maggie was about five feet eight inches tall and rather slender, but with a large frame and large, but shapely, hands and feet. The first time I saw her I thought she was beautiful. Most persons would. Her eyes were a sort of hazel blue, and they not only smiled, but seemed to say in a hearty booming voice: “Welcome! You and I are going to be great friends.” Meeting her was more like a reunion than getting acquainted. Within five minutes you had known her all her life. She brightened a cloudless spring morning for me with such a smile the first time I saw her, and then produced a piece of gingerbread about the size of a brick, and an enormous cup of buttermilk. They don’t make such cups any more, and very little of such gingerbread. I was hers for life. Much as I loved gingerbread, however, I still think it was the spell of Maggie that got me. I remember watching her bare arms.

Howard and Maggie were very comfortably settled in their home before the year was out. They had made a good crop,