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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 353 pages of information about O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1921.

“Yes.”

“And what will he do then?”

“He can stay on here.  But I am afraid he doesn’t like us,” Miss Nellie sighed.

“Has he no one else?”

“No—­that is, a stepfather.  But his mother put him here to save him from the stepfather’s abuse, and—­and all the coarsening influences of stage life, if you understand.”

“Ah, yes, I understand,” said Madame d’Avala.  “And yet I think I understand the little one, too.  He and I—­we have the same nature.  We cannot breathe in the too-high altitudes.  For us there must be dancing in the valley, laughter and roses, perfume and sunshine—­always sunshine.”

“Oh—­er—­yes,” replied Miss Nellie, taken aback by this effusiveness, which she could only explain as being foreign.

“It’s 8:30,” said Miss Eva, looking at her watch.

“Ah, then I must fly,” cried Madame d’Avala.

“Goo’-bye!” said Freddy wistfully.

Au revoir,” said Madame d’Avala, and electrified the Misses Blair by adding, “See you after the show, kid.”

“I am very lonely, too,” said Margarita d’Avala after the concert—­“lonely and sad.”

“You are?” Freddy cried in amazement.  Then, practically, “What about?”

“It’s about a man,” confessed the lady.

“Aw, g’wan!” exclaimed Freddy incredulously.  “Say,” lowering his voice confidentially, “lemme tell you something!  They ain’t a man on earth worth crying for.”

“How did you know?” asked Margarita.

“Flo—­Florette used to say so.”  Then a cloud passed over his face.  “She used to say so,” he added.

There was a moment’s silence, while the lady watched him.  Then Freddy’s mobile face cleared, his eyes shone with their old gay confidence.

“Say, I’m telln’ you!” said Freddy, spreading his feet apart, thrusting his hands in his pockets.  “I ain’t got no use for men a-tall!  An’ you take my advice—­don’t bother over ’em!”

Margarita laughed.  She laughed so hard that Freddy had joined her, and without knowing how, he was by her side, holding on to her hand while they both rocked with merriment.  When they could laugh no more he snuggled up to the shoulder that smelled so nice.  His face became babyish and wistful.  He stroked the satin of the lovely gown with one timid finger, while his blue eyes implored hers.

“Ladies an’ children is nicest, ain’t they?” he appealed.

Suddenly the great Margarita d’Avala caught him in her arms and drew him to that warm, beautiful breast where no child’s head had ever rested.

“Oh, Freddy, Freddy!” she cried.  “You are right, and I must have you!”

“You kin, s’ long’s Florette’s away,” said Freddy.

WILD EARTH

By SOPHIE KERR

From Saturday Evening Post

The big department store so terrified Wesley Dean that he got no farther than five steps beyond the entrance.  Crowds of well-dressed ladies milling round like cattle, the noise of many feminine voices, the excessive warmth and the heady odour of powder and perfume—­the toilet goods were grouped very near the door—­all combined to bewilder and frighten him.  He got out before the floorwalker of the centre aisle could so much as ask him what he wanted.

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