Past All Dishonor

Past All Dishonor by James M. Cain Read Free Book Online

Book: Past All Dishonor by James M. Cain Read Free Book Online
Authors: James M. Cain
damned if he’d apologize but if she’d take the frogsticker away he would sing bass. So Renny started Maryland, My Maryland again, and he sang bass, and stead of secesh words it was German words he sang, but Biloxi was satisfied and put the sword away.
    Then a fellow with a heavy gold watch chain that was sitting near the door said something to her, and she went to the foot of the stairs in the hall and started the same hollering we had heard from the outside. She kept calling Morina, and said Mr. Brewer was ready to bet and everybody was ready and to come on down and take their money from them. About the same time I placed Mr. Brewer he seemed to remember me, because he nodded and spoke. He was the one that had let the sergeant have it that night in the saloon, on whether he should enlist in the army or not. He leaned over and said he loved money all right but this was one bet he wanted to lose. I had begun feeling funny the minute I heard Morina’s name, but I asked what the bet was, and he said never mind, but to get ten dollars down, because they weren’t letting anybody look that didn’t put up some dough, and I’d be hoping to lose too. About that time Morina came downstairs with a tall hombre and she was laughing at his jokes, whatever they were. She had on some kind of black silk wrapper, with red sash, red shoes, and a red ribbon in her hair. Biloxi kept hollering about the bet, and all the others joined in, but she said to hell with the bet, she was there for a good time and it was too much like work. She came in and sat down and told Haines to sing and he started the Vacant Chair.
    Her seat was no more than three feet from mine, but he was in the second chorus and they had all joined in before she noticed me. And he had started something else, and they were all around the piano before she spoke. “What did you have to come here for?”
    “Did I know you’d be here?”
    “Of course you did!”
    “How, for instance?”
    “You followed me down! You called me!”
    “... I came on business.”
    “I haven’t got but one business.”
    Biloxi saw something was going on about that time, and came over and patted my hand and asked what it was, and tried to get something out of Morina, but she looked away toward the music and wouldn’t talk. Then when Biloxi got it out of me I had wanted to marry Morina and had come down to talk it over, she put her arm around me and kissed me, and cried a little bit, and asked Morina why she treated me so bad. It kind of stabbed into my heart that Biloxi was on my side and, even if she was a madam in a house, wanted Morina to have a happy life and be with somebody that loved her.
    All this time the music was going on, and the men and the girls were laughing and singing and carrying on, except Brewer would come over every couple of minutes and shake gold in his two cupped hands at Morina, but Biloxi would wave him off. And then pretty soon Morina turned to me and said: “Why do you tell her that? You know we can’t ever be married.”
    “What’s stopping us?”
    “You’re just a boy.”
    “I’m free, white, and twenty-one.”
    “You’re nothing but a baby, and if I ever was crazy enough to marry you, you know just as well as I do you could never forgive me for what I’ve been. You’d hate me for it, and for every man that ever—”
    “Went upstairs with you! Say it!”
    I must have hollered that out, because all of a sudden there was no singing any more, and they were all looking at me, and Biloxi was looking at me, with kind of a little smile twitching around her mouth. “My petit Annapolitain play little bit? Until he grow up? Fall in love, yes? Have fun?”
    “I guess that’s got to be it.”
    It was a minute before Morina looked at me, and then I said: “You heard what she said. So all right. So what’s the price of doing business?”
    She didn’t cry, but her eyes began to glitter like they were made of glass. “Why did you have to say that, Roger?

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