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|The Higher Pragmatism||O Henry|
|Page 4 of 5||
"So that's what imagination does," concluded Mack. "And, as I said, your case and mine is simultaneous. You'll never win out. You can't go up against the professionals. I tell you, it's a park bench for yours in this romance business."
Mack, the pessimist, laughed harshly.
"I'm afraid I don't see the parallel," I said, coldly. "I have only a very slight acquaintance with the prize-ring."
The derelict touched my sleeve with his forefinger, for emphasis, as he explained his parable.
"Every man," said he, with some dignity, "has got his lamps on something that looks good to him. With you, it's this dame that you're afraid to say your say to. With me, it was to win out in the ring. Well, you'll lose just like I did."
"Why do you think I shall lose?" I asked warmly.
"'Cause," said he, "you're afraid to go in the ring. You dassen't stand up before a professional. Your case and mine is just the same. You're a amateur; and that means that you'd better keep outside of the ropes."
"Well, I must be going," I said, rising and looking with elaborate care at my watch.
When I was twenty feet away the park-bencher called to me.
"Much obliged for the dollar," he said. "And for the dime. But you'll never get 'er. You're in the amateur class."
"Serves you right," I said to myself, "for hobnobbing with a tramp. His impudence!"
But, as I walked, his words seemed to repeat themselves over and over again in my brain. I think I even grew angry at the man.
"I'll show him!" I finally said, aloud. "I'll show him that I can fight Reddy Burns, too--even knowing who he is."
I hurried to a telephone-booth and rang up the Telfair residence.
A soft, sweet voice answered. Didn't I know that voice? My hand holding the receiver shook.
"Is that you?" said I, employing the foolish words that form the vocabulary of every talker through the telephone.
"Yes, this is I," came back the answer in the low, clear-cut tones that are an inheritance of the Telfairs. "Who is it, please?"
"It's me," said I, less ungrammatically than egotistically. "It's me, and I've got a few things that I want to say to you right now and immediately and straight to the point."
"Dear me," said the voice. "Oh, it's you, Mr. Arden!"
I wondered if any accent on the first word was intended; Mildred was fine at saying things that you had to study out afterward.
"Yes," said I. "I hope so. And now to come down to brass tacks." I thought that rather a vernacularism, if there is such a word, as soon as I had said it; but I didn't stop to apologize. "You know, of course, that I love you, and that I have been in that idiotic state for a long time. I don't want any more foolish ness about it--that is, I mean I want an answer from you right now. Will you marry me or not? Hold the wire, please. Keep out, Central. Hello, hello! Will you, or will you not.?"
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