Everybody felt terribly. It was sad and embarrassing. Then Alice, who was still shaking, spoke. “You’re a dirty liar,” she said in that low voice. “You never layed Steve Ketchel in your life and you know it.”

“How can you say that?” Peroxide said proudly.

“I say it because it’s true,” Alice said. “I’m the only one here that ever knew Steve Ketchel and I come from Mancelona and I knew him there and it’s true and you know it’s true and God can strike me dead if it isn’t true.”

“He can strike me, too,” Peroxide said.

“This is true, true, true, and you know it. Not just made up and I know exactly what he said to me.”

“What did he say?” Peroxide asked, complacently.

Alice was crying so she could hardly speak from shaking so.

“He said, ‘You’re a lovely piece, Alice.’ That’s exactly what he said.”

“It’s a lie,” Peroxide said.

“It’s true,” Alice said. “That’s truly what he said.”

“It’s a lie,” Peroxide said proudly.

“No, it’s true, true, true, to Jesus and Mary true.”

“Steve couldn’t have said that. It wasn’t the way he talked,” Peroxide said happily.

“It’s true,” Alice said in her nice voice. “And it doesn’t make any difference to me whether you believe it or not.” She wasn’t crying any more and she was calm.

“It would be impossible for Steve to have said that,” Peroxide declared.

“He said it,” Alice said and smiled. “And I remember when he said it and I was a lovely piece then exactly as he said, and right now I’m a better piece than you, you dried-up old hot-water bottle.”

“You can’t insult me,” said Peroxide. “You big moun­tain of pus. I have my memories.”

“No,” Alice said in that sweet lovely voice, “you haven’t got any real memories except having your tubes out and when you started C. and M. Everything else you just read in the papers. I’m clean and you know it and men like me, even though I’m big, and you know it, and I never lie and you know it.”

“Leave me with my memories,” Peroxide said. “With my true, wonderful memories.”

Alice looked at her and then at us and her face lost that hurt look and she smiled and she had about the prettiest face I ever saw. She had a pretty face and a nice smooth skin and a lovely voice and she was nice all right and really friendly. But, my God, she was big. She was as big as three women. Tom saw me looking at her and he said, “Come on. Let’s go.”

“Good-by,” said Alice. She certainly had a nice voice.

“Good-by,” I said.

“Which way are you boys going?” asked the cook.

“The other way from you,” Tom told him.

The Battler

Nick stood up. He was all right. He looked up the track at the lights of the caboose going out of sight around a curve. There was water on both sides of the track, then tamarack swamp.

He felt of his knee. The pants were torn and the skin was barked. His hands were scraped and there were sand and cinders driven up under his nails. He went over to the edge of the track, down the little slope to the water and washed his hands. He washed them care­fully in the cold water, getting the dirt out from the nails. He squatted down and bathed his knee.

That lousy crut of a brakeman. He would get him some day. He would know him again. That was a fine way to act.

“Come here, kid,” he said. “I got something for you.”

He had fallen for it. What a lousy kid thing to have done. They would never suck him in that way again.

“Come here, kid, I got something for you.” Then wham and he lit on his hands and knees beside the track.

Nick rubbed his eye. There was a big bump coming up. He would have a black eye, all right. It ached al­ready. That son of a crutting brakeman.

He touched the bump over his eye with his fingers. Oh, well, it was only a black eye. That was all he had gotten out of it. Cheap at the price. He wished he could see it. Could not see it looking into the water, though. It was dark and he was a long way off from anywhere. He wiped his hands on his trousers and stood up, then climbed the embankment to the rails.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest