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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

A Tragedy Of Gowns

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From husbands in general, and from oogly German husbands in particular may Hymen defend me! Never again will I attempt to select "echt Amerikanische" clothes for a woman who must not weary her young husband. But how was I to know that the harmless little shopping expedition would resolve itself into a domestic tragedy, with Herr Nirlanger as the villain, Frau Nirlanger as the persecuted heroine, and I as--what is it in tragedy that corresponds to the innocent bystander in real life? That would be my role.

The purchasing of the clothes was a real joy. Next to buying pretty things for myself there is nothing I like better than choosing them for some one else. And when that some one else happens to be a fascinating little foreigner who coos over the silken stuffs in a delightful mixture of German and English; and especially when that some one else must be made to look so charming that she will astonish her oogly husband, then does the selecting of those pretty things cease to be a task, and become an art.

It was to be a complete surprise to Herr Nirlanger. He was to know nothing of it until everything was finished and Frau Nirlanger, dressed in the prettiest of the pretty Amerikanisch gowns, was ready to astound him when he should come home from the office of the vast plant where he solved engineering problems.

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"From my own money I buy all this," Frau Nirlanger confided to me, with a gay little laugh of excitement, as we started out. "From Vienna it comes. Always I have given it at once to my husband, as a wife should. Yesterday it came, but I said nothing, and when my husband said to me, `Anna, did not the money come as usual to-day? It is time,' I told a little lie--but a little one, is it not? Very amusing it was. Almost I did laugh. Na, he will not be cross when he see how his wife like the Amerikanische ladies will look. He admires very much the ladies of Amerika. Many times he has said so.

("I'll wager he has--the great, ugly boor!" I thought, in parenthesis.) "We'll show him!" I said, aloud. "He won't know you. Such a lot of beautiful clothes as we can buy with all this money. Oh, dear Frau Nirlanger, it's going to be slathers of fun! I feel as excited about it as though it were a trousseau we were buying."

"So it is," she replied, a little shadow of sadness falling across the brightness of her face. "I had no proper clothes when we were married--but nothing! You know perhaps my story. In America, everyone knows everything. It is wonderful. When I ran away to marry Konrad Nirlanger I had only the dress which I wore; even that I borrowed from one of the upper servants, on a pretext, so that no one should recognize me. Ach Gott! I need not have worried. So! You see, it will be after all a trousseau."

Why, oh, why should a woman with her graceful carriage and pretty vivacity have been cursed with such an ill-assorted lot of features! Especially when certain boorish young husbands have expressed an admiration for pink-and-white effects in femininity.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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