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0105_001E Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Bennie And The Charming Old Maid

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"Sounds like a moving picture play," I remarked.

"Wait a minute. Here's the point. The city wants to build a branch library or something on her property, and the nice old party is so pinched for money that she'll have to take their offer. So the time has come when she'll have to leave that old cottage, with its romance, and its memories, and its lamp in the window, and go to live in a cheap little flat, see? Where the old four-poster will choke up the bedroom--"

"And the parlor will be done in red and green," I put in, eagerly, "and where there will be an ingrowing sideboard in the dining-room that won't fit in with the quaint old dinner-set at all, and a kitchenette just off that, in which the great iron pots and kettles that used to hold the family dinners will be monstrously out of place--"

"You're on," said Norberg.

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Half an hour later I stood before the cottage, set primly in the center of a great lot that extended for half a square on all sides. A winter-sodden, bare enough sight it was in the gray of that March day. But it was not long before Alma Pflugel, standing in the midst of it, the March winds flapping her neat skirts about her ankles, filled it with a blaze of color. As she talked, a row of stately hollyhocks, pink, and scarlet, and saffron, reared their heads against the cottage sides. The chill March air became sweet with the scent of heliotrope, and Sweet William, and pansies, and bridal wreath. The naked twigs of the rose bushes flowered into wondrous bloom so that they bent to the ground with their weight of crimson and yellow glory. The bare brick paths were overrun with the green of growing things. Gray mounds of dirt grew vivid with the fire of poppies. Even the rain-soaked wood of the pea-frames miraculously was hidden in a hedge of green, over which ran riot the butterfly beauty of the lavender, and pink, and cerise blossoms. Oh, she did marvelous things that dull March day, did plain German Alma Pflugel! And still more marvelous were the things that were to come.

But of these things we knew nothing as the door was opened and Alma Pflugel and I gazed curiously at one another. Surprise was writ large on her honest face as I disclosed my errand. It was plain that the ways of newspaper reporters were foreign to the life of this plain German woman, but she bade me enter with a sweet graciousness of manner.

Wondering, but silent, she led the way down the dim narrow hallway to the sitting-room beyond. And there I saw that Norberg had known whereof he spoke.

A stout, red-faced stove glowed cheerfully in one corner of the room. Back of the stove a sleepy cat opened one indolent eye, yawned shamelessly, and rose to investigate, as is the way of cats. The windows were aglow with the sturdy potted plants that flower-loving German women coax into bloom. The low-ceilinged room twinkled and shone as the polished surfaces of tables and chairs reflected the rosy glow from the plethoric stove. I sank into the depths of a huge rocker that must have been built for Grosspapa Pflugel's generous curves. Alma Pflugel, in a chair opposite, politely waited for this new process of interviewing to begin, but relaxed in the embrace of that great armchair I suddenly realized that I was very tired and hungry, and talk-weary, and that here; was a great peace. The prima donna, with her French, and her paint, and her pearls, and the prizefighter with his slang, and his cauliflower ear, and his diamonds, seemed creatures of another planet. My eyes closed. A delicious sensation of warmth and drowsy contentment stole over me.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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