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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Bennie And The Charming Old Maid

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"Do listen to the purring of that cat!" I murmured. "Oh, newspapers have no place in this. This is peace and rest."

Alma Pflugel leaned forward in her chair. "You--you like it?"

"Like it! This is home. I feel as though my mother were here in this room, seated in one of those deep chairs, with a bit of sewing in her hand; so near that I could touch her cheek with my fingers."

Alma Pflugel rose from her chair and came over to me. She timidly placed her hand on my arm. "Ah, I am so glad you are like that. You do not laugh at the low ceilings, and the sunken floors, and the old-fashioned rooms. You do not raise your eyes in horror and say: `No conveniences! And why don't you try striped wall paper? It would make those dreadful ceilings seem higher.' How nice you are to understand like that!"

My hand crept over to cover her own that lay on my arm. "Indeed, indeed I do understand," I whispered. Which, as the veriest cub reporter can testify, is no way to begin an interview.

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A hundred happy memories filled the little low room as Alma Pflugel showed me her treasures. The cat purred in great content, and the stove cast a rosy glow over the scene as the simple woman told the story of each precious relic, from the battered candle-dipper on the shelf, to the great mahogany folding table, and sewing stand, and carved bed. Then there was the old horn lantern that Jacob Pflugel had used a century before, and in one corner of the sitting-room stood Grossmutter Pflugel's spinning-wheel. Behind cupboard doors were ranged the carefully preserved blue-and-white china dishes, and on the shelf below stood the clumsy earthen set that Grosspapa Pflugel himself had modeled for his young bride in those days of long ago. In the linen chest there still lay, in neat, fragrant folds, piles of the linen that had been spun on that time-yellowed spinning-wheel. And because of the tragedy in the honest face bent over these dear treasures, and because she tried so bravely to hide her tears, I knew in my heart that this could never be a newspaper story.

"So," said Alma Pflugel at last, and rose and walked slowly to the window and stood looking out at the wind-swept garden. That window, with its many tiny panes, once had looked out across a wilderness, with an Indian camp not far away. Grossmutter Pflugel had sat at that window many a bitter winter night, with her baby in her arms, watching and waiting for the young husband who was urging his ox-team across the ice of Lake Michigan in the teeth of a raging blizzard.

The little, low-ceilinged room was very still. I looked at Alma Pflugel standing there at the window in her neat blue gown, and something about the face and figure--or was it the pose of the sorrowful head?--seemed strangely familiar. Somewhere in my mind the resemblance haunted me. Resemblance to--what? Whom?

"Would you like to see my garden?" asked Alma Pflugel, turning from the window. For a moment I stared in wonderment. But the honest, kindly face was unsmiling. "These things that I have shown you, I can take with me when I--go. But there," and she pointed out over the bare, wind-swept lot, "there is something that I cannot take. My flowers! You see that mound over there, covered so snug and warm with burlap and sacking? There my tulips and hyacinths sleep. In a few weeks, when the covering is whisked off--ah, you shall see! Then one can be quite sure that the spring is here. Who can look at a great bed of red and pink and lavender and yellow tulips and hyacinths, and doubt it? Come."

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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