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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Bennie The Consoler

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"I tell you you must give me a chance. You cannot take a child from a mother in this way. I tell you, if you will only help me I can crawl back up the road that I've traveled. I was not always like this. There was another life, before--before--Oh, since then there have been years of blackness, and hunger, and cold and--worse! But I never dragged the boy into it. Look at him!"

Our eyes traveled from the woman's transfigured face to that of the boy. We could trace a wonderful likeness where before we had seen none. But the woman went on in her steady, even tone.

"I can't talk as I should, because my brain isn't clear. It's the drink. When you drink, you forget. But you must help me. I can't do it alone. I can remember how to live straight, just as I can remember how to talk straight. Let me show you that I'm not all bad. Give me a chance. Take the boy and then give him back to me when you are satisfied. I'll try--God only knows how I'll try. Only don't take him away forever, Judge! Don't do that!"

Judge Wheeling ran an uncomfortable finger around his collar's edge.

"Any friends living here?"

"No! No!"

"Sure about that?"

"Quite sure."

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"Now see here; I'm going to give you your chance. I shall take this boy away from you for a year. In that time you will stop drinking and become a decent, self-supporting woman. You will be given in charge of one of these probation officers. She will find work for you, and a good home, and she'll stand by you, and you must report to her. If she is satisfied with you at the end of the year, the boy goes back to you."

"She will be satisfied," the woman said, simply. She stooped and taking Bennie's face between her hands kissed him once. Then she stepped aside and stood quite still, looking after the little figure that passed out of the court room with his hand in that of a big, kindly police officer. She looked until the big door had opened and closed upon them.

Then--well, it was just another newspaper story. It made a good one. That evening I told Frau Nirlanger about it, and she wept, softly, and murmured: "Ach, das arme baby! Like my little Oscar he is, without a mother." I told Ernst about him too, and Blackie, because I could not get his grave little face out of my mind. I wondered if those who had charge of him now would take the time to bathe the little body, and brush the soft hair until it shone, and tie the gay plaid silk tie as lovingly as "Daddy" Arnett of the Detention Home had done.

Then it was that I, quite unwittingly, stepped into Bennie's life.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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