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  Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Blackie's Vacation Comes

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The shabby blue office coat hangs on the hook in the little sporting room where Blackie placed it. No one dreams of moving it. There it dangles, out at elbows, disreputable, its pockets burned from many a hot pipe thrust carelessly into them, its cuffs frayed, its lapels bearing the marks of cigarette, paste-pot and pen.

It is that faded old garment, more than anything else, which makes us fail to realize that its owner will never again slip into its comfortable folds. We cannot believe that a lifeless rag like that can triumph over the man of flesh and blood and nerves and sympathies. With what contempt do we look upon those garments during our lifetime! And how they live on, defying time, long, long after we have been gathered to our last rest.

In some miraculous manner Blackie had lived on for two days after that ghastly ride. Peter had been killed instantly, the doctors said. They gave no hope for Blackie. My escape with but a few ridiculous bruises and scratches was due, they said, to the fact that I had sat in the tonneau. I heard them all, in a stupor of horror and grief, and wondered what plan Fate had in store for me, that I alone should have been spared. Norah and Max came, and took things in charge, and I saw Von Gerhard, but all three appeared dim and shadowy, like figures in a mist. When I closed my eyes I could see Peter's tense figure bending over Blackie at the wheel, and heard his labored breathing as he struggled in his mad fury, and felt again the helpless horror that had come to me as we swerved off the road and into the ditch below, with Blackie, rigid and desperate, still clinging to the wheel. I lived it all over and over in my mind. In the midst of the blackness I heard a sentence that cleared the fog from my mind, and caused me to raise myself from my pillows.

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Some one--Norah, I think--had said that Blackie was conscious, and that he was asking for some of the men at the office, and for me. For me! I rose and dressed, in spite of Norah's protests. I was quite well, I told them. I must see him. I shook them off with trembling fingers and when they saw that I was quite determined they gave in, and Von Gerhard telephoned to the hospital to learn the hour at which I might meet the others who were to see Blackie for a brief moment.

I met them in the stiff little waiting room of he hospital--Norberg, Deming, Schmidt, Holt--men who had known him from the time when they had yelled, "Heh, boy!" at him when they wanted their pencils sharpened. Awkwardly we followed the fleet-footed nurse who glided ahead of us down the wide hospital corridors, past doorways through which we caught glimpses of white beds that were no whiter than the faces that lay on the pillows. We came at last into a very still and bright little room where Blackie lay.

Had years passed over his head since I saw him last? The face that tried to smile at us from the pillow was strangely wizened and old. It was as though a withering blight had touched it. Only the eyes were the same. They glowed in the sunken face, beneath the shock of black hair, with a startling luster and brilliancy.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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