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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

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"Whalens!" I gasped. "How many of them? Not--not the entire fiendish three?"

"All three. I left them champing with impatience."

The Whalens live just around the corner. The Whalens are omniscient. They have a system of news gathering which would make the efforts of a New York daily appear antiquated. They know that Jenny Laffin feeds the family on soup meat and oat-meal when Mr. Laffin is on the road; they know that Mrs. Pearson only shakes out her rugs once in four weeks; they can tell you the number of times a week that Sam Dempster comes home drunk; they know that the Merkles never have cream with their coffee because little Lizzie Merkle goes to the creamery every day with just one pail and three cents; they gloat over the knowledge that Professor Grimes, who is a married man, is sweet on Gertie Ashe, who teaches second reader in his school; they can tell you where Mrs. Black got her seal coat, and her husband only earning two thousand a year; they know who is going to run for mayor, and how long poor Angela Sims has to live, and what Guy Donnelly said to Min when he asked her to marry him.

The three Whalens--mother and daughters--hunt in a group. They send meaning glances to one another across the room, and at parties they get together and exchange bulletins in a corner. On passing the Whalen house one is uncomfortably aware of shadowy forms lurking in the windows, and of parlor curtains that are agitated for no apparent cause.

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Therefore it was with a groan that I rose and prepared to follow Norah into the house. Something in my eye caused her to turn at the very door. "Don't you dare!" she hissed; then, banishing the warning scowl from her face, and assuming a near-smile, she entered the room and I followed miserably at her heels.

The Whalens rose and came forward effusively; Mrs. Whalen, plump, dark, voluble; Sally, lean, swarthy, vindictive; Flossie, pudgy, powdered, over-dressed. They eyed me hungrily. I felt that they were searching my features for signs of incipient insanity.

"Dear, DEAR girl!" bubbled the billowy Flossie, kissing the end of my nose and fastening her eye on my ringless left hand.

Sally contented herself with a limp and fishy handshake. She and I were sworn enemies in our school-girl days, and a baleful gleam still lurked in Sally's eye. Mrs. Whalen bestowed on me a motherly hug that enveloped me in an atmosphere of liquid face-wash, strong perfumery and fried lard. Mrs. Whalen is a famous cook. Said she:

"We've been thinking of calling ever since you were brought home, but dear me! you've been looking so poorly I just said to the girls, wait till the poor thing feels more like seeing her old friends. Tell me, how are you feeling now?"

The three sat forward in their chairs in attitudes of tense waiting.

I resolved that if err I must it should be on the side of safety. I turned to sister Norah.

"How am I feeling anyway, Norah?" I guardedly inquired.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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