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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Peter Orme

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"`She expectin' you?' I asked.

"`N-not exactly,' he says, with that crooked grin.

"`Thought not,' I answered, before I knew what I was sayin'. `She's up north with her folks on a vacation.'

"`The devil she is!' he says. `Well, in that case can you let me have ten until Monday?'"

Blackie came over to me as I sat cowering in my chair. He patted my shoulder with one lean brown hand. "Now kid, you dig, see? Beat it. Go home for a week. I'll fix it up with Norberg. No tellin' what a guy like that's goin' t' do. Send your brother-in-law down here if you want to make it a family affair, and between us, we'll see this thing through."

I looked up at Von Gerhard. He was nodding approval. It all seemed so easy, so temptingly easy. To run away! Not to face him until I was safe in the shelter of Norah's arms! I stood up, resolve lending me new strength and courage.

"I am going. I know it isn't brave, but I can't be brave any longer. I'm too tired--too old--"

I grasped the hand of each of those men who had stood by me so staunchly in the year that was past. The words of thanks that I had on my lips ended in dry, helpless sobs. And because Blackie and Von Gerhard looked so pathetically concerned and so unhappy in my unhappiness my sobs changed to hysterical laughter, in which the two men joined, after one moment's bewildered staring.

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So it was that we did not hear the front door slam, or the sound of footsteps in the hall. Our overstrained nerves found relief in laughter, so that Peter Orme, a lean, ominous figure in the doorway looked in upon a merry scene.

I was the first to see him. And at the sight of the emaciated figure, with its hollow cheeks and its sunken eyes all terror and hatred left me, and I felt only a great pity for this wreck of manhood. Slowly I went up to him there in the doorway.

"Well, Peter?" I said.

"Well, Dawn old girl," said he "you're looking wonderfully fit. Grass widowhood seems to agree with you, eh?"

And I knew then that my dread dream had come true.

Peter advanced into the room with his old easy grace of manner. His eyes glowed as he looked at Blackie. Then he laughed, showing his even, white teeth. "Why, you little liar!" he said, in his crisp, clear English. "I've a notion to thwack you. What d' you mean by telling me my wife's gone? You're not sweet on her yourself, eh?"

Von Gerhard stifled an exclamation, and Orme turned quickly in his direction. "Who are you?" he asked. "Still another admirer? Jolly time you were having when I interrupted." He stared at Von Gerhard deliberately and coolly. A little frown of dislike came into his face. "You're a doctor, aren't you? I knew it. I can tell by the hands, and the eyes, and the skin, and the smell. Lived with 'em for ten years, damn them! Dawn, tell these fellows they're excused, will you? And by the way, you don't seem very happy to see me?"

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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