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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Peter Orme

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I went up to him then, and laid my hand on his arm. "Peter, you don't understand. These two gentlemen have been all that is kind to me. I am happy to know that you are well again. Surely you do not expect me to be joyful at seeing you. All that pretense was left out of our lives long before your--illness. It hasn't been all roses for me since then, Peter. I've worked until I wanted to die with weariness. You know what this newspaper game is for a woman. It doesn't grow easier as she grows older and tireder."

"Oh, cut out the melodrama, Dawn," sneered Peter. "Have either of you fellows the makin's about you? Thanks. I'm famished for a smoke."

The worrying words of ten years ago rose automatically to my lips. "Aren't you smoking too much, Peter?" The tone was that of a harassed wife.

Peter stared. Then he laughed his short, mirthless little laugh. "By Jove! Dawn, I believe you're as much my wife now as you were ten years ago. I always said, you know, that you would have become a first-class nagger if you hadn't had such a keen sense of humor. That saved you." He turned his mocking eyes to Von Gerhard. "Doesn't it beat the devil, how these good women stick to a man, once they're married! There's a certain dog-like devotion about it that's touching."

There was a dreadful little silence. For the first time in my knowledge of him I saw a hot, painful red dyeing Blackie's sallow face. His eyes had a menace in their depths. Then, very quietly, Von Gerhard stepped forward and stopped directly before me.

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"Dawn," he said, very softly and gently, "I retract my statement of an hour ago. If you will give me another chance to do as you asked me, I shall thank God for it all my life. There is no degradation in that. To live with this man--that is degradation. And I say you shall not suffer it."

I looked up into his face, and it had never seemed so dear to me. "The time for that is past," I said, my tone as calm and even as his own. "A man like you cannot burden himself with a derelict like me--mast gone, sails gone, water-logged, drifting. Five years from now you'll thank me for what I am saying now. My place is with this other wreck--tossed about by wind and weather until we both go down together." There came a sharp, insistent ring at the door-bell. No answering sound came from the regions above stairs. The ringing sounded again, louder than before.

"I'll be the Buttons," said Blackie, and disappeared into the hallway.

"Oh, yes, I've heard about you," came to our ears a moment later, in a high, clear voice--a dear, beloved voice that sent me flying to the door in an agony of hope.

"Norah!" I cried, "Norah! Norah! Norah!" And as her blessed arms closed about me the tears that had been denied me before came in a torrent of joy.

"There, there!" murmured she, patting my shoulder with those comforting mother-pats. "What's all this about? And why didn't somebody meet me? I telegraphed. You didn't get it? Well, I forgive you. Howdy-do, Peter? I suppose you are Peter. I hope you haven't been acting devilish again. That seems to be your specialty. Now don't smile that Mephistophelian smile at me. It doesn't frighten me. Von Gerhard, take him down to his hotel. I'm dying for my kimono and bed. And this child is trembling like a race-horse. Now run along, all of you. Things that look greenery-yallery at night always turn pink in the morning. Great Heavens! There's somebody calling down from the second-floor landing. It sounds like a landlady. Run, Dawn, and tell her your perfectly respectable sister has come. Peter! Von Gerhard! Mr. Blackie! Shoo!"

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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