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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Shadow Of Terror

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"Behute!" Von Gerhard's tone was solemn.

"Would you be faintly interested in knowing that the book is finished?"

"So? That is well. You were wearing yourself thin over it. It was then quickly perfected."

"Perfected!" I groaned. "I turn cold when I think of it. The last chapters got away from me completely. They lacked the punch."

Von Gerhard considered that a moment, as I wickedly had intended that he should. Then--"The punch? What is that then--the punch?"

Obligingly I elucidated. "A book may be written in flawless style, with a plot, and a climax, and a lot of little side surprises. But if it lacks that peculiar and convincing quality poetically known as the punch, it might as well never have been written. It can never be a six-best-seller, neither will it live as a classic. You will never see it advertised on the book review page of the Saturday papers, nor will the man across the aisle in the street car be so absorbed in its contents that he will be taken past his corner."

Von Gerhard looked troubled. "But the literary value? Does that not enter--"

"I don't aim to contribute to the literary uplift," I assured him. "All my life I have cherished two ambitions. One of them is to write a successful book, and the other to learn to whistle through my teeth--this way, you know, as the gallery gods do it. I am almost despairing of the whistle, but I still have hopes of the book."

Whereupon Von Gerhard, after a moment's stiff surprise, gave vent to one of his heartwarming roars.

"Thanks," said I. "Now tell me the important news."

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His face grew serious in an instant. "Not yet, Dawn. Later. Let us hear more about the book. Not so flippant, however, small one. The time is past when you can deceive me with your nonsense."

"Surely you would not have me take myself seriously! That's another debt I owe my Irish forefathers. They could laugh--bless 'em!--in the very teeth of a potato crop failure. And let me tell you, that takes some sense of humor. The book is my potato crop. If it fails it will mean that I must keep on drudging, with a knot or two taken in my belt. But I'll squeeze a smile out of the corner of my mouth, somehow. And if it succeeds! Oh, Ernst, if it succeeds!"

"Then, Kindchen?"

"Then it means that I may have a little thin layer of jam on my bread and butter. It won't mean money--at least, I don't think it will. A first book never does. But it will mean a future. It will mean that I will have something solid to stand on. It will be a real beginning--a breathing spell--time in which to accomplish something really worth while--independence--freedom from this tread-mill--"

"Stop!" cried Von Gerhard, sharply. Then, as I stared in surprise--"I do ask your pardon. I was again rude, nicht wahr? But in me there is a queer vein of German superstition that disapproves of air castles. Sich einbilden, we call it."

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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