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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Shadow Of Terror

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"You!" I cried, and the humor of it was too exquisite for laughter.

"For that I gave up Vienna," said Von Gerhard, simply. "You, too, must do your share."

"My share! I have done my share. He was in the gutter, and he was dragging me with him. When his insanity came upon him I thanked God for it, and struggled up again. Even Norah never knew what that struggle was. Whatever I am, I am in spite of him. I tell you I could hug my widow's weeds. Ten years ago he showed me how horrible and unclean a thing can be made of this beautiful life. I was a despairing, cowering girl of twenty then--I am a woman now, happy in her work, her friends; growing broader and saner in thought, quicker to appreciate the finer things in life. And now--what?"

They were dashing off a rollicking folk-song indoors. When it was finished there came a burst of laughter and the sharp spat of applauding hands, and shouts of approbation. The sounds seemed seared upon my brain. I rose and ran down the path toward the waiting machine. There in the darkness I buried my shamed face in my hands and prayed for the tears that would not come.

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It seemed hours before I heard Von Gerhard's firm, quick tread upon the gravel path. He moved about the machine, adjusting this and that, then took his place at the wheel without a word. We glided out upon the smooth white road. All the loveliness of the night seemed to have vanished. Only the ugly, distorted shadows remained. The terror of uncertainty gripped me. I could not endure the sight of Von Gerhard's stern, set face. I grasped his arm suddenly so that the machine veered and darted across the road. With a mighty wrench Von Gerhard righted it. He stopped the machine at the road-side.

"Careful, Kindchen," he said, gravely.

"Ernst," I said, and my breath came quickly, chokingly, as though I had been running fast, "Ernst, I can't do it. I'm not big enough. I can't. I hate him, I tell you, I hate him! My life is my own. I've made it what it is, in the face of a hundred temptations; in spite of a hundred pitfalls. I can't lay it down again for Peter Orme to trample. Ernst, if you love me, take me away now. To Vienna--anywhere--only don't ask me to take up my life with him again. I can't--I can't--"

"Love you?" repeated Ernst, slowly, "yes. Too well--"

"Too well--"

"Yes, too well for that, Gott sei dank, small one. Too well for that."

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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