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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Smash-Up

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"Married, h'm?"

For a moment the word would not come. I could hear Norah catch her breath quickly. Then--"Yes," answered I.

"Husband living?" I could see suspicion dawning in his cold gray eye.

Again the catch in Norah's throat and a little half warning, half supplicating gesture. And again, "Yes," said I.

The dawn of suspicion burst into full glow.

"Where is he?" growled the red-haired doctor. "At a time like this?"

I shut my eyes for a moment, too sick at heart to resent his manner. I could feel, more than see, that Sis was signaling him frantically. I moistened my lips and answered him, bitterly.

"He is in the Starkweather Hospital for the insane."

When the red-haired man spoke again the growl was quite gone from his voice.

"And your home is--where?"

"Nowhere," I replied meekly, from my pillow. But at that Sis put her hand out quickly, as though she had been struck, and said:

"My home is her home."

"Well then, take her there," he ordered, frowning, "and keep her there as long as you can. Newspaper reporting, h'm? In New York? That's a devil of a job for a woman. And a husband who . . . Well, you'll have to take a six months' course in loafing, young woman. And at the end of that time, if you are still determined to work, can't you pick out something easier--like taking in scrubbing, for instance?"

I managed a feeble smile, wishing that he would go away quickly, so that I might sleep. He seemed to divine my thoughts, for he disappeared into the corridor, taking Norah with him. Their voices, low-pitched and carefully guarded, could be heard as they conversed outside my door.

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Norah was telling him the whole miserable business. I wished, savagely, that she would let me tell it, if it must be told. How could she paint the fascination of the man who was my husband? She had never known the charm of him as I had known it in those few brief months before our marriage. She had never felt the caress of his voice, or the magnetism of his strange, smoldering eyes glowing across the smoke-dimmed city room as I had felt them fixed on me. No one had ever known what he had meant to the girl of twenty, with her brain full of unspoken dreams--dreams which were all to become glorious realities in that wonder-place, New York.

How he had fired my country-girl imagination! He had been the most brilliant writer on the big, brilliant sheet--and the most dissolute. How my heart had pounded on that first lonely day when this Wonder-Being looked up from his desk, saw me, and strolled over to where I sat before my typewriter! He smiled down at me, companionably. I'm quite sure that my mouth must have been wide open with surprise. He had been smoking a cigarette an expensive-looking, gold-tipped one. Now he removed it from between his lips with that hand that always shook a little, and dropped it to the floor, crushing it lightly with the toe of his boot. He threw back his handsome head and sent out the last mouthful of smoke in a thin, lazy spiral. I remember thinking what a pity it was that he should have crushed that costly-looking cigarette, just for me.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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