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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Test

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Oh, it had been easy enough to talk of love in a lofty, superior impersonal way that New Year's day. Just the luxury of speaking of it at all, after those weeks of repression, sufficed. But it is not so easy to be impersonal and lofty when the touch of a coat sleeve against your arm sends little prickling, tingling shivers racing madly through thousands of too taut nerves. It is not so easy to force the mind and tongue into safe, sane channels when they are forever threatening to rush together in an overwhelming torrent that will carry misery and destruction in its wake. Invariably we talk with feverish earnestness about the book; about my work at the office; about Ernst's profession, with its wonderful growth; about Norah, and Max and the Spalpeens, and the home; about the latest news; about the weather; about Peter Orme--and then silence.

At our last meeting things took a new and startling turn. So startling, so full of temptation and happiness-that-must-not-be, that I resolved to forbid myself the pain and joy of being, near him until I could be quite sure that my grip on Dawn O'Hara was firm, unshakable and lasting.

Von Gerhard sports a motor-car, a rakish little craft, built long and low, with racing lines, and a green complexion, and a nose that cuts through the air like the prow of a swift boat through water. Von Gerhard had promised me a spin in it on the first mild day. Sunday turned out to be unexpectedly lamblike, as only a March day can be, with real sunshine that warmed the end of one's nose instead of laughing as it tweaked it, as the lying February sunshine had done.

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"But warmly you must dress yourself," Von Gerhard warned me, "with no gauzy blouses or sleeveless gowns. The air cuts like a knife, but it feels good against the face. And a little road-house I know, where one is served great steaming plates of hot oyster stew. How will that be for a lark, yes?"

And so I had swathed myself in wrappings until I could scarcely clamber into the panting little car, and we had darted off along the smooth lake drives, while the wind whipped the scarlet into our cheeks, even while it brought the tears to our eyes. There was no chance for conversation, even if Von Gerhard had been in talkative mood, which he was not. He seemed more taciturn than usual, seated there at the wheel, looking straight ahead at the ribbon of road, his eyes narrowed down to mere keen blue slits. I realized, without alarm, that he was driving furiously and lawlessly, and I did not care. Von Gerhard was that sort of man. One could sit quite calmly beside him while he pulled at the reins of a pair of runaway horses, knowing that he would conquer them in the end.

Just when my face began to feel as stiff and glazed as a mummy's, we swung off the roadway and up to the entrance of the road-house that was to revive us with things hot and soupy.

"Another minute," I said, through stiff lips, as I extricated myself from my swathings, "and I should have been what Mr. Mantalini described as a demnition body. For pity's sake, tell 'em the soup can't be too hot nor too steaming for your lady friend. I've had enough fresh air to last me the remainder of my life. May I timidly venture to suggest that a cheese sandwich follow the oyster stew? I am famished, and this place looks as though it might make a speciality of cheese sandwiches."

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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