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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Test

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"By all means a cheese sandwich. Und was noch? That fresh air it has given you an appetite, nicht wahr?" But there was no sign of a smile on his face, nor was the kindly twinkle of amusement to be seen in his eyes--that twinkle that I had learned to look for.

"Smile for the lady," I mockingly begged when we had been served. "You've been owlish all the afternoon. Here, try a cheese sandwich. Now, why do you suppose that this mustard tastes so much better than the kind one gets at home?"

Von Gerhard had been smoking a cigarette, the first that I had ever seen in his fingers. Now he tossed it into the fireplace that yawned black and empty at one side of the room. He swept aside the plates and glasses that stood before him, leaned his arms on the table and deliberately stared at me.

"I sail for Europe in June, to be gone a year-- probably more," he said.

"Sail!" I echoed, idiotically; and began blindly to dab clots of mustard on that ridiculous sandwich.

"I go to study and work with Gluck. It is the opportunity of a lifetime. Gluck is to the world of medicine what Edison is to the world of electricity. He is a wizard, a man inspired. You should see him--a little, bent, grizzled, shabby old man who looks at you, and sees you not. It is a wonderful opportunity, a--"

The mustard and the sandwich and the table and Von Gerhard's face were very indistinct and uncertain to my eyes, but I managed to say: "So glad--congratulate you-- very happy--no doubt fortunate--"

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Two strong hands grasped my wrists. "Drop that absurd mustard spoon and sandwich. Na, I did not mean to frighten you, Dawn. How your hands tremble. So, look at me. You would like Vienna, Kindchen. You would like the gayety, and the brightness of it, and the music, and the pretty women, and the incomparable gowns. Your sense of humor would discern the hollowness beneath all the pomp and ceremony and rigid lines of caste, and military glory; and your writer's instinct would revel in the splendor, and color and romance and intrigue."

I shrugged my shoulders in assumed indifference. "Can't you convey all this to me without grasping my wrists like a villain in a melodrama? Besides, it isn't very generous or thoughtful of you to tell me all this, knowing that it is not for me. Vienna for you, and Milwaukee and cheese sandwiches for me. Please pass the mustard."

But the hold on my wrists grew firmer. Von Gerhard's eyes were steady as they gazed into mine. "Dawn, Vienna, and the whole world is waiting for you, if you will but take it. Vienna--and happiness--with me--"

I wrenched my wrists free with a dreadful effort and rose, sick, bewildered, stunned. My world--my refuge of truth, and honor, and safety and sanity that had lain in Ernst von Gerhard's great, steady hands, was slipping away from me. I think the horror that I felt within must have leaped to my eyes, for in an instant Von Gerhard was beside me, steadying me with his clear blue eyes. He did not touch the tips of my fingers as he stood there very near me. From the look of pain on his face I knew that I had misunderstood, somehow.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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