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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

The Test

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"You still care for him!"


His face was very white with the pallor of repressed emotion, and his eyes were like the blue flame that one sees flashing above a bed of white-hot coals.

"You do care for him still. But yes! You can stand there, quite cool--but quite--and tell me that you would not hurt him, not for your happiness, not for mine. But me you can hurt again and again, without one twinge of regret."

There was silence for a moment in the little bare dining-room--a miserable silence on my part, a bitter one for Ernst. Then Von Gerhard seated himself again at the table opposite and smiled one of the rare smiles that illumined his face with such sweetness.

"Come, Dawn, almost we are quarreling--we who were to have been so matter-of-fact and sensible. Let us make an end of this question. You will think of what I have said, will you not? Perhaps I was too abrupt, too brutal. Ach, Dawn, you know not how I--Very well, I will not."

With both hands I was clinging to my courage and praying for strength to endure this until I should be alone in my room again.

"As for that poor creature who is bereft of reason, he shall lack no care, no attention. The burden you have borne so long I shall take now upon my shoulders."

He seemed so confident, so sure. I could bear it no longer. "Ernst, if you have any pity, any love for me, stop! I tell you I can never do this. Why do you make it so terribly hard for me! So pitilessly hard! You always have been so strong, so sure, such a staff of courage."

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"I say again, and again, and again, you do not care."

It was then that I took my last vestige of strength and courage together and going over to him, put my two hands on his great shoulders, looking up into his drawn face as I spoke.

"Ernst, look at me! You never can know how much I care. I care so much that I could not bear to have the shadow of wrong fall upon our happiness. There can be no lasting happiness upon a foundation of shameful deceit. I should hate myself, and you would grow to hate me. It always is so. Dear one, I care so much that I have the strength to do as I would do if I had to face my mother, and Norah tonight. I don't ask you to understand. Men are not made to understand these things; not even a man such as you, who are so beautifully understanding. I only ask that you believe in me--and think of me sometimes--I shall feel it, and be helped. Will you take me home now, Dr. von Gerhard?"

The ride home was made in silence. The wind was colder, sharper. I was chilled, miserable, sick. Von Gerhard's face was quite expressionless as he guided the little car over the smooth road. When we had stopped before my door, still without a word, I thought that he was going to leave me with that barrier of silence unbroken. But as I stepped stiffly to the curbing his hands closed about mine with the old steady grip. I looked up quickly, to find a smile in the corners of the tired eyes.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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