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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Von Gerhard Speaks

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"Oh, you!" I began, with Von Gerhard's amused eyes laughing down upon me. "I should say that you would be more in the Nirlanger style, in your large, immovable, Germansure way. Not that you would stoop to wrangle about money or gowns, but that you would control those things. Your wife will be a placid, blond, rather plump German Fraulein, of excellent family and no imagination. Men of your type always select negative wives. Twenty years ago she would have run to bring you your Zeitung and your slippers. She would be that kind, if Zeitung-and-slipper husbands still were in existence. You will be fond of her, in a patronizing sort of way, and she will never know the difference between that and being loved, not having a great deal of imagination, as I have said before. And you will go on becoming more and more famous, and she will grow plumper and more placid, and less and less understanding of what those komisch medical journals have to say so often about her husband who is always discovering things. And you will live happily ever after--"

A hand gripped my shoulder. I looked up, startled, into two blue eyes blazing down into mine. Von Gerhard's face was a painful red. I think that the hand on my shoulder even shook me a little, there on that bleak and deserted lake drive. I tried to wrench my shoulder free with a jerk.

"You are hurting me!" I cried.

A quiver of pain passed over the face that I had thought so calmly unemotional. "You talk of hurts! You, who set out deliberately and maliciously to make me suffer! How dare you then talk to me like this! You stab with a hundred knives--you, who know how I--"

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"I'm sorry," I put in, contritely. "Please don't be so dreadful about it. After all, you asked me, didn't you? Perhaps I've hurt your vanity. There, I didn't mean that, either. Oh, dear, let's talk about something impersonal. We get along wretchedly of late."

The angry red ebbed away from Von Gerhard's face. The blaze of wrath in his eyes gave way to a deeper, brighter light that held me fascinated, and there came to his lips a smile of rare sweetness. The hand that had grasped my shoulder slipped down, down, until it met my hand and gripped it.

"Na, 's ist schon recht, Kindchen. Those that we most care for we would hurt always. When I have told you of my love for you, although already you know it, then you will tell me. Hush! Do not deny this thing. There shall be no more lies between us. There shall be only the truth, and no more about plump, blonde German wives who run with Zeitung and slippers. After all, it is no secret. Three months ago I told Norah. It was not news to her. But she trusted me."

I felt my face to be as white and as tense as his own. "Norah--knows!"

"It is better to speak these things. Then there need be no shifting of the eyes, no evasive words, no tricks, no subterfuge."

We had faced about and were retracing our steps, past the rows of peculiarly home-like houses that line Milwaukee's magnificent lake shore. Windows were hung with holiday scarlet and holly, and here and there a face was visible at a window, looking out at the man and woman walking swiftly along the wind-swept heights that rose far above the lake.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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