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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Von Gerhard Speaks

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A wretched revolt seized me as I gazed at the substantial comfort of those normal, happy homes.

"Why did you tell me! What good can that do? At least we were make-believe friends before. Suppose I were to tell you that I care, then what."

"I do not ask you to tell me," Von Gerhard replied, quietly.

"You need not. You know. You knew long, long ago. You know I love the big quietness of you, and your sureness, and the German way you have of twisting your sentences about, and the steady grip of your great firm hands, and the rareness of your laugh, and the simplicity of you. Why I love the very cleanliness of your ruddy skin, and the way your hair grows away from your forehead, and your walk, and your voice and--Oh, what is the use of it all?"

"Just this, Dawn. The light of day sweetens all things. We have dragged this thing out into the sunlight, where, if it grows, it will grow sanely and healthily. It was but an ugly, distorted, unsightly thing, sending out pale unhealthy shoots in the dark, unwholesome cellars of our inner consciences. Norah's knowing was the cleanest, sweetest thing about it."

"How wonderfully you understand her, and how right you are! Her knowing seems to make it as it should be, doesn't it? I am braver already, for the knowledge of it. It shall make no difference between us?"

"There is no difference, Dawn," said he.

"No. It is only in the story-books that they sigh, and groan and utter silly nonsense. We are not like that. Perhaps, after a bit, you will meet some one you care for greatly--not plump, or blond, or German, perhaps, but still--"

"Doch you are flippant?"

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"I must say those things to keep the tears back. You would not have me wailing here in the street. Tell me just one thing, and there shall be no more fluttering breaths and languishing looks. Tell me, when did you begin to care?"

We had reached Knapfs' door-step. The short winter day was already drawing to its close. In the half-light Von Gerhard's eyes glowed luminous.

"Since the day I first met you at Norah's," he said, simply.

I stared at him, aghast, my ever-present sense of humor struggling to the surface. "Not--not on that day when you came into the room where I sat in the chair by the window, with a flowered quilt humped about my shoulders! And a fever-sore twisting my mouth! And my complexion the color of cheese, and my hair plastered back from my forehead, and my eyes like boiled onions!"

"Thank God for your gift of laughter," Von Gerhard said, and took my hand in his for one brief moment before he turned and walked away.

Quite prosaically I opened the big front door at Knapfs' to find Herr Knapf standing in the hallway with his:

"Nabben', Frau Orme."

And there was the sane and soothing scent of Wienerschnitzel and spluttering things in the air. And I ran upstairs to my room and turned on all the lights and looked at the starry-eyed creature in the mirror. Then I took the biggest, newest photograph of Norah from the mantel and looked at her for a long, long minute, while she looked back at me in her brave true way.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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