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Dawn O'Hara, The Girl Who Laughed by Edna Ferber

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Frau Nirlanger was next. When we spoke of Vienna she
caught her breath sharply.

"Vienna!" she repeated, and the longing in her voice
was an actual pain. "Vienna! Gott! Shall I ever see
it again? Vienna! My boy is there. Perhaps--"

"Perhaps," I said, gently. "Stranger things
have happened. Perhaps if I could see them, and talk to
them--if I could tell them--they might be made to
understand. I haven't been a newspaper reporter all
these years without acquiring a golden gift of
persuasiveness. Perhaps--who knows?--we may meet again
in Vienna. Stranger things have happened."

Frau Nirlanger shook her head with a little hopeless
sigh. "You do not know Vienna; you do not know the iron
strength of caste, and custom and stiff-necked pride. I
am dead in Vienna. And the dead should rest in peace."

It was late in the afternoon when Von Gerhard and I
turned the corner which led to the building that held the
Post. I had saved that for the last.

"I hope that heaven is not a place of golden streets,
and twanging harps and angel choruses," I said, softly.
"Little, nervous, slangy, restless Blackie, how bored and
ill at ease he would be in such a heaven! How lonely,
without his old black pipe, and his checked waistcoats,
and his diamonds, and his sporting extra. Oh, I hope
they have all those comforting, everyday things up there,
for Blackie's sake."

"How you grew to understand him in that short year,"
mused Von Gerhard. "I sometimes used to resent the bond
between you and this little Blackie whose name was always
on your tongue."

"Ah, that was because you did not comprehend. It is
given to very few women to know the beauty of a man's
real friendship. That was the bond between Blackie and
me. To me he was a comrade, and to him I was a
good-fellow girl--one to whom he could talk without
excusing his pipe or cigarette. Love and love-making
were things to bring a kindly, amused chuckle from
Blackie."

Von Gerhard was silent. Something in his silence
held a vague irritation for me. I extracted a penny from
my purse, and placed it in his hand.

"I was thinking," he said, "that none are so blind as
those who will not see."

"I don't understand," I said, puzzled.

"That is well," answered Von Gerhard, as we entered
the building. "That is as it should be." And he would
say nothing more.

The last edition of the paper had been run off for
the day. I had purposely waited until the footfalls of
the last departing reporter should have ceased to echo
down the long corridor. The city room was deserted
except for one figure bent over a pile of papers and
proofs. Norberg, the city editor, was the last to leave,
as always. His desk light glowed in the darkness of the
big room, and his typewriter alone awoke the echoes.

As I stood in the doorway he peered up from beneath
his green eye-shade, and waved a cloud of smoke away with
the palm of his hand.

"That you, Mrs. Orme?" he called out. "Lord, we've
missed you! That new woman can't write an obituary, and
her teary tales sound like they were carved with a cold
chisel. When are you coming back?"

"I'm not coming back," I replied. "I've come to say
good-by to you and--Blackie."

Norberg looked up quickly. "You feel that way, too?
Funny. So do the rest of us. Sometimes I think we are
all half sure that it is only another of his impish
tricks, and that some morning he will pop open the door
of the city room here and call out, `Hello, slaves! Been
keepin' m' memory green?'"

I held out my hand to him, gratefully. He took it in
his great palm, and a smile dimpled his plump cheeks.
"Going to blossom into a regular little writer, h'm?
Well, they say it's a paying game when you get the hang
of it. And I guess you've got it. But if ever you feel
that you want a real thrill--a touch of the old
satisfying newspaper feeling--a sniff of wet ink--the
music of some editorial cussing--why come up here and I'll
give you the hottest assignment on my list, if I have to
take it away from Deming's very notebook."

When I had thanked him I crossed the hall and tried
the door of the sporting editor's room. Von Gerhard was
waiting for me far down at the other end of the corridor.
The door opened and I softly entered and shut it again.
The little room was dim, but in the half-light I could
see that Callahan had changed something--had shoved a
desk nearer the window, or swung the typewriter over to
the other side. I resented it. I glanced up at the
corner where the shabby old office coat had been wont to
hang. There it dangled, untouched, just as he had left
it. Callahan had not dared to change that. I tip-toed
over to the corner and touched it gently with my fingers.
A light pall of dust had settled over the worn little
garment, but I knew each worn place, each ink-spot, each
scorch or burn from pipe or cigarette. I passed my hands
over it reverently and gently, and then, in the dimness
of that quiet little room I laid my cheek against the
rough cloth, so that the scent of the old black pipe came
back to me once more, and a new spot appeared on the coat
sleeve--a damp, salt spot. Blackie would have hated my
doing that. But he was not there to
see, and one spot more or less did not matter; it was
such a grimy, disreputable old coat.

"Dawn!" called Von Gerhard softly, outside the door.
"Dawn! Coming, Kindchen?"

I gave the little coat a parting pat. "Goodby," I
whispered, under my breath, and turned toward the door.

"Coming!" I called, aloud.

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