Edna Ferber: Fanny Herself


It was eight o'clock when she let herself into her apartment. She had given the maid a whole holiday. When Fanny had turned on the light in her little hallway she stood there a moment, against the door, her hand spread flat against the panel. It was almost as though she patted it, lovingly, gratefully. Then she went on into the living room, and stood looking at its rosy lamplight. Then, still as though seeing it all for the first time, into her own quiet, cleanly bedroom, with its cream enamel, and the chaise longue that she had had cushioned in rose because it contrasted so becomingly with her black hair. And there, on her dressing table, propped up against the brushes and bottles, was the yellow oblong of a telegram. From Theodore of course. She opened it with a rush of happiness. It was like a loving hand held out to her in need. It was a day letter.

"We sail Monday on the St. Paul. Mizzi is with me. I broke my word to you. But you lied to me about the letters. I found them the week before the concert. I shall bring her back with me or stay to fight for Germany. Forgive me, dear sister."

Just fifty words. His thrifty German training.

"No!" cried Fanny, aloud. "No! No!" And the cry quavered and died away, and another took its place. and it, too, gave way to another, so that she was moaning as she stood there with the telegram in her shaking hand. She read it again, her lips moving, as old people sometimes read. Then she began to whimper, with her closed fist over her mouth, her whole body shaking. All her fine courage gone now; all her rigid self-discipline; all her iron determination. She was not a tearful woman. And she had wept much on the train. So the thing that wrenched and shook her now was all the more horrible because of its soundlessness. She walked up and down the room, pushing her hair back from her forehead with the flat of her hand. From time to time she smoothed out the crumpled yellow slip of paper and read it again. Her mind, if you could have seen into it, would have presented a confused and motley picture. Something like this: But his concert engagements? . . . That was what had happened to Bauer. . . . How silly he had looked when her fist met his jaw. . . . It had turned cold; why didn't they have steam on? The middle of October. . . . Teddy, how could you do it! How could you do it! . . . Was he still lying in a heap on the floor? But of course the sneaking little Jap had found him. . . . Somebody to talk to. That was what she wanted. Some one to talk to. . . .

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