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|III The Heart Of Man||Anna Katharine Green|
XXIX Do You Know My Brother?
|Page 3 of 4||
" I will accompany you into the hall," said he. "Then if anything is wrong, you have but to speak my name."
But Orlando Brotherson, displeased by this move, took a step which brought him between the two.
"You can hear her from here if she chooses to speak. There's a point to be settled between us before either of us leaves this house, and this opportunity is as good as another. Go to my brother, Miss Scott; we will await your return."
A flash from the proud banker's eye; but no demur, rather a gesture of consent. Doris, with a look of deep anxiety, sped away, and the two men stood face to face.
It was one of those moments which men recognise as memorable. What had the one to say or the other to hear, worthy of this preamble and the more than doubtful relation in which they stood each to each? Mr. Challoner had more time than he expected in which to wonder and gird himself for whatever suffering or shock awaited him. For, Orlando Brotherson, unlike his usual self, kept him waiting while he collected his own wits, which, strange to say, seemed to have vanished with the girl.
But the question finally came.
"Mr. Challoner, do you know my brother?"
"I have never seen him."
"Do you know him? Does he know you?"
"Not at all. We are strangers."
It was said honestly. They did not know each other. Mr. Challoner was quite correct in his statement.
But the other had his doubts. Why shouldn't he have? The coincidence of finding this mourner if not avenger of Edith Challoner, in his own direct radius again, at a spot so distant, so obscure and so disconnected with any apparent business reason, was certainly startling enough unless the tie could be found in his brother's name and close relationship to himself.
He, therefore, allowed himself to press the question:
"Men sometimes correspond who do not know each other. You knew that a Brotherson lived here?"
"And hoped to learn something about me
"No; my interest was solely with your brother."
"With my brother? With Oswald? What interest can you have in him apart from me? Oswald is -"
Suddenly a thought name - an unimaginable one; one with power to blanch even his hardy cheek and shake a soul unassailable by all small emotions.
"Oswald Brotherson!" he repeated; adding in unintelligible tones to himself - "O. B. The same initials! They are following up these initials. Poor Oswald." Then aloud: "It hardly becomes me, perhaps, to question your motives in this attempt at making my brother's acquaintance. I think I can guess them; but your labour will be wasted. Oswald's interests do not extend beyond this town; they hardly extend to me. We are strangers, almost. You will learn nothing from him on the subject which naturally engrosses you."
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