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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green


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And so he might have done, - so he would have done under all ordinary circumstances. But if this was Doris - and he did not doubt the fact after the first moment of startled surprise - how dare he forego this opportunity of settling the question which had brought him here.

With a slight stammer but otherwise giving no evidence of the effect made upon him by the passionate intensity with which she had urged this plea, he assured her that his errand was important, but one so quickly told that it would delay her but a moment. "But first, said he, with very natural caution, "let me make sure that it is to Miss Doris Scott I am speaking. My errand is to her and her only.

Without showing any surprise, perhaps too engrossed in her own thoughts to feel any, she answered with simple directness, "Yes, I am Doris Scott. Whereupon he became his most persuasive self, and pulling out a folded paper from his pocket, opened it and held it before her, with these words:

"Then will you be so good as to glance at this letter and tell me if the person whose initials you will find at the bottom happens to be in town at the present moment?

In some astonishment now, she glanced down at the sheet thus boldly thrust before her, and recognising the 0 and the B of a well-known signature, she flashed a look back at Sweetwater in which he read a confusion of emotions for which he was hardly prepared.

"Ah, thought he, " it's coming. In another moment I shall hear what will repay me for the trials and disappointments of all these months.

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But the moment passed and he had heard nothing. Instead, she dropped her hands from the door-jamb and gave such unmistakable evidences of intended flight, that but one alternative remained to him; he became abrupt.

Thrusting the paper still nearer, he said, with an emphasis which could not fail of making an impression, "Read it. Read the whole letter. You will find your name there. This communication was addressed to Miss Challoner, but -"

Oh, now she found words! With a low cry, she put out her hand in quick entreaty, begging him to desist and not speak that name on any pretext or for any purpose. "He may rouse and hear, she explained, with another quick look behind her. "The doctor says that this is the critical day. He may become conscious any minute. If he should and were to hear that name, it might kill him."

"He!" Sweetwater perked up his ears. "Who do you mean by he?"

"Mr. Brotherson, my patient, he whose letter -" But here her impatience rose above every other consideration. Without attempting to finish her sentence, or yielding in the least to her curiosity or interest in this man's errand, she cried out with smothered intensity, "Go! go! I cannot stay another moment from his bedside."

But a thunderbolt could not have moved Sweetwater after the hearing of that name. "Mr. Brotherson! he echoed. "Brotherson! Not Orlando?"

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