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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green


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This discovery had its effects upon him. Why should he subject this young and loving girl to further pain? He had already learned more than he had expected to. The rest would come with time. But at the first intimation he gave of leaving, she lost her abstracted air and turned with absolute eagerness towards him.

"One moment, said she. "You are a stranger and I do not know your name or your purpose here. But I cannot let you go without begging you not to mention to any one in this town that Mr. Brotherson has any interest in the lady whose name we must not speak. Do not repeat that delirious cry you have heard or betray in any way our intense and fearful interest in this young lady's strange death. You have shown me a letter. Do not speak of that letter, I entreat you. Help us to retain our secret a little longer. Only the doctor and myself know what awaits Mr. Brotherson if he lives. I had to tell the doctor, but a doctor reveals nothing. Promise that you will not either, at least till this crisis is passed. It will help my father and it will help me; and we need all the help we can get."

Sweetwater allowed himself one minute of thought, then he earnestly replied:

"I will keep your secret for to-day, and longer, if possible."

"Thank you, she cried; "thank you. I thought I saw kindness in your face." And she again prepared to close the door.

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But Sweetwater had one more question to ask. "Pardon me, said he, as he stepped down on the walk, "you say that this is a critical day with your patient. Is that why every one whom I have seen so far wears such a look of anxiety?"

"Yes, yes," she cried, giving him one other glimpse of her lovely, agitated face. "There's but one feeling in town to-day, but one hope, and, as I believe, but one prayer. That the man whom every one loves and every one trusts may live to run these Works."

"Edith! Edith!" rose in ceaseless reiteration from within.

But it rang but faintly now in the ears of our detective. The door had fallen to, and Sweetwater's share in the anxieties of that household was over.

Slowly he moved away. He was in a confused yet elated condition of mind. Here was food for a thousand new thoughts and conjectures. An Orlando Brotherson and an Oswald Brotherson - relatives possibly, strangers possibly; but whether relatives or strangers, both given to signing their letters with their initials simply; and both the acknowledged admirers of the deceased Miss Challoner. But she had loved only one, and that one, Oswald. It not difficult to recognise the object of this high hearted woman's affections in this man whose struggle with the master-destroyer had awakened the solicitude of a whole town.

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