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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXVI Sweetwater Returns

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"You see me again, Miss Scott. I hope that yesterday's intrusion has not prejudiced you against me.

"I have no prejudices, was her simple but firm reply. "I am only hurried and very anxious. The doctor is with Mr. Brotherson just now; but he has several other equally sick patients to visit and I dare not keep him here too long.

"Then you will welcome my abruptness. Miss Scott, here is a letter from Mr. Challoner. It will explain my position. As you will see, his only desire is to establish the fact that his daughter did not commit suicide. She was all he had in the world, and the thought that she could, for any reason, take her own life is unbearable to him. Indeed, he will not believe she did so, evidence or no evidence. May I ask if you agree with him? You have seen Miss Challoner, I believe. Do you think she was the woman to plunge a dagger in her heart in a place as public as a hotel reception room?

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"No, Mr. Sweetwater. I'm a poor working girl, with very little education and almost no knowledge of the world and such ladies as she. But something tells me for all that, that she was too nice to do this. I saw her once and it made me want to be quiet and kind and beautiful like her. I never shall think she did anything so horrible. Nor will Mr. Brotherson ever believe it. He could not and live. You see, I am talking to you as if you knew him, - the kind of man he is and just how he feels towards Miss Challoner. He is - Her voice trailed off and a look, uncommon and almost elevated, illumined her face. "I will not tell you what he is; you will know, if you ever see him."

"If the favourable opinion of a whole town makes a good fellow, he ought to be of the best," returned Sweetwater, with his most honest smile. "I hear but one story of him wherever I turn."

"There is but one story to tell," she smiled, and her head drooped softly, but with no air of self-consciousness.

Sweetwater watched her for a moment, and then remarked: "I'm going to take one thing for granted; that you are as anxious as we are to clear Miss Challoner's memory."

"0 yes, 0 yes."

"More than that, that you are ready and eager to help us. Your very looks show that."

"You are right; I would do anything to help you. But who can a girl like me do? Nothing; nothing. I know too little. Mr. Challoner must see that when you tell him I'm only the daughter of a foreman."

"And a friend of Mr. Brotherson," supplemented Sweetwater.

"Yes," she smiled, "he would want me to say so. But that's his goodness. I don't deserve the honour."

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