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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXVI Sweetwater Returns

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"His friend and therefore his confidante," Sweetwater continued. "He has talked to you about Miss Challoner?"

"He had to. There was nobody else to whom he could talk; and then, I had seen her and could understand."

"Where did you see her?"

"In New York. I was there once with father, who took me to see her. I think she had asked Mr. Brotherson to send his little friend to her hotel if ever we came to New York."

"That was some time ago?"

"We were there in June."

"And you have corresponded ever since with Miss Challoner?"

"She has been good enough to write, and I have ventured at times to answer her."

The suspicion which might have come to some men found no harbour in Sweetwater's mind. This young girl was beautiful, there was no denying that, beautiful in a somewhat startling and quite unusual way; but there was nothing in her bearing, nothing in Miss Challoner's letters to indicate that she had been a cause for jealousy in the New York lady's mind. He, therefore, ignored this possibility, pursuing his inquiry along the direct lines he had already laid out for himself. Smiling a little, but in a very earnest fashion, he pointed to the letter she still held and quietly said:

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"Remember that I'm not speaking for myself, Miss Scott, when I seem a little too persistent and inquiring. You have corresponded with Miss Challoner; you have been told the fact of her secret engagement to Mr. Brotherson and you have been witness to his conduct and manner for the whole time he has been separated from her. Do you, when you think of it carefully, recall anything in the whole story of this romance which would throw light upon the cruel tragedy which has so unexpectedly ended it? Anything, Miss Scott? Straws show which way the stream flows."

She was vehement, instantly vehement, in her disclaimer.

"I can answer at once, said she, "because I have thought of nothing else for all these weeks. Here all was well. Mr. Brotherson was hopeful and happy and believed in her happiness and willingness to wait for his success. And this success was coming so fast! Oh, how can we ever tell him! How can we ever answer his questions even, or keep him satisfied and calm until he is strong enough to hear the truth. I've had to acknowledge already that I have had no letter from her for weeks. She never wrote to him directly, you know, and she never sent him messages, but he knew that a letter to me, was also a letter to him and I can see that he is troubled by this long silence, though he says I was right not to let her know of his illness and that I must continue to keep her in ignorance of it till he is quite well again and can write to her himself. It is hard to hear him talk like this and not look sad or frightened.

Sweetwater remembered Miss Challoner's last letter, and wished he had it here to give her. In default of this, he said:

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