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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green


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A groan of intolerable anguish from the sick man's lips, and then the quick thrust of his re-awakened intelligence rising superior to the overthrow of all his hopes.

"For a woman of Edith's principle to seek death in a moment of desperation, the provocation must have been very great. Tell me if I'm to hate you through life - yea through all eternity - or if I must seek in some unimaginable failure of my own character or conduct the cause of her intolerable despair."

"Oswald!" The tone was controlling, and yet that of one strong man to another. "Is it for us to read the heart of any woman, least of all of a woman of her susceptibilities and keen inner life? The wish to end all comes to some natures like a lightning flash from a clear sky. It comes, it goes, often without leaving a sign. But if a weapon chances to be near -(here it was in hand)- then death follows the impulse which, given an instant of thought, would have vanished in a back sweep of other emotions. Chance was the real accessory to this death by suicide. Oswald, let us realise it as such and accept our sorrow as a mutual burden and turn to what remains to us of life and labour. Work is grief's only consolation. Then let us work."

But of all this Oswald had caught but the one word.

" Chance?" he repeated. "Orlando, I believe in God."

"Then seek your comfort there. I find it in harnessing the winds; in forcing the powers of nature to do my bidding."

The other did not speak, and the silence grew heavy. It was broken, when it was broken, by a cry from Oswald:

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"No more," said he, "no more." Then, in a yearning accent, "Send Doris to me,"

Orlando started. This name coming so close upon that word comfort produced a strange effect upon him. But another look at Oswald and he was ready to do his bidding. The bitter ordeal was over; let him have his solace if it was in her power to give it to him.

Orlando, upon leaving his brother's room, did not stop to deliver that brother's message directly to Doris; he left this for Truda to do, and retired immediately to his hangar in the woods. Locking himself in, he slightly raised the roof and then sat down before the car which was rapidly taking on shape and assuming that individuality and appearance of sentient life which hitherto he had only seen in dreams. But his eye, which had never failed to kindle at this sight before, shone dully in the semi-gloom. The air-car could wait; he would first have his hour in this solitude of his own making. The gaze he dreaded, the words from which he shrank could not penetrate here. He might even shout her name aloud, and only these windowless walls would respond. He was alone with his past, his present and his future.

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