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0105_001E III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXXII Tell Me, Tell It All

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Doris sprang to her feet, thinking of nothing but his wavering, slipping life till she saw his breath return, his eyes refill with light. Then the horror of what was yet to come - the answer which must be given to the how she saw trembling on his lips, caused her to sink again upon her knees in an unconscious appeal for strength. If that one sad revelation had been all!

But the rest must be told; his brother exacted it and so did the situation. Further waiting, further hiding of the truth would be insupportable after this. But oh, the bitterness of it! No wonder that she turned away from those frenzied, wildly-demanding eyes.


She trembled and looked behind her. She had not recognised his voice. Had another entered? Had his brother dared - No, they were alone; seemingly so, that is. She knew,- no one better - that they were not really alone, that witnesses were within hearing, if not within sight.

"Doris," he urged again, and this time she turned in his direction and gazed, aghast. If the voice were strange, what of the face which now confronted her. The ravages of sickness had been marked, but they were nothing to those made in an instant by a blasting grief. She was startled, although expecting much, and could only press his hands while she waited for the question he was gathering strength to utter. It was simple when it came; just two words:

"How long?"

She answered them as simply.

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"Just as long as you have been ill," said she; then, with no attempt to break the inevitable shock, she went on: Miss Challoner was struck dead and you were taken down with typhoid on the self-same day."

"Struck dead! Why do you use that word, struck? Struck dead! she, a young woman. Oh, Doris, an accident! My darling has been killed in an accident!

"They do not call it accident. They call it what it never was. What it never was," she insisted, pressing him back with frightened hands, as he strove to rise. " Miss Challoner was -" How nearly the word shot had left her lips. How fiercely above all else, in that harrowing moment had risen the desire to fling the accusation of that word into the ears of him who listened from his secret hiding-place. But she refrained out of compassion for the man she loved, and declared instead, "Miss Challoner died from a wound; how given, why given, no one knows. I had rather have died myself than have to tell you this. Oh, Mr. Brotherson, speak, sob, do anything but -"

She started back, dropping his hands as she did so. With quick intuition she saw that he must be left to himself if he were to meet this blow without succumbing. The body must have freedom if the spirit would not go mad. Conscious, or perhaps not conscious, of his release from her restraining hand, albeit profiting by it, he staggered to his feet, murmuring that word of doom: "Wound! wound! my darling died of a wound! What kind of a wound?" he suddenly thundered out. "I cannot understand what you mean by wound. Make it clear to me. Make it clear to me at once. If I must bear this grief, let me know its whole depth. Leave nothing to my imagination or I cannot answer for myself. Tell it all, Doris."

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