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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXXII Tell Me, Tell It All

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The words were plain enough, but the stricken listener did not take them in. They carried no meaning to him. How should they? The very idea she sought to impress upon him by this seemingly careless allusion was an incredible one. She found it her dreadful task to tell him the hard, bare truth.

"Your brother," said she, "was devoted to Miss Challoner, too. He even wanted to marry her. I cannot keep back this fact. It is known everywhere, and by everybody but you.

"Orlando?" His lips took an ironical curve, as he uttered the word. This was a young girl's imaginative fancy to him. "Why Orlando never knew her, never saw her, never -"

"He met her at Lenox."

The name produced its effect. He stared, made an effort to think, repeated Lenox over to himself; then suddenly lost his hold upon the idea which that word suggested, struggled again for it, seized it in an instant of madness and shouted out:

"Yes, yes, I remember. I sent him there -" and paused, his mind blank again.

Poor Doris, frightened to her very soul, looked blindly about for help; but she did not quit his side; she did not dare to, for his lips had reopened; the continuity of his thoughts had returned; he was going to speak.

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"I sent him there." The words came in a sort of shout. "I was so hungry to hear of her and I thought he might mention her in his letter. Insane! Insane! He saw her and - What's that you said about his loving her? He couldn't have loved her; he's not of the loving sort. They've deceived you with strange tales. They've deceived the whole world with fancies and mad dreams. He may have admired her, but loved her, - no! or if he had, he would have respected my claims."

"He did not know them."

A laugh; a laugh which paled Doris' cheek; them his tones grew even again, memory came back and he muttered faintly:

"That is true. I said nothing to him. He had the right to court her - and he did, you say; wrote: to her; imposed himself upon her, drove her mad with importunities she was forced to rebuke; and - and what else? There is something else. Tell me ; I will know it all."

He was standing now, his feebleness all gone, passion in every lineament and his eye alive and feverish, with emotion. "Tell me," he repeated, with unrestrained vehemence. " Tell me all. Kill me with sorrow but save me from being unjust."

"He wrote her a letter; it frightened her. He followed it up by a visit -"

Doris paused; the sentence hung suspended. She had heard a step
    - a hand on the door.

Orlando had entered the room.

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