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  III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXXIV The Hut Changes Its Name

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That night Oswald was taken very ill. For three days his life hung in the balance, then youth and healthy living triumphed over shock and bereavement, and he came slowly back to his sad and crippled existence.

He had been conscious for a week or more of his surroundings, and of his bitter sorrows as well, when one morning he asked Doris whose face it was he had seen bending over him so often during the last week: "Have you a new doctor? A man with white hair and a comforting smile? Or have I dreamed this face? I have had so many fancies this might easily be one of them."

"No, it is not a fancy," was the quiet reply. "Nor is it the face of a doctor. It is that of friend. One whose heart is bound up in your recovery; one for whom you must live, Mr. Brotherson."

"I don't know him, Doris. It's a strange face to me. And yet, it's not altogether strange. Who is this man and why should he care for me so deeply?"

"Because you share one love and one grief. It is Edith's father whom you see at your bedside. He has helped to nurse you ever since you came down this second time."

"Edith's father! Doris, it cannot be. Edith's father!"

"Yes, Mr. Challoner has been in Derby for the last two weeks. He has only one interest now; to see you well again."


Doris caught the note of pain, if not suspicion, in this query, and smiled as she asked in turn:

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"Shall he answer that question himself? He is waiting to come in. Not to talk. You need not fear his talking. He's as quiet as any man I ever saw."

The sick man closed his eyes, and Doris watching, saw the flush rise to his emaciated cheek, then slowly fade away again to a pallor that frightened her. Had she injured where she would heal? Had she pressed too suddenly and too hard on the ever gaping wound in her invalid's breast? She gasped in terror at the thought, then she faintly smiled, for his eyes had opened again and showed a calm determination as he said:

"I should like to see him. I should like him to answer the question I have just put you. I should rest easier and get well faster - or not get well at all."

This latter he half whispered, and Doris, tripping from the room may not have heard it, for her face showed no further shadow as she ushered in Mr. Challoner, and closed the door behind him. She had looked forward to this moment for days. To Oswald, however, it was an unexpected excitement and his voice trembled with something more than physical weakness as he greeted his visitor and thanked him for his attentions.

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