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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXXIX The Avenger

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Mr. Challoner, very white by now, pointed to the door before he sank again into his chair. Brotherson took it for dismissal and stepped slowly back. Then their eyes met again and Mr. Challoner spoke his first word:

"There was another - a poor woman - she died suddenly - and her wound was not unlike that inflicted upon Edith. Did you -"

"I did." The answer came without a tremour. "You may say and so may others that I was less justified in this attack than in the other; but I do not see it that way. A theory does not always work in practice. I wished to test the unusual means I contemplated, and the woman I saw before me across the court was hard-working and with nothing in life to look forward to, so -"

A cry of bitter execration from Mr. Challoner cut him short. Turning with a shrug he was about to lift his hand to the door, when he gave a violent start and fell hastily back before a quickly entering figure of such passion and fury as neither of these men had ever seen before.

It was Oswald! Oswald, the kindly! Oswald, the lover of men and the adorer of women! Oswald, with the words of the dastardly confession he had partly overheard searing hot within his brain! Oswald, raised in a moment from the desponding invalid to a terrifying ministrant of retributive justice.

Orlando could scarcely raise his hand before the other's was upon his throat.

"Murderer! doubly-dyed murderer of innocent women!" was hissed in the strong man's ears. "Not with the law but with me you must reckon, and may God and the spirit of my mother nerve my arm!"

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