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0105_001E III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green


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He quailed at the prospect, materialist though he was. The days - the interminable days! In his unbroken strength and the glare of the noonday sun, he forgot to take account of the nights looming in black and endless procession before him. It was from the day phantom he shrank, and not from the ghoul which works in the darkness and makes a grave of the heart while happier mortals sleep.

And the former terror seemed formidable enough to him in this his hour of startling realisation, even if he had freed himself for the nonce from its controlling power. To escape all further contemplation of it he would work. These letters deserved attention. He would carry them to Oswald, and in their consideration find distraction for the rest of the day, at least. Oswald was a good fellow. If pleasure were to be gotten from these tokens of good-will, he should have his share of it. A gleam of Oswald's old spirit in Oswald's once bright eye, would go far towards throttling one of those demons whose talons he had just released from his throat; and if Doris responded too, he would deserve his fate, if he did not succeed in gaining that mastery of himself which would make such hours as these but episodes in a life big with interest and potent with great emotions.

Rising with a resolute air, he made a bundle of his papers and, with them in hand, passed out of his room and down the hotel stairs.

A man stood directly in his way, as he made for the front door. It was Mr. Challoner.

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Courtesy demanded some show of recognition between them, and Brotherson was passing with his usual cold bow, when a sudden impulse led him to pause and meet the other's eye, with the sarcastic remark:

"You have expressed, or so I have been told, some surprise at my choice of mechanician. A man of varied accomplishments, Mr. Challoner, but one for whom I have no further use. If, therefore, you wish to call off your watch-dog, you are at liberty to do so. I hardly think he can be serviceable to either of us much longer."

The older gentleman hesitated, seeking possibly for composure, and when he answered it was not only without irony but with a certain forced respect:

"Mr. Sweetwater has just left for New York, Mr. Brotherson. He will carry with him, no doubt, the full particulars of your great success."

Orlando bowed, this time with distinguished grace. Not a flicker of relief had disturbed the calm serenity of his aspect, yet when a moment later, he stepped among his shouting admirers in the street, his air and glance betrayed a bounding joy for which another source must be found than that of gratified pride. A chain had slipped from his spirit, and though the people shrank a little, even while they cheered, it was rather from awe of his bearing and the recognition of that sense of apartness which underlay his smile than from any perception of the man's real nature or of the awesome purpose which at that moment exalted it. But had they known - could they have seen into this tumultuous heart - what a silence would have settled upon these noisy streets; and in what terror and soul-confusion would each man have slunk away from his fellows into the quiet and solitude of his own home.

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