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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green


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"Not that name!" he harshly interrupted. "You must not hamper your life with useless memories. That dream of yours may be sacred, but it belongs to the past, and a great reality confronts you. When you have fully recovered your health, your own manhood will rebel at a weakness unworthy one of our name. Rouse yourself, Oswald. Take account of our prospects. Give me your hand and say, 'Life holds something for me yet. I have a brother who needs me if I do not need him. Together, we can prove ourselves invincible and wrench fame and fortune from the world.'"

But the hand he reached for did not rise at his command, though Oswald started erect and faced him with manly earnestness.

"I should have to think long and deeply," he said, "before I took upon myself responsibilities like these. I am broken in mind and heart, Orlando, and must remain so till God mercifully delivers me. I should be a poor assistant to you - a drag, rather than a help. Deeply as I deplore it, hard as it may be for one of your temperament to understand so complete an overthrow, I yet must acknowledge my condition and pray you not to count upon me in any plans you may form. I know how this looks - I know that as your brother and truest admirer, I should respond, and respond strongly, to such overtures as these, but the motive for achievement is gone. She was my all; and while I might work, it would be mechanically. The lift, the elevating thought is gone."

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Orlando stood a moment studying his brother's face; then he turned shortly about and walked the length of the room. When he came back, he took up his stand again directly before Oswald, and asked, with a new note in his voice:

"Did you love Edith Challoner so much as that?"

A glance from Oswald's eye, sadder than any tear.

"So that you cannot be reconciled?"

A gesture. Oswald's words were always few.

Orlando's frown deepened.

"Such grief I partly understand," said he. "But time will cure it. Some day another lovely face -"

"We'll not talk of that, Orlando."

"No, we'll not talk of that," acquiesced the inventor, walking away again, this time to the window. "For you there's but one woman; - and she's a memory."

"Killed!" broke from his brother's lips. "Slain by her own hand under an impulse of wildness and terror! Can I ever forget that? Do not expect it, Orlando."

"Then you do blame me?" Orlando turned and was looking full at Oswald.

"I blame your unreasonableness and your overweening pride."

Orlando stood a moment, then moved towards the door. The heaviness of his step smote upon Oswald's ear and caused him to exclaim:

"Forgive me, Orlando." But the other cut him short with an imperative:

"Thanks for your candour! If her spirit is destined to stand like an immovable shadow between you and me, you do right to warn me. But this interview must end all allusion to the subject. I will seek and find another man to share my fortunes; (as he said this he approached suddenly, and took his papers from the other's hand) or -" Here he hastily retraced his steps to the door which he softly opened. "Or" he repeated - But though Oswald listened for the rest, it did not come. While he waited, the other had given him one deeply concentrated look and passed out.

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