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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green


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"Impossible," she murmured.

But that was a word for which he had no ear. He saw that she was moved, unexpectedly so; that while her eyes wandered restlessly at times towards the door, they ever came back in girlish wonder, if not fascination, to his face, emboldening him so that he ventured at last, to add:

"Doris, little Doris, I will teach you a marvellous lesson, if you will only turn your dainty ear my way. Love such as mine carries infinite treasure with it. Will you have that treasure heaped, piled before your feet? Your lips say no, but your eyes - the truest eyes I ever saw - whisper a different language. The day will come when you will find your joy in the breast of him you are now afraid to trust." And not waiting for disclaimer or even a glance of reproach from the eyes he had so wilfully misread, he withdrew with a movement as abrupt as that with which he had entered.

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Why, then, with the memory of this exultant hour to fend off all shadows, did the midnight find him in his solitary hangar in the moonlit woods, a deeply desponding figure again. Beside him, swung the huge machine which represented a life of power and luxury; but he no longer saw it. It called to him with many a creak and quiet snap, - sounds to start his blood and fire his eye a week - nay, a day ago. But he was deaf to this music now; the call went unheeded; the future had no further meaning, for him, nor did he know or think whether he sat in light or in darkness; whether the woods were silent about him, or panting with life and sound. His demon had gripped him again and the final battle was on. There would never be another. Mighty as he felt himself to be, there were limits even to his capacity for endurance. He could sustain no further conflict. How then would it end? He never had a doubt himself! Yet he sat there.

Around him in the forest, the night owls screeched and innumerable small things without a name, skurried from lair to lair.

He heard them not.

Above, the moon rode, flecking the deepest shadows with the silver from her half-turned urn, but none of the soft and healing drops fell upon him. Nature was no longer a goddess, but an avenger; light a revealer, not a solace. Darkness the only boon.

Nor had time a meaning. From early eve to early morn he sat there and knew not if it were one hour or twelve. Earth was his no longer. He roused, when the sun made everything light about him, but he did not think about it. He rose, but was not conscious that he rose. He unlocked the door and stepped out into the forest; but he could never remember doing this. He only knew later that he had been in the woods and now was in his room at the hotel; all the rest was phantasmagoria, agony and defeat.

He had crossed the Rubicon of this world's hopes and fears, but he had been unconscious of the passage.

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