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III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXXVII His Great Hour

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But hark! a new sound, mingling its clatter with all the others. It is the rain. Quick, maddening, drenching, it comes; enveloping them in wet in a moment. Can they hold their faces up against it?

And the wind! Surely it must toss that aerial messenger before it and fling it back to earth, a broken and despised toy.

"Orlando?" went up in a shriek. "Orlando?" Oh, for a ray of light in those far-off heavens For a lull in the tremendous sounds shivering the heavens and shaking the earth! But the tempest rages on, and they can only wait, five minutes, ten minutes, looking, hoping, fearing, without thought of self and almost without thought of each other, till suddenly as it had come, the rain ceases and the wind, with one final wail of rage and defeat, rushes away into the west, leaving behind it a sudden silence which, to their terrified hearts, seems almost more dreadful to bear than the accumulated noises of the moment just gone.

Orlando was in that shout of natural forces, but he is not in this stillness. They look aloft, but the heavens are void. Emptiness is where life was. Oswald begins to sway, and Doris, remembering him now and him only, has thrown her strong young arm about him, when - What is this sound they hear high up, high up, in the rapidly clearing vault of the heavens! A throb - a steady pant,- drawing near and yet nearer,- entering the circlet of great branches over their heads - descending, slowly descending,- till they catch another glimpse of those hazy outlines which had no sooner taken shape than the car disappeared from their sight within the elliptical wall open to receive it.

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It had survived the gale! It has re-entered its haven, and that, too, without colliding with aught around or any shock to those within, just as Orlando had promised; and the world was henceforth his! Hail to Orlando Brotherson!

Oswald could hardly restrain his mad joy and enthusiasm. Bounding to the door separating him from this conqueror of almost invincible forces, he pounded it with impatient fist.

"Let me in!" he cried. "You've done the trick, Orlando, you've done the trick."

"Yes, I have satisfied myself," came back in studied self-control from the other side of the door; and with a quick turning of the lock, Orlando stood before them.

They never forgot him as he looked at that moment. He was drenched, battered, palpitating with excitement; but the majesty of success was in his eye and in the bearing of his incomparable figure.

As Oswald bounded towards him, he reached out his hand, but his glance was for Doris.

Yes," he went on, in tones of suppressed elation, "there's no flaw in my triumph. I have done all that I set out to do. Now -"

Why did he stop and look hurriedly back into the hangar? He had remembered Sweetwater. Sweetwater, who at that moment was stepping carefully from his seat in some remote portion of the car. The triumph was not complete. He had meant -

But there his thought stopped. Nothing of evil, nothing even of regret should mar his great hour. He was a conqueror, and it was for him now to reap the joy of conquest.

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