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  III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXXVI The Man Within And The Man Without

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An instant of silence, during which the two men eyed each other; then, Sweetwater, with an ironical smile directed towards the pistol lightly remarked:

"Mr. Challoner and other men at the hotel are acquainted with my purpose and await my return. I have come -" here he cast a glowing look at the huge curtain cutting off the greater portion of the illy-lit interior -" to offer you my services, Mr. Brotherson. I have no other motive for this intrusion than to be of use. I am deeply interested in your invention, to the development of which I have already lent some aid, and can bring to the test you propose a sympathetic help which you could hardly find in any other person living."

The silence which settled down at the completion of these words had a weight which made that of the previous moment seem light and all athrob with sound. The man within had not yet caught his breath; the man without held his, in an anxiety which had little to do with the direction of the weapon, into which he looked. Then an owl hooted far away in the forest, and Orlando, slowly lowering his arm, asked in an oddly constrained tone:

"How long have you been in town?"

The answer cut clean through any lingering hope he may have had.

"Ever since the day your brother was told the story of his great misfortune."

"Ah! still at your old tricks! I thought you had quit that business as unprofitable."

"I don't know. I never expect quick returns. He who holds on for a rise sometimes reaps unlooked-for profits."

The arm and fist of Orlando Brotherson ached to hurl this fellow back into the heart of the midnight woods.

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But they remained quiescent and he spoke instead I have buried the business. You will never resuscitate it through me."

Sweetwater smiled. There was no mirth in his smile though there was lightness in his tone as said:

"Then let us go back to the matter in hand. You need a helper; where are you going to find one if you don't take me?"

A growl from Brotherson's set lips. Never had he looked more dangerous than in the one burning instant following this daring repetition of the detective's outrageous request. But as he noted how slight was the figure opposing him from the other side of the threshold, he was swayed by his natural admiration of pluck in the physically weak, and lost his threatening attitude, only to assume one which Sweetwater secretly found it even harder to meet.

"You are a fool," was the stinging remark he heard flung at him. "Do you want to play the police-officer here and arrest me in mid air?"

"Mr. Brotherson, you understand me as little as I am supposed to understand you. Humble as my place is in society and, I may add, in the Department whose interests I serve, there are in me two men. One you know passably well - the detective whose methods, only indifferently clever show that he has very much to learn. Of the other - the workman acquainted with hammer and saw, but with some knowledge too of higher mathematics and the principles upon which great mechanical inventions depend, you know little, and must imagine much. I was playing the gawky when I helped you in the old house in Brooklyn. I was interested in your air-ship - Oh, I recognised it for what it was, notwithstanding its oddity and lack of ostensible means for flying - but I was not caught in the whirl of its idea; the idea by which you doubtless expect, and with very good reason too, to revolutionise the science of aviation. But since then I've been thinking it over, and am so filled with your own hopes that either I must have a hand in the finishing and sailing of the one you have yourself constructed, or go to work myself on the hints you have unconsciously given me, and make a car of my own."

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