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|III The Heart Of Man||Anna Katharine Green|
XXXV Silence - And A Knock
|Page 2 of 2||
"Who's there?" he asked, imperiously and with some show of anger.
No answer, but another quiet knock.
"Speak! or go from my door. No one has the right to intrude here. What is your name and business?"
Continued knocking - nothing more.
With an outburst of wrath, which made the hangar ring, Orlando lifted his fist to answer this appeal in his own fierce fashion from his own side of the door, but the impulse paused at fulfilment, and he let his arm fall again in a rush of self-hatred which it would have pained his worst enemy, even little Doris, to witness. As it reached his side, the knock came again.
It was too much. With an oath, Orlando reached for his key. But before fitting it into the lock, he cast a look behind him. The car was in plain sight, filling the central space from floor to roof. A single glance from a stranger's eye, and its principal secret would be a secret no longer. He must not run such a risk. Before he answered this call, he must drop the curtain he had rigged up against such emergencies as these. He had but to pull a cord and a veil would fall before his treasure, concealing it as effectually as an Eastern bride is concealed behind her yashmak.
Stepping to the wall, he drew that cord, then with an impatient sigh, returned to the door.
Another quiet but insistent knock greeted him. In no fury now, but with a vague sense of portent which gave an aspect of farewell to the one quick glance he cast about the well-known spot, he fitted the key in the lock, and stood ready to turn it.
"I ask again your name and your business," he shouted out in loud command. "Tell them or -" He meant to say, "or I do not turn this key." But something withheld the threat. He knew that it would perish in the utterance; that he could not carry it out. He would have to open the door now, response or no response. "Speak!" was the word with which he finished his demand.
A final knock.
Pulling a pistol from his pocket, with his left hand, he turned the key with his right.
The door remained unopened.
Stepping slowly back, he stared at its unpainted boards for a moment, then he spoke up quietly, almost courteously:
But the command passed unheeded; the latch was not raised, and only the slightest tap was heard.
With a bound he reached forward and pulled the door open. Then a great silence fell upon him and a rigidity as of the grave seized and stiffened his powerful frame.
The man confronting him from the darkness was Sweetwater.
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