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  III The Heart Of Man Anna Katharine Green

XXX Chaos

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It is not difficult to understand Mr. Challoner's feelings or even those of Doris at the moment of Mr. Brotherson's departure. But why this change in Brotherson himself? Why this sense of something new and terrible rising between him and the suddenly beclouded future? Let us follow him to his lonely hotel-room and see if we can solve the puzzle.

But first, does he understand his own trouble? He does not seem to. For when, his hat thrown aside, he stops, erect and frowning under the flaring gas-jet he had no recollection of lighting, his first act was to lift his hand to his head in a gesture of surprising helplessness for him, while snatches of broken sentences fell from his lips among which could be heard:

"What has come to me? Undone in an hour! Doubly undone! First by a face and then by this thought which surely the devils have whispered to me. Mr. Challoner and Oswald! What is the link between them? Great God! what is the link? Not myself? Who then or what?"

Flinging himself into a chair, he buried his face in his hands. There were two demons to fight - the first in the guise of an angel. Doris! Unknown yesterday, unknown an hour ago; but now! Had there ever been a day - an hour - when she had not been as the very throb of his heart, the light of his eyes, and the crown or all imaginable blisses?

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He was startled at his own emotion as he contemplated her image in his fancy and listened for the lost echo of the few words she had spoken - words so full of music when they referred to his brother, so hard and cold when she simply addressed himself.

This was no passing admiration of youth for a captivating woman. This was not even the love he had given to Edith Challoner. This was something springing full-born out of nothing! a force which, for the first time in his life, made him complaisant to the natural weaknesses of man! a dream and yet a reality strong enough to blot out the past, remake the present, change the aspect of all his hopes, and outline a new fate. He did not know himself. There was nothing in his whole history to give him an understanding of such feelings as these.

Can a man be seized as it were by the hair, and swung up on the slopes of paradise or down the steeps of hell - without a forewarning, without the chance even to say whether he wished such a cataclysm in his life or no?

He, Orlando Brotherson, had never thought much of love. Science had been his mistress; ambition his lode-star. Such feeling as he had acknowledged to had been for men - struggling men, men who were down-trodden and gasping in the narrow bounds of poverty and helplessness. Miss Challoner had roused - well, his pride. He could see that now. The might of this new emotion made plain many things he had passed by as useless, puerile, unworthy of a man of mental calibre and might. He had never loved Edith Challoner at any moment of their acquaintanceship, though he had been sincere in thinking that he did. Doris' beauty, the hour he had just passed with her, had undeceived him.

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