Anna Katharine Green
Part 5 out of 6
"I wish to be present."
Mr. Challoner looked up, surprised at the feeling with which this
request was charged.
"As his brother--his only remaining relative, I have that right.
Do you think that Dor--that Miss Scott, can be trusted not to
forestall that moment by any previous hint of what awaits him?"
"If she so promises. But will you exact this from her? It surely
cannot be necessary for me to say that your presence will add
infinitely to the difficulty of her task."
"Yet it is a duty I cannot shirk. I will consult the doctor about
it. I will make him see that I both understand and shall insist
upon my rights in this matter. But you may tell Miss Doris that I
will sit out of sight, and that I shall not obtrude myself unless
my name is brought up in an undesirable way."
The hand on the door-knob made a sudden movement.
"Mr. Brotherson, I can bear no more to-night. With your permission,
I will leave this question to be settled by others." And with a
repetition of his former bow, the bereaved father withdrew.
Orlando watched him till the door closed, then he too dropped his
But it was on again, when in a little while he passed through the
sitting-room on his way upstairs.
No other day in his whole life had been like this to the hardy
inventor; for in it both his heart and his conscience had been
awakened, and up to this hour he had not really known that he
WHAT IS HE MAKING
Other boxes addressed to O. Brotherson had been received at the
station, and carried to the mysterious shed in the woods; and now,
with locked door and lifted top, the elder brother contemplated
his stores and prepared himself for work.
He had been allowed a short interview with Oswald, and he had
indulged himself in a few words with Doris. But he had left those
memories behind with other and more serious matters. Nothing that
could unnerve his hand or weaken his insight should enter this spot
sacred to his great hope. Here genius reigned. Here he was himself
wholly and without flaw;--a Titan with his grasp on a mechanical
idea by means of which he would soon rule the world.
Not so happy were the other characters in this drama. Oswald's
thoughts, disturbed for a short time by the somewhat constrained
interview he had held with his brother, had flown eastward again,
in silent love and longing; while Doris, with a double dread now
in her heart, went about her daily tasks, praying for strength to
endure the horrors of this week, without betraying the anxieties
secretly devouring her. And she was only seventeen and quite alone
in her trouble. She must bear it all unassisted and smile, which
she did with heavenly sweetness, when the magic threshold was
passed and she stood in her invalid's presence, overshadowed though
it ever was by the great Dread.
And Mr. Challoner? Let those endless walks of his through the woods
and over the hills tell his story if they can; or his rapidly
whitening hair, and lagging step. He had been a strong man before
his trouble, and had the stroke which laid him low been limited to
one quick, sharp blow he might have risen above it after a while
and been ready to encounter life again. But this long drawn out
misery was proving too much for him. The sight of Brotherson,
though they never really met, acted like acid upon a wound, and it
was not till six days had passed and the dreaded Sunday was at hand,
that he slept with any sense of rest or went his way about the town
without that halting at the corners which betrayed his perpetual
apprehension of a most undesirable encounter.
The reason for this change will be apparent in the short conversation
he held with a man he had come upon one evening in the small park
just beyond the workmen's dwellings.
"You see I am here," was the stranger's low greeting.
"Thank God," was Mr. Challoner's reply. "I could not have faced
to-morrow alone and I doubt if Miss Scott could have found the
requisite courage. Does she know that you are here?"
"I stopped at her door."
"Was that safe?"
"I think so. Mr. Brotherson--the Brooklyn one,--is up in his shed.
He sleeps there now, I am told, and soundly too I've no doubt."
"What is he making?"
"What half the inventors on both sides of the water are engaged
upon just now. A monoplane, or a biplane, or some machine for
carrying men through the air. I know, for I helped him with it.
But you'll find that if he succeeds in this undertaking, and I
believe he will, nothing short of fame awaits him. His invention
has startling points. But I'm not going to give them away. I'll
be true enough to him for that. As an inventor he has my sympathy;
but--Well, we will see what we shall see, to-morrow. You say that
he is bound to be present when Miss Scott relates her tragic story.
He won't be the only unseen listener. I've made my own arrangements
with Miss Scott. If he feels the need of watching her and his
brother Oswald, I feel the need of watching him."
"You take a burden of intolerable weight from my shoulders. Now I
shall feel easier about that interview. But I should like to ask
you this: Do you feel justified in this continued surveillance of a
man who has so frequently, and with such evident sincerity, declared
"I do that. If he's as guiltless as he says he is, my watchfulness
won't hurt him. If he's not, then, Mr. Challoner, I've but one
duty; to match his strength with my patience. That man is the one
great mystery of the day, and mysteries call for solution. At least,
that's the way a detective looks at it."
"May Heaven help your efforts!"
"I shall need its assistance," was the dry rejoinder. Sweetwater
was by no means blind to the difficulties awaiting him.
TELL ME, TELL IT ALL
The day was a grey one, the first of the kind in weeks. As Doris
stepped into the room where Oswald sat, she felt how much a ray of
sunshine would have encouraged her and yet how truly these leaden
skies and this dismal atmosphere expressed the gloom which soon
must fall upon this hopeful, smiling man.
He smiled because any man must smile at the entrance of so lovely a
woman, but it was an abstracted smile, and Doris, seeing it, felt
her courage falter for a moment, though her steps did not, nor her
steady compassionate gaze. Advancing slowly, and not answering
because she did not hear some casual remark of his, she took her
stand by his side and then slowly and with her eyes on his face,
sank down upon her knees, still without speaking, almost without
His astonishment was evident, for her air was strange and full of
presage,--as, indeed, she had meant it to be. But he remained as
silent as she, only reached out his emaciated hand and, laying it
on her head, smiled again but this time far from abstractedly.
Then, as he saw her cheeks pale in terror of the task before her,
he ventured to ask gently:
"What is the matter, child? So weary, eh? Nothing worse than that,
"Are you quite strong this morning? Strong enough to listen to my
troubles; strong enough to bear your own if God sees fit to send
them?" came hesitatingly from her lips as she watched the effect of
each word, in breathless anxiety.
"Troubles? There can be but one trouble for me," was his unexpected
reply. "That I do not fear--will not fear in my hour of happy
recovery. So long as Edith is well--Doris! Doris! You alarm me.
Edith is not ill;--not ill?"
The poor child could not answer save with her sympathetic look and
halting, tremulous breath; and these signs, he would not, could not
read, his own words had made such an echo in his ears.
"Ill! I cannot imagine Edith ill. I always see her in my thoughts,
as I saw her on that day of our first meeting; a perfect, animated
woman with the joyous look of a glad, harmonious nature. Nothing
has ever clouded that vision. If she were ill I would have known
it. We are so truly one that--Doris, Doris, you do not speak. You
know the depth of my love, the terror of my thoughts. Is Edith ill?"
The eyes gazing wildly into his, slowly left his face and raised
themselves aloft, with a sublime look. Would he understand? Yes,
he understood, and the cry which rang from his lips stopped for a
moment the beating of more than one heart in that little cottage.
"Dead!" he shrieked out, and fell back fainting in his chair, his
lips still murmuring in semi-unconsciousness, "Dead! dead!"
Doris sprang to her feet, thinking of nothing but his wavering,
slipping life till she saw his breath return, his eyes refill with
light. Then the horror of what was yet to come--the answer which
must be given to the how she saw trembling on his lips, caused her
to sink again upon her knees in an unconscious appeal for strength.
If that one sad revelation had been all!
But the rest must be told; his brother exacted it and so did the
situation. Further waiting, further hiding of the truth would be
insupportable after this. But oh, the bitterness of it! No wonder
that she turned away from those frenzied, wildly-demanding eyes.
She trembled and looked behind her. She had not recognised his
voice. Had another entered? Had his brother dared--No, they were
alone; seemingly so, that is. She knew,--no one better--that they
were not really alone, that witnesses were within hearing, if not
"Doris," he urged again, and this time she turned in his direction
and gazed, aghast. If the voice were strange, what of the face
which now confronted her. The ravages of sickness had been marked,
but they were nothing to those made in an instant by a blasting
grief. She was startled, although expecting much, and could only
press his hands while she waited for the question he was gathering
strength to utter. It was simple when it came; just two words:
She answered them as simply.
"Just as long as you have been ill," said she; then, with no attempt
to break the inevitable shock, she went on: Miss Challoner was struck
dead and you were taken down with typhoid on the self-same day."
"Struck dead! Why do you use that word, struck? Struck dead! she,
a young woman. Oh, Doris, an accident! My darling has been killed
in an accident!
"They do not call it accident. They call it what it never was.
What it never was," she insisted, pressing him back with frightened
hands, as he strove to rise. "Miss Challoner was--" How nearly
the word shot had left her lips. How fiercely above all else, in
that harrowing moment had risen the desire to fling the accusation
of that word into the ears of him who listened from his secret
hiding-place. But she refrained out of compassion for the man she
loved, and declared instead, "Miss Challoner died from a wound; how
given, why given, no one knows. I had rather have died myself than
have to tell you this. Oh, Mr. Brotherson, speak, sob, do anything
She started back, dropping his hands as she did so. With quick
intuition she saw that he must be left to himself if he were to
meet this blow without succumbing. The body must have freedom if
the spirit would not go mad. Conscious, or perhaps not conscious,
of his release from her restraining hand, albeit profiting by it,
he staggered to his feet, murmuring that word of doom: "Wound!
wound! my darling died of a wound! What kind of a wound?" he
suddenly thundered out. "I cannot understand what you mean by
wound. Make it clear to me. Make it clear to me at once. If I
must bear this grief, let me know its whole depth. Leave nothing
to my imagination or I cannot answer for myself. Tell it all,
And Doris told him:
"She was on the mezzanine floor of the hotel where she lives. She
was seemingly happy and had been writing a letter--a letter to me
which they never forwarded. There was no one else by but some
strangers--good people whom one must believe. She was crossing
the floor when suddenly she threw up her hands and fell. A thin,
narrow paper-cutter was in her grasp; and it flew into the lobby.
Some say she struck herself with that cutter; for when they picked
her up they found a wound in her breast which that cutter might
The words were chokingly said; he was swaying, almost falling, but
he steadied himself.
"Who says that?" he asked.
"It was the coroner's verdict."
"And she died that way--died?"
"After writing to you?"
"What was in that letter?"
"Nothing of threat, they say. Only just cheer and expressions of
hope. Just like the others, Mr. Brotherson."
"And they accuse her of taking her own life? Their verdict is a
lie. They did not know her."
Then, after some moments of wild and confused feeling, he declared,
with a desperate effort at self-control: "You said that some believe
this. Then there must be others who do not. What do they say?"
"Nothing. They simply feel as you do. They see no reason for the
act and no evidence of her having meditated it. Her father and her
friend insist besides, that she was incapable of such a horror. The
mystery of it is killing us all; me above others, for I've had to
show you a cheerful face, with my brain reeling and my heart like
lead in my bosom."
She held out her hands. She tried to draw his attention to herself;
not from any sentiment of egotism, but to break, if she could, the
strain of these insupportable horrors where so short a time before
Hope sang and Life revelled in re-awakened joys.
Perhaps some faint realisation of this reached him, for presently
he caught her by the hands and bowed his head upon her shoulder and
finally let her seat him again, before he said:
"Do they know of--of my interest in this?"
"Yes; they know about the two O. B.s."
"The two--" He was on his feet again, but only for a moment; his
weakness was greater than his will power.
"Orlando and Oswald Brotherson," she explained, in answer to his
broken appeal. "Your brother wrote letters to her as well as you,
and signed them just as you did, with his initials only. These
letters were found in her desk, and he was supposed, for a time, to
have been the author of all that were so signed. But they found out
the difference after awhile. Yours were easily recognised after
they learned there was another O. B. who loved her."
The words were plain enough, but the stricken listener did not take
them in. They carried no meaning to him. How should they? The
very idea she sought to impress upon him by this seemingly careless
allusion was an incredible one. She found it her dreadful task to
tell him the hard, bare truth.
"Your brother," said she, "was devoted to Miss Challoner, too. He
even wanted to marry her. I cannot keep back this fact. It is
known everywhere, and by everybody but you.
"Orlando?" His lips took an ironical curve, as he uttered the word.
This was a young girl's imaginative fancy to him. "Why Orlando
never knew her, never saw her, never--"
"He met her at Lenox."
The name produced its effect. He stared, made an effort to think,
repeated Lenox over to himself; then suddenly lost his hold upon
the idea which that word suggested, struggled again for it, seized
it in an instant of madness and shouted out:
"Yes, yes, I remember. I sent him there--" and paused, his mind
Poor Doris, frightened to her very soul, looked blindly about for
help; but she did not quit his side; she did not dare to, for his
lips had reopened; the continuity of his thoughts had returned; he
was going to speak.
"I sent him there." The words came in a sort of shout. "I was so
hungry to hear of her and I thought he might mention her in his
letter. Insane! Insane! He saw her and--What's that you said
about his loving her? He couldn't have loved her; he's not of the
loving sort. They've deceived you with strange tales. They've
deceived the whole world with fancies and mad dreams. He may have
admired her, but loved her,--no! or if he had, he would have
respected my claims."
"He did not know them."
A laugh; a laugh which paled Doris' cheek; then his tones grew even
again, memory came back and he muttered faintly:
"That is true. I said nothing to him. He had the right to court
her--and he did, you say; wrote: to her; imposed himself upon her,
drove her mad with importunities she was forced to rebuke; and--and
what else? There is something else. Tell me; I will know it all."
He was standing now, his feebleness all gone, passion in every
lineament and his eye alive and feverish, with emotion. "Tell me,"
he repeated, with unrestrained vehemence. "Tell me all. Kill me
with sorrow but save me from being unjust."
"He wrote her a letter; it frightened her. He followed it up by a
Doris paused; the sentence hung suspended. She had heard a step
--a hand on the door.
Orlando had entered the room.
Oswald had heard nothing, seen nothing. But he took note of Doris'
silence, and turning towards her in frenzy saw what had happened,
and so was in a measure prepared for the stern, short sentence which
now rang through the room:
"Wait, Miss Scott! you tell the story badly. Let him listen to me.
From my mouth only shall he hear the stern and seemingly unnatural
part I played in this family tragedy."
The face of Oswald hardened. Those pliant features--beloved for
their gracious kindliness--set themselves in lines which altered
them almost beyond recognition; but his voice was not without some
of its natural sweetness, as, after a long and hollow look at the
other's composed countenance, he abruptly exclaimed:
"Speak! I am bound to listen; you are my brother."
Orlando turned towards Doris. She was slipping away.
"Don't go," said he.
But she was gone.
Slowly he turned back.
Oswald raised his hand and checked the words with which he would
have begun his story.
"Never mind the beginnings," said he. "Doris has told all that.
You saw Miss Challoner in Lenox--admired her--offered yourself to
her and afterwards wrote her a threatening letter because she
"It is true. Other men have followed just such unworthy impulses
--and been ashamed and sorry afterwards. I was sorry and I was
ashamed, and as soon as my first anger was over went to tell her so.
But she mistook my purpose and--"
Orlando hesitated. Even his iron nature trembled before the misery
he saw--a misery he was destined to augment rather than soothe.
With pains altogether out of keeping with his character, he sought
in the recesses of his darkened mind for words less bitter and less
abrupt than those which sprang involuntarily to his lips. But he
did not find them. Though he pitied his brother and wished to show
that he did, nothing but the stern language suitable to the stern
fact he wished to impart, would leave his lips.
"And ended the pitiful struggle of the moment with one quick,
unpremeditated blow," was what he said. "There is no other
explanation possible for this act, Oswald. Bitter as it is for me
to acknowledge it, I am thus far guilty of this beloved woman's
death. But, as God hears me, from the moment I first saw her, to
the moment I saw her last, I did not know, nor did I for a moment
dream that she was anything to you or to any other man of my stamp
and station. I thought she despised my country birth, my mechanical
attempts, my lack of aristocratic pretensions and traditions."
"Now that I know she had other reasons for her contempt--that the
words she wrote were in rebuke to the brother rather than to the
man, I feel my guilt and deplore my anger. I cannot say more. I
should but insult your grief by any lengthy expressions of regret
A groan of intolerable anguish from the sick man's lips, and then
the quick thrust of his re-awakened intelligence rising superior to
the overthrow of all his hopes.
"For a woman of Edith's principle to seek death in a moment of
desperation, the provocation must have been very great. Tell me if
I'm to hate you through life--yea through all eternity--or if I
must seek in some unimaginable failure of my own character or
conduct the cause of her intolerable despair."
"Oswald!" The tone was controlling, and yet that of one strong man
to another. "Is it for us to read the heart of any woman, least of
all of a woman of her susceptibilities and keen inner life? The
wish to end all comes to some natures like a lightning flash from a
clear sky. It comes, it goes, often without leaving a sign. But
if a weapon chances to be near--(here it was in hand)--then death
follows the impulse which, given an instant of thought, would have
vanished in a back sweep of other emotions. Chance was the real
accessory to this death by suicide. Oswald, let us realise it as
such and accept our sorrow as a mutual burden and turn to what
remains to us of life and labour. Work is grief's only consolation.
Then let us work."
But of all this Oswald had caught but the one word.
"Chance?" he repeated. "Orlando, I believe in God."
"Then seek your comfort there. I find it in harnessing the winds;
in forcing the powers of nature to do my bidding."
The other did not speak, and the silence grew heavy. It was broken,
when it was broken, by a cry from Oswald:
"No more," said he, "no more." Then, in a yearning accent, "Send
Doris to me,"
Orlando started. This name coming so close upon that word comfort
produced a strange effect upon him. But another look at Oswald and
he was ready to do his bidding. The bitter ordeal was over; let
him have his solace if it was in her power to give it to him.
Orlando, upon leaving his brother's room, did not stop to deliver
that brother's message directly to Doris; he left this for Truda to
do, and retired immediately to his hangar in the woods. Locking
himself in, he slightly raised the roof and then sat down before the
car which was rapidly taking on shape and assuming that individuality
and appearance of sentient life which hitherto he had only seen in
dreams. But his eye, which had never failed to kindle at this sight
before, shone dully in the semi-gloom. The air-car could wait; he
would first have his hour in this solitude of his own making. The
gaze he dreaded, the words from which he shrank could not penetrate
here. He might even shout her name aloud, and only these windowless
walls would respond. He was alone with his past, his present and
He needed to be. The strongest must pause when the precipice yawns
before him. The gulf can be spanned; he feels himself forceful
enough for that; but his eyes must take their measurement of it
first; he must know its depths and possible dangers. Only a fool
would ignore these steeps of jagged rock; and he was no fool, only
a man to whom the unexpected had happened, a man who had seen his
way clear to the horizon and then had come up against this! Love,
when he thought such folly dead! Remorse, when Glory called for
the quiet mind and heart!
He recognised its mordant fang, and knew that its ravages, though
only just begun, would last his lifetime. Nothing could stop them
now, nothing, nothing. And he laughed, as the thought went home;
laughed at the irony of fate and its inexorableness; laughed at his
own defeat and his nearness to a barred Paradise. Oswald loved Edith,
loved her yet, with a flame time would take long to quench. Doris
loved Oswald and he Doris; and not one of them would ever attain the
delights each was so fitted to enjoy. Why shouldn't he laugh? What
is left to man but mockery when all props fall? Disappointment was
the universal lot; and it should go merrily with him if he must take
his turn at it. But here the strong spirit of the man re-asserted
itself; it should be but a turn. A man's joys are not bounded by
his loves or even by the satisfaction of a perfectly untrammelled
mind. Performance makes a world of its own for the capable and the
strong, and this was still left to him. He, Orlando Brotherson,
despair while his great work lay unfinished! That would be to lay
stress on the inevitable pains and fears of commonplace humanity.
He was not of that ilk. Intellect was his god; ambition his motive
power. What would this casual blight upon his supreme contentment
be to him, when with the wings of his air-car spread, he should
spurn the earth and soar into the heaven of fame simultaneously
with his flight into the open.
He could wait for that hour. He had measured the gulf before him
and found it passable. Henceforth no looking back.
Rising, he stood for a moment gazing, with an alert eye now, upon
such sections of his car as had not yet been fitted into their
places; then he bent forward to his work, and soon the lips which
had uttered that sardonic laugh a few minutes before, parted in
gentler fashion, and song took the place of curses--a ballad of
love and fondest truth. But Orlando never knew what he sang. He
had the gift and used it.
Would his tones, however, have rung out with quite so mellow a
sweetness had he seen the restless figure even then circling his
retreat with eyes darting accusation and arms lifted towards him
in wild but impotent threat?
Yes, I think they would; for he knew that the man who thus expressed
his helplessness along with his convictions, was no nearer the end
he had set himself to attain than on the day he first betrayed his
THE HUT CHANGES ITS NAME
That night Oswald was taken very ill. For three days his life hung
in the balance, then youth and healthy living triumphed over shock
and bereavement, and he came slowly back to his sad and crippled
He had been conscious for a week or more of his surroundings, and
of his bitter sorrows as well, when one morning he asked Doris
whose face it was he had seen bending over him so often during the
last week: "Have you a new doctor? A man with white hair and a
comforting smile? Or have I dreamed this face? I have had so many
fancies this might easily be one of them."
"No, it is not a fancy," was the quiet reply. "Nor is it the face
of a doctor. It is that of friend. One whose heart is bound up
in your recovery; one for whom you must live, Mr. Brotherson."
"I don't know him, Doris. It's a strange face to me. And yet, it's
not altogether strange. Who is this man and why should he care for
me so deeply?"
"Because you share one love and one grief. It is Edith's father
whom you see at your bedside. He has helped to nurse you ever since
you came down this second time."
"Edith's father! Doris, it cannot be. Edith's father!"
"Yes, Mr. Challoner has been in Derby for the last two weeks. He
has only one interest now; to see you well again."
Doris caught the note of pain, if not suspicion, in this query, and
smiled as she asked in turn:
"Shall he answer that question himself? He is waiting to come in.
Not to talk. You need not fear his talking. He's as quiet as any
man I ever saw."
The sick man closed his eyes, and Doris watching, saw the flush
rise to his emaciated cheek, then slowly fade away again to a pallor
that frightened her. Had she injured where she would heal? Had
she pressed too suddenly and too hard on the ever gaping wound in
her invalid's breast? She gasped in terror at the thought, then
she faintly smiled, for his eyes had opened again and showed a calm
determination as he said:
"I should like to see him. I should like him to answer the question
I have just put you. I should rest easier and get well faster--or
not get well at all."
This latter he half whispered, and Doris, tripping from the room
may not have heard it, for her face showed no further shadow as
she ushered in Mr. Challoner, and closed the door behind him. She
had looked forward to this moment for days. To Oswald, however, it
was an unexpected excitement and his voice trembled with something
more than physical weakness as he greeted his visitor and thanked
him for his attentions.
"Doris says that you have shown me this kindness from the desire
you have to see me well again Mr. Challoner. Is this true?"
"Very true. I cannot emphasise the fact too strongly."
Oswald's eyes met his again, this time with great earnestness.
"You must have serious reasons for feeling so--reasons which I do
not quite understand. May I ask why you place such value upon a
life which, if ever useful to itself or others, has lost and lost
forever, the one delight which gave it meaning?"
It was for Mr. Challoner's voice to tremble now, as reaching out
his hand, he declared, with unmistakable feeling:
"I have no son. I have no interest left in life, outside this room
and the possibilities it contains for me. Your attachment to my
daughter has created a bond between us, Mr. Brotherson, which I
sincerely hope to see recognised by you."
Startled and deeply moved, the young man stretched out a shaking
hand towards his visitor, with the feeble but exulting cry:
"Then you do not blame me for her wretched and mysterious death.
You hold me guiltless of the misery which nerved her despairing arm?"
Oswald's wan and pinched features took on a beautiful expression
and Mr. Challoner no longer wondered at his daughter's choice.
"Thank God!" fell from the sick man's lips, and then there was a
silence during which their two hands met.
It was some minutes before either spoke and then it was Oswald
"I must confide to you certain facts. I honoured your daughter
and realised her position fully. Our plight was never made in
words, nor should I have presumed to advance any claim to her hand
if I had not made good my expectations, Mr. Challoner. I meant to
win both her regard and yours by acts, not words. I felt that I
had a great deal to do and I was prepared to work and wait. I loved
her--" He turned away his head and the silence which filled up the
gap, united those two hearts, as the old and young are seldom united.
But when a little later, Mr. Challoner rejoined Doris, in her little
sitting-room, he nevertheless showed a perplexity she had hoped to
see removed by this understanding with the younger Brotherson.
The cause became apparent as soon as he spoke.
"These brothers hold by each other," said he. "Oswald will hear
nothing against Orlando. He says that he has redeemed his fault.
He does not even protest that his brother's word is to be believed
in this matter. He does not seem to think that necessary. He
evidently regards Orlando's personality as speaking as truly and
satisfactorily for itself, as his own does. And I dared not
"He does not know all our reasons for distrust. He has heard
nothing about the poor washerwoman."
"No, and he must not,--not for weeks. He has borne all that he can."
"His confidence in his older brother is sublime. I do not share it;
but I cannot help but respect him for it."
It was warmly said, and Mr. Challoner could not forbear casting an
anxious look at her upturned face. What he saw there made him turn
away with a sigh.
"This confidence has for me a very unhappy side," he remarked. "It
shows me Oswald's thought. He who loved her best, accepts the cruel
verdict of an unreasoning public."
Doris' large eyes burned with a weird light upon his face.
"He has not had my dream," she murmured, with all the quiet of an
Yet as the days went by, even her manner changed towards the busy
inventor. It was hardly possible for it not to. The high stand
he took; the regard accorded him on every side; his talent; his
conversation, which was an education in itself, and, above all, his
absorption in a work daily advancing towards completion, removed
him so insensibly and yet so decidedly, from the hideous past of
tragedy with which his name, if not his honour, was associated, that,
unconsciously to herself, she gradually lost her icy air of
repulsion and lent him a more or less attentive ear, when he chose
to join their small company of an evening. The result was that he
turned so bright a side upon her that toleration merged from day to
day into admiration and memory lost itself in anticipation of the
event which was to prove him a man of men, if not one of the
world's greatest mechanical geniuses.
Meantime, Oswald was steadily improving in health, if not in spirits.
He had taken his first walk without any unfavourable results, and
Orlando decided from this that the time had come for an explanation
of his device and his requirements in regard to it. Seated together
in Oswald's room, he broached the subject thus:
"Oswald, what is your idea about what I'm making up there?"
"That it will be a success."
"I know; but its character, its use? What do you think it is?"
"I've an idea; but my idea don't fit the conditions."
"The shed is too closely hemmed in. You haven't room--"
"To start an aeroplane."
"Yet it is certainly a device for flying."
"I supposed so; but--"
"It is an air-car with a new and valuable idea--the idea for which
the whole world has been seeking ever since the first aeroplane
found its way up from the earth. My car needs no room to start in
save that which it occupies. If it did, it would be but the
modification of a hundred others."
As Oswald thus gave expression to his surprise, their two faces were
a study: the fire of genius in the one; the light of sympathetic
understanding in the other.
"If this car, now within three days of its completion," Orlando
proceeded, "does not rise from the oval of my hangar like a bird
from its nest, and after a wide and circling flight descend again
into the self same spot without any swerving from its direct course,
then have I failed in my endeavour and must take a back seat with
the rest. But it will not fail. I'm certain of success, Oswald.
All I want just now is a sympathetic helper--you, for instance;
someone who will aid me with the final fittings and hold his peace
to all eternity if the impossible occurs and the thing proves a
"Have you such pride as that?"
"So much that you cannot face failure?"
"Not when attached to my name. You can see how I feel about that
by the secrecy I have worked under. No other person living knows
what I have just communicated to you. Every part shipped here came
from different manufacturing firms; sometimes a part of a part was
all I allowed to be made in any one place. My fame, like my ship,
must rise with one bound into the air, or it must never rise at all.
It was not made for petty accomplishment, or the slow plodding of
commonplace minds. I must startle, or remain obscure. That is why
I chose this place for my venture, and you for my helper and
"You want me to ascend with you?"
"At the end of three days?"
"Orlando, I cannot."
"You cannot? Not strong enough yet? I'll wait then,--three days
"The time's too short. A month is scarcely sufficient. It would
be folly, such as you never show, to trust a nerve so undermined as
mine till time has restored its power. For an enterprise like this
you need a man of ready strength and resources; not one whose
condition you might be obliged to consider at a very critical
Orlando, balked thus at the outset, showed his displeasure.
"You do not do justice to your will. It is strong enough to carry
you through anything."
"You can force it to act for you."
"I fear not, Orlando."
"I counted on you and you thwart me at the most critical moment of
Oswald smiled; his whole candid and generous nature bursting into
view, in one quick flash.
"Perhaps," he assented; "but you will thank me when you realise my
weakness. Another man must be found--quick, deft, secret, yet
honourably alive to the importance of the occasion and your rights
as a great original thinker and mechanician."
"Do you know such a man?"
"I don't; but there must be many such among our workmen."
"There isn't one; and I haven't time to send to Brooklyn. I
reckoned on you."
"Can you wait a month?"
"A fortnight, then?"
"No, not ten days."
Oswald looked surprised. He would like to have asked why such
precipitation was necessary, but their tone in which this ultimatum
was given was of that decisive character which admits of no argument.
He, therefore, merely looked his query. But Orlando was not one to
answer looks; besides, he had no reply for the same importunate
question urged by his own good sense. He knew that he must make
the attempt upon which his future rested soon, and without risk of
the sapping influence of lengthened suspense and weeks of waiting.
He could hold on to those two demons leagued in attack against him,
for a definite seven days, but not for an indeterminate time. If he
were to be saved from folly,--from himself--events must rush.
He, therefore, repeated his no, with increased vehemence, adding,
as he marked the reproach in his brother's eye, "I cannot wait. The
test must be made on Saturday evening next, whatever the conditions;
whatever the weather. An air-car to be serviceable must be ready to
meet lightning and tempest, and what is worse, perhaps, an
insufficient crew." Then rising, he exclaimed, with a determination
which rendered him majestic, "If help is not forthcoming, I'll do it
all myself. Nothing shall hold me back; nothing shall stop me; and
when you see me and my car rise above the treetops, you'll feel that
I have done what I could to make you forget--"
He did not need to continue. Oswald understood and flashed a
grateful look his way before saying:
"You will make the attempt at night?"
"And on Saturday?"
"I've said it."
"I will run over in my mind the qualifications of such men as I
know and acquaint you with the result to-morrow."
"There are adjustments to be made. A man of accuracy is necessary."
"I will remember."
"And he must be likable. I can do nothing with a man with whom I'm
not perfectly in accord."
"I understand that."
"Good-night then." A moment of hesitancy, then, "I wish not only
yourself but Miss Scott to be present at this test. Prepare her for
the spectacle; but not yet, not till within an hour or two of the
And with a proud smile in which flashed a significance which
startled Oswald, he gave a hurried nod and turned away.
When in an hour afterwards, Doris looked in through the open door,
she found Oswald sitting with face buried in his hands, thinking so
deeply that he did not hear her. He had sat like this, immovable
and absorbed, ever since his brother had left him.
SILENCE--AND A KNOCK
Oswald did not succeed in finding a man to please Orlando. He
suggested one person after another to the exacting inventor, but
none were satisfactory to him and each in turn was turned down.
It is not every one we want to have share a world-wide triumph or
an ignominious defeat. And the days were passing.
He had said in a moment of elation, "I will do it alone;" but he
knew even then that he could not. Two hands were necessary to start
the car; afterwards, he might manage it alone. Descent was even
possible, but to give the contrivance its first lift required a
second mechanician. Where was he to find one to please him? And
what was he to do if he did not? Conquer his prejudices against
such men as he had seen, or delay the attempt, as Oswald had
suggested, till he could get one of his old cronies on from New
York. He could do neither. The obstinacy of his nature was such
as to offer an invincible barrier against either suggestion. One
alternative remained. He had heard of women aviators. If Doris
could be induced to accompany him into the air, instead of clinging
sodden-like to the weight of Oswald's woe, then would the world
behold a triumph which would dwarf the ecstasy of the bird's flight
and rob the eagle of his kingly pride. But Doris barely endured
him as yet, and the thought was not one to be considered for a
moment. Yet what other course remained? He was brooding deeply
on the subject, in his hangar one evening--(it was Thursday and
Saturday was but two days off) when there came a light knock at
This had never occurred before. He had given strict orders, backed
by his brother's authority, that he was never to be intruded upon
when in this place; and though he had sometimes encountered the
prying eyes of the curious flashing from behind the trees encircling
the hangar, his door had never been approached before, or his
privacy encroached upon. He started then, when this low but
penetrating sound struck across the turmoil of his thoughts, and
cast one look in the direction from which it came; but he did not
rise, or even change his position on his workman's stool.
Then it came again, still low but with an insistence which drew his
brows together and made his hand fall from the wire he had been
unconsciously holding through the mental debate which was absorbing
him. Still he made no response, and the knocking continued. Should
he ignore it entirely, start up his motor and render himself
oblivious to all other sounds? At every other point in his career
he would have done this, but an unknown, and as yet unnamed,
something had entered his heart during this fatal month, which made
old ways impossible and oblivion a thing he dared not court too
recklessly. Should this be a summons from Doris! Should
(inconceivable idea, yet it seized upon him relentlessly and would
not yield for the asking) should it be Doris herself!
Taking advantage of a momentary cessation of the ceaseless tap tap,
he listened. Silence was never profounder than in this forest on
that windless night. Earth and air seemed, to his strained ear,
emptied of all sound. The clatter of his own steady, unhastened
heart-beat was all that broke upon the stillness. He might be
alone in the Universe for all token of life beyond these walls, or
so he was saying to himself, when sharp, quick, sinister, the
knocking recommenced, demanding admission, insisting upon attention,
drawing him against his own will to his feet, and finally, though
he made more than one stand against it, to the very door.
"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.
THE MAN WITHIN AND THE MAN WITHOUT
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
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
"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.
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
"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."
Audacity often succeeds where subtler means fail. Orlando, with
a curious twist of his strong lip, took hold of the detective's arm
and drew him in, shutting and locking the door carefully behind him.
"Now," said he, "you shall tell me what you think you have
discovered, to make any ideas of your own available in the
manufacture of a superior self-propelling air-ship."
Sweetwater who had been so violently wheeled about in entering that
he stood with his back to the curtain concealing the car, answered
"You have a device, entirely new so far as I can judge, by which
this car can leap at once into space, hold its own in any direction,
and alight again upon any given spot without shock to the machine or
danger to the people controlling it."
"Explain the device."
"I will draw it."
"As I see it."
"As you see it!"
"Yes. It's a brilliant idea; I could never have conceived it."
"Sit here. Let's see what you know."
Sweetwater sat down at the table the other pointed out, and drawing
forward a piece of paper, took up a pencil with an easy air.
Brotherson approached and stood at his shoulder. He had taken up
his pistol again, why he hardly knew, and as Sweetwater began his
marks, his fingers tightened on its butt till they turned white in
the murky lamplight.
"You see," came in easy tones from the stooping draughtsman, "I
have an imagination which only needs a slight fillip from a mind
like yours to send it in the desired direction. I shall not draw
an exact reproduction of your idea, but I think you will see that
I understand it very well. How's that for a start?"
Brotherson looked and hastily drew back. He did not want the other
to note his surprise.
"But that is a portion you never saw," he loudly declared.
"No, but I saw this," returned Sweetwater, working busily on some
curves; "and these gave me the fillip I mentioned. The rest came
Brotherson, in dread of his own anger, threw his pistol to the other
end of the shed:
"You knave! You thief!" he furiously cried.
"How so?" asked Sweetwater smilingly, rising and looking him calmly
in the face. "A thief is one who appropriates another man's goods,
or, let us say, another man's ideas. I have appropriated nothing
yet. I've only shown you how easily I could do so. Mr. Brotherson,
take me in as your assistant. I will be faithful to you, I swear it.
I want to see that machine go up."
"For how many people have you drawn those lines?" thundered the
"For nobody; not for myself even. This is the first time they have
left their hiding-place in my brain."
"Can you swear to that?"
"I can and will, if you require it. But you ought to believe my
word, sir. I am square as a die in all matters not connected
--well, not connected with my profession," he smiled in a burst
of that whimsical humour, which not even the seriousness of the
moment could quite suppress.
"And what surety have I that you do not consider this very matter
of mine as coming within the bounds you speak of?"
"None. But you must trust me that far."
Brotherson surveyed him with an irony which conveyed a very
different message to the detective than any he had intended. Then
"To how many have you spoken, dilating upon this device, and
publishing abroad my secret?"
"I have spoken to no one, not even to Mr. Gryce. That shows my
honesty as nothing else can."
"You have kept my secret intact?"
"Entirely so, sir."
"So that no one, here or elsewhere, shares our knowledge of the new
points in this mechanism?"
"I say so, sir."
"Then if I should kill you," came in ferocious accents, "now
"You would be the only one to own that knowledge. But you won't
"Need I go into reasons?
"Why? I say."
"Because your conscience is already too heavily laden to bear the
burden of another unprovoked crime"
Brotherson, starting back, glared with open ferocity upon the man
who dared to face him with such an accusation.
"God! why didn't I shoot you on entrance!" he cried. "Your courage
is certainly colossal."
A fine smile, without even the hint of humour now, touched the
daring detective's lip. Brotherson's anger seemed to grow under it,
and he loudly repeated:
"It's more than colossal; it's abnormal and--" A moment's pause,
then with ironic pauses--"and quite unnecessary save as a matter
of display, unless you think you need it to sustain you through
the ordeal you are courting. You wish to help me finish and prepare
"I sincerely do."
"You consider yourself competent?"
Brotherson's eyes fell and he walked once to the extremity of the
oval flooring and back.
"Well, we will grant that. But that's not all that is necessary.
My requirements demand a companion in my first flight. Will you go
up in the car with me on Saturday night?"
A quick affirmative was on Sweetwater's lips but the glimpse which
he got of the speaker's face glowering upon him from the shadows
into which Brotherson had withdrawn, stopped its utterance, and the
silence grew heavy. Though it may not have lasted long by the clock,
the instant of breathless contemplation of each other's features
across the intervening space was of incalculable moment to Sweetwater,
and, possibly, to Brotherson. As drowning men are said to live over
their whole history between their first plunge and their final rise
to light and air, so through the mind of the detective rushed the
memories of his past and the fast fading glories of his future; and
rebelling at the subtle peril he saw in that sardonic eye, he
vociferated an impulsive:
"No! I'll not--" and paused, caught by a new and irresistible
A breath of wind--the first he, had felt that night--had swept
in through some crevice in the curving wall, flapping the canvas
enveloping the great car. It acted like a peal to battle. After
all, a man must take some risks in his life, and his heart was in
this trial of a redoubtable mechanism in which he had full faith.
He could not say no to the prospect of being the first to share a
triumph which would send his name to the ends of the earth; and,
changing the trend of his sentence, he repeated with a calmness
which had the force of a great decision.
"I will not fail you in anything. If she rises--" here his trembling
hand fell on the curtain shutting off his view of the ship, "she
shall take me with her, so that when she descends I may be the first
to congratulate the proud inventor of such a marvel."
"So be it!" shot from the other's lips, his eyes losing their
threatening look, and his whole countenance suddenly aglow with the
enthusiasm of awakened genius.
Coming from the shadows, he laid his hand on the cord regulating
the rise and fall of the concealing curtain.
"Here she is!" he cried and drew the cord.
The canvas shook, gathered itself into great folds and disappeared
in the shadows from which he had just stepped.
The air-car stood revealed--a startling, because wholly unique,
Long did Sweetwater survey it, then turning with beaming face upon
the watchful inventor, he uttered a loud Hurrah.
Next moment, with everything forgotten between them save the glories
of this invention, both dropped simultaneously to the floor and
began that minute examination of the mechanism necessary to their
HIS GREAT HOUR
Saturday night at eight o'clock.
So the fiat had gone forth, with no concession to be made on account
As Oswald came from his supper and took a look at the heavens from
the small front porch, he was deeply troubled that Orlando had
remained so obstinate on this point. For there were ominous clouds
rolling up from the east, and the storms in this region of high
mountains and abrupt valleys were not light, nor without danger even
to those with feet well planted upon mother earth.
If the tempest should come up before eight!
Mr. Challoner, who, from some mysterious impulse of bravado on the
part of Brotherson, was to be allowed to make the third in this
small band of spectators, was equally concerned at this sight, but
not for Brotherson. His fears were for Oswald, whose slowly
gathering strength could illy bear the strain which this additional
anxiety for his brother's life must impose upon him. As for Doris,
she was in a state of excitement more connected with the past than
with the future. That afternoon she had laid her hand in that of
Orlando Brotherson, and wished him well. She! in whose breast
still lingered reminiscences of those old doubts which had beclouded
his image for her at their first meeting. She had not been able to
avoid it. His look was a compelling one, and it had demanded thus
much from her; and--a terrible thought to her gentle spirit--he
might be going to his death!
It had been settled by the prospective aviator that they were to
watch for the ascent from the mouth of the grassy road leading in
to the hangar. The three were to meet there at a quarter to eight
and await the stroke and the air-cars rise. That time was near,
and Mr. Challoner, catching a glimpse of Oswald's pallid and
unnaturally drawn features, as he set down the lantern he carried,
shuddered with foreboding and wished the hour passed.
Doris' watchful glance never left the face whose lightest change
was more to her than all Orlando's hopes. But the result upon her
was not to weaken her resolution, but to strengthen it. Whatever
the outcome of the next few minutes, she must stand ready to sustain
her invalid through it. That the darkness of early evening had
deepened to oppression, was unnoticed for the moment. The fears of
an hour past had been forgotten. Their attention was too absorbed
in what was going on before them, for even a glance overhead.
Suddenly Mr. Challoner spoke.
"Who is the man whom Mr. Brotherson has asked to go up with him?"
It was Oswald who answered.
"He has never told me. He has kept his own counsel about that as
about everything else connected with this matter. He simply advised
me that I was not to bother about him any more; that he had found
the assistant he wanted."
"Such reticence seems unpardonable. You have--displayed great
"Because I understand Orlando. He reads men's natures like a book.
The man he trusts, we may trust. To-morrow, he will speak openly
enough. All cause for reticence will be gone.
"You have confidence then in the success of this undertaking?"
"If I hadn't, I should not be here. I could hardly bear to witness
his failure, even in a secret test like this. I should find it too
hard to face him afterwards."
"I don't understand."
"Orlando has great pride. If this enterprise fails I cannot answer
for him. He would be capable of anything. Why, Doris! what is
the matter, child? I never saw you look like that before."
She had been down on her knees regulating the lantern, and the
sudden flame, shooting up, had shown him her face turned up towards
his in an apprehension which verged on horror.
"Do I look frightened?" she asked, remembering herself and lightly
rising. "I believe that I am a little frightened. If--if anything
should go wrong! If an accident-" But here she remembered herself
again and quickly changed her tone. "But your confidence shall be
mine. I will believe in his good angel or--or in his self-command
and great resolution. I'll not be frightened any more."
But Oswald did not seem satisfied. He continued to look at her in
He hardly knew what to make of the intense feeling she had
manifested. Had Orlando touched her girlish heart? Had this
cold-blooded nature, with its steel-like brilliancy and honourable
but stern views of life, moved this warm and sympathetic soul to
more than admiration? The thought disturbed him so he forgot the
nearness of the moment they were all awaiting till a quick rasping
sound from the hangar, followed by the sudden appearance of an
ever-widening band of light about its upper rim, drew his attention
and awakened them all to a breathless expectation.
The lid was rising. Now it was half-way up, and now, for the first
time, it was lifted to its full height and stood a broad oval disc
against the background of the forest. The effect was strange. The
hangar had been made brilliant by many lamps, and their united glare
pouring from its top and illuminating not only the surrounding
treetops but the broad face of this uplifted disc, roused in the
awed spectator a thrill such as in mythological times might have
greeted the sudden sight of Vulcan's smithy blazing on Olympian
hills. But the clang of iron on iron would have attended the flash
and gleam of those unexpected fires, and here all was still save
for that steady throb never heard in Olympus or the halls of
Valhalla, the pant of the motor eager for flight in the upper air.
As they listened in a trance of burning hope which obliterated all
else, this noise and all others near and distant, was suddenly lost
in a loud clatter of writhing and twisting boughs which set the
forest in a roar and seemed to heave the air about them.
A wind had swooped down from the east, bending everything before
it and rattling the huge oval on which their eyes were fixed as
though it would tear it from its hinges.
The three caught at each other's hands in dismay. The storm had
come just on the verge of the enterprise, and no one might guess
"Will he dare? Will he dare?" whispered Doris, and Oswald answered,
though it seemed next to impossible that he could have heard her:
"He will dare. But will he survive it? Mr. Challoner," he suddenly
shouted in that gentleman's ear, "what time is it now?"
Mr. Challoner, disengaging himself from their mutual grasp, knelt
down by the lantern to consult his watch.
"One minute to eight," he shouted back.
The forest was now a pandemonium. Great boughs, split from their
parent trunks, fell crashing to the ground in all directions. The
scream of the wind roused echoes which repeated themselves, here,
there and everywhere. No rain had fallen yet, but the sight of
the clouds skurrying pell-mell through the glare thrown up from the
shed, created such havoc in the already overstrained minds of the
three onlookers, that they hardly heeded, when with a clatter and
crash which at another time would have startled them into flight,
the swaying oval before them was whirled from its hinges and thrown
back against the trees already bending under the onslaught of the
tempest. Destruction seemed the natural accompaniment of the moment,
and the only prayer which sprang to Oswald's lips was that the motor
whose throb yet lingered in their blood though no longer taken in
by the ear, would either refuse to work or prove insufficient to
lift the heavy car into this seething tumult of warring forces.
His brother's life hung in the balance against his fame, and he
could not but choose life for him. Yet, as the multitudinous
sounds about him yielded for a moment to that brother's shout,
and he knew that the moment had come, which would soon settle all,
he found himself staring at the elliptical edge of the hangar, with
an anticipation which held in it as much terror as joy, for the end
of a great hope or the beginning of a great triumph was compressed
into this trembling instant and if--
Great God! he sees it! They all see it! Plainly against that
portion of the disc which still lifted itself above the further
wall, a curious moving mass appears, lengthens, takes on shape,
then shoots suddenly aloft, clearing the encircling tops of the
bending, twisting and tormented trees, straight into the heart of
the gale, where for one breathless moment it whirls madly about
like a thing distraught, then in slow but triumphant obedience to
the master hand that guides it, steadies and mounts majestically
upward till it is lost to their view in the depths of impenetrable
Orlando Brotherson has accomplished his task. He has invented a
mechanism which can send an air-car straight up from its mooring
place. As the three watchers realise this, Oswald utters a cry
of triumph, and Doris throws herself into Mr. Challoner's arms.
Then they all stand transfixed again, waiting for a descent which
may never come.
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.
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.
Three days had passed, and Orlando Brotherson sat in his room at
the hotel before a table laden with telegrams, letters and marked
newspapers. The news of his achievement had gone abroad, and Derby
was, for the moment, the centre of interest for two continents.
His success was an established fact. The second trial which he
had made with his car, this time with the whole town gathered
together in the streets as witnesses, had proved not only the
reliability of its mechanism, but the great advantages which it
possessed for a direct flight to any given point. Already he saw
Fortune beckoning to him in the shape of an unconditional offer of
money from a first-class source; and better still,--for he was a
man of untiring energy and boundless resource--that opportunity
for new and enlarged effort which comes with the recognition of
one's exceptional powers.
All this was his and more. A sweeter hope, a more enduring joy
had followed hard upon gratified ambition. Doris had smiled on him;
--Doris! She had caught the contagion of the universal enthusiasm
and had given him her first ungrudging token of approval. It had
altered his whole outlook on life in an instant, for there was an
eagerness in this demonstration which proclaimed the relieved heart.
She no longer trusted either appearances or her dream. He had
succeeded in conquering her doubts by the very force of his
personality, and the shadow which had hitherto darkened their
intercourse had melted quite away. She was ready to take his
word now and Oswald's, after which the rest must follow. Love does
not lag far behind an ardent admiration.
Fame! Fortune! Love! What more could a man desire? What more
could this man, with his strenuous past and an unlimited capacity
for an enlarged future, ask from fate than this. Yet, as he bends
over his letters, fingering some, but reading none beyond a line
or two, he betrays but a passing elation, and hardly lifts his head
when a burst of loud acclaim comes ringing up to his window from
some ardent passer-by: "Hurrah for Brotherson! He has put our town
on the map!"
Why this despondency? Have those two demons seized him again? It
would seem so and with new and overmastering fury. After the hour
of triumph comes the hour of reckoning. Orlando Brotherson in his
hour of proud attainment stands naked before his own soul's tribunal
and the pleader is dumb and the judge inexorable. There is but one
Witness to such struggles; but one eye to note the waste and
desolation of the devastated soul, when the storm is over past.
Orlando Brotherson has succumbed; the attack was too keen, his
forces too shaken. But as the heavy minutes pass, he slowly
re-gathers his strength and rises, in the end, a conqueror.
Nevertheless, he knows, even in that moment of regained command,
that the peace he had thus bought with strain and stress is but
momentary; that the battle is on for life: that the days which to
other eyes would carry a sense of brilliancy--days teeming with
work and outward satisfaction--would hold within their hidden
depths a brooding uncertainty which would rob applause of its music
and even overshadow the angel face of Love.
He quailed at the prospect, materialist though he was. The days
--the interminable days! In his unbroken strength and the glare
of the noonday sun, he forgot to take account of the nights looming
in black and endless procession before him. It was from the day
phantom he shrank, and not from the ghoul which works in the
darkness and makes a grave of the heart while happier mortals sleep.
And the former terror seemed formidable enough to him in this his
hour of startling realisation, even if he had freed himself for
the nonce from its controlling power. To escape all further
contemplation of it he would work. These letters deserved
attention. He would carry them to Oswald, and in their
consideration find distraction for the rest of the day, at least.
Oswald was a good fellow. If pleasure were to be gotten from these
tokens of good-will, he should have his share of it. A gleam of
Oswald's old spirit in Oswald's once bright eye, would go far
towards throttling one of those demons whose talons he had just
released from his throat; and if Doris responded too, he would
deserve his fate, if he did not succeed in gaining that mastery
of himself which would make such hours as these but episodes in
a life big with interest and potent with great emotions.
Rising with a resolute air, he made a bundle of his papers and,
with them in hand, passed out of his room and down the hotel stairs.
A man stood directly in his way, as he made for the front door.
It was Mr. Challoner.
Courtesy demanded some show of recognition between them, and
Brotherson was passing with his usual cold bow, when a sudden
impulse led him to pause and meet the other's eye, with the
"You have expressed, or so I have been told, some surprise at my
choice of mechanician. A man of varied accomplishments, Mr.
Challoner, but one for whom I have no further use. If, therefore,
you wish to call off your watch-dog, you are at liberty to do so.
I hardly think he can be serviceable to either of us much longer."
The older gentleman hesitated, seeking possibly for composure,
and when he answered it was not only without irony but with a
certain forced respect:
"Mr. Sweetwater has just left for New York, Mr. Brotherson. He
will carry with him, no doubt, the full particulars of your great
Orlando bowed, this time with distinguished grace. Not a flicker
of relief had disturbed the calm serenity of his aspect, yet when
a moment later, he stepped among his shouting admirers in the
street, his air and glance betrayed a bounding joy for which
another source must be found than that of gratified pride. A
chain had slipped from his spirit, and though the people shrank a
little, even while they cheered, it was rather from awe of his
bearing and the recognition of that sense of apartness which
underlay his smile than from any perception of the man's real
nature or of the awesome purpose which at that moment exalted
it. But had they known--could they have seen into this
tumultuous heart--what a silence would have settled upon these
noisy streets; and in what terror and soul-confusion would each
man have slunk away from his fellows into the quiet and solitude
of his own home.
Brotherson himself was not without a sense of the incongruity
underlying this ovation; for, as he slowly worked himself along,
the brightness of his look became dimmed with a tinge of sarcasm
which in its turn gave way to an expression of extreme melancholy
--both quite unbefitting the hero of the hour in the first flush
of his new-born glory. Had he seen Doris' youthful figure emerge
for a moment from the vine-hung porch he was approaching, bringing
with it some doubt of the reception awaiting him? Possibly, for
he made a stand before he reached the house, and sent his followers
back; after which he advanced with an unhurrying step, so that
several minutes elapsed before he finally drew up before Mr. Scott's
door and entered through the now empty porch into his brother's
He had meant to see Doris first, but his mind had changed. If all
passed off well between himself and Oswald, if he found his brother
responsive and wide-awake to the interests and necessities of the
hour, he might forego his interview with her till he felt better
prepared to meet it. For call it cowardice or simply a reasonable
precaution, any delay seemed preferable to him in his present mood
of discouragement, to that final casting of the die upon which hung
so many and such tremendous issues. It was the first moment of real
halt in his whole tumultuous life! Never, as daring experimentalist
or agitator, had he shrunk from danger seen or unseen or from threat
uttered or unuttered, as he shrank from this young girl's no; and
something of the dread he had felt lest he should encounter her
unaware in the hall and so be led on to speak when his own judgment
bade him be silent, darkened his features as he entered his brother's
But Oswald was sunk in a bitter revery of his own, and took no heed
of these signs of depression. In the re-action following these days
of great excitement, the past had re-asserted itself, and all was
gloom in his once generous soul. This, Orlando had time to perceive,
quick as the change came when his brother really realised who his
visitor was. The glad "Orlando!" and the forced smile did not
deceive him, and his voice quavered a trifle as he held out his
packet with the words:
"I have come to show you what the world says of my invention. We
will soon be great men," he emphasised, as Oswald opened the letters.
"Money has been offered me and--Read! read!" he urged, with an
unconscious dictatorialness, as Oswald paused in his task. "See
what the fates have prepared for us; for you shall share all my
honours, as you will from this day share my work and enter into all
my experiments. Cannot you enthuse a little bit over it? Doesn't
the prospect contain any allurement for you? Would you rather stay
locked up in this petty town--"
"Yes; or--die. Don't look like that, Orlando. It was a cowardly
speech and I ask your pardon. I'm hardly fit to talk to-day.
"Not that name!" he harshly interrupted. "You must not hamper your
life with useless memories. That dream of yours may be sacred, but
it belongs to the past, and a great reality confronts you. When you
have fully recovered your health, your own manhood will rebel at a
weakness unworthy one of our name. Rouse yourself, Oswald. Take
account of our prospects. Give me your hand and say, 'Life holds
something for me yet. I have a brother who needs me if I do not
need him. Together, we can prove ourselves invincible and wrench
fame and fortune from the world.'"
But the hand he reached for did not rise at his command, though
Oswald started erect and faced him with manly earnestness.
"I should have to think long and deeply," he said, "before I took
upon myself responsibilities like these. I am broken in mind and
heart, Orlando, and must remain so till God mercifully delivers me.
I should be a poor assistant to you--a drag, rather than a help.
Deeply as I deplore it, hard as it may be for one of your
temperament to understand so complete an overthrow, I yet must
acknowledge my condition and pray you not to count upon me in any
plans you may form. I know how this looks--I know that as your
brother and truest admirer, I should respond, and respond strongly,
to such overtures as these, but the motive for achievement is gone.
She was my all; and while I might work, it would be mechanically.
The lift, the elevating thought is gone."
Orlando stood a moment studying his brother's face; then he turned
shortly about and walked the length of the room. When he came back,
he took up his stand again directly before Oswald, and asked, with
a new note in his voice:
"Did you love Edith Challoner so much as that?"
A glance from Oswald's eye, sadder than any tear.
"So that you cannot be reconciled?"
A gesture. Oswald's words were always few.
Orlando's frown deepened.
"Such grief I partly understand," said he. "But time will cure it.
Some day another lovely face--"
"We'll not talk of that, Orlando."
"No, we'll not talk of that," acquiesced the inventor, walking away
again, this time to the window. "For you there's but one woman;
--and she's a memory."
"Killed!" broke from his brother's lips. "Slain by her own hand
under an impulse of wildness and terror! Can I ever forget that?
Do not expect it, Orlando."
"Then you do blame me?" Orlando turned and was looking full at
"I blame your unreasonableness and your overweening pride."
Orlando stood a moment, then moved towards the door. The heaviness
of his step smote upon Oswald's ear and caused him to exclaim:
"Forgive me, Orlando." But the other cut him short with an
"Thanks for your candour! If her spirit is destined to stand like
an immovable shadow between you and me, you do right to warn me.
But this interview must end all allusion to the subject. I will
seek and find another man to share my fortunes; (as he said this
he approached suddenly, and took his papers from the other's hand)
or--" Here he hastily retraced his steps to the door which he
softly opened. "Or" he repeated--But though Oswald listened for
the rest, it did not come. While he waited, the other had given
him one deeply concentrated look and passed out.
No heartfelt understanding was possible between these two men.
Crossing the hall, Orlando knocked at the door of Doris' little
No answer, yet she was there. He knew it in every throbbing fibre
of his body. She was there and quite aware of his presence; of
this he felt sure; yet she did not bid him enter. Should he knock
again? Never! but he would not quit the threshold, not if she
kept him waiting there for hours. Perhaps she realised this.
Perhaps she had meant to open the door to him from the very first,
who can tell? What avails is that she did ultimately open it, and
he, meeting her soft eye, wished from his very heart that his
impulse had led him another way, even if that way had been to the
edge of the precipice--and over.
For the face he looked upon was serene, and there was no serenity
in him; rather a confusion of unloosed passions fearful of barrier
and yearning tumultuously for freedom. But, whatever his revolt,
the secret revolt which makes no show in look or movement, he kept
his ground and forced a smile of greeting. If her face was quiet,
it was also lovely;--too lovely, he felt, for a man to leave it,
whatever might come of his lingering.
Nothing in all his life had ever affected him like it. For him
there was no other woman in the past, the present or the future,
and, realising this--taking in to the full what her affection and
her trust might be to him in those fearsome days to come, he so
dreaded a rebuff--he, who had been the courted of women and the
admired of men ever since he could remember,--that he failed to
respond to her welcome and the simple congratulations she felt
forced to repeat. He could neither speak the commonplace, nor
listen to it. This was his crucial hour. He must find support
here, or yield hopelessly to the maelstrom in whose whirl he was
She saw his excitement and faltered back a step--a move which she
regretted the next minute, for he took advantage of it to enter and
close behind him the door which she would never have shut of her
own accord. Then he spoke, abruptly, passionately, but in those
golden tones which no emotion could render other than alluring:
"I am an unhappy man, Miss Scott. I see that my presence here is
not welcome, yet am sure that it would be so if it were not for a
prejudice which your generous nature should be the first to cast
aside, in face of the outspoken confidence of my brother: Oswald.
Doris, little Doris, I love you. I have loved you from the moment
of our first meeting. Not to many men is it given to find his
heart so late, and when he does, it is for his whole life; no
second passion can follow it. I know that I am premature in saying
this; that you are not prepared to hear such words from me and that
it might be wiser for me to withhold them, but I must leave Derby
soon, and I cannot go until I know whether there is the least hope
that you will yet lend a light to my career or whether that career
must burn itself to ashes at your feet. Oswald--nay, hear me out
--Oswald lives in his memories; but I must have an active hope
--a tangible expectation--if I am to be the man I was meant to be.
Will you, then, coldly dismiss me, or will you let my whole future
life prove to you the innocence of my past? I will not hasten
anything; all I ask is some indulgence. Time will do the rest."
"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.
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.
"Dear Mr. Challoner:
"With every apology for the intrusion, may I request
a few minutes of private conversation with you this evening
at seven o'clock? Let it be in your own room.
Mr. Challoner had been called upon to face many difficult and
heartrending duties since the blow which had desolated his home
fell upon him.
But from none of them had he shrunk as he did from the interview
thus demanded. He had supposed himself rid of this man. He had
dismissed him from his life when he had dismissed Sweetwater. His
face, accordingly, wore anything but a propitiatory look, when
promptly at the hour of seven, Orlando Brotherson entered his
His pleasure or his displeasure was, however, a matter of small
consequence to his self-invited visitor. He had come there with a
set purpose, and nothing in heaven or earth could deter him from it
now. Declining the offer of a seat, with the slightest of
acknowledgments in the way of a bow, he took a careful survey of
the room before saying:
"Are we alone, Mr. Challoner, or is that man Sweetwater lurking
somewhere within hearing?"
"Mr. Sweetwater is gone, as I had the honour of telling you
yesterday," was the somewhat stiff reply. "There are no witnesses
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