The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green
Part 3 out of 4
room! Anson Durand, whom I believed innocent, whom I loved, but
whom I was betraying with every moment of hesitation in which I
allowed myself to indulge! what if the Honorable Mr. Grey is an
eminent statesman, a dignified, scholarly, and to all appearance,
high-minded man? what if my patient is sweet, dove-eyed and
affectionate? Had not Anson qualities as excellent in their way,
rights as certain, and a hold upon myself superior to any claims
which another might advance? Drawing a much-crumpled little note
from my pocket, I eagerly read it. It was the only one I had of
his writing, the only letter he had ever written me. I had
already re-read it a hundred times, but as I once more repeated
to myself its well-known lines, I felt my heart grow strong and
fixed in the determination which had brought me into this family.
Restoring the letter to its place, I opened my gripsack and from
its inmost recesses drew forth an object which I had no sooner in
hand than a natural sense of disquietude led me to glance
apprehensively, first at the door, then at the window, though I
had locked the one and shaded the other. It seemed as if some
other eye besides my own must be gazing at what I held so
gingerly in hand; that the walls were watching me, if nothing
else, and the sensation this produced was so exactly like that of
guilt (or what I imagined to be guilt), that I was forced to
repeat once more to myself that it was not a good man's overthrow
I sought, or even a bad man's immunity from punishment, but the
truth, the absolute truth. No shame could equal that which I
should feel if, by any over-delicacy now, I failed to save the
man who trusted me.
The article which I held--have you guessed it?--was the stiletto
with which Mrs. Fairbrother had been killed. It had been
intrusted to me by the police for a definite purpose. The time
for testing that purpose had come, or so nearly come, that I felt
I must be thinking about the necessary ways and means.
Unwinding the folds of tissue paper in which the stiletto was
wrapped, I scrutinized the weapon very carefully. Hitherto, I had
seen only pictures of it, now, I had the article itself in my
hand. It was not a natural one for a young woman to hold, a woman
whose taste ran more toward healing than inflicting wounds, but I
forced myself to forget why the end of its blade was rusty, and
looked mainly at the devices which ornamented the handle. I had
not been mistaken in them. They belonged to the house of Grey,
and to none other. It was a legitimate inquiry I had undertaken.
However the matter ended, I should always have these historic
devices for my excuse.
My plan was to lay this dagger on Mr. Grey's desk at a moment
when he would be sure to see it and I to see him. If he betrayed
a guilty knowledge of this fatal steel; if, unconscious of my
presence, he showed surprise and apprehension,--then we should
know how to proceed; justice would be loosed from constraint and
the police feel at liberty to approach him. It was a delicate
task, this. I realized how delicate, when I had thrust the
stiletto out of sight under my nurse's apron and started to cross
the hall. Should I find the library clear? Would the opportunity
be given me to approach his desk, or should I have to carry this
guilty witness of a world-famous crime on into Miss Grey's room,
and with its unholy outline pressing a semblance of itself upon
my breast, sit at that innocent pillow, meet those innocent eyes,
and answer the gentle inquiries which now and then fell from the
sweetest lips I have ever seen smile into the face of a lonely,
The arrangement of the rooms was such as made it necessary for me
to pass through this sittting-room in order to reach my patient's
With careful tread, so timed as not to appear stealthy, I
accordingly advanced and pushed open the door. The room was
empty. Mr. Grey was still with his daughter and I could cross the
floor without fear. But never had I entered upon a task requiring
more courage or one more obnoxious to my natural instincts. I
hated each step I took, but I loved the man for whom I took those
steps, and moved resolutely on. Only, as I reached the chair in
which Mr. Grey was accustomed to sit, I found that it was easier
to plan an action than to carry it out. Home life and the
domestic virtues had always appealed to me more than a man's
greatness. The position which this man held in his own country,
his usefulness there, even his prestige as statesman and scholar,
were facts, but very dreamy facts, to me, while his feelings as a
father, the place he held in his daughter's heart--these were
real to me, these I could understand; and it was of these and not
of his place as a man, that this his favorite seat spoke to me.
How often had I beheld him sit by the hour with his eye on the
door behind which his one darling lay ill! Even now, it was easy
for me to recall his face as I had sometimes caught a glimpse of
it through the crack of the suddenly opened door, and I felt my
breast heave and my hand falter as I drew forth the stiletto and
moved to place it where his eye would fall upon it on his leaving
his daughter's bedside.
But my hand returned quickly to my breast and fell hack again
empty. A pile of letters lay before me on the open lid of the
desk. The top one was addressed to me with the word "Important"
written in the corner. I did not know the writing, but I felt
that I should open and read this letter before committing myself
or those who stood back of me to this desperate undertaking.
Glancing behind me and seeing that the door into Miss Grey's room
was ajar, I caught up this letter and rushed with it back into my
own room. As I surmised, it was from the inspector, and as I read
it I realized that I had received it not one moment too soon. In
language purposely non-committal, but of a meaning not to be
mistaken, it advised me that some unforeseen facts had come to
light which altered all former suspicions and made the little
surprise I had planned no longer necessary.
There was no allusion to Mr. Durand but the final sentence ran:
"Drop all care and give your undivided attention to your
THE MISSING RECOMMENDATION
My patient slept that night, but I did not. The shock given by
this sudden cry of Halt! at the very moment I was about to make
my great move, the uncertainty as to what it meant and my doubt
of its effect upon Mr. Durand's position, put me on the anxious
seat and kept my thoughts fully occupied till morning.
I was very tired and must have shown it, when, with the first
rays of a very meager sun, Miss Grey softly unclosed her eyes and
found me looking at her, for her smile had a sweet compassion in
it, and she said as she pressed my hand:
"You must have watched me all night. I never saw any one look so
tired,--or so good," she softly finished.
I had rather she had not uttered that last phrase. It did not fit
me at the moment,--did not fit me, perhaps, at any time. Good! I!
when my thoughts had not been with her, but with Mr. Durand; when
the dominating feeling in my breast was not that of relief, but a
vague regret that I had not been allowed to make my great test
and so establish, to my own satisfaction, at least, the perfect
innocence of my lover even at the cost of untold anguish to this
confiding girl upon whose gentle spirit the very thought of crime
would cast a deadly blight.
I must have flushed; certainly I showed some embarrassment, for
her eyes brightened with shy laughter as she whispered:
"You do not like to be praised,--another of your virtues. You
have too many. I have only one--I love my friends."
She did. One could see that love was life to her.
For an instant I trembled. How near I had been to wrecking this
gentle soul! Was she safe yet? I was not sure. My own doubts were
not satisfied. I awaited the papers with feverish impatience.
They should contain news. News of what? Ah, that was the
"You will let me see my mail this morning, will you not?" she
asked, as I busied myself about her.
"That is for the doctor to say," I smiled. "You are certainly
better this morning."
"It is so hard for me not to be able to read his letters, or to
write a word to relieve his anxiety."
Thus she told me her heart's secret, and unconsciously added
another burden to my already too heavy load.
I was on my way to give some orders about my patient's breakfast,
when Mr. Grey came into the sitting-room and met me face to face.
He had a newspaper in his hand and my heart stood still as I
noted his altered looks and disturbed manner. Were these due to
anything he had found in those columns? It was with difficulty
that I kept my eyes from the paper which he held in such a manner
as to disclose its glaring head-lines. These I dared not read
with his eyes fixed on mine.
"How is Miss Grey? How is my daughter?" he asked in great haste
and uneasiness. "Is she better this morning, or--worse?"
"Better," I assured him, and was greatly astonished to see his
brow instantly clear.
"Really?" he asked. "You really consider her better? The doctors
say so' but I have not very much faith in doctors in a case like
this," he added.
"I have seen no reason to distrust them," I protested. "Miss
Grey's illness, while severe, does not appear to be of an
alarming nature. But then I have had very little experience out
of the hospital. I am young yet, Mr. Grey."
He looked as if he quite agreed with me in this estimate of
myself, and, with a brow still clouded, passed into his
daughter's room, the paper in his hand. Before I joined them I
found and scanned another journal. Expecting great things, I was
both surprised and disappointed to find only a small paragraph
devoted to the Fairbrother case. In this it was stated that the
authorities hoped for new light on this mystery as soon as they
had located a certain witness, whose connection with the crime
they had just discovered. No more, no less than was contained in
Inspector Dalzell's letter. How could I bear it,--the suspense,
the doubt,--and do my duty to my patient! Happily, I had no
choice. I had been adjudged equal to this business and I must
prove myself to be so. Perhaps my courage would revive after I
had had my breakfast; perhaps then I should be able to fix upon
the identity of the new witness,--something which I found myself
incapable of at this moment.
These thoughts were on my mind as I crossed the rooms on my way
back to Miss Grey's bedside. By the time I reached her door I was
outwardly calm, as her first words showed:
"Oh, the cheerful smile! It makes me feel better in spite of
If she could have seen into my heart!
Mr. Grey, who was leaning over the foot of the bed, cast me a
quick glance which was not without its suspicion. Had he detected
me playing a part, or were such doubts as he displayed the
product simply of his own uneasiness? I was not able to decide,
and, with this unanswered question added to the number already
troubling me, I was forced to face the day which, for aught I
knew, might be the precursor of many others equally trying and
But help was near. Before noon I received a message from my uncle
to the effect that if I could be spared he would be glad to see
me at his home as near three o'clock as possible. What could he
want of me? I could not guess, and it was with great inner
perturbation that, having won Mr. Grey's permission, I responded
to his summons.
I found my uncle awaiting me in a carriage before his own door,
and I took my seat at his side without the least idea of his
purpose. I supposed that he had planned this ride that he might
talk to me unreservedly and without fear of interruption. But I
soon saw that he had some very different object in view, for not
only did he start down town instead of up, but his conversation,
such as it was, confined itself to generalities and studiously
avoided the one topic of supreme interest to us both.
At last, as we turned into Bleecker Street, I let my astonishment
and perplexity appear.
"Where are we bound?" I asked. "It can not be that you are taking
me to see Mr. Durand?"
"No," said he, and said no more.
"Ah, Police Headquarters!" I faltered as the carriage made
another turn and drew up before a building I had reason to
remember. "Uncle, what am I to do here?"
"See a friend," he answered, as he helped me to alight. Then as I
followed him in some bewilderment, he whispered in my ear:
"Inspector Dalzell. He wants a few minutes conversation with
Oh, the weight which fell from my shoulders at these words! I was
to hear, then, what had intervened between me and my purpose. The
wearing night I had anticipated was to be lightened with some
small spark of knowledge. I had confidence enough in the
kind-hearted inspector to be sure of that. I caught at my uncle's
arm and squeezed it delightedly, quite oblivious of the curious
glances I must have received from the various officials we passed
on our way to the inspector's office.
We found him waiting for us, and I experienced such pleasure at
sight of his kind and earnest face that I hardly noticed uncle's
sly retreat till the door closed behind him.
"Oh, Inspector, what has happened?" I impetuously exclaimed in
answer to his greeting. "Something that will help Mr. Durand
without disturbing Mr. Grey--have you as good news for me as
"Hardly," he answered, moving up a chair and seating me in it
with a fatherly air which, under the circumstances, was more
discouraging than consolatory. "We have simply heard of a new
witness, or rather a fact has come to light which has turned our
inquiries into a new direction."
"And--and--you can not tell me what this fact is?" I faltered as
he showed no intention of adding anything to this very
"I should not, but you were willing to do so much for us I must
set aside my principles a little and do something for you. After
all, it is only forestalling the reporters by a day. Miss Van
Arsdale, this is the story: Yesterday morning a man was shown
into this room, and said that he had information to give which
might possibly prove to have some bearing on the Fairbrother
case. I had seen the man before and recognized him at the first
glance as one of the witnesses who made the inquest unnecessarily
tedious. Do you remember Jones, the caterer, who had only two or
three facts to give and yet who used up the whole afternoon in
trying to state those facts?"
"I do, indeed," I answered.
"Well, he was the man, and I own that I was none too delighted to
see him. But he was more at his ease with me than I expected, and
I soon learned what he had to tell. It was this: One of his men
had suddenly left him, one of his very best men, one of those who
had been with him in the capacity of waiter at the Ramsdell ball.
It was not uncommon for his men to leave him, but they usually
gave notice. This man gave no notice; he simply did not show up
at the usual hour. This was a week or two ago. Jones, having a
liking for the man, who was an excellent waiter, sent a messenger
to his lodging-house to see if he were ill. But he had left his
lodgings with as little ceremony as he had left the caterer.
"This, under ordinary circumstances, would have ended the
business, but there being some great function in prospect, Jones
did not feel like losing so good a man without making an effort
to recover him, so he looked up his references in the hope of
obtaining some clue to his present whereabouts.
"He kept all such matters in a special book and expected to have
no trouble in finding the man's name, James Wellgood, or that of
his former employer But when he came to consult this book, he was
astonished to find that nothing was recorded against this man's
name but the date of his first employment--March 15.
"Had he hired him without a recommendation? He would not be
likely to, yet the page was clear of all reference; only the name
and the date. But the date! You have already noted its
significance, and later he did, too. The day of the Ramsdell
ball! The day of the great murder! As he recalled the incidents
of that day he understood why the record of Wellgood's name was
unaccompanied by the usual reference. It had been a difficult day
all round. The function was an important one, and the weather
bad. There was, besides, an unusual shortage in his number of
assistants. Two men had that very morning been laid up with
sickness, and when this able-looking, self-confident Wellgood
presented himself for immediate employment, he took him out of
hand with the merest glance at what looked like a very
satisfactory reference. Later, he had intended to look up this
reference, which he had been careful to preserve by sticking it,
along with other papers, on his spike-file. But in the
distractions following the untoward events of the evening, he had
neglected to do so, feeling perfectly satisfied with the man's
work and general behavior. Now it was a different thing. The man
had left him summarily, and he felt impelled to hunt up the
person who had recommended him and see whether this was the first
time that Wellgood had repaid good treatment with bad. Running
through the papers with which his file was now full, he found
that the one he sought was not there. This roused him in good
earnest, for he was certain that he had not removed it himself
and there was no one else who had the right to do so. He
suspected the culprit,--a young lad who occasionally had access
to his desk. But this boy was no longer in the office. He had
dismissed him for some petty fault the previous week, and it took
him several days to find him again. Meantime his anger grew and
when he finally came face to face with the lad, he accused him of
the suspected trick with so much vehemence that the inevitable
happened, and the boy confessed. This is what he acknowledged. He
had taken the reference off the file, but only to give it to
Wellgood himself, who had offered him money for it. When asked
how much money, the boy admitted that the sum was ten dollars,--
an extraordinary amount from a poor man for so simple a service,
if the man merely wished to secure his reference for future use;
so extraordinary that Mr. Jones grew more and more pertinent in
his inquiries, eliciting finally what he surely could not have
hoped for in the beginning,--the exact address of the party
referred to in the paper he had stolen, and which, for some
reason, the boy remembered. It was an uptown address, and, as
soon as the caterer could leave his business, he took the
elevated and proceeded to the specified street and number.
"Miss Van Arsdale, a surprise awaited him, and awaited us when he
told the result of his search. The name attached to the
recommendation had been--'Hiram Sears, Steward.' He did not know
of any such man--perhaps you do--but when he reached the house
from which the recommendation was dated, he saw that it was one
of the great houses of New York, though he could not at the
instant remember who lived there. But he soon found out. The
first passer-by told him. Miss Van Arsdale, perhaps you can do
the same. The number was--Eighty-sixth Street."
"--!" I repeated, quite aghast. "Why, Mr. Fairbrother himself!
The husband of--"
"Exactly so, and Hiram Sears, whose name you may have heard
mentioned at the inquest, though for a very good reason he was
not there in person, is his steward and general factotum."
"Oh! and it was he who recommended Wellgood?"
"And did Mr. Jones see him?"
"No. The house, you remember, is closed. Mr. Fairbrother, on
leaving town, gave his servants a vacation. His steward he took
with him,--that is, they started together. But we hear no mention
made of him in our telegrams from Santa Fe. He does not seem to
have followed Mr. Fairbrother into the mountains."
"You say that in a peculiar way," I remarked.
"Because it has struck us peculiarly. Where is Sears now? And why
did he not go on with Mr. Fairbrother when he left home with
every apparent intention of accompanying him to the Placide mine?
Miss Van Arsdale, we were impressed with this fact when we heard
of Mr. Fairbrother's lonely trip from where he was taken ill to
his mine outside of Santa Fe; but we have only given it its due
importance since hearing what has come to us to-day.
"Miss Van Arsdale," continued the inspector, as I looked up
quickly, "I am going to show great confidence in you. I am going
to tell you what our men have learned about this Sears. As I have
said before, it is but forestalling the reporters by a day, and
it may help you to understand why I sent you such peremptory
orders to stop, when your whole heart was fixed on an attempt by
which you hoped to right Mr. Durand. We can not afford to disturb
so distinguished a person as the one you have under your eye,
while the least hope remains of fixing this crime elsewhere. And
we have such hope. This man, this Sears, is by no means the
simple character one would expect from his position. Considering
the short time we have had (it was only yesterday that Jones
found his way into this office), we have unearthed some very
interesting facts in his regard. His devotion to Mr. Fairbrother
was never any secret, and we knew as much about that the day
after the murder as we do now. But the feelings with which he
regarded Mrs. Fairbrother--well, that is another thing--and it
was not till last night we heard that the attachment which bound
him to her was of the sort which takes no account of youth or
age, fitness or unfitness. He was no Adonis, and old enough, we
are told, to be her father; but for all that we have already
found several persons who can tell strange stories of the
persistence with which his eager old eyes would follow her
whenever chance threw them together during the time she remained
under her husband's roof; and others who relate, with even more
avidity, how, after her removal to apartments of her own, he used
to spend hours in the adjoining park just to catch a glimpse of
her figure as she crossed the sidewalk on her way to and from her
carriage. Indeed, his senseless, almost senile passion for this
magnificent beauty became a by-word in some mouths, and it only
escaped being mentioned at the inquest from respect to Mr.
Fairbrother, who had never recognized this weakness in his
steward, and from its lack of visible connection with her
horrible death and the stealing of her great jewel. Nevertheless,
we have a witness now--it is astonishing how many witnesses we
can scare up by a little effort, who never thought of coming
forward themselves--who can swear to having seen him one night
shaking his fist at her retreating figure as she stepped
haughtily by him into her apartment house. This witness is sure
that the man he saw thus gesticulating was Sears, and he is sure
the woman was Mrs. Fairbrother. The only thing he is not sure of
is how his own wife will feel when she hears that he was in that
particular neighborhood on that particular evening, when he was
evidently supposed to be somewhere else." And the inspector
"Is the steward's disposition a bad one." I asked, "that this
display of feeling should impress you so much?"
"I don't know what to say about that yet. Opinions differ on this
point. His friends speak of him as the mildest kind of a man who,
without native executive skill, could not manage the great
household he has in charge. His enemies, and we have unearthed a
few, say, on the contrary, that they have never had any
confidence in his quiet ways; that these were not in keeping with
the fact or his having been a California miner in the early
"You can see I am putting you very nearly where we are ourselves.
Nor do I see why I should not add that this passion of the
seemingly subdued but really hot-headed steward for a woman, who
never showed him anything but what he might call an insulting
indifference, struck us as a clue to be worked up, especially
after we received this answer to a telegram we sent late last
night to the nurse who is caring for Mr. Fairbrother in New
He handed me a small yellow slip and I read:
"The steward left Mr. Fairbrother at El Moro. He has not heard
from him since.
"ANNETTA LA SERRA
"For Abner Fairbrother."
"At El Moro?" I cried. "Why, that was long enough ago"
"For him to have reached New York before the murder. Exactly so,
if he took advantage of every close connection."
I caught my breath sharply. I did not say anything. I felt that I
did not understand the inspector sufficiently yet to speak. He
seemed to be pleased with my reticence. At all events, his manner
grew even kinder as he said:
"This Sears is a witness we must have. He is being looked for
now, high and low, and we hope to get some clue to his
whereabouts before night. That is, if he is in this city.
Meanwhile, we are all glad--I am sure you are also--to spare so
distinguished a gentleman as Mr. Grey the slightest annoyance."
"And Mr. Durand? What of him in this interim?"
"He will have to await developments. I see no other way, my
It was kindly said, but my head drooped. This waiting was what
was killing him and killing me. The inspector saw and gently
patted my hand.
"Come," said he, "you have head enough to see that it is never
wise to force matters." Then, possibly with an intention of
rousing me, he remarked: "There is another small fact which may
interest you. It concerns the waiter, Wellgood, recommended, as
you will remember, by this Sears. In my talk with Jones it leaked
out as a matter of small moment, and so it was to him, that this
Wellgood was the waiter who ran and picked up the diamond after
it fell from Mr. Grey's hand."
"This may mean nothing--it meant nothing to Jones--but I inform
you of it because there is a question I want to put to you in
this connection. You smile."
"Did I?" I meekly answered. "I do not know why."
This was not true. I had been waiting to see why the inspector
had so honored me with all these disclosures, almost with his
thoughts. Now I saw. He desired something in return.
"You were on the scene at this very moment," he proceeded, after
a brief contemplation of my face, "and you must have seen this
man when he lifted the jewel and handed it back to Mr. Grey. Did
you remark his features?"
"No, sir; I was too far off; besides, my eyes were on Mr. Grey."
"That is a pity. I was in hopes you could satisfy me on a very
"What point is that, Inspector Dalzell?"
"Whether he answered the following description." And, taking up
another paper, he was about to read it aloud to me, when an
interruption occurred. A man showed himself at the door, whom the
inspector no sooner recognized than he seemed to forget me in his
eagerness to interrogate him. Perhaps the appearance of the
latter had something to do with it; he looked as if he had been
running, or had been the victim of some extraordinary adventure.
At all events, the inspector arose as he entered, and was about
to question him when he remembered me, and, casting about for
some means of ridding himself of my presence without injury to my
feelings, he suddenly pushed open the door of an adjoining room
and requested me to step inside while he talked a moment with
Of course I went, but I cast him an appealing look as I did so.
It evidently had its effect, for his expression changed as his
band fell on the doorknob. Would he snap the lock tight, and so
shut me out from what concerned me as much as it did any one in
the whole world? Or would he recognize my anxiety--the necessity
I was under of knowing just the ground I was standing on--and let
me hear what this man had to report?
I watched the door. It closed slowly, too slowly to latch. Would
he catch it anew by the knob? No; he left it thus, and, while the
crack was hardly perceptible, I felt confident that the least
shake of the floor would widen it and give me the opportunity I
sought. But I did not have to wait for this. The two men in the
office I had just left began to speak, and to my unbounded relief
were sufficiently intelligible, even now, to warrant me in giving
them my fullest attention.
After some expressions of astonishment on the part of the
inspector as to the plight in which the other presented himself,
the latter broke out:
"I've just escaped death! I'll tell you about that later. What I
want to tell you now is that the man we want is in town. I saw
him last night, or his shadow, which is the same thing. It was in
the house in Eighty-sixth Street,--the house they all think
closed. He came in with a key and--"
"Wait! You have him?"
"No. It's a long story, sir--"
The tone was dry. The inspector was evidently disappointed.
"Don't blame me till you hear," said the other. "He is no common
crook. This is how it was: You wanted the suspect's photograph
and a specimen of his writing. I knew no better place to look for
them than in his own room in Mr. Fairbrother's house. I
accordingly got the necessary warrant and late last evening
undertook the job. I went alone I was always an egotistical chap,
more's the pity--and with no further precaution than a passing
explanation to the officer I met at the corner, I hastened up the
block to the rear entrance on Eighty-seventh Street. There are
three doors to the Fairbrother house, as you probably know. Two
on Eighty-sixth Street (the large front one and a small one
connecting directly with the turret stairs), and one on
Eighty-seventh Street. It was to the latter I had a key. I do not
think any one saw me go in. It was raining, and such people as
went by were more concerned in keeping their umbrellas properly
over their heads than in watching men skulking about in doorways.
"I got in, then, all right, and, being careful to close the door
behind me, went up the first short flight of steps to what I knew
must be the main hall. I had been given a plan of the interior,
and I had studied it more or less before starting out, but I knew
that I should get lost if I did not keep to the rear staircase,
at the top of which I expected to find the steward's room. There
was a faint light in the house, in spite of its closed shutters
and tightly-drawn shades; and, having a certain dread of using my
torch, knowing my weakness for pretty things and how hard it
would be for me to pass so many fine rooms without looking in, I
made my way up stairs, with no other guide than the hand-rail.
When I had reached what I took to be the third floor I stopped.
Finding it very dark, I first listened--a natural instinct with
us--then I lit up and looked about me.
"I was in a large hall, empty as a vault and almost as desolate.
Blank doors met my eyes in all directions, with here and there an
open passageway. I felt myself in a maze. I had no idea which was
the door I sought, and it is not pleasant to turn unaccustomed
knobs in a shut-up house at midnight, with the rain pouring in
torrents and the wind making pandemonium in a half-dozen great
"But it had to be done, and I went at it in regular order till I
came to a little narrow one opening on the turret-stair. This
gave me my bearings. Sears' room adjoined the staircase. There
was no difficulty in spotting the exact door now and, merely
stopping to close the opening I had made to this little
staircase, I crossed to this door and flung it open. I had been
right in my calculations. It was the steward's room, and I made
at once for the desk."
"And you found--?"
"Mostly locked drawers. But a key on my bunch opened some of
these and my knife the rest. Here are the specimens of his
handwriting which I collected. I doubt if you will get much out
of them. I saw nothing compromising in the whole room, but then I
hadn't time to go through his trunks, and one of them looked very
interesting,--old as the hills and--"
"You hadn't time? Why hadn't you time? What happened to cut it
"Well, sir, I'll tell you." The tone in which this was said
roused me if it did not the inspector. "I had just come from the
desk which had disappointed me, and was casting a look about the
room, which was as bare as my hand of everything like ornament--I
might almost say comfort--when I heard a noise which was not that
of swishing rain or even gusty wind--these had not been absent
from my ears for a moment. I didn't like that noise; it had a
sneakish sound, and I shut my light off in a hurry. After that I
crept hastily out of the room, for I don't like a set-to in a
"It was darker than ever now in the hall, or so it seemed, and as
I backed away I came upon a jog in the wall, behind which I
crept. For the sound I had heard was no fancy. Some one besides
myself was in the house, and that some one was coming up the
little turret-stair, striking matches as he approached. Who could
it be? A detective from the district attorney's office? I hardly
thought so. He would have been provided with something better
than matches to light his way. A burglar? No, not on the third
floor of a house as rich as this. Some fellow on the force, then,
who had seen me come in and, by some trick of his own, had
managed to follow me? I would see. Meantime I kept my place
behind the jog and watched, not knowing which way the intruder
"Whoever he was, he was evidently astonished to see the turret
door ajar, for he lit another match as he threw it open and,
though I failed to get a glimpse of his figure, I succeeded in
getting a very good one of his shadow. It was one to arouse a
detective's instinct at once. I did not say to myself, this is
the man I want, but I did say, this is nobody from headquarters,
and I steadied myself for whatever might turn up.
"The first thing that happened was the sudden going out of the
match which had made this shadow visible. The intruder did not
light another. I heard him move across the floor with the rapid
step of one who knows his way well, and the next minute a gas-jet
flared up in the steward's room, and I knew that the man the
whole force was looking for had trapped himself.
"You will agree that it was not my duty to take him then and
there without seeing what he was after. He was thought to be in
the eastern states, or south or west, and he was here; but why
here? That is what I knew you would want to know, and it was just
what I wanted to know myself. So I kept my place, which was good
enough, and just listened, for I could not see.
"What was his errand? What did he want in this empty house at
midnight? Papers first, and then clothes. I heard him at his
desk, I heard him in the closet, and afterward pottering in the
old trunk I had been so anxious to look into myself. He must have
brought the key with him, for it was no time before I heard him
throwing out the contents in a wild search for something he
wanted in a great hurry. He found it sooner than you would
believe, and began throwing the things back, when something
happened. Expectedly or unexpectedly, his eye fell on some object
which roused all his passions, and he broke into loud
exclamations ending in groans. Finally he fell to kissing this
object with a fervor suggesting rage, and a rage suggesting
tenderness carried to the point of agony. I have never heard the
like; my curiosity was so aroused that I was on the point of
risking everything for a look, when he gave a sudden snarl and
cried out, loud enough for me to hear: 'Kiss what I've hated?
That is as bad as to kill what I've loved.' Those were the words.
I am sure he said kiss and I am sure he said kill."
"This is very interesting. Go on with your story. Why didn't you
collar him while he was in this mood? You would have won by the
"I had no pistol, sir, and he had. I heard him cock it. I thought
he was going to take his own life, and held my breath for the
report. But nothing like that was in his mind. Instead, he laid
the pistol down and deliberately tore in two the object of his
anger. Then with a smothered curse he made for the door and
"I was for following, but not till I had seen what he had
destroyed in such an excess of feeling. I thought I knew, but I
wanted to feel sure. So, before risking myself in the turret, I
crept to the room he had left and felt about on the floor till I
came upon these."
"A torn photograph! Mrs. Fairbrother's!"
"Yes. Have you not heard how he loved her? A foolish passion, but
evidently sincere and--"
"Never mind comments, Sweetwater. Stick to facts."
"I will, sir. They are interesting enough. After I had picked up
these scraps I stole back to the turret staircase. And here I
made my first break. I stumbled in the darkness, and the man
below heard me, for the pistol clicked again. I did not like
this, and had some thoughts of backing out of my job. But I
didn't. I merely waited till I heard his step again; then I
"But very warily this time. It was not an agreeable venture. It
was like descending into a well with possible death at the
bottom. I could see nothing and presently could hear nothing but
the almost imperceptible sliding of my own fingers down the curve
of the wall, which was all I had to guide me. Had he stopped
midway, and would my first intimation of his presence be the
touch of cold steel or the flinging around me of two murderous
arms? I had met with no break in the smooth surface of the wall,
so could not have reached the second story. When I should get
there the question would be whether to leave the staircase and
seek him in the mazes of its great rooms, or to keep on down to
the parlor floor and so to the street, whither he was possibly
bound. I own that I was almost tempted to turn on my light and
have done with it, but I remembered of how little use I should be
to you lying in this well of a stairway with a bullet in me, and
so I managed to compose myself and go on as I had begun. Next
instant my fingers slipped round the edge of an opening, and I
knew that the moment of decision had come. Realizing that no one
can move so softly that he will not give away his presence in
some way, I paused for the sound which I knew must come, and when
a click rose from the depths of the hall before me I plunged into
that hall and thus into the house proper.
"Here it was not so dark; yet I could make out none of the
objects I now and then ran against. I passed a mirror (I hardly
know how I knew it to be such), and in that mirror I seemed to
see the ghost of a ghost flit by and vanish. It was too much. I
muttered a suppressed oath and plunged forward, when I struck
against a closing door. It flew open again and I rushed in,
turning on my light in my extreme desperation, when, instead of
hearing the sharp report of a pistol, as I expected, I saw a
second door fall to before me, this time with a sound like the
snap of a spring lock. Finding that this was so, and that all
advance was barred that way, I wheeled hurriedly back toward the
door by which I had entered the place, to find that that had
fallen to simultaneously with the other, a single spring acting
for both. I was trapped--a prisoner in the strangest sort of
passageway or closet; and, as a speedy look about presently
assured me, a prisoner with very little hope of immediate escape,
for the doors were not only immovable, without even locks to pick
or panels to break in, but the place was bare of windows, and the
only communication which it could be said to have with the
outside world at all was a shaft rising from the ceiling almost
to the top of the house. Whether this served as a ventilator, or
a means of lighting up the hole when both doors were shut, it was
much too inaccessible to offer any apparent way of escape.
"Never was a man more thoroughly boxed in. As I realized how
little chance there was of any outside interference, how my
captor, even if he was seen leaving the house by the officer on
duty, would be taken for myself and so allowed to escape, I own
that I felt my position a hopeless one. But anger is a powerful
stimulant, and I was mortally angry, not only with Sears, but
with myself. So when I was done swearing I took another look
around, and, finding that there was no getting through the walls,
turned my attention wholly to the shaft, which would certainly
lead me out of the place if I could only find means to mount it.
"And how do you think I managed to do this at last? A look at my
bedraggled, lime-covered clothes may give you some idea. I cut a
passage for myself up those perpendicular walls as the boy did up
the face of the natural bridge in Virginia. Do you remember that
old story in the Reader? It came to me like an inspiration as I
stood looking up from below, and though I knew that I should have
to work most of the way in perfect darkness, I decided that a
man's life was worth some risk, and that I had rather fall and
break my neck while doing something than to spend hours in
maddening inactivity, only to face death at last from slow
"I had a knife, an exceedingly good knife, in my pocket--and for
the first few steps I should have the light of my electric torch.
The difficulty (that is, the first difficulty) was to reach the
shaft from the floor where I stood. There was but one article of
furniture in the room, and that was something between a table and
a desk. No chairs, and the desk was not high enough to enable me
to reach the mouth of the shaft. If I could turn it on end there
might be some hope. But this did not look feasible. However, I
threw off my coat and went at the thing with a vengeance, and
whether I was given superhuman power or whether the clumsy thing
was not as heavy as it looked, I did finally succeed in turning
it on its end close under the opening from which the shaft rose.
The next thing was to get on its top. That seemed about as
impossible as climbing the bare wall itself, but presently I
bethought me of the drawers, and, though they were locked, I did
succeed by the aid of my keys to get enough of them open to make
for myself a very good pair of stairs.
"I could now see my way to the mouth of the shaft, but after
that! Taking out my knife, I felt the edge. It was a good one, so
was the point, but was it good enough to work holes in plaster?
It depended somewhat upon the plaster. Had the masons, in
finishing that shaft, any thought of the poor wretch who one day
would have to pit his life against the hardness of the final
covering? My first dig at it would tell. I own I trembled
violently at the prospect of what that first test would mean to
me, and wondered if the perspiration which I felt starting at
every pore was the result of the effort I had been engaged in or
just plain fear.
"Inspector, I do not intend to have you live with me through the
five mortal hours which followed. I was enabled to pierce that
plaster with my knife, and even to penetrate deep enough to
afford a place for the tips of my fingers and afterward for the
point of my toes, digging, prying, sweating, panting, listening,
first for a sudden opening of the doors beneath, then for some
shout or wicked interference from above as I worked my way up
inch by inch, foot by foot, to what might not be safety after it
"Five hours--six. Then I struck something which proved to be a
window; and when I realized this and knew that with but one more
effort I should breathe freely again, I came as near falling as I
had at any time before I began this terrible climb.
"Happily, I had some premonition of my danger, and threw myself
into a position which held me till the dizzy minute passed. Then
I went calmly on with my work, and in another half-hour had
reached the window, which, fortunately for me, not only opened
inward, but was off the latch. It was with a sense of
inexpressible relief that I clambered through this window and for
a brief moment breathed in the pungent odor of cedar. But it
could have been only for a moment. It was three o'clock in the
afternoon before I found myself again in the outer air. The only
way I can account for the lapse of time is that the strain to
which both body and nerve had been subjected was too much for
even my hardy body and that I fell to the floor of the cedar
closet and from a faint went into a sleep that lasted until two.
I can easily account for the last hour because it took me that
long to cut the thick paneling from the door of the closet.
However, I am here now, sir, and in very much the same condition
in which I left that house. I thought my first duty was to tell
you that I had seen Hiram Sears in that house last night and put
you on his track."
I drew a long breath,--I think the inspector did. I had been
almost rigid from excitement, and I don't believe he was quite
free from it either. But his voice was calmer than I expected
when he finally said:
"I'll remember this. It was a good night's work." Then the
inspector put to him some questions, which seemed to fix the fact
that Sears had left the house before Sweetwater did, after which
he bade him send certain men to him and then go and fix himself
I believe he had forgotten me. I had almost forgotten myself.
SEARS OR WELLGOOD
Not till the inspector had given several orders was I again
summoned into his presence. He smiled as our eyes met, but did
not allude, any more than I did, to what had just passed.
Nevertheless, we understood each other.
When I was again seated, he took up the conversation where we had
"The description I was just about to read to you," he went on;
"will you listen to it now?"
"Gladly," said I; "it is Wellgood's, I believe."
He did not answer save by a curious glance from under his brows,
but, taking the paper again from his desk, went on reading:
"A man of fifty-five looking like one of sixty. Medium height,
insignificant features, head bald save for a ring of scanty dark
hair. No beard, a heavy nose, long mouth and sleepy half-shut
eyes capable of shooting strange glances. Nothing distinctive in
face or figure save the depth of his wrinkles and a scarcely
observable stoop in his right shoulder. Do you see Wellgood in
that?" he suddenly asked.
"I have only the faintest recollection of his appearance," was my
doubtful reply. "But the impression I get from this description
is not exactly the one I received of that waiter in the momentary
glimpse I got of him."
"So others have told me before;' he remarked, looking very
disappointed. "The description is of Sears given me by a man who
knew him well, and if we could fit the description of the one to
that of the other, we should have it easy. But the few persons
who have seen Wellgood differ greatly in their remembrance of his
features, and even of his coloring. It is astonishing how
superficially most people see a man, even when they are thrown
into daily contact with him. Mr. Jones says the man's eyes are
gray, his hair a wig and dark, his nose pudgy, and his face
without much expression. His land-lady, that his eyes are blue,
his hair, whether wig or not, a dusty auburn, and his look quick
and piercing,--a look which always made her afraid. His nose she
don't remember. Both agree, or rather all agree, that he wore no
beard--Sears did, but a beard can be easily taken off--and all of
them declare that they would know him instantly if they saw him.
And so the matter stands. Even you can give me no definite
description,--one, I mean, as satisfactory or unsatisfactory as
this of Sears."
I shook my head. Like the others, I felt that I should know him
if I saw him, but I could go no further than that. There seemed
to be so little that was distinctive about the man.
The inspector, hoping, perhaps, that all this would serve to
rouse my memory, shrugged his shoulders and put the best face he
could on the matter.
"Well, well," said he, "we shall have to be patient. A day may
make all the difference possible in our outlook. If we can lay
hands on either of these men--"
He seemed to realize he had said a word too much, for he
instantly changed the subject by asking if I had succeeded in
getting a sample of Miss Grey's writing. I was forced to say no;
that everything had been very carefully put away. "But I do not
know what moment I may come upon it," I added. "I do not forget
its importance in this investigation."
"Very good. Those lines handed up to Mrs. Fairbrother from the
walk outside are the second most valuable clue we possess."
I did not ask him what the first was. I knew. It was the
"Strange that no one has testified to that handwriting," I
He looked at me in surprise.
"Fifty persons have sent in samples of writing which they think
like it," he observed. "Often of persons who never heard of the
Fairbrothers. We have been bothered greatly with the business.
You know little of the difficulties the police labor under."
"I know too much," I sighed.
He smiled and patted me on the hand.
"Go back to your patient," he said. "Forget every other duty but
that of your calling until you get some definite word from me. I
shall not keep you in suspense one minute longer than is
He had risen. I rose too. But I was not satisfied. I could not
leave the room with my ideas (I might say with my convictions) in
such a turmoil.
"Inspector," said I, "you will think me very obstinate, but all
you have told me about Sears, all I have heard about him, in
fact,"--this I emphasized,--"does not convince me of the entire
folly of my own suspicions. Indeed, I am afraid that, if
anything, they are strengthened. This steward, who is a doubtful
character, I acknowledge, may have had his reasons for wishing
Mrs. Fairbrother's death, may even have had a hand in the matter;
but what evidence have you to show that he, himself, entered the
alcove, struck the blow or stole the diamond? I have listened
eagerly for some such evidence, but I have listened in vain."
"I know," he murmured, "I know. But it will come; at least I
This should have reassured me, no doubt, and sent me away quiet
and happy. But something--the tenacity of a deep conviction,
possibly--kept me lingering before the inspector and finally gave
me the courage to say:
"I know I ought not to speak another word; that I am putting
myself at a disadvantage in doing so; but I can not help it,
Inspector; I can not help it when I see you laying such stress
upon the few indirect clues connecting the suspicious Sears with
this crime, and ignoring the direct clues we have against one
whom we need not name."
Had I gone too far? Had my presumption transgressed all bounds
and would he show a very natural anger? No, he smiled instead, an
enigmatical smile, no doubt, which I found it difficult to
understand, but yet a smile.
"You mean," he suggested, "that Sears' possible connection with
the crime can not eliminate Mr. Grey's very positive one; nor can
the fact that Wellgood's hand came in contact with Mr. Grey's, at
or near the time of the exchange of the false stone with the
real, make it any less evident who was the guilty author of this
The inspector's hand was on the door-knob, but he dropped it at
this, and surveying me very quietly said:
"I thought that a few days spent at the bedside of Miss Grey in
the society of so renowned and cultured a gentleman as her father
would disabuse you of these damaging suspicions."
"I don't wonder that you thought so," I burst out. "You would
think so all the more, if you knew how kind he can be and what
solicitude he shows for all about him. But I can not get over the
facts. They all point, it seems to me, straight in one
"All? You heard what was said in this room--I saw it in your
eye--how the man, who surprised the steward in his own room last
night, heard him talking of love and death in connection with
Mrs. Fairbrother. 'To kiss what I hate! It is almost as bad as to
kill what I love'--he said something like that."
"Yes, I heard that. But did he mean that he had been her actual
slayer? Could you convict him on those words?"
"Well, we shall find out. Then, as to Wellgood's part in the
little business, you choose to consider that it took place at the
time the stone fell from Mr. Grey's hand. What proof have you
that the substitution you believe in was not made by him? He
could easily have done it while crossing the room to Mr. Grey's
"Inspector!" Then hotly, as the absurdity of the suggestion
struck me with full force: "He do this! A waiter, or as you
think, Mr. Fairbrother's steward, to be provided with so
hard-to-come-by an article as this counterpart of a great stone?
Isn't that almost as incredible a supposition as any I have
myself presumed to advance?"
"Possibly, but the affair is full of incredibilities, the
greatest of which, to my mind, is the persistence with which you,
a kind-hearted enough little woman, persevere in ascribing the
deepest guilt to one you profess to admire and certainly would be
glad to find innocent of any complicity with a great crime."
I felt that I must justify myself.
"Mr. Durand has had no such consideration shown him," said I.
"I know, my child, I know; but the cases differ. Wouldn't it be
well for you to see this and be satisfied with the turn which
things have taken, without continuing to insist upon involving
Mr. Grey in your suspicions?"
A smile took off the edge of this rebuke, yet I felt it keenly;
and only the confidence I had in his fairness as a man and public
official enabled me to say:
"But I am talking quite confidentially. And you have been so good
to me, so willing to listen to all I had to say, that I can not
help but speak my whole mind. It is my only safety valve.
Remember how I have to sit in the presence of this man with my
thoughts all choked up. It is killing me. But I think I should go
back content if you will listen to one more suggestion I have to
make. It is my last."
"Say it I am nothing if not indulgent."
He had spoken the word. Indulgent, that was it. He let me speak,
probably had let me speak from the first, from pure kindness. He
did not believe one little bit in my good sense or logic. But I
was not to be deterred. I would empty my mind of the ugly thing
that lay there. I would leave there no miserable dregs of doubt
to ferment and work their evil way with me in the dead watches of
the night, which I had yet to face. So I took him at his word.
"I only want to ask this. In case Sears is innocent of the crime,
who wrote the warning and where did the assassin get the stiletto
with the Grey arms chased into its handle? And the diamond? Still
the diamond! You hint that he stole that, too. That with some
idea of its proving useful to him on this gala occasion, he had
provided himself with an imitation stone, setting and all,--he
who has never shown, so far as we have heard, any interest in
Mrs. Fairbrother's diamond, only in Mrs. Fairbrother herself. If
Wellgood is Sears and Sears the medium by which the false stone
was exchanged for the real, then he made this exchange in Mr.
Grey's interests and not his own. But I don't believe he had
anything to do with it. I think everything goes to show that the
exchange was made by Mr. Grey himself."
"A second Daniel," muttered the inspector lightly. "Go on, little
lawyer!" But for all this attempt at banter on his part, I
imagined that I saw the beginning of a very natural anxiety to
close the conversation. I therefore hastened with what I had yet
to say, cutting my words short and almost stammering in my
"Remember the perfection of that imitation stone, a copy so exact
that it extends to the setting. That shows plan-- forgive me if I
repeat myself--preparation, a knowledge of stones, a particular
knowledge of this one. Mr. Fairbrother's steward may have had the
knowledge, but he would have been a fool to have used his
knowledge to secure for himself a valuable he could never have
found a purchaser for in any market. But a fancier--one who has
his pleasure in the mere possession of a unique and invaluable
gem--ah! that is different! He might risk a crime--history tells
us of several."
Here I paused to take breath, which gave the inspector chance to
"In other words, this is what you think. The Englishman, desirous
of covering up his tracks, conceived the idea of having this
imitation on hand, in case it might be of use in the daring and
disgraceful undertaking you ascribe to him. Recognizing his own
inability to do this himself, he delegated the task to one who in
some way, he had been led to think, cherished a secret grudge
against its present possessor--a man who had had some opportunity
for seeing the stone and studying the setting. The copy thus
procured, Mr. Grey went to the ball, and, relying on his own
seemingly unassailable position, attacked Mrs. Fairbrother in the
alcove and would have carried off the diamond, if he had found it
where he had seen it earlier blazing on her breast. But it was
not there. The warning received by her--a warning you ascribe to
his daughter, a fact which is yet to be proved--had led her to
rid herself of the jewel in the way Mr. Durand describes, and he
found himself burdened with a dastardly crime and with nothing to
show for it. Later, however, to his intense surprise and possible
satisfaction, he saw that diamond in my hands, and, recognizing
an opportunity, as he thought, of yet securing it, he asked to
see it, held it for an instant, and then, making use of an almost
incredible expedient for distracting attention, dropped, not the
real stone but the false one, retaining the real one in his hand.
This, in plain English, as I take it, is your present idea of the
Astonished at the clearness with which he read my mind, I
answered: "Yes, Inspector, that is what was in my mind."
"Good! then it is just as well that it is out. Your mind is now
free and you can give it entirely to your duties." Then, as he
laid his hand on the door-knob, he added: "In studying so
intently your own point of view, you seem to have forgotten that
the last thing which Mr. Grey would be likely to do, under those
circumstances, would be to call attention to the falsity of the
gem upon whose similarity to the real stone he was depending. Not
even his confidence in his own position, as an honored and
highly-esteemed guest, would lead him to do that."
"Not if he were a well-known connoisseur," I faltered, "with the
pride of one who has handled the best gems? He would know that
the deception would be soon discovered and that it would not do
for him to fail to recognize it for what it was, when the
make-believe was in his hands."
"Forced, my dear child, forced; and as chimerical as all the
rest. It can not stand putting into words. I will go further,--
you are a good girl and can bear to hear the truth from me. I
don't believe in your theory; I can't. I have not been able to
from the first, nor have any of my men; but if your ideas are
true and Mr. Grey is involved in this matter, you will find that
there has been more of a hitch about that diamond than you, in
your simplicity, believe. If Mr. Grey were in actual possession
of this valuable, he would show less care than you say he does.
So would he if it were in Wellgood's hands with his consent and a
good prospect of its coming to him in the near future. But if it
is in Wellgood's hands without his consent, or any near prospect
of his regaining it, then we can easily understand his present
apprehensions and the growing uneasiness he betrays."
"True," I murmured.
"If, then," the inspector pursued, giving me a parting glance not
without its humor, probably not without something really serious
underlying its humor, "we should find, in following up our
present clue, that Mr. Grey has had dealings with this Wellgood
or this Sears; or if you, with your advantages for learning the
fact, should discover that he shows any extraordinary interest in
either of them, the matter will take on a different aspect. But
we have not got that far yet. At present our task is to find one
or the other of these men. If we are lucky, we shall discover
that the waiter and the steward are identical, in spite of their
seemingly different appearance. A rogue, such as this Sears has
shown himself to be, would be an adept at disguise."
"You are right," I acknowledged. "He has certainly the heart of a
criminal. If he had no hand in Mrs. Fairbrother's murder, he came
near having one in that of your detective. You know what I mean.
I could not help hearing, Inspector."
He smiled, looked me steadfastly in the face for a moment, and
then bowed me out.
The inspector told me afterward that, in spite of the cavalier
manner with which he had treated my suggestions, he spent a very
serious half-hour, head to head with the district attorney. The
result was the following order to Sweetwater, the detective.
"You are to go to the St. Regis; make yourself solid there, and
gradually, as you can manage it, work yourself into a position
for knowing all that goes on in Room --. If the gentleman (mind
you, the gentleman; we care nothing about the women) should go
out, you are to follow him if it takes you to--. We want to know
his secret; but he must never know our interest in it and you are
to be as silent in this matter as if possessed of neither ear nor
tongue. I will add memory, for if you find this secret to be one
in which we have no lawful interest, you are to forget it
absolutely and for ever. You will understand why when you consult
the St Regis register."
But they expected nothing from it; absolutely nothing.
I prayed uncle that we might be driven home by the way of
Eighty-sixth Street. I wanted to look at the Fairbrother house. I
had seen it many times, but I felt that I should see it with new
eyes after the story I had just heard in the inspector's office.
That an adventure of this nature could take place in a New York
house taxed my credulity. I might have believed it of Paris,
wicked, mysterious Paris, the home of intrigue and every
redoubtable crime, but of our own homely, commonplace
metropolis--the house must be seen for me to be convinced of the
Many of you know the building. It is usually spoken of with a
shrug, the sole reason for which seems to be that there is no
other just like it in the city. I myself have always considered
it imposing and majestic; but to the average man it is too
suggestive of Old-World feudal life to be pleasing. On this
afternoon--a dull, depressing one--it looked undeniably heavy as
we approached it; but interesting in a very new way to me,
because of the great turret at one angle, the scene of that
midnight descent of two men, each in deadly fear of the other,
yet quailing not in their purpose,--the one of flight, the other
There was no railing in front of the house. It may have seemed an
unnecessary safeguard to the audacious owner. Consequently, the
small door in the turret opened directly upon the street, making
entrance and exit easy enough for any one who had the key. But
the shaft and the small room at the bottom--where were they?
Naturally in the center of the great mass, the room being without
It was, therefore, useless to look for it, and yet my eye ran
along the peaks and pinnacles of the roof, searching for the
skylight in which it undoubtedly ended. At last I espied it, and,
my curiosity satisfied on this score, I let my eyes run over the
side and face of the building for an open window or a lifted
shade. But all were tightly closed and gave no more sign of life
than did the boarded-up door. But I was not deceived by this. As
we drove away, I thought how on the morrow there would be a
regular procession passing through this street to see just the
little I had seen to-day. The detective's adventure was like to
make the house notorious. For several minutes after I had left
its neighborhood my imagination pictured room after room shut up
from the light of day, but bearing within them the impalpable
aura of those two shadows flitting through them like the ghosts
of ghosts, as the detective had tellingly put it.
The heart has its strange surprises. Through my whole ride and
the indulgence in these thoughts I was conscious of a great inner
revulsion against all I had intimated and even honestly felt
while talking with the inspector. Perhaps this is what this wise
old official expected. He had let me talk, and the inevitable
reaction followed. I could now see only Mr. Grey's goodness and
claims to respect, and began to hate myself that I had not been
immediately impressed by the inspector's views, and shown myself
more willing to drop every suspicion against the august personage
I had presumed to associate with crime. What had given me the
strength to persist? Loyalty to my lover? His innocence had not
been involved. Indeed, every word uttered in the inspector's
office had gone to prove that he no longer occupied a leading
place in police calculations: that their eyes were turned
elsewhere, and that I had only to be patient to see Mr. Durand
quite cleared in their minds.
But was this really so? Was he as safe as that? What if this new
clue failed? What if they failed to find Sears or lay hands on
the doubtful Wellgood? Would Mr. Durand be released without a
trial? Should we hear nothing more of the strange and to many the
suspicious circumstances which linked him to this crime? It would
be expecting too much from either police or official
No; Mr. Durand would never be completely exonerated till the true
culprit was found and all explanations made. I had therefore been
simply fighting his battles when I pointed out what I thought to
be the weak place in their present theory, and, sore as I felt in
contemplation of my seemingly heartless action, I was not the
unimpressionable, addle-pated nonentity I must have seemed to the
Yet my comfort was small and the effort it took to face Mr. Grey
and my young patient was much greater than I had anticipated. I
blushed as I approached to take my place at Miss Grey's bedside,
and, had her father been as suspicious of me at that moment as I
was of him, I am sure that I should have fared badly in his
But he was not on the watch for my emotions. He was simply
relieved to see me back. I noticed this immediately, also that
something had occurred during my absence which absorbed his
thought and filled him with anxiety.
A Western Union envelope lay at his feet,--proof that he had just
received a telegram. This, under ordinary circumstances, would
not have occasioned me a second thought, such a man being
naturally the recipient of all sorts of communications from all
parts of the world; but at this crisis, with the worm of a
half-stifled doubt still gnawing at my heart, everything that
occurred to him took on importance and roused questions.
When he had left the room, Miss Grey nestled up to me with the
seemingly ingenuous remark:
"Poor papa! something disturbs him. He will not tell me what. I
suppose he thinks I am not strong enough to share his troubles.
But I shall be soon. Don't you see I am gaining every day?"
"Indeed I do," was my hearty response. In face of such a sweet
confidence and open affection doubt vanished and I was able to
give all my thoughts to her.
"I wish papa felt as sure of this as you do," she said. "For some
reason he does not seem to take any comfort from my improvement.
When Doctor Freligh says, 'Well, well! we are getting on finely
to-day,' I notice that he does not look less anxious, nor does he
even meet these encouraging words with a smile. Haven't you
noticed it? He looks as care-worn and troubled about me now as he
did the first day I was taken sick. Why should he? Is it because
he has lost so many children he can not believe in his good
fortune at having the most insignificant of all left to him?"
"I do not know your father very well," I protested; "and can not
judge what is going on in his mind. But he must see that you are
quite a different girl from what you were a week ago, and that,
if nothing unforeseen happens, your recovery will only be a
matter of a week or two longer."
"Oh, how I love to hear you say that! To be well again! To read
letters!" she murmured, "and to write them!" And I saw the
delicate hand falter up to pinch the precious packet awaiting
that happy hour. I did not like to discuss her father with her,
so took this opportunity to turn the conversation aside into
safer channels. But we had not proceeded far before Mr. Grey
returned and, taking his stand at the foot of the bed, remarked,
after a moment's gloomy contemplation of his daughter's face:
"You are better today, the doctor says,--I have just been
telephoning to him. But do you feel well enough for me to leave
you for a few days? There is a man I must see--must go to, if you
have no dread of being left alone with your good nurse and the
doctor's constant attendance."
Miss Grey looked startled. Doubtless she found it difficult to
understand what man in this strange country could interest her
father enough to induce him to leave her while he was yet
laboring under such solicitude. But a smile speedily took the
place of her look of surprised inquiry and she affectionately
"Oh, I haven't the least dread in the world, not now. See, I can
hold up my arms. Go, papa, go; it will give me a chance to
surprise you with my good looks when you come back."
He turned abruptly away. He was suffering from an emotion deeper
than he cared to acknowledge. But he gained control over himself
speedily and, coming back, announced with forced decision:
"I shall have to go to-night. I have no choice. Promise me that
you will not go back in my absence; that you will strive to get
well; that you will put all your mind into striving to get well."
"Indeed, I will," she answered, a little frightened by the
feeling he showed. "Don't worry so much. I have more than one
reason for living, papa."
He shook his head and went immediately to make his preparations
for departure. His daughter gave one sob, then caught me by the
"You look dumfounded," said she. "But never mind, we shall get on
very well together. I have the most perfect confidence in you."
Was it my duty to let the inspector know that Mr. Grey
anticipated absenting himself from the city for a few days? I
decided that I would only be impressing my own doubts upon him
after a rebuke which should have allayed them.
Yet, when Mr. Grey came to take his departure I wished that the
inspector might have been a witness to his emotion, if only to
give me one of his very excellent explanations. The parting was
more like that of one who sees no immediate promise of return
than of a traveler who intends to limit his stay to a few days.
He looked her in the eyes and kissed her a dozen times, each time
with an air of heartbreak which was good neither for her nor for
himself, and when he finally tore himself away it was to look
back at her from the door with an expression I was glad she did
not see, or it would certainly have interfered with the promise
she had made to concentrate all her energies on getting well.
What was at the root of his extreme grief at leaving her? Did he
fear the person he was going to meet, or were his plans such as
involved a much longer stay than he had mentioned? Did he even
mean to return at all?
Ah, that was the question! Did he intend to return, or had I been
the unconscious witness of a flight?
SWEETWATER IN A NEW ROLE
A few days later three men were closeted in the district
attorney's office. Two of them were officials--the district
attorney himself, and our old friend, the inspector. The third
was the detective, Sweetwater, chosen by them to keep watch on
Sweetwater had just come to town,--this was evident from the
gripsack he had set down in a corner on entering, also from a
certain tousled appearance which bespoke hasty rising and but few
facilities for proper attention to his person. These details
counted little, however, in the astonishment created by his
manner. For a hardy chap he looked strangely nervous and
indisposed, so much so that, after the first short greeting, the
inspector asked him what was up, and if he had had another
He replied with a decided no; that it was not his adventure which
had upset him, but the news he had to bring.
Here he glanced at every door and window; and then, leaning
forward over the table at which the two officials sat, he brought
his head as nearly to them as possible and whispered five words.
They produced a most unhappy sensation. Both the men, hardened as
they were by duties which soon sap the sensibilities, started and
turned as pale as the speaker himself. Then the district
attorney, with one glance at the inspector, rose and locked the
It was a prelude to this tale which I give, not as it came from
his mouth, but as it was afterward related to me. The language, I
fear, is mostly my own.
The detective had just been with Mr. Grey to the coast of Maine.
Why there, will presently appear. His task had been to follow
this gentleman, and follow him he did.
Mr. Grey was a very stately man, difficult of approach, and was
absorbed, besides, by some overwhelming care. But this fellow was
one in a thousand and somehow, during the trip, he managed to do
him some little service, which drew the attention of the great
man to himself. This done, he so improved his opportunity that
the two were soon on the best of terms, and he learned that the
Englishman was without a valet, and, being unaccustomed to move
about without one, felt the awkwardness of his position very
much. This gave Sweetwater his cue, and when he found that the
services of such a man were wanted only during the present trip
and for the handling of affairs quite apart from personal
tendance upon the gentleman himself, he showed such an honest
desire to fill the place, and made out to give such a good
account of himself, that he found himself engaged for the work
before reaching C--.
This was a great stroke of luck, he thought, but he little knew
how big a stroke or into what a series of adventures it was going
to lead him.
Once on the platform of the small station at which Mr. Grey had
bidden him to stop, he noticed two things: the utter helplessness
of the man in all practical matters, and his extreme anxiety to
see all that was going on about him without being himself seen.
There was method in this curiosity, too much method. Women did
not interest him in the least. They could pass and repass without
arousing his attention, but the moment a man stepped his way, he
shrank from him only to betray the greatest curiosity concerning
him the moment he felt it safe to turn and observe him. All of
which convinced Sweetwater that the Englishman's errand was in
connection with a man whom he equally dreaded and desired to
Of this he was made absolutely certain a little later. As they
were leaving the depot with the rest of the arrivals, Mr. Grey
"I want you to get me a room at a very quiet hotel. This done,
you are to hunt up the man whose name you will find written in
this paper, and when you have found him, make up your mind how it
will be possible for me to get a good look at him without his
getting any sort of a look at me. Do this and you will earn a
week's salary in one day."
Sweetwater, with his head in air and his heart on fire--for
matters were looking very promising indeed--took the paper and
put it in his pocket; then he began to hunt for a hotel. Not till
he bad found what he wished, and installed the Englishman in his
room, did he venture to open the precious memorandum and read the
name he had been speculating over for an hour. It was not the one
he had anticipated, but it came near to it. It was that of James
Satisfied now that he had a ticklish matter to handle, he
prepared for it, with his usual enthusiasm and circumspection.
Sauntering out into the street, he strolled first toward the
post-office. The train on which he had just come had been a
mail-train, and he calculated that he would find half the town
His calculation was a correct one. The store was crowded with
people. Taking his place in the line drawn up before the
post-office window, he awaited his turn, and when it came shouted
out the name which was his one talisman--James Wellgood.
The man behind the boxes was used to the name and reached out a
hand toward a box unusually well stacked, but stopped half-way
there and gave Sweetwater a sharp look.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"A stranger," that young man put in volubly, "looking for James
Wellgood. I thought, perhaps, you could tell me where to find
him. I see that his letters pass through this office."
"You're taking up another man's time," complained the postmaster.
He probably alluded to the man whose elbow Sweetwater felt boring
into his back. "Ask Dick over there; he knows him."
The detective was glad enough to escape and ask Dick. But he was
better pleased yet when Dick--a fellow with a squint whose hand
was always in the sugar--told him that Mr. Wellgood would
probably be in for his mail in a few moments. "That is his buggy
standing before the drug-store on the opposite side of the way."
So! he had netted Jones' quondam waiter at the first cast!
"Lucky!" was what he said to himself, "still lucky!"
Sauntering to the door, he watched for the owner of that buggy.
He had learned, as such fellows do, that there was a secret hue
and cry after this very man by the New York police; that he was
supposed by some to be Sears himself. In this way he would soon
be looking upon the very man whose steps he had followed through
the Fairbrother house a few nights before, and through whose
resolute action he had very nearly run the risk of a lingering
death from starvation.
"A dangerous customer," thought he. "I wonder if my instinct will
go so far as to make me recognize his presence. I shouldn't
wonder. It has served me almost as well as that many times
It appeared to serve him now, for when the man finally showed
himself on the cross-walk separating the two buildings he
experienced a sudden indecision not unlike that of dread, and
there being nothing in the man's appearance to warrant
apprehension, he took it for the instinctive recognition it
He therefore watched him narrowly and succeeded in getting one
glance from his eye. It was enough. The man was commonplace,--
commonplace in feature, dress and manner, but his eye gave him
away. There was nothing commonplace in that. It was an eye to
He had taken in Sweetwater as he passed, but Sweetwater was of a
commonplace type, too, and woke no corresponding dread in the
other's mind; for he went whistling into the store, from which he
presently reissued with a bundle of mail in his hand. The
detective's first instinct was to take him into custody as a
suspect much wanted by the New York police; but reason assured
him that he not only had no warrant for this, but that he would
better serve the ends of justice by following out his present
task of bringing this man and the Englishman together and
watching the result. But how, with the conditions laid on him by
Mr. Grey, was this to be done? He knew nothing of the man's
circumstances or of his position in the town. How, then, go to
work to secure his cooperation in a scheme possibly as mysterious
to him as it was to himself? He could stop this stranger in
mid-street, with some plausible excuse, but it did not follow
that he would succeed in luring him to the hotel where Mr. Grey
could see him. Wellgood, or, as he believed, Sears, knew too much
of life to be beguiled by any open clap-trap, and Sweetwater was
obliged to see him drive off without having made the least
advance in the purpose engrossing him.
But that was nothing. He had all the evening before him, and
reentering the store, he took up his stand near the sugar barrel.
He had perceived that in the pauses of weighing and tasting, Dick
talked; if he were guided with suitable discretion, why should he
not talk of Wellgood?
He was guided, and he did talk and to some effect. That is, he
gave information of the man which surprised Sweetwater. If in the
past and in New York he had been known as a waiter, or should I
say steward, he was known here as a manufacturer of patent
medicine designed to rejuvenate the human race. He had not been
long in town and was somewhat of a stranger yet, but he wouldn't
be so long. He was going to make things hum, he was. Money for
this, money for that, a horse where another man would walk, and
mail--well, that alone would make this post-office worth while.
Then the drugs ordered by wholesale. Those boxes over there were
his, ready to be carted out to his manufactory. Count them, some
one, and think of the bottles and bottles of stuff they stand
for. If it sells as he says it will--then he will soon be rich:
and so on, till Sweetwater brought the garrulous Dick to a
standstill by asking whether Wellgood had been away for any
purpose since he first came to town. He received the reply that
he had just come home from New York, where he had been for some
articles needed in his manufactory. Sweetwater felt all his
convictions confirmed, and ended the colloquy with the final
"And where is his manufactory? Might be worth visiting, perhaps."
The other made a gesture, said something about northwest and
rushed to help a customer. Sweetwater took the opportunity to
slide away. More explicit directions could easily be got
elsewhere, and he felt anxious to return to Mr. Grey and
discover, if possible, whether it would prove as much a matter of
surprise to him as to Sweetwater himself that the man who
answered to the name of Wellgood was the owner of a manufactory
and a barrel or two of drugs, out of which he proposed to make a
compound that would rob the doctors of their business and make
himself and this little village rich.
Sweetwater made only one stop on his way to Mr. Grey's hotel
rooms, and that was at the stables. Here he learned whatever else
there was to know, and, armed with definite information, he
appeared before Mr. Grey, who, to his astonishment, was dining in
his own room.
He had dismissed the waiter and was rather brooding than eating.
He looked up eagerly, however, when Sweetwater entered, and asked
The detective, with some semblance of respect, answered that he
had seen Wellgood, but that he had been unable to detain him or
bring him within his employer's observation.
"He is a patent-medicine man," he then explained, "and
manufactures his own concoctions in a house he has rented here on
a lonely road some half-mile out of town."
"Wellgood does? the man named Wellgood?" Mr. Grey exclaimed with
all the astonishment the other secretly expected.
"Yes; Wellgood, James Wellgood. There is no other in town."
"How long has this man been here?" the statesman inquired, after
a moment of apparently great discomfiture.
"Just twenty-four hours, this time. He was here once before, when
he rented the house and made all his plans."
Mr. Grey rose precipitately. His manner had changed.
"I must see him. What you tell me makes it all the more necessary
for me to see him. How can you bring it about?"
"Without his seeing you?" Sweetwater asked.
"Yes, yes; certainly without his seeing me. Couldn't you rap him
up at his own door, and hold him in talk a minute, while I looked
on from the carriage or whatever vehicle we can get to carry us
there? The least glimpse of his face would satisfy me. That is,
"I'll try," said Sweetwater, not very sanguine as to the probable
result of this effort.
Returning to the stables, he ordered the team. With the last ray
of the sun they set out, the reins in Sweetwater's hands.
They headed for the coast-road.
THE CLOSED DOOR
The road was once the highway, but the tide having played so many
tricks with its numberless bridges a new one had been built
farther up the cliff, carrying with it the life and business of
the small town. Many old landmarks still remained--shops,
warehouses and even a few scattered dwellings. But most of these
were deserted, and those that were still in use showed such
neglect that it was very evident the whole region would soon be
given up to the encroaching sea and such interests as are
inseparable from it.
The hour was that mysterious one of late twilight, when outlines
lose their distinctness and sea and shore melt into one mass of
uniform gray. There was no wind and the waves came in with a soft
plash, but so near to the level of the road that it was evident,
even to these strangers, that the tide was at its height and
would presently begin to ebb.
Soon they had passed the last forsaken dwelling, and the town
proper lay behind them. Sand and a few rocks were all that lay
between them now and the open stretch of the ocean, which, at
this point, approached the land in a small bay, well-guarded on
either side by embracing rocky heads. This was what made the
harbor at C--.
It was very still. They passed one team and only one. Sweetwater
looked very sharply at this team and at its driver, but saw
nothing to arouse suspicion. They were now a half-mile from C--,
and, seemingly, in a perfectly desolate region.
"A manufactory here!" exclaimed Mr. Grey. It was the first word
he had uttered since starting.
"Not far from here," was Sweetwater's equally laconic reply; and,
the road taking a turn almost at the moment of his speaking, he
leaned forward and pointed out a building standing on the
right-hand side of the road, with its feet in the water. "That's
it." said he. "They described it well enough for me to know it
when I see it. Looks like a robber's hole at this time of night,"
he laughed; "but what can you expect from a manufactory of patent
Mr. Grey was silent. He was looking very earnestly at the
"It is larger than I expected," he remarked at last.
Sweetwater himself was surprised, but as they advanced and their
point of view changed they found it to be really an insignificant
structure, and Mr. Wellgood's portion of it more insignificant
In reality it was a collection of three stores under one roof:
two of them were shut up and evidently unoccupied, the third
showed a lighted window. This was the manufactory. It occupied
the middle place and presented a tolerably decent appearance. It
showed, besides the lighted lamp I have mentioned, such signs of
life as a few packing-boxes tumbled out on the small platform in
front, and a whinnying horse attached to an empty buggy, tied to
a post on the opposite side of the road.
"I'm glad to see the lamp," muttered Sweetwater. "Now, what shall
we do? Is it light enough for you to see his face, if I can
manage to bring him to the door?"
Mr. Grey seemed startled.
"It's darker than I thought," said he. "But call the man and if I
can not see him plainly, I'll shout to the horse to stand, which
you will take as a signal to bring this Wellgood nearer. But do
not be surprised if I ride off before he reaches the buggy. I'll
come back again and take you up farther down the road."
"All right, sir," answered Sweetwater, with a side glance at the
speaker's inscrutable features. "It's a go!" And leaping to the
ground he advanced to the manufactory door and knocked loudly.
No one appeared.
He tried the latch; it lifted, but the door did not open; it was
fastened from within.
"Strange!" he muttered, casting a glance at the waiting horse and
buggy, then at the lighted window, which was on the second floor
directly over his head. "Guess I'll sing out."
Here he shouted the man's name. "Wellgood! I say, Wellgood!"
No response to this either.
"Looks bad!" he acknowledged to himself; and, taking a step back,
he looked up at the window.
It was closed, but there was neither shade nor curtain to
obstruct the view.
"Do you see anything?" he inquired of Mr. Grey, who sat with his
eye at the small window in the buggy top.
"No movement in the room above? No shadow at the window?"
"Well, it's confounded strange!" And he went back, still calling
The tied-up horse whinnied, and the waves gave a soft splash and
that was all,--if I except Sweetwater's muttered oath.
Coming back, he looked again at the window, then, with a gesture
toward Mr. Grey, turned the corner of the building and began to
edge himself along its side in an endeavor to reach the rear and
see what it offered. But he came to a sudden standstill. He found
himself on the edge of the bank before he had taken twenty steps.
Yet the building projected on, and he saw why it had looked so
large from a certain point of the approach. Its rear was built
out on piles, making its depth even greater than the united width
of the three stores. At low tide this might be accessible from
below, but just now the water was almost on a level with the top
of the piles, making all approach impossible save by boat.
Disgusted with his failure, Sweetwater returned to the front,
and, finding the situation unchanged, took a new resolve. After
measuring with his eye the height of the first story, he coolly
walked over to the strange horse, and, slipping his bridle,
brought it back and cast it over a projection of the door; by its
aid he succeeded in climbing up to the window, which was the sole
eye to the interior,
Mr. Grey sat far back in his buggy, watching every movement.
There were no shades at the window, as I have before said, and,
once Sweetwater's eye had reached the level of the sill, he could
see the interior without the least difficulty. There was nobody
there. The lamp burned on a great table littered with papers, but
the rude cane-chair before it was empty, and so was the room. He
could see into every corner of it and there was not even a
hiding-place where anybody could remain concealed. Sweetwater was
still looking, when the lamp, which had been burning with
considerable smoke, flared up and went out. Sweetwater uttered an
ejaculation, and, finding himself face to face with utter
darkness, slid from his perch to the ground.
Approaching Mr. Grey for the second time, he said:
"I can not understand it. The fellow is either lying low, or he's
gone out, leaving his lamp to go out, too. But whose is the
horse--just excuse me while I tie him up again. It looks like the
one he was driving to-day. It is the one. Well, he won't leave
him here all night. Shall we lie low and wait for him to come and
unhitch this animal? Or do you prefer to return to the hotel?"
Mr. Grey was slow in answering. Finally he said:
"The man may suspect our intention. You can never tell anything
about such fellows as he. He may have caught some unexpected
glimpse of me or simply heard that I was in town. If he's the man
I think him, he has reasons for avoiding me which I can very well
understand. Let us go back,--not to the hotel, I must see this
adventure through tonight,--but far enough for him to think we
have given up all idea of routing him out to-night. Perhaps that
is all he is waiting for. You can steal back--"
"Excuse me," said Sweetwater, "but I know a better dodge than
that. We'll circumvent him. We passed a boat-house on our way
down here. I'll just drive you up, procure a boat, and bring you
back here by water. I don't believe that he will expect that, and
if he is in the house we shall see him or his light."
"Meanwhile he can escape by the road."
"Escape? Do you think he is planning to escape?"
The detective spoke with becoming surprise and Mr. Grey answered
without apparent suspicion.
"It is possible if he suspects my presence in the neighborhood."
"Do you want to stop him?"
"I want to see him."
"Oh, I remember. Well, sir, we will drive on,--that is, after a
"What are you going to do?"
"Oh, nothing. You said you wanted to see the man before he
"And that he might escape by the road."
"Well, I was just making that a little bit impracticable. A small
pebble in the keyhole and--why, see now, his horse is walking
off! Gee! I must have fastened him badly. I shouldn't wonder if
he trotted all the way to town. But it can't be helped. I can not
be supposed to race after him. Are you ready now, sir? I'll give
another shout, then I'll get in." And once more the lonely region
about echoed with the cry: "Wellgood! I say, Wellgood!"
There was no answer, and the young detective, masking for the
nonce as Mr. Grey's confidential servant, jumped into the buggy,
and turned the horse's head toward C--.
The moon was well up when the small boat in which our young
detective was seated with Mr. Grey appeared in the bay
approaching the so-called manufactory of Wellgood. The looked-for
light on the waterside was not there. All was dark except where
the windows reflected the light of the moon.
This was a decided disappointment to Sweetwater, if not to Mr.
Grey. He had expected to detect signs of life in this quarter,
and this additional proof of Wellgood's absence from home made it
look as if they had come out on a fool's errand and might much
better have stuck to the road.
"No promise there," came in a mutter from his lips. "Shall I row
in, sir, and try to make a landing?"
"You may row nearer. I should like a closer view. I don't think
we shall attract any attention. There are more boats than ours on
Sweetwater was startled. Looking round, he saw a launch, or some
such small steamer, riding at anchor not far from the mouth of
the bay. But that was not all. Between it and them was a rowboat
like their own, resting quietly in the wake of the moon.
"I don't like so much company," he muttered. "Something's
brewing; something in which we may not want to take a part."
"Very likely," answered Mr. Grey grimly. "But we must not be
deterred--not till I have seen--" the rest Sweetwater did not
hear. Mr. Grey seemed to remember himself. "Row nearer," he now
bade. "Get under the shadow of the rocks if you can. If the boat
is for him, he will show himself. Yet I hardly see how he can
board from that bank."
It did not look feasible. Nevertheless, they waited and watched
with much patience for several long minutes. The boat behind them
did not advance, nor was any movement discernible in the
direction of the manufactory. Another short period, then suddenly
a light flashed from a window high up in the central gable,
sparkled for an instant and was gone. Sweetwater took it for a
signal and, with a slight motion of the wrist, began to work his
way in toward shore till they lay almost at the edge of the
It was Sweetwater who spoke.
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