Part 3 out of 6
"He is greatly distressed at having the disgraceful suggestion of
suicide attached to his daughter's name. Notwithstanding the
circumstances,--not--withstanding his full recognition of her
secret predilection for a man of whom he had never heard till the
night of her death, he cannot believe that she struck the blow she
did, intentionally. He sent for me in order to inquire if anything
could be done to reinstate her in public opinion. He dared not
insist that another had wielded the weapon which laid her low so
suddenly, but he asked if, in my experience, it had never been known
that a woman, hyper-sensitive to some strong man's magnetic influence,
should so follow his thought as to commit an act which never could
have arisen in her own mind, uninfluenced. He evidently does not
like Brotherson either."
"And what--what did you--say?" asked Sweetwater, with a halting
utterance and his face full of thought.
"I simply quoted the latest authority on hypnotism that no person
even in hypnotic sleep could be influenced by another to do what
was antagonistic to his natural instincts."
"Latest authority. That doesn't mean a final one. Supposing that
it was hypnotism! But that wouldn't account for Mrs. Spotts' death.
Her wound certainly was not a self-inflicted one."
"How can you be sure?"
"There was no weapon found in the room, or in the court. The snow
was searched and the children too. No weapon, Mr. Gryce, not even
a paper-cutter. Besides--but how did Mr. Challoner take what you
said? Was he satisfied with this assurance?"
"He had to be. I didn't dare to hold out any hope based on so
unsubstantial a theory. But the interview had this effect upon me.
If the possibility remains of fixing guilt elsewhere than on Miss
Challoner's inconsiderate impulse, I am ready to devote any amount
of time and strength to the work. To see this grieving father
relieved from the worst part of his burden is worth some effort and
now you know why I have listened so eagerly to you. Sweetwater, I
will go with you to the Superintendent. We may not gain his
attention and again we may. If we don't--but we won't cross that
bridge prematurely. When will you be ready for this business?"
"I must be at Headquarters to-morrow."
"Good, then let it be to-morrow. A taxicab, Sweetwater. The subway
for the young. I can no longer manage the stairs."
"It is true; there seems to be something extraordinary in the
Thus Mr. Brotherson, in the presence of the Inspector.
"But that is all there is to it," he easily proceeded. "I knew
Miss Challoner and I have already said how much and how little I
had to do with her death. The other woman I did not know at all;
I did not even know her name. A prosecution based on grounds so
flimsy as those you advance would savour of persecution, would
The Inspector, surprised by this unexpected attack, regarded the
speaker with an interest rather augmented than diminished by his
boldness. The smile with which he had uttered these concluding
words yet lingered on his lips, lighting up features of a mould too
suggestive of command to be associated readily with guilt. That the
impression thus produced was favourable, was evident from the tone
of the Inspector's reply:
"We have said nothing about prosecution, Mr. Brotherson. We hope
to avoid any such extreme measures, and that we may the more readily
do so, we have given you this opportunity to make such explanations
as the situation, which you yourself have characterised as
remarkable, seems to call for."
"I am ready. But what am I called upon to explain? I really cannot
see, sir. Knowing nothing more about either case than you do, I
fear that I shall not add much to your enlightenment."
"You can tell us why with your seeming culture and obvious means,
you choose to spend so much time in a second-rate tenement like the
one in Hicks Street."
Again that chill smile preceding the quiet answer:
"Have you seen my room there? It is piled to the ceiling with books.
When I was a poor man, I chose the abode suited to my purse and my
passion for first-rate reading. As I grew better off, my time became
daily more valuable. I have never seen the hour when I felt like
moving that precious collection. Besides, I am a man of the people.
I like the working class, and am willing to be thought one of them.
I can find time to talk to a hard-pushed mechanic as easily as to
such members of the moneyed class as I encounter on stray evenings
at the Hotel Clermont I have led--I may say that I am leading--a
double life; but of neither am I ashamed, nor have I cause to be.
Love drove me to ape the gentleman in the halls of the Clermont; a
broad human interest in the work of the world, to live as a fellow
among the mechanics of Hicks Street."
"But why make use of one name as a gentleman of leisure and quite
a different one as the honest workman?"
"Ah, there you touch upon my real secret. I have a reason for
keeping my identity quiet till my invention is completed."
"A reason connected with your anarchistic tendencies?"
"Possibly." But the word was uttered in a way to carry little
conviction. "I am not much of an anarchist," he now took the
trouble to declare, with a careless lift of his shoulders. "I like
fair play, but I shall never give you much trouble by my manner of
insuring it. I have too much at stake. My invention is dearer to
me than the overthrow of present institutions. Nothing must stand
in the way of its success, not even the satisfaction of inspiring
terror in minds shut to every other species of argument. I have
uttered my last speech; you can rely on me for that.
"We are glad to hear it, Mr. Dunn. Physical overthrow carries more
than the immediate sufferer with it."
If this were meant as an irritant, it did not act successfully. The
social agitator, the political demagogue, the orator whose honeyed
tones had rung with biting invective in the ears of the United
Brotherhood of the Awl, the Plane and the Trowel, simply bowed and
calmly waited for the next attack.
Perhaps it was of a nature to surprise even him.
"We have no wish," continued the Inspector, "to probe too closely
into concerns seemingly quite removed from the main issue. You say
that you are ready, nay more, are even eager to answer all questions.
You will probably be anxious then to explain away a discrepancy
between your word and your conduct, which has come to our attention.
You were known to have expressed the intention of spending the
afternoon of Mrs. Spotts' death in New York and were supposed to
have done so, yet you were certainly seen in the crowd which invaded
that rear building at the first alarm. Are you conscious of
possessing a double, or did you fail to cross the river as you
"I am glad this has come up." The tone was one of
self-congratulation which would have shaken Sweetwater sorely had
he been admitted to this unofficial examination. "I have never
confided to any one the story of my doings on that unhappy afternoon,
because I knew of no one who would take any interest in them. But
this is what occurred. I did mean to go to New York and I even
started on my walk to the Bridge at the hour mentioned. But I got
into a small crowd on the corner of Fulton Street, in which a poor
devil who had robbed a vendor's cart of a few oranges, was being
hustled about. There was no policeman within sight, and so I
busied myself there for a minute paying for the oranges and dragging
the poor wretch away into an alley, where I could have the pleasure
of seeing him eat them. When I came out of the alley the small
crowd had vanished, but a big one was collecting up the street very
near my home. I always think of my books when I see anything
suggesting fire, and naturally I returned, and equally naturally,
when I heard what had happened, followed the crowd into the court
and so up to the poor woman's doorway. But my curiosity satisfied,
I returned at once to the street and went to New York as I had
"Do you mind telling us where you went in New York?"
"Not at all. I went shopping. I wanted a certain very fine wire,
for an experiment I had on hand, and I found it in a little shop in
Fourth Avenue. If I remember rightly, the name over the door was
Grippus. Its oddity struck me."
There was nothing left to the Inspector but to dismiss him. He had
answered all questions willingly, and with a countenance inexpressive
of guile. He even indulged in a parting shot on his own account, as
full of frank acceptance of the situation as it was fearless in its
attack. As he halted in the doorway before turning his back upon
the room, he smiled for the third time as he quietly said:
"I have ceased visiting my friend's apartment in upper New York.
If you ever want me again, you will find me amongst my books. If
my invention halts and other interests stale, you have furnished
me this day with a problem which cannot fail to give continual
occupation to my energies. If I succeed in solving it first, I
shall be happy to share my knowledge with you. Till then, trust
the laws of nature. No man when once on the outside of a door can
button it on the inside, nor could any one without the gift of
complete invisibility, make a leap of over fifteen feet from the
sill of a fourth story window on to an adjacent fire escape, without
attracting the attention of some of the many children playing down
He was half-way out the door, but his name quickly spoken by the
Inspector drew him back.
"Anything more?" he asked.
The Inspector smiled.
"You are a man of considerable analytic power, as I take it, Mr.
Brotherson. You must have decided long ago how this woman died."
"Is that a question, Inspector?"
"You may take it as such."
"Then I will allow myself to say that there is but one common-sense
view to take of the matter. Miss Challoner's death was due to
suicide; so was that of the washerwoman. But there I stop. As for
the means--the motive--such mysteries may be within your province
but they are totally outside mine! God help us all! The world is
full of misery. Again I wish you good-day."
The air seemed to have lost its vitality and the sun its sparkle
when he was gone.
"Now, what do you think, Gryce?"
The old man rose and came out of his corner.
"This: that I'm up against the hardest proposition of my lifetime.
Nothing in the man's appearance or manner evinces guilt, yet I
believe him guilty. I must. Not to, is to strain probability to
the point of breakage. But how to reach him is a problem and one
of no ordinary nature. Years ago, when I was but little older than
Sweetwater, I had just such a conviction concerning a certain man
against whom I had even less to work on than we have here. A murder
had been committed by an envenomed spring contained in a toy puzzle.
I worked upon the conscience of the suspect in that case, by
bringing constantly before his eyes a facsimile of that spring. It
met him in the folded napkin which he opened at his restaurant
dinner. He stumbled upon it in the street, and found it lying
amongst his papers at home. I gave him no relief and finally he
succumbed. He had been almost driven mad by remorse. But this man
has no conscience. If he is not innocent as the day, he's as hard
as unquarried marble. He might be confronted with reminders of his
crime at every turn without weakening or showing by loss of appetite
or interrupted sleep any effect upon his nerves. That's my opinion
of the gentleman. He is either that, or a man of uncommon force
"I'm inclined to believe him the latter."
"And so give the whole matter the go-by?"
"It will be a terrible disappointment to Sweetwater."
"And to me."
"That's different. I'm disposed to consider you, Gryce--after all
"Thank you; I have done the state some service."
"What do you want? You say the mine is unworkable."
"Yes, in a day, or in a week, possibly in a month. But persistence
and a protean adaptability to meet his moods might accomplish
something. I don't say will, I only say might. If Sweetwater had
the job, with unlimited time in which to carry out any plan he may
have, or even for a change of plans to suit a changed idea, success
might be his, and both time, effort and outlay justified."
"The outlay? I am thinking of the outlay."
"Mr. Challoner will see to that. I have his word that no reasonable
amount will daunt him."
"But this Brotherson is suspicious. He has an inventor's secret to
hide, if none other. We can't saddle him with a guy of Sweetwater's
appearance and abnormal loquaciousness."
"Not readily, I own. But time will bring counsel. Are you willing
to help the boy, to help me and possibly yourself by this venture in
the dark? The Department shan't lose money by it; that's all I can
"But it's a big one. Gryce, you shall have your way. You'll be the
only loser if you fail; and you will fail; take my word for it."
"I wish I could speak as confidently to the contrary, but I can't.
I can give you my hand though, Inspector, and Sweetwater's thanks.
I can meet the boy now. An hour ago I didn't know how I was to
THAT'S THE QUESTION
"How many times has he seen you?"
"So that he knows your face and figure?"
"I'm afraid so. He cannot help remembering the man who faced him
in his own room."
"Damned unfortunate; but one must expect some sort of a handicap
in a game like this. Before I'm done with him, he'll look me full
in the face and wonder if he's ever seen me before. I wasn't always
a detective. I was a carpenter once, as you know, and I'll take to
the tools again. As soon as I'm handy with them I'll hunt up
lodgings in Hicks Street. He may suspect me at first, but be won't
long; I'll be such a confounded good workman. I only wish I hadn't
such pronounced features. They've stood awfully in my way, Mr. Gryce.
I don't like to talk about my appearance, but I'm so confounded plain
that people remember me. Why couldn't I have had one of those putty
faces which don't mean anything? It would have been a deuced sight
"You've done very well as it is."
"But I want to do better. I want to deceive him to his face. He's
clever, this same Brotherson, and there's glory to be got in making
a fool of him. Do you think it could be done with a beard? I've
never worn a beard. While I'm settling back into my old trade, I
can let the hair grow."
"Do. It'll make you look as weak as water. It'll be blonde, of
"And silky and straggling. Charming addition to my beauty. But
it'll take half an inch off my nose, and it'll cover my mouth,
which means a lot in my case. Then my complexion! It must be
changed naturally. I'll consult a doctor about that. No sort of
make-believe will go with this man. If my eyes look weak, they
must really be so. If I walk slowly and speak huskily, it must be
because I cannot help it. I can bear the slight inconvenience of
temporary ill-health in a cause like this; and if necessary the
cough will be real, and the headache positive.
"Sweetwater! We'd better give the task to another man--to someone
Brotherson has never seen and won't be suspicious of?"
"He'll be suspicious of everybody who tries to make friends with
him now; only a little more so with me; that's all. But I've got
to meet that, and I'll do it by being, temporarily, of course,
exactly the man I seem. My health will not be good for the next
few weeks, I'm sure of that. But I'll be a model workman, neat and
conscientious with just a suspicion of dash where dash is needed.
He knows the real thing when he sees it, and there's not a fellow
living more alive to shams. I won't be a sham. I'll be it. You'll
"But the doubt. Can you do all this in doubt of the issue?"
"No; I must have confidence in the end, and I must believe in his
guilt. Nothing else will carry me through. I must believe in his
"Yes, that's essential."
"And I do. I never was surer of anything than I am of that. But
I'll have the deuce of a time to get evidence enough for a grand
jury. That's plainly to be seen, and that's why I'm so dead set
on the business. It's such an even toss-up."
"I don't call it even. He's got the start of you every way. You
can't go to his tenement; the janitor there would recognise you
even if he didn't."
"Now I will give you a piece of good news. They're to have a new
janitor next week. I learned that yesterday. The present one is
too easy. He'll be out long before I'm ready to show myself there;
and so will the woman who took care of the poor washerwoman's little
child. I'd not have risked her curiosity. Luck isn't all against
us. How does Mr. Challoner feel about it?"
"Not very confident; but willing to give you any amount of rope.
Sweetwater, he let me have a batch of letters written by his daughter
which he found in a secret drawer. They are not to be read, or even
opened, unless a great necessity arises. They were written for
Brotherson's eye--or so the father says--but she never sent them;
too exuberant perhaps. If you ever want them--I cannot give them
to you to-night, and wouldn't if I could,--don't go to Mr. Challoner
--you must never be seen at his hotel--and don't come to me, but
to the little house in West Twenty-ninth Street, where they will be
kept for you, tied up in a package with your name on it. By the way,
what name are you going to work under?"
"Good! I'll remember. You can always write or even telephone to
Twenty-ninth Street. I'm in constant communication with them there,
and it's quite safe."
"Thanks. You're sure the Superintendent is with me?"
"Yes, but not the Inspector. He sees nothing but the victim of a
strange coincidence in Orlando Brotherson."
"Again the scales hang even. But they won't remain so. One side
is bound to rise. Which? That's the question, Mr. Gryce."
There was a new tenant in the Hicks Street tenement. He arrived
late one afternoon and was shown two rooms, one in the rear building
and another in the front one. Both were on the fourth floor. He
demurred at the former, thought it gloomy but finally consented to
try it. The other, he said, was too expensive. The janitor--new
to the business--was not much taken with him and showed it, which
seemed to offend the newcomer, who was evidently an irritable fellow
owing to ill health.
However, they came to terms as I have said, and the man went away,
promising to send in his belongings the next day. He smiled as he
said this and the janitor who had rarely seen such a change take
place in a human face, looked uncomfortable for a moment and seemed
disposed to make some remark about the room they were leaving. But,
thinking better of it, locked the door and led the way downstairs.
As the prospective tenant followed, he may have noticed, probably
did, that the door they had just left was a new one--the only new
thing to be seen in the whole shabby place.
The next night that door was locked on the inside. The young man
had taken possession. As he put away the remnants of a meal he had
cooked for himself, he cast a look at his surroundings, and
imperceptibly sighed. Then he brightened again, and sitting down
on his solitary chair, he turned his eyes on the window which,
uncurtained and without shade, stared open-mouthed, as it were, at
the opposite wall rising high across the court.
In that wall, one window only seemed to interest him and that was
on a level with his own. The shade of this window was up, but
there was no light back of it and so nothing of the interior could
be seen. But his eye remained fixed upon it, while his hand,
stretched out towards the lamp burning near him, held itself in
readiness to lower the light at a minute's notice.
Did he see only the opposite wall and that unillumined window? Was
there no memory of the time when, in a previous contemplation of
those dismal panes, he beheld stretching between them and himself,
a long, low bench with a plain wooden tub upon it, from which a
dripping cloth beat out upon the boards beneath a dismal note,
monotonous as the ticking of a clock?
One might judge that such memories were indeed his, from the rapid
glance he cast behind him at the place where the bed had stood in
those days. It was placed differently now.
But if he saw, and if he heard these suggestions from the past, he
was not less alive to the exactions of the present, for, as his
glance flew back across the court, his finger suddenly moved and
the flame it controlled sputtered and went out. At the same
instant, the window opposite sprang into view as the lamp was lit
within, and for several minutes the whole interior remained visible
--the books, the work-table, the cluttered furniture, and, most
interesting of all, its owner and occupant. It was upon the latter
that the newcomer fixed his attention, and with an absorption equal
to that he saw expressed in the countenance opposite.
But his was the absorption of watchfulness; that of the other of
introspection. Mr. Brotherson--(we will no longer call him Dunn
even here where he is known by no other name)--had entered the room
clad in his heavy overcoat and, not having taken it off before
lighting his lamp, still stood with it on, gazing eagerly down at
the model occupying the place of honour on the large centre table.
He was not touching it,--not at this moment--but that his thoughts
were with it, that his whole mind was concentrated on it, was
evident to the watcher across the court; and, as this watcher took
in this fact and noticed the loving care with which the enthusiastic
inventor finally put out his finger to re-arrange a thread or twirl
a wheel, his disappointment found utterance in a sigh which echoed
sadly through the dull and cheerless room. Had he expected this
stern and self-contained man to show an open indifference to work
and the hopes of a lifetime? If so, this was the first of the many
surprises awaiting him.
He was gifted, however, with the patience of an automaton and
continued to watch his fellow tenant as long as the latter's shade
remained up. When it fell, he rose and took a few steps up and down,
but not with the celerity and precision which usually accompanied his
movements. Doubt disturbed his mind and impeded his activity. He
had caught a fair glimpse of Brotherson's face as he approached the
window, and though it continued to show abstraction, it equally
displayed serenity and a complete satisfaction with the present if
not with the future. Had he mistaken his man after all? Was his
instinct, for the first time in his active career, wholly at fault?
He had succeeded in getting a glimpse of his quarry in the privacy
of his own room, at home with his thoughts and unconscious of any
espionage, and how had he found him? Cheerful, and natural in
all his movements.
But the evening was young. Retrospect comes with later and more
lonely hours. There will be opportunities yet for studying this
impassive countenance under much more telling and productive
circumstances than these. He would await these opportunities with
cheerful anticipation. Meanwhile, he would keep up the routine
watch he had planned for this night. Something might yet occur.
At all events he would have exhausted the situation from this
And so it came to pass that at an hour when all the other
hard-working people in the building were asleep, or at least
striving to sleep, these two men still sat at their work, one in
the light, the other in the darkness, facing each other, consciously
to the one, unconsciously to the other, across the hollow well of
the now silent court. Eleven o'clock! Twelve! No change on
Brotherson's part or in Brotherson's room; but a decided one in
the place where Sweetwater sat. Objects which had been totally
indistinguishable even to his penetrating eye could now be seen in
ever brightening outline. The moon had reached the open space
above the court, and he was getting the full benefit of it. But it
was a benefit he would have been glad to dispense with. Darkness
was like a shield to him. He did not feel quite sure that he wanted
this shield removed. With no curtain to the window and no shade,
and all this brilliance pouring into the room, he feared the
disclosure of his presence there, or, if not that, some effect on
his own mind of those memories he was more anxious to see mirrored
in another's discomfiture than in his own.
Was it to escape any lack of concentration which these same memories
might bring, that he rose and stepped to the window? Or was it
under one of those involuntary impulses which move us in spite of
ourselves to do the very thing our judgment disapproves?
No sooner had he approached the sill than Mr. Brotherson's shade
flew way up and he, too, looked out. Their glances met, and for an
instant the hardy detective experienced that involuntary stagnation
of the blood which follows an inner shock. He felt that he had been
recognised. The moonlight lay full upon his face, and the other
had seen and known him. Else, why the constrained attitude and
sudden rigidity observable in this confronting figure, with its
partially lifted hand? A man like Brotherson makes no pause in
any action however trivial, without a reason. Either he had been
transfixed by this glimpse of his enemy on watch, or daring thought!
had seen enough of sepulchral suggestion in the wan face looking
forth from this fatal window to shake him from his composure and
let loose the grinning devil of remorse from its iron prison-house?
If so, the movement was a memorable one, and the hazard quite worth
while. He had gained--no! he had gained nothing. He had been
the fool of his own wishes. No one, let alone Brotherson, could
have mistaken his face for that of a woman. He had forgotten his
newly-grown beard. Some other cause must be found for the other's
attitude. It savoured of shock, if not fear. If it were fear,
then had he roused an emotion which might rebound upon himself in
sharp reprisal. Death had been known to strike people standing
where he stood; mysterious death of a species quite unrecognisable.
What warranty had he that it would not strike him, and now? None.
Yet it was Brotherson who moved first. With a shrug of the shoulder
plainly visible to the man opposite, he turned away from the window
and without lowering the shade began gathering up his papers for the
night, and later banking up his stove with ashes.
Sweetwater, with a breath of decided relief, stepped back and threw
himself on the bed. It had really been a trial for him to stand
there under the other's eye, though his mind refused to formulate
his fear, or to give him any satisfaction when he asked himself what
there was in the situation suggestive of death to the woman or harm
Nor did morning light bring counsel, as is usual in similar cases.
He felt the mystery more in the hubbub and restless turmoil of the
day than in the night's silence and inactivity. He was glad when
the stroke of six gave him an excuse to leave the room, and gladder
yet when in doing so, he ran upon an old woman from a neighbouring
room, who no sooner saw him than she leered at him and eagerly
"Not much sleep, eh? We didn't think you'd like it. Did you see
Now this gave him the one excuse he wanted.
"See anything?" he repeated, apparently with all imaginable innocence.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Don't you know what happened in that room?"
"Don't tell me!" he shouted out. "I don't want to hear any
nonsense. I haven't time. I've got to be at the shop at seven and
I don't feel very well. What did happen?" he mumbled in drawing
off, just loud enough for the woman to hear. "Something unpleasant
I'm sure." Then he ran downstairs.
At half past six he found the janitor. He was, to all appearance,
in a state of great excitement and he spoke very fast.
"I won't stay another night in that room," he loudly declared,
breaking in where the family were eating breakfast by lamplight. "I
don't want to make any trouble and I don't want to give my reasons;
but that room don't suit me. I'd rather take the dark one you
talked about yesterday. There's the money. Have my things moved
to-day, will ye?"
"But your moving out after one night's stay will give that room a
bad name," stammered the janitor, rising awkwardly. "There'll be
talk and I won't be able to let that room all winter."
"Nonsense! Every man hasn't the nerves I have. You'll let it in
a week. But let or not let, I'm going front into the little dark
room. I'll get the boss to let me off at half past four. So that's
He waited for no reply and got none; but when he appeared promptly
at a quarter to five, he found his few belongings moved into a
middle room on the fourth floor of the front building, which, oddly
perhaps, chanced to be next door to the one he had held under watch
the night before.
The first page of his adventure in the Hicks Street tenement had
been turned, and he was ready to start upon another.
IN WHICH A BOOK PLAYS A LEADING PART
When Mr. Brotherson came in that night, he noticed that the door
of the room adjoining his own stood open. He did not hesitate.
Making immediately for it, he took a glance inside, then spoke up
with a ringing intonation:
"Halloo! coming to live in this hole?"
The occupant a young man, evidently a workman and somewhat sickly
if one could judge from his complexion--turned around from some
tinkering he was engaged in and met the intruder fairly, face to
face. If his jaw fell, it seemed to be from admiration. No other
emotion would have so lighted his eye as he took in the others
proportions and commanding features. No dress--Brotherson was
never seen in any other than the homeliest garb in these days
--could make him look common or akin to his surroundings. Whether
seen near or far, his presence always caused surprise, and surprise
was what the young man showed, as he answered briskly:
"Yes, this is to be my castle. Are you the owner of the buildings?
"I am not the owner. I live next door. Haven't I seen you before,
Never was there a more penetrating eye than Orlando Brotherson's.
As he asked this question it took some effort on the part of the
other to hold his own and laugh with perfect naturalness as he
"If you ever go up Henry Street it's likely enough that you've seen
me not once, but many times. I'm the fellow who works at the bench
next the window in Schuper's repairing shop. Everybody knows me."
Audacity often carries the day when subtler means would fail.
Brotherson stared at the youth, then ventured another question:
"A carpenter, eh?"
"Yes, and I'm an A1 man at my job. Excuse my brag. It's my one
card of introduction."
"I've seen you. I've seen you somewhere else than in Schuper's shop.
Do you remember me?"
"No, sir; I'm sorry to be imperlite but I don't remember you at all.
Won't you sit down? It's not very cheerful, but I'm so glad to get
out of the room I was in last night that this looks all right to
me. Back there, other building," he whispered. "I didn't know,
and took the room which had a window in it; but--" The stop was
significant; so was his smile which had a touch of sickliness in it,
as well as humour.
But Brotherson was not to be caught.
"You slept in the building last night? In the other half, I mean?"
The strong lip of the other man curled disdainfully.
"I saw you," said he. "You were standing in the window overlooking
the court. You were not sleeping then. I suppose you know that a
woman died in that room?"
"Yes; they told me so this morning."
"Was that the first you'd heard of it?"
"Sure!" The word almost jumped at the questioner. "Do you suppose
I'd have taken the room if--"
But here the intruder, with a disdainful grunt, turned and went out,
disgust in every feature,--plain, unmistakable, downright disgust,
and nothing more!
This was what gave Sweetwater his second bad night; this and a
certain discovery he made. He had counted on hearing what went on
in the neighbouring room through the partition running back of
his own closet. But he could hear nothing, unless it was the
shutting down of a window, a loud sneeze, or the rattling of coals
as they were put on the fire. And these possessed no significance.
What he wanted was to catch the secret sigh, the muttered word, the
involuntary movement. He was too far removed from this man still.
How should he manage to get nearer him--at the door of his mind
--of his heart? Sweetwater stared all night from his miserable cot
into the darkness of that separating closet, and with no result. His
task looked hopeless; no wonder that he could get no rest.
Next morning he felt ill, but he rose all the same, and tried to get
his own breakfast. He had but partially succeeded and was sitting
on the edge of his bed in wretched discomfort, when the very man he
was thinking of appeared at his door.
"I've come to see how you are," said Brotherson. "I noticed that
you did not look well last night. Won't you come in and share my
pot of coffee?"
"I--I can't eat," mumbled Sweetwater, for once in his life thrown
completely off his balance. "You're very kind, but I'll manage all
right. I'd rather. I'm not quite dressed, you see, and I must
get to the shop." Then he thought--"What an opportunity I'm losing.
Have I any right to turn tail because he plays his game from the
outset with trumps? No, I've a small trump somewhere about me to
lay on this trick. It isn't an ace, but it'll show I'm not chicane."
And smiling, though not with his usual cheerfulness, Sweetwater added,
"Is the coffee all made? I might take a drop of that. But you
mustn't ask me to eat--I just couldn't."
"Yes, the coffee is made and it isn't bad either. You'd better put
on your coat; the hall's draughty." And waiting till Sweetwater did
so, he led the way back to his own room. Brotherson's manner
expressed perfect ease, Sweetwater's not. He knew himself changed
in looks, in bearing, in feeling, even; but was he changed enough to
deceive this man on the very spot where they had confronted each
other a few days before in a keen moral struggle? The looking-glass
he passed on his way to the table where the simple breakfast was
spread out, showed him a figure so unlike the alert, business-like
chap he had been that night, that he felt his old assurance revive
in time to ease a situation which had no counterpart in his
"I'm going out myself to-day, so we'll have to hurry a bit," was
Brotherson's first remark as they seated themselves at table. "Do
you like your coffee plain or with milk in it?"
"Plain. Gosh! what pictures! Where do you get 'em? You must have
a lot of coin." Sweetwater was staring at the row of photographs,
mostly of a very high order, tacked along the wall separating the
two rooms. They were unframed, but they were mostly copies of great
pictures, and the effect was rather imposing in contrast to the
shabby furniture and the otherwise homely fittings.
"Yes, I've enough for that kind of thing," was his host's reply.
But the tone was reserved, and Sweetwater did not presume again
along this line. Instead, he looked well at the books piled upon
the shelves under these photographs, and wondered aloud at their
number and at the man who could waste such a lot of time in reading
them. But he made no more direct remarks. Was he cowed by the
penetrating eye he encountered whenever he yielded to the fascination
exerted by Mr. Brotherson's personality and looked his way? He
hated to think so, yet something held him in check and made him
listen, open-mouthed, when the other chose to speak.
Yet there was one cheerful moment. It was when he noticed the
careless way in which those books were arranged upon their shelves.
An idea had come to him. He hid his relief in his cup, as he drained
the last drops of the coffee which really tasted better than he had
When he returned from work that afternoon it was with an auger under
his coat and a conviction which led him to empty out the contents
of a small phial which he took down from a shelf. He had told Mr.
Gryce that he was eager for the business because of its difficulties,
but that was when he was feeling fine and up to any game which might
come his way. Now he felt weak and easily discouraged. This would
not do. He must regain his health at all hazards, so he poured out
the mixture which had given him such a sickly air. This done and a
rude supper eaten, he took up his auger. He had heard Mr.
Brotherson's step go by. But next minute he laid it down again in
great haste and flung a newspaper over it. Mr. Brotherson was coming
back, had stopped at his door, had knocked and must be let in.
"You're better this evening," he heard in those kindly tones which
so confused and irritated him.
"Yes," was the surly admission. "But it's stifling here. If I have
to live long in this hole I'll dry up from want of air. It's near
the shop or I wouldn't stay out the week." Twice this day he had
seen Brotherson's tall figure stop before the window of this shop
and look in at him at his bench. But he said nothing about that.
"Yes," agreed the other, "it's no way to live. But you're alone.
Upstairs there's a whole family huddled into a room just like this.
Two of the kids sleep in the closet. It's things like that which
have made me the friend of the poor, and the mortal enemy of men
and women who spread themselves over a dozen big rooms and think
themselves ill-used if the gas burns poorly or a fireplace smokes.
I'm off for the evening; anything I can do for you?"
"Show me how I can win my way into such rooms as you've just talked
about. Nothing less will make me look up. I'd like to sleep in one
to-night. In the best bedroom, sir. I'm ambitious; I am."
A poor joke, though they both laughed. There Mr. Brotherson passed
on, and Sweetwater listened till he was sure that his too attentive
neighbour had really gone down the three flights between him and
the street. Then he took up his auger again and shut himself up in
There was nothing peculiar about this closet. It was just an
ordinary one with drawers and shelves on one side, and an open space
on the other for the hanging up of clothes. Very few clothes hung
there at present; but it was in this portion of the closet that he
stopped and began to try the wall of Brotherson's room, with the
butt end of the tool he carried.
The sound seemed to satisfy him, for very soon he was boring a hole
at a point exactly level with his ear; but not without frequent
pauses and much attention given to the possible return of those
departed foot-steps. He remembered that Mr. Brotherson had a way
of coming back on unexpected errands after giving out his intention
of being absent for hours.
Sweetwater did not want to be caught in any such trap as that; so he
carefully followed every sound that reached him from the noisy halls.
But he did not forsake his post; he did not have to. Mr. Brotherson
had been sincere in his good-bye, and the auger finished its job and
was withdrawn without any interruption from the man whose premises
had been thus audaciously invaded.
"Neat as well as useful," was the gay comment with which Sweetwater
surveyed his work, then laid his ear to the hole. Whereas
previously he could barely hear the rattling of coals from the
coal-scuttle, he was now able to catch the sound of an ash falling
into the ash-pit.
His next move was to test the depth of the partition by inserting
his finger in the hole he had made. He found it stopped by some
obstacle before it had reached half its length, and anxious to
satisfy himself of the nature of this obstacle, he gently moved the
tip of his finger to and fro over what was certainly the edge of a
This proved that his calculations had been correct and that the
opening so accessible on his side, was completely veiled on the
other by the books he had seen packed on the shelves. As these
shelves had no other backing than the wall, he had feared striking
a spot not covered by a book. But he had not undertaken so risky
a piece of work without first noting how nearly the tops of the
books approached the line of the shelf above them, and the
consequent unlikelihood of his striking the space between, at the
height he planned the hole. He had even been careful to assure
himself that all the volumes at this exact point stood far enough
forward to afford room behind them for the chips and plaster he must
necessarily push through with his auger, and also--important
consideration--for the free passage of the sounds by which he
hoped to profit.
As he listened for a moment longer, and then stooped to gather up
the debris which had fallen on his own side of the partition, he
muttered, in his old self-congratulatory way:
"If the devil don't interfere in some way best known to himself, this
opportunity I have made for myself of listening to this arrogant
fellow's very heartbeats should give me some clew to his secret.
As soon as I can stand it, I'll spend my evenings at this hole."
But it was days before he could trust himself so far. Meanwhile
their acquaintance ripened, though with no very satisfactory results.
The detective found himself led into telling stories of his early
home-life to keep pace with the man who always had something of
moment and solid interest to impart. This was undesirable, for
instead of calling out a corresponding confidence from Brotherson,
it only seemed to make his conversation more coldly impersonal.
In consequence, Sweetwater suddenly found himself quite well and
one evening, when he was sure that his neighbour was at home, he
slid softly into his closet and laid his ear to the opening he had
made there. The result was unexpected. Mr. Brotherson was pacing
the floor, and talking softly to himself.
At first, the cadence and full music of the tones conveyed nothing
to our far from literary detective. The victim of his secret
machinations was expressing himself in words, words;--that was the
point which counted with him. But as he listened longer and
gradually took in the sense of these words, his heart went down
lower and lower till it reached his boots. His inscrutable and ever
disappointing neighbour was not indulging in self-communings of any
kind. He was reciting poetry, and what was worse, poetry which he
only half remembered and was trying to recall;--an incredible
occupation for a man weighted with a criminal secret.
Sweetwater was disgusted, and was withdrawing in high indignation
from his vantage-point when something occurred of a startling enough
nature to hold him where he was in almost breathless expectation.
The hole which in the darkness of the closet was always faintly
visible, even when the light was not very strong in the adjoining
room, had suddenly become a bright and shining loop-hole, with a
suggestion of movement in the space beyond. The book which had
hid this hole on Brotherson's side had been taken down--the one
book in all those hundreds whose removal threatened Sweetwater's
schemes, if not himself.
For an instant the thwarted detective listened for the angry shout
or the smothered oath which would naturally follow the discovery by
Brotherson of this attempted interference with his privacy.
But all was still on his side of the wall. A rustling of leaves
could be heard, as the inventor searched for the poem he wanted, but
nothing more. In withdrawing the book, he had failed to notice the
hole in the plaster back of it. But he could hardly fail to see it
when he came to put the book back. Meantime, suspense for Sweetwater.
It was several minutes before he heard Mr. Brotherson's voice again,
then it was in triumphant repetition of the lines which had escaped
his memory. They were great words surely and Sweetwater never
forgot them, but the impression which they made upon his mind, an
impression so forcible that he was able to repeat them, months
afterward to Mr. Gryce, did not prevent him from noting the tone in
which they were uttered, nor the thud which followed as the book was
thrown down upon the floor.
"Fool!" The word rang out in bitter irony from his irate neighbour's
lips. "What does he know of woman! Woman! Let him court a rich
one and see--but that's all over and done with. No more harping on
that string, and no more reading of poetry. I'll never,--" The rest
was lost in his throat and was quite unintelligible to the anxious
Self-revealing words, which an instant before would have aroused
Sweetwater's deepest interest! But they had suddenly lost all force
for the unhappy listener. The sight of that hole still shining
brightly before his eyes had distracted his thoughts and roused his
liveliest apprehensions. If that book should be allowed to lie where
it had fallen, then he was in for a period of uncertainty he shrank
from contemplating. Any moment his neighbour might look up and
catch sight of this hole bored in the backing of the shelves before
him. Could the man who had been guilty of submitting him to this
outrage stand the strain of waiting indefinitely for the moment of
discovery? He doubted it, if the suspense lasted too long.
Shifting his position, he placed his eye where his ear had been.
He could see very little. The space before him, limited as it was
to the width of the one volume withdrawn, precluded his seeing aught
but what lay directly before him. Happily, it was in this narrow
line of vision that Mr. Brotherson stood. He had resumed work upon
his model and was so placed that while his face was not visible, his
hands were, and as Sweetwater watched these hands and noticed the
delicacy of their manipulation, he was enough of a workman to realise
that work so fine called for an undivided attention. He need not
fear the gaze shifting, while those hands moved as warily as they
Relieved for the moment, he left his post and, sitting down on the
edge of his cot, gave himself up to thought.
He deserved this mischance. Had he profited properly by Mr. Gryce's
teachings, he would not have been caught like this; he would have
calculated not upon the nine hundred and ninety-nine chances of that
book being left alone, but upon the thousandth one of its being the
very one to be singled out and removed. Had he done this,--had he
taken pains to so roughen and discolour the opening he had made,
that it would look like an ancient rat hole instead of showing a
clean bore, he would have some answer to give Brotherson when he
came to question him in regard to it. But now the whole thing
seemed up! He had shown himself a fool and by good rights ought
to acknowledge his defeat and return to Headquarters. But he had
too much spirit for that. He would rather--yes, he would rather
face the pistol he had once seen in his enemy's hand. Yet it
was hard to sit here waiting, waiting--Suddenly he started upright.
He would go meet his fate--be present in the room itself when the
discovery was made which threatened to upset all his plans. He
was not ashamed of his calling, and Brotherson would think twice
before attacking him when once convinced that he had the Department
"Excuse me, comrade," were the words with which he endeavoured to
account for his presence at Brotherson's door. "My lamp smells so,
and I've made such a mess of my work to-day that I've just stepped
in for a chat. If I'm not wanted, say so. I don't want to bother
you, but you do look pleasant here. I hope the thing I'm turning
over in my head--every man has his schemes for making a fortune,
you know--will be a success some day. I'd like a big room like
this, and a lot of books, and--and pictures."
Craning his neck, he took a peep at the shelves, with an air of
open admiration which effectually concealed his real purpose. What
he wanted was to catch one glimpse of that empty space from his
present standpoint, and he was both astonished and relieved to note
how narrow and inconspicuous it looked. Certainly, he had less to
fear than he supposed, and when, upon Mr. Brotherson's invitation,
he stepped into the room, it was with a dash of his former audacity,
which gave him, unfortunately, perhaps, a quick, strong and
unexpected likeness to his old self.
But if Brotherson noticed this, nothing in his manner gave proof
of the fact. Though usually averse to visitors, especially when
employed as at present on his precious model, he quite warmed
towards his unexpected guest, and even led the way to where it
stood uncovered on the table.
"You find me at work," he remarked. "I don't suppose you understand
any but your own?"
"If you mean to ask if I understand what you're trying to do there,
I'm free to say that I don't. I couldn't tell now, off-hand, whether
it's an air-ship you're planning, a hydraulic machine or--or--" He
stopped, with a laugh and turned towards the book-shelves. "Now
here's what I like. These books just take my eye."
"Look at them, then. I like to see a man interested in books. Only,
I thought if you knew how to handle wire, I would get you to hold
this end while I work with the other."
"I guess I know enough for that," was Sweetwater's gay rejoinder.
But when he felt that communicating wire in his hand and experienced
for the first time the full influence of the other's eye, it took
all his hardihood to hide the hypnotic thrill it gave him. Though
he smiled and chatted, he could not help asking himself between
whiles, what had killed the poor washerwoman across the court, and
what had killed Miss Challoner. Something visible or something
invisible? Something which gave warning of attack, or something
which struck in silence. He found himself gazing long and earnestly
at this man's hand, and wondering if death lay under it. It was a
strong hand, a deft, clean-cut member, formed to respond to the
slightest hint from the powerful brain controlling it. But was this
its whole story. Had he said all when he had said this?
Fascinated by the question, Sweetwater died a hundred deaths in his
awakened fancy, as he followed the sharp short instructions which
fell with cool precision from the other's lips. A hundred deaths,
I say, but with no betrayal of his folly. The anxiety he showed was
that of one eager to please, which may explain why on the conclusion
of his task, Mr. Brotherson gave him one of his infrequent smiles
and remarked, as he buried the model under its cover, "You're handy
and you're quiet at your job. Who knows but that I shall want you
again. Will you come if I call you?"
"Won't I?" was the gay retort, as the detective thus released,
stooped for the book still lying on the floor. "Paolo and Francesca,"
he read, from the back, as he laid it on the table. "Poetry?" he
"Rot," scornfully returned the other, as he moved to take down a
bottle and some glasses from a cupboard let into another portion of
Sweetwater taking advantage of the moment, sidled towards the shelf
where that empty space still gaped with the tell-tale hole at the
back. He could easily have replaced the missing book before Mr.
Brotherson turned. But the issue was too doubtful. He was dealing
with no absent-minded fool, and it behooved him to avoid above all
things calling attention to the book or to the place on the shelf
where it belonged.
But there was one thing he could do and did. Reaching out a finger
as deft as Brotherson's own, he pushed a second volume into the
place of the one that was gone. This veiled the auger-hole
completely; a fact which so entirely relieved his mind that his old
smile came back like sunshine to his lips, and it was only by a
distinct effort that he kept the dancing humour from his eyes as he
prepared to refuse the glass which Brotherson now brought forward:
"None of that!" said he. "You mustn't tempt me. The doctor has
shut down on all kinds of spirits for two months more, at least.
But don't let me hinder you. I can bear to smell the stuff. My
turn will come again some day."
But Brotherson did not drink. Setting down the glass he carried,
he took up the book lying near, weighed it in his hand and laid it
down again, with an air of thoughtful inquiry. Then he suddenly
pushed it towards Sweetwater. "Do you want it?" he asked.
Sweetwater was too taken aback to answer immediately. This was a
move he did not understand. Want it, he? What he wanted was to
see it put back in its place on the shelf. Did Brotherson suspect
this? The supposition was incredible; yet who could read a mind
Sweetwater, debating the subject, decided that the risk of adding
to any such possible suspicion was less to be dreaded than the
continued threat offered by that unoccupied space so near the hole
which testified so unmistakably of the means he had taken to spy
upon this suspected man's privacy. So, after a moment of awkward
silence, not out of keeping with the character he had assumed, he
calmly refused the present as he had the glass.
Unhappily he was not rewarded by seeing the despised volume
restored to its shelf. It still lay where its owner had pushed
it, when, with some awkwardly muttered thanks, the discomfited
detective withdrew to his own room.
WHAT AM I TO DO NOW
Early morning saw Sweetwater peering into the depths of his closet.
The hole was hardly visible. This meant that the book he had pushed
across it from the other side had not been removed.
Greatly re-assured by the sight, he awaited his opportunity, and as
soon as a suitable one presented itself, prepared the hole for
inspection by breaking away its edges and begriming it well with
plaster and old dirt. This done, he left matters to arrange
themselves; which they did, after this manner.
Mr. Brotherson suddenly developed a great need of him, and it became
a common thing for him to spend the half and, sometimes, the whole
of the evening in the neighbouring room. This was just what he had
worked for, and his constant intercourse with the man whose secret
he sought to surprise should have borne fruit. But it did not.
Nothing in the eager but painstaking inventor showed a distracted
mind or a heavily-burdened soul. Indeed, he was so calm in all his
ways, so precise and so self-contained, that Sweetwater often
wondered what had become of the fiery agitator and eloquent
propagandist of new and startling doctrines.
Then, he thought he understood the riddle. The model was reaching
its completion, and Brotherson's extreme interest in it and the
confidence he had in its success swallowed up all lesser emotions.
Were the invention to prove a failure--but there was small hope of
this. The man was of too well-poised a mind to over-estimate his
work or miscalculate its place among modern improvements. Soon he
would reach the goal of his desires, be praised, feted, made much
of by the very people he now professedly scorned. There was no
thoroughfare for Sweetwater here. Another road must be found; some
secret, strange and unforeseen method of reaching a soul inaccessible
to all ordinary or even extraordinary impressions.
Would a night of thought reveal such a method? Night! the very
word brought inspiration. A man is not his full self at night.
Secrets which, under the ordinary circumstances of everyday life,
lie too deep for surprise, creep from their hiding-places in the
dismal hours of universal quiet, and lips which are dumb to the
most subtle of questioners break into strange and self-revealing
mutterings when sleep lies heavy on ear and eye and the forces of
life and death are released to play with the rudderless spirit.
It was in different words from these that Sweetwater reasoned, no
doubt, but his conclusions were the same, and as he continued to
brood over them, he saw a chance--a fool's chance, possibly, (but
fools sometimes win where wise men fail) of reaching those depths
he still believed in, notwithstanding his failure to sound them.
Addressing a letter to his friend in Twenty-ninth Street, he awaited
reply in the shape of a small package he had ordered sent to the
corner drug-store. When it came, he carried it home in a state of
mingled hope and misgiving. Was he about to cap his fortnight of
disappointment by another signal failure; end the matter by
disclosing his hand; lose all, or win all by an experiment as daring
and possibly as fanciful as were his continued suspicions of this
seemingly upright and undoubtedly busy man?
He made no attempt to argue the question. The event called for the
exercise of the most dogged elements in his character and upon these
he must rely. He would make the effort he contemplated, simply
because he was minded to do so. That was all there was to it. But
any one noting him well that night, would have seen that he ate
little and consulted his watch continually. Sweetwater had not yet
passed the line where work becomes routine and the feelings remain
totally under control.
Brotherson was unusually active and alert that evening. He was
anxious to fit one delicate bit of mechanism into another, and he
was continually interrupted by visitors. Some big event was on in
the socialistic world, and his presence was eagerly demanded by one
brotherhood after another. Sweetwater, posted at his loop-hole,
heard the arguments advanced by each separate spokesman, followed
by Brotherson's unvarying reply: that when his work was done and he
had proved his right to approach them with a message, they might
look to hear from him again; but not before. His patience was
inexhaustible, but he showed himself relieved when the hour grew
too late for further interruption. He began to whistle--a token
that all was going well with him, and Sweetwater, who had come to
understand some of his moods, looked forward to an hour or two of
continuous work on Brotherson's part and of dreary and impatient
waiting on his own. But, as so many times before, he misread the
man. Earlier than common--much earlier, in fact, Mr. Brotherson
laid down his tools and gave himself up to a restless pacing of the
floor. This was not usual with him. Nor did he often indulge
himself in playing on the piano as he did to-night, beginning with
a few heavenly strains and ending with a bang that made the
key-board jump. Certainly something was amiss in the quarter where
peace had hitherto reigned undisturbed. Had the depths begun to
heave, or were physical causes alone responsible for these unwonted
ebullitions of feeling?
The question was immaterial. Either would form an excellent
preparation for the coup planned by Sweetwater; and when, after
another hour of uncertainty, perfect silence greeted him from his
neighbour's room, hope had soared again on exultant wing, far above
all former discouragements.
Mr. Brotherson's bed was in a remote corner from the loop-hole made
by Sweetwater; but in the stillness now pervading the whole building,
the latter could hear his even breathing very distinctly. He was in
a deep sleep.
The young detective's moment had come.
Taking from his breast a small box, he placed it on a shelf close
against the partition. An instant of quiet listening, then he
touched a spring in the side of the box and laid his ear, in haste,
to his loop-hole.
A strain of well-known music broke softly, from the box and sent its
vibrations through the wall.
It was answered instantly by a stir within; then, as the noble air
continued, awakening memories of that fatal instant when it crashed
through the corridors of the Hotel Clermont, drowning Miss Challoner's
cry if not the sound of her fall, a word burst from the sleeping man's
lips which carried its own message to the listening detective.
It was Edith! Miss Challoner's first name, and the tone bespoke a
Sweetwater, gasping with excitement, caught the box from the shelf
and silenced it. It had done its work and it was no part of
Sweetwater's plan to have this strain located, or even to be thought
real. But its echo still lingered in Brotherson's otherwise
unconscious ears; for another "Edith!" escaped his lips, followed
by a smothered but forceful utterance of these five words, "You know
I promised you--"
Promised her what? He did not say. Would he have done so had the
music lasted a trifle longer? Would he yet complete his sentence?
Sweetwater trembled with eagerness and listened breathlessly for
the next sound. Brotherson was awake. He was tossing in his bed.
Now he has leaped to the floor. Sweetwater hears him groan, then
comes another silence, broken at last by the sound of his body
falling back upon the bed and the troubled ejaculation of "Good God!"
wrung from lips no torture could have forced into complaint under
any daytime conditions.
Sweetwater continued to listen, but he had heard all, and after some
few minutes longer of fruitless waiting, he withdrew from his post.
The episode was over. He would hear no more that night.
Was he satisfied? Certainly the event, puerile as it might seem to
some, had opened up strange vistas to his aroused imagination. The
words "Edith, you know I promised you--" were in themselves
provocative of strange and doubtful conjectures. Had the sleeper
under the influence of a strain of music indissolubly associated
with the death of Miss Challoner, been so completely forced back
into the circumstances and environment of that moment that his mind
had taken up and his lips repeated the thoughts with which that
moment of horror was charged? Sweetwater imagined the scene--saw
the figure of Brotherson hesitating at the top of the stairs--saw
hers advancing from the writing-room, with startled and uplifted
hand--heard the music--the crash of that great finale--and
decided, without hesitation, that the words he had just heard were
indeed the thoughts of that moment. "Edith, you know I promised
you--" What had he promised? What she received was death! Had
this been in his mind? Would this have been the termination of the
sentence had he wakened less soon to consciousness and caution?
Sweetwater dared to believe it. He was no nearer comprehending the
mystery it involved than he had been before, but he felt sure that
he had been given one true and positive glimpse into this harassed
soul which showed its deeply hidden secret to be both deadly and
fearsome; and happy to have won his way so far into the mystic
labyrinth he had sworn to pierce, he rested in happy unconsciousness
till morning when--
Could it be? Was it he who was dreaming now, or was the event of
the night a mere farce of his own imagining? Mr. Brotherson was
whistling in his room, gaily and with ever increasing verve, and the
tune which filled the whole floor with music was the same grand
finale from William Tell which had seemed to work such magic in the
night. As Sweetwater caught the mellow but indifferent notes
sounding from those lips of brass, he dragged forth the music-box
he held hidden in his coat pocket, and flinging it on the floor
stamped upon it.
"The man is too strong for me," he cried. "His heart is granite;
he meets my every move. What am I to do now?"
THE DANGER MOMENT
For a day Sweetwater acknowledged himself to be mentally crushed,
disillusioned and defeated. Then his spirits regained their poise.
It would take a heavy weight indeed to keep them down permanently.
His opinion was not changed in regard to his neighbour's secret
guilt. A demeanour of this sort suggested bravado rather than
bravery to the ever suspicious detective. But he saw, very plainly
by this time, that he would have to employ more subtle methods yet
ere his hand would touch the goal which so tantalisingly eluded him.
His work at the bench suffered that week; he made two mistakes. But
by Saturday night he had satisfied himself that he had reached the
point where he would be justified in making use of Miss Challoner's
letters. So he telephoned his wishes to New York, and awaited the
promised developments with an anxiety we can only understand by
realising how much greater were his chances of failure than of
success. To ensure the latter, every factor in his scheme must
work to perfection. The medium of communication (a young, untried
girl) must do her part with all the skill of artist and author
combined. Would she disappoint them? He did not think so. Women
possess a marvellous adaptability for this kind of work and this
one was French, which made the case still more hopeful.
But Brotherson! In what spirit would he meet the proposed advances?
Would he even admit the girl, and, if he did, would the interview
bear any such fruit as Sweetwater hoped for? The man who could
mock the terrors of the night by a careless repetition of a strain
instinct with the most sacred memories, was not to be depended upon
to show much feeling at sight of a departed woman's writing. But
no other hope remained, and Sweetwater faced the attempt with heroic
The day was Sunday, which ensured Brotherson's being at home.
Nothing would have lured Sweetwater out for a moment, though he had
no reason to expect that the affair he was anticipating would come
off till early evening.
But it did. Late in the afternoon he heard the expected steps go
by his door--a woman's steps. But they were not alone. A man's
accompanied them. What man? Sweetwater hastened to satisfy
himself on this point by laying his ear to the partition.
Instantly the whole conversation became audible. "An errand? Oh,
yes, I have an errand!" explained the evidently unwelcome intruder,
in her broken English. "This is my brother Pierre. My name is
Celeste; Celeste Ledru. I understand English ver well. I have
worked much in families. But he understands nothing. He is all
French. He accompanies me for--for the--what you call it? les
convenances. He knows nothing of the beesiness."
Sweetwater in the darkness of his closet laughed in his gleeful
"Great!" was his comment. "Just great! She has thought of
everything--or Mr. Gryce has."
Meanwhile, the girl was proceeding with increased volubility.
"What is this beesiness, monsieur? I have something to sell--so
you Americans speak. Something you will want much--ver sacred,
ver precious. A souvenir from the tomb, monsieur. Will you give
ten--no, that is too leetle--fifteen dollars for it? It is worth
--Oh, more, much more to the true lover. Pierre, tu es bete.
Teins-tu droit sur ta chaise. M. Brotherson est un monsieur comme
This adjuration, uttered in sharp reprimand and with but little of
the French grace, may or may not have been understood by the
unsympathetic man they were meant to impress. But the name which
accompanied them--his own name, never heard but once before in
this house, undoubtedly caused the silence which almost reached the
point of embarrassment, before he broke it with the harsh remark:
"Your French may be good, but it does not go with me. Yet is it
more intelligible than your English. What do you want here? What
have you in that bag you wish to open; and what do you mean by the
sentimental trash with which you offer it?"
"Ah, monsieur has not memory of me," came in the sweetest tones of
a really seductive voice. "You astonish me, monsieur. I thought
you knew--everybody else does--Oh, tout le monde, monsieur,
that I was Miss Challoner's maid--near her when other people were
not--near her the very day she died."
A pause; then an angry exclamation from some one. Sweetwater thought
from the brother, who may have misinterpreted some look or gesture on
Brotherson's part. Brotherson himself would not be apt to show
surprise in any such noisy way.
"I saw many things--Oh many things--" the girl proceeded with an
admirable mixture of suggestion and reserve. "That day and other
days too. She did not talk--Oh, no, she did not talk, but I saw
--Oh, yes, I saw that she--that you--I'll have to say it,
monsieur, that you were tres bons amis after that week in Lenox."
"Well?" His utterance of this word was vigorous, but not tender.
"What are you coming to? What can you have to show me in this
connection that I will believe in for a moment?"
"I have these--is monsieur certaine that no one can hear? I
wouldn't have anybody hear what I have to tell you, for the world
--for all the world."
"No one can overhear."
For the first time that day Sweetwater breathed a full, deep breath.
This assurance had sounded heartfelt. "Blessings on her cunning
young head. She thinks of everything."
"You are unhappy. You have thought Miss Challoner cold;--that she
had no response for your ver ardent passion. But--" these words were
uttered sotto voce and with telling pauses "--but--I--know--ver
much better than that. She was ver proud. She had a right; she was
no poor girl like me--but she spend hours--hours in writing letters
she--nevaire send. I saw one, just once, for a leetle minute; while
you could breathe so short as that; and began with Cheri, or your
English for that, and ended with words--Oh, ver much like these:
You may nevaire see these lines, which was ver interesting, veree so,
and made one want to see what she did with letters she wrote and
nevaire mail; so I watch and look, and one day I see them. She had
a leetle ivory box--Oh, ver nice, ver pretty. I thought it was
jewels she kept locked up so tight. But, non, non, non. It was
letters--these letters. I heard them rattle, rattle, not once but
many times. You believe me, monsieur?
"I believe you to have taken every advantage posible to spy upon
your mistress. I believe that, yes."
"From interest, monsieur, from great interest."
"As monsieur pleases. But it was strange, ver strange for a grande
dame like that to write letters--sheets on sheets--and then not
send them, nevaire. I dreamed of those letters--I could not help
it, no; and when she died so quick--with no word for any one, no
word at all, I thought of those writings so secret, so of the heart,
and when no one noticed--or thought about this box, or--or the key
she kept shut tight, oh, always tight in her leetle gold purse, I
--Monsieur, do you want to see those letters?" asked the girl, with
a gulp. Evidently his appearance frightened her--or had her acting
reached this point of extreme finish? "I had nevaire the chance to
put them back. And--and they belong to monsieur. They are his
--all his--and so beautiful! Ah, just like poetry."
"I don't consider them mine. I haven't a particle of confidence in
you or in your story. You are a thief--self-convicted; or you're
an agent of the police whose motives I neither understand nor care
to investigate. Take up your bag and go. I haven't a cent's worth
of interest in its contents."
She started to her feet. Sweetwater heard her chair grate on the
painted floor, as she pushed it back in rising. The brother rose
too, but more calmly. Brotherson did not stir. Sweetwater felt
his hopes rapidly dying down--down into ashes, when suddenly her
voice broke forth in pants:
"And Marie said--everybody said--that you loved our great lady;
that you, of the people, common, common, working with the hands,
living with men and women working with the hands, that you had soul,
sentiment--what you will of the good and the great, and that you
would give your eyes for her words, si fines, si spirituelles, so
like des vers de poete. False! false! all false! She was an
angel. You are--read that!" she vehemently broke in, opening
her bag and whisking a paper down before him. "Read and understand
my proud and lovely lady. She did right to die. You are hard
--hard. You would have killed her if she had not--"
"Silence, woman! I will read nothing!" came hissing from the strong
man's teeth, set in almost ungovernable anger. "Take back this
letter, as you call it, and leave my room."
"Nevaire! You will not read? But you shall, you shall. Behold
another! One, two, three, four!" Madly they flew from her hand.
Madly she continued her vituperative attack. "Beast! beast! That
she should pour out her innocent heart to you, you! I do not want
your money, Monsieur of the common street, of the common house. It
would be dirt. Pierre, it would be dirt. Ah, bah! je m'oublie tout
a fait. Pierre, il est bete. Il refuse de les toucher. Mais il
faut qu'il les touche, si je les laisse sur le plancher. Va-t'en!
Je me moque de lui. Canaille! L'homme du peuple, tout a fait
A loud slam--the skurrying of feet through the hall, accompanied
by the slower and heavier tread of the so-called brother, then
silence, and such silence that Sweetwater fancied he could catch
the sound of Brotherson's heavy breathing. His own was silenced
to a gasp. What a treasure of a girl! How natural her indignation!
What an instinct she showed and what comprehension! This high and
mighty handling of a most difficult situation and a most difficult
man, had imposed on Brotherson, had almost imposed upon himself.
Those letters so beautiful, so spirituelle! Yet, the odds were that
she had never read them, much less abstracted them. The minx! the
ready, resourceful, wily, daring minx!
But had she imposed on Brotherson? As the silence continued,
Sweetwater began to doubt. He understood quite well the importance
of his neighbour's first movement. Were he to tear those letters
into shreds! He might be thus tempted. All depended on the strength
of his present mood and the real nature of the secret which lay
buried in his heart.
Was that heart as flinty as it seemed? Was there no place for doubt
or even for curiosity, in its impenetrable depths? Seemingly, he
had not moved foot or hand since his unwelcome visitors had left.
He was doubtless still staring at the scattered sheets lying before
him; possibly battling with unaccustomed impulses; possibly weighing
deeds and consequences in those slow moving scales of his in which
no man could cast a weight with any certainty how far its even
balance would be disturbed.
There was a sound as of settling coal. Only at night would one
expect to hear so slight a sound as that in a tenement full of noisy
children. But the moment chanced to be propitious, and it not only
attracted the attention of Sweetwater on his side of the wall, but
it struck the ear of Brotherson also. With an ejaculation as bitter
as it was impatient, he roused himself and gathered up the letters.
Sweetwater could hear the successive rustlings as he bundled them
up in his hand. Then came another silence--then the lifting of a
Sweetwater had not been wrong in his secret apprehension. His
identification with his unimpressionable neighbour's mood had shown
him what to expect. These letters--these innocent and precious
outpourings of a rare and womanly soul--the only conceivable open
sesame to the hard-locked nature he found himself pitted against,
would soon be resolved into a vanishing puff of smoke.
But the lid was thrust back, and the letters remained in hand.
Mortal strength has its limits. Even Brotherson could not shut
down that lid on words which might have been meant for him, harshly
as he had repelled the idea.
The pause which followed told little; but when Sweetwater heard the
man within move with characteristic energy to the door, turn the
key and step back again to his place at the table, he knew that
the danger moment had passed and that those letters were about to
be read, not casually, but seriously, as indeed their contents
This caused Sweetwater to feel serious himself. Upon what result
might he calculate? What would happen to this hardy soul, when the
fact he so scornfully repudiated, was borne in upon him, and he saw
that the disdain which had antagonised him was a mere device--a
cloak to hide the secret heart of love and eager womanly devotion?
Her death--little as Brotherson would believe it up till now--had
been his personal loss the greatest which can befall a man. When
he came to see this--when the modest fervour of her unusual nature
began to dawn upon him in these self-revelations, would the result
be remorse, or just the deadening and final extinction of whatever
tenderness he may have retained for her memory?
Impossible to tell. The balance of probability hung even.
Sweetwater recognised this, and clung, breathless, to his loop-hole.
Fain would he have seen, as well as heard.
Mr. Brotherson read the first letter, standing. As it soon became
public property, I will give it here, just as it afterwards appeared
in the columns of the greedy journals:
"When I sit, as I often do, in perfect quiet under the stars,
and dream that you are looking at them too, not for hours as I
do, but for one full moment in which your thoughts are with me as
wholly as mine are with you, I feel that the bond between us,
unseen by the world, and possibly not wholly recognised by
ourselves, is instinct with the same power which links together
"It seems to have always been; to have known no beginning, only a
budding, an efflorescence, the visible product of a hidden but
always present reality. A month ago and I was ignorant, even, of
your name. Now, you seem the best known to me, the best understood,
of God's creatures. One afternoon of perfect companionship--one
flash of strong emotion, with its deep, true insight into each
other's soul, and the miracle was wrought. We had met, and
henceforth, parting would mean separation only, and not the
severing of a mutual bond. One hand, and one only, could do that
now. I will not name that hand. For us there is nought ahead but
"Thus do I ease my heart in the silence which conditions impose
upon us. Some day I shall hear your voice again, and then-"
The paper dropped from the reader's hand. It was several minutes
before he took up another.
This one, as it happened, antedated the other, as will appear on
"I said that I could not write to you--that we must wait. You
were willing; but there is much to be accomplished, and the
silence may be long. My father is not an easy man to please, but
he desires my happiness and will listen to my plea when the right
hour comes. When you have won your place--when you have shown
yourself to be the man I feel you to be, then my father will
recognise your worth, and the way will be cleared, despite the
obstacles which now intervene.
"But meantime! Ah, you will not know it, but words will rise
--the heart must find utterance. What the lip cannot utter, nor
the looks reveal, these pages shall hold in sacred trust for you
till the day when my father will place my hand in yours, with
"Is it a folly? A woman's weak evasion of the strong silence of
man? You may say so some day; but somehow, I doubt it--I doubt
The creaking of a chair;--the man within had seated himself. There
was no other sound; a soul in turmoil wakens no echoes. Sweetwater
envied the walls surrounding the unsympathetic reader. They could
see. He could only listen.
A little while; then that slight rustling again of the unfolding
sheet. The following was read, and then the fourth and last:
"Did you think I had never seen you till that day we met in Lenox?
I am going to tell you a secret--a great, great secret--such a
one as a woman hardly whispers to her own heart.
"One day, in early summer, I was sitting in St. Bartholomew's
Church on Fifth Avenue, waiting for the services to begin. It
was early and the congregation was assembling. While idly
watching the people coming in, I saw a gentleman pass by me up
the aisle, who made me forget all the others. He had not the
air of a New Yorker; he was not even dressed in city style, but
as I noted his face and expression, I said way down in my heart,
'That is the kind of man I could love; the only man I have ever
seen who could make me forget my own world and my own people.'
It was a passing thought, soon forgotten. But when in that hour
of embarrassment and peril on Greylock Mountain, I looked up into
the face of my rescuer and saw again that countenance which so
short a time before had called into life impulses till then
utterly unknown, I knew that my hour was come. And that was why
my confidence was so spontaneous and my belief in the future so
"I trust your love which will work wonders; and I trust my own,
which sprang at a look but only gathered strength and permanence
when I found that the soul of the man I loved bettered his outward
attractions, making the ideal of my foolish girlhood seem as
unsubstantial and evanescent as a dream in the glowing noontide."
"I can say so now; for you have written to me, and I have the
dancing words with which to silence any unsought doubt which might
subdue the exuberance of these secret outpourings.
"I did not expect this. I thought that you would remain as silent
as myself. But men's ways are not our ways. They cannot exhaust
longing in purposeless words on scraps of soulless paper, and I am
glad that they cannot. I love you for your impatience; for your
purpose, and for the manliness which will win for you yet all that
you covet of fame, accomplishment and love. You expect no reply,
but there are ways in which one can keep silent and yet speak.
Won't you be surprised when your answer comes in a manner you have
never thought of?"
In his interest in what was going on on the other side of the wall,
Sweetwater had forgotten himself. Daylight had declined, but in the
darkness of the closet this change had passed unheeded. Night
itself might come, but that should not force him to leave his post
so long as his neighbour remained behind his locked door, brooding
over the words of love and devotion which had come to him, as it
were from the other world.
But was he brooding? That sound of iron clattering upon iron!
That smothered exclamation and the laugh which ended it! Anger and
determination rang in that laugh. It had a hideous sound which
prepared Sweetwater for the smell which now reached his nostrils.
The letters were burning; this time the lid had been lifted from
the stove with unrelenting purpose. Poor Edith Challoner's touching
words had met, a different fate from any which she, in her ignorance
of this man's nature,--a nature to which she had ascribed untold
perfections--could possibly have conceived.
As Sweetwater thought of this, he stirred nervously in the darkness,
and broke into silent invective against the man who could so insult
the memory of one who had perished under the blight of his own
coldness and misunderstanding. Then he suddenly started back
surprised and apprehensive. Brotherson had unlocked his door, and
was coming rapidly his way. Sweetwater heard his step in the hall
and had hardly time to bound from his closet, when he saw his own
door burst in and found himself face to face with his redoubtable
neighbour, in a state of such rage as few men could meet without
quailing, even were they of his own stature, physical vigour and
prowess; and Sweetwater was a small man.
However, disappointment such as he had just experienced brings with
it a desperation which often outdoes courage, and the detective,
smiling with an air of gay surprise, shouted out:
"Well, what's the matter now? Has the machine busted, or tumbled
into the fire or sailed away to lands unknown out of your open
"You were coming out of that closet," was the fierce rejoinder.
"What have you got there? Something which concerns me, or why
should your face go pale at my presence and your forehead drip
with sweat? Don't think that you've deceived me for a moment as
to your business here. I recognised you immediately. You've
played the stranger well, but you've a nose and an eye nobody could
forget. I have known all along that I had a police spy for a
neighbour; but it didn't faze me. I've nothing to conceal, and
wouldn't mind a regiment of you fellows if you'd only play a
straight game. But when it comes to foisting upon me a parcel of
letters to which I have no right, and then setting a fellow like
you to count my groans or whatever else they expected to hear, I
have a right to defend myself, and defend myself I will, by God!
But first, let me be sure that my accusations will stand. Come
into this closet with me. It abuts on the wall of my room and has
its own secret, I know. What is it? I have you at an advantage
now, and you shall tell."
He did have Sweetwater at an advantage, and the detective knew it
and disdained a struggle which would have only called up a crowd,
friendly to the other but inimical to himself. Allowing Brotherson
to drag him into the closet, he stood quiescent, while the
determined man who held him with one hand, felt about with the
other over the shelves and along the partitions till he came to
the hole which had offered such a happy means of communication
between the two rooms. Then, with a laugh almost as bitter in tone
as that which rang from Brotherson's lips, he acknowledged that
business had its necessities and that apologies from him were in
order; adding, as they both stepped out into the rapidly darkening
"We've played a bout, we two; and you've come out ahead. Allow me
to congratulate you, Mr. Brotherson. You've cleared yourself so
far as I am concerned. I leave this ranch to-night."
The frown had come back to the forehead of the indignant man who
"So you listened," he cried; "listened when you weren't sneaking
under my eye! A fine occupation for a man who can dove-tail a
corner like an adept. I wish I had let you join the brotherhood
you were good enough to mention. They would know how to appreciate
your double gifts and how to reward your excellence in the one, if
not in the other. What did the police expect to learn about me that
they should consider it necessary to call into exercise such
"I'm not good at conundrums. I was given a task to perform, and I
performed it," was Sweetwater's sturdy reply. Then slowly, with
his eye fixed directly upon his antagonist, "I guess they
thought you a man. And so did I until I heard you burn those
letters. Fortunately we have copies."
"Letters!" Fury thickened the speaker's voice, and lent a savage
gleam to his eye. "Forgeries! Make believes! Miss Challoner never
wrote the drivel you dare to designate as letters. It was concocted
at Police Headquarters. They made me tell my story and then they
found some one who could wield the poetic pen. I'm obliged to them
for the confidence they show in my credulity. I credit Miss
Challoner with such words as have been given me to read here to-day?
I knew the lady, and I know myself. Nothing that passed between us,
not an event in which we were both concerned, has been forgotten by
me, and no feature of our intercourse fits the language you have
ascribed to her. On the contrary, there is a lamentable
contradiction between facts as they were and the fancies you have
made her indulge in. And this, as you must acknowledge, not only
proves their falsity, but exonerates Miss Challoner from all possible
charge of sentimentality."
"Yet she certainly wrote those letters. We had them from Mr.
Challoner. The woman who brought them was really her maid. We
have not deceived you in this."
"I do not believe you."
It was not offensively said; but the conviction it expressed was
absolute. Sweetwater recognised the tone, as one of truth, and
inwardly laid down his arms. He could never like the man; there
was too much iron in his fibre; but he had to acknowledge that
as a foe he was invulnerable and therefore admirable to one who
had the good sense to appreciate him.
"I do not want to believe you." Thus did Brotherson supplement
his former sentence. "For if I were to attribute those letters to
her, I should have to acknowledge that they were written to another
man than myself. And this would be anything but agreeable to me.
Now I am going to my room and to my work. You may spend the rest
of the evening or the whole night, if you will, listening at that
hole. As heretofore, the labour will be all yours, and the
With a satirical play of feature which could hardly be called a
smile, he nodded and left the room.
"It's all up. I'm beaten on my own ground." Thus confessed
Sweetwater, in great dejection, to himself. "But I'm going to
take advantage of the permission he's just given me and continue
the listening act. Just because he told me to and just because he
thinks I won't. I'm sure it's no worse than to spend hours of
restless tossing in bed, trying to sleep."
But our young detective did neither.
As he was putting his supper dishes away, a messenger boy knocked
at his door and handed him a note. It was from Mr. Gryce and ran
"Steal off, if you can, and as soon as you can, and meet me in
Twenty-ninth Street. A discovery has been made which alters the
O. B. AGAIN
"What's happened? Something very important. I ought to hope so
after this confounded failure."
"Failure? Didn't he read the letters?"
"Yes, he read them. Had to, but--"
"Didn't weaken? Eh?"
"No, he didn't weaken. You can't get water out of a millstone.
You may squeeze and squeeze; but it's your fingers which suffer, not
it. He thinks we manufactured those letters ourselves on purpose
"Humph! I knew we had a reputation for finesse, but I didn't know
that it ran that high."
"He denies everything. Said she would never have written such
letters to him; even goes so far to declare that if she did write
them--(he must be strangely ignorant of her handwriting) they were
meant for some other man than himself. All rot, but--" A hitch of
the shoulder conveyed Sweetwater's disgust. His uniform good nature
was strangely disturbed.
But Mr. Gryce's was not. The faint smile with which he smoothed
with an easy, circling movement, the already polished top of his
ever present cane conveyed a secret complacency which called up a
flash of discomfiture to his greatly irritated companion.
"He says that, does he? You found him on the whole tolerably
straightforward, eh? A hard nut; but hard nuts are usually sound
ones. Come, now! prejudice aside, what's your honest opinion of the
man you've had under your eye and ear for three solid weeks? Hasn't
there been the best of reasons for your failure? Speak up, my boy.
"I can't. I hate the fellow. I hate any one who makes me look
ridiculous. He--well, well, if you'll have it, sir, I will say
this much. If it weren't for that blasted coincidence of the two
deaths equally mysterious, equally under his eye, I'd stake my life
on his honesty. But that coincidence stumps me and--and a sort of
feeling I have here."
It is to be hoped that the slap he gave his breast, at this point,
carried off some of his superfluous emotion. "You can't account
for a feeling, Mr. Gryce. The man has no heart. He's as hard as
"A not uncommon lack where the head plays so big a part. We can't
hang him on any such argument as that. You've found no evidence
"N--no." The hesitating admission was only a proof of Sweetwater's
"Then listen to this. The test with the letters failed, because
what he said about them was true. They were not meant for him.
Miss Challoner had another lover."
"Only another? I thought there were a half-dozen, at least."
"Another whom she favoured. The letters found in her possession
--not the ones she wrote herself, but those which were written to
her over the signature O. B. were not all from the same hand.
Experts have been busy with them for a week, and their reports are
unanimous. The O. B. who wrote the threatening lines acknowledged
to by Orlando Brotherson, was not the O. B. who penned all of those
love letters. The similarity in the writing misled us at first,
but once the doubt was raised by Mr. Challoner's discovery of an
allusion in one of them which pointed to another writer than Mr.
Brotherson, and experts had no difficulty in reaching the decision
I have mentioned."
"Two O. B.s! Isn't that incredible, Mr. Gryce?"
Yes, it is incredible; but the incredible is not the impossible.
The man you've been shadowing denies that these expressive effusions
of Miss Challoner were meant for him. Let us see, then, if we can
find the man they were meant for."
"The second O. B.?"
Sweetwater's face instantly lit up.
"Do you mean that I--after my egregious failure--am not to be
kept on the dunce's seat? That you will give me this new job?"
"Yes. We don't know of a better man. It isn't your fault, you said
it yourself, that water couldn't be squeezed out of a millstone."
"The Superintendent--how does he feel about it?"
"He was the first one to mention you."
"And the Inspector?"
"Is glad to see us on a new tack."
A pause, during which the eager light in the young detective's eye
clouded over. Presently he remarked:
"How will the finding of another O. B. alter Mr. Brotherson's
position? He still will be the one person on the spot, known to
have cherished a grievance against the victim of this mysterious
killing. To my mind, this discovery of a more favoured rival,
brings in an element of motive which may rob our self-reliant
friend of some of his complacency. We may further, rather than
destroy, our case against Brotherson by locating a second O.B."
Mr. Gryce's eyes twinkled.
"That won't make your task any more irksome," he smiled. "The
loop we thus throw out is as likely to catch Brotherson as his
rival. It all depends upon the sort of man we find in this second
O. B.; and whether, in some way unknown to us, he gave her cause
for the sudden and overwhelming rush of despair which alone supports
this general theory of suicide."
"The prospect grows pleasing. Where am I to look for my man?"
"Your ticket is bought to Derby, Pennsylvania. If he is not employed
in the great factories there, we do not know where to find him. We
have no other clew."
"I see. It's a short journey I have before me."
"It'll bring the colour to your cheeks."
"Oh, I'm not kicking."
"You will start to-morrow."
"Wish it were to-day."
"And you will first inquire, not for O. B., that's too indefinite;
but for a young girl by the name of Doris Scott. She holds the
clew; or rather she is the clew to this second O. B."
"No, a child;--well, I won't say child exactly; she must be sixteen."
"She lives in Derby. Derby is a small place. You will have no
trouble in finding this child. It was to her Miss Challoner's last
letter was addressed. The one--"
"I begin to see."
"No, you don't, Sweetwater. The affair is as blind as your hat;
nobody sees. We're just feeling along a thread. O. B.'s letters
--the real O. B., I mean, are the manliest effusions possible.
He's no more of a milksop than this Brotherson; and unlike your
indomitable friend he seems to have some heart. I only wish he'd
given us some facts; they would have been serviceable. But the
letters reveal nothing except that he knew Doris. He writes in
one of them: 'Doris is learning to embroider. It's like a fairy
weaving a cobweb!' Doris isn't a very common name. She must be
the same little girl to whom Miss Challoner wrote from time to time."