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|II As Seen By Detective Sweetwater||Anna Katharine Green|
X A Difference Of Opinion
|Page 2 of 9||
At this, the listening Sweetwater hoped that Dr. Heath would ignore the suggestion thus conveyed and decline the explanation it apparently demanded. But the impression made by the gentleman's good looks had been too strong for this coroner's proverbial caution, and, handing over the slip of a note which had been found among Miss Challoner's effects by her father, he quietly asked:
"Do you recognise the signature?"
"Yes, it is mine."
"Then you acknowledge yourself the author of these lines?"
"Most certainly. Have I not said that this is my signature?"
"Do you remember the words of this note, Mr. Brotherson?"
"Hardly. I recollect its tenor, but not the exact words."
"Excuse me, I had rather not. I am aware that they were bitter and should be the cause of great regret. I was angry when I wrote them."
"That is evident. But the cause of your anger is not so clear, Mr. Brotherson. Miss Challoner was a woman of lofty character, or such was the universal opinion of her friends. What could she have done to a gentleman like yourself to draw forth such a tirade?"
"You ask that?"
"I am obliged to. There is mystery surrounding her death; - the kind of mystery which demands perfect frankness on the part of all who were near her on that evening, or whose relations to her were in any way peculiar. You acknowledge that your friendship was of such a guarded nature that it surprised you greatly to hear it recognised. Yet you could write her a letter of this nature. Why?"
"Because -" the word came glibly; but the next one was long in following. " Because," he repeated, letting the fire of some strong feeling disturb for a moment his dignified reserve, "I offered myself to Miss Challoner, and she dismissed me with great disdain."
"Ah! and so you thought a threat was due her?"
"These words contain a threat, do they not?"
"They may. I was hardly master of myself at the time. I may have expressed myself in an unfortunate manner."
"Read the words, Mr. Brotherson. I really must insist that you do so."
There was no hesitancy now. Rising, he leaned over the table and read the few words the other had spread out for his perusal. Then he slowly rose to his full height, as he answered, with some slight display of compunction:
"I remember it perfectly now. It is not a letter to be proud of. I hope -"
"Pray finish, Mr. Brotherson."
"That you are not seeking to establish a connection between this letter and her violent death?"
"Letters of this sort are often very mischievous, Mr. Brotherson. The harshness with which this is written might easily rouse emotions of a most unhappy nature in the breast of a woman as sensitive as Miss Challoner."
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