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  II As Seen By Detective Sweetwater Anna Katharine Green

XIV A Concession

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"It is true; there seems to be something extraordinary in the coincidence."

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 it not?

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:

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"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."

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