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II As Seen By Detective Sweetwater Anna Katharine Green

XIX The Danger Moment

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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.

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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 determination.

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 appreciation.

"Great!" was his comment. "Just great! She has thought of everything - or Mr. Gryce has."

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