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0100_005E II As Seen By Detective Sweetwater Anna Katharine Green

XVIII What Am I To Do Now?

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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?

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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.

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