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II As Seen By Detective Sweetwater Anna Katharine Green

XVIII What Am I To Do Now?

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It was Edith! Miss Challoner's first name, and the tone bespoke a shaken soul.

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.

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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?"

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