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II As Seen By Detective Sweetwater Anna Katharine Green

XVII In Which A Book Plays Leading Part

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"Yes; they told me so this morning."

"Was that the first you'd heard of it?"

"Sure!" The word almost jumped at the questioner. "Do you suppose I'd have taken the room if -"

But here the intruder, with a disdainful grunt, turned and went out, disgust in every feature, - plain, unmistakable, downright disgust, and nothing more!

This was what gave Sweetwater his second bad night; this and a certain discovery he made. He had counted on hearing what went on in the neighbouring room through the partition running back of his own closet. But he could hear nothing, unless it was the shutting down of a window, a loud sneeze, or the rattling of coals as they were put on the fire. And these possessed no significance. What he wanted was to catch the secret sigh, the muttered word, the involuntary movement. He was too far removed from this man still.

How should he manage to get nearer him - at the door of his mind - of his heart? Sweetwater stared all night from his miserable cot into the darkness of that separating closet, and with no result. His task looked hopeless; no wonder that he could get no rest.

Next morning he felt ill, but he rose all the same, and tried to get his own breakfast. He had but partially succeeded and was sitting on the edge of his bed in wretched discomfort, when the very man he was thinking of appeared at his door.

"I've come to see how you are," said Brotherson. "I noticed that you did not look well last night. Won't you come in and share my pot of coffee?"

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"I - I can't eat," mumbled Sweetwater, for once in his life thrown completely off his balance. "You're very kind, but I'll manage all right. I'd rather. I'm not quite dressed, you see, and I must get to the shop." Then he thought - "What an opportunity I'm losing. Have I any right to turn tail because he plays his game from the outset with trumps? No, I've a small trump somewhere about me to lay on this trick. It isn't an ace, but it'll show I'm not chicane." And smiling, though not with his usual cheerfulness, Sweetwater added, "Is the coffee all made? I might take a drop of that. But you mustn't ask me to eat - I just couldn't."

"Yes, the coffee is made and it isn't bad either. You'd better put on your coat; the hall's draughty." And waiting till Sweetwater did so, he led the way back to his own room. Brotherson's manner expressed perfect ease, Sweetwater's not. He knew himself changed in looks, in bearing, in feeling, even; but was he changed enough to deceive this man on the very spot where they had confronted each other a few days before in a keen moral struggle? The looking-glass he passed on his way to the table where the simple breakfast was spread out, showed him a figure so unlike the alert, business-like chap he had been that night, that he felt his old assurance revive in time to ease a situation which had no counterpart in his experience.

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