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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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It was several minutes before he heard Mr. Brotherson' s voice again, then it was in triumphant repetition of the lines which had escaped his memory. They were great words surely and Sweetwater never forgot them, but the impression which they made upon his mind, an impression so forcible that he was able to repeat them, months afterward to Mr. Gryce, did not prevent him from noting the tone in which they were uttered, nor the thud which followed as the book was thrown down upon the floor.

"Fool!" The word rang out in bitter irony from his irate neighbour's lips. "What does he know of woman! Woman! Let him court a rich one and see - but that's all over and done with. No more harping on that string, and no more reading of poetry. I'll never, -" The rest was lost in his throat and was quite unintelligible to the anxious listener.

Self-revealing words, which an instant before would have aroused Sweetwater's deepest interest! But they had suddenly lost all force for the unhappy listener. The sight of that hole still shining brightly before his eyes had distracted his thoughts and roused his liveliest apprehensions. If that book should be allowed to lie where it had fallen, then he was in for a period of uncertainty he shrank from contemplating. Any moment his neighbour might look up and catch sight of this hole bored in the backing of the shelves before him. Could the man who had been guilty of submitting him to this outrage stand the strain of waiting indefinitely for the moment of discovery? He doubted it, if the suspense lasted too long.

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Shifting his position, he placed his eye where his ear had been. He could see very little. The space before him, limited as it was to the width of the one volume withdrawn, precluded his seeing aught but what lay directly before him. Happily, it was in this narrow line of vision that Mr. Brotherson stood. He had resumed work upon his model and was so placed that while his face was not visible, his hands were, and as Sweetwater watched these hands and noticed the delicacy of their manipulation, he was enough of a workman to realise that work so fine called for an undivided attention. He need not fear the gaze shifting, while those hands moved as warily as they did now.

Relieved for the moment, he left his post and, sitting down on the edge of his cot, gave himself up to thought.

He deserved this mischance. Had he profited properly by Mr. Gryce's teachings, he would not have been caught like this; he would have calculated not upon the nine hundred and ninety-nine chances of that book being left alone, but upon the thousandth one of its being the very one to be singled out and removed. Had he done this, - had he taken pains to so roughen and discolour the opening he had made, that it would look like an ancient rat hole instead of showing a clean bore, he would have some answer to give Brotherson when he came to question him in regard to it. But now the whole thing seemed up! He had shown himself a fool and by good rights ought to acknowledge his defeat and return to Headquarters. But he had too much spirit for that. He would rather - yes, he would rather face the pistol he had once seen in his enemy's hand. Yet it was hard to sit here waiting, waiting - Suddenly he started upright. He would go meet his fate - be present in the room itself when the discovery was made which threatened to upset all his plans. He was not ashamed of his calling, and Brotherson would think twice before attacking him when once convinced that he had the Department behind him.

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