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II As Seen By Detective Sweetwater Anna Katharine Green

XXII O. B. Again

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"What's happened? Something very important. I ought to hope so after this confounded failure."

"Failure? Didn't he read the letters?"

"Yes, he read them. Had to, but -"

"Didn't weaken? Eh?"

"No, he didn't weaken. You can't get water out of a millstone. You may squeeze and squeeze; but it's your fingers which suffer, not it. He thinks we manufactured. those letters ourselves on purpose draw him."

"Humph! I knew we had a reputation for finesse, but I didn't know that it ran that high."

"He denies everything. Said she would never have written such letters to him; even goes so far to declare that if she did write them - (he must be strangely ignorant of her handwriting) they were meant for some other man than himself. All rot, but -" A hitch of the shoulder conveyed Sweetwater's disgust. His uniform good nature was strangely disturbed.

But Mr. Gryce's was not. The faint smile with which he smoothed with an easy, circling movement, the already polished top of his ever present cane conveyed a secret complacency which called up a flash of discomfiture to his greatly irritated companion.

"He says that, does he? You found him on the whole tolerably straightforward, eh? A hard nut; but hard nuts are usually sound ones. Come, now! prejudice aside, what's your honest opinion of the man you've had under your eye and ear for three solid weeks? Hasn't there been the best of reasons for your failure? Speak up, my boy. Squarely, now."

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"I can't. I hate the fellow. I hate any one who makes me look ridiculous. He - well, well, if you'll have it, sir, I will say this much. If it weren't for that blasted coincidence of the two deaths equally mysterious, equally under his eye, I'd stake my life on his honesty. But that coincidence stumps me and - and a sort of feeling I have here."

It is to be hoped that the slap he gave his breast, at this point, carried off some of his superfluous emotion. "You can't account for a feeling, Mr. Gryce. The man has no heart. He's as hard as rocks."

"A not uncommon lack where the head plays so big a part. We can't hang him on any such argument as that. You've found no evidence against him?"

"N - no." The hesitating admission was only a proof of Sweetwater's obstinacy.

"Then listen to this. The test with the letters failed, because what he said about them was true. They were not meant for him. Miss Challoner had another lover."

"Only another? I thought there were a half-dozen, at least."

"Another whom she favoured. The letters found in her possession - not the ones she wrote herself, but those which were written to her over the signature 0. B. were not all from the same hand. Experts have been busy with them for a week, and their reports are unanimous. The 0. B. who wrote the threatening lines acknowledged to by Orlando Brotherson, was not the 0. B. who penned all of those love letters. The similarity in the writing misled us at first, but once the doubt was raised by Mr. Challoner's discovery of an allusion in one of them which pointed to another writer than Mr. Brotherson, and experts had no difficulty in reaching the decision I have mentioned."

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