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I As Seen By Two Strangers Anna Katharine Green

VII The Letters

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Before a table strewn with papers, in the room we have already mentioned as given over to the use of the police, sat Dr. Heath in a mood too thoughtful to notice the entrance of Mr. Gryce and Sweetwater from the dining-room where they had been having dinner.

However as the former's tread was somewhat lumbering, the coroner's attention was caught before they had quite crossed the room, and Sweetwater, with his quick eye, noted how his arm and hand immediately fell so as to cover up a portion of the papers lying nearest to him.

"Well, Gryce, this is a dark case," he observed, as at his bidding the two detectives took their seats.

Mr. Gryce nodded; so did Sweetwater.

"The darkest that has ever come to my knowledge," pursued the coroner.

Mr. Gryce again nodded; but not so, Sweetwater. For some reason this simple expression of opinion seemed to have given him a mental start.

"She was not shot. She was not struck by any other hand; yet she lies dead from a mortal wound in the breast. Though there is no tangible proof of her having inflicted this wound upon herself, the jury will have no alternative, I fear, than to pronounce the case one of suicide."

"I'm sorry that I've been able to do so little," remarked Mr. Gryce.

The coroner darted him a quick look.

"You are not satisfied? You have some different idea?" he asked.

The detective frowned at his hands crossed over the top of his cane, then shaking his head, replied:

"The verdict you mention is the only natural one, of course. I see that you have been talking with Miss Challoner's former maid?"

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"Yes, and she has settled an important point for us. There was a possibility, of course, that the paper-cutter which you brought to my notice had never gone with her into the mezzanine. That she, or some other person, had dropped it in passing through the lobby. But this girl assures me that her mistress did not enter the lobby that night. That she accompanied her down in the elevator, and saw her step off at the mezzanine. She can also swear that the cutter was in a book she carried - the book we found lying on the desk. The girl remembers distinctly seeing its peculiarly chased handle projecting from its pages. Could anything be more satisfactory if - I was going to say, if the young lady had been of the impulsive type and the provocation greater. But Miss Challoner's nature was calm, and were it not for these letters -" here his arm shifted a little -" I should not be so sure of my jury's future verdict. Love -" he went on, after a moment of silent consideration of a letter he had chosen from those before him," disturbs the most equable natures. When it enters as a factor, we can expect anything - as you know. And Miss Challoner evidently was much attached to her correspondent, and naturally felt the reproach conveyed in these lines."

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