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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XIII The Missing Recommendation

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"Miss Van Arsdale, a surprise awaited him, and awaited us when he told the result of his search. The name attached to the recommendation had been--'Hiram Sears, Steward.' He did not know of any such man--perhaps you do--but when he reached the house from which the recommendation was dated, he saw that it was one of the great houses of New York, though he could not at the instant remember who lived there. But he soon found out. The first passer-by told him. Miss Van Arsdale, perhaps you can do the same. The number was--Eighty-sixth Street."

"--!" I repeated, quite aghast. "Why, Mr. Fairbrother himself! The husband of--"

"Exactly so, and Hiram Sears, whose name you may have heard mentioned at the inquest, though for a very good reason he was not there in person, is his steward and general factotum."

"Oh! and it was he who recommended Wellgood?"


"And did Mr. Jones see him?"

"No. The house, you remember, is closed. Mr. Fairbrother, on leaving town, gave his servants a vacation. His steward he took with him,--that is, they started together. But we hear no mention made of him in our telegrams from Santa Fe. He does not seem to have followed Mr. Fairbrother into the mountains."

"You say that in a peculiar way," I remarked.

"Because it has struck us peculiarly. Where is Sears now? And why did he not go on with Mr. Fairbrother when he left home with every apparent intention of accompanying him to the Placide mine? Miss Van Arsdale, we were impressed with this fact when we heard of Mr. Fairbrother's lonely trip from where he was taken ill to his mine outside of Santa Fe; but we have only given it its due importance since hearing what has come to us to-day.

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"Miss Van Arsdale," continued the inspector, as I looked up quickly, "I am going to show great confidence in you. I am going to tell you what our men have learned about this Sears. As I have said before, it is but forestalling the reporters by a day, and it may help you to understand why I sent you such peremptory orders to stop, when your whole heart was fixed on an attempt by which you hoped to right Mr. Durand. We can not afford to disturb so distinguished a person as the one you have under your eye, while the least hope remains of fixing this crime elsewhere. And we have such hope. This man, this Sears, is by no means the simple character one would expect from his position. Considering the short time we have had (it was only yesterday that Jones found his way into this office), we have unearthed some very interesting facts in his regard. His devotion to Mr. Fairbrother was never any secret, and we knew as much about that the day after the murder as we do now. But the feelings with which he regarded Mrs. Fairbrother--well, that is another thing--and it was not till last night we heard that the attachment which bound him to her was of the sort which takes no account of youth or age, fitness or unfitness. He was no Adonis, and old enough, we are told, to be her father; but for all that we have already found several persons who can tell strange stories of the persistence with which his eager old eyes would follow her whenever chance threw them together during the time she remained under her husband's roof; and others who relate, with even more avidity, how, after her removal to apartments of her own, he used to spend hours in the adjoining park just to catch a glimpse of her figure as she crossed the sidewalk on her way to and from her carriage. Indeed, his senseless, almost senile passion for this magnificent beauty became a by-word in some mouths, and it only escaped being mentioned at the inquest from respect to Mr. Fairbrother, who had never recognized this weakness in his steward, and from its lack of visible connection with her horrible death and the stealing of her great jewel. Nevertheless, we have a witness now--it is astonishing how many witnesses we can scare up by a little effort, who never thought of coming forward themselves--who can swear to having seen him one night shaking his fist at her retreating figure as she stepped haughtily by him into her apartment house. This witness is sure that the man he saw thus gesticulating was Sears, and he is sure the woman was Mrs. Fairbrother. The only thing he is not sure of is how his own wife will feel when she hears that he was in that particular neighborhood on that particular evening, when he was evidently supposed to be somewhere else." And the inspector laughed.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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