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  The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XVIII The Closed Door

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The road was once the highway, but the tide having played so many tricks with its numberless bridges a new one had been built farther up the cliff, carrying with it the life and business of the small town. Many old landmarks still remained--shops, warehouses and even a few scattered dwellings. But most of these were deserted, and those that were still in use showed such neglect that it was very evident the whole region would soon be given up to the encroaching sea and such interests as are inseparable from it.

The hour was that mysterious one of late twilight, when outlines lose their distinctness and sea and shore melt into one mass of uniform gray. There was no wind and the waves came in with a soft plash, but so near to the level of the road that it was evident, even to these strangers, that the tide was at its height and would presently begin to ebb.

Soon they had passed the last forsaken dwelling, and the town proper lay behind them. Sand and a few rocks were all that lay between them now and the open stretch of the ocean, which, at this point, approached the land in a small bay, well-guarded on either side by embracing rocky heads. This was what made the harbor at C--.

It was very still. They passed one team and only one. Sweetwater looked very sharply at this team and at its driver, but saw nothing to arouse suspicion. They were now a half-mile from C--, and, seemingly, in a perfectly desolate region.

"A manufactory here!" exclaimed Mr. Grey. It was the first word he had uttered since starting.

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"Not far from here," was Sweetwater's equally laconic reply; and, the road taking a turn almost at the moment of his speaking, he leaned forward and pointed out a building standing on the right-hand side of the road, with its feet in the water. "That's it." said he. "They described it well enough for me to know it when I see it. Looks like a robber's hole at this time of night," he laughed; "but what can you expect from a manufactory of patent medicine?"

Mr. Grey was silent. He was looking very earnestly at the building.

"It is larger than I expected," he remarked at last.

Sweetwater himself was surprised, but as they advanced and their point of view changed they found it to be really an insignificant structure, and Mr. Wellgood's portion of it more insignificant still.

In reality it was a collection of three stores under one roof: two of them were shut up and evidently unoccupied, the third showed a lighted window. This was the manufactory. It occupied the middle place and presented a tolerably decent appearance. It showed, besides the lighted lamp I have mentioned, such signs of life as a few packing-boxes tumbled out on the small platform in front, and a whinnying horse attached to an empty buggy, tied to a post on the opposite side of the road.

"I'm glad to see the lamp," muttered Sweetwater. "Now, what shall we do? Is it light enough for you to see his face, if I can manage to bring him to the door?"

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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