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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XVII Sweetwater In A New Role

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A few days later three men were closeted in the district attorney's office. Two of them were officials--the district attorney himself, and our old friend, the inspector. The third was the detective, Sweetwater, chosen by them to keep watch on Mr. Grey.

Sweetwater had just come to town,--this was evident from the gripsack he had set down in a corner on entering, also from a certain tousled appearance which bespoke hasty rising and but few facilities for proper attention to his person. These details counted little, however, in the astonishment created by his manner. For a hardy chap he looked strangely nervous and indisposed, so much so that, after the first short greeting, the inspector asked him what was up, and if he had had another Fairbrother-house experience.

He replied with a decided no; that it was not his adventure which had upset him, but the news he had to bring.

Here he glanced at every door and window; and then, leaning forward over the table at which the two officials sat, he brought his head as nearly to them as possible and whispered five words.

They produced a most unhappy sensation. Both the men, hardened as they were by duties which soon sap the sensibilities, started and turned as pale as the speaker himself. Then the district attorney, with one glance at the inspector, rose and locked the door.

It was a prelude to this tale which I give, not as it came from his mouth, but as it was afterward related to me. The language, I fear, is mostly my own.

The detective had just been with Mr. Grey to the coast of Maine. Why there, will presently appear. His task had been to follow this gentleman, and follow him he did.

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Mr. Grey was a very stately man, difficult of approach, and was absorbed, besides, by some overwhelming care. But this fellow was one in a thousand and somehow, during the trip, he managed to do him some little service, which drew the attention of the great man to himself. This done, he so improved his opportunity that the two were soon on the best of terms, and he learned that the Englishman was without a valet, and, being unaccustomed to move about without one, felt the awkwardness of his position very much. This gave Sweetwater his cue, and when he found that the services of such a man were wanted only during the present trip and for the handling of affairs quite apart from personal tendance upon the gentleman himself, he showed such an honest desire to fill the place, and made out to give such a good account of himself, that he found himself engaged for the work before reaching C--.

This was a great stroke of luck, he thought, but he little knew how big a stroke or into what a series of adventures it was going to lead him.

Once on the platform of the small station at which Mr. Grey had bidden him to stop, he noticed two things: the utter helplessness of the man in all practical matters, and his extreme anxiety to see all that was going on about him without being himself seen. There was method in this curiosity, too much method. Women did not interest him in the least. They could pass and repass without arousing his attention, but the moment a man stepped his way, he shrank from him only to betray the greatest curiosity concerning him the moment he felt it safe to turn and observe him. All of which convinced Sweetwater that the Englishman's errand was in connection with a man whom he equally dreaded and desired to meet.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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