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  The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XX Moonlight--And A Clue

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"Are you satisfied? Have you got what you wanted?" asked Sweetwater, when they were well away from the shore and the voice they had heard calling at intervals from the chasm they had left.

"Yes. You're a good fellow. It could not have been better managed." Then, after a pause too prolonged and thoughtful to please Sweetwater, who was burning with curiosity if not with some deeper feeling: "What was that light you burned? A match?"

Sweetwater did not answer. He dared not. How speak of the electric torch he as a detective carried in his pocket? That would be to give himself away. He therefore let this question slip by and put in one of his own.

"Are you ready to go back now, sir? Are we all done here?" This with his ear turned and his eye bent forward; for the adventure they had interrupted was not at an end, whether their part in it was or not.

Mr. Grey hesitated, his glances following those of Sweetwater.

"Let us wait," said he, in a tone which surprised Sweetwater. "If he is meditating an escape, I must speak to him before he reaches the launch. At all hazards," he added after another moment's thought.

"All right, sir--How do you propose--"

His words were interrupted by a shrill whistle from the direction of the bank. Promptly, and as if awaiting this signal, the two men in the rowboat before them dipped their oars and pulled for the shore, taking the direction of the manufactory.

Sweetwater said nothing, but held himself in readiness.

Mr. Grey was equally silent, but the lines of his face seemed to deepen in the moonlight as the boat, gliding rapidly through the water, passed them within a dozen boat-lengths and slipped into the opening under the manufactory building.

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"Now row!" he cried. "Make for the launch. We'll intercept them on their return."

Sweetwater, glowing with anticipation, bent to his work. The boat beneath them gave a bound and in a few minutes they were far out on the waters of the bay.

"They're coming!" he whispered eagerly, as he saw Mr. Grey looking anxiously back. "How much farther shall I go?"

"Just within hailing distance of the launch," was Mr. Grey's reply.

Sweetwater, gaging the distance with a glance, stopped at the proper point and rested on his oars. But his thoughts did not rest. He realized that he was about to witness an interview whose importance he easily recognized. How much of it would he hear? What would be the upshot and what was his full duty in the case? He knew that this man Wellgood was wanted by the New York police, but he was possessed with no authority to arrest him, even if he had the power.

"Something more than I bargained for," he inwardly commented. "But I wanted excitement, and now I have got it. If only I can keep my head level, I may get something out of this, if not all I could wish."

Meantime the second boat was very nearly on them. He could mark the three figures and pick out Wellgood's head from among the rest. It had a resolute air; the face on which, to his evident discomfiture, the moon shone, wore a look which convinced the detective that this was no patent-medicine manufacturer, nor even a caterer's assistant, but a man of nerve and resources, the same, indeed, whom he had encountered in Mr. Fairbrother's house, with such disastrous, almost fatal, results to himself.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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