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Dark Hollow

28. The First Effort
LEAVES FROM ALANSON BLACK'S NOTE-BOOK, FOUND BY REUTHER
SOME MONTHS LATER, IN A VERY QUEER PLACE, VIZ.: HER MOTHER'S
JEWEL-BOX
At the New Willard. Awaiting two articles--Oliver's picture and a few lines in the
judge's writing requesting his son's immediate return. Meanwhile, I have made no
secret of my reason for being here. All my inquiries at the desk have shown it to
be particularly connected with a certain bill now before Congress, in which
Shelby is vitally interested.
Perhaps I can further the interests of this bill in off minutes. I am willing to.
The picture is here, as well as the name of the hotel where the two women are
staying. I have spent five minutes studying the face I must be able to recognise
at first glance in any crowd. It's not a bad face; I can see his mother's looks in
him. But it is not the face I used to know. Trouble develops a man.
There's a fellow here who rouses my suspicions. No one knows him;- -I don't
myself. But he's strangely interested in me. If he's from Shelby--in other words, if
he's from the detective bureau there, I've led him a chase to-day which must
have greatly bewildered him. I'm not slow, and I'm not above mixing things. From
the Cairo where our present congressman lives, I went to the Treasury, then to
the White House, and then to the Smithsonian--with a few newspaper offices
thrown in, and some hotels where I took pains that my interviews should not be
too brief. When quite satisfied that by these various and somewhat confusing
peregrinations I had thrown off any possible shadower, I fetched up at the Library
where I lunched. Then, as I thought the time had come for me to enjoy myself, I
took a walk about the great building, ending up with the reading-room. Here I
asked for a book on a certain abstruse subject. Of course, it was not in my line,
but I looked wise and spoke the name glibly. When I sat down to consult it, the
man who brought it threw me a short glance which I chose to think peculiar. "You
don't have many readers for this volume?" I ventured. He smiled and answered,
"Just sent it back to the shelves. It's had a steady reader for ten days. Before
that, nobody." "Is this your steady reader?" I asked, showing him the photograph
I drew from my pocket. He stared, but said nothing. He did not have to. In a state
of strange satisfaction I opened the book. It was Greek, if not worse, to me, but I
meant to read a few paragraphs for the sake of appearances, and was turning
over the pages in search of a promising chapter, when--Talk of remarkable
happenings!--there in the middle of the book was a card,--his card!--left as a
marker, no doubt, and on this card, an address hastily scribbled in lead pencil. It
only remained for me to find that the hotel designated in this address was a
Washington one, for me to recognise in this simple but strangely opportune
occurrence, a coincidence--or, as YOU would say,--an act of Providence as
startling as those we read of in books.
The first man I accosted in regard to the location of this hotel said there was
none of that name in Washington. The next, that he thought there was, but that
he could not tell me where to look for it. The third, that I was within ten blocks of
 
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