The Woman in the Alcove
Sears Or Wellgood
Not till the inspector had given several orders was I again summoned into his presence.
He smiled as our eyes met, but did not allude, any more than I did, to what had just
passed. Nevertheless, we understood each other.
When I was again seated, he took up the conversation where we had left it.
"The description I was just about to read to you," he went on; "will you listen to it now?"
"Gladly," said I; "it is Wellgood's, I believe."
He did not answer save by a curious glance from under his brows, but, taking the paper
again from his desk, went on reading:
"A man of fifty-five looking like one of sixty. Medium height, insignificant features,
head bald save for a ring of scanty dark hair. No beard, a heavy nose, long mouth and
sleepy half-shut eyes capable of shooting strange glances. Nothing distinctive in face or
figure save the depth of his wrinkles and a scarcely observable stoop in his right shoulder.
Do you see Wellgood in that?" he suddenly asked.
"I have only the faintest recollection of his appearance," was my doubtful reply. "But the
impression I get from this description is not exactly the one I received of that waiter in
the momentary glimpse I got of him."
"So others have told me before;' he remarked, looking very disappointed. "The
description is of Sears given me by a man who knew him well, and if we could fit the
description of the one to that of the other, we should have it easy. But the few persons
who have seen Wellgood differ greatly in their remembrance of his features, and even of
his coloring. It is astonishing how superficially most people see a man, even when they
are thrown into daily contact with him. Mr. Jones says the man's eyes are gray, his hair a
wig and dark, his nose pudgy, and his face without much expression. His land-lady, that
his eyes are blue, his hair, whether wig or not, a dusty auburn, and his look quick and
piercing,--a look which always made her afraid. His nose she don't remember. Both
agree, or rather all agree, that he wore no beard--Sears did, but a beard can be easily
taken off--and all of them declare that they would know him instantly if they saw him.
And so the matter stands. Even you can give me no definite description,--one, I mean, as
satisfactory or unsatisfactory as this of Sears."
I shook my head. Like the others, I felt that I should know him if I saw him, but I could
go no further than that. There seemed to be so little that was distinctive about the man.
The inspector, hoping, perhaps, that all this would serve to rouse my memory, shrugged
his shoulders and put the best face he could on the matter.
"Well, well," said he, "we shall have to be patient. A day may make all the difference
possible in our outlook. If we can lay hands on either of these men--"