The Woman in the Alcove HTML version
Sweetwater In A New Role
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
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.
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