第18章 BOOK I:AS SEEN BY TWO STRANGERS(18)
Three men were standing flat against the fence leading from the shed directly to the porch.The fourth was crouching within the latter,and in another moment they heard his fist descend upon the door inside in a way to rouse the echoes.Meantime,the voice in the audience hall above had ceased,and there could be heard instead the scramble of hurrying feet and the noise of overturning benches.Then a window flew up and a voice called down:
"Who's that?What do you want down there?"
But before an answer could be shouted back,this man was drawn fiercely inside,and the scramble was renewed,amid which George heard Sweetwater's whisper at his ear:
"It's the police.The chief has got ahead of me.Was that the man we're after -the one who shouted down?""No.Neither was he the speaker.The voices are very different.""We want the speaker.If the boys get him,we're all right;but if they don't -wait,I must make the matter sure."And with a bound he vaulted through the window,whistling in a peculiar way.George,thus left quite alone,had the pleasure of seeing his sole protector mix with the boys,as he called them,and ultimately crowd in with them through the door which had finally been opened for their admittance.Then came a wait,and then the quiet re-appearance of the detective alone and in no very,amiable mood.
"Well?"inquired George,somewhat breathlessly."Do you want me?
They don't seem to be coming out."
"No;they've gone the other way.It was a red hot anarchist meeting,and no mistake.They have arrested one of the speakers,but the other escaped.How,we have not yet found out;but Ithink there's a way out somewhere by which he got the start of us.He was the man I wanted you to see.Bad luck,Mr.Anderson,but I'm not at the end of my resources.If you'll have patience with me and accompany me a little further,I promise you that I'll only risk one more failure.Will you be so good,sir?"
THE INCIDENT OF THE PARTLY LIFTED SHADE
The fellow had a way with him,hard to resist.Cold as George was and exhausted by an excitement of a kind to which he was wholly unaccustomed,he found himself acceding to the detective's request;and after a quick lunch and a huge cup of coffee in a restaurant which I wish I had time to describe,the two took a car which eventually brought them into one of the oldest quarters of the Borough of Brooklyn.The sleet which had stung their faces in the streets of New York had been left behind them somewhere on the bridge,but the chill was not gone from the air,and George felt greatly relieved when Sweetwater paused in the middle of a long block before a lofty tenement house of mean appearance,and signified that here they were to stop,and that from now on,mum was to be their watchword.
George was relieved I say,but he was also more astonished than ever.
What kind of haunts were these for the cultured gentleman who spent his evenings at the Clermont?It was easy enough in these days of extravagant sympathies,to understand such a man addressing the uneasy spirits of lower New York -he had been called an enthusiast,and an enthusiast is very often a social agitator -but to trace him afterwards to a place like this was certainly a surprise.A tenement -such a tenement as this -meant home -home for himself or for those he counted his friends,and such a supposition seemed inconceivable to my poor husband,with the memory of the gorgeous parlour of the Clermont in his mind.Indeed,he hinted something of the kind to his affable but strangely reticent companion,but all the answer he got was a peculiar smile whose humorous twist he could barely discern in the semi-darkness of the open doorway into which they had just plunged.
"An adventure!certainly an adventure!"flashed through poor George's mind,as he peered,in great curiosity down the long hall before him,into a dismal rear,opening into a still more dismal court.It was truly a novel experience for a business man whose philanthropy was carried on entirely by proxy -that is,by his wife.Should he be expected to penetrate into those dark,ill-smelling recesses,or would he be led up the long flights of naked stairs,so feebly illuminated that they gave the impression of extending indefinitely into dimmer and dimmer heights of decay and desolation?
Sweetwater seemed to decide for the rear,for leaving George,he stepped down the hall into the court beyond,where George could see him casting inquiring glances up at the walls above him.Another tenement,similar to the one whose rear end he was contemplating,towered behind but he paid no attention to that.He was satisfied with the look he had given and came quickly back,joining George at the foot of the staircase,up which he silently led the way.
It was a rude,none-too-well-cared-for building,but it seemed respectable enough and very quiet,considering the mass of people it accommodated.There were marks of poverty everywhere,but no squalor.One flight -two flights -three -and then George's guide stopped,and,looking back at him,made a gesture.It appeared to be one of caution,but when the two came together at the top of the staircase,Sweetwater spoke quite naturally as he pointed out a door in their rear:
"That's the room.We'll keep a sharp watch and when any man,no matter what his dress or appearance comes up these stairs and turns that way,give him a sharp look.You understand?""Yes;but-"
"Oh,he hasn't come in yet.I took pains to find that out.You saw me go into the court and look up.That was to see if his window was lighted.Well,it wasn't."George felt non-plussed.
"But surely,"said he,"the gentleman named Brotherson doesn't live here.""The inventor does."
"And -but I will explain later."
Anna Katharine Green