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- Agatha Webb - 1/53 -


AGATHA WEBB

BY ANNA KATHARINE GREEN (MRS. CHARLES ROHLFS)

AUTHOR OF "THE LEAVENWORTH CASE," "THAT AFFAIR NEXT DOOR" "LOST MAN'S LANE," ETC.

THIS BOOK IS INSCRIBED TO MY FRIEND

PROFESSOR A. V. DICEY

OF OXFORD, ENGLAND

CONTENTS

BOOK I

THE PURPLE ORCHID

I--A Cry on the Hill II--One Night's Work III--The Empty Drawer IV--The Full Drawer V--A Spot on the Lawn VI--"Breakfast is Served, Gentlemen!" VII--"Marry Me" VIII--"A Devil That Understands Men" IX--A Grand Woman X--Detective Knapp Arrives XI--The Man with a Beard XII--Wattles Comes XIII--Wattles Goes XIV--A Final Temptation XV--The Zabels Visited XVI--Local Talent at Work XVII--The Slippers, the Flower, and What Sweetwater Made of Them XVIII--Some Leading Questions XIX--Poor Philemon XX--A Surprise for Mr. Sutherland

BOOK II

THE MAN OF NO REPUTATION

XXI--Sweetwater Reasons XXII--Sweetwater Acts XXIII--A Sinister Pair XXIV--In the Shadow of the Mast XXV--In Extremity XXVI--The Adventure of the Parcel XXVII--The Adventure of the Scrap of Paper and the Three Words XXVIII--"Who Are You?" XXIX--Home Again

BOOK III

HAD BATSY LIVED!

XXX--What Followed the Striking of the Clock XXXI--A Witness Lost XXXII--Why Agatha Webb will Never be Forgotten in Sutherlandtown XXXIII--Father and Son XXXIV--"Not When They Are Young Girls" XXXV--Sweetwater Pays His Debt at Last to Mr. Sutherland

BOOK I

THE PURPLE ORCHID

I

A CRY ON THE HILL

The dance was over. From the great house on the hill the guests had all departed and only the musicians remained. As they filed out through the ample doorway, on their way home, the first faint streak of early dawn became visible in the east. One of them, a lank, plain-featured young man of ungainly aspect but penetrating eye, called the attention of the others to it.

"Look!" said he; "there is the daylight! This has been a gay night for Sutherlandtown."

"Too gay," muttered another, starting aside as the slight figure of a young man coming from the house behind them rushed hastily by. "Why, who's that?"

As they one and all had recognised the person thus alluded to, no one answered till he had dashed out of the gate and disappeared in the woods on the other side of the road. Then they all spoke at once.

"It's Mr. Frederick!"

"He seems in a desperate hurry."

"He trod on my toes."

"Did you hear the words he was muttering as he went by?"

As only the last question was calculated to rouse any interest, it alone received attention.

"No; what were they? I heard him say something, but I failed to catch the words."

"He wasn't talking to you, or to me either, for that matter; but I have ears that can hear an eye wink. He said: 'Thank God, this night of horror is over!' Think of that! After such a dance and such a spread, he calls the night horrible and thanks God that it is over. I thought he was the very man to enjoy this kind of thing."

"So did I."

"And so did I."

The five musicians exchanged looks, then huddled in a group at the gate.

"He has quarrelled with his sweetheart," suggested one.

"I'm not surprised at that," declared another. "I never thought it would be a match."

"Shame if it were!" muttered the ungainly youth who had spoken first.

As the subject of this comment was the son of the gentleman whose house they were just leaving, they necessarily spoke low; but their tones were rife with curiosity, and it was evident that the topic deeply interested them. One of the five who had not previously spoken now put in a word:

"I saw him when he first led out Miss Page to dance, and I saw him again when he stood up opposite her in the last quadrille, and I tell you, boys, there was a mighty deal of difference in the way he conducted himself toward her in the beginning of the evening and the last. You wouldn't have thought him the same man. Reckless young fellows like him are not to be caught by dimples only. They want cash."

"Or family, at least; and she hasn't either. But what a pretty girl she is! Many a fellow as rich as he and as well connected would be satisfied with her good looks alone."

"Good looks!" High scorn was observable in this exclamation, which was made by the young man whom I have before characterised as ungainly. "I refuse to acknowledge that she has any good looks. On the contrary, I consider her plain."

"Oh! Oh!" burst in protest from more than one mouth. "And why does she have every fellow in the room dangling after her, then?" asked the player on the flageolet.

"She hasn't a regular feature."

"What difference does that make when it isn't her features you notice, but herself?"

"I don't like her."

A laugh followed this.

"That won't trouble her, Sweetwater. Sutherland does, if you don't, and that's much more to the point. And he'll marry her yet; he can't help it. Why, she'd witch the devil into leading her to the altar if she took a notion to have him for her bridegroom."

"There would be consistency in that," muttered the fellow just addressed. "But Mr. Frederick--"

"Hush! There's some one on the doorstep. Why, it's she!"

They all glanced back. The graceful figure of a young girl dressed in white was to be seen leaning toward them from the open doorway. Behind her shone a blaze of light--the candles not having been yet extinguished in the hall--and against this brilliant background her slight form, with all its bewitching outlines, stood out in plain relief.

"Who was that?" she began in a high, almost strident voice, totally out of keeping with the sensuous curves of her strange, sweet face. But the question remained unanswered, for at that moment her attention, as well as that of the men lingering at the


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