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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

II Anson Durand

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My heart was beating violently, and the pencil shook in my hand, but I knew that it would not do for me to show any hesitation in fixing for all eyes what, unaccountably to myself, continued to be perfectly plain to my own. So I endeavored to do as he bade me, and succeeded, to some extent, for he uttered a slight ejaculation at one of its features, and, while duly expressing his thanks, honored me with a very sharp look.

"Is this your first visit to this house?" he asked.

"No; I have been here before."

"In the evening, or in the afternoon?"

"In the afternoon."

"I am told that the main entrance is not in use to-night."

"No. A side door is provided for occasions like the present. Guests entering there find a special hall and staircase, by which they can reach the upstairs dressing-rooms, without crossing the main hall. Is that what you mean?"

"Yes, that is what I mean."

I stared at him in wonder. What lay back of such questions as these?

"You came in, as others did, by this side entrance," he now proceeded. "Did you notice, as you turned to go up stairs, an arch opening into a small passageway at your left?"

"I did not," I began, flushing, for I thought I understood him now. "I was too eager to reach the dressing-room to look about me."

"Very well," he replied; "I may want to show you that arch."

The outline of an arch, backing the figure we were endeavoring to identify, was a marked feature in the sketch I had shown him.

"Will you take a seat near by while I make a study of this matter?"

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I turned with alacrity to obey. There was something in his air and manner which made me almost buoyant. Had my fanciful interpretation of what I had seen reached him with the conviction it had me? If so, there was hope,--hope for the man I loved, who had gone in and out between curtains, and not through any arch such as he had mentioned or I had described. Providence was working for me. I saw it in the way the men now moved about, swinging the window to and fro, under the instruction of the inspector, manipulating the lights, opening doors and drawing back curtains. Providence was working for me, and when, a few minutes later, I was asked to reseat myself in my old place at the supper-table and take another look in that slightly deflected glass, I knew that my effort had met with its reward, and that for the second time I was to receive the impression of a place now indelibly imprinted on my consciousness.

"Is not that it?" asked the inspector, pointing at the glass with a last look at the imperfect sketch I had made him, and which he still held in his hand.

"Yes," I eagerly responded. "All but the man. He whose figure I see there is another person entirely; I see no remorse, or even fear, in his looks."

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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