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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

VII Night And A Voice

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To my surprise the doctor held me back.

"You can't go to-night," said he, "your horse has hurt himself."

It was true. There was something the matter with the animal's left forefoot. As the doctor lifted it, the manager came up. He agreed with the doctor. I could not make the descent to Santa Fe on that horse that night. Did I feel elated? Rather. I had no wish to descend. Yet I was far from foreseeing what the night was to bring me.

I was turned over to the manager, but not without a final injunction from the doctor. "Not a word to any one about your errand! Not a word about the New York tragedy, as you value Mr. Fairbrother's life."

"Not a word," said I.

Then he left me.

To see the sun go down and the moon come up from a ledge hung, as it were, in mid air! The experience was novel--but I refrain. I have more important matters to relate.

I was given a bunk at the extreme end of the long sleeping-tent, and turned in with the rest. I expected to sleep, but on finding that I could catch a sight of the sick tent from under the canvas, I experienced such fascination in watching this forbidden spot that midnight came before I had closed my eyes. Then all desire to sleep left me, for the patient began to moan and presently to talk, and, the stillness of the solitary height being something abnormal, I could sometimes catch the very words. Devoid as they were of all rational meaning, they excited my curiosity to the burning point; for who could tell if he might not say something bearing on the mystery?

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But that fevered mind had recurred to early scenes and the babble which came to my ears was all of mining camps in the Rockies and the dicker of horses. Perhaps the uneasy movement of my horse pulling at the end of his tether had disturbed him. Perhaps--

But at the inner utterance of the second "perhaps" I found myself up on my elbow listening with all my ears, and staring with wide-stretched eyes at the thicket of stunted trees where the road debouched on the platform. Something was astir there besides my horse. I could catch sounds of an unmistakable nature. A rider was coming up the trail.

Slipping back into my place, I turned toward the doctor, who lay some two or three bunks nearer the opening. He had started up, too, and in a moment was out of the tent. I do not think he had observed my action, for it was very dark where I lay and his back had been turned toward me. As for the others, they slept like the dead, only they made more noise.

Interested--everything is interesting at such a height--I brought my eye to bear on the ledge, and soon saw by the limpid light of a full moon the stiff, short branches of the trees, on which my gaze was fixed, give way to an advancing horse and rider.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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