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|I As Seen By Two Strangers||Anna Katharine Green|
IV Sweet Little Miss Clarke
|Page 4 of 8||
"No, not shot, stabbed. We thought she had been shot, for that was intelligible and involved no impossibilities. But Drs. Heath and Webster, under the eye of the Challoners' own physician, have made an examination of the wound - an official one, thorough and quite final so far as they are concerned, and they declare that no bullet is to be found in the body. As the wound extends no further than the heart, this settles one great point, at least."
"Dr. Heath is a reliable man and one of our ablest coroners."
"Yes. There can be no question as to the truth of his report. You know the victim? Her name, I mean, and the character she bore?"
"Yes; so much was told me on my way down."
"A fine girl unspoiled by riches and seeming independence. Happy, too, to all appearance, or we should be more ready to consider the possibility of suicide."
"Suicide by stabbing calls for a weapon. Yet none has been found, I hear."
"Yet she was killed that way?
"Undoubtedly, and by a long and very narrow blade, larger than a needle but not so large as the ordinary stiletto."
"Stabbed while by herself, or what you may call by herself? She had no companion near her?"
"None, if we can believe the four members of the Parrish family who were seated at the other end of the room.
"And you do believe them?"
"Would a whole family lie - and needlessly? They never knew the woman - father, maiden aunt and two boys, clear-eyed, jolly young chaps whom even the horror of this tragedy, perpetrated as it were under their very nose, cannot make serious for more than a passing moment."
"It wouldn't seem so."
"Yet they swear up and down that nobody crossed the room towards Miss Challoner."
"So they tell me."
"She fell just a few feet from the desk where she had been writing. No word, no cry, just a collapse and sudden fall. In olden days they would have said, struck by a bolt from heaven. But it was a bolt which drew blood; not much blood, I hear, but sufficient to end life almost instantly. She never looked up or spoke again. What do you make of it, Gryce?"
"It's a tough one, and I'm not ready to venture an opinion yet. I should like to see the desk you speak of, and the spot where she fell."
A young fellow who had been hovering in the background at once stepped forward. He was the plain-faced detective who had spoken to George.
"Will you take my arm, sir?"
Mr. Gryce's whole face brightened. This Sweetwater, as they called him, was, I have since understood, one of his proteges and more or less of a favourite.
"Have you had a chance at this thing?" he asked. "Been over the ground - studied the affair carefully?"
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