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|I As Seen By Two Strangers||Anna Katharine Green|
IV Sweet Little Miss Clarke
|Page 7 of 8||
Mr. Gryce was engaged at the moment in shifting his cane from the right hand to the left, but his manner was never more encouraging or his smile more benevolent.
"Pardon me," he apologised, with one of his old-fashioned bows, "I'm sorry to trouble you after all the distress you must have been under this morning. But there is something I wish especially to ask you in regard to the dreadful occurrence in which you played so kind a part. You were the first to reach the prostrate woman, I believe."
"Yes. The boys jumped up and ran towards her, but they were frightened by her looks and left it for me to put my hands under her and try to lift her up."
"Did you manage it?"
"I succeeded in getting her head into my lap, nothing more."
"And sat so?"
"For some little time. That is, it seemed long, though I believe it was not more than a minute before two men came running from the musicians' gallery. One thinks so fast at such a time - and feels so much."
"You knew she was dead, then?"
"I felt her to be so."
"I was sure - I never questioned it."
"You have seen women in a faint?"
"Yes, many times."
"What made the difference? Why should you believe Miss Challoner dead simply because she lay still and apparently lifeless?
"I cannot tell you. Possibly, death tells its own story. I only know how I felt."
"Perhaps there was another reason? Perhaps, that, consciously or unconsciously, you laid your palm upon her heart?"
Miss Clarke started, and her sweet face showed a moment's perplexity.
"Did I?" she queried, musingly. Then with a sudden access of feeling, "I may have done so, indeed, I believe I did. My arms were around her; it would not have been an unnatural action."
"No; a very natural one, I should say. Cannot you tell me positively whether you did this or not?"
"Yes, I did. I had forgotten it, but I remember now." And the glance she cast him while not meeting his eye showed that she understood the importance of the admission. "I know," she said, "what you are going to ask me now. Did I feel anything there but the flowers and the tulle? No, Mr. Gryce, I did not. There was no poniard in the wound."
Mr. Gryce felt around, found a chair and sank into it.
"You are a truthful woman," said he. "And," he added more slowly, "composed enough in character I should judge not to have made any mistake on this very vital point."
"I think so, Mr. Gryce. I was in a state of excitement, of course; but the woman was a stranger to me, and my feelings were not unduly agitated."
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