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I As Seen By Two Strangers Anna Katharine Green

V The Red Cloak

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"Am I speaking to Mrs. Watkins of Nashville?"

"You are," she faltered, with another rapid change of colour. "I
    - I am just leaving. I hope you will excuse me. I -"

"I wish I could," he smiled, hobbling in and confronting her quietly in her own room. "But circumstances make it quite imperative that I should have a few words with you on a topic which need not be disagreeable to you, and probably will not be. My name is Gryce. This will probably convey nothing to you, but I am not unknown to the management below, and my years must certainly give you confidence in the propriety of my errand. A beautiful and charming young woman died here last night. May I ask if you knew her?"

"I?" She was trembling violently now, but whether with indignation or some other more subtle emotion, it would be difficult to say. "No, I'm from the South. I never saw the young lady. Why do you ask? I do not recognise your right. I - I -"

Certainly her emotion must be that of simple indignation. Mr. Gryce made one of his low bows, and propping himself against the table he stood before, remarked civilly: -

"I had rather not force my rights. The matter is so very ordinary. I did not suppose you knew Miss Challoner, but one must begin somehow, and as you came in at the very moment when the alarm was raised in the lobby, I thought perhaps you could tell me something which would aid me in my effort to elicit the real facts of the case. You were crossing the lobby at the time -"

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"Yes." She raised her head. "So were a dozen others -"

"Madam," - the interruption was made in his kindliest tones, but in a way which nevertheless suggested authority. "Something was picked up from the floor at that moment. If the dozen you mention were witnesses to this act we do not know it. But we do know that it did not pass unobserved by you. Am I not correct? Didn't you see a certain person - I will mention no names - stoop and pick up something from the lobby floor?"

"No." The word came out with startling violence. "I was conscious of nothing but the confusion." She was facing him with determination and her eyes were fixed boldly on his face. But her lips quivered, and her cheeks were white, too white now for simple indignation.

"Then I have made a big mistake," apologised the ever-courteous detective. "Will you pardon me? It would have settled a very serious question if it could be found that the object thus picked up was the weapon which killed Miss Challoner. That is my excuse for the trouble I have given you."

He was not looking at her; he was looking at her hand which rested on the table before which he himself stood. Did the fingers tighten a little and dig into the palm they concealed? He thought so, and was very slow in turning limpingly about towards the door. Meanwhile, would she speak? No. The silence was so marked, he felt it an excuse for stealing another glance in her direction. She was not looking his way but at a door in the partition wall on her right; and the look was one very akin to anxious fear. The next moment he understood it. The door burst open, and a young girl bounded into the room, with the merry cry:

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