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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

II Anson Durand

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"I can not believe it. I can not believe it." And his hand flew wildly to his forehead.

"Yet it is the truth, Mr. Durand, and one you have now to face. How will you do this? By any further explanations, or by what you may consider a discreet silence?"

"I have nothing to explain,--the facts are as I have stated."

The inspector regarded him with an earnestness which made my heart sink.

"You can fix the time of this visit, I hope; tell us, I mean, just when you left the alcove. You must have seen some one who can speak for you."

"I fear not."

Why did he look so disturbed and uncertain?

"There were but few persons in the hall just then," he went on to explain. "No one was sitting on the yellow divan."

"You know where you went, though? Whom you saw and what you did before the alarm spread?"

"Inspector, I am quite confused. I did go somewhere; I did not remain in that part of the hall. But I can tell you nothing definite, save that I walked about, mostly among strangers, till the cry rose which sent us all in one direction and me to the side of my fainting sweetheart."

"Can you pick out any stranger you talked to, or any one who might have noted you during this interval? You see, for the sake of this little woman, I wish to give you every chance."

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"Inspector, I am obliged to throw myself on your mercy. I have no such witness to my innocence as you call for. Innocent people seldom have. It is only the guilty who take the trouble to provide for such contingencies."

This was all very well, if it had been uttered with a straightforward air and in a clear tone. But it was not. I who loved him felt that it was not, and consequently was more or less prepared for the change which now took place in the inspector's manner. Yet it pierced me to the heart to observe this change, and I instinctively dropped my face into my hands when I saw him move toward Mr. Durand with some final order or word of caution.

Instantly (and who can account for such phenomena?) there floated into view before my retina a reproduction of the picture I had seen, or imagined myself to have seen, in the supper-room; and as at that time it opened before me an unknown vista quite removed from the surrounding scene, so it did now, and I beheld again in faint outlines, and yet with the effect of complete distinctness, a square of light through which appeared an open passage partly shut off from view by a half-lifted curtain and the tall figure of a man holding back this curtain and gazing, or seeming to gaze, at his own breast, on which he had already laid one quivering finger.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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