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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

II The Gloves

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I must have remained insensible for many minutes, for when I returned to full consciousness the supper-room was empty and the two hundred guests I had left seated at table were gathered in agitated groups about the hall. This was what I first noted; not till afterward did I realize my own situation. I was lying on a couch in a remote corner of this same hall and beside me, but not looking at me, stood my lover, Mr. Durand.

How he came to know my state and find me in the general disturbance I did not stop to inquire. It was enough for me at that moment to look up and see him so near. Indeed, the relief was so great, the sense of his protection so comforting that I involuntarily stretched out my hand in gratitude toward him, but, failing to attract his attention, slipped to the floor and took my stand at his side. This roused him and he gave me a look which steadied me, in spite of the thrill of surprise with which I recognized his extreme pallor and a certain peculiar hesitation in his manner not at all natural to it.

Meanwhile, some words uttered near us were slowly making their way into my benumbed brain. The waiter who had raised the first alarm was endeavoring to describe to an importunate group in advance of us what he had come upon in that murderous alcove.

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"I was carrying about a tray of ices," he was saying, "and seeing the lady sitting there, went up. I had expected to find the place full of gentlemen, but she was all alone, and did not move as I picked my way over her long train. The next moment I had dropped ices, tray and all. I bad come face to face with her and seen that she was dead. She had been stabbed and robbed. There was no diamond on her breast, but there was blood."

A hubbub of disordered sentences seasoned with horrified cries followed this simple description. Then a general movement took place in the direction of the alcove, during which Mr. Durand stooped to my ear and whispered:

"We must get out of this. You are not strong enough to stand such excitement. Don't you think we can escape by the window over there?"

"What, without wraps and in such a snowstorm?" I protested. "Besides, uncle will be looking for me. He came with me, you know."

An expression of annoyance, or was it perplexity, crossed Mr. Durand's face, and he made a movement as if to leave me.

"I must go," he began, but stopped at my glance of surprise and assumed a different air--one which became him very much better. "Pardon me, dear, I will take you to your uncle. This--this dreadful tragedy, interrupting so gay a scene, has quite upset me. I was always sensitive to the sight, the smell, even to the very mention of the word blood."

So was I, but not to the point of cowardice. But then I had not just come from an interview with the murdered woman. Her glances, her smiles, the lift of her eyebrows were not fresh memories to me. Some consideration was certainly due him for the shock he must be laboring under. Yet I did not know how to keep back the vital question.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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