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0105_001E The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

II The Gloves

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"Who did it? You must have heard some one say."

"I have heard nothing," was his somewhat fierce rejoinder. Then, as I made a move, "What you do not wish to follow the crowd there?"

"I wish to find my uncle, and he is in that crowd."

Mr. Durand said nothing further, and together we passed down the hall. A strange mood pervaded my mind. Instead of wishing to fly a scene which under ordinary conditions would have filled me with utter repugnance, I felt a desire to see and hear everything. Not from curiosity, such as moved most of the people about me, but because of some strong instinctive feeling I could not understand; as if it were my heart which had been struck, and my fate which was trembling in the balance.

We were consequently among the first to hear such further details as were allowed to circulate among the now well-nigh frenzied guests. No one knew the perpetrator of the deed nor did there appear to be any direct evidence calculated to fix his identity. Indeed, the sudden death of this beautiful woman in the midst of festivity might have been looked upon as suicide, if the jewel had not been missing from her breast and the instrument of death removed from the wound. So far, the casual search which had been instituted had failed to produce this weapon; but the police would be here soon and then something would be done. As to the means of entrance employed by the assassin, there seemed to be but one opinion. The alcove contained a window opening upon a small balcony. By this he had doubtless entered and escaped. The long plush curtains which, during the early part of the evening, had remained looped back on either side of the casement, were found at the moment of the crime's discovery closely drawn together. Certainly a suspicious circumstance. However, the question was one easily settled. If any one had approached by the balcony there would be marks in the snow to show it. Mr. Ramsdell had gone out to see. He would be coming back soon.

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"Do you think this a probable explanation of the crime?" I demanded of Mr. Durand at this juncture. "If I remember rightly this window overlooks the carriage drive; it must, therefore, be within plain sight of the door through which some three hundred guests have passed to-night. How could any one climb to such a height, lift the window and step in without being seen?"

"You forget the awning." He spoke quickly and with unexpected vivacity. "The awning runs up very near this window and quite shuts it off from the sight of arriving guests. The drivers of departing carriages could see it if they chanced to glance back. But their eyes are usually on their horses in such a crowd. The probabilities are against any of them having looked up." His brow had cleared; a weight seemed removed from his mind. "When I went into the alcove to see Mrs. Fairbrother, she was sitting in a chair near this window looking out. I remember the effect of her splendor against the snow sifting down in a steady stream behind her. The pink velvet--the soft green of the curtains on either side--her brilliants--and the snow for a background! Yes, the murderer came in that way. Her figure would be plain to any one outside, and if she moved and the diamond shone--Don't you see what a probable theory it is? There must be ways by which a desperate man might reach that balcony. I believe--"

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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