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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

II The Gloves

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The time had now come to take a stand and I informed my uncle, to his evident chagrin, that I should not leave as long as any excuse could be found for staying.

He said nothing at the time, but as the noise of departing carriages gradually lessened and the great hall and drawing-rooms began to wear a look of desertion he at last ventured on this gentle protest:

"You have more pluck, Rita, than I supposed. Do you think it wise to stay on here? Will not people imagine that you have been requested to do so? Look at those waiters hanging about in the different doorways. Run up and put on your wraps. Mr. Durand will come to the house fast enough as soon as he is released. I give you leave to sit up for him if you will; only let us leave this place before that impertinent little man dares to come around again," he artfully added.

But I stood firm, though somewhat moved by his final suggestion; and, being a small tyrant in my way, at least with him, I carried my point.

Suddenly my anxiety became poignant. A party of men, among whom I saw Mr. Durand, appeared at the end of the hall, led by a very small but self-important personage whom my uncle immediately pointed out as the detective who had twice come to the door near which I stood. As this man looked up and saw me still there, a look of relief crossed his face, and, after a word or two with another stranger of seeming authority, he detached himself from the group he had ushered upon the scene, and, approaching me respectfully enough, said with a deprecatory glance at my uncle whose frown he doubtless understood:

"Miss Van Arsdale, I believe?"

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I nodded, too choked to speak.

"I am sorry, Madam, if you were expecting to go. Inspector Dalzell has arrived and would like to speak to you. Will you step into one of these rooms? Not the library, but any other. He will come to you as quickly as he can."

I tried to carry it off bravely and as if I saw nothing in this summons which was unique or alarming. But I succeeded only in dividing a wavering glance between him and the group of men of which he had just formed a part. In the latter were several gentlemen whom I had noted in Mrs. Fairbrother's train early in the evening and a few strangers, two of whom were officials. Mr. Durand was with the former, and his expression did not encourage me.

"The affair is very serious," commented the detective on leaving me. "That's our excuse for any trouble we may be putting you to." I clutched my uncle's arm.

"Where shall we go?" I asked. "The drawing-room is too large. In this hall my eyes are for ever traveling in the direction of the alcove. Don't you know some little room? Oh, what, what can he want of me?"

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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