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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

II The Gloves

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"Nothing serious, nothing important," blustered my good uncle. "Some triviality such as you can answer in a moment. A little room? Yes, I know one, there, under the stairs. Come, I will find the door for you. Why did we ever come to this wretched ball?"

I had no answer for this. Why, indeed!

My uncle, who is a very patient man, guided me to the place he had picked out, without adding a word to the ejaculation in which he had just allowed his impatience to expend itself. But once seated within, and out of the range of peering eyes and listening ears, he allowed a sigh to escape him which expressed the fullness of his agitation.

"My dear," he began, and stopped. "I feel--" here he again came to a pause--"that you should know--"

"What?" I managed to ask.

"That I do not like Mr. Durand and--that others do not like him."

"Is it because of something you knew about him before to-night?"

He made no answer.

"Or because he was seen, like many other gentlemen, talking with that woman some time before--a long time before--she was attacked for her diamond and murdered?"

"Pardon me, my dear, he was the last one seen talking to her. Some one may yet be found who went in after he came out, but as yet he is considered the last. Mr. Ramsdell himself told me so."

"It makes no difference," I exclaimed, in all the heat of my long-suppressed agitation. "I am willing to stake my life on his integrity and honor. No man could talk to me as he did early this evening with any vile intentions at heart. He was interested, no doubt, like many others, in one who had the name of being a captivating woman, but--"

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I paused in sudden alarm. A look had crossed my uncle's face which assured me that we were no longer alone. Who could have entered so silently? In some trepidation I turned to see. A gentleman was standing in the doorway, who smiled as I met his eye.

"Is this Miss Van Arsdale?" he asked.

Instantly my courage, which had threatened to leave me, returned and I smiled.

"I am," said I. "Are you the inspector?"

"Inspector Dalzell," he explained with a bow, which included my uncle.

Then he closed the door.

"I hope I have not frightened you," he went on, approaching me with a gentlemanly air. "A little matter has come up concerning which I mean to be perfectly frank with you. It may prove to be of trivial importance; if so, you will pardon my disturbing you. Mr. Durand--you know him?"

"I am engaged to him," I declared before poor uncle could raise his hand.

"You are engaged to him. Well, that makes it difficult, and yet, in some respects, easier for me to ask a certain question."

It must have made it more difficult than easy, for he did not proceed to put this question immediately, but went on:

"You know that Mr. Durand visited Mrs. Fairbrother in the alcove a little while before her death?"

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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