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0100_005E The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

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As he stopped, possibly for breath, possibly to judge to what extent I was impressed by his account, the inspector seized the opportunity to ask if Mrs. Fairbrother had been standing any of this time with her back to him. To which he answered yes, while they were in the window.

"Long enough for her to pluck off the jewel and thrust it into the gloves, if she had so wished?"

"Quite long enough."

"But you did not see her do this?"

"I did not."

"And so took the gloves without suspicion?"

"Entirely so."

"And carried them away?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Without thinking that she might want them the next minute?"

"I doubt if I was thinking seriously of her at all. My thoughts were on my own disappointment."

"Did you carry these gloves out in your hand?"

"No, in my pocket."

"I see. And you met--"

"No one. The sound I heard must have come from the rear hall."

"And there was nobody on the steps?"

"No. A gentleman was standing at their foot--Mr. Grey, the Englishman--but his face was turned another way, and he looked as if he had been in that same position for several minutes."

"Did this gentleman--Mr. Grey--see you?"

"I can not say, but I doubt it. He appeared to be in a sort of dream. There were other people about, but nobody with whom I was acquainted."

"Very good. Now for the second visit you acknowledge having paid this unfortunate lady."

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The inspector's voice was hard. I clung a little more tightly to my uncle, and Mr. Durand, after one agonizing glance my way, drew himself up as if quite conscious that he had entered upon the most serious part of the struggle.

"I had forgotten the gloves in my hurried departure; but presently I remembered them, and grew very uneasy. I did not like carrying this woman's property about with me. I had engaged myself, an hour before, to Miss Van Arsdale, and was very anxious to rejoin her. The gloves worried me, and finally, after a little aimless wandering through the various rooms, I determined to go back and restore them to their owner. The doors of the supper-room had just been flung open, and the end of the hall near the alcove was comparatively empty, save for a certain quizzical friend of mine, whom I saw sitting with his partner on the yellow divan. I did not want to encounter him just then, for he had already joked me about my admiration for the lady with the diamond, and so I conceived the idea of approaching her by means of a second entrance to the alcove, unsuspected by most of those present, but perfectly well-known to me, who have been a frequent guest in this house. A door, covered by temporary draperies, connects, as you may know, this alcove with a passageway communicating directly with the hall of entrance and the up-stairs dressing-rooms. To go up the main stairs and come down by the side one, and so on, through a small archway, was a very simple matter for me. If no early-departing or late arriving guests were in that hall, I need fear but one encounter, and that was with the servant stationed at the carriage entrance. But even he was absent at this propitious instant, and I reached the door I sought without any unpleasantness. This door opened out instead of in,--this I also knew when planning this surreptitious intrusion, but, after pulling it open and reaching for the curtain, which hung completely across it, I found it not so easy to proceed as I had imagined. The stealthiness of my action held back my hand; then the faint sounds I heard within advised me that she was not alone, and that she might very readily regard with displeasure my unexpected entrance by a door of which she was possibly ignorant. I tell you all this because, if by any chance I was seen hesitating in face of that curtain, doubts might have been raised which I am anxious to dispel." Here his eyes left my face for that of the inspector.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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