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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

IV Explanations

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"It certainly had a bad look,--that I don't deny; but I did not think of appearances then. I was too anxious to complete a task which had suddenly presented unexpected difficulties. That I listened before entering was very natural, and when I heard no voice, only something like a great sigh, I ventured to lift the curtain and step in. She was sitting, not where I had left her, but on a couch at the left of the usual entrance, her face toward me, and--you know how, Inspector. It was her last sigh I had heard. Horrified, for I had never looked on death before, much less crime, I reeled forward, meaning, I presume, to rush down the steps shouting for help, when, suddenly, something fell splashing on my shirt-front, and I saw myself marked with a stain of blood. This both frightened and bewildered me, and it was a minute or two before I had the courage to look up. When I did do so, I saw whence this drop had come. Not from her, though the red stream was pouring down the rich folds of her dress, but from a sharp needle-like instrument which had been thrust, point downward, in the open work of an antique lantern hanging near the doorway. What had happened to me might have happened to any one who chanced to be in that spot at that special moment, but I did not realize this then. Covering the splash with my hands, I edged myself back to the door by which I had entered, watching those deathful eyes and crushing under my feet the remnants of some broken china with which the carpet was bestrewn. I had no thought of her, hardly any of myself. To cross the room was all; to escape as secretly as I came, before the portiere so nearly drawn between me and the main hall should stir under the hand of some curious person entering. It was my first sight of blood; my first contact with crime, and that was what I did, --I fled."

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The last word was uttered with a gasp. Evidently he was greatly affected by this horrible experience.

"I am ashamed of myself," he muttered, "but nothing can now undo the fact. I slid from the presence of this murdered woman as though she had been the victim of my own rage or cupidity; and, being fortunate enough to reach the dressing-room before the alarm had spread beyond the immediate vicinity of the alcove, found and put on the handkerchief, which made it possible for me to rush down and find Miss Van Arsdale, who, somebody told me, had fainted. Not till I stood over her in that remote corner beyond the supper-room did I again think of the gloves. What I did when I happened to think of them, you already know. I could have shown no greater cowardice if I had known that the murdered woman's diamond was hidden inside them. Yet, I did not know this, or even suspect it. Nor do I understand, now, her reason for placing it there. Why should Mrs. Fairbrother risk such an invaluable gem to the custody of one she knew so little? An unconscious custody, too? Was she afraid of being murdered if she retained this jewel?"

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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