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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

IX The Mouse Nibbles At The Net

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I stopped with a gasp, hardly able to meet the stern and forbidding look with which the inspector sought to restrain what he evidently considered the senseless ravings of a child. But I had come there to speak, and I hastily proceeded before the rebuke thus expressed could formulate itself into words.

"I have some excuse for a declaration so monstrous. Perhaps I am the only person who can satisfy you in regard to a certain fact about which you have expressed some curiosity. Inspector, have you ever solved the mystery of the two broken coffee-cups found amongst the debris at Mrs. Fairbrother's feet? It did not come out in the inquest, I noticed."

"Not yet," he cried, "but--you can not tell me anything about them!"

"Possibly not. But I can tell you this: When I reached the supper-room door that evening I looked back and, providentially or otherwise--only the future can determine that--detected Mr. Grey in the act of lifting two cups from a tray left by some waiter on a table standing just outside the reception-room door. I did not see where he carried them; I only saw his face turned toward the alcove; and as there was no other lady there, or anywhere near there, I have dared to think--"

Here the inspector found speech.

"You saw Mr. Grey lift two cups and turn toward the alcove at a moment we all know to have been critical? You should have told me this before. He may be a possible witness."

I scarcely listened. I was too full of my own argument.

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"There were other people in the hall, especially at my end of it. A perfect throng was coming from the billiard-room, where the dancing had been, and it might easily be that he could both enter and leave that secluded spot without attracting attention. He had shown too early and much too unmistakably his lack of interest in the general company for his every movement to be watched as at his first arrival. But this is simple conjecture; what I have to say next is evidence. The stiletto--have you studied it, sir? I have, from the pictures. It is very quaint; and among the devices on the handle is one that especially attracted my attention. See! This is what I mean." And I handed him a drawing which I had made with some care in expectation of this very interview.

He surveyed it with some astonishment.

"I understand," I pursued in trembling tones, for I was much affected by my own daring, "that no one has so far succeeded in tracing this weapon to its owner. Why didn't your experts study heraldry and the devices of great houses? They would have found that this one is not unknown in England. I can tell you on whose blazon it can often be seen, and so could-- Mr. Grey."

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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