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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

I The Woman With The Diamond

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Why had he brought me here, into this fairyland of opalescent lights and intoxicating perfumes? What could he have to say--to show? Ah in another moment I knew. He had seized my hands, and love, ardent love, came pouring from his lips.

Could it be real? Was I the object of all this feeling, I? If so, then life had changed for me indeed.

Silent from rush of emotion, I searched his face to see if this Paradise, whose gates I was thus passionately bidden to enter, was indeed a verity or only a dream born of the excitement of the dance and the charm of a scene exceptional in its splendor and picturesqueness even for so luxurious a city as New York.

But it was no mere dream. Truth and earnestness were in his manner, and his words were neither feverish nor forced.

"I love you I! I need you!" So I heard, and so he soon made me believe. "You have charmed me from the first. Your tantalizing, trusting, loyal self, like no other, sweeter than any other, has drawn the heart from my breast. I have seen many women, admired many women, but you only have I loved. Will you be my wife?"

I was dazzled; moved beyond anything I could have conceived. I forgot all that I had hitherto said to myself--all that I had endeavored to impress upon my heart when I beheld him approaching, intent, as I believed, in his search for another woman; and, confiding in his honesty, trusting entirely to his faith, I allowed the plans and purposes of years to vanish in the glamour of this new joy, and spoke the word which linked us together in a bond which half an hour before I had never dreamed would unite me to any man.

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His impassioned "Mine! mine!" filled my cup to overflowing. Something of the ecstasy of living entered my soul; which, in spite of all I have suffered since, recreated the world for me and made all that went before but the prelude to the new life, the new joy.

Oh, I was happy, happy, perhaps too happy! As the conservatory filled and we passed back into the adjoining room, the glimpse I caught of myself in one of the mirrors startled me into thinking so. For had it not been for the odd color of my dress and the unique way in which I wore my hair that night, I should not have recognized the beaming girl who faced me so naively from the depths of the responsive glass.

Can one be too happy? I do not know. I know that one can be too perplexed, too burdened and too sad.

Thus far I have spoken only of myself in connection with the evening's elaborate function. But though entitled by my old Dutch blood to a certain social consideration which I am happy to say never failed me, I, even in this hour of supreme satisfaction, attracted very little attention and awoke small comment. There was another woman present better calculated to do this. A fair woman, large and of a bountiful presence, accustomed to conquest, and gifted with the power of carrying off her victories with a certain lazy grace irresistibly fascinating to the ordinary man; a gorgeously appareled woman, with a diamond on her breast too vivid for most women, almost too vivid for her. I noticed this diamond early in the evening, and then I noticed her. She was not as fine as the diamond, but she was very fine, and, had I been in a less ecstatic frame of mind, I might have envied the homage she received from all the men, not excepting him upon whose arm I leaned. Later, there was no one in the world I envied less.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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