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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

I The Woman With The Diamond

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Astonished, for there was something very uneasy in his manner so that I half expected to see him rise and join the group he was so eagerly watching without waiting for my lips to frame a response, I quickly replied:

"It would be difficult not to notice what one would naturally expect to see only on the breast of a queen. But perhaps she is a queen. I should judge so from the homage which follows her."

His eyes sought mine. There was inquiry in them, but it was an inquiry I did not understand.

"What can you know about diamonds?" he presently demanded. "Nothing but their glitter, and glitter is not all,--the gem she wears may be a very tawdry one."

I flushed with humiliation. He was a dealer in gems--that was his business--and the check which he had put upon my enthusiasm certainly made me conscious of my own presumption. Yet I was not disposed to take back my words. I had had a better opportunity than himself for seeing this remarkable jewel, and, with the perversity of a somewhat ruffled mood, I burst forth, as soon as the color had subsided from my cheeks:

"No, no! It is glorious, magnificent. I never saw its like. I doubt if you ever have, for all your daily acquaintance with jewels. Its value must be enormous. Who is she? You seem to know her."

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It was a direct question, but I received no reply. Mr. Durand's eyes had followed the lady, who had lingered somewhat ostentatiously on the top step and they did not return to me till she had vanished with her companions behind the long plush curtain which partly veiled the entrance. By this time he had forgotten my words, if he had ever heard them and it was with the forced animation of one whose thoughts are elsewhere that he finally returned to the old plea:

When would I marry him? If he could offer me a home in a month-- and he would know by to-morrow if he could do so--would I come to him then? He would not say in a week; that was perhaps to soon; but in a month? Would I not promise to be his in a month?

What I answered I scarcely recall. His eyes had stolen back to the alcove and mine had followed them. The gentlemen who had accompanied the lady inside were coming out again, but others were advancing to take their places, and soon she was engaged in holding a regular court in this favored retreat.

Why should this interest me? Why should I notice her or look that way at all? Because Mr. Durand did? Possibly. I remember that for all his ardent love-making, I felt a little piqued that he should divide his attentions in this way. Perhaps I thought that for this evening, at least, he might have been blind to a mere coquette's fascinations.

I was thus doubly engaged in listening to my lover's words and in watching the various gentlemen who went up and down the steps, when a former partner advanced and reminded me that I had promised him a waltz. Loath to leave Mr. Durand, yet seeing no way of excusing myself to Mr. Fox, I cast an appealing glance at the former and was greatly chagrined to find him already on his feet.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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