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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

I The Woman With The Diamond

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"Enjoy your dance," he cried; "I have a word to say to Mrs. Fairbrother," and was gone before my new partner had taken me on his arm.

Was Mrs. Fairbrother the lady with the diamond? Yes; as I turned to enter the parlor with my partner, I caught a glimpse of Mr. Durand's tall figure just disappearing from the step behind the sage-green curtains.

"Who is Mrs. Fairbrother?" I inquired of Mr. Fox at the end of the dance.

Mr. Fox, who is one of society's perennial beaux, knows everybody.

"She is--well, she was Abner Fairbrother's wife. You know Fairbrother, the millionaire who built that curious structure on Eighty-sixth Street. At present they are living apart--an amicable understanding, I believe. Her diamond makes her conspicuous. It is one of the most remarkable stones in New York, perhaps in the United States. Have you observed it?"

"Yes--that is, at a distance. Do you think her very handsome?"

"Mrs. Fairbrother? She's called so, but she's not my style." Here he gave me a killing glance. "I admire women of mind and heart. They do not need to wear jewels worth an ordinary man's fortune."

I looked about for an excuse to leave this none too desirable partner.

"Let us go back into the long hall," I urged. "The ceaseless whirl of these dancers is making me dizzy."

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With the ease of a gallant man he took me on his arm and soon we were promenading again in the direction of the alcove. A passing glimpse of its interior was afforded me as we turned to retrace our steps in front of the yellow divan. The lady with the diamond was still there. A fold of the superb pink velvet she wore protruded across the gap made by the half-drawn curtains, just as it had done a half-hour before. But it was impossible to see her face or who was with her. What I could see, however, and did, was the figure of a man leaning against the wall at the foot of the steps. At first I thought this person unknown to me, then I perceived that he was no other than the chief guest of the evening, the Englishman of whom I have previously spoken.

His expression had altered. He looked now both anxious and absorbed, particularly anxious and particularly absorbed; so much so that I was not surprised that no one ventured to approach him. Again I wondered and again I asked myself for whom or for what he was waiting. For Mr. Durand to leave this lady's presence? No, no, I would not believe that. Mr. Durand could not be there still; yet some women make it difficult for a man to leave them and, realizing this, I could not forbear casting a parting glance behind me as, yielding to Mr. Fox's importunities, I turned toward the supper-room. It showed me the Englishman in the act of lifting two cups of coffee from a small table standing near the reception-room door. As his manner plainly betokened whither he was bound with this refreshment, I felt all my uneasiness vanish, and was able to take my seat at one of the small tables with which the supper-room was filled, and for a few minutes, at least, lend an ear to Mr. Fox's vapid compliments and trite opinions. Then my attention wandered.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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