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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

VII Night And A Voice

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"You have made this journey--I believe you said from New York--to see Mr. Fairbrother. Why?"

"Because Mr. Fairbrother is at present the most sought-for man in America," I returned boldly. "His wife--you know about his wife-- "

"No. How should I know about his wife? I know what his temperature is and what his respiration is--but his wife? What about his wife? He don't know anything about her now himself; he is not allowed to read letters."

"But you read the papers. You must have known, before you left Santa Fe, of Mrs. Fairbrother's foul and most mysterious murder in New York. It has been the theme of two continents for the last ten days."

He shrugged his shoulders, which might mean anything, and confined his reply to a repetition of my own words.

"Mrs. Fairbrother murdered!" he exclaimed, but in a suppressed voice, to which point was given by the cautious look he cast behind him at the tent which had drawn my attention. "He must not know it, man. I could not answer for his life if he received the least shock in his present critical condition. Murdered? When?"

"Ten days ago, at a ball in New York. It was after Mr. Fairbrother left the city. He was expected to return, after hearing the news, but he seems to have kept straight on to his destination. He was not very fond of his wife,--that is, they have not been living together for the last year. But he could not help feeling the shock of her death which he must have heard of somewhere along the route."

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"He has said nothing in his delirium to show that he knew it. It is possible, just possible, that he didn't read the papers. He could not have been well for days before he reached Santa Fe."

"When were you called in to attend him?"

"The very night after he reached this place. It was thought he wouldn't live to reach the camp. But he is a man of great pluck. He held up till his foot touched this platform. Then he succumbed."

"If he was as sick as that," I muttered, "why did he leave Santa Fe? He must have known what it would mean to be sick here."

"I don't think he did. This is his first visit to the mine. He evidently knew nothing of the difficulties of the road. But he would not stop. He was determined to reach the camp, even after he had been given a sight of it from the opposite mountain. He told them that he had once crossed the Sierras in midwinter. But he wasn't a sick man then."

"Doctor, they don't know who killed his wife."

"He didn't."

"I know, but under such circumstances every fact bearing on the event is of immense importance. There is one which Mr. Fairbrother only can make clear. It can be said in a word--"

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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