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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

VII Night And A Voice

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He smiled, but not encouragingly, and I was feeling very despondent, indeed, when the canvas on which our eyes were fixed suddenly shook and the calm figure of a woman stepped out before us, clad in the simplest garb, but showing in every line of face and form a character of mingled kindness and shrewdness. She was evidently on the lookout for the doctor, for she made a sign as she saw him and returned instantly into the tent.

"Mr. Fairbrother has just fallen asleep," he explained. "It isn't discipline and I shall have to apologize to Miss Serra, but if you will promise not to speak nor make the least disturbance I will let you take the one peep you prefer to supper."

"I promise," said I.

Leading the way to the opening, he whispered a word to the nurse, then motioned me to look in. The sight was a simple one, but to me very impressive. The owner of palaces, a man to whom millions were as thousands to such poor devils as myself, lay on an improvised bed of evergreens, wrapped in a horse blanket and with nothing better than another of these rolled up under his head. At his side sat his nurse on what looked like the uneven stump of a tree. Close to her hand was a tolerably flat stone, on which I saw arranged a number of bottles and such other comforts as were absolutely necessary to a proper care of the sufferer.

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That was all. In these few words I have told the whole story. To be sure, this simple tent, perched seven thousand feet and more above sea-level, had one advantage which even his great house in New York could not offer This was the out look. Lying as he did facing the valley, he had only to open his eyes to catch a full view of the panorama of sky and mountain stretched out before him. It was glorious; whether seen at morning, noon or night, glorious. But I doubt if he would not gladly have exchanged it for a sight of his home walls.

As I started to go, a stir took place in the blanket wrapped about his chin, and I caught a glimpse of the iron-gray head and hollow cheeks of the great financier. He was a very sick man. Even I could see that. Had I obtained the permission I sought and been allowed to ask him one of the many questions burning on my tongue, I should have received only delirium for reply. There was no reaching that clouded intelligence now, and I felt grateful to the doctor for convincing me of it.

I told him so and thanked him quite warmly when we were well away from the tent, and his answer was almost kindly, though he made no effort to hide his impatience and anxiety to see me go. The looks he cast at the sun were significant, and, having no wish to antagonize him and every wish to visit the spot again, I moved toward my horse with the intention of untying him.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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