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0105_001E The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

VI Suspense

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Then the stiletto (a photographic reproduction of which was in all the papers) was that the kind of instrument which a plain New York gentleman would be likely to use In a crime of this nature? It was a marked and unique article, capable, as one would think, of being easily traced to its owner. Had it been claimed by Mr. Ramsdell, had it been recognized as one of the many works of art scattered about the highly-decorated alcove, its employment as a means of death would have gone only to prove the possibly unpremeditated nature of the crime, and so been valueless as the basis of an argument in favor of Mr. Durand's innocence. But Mr. Ramsdell had disclaimed from the first all knowledge of it, consequently one could but feel justified in asking whether a man of Mr. Durand's judgment would choose such an extraordinary weapon in meditating so startling a crime which from its nature and circumstance could not fail to attract the attention of the whole civilized world.

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Another argument, advanced by himself and subscribed to by all his friends, was this: That a dealer in precious stones would be the last man to seek by any unlawful means to possess so conspicuous a jewel. For he, better than any one else, would know the impossibility of disposing of a gem of this distinction in any market short of the Orient. To which the unanswerable reply was made that no one attributed to him any such folly; that if he had planned to possess himself of this great diamond, it was for the purpose of eliminating it from competition with the one he had procured for Mr. Smythe; an argument, certainly, which drove us back on the only plea we had at our command -- his hitherto unblemished reputation and the confidence which was felt In him by those who knew him.

But the one circumstance which affected me most at the time, and which undoubtedly was the source of the greatest confusion to all minds, whether official or otherwise, was the unexpected confirmation by experts of Mr. Grey's opinion in regard to the diamond. His name was not used, indeed it had been kept out of the papers with the greatest unanimity, but the hint he had given the inspector at Mr. Ramsdell's ball had been acted upon and, the proper tests having been made, the stone, for which so many believed a life to have been risked and another taken, was declared to be an imitation, fine and successful beyond all parallel, but still an imitation, of the great and renowned gem which had passed through Tiffany's hands a twelve-month before: a decision which fell like a thunderbolt on all such as had seen the diamond blazing in unapproachable brilliancy on the breast of the unhappy Mrs. Fairbrother only an hour or two before her death.

On me the effect was such that for days I lived in a dream, a condition that, nevertheless, did not prevent me from starting a certain little inquiry of my own, of which more hereafter.

Here let me say that I did not share the general confusion on this topic. I had my own theory, both as to the cause of this substitution and the moment when it was made. But the time had not yet come for me to advance it. I could only stand back and listen to the suppositions aired by the press, suppositions which fomented so much private discussion that ere long the one question most frequently heard in this connection was not who struck the blow which killed Mrs. Fairbrother (this was a question which some seemed to think settled), but whose juggling hand had palmed off the paste for the diamond, and how and when and where had the jugglery taken place?

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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