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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

V Superstition

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The two columns of gossip devoted to the family differences which had led to the separation of Mr. and Mrs. Fairbrother, I shall compress into a few lines. They had been married three years before in the city of Baltimore. He was a rich man then, but not the multimillionaire he is to-day. Plain-featured and without manner, lie was no mate for this sparkling coquette, whose charm was of the kind which grows with exercise. Though no actual scandal was ever associated with her name, he grew tired of her caprices, and the conquests which she made no endeavor to hide either from him or from the world at large; and at some time during the previous year they had come to a friendly understanding which led to their living apart, each in grand style and with a certain deference to the proprieties which retained them their friends and an enviable place in society. He was not often invited where she was, and she never appeared in any assemblage where he was expected; but with this exception, little feeling was shown; matters progressed smoothly, and to their credit, let it be said, no one ever heard either of them speak otherwise than considerately of the other. He was at present out or town, having started some three weeks before for the southwest, but would probably return on receipt of the telegram which had been sent him.

The comments made on the murder were necessarily hurried. It was called a mystery, but it was evident enough that Mr. Durand's detention was looked on as the almost certain prelude to his arrest on the charge of murder.

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I had had some discipline in life. Although a favorite of my wealthy uncle, I had given up very early the prospects he held out to me of a continued enjoyment of his bounty, and entered on duties which required self-denial and hard work. I did this because I enjoy having both my mind and heart occupied. To be necessary to some one, as a nurse is to a patient, seemed to me an enviable fate till I came under the influence of Anson Durand. Then the craving of all women for the common lot of their sex became my craving also; a craving, however, to which I failed at first to yield, for I felt that it was unshared, and thus a token of weakness. Fighting my battle, I succeeded in winning it, as I thought, just as the nurse's diploma was put in my hands. Then came the great surprise of my life. Anson Durand expressed his love for me and I awoke to the fact that all my preparation had been for home joys and a woman's true existence. One hour of ecstasy in the light of this new hope, then tragedy and something approaching chaos! Truly I had been through a schooling. But was it one to make me useful in the only way I could be useful now? I did not know; I did not care; I was determined on my course, fit or unfit, and, in the relief brought by this appeal to my energy, I rose and dressed and went about the duties of the day.

One of these was to determine whether Mr. Grey, on his return to his hotel, had found his daughter as ill as his fears had foreboded. A telephone message or two satisfied me on this point. Miss Grey was very ill, but not considered dangerously so; indeed, if anything, her condition was improved, and if nothing happened in the way of fresh complications, the prospects were that she would be out in a fortnight.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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