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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XIII The Missing Recommendation

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My patient slept that night, but I did not. The shock given by this sudden cry of Halt! at the very moment I was about to make my great move, the uncertainty as to what it meant and my doubt of its effect upon Mr. Durand's position, put me on the anxious seat and kept my thoughts fully occupied till morning.

I was very tired and must have shown it, when, with the first rays of a very meager sun, Miss Grey softly unclosed her eyes and found me looking at her, for her smile had a sweet compassion in it, and she said as she pressed my hand:

"You must have watched me all night. I never saw any one look so tired,--or so good," she softly finished.

I had rather she had not uttered that last phrase. It did not fit me at the moment,--did not fit me, perhaps, at any time. Good! I! when my thoughts had not been with her, but with Mr. Durand; when the dominating feeling in my breast was not that of relief, but a vague regret that I had not been allowed to make my great test and so establish, to my own satisfaction, at least, the perfect innocence of my lover even at the cost of untold anguish to this confiding girl upon whose gentle spirit the very thought of crime would cast a deadly blight.

I must have flushed; certainly I showed some embarrassment, for her eyes brightened with shy laughter as she whispered:

We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read them all!

"You do not like to be praised,--another of your virtues. You have too many. I have only one--I love my friends."

She did. One could see that love was life to her.

For an instant I trembled. How near I had been to wrecking this gentle soul! Was she safe yet? I was not sure. My own doubts were not satisfied. I awaited the papers with feverish impatience. They should contain news. News of what? Ah, that was the question!

"You will let me see my mail this morning, will you not?" she asked, as I busied myself about her.

"That is for the doctor to say," I smiled. "You are certainly better this morning."

"It is so hard for me not to be able to read his letters, or to write a word to relieve his anxiety."

Thus she told me her heart's secret, and unconsciously added another burden to my already too heavy load.

I was on my way to give some orders about my patient's breakfast, when Mr. Grey came into the sitting-room and met me face to face. He had a newspaper in his hand and my heart stood still as I noted his altered looks and disturbed manner. Were these due to anything he had found in those columns? It was with difficulty that I kept my eyes from the paper which he held in such a manner as to disclose its glaring head-lines. These I dared not read with his eyes fixed on mine.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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