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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XIII The Missing Recommendation

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"How is Miss Grey? How is my daughter?" he asked in great haste and uneasiness. "Is she better this morning, or--worse?"

"Better," I assured him, and was greatly astonished to see his brow instantly clear.

"Really?" he asked. "You really consider her better? The doctors say so' but I have not very much faith in doctors in a case like this," he added.

"I have seen no reason to distrust them," I protested. "Miss Grey's illness, while severe, does not appear to be of an alarming nature. But then I have had very little experience out of the hospital. I am young yet, Mr. Grey."

He looked as if he quite agreed with me in this estimate of myself, and, with a brow still clouded, passed into his daughter's room, the paper in his hand. Before I joined them I found and scanned another journal. Expecting great things, I was both surprised and disappointed to find only a small paragraph devoted to the Fairbrother case. In this it was stated that the authorities hoped for new light on this mystery as soon as they had located a certain witness, whose connection with the crime they had just discovered. No more, no less than was contained in Inspector Dalzell's letter. How could I bear it,--the suspense, the doubt,--and do my duty to my patient! Happily, I had no choice. I had been adjudged equal to this business and I must prove myself to be so. Perhaps my courage would revive after I had had my breakfast; perhaps then I should be able to fix upon the identity of the new witness,--something which I found myself incapable of at this moment.

These thoughts were on my mind as I crossed the rooms on my way back to Miss Grey's bedside. By the time I reached her door I was outwardly calm, as her first words showed:

"Oh, the cheerful smile! It makes me feel better in spite of myself."

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If she could have seen into my heart!

Mr. Grey, who was leaning over the foot of the bed, cast me a quick glance which was not without its suspicion. Had he detected me playing a part, or were such doubts as he displayed the product simply of his own uneasiness? I was not able to decide, and, with this unanswered question added to the number already troubling me, I was forced to face the day which, for aught I knew, might be the precursor of many others equally trying and unsatisfactory.

But help was near. Before noon I received a message from my uncle to the effect that if I could be spared he would be glad to see me at his home as near three o'clock as possible. What could he want of me? I could not guess, and it was with great inner perturbation that, having won Mr. Grey's permission, I responded to his summons.

I found my uncle awaiting me in a carriage before his own door, and I took my seat at his side without the least idea of his purpose. I supposed that he had planned this ride that he might talk to me unreservedly and without fear of interruption. But I soon saw that he had some very different object in view, for not only did he start down town instead of up, but his conversation, such as it was, confined itself to generalities and studiously avoided the one topic of supreme interest to us both.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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