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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XII Almost

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"This is your patient. Your new nurse, my dear. What did you say your name is? Miss Ayers?"

"Yes, Mr. Grey, Alice Ayers."

"Oh, what a sweet name!"

This expressive greeting, from the patient herself, was the first heart-sting I received,--a sting which brought a flush into my cheek which I would fain have kept down.

"Since a change of nurses was necessary, I am glad they sent me one like you," the feeble, but musical voice went on, and I saw a wasted but eager hand stretched out.

In a whirl of strong feeling I advanced to take it. I had not counted on such a reception. I had not expected any bond of congeniality to spring up between this high-feeling English girl and myself to make my purpose hateful to me. Yet, as I stood there looking down at her bright if wasted face, I felt that it would be very easy to love so gentle and cordial a being, and dreaded raising my eyes to the gentleman at my side lest I should see something in him to hamper me, and make this attempt, which I had undertaken in such loyalty of spirit, a misery to myself and ineffectual to the man I had hoped to save by it. When I did look up and catch the first beams of Mr. Grey's keen blue eyes fixed inquiringly on me, I neither knew what to think nor how to act. He was tall and firmly knit, and had an intellectual aspect altogether. I was conscious of regarding him with a decided feeling of awe, and found myself forgetting why I had come there, and what my suspicions were,--suspicions which had carried hope with them, hope for myself and hope for my lover, who would never escape the opprobrium, even if he did the punishment, of this great crime, were this, the only other person who could possibly be associated with it, found to be the fine, clear-souled man he appeared to be in this my first interview with him.

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Perceiving very soon that his apprehensions in my regard were limited to a fear lest I should not feel at ease in my new home under the restraint of a presence more accustomed to intimidate than attract strangers, I threw aside all doubts of myself and met the advances of both father and daughter with that quiet confidence which my position there demanded.

The result both gratified and grieved me. As a nurse entering on her first case I was happy; as a woman with an ulterior object in view verging on the audacious and unspeakable, I was wretched and regretful and just a little shaken in the conviction which had hitherto upheld me.

I was therefore but poorly prepared to meet the ordeal which awaited me, when, a little later in the day, Mr. Grey called me into the adjoining room, and, after saying that it would afford him great relief to go out for an hour or so, asked if I were afraid to be left alone with my patient.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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