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0100_005E The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XII Almost

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"O no, sir--" I began, but stopped in secret dismay. I was afraid, but not on account of her condition; rather on account of my own. What if I should be led into betraying my feelings on finding myself under no other eye than her own! What if the temptation to probe her poor sick mind should prove stronger than my duty toward her as a nurse!

My tones were hesitating but Mr. Grey paid little heed; his mind was too fixed on what he wished to say himself.

"Before I go," said he, "I have a request to make--I may as well say a caution to give you. Do not, I pray, either now or at any future time, carry or allow any one else to carry newspapers into Miss Grey's room. They are just now too alarming. There has been, as you know, a dreadful murder in this city. If she caught one glimpse of the headlines, or saw so much as the name of Fairbrother--which--which is a name she knows, the result might be very hurtful to her. She is not only extremely sensitive from illness but from temperament. Will you be careful?"

"I shall be careful."

It was such an effort for me to say these words, to say anything in the state of mind into which I had been thrown by his unexpected allusion to this subject, that I unfortunately drew his attention to myself and it was with what I felt to be a glance of doubt that he added with decided emphasis:

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"You must consider this whole subject as a forbidden one in this family. Only cheerful topics are suitable for the sick-room. If Miss Grey attempts to introduce any other, stop her. Do not let her talk about anything which will not be conducive to her speedy recovery. These are the only instructions I have to give you; all others must come from her physician."

I made some reply with as little show of emotion as possible. It seemed to satisfy him, for his face cleared as he kindly observed:

"You have a very trustworthy look for one so young. I shall rest easy while you are with her, and I shall expect you to be always with her when I am not. Every moment, mind. She is never to be left alone with gossiping servants. If a word is mentioned in her hearing about this crime which seems to be in everybody's mouth, I shall feel forced, greatly as I should regret the fad, to blame you."

This was a heart-stroke, but I kept up bravely, changing color perhaps, but not to such a marked degree as to arouse any deeper suspicion in his mind than that I had been wounded in my amour propre.

"She shall be well guarded," said I. "You may trust me to keep from her all avoidable knowledge of this crime."

He bowed and I was about to leave his presence, when he detained me by remarking with the air of one who felt that some explanation was necessary:

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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