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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XII Almost

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My duties kept me mainly at Miss Grey's bedside, but I had been provided with a little room across the hall, and to this room I retired very soon after this, for rest and a necessary understanding with myself.

For, in spite of this experience and my now settled convictions, my purpose required whetting. The indescribable charm, the extreme refinement and nobility of manner observable in both Mr. Grey and his daughter were producing their effect. I felt guilty; constrained. whatever my convictions, the impetus to act was leaving me. How could I recover it? By thinking of Anson Durand and his present disgraceful position.

Anson Durand! Oh, how the feeling surged up in my breast as that name slipped from my lips on crossing the threshold of my little room! Anson Durand, whom I believed innocent, whom I loved, but whom I was betraying with every moment of hesitation in which I allowed myself to indulge! what if the Honorable Mr. Grey is an eminent statesman, a dignified, scholarly, and to all appearance, high-minded man? what if my patient is sweet, dove-eyed and affectionate? Had not Anson qualities as excellent in their way, rights as certain, and a hold upon myself superior to any claims which another might advance? Drawing a much-crumpled little note from my pocket, I eagerly read it. It was the only one I had of his writing, the only letter he had ever written me. I had already re-read it a hundred times, but as I once more repeated to myself its well-known lines, I felt my heart grow strong and fixed in the determination which had brought me into this family.

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Restoring the letter to its place, I opened my gripsack and from its inmost recesses drew forth an object which I had no sooner in hand than a natural sense of disquietude led me to glance apprehensively, first at the door, then at the window, though I had locked the one and shaded the other. It seemed as if some other eye besides my own must be gazing at what I held so gingerly in hand; that the walls were watching me, if nothing else, and the sensation this produced was so exactly like that of guilt (or what I imagined to be guilt), that I was forced to repeat once more to myself that it was not a good man's overthrow I sought, or even a bad man's immunity from punishment, but the truth, the absolute truth. No shame could equal that which I should feel if, by any over-delicacy now, I failed to save the man who trusted me.

The article which I held--have you guessed it?--was the stiletto with which Mrs. Fairbrother had been killed. It had been intrusted to me by the police for a definite purpose. The time for testing that purpose had come, or so nearly come, that I felt I must be thinking about the necessary ways and means.

Unwinding the folds of tissue paper in which the stiletto was wrapped, I scrutinized the weapon very carefully. Hitherto, I had seen only pictures of it, now, I had the article itself in my hand. It was not a natural one for a young woman to hold, a woman whose taste ran more toward healing than inflicting wounds, but I forced myself to forget why the end of its blade was rusty, and looked mainly at the devices which ornamented the handle. I had not been mistaken in them. They belonged to the house of Grey, and to none other. It was a legitimate inquiry I had undertaken. However the matter ended, I should always have these historic devices for my excuse.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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