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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XII Almost

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My plan was to lay this dagger on Mr. Grey's desk at a moment when he would be sure to see it and I to see him. If he betrayed a guilty knowledge of this fatal steel; if, unconscious of my presence, he showed surprise and apprehension,--then we should know how to proceed; justice would be loosed from constraint and the police feel at liberty to approach him. It was a delicate task, this. I realized how delicate, when I had thrust the stiletto out of sight under my nurse's apron and started to cross the hall. Should I find the library clear? Would the opportunity be given me to approach his desk, or should I have to carry this guilty witness of a world-famous crime on into Miss Grey's room, and with its unholy outline pressing a semblance of itself upon my breast, sit at that innocent pillow, meet those innocent eyes, and answer the gentle inquiries which now and then fell from the sweetest lips I have ever seen smile into the face of a lonely, preoccupied stranger?

The arrangement of the rooms was such as made it necessary for me to pass through this sittting-room in order to reach my patient's bedroom.

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With careful tread, so timed as not to appear stealthy, I accordingly advanced and pushed open the door. The room was empty. Mr. Grey was still with his daughter and I could cross the floor without fear. But never had I entered upon a task requiring more courage or one more obnoxious to my natural instincts. I hated each step I took, but I loved the man for whom I took those steps, and moved resolutely on. Only, as I reached the chair in which Mr. Grey was accustomed to sit, I found that it was easier to plan an action than to carry it out. Home life and the domestic virtues had always appealed to me more than a man's greatness. The position which this man held in his own country, his usefulness there, even his prestige as statesman and scholar, were facts, but very dreamy facts, to me, while his feelings as a father, the place he held in his daughter's heart--these were real to me, these I could understand; and it was of these and not of his place as a man, that this his favorite seat spoke to me. How often had I beheld him sit by the hour with his eye on the door behind which his one darling lay ill! Even now, it was easy for me to recall his face as I had sometimes caught a glimpse of it through the crack of the suddenly opened door, and I felt my breast heave and my hand falter as I drew forth the stiletto and moved to place it where his eye would fall upon it on his leaving his daughter's bedside.

But my hand returned quickly to my breast and fell hack again empty. A pile of letters lay before me on the open lid of the desk. The top one was addressed to me with the word "Important" written in the corner. I did not know the writing, but I felt that I should open and read this letter before committing myself or those who stood back of me to this desperate undertaking.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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