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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XIV Trapped

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"The first thing that happened was the sudden going out of the match which had made this shadow visible. The intruder did not light another. I heard him move across the floor with the rapid step of one who knows his way well, and the next minute a gas-jet flared up in the steward's room, and I knew that the man the whole force was looking for had trapped himself.

"You will agree that it was not my duty to take him then and there without seeing what he was after. He was thought to be in the eastern states, or south or west, and he was here; but why here? That is what I knew you would want to know, and it was just what I wanted to know myself. So I kept my place, which was good enough, and just listened, for I could not see.

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"What was his errand? What did he want in this empty house at midnight? Papers first, and then clothes. I heard him at his desk, I heard him in the closet, and afterward pottering in the old trunk I had been so anxious to look into myself. He must have brought the key with him, for it was no time before I heard him throwing out the contents in a wild search for something he wanted in a great hurry. He found it sooner than you would believe, and began throwing the things back, when something happened. Expectedly or unexpectedly, his eye fell on some object which roused all his passions, and he broke into loud exclamations ending in groans. Finally he fell to kissing this object with a fervor suggesting rage, and a rage suggesting tenderness carried to the point of agony. I have never heard the like; my curiosity was so aroused that I was on the point of risking everything for a look, when he gave a sudden snarl and cried out, loud enough for me to hear: 'Kiss what I've hated? That is as bad as to kill what I've loved.' Those were the words. I am sure he said kiss and I am sure he said kill."

"This is very interesting. Go on with your story. Why didn't you collar him while he was in this mood? You would have won by the surprise.

"I had no pistol, sir, and he had. I heard him cock it. I thought he was going to take his own life, and held my breath for the report. But nothing like that was in his mind. Instead, he laid the pistol down and deliberately tore in two the object of his anger. Then with a smothered curse he made for the door and turret staircase.

"I was for following, but not till I had seen what he had destroyed in such an excess of feeling. I thought I knew, but I wanted to feel sure. So, before risking myself in the turret, I crept to the room he had left and felt about on the floor till I came upon these."

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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