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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

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"Never was a man more thoroughly boxed in. As I realized how little chance there was of any outside interference, how my captor, even if he was seen leaving the house by the officer on duty, would be taken for myself and so allowed to escape, I own that I felt my position a hopeless one. But anger is a powerful stimulant, and I was mortally angry, not only with Sears, but with myself. So when I was done swearing I took another look around, and, finding that there was no getting through the walls, turned my attention wholly to the shaft, which would certainly lead me out of the place if I could only find means to mount it.

"And how do you think I managed to do this at last? A look at my bedraggled, lime-covered clothes may give you some idea. I cut a passage for myself up those perpendicular walls as the boy did up the face of the natural bridge in Virginia. Do you remember that old story in the Reader? It came to me like an inspiration as I stood looking up from below, and though I knew that I should have to work most of the way in perfect darkness, I decided that a man's life was worth some risk, and that I had rather fall and break my neck while doing something than to spend hours in maddening inactivity, only to face death at last from slow starvation.

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"I had a knife, an exceedingly good knife, in my pocket--and for the first few steps I should have the light of my electric torch. The difficulty (that is, the first difficulty) was to reach the shaft from the floor where I stood. There was but one article of furniture in the room, and that was something between a table and a desk. No chairs, and the desk was not high enough to enable me to reach the mouth of the shaft. If I could turn it on end there might be some hope. But this did not look feasible. However, I threw off my coat and went at the thing with a vengeance, and whether I was given superhuman power or whether the clumsy thing was not as heavy as it looked, I did finally succeed in turning it on its end close under the opening from which the shaft rose. The next thing was to get on its top. That seemed about as impossible as climbing the bare wall itself, but presently I bethought me of the drawers, and, though they were locked, I did succeed by the aid of my keys to get enough of them open to make for myself a very good pair of stairs.

"I could now see my way to the mouth of the shaft, but after that! Taking out my knife, I felt the edge. It was a good one, so was the point, but was it good enough to work holes in plaster? It depended somewhat upon the plaster. Had the masons, in finishing that shaft, any thought of the poor wretch who one day would have to pit his life against the hardness of the final covering? My first dig at it would tell. I own I trembled violently at the prospect of what that first test would mean to me, and wondered if the perspiration which I felt starting at every pore was the result of the effort I had been engaged in or just plain fear.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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