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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XI The Inspector Astonishes Me

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Drawing a long breath I surveyed him timidly. Never had I so realized my presumption or experienced such a thrill of joy in my frightened yet elated heart. They believed in Anson's innocence and they trusted me. Insignificant as I was, it was to my exertions this great result was due. As I realized this, I felt my heart swell and my throat close. In despair of speaking I held out my hands. He took them kindly and seemed to be quite satisfied.

"Such a little, trembling, tear-filled Amazon!" he cried. "Shall you have courage to undertake the task before you? If not--"

"Oh, but I have," said I. "It is your goodness and the surprise of it all which unnerves me. I can go through what we have planned if you think the secret of my personality and interest in Mr. Durand can be kept from the people I go among."

"It can if you will follow our advice implicitly. You say that you know the doctor and that he stands ready to recommend you in case Miss Pierson withdraws her services."

"Yes, he is eager to give me a chance. He was a college mate of my father's."

"How will you explain to him your wish to enter upon your duties under another name?"

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"Very simply. I have already told him that the publicity given my name in the late proceedings has made me very uncomfortable; that my first case of nursing would require all my self-possession and that if he did not think it wrong I should like to go to it under my mother's name. He made no dissent and I think I can persuade him that I would do much better work as Miss Ayers than as the too well-known Miss Van Arsdale."

"You have great powers of persuasion. But may you not meet people at the hotel who know you?"

"I shall try to avoid people; and, if my identity is discovered, its effect or non-effect upon one we find it difficult to mention will give us our clue. If he has no guilty interest in the crime, my connection with it as a witness will not disturb him. Besides, two days of unsuspicious acceptance of me as Miss Grey's nurse are all I want. I shall take immediate opportunity, I assure you, to make the test I mentioned. But how much confidence you will have to repose in me! I comprehend all the importance of my undertaking, and shall work as if my honor, as well as yours, were at stake."

"I am sure you will." Then for the first time in my life I was glad that I was small and plain rather than tall and fascinating like so many of my friends, for he said: "If you had been a triumphant beauty, depending on your charms as a woman to win people to your will, we should never have listened to your proposition or risked our reputation in your hands. It is your wit, your earnestness and your quiet determination which have impressed us. You see I speak plainly. I do so because I respect you. And now to business."

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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