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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XI The Inspector Astonishes Me

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Details followed. After these were well understood between us, I ventured to say: "Do you object--would it be asking too much--if I requested some enlightenment as to what facts you have discovered about Mr. Grey which go to substantiate my theory? I might work more intelligently."

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"No, Miss Van Arsdale, you would not work more intelligently, and you know it. But you have the natural curiosity of one whose very heart is bound up in this business. I could deny you what you ask but I won't, for I want you to work with quiet confidence, which you would not do if your mind were taken up with doubts and questions. Miss Van Arsdale, one surmise of yours was correct. A man was sent that night to the Ramsdell house with a note from Miss Grey. We know this because he boasted of it to one of the bell-boys before he went out, saying that he was going to have a glimpse of one of the swellest parties of the season. It is also true that this man was Mr. Grey's valet, an old servant who came over with him from England. But what adds weight to all this and makes us regard the whole affair with suspicion, is the additional fact that this man received his dismissal the following morning and has not been seen since by any one we could reach. This looks bad to begin with, like the suppression of evidence, you know. Then Mr. Grey has not been the same man since that night. He is full of care and this care is not entirely in connection with his daughter, who is doing very well and bids fair to be up in a few days. But all this would be nothing if we had not received advices from England which prove that Mr. Grey's visit here has an element of mystery in it. There was every reason for his remaining in his own country, where a political crisis is approaching, yet he crossed the water, bringing his sickly daughter with him. The explanation as volunteered by one who knew him well was this: That only his desire to see or acquire some precious object for his collection could have taken him across the ocean at this time, nothing else rivaling his interest in governmental affairs. Still this would be nothing if a stiletto similar to the one employed in this crime had not once formed part of a collection of curios belonging to a cousin of his whom he often visited. This stiletto has been missing for some time, stolen, as the owner declared, by some unknown person. All this looks bad enough, but when I tell you that a week before the fatal ball at Mr. Ramsdell's, Mr. Grey made a tour of the jewelers on Broadway and, with the pretext of buying a diamond for his daughter, entered into a talk about famous stones, ending always with some question about the Fairbrother gem, you will see that his interest in that stone is established and that it only remains for us to discover if that interest is a guilty one. I can not believe this possible, but you have our leave to make your experiment and see. Only do not count too much on his superstition. If he is the deep-dyed criminal you imagine, the cry which startled us all at a certain critical instant was raised by himself and for the purpose you suggested. None of the sensitiveness often shown by a man who has been surprised into crime will be his. Relying on his reputation and the prestige of his great name, he will, if he thinks himself under fire, face every shock unmoved."

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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