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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XXIII The Great Mogul

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Later, it was all explained. Mr. Grey, looking like another man, came into the room where I was endeavoring to soothe his startled daughter and devour in secret my own joy. Taking the sweet girl in his arms, he said, with a calm ignoring of my presence, at which I secretly smiled:

"This is the happiest moment of my existence, Helen. I feel as if I had recovered you from the brink of the grave."

"Me? Why, I have never been so ill as that."

"I know; but I have felt as if you were doomed ever since I heard, or thought I heard, in this city, and under no ordinary circumstances, the peculiar cry which haunts our house on the eve of any great misfortune. I shall not apologize for my fears; you know that I have good cause for them, but to-day, only to-day, I have heard from the lips of the most arrant knave I have ever known, that this cry sprang from himself with intent to deceive me. He knew my weakness; knew the cry; he was in Darlington Manor when Cecilia died; and, wishing to startle me into dropping something which I held, made use of his ventriloquial powers (he had been a mountebank once, poor wretch!) and with such effect, that I have not been a happy man since, in spite of your daily improvement and continued promise of recovery. But I am happy now, relieved and joyful; and this miserable being,--would you like to hear his story? Are you strong enough for anything so tragic? He is a thief and a murderer, but he has feelings, and his life has been a curious one, and strangely interwoven with ours. Do you care to hear about it? He is the man who stole our diamond."

My patient uttered a little cry.

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"Oh, tell me," she entreated, excited, but not unhealthfully; while I was in an anguish of curiosity I could with difficulty conceal.

Mr. Grey turned with courtesy toward me and asked if a few family details would bore me. I smiled and assured him to the contrary. At which he settled himself in the chair he liked best and began a tale which I will permit myself to present to you complete and from other points of view than his own.

Some five years before, one of the great diamonds of the world was offered for sale in an Eastern market. Mr. Grey, who stopped at no expense in the gratification of his taste in this direction, immediately sent his agent to Egypt to examine this stone. If the agent discovered it to be all that was claimed for it, and within the reach of a wealthy commoner's purse, he was to buy it. Upon inspection, it was found to be all that was claimed, with one exception. In the center of one of the facets was a flaw, but, as this was considered to mark the diamond, and rather add to than detract from its value as a traditional stone with many historical associations, it was finally purchased by Mr. Grey and placed among his treasures in his manor-house in Kent. Never a suspicious man, he took delight in exhibiting this acquisition to such of his friends and acquaintances as were likely to feel any interest in it, and it was not an uncommon thing for him to allow it to pass from hand to hand while he pottered over his other treasures and displayed this and that to such as had no eyes for the diamond.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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