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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XXIII The Great Mogul

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He might have failed in his daring attempt if he had not been favored by a circumstance no one could have foreseen. A daughter of the house, Cecilia by name, lay critically ill at the time, and Mr. Grey's attention was more or less distracted. Still the probabilities are that he would have noticed something amiss with the stone when he came to restore it to its place, if, just as he took it in his hand, there had not risen in the air outside a weird and wailing cry which at once seized upon the imagination of the dozen gentlemen present, and so nearly prostrated their host that he thrust the box he held unopened into the safe and fell upon his knees, a totally unnerved man, crying:

"The banshee! the banshee! My daughter will die!"

Another hand than his locked the safe and dropped the key into the distracted father's pocket.

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Thus a superhuman daring conjoined with a special intervention of fate had made the enterprise a successful one; and Fairbrother, believing more than ever in his star, carried this invaluable jewel back with him to New York. The stiletto--well, the taking of that was a folly, for which he had never ceased to blush. He had not stolen it; he would not steal so inconsiderable an object. He had merely put it in his pocket when he saw it forgotten, passed over, given to him, as it were. That the risk, contrary to that involved in the taking of the diamond, was far in excess of the gratification obtained, he realized almost immediately, but, having made the break, and acquired the curio, he spared himself all further thought or the consequences, and presently resumed his old life in New York, none the worse, to all appearances, for these escapades from virtue and his usual course of fair and open dealing.

But he was soon the worse from jealousy of the wife which his new possession had possibly won for him. She had answered all his expectations as mistress of his home and the exponent of his wealth; and for a year, nay, for two, he had been perfectly happy. Indeed, he had been more than that; he had been triumphant, especially on that memorable evening when, after a cautious delay of months, he had dared to pin that unapproachable sparkler to her breast and present her thus bedecked to the smart set--her whom his talents, and especially his far-reaching business talents, had made his own.

Recalling the old days of barter and sale across the pine counter in Colorado, he felt that his star rode high, and for a time was satisfied with his wife's magnificence and the prestige she gave his establishment. But pride is not all, even to a man of his daring ambition. Gradually he began to realize, first, that she was indifferent to him, next, that she despised him, and, lastly, that she hated him. She had dozens at her feet, any of whom was more agreeable to her than her own husband; and, though he could not put his finger on any definite fault, he soon wearied of a beauty that only glowed for others, and made up his mind to part with her rather than let his heart be eaten out by unappeasable longing for what his own good sense told him would never be his.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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