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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XXII Guilt

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Was he Wellgood? Sears? Who? A lover of the woman certainly; that was borne in on us by the passion of his cry:

"Grizel! Grizel!"

But how here? and why such fury in Mr. Grey's face and such amazement in that of the inspector?

This question was not to be answered offhand. Mr. Grey, advancing, laid a finger on the man's shoulder. "Come," said he, "we will have our conversation in another room."

The man, who, in dress and appearance looked oddly out of place in those gorgeous rooms, shook off the stupor into which he had fallen and started to follow the Englishman. A waiter crossed their track with the soup for our table. Mr. Grey motioned him aside.

"Take that back," said he. "I have some business to transact with this gentleman before I eat. I'll ring when I want you."

Then they entered where I was. As the door closed I caught sight of the inspector's face turned earnestly toward me. In his eyes I read my duty, and girded up my heart, as it were, to meet--what? In that moment it was impossible to tell.

The next enlightened me. With a total ignoring of my presence, due probably to his great excitement, Mr. Grey turned on his companion the moment he had closed the door and, seizing him by the collar, cried:

"Fairbrother, you villain, why have you called on your wife like this? Are you murderer as well as thief?"

Fairbrother! this man? Then who was he who was being nursed back to life on the mountains beyond Santa Fe? Sears? Anything seemed possible in that moment.

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Meanwhile, dropping his hand from the other's throat as suddenly as he had seized it, Mr. Grey caught up the stiletto from the table where he had flung it, crying: "Do you recognize this?"

Ah, then I saw guilt!

In a silence worse than any cry, this so-called husband of the murdered woman, the man on whom no suspicion had fallen, the man whom all had thought a thousand miles away at the time of the deed, stared at the weapon thrust under his eyes, while over his face passed all those expressions of fear, abhorrence and detected guilt which, fool that I was, I had expected to see reflected in response to the same test in Mr. Grey's equable countenance.

The surprise and wonder of it held me chained to the spot. I was in a state of stupefaction, so that I scarcely noted the broken fragments at my feet. But the intruder noticed them. Wrenching his gaze from the stiletto which Mr. Grey continued to hold out, he pointed to the broken cup and saucer, muttering:

"That is what startled me into this betrayal--the noise of breaking china. I can not bear it since--"

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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