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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

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A gasp and he recovered himself.

"That is neither here nor there," he muttered. "You summoned me under threat to present myself at your door to-day. I have done so. I meant to restore you your diamond, simply. It has become worthless to me. But fate exacted more. Surprise forced my secret from me. That young lady with her damnable awkwardness has put my head in a noose. But do not think to hold it there. I did not risk this interview without precautions, I assure you, and when I leave this hotel it will be as a free man."

With one of his rapid changes, wonderful and inexplicable to me at the moment, he turned toward me with a bow, saying courteously enough:

"We will excuse the young lady."

Next moment the barrel of a pistol gleamed in his hand.

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The moment was critical. Mr. Grey stood directly in the line of fire, and the audacious man who thus held him at his mercy was scarcely a foot from the door leading into the hall. Marking the desperation of his look and the steadiness of his finger on the trigger, I expected to see Mr. Grey recoil and the man escape. But Mr. Grey held his own, though he made no move, and did not venture to speak. Nerved by his courage, I summoned up all my own. This man must not escape, nor must Mr. Grey suffer. The pistol directed against him must be diverted to myself. Such amends were due one whose good name I had so deeply if secretly insulted. I had but to scream, to call out for the inspector, but a remembrance of the necessity we were now under of preserving our secret, of keeping from Mr. Grey the fact that he had been under surveillance, was even at that moment surrounded by the police, deterred me, and I threw myself toward the bell instead, crying out that I would raise the house if he moved, and laid my finger on the button.

The pistol swerved my way. The face above it smiled. I watched that smile. Before it broadened to its full extent, I pressed the button.

Fairbrother stared, dropped his pistol, and burst forth with these two words:

"Brave girl!"

The tone I can never convey.

Then he made for the door.

As he laid his hand on the knob, he called back:

"I have been in worse straits than this!"

But he never had; when he opened the door, he found himself face to face with the inspector.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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