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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XXI Grizel! Grizel!

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Fortunately, the hour set was very near. Otherwise I do not know how I could have endured the continued strain of gazing on my patient's sweet face, looking up at me from her pillow, with a shadow over its beauty which had not been there before her father's return.

And that father! I could hear him pacing the library floor with a restlessness that struck me as being strangely akin to my own inward anguish of impatience and doubt. What was he dreading? What was it I had seen darkening his face and disturbing his manner, when from time to time he pushed open the communicating door and cast an anxious glance our way, only to withdraw again without uttering a word. Did he realize that a crisis was approaching, that danger menaced him, and from me? No, not the latter, for his glance never strayed to me, but rested solely on his daughter. I was, therefore, not connected with the disturbance in his thoughts. As far as that was concerned I could proceed fearlessly; I had not him to dread, only the event. That I did dread, as any one must who saw Miss Grey's face during these painful moments and heard that restless tramp in the room beyond.

At last the hour struck,--the hour at which Mr. Grey always descended to lunch. He was punctuality itself, and under ordinary circumstances I could depend upon his leaving the room within five minutes of the stroke of one. But would he be as prompt to-day? Was he in the mood for luncheon? Would he go down stairs at all? Yes, for the tramp, tramp stopped; I heard him approaching his daughter's door for a last look in and managed to escape just in time to procure what I wanted and reach the room below before he came.

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My opportunity was short, but I had time to see two things: first, that the location of his seat had been changed so that his back was to the door leading into the adjoining room; secondly, that this door was ajar. The usual waiter was in the room and showed no surprise at my appearance, I having been careful to have it understood that hereafter Miss Grey's appetite was to be encouraged by having her soup served from her father's table by her father's own hands, and that I should be there to receive it.

"Mr. Grey is coming," said I, approaching the waiter and handing him the stiletto loosely wrapped in tissue paper. "Will you be kind enough to place this at his plate, just as it is? A man gave it to me for Mr. Grey; said we were to place it there."

The waiter, suspecting nothing, did as he was bidden, and I had hardly time to catch up the tray laden with dishes, which I saw awaiting me on a side-table, when Mr. Grey came in and was ushered to his seat.

The soup was not there, but I advanced with my tray and stood waiting; not too near, lest the violent beating of my heart should betray me. As I did so the waiter disappeared and the door behind us opened. Though Mr. Grey's eye had fallen on the package, and I saw him start, I darted one glance at the room thus disclosed, and saw that it held two tables. At one, the inspector and some one I did not know sat eating; at the other a man alone, whose back was to us all, and who seemingly was entirely disconnected with the interests of this tragic moment. All this I saw in an instant,--the next my eyes were fixed on Mr. Grey's face.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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