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0100_005E The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

X I Astonish The Inspector

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He was very patient with me; he did not show me the door.

"Yet such a substitution took place, and took place that evening," I insisted. "The bit of paste shown us at the inquest was never the gem Mrs. Fairbrother wore on entering the alcove. Besides, where all is sensation, why cavil at one more improbability? Mr. Grey may have come over to America for no other reason. He is known as a collector, and when a man has a passion for diamond-getting--"

"He is known as a collector?"

"In his own country."

"I was not told that."

"Nor I. But I found it out."

"How, my dear child, how?"

"By a cablegram or so."

"You--cabled--his name--to England?"

"No, Inspector; uncle has a code, and I made use of it to ask a friend in London for a list of the most. noted diamond fanciers in the country. Mr. Grey's name was third on the list."

He gave me a look in which admiration was strangely blended with doubt and apprehension.

"You are making a brave struggle," said he, "but it is a hopeless one."

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"I have one more confidence to repose in you. The nurse who has charge of Miss Grey was in my class in the hospital. We love each other, and to her I dared appeal on one point. Inspector--" here my voice unconsciously fell as he impetuously drew nearer--"a note was sent from that sick chamber on the night of the ball,--a note surreptitiously written by Miss Grey, while the nurse was in an adjoining room. The messenger was Mr. Grey's valet, and its destination the house in which her father was enjoying his position as chief guest. She says that it was meant for him, but I have dared to think that the valet would tell a different story. My friend did not see what her patient wrote, but she acknowledged that if her patient wrote more than two words the result must have been an unintelligible scrawl, since she was too weak to hold a pencil firmly, and so nearly blind that she would have had to feel her way over the paper."

The inspector started, and, rising hastily, went to his desk, from which he presently brought the scrap of paper which had already figured in the inquest as the mysterious communication taken from Mrs. Fairbrother's hand by the coroner. Pressing it out flat, he took another look at it, then glanced up in visible discomposure.

"It has always looked to us as if written in the dark, by an agitated hand; but--"

I said nothing; the broken and unfinished scrawl was sufficiently eloquent.

"Did your friend declare Miss Grey to have written with a pencil and on a small piece of unruled paper?"

"Yes, the pencil was at her bedside; the paper was torn from a book which lay there. She did not put the note when written in an envelope, but gave it to the valet just as it was. He is an old man and had come to her room for some final orders."

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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