The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green
Part 1 out of 4
Etext prepared by Steve Crites of Everett, WA.
The Woman in the Alcove
by Anna Katharine Green
I THE WOMAN WITH THE DIAMOND
II THE GLOVES
II ANSON DURAND
VII NIGHT AND A VOICE
IX THE MOUSE NIBBLES AT THE NET
X I ASTONISH THE INSPECTOR
XI THE INSPECTOR ASTONISHES ME
XIII THE MISSING RECOMMENDATION
XV SEARS OR WELLGOOD
XVII SWEETWATER IN A NEW ROLE
XVIII THE CLOSED DOOR
XIX THE FACE
XX MOONLIGHT--AND A CLUE
XXI GRIZEL! GRIZEL!
XXIII THE GREAT MOGUL
THE WOMAN WITH THE DIAMOND
I was, perhaps, the plainest girl in the room that night. I was
also the happiest--up to one o'clock. Then my whole world
crumbled, or, at least, suffered an eclipse. Why and how, I am
about to relate.
I was not made for love. This I had often said to myself; very
often of late. In figure I am too diminutive, in face far too
unbeautiful, for me to cherish expectations of this nature.
Indeed, love had never entered into my plan of life, as was
evinced by the nurse's diploma I had just gained after three
years of hard study and severe training.
I was not made for love. But if I had been; had I been gifted
with height, regularity of feature, or even with that eloquence
of expression which redeems all defects save those which savor of
deformity, I knew well whose eye I should have chosen to please,
whose heart I should have felt proud to win.
This knowledge came with a rush to my heart--(did I say heart? I
should have said understanding, which is something very
different)--when, at the end of the first dance, I looked up from
the midst of the bevy of girls by whom I was surrounded and saw
Anson Durand's fine figure emerging from that quarter of the hall
where our host and hostess stood to receive their guests. His eye
was roaming hither and thither and his manner was both eager and
expectant. Whom was he seeking? Some one of the many bright and
vivacious girls about me, for he turned almost instantly our way.
But which one?
I thought I knew. I remembered at whose house I had met him
first, at whose house I had seen him many times since. She was a
lovely girl, witty and vivacious, and she stood at this very
moment at my elbow. In her beauty lay the lure, the natural lure
for a man of his gifts and striking personality. If I continued
to watch, I should soon see his countenance light up under the
recognition she could not fail to give him. And I was right; in
another instant it did, and with a brightness there was no
mistaking. But one feeling common to the human heart lends such
warmth, such expressiveness to the features. How handsome it made
him look, how distinguished, how everything I was not except--
But what does this mean? He has passed Miss Sperry--passed her
with a smile and a friendly word--and is speaking to me, singling
me out, offering me his arm! He is smiling, too, not as he smiled
on Miss Sperry, but more warmly, with more that is personal in
it. I took his arm in a daze. The lights were dimmer than I
thought; nothing was really bright except his smile. It seemed to
change the world for me. I forgot that I was plain, forgot that I
was small, with nothing to recommend me to the eye or heart, and
let myself be drawn away, asking nothing, anticipating nothing,
till I found myself alone with him in the fragrant recesses of
the conservatory, with only the throb of music in our ears to
link us to the scene we had left.
Why had he brought me here, into this fairyland of opalescent
lights and intoxicating perfumes? What could he have to say--to
show? Ah in another moment I knew. He had seized my hands, and
love, ardent love, came pouring from his lips.
Could it be real? Was I the object of all this feeling, I? If so,
then life had changed for me indeed.
Silent from rush of emotion, I searched his face to see if this
Paradise, whose gates I was thus passionately bidden to enter,
was indeed a verity or only a dream born of the excitement of the
dance and the charm of a scene exceptional in its splendor and
picturesqueness even for so luxurious a city as New York.
But it was no mere dream. Truth and earnestness were in his
manner, and his words were neither feverish nor forced.
"I love you I! I need you!" So I heard, and so he soon made me
believe. "You have charmed me from the first. Your tantalizing,
trusting, loyal self, like no other, sweeter than any other, has
drawn the heart from my breast. I have seen many women, admired
many women, but you only have I loved. Will you be my wife?"
I was dazzled; moved beyond anything I could have conceived. I
forgot all that I had hitherto said to myself--all that I had
endeavored to impress upon my heart when I beheld him
approaching, intent, as I believed, in his search for another
woman; and, confiding in his honesty, trusting entirely to his
faith, I allowed the plans and purposes of years to vanish in the
glamour of this new joy, and spoke the word which linked us
together in a bond which half an hour before I had never dreamed
would unite me to any man.
His impassioned "Mine! mine!" filled my cup to overflowing.
Something of the ecstasy of living entered my soul; which, in
spite of all I have suffered since, recreated the world for me
and made all that went before but the prelude to the new life,
the new joy.
Oh, I was happy, happy, perhaps too happy! As the conservatory
filled and we passed back into the adjoining room, the glimpse I
caught of myself in one of the mirrors startled me into thinking
so. For had it not been for the odd color of my dress and the
unique way in which I wore my hair that night, I should not have
recognized the beaming girl who faced me so naively from the
depths of the responsive glass.
Can one be too happy? I do not know. I know that one can be too
perplexed, too burdened and too sad.
Thus far I have spoken only of myself in connection with the
evening's elaborate function. But though entitled by my old Dutch
blood to a certain social consideration which I am happy to say
never failed me, I, even in this hour of supreme satisfaction,
attracted very little attention and awoke small comment. There
was another woman present better calculated to do this. A fair
woman, large and of a bountiful presence, accustomed to conquest,
and gifted with the power of carrying off her victories with a
certain lazy grace irresistibly fascinating to the ordinary man;
a gorgeously appareled woman, with a diamond on her breast too
vivid for most women, almost too vivid for her. I noticed this
diamond early in the evening, and then I noticed her. She was not
as fine as the diamond, but she was very fine, and, had I been in
a less ecstatic frame of mind, I might have envied the homage she
received from all the men, not excepting him upon whose arm I
leaned. Later, there was no one in the world I envied less.
The ball was a private and very elegant one. There were some
notable guests. One gentleman in particular was pointed out to me
as an Englishman of great distinction and political importance. I
thought him a very interesting man for his years, but odd and a
trifle self-centered. Though greatly courted, he seemed strangely
restless under the fire of eyes to which he was constantly
subjected, and only happy when free to use his own in
contemplation of the scene about him. Had I been less absorbed in
my own happiness I might have noted sooner than I did that this
contemplation was confined to such groups as gathered about the
lady with the diamond. But this I failed to observe at the time,
and consequently was much surprised to come upon him, at the end
of one of the dances, talking With this lady in an animated and
courtly manner totally opposed to the apathy, amounting to
boredom, with which he had hitherto met all advances.
Yet it was not admiration for her person which he openly
displayed. During the whole time he stood there his eyes seldom
rose to her face; they lingered mainly-and this was what aroused
my curiosity--on the great fan of ostrich plumes which this
opulent beauty held against her breast. Was he desirous of seeing
the great diamond she thus unconsciously (or was it consciously)
shielded from his gaze? It was possible, for, as I continued to
note him, he suddenly bent toward her and as quickly raised
himself again with a look which was quite inexplicable to me. The
lady had shifted her fan a moment and his eyes had fallen on the
The next thing I recall with any definiteness was a tete-a-tete
conversation which I held with my lover on a certain yellow divan
at the end of one of the halls.
To the right of this divan rose a curtained recess, highly
suggestive of romance, called "the alcove." As this alcove
figures prominently in my story, I will pause here to describe
It was originally intended to contain a large group of statuary
which our host, Mr. Ramsdell, had ordered from Italy to adorn his
new house. He is a man of original ideas in regard to such
matters, and in this instance had gone so far as to have this end
of the house constructed with a special view to an advantageous
display of this promised work of art. Fearing the ponderous
effect of a pedestal large enough to hold such a considerable
group, he had planned to raise it to the level of the eye by
having the alcove floor built a few feet higher than the main
one. A flight of low, wide steps connected the two, which,
following the curve of the wall, added much to the beauty of this
portion of the hall.
The group was a failure and was never shipped; but the alcove
remained, and, possessing as it did all the advantages of a room
in the way of heat and light, had been turned into a miniature
retreat of exceptional beauty.
The seclusion it offered extended, or so we were happy to think,
to the solitary divan at its base on which Mr. Durand and I were
seated. With possibly an undue confidence in the advantage of our
position, we were discussing a subject interesting only to
ourselves, when Mr. Durand interrupted himself to declare: "You
are the woman I want, you and you only. And I want you soon. When
do you think you can marry me? Within a week--if--"
Did my look stop him? I was startled. I had heard no incoherent
phrase from him before.
"A week!" I remonstrated. "We take more time than that to fit
ourselves for a journey or some transient pleasure. I hardly
realize my engagement yet."
"You have not been thinking of it for these last two months as I
"No," I replied demurely, forgetting everything else in my
delight at this admission.
"Nor are you a nomad among clubs and restaurants."
"No, I have a home."
"Nor do you love me as deeply as I do you."
This I thought open to argument.
"The home you speak of is a luxurious one," he continued. "I can
not offer you its equal Do you expect me to?"
I was indignant.
"You know that I do not. Shall I, who deliberately chose a
nurse's life when an indulgent uncle's heart and home were open
to me, shrink from braving poverty with the man I love? We will
begin as simply as you please--"
"No," he peremptorily put in, yet with a certain hesitancy which
seemed to speak of doubts he hardly acknowledged to himself, "I
will not marry you if I must expose you to privation or to the
genteel poverty I hate. I love you more than you realize, and
wish to make your life a happy one. I can not give you all you
have been accustomed to in your rich uncle's house, but if
matters prosper with me, if the chance I have built on succeeds--
and it will fail or succeed tonight--you will have those comforts
which love will heighten into luxuries and--and--"
He was becoming incoherent again, and this time with his eyes
fixed elsewhere than on my face. Following his gaze, I discovered
what had distracted his attention. The lady with the diamond was
approaching us on her way to the alcove. She was accompanied by
two gentlemen, both strangers to me, and her head, sparkling with
brilliants, was turning from one to the other with an indolent
grace. I was not surprised that the man at my side quivered and
made a start as if to rise. She was a gorgeous image. In
comparison with her imposing figure in its trailing robe of rich
pink velvet, my diminutive frame in its sea-green gown must have
looked as faded and colorless as a half-obliterated pastel.
"A striking woman," I remarked as I saw he was not likely to
resume the conversation which her presence had interrupted. "And
what a diamond!"
The glance he cast me was peculiar.
"Did you notice it particularly?" he asked.
Astonished, for there was something very uneasy in his manner so
that I half expected to see him rise and join the group he was so
eagerly watching without waiting for my lips to frame a response,
I quickly replied:
"It would be difficult not to notice what one would naturally
expect to see only on the breast of a queen. But perhaps she is a
queen. I should judge so from the homage which follows her."
His eyes sought mine. There was inquiry in them, but it was an
inquiry I did not understand.
"What can you know about diamonds?" he presently demanded.
"Nothing but their glitter, and glitter is not all,--the gem she
wears may be a very tawdry one."
I flushed with humiliation. He was a dealer in gems--that was his
business--and the check which he had put upon my enthusiasm
certainly made me conscious of my own presumption. Yet I was not
disposed to take back my words. I had had a better opportunity
than himself for seeing this remarkable jewel, and, with the
perversity of a somewhat ruffled mood, I burst forth, as soon as
the color had subsided from my cheeks:
"No, no! It is glorious, magnificent. I never saw its like. I
doubt if you ever have, for all your daily acquaintance with
jewels. Its value must be enormous. Who is she? You seem to know
It was a direct question, but I received no reply. Mr. Durand's
eyes had followed the lady, who had lingered somewhat
ostentatiously on the top step and they did not return to me till
she had vanished with her companions behind the long plush
curtain which partly veiled the entrance. By this time he had
forgotten my words, if he had ever heard them and it was with the
forced animation of one whose thoughts are elsewhere that he
finally returned to the old plea:
When would I marry him? If he could offer me a home in a month--
and he would know by to-morrow if he could do so--would I come to
him then? He would not say in a week; that was perhaps to soon;
but in a month? Would I not promise to be his in a month?
What I answered I scarcely recall. His eyes had stolen back to
the alcove and mine had followed them. The gentlemen who had
accompanied the lady inside were coming out again, but others
were advancing to take their places, and soon she was engaged in
holding a regular court in this favored retreat.
Why should this interest me? Why should I notice her or look that
way at all? Because Mr. Durand did? Possibly. I remember that for
all his ardent love-making, I felt a little piqued that he should
divide his attentions in this way. Perhaps I thought that for
this evening, at least, he might have been blind to a mere
I was thus doubly engaged in listening to my lover's words and in
watching the various gentlemen who went up and down the steps,
when a former partner advanced and reminded me that I had
promised him a waltz. Loath to leave Mr. Durand, yet seeing no
way of excusing myself to Mr. Fox, I cast an appealing glance at
the former and was greatly chagrined to find him already on his
"Enjoy your dance," he cried; "I have a word to say to Mrs.
Fairbrother," and was gone before my new partner had taken me on
Was Mrs. Fairbrother the lady with the diamond? Yes; as I turned
to enter the parlor with my partner, I caught a glimpse of Mr.
Durand's tall figure just disappearing from the step behind the
"Who is Mrs. Fairbrother?" I inquired of Mr. Fox at the end of
Mr. Fox, who is one of society's perennial beaux, knows
"She is--well, she was Abner Fairbrother's wife. You know
Fairbrother, the millionaire who built that curious structure on
Eighty-sixth Street. At present they are living apart--an
amicable understanding, I believe. Her diamond makes her
conspicuous. It is one of the most remarkable stones in New York,
perhaps in the United States. Have you observed it?"
"Yes--that is, at a distance. Do you think her very handsome?"
"Mrs. Fairbrother? She's called so, but she's not my style." Here
he gave me a killing glance. "I admire women of mind and heart.
They do not need to wear jewels worth an ordinary man's fortune."
I looked about for an excuse to leave this none too desirable
"Let us go back into the long hall," I urged. "The ceaseless
whirl of these dancers is making me dizzy."
With the ease of a gallant man he took me on his arm and soon we
were promenading again in the direction of the alcove. A passing
glimpse of its interior was afforded me as we turned to retrace
our steps in front of the yellow divan. The lady with the diamond
was still there. A fold of the superb pink velvet she wore
protruded across the gap made by the half-drawn curtains, just as
it had done a half-hour before. But it was impossible to see her
face or who was with her. What I could see, however, and did, was
the figure of a man leaning against the wall at the foot of the
steps. At first I thought this person unknown to me, then I
perceived that he was no other than the chief guest of the
evening, the Englishman of whom I have previously spoken.
His expression had altered. He looked now both anxious and
absorbed, particularly anxious and particularly absorbed; so much
so that I was not surprised that no one ventured to approach him.
Again I wondered and again I asked myself for whom or for what he
was waiting. For Mr. Durand to leave this lady's presence? No,
no, I would not believe that. Mr. Durand could not be there
still; yet some women make it difficult for a man to leave them
and, realizing this, I could not forbear casting a parting glance
behind me as, yielding to Mr. Fox's importunities, I turned
toward the supper-room. It showed me the Englishman in the act of
lifting two cups of coffee from a small table standing near the
reception-room door. As his manner plainly betokened whither he
was bound with this refreshment, I felt all my uneasiness vanish,
and was able to take my seat at one of the small tables with
which the supper-room was filled, and for a few minutes, at
least, lend an ear to Mr. Fox's vapid compliments and trite
opinions. Then my attention wandered.
I had not moved nor had I shifted my gaze from the scene before
me the ordinary scene of a gay and well-filled supper-room, yet I
found myself looking, as if through a mist I had not even seen
develop, at something as strange, unusual and remote as any
phantasm, yet distinct enough in its outlines for me to get a
decided impression of a square of light surrounding the figure of
a man in a peculiar pose not easily imagined and not easily
described. It all passed in an instant, and I sat staring at the
window opposite me with the feeling of one who has just seen a
vision. Yet almost immediately I forgot the whole occurrence in
my anxiety as to Mr. Durand's whereabouts. Certainly he was
amusing himself very much elsewhere or he would have found an
opportunity of joining me long before this. He was not even in
sight, and I grew weary of the endless menu and the senseless
chit chat of my companion, and, finding him amenable to my whims,
rose from my seat at table and made my way to a group of
acquaintances standing just outside the supper-room door. As I
listened to their greetings some impulse led me to cast another
glance down the hall toward the alcove. A man--a waiter--was
issuing from it in a rush. Bad news was in his face, and as his
eyes encountered those of Mr. Ramsdell, who was advancing
hurriedly to meet him, he plunged down the steps with a cry which
drew a crowd about the two in an instant.
What was it? What had happened?
Mad with an anxiety I did not stop to define, I rushed toward
this group now swaying from side to side in irrepressible
excitement, when suddenly everything swam before me and I fell in
a swoon to the floor.
Some one had shouted aloud
"Mrs. Fairbrother has been murdered and her diamond stolen! Lock
I must have remained insensible for many minutes, for when I
returned to full consciousness the supper-room was empty and the
two hundred guests I had left seated at table were gathered in
agitated groups about the hall. This was what I first noted; not
till afterward did I realize my own situation. I was lying on a
couch in a remote corner of this same hall and beside me, but not
looking at me, stood my lover, Mr. Durand.
How he came to know my state and find me in the general
disturbance I did not stop to inquire. It was enough for me at
that moment to look up and see him so near. Indeed, the relief
was so great, the sense of his protection so comforting that I
involuntarily stretched out my hand in gratitude toward him, but,
failing to attract his attention, slipped to the floor and took
my stand at his side. This roused him and he gave me a look which
steadied me, in spite of the thrill of surprise with which I
recognized his extreme pallor and a certain peculiar hesitation
in his manner not at all natural to it.
Meanwhile, some words uttered near us were slowly making their
way into my benumbed brain. The waiter who had raised the first
alarm was endeavoring to describe to an importunate group in
advance of us what he had come upon in that murderous alcove.
"I was carrying about a tray of ices," he was saying, "and seeing
the lady sitting there, went up. I had expected to find the place
full of gentlemen, but she was all alone, and did not move as I
picked my way over her long train. The next moment I had dropped
ices, tray and all. I bad come face to face with her and seen
that she was dead. She had been stabbed and robbed. There was no
diamond on her breast, but there was blood."
A hubbub of disordered sentences seasoned with horrified cries
followed this simple description. Then a general movement took
place in the direction of the alcove, during which Mr. Durand
stooped to my ear and whispered:
"We must get out of this. You are not strong enough to stand such
excitement. Don't you think we can escape by the window over
"What, without wraps and in such a snowstorm?" I protested.
"Besides, uncle will be looking for me. He came with me, you
An expression of annoyance, or was it perplexity, crossed Mr.
Durand's face, and he made a movement as if to leave me.
"I must go," he began, but stopped at my glance of surprise and
assumed a different air--one which became him very much better.
"Pardon me, dear, I will take you to your uncle. This--this
dreadful tragedy, interrupting so gay a scene, has quite upset
me. I was always sensitive to the sight, the smell, even to the
very mention of the word blood."
So was I, but not to the point of cowardice. But then I had not
just come from an interview with the murdered woman. Her glances,
her smiles, the lift of her eyebrows were not fresh memories to
me. Some consideration was certainly due him for the shock he
must be laboring under. Yet I did not know how to keep back the
"Who did it? You must have heard some one say."
"I have heard nothing," was his somewhat fierce rejoinder. Then,
as I made a move, "What you do not wish to follow the crowd
"I wish to find my uncle, and he is in that crowd."
Mr. Durand said nothing further, and together we passed down the
hall. A strange mood pervaded my mind. Instead of wishing to fly
a scene which under ordinary conditions would have filled me with
utter repugnance, I felt a desire to see and hear everything. Not
from curiosity, such as moved most of the people about me, but
because of some strong instinctive feeling I could not
understand; as if it were my heart which had been struck, and my
fate which was trembling in the balance.
We were consequently among the first to hear such further details
as were allowed to circulate among the now well-nigh frenzied
guests. No one knew the perpetrator of the deed nor did there
appear to be any direct evidence calculated to fix his identity.
Indeed, the sudden death of this beautiful woman in the midst of
festivity might have been looked upon as suicide, if the jewel
had not been missing from her breast and the instrument of death
removed from the wound. So far, the casual search which had been
instituted had failed to produce this weapon; but the police
would be here soon and then something would be done. As to the
means of entrance employed by the assassin, there seemed to be
but one opinion. The alcove contained a window opening upon a
small balcony. By this he had doubtless entered and escaped. The
long plush curtains which, during the early part of the evening,
had remained looped back on either side of the casement, were
found at the moment of the crime's discovery closely drawn
together. Certainly a suspicious circumstance. However, the
question was one easily settled. If any one had approached by the
balcony there would be marks in the snow to show it. Mr. Ramsdell
had gone out to see. He would be coming back soon.
"Do you think this a probable explanation of the crime?" I
demanded of Mr. Durand at this juncture. "If I remember rightly
this window overlooks the carriage drive; it must, therefore, be
within plain sight of the door through which some three hundred
guests have passed to-night. How could any one climb to such a
height, lift the window and step in without being seen?"
"You forget the awning." He spoke quickly and with unexpected
vivacity. "The awning runs up very near this window and quite
shuts it off from the sight of arriving guests. The drivers of
departing carriages could see it if they chanced to glance back.
But their eyes are usually on their horses in such a crowd. The
probabilities are against any of them having looked up." His brow
had cleared; a weight seemed removed from his mind. "When I went
into the alcove to see Mrs. Fairbrother, she was sitting in a
chair near this window looking out. I remember the effect of her
splendor against the snow sifting down in a steady stream behind
her. The pink velvet--the soft green of the curtains on either
side--her brilliants--and the snow for a background! Yes, the
murderer came in that way. Her figure would be plain to any one
outside, and if she moved and the diamond shone--Don't you see
what a probable theory it is? There must be ways by which a
desperate man might reach that balcony. I believe--"
How eager he was and with what a look he turned when the word
came filtering through the crowd that, though footsteps had been
found in the snow pointing directly toward the balcony, there was
none on the balcony itself, proving, as any one could see, that
the attack had not come from without, since no one could enter
the alcove by the window without stepping on the balcony.
"Mr. Durand has suspicions of his own," I explained determinedly
to myself. "He met some one going in as he stepped out. Shall I
ask him to name this person?" No, I did not have the courage; not
while his face wore so stern a look and was so resolutely turned
The next excitement was a request from Mr. Ramsdell for us all to
go into the drawing-room. This led to various cries from
hysterical lips, such as, "We are going to be searched!" " He
believes the thief and murderer to be still in the house!" "Do
you see the diamond on me?" "Why don't they confine their
suspicions to the favored few who were admitted to the alcove?"
"They will," remarked some one close to my ear.
But quickly as I turned I could not guess from whom the comment
came. Possibly from a much beflowered, bejeweled, elderly dame,
whose eyes were fixed on Mr. Durand's averted face. If so, she
received a defiant look from mine, which I do not believe she
forgot in a hurry.
Alas! it was not the only curious, I might say searching glance I
surprised directed against him as we made our way to where I
could see my uncle struggling to reach us from a short side hall.
The whisper seemed to have gone about that Mr. Durand had been
the last one to converse with Mrs. Fairbrother prior to the
In time I had the satisfaction of joining my uncle. He betrayed
great relief at the sight of me, and, encouraged by his kindly
smile, I introduced Mr. Durand. My conscious air must have
produced its impression, for he turned a startled and inquiring
look upon my companion, then took me resolutely on his own arm,
"There is likely to be some unpleasantness ahead for all of us. I
do not think the police will allow any one to go till that
diamond has been looked for. This is a very serious matter, dear.
So many think the murderer was one of the guests."
"I think so, too," said I. But why I thought so or why I should
say so with such vehemence, I do not know even now.
My uncle looked surprised.
"You had better not advance any opinions," he advised. "A lady
like yourself should have none on a subject so gruesome. I shall
never cease regretting bringing you here tonight. I shall seize
on the first opportunity to take you home. At present we are
supposed to await the action of our host."
"He can not keep all these people here long," I ventured.
"No; most of us will he relieved soon. Had you not better get
your wraps so as to be ready to go as soon as he gives the word?"
"I should prefer to have a peep at the people in the drawing-room
first.," was my perverse reply. "I don't know why I want to see
them, but I do; and, uncle, I might as well tell you now that I
engaged myself to Mr. Durand this evening--the gentleman with me
when you first came up."
"You have engaged yourself to--to this man--to marry him, do you
I nodded, with a sly look behind to see if Mr. Durand were near
enough to hear. He was not, and I allowed my enthusiasm to escape
in a few quick words.
"He has chosen me," I said, "the plainest, most uninteresting
puss in the whole city." My uncle smiled. "And I believe he loves
me; at all events, I know that I love him."
My uncle sighed, while giving me the most affectionate of
"It's a pity you should have come to this understanding
to-night," said he. "He's an acquaintance of the murdered woman,
and it is only right for you to know that you will have to leave
him behind when you start for home. All who have been seen
entering that alcove this evening will necessarily be detained
here till the coroner arrives.
My uncle and I strolled toward the drawing-room and as we did so
we passed the library. It held but one occupant, the Englishman.
He was seated before a table, and his appearance was such as
precluded any attempt at intrusion, even if one had been so
disposed. There was a fixity in his gaze and a frown on his
powerful forehead which bespoke a mind greatly agitated. It was
not for me to read that mind, much as it interested me, and I
passed on, chatting, as if I had not the least desire to stop.
I can not say how much time elapsed before my uncle touched me on
the arm with the remark:
"The police are here in full force. I saw a detective in plain
clothes look in here a minute ago. He seemed to have his eye on
you. There he is again! What can he want? No, don't turn; he's
gone away now."
Frightened as I had never been in all my life, I managed to keep
my head up and maintain an indifferent aspect. What, as my uncle
said, could a detective want of me? I had nothing to do with the
crime; not in the remotest way could I be said to be connected
with it; why, then, had I caught the attention of the police?
Looking about, I sought Mr. Durand. He had left me on my uncle's
coming up, but had remained, as I supposed, within sight. But at
this moment he was nowhere to be seen. Was I afraid on his
account? Impossible; yet--
Happily just then the word was passed about that the police had
given orders that, with the exception of such as had been
requested to remain to answer questions, the guests generally
should feel themselves at liberty to depart.
The time had now come to take a stand and I informed my uncle, to
his evident chagrin, that I should not leave as long as any
excuse could be found for staying.
He said nothing at the time, but as the noise of departing
carriages gradually lessened and the great hall and drawing-rooms
began to wear a look of desertion he at last ventured on this
"You have more pluck, Rita, than I supposed. Do you think it wise
to stay on here? Will not people imagine that you have been
requested to do so? Look at those waiters hanging about in the
different doorways. Run up and put on your wraps. Mr. Durand will
come to the house fast enough as soon as he is released. I give
you leave to sit up for him if you will; only let us leave this
place before that impertinent little man dares to come around
again," he artfully added.
But I stood firm, though somewhat moved by his final suggestion;
and, being a small tyrant in my way, at least with him, I carried
Suddenly my anxiety became poignant. A party of men, among whom I
saw Mr. Durand, appeared at the end of the hall, led by a very
small but self-important personage whom my uncle immediately
pointed out as the detective who had twice come to the door near
which I stood. As this man looked up and saw me still there, a
look of relief crossed his face, and, after a word or two with
another stranger of seeming authority, he detached himself from
the group he had ushered upon the scene, and, approaching me
respectfully enough, said with a deprecatory glance at my uncle
whose frown he doubtless understood:
"Miss Van Arsdale, I believe?"
I nodded, too choked to speak.
"I am sorry, Madam, if you were expecting to go. Inspector
Dalzell has arrived and would like to speak to you. Will you step
into one of these rooms? Not the library, but any other. He will
come to you as quickly as he can."
I tried to carry it off bravely and as if I saw nothing in this
summons which was unique or alarming. But I succeeded only in
dividing a wavering glance between him and the group of men of
which he had just formed a part. In the latter were several
gentlemen whom I had noted in Mrs. Fairbrother's train early in
the evening and a few strangers, two of whom were officials. Mr.
Durand was with the former, and his expression did not encourage
"The affair is very serious," commented the detective on leaving
me. "That's our excuse for any trouble we may be putting you to."
I clutched my uncle's arm.
"Where shall we go?" I asked. "The drawing-room is too large. In
this hall my eyes are for ever traveling in the direction of the
alcove. Don't you know some little room? Oh, what, what can he
want of me?"
"Nothing serious, nothing important," blustered my good uncle.
"Some triviality such as you can answer in a moment. A little
room? Yes, I know one, there, under the stairs. Come, I will find
the door for you. Why did we ever come to this wretched ball?"
I had no answer for this. Why, indeed!
My uncle, who is a very patient man, guided me to the place he
had picked out, without adding a word to the ejaculation in which
he had just allowed his impatience to expend itself. But once
seated within, and out of the range of peering eyes and listening
ears, he allowed a sigh to escape him which expressed the
fullness of his agitation.
"My dear," he began, and stopped. "I feel--" here he again came
to a pause--"that you should know--"
"What?" I managed to ask.
"That I do not like Mr. Durand and--that others do not like him."
"Is it because of something you knew about him before to-night?"
He made no answer.
"Or because he was seen, like many other gentlemen, talking with
that woman some time before--a long time before--she was attacked
for her diamond and murdered?"
"Pardon me, my dear, he was the last one seen talking to her.
Some one may yet be found who went in after he came out, but as
yet he is considered the last. Mr. Ramsdell himself told me so."
"It makes no difference," I exclaimed, in all the heat of my
long-suppressed agitation. "I am willing to stake my life on his
integrity and honor. No man could talk to me as he did early this
evening with any vile intentions at heart. He was interested, no
doubt, like many others, in one who had the name of being a
captivating woman, but--"
I paused in sudden alarm. A look had crossed my uncle's face
which assured me that we were no longer alone. Who could have
entered so silently? In some trepidation I turned to see. A
gentleman was standing in the doorway, who smiled as I met his
"Is this Miss Van Arsdale?" he asked.
Instantly my courage, which had threatened to leave me, returned
and I smiled.
"I am," said I. "Are you the inspector?"
"Inspector Dalzell," he explained with a bow, which included my
Then he closed the door.
"I hope I have not frightened you," he went on, approaching me
with a gentlemanly air. "A little matter has come up concerning
which I mean to be perfectly frank with you. It may prove to be
of trivial importance; if so, you will pardon my disturbing you.
Mr. Durand--you know him?"
"I am engaged to him," I declared before poor uncle could raise
"You are engaged to him. Well, that makes it difficult, and yet,
in some respects, easier for me to ask a certain question."
It must have made it more difficult than easy, for he did not
proceed to put this question immediately, but went on:
"You know that Mr. Durand visited Mrs. Fairbrother in the alcove
a little while before her death?"
"I have been told so."
"He was seen to go in, but I have not yet found any one who saw
him come out; consequently we have been unable to fix the exact
minute when he did so. What is the matter, Miss Van Arsdale? You
want to say something?"
"No, no," I protested, reconsidering my first impulse. Then, as I
met his look, "He can probably tell you that himself. I am sure
he would not hesitate."
"We shall ask him later," was the inspector's response.
"Meanwhile, are you ready to assure me that since that time he
has not intrusted you with a little article to keep--No, no, I do
not mean the diamond," he broke in, in very evident dismay, as I
fell back from him in irrepressible indignation and alarm. "The
diamond--well, we shall look for that later; it is another
article we are in search of now, one which Mr. Durand might very
well have taken in his hand without realizing just what he was
doing. As it is important for us to find this article, and as it
is one he might very naturally have passed over to you when he
found himself in the hall with it in his hand, I have ventured to
ask you if this surmise is correct."
"It is not," I retorted fiercely, glad that I could speak from my
very heart. "He has given me nothing to keep for him. He would
Why that peculiar look in the inspector's eye? Why did he reach
out for a chair and seat me in it before he took up my
interrupted sentence and finished it?
"--would not give you anything to hold which had belonged to
another woman? Miss Van Arsdale, you do not know men. They do
many things which a young, trusting girl like yourself would
hardly expect from them."
"Not Mr. Durand," I maintained stoutly.
"Perhaps not; let us hope not." Then, with a quick change of
manner, he bent toward me, with a sidelong look at uncle, and,
pointing to my gloves, remarked: "You wear gloves. Did you feel
the need of two pairs, that you carry another in that pretty bag
hanging from your arm?"
I started, looked down, and then slowly drew up into my hand the
bag he had mentioned. The white finger of a glove was protruding
from the top. Any one could see it; many probably had. What did
it mean? I had brought no extra pair with me.
"This is not mine," I began, faltering into silence as I
perceived my uncle turn and walk a step or two away.
"The article we are looking for," pursued the inspector, "is a
pair of long, white gloves, supposed to have been worn by Mrs.
Fairbrother when she entered the alcove. Do you mind showing me
those, a finger of which I see?"
I dropped the bag into his hand. The room and everything in it
was whirling around me. But when I noted what trouble it was to
his clumsy fingers to open it, my senses returned and, reaching
for the bag, I pulled it open and snatched out the gloves. They
had been hastily rolled up and some of the fingers were showing.
"Let me have them," he said.
With quaking heart and shaking fingers I handed over the gloves.
"Mrs. Fairbrother's hand was not a small one," he observed as he
slowly unrolled them. "Yours is. We can soon tell--"
But that sentence was never finished. As the gloves fell open in
his grasp he uttered a sudden, sharp ejaculation and I a
smothered shriek. An object of superlative brilliancy had rolled
out from them. The diamond! the gem which men said was worth a
king's ransom, and which we all knew had just cost a life.
With benumbed senses and a dismayed heart, I stared at the fallen
jewel as at some hateful thing menacing both my life and honor.
"I have had nothing to do with it," I vehemently declared. "I did
not put the gloves in my bag, nor did I know the diamond was in
them. I fainted at the first alarm, and
"There! there! I know," interposed the inspector kindly. "I do
not doubt you in the least; not when there is a man to doubt.
Miss Van Arsdale, you had better let your uncle take you home. I
will see that the hall is cleared for you. Tomorrow I may wish to
talk to you again, but I will spare you all further importunity
I shook my head. It would require more courage to leave at that
moment than to stay. Meeting the inspector's eye firmly, I
"If Mr. Durand's good name is to suffer in any way, I will not
forsake him. I have confidence in his integrity, if you have not.
It was not his hand, but one much more guilty, which dropped this
jewel into the bag."
"So! so! do not be too sure of that, little woman. You had better
take your lesson at once. It will be easier for you, and more
wholesome for him."
Here he picked up the jewel.
"Well, they said it was a wonder!" he exclaimed, in sudden
admiration. "I am not surprised, now that I have seen a great
gem, at the famous stories I have read of men risking life and
honor for their possession. If only no blood had been shed!"
"Uncle! uncle!" I wailed aloud in my agony.
It was all my lips could utter, but to uncle it was enough.
Speaking for the first time, he asked to have a passage made for
us, and when the inspector moved forward to comply, he threw his
arm about me, and was endeavoring to find fitting words with
which to fill up the delay, when a short altercation was heard
from the doorway, and Mr. Durand came rushing in, followed
immediately by the inspector.
His first look was not at myself, but at the bag, which still
hung from my arm. As I noted this action, my whole inner self
seemed to collapse, dragging my happiness down with it. But my
countenance remained unchanged, too much so, it seems; for when
his eye finally rose to my face, he found there what made him
recoil and turn with something like fierceness on his companion.
"You have been talking to her," he vehemently protested. "Perhaps
you have gone further than that. What has happened here? I think
I ought to know. She is so guileless, Inspector Dalzell; so
perfectly free from all connection with this crime. Why have you
shut her up here, and plied her with questions, and made her look
at me with such an expression, when all you have against me is
just what you have against some half-dozen others,--that I was
weak enough, or unfortunate enough, to spend a few minutes with
that unhappy woman in the alcove before she died?"
"It might be well if Miss Van Arsdale herself would answer you,"
was the inspector's quiet retort. "What you have said may
constitute all that we have against you, but it is not all we
have against her."
I gasped, not so much at this seeming accusation, the motive of
which I believed myself to understand, but at the burning blush
with which it was received by Mr. Durand.
"What do you mean?" he demanded, with certain odd breaks in his
voice. "What can you have against her?"
"A triviality," returned the inspector, with a look in my
direction that was, I felt, not to be mistaken.
"I do not call it a triviality," I burst out. "It seems that Mrs.
Fairbrother, for all her elaborate toilet, was found without
gloves on her arms. As she certainly wore them on entering the
alcove, the police have naturally been looking for them. And
where do you think they have found them? Not in the alcove with
her, not in the possession of the man who undoubtedly carried
them away with him, but--"
"I know, I know," Mr. Durand hoarsely put in. "You need not say
any more. Oh, my poor Rita! what have I brought upon you by my
He started; I started; my voice was totally unrecognizable.
"I should give it another name," I added coldly.
For a moment he seemed to lose heart, then he lifted his head
again, and looked as handsome as when he pleaded for my hand in
the little conservatory.
"You have that right," said he; "besides, weakness at such a
time, and under such an exigency, is little short of wrong. It
was unmanly in me to endeavor to secrete these gloves; more than
unmanly for me to choose for their hiding-place the recesses of
an article belonging exclusively to yourself. I acknowledge it,
Rita, and shall meet only my just punishment if you deny me in
the future both your sympathy and regard. But you must let me
assure you and these gentlemen also, one of whom can make it very
unpleasant for me, that consideration for you, much more than any
miserable anxiety about myself, lay at the bottom of what must
strike you all as an act of unpardonable cowardice. From the
moment I learned of this woman's murder in the alcove, where I
had visited her, I realized that every one who had been seen to
approach her within a half-hour of her death would be subjected
to a more or less rigid investigation, and I feared, if her
gloves were found in my possession, some special attention might
be directed my way which would cause you unmerited distress. So,
yielding to an impulse which I now recognize as a most unwise, as
well as unworthy one, I took advantage of the bustle about us,
and of the insensibility into which you had fallen, to tuck these
miserable gloves into the bag I saw lying on the floor at your
side. I do not ask your pardon. My whole future life shall be
devoted to winning that; I simply wish to state a fact."
"Very good!" It was the inspector who spoke; I could not have
uttered a word to save my life. "Perhaps you will now feel that
you owe it to this young lady to add how you came to have these
gloves in your possession?"
"Mrs. Fairbrother handed them to me."
"Handed them to you?"
"Yes, I hardly know why myself. She asked me to take care of them
for her. I know that this must strike you as a very peculiar
statement. It was my realization of the unfavorable effect it
could not fail to produce upon those who beard it, which made me
dread any interrogation on the subject. But I assure you it was
as I say. She put the gloves into my hand while I was talking to
her, saying they incommoded her."
"Well, I held them for a few minutes, then I put them in my
pocket, but quite automatically, and without thinking very much
about it. She was a woman accustomed to have her own way. People
seldom questioned it, I judge."
Here the tension about my throat relaxed, and I opened my lips to
speak. But the inspector, with a glance of some authority,
"Were the gloves open or rolled up when she offered them to you?"
"They were rolled up."
"Did you see her take them off?"
"And roll them up?"
"After which she passed them over to you?"
"Not immediately. She let them lie in her lap for a while."
"While you talked?"
Mr. Durand bowed.
"And looked at the diamond?"
Mr. Durand bowed for the second time.
"Had you ever seen so fine a diamond before?"
"Yet you deal in precious stones?"
"That is my business."
"And are regarded as a judge of them?"
"I have that reputation."
"Mr. Durand, would you know this diamond if you saw it?"
"I certainly should."
"The setting was an uncommon one, I hear."
"Quite an unusual one."
The inspector opened his hand.
"Is this the article?"
"Good God! Where--"
"Don't you know?"
"I do not."
The inspector eyed him gravely.
"Then I have a bit of news for you. It was hidden in the gloves
you took from Mrs. Fairbrother. Miss Van Arsdale was present at
Do we live, move, breathe at certain moments? It hardly seems so.
I know that I was conscious of but one sense, that of seeing; and
of but one faculty, that of judgment. Would he flinch, break
down, betray guilt, or simply show astonishment? I chose to
believe it was the latter feeling only which informed his slowly
whitening and disturbed features. Certainly it was all his words
expressed, as his glances flew from the stone to the gloves, and
back again to the inspector's face.
"I can not believe it. I can not believe it." And his hand flew
wildly to his forehead.
"Yet it is the truth, Mr. Durand, and one you have now to face.
How will you do this? By any further explanations, or by what you
may consider a discreet silence?"
"I have nothing to explain,--the facts are as I have stated."
The inspector regarded him with an earnestness which made my
"You can fix the time of this visit, I hope; tell us, I mean,
just when you left the alcove. You must have seen some one who
can speak for you."
"I fear not."
Why did he look so disturbed and uncertain?
"There were but few persons in the hall just then," he went on to
explain. "No one was sitting on the yellow divan."
"You know where you went, though? Whom you saw and what you did
before the alarm spread?"
"Inspector, I am quite confused. I did go somewhere; I did not
remain in that part of the hall. But I can tell you nothing
definite, save that I walked about, mostly among strangers, till
the cry rose which sent us all in one direction and me to the
side of my fainting sweetheart."
"Can you pick out any stranger you talked to, or any one who
might have noted you during this interval? You see, for the sake
of this little woman, I wish to give you every chance."
"Inspector, I am obliged to throw myself on your mercy. I have no
such witness to my innocence as you call for. Innocent people
seldom have. It is only the guilty who take the trouble to
provide for such contingencies."
This was all very well, if it had been uttered with a
straightforward air and in a clear tone. But it was not. I who
loved him felt that it was not, and consequently was more or less
prepared for the change which now took place in the inspector's
manner. Yet it pierced me to the heart to observe this change,
and I instinctively dropped my face into my hands when I saw him
move toward Mr. Durand with some final order or word of caution.
Instantly (and who can account for such phenomena?) there floated
into view before my retina a reproduction of the picture I had
seen, or imagined myself to have seen, in the supper-room; and as
at that time it opened before me an unknown vista quite removed
from the surrounding scene, so it did now, and I beheld again in
faint outlines, and yet with the effect of complete distinctness,
a square of light through which appeared an open passage partly
shut off from view by a half-lifted curtain and the tall figure
of a man holding back this curtain and gazing, or seeming to
gaze, at his own breast, on which he had already laid one
What did it mean? In the excitement of the horrible occurrence
which had engrossed us all, I had forgotten this curious
experience; but on feeling anew the vague sensation of shock and
expectation which seemed its natural accompaniment, I became
conscious of a sudden conviction that the picture which had
opened before me in the supper-room was the result of a
reflection in a glass or mirror of something then going on in a
place not otherwise within the reach of my vision; a reflection,
the importance of which I suddenly realized when I recalled at
what a critical moment it had occurred. A man in a state of dread
looking at his breast, within five minutes of the stir and rush
of the dreadful event which had marked this evening!
A hope, great as the despair in which I had just been sunk, gave
me courage to drop my hands and advance impetuously toward the
"Don't speak, I pray; don't judge any of us further till you have
heard what I have to say."
In great astonishment and with an aspect of some severity, he
asked me what I had to say now which I had not had the
opportunity of saying before. I replied with all the passion of a
forlorn hope that it was only at this present moment I remembered
a fact which might have a very decided bearing on this case; and,
detecting evidences, as I thought, of relenting on his part, I
backed up this statement by an entreaty for a few words with him
apart, as the matter I had to tell was private and possibly too
fanciful for any ear but his own.
He looked as if he apprehended some loss of valuable time, but,
touched by the involuntary gesture of appeal with which I
supplemented my request, he led me into a corner, where, with
just an encouraging glance toward Mr. Durand, who seemed struck
dumb by my action, I told the inspector of that momentary picture
which I had seen reflected in what I was now sure was some
window-pane or mirror.
"It was at a time coincident, or very nearly coincident, with the
perpetration of the crime you are now investigating," I
concluded. "Within five minutes afterward came the shout which
roused us all to what had happened in the alcove. I do not know
what passage I saw or what door or even what figure; but the
latter, I am sure, was that of the guilty man. Something in the
outline (and it was the outline only I could catch) expressed an
emotion incomprehensible to me at the moment, but which, in my
remembrance, impresses me as that of fear and dread. It was not
the entrance to the alcove I beheld--that would have struck me at
once--but some other opening which I might recognize if I saw it.
Can not that opening be found, and may it not give a clue to the
man I saw skulking through it with terror and remorse in his
"Was this figure, when you saw it, turned toward you or away?"
the inspector inquired with unexpected interest.
"Turned partly away. He was going from me."
"And you sat--where?"
"Shall I show you?"
The inspector bowed, then with a low word of caution turned to my
"I am going to take this young lady into the hall for a moment,
at her own request. May I ask you and Mr. Durand to await me
Without pausing for reply, he threw open the door and presently
we were pacing the deserted supper-room, seeking the place where
I had sat. I found it almost by a miracle,--everything being in
great disorder. Guided by my bouquet, which I had left behind me
in my escape from the table, I laid hold of the chair before
which it lay, and declared quite confidently to the inspector:
"This is where I sat."
Naturally his glance and mine both flew to the opposite wall. A
window was before us of an unusual size and make. Unlike any
which had ever before come under my observation, it swung on a
pivot, and, though shut at the present moment, might very easily,
when opened, present its huge pane at an angle capable of
catching reflections from some of the many mirrors decorating the
reception-room situated diagonally across the hall. As all the
doorways on this lower floor were of unusual width, an open path
was offered, as it were, for these reflections to pass, making it
possible for scenes to be imaged here which, to the persons
involved, would seem as safe from any one's scrutiny as if they
were taking place in the adjoining house.
As we realized this, a look passed between us of more than
ordinary significance. Pointing to the window, the inspector
turned to a group of waiters watching us from the other side of
the room and asked if it had been opened that evening.
The answer came quickly.
"Yes, sir,--just before the--the--"
"I understand," broke in the inspector; and, leaning over me, he
whispered: "Tell me again exactly what you thought you saw."
But I could add little to my former description. "Perhaps you can
tell me this," he kindly persisted. "Was the picture, when you
saw it, on a level with your eye, or did you have to lift your
head in order to see it?"
"It was high up,--in the air, as it were. That seemed its oddest
The inspector's mouth took a satisfied curve. "Possibly I might
identify the door and passage, if I saw them," I suggested.
"Certainly, certainly," was his cheerful rejoinder; and,
summoning one of his men, he was about to give some order, when
his impulse changed, and he asked if I could draw.
I assured him, in some surprise, that I was far from being an
adept in that direction, but that possibly I might manage a rough
sketch; whereupon he pulled a pad and pencil from his pocket and
requested me to make some sort of attempt to reproduce, on paper,
my memory of this passage and the door.
My heart was beating violently, and the pencil shook in my hand,
but I knew that it would not do for me to show any hesitation in
fixing for all eyes what, unaccountably to myself, continued to
be perfectly plain to my own. So I endeavored to do as he bade
me, and succeeded, to some extent, for he uttered a slight
ejaculation at one of its features, and, while duly expressing
his thanks, honored me with a very sharp look.
"Is this your first visit to this house?" he asked.
"No; I have been here before."
"In the evening, or in the afternoon?"
"In the afternoon."
"I am told that the main entrance is not in use to-night."
"No. A side door is provided for occasions like the present.
Guests entering there find a special hall and staircase, by which
they can reach the upstairs dressing-rooms, without crossing the
main hall. Is that what you mean?"
"Yes, that is what I mean."
I stared at him in wonder. What lay back of such questions as
"You came in, as others did, by this side entrance," he now
proceeded. "Did you notice, as you turned to go up stairs, an
arch opening into a small passageway at your left?"
"I did not," I began, flushing, for I thought I understood him
now. "I was too eager to reach the dressing-room to look about
"Very well," he replied; "I may want to show you that arch."
The outline of an arch, backing the figure we were endeavoring to
identify, was a marked feature in the sketch I had shown him.
"Will you take a seat near by while I make a study of this
I turned with alacrity to obey. There was something in his air
and manner which made me almost buoyant. Had my fanciful
interpretation of what I had seen reached him with the conviction
it had me? If so, there was hope,--hope for the man I loved, who
had gone in and out between curtains, and not through any arch
such as he had mentioned or I had described. Providence was
working for me. I saw it in the way the men now moved about,
swinging the window to and fro, under the instruction of the
inspector, manipulating the lights, opening doors and drawing
back curtains. Providence was working for me, and when, a few
minutes later, I was asked to reseat myself in my old place at
the supper-table and take another look in that slightly deflected
glass, I knew that my effort had met with its reward, and that
for the second time I was to receive the impression of a place
now indelibly imprinted on my consciousness.
"Is not that it?" asked the inspector, pointing at the glass with
a last look at the imperfect sketch I had made him, and which he
still held in his hand.
"Yes," I eagerly responded. "All but the man. He whose figure I
see there is another person entirely; I see no remorse, or even
fear, in his looks."
"Of course not. You are looking at the reflection of one of my
men. Miss Van Arsdale, do you recognize the place now under your
"I do not. You spoke of an arch in the hall, at the left of the
carriage entrance, and I see an arch in the window-pane before
"You are looking straight through the alcove,--perhaps you did
not know that another door opened at its back,--into the passage
which runs behind it. Farther on is the arch, and beyond that
arch the side hall and staircase leading to the dressing-rooms.
This door, the one in the rear of the alcove, I mean, is hidden
from those entering from the main hall by draperies which have
been hung over it for this occasion, but it is quite visible from
the back passageway, and there can be no doubt that it was by its
means the man, whose reflected image you saw, both entered and
left the alcove. It is an important fact to establish, and we
feel very much obliged to you for the aid you have given us in
Then, as I continued to stare at him in my elation and surprise,
he added, in quick explanation:
"The lights in the alcove, and in the several parlors, are all
hung with shades, as you must perceive, but the one in the hall,
beyond the arch, is very bright, which accounts for the
distinctness of this double reflection. Another thing,--and it is
a very interesting point,--it would have been impossible for this
reflection to be noticeable from where you sit, if the level of
the alcove flooring had not been considerably higher than that of
the main floor. But for this freak of the architect, the
continual passing to and fro of people would have prevented the
reflection in its passage from surface to surface. Miss Van
Arsdale, it would seem that by one of those chances which happen
but once or twice in a lifetime, every condition was propitious
at the moment to make this reflection a possible occurrence, even
the location and width of the several doorways and the exact
point at which the portiere was drawn aside from the entrance to
"It is wonderful," I cried, "wonderful!" Then, to his
astonishment, perhaps, I asked if there was not a small door of
communication between the passageway back of the alcove and the
large central hall.
"Yes," he replied. "It opens just beyond the fireplace. Three
small steps lead to it."
"I thought so," I murmured, but more to myself than to him. In my
mind I was thinking how a man, if he so wished, could pass from
the very heart of this assemblage into the quiet passageway, and
so on into the alcove, without attracting very much attention
from his fellow guests. I forgot that there was another way of
approach even less noticeable that by the small staircase running
up beyond the arch directly to the dressing-rooms.
That no confusion may arise in any one's mind in regard to these
curious approaches, I subjoin a plan of this portion of the lower
floor as it afterward appeared in the leading dailies.
"And Mr. Durand?" I stammered, as I followed the inspector back
to the room where we had left that gentleman. "You will believe
his statement now and look for this second intruder with the
guiltily-hanging head and frightened mien?"
"Yes," he replied, stopping me on the threshold of the door and
taking my hand kindly in his, "if--(don't start, my dear; life is
full of trouble for young and old, and youth is the best time to
face a sad experience) if he is not himself the man you saw
staring in frightened horror at his breast. Have you not noticed
that he is not dressed in all respects like the other gentlemen
present? That, though he has not donned his overcoat, he has put
on, somewhat prematurely, one might say, the large silk
handkerchief lie presumably wears under it? Have you not noticed
this, and asked yourself why?"
I had noticed it. I had noticed it from the moment I recovered
from my fainting fit, but I had not thought it a matter of
sufficient interest to ask, even of myself, his reason for thus
hiding his shirt-front. Now I could not. My faculties were too
confused, my heart too deeply shaken by the suggestion which the
inspector's words conveyed, for me to be conscious of anything
but the devouring question as to what I should do if, by my own
mistaken zeal, I had succeeded in plunging the man I loved yet
deeper into the toils in which he had become enmeshed.
The inspector left me no time for the settlement of this
question. Ushering me back into the room where Mr. Durand and my
uncle awaited our return in apparently unrelieved silence, he
closed the door upon the curious eyes of the various persons
still lingering in the hall, and abruptly said to Mr. Durand:
"The explanations you have been pleased to give of the manner in
which this diamond came into your possession are not too fanciful
for credence, if you can satisfy us on another point which has
awakened some doubt in the mind of one of my men. Mr. Durand, you
appear to have prepared yourself for departure somewhat
prematurely. Do you mind removing that handkerchief for a moment?
My reason for so peculiar a request will presently appear."
Alas, for my last fond hope! Mr. Durand, with a face as white as
the background of snow framed by the uncurtained window against
which he leaned, lifted his hand as if to comply with the
inspector's request, then let it fall again with a grating laugh.
"I see that I am not likely to escape any of the results of my
imprudence," he cried, and with a quick jerk bared his
A splash of red defiled its otherwise uniform whiteness! That it
was the red of heart's blood was proved by the shrinking look he
unconsciously cast at it.
My love for Anson Durand died at sight oŁ that crimson splash or
I thought it did. In this spot of blood on the breast of him to
whom I had given my heart I could read but one word--guilt--
heinous guilt, guilt denied and now brought to light in language
that could be seen and read by all men. Why should I stay in such
a presence? Had not the inspector himself advised me to go?
Yes, but another voice bade me remain. Just as I reached the
door, Anson Durand found his voice and I heard, in the full,
sweet tones I loved so well:
"Wait I am not to be judged like this. I will explain!"
But here the inspector interposed.
"Do you think it wise to make any such attempt without the advice
of counsel, Mr. Durand?"
The indignation with which Mr. Durand wheeled toward him raised
in me a faint hope.
"Good God, yes!" he cried. "Would you have me leave Miss Van
Arsdale one minute longer than is necessary to such dreadful
doubts? Rita--Miss Van Arsdale--weakness, and weakness only, has
brought me into my present position. I did not kill Mrs.
Fairbrother, nor did I knowingly take her diamond, though
appearances look that way, as I am very ready to acknowledge. I
did go to her in the alcove, not once, but twice, and these are
my reasons for doing so: About three months ago a certain
well-known man of enormous wealth came to me with the request
that I should procure for him a diamond of superior beauty. He
wished to give it to his wife, and he wished it to outshine any
which could now be found in New York. This meant sending abroad--
an expense he was quite willing to incur on the sole condition
that the stone should not disappoint him when he saw it, and that
it was to be in his hands on the eighteenth of March, his wife's
birthday. Never before had I had such an opportunity for a large
stroke of business. Naturally elated, I entered at once into
correspondence with the best known dealers on the other side, and
last week a diamond was delivered to me which seemed to fill all
the necessary requirements. I had never seen a finer stone, and
was consequently rejoicing in my success, when some one, I do not
remember who now, chanced to speak in my hearing of the wonderful
stone possessed by a certain Mrs. Fairbrother--a stone so large,
so brilliant and so precious altogether that she seldom wore it,
though it was known to connoisseurs and had a great reputation at
Tiffany's, where it had once been sent for some alteration in the
setting. Was this stone larger and finer than the one I had
procured with so much trouble? If so, my labor had all been in
vain, for my patron must have known of this diamond and would
expect to see it surpassed.
"I was so upset by this possibility that I resolved to see the
jewel and make comparisons for myself. I found a friend who
agreed to introduce me to the lady. She received me very
graciously and was amiable enough until the subject of diamonds
was broached, when she immediately stiffened and left me without
an opportunity of proffering my request. However, on every other
subject she was affable, and I found it easy enough to pursue the
acquaintance till we were almost on friendly terms. But I never
saw the diamond, nor would she talk about it, though I caused her
some surprise when one day I drew out before her eyes the one I
had procured for my patron and made her look at it. 'Fine,' she
cried, 'fine!' But I failed to detect any envy in her manner, and
so knew that I had not achieved the object set me by my wealthy
customer. This was a woeful disappointment; yet, as Mrs.
Fairbrother never wore her diamond, it was among the
possibilities that he might be satisfied with the very fine gem I
had obtained for him, and, influenced by this hope, I sent him
this morning a request to come and see it tomorrow. Tonight I
attended this ball, and almost as soon as I enter the
drawing-room I hear that Mrs. Fairbrother is present and is
wearing her famous jewel. What could you expect of me? Why, that
I would make an effort to see it and so be ready with a reply to
my exacting customer when he should ask me to-morrow if the stone
I showed him had its peer in the city. But was not in the
drawing-room then, and later I became interested elsewhere"--here
he cast a look at me--"so that half the evening passed before I
had an opportunity to join her in the so-called alcove, where I
had seen her set up her miniature court. What passed between us
in the short interview we held together you will find me prepared
to state, if necessary. It was chiefly marked by the one short
view I succeeded in obtaining of her marvelous diamond, in spite
of the pains she took to hide it from me by some natural movement
whenever she caught my eyes leaving her face. But in that one
short look I had seen enough. This was a gem for a collector, not
to be worn save in a royal presence. How had she come by it? And
could Mr. Smythe expect me to procure him a stone like that? In
my confusion I arose to depart, but the lady showed a disposition
to keep me, and began chatting so vivaciously that I scarcely
noticed that she was all the time engaged in drawing off her
gloves. Indeed, I almost forgot the jewel, possibly because her
movements hid it so completely, and only remembered it when, with
a sudden turn from the window where she had drawn me to watch the
falling flakes, she pressed the gloves into my hand with the
coquettish request that I should take care of them for her. I
remember, as I took them, of striving to catch another glimpse of
the stone, whose brilliancy had dazzled me, but she had opened
her fan between us. A moment after, thinking I heard approaching
steps, I quitted the room. This was my first visit."
As he stopped, possibly for breath, possibly to judge to what
extent I was impressed by his account, the inspector seized the
opportunity to ask if Mrs. Fairbrother had been standing any of
this time with her back to him. To which he answered yes, while
they were in the window.
"Long enough for her to pluck off the jewel and thrust it into
the gloves, if she had so wished?"
"Quite long enough."
"But you did not see her do this?"
"I did not."
"And so took the gloves without suspicion?"
"And carried them away?"
"Without thinking that she might want them the next minute?"
"I doubt if I was thinking seriously of her at all. My thoughts
were on my own disappointment."
"Did you carry these gloves out in your hand?"
"No, in my pocket."
"I see. And you met--"
"No one. The sound I heard must have come from the rear hall."
"And there was nobody on the steps?"
"No. A gentleman was standing at their foot--Mr. Grey, the
Englishman--but his face was turned another way, and he looked as
if he had been in that same position for several minutes."
"Did this gentleman--Mr. Grey--see you?"
"I can not say, but I doubt it. He appeared to be in a sort of
dream. There were other people about, but nobody with whom I was
"Very good. Now for the second visit you acknowledge having paid
this unfortunate lady."
The inspector's voice was hard. I clung a little more tightly to
my uncle, and Mr. Durand, after one agonizing glance my way, drew
himself up as if quite conscious that he had entered upon the
most serious part of the struggle.
"I had forgotten the gloves in my hurried departure; but
presently I remembered them, and grew very uneasy. I did not like
carrying this woman's property about with me. I had engaged
myself, an hour before, to Miss Van Arsdale, and was very anxious
to rejoin her. The gloves worried me, and finally, after a little
aimless wandering through the various rooms, I determined to go
back and restore them to their owner. The doors of the
supper-room had just been flung open, and the end of the hall
near the alcove was comparatively empty, save for a certain
quizzical friend of mine, whom I saw sitting with his partner on
the yellow divan. I did not want to encounter him just then, for
he had already joked me about my admiration for the lady with the
diamond, and so I conceived the idea of approaching her by means
of a second entrance to the alcove, unsuspected by most of those
present, but perfectly well-known to me, who have been a frequent
guest in this house. A door, covered by temporary draperies,
connects, as you may know, this alcove with a passageway
communicating directly with the hall of entrance and the
up-stairs dressing-rooms. To go up the main stairs and come down
by the side one, and so on, through a small archway, was a very
simple matter for me. If no early-departing or late arriving
guests were in that hall, I need fear but one encounter, and that
was with the servant stationed at the carriage entrance. But even
he was absent at this propitious instant, and I reached the door
I sought without any unpleasantness. This door opened out instead
of in,--this I also knew when planning this surreptitious
intrusion, but, after pulling it open and reaching for the
curtain, which hung completely across it, I found it not so easy
to proceed as I had imagined. The stealthiness of my action held
back my hand; then the faint sounds I heard within advised me
that she was not alone, and that she might very readily regard
with displeasure my unexpected entrance by a door of which she
was possibly ignorant. I tell you all this because, if by any
chance I was seen hesitating in face of that curtain, doubts
might have been raised which I am anxious to dispel." Here his
eyes left my face for that of the inspector.
"It certainly had a bad look,--that I don't deny; but I did not
think of appearances then. I was too anxious to complete a task
which had suddenly presented unexpected difficulties. That I
listened before entering was very natural, and when I heard no
voice, only something like a great sigh, I ventured to lift the
curtain and step in. She was sitting, not where I had left her,
but on a couch at the left of the usual entrance, her face toward
me, and--you know how, Inspector. It was her last sigh I had
heard. Horrified, for I had never looked on death before, much
less crime, I reeled forward, meaning, I presume, to rush down
the steps shouting for help, when, suddenly, something fell
splashing on my shirt-front, and I saw myself marked with a stain
of blood. This both frightened and bewildered me, and it was a
minute or two before I had the courage to look up. When I did do
so, I saw whence this drop had come. Not from her, though the red
stream was pouring down the rich folds of her dress, but from a
sharp needle-like instrument which had been thrust, point
downward, in the open work of an antique lantern hanging near the
doorway. What had happened to me might have happened to any one
who chanced to be in that spot at that special moment, but I did
not realize this then. Covering the splash with my hands, I edged
myself back to the door by which I had entered, watching those
deathful eyes and crushing under my feet the remnants of some
broken china with which the carpet was bestrewn. I had no thought
of her, hardly any of myself. To cross the room was all; to
escape as secretly as I came, before the portiere so nearly drawn
between me and the main hall should stir under the hand of some
curious person entering. It was my first sight of blood; my first
contact with crime, and that was what I did, --I fled."
The last word was uttered with a gasp. Evidently he was greatly
affected by this horrible experience.
"I am ashamed of myself," he muttered, "but nothing can now undo
the fact. I slid from the presence of this murdered woman as
though she had been the victim of my own rage or cupidity; and,
being fortunate enough to reach the dressing-room before the
alarm had spread beyond the immediate vicinity of the alcove,
found and put on the handkerchief, which made it possible for me
to rush down and find Miss Van Arsdale, who, somebody told me,
had fainted. Not till I stood over her in that remote corner
beyond the supper-room did I again think of the gloves. What I
did when I happened to think of them, you already know. I could
have shown no greater cowardice if I had known that the murdered
woman's diamond was hidden inside them. Yet, I did not know this,
or even suspect it. Nor do I understand, now, her reason for
placing it there. Why should Mrs. Fairbrother risk such an
invaluable gem to the custody of one she knew so little? An
unconscious custody, too? Was she afraid of being murdered if she
retained this jewel?"
The inspector thought a moment, and then said:
"You mention your dread of some one entering by the one door
before you could escape by the other. Do you refer to the friend
you left sitting on the divan opposite?"
"No, my friend had left that seat. The portiere was sufficiently
drawn for me to detect that. If I had waited a minute longer," he
bitterly added, "I should have found my way open to the regular
entrance, and so escaped all this."
"Mr. Durand, you are not obliged to answer any of my questions;
but, if you wish, you may tell me whether, at this moment of
apprehension, you thought of the danger you ran of being seen
from outside by some one of the many coachmen passing by on the
"No,--I did not even think of the window,--I don't know why; but,
if any one passing by did see me, I hope they saw enough to
substantiate my story."
The inspector made no reply. He seemed to be thinking. I heard
afterward that the curtains, looped back in the early evening,
had been found hanging at full length over this window by those
who first rushed in upon the scene of death. Had he hoped to
entrap Mr. Durand into some damaging admission? Or was he merely
testing his truth? His expression afforded no clue to his
thoughts, and Mr. Durand, noting this, remarked with some
"I do not expect strangers to accept these explanations, which
must sound strange and inadequate in face of the proof I carry of
having been with that woman after the fatal weapon struck her
heart. But, to one who knows me, and knows me well, I can surely
appeal for credence to a tale which I here declare to be as true
as if I had sworn to it in a court of justice."
"Anson!:" I passionately cried out, loosening my clutch upon my
uncle's arm. My confidence in him had returned.
And then, as I noted the inspector's businesslike air, and my
uncle's wavering look and unconvinced manner, I felt my heart
swell, and, flinging all discretion to the wind, I bounded
eagerly forward. Laying my hands in those of Mr. Durand, I cried
"I believe in you. Nothing but your own words shall ever shake my
confidence in your innocence."
The sweet, glad look I received was my best reply. I could leave
the room, after that.
But not the house. Another experience awaited me, awaited us all,
before this full, eventful evening came to a close.
I had gone up stairs for my wraps--my uncle having insisted on my
withdrawing from a scene where my very presence seemed in some
degree to compromise me.
Soon prepared for my departure, I was crossing the hall to the
small door communicating with the side staircase where my uncle
had promised to await me, when I felt myself seized by a desire
to have another look below before leaving the place in which were
centered all my deepest interests.
A wide landing, breaking up the main flight of stairs some few
feet from the top, offered me an admirable point of view. With
but little thought of possible consequences, and no thought at
all of my poor, patient uncle, I slipped down to this landing,
and, protected by the unusual height of its balustrade, allowed
myself a parting glance at the scene with which my most poignant
memories were henceforth to be connected.
Before me lay the large square of the central hall. Opening out
from this was the corridor leading to the front door, and
incidentally to the library. As my glance ran down this corridor,
I beheld, approaching from the room just mentioned, the tall
figure of the Englishman.
He halted as he reached the main hall and stood gazing eagerly at
a group of men and women clustered near the fireplace--a group on
which I no sooner cast my own eye than my attention also became
The inspector had come from the room where I had left him with
Mr. Durand and was showing to these people the extraordinary
diamond, which he had just recovered under such remarkable if not
suspicious circumstances. Young heads and old were meeting over
it, and I was straining my ears to hear such comments as were
audible above the general hubbub, when Mr. Grey made a quick move
and I looked his way again in time to mark his air of concern and
the uncertainty he showed whether to advance or retreat.
Unconscious of my watchful eye, and noting, no doubt, that most
of the persons in the group on which his own eye was leveled
stood with their backs toward him, he made no effort to disguise
his profound interest in the stone. His eye followed its passage
from hand to hand with a covetous eagerness of which he may not
have been aware, and I was not at all surprised when, after a
short interval of troubled indecision, he impulsively stepped
forward and begged the privilege of handling the gem himself.
Our host, who stood not far from the inspector, said something to
that gentleman which led to this request being complied with. The
stone was passed over to Mr. Grey, and I saw, possibly because my
heart was in my eyes, that the great man's hand trembled as it
touched his palm. Indeed, his whole frame trembled, and I was
looking eagerly for the result of his inspection when, on his
turning to hold the jewel up to the light, something happened so
abnormal and so strange that no one who was fortunate (or
unfortunate) enough to be present in the house at that instant
will ever forget it.
This something was a cry, coming from no one knew where, which,
unearthly in its shrillness and the power it had on the
imagination, reverberated through the house and died away in a
wail so weird, so thrilling and so prolonged that it gripped not
only my own nerveless and weakened heart, but those of the ten
strong men congregated below me. The diamond dropped from Mr.
Grey's hand, and neither he nor any one else moved to pick it up.
Not till silence had come again--a silence almost as unendurable
to the sensitive ear as the cry which had preceded it--did any
one stir or think of the gem. Then one gentleman after another
bent to look for it, but with no success, till one of the
waiters, who possibly had followed it with his eye or caught
sight of its sparkle on the edge of the rug, whither it had
rolled, sprang and picked it up and handed it back to Mr. Grey.
Instinctively the Englishman's hand closed on it, but it was very
evident to me, and I think to all, that his interest in it was
gone. If he looked at it he did not see it, for he stood like one
stunned all the time that agitated men and women were running
hither and thither in unavailing efforts to locate the sound yet
ringing in their ears. Not till these various searchers had all
come together again, in terror of a mystery they could not solve,
did he let his hand fall and himself awake to the scene about
The words he at once gave utterance to were as remarkable as all
"Gentlemen," said he, "you must pardon my agitation. This cry--
you need not seek its source--is one to which I am only too well
accustomed. I have been the happy father of six children. Five I
have buried, and, before the death of each, this same cry has
echoed in my ears. I have but one child left, a daughter,--she is
ill at the hotel. Do you wonder that I shrink from this note of
warning, and show myself something less than a man under its
influence? I am going home; but, first, one word about this
stone." Here he lifted it and bestowed, or appeared to bestow on
it, an anxious scrutiny, putting on his glasses and examining it
carefully before passing it back to the inspector.
"I have heard," said he, with a change of tone which must have
been noticeable to every one, "that this stone was a very
superior one, and quite worthy of the fame it bore here in
America. But, gentlemen, you have all been greatly deceived in
it; no one more than he who was willing to commit murder for its
possession. The stone, which you have just been good enough to
allow me to inspect, is no diamond, but a carefully manufactured
bit of paste not worth the rich and elaborate setting which has
been given to it. I am sorry to be the one to say this, but I
have made a study of precious stones, and I can not let this
bare-faced imitation pass through my hands without a protest. Mr.
Ramsdell," this to our host, "I beg you will allow me to utter my
excuses, and depart at once. My daughter is worse,--this I know,
as certainly as that I am standing here. The cry you have heard
is the one superstition of our family. Pray God that I find her
After this, what could be said? Though no one who had heard him,
not even my own romantic self, showed any belief in this
interpretation of the remarkable sound that had just gone
thrilling through the house, yet, in face of his declared
acceptance of it as a warning, and the fact that all efforts had
failed to locate the sound, or even to determine its source, no
other course seemed open but to let this distinguished man depart
with the suddenness his superstitious fears demanded.
That this was in opposition to the inspector's wishes was evident
enough. Naturally, he would have preferred Mr. Grey to remain, if
only to make clear his surprising conclusions in regard to a
diamond which had passed through the hands of some of the best
judges in the country, without a doubt having been raised as to
With his departure the inspector's manner changed. He glanced at
the stone in his hand, and slowly shook his head.
"I doubt if Mr. Grey's judgment can be depended on, to-night,"
said he, and pocketed the gem as carefully as if his belief in
its real value had been but little disturbed by the assertions of
this renowned foreigner.
I have no distinct remembrance of how I finally left the house,
or of what passed between my uncle and myself on our way home. I
was numb with the shock, and neither my intelligence nor my
feelings were any longer active. I recall but one impression, and
that was the effect made on me by my old home on our arrival
there, as of something new and strange; so much had happened, and
such changes had taken place in myself since leaving it five
hours before. But nothing else is vivid in my remembrance till
that early hour of the dreary morning, when, on waking to the
world with a cry, I beheld my uncle's anxious figure, bending
over me from the foot-board.
Instantly I found tongue, and question after question leaped from
my lips. He did not answer them; he could not; but when I grew
feverish and insistent, he drew the morning paper from behind his
back, and laid it quietly down within my reach. I felt calmed in
an instant, and when, after a few affectionate words, he left me
to myself, I seized on the sheet and read what so many others
were reading at that moment throughout the city.
I spare you the account so far as it coincides with what I had
myself seen and heard the night before. A few particulars which
had not reached my ears will interest you. The instrument of
death found in the place designated by Mr. Durand was one of note
to such as had any taste or knowledge of curios. It was a
stiletto of the most delicate type, long, keen and slender. Not
an American product, not even of this century's manufacture, but
a relic of the days when deadly thrusts were given in the corners
and by-ways of medieval streets.
This made the first mystery.
The second was the as yet unexplainable presence, on the alcove
floor, of two broken coffee-cups, which no waiter nor any other
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