The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green
Part 2 out of 4
person, in fact, admitted having carried there. The tray, which
had fallen from Peter Mooney's hand,--the waiter who had been the
first to give the alarm of murder,-- had held no cups, only ices.
This was a fact, proved. But the handles of two cups had been
found among the debris,-- cups which must have been full, from
the size of the coffee stain left on the rug where they had
In reading this I remembered that Mr. Durand had mentioned
stepping on some broken pieces of china in his escape from the
fatal scene, and, struck with this confirmation of a theory which
was slowly taking form in my own mind, I passed on to the next
paragraph, with a sense of expectation.
The result was a surprise. Others may have been told, I was not,
that Mrs. Fairbrother had received a communication from outside
only a few minutes previous to her death. A Mr. Fullerton, who
had preceded Mr. Durand in his visit to the alcove, owned to
having opened the window for her at some call or signal from
outside, and taken in a small piece of paper which he saw lifted
up from below on the end of a whip handle. He could not see who
held the whip, but at Mrs. Fairbrother'S entreaty he unpinned the
note and gave it to her. While she was puzzling over it, for it
was apparently far from legible, he took another look out in time
to mark a figure rush from below toward the carriage drive. He
did not recognize the figure nor would he know it again. As to
the nature of the communication itself he could say nothing, save
that Mrs. Fairbrother did not seem to be affected favorably by
it. She frowned and was looking very gloomy when he left the
alcove. Asked if he had pulled the curtains together after
closing the window, he said that he had not; that she had not
requested him to do so.
This story, which was certainly a strange one, had been confirmed
by the testimony of the coachman who had lent his whip for the
purpose. This coachman, who was known to be a man of extreme good
nature, had seen no harm in lending his whip to a poor devil who
wished to give a telegram or some such hasty message to the lady
sitting just above them in a lighted window. The wind was fierce
and the snow blinding, and it was natural that the man should
duck his head, but he remembered his appearance well enough to
say that he was either very cold or very much done up and that he
wore a greatcoat with the collar pulled up about his ears. When
he came back with the whip he seemed more cheerful than when he
asked for it, but had no "thank you" for the favor done him, or
if he had, it was lost in his throat and the piercing gale.
The communication, which was regarded by the police as a matter
of the highest importance, had been found in her hand by the
coroner. It was a mere scrawl written in pencil on a small scrap
of paper. The following facsimile of the scrawl was given to the
public in the hope that some one would recognize the handwriting.
The first two lines overlapped and were confused, but the last
one was clear enough. Expect trouble if--If what? Hundreds were
asking the question and at this very moment. I should soon be
asking it, too, but first, I must make an effort to understand
the situation,--a situation which up to now appeared to involve
Mr. Durand, and Mr. Durand only, as the suspected party.
This was no more than I expected, yet it came with a shock under
the broad glare of this wintry morning; so impossible did it seem
in the light of every-day life that guilt could be associated in
any one's mind with a man of such unblemished record and
excellent standing. But the evidence adduced against him was of a
kind to appeal to the common mind--we all know that evidence--nor
could I say, after reading the full account, that I was myself
unaffected by its seeming weight. Not that my faith in his
innocence was shaken. I had met his look of love and tender
gratitude and my confidence in him had been restored, but I saw,
with all the clearness of a mind trained by continuous study, how
difficult it was going to be to counteract the prejudice induced,
first, by his own inconsiderate acts, especially by that
unfortunate attempt of his to secrete Mrs. Fairbrother's gloves
in another woman's bag, and secondly, by his peculiar
explanations--explanations which to many must seem forced and
I saw and felt nerved to a superhuman task. I believed him
innocent, and if others failed to prove him so, I would undertake
to clear him myself,--I, the little Rita, with no experience of
law or courts or crime, but with simply an unbounded faith in the
man suspected and in the keenness of my own insight,--an insight
which had already served me so well and would serve me yet
better, once I had mastered the details which must be the prelude
to all intelligent action.
The morning's report stopped with the explanations given by Mr.
Durand of the appearances against him. Consequently no word
appeared of the after events which had made such an impression at
the time on all the persons present. Mr. Grey was mentioned, but
simply as one of the guests, and to no one reading this early
morning issue would any doubt come as to the genuineness of the
diamond which, to all appearance, had been the leading motive in
the commission of this great crime.
The effect on my own mind of this suppression was a curious one.
I began to wonder if the whole event had not been a chimera of my
disturbed brain--a nightmare which had visited me, and me alone,
and not a fact to be reckoned with. But a moment's further
thought served to clear my mind of all such doubts, and I
perceived that the police had only exercised common prudence in
withholding Mr. Grey's sensational opinion of the stone till it
could be verified by experts.
The two columns of gossip devoted to the family differences which
had led to the separation of Mr. and Mrs. Fairbrother, I shall
compress into a few lines. They had been married three years
before in the city of Baltimore. He was a rich man then, but not
the multimillionaire he is to-day. Plain-featured and without
manner, lie was no mate for this sparkling coquette, whose charm
was of the kind which grows with exercise. Though no actual
scandal was ever associated with her name, he grew tired of her
caprices, and the conquests which she made no endeavor to hide
either from him or from the world at large; and at some time
during the previous year they had come to a friendly
understanding which led to their living apart, each in grand
style and with a certain deference to the proprieties which
retained them their friends and an enviable place in society. He
was not often invited where she was, and she never appeared in
any assemblage where he was expected; but with this exception,
little feeling was shown; matters progressed smoothly, and to
their credit, let it be said, no one ever heard either of them
speak otherwise than considerately of the other. He was at
present out or town, having started some three weeks before for
the southwest, but would probably return on receipt of the
telegram which had been sent him.
The comments made on the murder were necessarily hurried. It was
called a mystery, but it was evident enough that Mr. Durand's
detention was looked on as the almost certain prelude to his
arrest on the charge of murder.
I had had some discipline in life. Although a favorite of my
wealthy uncle, I had given up very early the prospects he held
out to me of a continued enjoyment of his bounty, and entered on
duties which required self-denial and hard work. I did this
because I enjoy having both my mind and heart occupied. To be
necessary to some one, as a nurse is to a patient, seemed to me
an enviable fate till I came under the influence of Anson Durand.
Then the craving of all women for the common lot of their sex
became my craving also; a craving, however, to which I failed at
first to yield, for I felt that it was unshared, and thus a token
of weakness. Fighting my battle, I succeeded in winning it, as I
thought, just as the nurse's diploma was put in my hands. Then
came the great surprise of my life. Anson Durand expressed his
love for me and I awoke to the fact that all my preparation had
been for home joys and a woman's true existence. One hour of
ecstasy in the light of this new hope, then tragedy and something
approaching chaos! Truly I had been through a schooling. But was
it one to make me useful in the only way I could be useful now? I
did not know; I did not care; I was determined on my course, fit
or unfit, and, in the relief brought by this appeal to my energy,
I rose and dressed and went about the duties of the day.
One of these was to determine whether Mr. Grey, on his return to
his hotel, had found his daughter as ill as his fears had
foreboded. A telephone message or two satisfied me on this point.
Miss Grey was very ill, but not considered dangerously so;
indeed, if anything, her condition was improved, and if nothing
happened in the way of fresh complications, the prospects were
that she would be out in a fortnight.
I was not surprised. It was more than I had expected. The cry of
the banshee in an American house was past belief, even in an
atmosphere surcharged with fear and all the horror surrounding a
great crime; and in the secret reckoning I was making against a
person I will not even name at this juncture, I added it as
another suspicious circumstance.
To relate the full experiences of the next few days would be to
encumber my narrative with unnecessary detail.
I did not see Mr. Durand again. My uncle, so amenable in most
matters, proved Inexorable on this point. Till Mr. Durand's good
name should be restored by the coroner's verdict, or such
evidence brought to light as should effectually place him beyond
all suspicion, I was to hold no communication with him of any
sort whatever. I remember the very words with which my uncle
ended the one exhaustive conversation we had on the subject. They
"You have fully expressed to Mr. Durand your entire confidence In
his Innocence. That must suffice him for the present. If he Is
the honest gentleman you think him, It will."
As uncle seldom asserted himself, and as he is very much in
earnest when he does, I made no attempt to combat this
resolution, especially as it met the approval of my better
judgment. But though my power to convey sympathy fell thus under
a yoke, my thoughts and feelings remained free, and these were
all consecrated to the man struggling under an imputation, the
disgrace and humiliation of which he was but poorly prepared, by
his former easy life of social and business prosperity, to meet.
For Mr. Durand, in spite of the few facts which came up from time
to time in confirmation of his story, continued to be almost
universally regarded as a suspect.
This seemed to me very unjust. What if no other clue offered—no
other clue, I mean, recognized as such by police or public! Was
he not to have the benefit of whatever threw a doubt on his own
culpability? For instance, that splash of blood on his
shirt-front, which I had seen, and the shape of which I knew! Why
did not the fact that it was a splash and not a spatter (and
spatter it would have been had it spurted there, instead of
falling from above, as he stated), count for more in the minds of
those whose business it was to probe into the very heart of this
crime ? To me, it told such a tale of innocence that I wondered
how a man like the inspector could pass over it. But later I
understood. A single word enlightened me. The stain, it was true,
was In the form of a splash and not a spurt, but a splash would
have been the result of a drop falling from the reeking end of
the stiletto, whether it dislodged itself early or late. And what
was there to prove that this drop had not fallen at the instant
the stiletto was being thrust Into the lantern, instead of after
the escape of the criminal, and the entrance of another man?
But the mystery of the broken coffee-cups! For that no
explanation seemed to be forthcoming.
And the still unsolved one of the written warning found in the
murdered woman's hand—a warning which had been deciphered to
read: "Be warned! He means to be at the ball! Expect trouble if—"
Was that to be looked upon as directed against a man who, from
the nature of his projected attempt, would take no one into his
Then the stiletto—a photographic reproduction of which was in all
the papers—was that the kind of instrument which a plain New York
gentleman would be likely to use In a crime of this nature? It
was a marked and unique article, capable, as one would think, of
being easily traced to its owner. Had it been claimed by Mr.
Ramsdell, had it been recognized as one of the many works of art
scattered about the highly-decorated alcove, its employment as a
means of death would have gone only to prove the possibly
unpremeditated nature of the crime, and so been valueless as the
basis of an argument in favor of Mr. Durand's innocence. But Mr.
Ramsdell had disclaimed from the first all knowledge of it,
consequently one could but feel justified in asking whether a man
of Mr. Durand's judgment would choose such an extraordinary
weapon in meditating so startling a crime which from its nature
and circumstance could not fail to attract the attention of the
whole civilized world.
Another argument, advanced by himself and subscribed to by all
his friends, was this: That a dealer in precious stones would be
the last man to seek by any unlawful means to possess so
conspicuous a jewel. For he, better than any one else, would know
the impossibility of disposing of a gem of this distinction in
any market short of the Orient. To which the unanswerable reply
was made that no one attributed to him any such folly; that if he
had planned to possess himself of this great diamond, it was for
the purpose of eliminating it from competition with the one he
had procured for Mr. Smythe; an argument, certainly, which drove
us back on the only plea we had at our command—his hitherto
unblemished reputation and the confidence which was felt In him
by those who knew him.
But the one circumstance which affected me most at the time, and
which undoubtedly was the source of the greatest confusion to all
minds, whether official or otherwise, was the unexpected
confirmation by experts of Mr. Grey's opinion in regard to the
diamond. His name was not used, indeed it had been kept out of
the papers with the greatest unanimity, but the hint he had given
the inspector at Mr. Ramsdell's ball had been acted upon and, the
proper tests having been made, the stone, for which so many
believed a life to have been risked and another taken, was
declared to be an imitation, fine and successful beyond all
parallel, but still an imitation, of the great and renowned gem
which had passed through Tiffany's hands a twelve-month before: a
decision which fell like a thunderbolt on all such as had seen
the diamond blazing in unapproachable brilliancy on the breast of
the unhappy Mrs. Fairbrother only an hour or two before her
On me the effect was such that for days I lived in a dream, a
condition that, nevertheless, did not prevent me from starting a
certain little inquiry of my own, of which more hereafter.
Here let me say that I did not share the general confusion on
this topic. I had my own theory, both as to the cause of this
substitution and the moment when it was made. But the time had
not yet come for me to advance it. I could only stand back and
listen to the suppositions aired by the press, suppositions which
fomented so much private discussion that ere long the one
question most frequently heard in this connection was not who
struck the blow which killed Mrs. Fairbrother (this was a
question which some seemed to think settled), but whose juggling
hand had palmed off the paste for the diamond, and how and when
and where had the jugglery taken place?
Opinions on this point were, as I have said, many and various.
Some fixed upon the moment of exchange as that very critical and
hardly appreciable one elapsing between the murder and Mr.
Durand's appearance upon the scene. This theory, I need not say,
was advanced by such as believed that while he was not guilty of
Mrs. Fairbrother's murder, lie had been guilty of taking
advantage of the same to rob the body of what, in the terror and
excitement of the moment, he evidently took to be her great gem.
To others, among whom were many eyewitnesses of the event, it
appeared to be a conceded fact that this substitution had been
made prior to the ball and with Mrs. Fairbrother's full
cognizance. The effectual way in which she had wielded her fan
between the glittering ornament on her breast and the inquisitive
glances constantly leveled upon it might at the time have been
due to coquetry, but to them it looked much more like an
expression of fear lest the deception in which she was indulging
should be discovered. No one fixed the time where I did; but
then, no one but myself had watched the scene with the eyes of
love; besides, and this must be remembered, most people, among
whom I ventured to count the police officials, were mainly
interested in proving Mr. Durand guilty, while I, with contrary
mind, was bent on establishing such facts as confirmed the
explanations he had been pleased to give us, explanations which
necessitated a conviction, on Mrs. Fairbrother's part, of the
great value of the jewel she wore, and the consequent
advisability of ridding herself of it temporarily, if, as so many
believed, the full letter of the warning should read: "Be warned,
he means to be at the ball. Expect trouble if you are found
wearing the great diamond."
True, she may herself have been deceived concerning it.
Unconsciously to herself, she may have been the victim of a
daring fraud on the part of some hanger-on who had access to her
jewels, but, as no such evidence had yet come to life, as she had
no recognized, or, so far as could be learned, secret lover or
dishonest dependent; and, moreover, as no gem of such unusual
value was known to have been offered within the year, here or
abroad, in public or private market, I could not bring myself to
credit this assumption; possibly because I was so ignorant as to
credit another, and a different one,—one which you have already
seen growing in my mind, and which, presumptuous as it was, kept
my courage from failing through all those dreadful days of
enforced waiting and suspense. For I was determined not to
intrude my suggestions, valuable as I considered them, till all
hope was gone of his being righted by the judgment of those who
would not lightly endure the interference of such an
insignificant mote in the great scheme of justice as myself.
The inquest, which might be trusted to bring out all these
doubtful points, had been delayed in anticipation of Mr.
Fairbrother's return. His testimony could not but prove valuable,
if not in fixing the criminal, at least in settling the moot
point as to whether the stone, which the estranged wife had
carried away with her on leaving the house, had been the genuine
one returned to him from Tiffany's or the well-known imitation
now in the hands of the police. He had been located somewhere in
the mountains of lower Colorado, but, strange to say, It had been
found impossible to enter into direct communication with him; nor
was it known whether he was aware as yet of his wife's tragic
death. So affairs went slowly in New York and the case seemed to
come to a standstill, when public opinion was suddenly reawakened
and a more definite turn given to the whole matter by a despatch
from Santa Fe to the Associated Press. This despatch was to the
effect that Abner Fairbrother had passed through that city some
three days before on his way to his new mining camp, the Placide;
that he then showed symptoms of pneumonia, and from advices since
received might be regarded as a very sick man.
Ill,—well, that explained matters. His silence, which many had
taken for indifference, was that of a man physically disabled and
unfit for exertion of any kind. Ill,—a tragic circumstance which
roused endless conjecture. Was he aware, or was he not aware, of
his wife's death? Had he been taken ill before or after he left
Colorado for New Mexico? Was he suffering mainly from shock, or,
as would appear from his complaint, from a too rapid change of
The whole country seethed with excitement, and my poor little
unthought-of, insignificant self burned with impatience, which
only those who have been subjected to a like suspense can
properly estimate. Would the proceedings which were awaited with
so much anxiety be further delayed? Would Mr. Durand remain
indefinitely in durance and under such a cloud of disgrace as
would kill some men and might kill him? Should I be called upon
to endure still longer the suffering which this entailed upon me,
when I thought I knew?
But fortune was less obdurate than I feared. Next morning a
telegraphic statement from Santa Fe settled one of the points of
this great dispute, a statement which you will find detailed at
more length in the following communication, which appeared a few
days later in one of our most enterprising journals.
It was from a resident correspondent in New Mexico, and was
written, as the editor was careful to say, for his own eyes and
not for the public. He had ventured, however, to give It in full,
knowing the great interest which this whole subject had for his
NIGHT AND A VOICE
Not to be outdone by the editor, I insert the article here with
all its details, the importance of which I trust I have
SANTA FE, N.M., April --.
Arrived in Santa Fe, I inquired where Abner Fairbrother could be
found. I was told that he was at his mine, sick.
Upon inquiring as to the location of the Placide, I was informed
that it was fifteen miles or so distant in the mountains, and
upon my expressing an intention of going there immediately, I was
given what I thought very unnecessary advice and then directed to
a certain livery stable, where I was told I could get the right
kind of a horse and such equipment as I stood in need of.
I thought I was equipped all right as it was, but I said nothing
and went on to the livery stable. Here I was shown a horse which
I took to at once and was about to mount, when a pair of leggings
was brought to me.
"You will need these for your journey," said the man.
"Journey!" I repeated. "Fifteen miles!"
The livery stable keeper--a half-breed with a peculiarly pleasant
smile--cocked up his shoulders with the remark:
"Three men as willing but as inexperienced as yourself have
attempted the same journey during the last week and they all came
back before they reached the divide. You will probably come back,
too; but I shall give you as fair a start as if I knew you were
going straight through."
"But a woman has done it," said I; "a nurse from the hospital
went up that very road last week."
"Oh, women! they can do anything--women who are nurses. But they
don't start off alone. You are going alone."
"Yes," I remarked grimly. "Newspaper correspondents make their
journeys singly when they can."
"Oh! you are a newspaper correspondent! Why do so many men from
the papers want to see that sick old man? Because he's so rich?"
"Don't you know?" I asked.
He did not seem to.
I wondered at his ignorance but did not enlighten him.
"Follow the trail and ask your way from time to time. All the
goatherds know where the Placide mine is.
Such were his simple instructions as he headed my horse toward
the canyon. But as I drew off, he shouted out:
"If you get stuck, leave it to the horse. He knows more about it
than you do."
With a vague gesture toward the northwest, he turned away,
leaving me in contemplation of the grandest scenery I had yet
come upon in all my travels.
Fifteen miles! but those miles lay through the very heart of the
mountains, ranging anywhere from six to seven thousand feet high.
In ten minutes the city and all signs of city life were out of
sight. In five more I was seemingly as far removed from all
civilization as if I had gone a hundred miles into the
As my horse settled down to work, picking his way, now here and
now there, sometimes over the brown earth, hard and baked as in a
thousand furnaces, and sometimes over the stunted grass whose
needle-like stalks seemed never to have known moisture, I let my
eyes roam to such peaks as were not cut off from view by the
nearer hillsides, and wondered whether the snow which capped them
was whiter than any other or the blue of the sky bluer, that the
two together had the effect upon me of cameo work on a huge and
Certainly the effect of these grand mountains, into which you
leap without any preparation from the streets and market-places
of America's oldest city, is such as is not easily described.
We struck water now and then,--narrow water--courses which my
horse followed in mid stream, and, more interesting yet,
goatherds with their flocks, Mexicans all, who seemed to
understand no English, but were picturesque enough to look at and
a welcome break in the extreme lonesomeness of the way.
I had been told that they would serve me as guides if I felt at
all doubtful of the trail, and in one or two instances they
proved to be of decided help. They could gesticulate, if they
could not speak English, and when I tried them with the one word
Placide they would nod and point out which of the many side
canyons I was to follow. But they always looked up as they did
so, up, up, till I took to looking up, too, and when, after miles
multiplied indefinitely by the winding of the trail, I came out
upon a ledge from which a full view of the opposite range could
be had, and saw fronting me, from the side of one of its
tremendous peaks, the gap of a vast hole not two hundred feet
from the snowline, I knew that, inaccessible as it looked, I was
gazing up at the opening of Abner Fairbrother's new mine, the
The experience was a strange one. The two ranges approached so
nearly that it seemed as if a ball might be tossed from one to
the other. But the chasm between was stupendous. I grew dizzy as
I looked downward and saw the endless zigzags yet to be traversed
step by step before the bottom of the canyon could be reached,
and then the equally interminable zigzags up the acclivity
beyond, all of which I must trace, still step by step, before I
could hope to arrive at the camp which, from where I stood,
looked to be almost within hail of my voice.
I have described the mine as a hole. That was all I saw at
first--a great black hole in the dark brown earth of the
mountain-side, from which ran down a still darker streak into the
waste places far below it. But as I looked longer I saw that it
was faced by a ledge cut out of the friable soil, on which I was
now able to descry the pronounced white of two or three tent-tops
and some other signs of life, encouraging enough to the eye of
one whose lot it was to crawl like a fly up that tremendous
Truly I could understand why those three men, probably newspaper
correspondents like myself, had turned back to Santa Fe, after a
glance from my present outlook. But though I understood I did not
mean to duplicate their retreat.
The sight of those tents, the thought of what one of them
contained, inspired me with new courage, and, releasing my grip
upon the rein, I allowed my patient horse to proceed. Shortly
after this I passed the divide--that is where the water sheds
both ways--then the descent began. It was zigzag, just as the
climb had been, but I preferred the climb. I did not have the
unfathomable spaces so constantly before me, nor was my
imagination so active. It was fixed on heights to be attained
rather than on valleys to roll into. However, I did not roll.
The Mexican saddle held me securely at whatever angle I was
poised, and once the bottom was reached I found that I could
face, with considerable equanimity, the corresponding ascent.
Only, as I saw how steep the climb bade fair to be, I did not see
how I was ever to come down again. Going up was possible, but the
However, as what goes up must in the course of nature come down,
I put this question aside and gave my horse his head, after
encouraging him with a few blades of grass, which he seemed to
find edible enough, though they had the look and something of the
feel of spun glass.
How we got there you must ask this good animal, who took all the
responsibility and did all the work. I merely clung and balanced,
and at times, when he rounded the end of a zigzag, for instance,
I even shut my eyes, though the prospect was magnificent. At last
even his patience seemed to give out, and he stopped and
trembled. But before I could open my eyes on the abyss beneath he
made another effort. I felt the brush of tree branches across my
face, and, looking up, saw before me the ledge or platform dotted
with tents, at which I had looked with such longing from the
Simultaneously I heard voices, and saw approaching a bronzed and
bearded man with strongly-marked Scotch features and a determined
"The doctor!" I involuntarily exclaimed, with a glance at the
small and curious tent before which he stood guard.
"Yes, the doctor," he answered in unexpectedly good English. "And
who are you? Have you brought the mail and those medicines I sent
"No," I replied with as propitiatory a smile as I could muster up
in face of his brusk forbidding expression. "I came on my own
errand. I am a representative of the New York--,and I hope you
will not deny me a word with Mr. Fairbrother."
With a gesture I hardly knew how to interpret he took my horse by
the rein and led us on a few steps toward another large tent,
where he motioned me to descend. Then he laid his hand on my
shoulder and, forcing me to meet his eye, said:
"You have made this journey--I believe you said from New York--to
see Mr. Fairbrother. Why?"
"Because Mr. Fairbrother is at present the most sought-for man in
America," I returned boldly. "His wife--you know about his wife--
"No. How should I know about his wife? I know what his
temperature is and what his respiration is--but his wife? What
about his wife? He don't know anything about her now himself; he
is not allowed to read letters."
"But you read the papers. You must have known, before you left
Santa Fe, of Mrs. Fairbrother's foul and most mysterious murder
in New York. It has been the theme of two continents for the last
He shrugged his shoulders, which might mean anything, and
confined his reply to a repetition of my own words.
"Mrs. Fairbrother murdered!" he exclaimed, but in a suppressed
voice, to which point was given by the cautious look he cast
behind him at the tent which had drawn my attention. "He must not
know it, man. I could not answer for his life if he received the
least shock in his present critical condition. Murdered? When?"
"Ten days ago, at a ball in New York. It was after Mr.
Fairbrother left the city. He was expected to return, after
hearing the news, but he seems to have kept straight on to his
destination. He was not very fond of his wife,--that is, they
have not been living together for the last year. But he could not
help feeling the shock of her death which he must have heard of
somewhere along the route."
"He has said nothing in his delirium to show that he knew it. It
is possible, just possible, that he didn't read the papers. He
could not have been well for days before he reached Santa Fe."
"When were you called in to attend him?"
"The very night after he reached this place. It was thought he
wouldn't live to reach the camp. But he is a man of great pluck.
He held up till his foot touched this platform. Then he
"If he was as sick as that," I muttered, "why did he leave Santa
Fe? He must have known what it would mean to be sick here."
"I don't think he did. This is his first visit to the mine. He
evidently knew nothing of the difficulties of the road. But he
would not stop. He was determined to reach the camp, even after
he had been given a sight of it from the opposite mountain. He
told them that he had once crossed the Sierras in midwinter. But
he wasn't a sick man then."
"Doctor, they don't know who killed his wife."
"I know, but under such circumstances every fact bearing on the
event is of immense importance. There is one which Mr.
Fairbrother only can make clear. It can be said in a word--"
The grim doctor's eye flashed angrily and I stopped.
"Were you a detective from the district attorney's office in New
York, sent on with special powers to examine him, I should still
say what I am going to say now. While Mr. Fairbrother's
temperature and pulse remain where they now are, no one shall see
him and no one shall talk to him save myself and his nurse."
I turned with a sick look of disappointment toward the road up
which I had so lately come. "Have I panted, sweltered, trembled,
for three mortal hours on the worst trail a man ever traversed to
go back with nothing for my journey? That seems to me hard lines.
Where is the manager of this mine?"
The doctor pointed toward a man bending over the edge of the
great hole from which, at that moment, a line of Mexicans was
issuing, each with a sack on his back which he flung down before
what looked like a furnace built of clay.
"That's he. Mr. Haines, of Philadelphia. What do you want of
"Permission to stay the night. Mr. Fairbrother may be better
"I won't allow it and I am master here, so far as my patient is
concerned. You couldn't stay here without talking, and talking
makes excitement, and excitement is just what he can not stand. A
week from now I will see about it--that is, if my patient
continues to improve. I am not sure that he will."
Let me spend that week here. I'll not talk any more than the
dead. Maybe the manager will let me carry sacks."
"Look here," said the doctor, edging me farther and farther away
from the tent he hardly let out of his sight for a moment.
"You're a canny lad, and shall have your bite and something to
drink before you take your way back. But back you go before
sunset and with this message: No man from any paper north or
south will be received here till I hang out a blue flag. I say
blue, for that is the color of my bandana. When my patient is in
a condition to discuss murder I'll hoist it from his tent-top. It
can be seen from the divide, and if you want to camp there on the
lookout, well and good. As for the police, that's another matter.
I will see them if they come, but they need not expect to talk to
my patient. You may say so down there. It will save scrambling up
this trail to no purpose."
"You may count on me," said I; "trust a New York correspondent to
do the right thing at the right time to head off the boys. But I
doubt if they will believe me."
"In that case I shall have a barricade thrown up fifty feet down
the mountain-side," said he.
"But the mail and your supplies?"
"Oh, the burros can make their way up. We shan't suffer."
"You are certainly master," I remarked.
All this time I had been using my eyes. There was not much to
see, but what there was was romantically interesting. Aside from
the furnace and what was going on there, there was little else
but a sleeping-tent, a cooking-tent, and the small one I had come
on first, which, without the least doubt, contained the sick man.
This last tent was of a peculiar construction and showed the
primitive nature of everything at this height. It consisted
simply of a cloth thrown over a thing like a trapeze. This cloth
did not even come to the ground on either side, but stopped short
a foot or so from the flat mound of adobe which serves as a base
or floor for hut or tent in New Mexico. The rear of the simple
tent abutted on the mountain-side; the opening was toward the
valley. I felt an intense desire to look into this opening,--so
intense that I thought I would venture on an attempt to gratify
it. Scrutinizing the resolute face of the man before me and
flattering myself that I detected signs of humor underlying his
professional bruskness, I asked, somewhat mournfully, if he would
let me go away without so much as a glance at the man I had come
so far to see. "A glimpse would satisfy me I assured him, as the
hint of a twinkle flashed in his eye. "Surely there will be no
harm in that. I'll take it instead of supper."
He smiled, but not encouragingly, and I was feeling very
despondent, indeed, when the canvas on which our eyes were fixed
suddenly shook and the calm figure of a woman stepped out before
us, clad in the simplest garb, but showing in every line of face
and form a character of mingled kindness and shrewdness. She was
evidently on the lookout for the doctor, for she made a sign as
she saw him and returned instantly into the tent.
"Mr. Fairbrother has just fallen asleep," he explained. "It isn't
discipline and I shall have to apologize to Miss Serra, but if
you will promise not to speak nor make the least disturbance I
will let you take the one peep you prefer to supper."
"I promise," said I.
Leading the way to the opening, he whispered a word to the nurse,
then motioned me to look in. The sight was a simple one, but to
me very impressive. The owner of palaces, a man to whom millions
were as thousands to such poor devils as myself, lay on an
improvised bed of evergreens, wrapped in a horse blanket and with
nothing better than another of these rolled up under his head. At
his side sat his nurse on what looked like the uneven stump of a
tree. Close to her hand was a tolerably flat stone, on which I
saw arranged a number of bottles and such other comforts as were
absolutely necessary to a proper care of the sufferer.
That was all. In these few words I have told the whole story. To
be sure, this simple tent, perched seven thousand feet and more
above sea-level, had one advantage which even his great house in
New York could not offer This was the out look. Lying as he did
facing the valley, he had only to open his eyes to catch a full
view of the panorama of sky and mountain stretched out before
him. It was glorious; whether seen at morning, noon or night,
glorious. But I doubt if he would not gladly have exchanged it
for a sight of his home walls.
As I started to go, a stir took place in the blanket wrapped
about his chin, and I caught a glimpse of the iron-gray head and
hollow cheeks of the great financier. He was a very sick man.
Even I could see that. Had I obtained the permission I sought and
been allowed to ask him one of the many questions burning on my
tongue, I should have received only delirium for reply. There was
no reaching that clouded intelligence now, and I felt grateful to
the doctor for convincing me of it.
I told him so and thanked him quite warmly when we were well away
from the tent, and his answer was almost kindly, though he made
no effort to hide his impatience and anxiety to see me go. The
looks he cast at the sun were significant, and, having no wish to
antagonize him and every wish to visit the spot again, I moved
toward my horse with the intention of untying him.
To my surprise the doctor held me back.
"You can't go to-night," said he, "your horse has hurt himself."
It was true. There was something the matter with the animal's
left forefoot. As the doctor lifted it, the manager came up. He
agreed with the doctor. I could not make the descent to Santa Fe
on that horse that night. Did I feel elated? Rather. I had no
wish to descend. Yet I was far from foreseeing what the night was
to bring me.
I was turned over to the manager, but not without a final
injunction from the doctor. "Not a word to any one about your
errand! Not a word about the New York tragedy, as you value Mr.
"Not a word," said I.
Then he left me.
To see the sun go down and the moon come up from a ledge hung, as
it were, in mid air! The experience was novel--but I refrain. I
have more important matters to relate.
I was given a bunk at the extreme end of the long sleeping-tent,
and turned in with the rest. I expected to sleep, but on finding
that I could catch a sight of the sick tent from under the
canvas, I experienced such fascination in watching this forbidden
spot that midnight came before I had closed my eyes. Then all
desire to sleep left me, for the patient began to moan and
presently to talk, and, the stillness of the solitary height
being something abnormal, I could sometimes catch the very words.
Devoid as they were of all rational meaning, they excited my
curiosity to the burning point; for who could tell if he might
not say something bearing on the mystery?
But that fevered mind had recurred to early scenes and the babble
which came to my ears was all of mining camps in the Rockies and
the dicker of horses. Perhaps the uneasy movement of my horse
pulling at the end of his tether had disturbed him. Perhaps--
But at the inner utterance of the second "perhaps" I found myself
up on my elbow listening with all my ears, and staring with
wide-stretched eyes at the thicket of stunted trees where the
road debouched on the platform. Something was astir there besides
my horse. I could catch sounds of an unmistakable nature. A rider
was coming up the trail.
Slipping back into my place, I turned toward the doctor, who lay
some two or three bunks nearer the opening. He had started up,
too, and in a moment was out of the tent. I do not think he had
observed my action, for it was very dark where I lay and his back
had been turned toward me. As for the others, they slept like the
dead, only they made more noise.
Interested--everything is interesting at such a height--I brought
my eye to bear on the ledge, and soon saw by the limpid light of
a full moon the stiff, short branches of the trees, on which my
gaze was fixed, give way to an advancing horse and rider.
"Halloo!" saluted the doctor in a whisper, which was in itself a
warning. "Easy there! We have sickness in this camp and it's a
late hour for visitors."
The answer was subdued, but earnest.
"I'm the magistrate of this district. I've a question to ask this
sick man, on behalf of the New York Chief of Police, who is a
personal friend of mine. It is connected with--"
The doctor had seized him by the arm and turned his face away
from the sick tent. Then the two heads came together and an
I could not hear a word of it, but their motions were eloquent.
My sympathy was with the magistrate, of course, and I watched
eagerly while he passed a letter over to the doctor, who vainly
strove to read it by the light of the moon. Finding this
impossible, he was. about to return it, when the other struck a
match and lit a lantern hanging from the horn of his saddle. The
two heads came together again, but as quickly separated with
every appearance of irreconcilement, and I was settling back with
sensations of great disappointment, when a sound fell on the
night so unexpected to all concerned that with a common impulse
each eye sought the sick tent.
"Water! will some one give me water?" a voice had cried, quietly
and with none of the delirium which had hitherto rendered it
The doctor started for the tent. There was the quickness of
surprise in his movement and the gesture he made to the
magistrate, as he passed in, reawakened an expectation in my
breast which made me doubly watchful.
Providence was intervening in our favor, and I was not surprised
to see him presently reissue with the nurse, whom he drew into
the shadow of the trees, where they had a short conference. If
she returned alone into the tent after this conference I should
know that the matter was at an end and that the doctor had
decided to maintain his authority against that of the magistrate.
But she remained outside and the magistrate was invited to join
their council; when they again left the shadow of the trees it
was to approach the tent.
The magistrate, who was in the rear, could not have more than
passed the opening, but I thought him far enough inside not to
detect any movement on my part, so I took advantage of the
situation to worm myself out of my corner and across the ledge to
where the tent made a shadow in the moonlight.
Crouching close, and laying my ear against the canvas, I
The nurse was speaking in a gently persuasive tone. I imagined
her kneeling by the head of the patient and breathing words into
his ear. These were what I heard:
"You love diamonds. I have often noticed that; you look so long
at the ring on your hand. That is why I have let it stay there,
though at times I have feared it would drop off and roll away
over the adobe down the mountain-side. Was I right?"
"Yes, yes." The words came with difficulty, but they were clear
enough. "It's of small value. I like it because--"
He appeared to be too weak to finish.
A pause, during which she seemed to edge nearer to him.
"We all have some pet keepsake," said she. "But I should never
have supposed this stone of yours an inexpensive one. But I
forget that you are the owner of a very large and remarkable
diamond, a diamond that is spoken of sometimes in the papers. Of
course, if you have a gem like that, this one must appear very
small and valueless to you."
"Yes, this is nothing, nothing." And he appeared to turn away his
"Mr. Fairbrother! Pardon me, but I want to tell you something
about that big diamond of yours. You have been in and have not
been able to read your letters, so do not know that your wife has
had some trouble with that diamond. People have said that it is
not a real stone, but a well-executed imitation. May I write to
her that this is a mistake, that it is all you have ever claimed
for it--that is, an unusually large diamond of the first water?"
I listened in amazement. Surely, this was an insidious way to get
at the truth,--a woman's way, but who would say it was not a wise
one, the wisest, perhaps, which could be taken under the
circumstances? What would his reply be? Would it show that he was
as ignorant of his wife's death as was generally believed, both
by those about him here and those who knew him well in New York?
Or would the question convey nothing further to him than the
doubt--in itself an insult of the genuineness of that great stone
which had been his pride?
A murmur--that was all it could be called--broke from his
fever-dried lips and died away in an inarticulate gasp. Then,
suddenly, sharply, a cry broke from him, an intelligible cry, and
we heard him say:
"No imitation! no imitation! It was a sun! a glory! No other like
it! It lit the air! it blazed, it burned! I see it now! I see--"
There the passion succumbed, the strength failed; another murmur,
another, and the great void of night which stretched over--I
might almost say under us--was no more quiet or seemingly
impenetrable than the silence of that moon-enveloped tent
Would he speak again? I did not think so. Would she even try to
make him? I did not think this, either. But I did not know the
Softly her voice rose again. There was a dominating insistence in
her tones, gentle as they were; the insistence of a healthy mind
which seeks to control a weakened one.
"You do not know of any imitation, then? It was the real stone
you gave her. You are sure of it; you would be ready to swear to
it if--say just yes or no," she finished in gentle urgency.
Evidently he was sinking again into unconsciousness, and she was
just holding him back long enough for the necessary word.
It came slowly and with a dragging intonation, but there was no
mistaking the ring of truth with which he spoke.
"Yes," said he,
When I heard the doctor's voice and felt a movement in the canvas
against which I leaned, I took the warning and stole back
hurriedly to my quarters.
I was scarcely settled, when the same group of three I had before
watched silhouetted itself again against the moonlight. There was
some talk, a mingling and separating of shadows; then the nurse
glided back to her duties and the two men went toward the clump
of trees where the horse had been tethered.
Ten minutes and the doctor was back in his bunk. Was it
imagination, or did I feel his hand on my shoulder before he
finally lay down and composed himself to sleep? I can not say; I
only know that I gave no sign, and that soon all stir ceased in
his direction and I was left to enjoy my triumph and to listen
with anxious interest to the strange and unintelligible sounds
which accompanied the descent of the horseman down the face of
the cliff, and finally to watch with a fascination, which drew me
to my knees, the passage of that sparkling star of light hanging
from his saddle. It crept to and fro across the side of the
opposite mountain as he threaded its endless zigzags and finally
disappeared over the brow into the invisible canyons beyond.
With the disappearance of this beacon came lassitude and sleep,
through whose hazy atmosphere floated wild sentences from the
sick tent, which showed that the patient was back again in
Nevada, quarreling over the price of a horse which was to carry
him beyond the reach of some threatening avalanche.
When next morning I came to depart, the doctor took me by both
hands and looked me straight in the eyes.
"You heard," he said.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"I can tell a satisfied man when I see him," he growled, throwing
down my hands with that same humorous twinkle in his eyes which
had encouraged me from the first.
I made no answer, but I shall remember the lesson.
One detail more. When I stared on my own descent I found why the
leggings, with which I had been provided, were so indispensable.
I was not allowed to ride; indeed, riding down those steep
declivities was impossible. No horse could preserve his balance
with a rider on his back. I slid, so did my horse, and only in
the valley beneath did we come together again.
The success of this interview provoked other attempts on the part
of the reporters who now flocked into the Southwest. Ere long
particulars began to pour in of Mr. Fairbrother's painful journey
south, after his illness set in. The clerk of the hotel in El
Moro, where the great mine-owner's name was found registered at
the time of the murder, told a story which made very good reading
for those who were more interested in the sufferings and
experiences of the millionaire husband of the murdered lady than
in those of the unhappy but comparatively insignificant man upon
whom public opinion had cast the odium of her death.
It seems that when the first news came of the great crime which
had taken place in New York, Mr. Fairbrother was absent from the
hotel on a prospecting tour through the adjacent mountains.
Couriers had been sent after him, and it was one of these who
finally brought him into town. He had been found wandering alone
on horseback among the defiles of an untraveled region, sick and
almost incoherent from fever. Indeed, his condition was such that
neither the courier nor such others as saw him had the heart to
tell him the dreadful news from New York, or even to show him the
papers. To their great relief, he betrayed no curiosity in them.
All he wanted was a berth in the first train going south, and
this was an easy way for them out of a great responsibility. They
listened to his wishes and saw him safely aboard, with such
alacrity and with so many precautions against his being disturbed
that they have never doubted that he left El Moro in total
ignorance, not only of the circumstances of his great
bereavement, but of the bereavement itself.
This ignorance, which he appeared to have carried with him to the
Placide, was regarded by those who knew him best as proving the
truth of the affirmation elicited from him in the pauses of his
delirium of the genuineness of the stone which had passed from
his hands to those of his wife at the time of their separation;
and, further despatches coming in, some private and some
official, but all insisting upon the fact that it would be weeks
before he would be in a condition to submit to any sort of
examination on a subject so painful, the authorities in New York
decided to wait no longer for his testimony, but to proceed at
once with the inquest.
Great as is the temptation to give a detailed account of
proceedings which were of such moment to myself, and to every
word of which I listened with the eagerness of a novice and the
anguish of a woman who sees her lover's reputation at the mercy
of a verdict which may stigmatize him as a possible criminal, I
see no reason for encumbering my narrative with what, for the
most part, would be a mere repetition of facts already known to
Mr. Durand's intimate and suggestive connection with this crime,
the explanations he had to give of this connection, frequently
bizarre and, I must acknowledge, not always convincing,--nothing
could alter these nor change the fact of the undoubted cowardice
he displayed in hiding Mrs. Fairbrother's gloves in my
unfortunate little bag.
As for the mystery of the warning, it remained as much of a
mystery as ever. Nor did any better success follow an attempt to
fix the ownership of the stiletto, though a half-day was
exhausted in an endeavor to show that the latter might have come
into Mr. Durand's possession in some of the many visits he was
shown to have made of late to various curio-shops in and out of
New York City.*
I had expected all this, just as I had expected Mr. Grey to be
absent from the proceedings and his testimony ignored. But this
expectation did not make the ordeal any easier, and when I
noticed the effect of witness after witness leaving the stand
without having improved Mr. Durand's position by a jot or
offering any new clue capable of turning suspicion into other
directions, I felt my spirit harden and my purpose strengthen
till I hardly knew myself. I must have frightened my uncle, for
his hand was always on my arm and his chiding voice in my ear,
bidding me beware, not only for my own sake and his, but for that
of Mr. Durand, whose eye was seldom away from my face.
The verdict, however, was not the one I had so deeply dreaded.
While it did not exonerate Mr. Durand, it did not openly accuse
him, and I was on the point of giving him a smile of
congratulation and renewed hope when I saw my little detective--
the one who had spied the gloves in my bag at the ball--advance
and place his hand upon his arm.
The police had gone a step further than the coroner's jury, and
Mr. Durand was arrested, before my eyes, on a charge of murder.
*Mr. Durand's visits to the curio-shops, as explained by him,
were made with a view of finding a casket in which to place his
diamond. This explanation was looked upon with as much doubt as
the others he had offered where the situation seemed to be of a
THE MOUSE NIBBLES AT THE NET
The next day saw me at police headquarters begging an interview
from the inspector, with the intention of confiding to him a
theory which must either cost me his sympathy or open the way to
a new inquiry, which I felt sure would lead to Mr. Durand's
I chose this gentleman for my confidant, from among all those
with whom I had been brought in contact by my position as witness
in a case of this magnitude, first, because he had been present
at the most tragic moment of my life, and secondly, because I was
conscious of a sympathetic bond between us which would insure me
a kind hearing. However ridiculous my idea might appear to him, I
was assured that he would treat me with consideration and not
visit whatever folly I might be guilty of on the head of him for
whom I risked my reputation for good sense.
Nor was I disappointed in this. Inspector Dalzell's air was
fatherly and his tone altogether gentle as, in reply to my
excuses for troubling him with my opinions, he told me that in a
case of such importance he was glad to receive the impressions
even of such a prejudiced little partizan as myself. The word
fired me, and I spoke.
"You consider Mr. Durand guilty, and so do many others, I fear,
in spite of his long record for honesty and uprightness. And why?
Because you will not admit the possibility of another person's
guilt,--a person standing so high in private and public
estimation that the very idea seems preposterous and little short
of insulting to the country of which he is an acknowledged
The inspector had actually risen. His expression and whole
attitude showed shock. But I did not quail; I only subdued my
manner and spoke with quieter conviction.
"I am aware," said I, "how words so daring must impress you. But
listen, sir; listen to what I have to say before you utterly
condemn me. I acknowledge that it is the frightful position into
which I threw Mr. Durand by my officious attempt to right him
which has driven me to make this second effort to fix the crime
on the only other man who had possible access to Mrs. Fairbrother
at the fatal moment. How could I live in inaction? How could you
expect me to weigh for a moment this foreigner's reputation
against that of my own lover? If I have reasons--"
"--reasons which would appeal to all; if instead of this person's
having an international reputation at his back he had been a
simple gentleman like Mr. Durand,--would you not consider me
entitled to speak?"
"You have no confidence in my reasons, Inspector; they may not
weigh against that splash of blood on Mr. Durand's shirt-front,
but such as they are I must give them. But first, it will be
necessary for you to accept for the nonce Mr. Durand's statements
as true. Are you willing to do this?"
"I will try."
"Then, a harder thing yet,--to put some confidence in my
judgment. I saw the man and did not like him long before any
intimation of the evening's tragedy had turned suspicion on any
one. I watched him as I watched others. I saw that he had not
come to the ball to please Mr. Ramsdell or for any pleasure he
himself hoped to reap from social intercourse, but for some
purpose much more important, and that this purpose was connected
with Mrs. Fairbrother's diamond. Indifferent, almost morose
before she came upon the scene, he brightened to a surprising
extent the moment he found himself in her presence. Not because
she was a beautiful woman, for he scarcely honored her face or
even her superb figure with a look. All his glances were centered
on her large fan, which, in swaying to and fro, alternately hid
and revealed the splendor on her breast; and when by chance it
hung suspended for a moment in her forgetful hand and he caught a
full glimpse of the great gem, I perceived such a change in his
face that, if nothing more had occurred that night to give
prominence to this woman and her diamond, I should have carried
home the conviction that interests of no common import lay behind
a feeling so extraordinarily displayed."
"Fanciful, my dear Miss Van Arsdale I Interesting, but fanciful."
"I know. I have not yet touched on fact. But facts are coming,
He stared. Evidently he was not accustomed to hear the law laid
down in this fashion by a midget of my proportions.
"Go on," said he; "happily, I have no clerk here to listen."
"I would not speak if you had. These are words for but one ear as
yet. Not even my uncle suspects the direction of my thoughts."
"Proceed," he again enjoined.
Upon which I plunged into my subject.
"Mrs. Fairbrother wore the real diamond, and no imitation, to the
ball. Of this I feel sure. The bit of glass or paste displayed to
the coroner's jury was bright enough, but it was not the star of
light I saw burning on her breast as she passed me on her way to
"Miss Van Arsdale!"
"The interest which Mr. Durand displayed in it, the marked
excitement into which he was thrown by his first view of its size
and splendor, confirm in my mind the evidence which he gave on
oath (and he is a well-known diamond expert, you know, and must
have been very well aware that he would injure rather than help
his cause by this admission) that at that time he believed the
stone to be real and of immense value. Wearing such a gem, then,
she entered the fatal alcove, and, with a smile on her face,
prepared to employ her fascinations on whoever chanced to come
within their reach. But now something happened. Please let me
tell it my own way. A shout from the driveway, or a bit of snow
thrown against the window, drew her attention to a man standing
below, holding up a note fastened to the end of a whip-handle. I
do not know whether or not you have found that man. If you have--
" The inspector made no sign. "I judge that you have not, so I
may go on with my suppositions. Mrs. Fairbrother took in this
note. She may have expected it and for this reason chose the
alcove to sit in, or it may have been a surprise to her. Probably
we shall never know the whole truth about it; but what we can
know and do, if you are still holding to our compact and viewing
this crime in the light of Mr. Durand's explanations, is that it
made a change in her and made her anxious to rid herself of the
diamond. It has been decided that the hurried scrawl should read,
'Take warning. He means to be at the ball. Expect trouble if you
do not give him the diamond,' or something to that effect. But
why was it passed up to her unfinished? Was the haste too great?
I hardly think so. I believe in another explanation, which points
with startling directness to the possibility that the person
referred to in this broken communication was not Mr. Durand, but
one whom I need not name; and that the reason you have failed to
find the messenger, of whose appearance you have received
definite information, is that you have not looked among the
servants of a certain distinguished visitor in town. Oh," I burst
forth with feverish volubility, as I saw the inspector's lips
open in what could not fail to be a sarcastic utterance, "I know
what you feel tempted to reply. Why should a servant deliver a
warning against his own master? If you will be patient with me
you will soon see; but first I wish to make it clear that Mrs.
Fairbrother, having received this warning just before Mr. Durand
appeared in the alcove,--reckless, scheming woman that she was!--
sought to rid herself of the object against which it was directed
in the way we have temporarily accepted as true. Relying on her
arts, and possibly misconceiving the nature of Mr. Durand's
interest in her, she hands over the diamond hidden in her
rolled-up gloves, which he, without suspicion, carries away with
him, thus linking himself indissolubly to a great crime of which
another was the perpetrator. That other, or so I believe from my
very heart of hearts, was the man I saw leaning against the wall
at the foot of the alcove a few minutes before I passed into the
I stopped with a gasp, hardly able to meet the stern and
forbidding look with which the inspector sought to restrain what
he evidently considered the senseless ravings of a child. But I
had come there to speak, and I hastily proceeded before the
rebuke thus expressed could formulate itself into words.
"I have some excuse for a declaration so monstrous. Perhaps I am
the only person who can satisfy you in regard to a certain fact
about which you have expressed some curiosity. Inspector, have
you ever solved the mystery of the two broken coffee-cups found
amongst the debris at Mrs. Fairbrother's feet? It did not come
out in the inquest, I noticed."
"Not yet," he cried, "but--you can not tell me anything about
"Possibly not. But I can tell you this: When I reached the
supper-room door that evening I looked back and, providentially
or otherwise--only the future can determine that--detected Mr.
Grey in the act of lifting two cups from a tray left by some
waiter on a table standing just outside the reception-room door.
I did not see where he carried them; I only saw his face turned
toward the alcove; and as there was no other lady there, or
anywhere near there, I have dared to think--"
Here the inspector found speech.
"You saw Mr. Grey lift two cups and turn toward the alcove at a
moment we all know to have been critical? You should have told me
this before. He may be a possible witness."
I scarcely listened. I was too full of my own argument.
"There were other people in the hall, especially at my end of it.
A perfect throng was coming from the billiard-room, where the
dancing had been, and it might easily be that he could both enter
and leave that secluded spot without attracting attention. He had
shown too early and much too unmistakably his lack of interest in
the general company for his every movement to be watched as at
his first arrival. But this is simple conjecture; what I have to
say next is evidence. The stiletto--have you studied it, sir? I
have, from the pictures. It is very quaint; and among the devices
on the handle is one that especially attracted my attention. See!
This is what I mean." And I handed him a drawing which I had made
with some care in expectation of this very interview.
He surveyed it with some astonishment.
"I understand," I pursued in trembling tones, for I was much
affected by my own daring, "that no one has so far succeeded in
tracing this weapon to its owner. Why didn't your experts study
heraldry and the devices of great houses? They would have found
that this one is not unknown in England. I can tell you on whose
blazon it can often be seen, and so could-- Mr. Grey."
I ASTONISH THE INSPECTOR
I was not the only one to tremble now. This man of infinite
experience and daily contact with crime had turned as pale as
ever I myself had done in face of a threatening calamity.
"I shall see about this," he muttered, crumpling the paper in his
hand. "But this is a very terrible business you are plunging me
into. I sincerely hope that you are not heedlessly misleading
"I am correct in my facts, if that is what you mean," said I.
"The stiletto is an English heirloom, and bears on its blade,
among other devices, that of Mr. Grey's family on the female
side. But that is not all I want to say. If the blow was struck
to obtain the diamond, the shock of not finding it on his victim
must have been terrible. Now Mr. Grey's heart, if my whole theory
is not utterly false, was set upon obtaining this stone. Your eye
was not on him as mine was when you made your appearance in the
hall with the recovered jewel. He showed astonishment, eagerness,
and a determination which finally led him forward, as you know,
with the request to take the diamond in his hand. Why did he want
to take it in his hand? And why, having taken it, did he drop
it--a diamond supposed to be worth an ordinary man's fortune?
Because he was startled by a cry he chose to consider the
traditional one of his family proclaiming death? Is it likely,
sir? Is it conceivable even that any such cry as we heard could,
in this day and generation, ring through such an assemblage,
unless it came with ventriloquial power from his own lips? You
observed that he turned his back; that his face was hidden from
us. Discreet and reticent as we have all been, and careful in our
criticisms of so bizarre an event, there still must be many to
question the reality of such superstitious fears, and some to ask
if such a sound could be without human agency, and a very guilty
agency, too. Inspector, I am but a child in your estimation, and
I feel my position in this matter much more keenly than you do,
but I would not be true to the man whom I have unwittingly helped
to place in his present unenviable position if I did not tell you
that, in my judgment, this cry was a spurious one, employed by
the gentleman himself as an excuse for dropping the stone."
"And why should he wish to drop the stone?"
"Because of the fraud he meditated. Because it offered him an
opportunity for substituting a false stone for the real. Did you
not notice a change in the aspect of this jewel dating from this
very moment? Did it shine with as much brilliancy in your hand
when you received it back as when you passed it over?"
"Nonsense! I do not know; it is all too absurd for argument." Yet
he did stop to argue, saying in the next breath: "You forget that
the stone has a setting. Would you claim that this gentleman of
family, place and political distinction had planned this hideous
crime with sufficient premeditation to have provided himself with
the exact counterpart of a brooch which it is highly improbable
he ever saw? You would make him out a Cagliostro or something
worse. Miss Van Arsdale, I fear your theory will topple over of
its own weight."
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
"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
"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
"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."
"The nurse saw all this? Has she that book?"
"No, it went out next morning, with the scraps. It was some
pamphlet, I believe."
The inspector turned the morsel of paper over and over in his
"What is this nurse's name?"
"Does she share your doubts?"
"I can not say."
"You have seen her often?"
"No, only the one time."
"Is she discreet?"
"Very. On this subject she will be like the grave unless forced
by you to speak."
"And Miss Grey?"
"She is still ill, too ill to be disturbed by questions,
especially on so delicate a topic. But she is getting well fast.
Her father's fears as we heard them expressed on one memorable
occasion were ill founded, sir."
Slowly the inspector inserted this scrap of paper between the
folds of his pocketbook. He did not give me another look, though
I stood trembling before him. Was he in any way convinced or was
he simply seeking for the most considerate way in which to
dismiss me and my abominable theory? I could not gather his
intentions from his expression, and was feeling very faint and
heart-sick when he suddenly turned upon me with the remark:
"A girl as ill as you say Miss Grey was must have had some very
pressing matter on her mind to attempt to write and send a
message under such difficulties. According to your idea, she had
some notion of her father's designs and wished to warn Mrs.
Fairbrother against them. But don't you see that such conduct as
this would be preposterous, nay, unparalleled in persons of their
distinction? You must find some other explanation for Miss Grey's
seemingly mysterious action, and I an agent of crime other than
one of England's most reputable statesmen."
"So that Mr. Durand is shown the same consideration, I am
content," said I. "It is the truth and the truth only I desire. I
am willing to trust my cause with you."
He looked none too grateful for this confidence. Indeed, now that
I look back on this scene, I do not wonder that he shrank from
the responsibility thus foisted upon him.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked.
"Prove something. Prove that I am altogether wrong or altogether
right. Or if proof is not possible, pray allow me the privilege
of doing what I can myself to clear up the matter."
There was apprehension, disapprobation, almost menace in his
tone. I bore it with as steady and modest a glance as possible,
saying, when I thought he was about to speak again:
"I will do nothing without your sanction. I realize the dangers
of this inquiry and the disgrace that would follow if our attempt
was suspected before proof reached a point sufficient to justify
it. It is not an open attack I meditate, but one--"
Here I whispered in his ear for several minutes. when I had
finished he gave me a prolonged stare, then he laid his hand on
"You are a little wonder," he declared. "But your ideas are very
quixotic, very. However," he added, suddenly growing grave,
"something, I must admit, may be excused a young girl who finds
herself forced to choose between the guilt of her lover and that
of a man esteemed great by the world, but altogether removed from
her and her natural sympathies."
"You acknowledge, then, that it lies between these two?"
"I see no third," said he.
I drew a breath of relief.
"Don't deceive yourself, Miss Van Arsdale; it is not among the
possibilities that Mr. Grey has had any connection with this
crime. He is an eccentric man, that's all."
"I shall do my duty. I shall satisfy you and myself on certain
points, and if--" I hardly breathed "--there is the least doubt,
I will see you again and--"
The change he saw in me frightened away the end of his sentence.
Turning upon me with some severity, he declared: "There are nine
hundred and ninety-nine chances in a thousand that my next word
to you will be to prepare yourself for Mr. Durand's arraignment
and trial. But an infinitesimal chance remains to the contrary.
If you choose to trust to it, I can only admire your pluck and
the great confidence you show in your unfortunate lover."
And with this half-hearted encouragement I was forced to be
content, not only for that day, but for many days, when--
THE INSPECTOR ASTONISHES ME
But before I proceed to relate what happened at the end of those
two weeks, I must say a word or two in regard to what happened
Nothing happened to improve Mr. Durand's position, and nothing
openly to compromise Mr. Grey's. Mr. Fairbrother, from whose
testimony many of us hoped something would yet be gleaned
calculated to give a turn to the suspicion now centered on one
man, continued ill in New Mexico; and all that could be learned
from him of any importance was contained in a short letter
dictated from his bed, in which he affirmed that the diamond,
when it left him, was in a unique setting procured by himself in
France; that he knew of no other jewel similarly mounted, and
that if the false gem was set according to his own description,
the probabilities were that the imitation stone had been put in
place of the real one under his wife's direction and in some
workshop in New York, as she was not the woman to take the
trouble to send abroad for anything she could get done in this
country. The description followed. It coincided with the one we
This was something of a blow to me. Public opinion would
naturally reflect that of the husband, and it would require very
strong evidence indeed to combat a logical supposition of this
kind with one so forced and seemingly extravagant as that upon
which my own theory was based. Yet truth often transcends
imagination, and, having confidence in the inspector's integrity,
I subdued my impatience for a week, almost for two, when my
suspense and rapidly culminating dread of some action being taken
against Mr. Durand were suddenly cut short by a message from the
inspector, followed by his speedy presence in my uncle's house.
We have a little room on our parlor floor, very snug and
secluded, and in this room I received him. Seldom have I dreaded
a meeting more and seldom have I been met with greater kindness
and consideration. He was so kind that I feared he had only
disappointing news to communicate, but his first words reassured
me. He said:
"I have come to you on a matter of importance. We have found
enough truth in the suppositions you advanced at our last
interview to warrant us in the attempt you yourself proposed for
the elucidation of this mystery. That this is the most risky and
altogether the most unpleasant duty which I have encountered
during my several years of service, I am willing to acknowledge
to one so sensible and at the same time of so much modesty as
yourself. This English gentleman has a reputation which lifts him
far above any unworthy suspicion, and were it not for the
favorable impression made upon us by Mr. Durand in a long talk we
had with him last night, I would sooner resign my place than
pursue this matter against him. Success would create a horror on
both sides the water unprecedented during my career, while
failure would bring down ridicule on us which would destroy the
prestige of the whole force. Do you see my difficulty, Miss Van
Arsdale? We can not even approach this haughty and highly
reputable Englishman with questions without calling down on us
the wrath of the whole English nation. We must be sure before we
make a move, and for us to be sure where the evidence is all
circumstantial, I know of no better plan than the one you were
pleased to suggest, which, at the time, I was pleased to call
Drawing a long breath I surveyed him timidly. Never had I so
realized my presumption or experienced such a thrill of joy in my
frightened yet elated heart. They believed in Anson's innocence
and they trusted me. Insignificant as I was, it was to my
exertions this great result was due. As I realized this, I felt
my heart swell and my throat close. In despair of speaking I held
out my hands. He took them kindly and seemed to be quite
"Such a little, trembling, tear-filled Amazon!" he cried. "Shall
you have courage to undertake the task before you? If not--"
"Oh, but I have," said I. "It is your goodness and the surprise
of it all which unnerves me. I can go through what we have
planned if you think the secret of my personality and interest in
Mr. Durand can be kept from the people I go among."
"It can if you will follow our advice implicitly. You say that
you know the doctor and that he stands ready to recommend you in
case Miss Pierson withdraws her services."
"Yes, he is eager to give me a chance. He was a college mate of
"How will you explain to him your wish to enter upon your duties
under another name?"
"Very simply. I have already told him that the publicity given my
name in the late proceedings has made me very uncomfortable; that
my first case of nursing would require all my self-possession and
that if he did not think it wrong I should like to go to it under
my mother's name. He made no dissent and I think I can persuade
him that I would do much better work as Miss Ayers than as the
too well-known Miss Van Arsdale."
"You have great powers of persuasion. But may you not meet people
at the hotel who know you?"
"I shall try to avoid people; and, if my identity is discovered,
its effect or non-effect upon one we find it difficult to mention
will give us our clue. If he has no guilty interest in the crime,
my connection with it as a witness will not disturb him. Besides,
two days of unsuspicious acceptance of me as Miss Grey's nurse
are all I want. I shall take immediate opportunity, I assure you,
to make the test I mentioned. But how much confidence you will
have to repose in me! I comprehend all the importance of my
undertaking, and shall work as if my honor, as well as yours,
were at stake."
"I am sure you will." Then for the first time in my life I was
glad that I was small and plain rather than tall and fascinating
like so many of my friends, for he said: "If you had been a
triumphant beauty, depending on your charms as a woman to win
people to your will, we should never have listened to your
proposition or risked our reputation in your hands. It is your
wit, your earnestness and your quiet determination which have
impressed us. You see I speak plainly. I do so because I respect
you. And now to business."
Details followed. After these were well understood between us, I
ventured to say: "Do you object--would it be asking too much--if
I requested some enlightenment as to what facts you have
discovered about Mr. Grey which go to substantiate my theory? I
might work more intelligently."
"No, Miss Van Arsdale, you would not work more intelligently, and
you know it. But you have the natural curiosity of one whose very
heart is bound up in this business. I could deny you what you ask
but I won't, for I want you to work with quiet confidence, which
you would not do if your mind were taken up with doubts and
questions. Miss Van Arsdale, one surmise of yours was correct. A
man was sent that night to the Ramsdell house with a note from
Miss Grey. We know this because he boasted of it to one of the
bell-boys before he went out, saying that he was going to have a
glimpse of one of the swellest parties of the season. It is also
true that this man was Mr. Grey's valet, an old servant who came
over with him from England. But what adds weight to all this and
makes us regard the whole affair with suspicion, is the
additional fact that this man received his dismissal the
following morning and has not been seen since by any one we could
reach. This looks bad to begin with, like the suppression of
evidence, you know. Then Mr. Grey has not been the same man since
that night. He is full of care and this care is not entirely in
connection with his daughter, who is doing very well and bids
fair to be up in a few days. But all this would be nothing if we
had not received advices from England which prove that Mr. Grey's
visit here has an element of mystery in it. There was every
reason for his remaining in his own country, where a political
crisis is approaching, yet he crossed the water, bringing his
sickly daughter with him. The explanation as volunteered by one
who knew him well was this: That only his desire to see or
acquire some precious object for his collection could have taken
him across the ocean at this time, nothing else rivaling his
interest in governmental affairs. Still this would be nothing if
a stiletto similar to the one employed in this crime had not once
formed part of a collection of curios belonging to a cousin of
his whom he often visited. This stiletto has been missing for
some time, stolen, as the owner declared, by some unknown person.
All this looks bad enough, but when I tell you that a week before
the fatal ball at Mr. Ramsdell's, Mr. Grey made a tour of the
jewelers on Broadway and, with the pretext of buying a diamond
for his daughter, entered into a talk about famous stones, ending
always with some question about the Fairbrother gem, you will see
that his interest in that stone is established and that it only
remains for us to discover if that interest is a guilty one. I
can not believe this possible, but you have our leave to make
your experiment and see. Only do not count too much on his
superstition. If he is the deep-dyed criminal you imagine, the
cry which startled us all at a certain critical instant was
raised by himself and for the purpose you suggested. None of the
sensitiveness often shown by a man who has been surprised into
crime will be his. Relying on his reputation and the prestige of
his great name, he will, if he thinks himself under fire, face
every shock unmoved."
"I see; I understand. He must believe himself all alone; then,
the natural man may appear. I thank you, Inspector. That idea is
of inestimable value to me, and I shall act on it. I do not say
immediately; not on the first day, and possibly not on the
second, but as soon as opportunity offers for my doing what I
have planned with any chance of success. And now, advise me how
to circumvent my uncle and aunt, who must never know to what an
undertaking I have committed myself."
Inspector Dalzell spared me another fifteen minutes, and this
last detail was arranged. Then he rose to go. As he turned from
me he said:
And I answered with a full heart, but a voice clear as my
"This is your patient. Your new nurse, my dear. What did you say
your name is? Miss Ayers?"
"Yes, Mr. Grey, Alice Ayers."
"Oh, what a sweet name!"
This expressive greeting, from the patient herself, was the first
heart-sting I received,--a sting which brought a flush into my
cheek which I would fain have kept down.
"Since a change of nurses was necessary, I am glad they sent me
one like you," the feeble, but musical voice went on, and I saw a
wasted but eager hand stretched out.
In a whirl of strong feeling I advanced to take it. I had not
counted on such a reception. I had not expected any bond of
congeniality to spring up between this high-feeling English girl
and myself to make my purpose hateful to me. Yet, as I stood
there looking down at her bright if wasted face, I felt that it
would be very easy to love so gentle and cordial a being, and
dreaded raising my eyes to the gentleman at my side lest I should
see something in him to hamper me, and make this attempt, which I
had undertaken in such loyalty of spirit, a misery to myself and
ineffectual to the man I had hoped to save by it. When I did look
up and catch the first beams of Mr. Grey's keen blue eyes fixed
inquiringly on me, I neither knew what to think nor how to act.
He was tall and firmly knit, and had an intellectual aspect
altogether. I was conscious of regarding him with a decided
feeling of awe, and found myself forgetting why I had come there,
and what my suspicions were,--suspicions which had carried hope
with them, hope for myself and hope for my lover, who would never
escape the opprobrium, even if he did the punishment, of this
great crime, were this, the only other person who could possibly
be associated with it, found to be the fine, clear-souled man he
appeared to be in this my first interview with him.
Perceiving very soon that his apprehensions in my regard were
limited to a fear lest I should not feel at ease in my new home
under the restraint of a presence more accustomed to intimidate
than attract strangers, I threw aside all doubts of myself and
met the advances of both father and daughter with that quiet
confidence which my position there demanded.
The result both gratified and grieved me. As a nurse entering on
her first case I was happy; as a woman with an ulterior object in
view verging on the audacious and unspeakable, I was wretched and
regretful and just a little shaken in the conviction which had
hitherto upheld me.
I was therefore but poorly prepared to meet the ordeal which
awaited me, when, a little later in the day, Mr. Grey called me
into the adjoining room, and, after saying that it would afford
him great relief to go out for an hour or so, asked if I were
afraid to be left alone with my patient.
"O no, sir--" I began, but stopped in secret dismay. I was
afraid, but not on account of her condition; rather on account of
my own. What if I should be led into betraying my feelings on
finding myself under no other eye than her own! What if the
temptation to probe her poor sick mind should prove stronger than
my duty toward her as a nurse!
My tones were hesitating but Mr. Grey paid little heed; his mind
was too fixed on what he wished to say himself.
"Before I go," said he, "I have a request to make--I may as well
say a caution to give you. Do not, I pray, either now or at any
future time, carry or allow any one else to carry newspapers into
Miss Grey's room. They are just now too alarming. There has been,
as you know, a dreadful murder in this city. If she caught one
glimpse of the headlines, or saw so much as the name of
Fairbrother--which--which is a name she knows, the result might
be very hurtful to her. She is not only extremely sensitive from
illness but from temperament. Will you be careful?"
"I shall be careful."
It was such an effort for me to say these words, to say anything
in the state of mind into which I had been thrown by his
unexpected allusion to this subject, that I unfortunately drew
his attention to myself and it was with what I felt to be a
glance of doubt that he added with decided emphasis:
"You must consider this whole subject as a forbidden one in this
family. Only cheerful topics are suitable for the sick-room. If
Miss Grey attempts to introduce any other, stop her. Do not let
her talk about anything which will not be conducive to her speedy
recovery. These are the only instructions I have to give you; all
others must come from her physician."
I made some reply with as little show of emotion as possible. It
seemed to satisfy him, for his face cleared as he kindly
"You have a very trustworthy look for one so young. I shall rest
easy while you are with her, and I shall expect you to be always
with her when I am not. Every moment, mind. She is never to be
left alone with gossiping servants. If a word is mentioned in her
hearing about this crime which seems to be in everybody's mouth,
I shall feel forced, greatly as I should regret the fad, to blame
This was a heart-stroke, but I kept up bravely, changing color
perhaps, but not to such a marked degree as to arouse any deeper
suspicion in his mind than that I had been wounded in my amour
"She shall be well guarded," said I. "You may trust me to keep
from her all avoidable knowledge of this crime."
He bowed and I was about to leave his presence, when he detained
me by remarking with the air of one who felt that some
explanation was necessary:
"I was at the ball where this crime took place. Naturally it has
made a deep impression on me and would on her if she heard of
"Assuredly," I murmured, wondering if he would say more and how I
should have the courage to stand there and listen if he did.
"It is the first time I have ever come in contact with crime," he
went on with what, in one of his reserved nature, seemed a hardly
natural insistence. "I could well have been spared the
experience. A tragedy with which one has been even thus remotely
connected produces a lasting effect upon the mind."
"Oh yes, oh yes!" I murmured, edging involuntarily toward the
door. Did I not know? Had I not been there, too; I, little I,
whom he stood gazing down upon from such a height, little
realizing the fatality which united us and, what was even a more
overwhelming thought to me at the moment, the fact that of all
persons in the world the shrinking little being, into whose eyes
he was then looking, was, perhaps, his greatest enemy and the one
person, great or small, from whom he had the most to fear.
But I was no enemy to his gentle daughter and the relief I felt
at finding myself thus cut off by my own promise from even the
remotest communication with her on this forbidden subject was
genuine and sincere.
But the father! What was I to think of the father? Alas! I could
have but one thought, admirable as he appeared in all lights save
the one in which his too evident connection with this crime had
placed him. I spent the hours of the afternoon in alternately
watching the sleeping face of my patient, too sweetly calm in its
repose, or so it seemed, for the mind beneath to harbor such
doubts as were shown in the warning I had ascribed to her, and
vain efforts to explain by any other hypothesis than that of
guilt, the extraordinary evidence which linked this man of great
affairs and the loftiest repute to a crime involving both theft
Nor did the struggle end that night. It was renewed with still
greater positiveness the next day, as I witnessed the glances
which from time to time passed between this father and
daughter,--glances full of doubt and question on both sides, but
not exactly such doubt or such question as my suspicions called
for. Or so I thought, and spent another day or two hesitating
very much over my duty, when, coming unexpectedly upon Mr. Grey
one evening, I felt all my doubts revive in view of the
extraordinary expression of dread--I might with still greater
truth say fear--which informed his features and made them, to my
unaccustomed eyes, almost unrecognizable.
He was sitting at his desk in reverie over some papers which he
seemed not to have touched for hours, and when, at some movement
I made, he started up and met my eye, I could swear that his
cheek was pale, the firm carriage of his body shaken, and the
whole man a victim to some strong and secret apprehension he
vainly sought to hide. when I ventured to tell him what I wanted,
he made an effort and pulled himself together, but I had seen him
with his mask off, and his usually calm visage and self-possessed
mien could not again deceive me.
My duties kept me mainly at Miss Grey's bedside, but I had been
provided with a little room across the hall, and to this room I
retired very soon after this, for rest and a necessary
understanding with myself.
For, in spite of this experience and my now settled convictions,
my purpose required whetting. The indescribable charm, the
extreme refinement and nobility of manner observable in both Mr.
Grey and his daughter were producing their effect. I felt guilty;
constrained. whatever my convictions, the impetus to act was
leaving me. How could I recover it? By thinking of Anson Durand
and his present disgraceful position.
Anson Durand! Oh, how the feeling surged up in my breast as that
name slipped from my lips on crossing the threshold of my little
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