The Woman in the Alcove
I indulged in some very serious thoughts after Mr. Grey's departure. A fact was borne in
upon me to which I had hitherto closed my prejudiced eyes, but which I could no longer
ignore, whatever confusion it brought or however it caused me to change my mind on a
subject which had formed one of the strongest bases to the argument by which I had
sought to save Mr. Durand. Miss Grey cherished no such distrust of her father as I, in my
ignorance of their relations, had imputed to her in the early hours of my ministrations.
This you have already seen in my account of their parting. Whatever his dread, fear or
remorse, there was no evidence that she felt toward him anything but love and
confidence: but love and confidence from her to him were in direct contradiction to the
doubts I had believed her to have expressed in the half-written note handed to Mrs.
Fairbrother in the alcove. Had I been wrong, then, in attributing this scrawl to her? It
began to look so. Though forbidden to allow her to speak on the one tabooed subject, I
had wit enough to know that nothing would keep her from it, if the fate of Mrs.
Fairbrother occupied any real place in her thoughts.
Yet when the opportunity was given me one morning of settling this fact beyond all
doubt, I own that my main feeling was one of dread. I feared to see this article in my
creed destroyed, lest I should lose confidence in the whole. Yet conscience bade me face
the matter boldly, for had I not boasted to myself that my one desire was the truth?
I allude to the disposition which Miss Grey showed on the morning of the third day to do
a little surreptitious writing. You remember that a specimen of her handwriting had been
asked for by the inspector, and once had been earnestly desired by myself. Now I seemed
likely to have it, if I did not open my eyes too widely to the meaning of her seemingly
chance requests. A little pencil dangled at the end of my watch-chain. Would I let her see
it, let her hold it in her hand for a minute? it was so like one she used to have. Of course I
took it off, of course I let her retain it a little while in her hand. But the pencil was not
enough. A few minutes later she asked for a book to look at--I sometimes let her look at
pictures. But the book bothered her--she would look at it later; would I give her
something to mark the place--that postal over there. I gave her the postal. She put it in the
book and I, who understood her thoroughly, wondered what excuse she would now find
for sending me into the other room. She found one very soon, and with a heavily-beating
heart I left her with that pencil and postal. A soft laugh from her lips drew me back. She
was holding up the postal.
"See! I have written a line to him! Oh, you good, good nurse, to let me! You needn't look
so alarmed. It hasn't hurt me one bit."
I knew that it had not; knew that such an exertion was likely to be more beneficial than
hurtful to her, or I should have found some excuse for deterring her. I endeavored to
make my face more natural. As she seemed to want me to take the postal in my hand I
drew near and took it.
"The address looks very shaky," she laughed. "I think you will have to put it in an