The Woman in the Alcove
With benumbed senses and a dismayed heart, I stared at the fallen jewel as at some
hateful thing menacing both my life and honor.
"I have had nothing to do with it," I vehemently declared. "I did not put the gloves in my
bag, nor did I know the diamond was in them. I fainted at the first alarm, and
"There! there! I know," interposed the inspector kindly. "I do not doubt you in the least;
not when there is a man to doubt. Miss Van Arsdale, you had better let your uncle take
you home. I will see that the hall is cleared for you. Tomorrow I may wish to talk to you
again, but I will spare you all further importunity tonight."
I shook my head. It would require more courage to leave at that moment than to stay.
Meeting the inspector's eye firmly, I quietly declared,
"If Mr. Durand's good name is to suffer in any way, I will not forsake him. I have
confidence in his integrity, if you have not. It was not his hand, but one much more
guilty, which dropped this jewel into the bag."
"So! so! do not be too sure of that, little woman. You had better take your lesson at once.
It will be easier for you, and more wholesome for him."
Here he picked up the jewel.
"Well, they said it was a wonder!" he exclaimed, in sudden admiration. "I am not
surprised, now that I have seen a great gem, at the famous stories I have read of men
risking life and honor for their possession. If only no blood had been shed!"
"Uncle! uncle!" I wailed aloud in my agony.
It was all my lips could utter, but to uncle it was enough. Speaking for the first time, he
asked to have a passage made for us, and when the inspector moved forward to comply,
he threw his arm about me, and was endeavoring to find fitting words with which to fill
up the delay, when a short altercation was heard from the doorway, and Mr. Durand came
rushing in, followed immediately by the inspector.
His first look was not at myself, but at the bag, which still hung from my arm. As I noted
this action, my whole inner self seemed to collapse, dragging my happiness down with it.
But my countenance remained unchanged, too much so, it seems; for when his eye finally
rose to my face, he found there what made him recoil and turn with something like
fierceness on his companion.
"You have been talking to her," he vehemently protested. "Perhaps you have gone further
than that. What has happened here? I think I ought to know. She is so guileless, Inspector
Dalzell; so perfectly free from all connection with this crime. Why have you shut her up
here, and plied her with questions, and made her look at me with such an expression,
when all you have against me is just what you have against some half-dozen others,--that