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The Woman in the Alcove

The Woman With The Diamond
I was, perhaps, the plainest girl in the room that night. I was also the happiest--up to one
o'clock. Then my whole world crumbled, or, at least, suffered an eclipse. Why and how, I
am about to relate.
I was not made for love. This I had often said to myself; very often of late. In figure I am
too diminutive, in face far too unbeautiful, for me to cherish expectations of this nature.
Indeed, love had never entered into my plan of life, as was evinced by the nurse's
diploma I had just gained after three years of hard study and severe training.
I was not made for love. But if I had been; had I been gifted with height, regularity of
feature, or even with that eloquence of expression which redeems all defects save those
which savor of deformity, I knew well whose eye I should have chosen to please, whose
heart I should have felt proud to win.
This knowledge came with a rush to my heart--(did I say heart? I should have said
understanding, which is something very different)--when, at the end of the first dance, I
looked up from the midst of the bevy of girls by whom I was surrounded and saw Anson
Durand's fine figure emerging from that quarter of the hall where our host and hostess
stood to receive their guests. His eye was roaming hither and thither and his manner was
both eager and expectant. Whom was he seeking? Some one of the many bright and
vivacious girls about me, for he turned almost instantly our way. But which one?
I thought I knew. I remembered at whose house I had met him first, at whose house I had
seen him many times since. She was a lovely girl, witty and vivacious, and she stood at
this very moment at my elbow. In her beauty lay the lure, the natural lure for a man of his
gifts and striking personality. If I continued to watch, I should soon see his countenance
light up under the recognition she could not fail to give him. And I was right; in another
instant it did, and with a brightness there was no mistaking. But one feeling common to
the human heart lends such warmth, such expressiveness to the features. How handsome
it made him look, how distinguished, how everything I was not except--
But what does this mean? He has passed Miss Sperry--passed her with a smile and a
friendly word--and is speaking to me, singling me out, offering me his arm! He is
smiling, too, not as he smiled on Miss Sperry, but more warmly, with more that is
personal in it. I took his arm in a daze. The lights were dimmer than I thought; nothing
was really bright except his smile. It seemed to change the world for me. I forgot that I
was plain, forgot that I was small, with nothing to recommend me to the eye or heart, and
let myself be drawn away, asking nothing, anticipating nothing, till I found myself alone
with him in the fragrant recesses of the conservatory, with only the throb of music in our
ears to link us to the scene we had left.
Why had he brought me here, into this fairyland of opalescent lights and intoxicating
perfumes? What could he have to say--to show? Ah in another moment I knew. He had
seized my hands, and love, ardent love, came pouring from his lips.
Could it be real? Was I the object of all this feeling, I? If so, then life had changed for me
indeed.
 
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