The Woman in the Alcove
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 were these:
"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
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 confidence?
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