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The Woman in the Alcove

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 during them.
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 all knew.
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 quixotic."
 
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