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The Woman in the Alcove

Doubt
I prayed uncle that we might be driven home by the way of Eighty-sixth Street. I wanted
to look at the Fairbrother house. I had seen it many times, but I felt that I should see it
with new eyes after the story I had just heard in the inspector's office. That an adventure
of this nature could take place in a New York house taxed my credulity. I might have
believed it of Paris, wicked, mysterious Paris, the home of intrigue and every redoubtable
crime, but of our own homely, commonplace metropolis--the house must be seen for me
to be convinced of the fact related.
Many of you know the building. It is usually spoken of with a shrug, the sole reason for
which seems to be that there is no other just like it in the city. I myself have always
considered it imposing and majestic; but to the average man it is too suggestive of Old-
World feudal life to be pleasing. On this afternoon--a dull, depressing one--it looked
undeniably heavy as we approached it; but interesting in a very new way to me, because
of the great turret at one angle, the scene of that midnight descent of two men, each in
deadly fear of the other, yet quailing not in their purpose,--the one of flight, the other of
pursuit.
There was no railing in front of the house. It may have seemed an unnecessary safeguard
to the audacious owner. Consequently, the small door in the turret opened directly upon
the street, making entrance and exit easy enough for any one who had the key. But the
shaft and the small room at the bottom--where were they? Naturally in the center of the
great mass, the room being without windows.
It was, therefore, useless to look for it, and yet my eye ran along the peaks and pinnacles
of the roof, searching for the skylight in which it undoubtedly ended. At last I espied it,
and, my curiosity satisfied on this score, I let my eyes run over the side and face of the
building for an open window or a lifted shade. But all were tightly closed and gave no
more sign of life than did the boarded-up door. But I was not deceived by this. As we
drove away, I thought how on the morrow there would be a regular procession passing
through this street to see just the little I had seen to-day. The detective's adventure was
like to make the house notorious. For several minutes after I had left its neighborhood my
imagination pictured room after room shut up from the light of day, but bearing within
them the impalpable aura of those two shadows flitting through them like the ghosts of
ghosts, as the detective had tellingly put it.
The heart has its strange surprises. Through my whole ride and the indulgence in these
thoughts I was conscious of a great inner revulsion against all I had intimated and even
honestly felt while talking with the inspector. Perhaps this is what this wise old official
expected. He had let me talk, and the inevitable reaction followed. I could now see only
Mr. Grey's goodness and claims to respect, and began to hate myself that I had not been
immediately impressed by the inspector's views, and shown myself more willing to drop
every suspicion against the august personage I had presumed to associate with crime.
What had given me the strength to persist? Loyalty to my lover? His innocence had not
been involved. Indeed, every word uttered in the inspector's office had gone to prove that
he no longer occupied a leading place in police calculations: that their eyes were turned
elsewhere, and that I had only to be patient to see Mr. Durand quite cleared in their
minds.
 
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