The Woman in the Alcove by Anna Katharine Green
The success of this interview provoked other attempts on the part of the reporters who now flocked into the Southwest. Ere long particulars began to pour in of Mr. Fairbrother's painful journey south, after his illness set in. The clerk of the hotel in El Moro, where the great mine-owner's name was found registered at the time of the murder, told a story which made very good reading for those who were more interested in the sufferings and experiences of the millionaire husband of the murdered lady than in those of the unhappy but comparatively insignificant man upon whom public opinion had cast the odium of her death.
It seems that when the first news came of the great crime which had taken place in New York, Mr. Fairbrother was absent from the hotel on a prospecting tour through the adjacent mountains. Couriers had been sent after him, and it was one of these who finally brought him into town. He had been found wandering alone on horseback among the defiles of an untraveled region, sick and almost incoherent from fever. Indeed, his condition was such that neither the courier nor such others as saw him had the heart to tell him the dreadful news from New York, or even to show him the papers. To their great relief, he betrayed no curiosity in them. All he wanted was a berth in the first train going south, and this was an easy way for them out of a great responsibility. They listened to his wishes and saw him safely aboard, with such alacrity and with so many precautions against his being disturbed that they have never doubted that he left El Moro in total ignorance, not only of the circumstances of his great bereavement, but of the bereavement itself.
This ignorance, which he appeared to have carried with him to the Placide, was regarded by those who knew him best as proving the truth of the affirmation elicited from him in the pauses of his delirium of the genuineness of the stone which had passed from his hands to those of his wife at the time of their separation; and, further despatches coming in, some private and some official, but all insisting upon the fact that it would be weeks before he would be in a condition to submit to any sort of examination on a subject so painful, the authorities in New York decided to wait no longer for his testimony, but to proceed at once with the inquest.
Great as is the temptation to give a detailed account of proceedings which were of such moment to myself, and to every word of which I listened with the eagerness of a novice and the anguish of a woman who sees her lover's reputation at the mercy of a verdict which may stigmatize him as a possible criminal, I see no reason for encumbering my narrative with what, for the most part, would be a mere repetition of facts already known to you.
Mr. Durand's intimate and suggestive connection with this crime, the explanations he had to give of this connection, frequently bizarre and, I must acknowledge, not always convincing,--nothing could alter these nor change the fact of the undoubted cowardice he displayed in hiding Mrs. Fairbrother's gloves in my unfortunate little bag.
As for the mystery of the warning, it remained as much of a mystery as ever. Nor did any better success follow an attempt to fix the ownership of the stiletto, though a half-day was exhausted in an endeavor to show that the latter might have come into Mr. Durand's possession in some of the many visits he was shown to have made of late to various curio-shops in and out of New York City.*
I had expected all this, just as I had expected Mr. Grey to be absent from the proceedings and his testimony ignored. But this expectation did not make the ordeal any easier, and when I noticed the effect of witness after witness leaving the stand without having improved Mr. Durand's position by a jot or offering any new clue capable of turning suspicion into other directions, I felt my spirit harden and my purpose strengthen till I hardly knew myself. I must have frightened my uncle, for his hand was always on my arm and his chiding voice in my ear, bidding me beware, not only for my own sake and his, but for that of Mr. Durand, whose eye was seldom away from my face.
The verdict, however, was not the one I had so deeply dreaded. While it did not exonerate Mr. Durand, it did not openly accuse him, and I was on the point of giving him a smile of congratulation and renewed hope when I saw my little detective-- the one who had spied the gloves in my bag at the ball--advance and place his hand upon his arm.
The police had gone a step further than the coroner's jury, and Mr. Durand was arrested, before my eyes, on a charge of murder.
*Mr. Durand's visits to the curio-shops, as explained by him, were made with a view of finding a casket in which to place his diamond. This explanation was looked upon with as much doubt as the others he had offered where the situation seemed to be of a compromising character.