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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green

A Bit Of Calico

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To equip myself, then, in a fresh disguise and to join Mr. Blake shortly after he had left his own corner, was anything but a hardship to me that bright winter morning, though I knew from past experience, a long and wearisome walk was before me with nothing in all probability at the end but reiterated disappointment. But for once the fates had willed it otherwise. Whether Mr. Blake, discouraged at the failure of his own attempts, whatever they were, felt less heart to prosecute them than usual I cannot say, but we had scarcely entered upon the lower end of the Bowery, before he suddenly turned with a look of disgust, and gazing hurriedly about him, hailed a Madison Avenue car that was rapidly approaching. I was at that moment on the other side of the way, but I hurried forward too, and signaled the same car. But just as I was on the point of entering it I perceived Mr. Blake step hastily back and with his eyes upon a girl that was hurrying past him with a basket on her arm, regain the sidewalk with a swiftness that argued his desire to stop her. Of course I let the car pass me, though I did not dare approach him too closely after my late conspicious attempt to enter it with him. But from my stand on the opposite curb-stone I saw him draw aside the girl, who from her garments might have been the daughter or wife of any one of the shiftless, drinking wretches lounging about on the four corners within my view, and after talking earnestly with her for a few moments, saunter at her side down Broome Street, still talking. Reckless at this sight of the consequences which might follow his detection of the part I was playing, I hasted after them, when I was suddenly disconcerted by observing him hurriedly separate from the girl and turn towards me with intention as it were to regain the corner he had left. Weighing in an instant the probable good to be obtained by following either party, I determined to leave Mr. Blake for one day to himself, and turn my attention to the girl he had addressed, especially as she was tall and thin and bore herself with something like grace.

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Barely bestowing a glance upon him, then, as he passed, in a vain attempt to read the sombre expression of his inscrutable face grown five years older in the last five days, I shuffled after the girl now flitting before me down Broome Street. As I did so, I noticed her dress to its minutest details, somewhat surprised to find how ragged and uncouth it was. That Mr. Blake should stop a girl wherever seen, clad in a black alpaca frock, a striped shawl and a Bowery hat trimmed with feathers, I could easily understand; but that this creature with her faded calico dress, dingy cape thrown carelessly over her head, and ragged basket, should arrest his attention, was a riddle to me. I hastened forward with intent to catch a glimpse of her countenence if possible; but she seemed to have acquired wings to her feet since her interview with Mr. Blake. Darting into a crowd of hooting urchins that were rushing from Centre Street after a broken wagon and runaway horse, she sped from my sight with such rapidity, I soon saw that my only hope of overtaking her lay in running. I accordingly quickened my steps when those same hooting youngsters getting in the way of my feet, I tripped up and--well, I own I retired from that field baffled. Not entirely so, however. Just as I was going down, I caught sight of the girl tearing away from a box of garbage on the curb-stone; and when order having been restored, by which lofty statement I mean to say when your humble servant had regained his equilibrium, I awoke to the fact that she had effectually disappeared, I hurried to that box and succeeded in finding hanging to it a bit of rag easily recognized as a piece of the old calico frock of nameless color which I had been following a moment before. Regarding it as the sole spoils of a very unsatisfactory day's work, I put it carefully away in my pocket book, where it lay till--But with all my zeal for compression, I must not anticipate.

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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