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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green

A New York Belle

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He could not restrain the quick flush from mounting to his brow. "Pardon me," said he, "if it brings you sadness or unwelcome memories. I promise you I will not so transgress again."

A wan smile crossed her lips grown suddenly pallid.

"You mistake," said she; "if my name brings up a past laden with bitter memories and shadowed by regret, it also recalls much that is pleasant and never to be forgotten. I do not object to hearing my girlhood's name uttered--by my nearest relative."

The answer was dignity itself. "Your name is Countess De Mirac, your relatives must be proud to utter it."

A gleam not unlike the lightning's quick flash shot from the eyes she drooped before him.

"Is it Holman Blake I am listening to," said she; "I do not recognize my old friend in the cool and sarcastic man of the world now before me."

"We often fail to recognize the work of our hands, madame, after it has fallen from our grasp."

"What," she cried, "do you mean--would you say that--"

"I would say nothing," interrupted he calmly, stooping for the fan she had dropped. "At an interview which is at once a meeting and a parting, I would give utterance to nothing which would seem like recrimination. I--"

"Wait," suddenly exclaimed she, reaching out her hand for her fan with a gesture lofty as it was resolute. "You have spoken a word which demands explanation; what have I ever done to you that you should speak the word recrimination to me?"

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"What? You shook my faith in womankind; you showed me that a woman who had once told a man she loved him, could so far forget that love as to marry one she could never respect, for the sake of titles and jewels. You showed me--"

"Hold," said she again, this time without gesture or any movement, save that of her lips grown pallid as marb!e[sic], "and what did you show me?"

He started, colored profoundly, and for a moment stood before her unmasked of his stern self-possession. "I beg your pardon," said he, "I take back that word, recrimination."

It was now her turn to lift her head and survey him. With glance less cool than his, but fully as deliberate, she looked at his proud head bending before her; studying his face, line by line, from the stern brow to the closely compressed lips on which melancholy seemed to have set its everlasting seal, and a change passed over her countenance. "Holman," said she, with a sudden rush of tenderness, "if in the times gone by, we both behaved with too much worldly prudence for it now to be any great pleasure for either of us to look back, is that any reason why we should mar our whole future by dwelling too long upon what we are surely still young enough to bury if not forget? I acknowledge that I would have behaved in a more ideal fashion, if, after I had been forsaken by you, I had turned my face from society, and let the canker-worm of despair slowly destroy whatever life and bloom I had left. But I was young, and society had its charms, so did the prospect of wealth and position, however hollow they may have proved; you who are the master of both this day, because twelve months ago you forsook Evelyn Blake, should be the last to reproach me with them. I do not reproach you; I only say let the past be forgotten--"

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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