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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green

A Woman's Love

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"'I will not betray them,' said I.

"She smiled. It was a wintry gleam but it ineffably softened her face. I became conscious of a movement of pity towards her.

"'You have a hard lot,' remarked I. 'Your life must be a sad one.'

"She flashed upon me one glance of her dark eye. 'I was born for hardship,' said she, 'but--' and a sudden wild shudder seized her, 'but not for crime.'

"The word fell like a drop of blood wrung from her heart.

"'Good heavens!' cried I, 'and must you--'

"'No,' rang from her lips in a clarion-like peal; 'some things cut the very bonds of nature. I am not called upon to cleave to what will drag me into infamy.' Then calmly, as if speaking of the most ordinary matter in the world, 'I shall never go back to that house we have left behind us, sir.'

"'But,' cried I, glancing at her scanty garments, 'where will you go? What will you do? You are young--'

"'And very strong,' she interrupted. 'Do not fear for me.' And her smile was like a burst of sudden sunshine.

"I said no more that night.

"But when in the morning I stumbled upon her sitting in the kitchen reading a book not only above her position but beyond her years, a sudden impulse seized me and I asked her if she would like to be educated. The instantaneous illumining of her whole face was sufficient reply without her low emphatic words,

"'I would be content to study on my knees to know what some women do, whom I have seen.'

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"It is not necessary for me to relate with what pleasure I caught at the idea that here was a chance to repay in some slight measure the inestimable favor she had done me; nor by what arguments I finally won her to accept an education at my hands as some sort of recompense for the life she had saved. The advantage which it would give her in her struggle with the world she seemed duly to appreciate, but that so great a favor could be shown her without causing me much trouble and an unwarrantable expense, she could not at once be brought to comprehend, and till she could, she held out with that gentle but inflexible will of hers. The battle, however, was won at last and I left her in that little cottage, with the understanding that as soon as the matter could be arranged, she was to enter a certain boarding-school in Troy with the mistress of which I was acquainted. Meanwhile she was to go out to service at Melville and earn enough money to provide herself with clothes.

"I was a careless fellow in those days but I kept my promise to that girl. I not only entered her into that school for a course of three years, but acting through its mistress who had taken a great fancy to her, supplied her with the necessities her position required. It was so easy; merely the signing of a check from time to time, and it was done. I say this because I really think if it had involved any personal sacrifice on my part, even of an hour of my time, or the labor of a thought, I should not have done it. For with my return to the city my interest in my cousin revived, absorbing me to such an extent that any matter disconnected with her soon lost all charm for me.

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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