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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green

A Word Overheard

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"They went into that room of his he calls his studio and though I knew it might cost me my place if I was found out, I could'nt help following and listening at the keyhole."

"And what did you hear?" I asked, for she paused to take breath.

"Well, the first thing I heard was a cry of pleasure from her, and the words, 'You keep that always before you? You cannot dislike me, then, as much as you pertend.' I don't know what she meant nor what he did, but he stepped across the room and I heard her cry out this time as if she was hurt as well as awful surprised; and he talked and talked, and I could'nt catch a word, he spoke so low; and by and by she sobbed just a little, and I got scared and would have run away but she cried out with a kind of shriek, 'O, don't say any more; to think that crime should come into our family, the proudest in the land. How could you, Holman, how could you.' Yes," the girl went on, flushing in her excitement till she was as red as the cherry ribbons in her cap, "those were the very words she used: 'To think that crime should come into our family! the proudest one in the land!' And she called him by his first name, and asked him how he could do it."

"And what did Mr. Blake say" returned I, a little taken back myself at this result of my efforts with Fanny.

"O, I did'nt wait to hear. I did'nt wait for anything. If folks was going to talk about such things as that, I thought I had better be anywhere than listening at the keyhole. I went right up stairs I can tell you."

"And whom have you told of what you heard in the half dozen hours that have gone by?"

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"Nobody; how could you think so mean of me when I promised, and--"

It is not necessary to go any further into this portion of the interview.

The Countess De Mirac possessed to its fullest extent the present fine lady's taste for bric-a-brac. So much I had learned in my inquiries concerning her. Remembering this, I took the bold resolution of profiting by this weakness of hers to gain admission to her presence, she being the only one sharing Mr. Blake's mysterious secret. Borrowing a valuable antique from a friend of mine at that time in the business, I made my appearance the very next day at her apartments, and sending in an urgent request to see Madame, by the trim negress who answered my summons, waited in some doubt for her reply.

It came all too soon; Madame was ill and could see no one. I was not, however, to be baffled by one rebuff. Handing the basket I held to the girl, I urged her to take it in and show her mistress what it contained, saying it was a rare article which might never again come her way.

The girl complied, though with a doubtful shake of the head which was anything but encouraging. Her incredulity, however, must have been speedily rebuked, for she almost immediately returned without the basket, saying Madame would see me.

My first thoughts upon entering the grand lady's presence, was that the girl had been mistaken, for I found the Countess walking the floor in an abstracted way, drying a letter she had evidently but just completed, by shaking it to and fro with an unsteady hand; the placque I had brought, lying neglected on the table.

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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