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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green

Love And Duty

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Her face which had been raised to his with that earnest look we knew so well, softened with an ineffable smile, but still she did not lay her hand in his.

"And you say this to me in the very hour of my father's and brother's arrest! With the remembrance in your mind of their bound and abject forms lying before you guarded by police; knowing too, that they deserve their ignominy and the long imprisonment that awaits them?"

"No, I say it on the day of the discovery and the restoration of that wife for whom I have long searched, and to whom when found I have no word to give but welcome, welcome, welcome."

With the same deep smile she bowed her head, "Now let come what will, I can never again be unhappy," were the words I caught, uttered in the lowest of undertones. But in another moment her head had regained its steady poise and a great change had passed over her manner.

"Mr. Blake," said she, "you are good; how good, I alone can know and duly appreciate who have lived in your house this last year and seen with eyes that missed nothing, just what your surroundings are and have been from the earliest years of your proud life. But goodness must not lead you into the committal of an act you must and will repent to your dying day; or if it does, I who have learned my duty in the school of adversity, must show the courage of two and forbid what every secret instinct of my soul declares to be only provocative of shame and sorrow. You would take me to your heart as your wife; do you realize what that means?"

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"I think I do," was his earnest reply. "Relief from heart-ache, Luttra."

Her smooth brow wrinkled with a sudden spasm of pain but her firm lips did not quiver.

"It means," said she, drawing nearer but not with that approach which indicates yielding, "it means, shame to the proudest family that lives in the land. It means silence as regards a past blotted by suggestions of crime; and apprehension concerning a future across which the shadow of prison walls must for so many years lie. It means, the hushing of certain words upon beloved lips; the turning of cherished eyes from visions where fathers and daughters ay, brothers and sisters are seen joined together in tender companionship or loving embrace. It means,--God help me to speak out--a home without the sanctity of memories; a husband without the honors he has been accustomed to enjoy; a wife with a fear gnawing like a serpent into her breast; and children, yes, perhaps children from whose innocent lips the sacred word of grandfather can never fall without wakening a blush on the cheeks of their parents, which all their lovesome prattle will be helpless to chase away."

"Luttra, your father and your brother have given their consent to go their dark way alone and trouble you no more. The shadow you speak of may lie on your heart, dear wife, for these men are of your own blood, but it need never invade the hearthstone beside which I ask you to sit. The world will never know, whether you come with me or not, that Luttra Blake was ever Luttra Schoenmaker. Will you not then give me the happiness of striving to make such amends for the past, that you too, will forget you ever bore any other name than the one you now honor so truly?"

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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