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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green


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"And without waiting for my reply, she passed rapidly down stairs, pushed open a door at the bottom, and stepped at once into the room we had left an hour or so before.

"What was there in that room that for the first time struck an ominous chill as of distinct peril through my veins? Nothing at first sight, everything at the second. The fire which had not been allowed to die out, still burned brightly on the ruddy hearthstone, but it was not that which awakened my apprehension. Nor was it the loud ticking clock on the mantlepiece with its hand pointing silently to the hour of eleven. Nor yet the heavy quiet of the scantily-furnished room with its one lamp burning on the deal table against the side of the wall. It was the sight of those two powerful men drawn up in grim silence, the one against the door leading to the front hall, the other against that opening into the kitchen.

"A glance at Luttra standing silent and undismayed at my side, however, instantly reassured me. With that will exercised in my favor, I could not but win through whatever it was that menaced me. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I made a move towards the door and the silent figure of my host. But with a quick outreaching of her hand, she drew me back.

"'Stand still!' said she. 'Karl,' she went on, turning her face towards the more sullen but less intent countenance of her brother, 'open the door and let this gentleman pass. He finds the house unsafe in such a gale and desires to leave it. At once!' she continued as her brother settled himself more determinedly against the lock: 'I don't often ask favors.'

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"'The man is a fool that wants to go out in a night like this,' quoth the fellow with a dogged move; 'and so are you to encourage it. I think too much of your health to allow it.'

"She did not seem to hear. 'Will you open the door?' she went on, not advancing a step from the fire, before which she had placed herself and me.'

"'No, I won't,' was the brutal reply. 'Its been locked for the night and its not me nor one like me, that will open it.'

"With a sudden whitening of her already pale face, she turned towards her father. He was not even looking at her.

"'Some one must open the house,' said she, glancing back at her brother. 'This gentleman purposes to leave and his whim must be humored. Will you unlock that door or shall I?'

"An angry snarl interrupted her. Her father had bounded from the door where he stood and was striding hastily towards her. In my apprehension I put up my arm for a shield, for he looked ready to murder her, but I let it drop again as l caught her glance which was like white flame undisturbed by the least breeze of personal terror.

"'You will stop there,' said she, pointing to a spot a few feet from where she stood. 'Another step and I let that for which I have heard you declare you would peril your very soul, fall into the heart of the flames.' And drawing from her breast a roll of bills, she stretched them out above the fire before which she was standing.

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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