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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green

The Mark Of The Red Cross

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It was plain and white, rather ruder of make than those below, but offering no inducements for prolonged scrutiny. But not so with the one that stood at right angles to it on the left. Full in the centre of that, I beheld distinctly scrawled, probably with the very piece of chalk I then held, a red cross precisely similar in outline to the one I had seen a few days before on the panel of the Schoenmakers' door at Granby.

The discovery sent a thrill over me that almost raised my hair on end. Was, then, this famous trio to be found in the very house in which I had been myself living for a week or more? over my head in fact? I could not withdraw my gaze from the mysterious looking object. I bent near, I listened, I heard what sounded like the suppressed snore of a powerful man, and almost had to lay hold of myself to prevent my hand from pushing open that closed door and my feet from entering. As it was I did finger the knob a little, but an extra loud snore from within reminded me by its suggestion of strength that I was but a small man and that in this case and at this hour, discretion was the better part of valor.

I therefore withdrew, but for the whole night lay awake listening to catch any sounds that might come from above, and going so far as to plan what I would do if it should be proved that I was indeed upon the trail of the men I was so anxious to encounter.

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With the breaking of day I was upon my feet. A rude step had gone up the stairs a few minutes before and I was all alert to follow. But I presently considered that my wisest course would be to sound the landlady and learn if possible with what sort of characters I had to deal. Routing her out of the kitchen, where at that early hour she was already engaged in domestic duties, I drew her into a retired corner and put my questions. She was not backward in replying. She had conceived an innocent liking for me in the short time I had been with her--a display of weakness for which I was myself, perhaps, as much to blame as she--and was only too ready to pour out her griefs into my sympathizing ear. For those men were a grief to her, acceptable as was the money they were careful to provide her with. They were not only always in the house, that is one of them, smoking his old pipe and blackening up the walls, but they looked so shabby, and kept the girl so close, and if they did go out, came in at such unheard of hours. It was enough to drive her crazy; yet the money, the money--

"Yes," said I, "I know; and the money ought to make you overlook all the small disagreeablenesses you mention. What is a landlady without patience." And I urged her not to turn them out.

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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