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A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green

The Secret Of Mr. Blake's Studio

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Mr. Blake drew his proud form up in a disdain that was only held in check by the very evident honesty of the man before him. "You are courageous at least," said he. "I regret you are not equally discriminating." And raising Mr. Gryce's hat he placed it in his hand.

"Pardon me," said that gentleman, "I would like to justify myself before I go. Not with words," he proceeded as the other folded his arms with a sarcastic bow. "I am done with words; action accomplishes the rest. Mr. Blake I believe you consider me an honest officer and a reliable man. Will you accompany me to your private room for a moment? There is something there which may convince you I was neither playing the fool nor the bravado when I uttered the phrase I did an instant ago."

I expected to hear the haughty master of the house refuse a request so peculiar. But he only bowed, though in a surprised way that showed his curiosity if no more was aroused. "My room and company are at your disposal," said he, "but you will find nothing there to justify you in your assertions."

"Let me at least make the effort," entreated my superior.

Mr. Blake smiling bitterly immediately led the way to the door. "The man may come," he remarked carelessly as Mr. Gryce waved his hand in my direction. "Your justification if not mine may need witnesses."

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Rejoiced at the permission, for my curiosity was by this time raised to fever pitch, I at once followed. Not without anxiety. The assured poise of Mr. Blake's head seemed to argue that the confidence betrayed by my superior might receive a shock; and I felt it would be a serious blow to his pride to fail now. But once within the room above, my doubts speedily fled. There was that in Mr. Gryce's face which anyone acquainted with him could not easily mistake. Whatever might be the mysterious something which the room contained, it was evidently sufficient in his eyes to justify his whole conduct.

"Now sir," said Mr. Blake, turning upon my superior with his sternest expression, "the room and its contents are before you; what have you to say for yourself."

Mr. Gryce equally stern, if not equally composed, cast one of his inscrutable glances round the apartment and without a word stepped before the picture that was as I have said, the only ornamentation of the otherwise bare and unattractive room.

I thought Mr. Blake looked surprised, but his face was not one that lightly expressed emotion.

"A portrait of my cousin the Countess De Mirac," said he with a certain dryness of tone hard to interpret.

Mr. Gryce bowed and for a moment stood looking with a strange lack of interest at the proudly brilliant face of the painting before him, then to our great amazement stepped forward and with a quick gesture turned the picture rapidly to the wall, when--Gracious heavens! what a vision started out before us from the reverse side of that painted canvas! No luxurious brunette countenance now, steeped in pride and languor, but a face--Let me see if I can describe it. But no, it was one of those faces that are indescribable. You draw your breath as you view it; you feel as if you had had an electric shock; but as for knowing ten minutes later whether the eyes that so enthralled you were blue or black, or the locks that clustered halo-like about a forehead almost awful in its expression of weird, unfathomable power, were brown or red, you could not nor would you pretend to say. It was the character of the countenance itself that impressed you. You did not even know if this woman who might have been anything wonderful or grand you ever read of, were beautiful or not. You did not care; it was as if you had been gazing on a tranquil evening sky and a lightning flash had suddenly startled you. Is the lightning beautiful? Who asks! But I know from what presently transpired, that the face was ivory pale in complexion, the eyes deeply dark, and the hair,-- strange and uncanny combination,--of a bright and peculiar golden hue.

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A Strange Disappearance
Anna Katharine Green

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