A Strange Disappearance
5. A New York Belle
Meanwhile all our efforts to obtain information in regard to the fate or
whereabouts of the missing girl, had so far proved utterly futile. Even the
advertisements inserted by Mrs. Daniels had produced no effect; and frustrated
in my scheme I began to despair, when the accounts of that same Mrs. Daniel's
strange and unaccountable behavior during these days of suspense, which came
to me through Fanny, (the pretty housemaid at Mr. Blake's, whose acquaintance I
had lately taken to cultivating,) aroused once more my dormant energies and led
me to ask myself if the affair was quite as hopeless as it seemed.
"If she was a ghost," was her final expression on the subject, "she could'nt go
peramberlating this house more than she does. It seems as if she could'nt keep
still a minute. Upstairs and down, upstairs and down, till we're most wild. And so
white as she is and so trembling! Why her hands shake so all the time she never
dares lift a dish off the table. And then the way she hangs about Mr. Blake's door
when he's at home! She never goes in, that's the oddest part of it, but walks up
and down before it, wringing her hands and talking to herself just like a mad
woman. Why, I have seen her almost put her hand on the knob twice in an
afternoon perhaps, then draw back as if she was afraid it would burn her; and if
by any chance the door opened and Mr. Blake came out, you ought to have seen
how she run. What it all means I don't know, but I have my imaginings, and if she
is'nt crazy, why--" etc., etc.
In face of facts like these I felt it would be pure insanity to despair. Let there be
but a mystery, though it involved a man of the position of Mr. Blake and I was
safe. My only apprehension had been that the whole affair would dissolve itself
into an ordinary elopement or some such common-place matter.
Where, therefore, a few minutes later, Fanny announced that Mr. Blake had
ordered a carriage to take him to the Charity Ball that evening, I determined to
follow him and learn if possible what change had taken place in himself or his
circumstances, to lead him into such an innovation upon his usual habits. Though
the hour was late I had but little difficulty in carrying out my plan, arriving at the
Academy something less than an hour after the opening dance.
The crowd was great and I circulated the floor three times before I came upon
him. When I did, I own I was slightly disappointed; for instead of finding him as I
anticipated, the centre of an admiring circle of ladies and gentlemen, I espied him
withdrawn into a corner with a bland old politician of the Fifteenth Ward,
discussing, as I presently overheard, the merits and demerits of a certain Smith
who at that time was making some disturbance in the party.
"If that is all he has come for," thought I, "I had better have stayed at home and
made love to the pretty Fanny." And somewhat chagrined, I took up my stand
near by, and began scrutinizing the ladies.
Suddenly I felt my heart stand still, the noise of voices ceasing the same instant
behind me. A lady was passing on the arm of a foreign-looking gentleman, whom
it did not require a second glance to identify with the subject of the portrait in Mr.
Blake's house. Older by some few years than when her picture was painted, her