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A Strange Disappearance

7. The House At The Granby Cross Roads
Why Mr. Blake should take a journey at all at this time, and why of all places in
the world he should choose such an insignificant town as Putney for his
destination, was of course the mystery upon which I brooded during the entire
distance. But when somewhere near five in the afternoon I stepped from the cars
on to the platform at Putney Station only to hear Mr. Blake making inquiries in
regard to a certain stage running between that town and a still smaller village
further east, I own I was not only surprised but well-nigh nonplussed. Especially
as he seemed greatly disappointed to hear that it only ran once a day, and then
for an earlier train in the morning.
"You will have to wait till to-morrow I fear," said the ticket agent, "unless the
landlord of the hotel down yonder, can harness you up a team. There is a funeral
out west to-day and--"
I did not wait to hear more but hurried down to the hotel he had pointed out, and
hunting up the landlord inquired if for love or money he could get me any sort of a
conveyance for Melville that afternoon. He assured me it would be impossible,
the livery stable as well as his own being entirely empty.
"Such a thing don't happen here once in five years," said he to me. "But the old
codger who is dead, though a queer dick was a noted personage in these parts,
and not a man, woman or child, who could find a horse, mule or donkey, but what
availed himself of the privilege. Even the doctor's spavined mare was pressed
into service, though she halts on one leg and stops to get her breath half a dozen
times in going up one short hill. You will have to wait for the stage, sir."
"But I am in a hurry," said I as I saw Mr. Blake enter. "I have business in Melville
tonight, and I would pay anything in reason to get there."
But the landlord only shook his head; and drawing back with the air of an abused
man, I took up my stand in the doorway where I could hear the same colloquy
entered into with Mr. Blake, with the same unsatisfactory termination. He did not
take it quite as calmly as I did, though he was of too reserved a nature to display
much emotion over anything. The prospect of a long tedious evening spent in a
country hotel seemed almost unendurable to him, but he finally succumbed to the
force of circumstances, as indeed he seemed obliged to do, and partaking of
such refreshment as the rather poorly managed hotel afforded, retired without
ceremony to his room, from which he did not emerge again till next morning. In
all this he had somehow managed not to give his name; and by means of some
inquiries I succeeded in making that evening, I found his person was unknown in
the town.
By a little management I secured the next room to his, by which arrangement I
succeeded in passing a sleepless night, Mr. Blake spending most of the wee
sma' hours in pacing the floor of his room, with an unremitting regularity that had
anything but a soothing effect upon my nerves. Early the next morning we took
the stage, he sitting on the back seat, and I in front with the driver. There were
other passengers, but I noticed he never spoke to any of them, nor through all
the long drive did he once look up from the corner where he had ensconced
 
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