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A Strange Disappearance

that as long as I preserved my manhood from reproach, I had only to make my
wishes known, to have them immediately gratified; while if I crossed his will either
by indulging in dissipation or engaging in pursuits unworthy of my name, I no
longer need expect the favor of his countenance or the assistance of his purse.
"When, therefore, at a certain period of my life, I found that the charms of my
cousin Evelyn were making rather too strong an impression upon my fancy for a
secured peace of mind, I first inquired how such a union would affect my father,
and learning that it would be in direct opposition to his views, cast about in my
mind what I should do to overcome my passion. Travel suggested itself, and I
took a trip to Europe. But the sight of new faces only awakened in me
comparisons anything but detrimental to the beauty of her who was at that time
my standard of feminine loveliness. Nature and the sports connected with a wild
life were my next resort. I went overland to California, roamed the orange groves
of Florida, and probed the wildernesses of Canada and our Northern states. It
was during these last excursions that an event occurred which has exercised the
most material influence upon my fate, though at the time it seemed to me no
more than the matter of a day.
"I had just returned from Canada and was resting in tolerable enjoyment of a very
beautiful autumn at Lake George, when a letter reached me from a friend then
loitering in the vicinity, urging me to join him in a certain small town in Vermont
where trout streams abounded and what is not so often the case under the
circumstances, fishers were few.
"Being in a somewhat reckless mood I at once wrote a consent, and before
another day was over, started for the remote village whence his letter was
postmarked. I found it by no means easy of access. Situated in the midst of hills
some twenty miles or so distant from any railroad, I discovered that in order to
reach it, a long ride in a stage-coach was necessary, followed by a somewhat
shorter journey on horseback. Not being acquainted with the route, I timed my
connections wrong, so that when evening came I found myself riding over a
strange road in the darkest night I had ever known. As if this was not enough, my
horse suddenly began to limp and presently became so lame I found it
impossible to urge her beyond a slow walk. It was therefore with no ordinary
satisfaction that I presently beheld a lighted building in the distance, which as I
approached resolved itself into an inn. Stopping in front of the house, which was
closed against the chill night air, I called out lustily for someone to take my horse,
whereupon the door opened and a man appeared on the threshold with a lantern
in his hand. I at once made my wishes known, receiving in turn a somewhat gruff,
"'Well it is a nasty night and it will be nastier before it's over;' an opinion instantly
endorsed by a sudden swoop of wind that rushed by at that moment, slamming
the door behind him and awakening over my head a lugubrious groaning as from
the twisting boughs of some old tree, that was almost threatening in its character.
"'You had better go in,' said he, 'the rain will come next.'
"I at once leaped from my horse and pushing open the door with main strength,
entered the house. Another man met me on the threshold who merely pointing
over his shoulder to a lighted room in his rear, passed out without a word, to help
the somewhat younger man, who had first appeared, in putting up my horse. I at
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