A Strange Disappearance
14. Mrs. Daniels
She still wore her bonnet and shawl and her face was like marble.
"You want me?" said she with a hurried look towards Mr. Blake that had as much
fear as surprise in it.
"Yes," murmured that gentleman moving towards her with an effort we could very
well appreciate. "Mrs. Daniels, who was the girl you harbored in that room above
us for so long? Speak; what was her name and where did she come from?"
The housekeeper trembling in every limb, cast us one hurried appeal.
"Speak!" reechoed Mr. Gryce; "the time for secrecy has passed."
"O," cried she, sinking into a chair from sheer inability to stand, "it was your wife,
Mr. Blake, the young creature you--"
All the agony, the hopelessness, the love, the passion of those last few months
flashed up in that word. She stopped as if she had been shot, but seeing the
hand which he had hurriedly raised, fall slowly before him, went on with a burst,
"O sir, she made me swear on my knees I would never betray her, no matter
what happened. When not two weeks after your father died she came to the
house and asking for me, told me all her story and all her love; how she could not
reconcile it with her idea of a wife's duty to live under any other roof than that of
her husband, and lifting off the black wig which she wore, showed me how
altered she had made herself by that simple change--in her case more marked
by the fact that her eyes were in keeping with black hair, while with her own
bright locks they always gave you a shock as of something strange and haunting-
-I gave up my will as if forced by a magnetic power, and not only opened the
house to her but my heart as well; swearing to all she demanded and keeping my
oath too, as I would preserve my soul from sin and my life from the knife of the
"But, when she went," broke from the pallid lips of the man before her, "when she
was taken away from the house, what then?"
"Ah," returned the agitated woman. "what then! Do you not think I suffered? To
be held by my oath, an oath I was satisfied she would wish kept even at this
crisis, yet knowing all the while she was drifting away into some evil that you, if
you knew who she was, would give your life to avert from your honor if not from
her innocent head! To see you cold, indifferent, absorbed in other things, while
she, who would have perished any day for your happiness, was losing her life
perhaps in the clutches of those horrible villains! Do not ask me to tell you what I
have suffered since she went; I can never tell you,-- innocent, tender, noble-
hearted creature that she was."
"Was?" His hand clutched his heart as if it had been seized by a deathly spasm.
"Why do you say was?"
"Because I have just come from the Morgue where she lies dead."
"No, no," came in a low shriek from his lips, "that is not she; that is another
woman, like her perhaps, but not she."