A Strange Disappearance HTML version

beauty had assumed a certain defiant expression that sufficiently betrayed the
fact that the years had not been so wholly happy as she had probably anticipated
when she jilted handsome Holman Blake for the old French Count. At all events
so I interpreted the look of latent scorn that burned in her dark eyes, as she
slowly turned her richly bejeweled head towards the corner where that gentleman
stood, and meeting his eyes no doubt, bowed with a sudden loss of self-
possession that not all the haughty carriage of her noble form, held doubly erect
for the next few moments, could quite conceal or make forgotten.
"She still loves him," I inwardly commented and turned to see if the surprise had
awakened any expression on his uncommunicative countenance.
Evidently not, for the tough old politician of the Fifteenth Ward was laughing, at
one of his own jokes probably, and looking up in the face of Mr. Blake, whose
back was turned to me, in a way that entirely precluded all thought of any tragic
expression in that quarter. Somewhat disgusted, I withdrew and followed the
I could not get very near. By this time the presence of a live countess in the
assembly had become known, and I found her surrounded by a swarm of half-
fledged youths. But I cared little for this; all I wanted to know was whether Mr.
Blake would approach her or not during the evening. Tediously the moments
passed; but a detective on duty, or on fancied duty, succumbs to no weariness. I
had a woman before me worth studying and the time could not be thrown away. I
learned to know her beauty; the poise of her head, the flush of her cheek, the curl
of her lip, the glance--yes, the glance of her eye, though that was more difficult to
understand, for she had a way of drooping her lids at times that, while
exceedingly effective upon the poor wretch toward whom she might be directing
that half-veiled shaft of light, was anything but conducive to my purposes.
At length with a restless shrug of her haughty shoulders she turned away from
her crowd of adorers, her breast heaving under its robing of garnet velvet, and
her whole face flaring with a light that might mean resolve and might mean
simply love. I had no need to turn my head to see who was advancing towards
her; her stately attitude as countess, her thrilling glance as woman, betrayed only
too readily.
He was the more composed of the two. Bowing over her hand with a few words I
could not hear, he drew back a step and began uttering the usual common-place
sentiments of the occasion.
She did not respond. With a splendor of indifference not often seen even in the
manner of our grandest ladies, she waited, opening and shutting her richly
feathered fan, as one who would say, "I know all this has to be gone through
with, therefore I will be patient." But as the moments passed, and his tone
remained unchanged, I could detect a slight gleam of impatience flash in the
depths of her dark eyes, and a change come into the conventional smile that had
hitherto lighted, without illuminating her countenance. Drawing still further back
from the crowd that was not to be awed from pressing upon her, she looked
around as if seeking a refuge. Her glance fell upon a certain window, with a
gleam of satisfaction. Seeing they would straightway withdraw there, I took