A Strange Disappearance HTML version
himself. It was twelve o'clock when we reached the end of the route, a small town
of somewhat less than the usual pretensions of mountain villages; so insignificant
indeed, that I found it more and more difficult to imagine what the wealthy ex-
Congressman could find in such a spot as this, to make amends for a journey of
such length and discomfort; when to my increasing wonder I heard him give
orders for a horse to be saddled and brought round to the inn door directly after
dinner. This was a move I had not expected and it threw me a little aback, for
although I had thus far managed to hold myself so aloof from Mr. Blake, even
while keeping him under my eye, that no suspicion of my interest in his
movements had as yet been awakened, how could I thus for the third time follow
his order with one precisely similar, without attracting an attention that would be
fatal to my plans. Yet to let him ride off alone now, would be to drop the trail at
the very moment the scent became of importance.
The landlord, a bustling, wiry little man all nervousness and questions, unwittingly
helped me at this crisis.
"Are you going on to Perry, sir?" inquired he of that gentleman, "I have been
expecting a man along these three days bound for Perry."
"I am that man," I broke in, stepping forward with some appearance of asperity,
"and I hope you won't keep me waiting. A horse as soon as dinner is over, do
you hear? I am two days late now, and won't stand any nonsense."
And to escape the questions sure to follow, I strode into the dining-room with a
half-fierce, half- sullen countenance, that effectually precluded all advances.
During the meal I saw Mr. Blake's eye roam more than once towards my face;
but I did not return his gaze, or notice him in any way; hurrying through my
dinner, and mounting the first horse brought around, as if time were my only
consideration. But once on the road I took the first opportunity to draw rein and
wait, suddenly remembering that I had not heard Mr. Blake give any intimation of
the direction he intended taking. A few minutes revealed to me his elegant form
well mounted and showing to perfection in his closely buttoned coat, slowly
approaching up the road. Taking advantage of a rise in the ground, I lingered till
he was almost upon me, when I cantered quickly on, fearing to arouse his
apprehensions if I allowed him to pass me on a road so solitary as that which
now stretched out before us: a move provocative of much embarassment to me,
as I dared not turn my head for the same reason, anxious as I was to keep him in
The roads dividing before me, at length gave me my first opportunity to pause
and look back. He was some fifty paces behind. Waiting till he came up, I bowed
with the surly courtesy I thought in keeping with the character I had assumed,
and asked if he knew which road led towards Perry, saying I had come off in
such haste I had forgotten to inquire my way. He returned my bow, pointed
towards the left hand road and saying, "I know this does not," calmly took it.
Now here was a dilemma. If in face of this curt response I proceeded to follow
him, my hand was revealed at once; yet the circumstances would admit of no
other course. I determined to compromise matters by pretending to take the right
hand road till he was out of sight, when I would return and follow him swiftly upon
the left. Accordingly I reined my horse to the right, and for some fifteen minutes