Lost Man’s Lane. A Second Episode in the Life of Amelia Butterworth - Anna Katharine Green - ebook

Lost Man’s Lane. A Second Episode in the Life of Amelia Butterworth ebook

Anna Katharine Green

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After several people apparently vanish into thin air while walking along the same country road, New York aged detective inspector Mr. Gryce calls on the skills of Miss Amelia Butterworth to help him solve this most puzzling crime. In „Lost Man’s Lane” the author Anna Katharine Green shows that she has lost none of her cunning in inventing an intricate and absorbing plot, and in unfolding it carefully bit by bit by the agency of her chosen hero or heroine. This is classic Green, with lots of high drama and a twisting, many-layered plot turning on stubbornly kept secrets and the fine points of physical and circumstantial evidence. The mystery is well sustained and readable.

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Liczba stron: 465

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Contents

BOOK I

THE KNOLLYS FAMILY

I. A VISIT FROM MR. GRYCE

II. I AM TEMPTED

III. I SUCCUMB

IV. A GHOSTLY INTERIOR

V. A STRANGE HOUSEHOLD

VI. A SOMBRE EVENING

VII. THE FIRST NIGHT

VIII. ON THE STAIRS

IX. A NEW ACQUAINTANCE

X. SECRET INSTRUCTIONS

XI. MEN, WOMEN, AND GHOSTS

XII. THE PHANTOM COACH

XIII. GOSSIP

XIV. I FORGET MY AGE, OR, RATHER, REMEMBER IT

BOOK II

THE FLOWER PARLOR

XV. LUCETTA FULFILS MY EXPECTATION OF HER

XVI. LOREEN

XVII. THE FLOWER PARLOR

XVIII. THE SECOND NIGHT

XIX. A KNOT OF CRAPE

XX. QUESTIONS

XXI. MOTHER JANE

XXII. THE THIRD NIGHT

BOOK III

FORWARD AND BACK

XXIII. ROOM 3, HOTEL CARTER

XXIV. THE ENIGMA OF NUMBERS

XXV. TRIFLES, BUT NOT TRIFLING

XXVI. A POINT GAINED

XXVII. THE TEXT WITNESSETH

XXVIII. AN INTRUSION

XXIX. IN THE CELLAR

XXX. INVESTIGATION

XXXI. STRATEGY

XXXII. RELIEF

BOOK IV

THE BIRDS OF THE AIR

XXXIII. LUCETTA

XXXIV. CONDITIONS

XXXV. THE DOVE

XXXVI. AN HOUR OF STARTLING EXPERIENCES

XXXVII. I ASTONISH MR. GRYCE AND HE ASTONISHES ME

XXXVIII. A FEW WORDS

XXXIX. UNDER A CRIMSON SKY

XL. EXPLANATIONS

EPILOGUE

BOOK I

THE KNOLLYS FAMILY

I

A VISIT FROM MR. GRYCE

Ever since my fortunate–or shall I say unfortunate?–connection with that famous case of murder in Gramercy Park, I have had it intimated to me by many of my friends–and by some who were not my friends–that no woman who had met with such success as myself in detective work would ever be satisfied with a single display of her powers, and that sooner or later I would find myself again at work upon some other case of striking peculiarities.

As vanity has never been my foible, and as, moreover, I never have forsaken and never am likely to forsake the plain path marked out for my sex, at any other call than that of duty, I invariably responded to these insinuations by an affable but incredulous smile, striving to excuse the presumption of my friends by remembering their ignorance of my nature and the very excellent reasons I had for my one notable interference in the police affairs of New York City.

Besides, though I appeared to be resting quietly, if not in entire contentment, on my laurels, I was not so utterly removed from the old atmosphere of crime and its detection as the world in general considered me to be. Mr. Gryce still visited me; not on business, of course, but as a friend, for whom I had some regard; and naturally our conversation was not always confined to the weather or even to city politics, provocative as the latter subject is of wholesome controversy.

Not that he ever betrayed any of the secrets of his office–oh no; that would have been too much to expect–but he did sometimes mention the outward aspects of some celebrated case, and though I never ventured upon advice–I know too much for that, I hope–I found my wits more or less exercised by a conversation in which he gained much without acknowledging it, and I gave much without appearing conscious of the fact.

I was therefore finding life pleasant and full of interest, when suddenly (I had no right to expect it, and I do not blame myself for not expecting it or for holding my head so high at the prognostications of my friends) an opportunity came for a direct exercise of my detective powers in a line seemingly so laid out for me by Providence that I felt I would be slighting the Powers above if I refused to enter upon it, though now I see that the line was laid out for me by Mr. Gryce, and that I was obeying anything but the call of duty in following it.

But this is not explicit. One night Mr. Gryce came to my house looking older and more feeble than usual. He was engaged in a perplexing case, he said, and missed his early vigor and persistency. Would I like to hear about it? It was not in the line of his usual work, yet it had points–and well!–it would do him good to talk about it to a non-professional who was capable of sympathizing with its baffling and worrisome features and yet would never have to be told to hold her peace.

I ought to have been on my guard. I ought to have known the old fox well enough to feel certain that when he went so manifestly out of his way to take me into his confidence he did it for a purpose. But Jove nods now and then–or so I have been assured on unimpeachable authority,–and if Jove has ever been caught napping, surely Amelia Butterworth may be pardoned a like inconsistency.

“It is not a city crime,” Mr. Gryce went on to explain, and here he was base enough to sigh. “At my time of life this is an important consideration. It is no longer a simple matter for me to pack up a valise and go off to some distant village, way up in the mountains perhaps, where comforts are few and secrecy an impossibility. Comforts have become indispensable to my threescore years and ten, and secrecy–well, if ever there was an affair where one needs to go softly, it is this one; as you will see if you will allow me to give you the facts of the case as known at Headquarters to-day.”

I bowed, trying not to show my surprise or my extreme satisfaction. Mr. Gryce assumed his most benignant aspect (always a dangerous one with him), and began his story.

II

I AM TEMPTED

“Some ninety miles from here, in a more or less inaccessible region, there is a small but interesting village, which has been the scene of so many unaccountable disappearances that the attention of the New York police has at last been directed to it. The village, which is at least two miles from any railroad, is one of those quiet, placid little spots found now and then among the mountains, where life is simple, and crime, to all appearance, an element so out of accord with every other characteristic of the place as to seem a complete anomaly. Yet crime, or some other hideous mystery almost equally revolting, has during the last five years been accountable for the disappearance in or about this village of four persons of various ages and occupations. Of these, three were strangers and one a well-known vagabond accustomed to tramp the hills and live on the bounty of farmers’ wives. All were of the male sex, and in no case has any clue ever come to light as to their fate. That is the matter as it stands before the police to-day.”

“A serious affair,” I remarked. “Seems to me I have read of such things in novels. Is there a tumbled-down old inn in the vicinity where beds are made up over trap-doors?”

His smile was a mild protest against my flippancy.

“I have visited the town myself. There is no inn there, but a comfortable hotel of the most matter-of-fact sort, kept by the frankest and most open-minded of landlords. Besides, these disappearances, as a rule, did not take place at night, but in broad daylight. Imagine this street at noon. It is a short one, and you know every house on it, and you think you know every lurking-place. You see a man enter it at one end and you expect him to issue from it at the other. But suppose he never does. More than that, suppose he is never heard of again, and that this thing should happen in this one street four times during five years.”

“I should move,” I dryly responded.

“Would you? Many good people have moved from the place I speak of, but that has not helped matters. The disappearances go on just the same and the mystery continues.”

“You interest me,” I said. “Come to think of it, if this street were the scene of such an unexplained series of horrors as you have described, I do not think I should move.”

“I thought not,” he curtly rejoined. “But since you are interested in this matter, let me be more explicit in my statements. The first person whose disappearance was noted––”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Have you a map of the place?”

He smiled, nodded quite affectionately to a little statuette on the mantel-piece, which had had the honor of sharing his confidences in days gone by, but did not produce the map.

“That detail will keep,” said he. “Let me go on with my story. As I was saying, madam, the first person whose disappearance was noted in this place was a peddler of small wares, accustomed to tramp the mountains. On this occasion he had been in town longer than usual, and was known to have sold fully half of his goods. Consequently he must have had quite a sum of money upon him. One day his pack was found lying under a cluster of bushes in a wood, but of him nothing was ever again heard. It made an excitement for a few days while the woods were being searched for his body, but, nothing having been discovered, he was forgotten, and everything went on as before, till suddenly public attention was again aroused by the pouring in of letters containing inquiries in regard to a young man who had been sent there from Duluth to collect facts in a law case, and who after a certain date had failed to communicate with his firm or show up at any of the places where he was known. Instantly the village was in arms. Many remembered the young man, and some two or three of the villagers could recall the fact of having seen him go up the street with his hand-bag in his hand as if on his way to the Mountain-station. The landlord of the hotel could fix the very day at which he left his house, but inquiries at the station failed to establish the fact that he took train from there, nor were the most minute inquiries into his fate ever attended by the least result. He was not known to have carried much money, but he carried a very handsome watch and wore a ring of more than ordinary value, neither of which has ever shown up at any pawnbroker’s known to the police. This was three years ago.

“The next occurrence of a like character did not take place till a year after. This time it was a poor old man from Hartford, who vanished almost as it were before the eyes of these astounded villagers. He had come to town to get subscriptions for a valuable book issued by a well-known publisher. He had been more or less successful, and was looking very cheerful and contented, when one morning, after making a sale at a certain farmhouse, he sat down to dine with the family, it being close on to noon. He had eaten several mouthfuls and was chatting quite freely, when suddenly they saw him pause, clap his hand to his pocket, and rise up very much disturbed. ‘I have left my pocket-book behind me at Deacon Spear’s,’ he cried. ‘I cannot eat with it out of my possession. Excuse me if I go for it.’ And without any further apologies, he ran out of the house and down the road in the direction of Deacon Spear’s. He never reached Deacon Spear’s, nor was he ever seen in that village again or in his home in Hartford. This was the most astonishing mystery of all. Within a half-mile’s radius, in a populous country town, this man disappeared as if the road had swallowed him and closed again. It was marvellous, it was incredible, and remained so even after the best efforts of the country police to solve the mystery had exhausted themselves. After this, the town began to acquire a bad name, and one or two families moved away. Yet no one was found who was willing to admit that these various persons had been the victims of foul play till a month later another case came to light of a young man who had left the village for the hillside station, and had never arrived at that or any other destination so far as could be learned. As he was a distant relative of a wealthy cattle owner in Iowa, who came on post-haste to inquire into his nephew’s fate, the excitement ran high, and through his efforts and that of one of the town’s leading citizens, the services of our office were called into play. But the result has been nil. We have found neither the bodies of these men nor any clue to their fate.”

“Yet you have been there?” I suggested.

He nodded.

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