The world went well with the Reverend Raymond. Silks rustled and diamonds flashed every Sunday in the cushioned pews of his “uptown” church; the élite of Gotham sat under his teaching, and his sixty years and the cares of life rested lightly on his broad shoulders.
It had been a very smoothly flowing life—those sixty years—gliding along as sluggishly calm as the waters of a canal. But on this night the still surface was destined to be ruffled—on this night, so strange, so extraordinary an adventure was destined to happen to him, that it actually compensated, in five brief hours, for all the lack of excitement in those sixty years.
A wet and stormy night. The rain beat ceaselessly against the curtained windows; the wild spring wind shrieked through the city streets, icily cold; a bad, black night—starless, moonless.
The Reverend Raymond Rashleigh gave a little comfortable shiver as he listened to it. It was very pleasant to listen to it in that cozy little room. He poked the blazing coals, sipped his red port, stroked pussy, who bore a most absurd feline resemblance to himself, and took up his paper again.
For the second time he read over a brief paragraph among the “Personals:”
“Left her home.—On the fifteenth instant—whether forcibly or of her own free will is unknown—a young lady of sixteen years, by name Mollie Dane. Is undersized, very slight of figure, a profusion of light, curling hair, large blue eyes, handsome features, and remarkably self-possessed and straightforward of manner. Was dressed as a bride, in white silk and lace. Any information concerning her will be thankfully received and liberally rewarded by her afflicted friends. Apply personally or by letter to Mr. Carl Walraven, No —— Fifth Avenue, New York.”
Very slowly the Reverend Mr. Rashleigh read this paragraph to its end. He laid down the paper and looked thoughtfully at the cat.
“Extraordinary!” murmured the Reverend Raymond, half aloud—“most extraordinary! Like a scene in a novel; like nothing in real life. Has the earth opened and swallowed her up? Has she gone off with some younger and handsomer lover? Or has she been decoyed from home by the machinations of some enemy? She had many, poor child! That unfortunate Sir Roger is like a man insane. He is offering half his fortune for her recovery. It is really very, very extraordinary. Quite a romance in real life. Come in!”
There had been a tap at the study door; a maid-servant entered.
“There’s a young woman down-stairs, sir, wishes to see you most particular.”
“Ah, indeed! Who is she? What is her business with me?”
“I don’t know, sir. Something very important, she says.”
“Show her up.”
The girl departed, ran down-stairs, ran up again, followed by a respectable-looking young woman of pleasing aspect.