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CHAPTER II. THE MYSTERY DEEPENS.
"The first time I met the Disagreeable Woman," said my neighbor, who was a commercial traveler, "was on my return from a business trip. Looking about the table to see what changes had occurred in the family, I saw sitting opposite to me a woman of somewhat unusual appearance, whose caustic speech made her feared by the rest of the boarders. This was three months since."

"What is her name?" I asked.

"Upon my word," he answered reflectively, "I am so accustomed to hear her spoken of as the Disagreeable Woman that I hardly remember. Let me see—yes, it is Blagden."

[Pg 14]

"And the first name?"

"Jane."

"Is it Miss or Mrs. Blagden?"

"I don't know."

"She has been here three months and you do not know," I said, in surprise.

"Precisely."

"Did it never occur to any one to ask her?"

"Yes, Mrs. Wyman asked her one day."

"And what did she reply?"

"Whichever you please—it is quite immaterial."

"Do you think she has any reason to maintain secrecy on this point?"

"I think not. She probably takes the ground that it is nobody's business but her own."

"How soon did she obtain her designation of the 'Disagreeable Woman?'"

"Almost immediately I judge. When I first met her she had been a member of Mrs. Gray's household for a week, and[Pg 15] already this was the way she was spoken of."

"I suppose she does not live in the house?"

"No."

"Where then?"

"No one knows. She comes to her meals punctually, turning into Waverley Place from Broadway."

"Has no one ever thought of following her home?"

"Yes. A young broker's clerk, on a wager, attempted to track her to her lodging place. She was sharp enough to detect his purpose. When they reached Broadway she turned suddenly and confronted him. 'Are you going up or down Broadway?' she asked. 'Up Broadway,' he answered with some hesitation, 'Then good evening! I go in the opposite direction.' Of course there was nothing for him to do but to accept the hint, which was certainly pointed enough."

[Pg 16]

"She must be a woman with a history," I said, thoughtfully.

"Most women have histories."

"But not out of the common."

"True. What now do you conjecture as to Miss Blagden's history?"

"I am utterly at a loss."

"Do you think she has had a disappointment?"

"She does not look impressionable. One cannot conceive of her as having an affair of the heart."

"I don't know. One cannot always judge by the exterior."

"Do you think she has any employment?"

"If so, no one has been able to conjecture what it is."

"To me she seems like an advocate of Woman's Rights, perhaps a lecturer on that subject."

"Possibly, but I know of nothing to throw light on her business or her views."

[Pg 17]

"Do you think she is a woman of means?"

"Ah," said my friend, smiling, "you are really beginning to show interest in her. I believe you are unmarried?"

The suggestion was grotesque and I could not help smiling.

"I should pity the man who married the 'Disagreeable Woman,'" I made answer.

"I don't know. She is not beautiful, certainly, nor attractive, but I don't think she is as ill-natured as she appears."

"Is this conjecture on your part?"

"Not wholly. Did you notice the young woman who sat on her left?"

"Yes."

"We know her as the young woman from Macy's. Well, a month since she was sick for a week, and unable to pay her board. She occupies a hall bed-room on the upper floor. Miss Blagden guessed her trouble, and as she left the table on Saturday night put into her hands an[Pg 18] envelope without a word. When it was opened it proved to contain ten dollars, sufficient to pay two weeks' board."

"Come, there seems to be something human about the Disagreeable Woman."

"Just so. To us it was a revelation. But she would not allow herself to be thanked."

"That last piece of information interests me. My office practise at present is very limited, and I find my small capital going fast. I may need the good office of Miss Blagden."

"I hope not, but I must leave you. My employers have sent me an orchestra ticket to Palmer's theatre."

"I hope you will enjoy yourself."

So we parted company. I went to my office, and spent a part of the evening in searching among my medical books for some light on a case that had baffled me. But from time to time my attention was distracted by thoughts of the Disagreeable Woman.
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