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CHAPTER XVIII. THE PROFESSOR'S BOOK.
For some weeks matters went on quietly at our boarding-house. Prof. Poppendorf, in spite of the failure of his matrimonial schemes, ate, smoked, and drank as tranquilly as ever. Ruth was grateful to him that he had accepted her refusal as final, and disturbed her no more. They still sat near each other at the table, but there was never anything in his manner to indicate that there had been any romantic passages between them.

The Disagreeable Woman remained as great a mystery as ever. Sometimes she was absent for three or four days together. Then she would suddenly[Pg 157] reappear. No one ever asked where she had been. It would have taken rare courage to do that. Nor did she ever volunteer any explanation.

Whether she possessed large means or not no one could conjecture. She always paid her board bill, and with unfailing regularity, at the end of every week. Her dress was always plain, but oftentimes of costly material. She seldom indulged in conversation, though she was always ready with an answer when spoken to. Perhaps I may mention as exceptions to her general rule of reticence the young woman from Macy's and myself. She seemed to feel more kindly toward us than toward any of the others.

There had been various attempts to find out where she lived. None had succeeded. One day Mrs. Wyman asked the question directly.

"Where do you live, Miss Blagden, if you will allow me to ask?"

"I will allow you to ask," returned the[Pg 158] Disagreeable Woman, coolly. "Do you propose to call on me?"

"If you will permit me."

"It is hardly necessary. We meet at the table every day. I am a hermit," she added after a pause, "I do not care to receive visitors."

"I once heard of a hermit who lived in one of the cottages on the rocks near Central Park," said the widow, rather impertinently.

"I don't live there!" said the Disagreeable Woman, composedly.

"Of course not. I did not suppose you did."

"Thank you. You are right as usual."

If Miss Blagden meant to be sarcastic, nothing in her tone revealed it. She had warded off the attack dictated by curiosity.

Whether Miss Blagden was rich or not, she was always ready to contribute to any public or private cause. When[Pg 159] Prof. Pop............
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