Mysterious Disappearances

"Unless the police lines are drawn closer around the inhabitants of our large cities, the number of those who mysteriously disappear from one cause or another will become still more alarming than it is at present."

"Now," she said, "I will go on with the story where you ended. The woman got off the train at B—— for the purpose pose of misleading those who might search for her. She had through tickets to Portland; and after going some distance towards the village, as testified by the station-master, she retraced her steps. Eluding observation at the railway station, she got on a way train that came along presently, and proceeded to Portland. There she was met by a man, who took her to the Grand Trunk Railway; and the next train bore them to a city in the far West, where they found a home which had been carefully prepared for them. She appeared as the wife of the man who accompanied her and who had recently established the home to which, as he had told the neighbors, he was going to bring his wife and two children from the East. The children were too young to know what it all meant, and were soon taught to believe that they had always known their new father. In Western communities they are not so curious about one's antecedents as they are in New England, and the new family was accepted as a valuable acquisition to the neighborhood. How did I learn all that? Well, soon after I settled in —— I formed a very pleasant acquaintance with the lady who lived next door,—a quiet, attractive woman, who seemed to be uncommonly happy in her married life. One day, when her husband was absent, she was taken very ill. I was sent for; and while under the fear of death she told me her story. When she was a school-girl she became engaged to the man she now lived with. He went away to seek his fortune, and not long after she heard he had married. Then, in her despair, she married a man old enough to be her father. After she had been married some three years she heard that her early love had been true to her. She wrote imploring him to forgive her. A correspondence had followed, and by and by she was wrought up to the point of leaving her husband. All the details of the elopement had been arranged by letter, and when she joined her lover in Portland she saw him for the first time after a separation of ten years."

A great many cases of mysterious disappearance are never reported to the police, or made public in any way except through accident. The friends or relatives are afraid of having their private affairs paraded before the public if they give any information; and they either wait in tearful silence for the absent one to return or make some sign, or they grope cautiously in the dark, as it were, by sending out peculiarly worded advertisements through the public press. In some cases the person who disappears from among those who know him has no relatives or friends who feel any responsibility for him, or any desire to know whether he has fallen into the dock or gone to the "diggings."

Hundreds of girls go every year from the British provinces, and from Maine and New Hampshire, to the large manufacturing towns, to work in the mills; or to the cities, to serve as domestics or to "tend store." In most cases they have neither friends nor relatives in the places where they go to work; no one to warn them of the character of their associates, or to hold them in check if they are inclined to go astray. The first consideration of the girl who leads an immoral life is to keep the knowledge of that life from her parents, and from any one who would be likely to inform those among whom she grew up. To keep her shame from those who knew her in better days is, in many instances, the all-controlling purpose, for which she is ready to face death, or, what must be to some quite as terrible, a life of dishonor among strangers in a strange city. Girls disappear suddenly and mysteriously from the sight of those to whom their relatives and birthplace are known; and if they hold any communication with their parents—as they often do, for the purpose of sending money where the parents are poor—they resort to many curious fictions to account for their seeming prosperity.

The "Lynn Mystery," as the newspapers called it, led to such revelations in regard to the number of women who had within a short time mysteriously disappeared from their relatives and friends as shocked most persons. On the 27th of February last, two men, at work on a coal wharf on the Saugus River, in Lynn, saw what they supposed, according to their own description, to be a "chunk of wood" resting on a cake of ice which had stranded on the flats near by. One of them, on going to secure it for firewood, found it was an old trunk heavily corded. It was drawn ashore, cut open, and proved to contain the body of a young woman, whose face had been purposely disfigured to prevent recognition. There were several things discovered in the trunk which would seem to make the identification of the body comparatively easy. The police throughout the State were furnished with photographs and minute written descriptions. A vast amount of time and skill was expended in pursuing the investigations, not only by police officers, who were eager to win a reputation, but by the newspaper reporters, who, in these latter days, often do better police work than the regular members of the force. With all this flood of light thrown on the affair, it was not until late in the month of March following that the body was identified. In the mean time it came to the notice of the police that no fewer than fifty girls of about the same age had mysteriously disappeared within a short time, and an effort was made to identify them with the remains found in the trunk.

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