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A Strange Discovery   By:

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E text prepared by Suzanne Shell, Colin Cameron, Mary Meehan, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team



Charles Romyn Dake



The FIRST Chapter

It was once my good fortune to assist in a discovery of some importance to lovers of literature, and to searchers after the new and wonderful. As nearly a quarter of a century has since elapsed, and as two others shared in the discovery, it may seem to the reader strange that the general public has been kept in ignorance of an event apparently so full of interest. Yet this silence is quite explicable; for of the three participants none has heretofore written for publication; and of my two associates, one is a quiet, retiring man, the other is erratic and forgetful.

It is also possible that the discovery did not at the time impress either my companions or myself as having that importance and widespread interest which I have at last come to believe it really possesses. In any view of the case, there are reasons, personal to myself, why it was less my duty than that of either of the others to place on record the facts of the discovery. Had either of them, in all these years, in ever so brief a manner, done so, I should have remained forever silent.

The narrative which it is my purpose now to put in written form, I have at various times briefly or in part related to one and another of my intimate friends; but they all mistook my facts for fancies, and good naturedly complimented me on my story telling powers which was certainty not flattering to my qualifications as an historian.

With this explanation, and this extenuation of what some persons may think an inexcusable and almost criminal delay, I shall proceed.

In the year 1877 I was compelled by circumstances to visit the States. At that time, as at the present, my home was near Newcastle upon Tyne. My father, then recently deceased, had left, in course of settlement in America, business interests involving a considerable pecuniary investment, of which I hoped a large part might be recovered. My lawyer, for reasons which seemed to me sufficient, advised that the act of settlement should not be delegated; and I decided to leave at once for the United States. Ten days later I reached New York, where I remained for a day or two and then proceeded westward. In St. Louis I met some of the persons interested in my business. There the whole transaction took such form that a final settlement depended wholly upon the agreement between a certain man and myself; but, fortunately for the fate of this narrative, the man was not in St. Louis. He was one of those wealthy so called "kings" which abound in America in this case a "coal king." I was told that he possessed a really palatial residence in St. Louis where he did not dwell; and a less pretentious dwelling directly in the coal fields, where, for the most of his time, he did reside. I crossed the Mississippi River into Southern Illinois, and very soon found him. He was a plain, honest business man; we did not split hairs, and within a week I had in my pocket London exchange for something like £20,000, he had in his pocket a transfer of my interest in certain coal fields and a certain railroad, and we were both satisfied.

And now, having explained how I came to be in surroundings to me so strange, any further mention of business, or of money interests, shall not, in the course of this narrative, again appear.

I had arrived at the town of Bellevue, in Southern Illinois, on a bright June morning, and housed myself in an old fashioned, four story brick hotel, the Loomis House, in which the proprietor, a portly, ruddy faced, trumpet voiced man, assigned to me an apartment a spacious corner room, with three windows looking upon the main thoroughfare and two upon a side street, and a smaller room adjoining.

[Illustration: The LOOMIS HOUSE... Continue reading book >>

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