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The Mad Lady
by [?]

CERTAINLY there was a house there, half-way up Great Hill, a mansion of pale cream-colored stone, built with pillared porch and wings, vines growing over some parts of it, a sward like velvet surrounding it; the sun was flashing back from the windows — but — Why? Why had none of the Godsdale people seen that house before? Could the work of building have gone on sheltered by the thick wood in front, the laborers and the materials coming up the other side of the hill? It would not be visible now if, overnight, vistas had not been cut in the wood.

The Godsdale people seldom climbed the hill; there were rumors of ill-doing there in long past days, there were perhaps rattlesnakes, it was difficult except from the other side, there was nothing to see when you arrived, and few ever wandered that way. Why any one should wish to build there was a mystery. As the villagers stared at the place they saw, or thought they saw, swarthy turbaned servitors moving about, but so far off as to be indistinct. In fact, it was all very indistinct; so much so that Parson Solewise even declared there was no house there at all. But when Mr. Dunceby, the schoolmaster, opened his spy-glass and saw a lady — who, he said, was tall, was dark, was beautiful, with flowing draperies about her of black and filmy stuff — come down the terrace-steps and enter a waiting automobile that speedily passed round the scarp of the hill and went down the other side, the thing was proved. Mr. Ditton, the village lawyer, also saw it without having recourse to the spy-glass; but as Mr. Ditton had but lately had what he called a nip, and indeed several of them, he was in that happy state of sweet good nature which agrees with the last speaker.

Every day for several days, even weeks, the lady was seen to enter the automobile, and be taken round the side of the hill and down to the plain intersected by many roads and ending in a marsh bounded by the great river. The car would go some distance, and then, apparently at an order given through the long speaking-tube, would turn about and take a different course, only to be as quickly reversed and sent to another road on the right or on the left. Sometimes it would seem to certain of the adventurous youth coming and going on the great plain that the chauffeur remonstrated, but evidently the more she insisted, and the car went on swiftly in the new direction, wrecklessly plunging and rocking over deep-rutted places as if both driver and passenger were mad. Indeed they came to call the woman the Mad Lady. She seemed to be on a wild search for something that lay she knew not where, or for the right road to it in all the tangle of roads. One day, it was Mr. Dunceby and Mr. Ditton who, coming from a fishing-trip — Mr. Ditton’s flask quite empty — saw a ride which they averred was the wildest piece of daredeviltry ever known, or would have been but for the black tragedy at its end.

The car was speeding down Springwood way, as if running a race with the wind, when suddenly it swerved, backed, and turned about, going diagonally opposite into Blueberry lane, crossed over from that by a short cut to Commoners, only to reverse again — the lady inside, as well as they could see, giving contradictory and excited orders — and after one or two more turns and returns and zigzags, the car shot forward with incredible swiftness, as if the right way were found at last, straight down the long dike or causeway over which the farmers hauled their salt hay from the marsh in winter — the marsh now swollen to a morass by the high tides and recent rains. And then, as if in the accelerating speed the chauffeur found himself helpless, they saw the car bound into the air — at least Mr. Ditton did — the lady fling the door open, crying: "It is here! It is here!" pitching forward at the words and tossed out like a leaf, the chauffeur thrown off as violently, and all plunged into the morass, sucked down by the quicksand, and seen no more.