THE LEGION OF THE LOST
J. L. RUTLEDGE
“DO YOU know,” said the lawyer, “during the past two weeks three men have come to me to ask how they could best arrange their affairs so that they could disappear.” The two men were sitting in a luxurious hotel lobby in Ottawa, enjoying an after-dinner cigar.
“What did they want to disappear for?” asked the other.
“Well, what do men want to disappear for? Sometimes to escape the law. Might have been that here, though I do not think so. Sometimes to escape their wives, or themselves or their mode of life; sometimes just to get away without any very definite why or wherefore.
“It’s funny,” continued the lawyer, “I fancy it is an idea that has come to a lot of people. Not criminal people. I don’t mean that sort, because their reasons are too obvious, but just ordinary everyday people like you and me, who have nothing much to hide, and who have a good deal to tie us here. We just get tired,and it looks as though it would be so easy if we could step out of the existence we have made for ourselves for a while.
“Why, I remember I was in a home in the Border Cities one day. I don’t believe either that we were talking along this line, when the wife remarked, T have often thought how easy it would be for me to run across to Detroit and disappear.
“ ‘Yes,’ she continued in answer to her husband’s look of surprise, T could get a place as a waitress in one of the outlying restaurants, and no one would ever think of looking for me there. I could live there for months, years perhaps, without anyone suspecting me.’
“ ‘You couldn’t now,’ retorted her husband.
“ ‘Oh, well, I wasn’t really thinking of it, you know. You and the kids are a good deal of trouble, still I guess I would be sort of lonesome without you. But all the same I have often thought that it would be less work, and oh, such an easy thing to do.’ ”
How About You?
TT IS probable that there are very few people who have
not at one time or another faced this thought. Sometimes it is a half-understood desire to get away from something tangible, from the endless demands of the small family tugging at the skirts, to have time for rest, for the kind of rest that comes from the lack of all responsibilities, for the chance to grasp opportunities that seem lacking in the present sphere. Sometimes the desire springs from a very different cause, from the very lack of these tangible things.
A few years ago there was a young third-year student at Toronto University. He was a clever student, and not one you would have thought of an over-imaginative nature, yet one night he returned home and informed his mother that he hated their house and he was going to get out. Probably everyone has had some such sudden prejudice and it is not surprising that his parents paid little attention to this outburst. It did not seem to suggest anything but a moment’s petulance.
But that night he disappeared, and though many efforts have been made to find him, his whereabouts after a number of years remain still in doubt.
Now what impulse was it that pushed this young fellow out of the accustomed round of his daily life? Not an easier life surely, for he was living at home, his expenses were being met. Everything, in fact, was running smoothly, and the path of least resistance was the path he was travelling. Perhaps this was the very thing that decided his course. Anyway, he stepped out into a cqurse of life that was far from smooth, for he started with certain defined tastes and needs, and it was known that at the time he left he had twenty-five cents in his pocket. Yet it evidently satisfied him, for he never returned. He hated the snug ease of settled things.
There was evidently a touch of human psychology in this instance. The occurrence is surprising, but at least there is enough in it to suggest a possible motive. But what can be said of these instances?
There was a young woman employed in a department store in Winnipeg. She lived with her parents in North Winnipeg, a quiet, unassuming girl. One afternoon she left her counter, mentioning casually to one of the other girls that she was going to the basement to get a drink, and would be back in ten minutes. That was in 1910, and from that day to this no word of her whereabouts has come to her family and friends, nor any suggestion as to the cause of her disappearance.
There was a man living in Elmwood, Winnipeg. He told his wife one night that he was going down town to a Turkish bath. She thought nothing of it at the time, but she has had plenty of time to think of it since, for he has been gone eight years and still no word of him. In neither of these cases was there a suggestion of foul play nor any logical reason for the disappearance. What was the reason then? Can you think of one that would fit both cases?
Just as a possible solution consider two other eases where the answer is known:
There was a young captain just returned from the war. He was apparently in good health and spirits. He was living in Hamilton, Ontario, and one day, for rro explicable reason, he went down to a boat-house on the city side of the bay and rented a boat. The boat was later found near the opposite shore of the bay, but the man had disappeared. To the somewhat prosaic minds of the police it appeared a clear case of suicide, and certainly there did seem to be a certain basis for the belief in the fact that for no apparent reason he had hired a boat.
Some months later a friend of the young captain happened to be down in Nashville, Tennessee, and there, walking about the street, was the lost captain. It turned out that the man had lost his memory, a result of shellshock that had, up to the morning on which he hired the boat, remained dormant. How he had spent the intervening months he could not tell. There is a possible explanation of the case of the girl reported above. In the case of the captain it is authenticated; in the case of the girl it is only a conjecture.
TN THE newspaper office of a small city there was a
young reporter, who was unfortunately given, as were reporters of old, to looking upon the bottle. On this particular occasion he had looked with rather more frequency than wisdom. He was slated for a night assignment of not too great importance. Before going he had emptied his pockets to prove that he really did need a small temporary loan to provide one small item of moisture on the arid road that separated him from that story. This he was refused, and he left on his quest unquestionably with a lower opinion of human kindliness and generosity. That “story” needless to say never appeared.
Some three weeks later a penitential collect wire “news rate” was received at the newspaper office, announcing the fact that a sobering reporter was to be found down in Missouri, and that all the prodigal needed in the way of an inducement to return was not a fatted calf, but a railroad ticket. It looked as though there ought to be enough interest in his story to warrant that expense so the ticket was sent, but there was no story. He went away without a cent
in his pocket, he returned the same way. During the interval he had travelled several hundreds of miles, had dined more or less regularly, and had been provided with enough liquid refreshment in the interval to keep him in a state of pleasant intoxication in which the thought of home had no part. Now somebody —probably many somebodys—must have played the part of rather questionable good Samaritans, but who and why? The only man who was there was too blissfully unconscious to know.
To return to the case of the man at the Turkish bath. Stranger things have been known than that a man should get something more than a bath at a Turkish bath. Besides, is there not perhaps a subtle suggestion in this very hankering for the Turkish bath? Perhaps, to all intents and purposes, he followed the same program as the newspaper chap. But he didn’t come back, somebody remarks. Quite so, but that does not necessarily mean that something terrible had happened to him. Perhaps following out this suggestion, he came to himself and thought the matter over, and decided that things were very well as they were.
“I’ll tell you what I think is behind most of these cases of disappearance,” said a gentleman, whose age warranted the assumption that he has acquired some wisdom, “I think in the bulk of these cases, you’ll find a nagging wife.” Now it is not the intention of the writer to say that this is the explanation of the case of the man and the Turkish bath. It is a possible explanation and, granting a nagging wife, a probable one.
The Missed Christmas Dinner 'T'HERE are many such instances that, on the face of A things, seem tragic and inexplicable, but following the course of these mysterious disappearances, as heralded by the daily newspapers, tends to give one a remarkably tranquil viewpoint of even the most harrowing.
Some months ago, in the heart of the early Northern Winter, two men left Haileybury to visit certain mining claims in the mountains. When they did not return aí Christmas their relatives became alarmed; they had been gone a month, quite long enough to make the trip and return with ease. A search party of friends was organized that followed their trail to the banks of the frozen Montreal river. Here the trail ended. There seemed no question of doubt that in some way the travellers had broken through the ice and been drowned. As the days passed this assurance became doubly sure. The details of the tragedy were still fresh in the minds of the citizens of Haileybury when the two travellers turned up. They had been snowbound in the camp, and quite unaware of the sorrow ■ occasioned by their long absence.
Some little time ago Toronto papers displayed the surprising story of the sudden and complete disappearance of a young lady living in the eastern part of the city. She was not feeling well, and went out for a walk, thinking that the fresh air would do her good. Evening came and she failed to return. Her parents became anxious and notified the police, but they were unable to find any trace of the young woman or to account for her complete disappearance. When the story appeared in the newspapers, almost a week after the date of her disappearance, a week filled with eager searchings and grim forebodings, the answer was promptly forthcoming.
Immediately a doctor ’phoned the mother to state that the girl was in hospital under his care. She had come to the hospital in a very weak state, and a complete rest was advised by the hospital doctors. They had no idea that her whereabouts were not well known, so that a very ordinary occurrence became for a time a matter of mystery.
Of course the war, with its titanic eruptions, has been responsible for many instances of the straining of the delicate nerve processes, and brought about the condition that generally goes under the name of shock, a condition responsible for many cases of amnesia, or loss of memory.
There came to the Finley Hospital in Dubuque, Iowa, recently a young man, who has completely lost his identity. In most ways he is quite normal, but while his age is estimated at twenty-five years he remembers nothing of his early years. There are flashes where memory shines through the curtain. He remembers, for instance, that he was discharged from the Canadian Army in Toronto in July, 1919, and he remembers a railway wreck that occurred near Amherst, N.S., two days previous. He remembers distinctly the overland trail from the Yukon to Alaska. He is well educated and speaks French as fluently as English and with the idioms only acquired in childhood. Now, who is this man, how did he get to Dubuque, and why? Who is waiting for him and what forebodings are darkening some home? All the time, the man is physically well and comfortable, waiting eagerly for some chance hint that will open the door back to his old life again.
One day recently in Toronto a soldier’s discharge papers were found tacked to a post at a busy street intersection ; underneath the discharge the following words appeared:
“One day it was an honor to wear. To-day I pull it off to forget the years I was away. Soldier’s farewell.” ]
What is the end of the story? We do not know. Someone evidently in that tangled state of mind wherein the road into obscurity has its great appeal.
There was a man drowned in Midland, Ont., and word went out that it was C. F. Knight. Months later his mother received a letter from him stating that he had joined the American Army months previously and had not been able to go home. How he became identified with the drowned body found in Midland, or who that drowned body really was, will probably always remain a secret, one of those secrets that leave those dregs of bitterness and loss in the history of the Legion of the Lost.
The Famous Small Case
DP HE RE is of course a grimmer *■ side to the story, a side that may be represented in the disappearance of Ambrose J. Small, the millionaire theatrical man seen one moment walking down one of Toronto’s main streets, and melting into thin air almost before the faces of the passers-by.
More than a year has gone by and no hint as to his whereabouts, no hint either of the probable end that had overtaken him. The annals of crime record many such instances of men hurried out of fife leaving no single trace behind them to tell of their fate.
But there is still another and somewhat less grim side to the story; for instance there is the case of John Doughty who is also a factor in the Small case, who disappeared a week or so after Mr. Small, and whose fate for a year was shrouded in almost as much mystery. He was eagerly sought because of the belief that he could throw some light on the mystery of the strange disappearance of his principal. Yet, for all that large rewards were offered, and his picture spread broadcast, it was more than a year before the definite clue that led to his arrest was received. He had gone to Oregon City, on the Pacific Coast, changed his name and as far as possible his appearance. He had obtained work in a paper mill, and despite the novelty of the work had been successful enough to be promoted foreman. He was rapidly building up a circle of friends, and a condition of life that would have, in time, developed into a difficult alibi to overthrow. But somebody saw him and recognized him as the wanted
“Somebody Always Sees”
\X7TLLIAM J. BURNS, the gieat detective, has this » ’ theory of crime detection. It is this: “Somebody always sees.” Of course, the someone who sees may not appreciate the significance of what he sees, but the whole art of detection, according to Mr. Burns, is to locate this one who has actual knowledge of the event.
Some years ago there was an adventurous young fellow living in Montreal. He went to Australia, where he amassed quite a modest fortune, and, returning to Montreal, lived there some time renewing his old friendships and living a quiet and respectable life. Then one day, for no apparent reason, he simply faded out of the view of his friends. The man had simply disappeared, leaving no shadow of reason for his actions, nor even a single clue as to his whereabouts.
Several years later one of these friends happened to be in Vancouver. He was looking for a certain house, and losing his direction, it being a quiet, sparsely settled neighborhood, he made his way to the nearest house and knocked at the front door. Nobody answered, so after a few minutes playing on the doorbell he judged that the spark was d->ad, and went around to what seemed likely to be the most generally habited part of the house, the kitchen. Knocking at the door he had not long to wait. A man answered it and
that man was his lost friend of years before. Had he grown discouraged with his performance on the bell, and failed to attack the back door, the fate of this friend might forever have remained a secret.
Now there isn’t much of a moral to this tale because there was no particular reason why this young man should have wanted to disappear, except that perhaps he was “fed up” on his one-time life. He had been to Australia and Japan, and his movements had gone unnoticed. Nobody had any particular reason for noticing them so there really is no moral unless it be that of Mr. Burns’ “Somebody always sees.” In this case it happened to be a man who knew.
The Missing Book-keeper
D ACK in 1884 there occurred a mysterious disappear■*-' ance in Winnipeg, that sent a shiver of horror down the spines of those who heard of the occurrence. One morning the night watchman of a flour mill, making his final rounds at 8 a.m., looked into the office of the mill, to discover a scene of wild disorder. Evidently a fierce struggle had taken place, for tables were overturned, chairs broken, and papers scattered everywhere, and the door of the safe was open. But what caught the watchman’s gaze was not so much these evidences of a struggle as the slowly drying pool of blood behind the chair where the book-keeper usually sat. Hurrying out to give the alarm, he soon had the police on the case. The news spread like wild-fire. Soon the ominous suspicion that something had happened to the book-keeper, a young man, was verified. Straight from that pool of blood led a trail, crimsoning the snow down to the river; there, at the very edge of a hole newly cut in the ice, the blood-stains ended. The covering of snow made the trail easy to follow, the more easy, indeed, because of the evident signs that someone had been drag-
ging a heavy weight over the
With the discovery of a blood stained knife the last link in the evidence of a ghastly murder seemed to have been discovered. Gangs of men were set to work cutting away the ice on the river in the hope of recovering the body of the unfortunate man, but though the men worked feverishly their efforts were not rewarded, and it was believed that the body must have been carried down under the ice. It could not be discovered till the spring, if even then.
It seemed on the evidence that there never had been a clearer case of murder, and the police sent out circulars giving details of the crime to the whole countryside. Strangely enough, one of these circulars found its way to Grand Forks, North Dakota, and into the hands of a man who had known this young bookkeeper years before. Perhaps it was this fillip to his attention that made him unconsciously scan the faces of the passers-by with a greater care. Anyway as he walked there leaped out at him a face that was to him oddly reminiscent of that of the dead man. Such an effect did thishave upon him that he communicated his suspicion to the police. The man was apprehended, and after a false beard had been removed, and after the arm in a sling was discovered to be merely a subterfuge, and the scar on his face merely paint, he stood out from his disguises as the “murdered” book-keeper, and a tribute to the proposition that “Somebody always sees.”
In this case, however, there was a definite reason. Theyoung man had gone behind in his accounts and, failing to seea way out of his difficulties, had taken this unusual method of covering his tracks. There was considerable artistry used in the machinery of his disappearance that might well have been used in a better cause. He had provided all the properties of a first-class murder, and had it not been for the fact of the man. who saw it might have gone down as a record of undiscovered crime. The struggle scene had been carefully planned inevery detail the night of the discovery. Three chickens gave up their lives to facilitate his escape, their bodiesdragged over the short road to the river left a telling evidence of crime that was heightened by the discovery of thedirk. The young man’s ingenuity did achieve an end, for his employers were so relieved to be free from the actual fact of that tragedy, that they refused to prosecute the young man.
Told By An Insurance Policy
NOT SO very many years ago the city of Toronto was the scene of a somewhat similar occurrence. A young business man failed to appear at the office one morning. There was nothing so very unusual in that, but his associates remembered that he had appeared nervous and unsettled for some days past. They had commented on it at the time and, fearing that he might be ill, they phoned his house only to hear from his wife that he had not been homethat night. This fact put a serious complexion on the matter and an investigation was at once started.
The young man had been a keen sportsman, and especially interested in ice-boating so that the trail naturally led to Toronto Bay. Here a diligent search resulted in thediscovery of the man’s coat and hat close to a section of broken ice. The inference seemed obvious: the man had come down to indulge in his favorite sport and, either deliberately or through accident, had fallen into the water and been drowned. Not unnaturally the fact of his uncertain spirits of the preceding days led to a careful investigation of his business affairs. But it was definitely discovered that as far as could be learned he was in no financial difficulties. It looked to the casual observer as though the evidence pointed to suicide.
Then, some weeks later, when his story had been almost
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forgotten it was brought sharply to the attention of the public by the fact that , a year or more ago this man had placed a policy for $100,000 on his life. Now, of course, there is no reason why anyone should not set such a value on his life, provided he can back the valuation with the necessary premium payments. In the case of one of this man’s financial standing it was unusual, however, and the insurance company was quite within its rights in demanding proof of death. The only actual atom of proof lay in the one item of the coat and hat found at the edge of the ice. That was proof in implication rather than in fact.
The news of this insurance policy raised the whole question again. In the end the man was discovered by a newspaper reporter, living quietly in a secondrate Detroit hotel. He had changed his name and his appearance as far as possible, and was employed in the produce business, the business he followed in Toronto. Now had it not been for that large insurance policy the question of his possible disappearance rather than death might never have been raised, and he might indeed have stepped out into an entirely new life.
The reason for his decision to disappear has never, as far as the writer knows, come to light. The man was ready to talk freely on any subject but this. The only thing he would say was that his wife was in no way implicated. Nor was it suggested that he had tried to collect the insurance for himself. What then was the reason for his decision to exchange his old life for a new? Materially, he apparently profited not at all. It is still possible, however, that this same curious mental slant that led to his carefully planned act did suggest to him a justification, a compensation for the change. And perhaps it was the same suggestion that might come to any one tired with the daily grind, with no abiding interest, no glimmer of romance to lighten the daily round of apparently purposeless tasks. The suggestion is, that had conditions been different, the whole tenor of life might have been more engrossing, more vibrant, more full of a certain absorbing suggestion of expectancy. Ponder this idea, for certainly it is in essence the same idea that has made for all great achievement, the divine unrest, misdirected here beyond a doubt, but still having in it some element of potential nobility. Certainly it is one of the reasons for some almost inexplicable disappearances.
Of course it is not wise to set a consideration of such occurrences in too high a key. In most instances the solution is probably prosaic, more solid ground on which to walk, with no more romantic background than the nagging wife or husband of our sophisticated friend.
There is one case, however, that throws an interesting sidelight on such
occurrences, though the man was blameless of any wrong against the law or against his kith and kin. Some thirty odd years ago, a man of some prominence in the city of Toronto disappeared. His family heard no word of him for thirty years, then as mysteriously as he had disappeared he appeared again, walked in on his relatives, and apparently took up the old life. He seemed neither poor nor unduly affluent, and said little of his past. He had been in their midst two weeks and looked like a permanency, when once again he disappeared. That second disappearance is some years ago now. Evidently this man at least had found his second life more alluring than his first, or else there was a tug from these thirty years that was beyond resisting.
There are, of course, instances where the reason for the desire for anonymity is obvious. Such was the case of a merchant in a small town adjoining Toronto. This merchant had met with business reverses, and came to Toronto at the request of his creditors to arrange a settlement. He had with him a small club bag that he took with, him everywhere. When he went into the assignee’s office the bag went with him. He offered fifty cents on the dollar, and offered to pay in cash, declaring that this was the last possible cent available, and offering his books in evidence of his statement. The creditors however thought differently and demanded sixty cents. He would not go up and they would not come down, and the merchant left the office with his black bag, and simply faded out of human ken. Investigations were started but they led nowhere, as far as establishing his whereabouts was concerned. They did, however, establish the fact that before coming to Toronto he had had a sale, and the proceeds of this sale, in good coin of the realm, were in the little black bag at his side as he spoke. He was quite correct, he could not offer a cent more and when they spurned his offer he took it as final. He had offered to pay them what he could. They had refused, so much the worse for them.
Cherchez la Femme
THE Frenchman has his own explanation of many of the strange disappearances that occur from time to time. With a shrug of his shoulders he remarks, “cherchez la femme," and in many instances he would no doubt be right. Find the woman, and in many cases you will find the answer to some of the most puzzling enigmas.
About seven years ago there was an automobile salesman living in Winnipeg, apparently a normal everyday man, with the normal man’s regard for home ties, and the normal man’s love for his home. One fine Sunday evening in the Spring, he drove hiswifeand family home from church,
then, telling his wife that he would take the car to a garage and return, he left her. The fact that he did not return that night caused a good deal of uneasiness. Finally the car was found overturned in the Assiniboine river near the old Agricultural College. The police who investigated the case believed that the man had been drowned, and the river was systematically dragged, but no body was recovered. Then it was discovered that a young woman stenographer was also missing and, piece [ by piece, the whole plan was made plain, even to the final act where he had headed his car for the river and then jumped out. He had been eager to give his family the impression that he was dead. Perhaps even the mad impulse to change the old romance for the new was not without its chastening sense of remorse. He had staged his departure to leave his memory clean, but unfortunately the fact that “somebody always sees,” was his undoing. He has never come back, and has never been definitely located from that day to
There was a young Montrealer, wellknown, popular, well-to-do, prominent in sporting and financial circles. He left the city one Friday night, leaving wife and children at home, to attend an important athletic event in a neighboring city. On Monday, with two long, anxious days intervening, his wife received a message that he had left for good with another man’s wife. There is nothing very new in this story and nothing to make it worth the recounting except the. one fact that the man left with virtually no money, a tooth brush and a safety razor as his whole equipment for beginning the new life, while the lady took from the. old life several trunks of dresses and other belongings to aid in commencing the new.
The Lidderdale Case OOMETIMES the evidence in these ^ cases seems to becloud the issue rather than explain it.
There is a striking case for instance that has not a Canadian setting. A man named Lidderdale was the hero, if such he may be called, of this occurrence. He was the manager of a branch bank, a man of considerable importance, and highly respected in the neighborhood for years. He was engaged to be married to a well-known and beautiful young lady of the same neighborhood, and the date for their marriage had actually been set for a few months ahead.
I Lidderdale had known the lady for some I years, and there seems no reason to doubt that he was deeply attached to her.
One week before the wedding was to take place, he drew $5,000 from his own account I and went to the city to see his solicitor,
! to arrange for the purchase of some property for a client. He had arranged to meet his solicitor at a certain hotel. Lidderdale was seen to enter this hotel, but for some unexplained reason the solicitor did not keep the appointment. Lidderdale was again seen leaving the hotel, and from that moment he disappeared from human
Strangely enough, the day after his disappearance, his fiancée received a letter from him stating that he had arrived safely and that the first person he met on the platform had been Miss Vining. Fie went on to say, “Her old love is dead, I was soon told what she wanted and got rid of her.” Now it would seem that we have found the lady in the case. For the consideration of this lady for these facts we have to take the eyidence of Lidderdale’s own confidences as related to his friends from time to time.
One day at a railroad station he had seen a young lady vainly trying to open a carriage door, and he had assisted her. Later he was walking along the street, and the hat of a lady driving in a carriage was blown off. He retrieved it and was surprised to see that it was the same lady. What more natural than this sequence of events should take the place of a formal introduction. Be that as it may, Lidderdale, on his own statement, became well acquainted with this young lady, Miss Beatrice Vining, and her mother. He even informed his friends that the young lady had developed an affection for him.
According to his story, the young lady was a Spanish Creole of considerable wealth. She had a pretentious house in the city and a summer home at a well known watering-place. She had carriages and horses; later she purchased a yacht. Now one interesting thing regarding this matter is that the yacht that figured prom-
inently in some of Lidderdale’s statements was not recorded in Lloyd’s register. It is true that the investigation of his disappearance brought forward one coastguard officer who swore that he had seen the yacht. But his was the only statement of the kind, and stood absolutely unsupported, though thousands of people might have been supposed to be more or less familiar with the existence of such a vessel.
Lidderdale’s contention was that Miss Vining wanted to marry him, but again according to his own statement he had no answering desire, for he was already happily engaged. Now the question is: What happened to Lidderdale? It is a question still unsettled though he disappeared nearly thirty years ago. Moreover it is not unsettled because it has lost the public interest, for it has been in the courts a number of times during the course of the settlement of his estate. Its last appearance in court was in 1918, but neither judges nor any other person have been able to arrive at a conclusion.
There are one or two stray clues, however, the stranger because they seem to have been definitely provided. On the 10th of February, 1892, there appeared in a city newspaper the following item:
“Lidderdale—On 30th January, on
Miss B. A. H. Vining’s yacht Foresight,
William Robertson Lidderdale, of
Ilminster, the result of an accident on
the 8th January, alighting from a
carriage while in motion.”
The other clue is this: some time after Lidderdale’s disappearance his fiancée received a package addressed in an unknown feminine handwriting. It contained, in addition to some little personal trinkets, $2,500 in banknotes, and some of Miss Vining’s visiting cards with the address cut off, on one of these was written in what was believed to be Lidderdale’s handwriting the words, “Was true to you.” That was the last ever heard of Lidderdale.
The first bit of evidence might suggest the possibility of foul play, were it not for the fact that it is not usual for murderers to show such marked consideration for their victims as to insert death notices, nor were they likely to be so well informed as to his friends. Nor is it likely that, had such a tragedy occurred, these relics, that might very well offer a clue, would have been returned.
Even the popular “cherchez la femme” viewpoint falls down in one particular. Surely more than in any other case the evidence pointed to Miss Vining, but the question arises did Miss Vining ever have an existence outside the mind of Lidderdale? It is true that he had shown people photographs purporting to be her picture. It is true that a book was produced wherein his name was written, in Miss Vinmg’s handwriting, he said, but the amazing fact is that the whole evidence of her existence rested on the evidence of one man. All we know of Miss Vining we know through the lips of Lidderdale and the various investigations failed to find a trace of the house in the city, or the cottage at the watering-place, or the carriages and horses. No one could be produced who had seen either her or her mother.
Yet, six days before he was to have been married, the man deliberately walked out of the life he had been leading and in which he was popular and respected, gave up the woman he was engaged to and to whom he appeared devoted, abandoned his position, his money and his friends. And why? There was no suspicion of his sanity, and there is little on which to base a suspicion of violence. Yet the man did actually disappear, and no one knows why.
Without any solid basis of fact to work on it is impossible to give a definite reason, but we can conceive a hypothetical case that will in a measure at least provide an explanation. Let us begin then with the assumption that there was a large measure of self-conceit in the man Lidderdale. The fact that he had stressed the point of Miss Vining’s liking for himself suggests this possibility. There was in him, too, a certain romantic strain evidenced in his account of the meeting with Miss Vining. Now starting with these assumptions, let us raise the suggestion that Miss Vining was the mere figment of the mind of Lidderdale, a story built up in a moment of idleness to catch the attention of his friends. Coming to the time fixed for his marriage when he faces the fact that it is “Till death do us part,”—words that have frightened more than one timid person -— there is this possible explanation:
Suppose he saw in the life that lay before him a certain dull monotony, that seemed a horror to a man of active imagination. Suppose, for all his affection for his fiancée, he was fearful of the step, and yet more fearful of the obloquy that would follow any unreasonable break. Granting all these propositions—and they are all at least within the bounds of reason—what more likely than that this figment of his imagination should be invoked to get him out of his difficulty, to spare his fiancée’s feelings, and to protect his reputation with his friends, while at the same time af-
fording a new world of experience gfor the man himself? He may, it is true, be dead, but may it not be that he is merely following a new road of life?
So much, then, for these histories of The Legion of the Lost. They are of interest to us all, for we venture to state that it is only the wholly unimaginative mind that has not at some time or other suggested to itself the possibility of disappearance, as the easy and possible outlet from some difficulty, or the road away from the apparent commonplace of our every day existence.