Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers Of Louisa May Alcott

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9780688003388: Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers Of Louisa May Alcott

Six years before she wrote Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, in financial straits, entered "Pauline's Passion and Punishment," a novelette, in a newspaper contest. Not only did it win the $100 prize, but, published anonymously, it marked the first in the series of "blood & thunder tales" that would be her livelihood for years.

In Behind a Mask, editor Madeleine Stern introduces four Alcott thrillers: "Pauline's Passion and Punishment," "The Mysterious Key," "The Abbot's Ghost," and the title story, "Behind a Mask." First published in one volume in 1975, they are regarded as Alcott's finest work in this genre.

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About the Author:

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is the author of the beloved Little Women, which was based on her own experiences growing up in New England with her parents and three sisters. More than a century after her death, Louisa May Alcott's stories continue to delight readers of all ages.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Before she could get breath for another complaint, the clock struck seven and the doorbell rang.

"There she is!" cried Bella, and turned toward the door as if to go and meet the newcomer. But Lucia arrested her, saying authoritatively, "Stay here, child. It is her place to come to you, not yours to go to her."

"Miss Muir," announced a servant, and a little black-robed figure stood in the doorway. For an instant no one stirred, and the governess had time to see and be seen before a word was uttered. All looked at her, and she cast on the household group a keen glance that impressed them curiously; then her eyes fell, and bowing slightly she walked in. Edward came forward and received her with the frank cordiality which nothing could daunt or chill. "Mother, this is the lady whom you expected. Miss Muir, allow me to apologize for our apparent neglect in not sending for you. There was a mistake about the carriage, or, rather, the lazy fellow to whom the order was given forgot it. Bella, come here."

"Thank you, no apology is needed. I did not expect to be sent for." And the governess meekly sat down without lifting her eyes.

"I am glad to see you. Let me take your things," said Bella, rather shyly, for Gerald, still lounging, watched the fireside group with languid interest, and Lucia never stirred. Mrs. Coventry took a second survey and began:

"You were punctual, Miss Muir, which pleases me. I'm a sad invalid, as Lady Sydney told you, I hope; so that Miss Coventry's lessons will be directed by my niece, and you will go to her for directions, as she knows what I wish. You will excuse me if I ask you a few questions, for Lady Sydney's note was very brief, and I left everything to her judgment." "Ask anything you like, madam," answered the soft, sad voice.

"You are Scotch, I believe."

"Yes, madam."

"Are your parents living?"

"I have not a relation in the world."

"Dear me, how sad! Do you mind telling me your age?"

"Nineteen." And a smile passed over Miss Muir's lips, as she folded her hands with an air of resignation, for the catechism was evidently to be a long one.

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Alcott, Louisa May
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