Fatal Journey Part Two

Chester wrote Grace one last letter a week after his previous one. In it, he says

I think it is best that you should go to Hamilton next Monday and meet me there. It would be better to go where we are not known and so we can leave there that day, although I don’t know where we can or will go. I have really no plans beyond that, as I do not know how much money I can get or anything about the country. If you have any suggestions to make I wish you would and also just when and where you can meet me….Don’t worry about anything and tell me about what I ask about the time and so forth.

 

Don’t worry about anything? Grace was entrusting, had to entrust, her whole well-being and future to this man who had no plans.

 

LAST LETTER FROM GRACE

 

My dear Chester – I am curled up by the kitchen fire….Everyone else is in bed….This is the last letter I can write dear. I feel as though you are not coming. Perhaps this is not right, but I cannot help feeling that I am never going to see you again. How I wish this was Monday [the day they planned to meet in the village of DeRuyter]….

 

I have been bidding goodbye to some places today. There are so many nooks, dear, and all of them so dear to me. I have lived here nearly all of my life. First, I said goodbye to the spring house with its great masses of green moss; then the beehive, a cute little house in the orchard, and, of course, all of the neighbors that have mended my dresses from a little tot up to save me a thrashing I really deserved.

 

Oh dear, you don’t realize what all of this is to me. I know I shall never see any of them again. And Mama! Great heavens, how I do love Mama! I don’t know what I shall do without her. She is never cross and she always helps me so much. Sometimes, I think if I could tell Mama, but I can’t. She has trouble enough as it is, and I couldn’t break her heart like that. If I come back dead, perhaps, if she does not know, she won’t be angry with me. I will never be happy again, dear. I wish I could die.

 

I am going to bed now dear. Please come and don’t let me wait there. It is for both of us to be there….I shall expect and look for you Monday forenoon.

 

Heaven bless you until then.

 

Lovingly and with kisses, The Kid

 

Contrary to Grace’s worst fears, Chester did meet her in DeRuyter as planned. There are so many “what ifs” in this story, as there are in all stories, one of which is what if Chester had backed out, leaving Grace there in that tiny hamlet alone. Would she have gone home, confided to her mother, a sister, a friend? Would she have lived?

 

The journey from DeRuyter to Big Moose Lake took from Monday to Wednesday, requiring two nights in hotels. Chester registered under false names for himself, as he had done in DeRuyter. At Big Moose Lake, he rented a row boat and the pair set off from the shore. The boat was observed by several witnesses, some on the shore, others on the lake. The understanding of the proprietor of the Glennmore Hotel, where Chester rented the boat, was that the couple would return in time for dinner. They didn’t return, and the next day several people became involved in the search for the boat and its occupants. The boat was found, floating upside down. Grace was found, drowned. There was no sign of Chester.

 

Chester’s account of what happened fluctuated, but he settled on a story about Grace being distraught and jumping into the lake to commit suicide, overturning the boat in the process. Unable to rescue her, he swam to shore and then walked four miles to Eagle Bay. When the boat left the Glennmore dock, it was known that he had a suitcase with him. His explanation for the dry clothes he was seen wearing on his hike was that the suitcase was left on shore when the couple stopped to picnic. He said he had planned to retrieve it on the way back to the Glennmore.

 

There never was a satisfactory explanation as to why Chester failed to seek help or report the incident. He arrived at Eagle Bay on foot, then took a small steamboat across the lake to the village of Inlet. He registered at the Arrowhead Hotel under his own name, Chester Gillette, Cortland.

 

For the next three days, Chester behaved very much like a young man with not a care in the world, on vacation, and enjoying every minute. He acted like any other tourist, hiking up a nearby mountain, conversing freely with people he met, and generally being charming, particularly when chatting with young women.

 

For Chester, life was about to change dramatically.

 

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