Part 1 out of 7
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BOOK I. THE PROBLEM
I. "A GREAT CASE"
II. THE CORONER'S INQUEST
III. FACTS AND DEDUCTIONS
IV. A CUTS
V. EXPERT TESTIMONY
VII. MARY LEAVENWORTH
VIII. CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
IX. A DISCOVERY
X. MR. GRYCE RECEIVES NEW IMPETUS
XI. THE SUMMONS
XIII. THE PROBLEM
BOOK II. HENRY CLAVERING
XIV. MR. GRYCE AT HOME
XV. WAYS OPENING
XVI. THE WILL OF A MILLIONAIRE
XVII. THE BEGINNING OF GREAT SURPRISES
XVIII. ON THE STAIRS
XIX. IN MY OFFICE
XX. "TRUEMAN! TRUEMAN! TRUEMAN!"
XXI. A PREJUDICE
XXIII. THE STORY OF A CHARMING WOMAN
XXIV. A REPORT FOLLOWED BY SMOKE
XXV. TIMOTHY COOK
XXVI. MR. GRYCE EXPLAINS HIMSELF
BOOK III. HANNAH
XXVII. AMY BELDEN
XXVIII. A WEIRD EXPERIENCE
XXIX. THE MISSING WITNESS
XXX. BURNED PAPER
XXXI. "Thereby hangs a tale."
XXXII. MRS. BELDEN'S NARRATIVE
XXXIII. UNEXPECTED TESTIMONY
BOOK IV. THE PROBLEM SOLVED
XXXIV. MR. GRYCE RESUMES CONTROL
XXXV. FINE WORK
XXXVI. GATHERED THREADS
XXXVIII. A FULL CONFESSION
XXXIX. THE OUTCOME OF A GREAT CRIME
BOOK I. THE PROBLEM
I. "A GREAT CASE"
"A deed of dreadful note."
I HAD been a junior partner in the firm of Veeley, Carr & Raymond,
attorneys and counsellors at law, for about a year, when one morning,
in the temporary absence of both Mr. Veeley and Mr. Carr, there came
into our office a young man whose whole appearance was so indicative of
haste and agitation that I involuntarily rose at his approach and
"What is the matter? You have no bad news to tell, I hope."
"I have come to see Mr. Veeley; is he in?"
"No," I replied; "he was unexpectedly called away this morning to
Washington; cannot be home before to-morrow; but if you will make
your business known to me----"
"To you, sir?" he repeated, turning a very cold but steady eye on
mine; then, seeming to be satisfied with his scrutiny, continued,
"There is no reason why I shouldn't; my business is no secret. I came to
inform him that Mr. Leavenworth is dead."
"Mr. Leavenworth!" I exclaimed, falling back a step. Mr.
Leavenworth was an old client of our firm, to say nothing of his being
the particular friend of Mr. Veeley.
"Yes, murdered; shot through the head by some unknown person while
sitting at his library table."
"Shot! murdered!" I could scarcely believe my ears.
"How? when?" I gasped.
"Last night. At least, so we suppose. He was not found till this
morning. I am Mr. Leavenworth's private secretary," he explained,
"and live in the family. It was a dreadful shock," he went on,
"especially to the ladies."
"Dreadful!" I repeated. "Mr. Veeley will be overwhelmed by it."
"They are all alone," he continued in a low businesslike way I
afterwards found to be inseparable from the man; "the Misses
Leavenworth, I mean--Mr. Leavenworth's nieces; and as an inquest is to
be held there to-day it is deemed proper for them to have some one
present capable of advising them. As Mr. Veeley was their uncle's best
friend, they naturally sent me for him; but he being absent I am at a
loss what to do or where to go."
"I am a stranger to the ladies," was my hesitating reply, "but if
I can be of any assistance to them, my respect for their uncle is
The expression of the secretary's eye stopped me. Without seeming to
wander from my face, its pupil had suddenly dilated till it appeared to
embrace my whole person with its scope.
"I don't know," he finally remarked, a slight frown, testifying to
the fact that he was not altogether pleased with the turn affairs were
taking. "Perhaps it would be best. The ladies must not be left
"Say no more; I will go." And, sitting down, I despatched a
hurried message to Mr. Veeley, after which, and the few other
preparations necessary, I accompanied the secretary to the street.
"Now," said I, "tell me all you know of this frightful affair."
"All I know? A few words will do that. I left him last night
sitting as usual at his library table, and found him this morning,
seated in the same place, almost in the same position, but with _a._
bullet-hole in his head as large as the end of my little finger."
"Horrible!" I exclaimed. Then, after a moment, "Could it have
been a suicide?"
"No. The pistol with which the deed was committed is not to be
"But if it was a murder, there must have been some motive. Mr.
Leavenworth was too benevolent a man to have enemies, and if robbery
"There was no robbery. There is nothing missing," he again
interrupted. "The whole affair is a mystery."
"An utter mystery."
Turning, I looked at my informant curiously. The inmate of a house
in which a mysterious murder had occurred was rather an interesting
object. But the good-featured and yet totally unimpressive countenance
of the man beside me offered but little basis for even the wildest
imagination to work upon, and, glancing almost immediately away, I
"Are the ladies very much overcome?"
He took at least a half-dozen steps before replying.
"It would be unnatural if they were not." And whether it was the
expression of his face at the time, or the nature of the reply itself,
I felt that in speaking of these ladies to this uninteresting,
self-possessed secretary of the late Mr. Leavenworth, I was somehow
treading upon dangerous ground. As I had heard they were very
accomplished women, I was not altogether pleased at this discovery. It
was, therefore, with a certain consciousness of relief I saw a Fifth
Avenue stage approach.
"We will defer our conversation," said I. "Here's the stage."
But, once seated within it, we soon discovered that all intercourse
upon such a subject was impossible. Employing the time, therefore, in
running over in my mind what I knew of Mr. Leavenworth, I found that
my knowledge was limited to the bare fact of his being a retired
merchant of great wealth and fine social position who, in default of
possessing children of his own, had taken into his home two nieces, one
of whom had already been declared his heiress. To be sure, I had heard
Mr. Veeley speak of his eccentricities, giving as an instance this very
fact of his making a will in favor of one niece to the utter exclusion
of the other; but of his habits of life and connection with the world
at large, I knew little or nothing.
There was a great crowd in front of the house when we arrived there,
and I had barely time to observe that it was a corner dwelling of
unusual depth when I was seized by the throng and carried quite to the
foot of the broad stone steps. Extricating myself, though with some
difficulty, owing to the importunities of a bootblack and butcher-boy,
who seemed to think that by clinging to my arms they might succeed in
smuggling themselves into the house, I mounted the steps and, finding
the secretary, by some unaccountable good fortune, close to my side,
hurriedly rang the bell. Immediately the door opened, and a face I
recognized as that of one of our city detectives appeared in the gap.
"Mr. Gryce!" I exclaimed.
"The same," he replied. "Come in, Mr. Raymond." And drawing us
quietly into the house, he shut the door with a grim smile on the
disappointed crowd without. "I trust you are not surprised to see me
here," said he, holding out his hand, with a side glance at my
"No," I returned. Then, with a vague idea that I ought to introduce
the young man at my side, continued: "This is Mr. ----, Mr. ----,
--excuse me, but I do not know your name," I said inquiringly to my
companion. "The private secretary of the late Mr. Leavenworth," I
hastened to add.
"Oh," he returned, "the secretary! The coroner has been asking for
"The coroner is here, then?"
"Yes; the jury have just gone up-stairs to view the body; would
you like to follow them?"
"No, it is not necessary. I have merely come in the hope of being
of some assistance to the young ladies. Mr. Veeley is away."
"And you thought the opportunity too good to be lost," he went on;
"just so. Still, now that you are here, and as the case promises to be
a marked one, I should think that, as a rising young lawyer, you would
wish to make yourself acquainted with it in all its details. But follow
your own judgment."
I made an effort and overcame my repugnance. "I will go," said I.
"Very well, then, follow me."
But just as I set foot on the stairs I heard the jury descending,
so, drawing back with Mr. Gryce into a recess between the reception
room and the parlor, I had time to remark:
"The young man says it could not have been the work of a burglar."
"Indeed!" fixing his eye on a door-knob near by.
"That nothing has been found missing--"
"And that the fastenings to the house were all found secure this
morning; just so."
"He did not tell me that. In that case"--and I shuddered--"the
murderer must have been in the house all night."
Mr. Gryce smiled darkly at the door-knob.
"It has a dreadful look!" I exclaimed.
Mr. Gryce immediately frowned at the door-knob.
And here let me say that Mr. Gryce, the detective, was not the thin,
wiry individual with the piercing eye you are doubtless expecting to
see. On the contrary, Mr. Gryce was a portly, comfortable personage
with an eye that never pierced, that did not even rest on _you._
If it rested anywhere, it was always on some insignificant object in
the vicinity, some vase, inkstand, book, or button. These things he
would seem to take into his confidence, make the repositories of his
conclusions; but as for you--you might as well be the steeple on
Trinity Church, for all connection you ever appeared to have with him
or his thoughts. At present, then, Mr. Gryce was, as I have already
suggested, on intimate terms with the door-knob.
"A dreadful look," I repeated.
His eye shifted to the button on my sleeve.
"Come," he said, "the coast is clear at last."
Leading the way, he mounted the stairs, but stopped on the upper
landing. "Mr. Raymond," said he, "I am not in the habit of talking
much about the secrets of my profession, but in this case everything
depends upon getting the right clue at the start. We have no common
villainy to deal with here; genius has been at work. Now sometimes an
absolutely uninitiated mind will intuitively catch at something which
the most highly trained intellect will miss. If such a thing should
occur, remember that I am your man. Don't go round talking, but come to
me. For this is going to be a great case, mind you, a great case. Now,
"But the ladies?"
"They are in the rooms above; in grief, of course, but tolerably
composed for all that, I hear." And advancing to a door, he pushed it
open and beckoned me in.
All was dark for a moment, but presently, my eyes becoming
accustomed to the place, I saw that we were in the library.
"It was here he was found," said he; "in this room and upon this
very spot." And advancing, he laid his hand on the end of a large
baize-covered table that, together with its attendant chairs, occupied
the centre of the room. "You see for yourself that it is directly
opposite this door," and, crossing the floor, he paused in front of the
threshold of a narrow passageway, opening into a room beyond. "As the
murdered man was discovered sitting in this chair, and consequently with
his back towards the passageway, the assassin must have advanced through
the doorway to deliver his shot, pausing, let us say, about here." And
Mr. Gryce planted his feet firmly upon a certain spot in the carpet,
about a foot from the threshold before mentioned.
"But--" I hastened to interpose.
"There is no room for 'but,'" he cried. "We have studied the
situation." And without deigning to dilate upon the subject, he turned
immediately about and, stepping swiftly before me, led the way into the
passage named. "Wine closet, clothes closet, washing apparatus,
towel-rack," he explained, waving his hand from side to side as we
hurried through, finishing with "Mr. Leavenworth's private apartment,"
as that room of comfortable aspect opened upon us.
Mr. Leavenworth's private apartment! It was here then that _it_
ought to be, the horrible, blood-curdling _it_ that yesterday was
a living, breathing man. Advancing to the bed that was hung with heavy
curtains, I raised my hand to put them back, when Mr. Gryce, drawing
them from my clasp, disclosed lying upon the pillow a cold, calm face
looking so natural I involuntarily started.
"His death was too sudden to distort the features," he remarked,
turning the head to one side in a way to make visible a ghastly wound
in the back of the cranium. "Such a hole as that sends a man out of
the world without much notice. The surgeon will convince you it could
never have been inflicted by himself. It is a case of deliberate
Horrified, I drew hastily back, when my glance fell upon a door
situated directly opposite me in the side of the wall towards the hall.
It appeared to be the only outlet from the room, with the exception of
the passage through which we had entered, and I could not help
wondering if it was through this door the assassin had entered on his
roundabout course to the library. But Mr. Gryce, seemingly observant of
my glance, though his own was fixed upon the chandelier, made haste to
remark, as if in reply to the inquiry in my face:
"Found locked on the inside; may have come that way and may not;
we don't pretend to say."
Observing now that the bed was undisturbed in its arrangement, I
remarked, "He had not retired, then?"
"No; the tragedy must be ten hours old. Time for the murderer to
have studied the situation and provided for all contingencies."
"The murderer? Whom do you suspect?" I whispered.
He looked impassively at the ring on my finger.
"Every one and nobody. It is not for me to suspect, but to detect."
And dropping the curtain into its former position he led me from the
The coroner's inquest being now in session, I felt a strong desire
to be present, so, requesting Mr. Gryce to inform the ladies that Mr.
Veeley was absent from town, and that I had come as his substitute, to
render them any assistance they might require on so melancholy an
occasion, I proceeded to the large parlor below, and took my seat among
the various persons there assembled.
II. THE CORONER'S INQUEST
"The baby figure of the giant mass
Of things to come."
--Troilus and Cressida.
FOR a few minutes I sat dazed by the sudden flood of light greeting
me from the many open windows; then, as the strongly contrasting
features of the scene before me began to impress themselves upon my
consciousness, I found myself experiencing something of the same
sensation of double personality which years before had followed an
enforced use of ether. As at that time, I appeared to be living two
lives at once: in two distinct places, with two separate sets of
incidents going on; so now I seemed to be divided between two
irreconcilable trains of thought; the gorgeous house, its elaborate
furnishing, the little glimpses of yesterday's life, as seen in the
open piano, with its sheet of music held in place by a lady's fan,
occupying my attention fully as much as the aspect of the throng of
incongruous and impatient people huddled about me.
Perhaps one reason of this lay in the extraordinary splendor of the
room I was in; the glow of satin, glitter of bronze, and glimmer of
marble meeting the eye at every turn. But I am rather inclined to think
it was mainly due to the force and eloquence of a certain picture which
confronted me from the opposite wall. A sweet picture--sweet enough and
poetic enough to have been conceived by the most idealistic of artists:
simple, too--the vision of a young flaxen-haired, blue-eyed coquette,
dressed in the costume of the First Empire, standing in a wood-path,
looking back over her shoulder at some one following--yet with such a
dash of something not altogether saint-like in the corners of her meek
eyes and baby-like lips, that it impressed me with the individuality of
life. Had it not been for the open dress, with its waist almost beneath
the armpits, the hair cut short on the forehead, and the perfection of
the neck and shoulders, I should have taken it for a literal portrait
of one of the ladies of the house. As it was, I could not rid myself of
the idea that one, if not both, of Mr. Leavenworth's nieces looked down
upon me from the eyes of this entrancing blonde with the beckoning
glance and forbidding hand. So vividly did this fancy impress me that I
half shuddered as I looked, wondering if this sweet creature did not
know what had occurred in this house since the happy yesterday; and if
so, how she could stand there smiling so invitingly,--when suddenly I
became aware that I had been watching the little crowd of men about me
with as complete an absorption as if nothing else in the room had
attracted my attention; that the face of the coroner, sternly
intelligent and attentive, was as distinctly imprinted upon my mind as
that of this lovely picture, or the clearer-cut and more noble features
of the sculptured Psyche, shining in mellow beauty from the
crimson-hung window at his right; yes, even that the various
countenances of the jurymen clustered before me, commonplace and
insignificant as most of them were; the trembling forms of the excited
servants crowded into a far corner; and the still more disagreeable
aspect of the pale-faced, seedy reporter, seated at a small table and
writing with a ghoul-like avidity that made my flesh creep, were each
and all as fixed an element in the remarkable scene before me as the
splendor of the surroundings which made their presence such a nightmare
of discord and unreality.
I have spoken of the coroner. As fortune would have it, he was no
stranger to me. I had not only seen him before, but had held frequent
conversation with him; in fact, knew him. His name was Hammond, and he
was universally regarded as a man of more than ordinary acuteness,
fully capable of conducting an important examination, with the
necessary skill and address. Interested as I was, or rather was likely
to be, in this particular inquiry, I could not but congratulate myself
upon our good fortune in having so intelligent a coroner.
As for his jurymen, they were, as I have intimated, very much like
all other bodies of a similar character. Picked up at random from the
streets, but from such streets as the Fifth and Sixth Avenues, they
presented much the same appearance of average intelligence and
refinement as might be seen in the chance occupants of one of our city
stages. Indeed, I marked but one amongst them all who seemed to take
any interest in the inquiry as an inquiry; all the rest appearing to be
actuated in the fulfilment of their duty by the commoner instincts of
pity and indignation.
Dr. Maynard, the well-known surgeon of Thirty-sixth Street, was the
first witness called. His testimony concerned the nature of the wound
found in the murdered man's head. As some of the facts presented by him
are likely to prove of importance to us in our narrative, I will
proceed to give a synopsis of what he said.
Prefacing his remarks with some account of himself, and the manner
in which he had been summoned to the house by one of the servants, he
went on to state that, upon his arrival, he found the deceased lying on
a bed in the second-story front room, with the blood clotted about a
pistol-wound in the back of the head; having evidently been carried
there from the adjoining apartment some hours after death. It was the
only wound discovered on the body, and having probed it, he had found
and extracted the bullet which he now handed to the jury. It was lying
in the brain, having entered at the base of the skull, passed obliquely
upward, and at once struck the _medulla oblongata,_ causing
instant death. The fact of the ball having entered the brain in this
peculiar manner he deemed worthy of note, since it would produce not
only instantaneous death, but an utterly motionless one. Further, from
the position of the bullet-hole and the direction taken by the bullet,
it was manifestly impossible that the shot should have been fired by
the man himself, even if the condition of the hair about the wound did
not completely demonstrate the fact that the shot was fired from a
point some three or four feet distant. Still further, considering the
angle at which the bullet had entered the skull, it was evident that
the deceased must not only have been seated at the time, a fact about
which there could be no dispute, but he must also have been engaged in
some occupation which drew his head forward. For, in order that a ball
should enter the head of a man sitting erect at the angle seen here, of
45 degrees, it would be necessary, not only for the pistol to be held
very low down, but in a peculiar position; while if the head had been
bent forward, as in the act of writing, a man holding a pistol naturally
with the elbow bent, might very easily fire a ball into the brain at the
Upon being questioned in regard to the bodily health of Mr.
Leavenworth, he replied that the deceased appeared to have been in good
condition at the time of his death, but that, not being his attendant
physician, he could not speak conclusively upon the subject without
further examination; and, to the remark of a juryman, observed that he
had not seen pistol or weapon lying upon the floor, or, indeed,
anywhere else in either of the above-mentioned rooms.
I might as well add here what he afterwards stated, that from the
position of the table, the chair, and the door behind it, the murderer,
in order to satisfy all the conditions imposed by the situation, must
have stood upon, or just within, the threshold of the passageway
leading into the room beyond. Also, that as the ball was small, and
from a rifled barrel, and thus especially liable to deflections while
passing through bones and integuments, it seemed to him evident that
the victim had made no effort to raise or turn his head when advanced
upon by his destroyer; the fearful conclusion being that the footstep
was an accustomed one, and the presence of its possessor in the room
either known or expected.
The physician's testimony being ended, the coroner picked up the
bullet which had been laid on the table before him, and for a moment
rolled it contemplatively between his fingers; then, drawing a pencil
from his pocket, hastily scrawled a line or two on a piece of paper
and, calling an officer to his side, delivered some command in a low
tone. The officer, taking up the slip, looked at it for an instant
knowingly, then catching up his hat left the room. Another moment, and
the front door closed on him, and a wild halloo from the crowd of
urchins without told of his appearance in the street. Sitting where I
did, I had a full view of the corner. Looking out, I saw the officer
stop there, hail a cab, hastily enter it, and disappear in the
direction of Broadway.
III. FACTS AND DEDUCTIONS
"Confusion now hath made his master-piece;
Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope
The Lord's anointed temple, and stolen thence
The life of the building."
TURNING my attention back into the room where I was, I found the
coroner consulting a memorandum through a very impressive pair of gold
"Is the butler here?" he asked.
Immediately there was a stir among the group of servants in the
corner, and an intelligent-looking, though somewhat pompous, Irishman
stepped out from their midst and confronted the jury. "Ah," thought I
to myself, as my glance encountered his precise whiskers, steady eye,
and respectfully attentive, though by no means humble, expression,
"here is a model servant, who is likely to prove a model witness." And I
was not mistaken; Thomas, the butler, was in all respects one in a
thousand--and he knew it.
The coroner, upon whom, as upon all others in the room, he seemed to
have made the like favorable impression, proceeded without hesitation
to interrogate him.
"Your name, I am told, is Thomas Dougherty?"
"Well, Thomas, how long have you been employed in your present
"It must be a matter of two years now, sir."
"You are the person who first discovered the body of Mr.
"Yes, sir; I and Mr. Harwell."
"And who is Mr. Harwell?"
"Mr. Harwell is Mr. Leavenworth's private secretary, sir; the one
who did his writing."
"Very good. Now at what time of the day or night did you make this
"It was early, sir; early this morning, about eight."
"In the library, sir, off Mr. Leavenworth's bedroom. We had forced
our way in, feeling anxious about his not coming to breakfast."
"You forced your way in; the door was locked, then?"
"On the inside?"
"That I cannot tell; there was no key in the door."
"Where was Mr. Leavenworth lying when you first found him?"
"He was not lying, sir. He was seated at the large table in the
centre of his room, his back to the bedroom door, leaning forward, his
head on his hands."
"How was he dressed?"
"In his dinner suit, sir, just as he came from the table last
"Were there any evidences in the room that a struggle had taken
"Any pistol on the floor or table?"
"Any reason to suppose that robbery had been attempted?"
"No, sir. Mr. Leavenworth's watch and purse were both in his
Being asked to mention who were in the house at the time of the
discovery, he replied, "The young ladies, Miss Mary Leavenworth and
Miss Eleanore, Mr. Harwell, Kate the cook, Molly the upstairs girl, and
"The usual members of the household?"
"Now tell me whose duty it is to close up the house at night."
"Did you secure it as usual, last night?"
"I did, sir."
"Who unfastened it this morning?"
"How did you find it?"
"Just as I left it."
"What, not a window open nor a door unlocked?"
By this time you could have heard a pin drop. The certainty that the
murderer, whoever he was, had not left the house, at least till after
it was opened in the morning, seemed to weigh upon all minds.
Forewarned as I had been of the fact, I could not but feel a certain
degree of emotion at having it thus brought before me; and, moving so
as to bring the butler's face within view, searched it for some secret
token that he had spoken thus emphatically in order to cover up some
failure of duty on his own part. But it was unmoved in its candor, and
sustained the concentrated gaze of all in the room like a rock.
Being now asked when he had last seen Mr. Leavenworth alive, he
replied, "At dinner last night."
"He was, however, seen later by some of you?"
"Yes, sir; Mr. Harwell says he saw him as late as half-past ten in
"What room do you occupy in this house?"
"A little one on the basement floor."
"And where do the other members of the household sleep?"
"Mostly on the third floor, sir; the ladies in the large back
rooms, and Mr. Harwell in the little one in front. The girls sleep
"There was no one on the same floor with Mr. Leavenworth?"
"At what hour did you go to bed?"
"Well, I should say about eleven."
"Did you hear any noise in the house either before or after that
time, that you remember?"
"So that the discovery you made this morning was a surprise to you?"
Requested now to give a more detailed account of that discovery, he
went on to say it was not till Mr. Leavenworth failed to come to his
breakfast at the call of the bell that any suspicion arose in the house
that all was not right. Even then they waited some little time before
doing anything, but as minute after minute went by and he did not come,
Miss Eleanore grew anxious, and finally left the room saying she would
go and see what was the matter, but soon returned looking very much
frightened, saying she had knocked at her uncle's door, and had even
called to him, but could get no answer. At which Mr. Harwell and
himself had gone up and together tried both doors, and, finding them
locked, burst open that of the library, when they came upon Mr.
Leavenworth, as he had already said, sitting at the table, dead.
"And the ladies?"
"Oh, they followed us up and came into the room and Miss Eleanore
"And the other one,--Miss Mary, I believe they call her?"
"I don't remember anything about her; I was so busy fetching water
to restore Miss Eleanore, I didn't notice."
"Well, how long was it before Mr. Leavenworth was carried into the
"Almost immediate, as soon as Miss Eleanore recovered, and that was
as soon as ever the water touched her lips."
"Who proposed that the body should be carried from the spot?"
"She, sir. As soon as ever she stood up she went over to it and
looked at it and shuddered, and then calling Mr. Harwell and me, bade
us carry him in and lay him on the bed and go for the doctor, which we
"Wait a moment; did she go with you when you went into the other
"What did she do?"
"She stayed by the library table."
"I couldn't see; her back was to me."
"How long did she stay there?"
"She was gone when we came back."
"Gone from the table?"
"Gone from the room."
"Humph! when did you see her again?"
"In a minute. She came in at the library door as we went out."
"Anything in her hand?"
"Not as I see."
"Did you miss anything from the table?"
"I never thought to look, sir. The table was nothing to me. I was
only thinking of going for the doctor, though I knew it was of no use."
"Whom did you leave in the room when you went out?"
"The cook, sir, and Molly, sir, and Miss Eleanore."
"Not Miss Mary?"
"Very well. Have the jury any questions to put to this man?"
A movement at once took place in that profound body.
"I should like to ask a few," exclaimed a weazen-faced, excitable
little man whom I had before noticed shifting in his seat in a restless
manner strongly suggestive of an intense but hitherto repressed desire
to interrupt the proceedings.
"Very well, sir," returned Thomas.
But the juryman stopping to draw a deep breath, a large and
decidedly pompous man who sat at his right hand seized the opportunity
to inquire in a round, listen-to-me sort of voice:
"You say you have been in the family for two years. Was it what you
might call a united family?"
"Affectionate, you know,--on good terms with each other." And the
juryman lifted the very long and heavy watch-chain that hung across his
vest as if that as well as himself had a right to a suitable and
The butler, impressed perhaps by his manner, glanced uneasily
around. "Yes, sir, so far as I know."
"The young ladies were attached to their uncle?"
"O yes, sir."
"And to each other?"
"Well, yes, I suppose so; it's not for me to say."
"You suppose so. Have you any reason to think otherwise?" And he
doubled the watch-chain about his fingers as if he would double its
attention as well as his own.
Thomas hesitated a moment. But just as his interlocutor was about to
repeat his question, he drew himself up into a rather stiff and formal
attitude and replied:
"Well, sir, no."
The juryman, for all his self-assertion, seemed to respect the
reticence of a servant who declined to give his opinion in regard to
such a matter, and drawing complacently back, signified with a wave of
his hand that he had no more to say.
Immediately the excitable little man, before mentioned, slipped
forward to the edge of his chair and asked, this time without
hesitation: "At what time did you unfasten the house this morning?"
"About six, sir."
"Now, could any one leave the house after that time without your
Thomas glanced a trifle uneasily at his' fellow-servants, but
answered up promptly and as if without reserve;
"I don't think it would be possible for anybody to leave this house
after six in the morning without either myself or the cook's knowing of
it. Folks don't jump from second-story windows in broad daylight, and
as to leaving by the doors, the front door closes with such a slam all
the house can hear it from top to bottom, and as for the back-door, no
one that goes out of that can get clear of the yard without going by
the kitchen window, and no one can go by our kitchen window without the
cook's a-seeing of them, that I can just swear to." And he cast a
half-quizzing, half-malicious look at the round, red-faced individual
in question, strongly suggestive of late and unforgotten bickerings
over the kitchen coffee-urn and castor.
This reply, which was of a nature calculated to deepen the
forebodings which had already settled upon the minds of those present,
produced a visible effect. The house found locked, and no one seen to
leave it! Evidently, then, we had not far to look for the assassin.
Shifting on his chair with increased fervor, if I may so speak, the
juryman glanced sharply around. But perceiving the renewed interest in
the faces about him, declined to weaken the effect of the last
admission, by any further questions. Settling, therefore, comfortably
back, he left the field open for any other juror who might choose to
press the inquiry. But no one seeming to be ready to do this, Thomas in
his turn evinced impatience, and at last, looking respectfully around,
"Would any other gentleman like to ask me anything?"
No one replying, he threw a hurried glance of relief towards the
servants at his side, then, while each one marvelled at the sudden
change that had taken place in his countenance, withdrew with an eager
alacrity and evident satisfaction for which I could not at the moment
But the next witness proving to be none other than my acquaintance
of the morning, Mr. Harwell, I soon forgot both Thomas and the doubts
his last movement had awakened, in the interest which the examination
of so important a person as the secretary and right-hand man of Mr.
Leavenworth was likely to create.
Advancing with the calm and determined air of one who realized that
life and death itself might hang upon his words, Mr. Harwell took his
stand before the jury with a degree of dignity not only highly
prepossessing in itself, but to me, who had not been over and above
pleased with him in our first interview, admirable and surprising.
Lacking, as I have said, any distinctive quality of face or form
agreeable or otherwise--being what you might call in appearance a
negative sort of person, his pale, regular features, dark,
well-smoothed hair and simple whiskers, all belonging to a recognized
type and very commonplace--there was still visible, on this occasion at
least, a certain self-possession in his carriage, which went far
towards making up for the want of impressiveness in his countenance and
expression. Not that even this was in any way remarkable. Indeed, there
was nothing remarkable about the man, any more than there is about a
thousand others you meet every day on Broadway, unless you except the
look of concentration and solemnity which pervaded his whole person; a
solemnity which at this time would not have been noticeable, perhaps,
if it had not appeared to be the habitual expression of one who in his
short life had seen more of sorrow than joy, less of pleasure than care
The coroner, to whom his appearance one way or the other seemed to be
a matter of no moment, addressed him immediately and without reserve:
"James Trueman Harwell."
"I have occupied the position of private secretary and amanuensis
to Mr. Leavenworth for the past eight months."
"You are the person who last saw Mr. Leavenworth alive, are you not?"
The young man raised his head with a haughty gesture which well-nigh
"Certainly not, as I am not the man who killed him."
This answer, which seemed to introduce something akin to levity or
badinage into an examination the seriousness of which we were all
beginning to realize, produced an immediate revulsion of feeling toward
the man who, in face of facts revealed and to be revealed, could so
lightly make use of it. A hum of disapproval swept through the room,
and in that one remark, James Harwell lost all that he had previously
won by the self-possession of his bearing and the unflinching regard of
his eye. He seemed himself to realize this, for he lifted his head
still higher, though his general aspect remained unchanged.
"I mean," the coroner exclaimed, evidently nettled that the young
man had been able to draw such a conclusion from his words, "that you
were the last one to see him previous to his assassination by some
The secretary folded his arms, whether to hide a certain tremble
which had seized him, or by that simple action to gain time for a
moment's further thought, I could not then determine. "Sir," he
replied at length, "I cannot answer yes or no to that question. In all
probability I was the last to see him in good health and spirits, but
in a house as large as this I cannot be sure of even so simple a fact
as that." Then, observing the unsatisfied look on the faces around,
added slowly, "It is my business to see him late."
"Your business? Oh, as his secretary, I suppose?"
He gravely nodded.
"Mr. Harwell," the coroner went on, "the office of private
secretary in this country is not a common one. Will you explain to us
what your duties were in that capacity; in short, what use Mr.
Leavenworth had for such an assistant and how he employed you?"
"Certainly. Mr. Leavenworth was, as you perhaps know, a man of
great wealth. Connected with various societies, clubs, institutions,
etc., besides being known far and near as a giving man, he was
accustomed every day of his life to receive numerous letters, begging
and otherwise, which it was my business to open and answer, his private
correspondence always bearing a mark upon it which distinguished it
from the rest. But this was not all I was expected to do. Having in his
early life been engaged in the tea-trade, he had made more than one
voyage to China, and was consequently much interested in the question
of international communication between that country and our own.
Thinking that in his various visits there, he had learned much which,
if known to the American people, would conduce to our better
understanding of the nation, its peculiarities, and the best manner of
dealing with it, he has been engaged for some time in writing a book on
the subject, which same it has been my business for the last eight
months to assist him in preparing, by writing at his dictation three
hours out of the twenty-four, the last hour being commonly taken from
the evening, say from half-past nine to half-past ten, Mr. Leavenworth
being a very methodical man and accustomed to regulate his own life and
that of those about him with almost mathematical precision."
" You say you were accustomed to write at his dictation evenings?
Did you do this as usual last evening?"
"I did, sir."
"What can you tell us of his manner and appearance at the time?
Were they in any way unusual?"
A frown crossed the secretary's brow.
"As he probably had no premonition of his doom, why should there
have been any change in his manner?"
This giving the coroner an opportunity to revenge himself for his
discomfiture of a moment before, he said somewhat severely:
"It is the business of a witness to answer questions, not to put
The secretary flushed and the account stood even.
"Very well, then, sir; if Mr. Leavenworth felt any forebodings of
his end, he did not reveal them to me. On the contrary, he seemed to be
more absorbed in his work than usual. One of the last words he said to
me was, 'In a month we will have this book in press, eh, Trueman?' I
remember this particularly, as he was filling his wine-glass at the
time. He always drank one glass of wine before retiring, it being my
duty to bring the decanter of sherry from the closet the last thing
before leaving him. I was standing with my hand on the knob of the
hall-door, but advanced as he said this and replied, 'I hope so,
indeed, Mr. Leavenworth.' 'Then join me in drinking a glass of
sherry,' said he, motioning me to procure another glass from the
closet. I did so, and he poured me out the wine with his own hand. I am
not especially fond of sherry, but the occasion was a pleasant one and
I drained my glass. I remember being slightly ashamed of doing so, for
Mr. Leavenworth set his down half full. It was half full when we found
him this morning."
Do what he would, and being a reserved man he appeared anxious to
control his emotion, the horror of his first shock seemed to overwhelm
him here. Pulling his handkerchief from his pocket, he wiped his
forehead. "Gentlemen, that is the last action of Mr. Leavenworth I
ever saw. As he set the glass down on the table, I said good-night to
him and left the room."
The coroner, with a characteristic imperviousness to all expressions
of emotion, leaned back and surveyed the young man with a scrutinizing
glance. "And where did you go then?" he asked.
"To my own room."
"Did you meet anybody on the way?"
"Hear any thing or see anything unusual?"
The secretary's voice fell a trifle. "No, sir."
"Mr. Harwell, think again. Are you ready to swear that you neither
met anybody, heard anybody, nor saw anything which lingers yet in your
memory as unusual?"
His face grew quite distressed. Twice he opened his lips to speak,
and as often closed them without doing so. At last, with an effort, he
"I saw one thing, a little thing, too slight to mention, but it was
unusual, and I could not help thinking of it when you spoke."
"What was it?"
"Only a door half open."
"Miss Eleanore Leavenworth's." His voice was almost a whisper now.
"Where were you when you observed this fact?"
"I cannot say exactly. Probably at my own door, as I did not stop
on the way. If this frightful occurrence had not taken place I should
never have thought of it again."
"When you went into your room did you close your door?"
"I did, sir."
"How soon did you retire?"
"Did you hear nothing before you fell asleep?"
Again that indefinable hesitation.
"Not a footstep in the hall?"
"I might have heard a footstep."
"I cannot swear I did."
"Do you think you did?"
"Yes, I think I did. To tell the whole: I remember hearing, just
as I was falling into a doze, a rustle and a footstep in the hall; but
it made no impression upon me, and I dropped asleep."
"Some time later I woke, woke suddenly, as if something had
startled me, but what, a noise or move, I cannot say. I remember rising
up in my bed and looking around, but hearing nothing further, soon
yielded to the drowsiness which possessed me and fell into a deep
sleep. I did not wake again till morning."
Here requested to relate how and when he became acquainted with the
fact of the murder, he substantiated, in all particulars, the account
of the matter already given by the butler; which subject being
exhausted, the coroner went on to ask if he had noted the condition of
the library table after the body had been removed.
"Somewhat; yes, sir."
"What was on it?"
"The usual properties, sir, books, paper, a pen with the ink dried
on it, besides the decanter and the wineglass from which he drank the
"I remember nothing more."
"In regard to that decanter and glass," broke in the juryman of the
watch and chain, "did you not say that the latter was found in the
same condition in which you saw it at the time you left Mr. Leavenworth
sitting in his library?"
"Yes, sir, very much."
" Yet he was in the habit of drinking a full glass?"
"An interruption must then have ensued very close upon your
departure, Mr. Harwell."
A cold bluish pallor suddenly broke out upon the young man's face.
He started, and for a moment looked as if struck by some horrible
thought. "That does not follow, sir," he articulated with some
difficulty. "Mr. Leavenworth might--" but suddenly stopped, as if
too much distressed to proceed.
"Go on, Mr. Harwell, let us hear what you have to say."
"There is nothing," he returned faintly, as if battling with some
As he had not been answering a question, only volunteering an
explanation, the coroner let it pass; but I saw more than one pair of
eyes roll suspiciously from side to side, as if many there felt that
some sort of clue had been offered them in this man's emotion. The
coroner, ignoring in his easy way both the emotion and the universal
excitement it had produced, now proceeded to ask: "Do you know
whether the key to the library was in its place when you left the room
"No, sir; I did not notice."
"The presumption is, it was?"
"I suppose so."
"At all events, the door was locked in the morning, and the key
"Then whoever committed this murder locked the door on passing
out, and took away the key?"
"It would seem so."
The coroner turning, faced the jury with an earnest look.
"Gentlemen," said he, "there seems to be a mystery in regard to this
key which must be looked into."
Immediately a universal murmur swept through the room, testifying to
the acquiescence of all present. The little juryman hastily rising
proposed that an instant search should be made for it; but the coroner,
turning upon him with what I should denominate as a quelling look,
decided that the inquest should proceed in the usual manner, till the
verbal testimony was all in.
"Then allow me to ask a question," again volunteered the
irrepressible. "Mr. Harwell, we are told that upon the breaking in of
the library door this morning, Mr. Leavenworth's two nieces followed
you into the room."
"One of them, sir, Miss Eleanore."
"Is Miss Eleanore the one who is said to be Mr. Leavenworth's sole
heiress?" the coroner here interposed.
"No, sir, that is Miss Mary."
"That she gave orders," pursued the juryman, "for the removal of
the body into the further room?"
"And that you obeyed her by helping to carry it in?"
"Now, in thus passing through the rooms, did you observe anything
to lead you to form a suspicion of the murderer?"
The secretary shook his head. "I have no suspicion," he
Somehow, I did not believe him. Whether it was the tone of his
voice, the clutch of his hand on his sleeve--and the hand will often
reveal more than the countenance--I felt that this man was not to be
relied upon in making this assertion.
"I should like to ask Mr. Harwell a question," said a juryman who
had not yet spoken. "We have had a detailed account of what looks
like the discovery of a murdered man. Now, murder is never committed
without some motive. Does the secretary know whether Mr. Leavenworth
had any secret enemy?"
"I do not."
"Every one in the house seemed to be on good terms with him?"
"Yes, sir," with a little quaver of dissent in the assertion,
"Not a shadow lay between him and any other member of his
household, so far as you know?"
"I am not ready to say that," he returned, quite distressed. "A
shadow is a very slight thing. There might have been a shadow----"
"Between him and whom?"
A long hesitation. "One of his nieces, sir."
Again that defiant lift of the head. "Miss Eleanore."
"How long has this shadow been observable?"
"I cannot say."
"You do not know the cause?"
"I do not."
"Nor the extent of the feeling?"
"You open Mr. Leavenworth's letters?"
"Has there been anything in his correspondence of late calculated
to throw any light upon this deed?"
It actually seemed as if he never would answer. Was he simply
pondering over his reply, or was the man turned to stone?
"Mr. Harwell, did you hear the juryman?" inquired the coroner.
"Yes, sir; I was thinking."
"Very well, now answer."
"Sir," he replied, turning and looking the juryman full in the
face, and in that way revealing his unguarded left hand to my gaze, "I
have opened Mr. Leavenworth's letters as usual for the last two weeks,
and I can think of nothing in them bearing in the least upon this
The man lied; I knew it instantly. The clenched hand pausing
irresolute, then making up its mind to go through with the lie firmly,
was enough for me.
"Mr. Harwell, this is undoubtedly true according to your judgment,"
said the coroner; "but Mr. Leavenworth's correspondence will have to
be searched for all that."
"Of course," he replied carelessly; "that is only right."
This remark ended Mr. Harwell's examination for the time. As he sat
down I made note of four things.
That Mr. Harwell himself, for some reason not given, was conscious
of a suspicion which he was anxious to suppress even from his own mind.
That a woman was in some way connected with it, a rustle as well as
a footstep having been heard by him on the stairs.
That a letter had arrived at the house, which if found would be
likely to throw some light upon this subject.
That Eleanore Leavenworth's name came with difficulty from his lips;
this evidently unimpressible man, manifesting more or less emotion
whenever he was called upon to utter it.
IV. A CUTS
"Something is rotten in the State of Denmark."
THE cook of the establishment being now called, that portly, ruddy-faced
individual stepped forward with alacrity, displaying upon her
good-humored countenance such an expression of mingled eagerness and
anxiety that more than one person present found it difficult to restrain
a smile at her appearance. Observing this and taking it as a compliment,
being a woman as well as a cook, she immediately dropped a curtsey, and
opening her lips was about to speak, when the coroner, rising
impatiently in his seat, took the word from her mouth by saying sternly:
"Katherine Malone, sir."
"Well, Katherine, how long have you been in Mr. Leavenworth's
"Shure, it is a good twelvemonth now, sir, since I came, on Mrs.
Wilson's ricommindation, to that very front door, and----"
"Never mind the front door, but tell us why you left this Mrs.
"Shure, and it was she as left me, being as she went sailing to the
ould country the same day when on her recommendation I came to this
very front door--"
"Well, well; no matter about that. You have been in Mr.
Leavenworth's family a year?"
"And liked it? found him a good master?"
"Och, sir, niver have I found a better, worse luck to the villain
as killed him. He was that free and ginerous, sir, that many 's the
time I have said to Hannah--" She stopped, with a sudden comical gasp
of terror, looking at her fellow-servants like one who had incautiously
made a slip. The coroner, observing this, inquired hastily:
"Hannah? Who is Hannah?"
The cook, drawing her roly-poly figure up into some sort of shape in
her efforts to appear unconcerned, exclaimed boldly: "She? Oh, only
the ladies' maid, sir."
"But I don't see any one here answering to that description. You
didn't speak of any one by the name of Hannah, as belonging to the
house," said he, turning to Thomas.
"No, sir," the latter replied, with a bow and a sidelong look at
the red-cheeked girl at his side. "You asked me who were in the house
at the time the murder was discovered, and I told you."
"Oh," cried the coroner, satirically; "used to police courts, I
see." Then, turning back to the cook, who had all this while been
rolling her eyes in a vague fright about the room, inquired, "And
where is this Hannah?"
"Shure, sir, she's gone."
"How long since?"
The cook caught her breath hysterically. "Since last night."
"What time last night?"
"Troth, sir, and I don't know. I don't know anything about it."
"Was she dismissed?"
"Not as I knows on; her clothes is here."
"Oh, her clothes are here. At what hour did you miss her?"
"I didn't miss her. She was here last night, and she isn't here
this morning, and so I says she 's gone."
"Humph!" cried the coroner, casting a slow glance down the room,
while every one present looked as if a door had suddenly opened in a
"Where did this girl sleep?"
The cook, who had been fumbling uneasily with her apron, looked up.
"Shure, we all sleeps at the top of the house, sir."
"In one room?"
Slowly. "Yes, sir."
"Did she come up to the room last night?"
"At what hour?"
"Shure, it was ten when we all came up. I heard the clock
"Did you observe anything unusual in her appearance?"
"She had a toothache, sir."
"Oh, a toothache; what, then? Tell me all she did."
But at this the cook broke into tears and wails.
"Shure, she didn't do nothing, sir. It wasn't her, sir, as did
anything; don't you believe it. Hannah is a good girl, and honest,
sir, as ever you see. I am ready to swear on the Book as how she never
put her hand to the lock of his door. What should she for? She only
went down to Miss Eleanore for some toothache-drops, her face was
paining her that awful; and oh, sir----"
"There, there," interrupted the coroner, "I am not accusing Hannah
of anything. I only asked you what she did after she reached your room.
She went downstairs, you say. How long after you went up?"
"Troth, sir, I couldn't tell; but Molly says----"
"Never mind what Molly says. _You_ didn't see her go down?"
"Nor see her come back?"
"Nor see her this morning?"
"No, sir; how could I when she 's gone?"
"But you did see, last night, that she seemed to be suffering with
"Very well; now tell me how and when you first became acquainted
with the fact of Mr. Leavenworth's death."
But her replies to this question, while over-garrulous, contained
but little information; and seeing this, the coroner was on the point
of dismissing her, when the little juror, remembering an admission she
had made, of having seen Miss Eleanore Leavenworth coming out of the
library door a few minutes after Mr. Leavenworth's body had been
carried into the next room, asked if her mistress had anything in her
hand at the time.
"I don't know, sir. Faith!" she suddenly exclaimed, "I believe
she did have a piece of paper. I recollect, now, seeing her put it in
The next witness was Molly, the upstairs girl.
Molly O'Flanagan, as she called herself, was a rosy-cheeked,
black-haired, pert girl of about eighteen, who under ordinary
circumstances would have found herself able to answer, with a due
degree of smartness, any question which might have been addressed to
her. But fright will sometimes cower the stoutest heart, and Molly,
standing before the coroner at this juncture, presented anything but a
reckless appearance, her naturally rosy cheeks blanching at the first
word addressed to her, and her head falling forward on her breast in a
confusion too genuine to be dissembled and too transparent to be
As her testimony related mostly to Hannah, and what she knew of her,
and her remarkable disappearance, I shall confine myself to a mere
synopsis of it.
As far as she, Molly, knew, Hannah was what she had given herself
out to be, an uneducated girl of Irish extraction, who had come from
the country to act as lady's-maid and seamstress to the two Misses
Leavenworth. She had been in the family for some time; before Molly
herself, in fact; and though by nature remarkably reticent, refusing to
tell anything about herself or her past life, she had managed to become
a great favorite with all in the house. But she was of a melancholy
nature and fond of brooding, often getting up nights to sit and think
in the dark: "as if she was a lady!" exclaimed Molly.
This habit being a singular one for a girl in her station, an
attempt was made to win from the witness further particulars in regard
to it. But Molly, with a toss of her head, confined herself to the one
statement. She used to get up nights and sit in the window, and that
was all she knew about it.
Drawn away from this topic, during the consideration of which, a
little of the sharpness of Molly's disposition had asserted itself, she
went on to state, in connection with the events of the past night, that
Hannah had been ill for two days or more with a swelled face; that it
grew so bad after they had gone upstairs, the night before, that she
got out of bed, and dressing herself--Molly was closely questioned
here, but insisted upon the fact that Hannah had fully dressed herself,
even to arranging her collar and ribbon--lighted a candle, and made
known her intention of going down to Miss Eleanore for aid.
"Why Miss Eleanore?" a juryman here asked.
"Oh, she is the one who always gives out medicines and such like to
Urged to proceed, she went on to state that she had already told all
she knew about it. Hannah did not come back, nor was she to be found in
the house at breakfast time.
"You say she took a candle with her," said the coroner. "Was it in
"No, sir; loose like."
"Why did she take a candle? Does not Mr. Leavenworth burn gas in
"Yes, sir; but we put the gas out as we go up, and Hannah is
afraid of the dark."
"If she took a candle, it must be lying somewhere about the house.
Now, has anybody seen a stray candle?"
"Not as I knows on, sir."
"Is _this_ it?" exclaimed a voice over my shoulder.
It was Mr. Gryce, and he was holding up into view a half-burned
"Yes, sir; lor', where did you find it?"
"In the grass of the carriage yard, half-way from the kitchen door
to the street," he quietly returned.
Sensation. A clue, then, at last! Something had been found which
seemed to connect this mysterious murder with the outside world.
Instantly the backdoor assumed the chief position of interest. The
candle found lying in the yard seemed to prove, not only that Hannah
had left the house shortly after descending from her room, but had left
it by the backdoor, which we now remembered was only a few steps from
the iron gate opening into the side street. But Thomas, being recalled,
repeated his assertion that not only the back-door, but all the lower
windows of the house, had been found by him securely locked and bolted
at six o'clock that morning. Inevitable conclusion--some one had locked
and bolted them after the girl. Who? Alas, that had now become the very
serious and momentous question.
V. EXPERT TESTIMONY
"And often-times, to win us to our barm, The instruments of
darkness tell us truths; Win us with honest trifles, to betray us In
IN the midst of the universal gloom thus awakened there came a sharp
ring at the bell. Instantly all eyes turned toward the parlor door,
just as it slowly opened, and the officer who had been sent off so
mysteriously by the coroner an hour before entered, in company with a
young man, whose sleek appearance, intelligent eye, and general air of
trustworthiness, seemed to proclaim him to be, what in fact he was, the
confidential clerk of a responsible mercantile house.
Advancing without apparent embarrassment, though each and every eye
in the room was fixed upon him with lively curiosity, he made a slight
bow to the coroner.
"You have sent for a man from Bohn & Co.," he said.
Strong and immediate excitement. Bohn & Co. was the well-known
pistol and ammunition store of ---- Broadway.
"Yes, sir," returned the coroner. "We have here a bullet, which we
must ask you to examine, You are fully acquainted with all matters
connected with your business?"
The young man, merely elevating an expressive eyebrow, took the
bullet carelessly in his hand.
"Can you tell us from what make of pistol that was delivered?"
The young man rolled it slowly round between his thumb and
forefinger, and then laid it down. "It is a No. 32 ball, usually sold
with the small pistol made by Smith & Wesson."
"A small pistol!" exclaimed the butler, jumping up from his seat.
"Master used to keep a little pistol in his stand drawer. I have often
seen it. We all knew about it."
Great and irrepressible excitement, especially among the servants.
"That's so!" I heard a heavy voice exclaim. "I saw it once
myself--master was cleaning it." It was the cook who spoke.
"In his stand drawer?" the coroner inquired.
"Yes, sir; at the head of his bed."
An officer was sent to examine the stand drawer. In a few moments he
returned, bringing a small pistol which he laid down on the coroner's
table, saying, "Here it is."
Immediately, every one sprang to his feet, but the coroner, handing
it over to the clerk from Bonn's, inquired if that was the make before
mentioned. Without hesitation he replied, "Yes, Smith & Wesson; you
can see for yourself," and he proceeded to examine it.
"Where did you find this pistol?" asked the coroner of the
"In the top drawer of a shaving table standing near the head of
Mr. Leavenworth's bed. It was lying in a velvet case together with a
box of cartridges, one of which I bring as a sample," and he laid it
down beside the bullet.
"Was the drawer locked?"
"Yes, sir; but the key was not taken out."
Interest had now reached its climax. A universal cry swept through
the room, "Is it loaded?"
The coroner, frowning on the assembly, with a look of great dignity,
"I was about to ask that question myself, but first I must request
An immediate calm followed. Every one was too much interested to
interpose any obstacle in the way of gratifying his curiosity.
"Now, sir!" exclaimed the coroner.
The clerk from Bonn's, taking out the cylinder, held it up. "There
are seven chambers here, and they are all loaded."
A murmur of disappointment followed this assertion.
"But," he quietly added after a momentary examination of the face
of the cylinder, "they have not all been loaded long. A bullet has
been recently shot from one of these chambers."
"How do you know?" cried one of the jury.
"How do I know? Sir," said he, turning to the coroner, "will you
be kind enough to examine the condition of this pistol?" and he
handed it over to that gentleman. "Look first at the barrel; it is
clean and bright, and shows no evidence of a bullet having passed out
of it very lately; that is because it has been cleaned. But now,
observe the face of the cylinder: what do you see there?"
"I see a faint line of smut near one of the chambers."
"Just so; show it to the gentlemen."
It was immediately handed down.
"That faint line of smut, on the edge of one of the chambers, is
the telltale, sirs. A bullet passing out always leaves smut behind. The
man who fired this, remembering the fact, cleaned the barrel, but
forgot the cylinder." And stepping aside he folded his arms.
"Jerusalem!" spoke out a rough, hearty voice, "isn't that
wonderful!" This exclamation came from a countryman who had stepped in
from the street, and now stood agape in the doorway.
It was a rude but not altogether unwelcome interruption. A smile
passed round the room, and both men and women breathed more easily.
Order being at last restored, the officer was requested to describe the
position of the stand, and its distance from the library table.
"The library table is in one room, and the stand in another. To
reach the former from the latter, one would be obliged to cross Mr.
Leavenworth's bedroom in a diagonal direction, pass through the
passageway separating that one apartment from the other, and----"
"Wait a moment; how does this table stand in regard to the door
which leads from the bedroom into the hall?"
"One might enter that door, pass directly round the foot of the bed
to the stand, procure the pistol, and cross half-way over to the
passage-way, without being seen by any one sitting or standing in the
"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed the horrified cook, throwing her apron
over her head as if to shut out some dreadful vision. "Hannah niver
would have the pluck for that; niver, niver!" But Mr. Gryce, laying a
heavy hand on the woman, forced her back into her seat, reproving and
calming her at the same time, with a dexterity marvellous to behold.
"I beg your pardons," she cried deprecatingly to those around; "but it
niver was Hannah, niver!"
The clerk from Bohn's here being dismissed, those assembled took the
opportunity of making some change in their position, after which, the
name of Mr. Harwell was again called. That person rose with manifest
reluctance. Evidently the preceding testimony had either upset some
theory of his, or indubitably strengthened some unwelcome suspicion.
"Mr. Harwell," the coroner began, "we are told of the existence
of a pistol belonging to Mr. Leavenworth, and upon searching, we
discover it in his room. Did you know of his possessing such an
"Was it a fact generally known in the house?"
"So it would seem."
"How was that? Was he in the habit of leaving it around where any
one could see it?"
"I cannot say; I can only acquaint you with the manner in which I
myself became aware of its existence."
"Very well, do so."
"We were once talking about firearms. I have some taste that way,
and have always been anxious to possess a pocket-pistol. Saying
something of the kind to him one day, he rose from his seat and,
fetching me this, showed it to me."
"How long ago was this?"
"Some few months since."
"He has owned this pistol, then, for some time?"
"Is that the only occasion upon which you have ever seen it?"
"No, sir,"--the secretary blushed--" I have seen it once since."
"About three weeks ago."
"Under what circumstances?"
The secretary dropped his head, a certain drawn look making itself
suddenly visible on his countenance.
"Will you not excuse me, gentlemen?" he asked, after a moment's
"It is impossible," returned the coroner.
His face grew even more pallid and deprecatory. "I am obliged to
introduce the name of a lady," he hesitatingly declared.
"We are very sorry," remarked the coroner.
The young man turned fiercely upon him, and I could not help
wondering that I had ever thought him commonplace. "Of Miss Eleanore
Leavenworth!" he cried.
At that name, so uttered, every one started but Mr. Gryce; he was
engaged in holding a close and confidential confab with his
finger-tips, and did not appear to notice.
"Surely it is contrary to the rules of decorum and the respect we
all feel for the lady herself to introduce her name into this
discussion," continued Mr. Harwell. But the coroner still insisting
upon an answer, he refolded his arms (a movement indicative of
resolution with him), and began in a low, forced tone to say:
"It is only this, gentlemen. One afternoon, about three weeks since,
I had occasion to go to the library at an unusual hour. Crossing over
to the mantel-piece for the purpose of procuring a penknife which I had
carelessly left there in the morning, I heard a noise in the adjoining
room. Knowing that Mr. Leavenworth was out, and supposing the ladies to
be out also, I took the liberty of ascertaining who the intruder was;
when what was my astonishment to come upon Miss Eleanore Leavenworth,
standing at the side of her uncle's bed, with his pistol in her hand.
Confused at my indiscretion, I attempted to escape without being
observed; but in vain, for just as I was crossing the threshold, she
turned and, calling me by name, requested me to explain the pistol to
her. Gentlemen, in order to do so, I was obliged to take it in my hand;
and that, sirs, is the only other occasion upon which I ever saw or
handled the pistol of Mr. Leavenworth." Drooping his head, he waited in
indescribable agitation for the next question.
"She asked you to explain the pistol to her; what do you mean by
"I mean," he faintly continued, catching his breath in a vain
effort to appear calm, "how to load, aim, and fire it."
A flash of awakened feeling shot across the faces of all present.
Even the coroner showed sudden signs of emotion, and sat staring at the
bowed form and pale countenance of the man before him, with a peculiar
look of surprised compassion, which could not fail of producing its
effect, not only upon the young man himself, but upon all who saw him.
"Mr. Harwell," he at length inquired, "have you anything to add to
the statement you have just made?"
The secretary sadly shook his head.
"Mr. Gryce," I here whispered, clutching that person by the arm and
dragging him down to my side; "assure me, I entreat you--" but he
would not let me finish.
"The coroner is about to ask for the young ladies," he quickly
interposed. "If you desire to fulfil your duty towards them, be ready,
Fulfil my duty! The simple words recalled me to myself. What had I
been thinking of; was I mad? With nothing more terrible in mind than a
tender picture of the lovely cousins bowed in anguish over the remains
of one who had been as dear as a father to them, I slowly rose, and
upon demand being made for Miss Mary and Miss Eleanore Leavenworth,
advanced and said that, as a friend of the family--a petty lie, which
I hope will not be laid up against me--I begged the privilege of going
for the ladies and escorting them down.
Instantly a dozen eyes flashed upon me, and I experienced the
embarrassment of one who, by some unexpected word or action, has drawn
upon himself the concentrated attention of a whole room.
But the permission sought being almost immediately accorded, I was
speedily enabled to withdraw from my rather trying position, finding
myself, almost before I knew it, in the hall, my face aflame, my heart
beating with excitement, and these words of Mr. Gryce ringing in my
ears: "Third floor, rear room, first door at the head of the stairs.
You will find the young ladies expecting you."
"Oh! she has beauty might ensnare
A conqueror's soul, and make him leave his crown
At random, to be scuffled for by slaves."
THIRD floor, rear room, first door at the head of the stairs! What
was I about to encounter there?
Mounting the lower flight, and shuddering by the library wall, which
to my troubled fancy seemed written all over with horrible suggestions,
I took my way slowly up-stairs, revolving in my mind many things, among
which an admonition uttered long ago by my mother occupied a prominent
"My son, remember that a woman with a secret may be a fascinating
study, but she can never be a safe, nor even satisfactory, companion."
A wise saw, no doubt, but totally inapplicable to the present
situation; yet it continued to haunt me till the sight of the door to
which I had been directed put every other thought to flight save that I
was about to meet the stricken nieces of a brutally murdered man.
Pausing only long enough on the threshold to compose myself for the
interview, I lifted my hand to knock, when a rich, clear voice rose
from within, and I heard distinctly uttered these astounding words:
"I do not accuse your hand, though I know of none other which would or
could have done this deed; but your heart, your head, your will, these
I do and must accuse, in my secret mind at least; and it is well that
you should know it!"
Struck with horror, I staggered back, my hands to my ears, when a
touch fell on my arm, and turning, I saw Mr. Gryce standing close
beside me, with his finger on his lip, and the last flickering shadow
of a flying emotion fading from his steady, almost compassionate
"Come, come," he exclaimed; "I see you don't begin to know what
kind of a world you are living in. Rouse yourself; remember they are
waiting down below."
"But who is it? Who was it that spoke?"
"That we shall soon see." And without waiting to meet, much less
answer, my appealing look, he struck his hand against the door, and
flung it wide open.
Instantly a flush of lovely color burst upon us. Blue curtains, blue
carpets, blue walls. It was like a glimpse of heavenly azure in a spot
where only darkness and gloom were to be expected. Fascinated by the
sight, I stepped impetuously forward, but instantly paused again,
overcome and impressed by the exquisite picture I saw before me.
Seated in an easy chair of embroidered satin, but rousing from her
half-recumbent position, like one who was in the act of launching a
powerful invective, I beheld a glorious woman. Fair, frail, proud,
delicate; looking like a lily in the thick creamy-tinted wrapper that
alternately clung to and swayed from her finely moulded figure; with
her forehead, crowned with the palest of pale tresses, lifted and
flashing with power; one quivering hand clasping the arm of her chair,
the other outstretched and pointing toward some distant object in the
room,--her whole appearance was so startling, so extraordinary, that I
held my breath in surprise, actually for the moment doubting if it were
a living woman I beheld, or some famous pythoness conjured up from
ancient story, to express in one tremendous gesture the supreme
indignation of outraged womanhood.
"Miss Mary Leavenworth," whispered that ever present voice over my
Ah! Mary Leavenworth! What a relief came with this name. This
beautiful creature, then, was not the Eleanore who could load, aim, and
fire a pistol. Turning my head, I followed the guiding of that uplifted
hand, now frozen into its place by a new emotion: the emotion of being
interrupted in the midst of a direful and pregnant revelation, and saw
--but, no, here description fails me! Eleanore Leavenworth must be
painted by other hands than mine. I could sit half the day and dilate
upon the subtle grace, the pale magnificence, the perfection of form
and feature which make Mary Leavenworth the wonder of all who behold
her; but Eleanore--I could as soon paint the beatings of my own heart.
Beguiling, terrible, grand, pathetic, that face of faces flashed upon
my gaze, and instantly the moonlight loveliness of her cousin faded
from my memory, and I saw only Eleanore--only Eleanore from that
moment on forever.
When my glance first fell upon her, she was standing by the side of
a small table, with her face turned toward her cousin, and her two
hands resting, the one upon her breast, the other on the table, in an
attitude of antagonism. But before the sudden pang which shot through
me at the sight of her beauty had subsided, her head had turned, her
gaze had encountered mine; all the horror of the situation had burst
upon her, and, instead of a haughty woman, drawn up to receive and
trample upon the insinuations of another, I beheld, alas! a trembling,
panting human creature, conscious that a sword hung above her head, and
without a word to say why it should not fall and slay her.
It was a pitiable change; a heart-rending revelation! I turned from
it as from a confession. But just then, her cousin, who had apparently
regained her self-possession at the first betrayal of emotion on the
part of the other, stepped forward and, holding out her hand, inquired:
"Is not this Mr. Raymond? How kind of you, sir. And you?"
turning to Mr. Gryce; "you have come to tell us we are wanted below,
is it not so?"
It was the voice I had heard through the door, but modulated to a
sweet, winning, almost caressing tone.
Glancing hastily at Mr. Gryce, I looked to see how he was affected
by it. Evidently much, for the bow with which he greeted her words was
lower than ordinary, and the smile with which he met her earnest look
both deprecatory and reassuring. His glance did not embrace her cousin,
though her eyes were fixed upon his face with an inquiry in their
depths more agonizing than the utterance of any cry would have been.
Knowing Mr. Gryce as I did, I felt that nothing could promise worse, or
be more significant, than this transparent disregard of one who seemed
to fill the room with her terror. And, struck with pity, I forgot that
Mary Leavenworth had spoken, forgot her very presence in fact, and,
turning hastily away, took one step toward her cousin, when Mr. Gryce's
hand falling on my arm stopped me.
"Miss Leavenworth speaks," said he.
Recalled to myself, I turned my back upon what had so interested me
even while it repelled, and forcing myself to make some sort of reply
to the fair creature before me, offered my arm and led her toward the
Immediately the pale, proud countenance of Mary Leavenworth softened
almost to the point of smiling;--and here let me say, there never was
a woman who could smile and not smile like Mary Leavenworth. Looking in
my face, with a frank and sweet appeal in her eyes, she murmured:
"You are very good. I do feel the need of support; the occasion is
so horrible, and my cousin there,"--here a little gleam of alarm
nickered into her eyes--"is so very strange to-day."
"Humph!" thought I to myself; "where is the grand indignant
pythoness, with the unspeakable wrath and menace in her countenance,
whom I saw when I first entered the room?" Could it be that she was
trying to beguile us from our conjectures, by making light of her
former expressions? Or was it possible she deceived herself so far as
to believe us unimpressed by the weighty accusation overheard by us at
a moment so critical?
But Eleanore Leavenworth, leaning on the arm of the detective, soon
absorbed all my attention. She had regained by this time her
self-possession, also, but not so entirely as her cousin. Her step
faltered as she endeavored to walk, and the hand which rested on his
arm trembled like a leaf. "Would to God I had never entered this
house," said I to myself. And yet, before the exclamation was half
uttered, I became conscious of a secret rebellion against the thought;
an emotion, shall I say, of thankfulness that it had been myself rather
than another who had been allowed to break in upon their privacy,
overhear that significant remark, and, shall I acknowledge it, follow
Mr. Gryce and the trembling, swaying figure of Eleanore Leavenworth
down-stairs. Not that I felt the least relenting in my soul towards
guilt. Crime had never looked so black; revenge, selfishness, hatred,
cupidity, never seemed more loathsome; and yet--but why enter into
the consideration of my feelings at that time. They cannot be of
interest; besides, who can fathom the depths of his own soul, or
untangle for others the secret cords of revulsion and attraction which
are, and ever have been, a mystery and wonder to himself? Enough that,
supporting upon my arm the half-fainting form of one woman, but with my
attention, and interest devoted to another, I descended the stairs of
the Leavenworth mansion, and re-entered the dreaded presence of those
inquisitors of the law who had been so impatiently awaiting us.
As I once more crossed that threshold, and faced the eager
countenances of those I had left so short a time before, I felt as if
ages had elapsed in the interval; so much can be experienced by the
human soul in the short space of a few over-weighted moments.
VII. MARY LEAVENWORTH
"For this relief much thanks."
HAVE you ever observed the effect of the sunlight bursting suddenly
upon the earth from behind a mass of heavily surcharged clouds? If so,
you can have some idea of the sensation produced in that room by the
entrance of these two beautiful ladies. Possessed of a loveliness which
would have been conspicuous in all places and under all circumstances,
Mary, at least, if not her less striking, though by no means less
interesting cousin, could never have entered any assemblage without