Part 2 out of 7
drawing to herself the wondering attention of all present. But,
heralded as here, by the most fearful of tragedies, what could you
expect from a collection of men such as I have already described, but
overmastering wonder and incredulous admiration? Nothing, perhaps, and
yet at the first murmuring sound of amazement and satisfaction, I felt
my soul recoil in disgust.
Making haste to seat my now trembling companion in the most retired
spot I could find, I looked around for her cousin. But Eleanore
Leavenworth, weak as she had appeared in the interview above, showed at
this moment neither hesitation nor embarrassment. Advancing upon the
arm of the detective, whose suddenly assumed air of persuasion in the
presence of the jury was anything but reassuring, she stood for an
instant gazing calmly upon the scene before her. Then bowing to the
coroner with a grace and condescension which seemed at once to place
him on the footing of a politely endured intruder in this home of
elegance, she took the seat which her own servants hastened to procure
for her, with an ease and dignity that rather recalled the triumphs of
the drawing-room than the self-consciousness of a scene such as that in
which we found ourselves. Palpable acting, though this was, it was not
without its effect. Instantly the murmurs ceased, the obtrusive glances
fell, and something like a forced respect made itself visible upon the
countenances of all present. Even I, impressed as I had been by her
very different demeanor in the room above, experienced a sensation of
relief; and was more than startled when, upon turning to the lady at my
side, I beheld her eyes riveted upon her cousin with an inquiry in
their depths that was anything but encouraging. Fearful of the effect
this look might have upon those about us, I hastily seized her hand
which, clenched and unconscious, hung over the edge of her chair, and
was about to beseech her to have care, when her name, called in a slow,
impressive way by the coroner, roused her from her abstraction.
Hurriedly withdrawing her gaze from her cousin, she lifted her face to
the jury, and I saw a gleam pass over it which brought back my early
fancy of the pythoness. But it passed, and it was with an expression of
great modesty she settled herself to respond to the demand of the
coroner and answer the first few opening inquiries.
But what can express the anxiety of that moment to me? Gentle as
she now appeared, she was capable of great wrath, as I knew. Was she
going to reiterate her suspicions here? Did she hate as well as
mistrust her cousin? Would she dare assert in this presence, and
before the world, what she found it so easy to utter in the privacy of
her own room and the hearing of the one person concerned? Did she wish
to? Her own countenance gave me no clue to her intentions, and, in my
anxiety, I turned once more to look at Eleanore. But she, in a dread
and apprehension I could easily understand, had recoiled at the first
intimation that her cousin was to speak, and now sat with her face
covered from sight, by hands blanched to an almost deathly whiteness.
The testimony of Mary Leavenworth was short. After some few
questions, mostly referring to her position in the house and her
connection with its deceased master, she was asked to relate what she
knew of the murder itself, and of its discovery by her cousin and the
Lifting up a brow that seemed never to have known till now the
shadow of care or trouble, and a voice that, whilst low and womanly,
rang like a bell through the room, she replied:
"You ask me, gentlemen, a question which I cannot answer of my own
personal knowledge. I know nothing of this murder, nor of its
discovery, save what has come to me through the lips of others."
My heart gave a bound of relief, and I saw Eleanore Leavenworth's
hands drop from her brow like stone, while a flickering gleam as of
hope fled over her face, and then died away like sunlight leaving
"For, strange as it may seem to you," Mary earnestly continued, the
shadow of a past horror revisiting her countenance, "I did not enter
the room where my uncle lay. I did not even think of doing so; my only
impulse was to fly from what was so horrible and heartrending. But
Eleanore went in, and she can tell you----"
"We will question Miss Eleanore Leavenworth later," interrupted the
coroner, but very gently for him. Evidently the grace and elegance of
this beautiful woman were making their impression. "What we want to
know is what _you_ saw. You say you cannot tell us of anything
that passed in the room at the time of the discovery?"
"Only what occurred in the hall?"
"Nothing occurred in the hall," she innocently remarked.
"Did not the servants pass in from the hall, and your cousin come
out there after her revival from her fainting fit?"
Mary Leavenworth's violet eyes opened wonderingly.
"Yes, sir; but that was nothing."
"You remember, however, her coming into the hall?"
"With a paper in her hand?"
"Paper?" and she wheeled suddenly and looked at her cousin. "Did
you have a paper, Eleanore?"
The moment was intense. Eleanore Leavenworth, who at the first
mention of the word paper had started perceptibly, rose to her feet at
this naive appeal, and opening her lips, seemed about to speak, when
the coroner, with a strict sense of what was regular, lifted his hand
with decision, and said:
"You need not ask your cousin, Miss; but let us hear what you have
to say yourself."
Immediately, Eleanore Leavenworth sank back, a pink spot breaking
out on either cheek; while a slight murmur testified to the
disappointment of those in the room, who were more anxious to have
their curiosity gratified than the forms of law adhered to.
Satisfied with having done his duty, and disposed to be easy with so
charming a witness, the coroner repeated his question. "Tell us, if
you please, if you saw any such thing in her hand?"
"I? Oh, no, no; I saw nothing."
Being now questioned in relation to the events of the previous
night, she had no new light to throw upon the subject. She acknowledged
her uncle to have been a little reserved at dinner, but no more so than
at previous times when annoyed by some business anxiety.
Asked if she had seen her uncle again that evening, she said no,
that she had been detained in her room. That the sight of him, sitting
in his seat at the head of the table, was the very last remembrance she
had of him.
There was something so touching, so forlorn, and yet so unobtrusive,
in this simple recollection of hers, that a look of sympathy passed
slowly around the room.
I even detected Mr. Gryce softening towards the inkstand. But
Eleanore Leavenworth sat unmoved.
"Was your uncle on ill terms with any one?" was now asked. "Had
he valuable papers or secret sums of money in his possession?"
To all these inquiries she returned an equal negative.
"Has your uncle met any stranger lately, or received any important
letter during the last few weeks, which might seem in any way to throw
light upon this mystery?"
There was the slightest perceptible hesitation in her voice, as she
replied: "No, not to my knowledge; I don't know of any such." But
here, stealing a side glance at Eleanore, she evidently saw something
that reassured her, for she hastened to add:
"I believe I may go further than that, and meet your question with
a positive no. My uncle was in the habit of confiding in me, and I
should have known if anything of importance to him had occurred."
Questioned in regard to Hannah, she gave that person the best of
characters; knew of nothing which could have led either to her strange
disappearance, or to her connection with crime. Could not say whether
she kept any company, or had any visitors; only knew that no one with
any such pretensions came to the house. Finally, when asked when she
had last seen the pistol which Mr. Leavenworth always kept in his stand
drawer, she returned, not since the day he bought it; Eleanore, and not
herself, having the charge of her uncle's apartments.
It was the only thing she had said which, even to a mind freighted
like mine, would seem to point to any private doubt or secret
suspicion; and this, uttered in the careless manner in which it was,
would have passed without comment if Eleanore herself had not directed
at that moment a very much aroused and inquiring look upon the speaker.
But it was time for the inquisitive juror to make himself heard
again. Edging to the brink of the chair, he drew in his breath, with a
vague awe of Mary's beauty, almost ludicrous to see, and asked if she
had properly considered what she had just said.
"I hope, sir, I consider all I am called upon to say at such a time
as this," was her earnest reply.
The little juror drew back, and I looked to see her examination
terminate, when suddenly his ponderous colleague of the watch-chain,
catching the young lady's eye, inquired:
"Miss Leavenworth, did your uncle ever make a will?"
Instantly every man in the room was in arms, and even she could not
prevent the slow blush of injured pride from springing to her cheek.
But her answer was given firmly, and without any show of resentment.
"Yes, sir," she returned simply.
"More than one?"
"I never heard of but one."
"Are you acquainted with the contents of that will?"
"I am. He made no secret of his intentions to any one."
The juryman lifted his eye-glass and looked at her. Her grace was
little to him, or her beauty or her elegance. "Perhaps, then, you can
tell me who is the one most likely to be benefited by his death?"
The brutality of this question was too marked to pass unchallenged.
Not a man in that room, myself included, but frowned with sudden
disapprobation. But Mary Leavenworth, drawing herself up, looked her
interlocutor calmly in the face, and restrained herself to say:
"I know who would be the greatest losers by it. The children he
took to his bosom in their helplessness and sorrow; the young girls he
enshrined with the halo of his love and protection, when love and
protection were what their immaturity most demanded; the women who
looked to him for guidance when childhood and youth were passed--
these, sir, these are the ones to whom his death is a loss, in
comparison to which all others which may hereafter befall them must
ever seem trivial and unimportant."
It was a noble reply to the basest of insinuations, and the juryman
drew back rebuked; but here another of them, one who had not spoken
before, but whose appearance was not only superior to the rest, but
also almost imposing in its gravity, leaned from his seat and in a
solemn voice said:
"Miss Leavenworth, the human mind cannot help forming impressions.
Now have you, with or without reason, felt at any time conscious of a
suspicion pointing towards any one person as the murderer of your
It was a frightful moment. To me and to one other, I am sure it was
not only frightful, but agonizing. Would her courage fail? would her
determination to shield her cousin remain firm in the face of duty and
at the call of probity? I dared not hope it.
But Mary Leavenworth, rising to her feet, looked judge and jury
calmly in the face, and, without raising her voice, giving it an
indescribably clear and sharp intonation, replied:
"No; I have neither suspicion nor reason for any. The assassin of
my uncle is not only entirely unknown to, but completely unsuspected
It was like the removal of a stifling pressure. Amid a universal
outgoing of the breath, Mary Leavenworth stood aside and Eleanore was
called in her place.
VIII. CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
"O dark, dark, dark!"
AND now that the interest was at its height, that the veil which
shrouded this horrible tragedy seemed about to be lifted, if not
entirely withdrawn, I felt a desire to fly the scene, to leave the
spot, to know no more. Not that I was conscious of any particular fear
of this woman betraying herself. The cold steadiness of her now fixed
and impassive countenance was sufficient warranty in itself against the
possibility of any such catastrophe. But if, indeed, the suspicions of
her cousin were the offspring, not only of hatred, but of knowledge;
if that face of beauty was in truth only a mask, and Eleanore
Leavenworth was what the words of her cousin, and her own after
behavior would seem to imply, how could I bear to sit there and see the
frightful serpent of deceit and sin evolve itself from the bosom of
this white rose! And yet, such is the fascination of uncertainty that,
although I saw something of my own feelings reflected in the
countenances of many about me, not a man in all that assemblage showed
any disposition to depart, I least of all.
The coroner, upon whom the blonde loveliness of Mary had impressed
itself to Eleanor's apparent detriment, was the only one in the room
who showed himself unaffected at this moment. Turning toward the
witness with a look which, while respectful, had a touch of austerity
in it, he began:
"You have been an intimate of Mr. Leavenworth's family from
childhood, they tell me, Miss Leavenworth?"
"From my tenth year," was her quiet reply.
It was the first time I had heard her voice, and it surprised me; it
was so like, and yet so unlike, that of her cousin. Similar in tone, it
lacked its expressiveness, if I may so speak; sounding without
vibration on the ear, and ceasing without an echo.
"Since that time you have been treated like a daughter, they tell
"Yes, sir, like a daughter, indeed; he was more than a father to
both of us."
"You and Miss Mary Leavenworth are cousins, I believe. When did she
enter the family?"
"At the same time I did. Our respective parents were victims of the
same disaster. If it had not been for our uncle, we should have been
thrown, children as we were, upon the world. But he"--here she paused,
her firm lips breaking into a half tremble--"but he, in the goodness
of his heart, adopted us into his family, and gave us what we had
both lost, a father and a home."
"You say he was a father to you as well as to your cousin--that
he adopted you. Do you mean by that, that he not only surrounded you
with present luxury, but gave you to understand that the same should be
secured to you after his death; in short, that he intended to leave any
portion of his property to you?"
"No, sir; I was given to understand, from the first, that his
property would be bequeathed by will to my cousin."
"Your cousin was no more nearly related to him than yourself, Miss
Leavenworth; did he never give you any reason for this evident
"None but his pleasure, sir."
Her answers up to this point had been so straightforward and
satisfactory that a gradual confidence seemed to be taking the place of
the rather uneasy doubts which had from the first circled about this
woman's name and person. But at this admission, uttered as it was in a
calm, unimpassioned voice, not only the jury, but myself, who had so
much truer reason for distrusting her, felt that actual suspicion in
her case must be very much shaken before the utter lack of motive which
this reply so clearly betokened.
Meanwhile the coroner continued: "If your uncle was as kind to you
as you say, you must have become very much attached to him?"
"Yes, sir," her mouth taking a sudden determined curve.
"His death, then, must have been a great shock to you?"
"Very, very great."
"Enough of itself to make you faint away, as they tell me you did,
at the first glimpse you had of his body?"
"And yet you seemed to be prepared for it?"
"The servants say you were much agitated at finding your uncle did
not make his appearance at the breakfast table."
"The servants!" her tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of her
mouth; she could hardly speak.
"That when you returned from his room you were very pale."
Was she beginning to realize that there was some doubt, if not
actual suspicion, in the mind of the man who could assail her with
questions like these? I had not seen her so agitated since that one
memorable instant up in her room. But her mistrust, if she felt any,
did not long betray itself. Calming herself by a great effort, she
replied, with a quiet gesture--
"That is not so strange. My uncle was a very methodical man; the
least change in his habits would be likely to awaken our apprehensions."
"You were alarmed, then?"
"To a certain extent I was."
"Miss Leavenworth, who is in the habit of overseeing the regulation
of your uncle's private apartments?"
"I am, sir."
"You are doubtless, then, acquainted with a certain stand in his
room containing a drawer?"
"How long is it since you had occasion to go to this drawer?"
"Yesterday," visibly trembling at the admission.
"At what time?"
"Near noon, I should judge."
"Was the pistol he was accustomed to keep there in its place at the
"I presume so; I did not observe."
"Did you turn the key upon closing the drawer?"
"Take it out?"
"Miss Leavenworth, that pistol, as you have perhaps observed, lies
on the table before you. Will you look at it?" And lifting it up into
view, he held it towards her.
If he had meant to startle her by the sudden action, he amply
succeeded. At the first sight of the murderous weapon she shrank back,
and a horrified, but quickly suppressed shriek, burst from her lips.
"Oh, no, no!" she moaned, flinging out her hands before her.
"I must insist upon your looking at it, Miss Leavenworth," pursued
the coroner. "When it was found just now, all the chambers were
Instantly the agonized look left her countenance. "Oh, then--" She
did not finish, but put out her hand for the weapon.
But the coroner, looking at her steadily, continued: "It has been
lately fired off, for all that. The hand that cleaned the barrel forgot
the cartridge-chamber, Miss Leavenworth."
She did not shriek again, but a hopeless, helpless look slowly
settled over her face, and she seemed about to sink; but like a flash
the reaction came, and lifting her head with a steady, grand action I
have never seen equalled, she exclaimed, "Very well, what then?"
The coroner laid the pistol down; men and women glanced at each
other; every one seemed to hesitate to proceed. I heard a tremulous
sigh at my side, and, turning, beheld Mary Leavenworth staring at her
cousin with a startled flush on her cheek, as if she began to recognize
that the public, as well as herself, detected something in this woman,
calling for explanation.
At last the coroner summoned up courage to continue.
"You ask me, Miss Leavenworth, upon the evidence given, what then?
Your question obliges me to say that no burglar, no hired assassin,
would have used this pistol for a murderous purpose, and then taken the
pains, not only to clean it, but to reload it, and lock it up again in
the drawer from which he had taken it."
She did not reply to this; but I saw Mr. Gryce make a note of it
with that peculiar emphatic nod of his.
"Nor," he went on, even more gravely, "would it be possible for
any one who was not accustomed to pass in and out of Mr. Leavenworth's
room at all hours, to enter his door so late at night, procure this
pistol from its place of concealment, traverse his apartment, and
advance as closely upon him as the facts show to have been necessary,
without causing him at least to turn his head to one side; which, in
consideration of the doctor's testimony, we cannot believe he did."
It was a frightful suggestion, and we looked to see Eleanore
Leavenworth recoil. But that expression of outraged feeling was left
for her cousin to exhibit. Starting indignantly from her seat, Mary
cast one hurried glance around her, and opened her lips to speak; but
Eleanore, slightly turning, motioned her to have patience, and replied
in a cold and calculating voice: "You are not sure, sir, that this _
was_ done. If my uncle, for some purpose of his own, had fired the
pistol off yesterday, let us say--which is surely possible, if not
probable--the like results would be observed, and the same
"Miss Leavenworth," the coroner went on, "the ball has been
extracted from your uncle's head!"
"It corresponds with those in the cartridges found in his stand
drawer, and is of the number used with this pistol."
Her head fell forward on her hands; her eyes sought the floor; her
whole attitude expressed disheartenment. Seeing it, the coroner grew
still more grave.
"Miss Leavenworth," said he, "I have now some questions to put you
concerning last night. Where did you spend the evening?"
"Alone, in my own room."
"You, however, saw your uncle or your cousin during the course of
"No, sir; I saw no one after leaving the dinner table--except
Thomas," she added, after a moment's pause.
"And how came you to see him?"
"He came to bring me the card of a gentleman who called."
"May I ask the name of the gentleman?"
"The name on the card was Mr. Le Roy Robbins."
The matter seemed trivial; but the sudden start given by the lady at
my side made me remember it.
"Miss Leavenworth, when seated in your room, are you in the habit
of leaving your door open?"
A startled look at this, quickly suppressed. "Not in the habit;
"Why did you leave it open last night?"
"I was feeling warm."
"No other reason?"
"I can give no other."
"When did you close it?"
"Was that before or after the servants went up?"
"Did you hear Mr. Harwell when he left the library and ascended to
"I did, sir."
"How much longer did you leave your door open after that?"
"I--I--a few minutes--a--I cannot say," she added, hurriedly.
"Cannot say? Why? Do you forget?"
"I forget just how long after Mr. Harwell came up I closed it."
"Was it more than ten minutes?"
"More than twenty?"
"Perhaps." How pale her face was, and how she trembled!
"Miss Leavenworth, according to evidence, your uncle came to his
death not very long after Mr. Harwell left him. If your door was open,
you ought to have heard if any one went to his room, or any pistol shot
was fired. Now, did you hear anything?"
"I heard no confusion; no, sir."
"Did you hear anything?"
"Nor any pistol shot."
"Miss Leavenworth, excuse my persistence, but did you hear
"I heard a door close."
"The library door."
"I do not know." She clasped her hands hysterically. "I cannot
say. Why do you ask me so many questions?"
I leaped to my feet; she was swaying, almost fainting. But before I
could reach her, she had drawn herself up again, and resumed her former
demeanor. "Excuse me," said she; "I am not myself this morning. I
beg your pardon," and she turned steadily to the coroner. "What was
it you asked?"
"I asked," and his voice grew thin and high,--evidently her manner
was beginning to tell against her,--"when it was you heard the
library door shut?"
"I cannot fix the precise time, but it was after Mr. Harwell came
up, and before I closed my own."
"And you heard no pistol shot?"
The coroner cast a quick look at the jury, who almost to a man
glanced aside as he did so.
"Miss Leavenworth, we are told that Hannah, one of the servants,
started for your room late last night after some medicine. Did she come
"When did you first learn of her remarkable disappearance from this
house during the night?"
"This morning before breakfast. Molly met me in the hall, and
asked how Hannah was. I thought the inquiry a strange one, and
naturally questioned her. A moment's talk made the conclusion plain
that the girl was gone."
"What did you think when you became assured of this fact?"
"I did not know what to think."
"No suspicion of foul play crossed your mind?"
"You did not connect the fact with that of your uncle's murder?"
"I did not know of this murder then."
"Oh, some thought of the possibility of her knowing something about
it may have crossed my mind; I cannot say."
"Can you tell us anything of this girl's past history?"
"I can tell you no more in regard to it than my cousin has done."
"Do you not know what made her sad at night?"
Her cheek flushed angrily; was it at his tone, or at the question
itself? "No, sir! she never confided her secrets to my keeping."
"Then you cannot tell us where she would be likely to go upon
leaving this house?"
"Miss Leavenworth, we are obliged to put another question to you.
We are told it was by your order your uncle's body was removed from
where it was found, into the next room."
She bowed her head.
"Didn't you know it to be improper for you or any one else to
disturb the body of a person found dead, except in the presence and
under the authority of the proper officer?"
"I did not consult my knowledge, sir, in regard to the subject:
only my feelings."
"Then I suppose it was your feelings which prompted you to remain
standing by the table at which he was murdered, instead of following
the body in and seeing it properly deposited? Or perhaps," he went on,
with relentless sarcasm, "you were too much interested, just then, in
the piece of paper you took away, to think much of the proprieties of
"Paper?" lifting her head with determination. "Who says I took a
piece of paper from the table?"
"One witness has sworn to seeing you bend over the table upon which
several papers lay strewn; another, to meeting you a few minutes later
in the hall just as you were putting a piece of paper into your pocket.
The inference follows, Miss Leavenworth."
This was a home thrust, and we looked to see some show of agitation,
but her haughty lip never quivered.
"You have drawn the inference, and you must prove the fact."
The answer was stateliness itself, and we were not surprised to see
the coroner look a trifle baffled; but, recovering himself, he said:
"Miss Leavenworth, I must ask you again, whether you did or did not
take anything from that table?"
She folded her arms. "I decline answering the question," she
"Pardon me," he rejoined: "it is necessary that you should."
Her lip took a still more determined curve. "When any suspicious
paper is found in my possession, it will be time enough then for me to
explain how I came by it."
This defiance seemed to quite stagger the coroner.
"Do you realize to what this refusal is liable to subject you?"
She dropped her head. "I am afraid that I do; yes, sir."
Mr. Gryce lifted his hand, and softly twirled the tassel of the
"And you still persist?"
She absolutely disdained to reply.
The coroner did not press it further.
It had now become evident to all, that Eleanore Leavenworth not only
stood on her defence, but was perfectly aware of her position, and
prepared to maintain it. Even her cousin, who until now had preserved
some sort of composure, began to show signs of strong and
uncontrollable agitation, as if she found it one thing to utter an
accusation herself, and quite another to see it mirrored in the
countenances of the men about her.
"Miss Leavenworth," the coroner continued, changing the line of
attack, "you have always had free access to your uncle's apartments,
have you not?"
"Might even have entered his room late at night, crossed it and
stood at his side, without disturbing him sufficiently to cause him to
turn his head?"
"Yes," her hands pressing themselves painfully together.
"Miss Leavenworth, the key to the library door is missing."
She made no answer.
"It has been testified to, that previous to the actual discovery of
the murder, you visited the door of the library alone. Will you tell us
if the key was then in the lock?"
"It was not."
"Are you certain?"
"Now, was there anything peculiar about this key, either in size or
She strove to repress the sudden terror which this question
produced, glanced carelessly around at the group of servants stationed
at her back, and trembled. "It was a little different from the
others," she finally acknowledged.
"In what respect?"
"The handle was broken."
"Ah, gentlemen, the handle was broken!" emphasized the coroner,
looking towards the jury.
Mr. Gryce seemed to take this information to himself, for he gave
another of his quick nods.
"You would, then, recognize this key, Miss Leavenworth, if you
should see it?"
She cast a startled look at him, as if she expected to behold it in
his hand; but, seeming to gather courage at not finding it produced,
replied quite easily:
"I think I should, sir."
The coroner seemed satisfied, and was about to dismiss the witness
when Mr. Gryce quietly advanced and touched him on the arm. "One
moment," said that gentleman, and stooping, he whispered a few words in
the coroner's ear; then, recovering himself, stood with his right hand
in his breast pocket and his eye upon the chandelier.
I scarcely dared to breathe. Had he repeated to the coroner the
words he had inadvertently overheard in the hall above? But a glance
at the latter's face satisfied me that nothing of such importance had
transpired. He looked not only tired, but a trifle annoyed.
"Miss Leavenworth," said he, turning again in her direction; "you
have declared that you did not visit your uncle's room last evening. Do
you repeat the assertion?"
He glanced at Mr. Gryce, who immediately drew from his breast a
handkerchief curiously soiled. "It is strange, then, that your
handkerchief should have been found this morning in that room."
The girl uttered a cry. Then, while Mary's face hardened into a sort
of strong despair, Eleanore tightened her lips and coldly replied,
"I do not see as it is so very strange. I was in that room early this
"And you dropped it then?"
A distressed blush crossed her face; she did not reply.
"Soiled in this way?" he went on.
"I know nothing about the soil. What is it? let me see."
"In a moment. What we now wish, is to know how it came to be in
your uncle's apartment."
"There are many ways. I might have left it there days ago. I have
told you I was in the habit of visiting his room. But first, let me see
if it is my handkerchief." And she held out her hand.
"I presume so, as I am told it has your initials embroidered in the
corner," he remarked, as Mr. Gryce passed it to her.
But she with horrified voice interrupted him. "These dirty spots!
What are they? They look like--"
"--what they are," said the coroner. "If you have ever cleaned a
pistol, you must know what they are, Miss Leavenworth."
She let the handkerchief fall convulsively from her hand, and stood
staring at it, lying before her on the floor. "I know nothing about
it, gentlemen," she said. "It is my handkerchief, but--" for some
cause she did not finish her sentence, but again repeated, "Indeed,
gentlemen, I know nothing about it!"
This closed her testimony.
Kate, the cook, was now recalled, and asked to tell when she last
washed the handkerchief?
"This, sir; this handkerchief? Oh, some time this week, sir,"
throwing a deprecatory glance at her mistress.
"Well, I wish I could forget, Miss Eleanore, but I can' t. It is
the only one like it in the house. I washed it day before yesterday."
"When did you iron it?"
"Yesterday morning," half choking over the words.
"And when did you take it to her room?"
The cook threw her apron over her head. "Yesterday afternoon, with
the rest of the clothes, just before dinner. Indade, I could not help
it, Miss Eleanore!" she whispered; "it was the truth."
Eleanore Leavenworth frowned. This somewhat contradictory evidence
had very sensibly affected her; and when, a moment later, the coroner,
having dismissed the witness, turned towards her, and inquired if she
had anything further to say in the way of explanation or otherwise, she
threw her hands up almost spasmodically, slowly shook her head and,
without word or warning, fainted quietly away in her chair.
A commotion, of course, followed, during which I noticed that Mary
did not hasten to her cousin, but left it for Molly and Kate to do what
they could toward her resuscitation. In a few moments this was in so
far accomplished that they were enabled to lead her from the room. As
they did so, I observed a tall man rise and follow her out.
A momentary silence ensued, soon broken, however, by an impatient
stir as our little juryman rose and proposed that the jury should now
adjourn for the day. This seeming to fall in with the coroner's views,
he announced that the inquest would stand adjourned till three o'clock
the next day, when he trusted all the jurors would be present.
A general rush followed, that in a few minutes emptied the room of
all but Miss Leavenworth, Mr. Gryce, and myself.
IX. A DISCOVERY
"His rolling Eies did never rest in place, But walkte each where
for feare of hid mischance, Holding a lattis still before his Pace,
Through which he still did peep as forward he did pace."
MISS LEAVENWORTH, who appeared to have lingered from a vague terror
of everything and everybody in the house not under her immediate
observation, shrank from my side the moment she found herself left
comparatively alone, and, retiring to a distant corner, gave herself up
to grief. Turning my attention, therefore, in the direction of Mr.
Gryce, I found that person busily engaged in counting his own fingers
with a troubled expression upon his countenance, which may or may not
have been the result of that arduous employment. But, at my approach,
satisfied perhaps that he possessed no more than the requisite number,
he dropped his hands and greeted me with a faint smile which was,
considering all things, too suggestive to be pleasant.
"Well," said I, taking my stand before him, "I cannot blame you.
You had a right to do as you thought best; but how had you the heart?
Was she not sufficiently compromised without your bringing out that
wretched handkerchief, which she may or may not have dropped in that
room, but whose presence there, soiled though it was with pistol
grease, is certainly no proof that she herself was connected with this
"Mr. Raymond," he returned, "I have been detailed as police
officer and detective to look after this case, and I propose to do it."
"Of course," I hastened to reply. "I am the last man to wish you
to shirk your duly; but you cannot have the temerity to declare that
this young and tender creature can by any possibility be considered as
at all likely to be implicated in a crime so monstrous and unnatural.
The mere assertion of another woman's suspicions on the subject ought
But here Mr. Gryce interrupted me. "You talk when your attention
should be directed to more important matters. That other woman, as you
are pleased to designate the fairest ornament of New York society, sits
over there in tears; go and comfort her."
Looking at him in amazement, I hesitated to comply; but, seeing he
was in earnest, crossed to Mary Leavenworth and sat down by her side.
She was weeping, but in a slow, unconscious way, as if grief had been
mastered by fear. The fear was too undisguised and the grief too
natural for me to doubt the genuineness of either.
"Miss Leavenworth," said I, "any attempt at consolation on the
part of a stranger must seem at a time like this the most bitter of
mockeries; but do try and consider that circumstantial evidence is not
always absolute proof."
Starting with surprise, she turned her eyes upon me with a slow,
comprehensive gaze wonderful to see in orbs so tender and womanly.
"No," she repeated; "circumstantial evidence is not absolute proof,
but Eleanore does not know this. She is so intense; she cannot see but
one thing at a time. She has been running her head into a noose, and
oh,--" Pausing, she clutched my arm with a passionate grasp: "Do you
think there is any danger? Will they--" She could not go on.
"Miss Leavenworth," I protested, with a warning look toward the
detective, "what do you mean?"
Like a flash, her glance followed mine, an instant change taking
place in her bearing.
"Your cousin may be intense," I went on, as if nothing had
occurred; "but I do not know to what you refer when you say she has
been running her head into a noose."
"I mean this," she firmly returned: "that, wittingly or
unwittingly, she has so parried and met the questions which have been
put to her in this room that any one listening to her would give her
the credit of knowing more than she ought to of this horrible affair.
She acts"--Mary whispered, but not so low but that every word could be
distinctly heard in all quarters of the room--"as if she were anxious
to conceal something. But she is not; I am sure she is not. Eleanore
and I are not good friends; but all the world can never make me believe
she has any more knowledge of this murder than I have. Won't somebody
tell her, then--won't you--that her manner is a mistake; that it is
calculated to arouse suspicion; that it has already done so? And oh,
don't forget to add"--her voice sinking to a decided whisper now--
"what you have just repeated to me: that circumstantial evidence is
not always absolute proof."
I surveyed her with great astonishment. What an actress this woman
"You request me to tell her this," said I. "Wouldn't it be
better for you to speak to her yourself?"
"Eleanore and I hold little or no confidential communication," she
I could easily believe this, and yet I was puzzled. Indeed, there
was something incomprehensible in her whole manner. Not knowing what
else to say, I remarked, "That is unfortunate. She ought to be told
that the straightforward course is the best by all means."
Mary Leavenworth only wept. "Oh, why has this awful trouble come
to me, who have always been so happy before!"
"Perhaps for the very reason that you have always been so happy."
"It was not enough for dear uncle to die in this horrible manner;
but she, my own cousin, had to----"
I touched her arm, and the action seemed to recall her to herself.
Stopping short, she bit her lip.
"Miss Leavenworth," I whispered, "you should hope for the best.
Besides, I honestly believe you to be disturbing yourself
unnecessarily. If nothing fresh transpires, a mere prevarication or so
of your cousin's will not suffice to injure her."
I said this to see if she had any reason to doubt the future. I was
"Anything fresh? How could there be anything fresh, when she is
Suddenly, a thought seemed to strike her. Wheeling round in her seat
till her lovely, perfumed wrapper brushed my knee, she asked: "Why
didn't they ask me more questions? I could have told them Eleanore
never left her room last night."
"You could?" What was I to think of this woman?
"Yes; my room is nearer the head of the stairs than hers; if she
had passed my door, I should have heard her, don't you see?"
Ah, that was all.
"That does not follow," I answered sadly. "Can you give no other
"I would say whatever was necessary," she whispered.
I started back. Yes, this woman would lie now to save her cousin;
had lied during the inquest. But then I felt grateful, and now I was
"Miss Leavenworth," said I, "nothing can justify one in violating
the dictates of his own conscience, not even the safety of one we do
not altogether love."
"No?" she returned; and her lip took a tremulous curve, the
lovely bosom heaved, and she softly looked away.
If Eleanore's beauty had made less of an impression on my fancy, or
her frightful situation awakened less anxiety in my breast, I should
have been a lost man from that moment.
"I did not mean to do anything very wrong," Miss Leavenworth
continued. "Do not think too badly of me."
"No, no," said I; and there is not a man living who would not have
said the same in my place.
What more might have passed between us on this subject I cannot say,
for just then the door opened and a man entered whom I recognized as
the one who had followed Eleanore Leavenworth out, a short time before.
"Mr. Gryce," said he, pausing just inside the door; "a word if
The detective nodded, but did not hasten towards him; instead of
that, he walked deliberately away to the other end of the room, where
he lifted the lid of an inkstand he saw there, muttered some
unintelligible words into it, and speedily shut it again. Immediately
the uncanny fancy seized me that if I should leap to that inkstand,
open it and peer in, I should surprise and capture the bit of
confidence he had intrusted to it. But I restrained my foolish impulse,
and contented myself with noting the subdued look of respect with which
the gaunt subordinate watched the approach of his superior.
"Well?" inquired the latter as he reached him: "what now?"
The man shrugged his shoulders, and drew his principal through the
open door. Once in the hall their voices sank to a whisper, and as
their backs only were visible, I turned to look at my companion. She
was pale but composed.
"Has he come from Eleanore?"
"I do not know; I fear so. Miss Leavenworth," I proceeded, "can
it be possible that your cousin has anything in her possession she
desires to conceal?"
"Then you think she is trying to conceal something?"
"I do not say so. But there was considerable talk about a paper----"
"They will never find any paper or anything else suspicious in
Eleanore's possession," Mary interrupted. "In the first place, there
was no paper of importance enough"--I saw Mr. Gryce's form suddenly
stiffen--"for any one to attempt its abstraction and concealment."
"Can you be sure of that? May not your cousin be acquainted with
"There was nothing to be acquainted with, Mr. Raymond. We lived
the most methodical and domestic of lives. I cannot understand, for my
part, why so much should be made out of this. My uncle undoubtedly came
to his death by the hand of some intended burglar. That nothing was
stolen from the house is no proof that a burglar never entered it. As
for the doors and windows being locked, will you take the word of an
Irish servant as infallible upon such an important point? I cannot. I
believe the assassin to be one of a gang who make their living by
breaking into houses, and if you cannot honestly agree with me, do try
and consider such an explanation as possible; if not for the sake of
the family credit, why then"--and she turned her face with all its
fair beauty upon mine, eyes, cheeks, mouth all so exquisite and
winsome--"why then, for mine."
Instantly Mr. Gryce turned towards us. "Mr. Raymond, will you be
kind enough to step this way?"
Glad to escape from my present position, I hastily obeyed.
"What has happened?" I asked.
"We propose to take you into our confidence," was the easy
response. "Mr. Raymond, Mr. Fobbs."
I bowed to the man I saw before me, and stood uneasily waiting.
Anxious as I was to know what we really had to fear, I still
intuitively shrank from any communication with one whom I looked upon
as a spy.
"A matter of some importance," resumed the detective. "It is not
necessary for me to remind you that it is in confidence, is it?"
"I thought not. Mr. Fobbs you may proceed."
Instantly the whole appearance of the man Fobbs changed. Assuming an
expression of lofty importance, he laid his large hand outspread upon
his heart and commenced.
"Detailed by Mr. Gryce to watch the movements of Miss Eleanore
Leavenworth, I left this room upon her departure from it, and followed
her and the two servants who conducted her up-stairs to her own
apartment. Once there---"
Mr. Gryce interrupted him. "Once there? where?"
"Her own room, sir."
"At the head of the stairs."
"That is not her room. Go on."
"Not her room? Then it _was_ the fire she was after!" he
cried, clapping himself on the knee.
"Excuse me; I am ahead of my story. She did not appear to notice
me much, though I was right behind her. It was not until she had
reached the door of this room--which was not her room!" he
interpolated dramatically, "and turned to dismiss her servants, that
she seemed conscious of having been followed. Eying me then with an air
of great dignity, quickly eclipsed, however, by an expression of
patient endurance, she walked in, leaving the door open behind her in a
courteous way I cannot sufficiently commend."
I could not help frowning. Honest as the man appeared, this was
evidently anything but a sore subject with him. Observing me frown, he
softened his manner.
"Not seeing any other way of keeping her under my eye, except by
entering the room, I followed her in, and took a seat in a remote
corner. She flashed one look at me as I did so, and commenced pacing
the floor in a restless kind of way I'm not altogether unused to. At
last she stopped abruptly, right in the middle of the room. 'Get me a
glass of water!' she gasped; 'I'm faint again--quick! on the stand
in the corner.' Now in order to get that glass of water it was
necessary for me to pass behind a dressing mirror that reached almost
to the ceiling; and I naturally hesitated. But she turned and looked at
me, and--Well, gentlemen, I think either of you would have hastened to
do what she asked; or at least"--with a doubtful look at Mr. Gryce--
"have given your two ears for the privilege, even if you didn't
succumb to the temptation."
"Well, well!" exclaimed Mr. Gryce, impatiently.
"I am going on," said he. "I stepped cut of sight, then, for a
moment; but it seemed long enough for her purpose; for when I emerged,
glass in hand, she was kneeling at the grate full five feet from the
spot where she had been standing, and was fumbling with the waist of
her dress in a way to convince me she had something concealed there
which she was anxious to dispose of. I eyed her pretty closely as I
handed her the glass of water, but she was gazing into the grate, and
didn't appear to notice. Drinking barely a drop, she gave it back, and
in another moment was holding out her hands over the fire. 'Oh, I am
so cold!' she cried, 'so cold.' And I verily believe she was. At any
rate, she shivered most naturally. But there were a few dying embers in
the grate, and when I saw her thrust her hand again into the folds of
her dress I became distrustful of her intentions and, drawing a step
nearer, looked over her shoulder, when I distinctly saw her drop
something into the grate that clinked as it fell. Suspecting what it
was, I was about to interfere, when she sprang to her feet, seized the
scuttle of coal that was upon the hearth, and with one move emptied the
whole upon the dying embers. 'I want a fire,' she cried, 'a fire!'
'That is hardly the way to make one,' I returned, carefully taking the
coal out with my hands, piece by piece, and putting it back into the
"Till what?" I asked, seeing him and Mr. Gryce exchange a hurried
"Till I found this!" opening his large hand, and showing me _a
X. MR. GRYCE RECEIVES NEW IMPETUS
"There's nothing ill
Can dwell in such a temple."
THIS astounding discovery made a most unhappy impression upon me. It
was true, then. Eleanore the beautiful, the lovesome, was--I did not,
could not finish the sentence, even in the silence of my own mind.
"You look surprised," said Mr. Gryce, glancing curiously towards
the key. "Now, I ain't. A woman does not thrill, blush, equivocate, and
faint for nothing; especially such a woman as Miss Leavenworth."
"A woman who could do such a deed would be the last to thrill,
equivocate, and faint," I retorted. "Give me the key; let me see
He complacently put it in my hand. "It is the one we want. No
getting out of that."
I returned it. "If she declares herself innocent, I will believe
He stared with great amazement. "You have strong faith in the
women," he laughed. "I hope they will never disappoint you."
I had no reply for this, and a short silence ensued, first broken by
Mr. Gryce. "There is but one thing left to do," said he. "Fobbs,
you will have to request Miss Leavenworth to come down. Do not alarm
her; only see that she comes. To the reception room," he added, as the
man drew off.
No sooner were we left alone than I made a move to return to Mary,
but he stopped me.
"Come and see it out," he whispered. "She will be down in a
moment; see it out; you had best."
Glancing back, I hesitated; but the prospect of beholding Eleanore
again drew me, in spite of myself. Telling him to wait, I returned to
Mary's side to make my excuses.
"What is the matter--what has occurred?" she breathlessly asked.
"Nothing as yet to disturb you much. Do not be alarmed." But my
face betrayed me.
"There is something!" said she.
"Your cousin is coming down."
"Down here?" and she shrank visibly.
"No, to the reception room."
"I do not understand. It is all dreadful; and no one tells me
"I pray God there may be nothing to tell. Judging from your present
faith in your cousin, there will not be. Take comfort, then, and be
assured I will inform you if anything occurs which you ought to know."
Giving her a look of encouragement, I left her crushed against the
crimson pillows of the sofa on which she sat, and rejoined Mr. Gryce.
We had scarcely entered the reception room when Eleanore Leavenworth
More languid than she was an hour before, but haughty still, she
slowly advanced, and, meeting my eye, gently bent her head.
"I have been summoned here," said she, directing herself
exclusively to Mr. Gryce, "by an individual whom I take to be in your
employ. If so, may I request you to make your wishes known at once, as
I am quite exhausted, and am in great need of rest."
"Miss Leavenworth," returned Mr. Gryce, rubbing his hands together
and staring in quite a fatherly manner at the door-knob, "I am very
sorry to trouble you, but the fact is I wish to ask you----"
But here she stopped him. "Anything in regard to the key which that
man has doubtless told you he saw me drop into the ashes?"
"Then I must refuse to answer any questions concerning it. I have
nothing to say on the subject, unless it is this: "--giving him a look
full of suffering, but full of a certain sort of courage, too--" that
he was right if he told you I had the key in hiding about my person,
and that I attempted to conceal it in the ashes of the grate."
But she had already withdrawn to the door. "I pray you to excuse
me," said she. "No argument you could advance would make any
difference in my determination; therefore it would be but a waste of
energy on your part to attempt any." And, with a flitting glance in my
direction, not without its appeal, she quietly left the room.
For a moment Mr. Gryce stood gazing after her with a look of great
interest, then, bowing with almost exaggerated homage, he hastily
followed her out.
I had scarcely recovered from the surprise occasioned by this
unexpected movement when a quick step was heard in the hall, and Mary,
flushed and anxious, appeared at my side.
"What is it?" she inquired. "What has Eleanore been saying?"
"Alas!" I answered, "she has not said anything. That is the
trouble, Miss Leavenworth. Your cousin preserves a reticence upon
certain points very painful to witness. She ought to understand that if
she persists in doing this, that----"
"That what?" There was no mistaking the deep anxiety prompting
"That she cannot avoid the trouble that will ensue."
For a moment she stood gazing at me, with great horror-stricken,
incredulous eyes; then sinking back into a chair, flung her hands over
her face with the cry:
"Oh, why were we ever born! Why were we allowed to live! Why did
we not perish with those who gave us birth!"
In the face of anguish like this, I could not keep still.
"Dear Miss Leavenworth," I essayed, "there is no cause for such
despair as this. The future looks dark, but not impenetrable. Your
cousin will listen to reason, and in explaining----"
But she, deaf to my words, had again risen to her feet, and stood
before me in an attitude almost appalling.
"Some women in my position would go mad! mad! mad!"
I surveyed her with growing wonder. I thought I knew what she meant.
She was conscious of having given the cue which had led to this
suspicion of her cousin, and that in this way the trouble which hung
over their heads was of her own making. I endeavored to soothe her, but
my efforts were all unavailing. Absorbed in her own anguish, she paid
but little attention to me. Satisfied at last that I could do nothing
more for her, I turned to go. The movement seemed to arouse her.
"I am sorry to leave," said I, "without having afforded you any
comfort. Believe me; I am very anxious to assist you. Is there no one
I can send to your side; no woman friend or relative? It is sad to
leave you alone in this house at such a time."
"And do you expect me to remain here? Why, I should die! Here
to-night?" and the long shudders shook her very frame.
"It is not at all necessary for you to do so, Miss Leavenworth,"
broke in a bland voice over our shoulders.
I turned with a start. Mr. Gryce was not only at our back, but had
evidently been there for some moments. Seated near the door, one hand
in his pocket, the other caressing the arm of his chair, he met our
gaze with a sidelong smile that seemed at once to beg pardon for the
intrusion, and to assure us it was made with no unworthy motive.
"Everything will be properly looked after, Miss; you can leave with
I expected to see her resent this interference; but instead of that,
she manifested a certain satisfaction in beholding him there.
Drawing me to one side, she whispered, "You think this Mr. Gryce
very clever, do you not?"
"Well," I cautiously replied, "he ought to be to hold the position
he does. The authorities evidently repose great confidence in him."
Stepping from my side as suddenly as she had approached it, she
crossed the room and stood before Mr. Gryce.
"Sir," said she, gazing at him with a glance of entreaty: "I hear
you have great talents; that you can ferret out the real criminal from
a score of doubtful characters, and that nothing can escape the
penetration of your eye. If this is so, have pity on two orphan girls,
suddenly bereft of their guardian and protector, and use your
acknowledged skill in finding out who has committed this crime. It
would be folly in me to endeavor to hide from you that my cousin in her
testimony has given cause for suspicion; but I here declare her to be
as innocent of wrong as I am; and I am only endeavoring to turn the eye
of justice from the guiltless to the guilty when I entreat you to look
elsewhere for the culprit who committed this deed." Pausing, she held
her two hands out before him. "It must have been some common burglar
or desperado; can you not bring him, then, to justice?"
Her attitude was so touching, her whole appearance so earnest and
appealing, that I saw Mr. Gryce's countenance brim with suppressed
emotion, though his eye never left the coffee-urn upon which it had
fixed itself at her first approach.
"You must find out--you can!" she went on. "Hannah--the girl who
is gone--must know all about it. Search for her, ransack the city, do
anything; my property is at your disposal. I will offer a large reward
for the detection of the burglar who did this deed!"
Mr. Gryce slowly rose. "Miss Leavenworth," he began, and stopped;
the man was actually agitated. "Miss Leavenworth, I did not need your
very touching appeal to incite me to my utmost duty in this case.
Personal and professional pride were in themselves sufficient. But,
since you have honored me with this expression of your wishes, I will
not conceal from you that I shall feel a certain increased interest in
the affair from this hour. What mortal man can do, I will do, and if in
one month from this day I do not come to you for my reward, Ebenezer
Gryce is not the man I have always taken him to be."
"We will mention no names," said he, gently waving his hand to
A few minutes later, I left the house with Miss Leavenworth, she
having expressed a wish to have me accompany her to the home of her
friend, Mrs. Gilbert, with whom she had decided to take refuge. As we
rolled down the street in the carriage Mr. Gryce had been kind enough
to provide for us, I noticed my companion cast a look of regret behind
her, as if she could not help feeling some compunctions at this
desertion of her cousin.
But this expression was soon changed for the alert look of one who
dreads to see a certain face start up from some unknown quarter.
Glancing up and down the street, peering furtively into doorways as we
passed, starting and trembling if a sudden figure appeared on the
curbstone, she did not seem to breathe with perfect ease till we had
left the avenue behind us and entered upon Thirty-seventh Street. Then,
all at once her natural color returned and, leaning gently toward me,
she asked if I had a pencil and piece of paper I could give her. I
fortunately possessed both. Handing them to her, I watched her with
some little curiosity while she wrote two or three lines, wondering she
could choose such a time and place for the purpose.
"A little note I wish to send," she explained, glancing at the
almost illegible scrawl with an expression of doubt. "Couldn't you
stop the carriage a moment while I direct it?"
I did so, and in another instant the leaf which I had torn from my
note-book was folded, directed, and sealed with a stamp which she had
taken from her own pocket-book.
"That is a crazy-looking epistle," she muttered, as she laid it,
direction downwards, in her lap.
"Why not wait, then, till you arrive at your destination, where you
can seal it properly, and direct it at your leisure?"
"Because I am in haste. I wish to mail it now. Look, there is a box
on the corner; please ask the driver to stop once more."
"Shall I not post it for you?" I asked, holding out my hand.
But she shook her head, and, without waiting for my assistance,
opened the door on her own side of the carriage and leaped to the
ground. Even then she paused to glance up and down the street, before
venturing to drop her hastily written letter into the box. But when it
had left her hand, she looked brighter and more hopeful than I had yet
seen her. And when, a few moments later, she turned to bid me good-by
in front of her friend's house, it was with almost a cheerful air she
put out her hand and entreated me to call on her the next day, and
inform her how the inquest progressed.
I shall not attempt to disguise from you the fact that I spent all
that long evening in going over the testimony given at the inquest,
endeavoring to reconcile what I had heard with any other theory than
that of Eleanore's guilt. Taking a piece of paper, I jotted down the
leading causes of suspicion as follows:
1. Her late disagreement with her uncle, and evident estrangement
from him, as testified to by Mr. Harwell.
2. The mysterious disappearance of one of the servants of the house.
3. The forcible accusation made by her cousin,--overheard, however,
only by Mr. Gryce and myself.
4. Her equivocation in regard to the handkerchief found stained with
pistol smut on the scene of the tragedy.
5. Her refusal to speak in regard to the paper which she was
supposed to have taken from Mr. Leavenworth's table immediately upon
the removal of the body.
6. The finding of the library key in her possession.
"A dark record," I involuntarily decided, as I looked it over; but
even in doing so began jotting down on the other side of the sheet the
following explanatory notes:
1. Disagreements and even estrangements between relatives are
common. Cases where such disagreements and estrangements have led to
2. The disappearance of Hannah points no more certainly in one
direction than another.
3. If Mary's private accusation of her cousin was forcible and
convincing, her public declaration that she neither knew nor suspected
who might be the author of this crime, was equally so. To be sure, the
former possessed the advantage of being uttered spontaneously; but it
was likewise true that it was spoken under momentary excitement,
without foresight of the consequences, and possibly without due
consideration of the facts.
4. 5. An innocent man or woman, under the influence of terror, will
often equivocate in regard to matters that seem to criminate them.
But the key! What could I say to that? Nothing. With that key in
her possession, and unexplained, Eleanore Leavenworth stood in an
attitude of suspicion which even I felt forced to recognize. Brought to
this point, I thrust the paper into my pocket, and took up the evening
_Express_. Instantly my eye fell upon these words:
MR. LEAVENWORTH, THE WELL-KNOWN MILLIONAIRE, FOUND DEAD IN HIS ROOM
NO CLUE TO THE PERPETRATOR OF THE DEED
THE AWFUL CRIME COMMITTED WITH A PISTOL--EXTRAORDINARY FEATURES OP
Ah! here at least was one comfort; her name was not yet mentioned as
that of a suspected party. But what might not the morrow bring? I
thought of Mr. Gryce's expressive look as he handed me that key, and
"She must be innocent; she cannot be otherwise," I reiterated to
myself, and then pausing, asked what warranty I had of this? Only her
beautiful face; only, only her beautiful face. Abashed, I dropped the
newspaper, and went down-stairs just as a telegraph boy arrived with a
message from Mr. Veeley. It was signed by the proprietor of the hotel
at which Mr. Veeley was then stopping and ran thus:
"WASHINGTON, D. C.
"MR. Everett Raymond--
"Mr. Veeley is lying at my house ill. Have not shown him telegram,
fearing results. Will do so as soon as advisable.
I went in musing. Why this sudden sensation of relief on my part?
Could it be that I had unconsciously been guilty of cherishing a latent
dread of my senior's return? Why, who else could know so well the
secret springs which governed this family? Who else could so
effectually put me upon the right track? Was it possible that I,
Everett Raymond, hesitated to know the truth in any case? No, that
should never be said; and, sitting down again, I drew out the
memoranda I had made and, looking them carefully over, wrote against
No. 6 the word suspicious in good round characters. There! do one
could say, after that, I had allowed myself to be blinded by a
bewitching face from seeing what, in a woman with no claims to
comeliness, would be considered at once an almost indubitable evidence
And yet, after it was all done, I found myself repeating aloud as I
gazed at it:" If she declares herself innocent, I will believe her." So
completely are we the creatures of our own predilections.
XI. THE SUMMONS
"The pink of courtesy."
Romeo and Juliet.
THE morning papers contained a more detailed account of the murder than
those of the evening before; but, to my great relief, in none of them
was Eleanore's name mentioned in the connection I most dreaded.
The final paragraph in the _Times_ ran thus: "The detectives
are upon the track of the missing girl, Hannah." And in the _Herald_ I
read the following notice:
"_A Liberal Reward_ will be given by the relatives of Horatio
Leavenworth, Esq., deceased, for any news of the whereabouts of one
Hannah Chester, disappeared from the house -------- Fifth Avenue since
the evening of March 4. Said girl was of Irish extraction; in age about
twenty-five, and may be known by the following characteristics. Form
tall and slender; hair dark brown with a tinge of red; complexion
fresh; features delicate and well made; hands small, but with the
fingers much pricked by the use of the needle; feet large, and of a
coarser type than the hands. She had on when last seen a checked
gingham dress, brown and white, and was supposed to have wrapped
herself in a red and green blanket shawl, very old. Beside the above
distinctive marks, she had upon her right hand wrist the scar of a
large burn; also a pit or two of smallpox upon the left temple."
This paragraph turned my thoughts in a new direction. Oddly enough,
I had expended very little thought upon this girl; and yet how apparent
it was that she was the one person upon whose testimony, if given, the
whole case in reality hinged, I could not agree with those who
considered her as personally implicated in the murder. An accomplice,
conscious of what was before her, would have hid in her pockets
whatever money she possessed. But the roll of bills found in Hannah's
trunk proved her _to_ have left too hurriedly for this precaution.
On the other hand, if this girl had come unexpectedly upon the assassin
at his work, how could she have been hustled from the house without
creating a disturbance loud enough to have been heard by the ladies,
one of whom had her door open? An innocent girl's first impulse upon
such an occasion would have been to scream; and yet no scream was
heard; she simply disappeared. What were we to think then? That the
person seen by her was one both known and trusted? I would not consider
such a possibility; so laying down the paper, I endeavored to put away
all further consideration of the affair till I had acquired more facts
upon which to base the theory. But who can control his thoughts when
over-excited upon any one theme? All the morning I found myself
turning the case over in my mind, arriving ever at one of two
conclusions. Hannah Chester must be found, or Eleanore Leavenworth must
explain when and by what means the key of the library door came into
At two o'clock I started from my office to attend the inquest; but,
being delayed on the way, missed arriving at the house until after the
delivery of the verdict. This was a disappointment to me, especially as
by these means I lost the opportunity of seeing Eleanore Leavenworth,
she having retired to her room immediately upon the dismissal of the
jury. But Mr. Harwell was visible, and from him I heard what the
verdict had been.
"Death by means of a pistol shot from the hand of some person
The result of the inquest was a great relief to me. I had feared
worse. Nor could I help seeing that, for all his studied self-command,
the pale-faced secretary shared in my satisfaction.
What was less of a relief to me was the fact, soon communicated,
that Mr. Gryce and his subordinates had left the premises immediately
upon the delivery of the verdict. Mr. Gryce was not the man to forsake
an affair like this while anything of importance connected with it
remained unexplained. Could it be he meditated any decisive action?
Somewhat alarmed, I was about to hurry from the house for the purpose
of learning what his intentions were, when a sudden movement in the
front lower window of the house on the opposite side of the way
arrested my attention, and, looking closer, I detected the face of Mr.
Fobbs peering out from behind the curtain. The sight assured me I was
not wrong in my estimate of Mr. Gryce; and, struck with pity for the
desolate girl left to meet the exigencies of a fate to which this watch
upon her movements was but the evident precursor, I stepped back and
sent her a note, in which, as Mr. Veeley's representative, I proffered
my services in case of any sudden emergency, saying I was always to be
found in my rooms between the hours of six and eight. This done, I
proceeded to the house in Thirty-seventh Street where I had left Miss
Mary Leavenworth the day before.
Ushered into the long and narrow drawing-room which of late years
has been so fashionable in our uptown houses, I found myself almost
immediately in the presence of Miss Leavenworth.
"Oh," she cried, with an eloquent gesture of welcome, "I had begun
to think I was forsaken!" and advancing impulsively, she held out her
hand. "What is the news from home?"
"A verdict of murder, Miss Leavenworth."
Her eyes did not lose their question.
"Perpetrated by party or parties unknown."
A look of relief broke softly across her features.
"And they are all gone?" she exclaimed.
"I found no one in the house who did not belong there."
"Oh! then we can breathe easily again."
I glanced hastily up and down the room.
"There is no one here," said she.
And still I hesitated. At length, in an awkward way enough, I turned
towards her and said:
"I do not wish either to offend or alarm you, but I must say that I
consider it your duty to return to your own home to-night."
"Why?" she stammered. "Is there any particular reason for my
doing so? Have you not perceived the impossibility of my remaining in
the same house with Eleanore?"
"Miss Leavenworth, I cannot recognize any so-called impossibility
of this nature. Eleanore is your cousin; has been brought up to regard
you as a sister; it is not worthy of you to desert her at the time of
her necessity. You will see this as I do, if you will allow yourself a
moment's dispassionate thought."
"Dispassionate thought is hardly possible under the circumstances,"
she returned, with a smile of bitter irony.
But before I could reply to this, she softened, and asked if I was
very anxious to have her return; and when I replied, "More than I can
say," she trembled and looked for a moment as if she were half inclined
to yield; but suddenly broke into tears, crying it was impossible, and
that I was cruel to ask it.
I drew back, baffled and sore. "Pardon me," said I, "I have indeed
transgressed the bounds allotted to me. I will not do so again; you
have doubtless many friends; let some of them advise you."
She turned upon me all fire. "The friends you speak of are
flatterers. You alone have the courage to command me to do what is
"Excuse me, I do not command; I only entreat."
She made no reply, but began pacing the room, her eyes fixed, her
hands working convulsively. "You little know what you ask," said she.
"I feel as though the very atmosphere of that house would destroy me;
but--why cannot Eleanore come here?" she impulsively inquired. "I
know Mrs. Gilbert will be quite willing, and I could keep my room, and
we need not meet."
"You forget that there is another call at home, besides the one I
have already mentioned. To-morrow afternoon your uncle is to be buried."
"O yes; poor, poor uncle!"
"You are the head of the household," I now ventured, "and the
proper one to attend to the final offices towards one who has done so
much for you."
There was something strange in the look which she gave me. "It is
true," she assented. Then, with a grand turn of her body, and a quick
air of determination: "I am desirous of being worthy of your good
opinion. I will go back to my cousin, Mr. Raymond."
I felt my spirits rise a little; I took her by the hand. "May
that cousin have no need of the comfort which I am now sure you will be
ready to give her."
Her hand dropped from mine. "I mean to do my duty," was her cold
As I descended the stoop, I met a certain thin and fashionably
dressed young man, who gave me a very sharp look as he passed. As he
wore his clothes a little too conspicuously for the perfect gentleman,
and as I had some remembrance of having seen him at the inquest, I set
him down for a man in Mr. Gryce's employ, and hasted on towards the
avenue; when what was my surprise to find on the corner another
person, who, while pretending to be on the look out for a car, cast
upon me, as I approached, a furtive glance of intense inquiry. As this
latter was, without question, a gentleman, I felt some annoyance, and,
walking quietly up to him, asked if he found my countenance familiar,
that he scrutinized it so closely.
"I find it a very agreeable one," was his unexpected reply, as he
turned from me and walked down the avenue.
Nettled, and in no small degree mortified, at the disadvantage in
which his courtesy had placed me, I stood watching him as he
disappeared, asking myself who and what he was. For he was not only a
gentleman, but a marked one; possessing features of unusual symmetry as
well as a form of peculiar elegance. Not so very young--he might well
be forty--there were yet evident on his face the impress of youth's
strongest emotions, not a curve of his chin nor a glance of his eye
betraying in any way the slightest leaning towards _ennui,_ though
face and figure were of that type which seems most to invite and
"He can have no connection with the police force," thought I; "nor
is it by any means certain that he knows me, or is interested in my
affairs; but I shall not soon forget him, for all that."
The summons from Eleanore Leavenworth came about eight o'clock in
the evening. It was brought by Thomas, and read as follows:
"Come, Oh, come! I--" there breaking off in a tremble, as if the
pen had fallen from a nerveless hand.
It did not take me long to find my way to her home.
"Constant you are-- . . . And for secrecy No lady closer."
"No, 't is slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile."
THE door was opened by Molly. "You will find Miss Eleanore in the
drawing-room, sir," she said, ushering me in.
Fearing I knew not what, I hurried to the room thus indicated,
feeling as never before the sumptuous-ness of the magnificent hall with
its antique flooring, carved woods, and bronze ornamentations:--the
mockery of _things_ for the first time forcing itself upon me.
Laying my hand on the drawing-room door, I listened. All was silent.
Slowly pulling it open, I lifted the heavy satin curtains hanging
before me to the floor, and looked within. What a picture met my eyes!
Sitting in the light of a solitary gas jet, whose faint glimmering
just served to make visible the glancing satin and stainless marble of
the gorgeous apartment, I beheld Eleanore Leavenworth. Pale as the
sculptured image of the Psyche that towered above her from the mellow
dusk of the bow-window near which she sat, beautiful as it, and almost
as immobile, she crouched with rigid hands frozen in forgotten entreaty
before her, apparently insensible to sound, movement, or touch; a
silent figure of despair in presence of an implacable fate.
Impressed by the scene, I stood with my hand upon the curtain,
hesitating if to advance or retreat, when suddenly a sharp tremble
shook her impassive frame, the rigid hands unlocked, the stony eyes
softened, and, springing to her feet, she uttered a cry of
satisfaction, and advanced towards me.
"Miss Leavenworth!" I exclaimed, starting at the sound of my own
She paused, and pressed her hands to her face, as if the world and
all she had forgotten had rushed back upon her at this simple utterance
of her name.
"What is it?" I asked.
Her hands fell heavily. "Do you not know? They--they are beginning
to say that I--" she paused, and clutched her throat. "Read!" she
gasped, pointing to a newspaper lying on the floor at her feet.
I stooped and lifted what showed itself at first glance to be the _
Evening Telegram._ It needed but a single look to inform me to what
she referred. There, in startling characters, I beheld:
THE LEAVENWORTH MURDER
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE MYSTERIOUS CASE
A MEMBER OF THE MURDERED MAN'S OWN FAMILY
STRONGLY SUSPECTED OF THE CRIME
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN NEW YORK UNDER A CLOUD
PAST HISTORY OP MISS ELEANORE LEAVENWORTH
I was prepared for it; had schooled myself for this very thing, you
might say; and yet I could not help recoiling. Dropping the paper from
my hand, I stood before her, longing and yet dreading to look into her
"What does it mean?" she panted; "what, what does it mean? Is the
world mad?" and her eyes, fixed and glassy, stared into mine as if she
found it impossible to grasp the sense of this outrage.
I shook my head. I could not reply.
"To accuse _me"_ she murmured; "me, me!" striking her breast
with her clenched hand, "who loved the very ground he trod upon; who
would have cast my own body between him and the deadly bullet if I had
only known his danger. "Oh!" she cried, "it is not a slander they
utter, but a dagger which they thrust into my heart!"
Overcome by her misery, but determined not to show my compassion
until more thoroughly convinced of her complete innocence, I replied,
after a pause:
"This seems to strike you with great surprise, Miss Leavenworth;
were you not then able to foresee what must follow your determined
reticence upon certain points? Did you know so little of human nature
as to imagine that, situated as you are, you could keep silence in
regard to any matter connected with this crime, without arousing the
antagonism of the crowd, to say nothing of the suspicions of the police?"
I hurriedly waved my hand. "When you defied the coroner to find
any suspicious paper in your possession; when"--I forced myself to
speak--"you refused to tell Mr. Gryce how you came in possession of
She drew hastily back, a heavy pall seeming to fall over her with my
"Don't," she whispered, looking in terror about her. "Don't!
Sometimes I think the walls have ears, and that the very shadows
"Ah," I returned; "then you hope to keep from the world what is
known to the detectives?"
She did not answer.
"Miss Leavenworth," I went on, "I am afraid you do not
comprehend your position. Try to look at the case for a moment in the
light of an unprejudiced person; try to see for yourself the necessity
"But I cannot explain," she murmured huskily.
I do not know whether it was the tone of my voice or the word
itself, but that simple expression seemed to affect her like a blow.
"Oh!" she cried, shrinking back: "you do not, cannot doubt me,
too? I thought that you--" and stopped. "I did not dream that I--"
and stopped again. Suddenly her whole form quivered. "Oh, I see! You
have mistrusted me from the first; the appearances against me have been
too strong"; and she sank inert, lost in the depths of her shame and
humiliation. "Ah, but now I am forsaken!" she murmured.
The appeal went to my heart. Starting forward, I exclaimed: "Miss
Leavenworth, I am but a man; I cannot see you so distressed. Say that
you are innocent, and I will believe you, without regard to
Springing erect, she towered upon me. "Can any one look in my face
and accuse me of guilt?" Then, as I sadly shook my head, she
hurriedly gasped: "You want further proof!" and, quivering with an
extraordinary emotion, she sprang to the door.
"Come, then," she cried, "come!" her eyes flashing full of
resolve upon me.
Aroused, appalled, moved in spite of myself, I crossed the room to
where she stood; but she was already in the hall. Hastening after her,
filled with a fear I dared not express, I stood at the foot of the
stairs; she was half-way to the top. Following her into the hall'
above, I saw her form standing erect and noble at the door of her
"Come!" she again cried, but this time in a calm and reverential
tone; and flinging the door open before her, she passed in.
Subduing the wonder which I felt, I slowly followed her. There was
no light in the room of death, but the flame of the gas-burner, at the
far end of the hall, shone weirdly in, and by its glimmering I beheld
her kneeling at the shrouded bed, her head bowed above that of the
murdered man, her hand upon his breast.
"You have said that if I declared my innocence you would believe
me," she exclaimed, lifting her head as I entered. "See here," and
laying her cheek against the pallid brow of her dead benefactor, she
kissed the clay-cold lips softly, wildly, agonizedly, then, leaping to
her feet, cried, in a subdued but thrilling tone: "Could I do that if
I were guilty? Would not the breath freeze on my lips, the blood
congeal in my veins, and my heart faint at this contact? Son of a
father loved and reverenced, can you believe me to be a woman stained
with crime when I can do this?" and kneeling again she cast her arms
over and about that inanimate form, looking in my face at the same time
with an expression no mortal touch could paint, nor tongue describe.
"In olden times," she went on, "they used to say that a dead body
would bleed if its murderer came in contact with it. What then would
happen here if I, his daughter, his cherished child, loaded with
benefits, enriched with his jewels, warm with his kisses, should be the
thing they accuse me of? Would not the body of the outraged dead burst
its very shroud and repel me?"
I could not answer; in the presence of some scenes the tongue
forgets its functions.
"Oh!" she went on, "if there is a God in heaven who loves
justice and hates a crime, let Him hear me now. If I, by thought or
action, with or without intention, have been the means of bringing this
dear head to this pass; if so much as the shadow of guilt, let alone
the substance, lies upon my heart and across these feeble woman's
hands, may His wrath speak in righteous retribution to the world, and
here, upon the breast of the dead, let this guilty forehead fall, never
to rise again!"
An awed silence followed this invocation; then a long, long sigh of
utter relief rose tremulously from my breast, and all the feelings
hitherto suppressed in my heart burst their bonds, and leaning towards
her I took her hand in mine.
"You do not, cannot believe me tainted by crime now?" she
whispered, the smile which does not stir the lips, but rather emanates
from the countenance, like the flowering of an inner peace, breaking
softly out on cheek and brow.
"Crime!" The word broke uncontrollably from my lips; "crime!"
"No," she said calmly, "the man does not live who could accuse me
of crime, _here"_
For reply, I took her hand, which lay in mine, and placed it on the
breast of the dead.
Softly, slowly, gratefully, she bowed her head.
"Now let the struggle come!" she whispered. "There is one who
will believe in me, however dark appearances may be."
XIII. THE PROBLEM
"But who would force the soul, tilts with a straw
Against a champion cased in adamant."
WHEN we re-entered the parlor below, the first sight that met our
eyes was Mary, standing wrapped in her long cloak in the centre of the
room. She had arrived during our absence, and now awaited us with
lifted head and countenance fixed in its proudest expression. looking
in her face, I realized what the embarrassment of this meeting must be
to these women, and would have retreated, but something in the attitude
of Mary Leavenworth seemed to forbid my doing so. At the same time,
determined that the opportunity should not pass without some sort of
reconcilement between them, I stepped forward, and, bowing to Mary,
"Your cousin has just succeeded in convincing me of her entire
innocence, Miss Leavenworth. I am now ready to join Mr. Gryce, heart
and soul, in finding out the true culprit."
"I should have thought one look into Eleanore Leavenworth's face
would have been enough to satisfy you that she is incapable of crime,"
was her unexpected answer; and, lifting her head with a proud gesture,
Mary Leavenworth fixed her eyes steadfastly on mine.
I felt the blood flash to my brow, but before I could speak, her
voice rose again still more coldly than before.