Part 3 out of 7
"It is hard for a delicate girl, unused to aught but the most
flattering expressions of regard, to be obliged to assure the world of
her innocence in respect to the committal of a great crime. Eleanore
has my sympathy." And sweeping her cloak from her shoulders with a
quick gesture, she turned her gaze for the first time upon her cousin.
Instantly Eleanore advanced, as if to meet it; and I could not but
feel that, for some reason, this moment possessed an importance for
them which I was scarcely competent to measure. But if I found myself
unable to realize its significance, I at least responded to its
intensity. And indeed it was an occasion to remember. To behold two
such women, either of whom might be considered the model of her time,
face to face and drawn up in evident antagonism, was a sight to move
the dullest sensibilities. But there was something more in this scene
than that. It was the shock of all the most passionate emotions of the
human soul; the meeting of waters of whose depth and force I could only
guess by the effect. Eleanore was the first to recover. Drawing back
with the cold haughtiness which, alas, I had almost forgotten in the
display of later and softer emotions, she exclaimed:
"There is something better than sympathy, and that is justice";
and turned, as if to go. "I will confer with you in the reception room,
But Mary, springing forward, caught her back with one powerful hand.
"No," she cried, "you shall confer with _me!_ I have something to
say to you, Eleanore Leavenworth." And, taking her stand in the centre
of the room, she waited.
I glanced at Eleanore, saw this was no place for me, and hastily
withdrew. For ten long minutes I paced the floor of the reception room,
a prey to a thousand doubts and conjectures. What was the secret of
this home? What had given rise to the deadly mistrust continually
manifested between these cousins, fitted by nature for the completest
companionship and the most cordial friendship? It was not a thing of
to-day or yesterday. No sudden flame could awake such concentrated heat
of emotion as that of which I had just been the unwilling witness. One
must go farther back than this murder to find the root of a mistrust so
great that the struggle it caused made itself felt even where I stood,
though nothing but the faintest murmur came to my ears through the
Presently the drawing-room curtain was raised, and Mary's voice was
heard in distinct articulation.
"The same roof can never shelter us both after this. To-morrow,
you or I find another home." And, blushing and panting, she stepped
into the hall and advanced to where I stood. But at the first sight of
my face, a change came over her; all her pride seemed to dissolve,
and, flinging out her hands, as if to ward off scrutiny, she fled from
my side, and rushed weeping up-stairs.
I was yet laboring under the oppression caused by this painful
termination of the strange scene when the parlor curtain was again
lifted, and Eleanore entered the room where I was. Pale but calm,
showing no evidences of the struggle she had just been through, unless
by a little extra weariness about the eyes, she sat down by my side,
and, meeting my gaze with one unfathomable in its courage, said after a
pause: "Tell me where I stand; let me know the worst at once; I
fear that I have not indeed comprehended my own position."
Rejoiced to hear this acknowledgment from her lips, I hastened to
comply. I began by placing before her the whole case as it appeared to
an unprejudiced person; enlarged upon the causes of suspicion, and
pointed out in what regard some things looked dark against her, which
perhaps to her own mind were easily explainable and of small account;
tried to make her see the importance of her decision, and finally wound
up with an appeal. Would she not confide in me?
"But I thought you were satisfied?" she tremblingly remarked.
"And so I am; but I want the world to be so, too."
"Ah; now you ask too much! The finger of suspicion never forgets
the way it has once pointed," she sadly answered. "My name is tainted
"And you will submit to this, when a word--"
"I am thinking that any word of mine now would make very little
difference," she murmured.
I looked away, the vision of Mr. Fobbs, in hiding behind the
curtains of the opposite house, recurring painfully to my mind.
"If the affair looks as bad as you say it does," she pursued, "it
is scarcely probable that Mr. Gryce will care much for any
interpretation of mine in regard to the matter."
"Mr. Gryce would be glad to know where you procured that key, if
only to assist him in turning his inquiries in the right direction."
She did not reply, and my spirits sank in renewed depression.
"It is worth your while to satisfy him," I pursued; "and though
it may compromise some one you desire to shield----"
She rose impetuously. "I shall never divulge to any one how I came
in possession of that key." And sitting again, she locked her hands in
fixed resolve before her.
I rose in my turn and paced the floor, the fang of an unreasoning
jealousy striking deep into my heart.
"Mr. Raymond, if the worst should come, and all who love me should
plead on bended knees for me to tell, I will never do it."
"Then," said I, determined not to disclose my secret thought, but
equally resolved to find out if possible her motive for this silence,
"you desire to defeat the cause of justice."
She neither spoke nor moved.
"Miss Leavenworth," I now said, "this determined shielding of
another at the expense of your own good name is no doubt generous of
you; but your friends and the lovers of truth and justice cannot accept
such a sacrifice."
She started haughtily. "Sir!" she said.
"If you will not assist us," I went on calmly, but determinedly,
"we must do without your aid. After the scene I have just witnessed
above; after the triumphant conviction which you have forced upon me,
not only of your innocence, but your horror of the crime and its
consequences, I should feel myself less than a man if I did not
sacrifice even your own good opinion, in urging your cause, and
clearing your character from this foul aspersion."
Again that heavy silence.
"What do you propose to do?" she asked, at last.
Crossing the room, I stood before her. "I propose to relieve you
utterly and forever from suspicion, by finding out and revealing to the
world the true culprit."
I expected to see her recoil, so positive had I become by this time
as to who that culprit was. But instead of that, she merely folded her
hands still more tightly and exclaimed:
"I doubt if you will be able to do that, Mr. Raymond."
"Doubt if I will be able to put my finger upon the guilty man, or
doubt if I will be able to bring him to justice?"
"I doubt," she said with strong effort, "if any one ever knows who
is the guilty person in this case."
"There is one who knows," I said with a desire to test her.
"The girl Hannah is acquainted with the mystery of that night's
evil doings, Miss Leavenworth. Find Hannah, and we find one who can
point out to us the assassin of your uncle."
"That is mere supposition," she said; but I saw the blow had told.
"Your cousin has offered a large reward for the girl, and the whole
country is on the lookout. Within a week we shall see her in our midst."
A change took place in her expression and bearing.
"The girl cannot help me," she said.
Baffled by her manner, I drew back. "Is there anything or anybody
She slowly looked away.
"Miss Leavenworth," I continued with renewed earnestness, "you
have no brother to plead with you, you have no mother to guide you; let
me then entreat, in default of nearer and dearer friends, that you will
rely sufficiently upon me to tell me one thing."
"What is it?" she asked.
"Whether you took the paper imputed to you from the library table?"
She did not instantly respond, but sat looking earnestly before her
with an intentness which seemed to argue that she was weighing the
question as well as her reply. Finally, turning toward me, she said:
"In answering you, I speak in confidence. Mr. Raymond, I did."
Crushing back the sigh of despair that arose to my lips, I went on.
"I will not inquire what the paper was,"--she waved her hand
deprecatingly,--"but this much more you will tell me. Is that paper
still in existence?"
She looked me steadily in the face.
"It is not."
I could with difficulty forbear showing my disappointment. "Miss
Leavenworth," I now said, "it may seem cruel for me to press you at
this time; nothing less than my strong realization of the peril in
which you stand would induce me to run the risk of incurring your
displeasure by asking what under other circumstances would seem puerile
and insulting questions. You have told me one thing which I strongly
desired to know; will you also inform me what it was you heard that
night while sitting in your room, between the time of Mr. Harwell's
going up-stairs and the closing of the library door, of which you made
mention at the inquest?"
I had pushed my inquiries too far, and I saw it immediately.
"Mr. Raymond," she returned, "influenced by my desire not to
appear utterly ungrateful to you, I have been led to reply in
confidence to one of your urgent appeals; but I can go no further. Do
not ask me to."
Stricken to the heart by her look of reproach, I answered with some
sadness that her wishes should be respected. "Not but what I intend to
make every effort in my power to discover the true author of this
crime. That is a sacred duty which I feel myself called upon to perform;
but I will ask you no more questions, nor distress you with further
appeals. What is done shall be done without your assistance, and with
no other hope than that in the event of my success you will acknowledge
my motives to have been pure and my action disinterested."
"I am ready to acknowledge that now," she began, but paused and
looked with almost agonized entreaty in my face. "Mr. Raymond, cannot
you leave things as they are? Won't you? I don't ask for assistance,
nor do I want it; I would rather----"
But I would not listen. "Guilt has no right to profit by the
generosity of the guiltless. The hand that struck this blow shall not
be accountable for the loss of a noble woman's honor and happiness as
"I shall do what I can, Miss Leavenworth."
As I walked down the avenue that night, feeling like an adventurous
traveller that in a moment of desperation has set his foot upon a plank
stretching in narrow perspective over a chasm of immeasurable depth,
this problem evolved itself from the shadows before me: How, with no
other clue than the persuasion that Eleanore Leavenworth was engaged in
shielding another at the expense of her own good name, I was to combat
the prejudices of Mr. Gryce, find out the real assassin of Mr.
Leavenworth, and free an innocent woman from the suspicion that had,
not without some show of reason, fallen upon her?
BOOK II. HENRY CLAVERING
XIV. MR. GRYCE AT HOME
"Nay, but hear me."
Measure for Measure.
THAT the guilty person for whom Eleanore Leavenworth stood ready to
sacrifice herself was one for whom she had formerly cherished
affection, I could no longer doubt; love, or the strong sense of duty
growing out of love, being alone sufficient to account for such
determined action. Obnoxious as it was to all my prejudices, one name
alone, that of the commonplace secretary, with his sudden heats and
changeful manners, his odd ways and studied self-possession, would
recur to my mind whenever I asked myself who this person could be.
Not that, without the light which had been thrown upon the affair by
Eleanore's strange behavior, I should have selected this man as one in
any way open to suspicion; the peculiarity of his manner at the inquest
not being marked enough to counteract the improbability of one in his
relations to the deceased finding sufficient motive for a crime so
manifestly without favorable results to himself. But if love had
entered as a factor into the affair, what might not be expected? James
Harwell, simple amanuensis to a retired tea-merchant, was one man;
James Harwell, swayed by passion for a woman beautiful as Eleanore
Leavenworth, was another; and in placing him upon the list of those
parties open to suspicion I felt I was only doing what was warranted by
a proper consideration of probabilities.
But, between casual suspicion and actual proof, what a gulf! To
believe James Harwell capable of guilt, and to find evidence enough to
accuse him of it, were two very different things. I felt myself
instinctively shrink from the task, before I had fully made up my mind
to attempt it; some relenting thought of his unhappy position, if
innocent, forcing itself upon me, and making my very distrust of him
seem personally ungenerous if not absolutely unjust. If I had liked the
man better, I should not have been so ready to look upon him with doubt.
But Eleanore must be saved at all hazards. Once delivered up to the
blight of suspicion, who could tell what the result might be? the
arrest of her person perhaps,--a thing which, once accomplished, would
cast a shadow over her young life that it would take more than time to
dispel. The accusation of an impecunious secretary would be less
horrible than this. I determined to make an early call upon Mr. Gryce.
Meanwhile the contrasted pictures of Eleanore standing with her hand
upon the breast of the dead, her face upraised and mirroring a glory, I
could not recall without emotion; and Mary, fleeing a short half-hour
later indignantly from her presence, haunted me and kept me awake long
after midnight. It was like a double vision of light and darkness that,
while contrasting, neither assimilated nor harmonized. I could not flee
from it. Do what I would, the two pictures followed me, filling my soul
with alternate hope and distrust, till I knew not whether to place my
hand with Eleanore on the breast of the dead, and swear implicit faith
in her truth and purity, or to turn my face like Mary, and fly from
what I could neither comprehend nor reconcile.
Expectant of difficulty, I started next morning upon my search for
Mr. Gryce, with strong determination not to allow myself to become
flurried by disappointment nor discouraged by premature failure. My
business was to save Eleanore Leavenworth; and to do that, it was
necessary for me to preserve, not only my equanimity, but my
self-possession. The worst fear I anticipated was that matters would
reach a crisis before I could acquire the right, or obtain the
opportunity, to interfere. However, the fact of Mr. Leavenworth's
funeral being announced for that day gave me some comfort in that
direction; my knowledge of Mr. Gryce being sufficient, as I thought,
to warrant me in believing he would wait till after that ceremony
before proceeding to extreme measures.
I do not know that I had any vary definite ideas of what a
detective's home should be; but when I stood before the neat
three-story brick house to which I had been directed, I could not but
acknowledge there was something in the aspect of its half-open
shutters, over closely drawn curtains of spotless purity, highly
suggestive of the character of its inmate.
A pale-looking youth, with vivid locks of red hair hanging straight
down over either ear, answered my rather nervous ring. To my inquiry as
to whether Mr. Gryce was in, he gave a kind of snort which might have
meant no, but which I took to mean yes.
"My name is Raymond, and I wish to see him."
He gave me one glance that took in every detail of my person and
apparel, and pointed to a door at the head of the stairs. Not waiting
for further directions, I hastened up, knocked at the door he had
designated, and went in. The broad back of Mr. Gryce, stooping above a
desk that might have come over in the _Mayflower,_ confronted me.
"Well!" he exclaimed; "this is an honor." And rising, he
opened with a squeak and shut with a bang the door of an enormous stove
that occupied the centre of the room. "Rather chilly day, eh?"
"Yes," I returned, eyeing him closely to see if he was in a
communicative mood. "But I have had but little time to consider the
state of the weather. My anxiety in regard to this murder----"
"To be sure," he interrupted, fixing his eyes upon the poker,
though not with any hostile intention, I am sure." A puzzling piece of
business enough. But perhaps it is an open book to you. I see you have
something to communicate."
"I have, though I doubt if it is of the nature you expect. Mr.
Gryce, since I saw you last, my convictions upon a certain point have
been strengthened into an absolute belief. The object of your
suspicious is an innocent woman."
If I had expected him to betray any surprise at this, I was destined
to be disappointed." That is a very pleasing belief," he observed.
"I honor you for entertaining it, Mr. Raymond."
I suppressed a movement of anger. "So thoroughly is it mine," I
went on, in the determination to arouse him in some way, "that I have
come here to-day to ask you in the name of justice and common humanity
to suspend action in that direction till we can convince ourselves
there is no truer scent to go upon."
But there was no more show of curiosity than before. "Indeed!" he
cried; "that is a singular request to come from a man like you."
I was not to be discomposed, "Mr. Gryce," I went on, "a woman's
name, once tarnished, remains so forever. Eleanore Leavenworth has too
many noble traits to be thoughtlessly dealt with in so momentous a
crisis. If you will give me your attention, I promise you shall not
He smiled, and allowed his eyes to roam from the poker to the arm of
my chair. "Very well," he remarked; "I hear you; say on."
I drew my notes from my pocketbook, and laid them on the table.
"What! memoranda?" he exclaimed. "Unsafe, very; never put your
plans on paper."
Taking no heed of the interruption, I went on.
"Mr. Gryce, I have had fuller opportunities than yourself for
studying this woman. I have seen her in a position which no guilty
person could occupy, and I am assured, beyond all doubt, that not only
her hands, but her heart, are pure from this crime. She may have some
knowledge of its secrets; that I do not presume to deny. The key seen
in her possession would refute me if I did. But what if she has? You
can never wish to see so lovely a being brought to shame for
withholding information which she evidently considers it her duty to
keep back, when by a little patient finesse we may succeed in our
purposes without it."
"But," interposed the detective, "say this is so; how are we to
arrive at the knowledge we want without following out the only clue
which has yet been given us?"
"You will never reach it by following out any clue given you by
His eyebrows lifted expressively, but he said nothing.
"Miss Eleanore Leavenworth has been used by some one acquainted
with her firmness, generosity, and perhaps love. Let us discover who
possesses sufficient power over her to control her to this extent, and
we find the man we seek."
"Humph!" came from Mr. Gryce's compressed lips, and no more.
Determined that he should speak, I waited.
"You have, then, some one in your mind "; he remarked at last,
"I mention no names," I returned. "All I want is further time."
"You are, then, intending to make a personal business of this
He gave a long, low whistle. "May I ask," he inquired at length,
"whether you expect to work entirely by yourself; or whether, if a
suitable coadjutor were provided, you would disdain his assistance and
slight his advice?"
"I desire nothing more than to have you for my colleague."
The smile upon his face deepened ironically. "You must feel very
sure of yourself!" said he.
"I am very sure of Miss Leavenworth."
The reply seemed to please him. "Let us hear what you propose
I did not immediately answer. The truth was, I had formed no plans.
"It seems to me," he continued, "that you have undertaken a rather
difficult task for an amateur. Better leave it to me, Mr. Raymond;
better leave it to me."
"I am sure," I returned, "that nothing would please me better----"
"Not," he interrupted, "but that a word from you now and then
would be welcome. I am not an egotist. I am open to suggestions: as,
for instance, now, if you could conveniently inform me of all you have
yourself seen and heard in regard to this matter, I should be most
happy to listen."
Relieved to find him so amenable, I asked myself what I really had
to tell; not so much that he would consider vital. However, it would
not do to hesitate now.
"Mr. Gryce," said I, "I have but few facts to add to those already
known to you. Indeed, I am more moved by convictions than facts. That
Eleanore Leavenworth never committed this crime, I am assured. That, on
the other hand, the real perpetrator is known to her, I am equally
certain; and that for some reason she considers it a sacred duty to
shield the assassin, even at the risk of her own safety, follows as a
matter of course from the facts. Now, with such data, it cannot be a
very difficult task for you or me to work out satisfactorily, to our
own minds at least, who this person can be. A little more knowledge of
"You know nothing of its secret history, then?"
"Do not even know whether either of these girls is engaged to be
"I do not," I returned, wincing at this direct expression of my own
He remained a moment silent. "Mr. Raymond," he cried at last,
"have you any idea of the disadvantages under which a detective labors?
For instance, now, you imagine I can insinuate myself into all sorts of
society, perhaps; but you are mistaken. Strange as it may appear, I
have never by any possibility of means succeeded with one class of
persons at all. I cannot pass myself off for a gentleman. Tailors and
barbers are no good; I am always found out."
He looked so dejected I could scarcely forbear smiling,
notwithstanding my secret care and anxiety.
"I have even employed a French valet, who understood dancing and
whiskers; but it was all of no avail. The first gentleman I approached
stared at me,--real gentleman, I mean, none of your American
dandies,--and I had no stare to return; I had forgotten that
emergency in my confabs with Pierre Catnille Marie Make-face."
Amused, but a little discomposed by this sudden turn in the
conversation, I looked at Mr. Gryce inquiringly.
"Now you, I dare say, have no trouble? Was born one, perhaps. Can
even ask a lady to dance without blushing, eh?"
"Well,--" I commenced.
"Just so," he replied; "now, I can't. I can enter a house, bow to
the mistress of it, let her be as elegant as she will, so long as I
have a writ of arrest in my hand, or some such professional matter upon
my mind; but when it comes to visiting in kid gloves, raising a glass
of champagne in response to a toast--and such like, I am absolutely
good for nothing." And he plunged his two hands into his hair, and
looked dolefully at the head of the cane I carried in my hand. "But
it is much the same with the whole of us. When we are in want of a
gentleman to work for us, we have to go outside of our profession."
I began to see what he was driving at; but held my peace, vaguely
conscious I was likely to prove a necessity to him, after all.
"Mr. Raymond," he now said, almost abruptly; "do you know a
gentleman by the name of Clavering residing at present at the Hoffman
"Not that I am aware of."
"He is very polished in his manners; would you mind making his
I followed Mr. Gryce's example, and stared at the chimney-piece. "I
cannot answer till I understand matters a little better," I returned at
"There is not much to understand. Mr. Henry Clavering, a gentleman
and a man of the world, resides at the Hoffman House. He is a stranger
in town, without being strange; drives, walks, smokes, but never
visits; looks at the ladies, but is never seen to bow to one. In
short, a person whom it is desirable to know; but whom, being a proud
man, with something of the old-world prejudice against Yankee freedom
and forwardness, I could no more approach in the way of acquaintance
than I could the Emperor of Austria."
"And you wish----"
"He would make a very agreeable companion for a rising young lawyer
of good family and undoubted respectability. I have no doubt, if you
undertook to cultivate him, you would find him well worth the trouble."
"Might even desire to take him into familiar relations; to confide
in him, and----"
"Mr. Gryce," I hastily interrupted; "I can never consent to plot
for any man's friendship for the sake of betraying him to the police."
"It is essential to your plans to make the acquaintance of Mr.
Clavering," he dryly replied.
"Oh!" I returned, a light breaking in upon me; "he has some
connection with this case, then?"
Mr. Gryce smoothed his coat-sleeve thoughtfully. "I don't know as
it will be necessary for you to betray him. You wouldn't object to
being introduced to him?"
"Nor, if you found him pleasant, to converse with him?"
"Not even if, in the course of conversation, you should come across
something that might serve as a clue in your efforts to save Eleanore
The no I uttered this time was less assured; the part of a spy was
the very last one I desired to play in the coming drama.
"Well, then," he went on, ignoring the doubtful tone in which my
assent had been given, "I advise you to immediately take up your
quarters at the Hoffman House."
"I doubt if that would do," I said. "If I am not mistaken, I
have already seen this gentleman, and spoken to him."
"Describe him first."
"Well, he is tall, finely formed, of very upright carriage, with a
handsome dark face, brown hair streaked with gray, a piercing eye, and
a smooth address. A very imposing personage, I assure you."
"I have reason to think I have seen him," I returned; and in a few
words told him when and where.
"Humph!" said he at the conclusion; "he is evidently as much
interested in you as we are in him.
"How 's that? I think I see," he added, after a moment's thought.
"Pity you spoke to him; may have created an unfavorable impression; and
everything depends upon your meeting without any distrust."
He rose and paced the floor.
"Well, we must move slowly, that is all. Give him a chance to see
you in other and better lights. Drop into the Hoffman House
reading-room. Talk with the best men you meet while there; but not too
much, or too indiscriminately. Mr. Clavering is fastidious, and will
not feel honored by the attentions of one who is hail-fellow-well-met
with everybody. Show yourself for what you are, and leave all advances
to him; he '11 make them."
"Supposing we are under a mistake, and the man I met on the corner
of Thirty-seventh Street was not Mr. Clavering?"
"I should be greatly surprised, that's all."
Not knowing what further objection to make, I remained silent.
"And this head of mine would have to put on its thinking-cap," he
"Mr. Gryce," I now said, anxious to show that all this talk about
an unknown party had not served to put my own plans from my mind,
"there is one person of whom we have not spoken."
"No?" he exclaimed softly, wheeling around until his broad back
confronted me. "And who may that be?"
"Why, who but Mr.--" I could get no further. What right had I to
mention any man's name in this connection, without possessing
sufficient evidence against him to make such mention justifiable? "I
beg your pardon," said I; "but I think I will hold to my first
impulse, and speak no names."
"Harwell?" he ejaculated easily.
The quick blush rising to my face gave an involuntary assent.
"I see no reason why we shouldn't speak of him," he went on; "that
is, if there is anything to be gained by it."
"His testimony at the inquest was honest, you think?"
"It has not been disproved."
"He is a peculiar man."
"And so am I."
I felt myself slightly nonplussed; and, conscious of appearing at a
disadvantage, lifted my hat from the table and prepared to take my
leave; but, suddenly thinking of Hannah, turned and asked if there was
any news of her.
He seemed to debate with himself, hesitating so long that I began to
doubt if this man intended to confide in me, after all, when suddenly
he brought his two hands down before him and exclaimed vehemently:
"The evil one himself is in this business! If the earth had opened
and swallowed up this girl, she couldn't have more effectually
I experienced a sinking of the heart. Eleanore had said: "Hannah
can do nothing for me." Could it be that the girl was indeed gone, and
"I have innumerable agents at work, to say nothing of the general
public; and yet not so much as a whisper has come to me in regard to
her whereabouts or situation. I am only afraid we shall find her
floating in the river some fine morning, without a confession in her
"Everything hangs upon that girl's testimony," I remarked.
He gave a short grunt. "What does Miss Leavenworth say about it?"
"That the girl cannot help her."
I thought he looked a trifle surprised at this, but he covered it
with a nod and an exclamation. "She must be found for all that," said
he, "and shall, if I have to send out Q."
"An agent of mine who is a living interrogation point; so we call
him _Q,_ which is short for query." Then, as I turned again to go:
"When the contents of the will are made known, come to me."
The will! I had forgotten the will.
XV. WAYS OPENING
"It is not and it cannot come to good."
I ATTENDED the funeral of Mr. Leavenworth, but did not see the
ladies before or after the ceremony. I, however, had a few moments'
conversation with Mr. Harwell; which, without eliciting anything new,
provided me with food for abundant conjecture. For he had asked, almost
at first greeting, if I had seen the _Telegram_ of the night
before; and when I responded in the affirmative, turned such a look of
mingled distress and appeal upon me, I was tempted to ask how such a
frightful insinuation against a young lady of reputation and breeding
could ever have got into the papers. It was his reply that struck me.
"That the guilty party might be driven by remorse to own himself
the true culprit."
A curious remark to come from a person who had no knowledge or
suspicion of the criminal and his character; and I would have pushed
the conversation further, but the secretary, who was a man of few
words, drew off at this, and could be induced to say no more. Evidently
it was my business to cultivate Mr. Clavering, or any one else who
could throw any light upon the secret history of these girls.
That evening I received notice that Mr. Veeley had arrived home, but
was in no condition to consult with me upon so painful a subject as the
murder of Mr. Leavenworth. Also a line from Eleanore, giving me her
address, but requesting me at the same time not to call unless I had
something of importance to communicate, as she was too ill to receive
visitors. The little note affected me. Ill, alone, and in a strange
The next day, pursuant to the wishes of Mr. Gryce, in I stepped into
the Hoffman House, and took a seat in the reading room. I had been
there but a few moments when a gentleman entered whom I immediately
recognized as the same I had spoken to on the corner of Thirty-seventh
Street and Sixth Avenue. He must have remembered me also, for he seemed
to be slightly embarrassed at seeing me; but, recovering himself, took
up a paper and soon became to all appearance lost in its contents,
though I could feel his handsome black eye upon me, studying my
features, figure, apparel, and movements with a degree of interest
which equally astonished and disconcerted me. I felt that it would be
injudicious on my part to return his scrutiny, anxious as I was to meet
his eye and learn what emotion had so fired his curiosity in regard to
a perfect stranger; so I rose, and, crossing to an old friend of mine
who sat at a table opposite, commenced a desultory conversation, in the
course of which I took occasion to ask if he knew who the handsome
stranger was. Dick Furbish was a society man, and knew everybody.
"His name is Clavering, and he comes from London. I don't know
anything more about him, though he is to be seen everywhere except in
private houses. He has not been received into society yet; waiting for
litters of introduction, perhaps."
"One you speak to?"
"Oh, yes; I talk to him, but the conversation is very one-sided."
I could not help smiling at the grimace with which Dick accompanied
this remark. "Which same goes to prove," he went on, "that he is the
Laughing outright this time, I left him, and in a few minutes
sauntered from the room.
As I mingled again with the crowd on Broadway, I found myself
wondering immensely over this slight experience. That this unknown
gentleman from London, who went everywhere except into private houses,
could be in any way connected with the affair I had so at heart, seemed
not only improbable but absurd; and for the first time I felt tempted
to doubt the sagacity of Mr. Gryce in recommending him to my attention.
The next day I repeated the experiment, but with no greater success
than before. Mr. Clavering came into the room, but, seeing me, did not
remain. I began to realize it was no easy matter to make his
acquaintance. To atone for my disappointment, I called 011 Mary
Leavenworth in the evening. She received me with almost a sister-like
"Ah," she cried, after introducing me to an elderly lady at her
side,--some connection of the family, I believe, who had come to remain
with her for a while,--"you are here to tell me Hannah is found; is it
I shook my head, sorry to disappoint her. "No," said I; "not yet."
"But Mr. Gryce was here to-day, and he told me he hoped she would
be heard from within twenty-four hours."
"Mr. Gryce here!"
"Yes; came to report how matters were progressing,--not that they seemed
to have advanced very far."
"You could hardly have expected that yet. You must not be so easily
"But I cannot help it; every day, every hour that passes in this
uncertainty, is like a mountain weight here"; and she laid one
trembling hand upon her bosom. "I would have the whole world at work.
I would leave no stone unturned; I----"
"What would you do?"
"Oh, I don't know," she cried, her whole manner suddenly changing;
"nothing, perhaps." Then, before I could reply to this: "Have you
seen Eleanore to-day?"
I answered in the negative.
She did not seem satisfied, but waited till her friend left the room
before saying more. Then, with an earnest look, inquired if I knew
whether Eleanore was well.
"I fear she is not," I returned.
"It is a great trial to me, Eleanore being away. Not," she resumed,
noting, perhaps, my incredulous look, "that I would have you think I
wish to disclaim my share in bringing about the present unhappy state
of things. I am willing to acknowledge I was the first to propose a
separation. But it is none the easier to bear on that account."
"It is not as hard for you as for her," said I.
"Not as hard? Why? because she is left comparatively poor, while
I am rich--is that what you would say? Ah," she went on, without
waiting for my answer, "would I could persuade Eleanore to share my
riches with me! Willingly would I bestow upon her the half I have
received; but I fear she could never be induced to accept so much as a
dollar from me."
"Under the circumstances it would be better for her not to."
"Just what I thought; yet it would ease me of a great weight if she
would. This fortune, suddenly thrown into my lap, sits like an incubus
upon me, Mr. Raymond. When the will was read to-day which makes me
possessor of so much wealth, I could not but feel that a heavy,
blinding pall had settled upon me, spotted with blood and woven of
horrors. Ah, how different from the feelings with which I have been
accustomed to anticipate this day! For, Mr. Raymond," she went on,
with a hurried gasp, "dreadful as it seems now, I have been reared to
look forward to this hour with pride, if not with actual longing. Money
has been made so much of in my small world. Not that I wish in this
evil time of retribution to lay blame upon any one; least of all upon
my uncle; but from the day, twelve years ago, when for the first time
he took us in his arms, and looking down upon our childish faces,
exclaimed: 'The light-haired one pleases me best; she shall be my
heiress,' I have been petted, cajoled, and spoiled; called little
princess, and uncle's darling, till it is only strange I retain in this
prejudiced breast any of the impulses of generous womanhood; yes,
though I was aware from the first that whim alone had raised this
distinction between myself and cousin; a distinction which superior
beauty, worth, or accomplishments could never have drawn; Eleanore
being more than my equal in all these things." Pausing, she choked back
the sudden sob that rose in her throat, with an effort at self-control
which was at once touching and admirable. Then, while my eyes stole to
her face, murmured in a low, appealing voice: "If I have faults, you
see there is some slight excuse for them; arrogance, vanity, and
selfishness being considered in the gay young heiress as no more than
so many assertions of a laudable dignity. Ah! ah," she bitterly
exclaimed "money alone has been the ruin of us all!" Then, with a
falling of her voice: "And now it has come to me with its heritage of
evil, and I--I would give it all for--But this is weakness! I have
no right to afflict you with my griefs. Pray forget all I have said,
Mr. Raymond, or regard my complaints as the utterances of an unhappy
girl loaded down with sorrows and oppressed by the weight of many
perplexities and terrors."
"But I do not wish to forget," I replied. "You have spoken some
good words, manifested much noble emotion. Your possessions cannot but
prove a blessing to you if you enter upon them with such feelings as
But, with a quick gesture, she ejaculated: "Impossible! they
cannot prove a blessing." Then, as if startled at her own words, bit
her lip and hastily added: "Very great wealth is never a blessing.
"And now," said she, with a total change of manner, "I wish to
address you on a subject which may strike you as ill-timed, but which,
nevertheless, I must mention, if the purpose I have at heart is ever to
be accomplished. My uncle, as you know, was engaged at the time of his
death in writing a book on Chinese customs and prejudices. It was a
work which he was anxious to see published, and naturally I desire to
carry out his wishes; but, in order to do so, I find it necessary not
only to interest myself in the matter now,--Mr. Harwell's services
being required, and it being my wish to dismiss that gentleman as soon
as possible--but to find some one competent to supervise its
completion. Now I have heard,--I have been told,--that you were the one
of all others to do this; and though it is difficult if not improper
for me to ask so great a favor of one who but a week ago was a perfect
stranger to me, it would afford me the keenest pleasure if you would
consent to look over this manuscript and tell me what remains to be
The timidity with which these words were uttered proved her to be in
earnest, and I could not but wonder at the strange coincidence of this
request with my secret wishes; it having been a question with me for
some time how I was to gain free access to this house without in any
way compromising either its inmates or myself. I did not know then that
Mr. Gryce had been the one to recommend me to her favor in this
respect. But, whatever satisfaction I may have experienced, I felt
myself in duty bound to plead my incompetence for a task so entirely
out of the line of my profession, and to suggest the employment of some
one better acquainted with such matters than myself. But she would not
listen to me.
"Mr. Harwell has notes and memoranda in plenty," she exclaimed,
"and can give you all the information necessary. You will have no
difficulty; indeed, you will not."
"But cannot Mr. Harwell himself do all that is requisite? He seems
to be a clever and diligent young man."
But she shook her head. "He thinks he can; but I know uncle never
trusted him with the composition of a single sentence."
"But perhaps he will not be pleased,--Mr. Harwell, I mean--with
the intrusion of a stranger into his work."
She opened her eyes with astonishment. "That makes no difference,"
she cried. "Mr. Harwell is in my pay, and has nothing to say about it.
But he will not object. I have already consulted him, and he expresses
himself as satisfied with the arrangement."
"Very well," said I; "then I will promise to consider the subject.
I can at any rate look over the manuscript and give you my opinion of
"Oh, thank you," said she, with the prettiest gesture of
satisfaction. "How kind you are, and what can I ever do to repay you?
But would you like to see Mr. Harwell himself?" and she moved towards
the door; but suddenly paused, whispering, with a short shudder of
remembrance: "He is in the library; do you mind?"
Crushing down the sick qualm that arose at the mention of that spot,
I replied in the negative.
"The papers are all there, and he says he can work better in his
old place than anywhere else; but if you wish, I can call him down."
But I would not listen to this, and myself led the way to the foot
of the stairs.
"I have sometimes thought I would lock up that room," she hurriedly
observed; "but something restrains me. I can no more do so than I can
leave this house; a power beyond myself forces me to confront all its
horrors. And yet I suffer continually from terror. Sometimes, in the
darkness of the night--But I will not distress you. I have already
said too much; come," and with a sudden lift of the head she mounted
Mr. Harwell was seated, when we entered that fatal room, in the one
chair of all others I expected to see unoccupied; and as I beheld his
meagre figure bending where such a little while before his eyes had
encountered the outstretched form of his murdered employer, I could not
but marvel over the unimaginativeness of the man who, in the face of
such memories, could not only appropriate that very spot for his own
use, but pursue his avocations there with so much calmness and evident
precision. But in another moment I discovered that the disposition of
the light in the room made that one seat the only desirable one for his
purpose; and instantly my wonder changed to admiration at this quiet
surrender of personal feeling to the requirements of the occasion.
He looked up mechanically as we came in, but did not rise, his
countenance wearing the absorbed expression which bespeaks the
"He is utterly oblivious," Mary whispered; "that is a way of his.
I doubt if he knows who or what it is that has disturbed him." And,
advancing into the room, she passed across his line of vision, as if to
call attention to herself, and said: "I have brought Mr. Raymond
up-stairs to see you, Mr. Harwell. He has been so kind as to accede to
my wishes in regard to the completion of the manuscript now before you."
Slowly Mr. Harwell rose, wiped his pen, and put it away;
manifesting, however, a reluctance in doing so that proved this
interference to be in reality anything but agreeable to him. Observing
this, I did not wait for him to speak, but took up the pile of
manuscript, arranged in one mass on the table, saying:
"This seems to be very clearly written; if you will excuse me, I
will glance over it and thus learn something of its general character."
He bowed, uttered a word or so of acquiescence, then, as Mary left
the room, awkwardly reseated himself, and took up his pen.
Instantly the manuscript and all connected with it vanished from my
thoughts; and Eleanore, her situation, and the mystery surrounding this
family, returned upon me with renewed force. Looking the secretary
steadily in the face, I remarked:
"I am very glad of this opportunity of seeing you a moment alone,
Mr. Harwell, if only for the purpose of saying----"
"Anything in regard to the murder?"
"Yes," I began.
"Then you must pardon me," he respectfully but firmly replied. "It
is a disagreeable subject which I cannot bear to think of, much less
Disconcerted and, what was more, convinced of the impossibility of
obtaining any information from this man, I abandoned the attempt; and,
taking up the manuscript once more, endeavored to master in some small
degree the nature of its contents. Succeeding beyond my hopes, I opened
a short conversation with him in regard to it, and finally, coming to
the conclusion I could accomplish what Miss Leavenworth desired, left
him and descended again to the reception room.
When, an hour or so later, I withdrew from the house, it was with
the feeling that one obstacle had been removed from my path. If I
failed in what I had undertaken, it would not be from lack of
opportunity of studying the inmates of this dwelling.
XVI. THE WILL OF A MILLIONAIRE
"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, Which we ascribe to Heaven."
All's Well that Ends Well.
THE next morning's _Tribune_ contained a synopsis of Mr.
Leavenworth's will. Its provisions were a surprise to me; for, while
the bulk of his immense estate was, according to the general
understanding, bequeathed to his niece, Mary, it appeared by a codicil,
attached to his will some five years before, that Eleanore was not
entirely forgotten, she having been made the recipient of a legacy
which, if not large, was at least sufficient to support her in comfort.
After listening to the various comments of my associates on the
subject, I proceeded to the house of Mr. Gryce, in obedience to his
request to call upon him as soon as possible after the publication of
"Good-morning," he remarked as I entered, but whether addressing me
or the frowning top of the desk before which he was sitting it would be
difficult to say. "Won't you sit?" nodding with a curious back
movement of his head towards a chair in his rear.
I drew up the chair to his side. "I am curious to know," I
remarked, "what you have to say about this will, and its probable
effect upon the matters we have in hand."
"What is your own idea in regard to it?"
"Well, I think upon the whole it will make but little difference in
public opinion. Those who thought Eleanore guilty before will feel that
they possess now greater cause than ever to doubt her innocence; while
those who have hitherto hesitated to suspect her will not consider that
the comparatively small amount bequeathed her would constitute an
adequate motive for so great a crime."
"You have heard men talk; what seems to be the general opinion
among those you converse with?"
"That the motive of the tragedy will be found in the partiality
shown in so singular a will, though how, they do not profess to know."
Mr. Gryce suddenly became interested in one of the small drawers
"And all this has not set you thinking?" said he.
"Thinking," returned I. "I don't know what you mean. I am sure I
have done nothing but think for the last three days. I----"
"Of course--of course," he cried. "I didn't mean to say
anything disagreeable. And so you have seen Mr. Clavering?"
"Just seen him; no more."
"And are you going to assist Mr. Harwell in finishing Mr. Leaven
"How did you learn that?"
He only smiled.
"Yes," said I; "Miss Leavenworth has requested me to do her that
"She is a queenly creature!" he exclaimed in a burst of
enthusiasm. Then, with an instant return to his business-like tone:
"You are going to have opportunities, Mr. Raymond. Now there are two
things I want you to find out; first, what is the connection between
these ladies and Mr. Clavering----"
"There is a connection, then?"
"Undoubtedly. And secondly, what is the cause of the unfriendly
feeling which evidently exists between the cousins."
I drew back and pondered the position offered me. A spy in a fair
woman's house! How could I reconcile it with my natural instincts as a
"Cannot you find some one better adapted to learn these secrets for
you?" I asked at length. "The part of a spy is anything but
agreeable to my feelings, I assure you."
Mr. Gryce's brows fell.
"I will assist Mr. Harwell in his efforts to arrange Mr. Leaven
worth's manuscript for the press," I said; "I will give Mr. Clavering
an opportunity to form my acquaintance; and I will listen, if Miss
Leavenworth chooses to make me her confidant in any way. But any
hearkening at doors, surprises, unworthy feints or ungentlemanly
subterfuges, I herewith disclaim as outside of my province; my task
being to find out what I can in an open way, and yours to search into
the nooks and corners of this wretched business."
"In other words, you are to play the hound, and I the mole; just
so, I know what belongs to a gentleman."
"And now," said I, "what news of Hannah?" He shook both hands
high in the air. "None."
I cannot say I was greatly surprised, that evening, when, upon
descending from an hour's labor with Mr. Harwell, I encountered Miss
Leavenworth standing at the foot of the stairs. There had been
something in her bearing, the night before, which prepared me for
another interview this evening, though her manner of commencing it was
a surprise. "Mr. Raymond," said she, with an air of marked
embarrassment, "I want to ask you a question. I believe you to be a
good man, and I know you will answer me conscientiously. As a brother
would," she added, lifting her eyes for a moment to my face. "I know
it will sound strange; but remember, I have no adviser but you, and I
must ask some one. Mr. Raymond, do you think a person could do
something that was very wrong, and yet grow to be thoroughly good
"Certainly," I replied; "if he were truly sorry for his fault."
"But say it was more than a fault; say it was an actual harm;
would not the memory of that one evil hour cast a lasting shadow over
"That depends upon the nature of the harm and its effect upon
others. If one had irreparably injured a fellow-being, it would be hard
for a person of sensitive nature to live a happy life afterwards;
though the fact of not living a happy life ought to be no reason why
one should not live a good life."
"But to live a good life would it be necessary to reveal the evil
you had done? Cannot one go on and do right without confessing to the
world a past wrong?"
"Yes, unless by its confession he can in some way make reparation."
My answer seemed to trouble her. Drawing back, she stood for one
moment in a thoughtful attitude before me, her beauty shining with
almost a statuesque splendor in the glow of the porcelain-shaded lamp
at her side. Nor, though she presently roused herself, leading the way
into the drawing-room with a gesture that was allurement itself, did
she recur to this topic again; but rather seemed to strive, in the
conversation that followed, to make me forget what had already passed
between us. That she did not succeed, was owing to my intense and
unfailing interest in her cousin.
As I descended the stoop, I saw Thomas, the butler, leaning over the
area gate. Immediately I was seized with an impulse to interrogate him
in regard to a matter which had more or less interested me ever since
the inquest; and that was, who was the Mr. Robbins who had called upon
Eleanore the night of the murder? But Thomas was decidedly
uncommunicative. He remembered such a person called, but could not
describe his looks any further than to say that he was not a small man.
I did not press the matter.
XVII. THE BEGINNING OF GREAT SURPRISES
"Vous regardez une etoile pour deux motifs, parce qu'elle est
lumineuse et parce qu'elle est impenetrable. Vous avez aupres
de vous un plus doux rayonnement et un pas grand mystere, la femme."
AND now followed days in which I seemed to make little or no
progress. Mr. Clavering, disturbed perhaps by my presence, forsook his
usual haunts, thus depriving me of all opportunity of making his
acquaintance in any natural manner, while the evenings spent at Miss
Leavenworth's were productive of little else than constant suspense
The manuscript required less revision than I supposed. But, in the
course of making such few changes as were necessary, I had ample
opportunity of studying the character of Mr. Harwell. I found him to be
neither more nor less than an excellent amanuensis. Stiff, unbending,
and sombre, but true to his duty and reliable in its performance, I
learned to respect him, and even to like him; and this, too, though I
saw the liking was not reciprocated, whatever the respect may have
been. He never spoke of Eleanore Leavenworth or, indeed, mentioned the
family or its trouble in any way; till I began to feel that all this
reticence had a cause deeper than the nature of the man, and that if he
did speak, it would be to some purpose. This suspicion, of course, kept
me restlessly eager in his presence. I could not forbear giving him sly
glances now and then, to see how he acted when he believed himself
unobserved; but he was ever the same, a passive, diligent, unexcitable
This continual beating against a stone wall, for thus I regarded it,
became at last almost unendurable. Clavering shy, and the secretary
unapproachable--how was I to gain anything? The short interviews I had
with Mary did not help matters. Haughty, constrained, feverish,
pettish, grateful, appealing, everything at once, and never twice the
same, I learned to dread, even while I coveted, an interview. She
appeared to be passing through some crisis which occasioned her the
keenest suffering. I have seen her, when she thought herself alone,
throw up her hands with the gesture which we use to ward off a coming
evil or shut out some hideous vision. I have likewise beheld her
standing with her proud head abased, her nervous hands drooping, her
whole form sinking and inert, as if the pressure of a weight she could
neither upbear nor cast aside had robbed her even of the show of
resistance. But this was only once. Ordinarily she was at least stately
in her trouble. Even when the softest appeal came into her eyes she
stood erect, and retained her expression of conscious power. Even the
night she met me in the hall, with feverish cheeks and lips trembling
with eagerness, only to turn and fly again without giving utterance to
what she had to say, she comported herself with a fiery dignity that
was well nigh imposing.
That all this meant something, I was sure; and so I kept my patience
alive with the hope that some day she would make a revelation. Those
quivering lips would not always remain closed; the secret involving
Eleanore's honor and happiness would be divulged by this restless
being, if by no one else. Nor was the memory of that extraordinary, if
not cruel, accusation I had heard her make enough to destroy this hope
--for hope it had grown to be--so that I found myself insensibly
shortening my time with Mr. Harwell in the library, and extending my _
tete-a-tete_ visits with Mary in the reception room, till the
imperturbable secretary was forced to complain that he was often left
for hours without work.
But, as I say, days passed, and a second Monday evening came round
without seeing me any further advanced upon the problem I had set
myself to solve than when I first started upon it two weeks before. The
subject of the murder had not even been broached; nor was Hannah spoken
of, though I observed the papers were not allowed to languish an
instant upon the stoop; mistress and servants betraying equal interest
in their contents. All this was strange to me. It was as if you saw a
group of human beings eating, drinking, and sleeping upon the sides of
a volcano hot with a late eruption and trembling with the birth of a
new one. I longed to break this silence as we shiver glass: by shouting
the name of Eleanore through those gilded rooms and satin-draped
vestibules. But this Monday evening I was in a calmer mood. I was
determined to expect nothing from my visits to Mary Leavenworth's
house; and entered it upon the eve in question with an equanimity such
as I had not experienced since the first day I passed under its unhappy
But when, upon nearing the reception room, I saw Mary pacing the
floor with the air of one who is restlessly awaiting something or
somebody, I took a sudden resolution, and, advancing towards her, said:
"Do I see you alone, Miss Leavenworth?"
She paused in her hurried action, blushed and bowed, but, contrary
to her usual custom, did not bid me enter.
"Will it be too great an intrusion on my part, if I venture to
come in?" I asked.
Her glance flashed uneasily to the clock, and she seemed about to
excuse herself, but suddenly yielded, and, drawing up a chair before
the fire, motioned me towards it. Though she endeavored to appear calm,
I vaguely felt I had chanced upon her in one of her most agitated
moods, and that I had only to broach the subject I had in mind to
behold her haughtiness disappear before me like melting snow. I also
felt that I had but few moments in which to do it. I accordingly
plunged immediately into the subject.
"Miss Leavenworth," said I, "in obtruding upon you to-night, I have
a purpose other than that of giving myself a pleasure. I have come to
make an appeal."
Instantly I saw that in some way I had started wrong. "An appeal to
make to me?" she asked, breathing coldness from every feature of her
"Yes," I went on, with passionate recklessness. "Balked in every
other endeavor to learn the truth, I have come to you, whom I believe
to be noble at the core, for that help which seems likely to fail us in
every other direction: for the word which, if it does not absolutely
save your cousin, will at least put us upon the track of what will."
"I do not understand what you mean," she protested, slightly
"Miss Leavenworth," I pursued, "it is needless for me to tell you
in what position your cousin stands. You, who remember both the form
and drift of the questions put to her at the inquest, comprehend it all
without any explanation from me. But what you may not know is this,
that unless she is speedily relieved from the suspicion which, justly
or not, has attached itself to her name, the consequences which such
suspicion entails must fall upon her, and----"
"Good God!" she cried; "you do not mean she will be----"
"Subject to arrest? Yes."
It was a blow. Shame, horror, and anguish were in every line of her
white face. "And all because of that key!" she murmured.
"Key? How did you know anything about a key?"
"Why," she cried, flushing painfully; "I cannot say; didn't you
"No," I returned.
"The papers, then?"
"The papers have never mentioned it."
She grew more and more agitated. "I thought every one knew. No, I
did not, either," she avowed, in a sudden burst of shame and penitence.
"I knew it was a secret; but--oh, Mr. Raymond, it was Eleanore herself
who told me."
"Yes, that last evening she was here; we were together in the
"What did she tell?"
"That the key to the library had been seen in her possession."
I could scarcely conceal my incredulity. Eleanore, conscious of the
suspicion with which her cousin regarded her, inform that cousin of a
fact calculated to add weight to that suspicion? I could not believe
"But you knew it?" Mary went on. "I have revealed nothing I ought to
have kept secret?"
"No," said I; "and, Miss Leavenworth, it is this thing which makes
your cousin's position absolutely dangerous. It is a fact that, left
unexplained, must ever link her name with infamy; a bit of
circumstantial evidence no sophistry can smother, and no denial
obliterate. Only her hitherto spotless reputation, and the efforts of
one who, notwithstanding appearances, believes in her innocence, keeps
her so long from the clutch of the officers of justice. That key, and
the silence preserved by her in regard to it, is sinking her slowly
into a pit from which the utmost endeavors of her best friends will
soon be inadequate to extricate her."
"And you tell me this----"
"That you may have pity on the poor girl, who will not have pity on
herself, and by the explanation of a few circumstances, which cannot be
mysteries to you, assist in bringing her from under the dreadful shadow
that threatens to overwhelm her."
"And would you insinuate, sir," she cried, turning upon me with a
look of great anger, "that I know any more than you do of this matter?
that I possess any knowledge which I have not already made public
concerning the dreadful tragedy which has transformed our home into a
desert, our existence into a lasting horror? Has the blight of
suspicion fallen upon me, too; and have you come to accuse me in my own
"Miss Leavenworth," I entreated; "calm yourself. I accuse you of
nothing. I only desire you to enlighten me as to your cousin's probable
motive for this criminating silence. You cannot be ignorant of it. You
are her cousin, almost her sister, have been at all events her daily
companion for years, and must know for whom or for what she seals her
lips, and conceals facts which, if known, would direct suspicion to the
real criminal--that is, if you really believe what you have hitherto
stated, that your cousin is an innocent woman."
She not making any answer to this, I rose and confronted her. "Miss
Leavenworth, do you believe your cousin guiltless of this crime, or not?"
"Guiltless? Eleanore? Oh! my God; if all the world were only as
innocent as she!"
"Then," said I, "you must likewise believe that if she refrains
from speaking in regard to matters which to ordinary observers ought to
be explained, she does it only from motives of kindness towards one
less guiltless than herself."
"What? No, no; I do not say that. What made you think of any such
"The action itself. With one of Eleanore's character, such conduct
as hers admits of no other construction. Either she is mad, or she is
shielding another at the expense of herself."
Mary's lip, which had trembled, slowly steadied itself. "And whom
have you settled upon, as the person for whom Eleanore thus sacrifices
"Ah," said I, "there is where I seek assistance from you. With your
knowledge of her history----"
But Mary Leavenworth, sinking haughtily back into her chair, stopped
me with a quiet gesture. "I beg your pardon," said she; "but you make
a mistake. I know little or nothing of Eleanore's personal feelings.
The mystery must be solved by some one besides me."
I changed my tactics.
"When Eleanore confessed to you that the missing key had been seen
in her possession, did she likewise inform you where she obtained it,
and for what reason she was hiding it?"
"Merely told you the fact, without any explanation?"
"Was not that a strange piece of gratuitous information for her to
give one who, but a few hours before, had accused her to the face of
committing a deadly crime?"
"What do you mean?"' she asked, her voice suddenly sinking.
"You will not deny that you were once, not only ready to believe
her guilty, but that you actually charged her with having perpetrated
"Explain yourself!" she cried.
"Miss Leavenworth, do you not remember what you said in that room
upstairs, when you were alone with your cousin on the morning of the
inquest, just before Mr. Gryce and myself entered your presence?"
Her eyes did not fall, but they filled with sudden terror.
"You heard?" she whispered.
"I could not help it. I was just outside the door, and----"
"What did you hear?"
I told her.
"And Mr. Gryce?"
"He was at my side."
It seemed as if her eyes would devour my face. "Yet nothing was
said when you came in?"
"You, however, have never forgotten it?"
"How could we, Miss Leavenworth?"
Her head fell forward in her hands, and for one wild moment she
seemed lost in despair. Then she roused, and desperately exclaimed:
"And that is why you come here to-night. With that sentence written
upon your heart, you invade my presence, torture me with questions----"
"Pardon me," I broke in; "are my questions such as you, with
reasonable regard for the honor of one with whom you are accustomed to
associate, should hesitate to answer? Do I derogate from my manhood in
asking you how and why you came to make an accusation of so grave a
nature, at a time when all the circumstances of the case were freshly
before you, only to insist fully as strongly upon your cousin's
innocence when you found there was even more cause for your imputation
than you had supposed?"
She did not seem to hear me. "Oh, my cruel fate!" she murmured.
"Oh, my cruel fate!"
"Miss Leavenworth," said I, rising, and taking my stand before her;
"although there is a temporary estrangement between you and your
cousin, you cannot wish to seem her enemy. Speak, then; let me at
least know the name of him for whom she thus immolates herself. A hint
But rising, with a strange look, to her feet, she interrupted me
with a stern remark: "If you do not know, I cannot inform you; do not
ask me, Mr. Raymond." And she glanced at the clock for the second time.
I took another turn.
"Miss Leavenworth, you once asked me if a person who had committed
a wrong ought necessarily to confess it; and I replied no, unless by
the confession reparation could be made. Do you remember?"
Her lips moved, but no words issued from them.
"I begin to think," I solemnly proceeded, following the lead of her
emotion, "that confession is the only way out of this difficulty:
that only by the words you can utter Eleanore can be saved from the
doom that awaits her. Will you not then show yourself a true woman by
responding to my earnest entreaties?"
I seemed to have touched the right chord; for she trembled, and a
look of wistfulness filled her eyes. "Oh, if I could!" she murmured.
"And why can you not? You will never be happy till you do.
Eleanore persists in silence; but that is no reason why you should
emulate her example. You only make her position more doubtful by it."
"I know it; but I cannot help myself. Fate has too strong a hold
upon me; I cannot break away."
"That is not true. Any one can escape from bonds imaginary as
"No, no," she protested; "you do not understand."
"I understand this: that the path of rectitude is a straight one,
and that he who steps into devious byways is going astray."
A nicker of light, pathetic beyond description, flashed for a moment
across her face; her throat rose as with one wild sob; her lips
opened; she seemed yielding, when--A sharp ring at the front door-bell!
"Oh," she cried, sharply turning, "tell him I cannot see him;
"Miss Leavenworth," said I, taking her by both hands, "never mind
the door; never mind anything but this. I have asked you a question
which involves the mystery of this whole affair; answer me, then, for
your soul's sake; tell me, what the unhappy circumstances were which
could induce you--"
But she tore her hands from mine. "The door!" she cried; "it
will open, and--"
Stepping into the hall, I met Thomas coming up the basement stairs.
"Go back," said I; "I will call you when you are wanted."
With a bow he disappeared.
"You expect me to answer," she exclaimed, when I re-entered, "now,
in a moment? I cannot."
"Impossible!" fastening her gaze upon the front door.
"I fear the time will never come, if you do not speak now."
"Impossible," she reiterated.
Another twang at the bell.
"You hear!" said she.
I went into the hall and called Thomas. "You may open the door
now," said I, and moved to return to her side.
But, with a gesture of command, she pointed up-stairs. "Leave me!"
and her glance passed on to Thomas, who stopped where he was.
"I will see you again before I go," said I, and hastened up-stairs.
Thomas opened the door. "Is Miss Leavenworth in?" I heard a rich,
tremulous voice inquire.
"Yes, sir," came in the butler's most respectful and measured
accents, and, leaning over the banisters I beheld, to my amazement, the
form of Mr. Clavering enter the front hall and move towards the
XVIII. ON THE STAIRS
"You cannot _say_ I did it."
EXCITED, tremulous, filled with wonder at this unlooked-for event, I
paused for a moment to collect my scattered senses, when the sound of a
low, monotonous voice breaking upon my ear from the direction of the
library, I approached and found Mr. Harwell reading aloud from his late
employer's manuscript. It would be difficult for me to describe the
effect which this simple discovery made upon me at this time. There, in
that room of late death, withdrawn from the turmoil of the world, a
hermit in his skeleton-lined cell, this man employed himself in reading
and rereading, with passive interest, the words of the dead, while
above and below, human beings agonized in doubt and shame. Listening, I
heard these words:
"By these means their native rulers will not only lose their
jealous terror of our institutions, but acquire an actual curiosity in
regard to them."
Opening the door I went in.
"Ah! you are late, sir," was the greeting with which he rose and
brought forward a chair.
My reply was probably inaudible, for he added, as he passed to his
"I am afraid you are not well."
I roused myself.
"I am not ill." And, pulling the papers towards me, I began looking
them over. But the words danced before my eyes, and I was obliged to
give up all attempt at work for that night.
"_I_ fear I am unable to assist you this evening, Mr. Harwell.
The fact is, I find it difficult to give proper attention to this
business while the man who by a dastardly assassination has made it
necessary goes unpunished."
The secretary in his turn pushed the papers aside, as if moved by a
sudden distaste of them, but gave me no answer.
"You told me, when you first came to me with news of this fearful
tragedy, that it was a mystery; but it is one which must be solved,
Mr. Harwell; it is wearing out the lives of too many whom we love and
The secretary gave me a look. "Miss Eleanore?" he murmured.
"And Miss Mary," I went on; "myself, you, and many others."
"You have manifested much interest in the matter from the
beginning,"--he said, methodically dipping his pen into the
I stared at him in amazement.
"And you," said I; "do you take no interest in that which involves
not only the safety, but the happiness and honor, of the family in
which you have dwelt so long?"
He looked at me with increased coldness. "I have no wish to discuss
this subject. I believe I have before prayed you to spare me its
introduction." And he arose.
"But I cannot consider your wishes in this regard," I persisted.
"If you know any facts, connected with this affair, which have not yet
been made public, it is manifestly your duty to state them. The
position which Miss Eleanore occupies at this time is one which should
arouse the sense of justice in every true breast; and if you----"
"If I knew anything which would serve to release her from her
unhappy position, Mr. Raymond, I should have spoken long ago."
I bit my lip, weary of these continual bafflings, and rose also.
"If you have nothing more to say," he went on, "and feel utterly
disinclined to work, why, I should be glad to excuse myself, as I have
an engagement out."
"Do not let me keep you," I said, bitterly. "I can take care of
He turned upon me with a short stare, as if this display of feeling
was well nigh incomprehensible to him; and then, with a quiet, almost
compassionate bow left the room. I heard him go up-stairs, felt the jar
when his room door closed, and sat down to enjoy my solitude. But
solitude in that room was unbearable. By the time Mr. Harwell again
descended, I felt I could remain no longer, and, stepping into the
hall, told him that if he had no objection I would accompany him for a
He bowed a stiff assent, and hastened before me down the stairs. By
the time I had closed the library door, he was half-way to the foot,
and I was just remarking to myself upon the unpliability of his figure
and the awkwardness of his carriage, as seen from my present
standpoint, when suddenly I saw him stop, clutch the banister at his
side, and hang there with a startled, deathly expression upon his
half-turned countenance, which fixed me for an instant where I was in
breathless astonishment, and then caused me to rush down to his side,
catch him by the arm, and cry:
"What is it? what is the matter?"
But, thrusting out his hand, he pushed me upwards. "Go back!" he
whispered, in a voice shaking with in-tensest emotion, "go back." And
catching me by the arm, he literally pulled me up the stairs. Arrived
at the top, he loosened his grasp, and leaning, quivering from head to
foot, over the banisters, glared below.
"Who is that?" he cried. "Who is that man? What is his name?"
Startled in my turn, I bent beside him, and saw Henry Clavering come
out of the reception room and cross the hall.
"That is Mr. Clavering," I whispered, with all the self-possession
I could muster; "do you know him?"
Mr. Harwell fell back against the opposite wall. "Clavering,
Clavering," he murmured with quaking lips; then, suddenly bounding
forward, clutched the railing before him, and fixing me with his eyes,
from which all the stoic calmness had gone down forever in flame and
frenzy, gurgled into my ear: "You want to know who the assassin of
Mr. Leavenworth is, do you? Look there, then: that is the man,
Clavering!" And with a leap, he bounded from my side, and, swaying
like a drunken man, disappeared from my gaze in the hall above.
My first impulse was to follow him. Rushing upstairs, I knocked at
the door of his room, but no response came to my summons. I then called
his name in the hall, but without avail; he was determined not to show
himself. Resolved that he should not thus escape me, I returned to the
library, and wrote him a short note, in which I asked for an
explanation of his tremendous accusation, saying I would be in my rooms
the next evening at six, when I should expect to see him. This done I
descended to rejoin Mary.
But the evening was destined to be full of disappointments. She had
retired to her room while I was in the library, and I lost the
interview from which I expected so much." The woman is slippery as an
eel," I inwardly commented, pacing the hall in my chagrin. "Wrapped in
mystery, she expects me to feel for her the respect due to one of frank
and open nature."
I was about to leave the house, when I saw Thomas descending the
stairs with a letter in his hand.
"Miss Leavenworth's compliments, sir, and she is too fatigued to
remain below this evening."
I moved aside to read the note he handed me, feeling a little
conscience-stricken as I traced the hurried, trembling handwriting
through the following words:
"You ask more than I can give. Matters must be received as they are
without explanation from me. It is the grief of my life to deny you;
but I have no choice. God forgive us all and keep us from despair.
"As we cannot meet now without embarrassment, it is better we should
bear our burdens in silence and apart. Mr. Harwell will visit you.
As I was crossing Thirty-second Street, I heard a quick footstep
behind me, and turning, saw Thomas at my side. "Excuse me, sir," said
he, "but I have something a little particular to say to you. When you
asked me the other night what sort of a person the gentleman was who
called on Miss Eleanore the evening of the murder, I didn't answer you
as I should. The fact is, the detectives had been talking to me about
that very thing, and I felt shy; but, sir, I know you are a friend of
the family, and I want to tell you now that that same gentleman,
whoever he was,--Mr. Robbins, he called himself then,--was at the
house again tonight, sir, and the name he gave me this time to carry to
Miss Leavenworth was Clavering. Yes, sir," he went on, seeing me start;
"and, as I told Molly, he acts queer for a stranger. When he came the
other night, he hesitated a long time before asking for Miss Eleanore,
and when I wanted his name, took out a card and wrote on it the one I
told you of, sir, with a look on his face a little peculiar for a
"Mr. Raymond," the butler went on, in a low, excited voice, edging
up very closely to me in the darkness. "There is something I have
never told any living being but Molly, sir, which may be of use to
those as wishes to find out who committed this murder."
"A fact or a suspicion?" I inquired.
"A fact, sir; which I beg your pardon for troubling you with at
this time; but Molly will give me no rest unless I speak of it to you
or Mr. Gryce; her feelings being so worked up on Hannah's account,
whom we all know is innocent, though folks do dare to say as how she
must be guilty just because she is not to be found the minute they want
"But this fact?" I urged.
"Well, the fact is this. You see--I would tell Mr. Gryce," he
resumed, unconscious of my anxiety, "but I have my fears of detectives,
sir; they catch you up so quick at times, and seem to think you know so
much more than you really do."
"But this fact," I again broke in.
"O yes, sir; the fact is, that that night, the one of the murder
you know, I saw Mr. Clavering, Robbins, or whatever his name is, enter
the house, but neither I nor any one else saw him go out of it; nor do
I know that he _did."_
"What do you mean?"
"Well, sir, what I mean is this. When I came down from Miss
Eleanore and told Mr. Robbins, as he called himself at that time, that
my mistress was ill and unable to see him (the word she gave me, sir,
to deliver) Mr. Robbins, instead of bowing and leaving the house like a
gentleman, stepped into the reception room and sat down. He may have
felt sick, he looked pale enough; at any rate, he asked me for a glass
of water. Not knowing any reason then for suspicionat-ing any one's
actions, I immediately went down to the kitchen for it, leaving him
there in the reception room alone. But before I could get it, I heard
the front door close. 'What's that?' said Molly, who was helping me,
sir. 'I don't know,' said I, 'unless it's the gentleman has got tired
of waiting and gone.' 'If he's gone, he won't want the water,' she
said. So down I set the pitcher, and up-stairs I come; and sure enough
he was gone, or so I thought then. But who knows, sir, if he was not in
that room or the drawing-room, which was dark that night, all the time
I was a-shutting up of the house?"
I made no reply to this; I was more startled than I cared to reveal.
"You see, sir, I wouldn't speak of such a thing about any person
that comes to see the young ladies; but we all know some one who was
in the house that night murdered my master, and as it was not
"You say that Miss Eleanore refused to see him," I interrupted, in
the hope that the simple suggestion would be enough to elicitate
further details of his interview with Eleanore.
"Yes, sir. When she first looked at the card, she showed a little
hesitation; but in a moment she grew very flushed in the face, and
bade me say what I told you. I should never have thought of it again if
I had not seen him come blazoning and bold into the house this evening,
with a new name on his tongue. Indeed, and I do not like to think any
evil of him now; but Molly would have it I should speak to you, sir,
and ease my mind,--and that is all, sir."
When I arrived home that night, I entered into my memorandum-book a
new list of suspicious circumstances, but this time they were under the
caption "C" instead of "E."
XIX. IN MY OFFICE
"Something between an hindrance and a help."
THE next day as, with nerves unstrung and an exhausted brain, I
entered my office, I was greeted by the announcement:
"A gentleman, sir, in your private room--been waiting some time,
Weary, in no mood to hold consultation with clients new or old, I
advanced with anything but an eager step towards my room, when, upon
opening the door, I saw--Mr. Clavering.
Too much astounded for the moment to speak, I bowed to him silently,
whereupon he approached me with the air and dignity of a highly bred
gentleman, and presented his card, on which I saw written, in free and
handsome characters, his whole name, Henry Ritchie Clavering. After
this introduction of himself, he apologized for making so unceremonious
a call, saying, in excuse, that he was a stranger in town; that his
business was one of great urgency; that he had casually heard
honorable mention of me as a lawyer and a gentleman, and so had
ventured to seek this interview on behalf of a friend who was so
unfortunately situated as to require the opinion and advice of a lawyer
upon a question which not only involved an extraordinary state of
facts, but was of a nature peculiarly embarrassing to him, owing to his
ignorance of American laws, and the legal bearing of these facts upon
Having thus secured my attention, and awakened my curiosity, he
asked me if I would permit him to relate his story. Recovering in a
measure from my astonishment, and subduing the extreme repulsion,
almost horror, I felt for the man, I signified my assent; at which he
drew from his pocket a memorandum-book from which he read in substance
"An Englishman travelling in this country meets, at a fashionable
watering-place, an American girl, with whom he falls deeply in love,
and whom, after a few days, he desires to marry. Knowing his position
to be good, his fortune ample, and his intentions highly honorable, he
offers her his hand, and is accepted. But a decided opposition arising
in the family to the match, he is compelled to disguise his sentiments,
though the engagement remained unbroken. While matters were in this
uncertain condition, he received advices from England demanding his
instant return, and, alarmed at the prospect of a protracted absence
from the object of his affections, he writes to the lady, informing her
of the circumstances, and proposing a secret marriage. She consents
with stipulations; the first of which is, that he should leave her
instantly upon the conclusion of the ceremony, and the second, that he
should intrust the public declaration of the marriage to her. It was
not precisely what he wished, but anything which served to make her his
own was acceptable at such a crisis. He readily enters into the plans
proposed. Meeting the lady at a parsonage, some twenty miles from the
watering-place at which she was staying, he stands up with her before a
Methodist preacher, and the ceremony of marriage is performed. There
were two witnesses, a hired man of the minister, called in for the
purpose, and a lady friend who came with the bride; but there was no
license, and the bride had not completed her twenty-first year. Now,
was that marriage legal? If the lady, wedded in good faith upon that
day by my friend, chooses to deny that she is his lawful wife, can he
hold her to a compact entered into in so informal a manner? In short,
Mr. Raymond, is my friend the lawful husband of that girl or not?"
While listening to this story, I found myself yielding to feelings
greatly in contrast to those with which I greeted the relator but a
moment before. I became so interested in his "friend's" case as to
quite forget, for the time being, that I had ever seen or heard of
Henry Clavering; and after learning that the marriage ceremony took
place in the State of New York, I replied to him, as near as I can
remember, in the following words: "In this State, and I believe it to
be American law, marriage is a civil contract, requiring neither
license, priest, ceremony, nor certificate--and in some cases
witnesses are not even necessary to give it validity. Of old, the modes
of getting a wife were the same as those of acquiring any other species
of property, and they are not materially changed at the present time.
It is enough that the man and woman say to each other, 'From this time
we are married,' or, 'You are now my wife,' or, 'my husband,' as the
case may be. The mutual consent is all that is necessary. In fact, you
may contract marriage as you contract to lend a sum of money, or to buy
the merest trifle."
"Then your opinion is----"
"That upon your statement, your friend is the lawful husband of
the lady in question; presuming, of course, that no legal disabilities
of either party existed to prevent such a union. As to the young lady's
age, I will merely say that any fourteen-year-old girl can be a party
to a marriage contract."
Mr. Clavering bowed, his countenance assuming a look of great
satisfaction. "I am very glad to hear this," said he; "my friend's
happiness is entirely involved in the establishment, of his marriage."
He appeared so relieved, my curiosity was yet further aroused. I
therefore said: "I have given you my opinion as to the legality of
this marriage; but it may be quite another thing to prove it, should
the same be contested."
He started, cast me an inquiring look, and murmured:
"Allow me to ask you a few questions. Was the lady married under
her own name?"
"Did the lady receive a certificate?"
"Properly signed by the minister and witnesses?"
He bowed his head in assent.
"Did she keep this?"
"I cannot say; but I presume she did."
"The witnesses were----"
"A hired man of the minister----"
"Who can be found?"
"Who cannot be found."
"Dead or disappeared?"
"The minister is dead, the man has disappeared."
"The minister dead!"
"Three months since."
"And the marriage took place when?"
"The other witness, the lady friend, where is she?"
"She can be found; but her action is not to be depended upon."
"Has the gentleman himself no proofs of this marriage?"
Mr. Clavering shook his head. "He cannot even prove he was in the
town where it took place on that particular day."
"The marriage certificate was, however, filed with the clerk of the
town?" said I.
"It was not, sir."
"How was that?"
"I cannot say. I only know that my friend has made inquiry, and
that no such paper is to be found."
I leaned slowly back and looked at him. "I do not wonder your
friend is concerned in regard to his position, if what you hint is
true, and the lady seems disposed to deny that any such ceremony ever
took place. Still, if he wishes to go to law, the Court may decide in
his favor, though I doubt it. His sworn word is all he would have to go
upon, and if she contradicts his testimony under oath, why the sympathy
of a jury is, as a rule, with the woman."
Mr. Clavering rose, looked at me with some earnestness, and finally
asked, in a tone which, though somewhat changed, lacked nothing of its
former suavity, if I would be kind enough to give him in writing that