The Leavenworth Case, by Anna Katherine Green

XXIV. A Report Followed by Smoke

“Oft expectation fails, and most oft there

Where most it promises; and oft it hits

Where Hope is coldest, and Despair most sits.”

All’s Well that Ends Well.

WHEN I told Mr. Gryce I only waited for the determination of one fact, to feel justified in throwing the case unreservedly into his hands, I alluded to the proving or disproving of the supposition that Henry Clavering had been a guest at the same watering-place with Eleanore Leavenworth the summer before.

When, therefore, I found myself the next morning with the Visitor Book of the Hotel Union at R—— in my hands, it was only by the strongest effort of will I could restrain my impatience. The suspense, however, was short. Almost immediately I encountered his name, written not half a page below those of Mr. Leavenworth and his nieces, and, whatever may have been my emotion at finding my suspicions thus confirmed, I recognized the fact that I was in the possession of a clue which would yet lead to the solving of the fearful problem which had been imposed upon me.

Hastening to the telegraph office, I sent a message for the man promised me by Mr. Gryce, and receiving for an answer that he could not be with me before three o’clock, started for the house of Mr. Monell, a client of ours, living in R——. I found him at home and, during our interview of two hours, suffered the ordeal of appearing at ease and interested in what he had to say, while my heart was heavy with its first disappointment and my brain on fire with the excitement of the work then on my hands.

I arrived at the depot just as the train came in.

There was but one passenger for R— — a brisk young man, whose whole appearance differed so from the description which had been given me of Q that I at once made up my mind he could not be the man I was looking for, and was turning away disappointed, when he approached, and handed me a card on which was inscribed the single character “?” Even then I could not bring myself to believe that the slyest and most successful agent in Mr. Gryce’s employ was before me, till, catching his eye, I saw such a keen, enjoyable twinkle sparkling in its depths that all doubt fled, and, returning his bow with a show of satisfaction, I remarked:

“You are very punctual. I like that.”

He gave another short, quick nod. “Glad, sir, to please you. Punctuality is too cheap a virtue not to be practised by a man on the lookout for a rise. But what orders, sir? Down train due in ten minutes; no time to spare.”

“Down train? What have we to do with that?”

“I thought you might wish to take it, sir. Mr. Brown”— winking expressively at the name, “always checks his carpet-bag for home when he sees me coming. But that is your affair; I am not particular.”

“I wish to do what is wisest under the circumstances.”

“Go home, then, as speedily as possible.” And he gave a third sharp nod exceedingly business-like and determined.

“If I leave you, it is with the understanding that you bring your information first to me; that you are in my employ, and in that of no one else for the time being; and that mum is the word till I give you liberty to speak.”

“Yes, sir. When I work for Brown & Co. I do not work for Smith & Jones. That you can count on.”

“Very well then, here are your instructions.”

He looked at the paper I handed him with a certain degree of care, then stepped into the waiting-room and threw it into the stove, saying in a low tone: “So much in case I should meet with some accident: have an apoplectic fit, or anything of that sort.”

“But ——”

“Oh, don’t worry; I sha’n’t forget. I’ve a. memory, sir. No need of anybody using pen and paper with me.”

And laughing in the short, quick way one would expect from a person of his appearance and conversation, he added: “You will probably hear from me in a day or so,” and bowing, took his brisk, free way down the street just as the train came rushing in from the West.

My instructions to Q were as follows:

1. To find out on what day, and in whose company, the Misses Leaven worth arrived at R—— the year before. What their movements had been while there, and in whose society they were oftenest to be seen. Also the date of their departure, and such facts as could be gathered in regard to their habits, etc.

2. Ditto in respect to a Mr. Henry Clavering, fellow-guest and probable friend of said ladies,

3. Name of individual fulfilling the following requirements: Clergyman, Methodist, deceased since last December or thereabouts, who in July of Seventy-five was located in some town not over twenty miles from R——.

4. Also name and present whereabouts of a man at that time in service of the above.

To say that the interval of time necessary to a proper inquiry into these matters was passed by me in any reasonable frame of mind, would be to give myself credit for an equanimity of temper which I unfortunately do not possess. Never have days seemed so long as the two which interposed between my return from R—— and the receipt of the following letter:

“Sir:

“Individuals mentioned arrived in R—— July 3, 1875. Party consisted of four; the two ladies, their uncle, and the girl named Hannah. Uncle remained three days, and then left for a short tour through Massachusetts. Gone two weeks, during which ladies were seen more or less with the gentleman named between us, but not to an extent sufficient to excite gossip or occasion remark, when said gentleman left R—— abruptly, two days after uncle’s return. Date July 19. As to habits of ladies, more or less social. They were always to be seen at picnics, rides, etc., and in the ballroom. M—— liked best. E—— considered grave, and, towards the last of her stay, moody. It is remembered now that her manner was always peculiar, and that she was more or less shunned by her cousin.

However, in the opinion of one girl still to be found at the hotel, she was the sweetest lady that ever breathed. No particular reason for this opinion. Uncle, ladies, and servants left R—— for New York, August 7, 1875.

“2. H. C. arrived at the hotel in R—— July 6, 1875, incompany with Mr. and Mrs. Vandervort, friends of the above. Left July 19, two weeks from day of arrival. Little to be learned in regard to him. Remembered as the handsome gentleman who was in the party with the L, girls, and that is all.

“3. F— — a small town, some sixteen or seventeen miles from R— — had for its Methodist minister, in July of last year, a man who has since died, Samuel Stebbins by name. Date of decease, Jan. 7 of this year.

“4. Name of man in employ of S. S. at that time is Timothy Cook. He has been absent, but returned to P—— two days ago. Can be seen if required.”

“Ah, ha!” I cried aloud at this point, in my sudden surprise and satisfaction; “now we have something to work upon!” And sitting down I penned the following reply:

“T. C. wanted by all means. Also any evidence going to prove that H. C. and B. L. were married at the house of Mr. S. on any day of July or August last.”

Next morning came the following telegram:

“T. C. on the road. Remembers a marriage. Will be with you by 2 p.m.”

At three o’clock of that same day, I stood before Mr. Gryce. “I am here to make my report,” I announced.

The nicker of a smile passed over his face, and he gazed for the first time at his bound-up finger-ends with a softening aspect which must have done them good. “I’m ready,” said he.

“Mr. Gryce,” I began, “do you remember the conclusion we came to at our first interview in this house?”

“I remember the one you came to.”

“Well, well,” I acknowledged a little peevishly, “the one I came to, then. It was this: that if we could find to whom Eleanore Leavenworth felt she owed her best duty and love, we should discover the man who murdered her uncle.”

“And do you imagine you have done this?”

“I do.”

His eyes stole a little nearer my face. “Well! that is good; go on.”

“When I undertook this business of clearing Eleanore Leavenworth from suspicion,” I resumed, “it was with the premonition that this person would prove to be her lover; but I had no idea he would prove to be her husband.”

Mr. Gryce’s gaze flashed like lightning to the ceiling.

“What!” he ejaculated with a frown.

“The lover of Eleanore Leavenworth is likewise her husband,” I repeated. “Mr. Clavering holds no lesser connection to her than that.”

“How have you found that out?” demanded Mr. Gryce, in a harsh tone that argued disappointment or displeasure.

“That I will not take time to state. The question is not how I became acquainted with a certain thing, but is what I assert in regard to it true. If you will cast your eye over this summary of events gleaned by me from the lives of these two persons, I think you will agree with me that it is.” And I held up before his eyes the following:

“During the two weeks commencing July 6, of the year 1875, and ending July 19, of the same year, Henry R. Clavering, of London, and Eleanore Leavenworth, of New York, were guests of the same hotel. Fact proved by Visitor Book of the Hotel Union at R— — New York.

“They were not only guests of the same hotel, but are known to have held more or less communication with each other. Fact proved by such servants now employed in R—— as were in the hotel at that time.

“July 19. Mr. Clavering left R—— abruptly, a circumstance that would not be considered remarkable if Mr. Leavenworth, whose violent antipathy to Englishmen as husbands is publicly known, had not just returned from a journey.

“July 30. Mr. Clavering was seen in the parlor of Mr. Stebbins, the Methodist minister at F— — a town about sixteen miles from R— — where he was married to a lady of great beauty. Proved by Timothy Cook, a man in the employ of Mr. Stebbins, who was called in from the garden to witness the ceremony and sign a paper supposed to be a certificate.

“July 31. Mr. Clavering takes steamer for Liverpool. Proved by newspapers of that date.

“September. Eleanore Leavenworth in her uncle’s house in New York, conducting herself as usual, but pale of face and preoccupied in manner. Proved by servants then in her service. Mr. Clavering in London; watches the United States mails with eagerness, but receives no letters. Fits up room elegantly, as for a lady. Proved by secret communication from London.

“November. Miss Leavenworth still in uncle’s house. No publication of her marriage ever made. Mr. Clavering in London; shows signs of uneasiness; the room prepared for lady closed. Proved as above.

“January 17, 1876. Mr. Clavering, having returned to America, engages room at Hoffman House, New York.

“March 1 or 2. Mr. Leavenworth receives a letter signed by Henry Clavering, in which he complains of having been ill-used by one of that gentleman’s nieces. A manifest shade falls over the family at this time.

“March 4. Mr. Clavering under a false name inquires at the door of Mr. Leavenworth’s house for Miss Eleanore Leavenworth. Proved by Thomas.’“

“March 4th?” exclaimed Mr. Gryce at this point. “That was the night of the murder.-”

“Yes; the Mr. Le Roy Robbins said to have called that evening was none other than Mr. Clavering.”

“March 19. Miss Mary Leavenworth, in a conversation with me, acknowledges that there is a secret in the family, and is just upon the point of revealing its nature, when Mr. Clavering enters the house. Upon his departure she declares her unwillingness ever to mention the subject again.”

Mr. Gryce slowly waved the paper aside. “And from these facts you draw the inference that Eleanore Leavenworth is the wife of Mr. Clavering?”

“I do.”

“And that, being his wife ——”

“It would be natural for her to conceal anything she knew likely to criminate him.”

“Always supposing Clavering himself had done anything criminal!”

“Of course.”

“Which latter supposition you now propose to justify!”

“Which latter supposition it is left for us to justify.”

A peculiar gleam shot over Mr. Gryce’s somewhat abstracted countenance. “Then you have no new evidence against Mr. Clavering?”

“I should think the fact just given, of his standing in the relation of unacknowledged husband to the suspected party was something.”

“No positive evidence as to his being the assassin of Mr. Leavenworth, I mean?”

I was obliged to admit I had none which he would Consider positive. “But I can show the existence of motive; and I can likewise show it was not only possible, but probable, he was in the house at the time of the murder.”

“Ah, you can!” cried Mr. Gryce, rousing a little from his abstraction.

“The motive was the usual one of self-interest. Mr. Leavenworth stood in the way of Eleanore’s acknowledging him as a husband, and he must therefore be put out of the way.”

“Weak!”

“Motives for murders are sometimes weak.”

“The motive for this was not. Too much calculation was shown for the arm to have been nerved by anything short of the most deliberate intention, founded upon the deadliest necessity of passion or avarice.”

“Avarice?”

“One should never deliberate upon the causes which have led to the destruction of a rich man without taking into account that most common passion of the human race.”

“But ——”

“Let us hear what you have to say of Mr. Clavering’s presence in the house at the time of the murder.”

I related what Thomas the butler had told me in regard to Mr. Clavering’s call upon Miss Leavenworth that night, and the lack of proof which existed as to his having left the house when supposed to do so.

“That is worth remembering,” said Mr. Gryce at the conclusion. “Valueless as direct evidence, it might prove of great value as corroborative.” Then, in a graver tone, he went on to say: “Mr. Raymond, are you aware that in all this you have been strengthening the case against Eleanore Leavenworth instead of weakening it?”

I could only ejaculate, in my sudden wonder and dismay.

“You have shown her to be secret, sly, and unprincipled; capable of wronging those to whom she was most bound, her uncle and her husband.”

“You put it very strongly,” said I, conscious of a shocking discrepancy between this description of Eleanore’s character and all that I had preconceived in regard to it.

“No more so than your own conclusions from this story warrant me in doing.” Then, as I sat silent, murmured low, and as if to himself: “If the case was dark against her before, it is doubly so with this supposition established of her being the woman secretly married to Mr. Clavering.”

“And yet,” I protested, unable to give up my hope without a struggle; “you do not, cannot, believe the noble-looking Eleanore guilty of this horrible crime?”

“No,” he slowly said; “you might as well know right here what I think about that. I believe Eleanore Leavenworth to be an innocent woman.”

“You do? Then what,” I cried, swaying between joy at this admission and doubt as to the meaning of his former expressions, “remains to be done?”

Mr. Gryce quietly responded: “Why, nothing but to prove your supposition a false one.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37