That Affair Next Door, by Anna Katherine Green

xxxvi.

The Result.

I was as much surprised at this result of Mr. Gryce’s scheme as he was, and possibly I was more chagrined. But I shall not enter into my feelings on the subject, or weary you any further with my conjectures. You will be much more interested, I know, in learning what occurred to Mr. Gryce upon entering the carriage holding Miss Oliver.

He had expected, from the intense emotion she displayed at the sight of Howard Van Burnam (for I was not mistaken as to the identity of the person occupying the carriage with her), to find her flushed with the passions incident upon this meeting, and her companion in a condition of mind which would make it no longer possible for him to deny his connection with this woman and his consequently guilty complicity in a murder to which both were linked by so many incriminating circumstances.

But for all his experience, the detective was disappointed in this expectation, as he had been in so many others connected with this case. There was nothing in Miss Oliver’s attitude to indicate that she had unburdened herself of any of the emotions with which she was so grievously agitated, nor was there on Mr. Van Burnam’s part any deeper manifestation of feeling than a slight glow on his cheek, and even that disappeared under the detective’s scrutiny, leaving him as composed and imperturbable as he had been in his memorable inquisition before the Coroner.

Disappointed, and yet in a measure exhilarated by this sudden check in plans he had thought too well laid for failure, Mr. Gryce surveyed the young girl more carefully, and saw that he had not been mistaken in regard to the force or extent of the feelings which had driven her into Mr. Van Burnam’s presence; and turning back to that gentleman, was about to give utterance to some very pertinent remarks, when he was forestalled by Mr. Van Burnam inquiring, in his old calm way, which nothing seemed able to disturb:

“Who is this crazy girl you have forced upon me? If I had known I was to be subjected to such companionship I should not have regarded my outing so favorably.”

Mr. Gryce, who never allowed himself to be surprised by anything a suspected criminal might do or say, surveyed him quietly for a moment, then turned towards Miss Oliver.

“You hear what this gentleman calls you?” said he.

Her face was hidden by her hands, but she dropped them as the detective addressed her, showing a countenance so distorted by passion that it stopped the current of his thoughts, and made him question whether the epithet bestowed upon her by their somewhat callous companion was entirely unjustified. But soon the something else which was in her face restored his confidence in her sanity, and he saw that while her reason might be shaken it was not yet dethroned, and that he had good cause to expect sooner or later some action from a woman whose misery could wear an aspect of such desperate resolution.

That he was not the only one affected by the force and desperate character of her glance became presently apparent, for Mr. Van Burnam, with a more kindly tone than he had previously used, observed quietly:

“I see the lady is suffering. I beg pardon for my inconsiderate words. I have no wish to insult the unhappy.”

Never was Mr. Gryce so nonplussed. There was a mingled courtesy and composure in the speaker’s manner which was as far removed as possible from that strained effort at self-possession which marks suppressed passion or secret fear; while in the vacant look with which she met these words there was neither anger nor scorn nor indeed any of the passions one would expect to see there. The detective consequently did not force the situation, but only watched her more and more attentively till her eyes fell and she crouched away from them both. Then he said:

“You can name this gentleman, can you not, Miss Oliver, even if he does not choose to recognize you?”

But her answer, if she made one, was inaudible, and the sole result which Mr. Gryce obtained from this venture was a quick look from Mr. Van Burnam and the following uncompromising words from his lips:

“If you think this young girl knows me, or that I know her, you are greatly mistaken. She is as much of a stranger to me as I am to her, and I take this opportunity of saying so. I hope my liberty and good name are not to be made dependent upon the word of a miserable waif like this.”

“Your liberty and your good name will depend upon your innocence,” retorted Mr. Gryce, and said no more, feeling himself at a disadvantage before the imperturbability of this man and the silent, non-accusing attitude of this woman, from the shock of whose passions he had anticipated so much and obtained so little.

Meantime they were moving rapidly towards Police Headquarters, and fearing that the sight of that place might alarm Miss Oliver more than was well for her, he strove again to rouse her by a kindly word or so. But it was useless. She evidently tried to pay attention and follow the words he used, but her thoughts were too busy over the one great subject that engrossed her.

“A bad case!” murmured Mr. Van Burnam, and with the phrase seemed to dismiss all thought of her.

“A bad case!” echoed Mr. Gryce, “but,” seeing how fast the look of resolution was replacing her previous aspect of frenzy, “one that will do mischief yet to the man who has deceived her.”

The stopping of the carriage roused her. Looking up, she spoke for the first time.

“I want a police officer,” she said.

Mr. Gryce, with all his assurance restored, leaped to the ground and held out his hand.

“I will take you into the presence of one,” said he; and she, without a glance at Mr. Van Burnam, whose knee she brushed in passing, leaped to the ground, and turned her face towards Police Headquarters.

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