“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 today 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 regret it.”
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 Eleanore Leavenworth.”
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, almost flippantly.
“I mention no names,” I returned. “All I want is further time.”
“You are, then, intending to make a personal business of this matter?”
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 doing.”
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 the family —”
“You know nothing of its secret history, then?”
“Do not even know whether either of these girls is engaged to be married?”
“I do not,” I returned, wincing at this direct expression of my own thoughts.
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 House?”
“Not that I am aware of.”
“He is very polished in his manners; would you mind making his acquaintance?”
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 length.
“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 Leavenworth?”
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 ‘ll 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 pursued jovially.
“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 disappeared.”
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 forever?
“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 pocket.”
“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.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50