“Come, give us a taste of your quality.”
STARTING with the assumption that Mr. Clavering in his conversation of the morning had been giving me, with more or less accuracy, a detailed account of his own experience and position regarding Eleanore Leavenworth, I asked myself what particular facts it would be necessary for me to establish in order to prove the truth of this assumption, and found them to be:
I. That Mr. Clavering had not only been in this country at the time designated, but that he had been ocated for some little time at a watering-place in New York State.
II. That this watering-place should correspond to the one in which Miss Eleanore Leavenworth was staying at the same time.
III. That they had been seen while there to hold nore or less communication.
IV. That they had both been absent from town, at Lorne one time, long enough to have gone through the ceremony of marriage at a point twenty miles or so away.
V. That a Methodist clergyman, who has since died, lived at that time within a radius of twenty miles of said ratering-place.
I next asked myself how I was to establish these acts. Mr. Clavering’s life was as yet too little known o me to offer me any assistance; so, leaving it for the present, I took up the thread of Eleanore’s history, and found that at the time given me she had been in R— — a fashionable watering-place in this State. Now, if his was true, and my theory correct, he must have been there also. To prove this fact, became, consequently, my first business. I resolved to go to R—— on the morrow.
But before proceeding in an undertaking of such importance, I considered it expedient to make such inquiries and collect such facts as the few hours I had left to work in rendered possible. I went first to the house of Mr. Gryce.
I found him lying upon a hard sofa, in the bare sitting-room I have before mentioned, suffering from a severe attack of rheumatism. His hands were done up in bandages, and his feet incased in multiplied folds of a dingy red shawl which looked as if it had been through the wars. Greeting me with a short nod that was both a welcome and an apology, he devoted a few words to an explanation of his unwonted position; and then, without further preliminaries, rushed into the subject which was uppermost in both our minds by inquiring, in a slightly sarcastic way, if I was very much surprised to find my bird flown when I returned to the Hoffman House that afternoon.
“I was astonished to find you allowed him to fly at this time,” I replied. “From the manner in which you requested me to make his acquaintance, I supposed you considered him an important character in the tragedy which has just been enacted.”
“And what makes you think I don’t? Oh, the fact that I let him go off so easily? That’s no proof. I never fiddle with the brakes till the car starts down-hill. But let that pass for the present; Mr. Clavering, then, did not explain himself before going?”
“That is a question which I find it exceedingly difficult to answer. Hampered by circumstances, I cannot at present speak with the directness which is your due, but what I can say, I will. Know, then, that in my opinion Mr. Clavering did explain himself in an interview with me this morning. But it was done in so blind a way, it will be necessary for me to make a few investigations before I shall feel sufficiently sure of my ground to take you into my confidence. He has given me a possible clue ——”
“Wait,” said Mr. Gryce; “does he know this? Was it done intentionally and with sinister motive, or unconsciously and in plain good faith?”
“In good faith, I should say.”
Mr. Gryce remained silent for a moment. “It is very unfortunate you cannot explain yourself a little more definitely,” he said at last. “I am almost afraid to trust you to make investigations, as you call them, on your own hook. You are not used to the business, and will lose time, to say nothing of running upon false scents, and using up your strength on unprofitable details.”
“You should have thought of that when you admitted me into partnership.”
“And you absolutely insist upon working this mine alone?”
“Mr. Gryce, the matter stands just here. Mr. Clavering, for all I know, is a gentleman of untarnished reputation. I am not even aware for what purpose you set me upon his trail. I only know that in thus following it I have come upon certain facts that seem worthy of further investigation.”
“Well, well; you know best. But the days are slipping by. Something must be done, and soon. The public are becoming clamorous.”
“I know it, and for that reason I have come to you for such assistance as you can give me at this stage of the proceedings. You are in possession of certain facts relating to this man which it concerns me to know, or your conduct in reference to him has been purposeless. Now, frankly, will you make me master of those facts: in short, tell me all you know of Mr. Clavering, without requiring an immediate return of confidence on my part?”
“That is asking a great deal of a professional detective.”
“I know it, and under other circumstances I should hesitate long before preferring such a request; but as things are, I don’t see how I am to proceed in the matter without some such concession on your part. At all events ——”
“Wait a moment! Is not Mr. Clavering the lover of one of the young ladies?”
Anxious as I was to preserve the secret of my interest in that gentleman, I could not prevent the blush from rising to my face at the suddenness of this question.
“I thought as much,” he went on. “Being neither a relative nor acknowledged friend, I took it for granted he must occupy some such position as that in the family.”
“I do not see why you should draw such an inference,” said I, anxious to determine how much he knew about him. “Mr. Clavering is a stranger in town; has not even been in this country long; has indeed had no time to establish himself upon any such footing as you suggest.”
“This is not the only time Mr. Clavering has been in New York. He was here a year ago to my certain knowledge.”
“You know that?”
“How much more do you know? Can it be possible I am groping blindly about for facts which are already in your possession? I pray you listen to my entreaties, Mr. Gryce, and acquaint me at once with what I want to know. You will not regret it. I have no selfish motive in this matter. If I succeed, the glory shall be yours; it I fail, the shame of the defeat shall be mine.”
“That is fair,” he muttered. “And how about the reward?”
“My reward will be to free an innocent woman from the imputation of crime which hangs over her.”
This assurance seemed to satisfy him. His voice and appearance changed; for a moment he looked quite confidential. “Well, well,” said he; “and what is it you want to know?”
“I should first like to know how your suspicions came to light on him at all. What reason had you for thinking a gentleman of his bearing and position was in any way connected with this affair?”
“That is a question you ought not to be obliged to put,” he returned.
“Simply because the opportunity of answering it was in your hands before ever it came into mine.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you remember the letter mailed in your presence by Miss Mary Leavenworth during your drive from her home to that of her friend in Thirty-seventh Street?”
“On the afternoon of the inquest?”
“Certainly, but ——”
“You never thought to look at its superscription before it was dropped into the box.”
“I had neither opportunity nor right to do so.”
“Was it not written in your presence?”
“And you never regarded the affair as worth your attention?”
“However I may have regarded it, I did not see how I could prevent Miss Leavenworth from dropping a letter into a box if she chose to do so.”
“That is because you are a gentleman. Well, it has its disadvantages,” he muttered broodingly.
“But you,” said I; “how came you to know anything about this letter? Ah, I see,” remembering that the carriage in which we were riding at the time had been procured for us by him. “The man on the box was in your pay, and informed, as you call it.”
Mr. Gryce winked at his muffled toes mysteriously. “That is not the point,” he said. “Enough that I heard that a letter, which might reasonably prove to be of some interest to me, had been dropped at such an hour into the box on the corner of a certain street. That, coinciding in the opinion of my informant, I telegraphed to the station connected with that box to take note of the address of a suspicious-looking letter about to pass through their hands on the way to the General Post Office, and following up the telegram in person, found that a curious epistle addressed in lead pencil and sealed with a stamp, had just arrived, the address of which I was allowed to see ——”
“And which was?”
“Henry R. Clavering, Hoffman House, New York.”
I drew a deep breath. “And so that is how your attention first came to be directed to this man?”
“Strange. But go on — what next?”
“Why, next I followed up the clue by going to the Hoffman House and instituting inquiries. I learned that Mr. Clavering was a regular guest of the hotel. That he had come there, direct from the Liverpool steamer, about three months since, and, registering his name as Henry R. Clavering, Esq., London, had engaged a first-class room which he had kept ever since. That, although nothing definite was known concerning him, he had been seen with various highly respectable people, both of his own nation and ours, by all of whom he was treated with respect. And lastly, that while not liberal, he had given many evidences of being a man of means. So much done, I entered the office, and waited for him to come in, in the hope of having an opportunity to observe his manner when the clerk handed him that strange-looking letter from Mary Leavenworth.”
“And did you succeed?”
“No; an awkward gawk of a fellow stepped between us just at the critical moment, and shut off my view. But I heard enough that evening from the clerk and servants, of the agitation he had shown on receiving it, to convince me I was upon a trail worth following. I accordingly put on my men, and for two days Mr. Clavering was subjected to the most rigid watch a man ever walked under. But nothing was gained by it; his interest in the murder, if interest at all, was a secret one; and though he walked the streets, studied the papers, and haunted the vicinity of the house in Fifth Avenue, he not only refrained from actually approaching it, but made no attempt to communicate with any of the family. Meanwhile, you crossed my path, and with your determination incited me to renewed effort. Convinced from Mr. Clavering’s bearing, and the gossip I had by this time gathered in regard to him, that no one short of a gentleman and a friend could succeed in getting at the clue of his connection with this family, I handed him over to you, and ——”
“Found me rather an unmanageable colleague.”
Mr. Gryce smiled very much as if a sour plum had been put in his mouth, but made no reply; and a momentary pause ensued.
“Did you think to inquire,” I asked at last, “if any one knew where Mr. Clavering had spent the evening of the murder?”
“Yes; but with no good result. It was agreed he went out during the evening; also that he was in his bed in the morning when the servant came in to make his fire; but further than this no one seemed posted.”
“So that, in fact, you gleaned nothing that would in any way connect this man with the murder except his marked and agitated interest in it, and the fact that a niece of the murdered man had written a letter to him?”
“That is all.”
“Another question; did you hear in what manner and at what time he procured a newspaper that evening?”
“No; I only learned that he was observed, by more than one, to hasten out of the dining-room with the Post in his hand, and go immediately to his room without touching his dinner.”
“Humph! that does not look ——”
“If Mr. Clavering had had a guilty knowledge of the crime, he would either have ordered dinner before opening the paper, or, having ordered it, he would have eaten it.”
“Then you do not believe, from what you have learned, that Mr. Clavering is the guilty party?”
Mr. Gryce shifted uneasily, glanced at the papers protruding from my coat pocket and exclaimed: “I am ready to be convinced by you that he is.”
That sentence recalled me to the business in hand. Without appearing to notice his look, I recurred to my questions.
“How came you to know that Mr. Clavering was in this city last summer? Did you learn that, too, at the Hoffman House?”
“No; I ascertained that in quite another way. In short, I have had a communication from London in regard to the matter.
“Yes; I’ve a friend there in my own line of business, who sometimes assists me with a bit of information, when requested.”
“But how? You have not had time to write to London, and receive an answer since the murder.”
“It is not necessary to write. It is enough for me to telegraph him the name of a person, for him to understand that I want to know everything he can gather in a reasonable length of time about that person.”
“And you sent the name of Mr. Clavering to him?”
“Yes, in cipher.”
“And have received a reply?”
I looked towards his desk.
“It is not there,” he said; “if you will be kind enough to feel in my breast pocket you will find a letter ——”
It was in my hand before he finished his sentence. “Excuse my eagerness,” I said. “This kind of business is new to me, you know.”
He smiled indulgently at a very old and faded picture hanging on the wall before him. “Eagerness is not a fault; only the betrayal of it. But read out what you have there. Let us hear what my friend Brown has to tell us of Mr. Henry Ritdsie Clavering, of Portland Place, London.”
I took the paper to the light and read as follows:
“Henry Ritchie Clavering, Gentleman, aged 43. Born in — — Hertfordshire, England. His father was Chas. Clavering, for short time in the army. Mother was Helen Ritchie, of Dumfriesshire, Scotland; she is still living. Home with H. R. C., in Portland Place, London. H. R. C. is a bachelor, 6 ft. high, squarely built, weight about 12 stone. Dark complexion, regular features. Eyes dark brown; nose straight. Called a handsome man; walks erect and rapidly. In society is considered a good fellow; rather a favorite, especially with ladies. Is liberal, not extravagant; reported to be worth about 5000 pounds per year, and appearances give color to this statement. Property consists of a small estate in Hertfordshire, and some funds, amount not known. Since writing this much, a correspondent sends the following in regard to his history. In ‘46 went from uncle’s house to Eton. From Eton went to Oxford, graduating in ‘56. Scholarship good. In 1855 his uncle died, and his father succeeded to the estates. Father died in ‘57 by a fall from his horse or a similar accident. Within a very short time H. R. C. took his mother to London, to the residence named, where they have lived to the present time.
“Travelled considerably in 1860; part of the time was with — — of Munich; also in party of Vandervorts from New York; went as far east as Cairo. Went to America in 1875 alone, but at end of three months returned on account of mother’s illness. Nothing is known of his movements while in America.
“From servants learn that he was always a favorite from a boy. More recently has become somewhat taciturn. Toward last of his stay watched the post carefully, especially foreign ones. Posted scarcely anything but newspapers. Has written to Munich. Have seen, from waste-paper basket, torn envelope directed to Amy Belden, no address. American correspondents mostly in Boston; two in New York. Names not known, but supposed to be bankers. Brought home considerable luggage, and fitted up part of house, as for a lady. This was closed soon afterwards. Left for America two months since. Has been, I understand, travelling in the south. Has telegraphed twice to Portland Place. His friends hear from him but rarely. Letters rec’d recently, posted in New York. One by last steamer posted in F— — k. Y.
“Business here conducted by ——. In the country, —— of —— has charge of the property.
The document fell from my hands.
F— — N. Y., was a small town near R——.
“Your friend is a trump,” I declared. “He tells me just what I wanted most to know.” And, taking out my book, I made memoranda of the facts which had most forcibly struck me during my perusal of the communication before me. “With the aid of what he tells me, I shall ferret out the mystery of Henry Clavering in a week; see if I do not.”
“And how soon,” inquired Mr. Gryce, “may I expect to be allowed to take a hand in the game?”
“As soon as I am reasonably assured I am upon the right tack.”
“And what will it take to assure you of that?”
“Not much; a certain point settled, and ——”
“Hold on; who knows but what I can do that for you?” And, looking towards the desk which stood in the corner, Mr. Gryce asked me if I would be kind enough to open the top drawer and bring him the bits of partly-burned paper I would find there.
Hastily complying, I brought three or four strips of ragged paper, and laid them on the table at his side.
“Another result of Fobbs’ researches under the coal on the first day of the inquest,” Mr. Gryce abruptly explained. “You thought the key was all he found. Well, it wasn’t. A second turning over of the coal brought these to light, and very interesting they are, too.”
I immediately bent over the torn and discolored scraps with great anxiety. They were four in number, and appeared at first glance to be the mere remnants of a sheet of common writing-paper, torn lengthwise into strips, and twisted up into lighters; but, upon closer inspection, they showed traces of writing upon one side, and, what was more important still, the presence of one or more drops of spattered blood. This latter discovery was horrible to me, and so overcame me for the moment that I put the scraps down, and, turning towards Mr. Gryce, inquired:
“What do you make of them?”
“That is just the question I was going to put to you.”
Swallowing my disgust, I took them up again. “They look like the remnants of some old letter,” said I.
“They have that appearance,” Mr. Gryce grimly assented.
“A letter which, from the drop of blood observable on the written side, must have been lying face up on Mr. Leavenworth’s table at the time of the murder —”
“And from the uniformity in width of each of these pieces, as well as their tendency to curl up when left alone, must first have been torn into even strips, and then severally rolled up, before being tossed into the grate where they were afterwards found.”
“That is all good,” said Mr. Gryce; “go on.”
“The writing, so far as discernible, is that of a cultivated gentleman. It is not that of Mr. Leavenworth; for I have studied his chirography toe much lately not to know it at a glance; but it may be-Hold!” I suddenly exclaimed, “have you any mucilage handy? I think, if I could paste these strips down upon a piece of paper, so that they would remain flat, I should be able to tell you what I think of them much more easily.”
“There is mucilage on the desk,” signified Mr. Gryce.
Procuring it, I proceeded to consult the scraps once more for evidence to guide me in their arrangement. These were more marked than I expected; the longer and best preserved strip, with its “Mr. Hor” at the top, showing itself at first blush to be the left-hand margin of the letter, while the machine-cut edge of the next in length presented tokens fully as conclusive of its being the right-hand margin of the same. Selecting these, then, I pasted them down on a piece of paper at just the distance they would occupy if the sheet from which they were torn was of the ordinary commercial note size. Immediately it became apparent: first, that it would take two other strips of the same width to fill up the space left between them; and secondly, that the writing did not terminate at the foot of the sheet, but was carried on to another page.
Taking up the third strip, I looked at its edge; it was machine-cut at the top, and showed by the arrangement of its words that it was the margin strip of a second leaf. Pasting that down by itself, I scrutinized the fourth, and finding it also machine-cut at the top but not on the side, endeavored to fit it to the piece already pasted down, but the words would not match. Moving it along to the position it would hold if it were the third strip, I fastened it down; the whole presenting, when completed, the appearance seen on the opposite page.
“Well!” exclaimed Mr. Gryce, “that’s business.” Then, as I held it up before his eyes: “But don’t show it to me. Study it yourself, and tell me what you think of it.”
“Well,” said I, “this much is certain: that it is a letter directed to Mr. Leavenworth from some House, and dated — let’s see; that is an h, isn’t it?” And I pointed to the one letter just discernible on the line under the word House.
“I should think so; but don’t ask me.”
“It must be an h. The year is 1875, and this is not the termination of either January or February. Dated, then, March 1st, 1876, and signed ——”
Mr. Gryce rolled his eyes in anticipatory ecstasy towards the ceiling.
“By Henry Clavering,” I announced without hesitation.
Mr. Gryce’s eyes returned to his swathed finger-ends. “Humph! how do you know that?”
“Wait a moment, and I’ll show you”; and, taking out of my pocket the card which Mr. Clavering had handed me as an introduction at our late interview, I laid it underneath the last line of writing on the second page. One glance was sufficient. Henry Ritchie Clavering on the card; H—— chie — in the same handwriting on the letter.
“Clavering it is,” said he, “without a doubt.” But I saw he was not surprised.
“And now,” I continued, “for its general tenor and meaning.” And, commencing at the beginning, I read aloud the words as they came, with pauses at the breaks, something as follows: “Mr. Hor — Dear — a niece whom yo — one too who see — the love and trus — any other man ca — autiful, so char —— s she in face fo —— conversation, ery rose has its —— rose is no exception ——— ely as she is, char —— tender as she is, s ————— pable of tramplin ——— one who trusted —— heart ——————. —————————— him to —— he owes a —— honor —— ance.
“If ——— t believe —— her to —— cruel —— face — — what is —— ble serv —— yours
“It reads like a complaint against one of Mr. Leavenworth’s nieces,” I said, and started at my own words.
“What is it?” cried Mr. Gryce; “what is the matter?”
“Why,” said I, “the fact is I have heard this very letter spoken of. It is a complaint against one of Mr. Leavenworth’s nieces, and was written by Mr. Clavering.” And I told him of Mr. Harwell’s communication in regard to the matter.
“Ah! then Mr. Harwell has been talking, has he? I thought he had forsworn gossip.”
“Mr. Harwell and I have seen each other almost daily for the last two weeks,” I replied. “It would be strange if he had nothing to tell me.”
“And he says he has read a letter written to Mr. Leavenworth by Mr. Clavering?”
“Yes; but the particular words of which he has now forgotten.”
“These few here may assist him in recalling the rest.”
“I would rather not admit him to a knowledge of the existence of this piece of evidence. I don’t believe in letting any one into our confidence whom we can conscientiously keep out.”
“I see you don’t,” dryly responded Mr. Gryce.
Not appearing to notice the fling conveyed by these words, I took up the letter once more, and began pointing out such half-formed words in it as I thought we might venture to complete, as the Hor — yo — see — utiful — — har — — for — — tramplin — — pable — — serv ——.
This done, I next proposed the introduction of such others as seemed necessary to the sense, as Leavenworth after Horatio; Sir after Dear; have with a possible you before a niece; thorn after Us in the phrase rose has its; on after trampling; whom after to; debt after a; you after If; me ask after believe; beautiful after cruel.
Between the columns of words thus furnished I interposed a phrase or two, here and there, the whole reading upon its completion as follows:
“—————— House.” March 1st, 1876.
“Mr. Horatio Leavenworth; Dear Sir:
“(You) have a niece whom you one too who seems worthy the love and trust of any other man ca so beautiful, so charming is she in face form and conversation. But every rose has its thorn and (this) rose is no exception lovely as she is, charming (as she is,) tender as she is, she is capable of trampling on one who trusted her heart a him to whom she owes a debt of honor a ance
“If you don’t believe me ask her to her cruel beautiful face what is (her) humble servant yours:
“Henry Ritchie Clavering.”
“I think that will do,” said Mr. Gryce. “Its general tenor is evident, and that is all we want at this time.”
“The whole tone of it is anything but complimentary to the lady it mentions,” I remarked. “He must have had, or imagined he had, some desperate grievance, to provoke him to the use of such plain language in regard to one he can still characterize as tender, charming, beautiful.”
“Grievances are apt to lie back of mysterious crimes.”
“I think I know what this one was,” I said; “but”— seeing him look up —“must decline to communicate my suspicion to you for the present. My theory stands unshaken, and in some degree confirmed; and that is all I can say.”
“Then this letter does not supply the link you wanted?”
“No: it is a valuable bit of evidence; but it is not the link I am in search of just now.”
“Yet it must be an important clue, or Eleanore Leavenworth would not have been to such pains, first to take it in the way she did from her uncle’s table, and secondly ——”
“Wait! what makes you think this is the paper she took, or was believed to have taken, from Mr. Leavenworth’s table on that fatal morning?”
“Why, the fact that it was found together with the key, which we know she dropped into the grate, and that there are drops of blood on it.”
I shook my head.
“Why do you shake your head?” asked Mr. Gryce.
“Because I am not satisfied with your reason for believing this to be the paper taken by her from Mr. Leavenworth’s table.”
“Well, first, because Fobbs does not speak of seeing any paper in her hand, when she bent over the fire; leaving us to conclude that these pieces were in the scuttle of coal she threw upon it; which surely you must acknowledge to be a strange place for her to have put a paper she took such pains to gain possession of; and, secondly, for the reason that these scraps were twisted as if they had been used for curl papers, or something of that kind; a fact hard to explain by your hypothesis.”
The detective’s eye stole in the direction of my necktie, which was as near as he ever came to a face. “You are a bright one,” said he; “a very bright one. I quite admire you, Mr. Raymond.”
A little surprised, and not altogether pleased with this unexpected compliment, I regarded him doubtfully for a moment and then asked:
“What is your opinion upon the matter?”
“Oh, you know I have no opinion. I gave up everything of that kind when I put the affair into your hands.”
“That the letter of which these scraps are the remnant was on Mr. Leavenworth’s table at the time of the murder is believed. That upon the body being removed, a paper was taken from the table by Miss Eleanore Leavenworth, is also believed. That, when she found her action had been noticed, and attention called to this paper and the key, she resorted to subterfuge in order to escape the vigilance of the watch that had been set over her, and, partially succeeding in her endeavor, flung the key into the fire from which these same scraps were afterwards recovered, is also known. The conclusion I leave to your judgment.”
“Very well, then,” said I, rising; “we will let conclusions go for the present. My mind must be satisfied in regard to the truth or falsity of a certain theory of mine, for my judgment to be worth much on this or any other matter connected with the affair.”
And, only waiting to get the address of his subordinate P., in case I should need assistance in my investigations, I left Mr. Gryce, and proceeded immediately to the house of Mr. Veeley.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09