The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green
Book II. Henry Clavering
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 the will.
"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 before him.
"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 worth's book?"
"How did you learn that?"
He only smiled.
"Yes," said I; "Miss Leavenworth has requested me to do her that little favor."
"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 gentleman?
"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 afterwards?"
"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 one's life?"
"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.