The Leavenworth Case
24. 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?"