The Leavenworth Case
28. A Weird Experience
"Flat burglary an ever was committed."
--Much Ado about Nothing.
THE first thing I did was to inspect with greater care the room in which I sat.
It was a pleasant apartment, as I have already said; square, sunny, and well furnished. On
the floor was a crimson carpet, on the walls several pictures, at the windows, cheerful
curtains of white, tastefully ornamented with ferns and autumn leaves; in one corner an
old melodeon, and in the centre of the room a table draped with a bright cloth, on which
were various little knick-knacks which, without being rich or expensive, were both pretty
and, to a certain extent, ornamental. But it was not these things, which I had seen
repeated in many other country homes, that especially attracted my attention, or drew me
forward in the slow march which I now undertook around the room. It was the something
underlying all these, the evidences which I found, or sought to find, not only in the
general aspect of the room, but in each trivial object I encountered, of the character,
disposition, and history of the woman with whom I now had to deal. It was for this reason
I studied the daguerreotypes on the mantel-piece, the books on the shelf, and the music
on the rack; for this and the still further purpose of noting if any indications were to be
found of there being in the house any such person as Hannah.
First then, for the little library, which I was pleased to see occupied one corner of the
room. Composed of a few well-chosen books, poetical, historical, and narrative, it was of
itself sufficient to account for the evidences of latent culture observable in Mrs. Belden's
conversation. Taking out a well-worn copy of Byron, I opened it. There were many
passages marked, and replacing the book with a mental comment upon her evident
impressibility to the softer emotions, I turned towards the melodeon fronting me from the
opposite wall. It was closed, but on its neatly-covered top lay one or two hymn-books, a
basket of russet apples, and a piece of half-completed knitting work.
I took up the latter, but was forced to lay it down again without a notion for what it was
intended. Proceeding, I next stopped before a window opening upon the small yard that
ran about the house, and separated it from the one adjoining. The scene without failed to
attract me, but the window itself drew my attention, for, written with a diamond point on
one of the panes, I perceived a row of letters which, as nearly as I could make out, were
meant for some word or words, but which utterly failed in sense or apparent connection.
Passing it by as the work of some school-girl, I glanced down at the work-basket standing
on a table at my side. It was full of various kinds of work, among which I spied a pair of
stockings, which were much too small, as well as in too great a state of disrepair, to
belong to Mrs. Belden; and drawing them carefully out, I examined them for any name
on them. Do not start when I say I saw the letter H plainly marked upon them. Thrusting
them back, I drew a deep breath of relief, gazing, as I did so, out of the window, when
those letters again attracted my attention.