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The Leavenworth Case

31. Thereby Hangs A Tale
--Taming of the Shrew.
"IT was all a hoax; nobody was ill; I have been imposed upon, meanly imposed upon!"
And Mrs. Belden, flushed and panting, entered the room where I was, and proceeded to
take off her bonnet; but whilst doing so paused, and suddenly exclaimed: "What is the
matter? How you look at me! Has anything happened?"
"Something very serious has occurred," I replied; "you have been gone but a little while,
but in that time a discovery has been made--" I purposely paused here that the suspense
might elicit from her some betrayal; but, though she turned pale, she manifested less
emotion than I expected, and I went on--"which is likely to produce very important
consequences."
To my surprise she burst violently into tears. "I knew it, I knew it!" she murmured. "I
always said it would be impossible to keep it secret if I let anybody into the house; she is
so restless. But I forget," she suddenly said, with a frightened look; "you haven't told me
what the discovery was. Perhaps it isn't what I thought; perhaps----"
I did not hesitate to interrupt her. "Mrs. Belden," I said, "I shall not try to mitigate the
blow. A woman who, in the face of the most urgent call from law and justice, can receive
into her house and harbor there a witness of such importance as Hannah, cannot stand in
need of any great preparation for hearing that her efforts, have been too successful, that
she has accomplished her design of suppressing valuable testimony, that law and justice
are outraged, and that the innocent woman whom this girl's evidence might have saved
stands for ever compromised in the eyes of the world, if not in those of the officers of the
law."
Her eyes, which had never left me during this address, flashed wide with dismay.
"What do you mean?" she cried. "I have intended no wrong; I have only tried to save
people. I--I--But who are you? What have you got to do with all this? What is it to you
what I do or don't do? You said you were a lawyer. Can it be you are come from Mary
Leavenworth to see how I am fulfilling her commands, and----"
"Mrs. Belden," I said, "it is of small importance now as to who I am, or for what purpose
I am here. But that my words may have the more effect, I will say, that whereas I have
not deceived you, either as to my name or position, it is true that I am the friend of the
Misses Leavenworth, and that anything which is likely to affect them, is of interest to me.
When, therefore, I say that Eleanore Leavenworth is irretrievably injured by this gill's
death----"
"Death? What do you mean? Death!"
 
 
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