The Leavenworth Case
32. Mrs. Belden's Narrative
"Cursed, destructive Avarice,
Thou everlasting foe to Love and Honor."
"Mischief never thrives
Without the help of Woman.
IT will be a year next July since I first saw Mary Leavenworth. J was living at that time a
most monotonous existence. Loving what was beautiful, hating what was sordid, drawn
by nature towards all that was romantic and uncommon, but doomed by my straitened
position and the loneliness of my widowhood to spend my days in the weary round of
plain sewing, I had begun to think that the shadow of a humdrum old age was settling
down upon me, when one morning, in the full tide of my dissatisfaction, Mary
Leavenworth stepped across the threshold of my door and, with one smile, changed the
whole tenor of my life.
This may seem exaggeration to you, especially when I say that her errand was simply one
of business, she having heard I was handy with my needle; but if you could have seen her
as she appeared that day, marked the look with which she approached me, and the smile
with which she left, you would pardon the folly of a romantic old woman, who beheld a
fairy queen in this lovely young lady. The fact is, I was dazzled by her beauty and her
charms. And when, a few days after, she came again, and crouching down on the stool at
my feet, said she was so tired of the gossip and tumult down at the hotel, that it was a
relief to run away and hide with some one who would let her act like the child she was, I
experienced for the moment, I believe, the truest happiness of my life. Meeting her
advances with all the warmth her manner invited, I found her ere long listening eagerly
while I told her, almost without my own volition, the story of my past life, in the form of
an amusing allegory.
The next day saw her in the same place; and the next; always with the eager, laughing
eyes, and the fluttering, uneasy hands, that grasped everything they touched, and broke
everything they grasped.
But the fourth day she was not there, nor the fifth, nor the sixth, and I was beginning to
feel the old shadow settling back upon me, when one night, just as the dusk of twilight
was merging into evening gloom, she came stealing in at the front door, and, creeping up
to my side, put her hands over my eyes with such a low, ringing laugh, that I started.
"You don't know what to make of me!" she cried, throwing aside her cloak, and revealing
herself in the full splendor of evening attire. "I don't know what to make of myself.
Though it seems folly, I felt that I must run away and tell some one that a certain pair of
eyes have been looking into mine, and that for the first time in my life I feel myself a