The Leavenworth Case
36. Gathered Threads
"This is the short and the long of it."
--Merry Wives of Windsor.
PROMPTLY at the hour named, I made my appearance at Mr. Gryce's door. I found him
awaiting me on the threshold.
"I have met you," said he gravely, "for the purpose of requesting you not to speak during
the coming interview. I am to do the talking; you the listening. Neither are you to be
surprised at anything I may do or say. I am in a facetious mood"--he did not look so--
"and may take it into my head to address you by another name than your own. If I do,
don't mind it. Above all, don't talk: remember that." And without waiting to meet my look
of doubtful astonishment, he led me softly up-stairs.
The room in which I had been accustomed to meet him was at the top of the first flight,
but he took me past that into what appeared to be the garret story, where, after many
cautionary signs, he ushered me into a room of singularly strange and unpromising
appearance. In the first place, it was darkly gloomy, being lighted simply by a very dim
and dirty skylight. Next, it was hideously empty; a pine table and two hard-backed chairs,
set face to face at each end of it, being the only articles in the room. Lastly, it was
surrounded by several closed doors with blurred and ghostly ventilators over their tops
which, being round, looked like the blank eyes of a row of staring mummies. Altogether
it was a lugubrious spot, and in the present state of my mind made me feel as if
something unearthly and threatening lay crouched in the very atmosphere. Nor, sitting
there cold and desolate, could I imagine that the sunshine glowed without, or that life,
beauty, and pleasure paraded the streets below.
Mr. Gryce's expression, as he took a seat and beckoned me to do the same, may have had
something to do with this strange sensation, it was so mysteriously and sombrely
"You'll not mind the room," said he, in so muffled a tone I scarcely heard him. "It's an
awful lonesome spot, I know; but folks with such matters before them mustn't be too
particular as to the places in which they hold their consultations, if they don't want all the
world to know as much as they do. Smith," and he gave me an admonitory shake of his
finger, while his voice took a more distinct tone, "I have done the business; the reward is
mine; the assassin of Mr. Leavenworth is found, and in two hours will be in custody. Do
you want to know who it is?" leaning forward with every appearance of eagerness in tone
I stared at him in great amazement. Had anything new come to light? any great change
taken place in his conclusions? All this preparation could not be for the purpose of
acquainting me with what I already knew, yet--