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The Leavenworth Case

6. Side-Lights
"Oh! she has beauty might ensnare
A conqueror's soul, and make him leave his crown
At random, to be scuffled for by slaves."
OTWAY.
THIRD floor, rear room, first door at the head of the stairs! What was I about to
encounter there?
Mounting the lower flight, and shuddering by the library wall, which to my troubled
fancy seemed written all over with horrible suggestions, I took my way slowly up-stairs,
revolving in my mind many things, among which an admonition uttered long ago by my
mother occupied a prominent place.
"My son, remember that a woman with a secret may be a fascinating study, but she can
never be a safe, nor even satisfactory, companion."
A wise saw, no doubt, but totally inapplicable to the present situation; yet it continued to
haunt me till the sight of the door to which I had been directed put every other thought to
flight save that I was about to meet the stricken nieces of a brutally murdered man.
Pausing only long enough on the threshold to compose myself for the interview, I lifted
my hand to knock, when a rich, clear voice rose from within, and I heard distinctly
uttered these astounding words: "I do not accuse your hand, though I know of none other
which would or could have done this deed; but your heart, your head, your will, these I
do and must accuse, in my secret mind at least; and it is well that you should know it!"
Struck with horror, I staggered back, my hands to my ears, when a touch fell on my arm,
and turning, I saw Mr. Gryce standing close beside me, with his finger on his lip, and the
last flickering shadow of a flying emotion fading from his steady, almost compassionate
countenance.
"Come, come," he exclaimed; "I see you don't begin to know what kind of a world you
are living in. Rouse yourself; remember they are waiting down below."
"But who is it? Who was it that spoke?"
"That we shall soon see." And without waiting to meet, much less answer, my appealing
look, he struck his hand against the door, and flung it wide open.
Instantly a flush of lovely color burst upon us. Blue curtains, blue carpets, blue walls. It
was like a glimpse of heavenly azure in a spot where only darkness and gloom were to be
expected. Fascinated by the sight, I stepped impetuously forward, but instantly paused
again, overcome and impressed by the exquisite picture I saw before me.
 
 
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