The Leavenworth Case
8. Circumstantial Evidence
"O dark, dark, dark!"
AND now that the interest was at its height, that the veil which shrouded this horrible
tragedy seemed about to be lifted, if not entirely withdrawn, I felt a desire to fly the
scene, to leave the spot, to know no more. Not that I was conscious of any particular fear
of this woman betraying herself. The cold steadiness of her now fixed and impassive
countenance was sufficient warranty in itself against the possibility of any such
catastrophe. But if, indeed, the suspicions of her cousin were the offspring, not only of
hatred, but of knowledge; if that face of beauty was in truth only a mask, and Eleanore
Leavenworth was what the words of her cousin, and her own after behavior would seem
to imply, how could I bear to sit there and see the frightful serpent of deceit and sin
evolve itself from the bosom of this white rose! And yet, such is the fascination of
uncertainty that, although I saw something of my own feelings reflected in the
countenances of many about me, not a man in all that assemblage showed any disposition
to depart, I least of all.
The coroner, upon whom the blonde loveliness of Mary had impressed itself to Eleanor's
apparent detriment, was the only one in the room who showed himself unaffected at this
moment. Turning toward the witness with a look which, while respectful, had a touch of
austerity in it, he began:
"You have been an intimate of Mr. Leavenworth's family from childhood, they tell me,
"From my tenth year," was her quiet reply.
It was the first time I had heard her voice, and it surprised me; it was so like, and yet so
unlike, that of her cousin. Similar in tone, it lacked its expressiveness, if I may so speak;
sounding without vibration on the ear, and ceasing without an echo.
"Since that time you have been treated like a daughter, they tell me?"
"Yes, sir, like a daughter, indeed; he was more than a father to both of us."
"You and Miss Mary Leavenworth are cousins, I believe. When did she enter the
"At the same time I did. Our respective parents were victims of the same disaster. If it
had not been for our uncle, we should have been thrown, children as we were, upon the
world. But he"--here she paused, her firm lips breaking into a half tremble--"but he, in the
goodness of his heart, adopted us into his family, and gave us what we had both lost, a
father and a home."