The Leavenworth Case
13. The Problem
"But who would force the soul, tilts with a straw
Against a champion cased in adamant."
WHEN we re-entered the parlor below, the first sight that met our eyes was Mary,
standing wrapped in her long cloak in the centre of the room. She had arrived during our
absence, and now awaited us with lifted head and countenance fixed in its proudest
expression. looking in her face, I realized what the embarrassment of this meeting must
be to these women, and would have retreated, but something in the attitude of Mary
Leavenworth seemed to forbid my doing so. At the same time, determined that the
opportunity should not pass without some sort of reconcilement between them, I stepped
forward, and, bowing to Mary, said:
"Your cousin has just succeeded in convincing me of her entire innocence, Miss
Leavenworth. I am now ready to join Mr. Gryce, heart and soul, in finding out the true
"I should have thought one look into Eleanore Leavenworth's face would have been
enough to satisfy you that she is incapable of crime," was her unexpected answer; and,
lifting her head with a proud gesture, Mary Leavenworth fixed her eyes steadfastly on
I felt the blood flash to my brow, but before I could speak, her voice rose again still more
coldly than before.
"It is hard for a delicate girl, unused to aught but the most flattering expressions of
regard, to be obliged to assure the world of her innocence in respect to the committal of a
great crime. Eleanore has my sympathy." And sweeping her cloak from her shoulders
with a quick gesture, she turned her gaze for the first time upon her cousin.
Instantly Eleanore advanced, as if to meet it; and I could not but feel that, for some
reason, this moment possessed an importance for them which I was scarcely competent to
measure. But if I found myself unable to realize its significance, I at least responded to its
intensity. And indeed it was an occasion to remember. To behold two such women, either
of whom might be considered the model of her time, face to face and drawn up in evident
antagonism, was a sight to move the dullest sensibilities. But there was something more
in this scene than that. It was the shock of all the most passionate emotions of the human
soul; the meeting of waters of whose depth and force I could only guess by the effect.
Eleanore was the first to recover. Drawing back with the cold haughtiness which, alas, I
had almost forgotten in the display of later and softer emotions, she exclaimed:
"There is something better than sympathy, and that is justice"; and turned, as if to go. "I
will confer with you in the reception room, Mr. Raymond."