The Leavenworth Case HTML version

29. The Missing Witness
"I fled and cried out death."
The voice was low and searching; it reached me in my dreams, waked me, and caused me
to look up. Morning had begun to break, and by its light I saw, standing in the open door
leading into the dining-room, the forlorn figure of the tramp who had been admitted into
the house the night before. Angry and perplexed, I was about to bid her be gone, when, to
my great surprise, she pulled out a red handkerchief from her pocket, and I recognized Q.
"Read that," said he, hastily advancing and putting a slip of paper into my hand. And,
without another word or look, left the room, closing the door behind him.
Rising in considerable agitation, I took it to the window, and by the rapidly increasing
light, succeeded in making out the rudely scrawled lines as follows:
"She is here; I have seen her; in the room marked with a cross in the accompanying plan.
Wait till eight o'clock, then go up. I will contrive some means of getting Mrs. B---- out of
the house."
Sketched below this was the following plan of the upper floor:
Hannah, then, was in the small back room over the dining-room, and I had not been
deceived in thinking I had heard steps overhead, the evening before. Greatly relieved, and
yet at the same time much moved at the near prospect of being brought face to face with
one who we had every reason to believe was acquainted with the dreadful secret involved
in the Leavenworth murder, I lay down once more, and endeavored to catch another
hour's rest. But I soon gave up the effort in despair, and contented myself with listening
to the sounds of awakening life which now began to make themselves heard in the house
and neighborhood.
As Q had closed the door after him, I could only faintly hear Mrs. Belden when she came
down-stairs. But the short, surprised exclamation which she uttered upon reaching the
kitchen and finding the tramp gone and the back-door wide open, came plainly enough to
my ears, and for a moment I was not sure but that Q had made a mistake in thus leaving
so unceremoniously. But he had not studied Mrs. Belden's character in vain. As she
came, in the course of her preparations for breakfast, into the room adjoining mine, I
could hear her murmur to herself:
"Poor thing! She has lived so long in the fields and at the roadside, she finds it unnatural
to be cooped up in the house all night."