The Leavenworth Case HTML version

30. Burned Paper
"I could have better spared a better man."
--Henry IV.
I DO not think I called immediately for help. The awful shock of this discovery, coming
as it did at the very moment life and hope were strongest within me; the sudden downfall
which it brought of all the plans based upon this woman's expected testimony; and, worst
of all, the dread coincidence between this sudden death and the exigency in which the
guilty party, whoever it was, was supposed to be at that hour were much too appalling for
instant action. I could only stand and stare at the quiet face before me, smiling in its
peaceful rest as if death were pleasanter than we think, and marvel over the providence
which had brought us renewed fear instead of relief, complication instead of
enlightenment, disappointment instead of realization. For eloquent as is death, even on
the faces of those unknown and unloved by us, the causes and consequences of this one
were much too important to allow the mind to dwell upon the pathos of the scene itself.
Hannah, the girl, was lost in Hannah the witness.
But gradually, as I gazed, the look of expectation which I perceived hovering about the
wistful mouth and half-open lids attracted me, and I bent above her with a more personal
interest, asking myself if she were quite dead, and whether or not immediate medical
assistance would be of any avail. But the more closely I looked, the more certain I
became that she had been dead for some hours; and the dismay occasioned by this
thought, taken with the regrets which I must ever feel, that I had not adopted the bold
course the evening before, and, by forcing my way to the hiding-place of this poor
creature, interrupted, if not prevented the consummation of her fate, startled me into a
realization of my present situation; and, leaving her side, I went into the next room, threw
up the window, and fastened to the blind the red handkerchief which I had taken the
precaution to bring with me.
Instantly a young man, whom I was fain to believe Q, though he bore not the least
resemblance, either in dress or facial expression to any renderings of that youth which I
had yet seen, emerged from the tinsmith's house, and approached the one I was in.
Observing him cast a hurried glance in my direction, I crossed the floor, and stood
awaiting him at the head of the stairs.
"Well?" he whispered, upon entering the house and meeting my glance from below;
"have you seen her?"
"Yes," I returned bitterly, "I have seen her!"
He hurriedly mounted to my side. "And she has confessed?"