The Leavenworth Case HTML version

33. Unexpected Testimony
Pol. What do you read, my lord?
Ham. Words, words, words.
MRS. BELDEN paused, lost in the sombre shadow which these words were calculated to
evoke, and a short silence fell upon the room. It was broken by my asking for some
account of the occurrence she had just mentioned, it being considered a mystery how
Hannah could have found entrance into her house without the knowledge of the
"Well," said she, "it was a chilly night, and I had gone to bed early (I was sleeping then in
the room off this) when, at about a quarter to one--the last train goes through R---- at
12.50--there came a low knock on the window-pane at the head of my bed. Thinking that
some of the neighbors were sick, I hurriedly rose on my elbow and asked who was there.
The answer came in low, muffled tones, 'Hannah, Miss Leavenworth's girl! Please let me
in at the kitchen door.' Startled at hearing the well-known voice, and fearing I knew not
what, I caught up a lamp and hurried round to the door. 'Is any one with you?' I asked.
'No,' she replied. 'Then come in.' But no sooner had she done so than my strength failed
me, and I had to sit down, for I saw she looked very pale and strange, was without
baggage, and altogether had the appearance of some wandering spirit. 'Hannah!' I gasped,
' what is it? what has happened? what brings you here in this condition and at this time of
night?' 'Miss Leavenworth has sent me,' she replied, in the low, monotonous tone of one
repeating a lesson by rote. 'She told me to come here; said you would keep me. I am not
to go out of the house, and no one is to know I am here.' 'But why?' I asked, trembling
with a thousand undefined fears; 'what has occurred?' 'I dare not say,' she whispered; 'I
am forbid; I am just to stay here, and keep quiet.' 'But,' I began, helping her to take off
her shawl,--the dingy blanket advertised for in the papers--'you must tell me. She surely
did not forbid you to tell me?' 'Yes she did; every one,' the girl replied, growing white in
her persistence, 'and I never break my word; fire couldn't draw it out of me.' She looked
so determined, so utterly unlike herself, as I remembered her in the meek, unobtrusive
days of our old acquaintance, that I could do nothing but stare at her. 'You will keep me,'
she said; 'you will not turn me away?' 'No,' I said, 'I will not turn you away.' 'And tell no
one?' she went on. 'And tell no one,' I repeated.
"This seemed to relieve her. Thanking me, she quietly followed me up-stairs. I put her
into the room in which you found her, because it was the most secret one in the house;
and there she has remained ever since, satisfied and contented, as far as I could see, till
this very same horrible day."
"And is that all?" I asked. "Did you have no explanation with her afterwards? Did she
never give you any information in regard to the transactions which led to her flight?"