The Leavenworth Case HTML version

7. Mary Leavenworth
"For this relief much thanks."
HAVE you ever observed the effect of the sunlight bursting suddenly upon the earth from
behind a mass of heavily surcharged clouds? If so, you can have some idea of the
sensation produced in that room by the entrance of these two beautiful ladies. Possessed
of a loveliness which would have been conspicuous in all places and under all
circumstances, Mary, at least, if not her less striking, though by no means less interesting
cousin, could never have entered any assemblage without drawing to herself the
wondering attention of all present. But, heralded as here, by the most fearful of tragedies,
what could you expect from a collection of men such as I have already described, but
overmastering wonder and incredulous admiration? Nothing, perhaps, and yet at the first
murmuring sound of amazement and satisfaction, I felt my soul recoil in disgust.
Making haste to seat my now trembling companion in the most retired spot I could find, I
looked around for her cousin. But Eleanore Leavenworth, weak as she had appeared in
the interview above, showed at this moment neither hesitation nor embarrassment.
Advancing upon the arm of the detective, whose suddenly assumed air of persuasion in
the presence of the jury was anything but reassuring, she stood for an instant gazing
calmly upon the scene before her. Then bowing to the coroner with a grace and
condescension which seemed at once to place him on the footing of a politely endured
intruder in this home of elegance, she took the seat which her own servants hastened to
procure for her, with an ease and dignity that rather recalled the triumphs of the drawing-
room than the self-consciousness of a scene such as that in which we found ourselves.
Palpable acting, though this was, it was not without its effect. Instantly the murmurs
ceased, the obtrusive glances fell, and something like a forced respect made itself visible
upon the countenances of all present. Even I, impressed as I had been by her very
different demeanor in the room above, experienced a sensation of relief; and was more
than startled when, upon turning to the lady at my side, I beheld her eyes riveted upon her
cousin with an inquiry in their depths that was anything but encouraging. Fearful of the
effect this look might have upon those about us, I hastily seized her hand which, clenched
and unconscious, hung over the edge of her chair, and was about to beseech her to have
care, when her name, called in a slow, impressive way by the coroner, roused her from
her abstraction. Hurriedly withdrawing her gaze from her cousin, she lifted her face to the
jury, and I saw a gleam pass over it which brought back my early fancy of the pythoness.
But it passed, and it was with an expression of great modesty she settled herself to
respond to the demand of the coroner and answer the first few opening inquiries.
But what can express the anxiety of that moment to me? Gentle as she now appeared, she
was capable of great wrath, as I knew. Was she going to reiterate her suspicions here?
Did she hate as well as mistrust her cousin? Would she dare assert in this presence, and
before the world, what she found it so easy to utter in the privacy of her own room and
the hearing of the one person concerned? Did she wish to? Her own countenance gave me