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Here, just as the story began to appear in faint outline, my discoveries stopped for a while. I ascertained the breadth of the original note by a part of the middle-crease which remained, filled out the torn part with blank paper, completed the divided words in the same character of manuscript) and endeavored to guess the remainder, but no clairvoyant power of divination came to my aid. I turned over the letters again, remarking the neatness with which the addresses had been cut off, and wondering why the man had not destroyed the letters and other memoranda entirely, if he wished to hide a possible crime. The fact that they were not destroyed showed the hold which his past life had had upon him even to his dying hour. Weak and vain, as I had already suspected him to be,--wanting in all manly fibre, and of the very material which a keen, energetic villain would mould to his needs,--I felt that his love for his sister and for "Helmine," and other associations connected with his life in Germany and Poland, had made him cling to these worn records.
I know not what gave me the suspicion that he had not even found the heart to destroy the exscinded names; perhaps the care with which they had been removed; perhaps, in two instances, the circumstance of their taking words out of the body of the letters with them. But the suspicion came, and led to a re-examination of the leathern wallets. I could scarcely believe my eyes, when feeling something rustle faintly as I pressed the thin lining of an inner pocket, I drew forth three or four small pellets of paper, and unrolling them, found the lost addresses! I fitted them to the vacant places, and found that the first letters of the sister in Breslau had been forwarded to "Otto Lindenschmidt," while the letter to Poland was addressed "Otto von Herisau."
I warmed with this success, which exactly tallied with the previous discoveries, and returned again to the Polish memoranda The words "[Rus]sian officers" in "Jean's" note led me to notice that it had been written towards the close of the last insurrection in Poland-- a circumstance which I immediately coupled with some things in the note and on the leaf of the journal. "No tidings of Y" might indicate that Count Kasincsky had been concerned in the rebellion, and had fled, or been taken prisoner. Had he left a large amount of funds in the hands of the supposed Otto von Herisau, which were drawn from time to time by orders, the form of which had been previously agreed upon? Then, when he had disappeared, might it not have been the remaining funds which Jean urged Otto to divide with him, while the latter, misled and entangled in deception rather than naturally dishonest, held back from such a step? I could hardly doubt so much, and it now required but a slight effort of the imagination to complete the torn note.
The next letter of the sister was addressed to Bremen. After having established so many particulars, I found it easily intelligible. "I have done what I can," she wrote. "I put it in this letter; it is all I have. But do not ask me for money again; mother is ailing most of the time, and I have not yet dared to tell her all. I shall suffer great anxiety until I hear that the vessel has sailed. My mistress is very good; she has given me an advance on my wages, or I could not have sent thee any thing. Mother thinks thou art still in Leipzig: why didst thou stay there so long? but no difference; thy money would have gone anyhow."
It was nevertheless singular that Otto should be without money, so soon after the appropriation of Count Kasincsky's funds. If the "20" in the first memorandum on the leaf meant "twenty thousand rubles," as I conjectured, and but four thousand two hundred were drawn by the Count previous to his flight or imprisonment, Otto's half of the remainder would amount to nearly eight thousand rubles; and it was, therefore, not easy to account for his delay in Leipzig, and his destitute condition.
Before examining the fragments relating to the American phase of his life,--which illustrated his previous history only by occasional revelations of his moods and feelings,--I made one more effort to guess the cause of his having assumed the name of "Von Herisau." The initials signed to the order for the ring ("B. V. H.") certainly stood for the same family name; and the possession of papers belonging to one of the family was an additional evidence that Otto had either been in the service of, or was related to, some Von Herisau. Perhaps a sentence in one of the sister's letters--"Forget thy disappointment so far as _I_ am concerned, for I never expected any thing"--referred to something of the kind. On the whole, service seemed more likely than kinship; but in that case the papers must have been stolen.
I had endeavored, from the start, to keep my sympathies out of the investigation, lest they should lead me to misinterpret the broken evidence, and thus defeat my object. It must have been the Countess' letter, and the brief, almost stenographic, signs of anxiety and unhappiness on the leaf of the journal, that first beguiled me into a commiseration, which the simple devotion and self-sacrifice of the poor, toiling sister failed to neutralize. However, I detected the feeling at this stage of the examination, and turned to the American records, in order to get rid of it.
The principal paper was the list of addresses of which I have spoken. I looked over it in vain, to find some indication of its purpose; yet it had been carefully made out and much used. There was no name of a person upon it,--only numbers and streets, one hundred and thirty-eight in all. Finally, I took these, one by one, to ascertain if any of the houses were known to me, and found three, out of the whole number, to be the residences of persons whom I knew. One was a German gentleman, and the other two were Americans who had visited Germany. The riddle was read! During a former residence in New York, I had for a time been quite overrun by destitute Germans,--men, apparently, of some culture, who represented themselves as theological students, political refugees, or unfortunate clerks and secretaries,--soliciting assistance. I found that, when I gave to one, a dozen others came within the next fortnight; when I refused, the persecution ceased for about the same length of time. I became convinced, at last, that these persons were members of an organized society of beggars, and the result proved it; for when I made it an inviolable rule to give to no one who could not bring me an indorsement of his need by some person whom I knew, the annoyance ceased altogether.
The meaning of the list of addresses was now plain. My nascent commiseration for the man was not only checked, but I was in danger of changing my role from that of culprit's counsel to that of prosecuting attorney.
When I took up again the fragment of the first draught of a letter commencing, "Dog and villain!" and applied it to the words "Jean" or "Johann Helm," the few lines which could be deciphered became full of meaning. "Don't think," it began, "that I have forgotten you, or the trick you played me! If I was drunk or drugged the last night, I know how it happened, for all that. I left, but I shall go back. And if you make use of "(here some words were entirely obliterated) . . . . "is true. He gave me the ring, and meant" . . . . This was all I could make out. The other papers showed only scattered memoranda, of money, or appointments, or addresses, with the exception of the diary in pencil.
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Beauty and the Beast, and Tales From Home -by- Bayard Taylor