He looked into my eyes and then thrust out his hand.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll not ask any questions. I guess there are some curious stories hidden in these old houses.”
Peter hobbled to the front door with him. He had not gone so far as the parlor once while Mr. Ladley was in the house.
* * * * *
They had had a sale of spring flowers at the store that day, and Mr. Reynolds had brought me a pot of white tulips. That night I hung my mother’s picture over the mantel in the dining-room, and put the tulips beneath it. It gave me a feeling of comfort; I had never seen my mother’s grave, or put flowers on it.
I have said before that I do not know anything about the law. I believe that the Ladley case was unusual, in several ways. Mr. Ladley had once been well known in New York among the people who frequent the theaters, and Jennie Brice was even better known. A good many lawyers, I believe, said that the police had not a leg to stand on, and I know the case was watched with much interest by the legal profession. People wrote letters to the newspapers, protesting against Mr. Ladley being held. And I believe that the district attorney, in taking him before the grand jury, hardly hoped to make a case.
But he did, to his own surprise, I fancy, and the trial was set for May. But in the meantime, many curious things happened.
In the first place, the week following Mr. Ladley’s arrest my house was filled up with eight or ten members of a company from the Gaiety Theater, very cheerful and jolly, and well behaved. Three men, I think, and the rest girls. One of the men was named Bellows, John Bellows, and it turned out that he had known Jennie Brice very well.
From the moment he learned that, Mr. Holcombe hardly left him. He walked to the theater with him and waited to walk home again. He took him out to restaurants and for long street-car rides in the mornings, and on the last night of their stay, Saturday, they got gloriously drunk together—Mr. Holcombe, no doubt, in his character of Ladley—and came reeling in at three in the morning, singing. Mr. Holcombe was very sick the next day, but by Monday he was all right, and he called me into the room.
“We’ve got him, Mrs. Pitman,” he said, looking mottled but cheerful. “As sure as God made little fishes, we’ve got him.” That was all he would say, however. It seemed he was going to New York, and might be gone for a month. “I’ve no family,” he said, “and enough money to keep me. If I find my relaxation in hunting down criminals, it’s a harmless and cheap amusement, and—it’s my own business.”