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The Filigree Ball
Anna Katherine Green



CONTENTS:

BOOK I - THE FORBIDDEN ROOM

I      "THE MOORE HOUSE?"
II     I ENTER
III    I REMAIN
IV     SIGNED, VERONICA
V      MASTER AND DOG
VI     GOSSIP
VII    SLY WORK
VIII   SLYER WORK
IX     JINNY
X      FRANCIS JEFFREY

BOOK II - THE LAW AND ITS VICTIM

XI     DETAILS
XII    THRUST AND PARRY
X1II   CHIEFLY THRUST
XIV    "LET US HAVE TALLMAN!"
XV     WHITE BOW AND PINK
XVI    AN EGOTIST OF THE FIRST WATER
XVII   A FRESH START
XVIII  IN THE GRASS

BOOK III -  - THE HOUSE OF DOOM

XIX    IN TAMPA
XX     "THE COLONEL'S OWN"
XXI    THE HEART OF THE PUZZLE
XXII   A THREAD IN HAND
XXIII  WORDS IN THE NIGHT
XXIV   TANTALIZING TACTICS
XXV    "WHO WILL TELL THE MAN!"
XXVI   RUDGE
XXVII  "YOU HAVE COME!"


* * * * *


BOOK I - THE FORBIDDEN ROOM



I - "THE MOORE HOUSE?  ARE YOU SPEAKING OF THE MOORE HOUSE?"


For a detective whose talents, had not been recognized at
headquarters, I possessed an ambition which, fortunately for my
standing with the lieutenant of the precinct, had not yet been
expressed in words.  Though I had small reason for expecting great
things of myself, I had always cherished the hope that if a big
case came my way I should be found able to do something with it
something more, that is, than I had seen accomplished by the
police of the District of Columbia since I had had the honor of
being one of their number.  Therefore, when I found myself plunged,
almost without my own volition, into the Jeffrey Moore affair, I
believed that the opportunity had come whereby I might distinguish
myself.

It had complications, this Jeffrey-Moore affair; greater ones than
the public ever knew, keen as the interest in it ran both in and
out of Washington.  This is why I propose to tell the story of this
great tragedy from my own standpoint, even if in so doing I risk
the charge of attempting to exploit my own connection with this
celebrated case.  In its course I encountered as many disappointments
as triumphs, and brought out of the affair a heart as sore as it was
satisfied; for I am a lover of women and -

But I am keeping you from the story itself.

I was at the station-house the night Uncle David came in.  He was
always called Uncle David, even by the urchins who followed him in
the street; so I am showing him no disrespect, gentleman though he
is, by giving him a title which as completely characterized him in
those days, as did his moody ways, his quaint attire and the
persistence with which he kept at his side his great mastiff, Rudge.
I had long since heard of the old gentleman as one of the most
interesting residents of the precinct.  I had even seen him more
than once on the avenue, but I had never before been brought face
to face with him, and consequently had much too superficial a
knowledge of his countenance to determine offhand whether the
uneasy light in his small gray eyes was natural to them, or simply
the result of present excitement.  But when he began to talk I
detected an unmistakable tremor in his tones, and decided that he
was in a state of suppressed agitation; though he appeared to have
nothing more alarming to impart than the fact that he had seen a
light burning in some house presumably empty.

It was all so trivial that I gave him but scant attention till he
let a name fall which caused me to prick up my ears and even to
put in a word.  "The Moore house," he had said.

"The Moore house?" I repeated in amazement.  "Are you speaking of
the Moore house?"

A thousand recollections came with the name.

"What other?" he grumbled, directing toward me a look as keen as it
was impatient.  "Do you think that I would bother myself long about
a house I had no interest in, or drag Rudge from his warm rug to
save some ungrateful neighbor from a possible burglary?  No, it is
my house which some rogue has chosen to enter.  That is," he suavely
corrected, as he saw surprise in every eye, "the house which the law
will give me, if anything ever happens to that chit of a girl whom
my brother left behind him."

Growling some words at the dog, who showed a decided inclination to
lie down where he was, the old man made for the door and in another
moment would have been in the street, if I had not stepped after him.

"You are a Moore and live in or near that old house?" I asked.

The surprise with which he met this question daunted me a little.

"How long have you been in Washington, I should like to ask?" was
his acrid retort.

"0h, some five months."

His good nature, or what passed for such in this irascible old man,
returned in an instant; and he curtly but not unkindly remarked:

"You haven't learned much in that time."  Then, with a nod more
ceremonious than many another man's bow, he added, with sudden
dignity: "I am of the elder branch an live in the cottage fronting
the old place.  I am the only resident on the block.  When you have
lived here longer you will know why that especial neighborhood is
not a favorite one with those who can not boast of the Moore blood.
For the present, let us attribute the bad name that it holds to
 - malaria."  And with a significant hitch of his lean shoulders
which set in undulating motion every fold of the old-fashioned
cloak he wore, he started again for the door.

But my curiosity was by this time roused to fever heat.  I knew
more about this house than he gave me credit for.  No one who had
read the papers of late, much less a man connected with the police,
could help being well informed in all the details of its remarkable
history.  What I had failed to know was his close relationship to
the family whose name for the last two weeks had been in every mouth.

"Wait!" I called out.  "You say that you live opposite the Moore
house.  You can then tell me -"

But he had no mind to stop for any gossip.

"It was all in the papers," he called back.  "Read them.  But first
be sure to find out who has struck a light in the house that we all
know has not even a caretaker in it."

It was good advice.  My duty and my curiosity both led me to follow
it.

Perhaps you have heard of the distinguishing feature of this house;
if so, you do not need my explanations.  But if, for any reason,
you are ignorant of the facts which within a very short time have
set a final seal of horror upon this old, historic dwelling, then
you will be glad to read what has made and will continue to make the
Moore house in Washington one to be pointed at in daylight and
shunned after dark, not only by superstitious colored folk, but by
all who are susceptible to the most ordinary emotions of fear and
dread.

It was standing when Washington was a village.  It antedates the
Capitol and the White House.  Built by a man of wealth, it bears to
this day the impress of the large ideas and quiet elegance of
colonial times; but the shadow which speedily fell across it made
it a marked place even in those early days.  While it has always
escaped the hackneyed epithet of "haunted," families that have moved
in have as quickly moved out, giving as their excuse that no
happiness was to be found there and that sleep was impossible under
its roof.  That there was some reason for this lack of rest within
walls which were not without their tragic reminiscences, all must
acknowledge.  Death had often occurred there, and while this fact
can be stated in regard to most old houses, it is not often that
one can say, as in this case, that it was invariably sudden and
invariably of one character.  A lifeless man, lying outstretched on
a certain hearthstone, might be found once in a house and awaken no
special comment; but when this same discovery has been made twice,
if not thrice, during the history of a single dwelling, one might
surely be pardoned a distrust of its seemingly home-like
appointments, and discern in its slowly darkening walls the
presence of an evil which if left to itself might perish in the
natural decay of the e place, but which, if met and challenged,
might strike again and make another blot on its thrice-crimsoned
hearthstone.

But these are old fables which I should hardly, presume to mention,
had it not been for the recent occurrence which has recalled them
to all men's minds and given to this long empty and slowly crumbling
building an importance which has spread its fame from one end of
the country to the other.  I refer to the tragedy attending the
wedding lately celebrated there.

Veronica Moore, rich, pretty and wilful, had long cherished a
strange liking for this frowning old home of her ancestors, and,
at the most critical time of her life, conceived the idea of proving
to herself and to society at large that no real ban lay upon it save
in the imagination of the superstitious.  So, being about to marry
the choice of her young heart, she caused this house to be opened
for the wedding ceremony; with what result, you know.

Though the occasion was a joyous one and accompanied by all that
could give cheer to such a function, it had not escaped the
old-time shadow.  One of the guests straying into the room of
ancient and unhallowed memory, the one room which had not been
thrown open to the crowd, had been found within five minutes of
the ceremony lying on its dolorous hearthstone, dead; and though
the bride was spared a knowledge of the dreadful fact till the
holy words were said, a panic had seized the guests and emptied
the houses suddenly and completely as though the plague had been
discovered there.

This is why I hastened to follow Uncle David when he told me that
all was not right in this house of tragic memories.




II

I ENTER


Though past seventy, Uncle David was a brisk walker, and on this
night in particular he sped along so fast that he was half-way down
H Street by the time I had turned the corner at New Hampshire Avenue.

His gaunt but not ungraceful figure, merged in that of the dog
trotting closely at his heels, was the only moving object in the
dreary vista of this the most desolate block in Washington.  As I
neared the building, I was so impressed by the surrounding stillness
that I was ready to vow that the shadows were denser here than
elsewhere and that the few gas lamps, which flickered at intervals
down the street, shone with a more feeble ray than in any other equal
length of street in Washington.

Meanwhile, the shadow of Uncle David had vanished from the pavement.
He had paused beside a fence which, hung with vines, surrounded and
nearly hid from sight the little cottage he had mentioned as the
only house on the block with the exception of the great Moore place;
in other words, his own home.

As I came abreast of him I heard him muttering, not to his dog as
was his custom, but to himself.  In fact, the dog was not to be seen,
and this desertion on the part of his constant companion seemed to
add to his disturbance and affect him beyond all reason.  I could
distinguish these words amongst the many he directed toward the
unseen animal:

"You're a knowing one, too knowing!  You see that loosened shutter
over the way as plainly as I do; but you're a coward to slink away
from it.  I don't.  I face the thing, and what's more, I'll show
you yet what I think of a dog that can't stand his ground and help
his old master out with some show of courage.  Creaks, does it?
Well, let it creak!  I don't mind its creaking, glad as I should be
to know whose hand - Halloo!  You've come, have you?"  This to me.
I had just stepped up to him.

"Yes, I've come.  Now what is the matter with the Moore house?"

He must have expected the question, yet his answer was a long time
coming.  His voice, too, sounded strained, and was pitched quite
too high to be natural.  But he evidently did not expect me to show
surprise at his manner.

"Look at that window over there!" he cried at last.  "That one with
the slightly open shutter!  Watch and you will see that shutter move.
There!  it creaked; didn't you hear it?"

A growl - it was more like a moan - came from the porch behind us.
Instantly the old gentleman turned and with a gesture as fierce as
it was instinctive, shouted out:

"Be still there!  If you haven't the courage to face a blowing
shutter, keep your jaws shut and don't let every fellow who happens
along know what a fool you are.  I declare," he maundered on, half
to himself and half to me, "that dog is getting old.  He can't be
trusted any more.  He forsakes his master just when -"  The rest was
lost in his throat which rattled with something more than impatient
anger.

Meanwhile I had been attentively scrutinizing the house thus
pointedly brought to my notice.

I had seen it many times before, but, as it happened, had never
stopped to look at it when the huge trees surrounding it were
shrouded in darkness.  The black hollow of its disused portal looked
out from shadows which acquired some of their somberness from the
tragic memories connected with its empty void.

Its aspect was scarcely reassuring.  Not that superstition lent its
terrors to the lonely scene, but that through the blank panes of the
window, alternately appearing and disappearing from view as the
shutter pointed out by Uncle David blew to and fro in the wind, I
saw, or was persuaded that I saw, a beam of light which argued an
unknown presence within walls which had so lately been declared
unfit for any man's habitation.

"You are right," I now remarked to the uneasy figure at my side.
"Some one is prowling through the house yonder.  Can it possibly be
Mrs. Jeffrey or her husband?"

"At night and with no gas in the house?  Hardly."

The words were natural, but the voice was not.  Neither was his
manner quite suited to the occasion.  Giving him another sly glance,
and marking how uneasily he edged away from me in the darkness, I
cried out more cheerily than he possibly expected:

"I will summon another officer and we three will just slip across
and investigate."

"Not I!" was his violent rejoinder, as he swung open a gate concealed
in the vines behind him.  "The Jeffreys would resent my intrusion if
they ever happened to hear of it."

"Indeed!" I laughed, sounding my whistle; then, soberly enough, for
I was more than a little struck by the oddity of his behavior and
thought him as well worth investigation as the house in which he
showed such an interest:  "You shouldn't let that count.  Come and
see what's up in the house you are so ready to call yours."

But he only drew farther into the shade.

"I have no business over there," he objected.  "Veronica and I have
never been on good terms.  I was not even invited to her wedding
though I live within a stone's throw of the door.  No; I have done
my duty in calling attention to that light, and whether it's the
bull's-eye of a burglar - perhaps you don't know that there are
rare treasures on the book shelves of the great library - or whether
it is the fantastic illumination which frightens fool-folks and some
fool-dogs, I'm done with it and done with you, too, for to-night."

As he said this, he mounted to his door and disappeared under the
vines, hanging like a shroud over the front of the house.  In another
moment the rich peal of an organ sounded from within, followed by
the prolonged howling of Rudge, who, either from a too keen
appreciation of his master's music or in utter disapproval of it,
- no one, I believe, has ever been able to make out which, - was
accustomed to add this undesirable accompaniment to every strain
from the old man's hand.  The playing did not cease because of these
outrageous discords.  On the contrary, it increased in force and
volume, causing Rudge's expression of pain or pleasure to increase
also.  The result can be imagined.  As I listened to the intolerable
howls of the dog cutting clean through the exquisite harmonies of
his master, I wondered if the shadows cast by the frowning structure
of the great Moore house were alone to blame for Uncle David's lack
of neighbors.

Meantime, Hibbard, who was the first to hear my signal, came running
down the block.  As he joined me, the light, or what we chose to
call a light, appeared again in the window toward which my attention
had been directed.

"Some one's in the Moore house!" I declared, in as matter of-fact
tones as I could command.

Hibbard is a big fellow, the biggest fellow on the force, and so far
as my own experience with him had gone, as stolid and imperturbable
as the best of us.  But after a quick glance at the towering walls
of the lonely building, he showed decided embarrassment and seemed
in no haste to cross the street.

With difficulty I concealed my disgust.

"Come," I cried, stepping down from the curb, "let's go over and
investigate.  The property is valuable, the furnishings handsome,
and there is no end of costly books on the library shelves.  You
have matches and a revolver?"

He nodded, quietly showing me first the one, then the other; then
with a sheepish air which he endeavored to carry of with a laugh, he
cried:

"Have you use for 'em?  If so, I'm quite willing, to part with 'em
for a half-hour."

I was more than amazed at this evidence of weakness in one I had
always considered as tough and impenetrable as flint rock.  Thrusting
back the hand with which he had half drawn into view the weapon I
had mentioned, I put on my sternest sir and led the way across the
street.  As I did so, tossed back the words:

"We may come upon a gang.  You do not wish me to face some half-dozen
men alone?"

"You won't find any half-dozen men there," was his muttered reply.
Nevertheless he followed me, though with less spirit than I liked,
considering that my own manner was in a measure assumed and that I
was not without sympathy - well, let me, say, for a dog who
preferred howling a dismal accompaniment to his master's music, to
keeping open watch over a neighborhood dominated by the unhallowed
structure I now propose to enter.

The house is too well known for me to attempt a minute description
of it.  The illustrations which have appeared in all the papers have
already acquainted the general public with its simple facade and rows
upon rows of shuttered windows.  Even the great square porch with
its bench for negro attendants has been photographed for the million.
Those who have seen the picture in which the wedding-guests are
shown flying from its yawning doorway, will not be especially
interested in the quiet, almost solemn aspect it presented as I
passed up the low steps and laid my hand upon the knob of the
old-fashioned front door.

Not that I expected to win an entrance thereby, but because it is
my nature to approach everything in a common-sense way.  Conceive
then my astonishment when at the first touch the door yielded.  It
was not even latched.

"So!  so!" thought I.  "This is no fool's job; some one is in the
house."

I had provided myself with an ordinary pocket-lantern, and, when I
had convinced Hibbard that I fully meant to enter the house and
discover for myself who had taken advantage of the popular prejudice
against it to make a secret refuge or rendezvous of its decayed old
rooms, I took out this lantern and held it in readiness.

"We may strike a hornets' nest," I explained to Hibbard, whose feet
seemed very heavy even for a man of his size.  "But I'm going in and
so are you.  Only, let me suggest that we first take off our shoes.
We can hide them in these bushes."

"I always catch cold when I walk barefooted," mumbled my brave
companion; but receiving no reply he drew off his shoes and dropped
them beside mine in the cluster of stark bushes which figure so
prominently in the illustrations that I have just mentioned.  Then
he took out his revolver, and cocking it, stood waiting, while I
gave a cautious push to the door.

Darkness!  silence!

Rather had I confronted a light and heard some noise, even if it
had been the ominous click to which eve are so well accustomed.
Hibbard seemed to share my feelings, though from an entirely
different cause.

"Pistols and lanterns are no good here," he grumbled.  "What we want
at this blessed minute is a priest with a sprinkling of holy water;
and I for one -"

He was actually sliding off.

With a smothered oath I drew him back.

"See here!" I cried, "you're not a babe in arms.  Come on or -  Well,
what now?"

He had clenched my arm and was pointing to the door which was slowly
swaying to behind us.

"Notice that," he whispered.  "No key in the lock!  Men use keys but -"

My patience could stand no more.  With a shake I rid myself of his
clutch, muttering:

"There, go!  You're too much of a fool for me.  I'm in for it alone."
And in proof of my determination, I turned the slide of the lantern
and flashed the light through the house.

The effect was ghostly; but while the fellow at my side breathed hard
he did not take advantage of my words to make his escape, as I half
expected him to.  Perhaps, like myself, he was fascinated by the
dreary spectacle of long shadowy walls and an equally shadowy
staircase emerging from a darkness which a minute before had seemed
impenetrable.  Perhaps he was simply ashamed.  At all events he stood
his ground, scrutinizing with rolling eyes that portion of the hall
where two columns, with gilded Corinthian capitals, marked the door
of the room which no man entered without purpose or passed without
dread.  Doubtless he was thinking of that which had so frequently
been carried out between those columns.  I know that I was; and when,
in the sudden draft made by the open door, some open draperies
hanging near those columns blew out with a sudden swoop and shiver,
I was not at all astonished to see him lose what little courage had
remained in him.  The truth is, I was startled myself, but I was
able to hide the fact and to whisper back to him, fiercely:

"Don't be an idiot.  That curtain hides nothing worse than some
sneaking political refugee or a gang of counterfeiters."

"Maybe.  I'd just like to put my hand on Upson and -"

"Hush!"

I had just heard something.

For a moment we stood breathless, but as the sound was not repeated
I concluded that it was the creaking of that far-away shutter.
Certainly there was nothing moving near us.

"Shall we go upstairs?" whispered Hibbard.

"Not till we have made sure that all is right down here"

A door stood slightly ajar on our left.

Pushing it open, we looked in.  A well furnished parlor was before
us.

"Here's where the wedding took place," remarked Hibbard, straining
his head over my shoulder.

There were signs of this wedding on every side.  Walls and ceilings
had been hung with garlands, and these still clung to the mantelpiece
and over and around the various doorways.  Torn-off branches and the
remnants of old bouquets, dropped from the hands of flying guests,
littered the carpet, adding to the general confusion of overturned
chairs and tables.  Everywhere were evidences of the haste with which
the place had been vacated as well as the superstitious dread which
had prevented it being re-entered for the commonplace purpose of
cleaning.  Even the piano had not been shut, and under it lay some
scattered sheets of music which had been left where they fell, to
the probable loss of some poor musician.  The clock occupying the
center of the mantelpiece alone gave evidence of life.  It had been
wound for the wedding and had not yet run down.  Its tick-tick came
faint enough, however, through the darkness, as if it too had lost
heart and would soon lapse into the deadly quiet of its ghostly
surroundings.

"It's it's funeral-like," chattered Hibbard.

He was right; I felt as if I were shutting the lid of a coffin when
I finally closed the door.

Our next steps took us into the rear where we found little to detain
us, and then, with a certain dread fully justified by the event, we
made for the door defined by the two Corinthian columns.

It was ajar like the rest, and, call me coward or call me fool - I
have called Hibbard both, you will remember - I found that it cost me
an effort to lay my hand on its mahogany panels.  Danger, if danger
there was, lurked here; and while I had never known myself to quail
before any ordinary antagonist, I, like others of my kind, have no
especial fondness for unseen and mysterious perils.

Hibbard, who up to this point had followed me almost too closely,
now accorded me all the room that was necessary.  It was with a sense
of entering alone upon the scene that I finally thrust wide the door
and crossed the threshold of this redoubtable room where, but two
short weeks before, a fresh victim had been added to the list of
those who had by some unheard-of, unimaginable means found their
death within its recesses.

My first glance showed me little save the ponderous outlines of an
old settle, which jutted from the corner of the fireplace half way
out into the room.  As it was seemingly from this seat that the men,
who at various times had been found lying here, had fallen to their
doom, a thrill passed over me as I noted its unwieldy bulk and the
deep shadow it threw on the ancient and dishonored hearthstone.  To
escape the ghastly memories it evoked and also to satisfy myself
that the room was really as empty as it seemed, I took another step
forward.  This caused the light from the lantern I carried to spread
beyond the point on which it had hitherto been so effectively
concentrated; but the result was to emphasize rather than detract
from the extreme desolation of the great room.  The settle was a
fixture, as I afterwards found, and was almost the only article of
furniture to be seen on the wide expanse of uncarpeted floor.  There
was a table or two in hiding somewhere amid the shadows at the other
end from where I stood, and possibly some kind of stool or settee;
but the general impression made upon me was that of a completely
dismantled place given over to moth and rust.

I do not include the walls.  They were not bare like the floor, but
covered with books from floor to ceiling.  These books were not the
books of to-day; they had stood so long in their places unnoted and
untouched, that they had acquired the color of fungus, and smelt -
Well, there is no use adding to the picture.  Every one knows the
spirit of sickening desolation pervading rooms which have been shut
up for an indefinite length of time from air and sunshine.

The elegance of the heavily stuccoed ceiling, admitted to be one of
the finest specimens of its kind in Washington, as well as the
richness of the carvings ornamenting the mantel of Italian marble
rising above the accursed hearthstone, only served to make more
evident the extreme neglect into which the rest of the room had sunk.
Being anything but anxious to subject myself further to its unhappy
influence and quite convinced that the place was indeed as empty as
it looked, I turned to leave, when my eyes fell upon something so
unexpected and so extraordinary, seen as it was under the influence
of the old tragedies with which my mind was necessarily full, that
I paused, balked in my advance, and well-nigh uncertain whether I
looked upon a real thing or on some strange and terrible fantasy of
my aroused imagination.

A form lay before me, outstretched on that portion of the floor
which had hitherto been hidden from me by the half-open door - a
woman's form, which even in that first casual look impressed itself
upon me as one of aerial delicacy and extreme refinement; and this
form lay as only the dead lie; the dead!  And I had been looking at
the hearthstone for just such a picture!  No, not just such a
picture, for this woman lay face uppermost, and, on the floor beside
her was blood.

A hand had plucked my sleeve.  It was Hibbard's.  Startled by my
immobility and silence, he had stepped in with quaking members,
expecting he hardly knew what.  But no sooner did his eyes fall on
the prostrate form which held me spellbound, than an unforeseen
change took place in him.  What had unnerved me, restored him to
full self-possession.  Death in this shape was familiar to him.  He
had no fear of blood.  He did not show surprise at encountering it,
but only at the effect it appeared to produce on me.

"Shot!" was his laconic comment as he bent over the prostrate body.
"Shot through the heart!  She must have died before she fell."

Shot!

That was a new experience for this room.  No wound had ever before
disfigured those who had fallen here, nor had any of the previous
victims been found lying on any other spot than the one over which
that huge settle kept guard.  As these thoughts crossed my mind, I
instinctively glanced again toward the fireplace for what I almost
refused to believe lay outstretched at my feet.  When nothing more
appeared there than that old seat of sinister memory, I experienced
a thrill which poorly prepared me for the cry which I now heard
raised by Hibbard.

"Look here!  What do you make of this?"

He was pointing to what, upon closer inspection, proved to be a
strip of white satin ribbon running from one of the delicate wrists
of the girl before us to the handle of a pistol which had fallen
not far away from her side.  "It looks as if the pistol was attached
to her.  That is something new in my experience.  What do you think
it means?"

Alas!  there was but one thing it could mean.  The shot to which she
had succumbed had been delivered by herself.  This fair and delicate
creature was a suicide.

But suicide in this place!  How could we account for that?  Had the
story of this room's ill-acquired fame acted hypnotically on her, or
had she stumbled upon the open door in front and been glad of any
refuge where her misery might find a solitary termination?  Closely
scanning her upturned face, I sought an answer to this question, and
while thus seeking received a fresh shock which I did not hesitate
to communicate to my now none-too-sensitive companion.

"Look at these features," I cried.  "I seem to know them, do you?"

He growled out a dissent, but stooped at my bidding and gave the
pitiful young face a pro longed stare.  When he looked up again it
was with a puzzled contraction of his eyebrows.

"I've certainly seen it somewhere," he hesitatingly admitted, edging
slowly away toward the door.  "Perhaps in the papers.  Isn't she
like -?"

"Like!" I interrupted, "it is Veronica Moore herself; the owner of
this house and she who was married here two weeks since to Mr. Jeffrey.
Evidently her reason was unseated by the tragedy which threw so deep
a gloom over her wedding."




III

I REMAIN

Not for an instant did I doubt the correctness of this identification.
All the pictures I had seen of this well-known society belle had
been marked by an individuality of expression which fixed her face
in the memory and which I now saw repeated in the lifeless features
before me.

Greatly startled by the discovery, but quite convinced that this was
but the dreadful sequel of an already sufficiently dark tragedy, I
proceeded to take such steps as are common in these cases.  Having
sent the too-willing Hibbard to notify headquarters, I was on the
point of making a memorandum of such details as seemed important,
when my lantern suddenly went out, leaving me in total darkness.

This was far from pleasant, but the effect it produced upon my mind
was not without its result.  For no sooner did I find myself alone
and in the unrelieved darkness of this grave-like room, than I became
convinced that no woman, however frenzied, would make her plunge
into an unknown existence from the midst of a darkness only too
suggestive of the tomb to which she was hastening.  It was not in
nature, not in woman's nature, at all events.  Either she had
committed the final act before such daylight as could filter through
the shutters of this closed-up room had quite disappeared, - an
hypothesis instantly destroyed by the warmth which still lingered
in certain portions of her body, - or else the light which had been
burning when she pulled the fatal trigger had since been carried
elsewhere or extinguished.

Recalling the uncertain gleams which we had seen flashing from one
of the upper windows, I was inclined to give some credence to the
former theory, but was disposed to be fair to both.  So after
relighting my lamp, I turned on one of the gas cocks of the massive
chandelier over my head and applied a match.  The result was just
what I anticipated; no gas in the pipes.  A meter had not been put
in for the wedding.  This the papers had repeatedly stated in
dwelling upon the garish effect of the daylight on the elaborate
costumes worn by the ladies.  Candles had not even been provided -
ah, candles!  What, then, was it that I saw glittering on a small
table at the other end of the room?  Surely a candlestick, or
rather an old-fashioned candelabrum with a half-burned candle in
one of its sockets.  Hastily crossing to it, I felt of the
candlewick.  It was quite stiff and hard.  But not considering this
a satisfactory proof that it had not been lately burning - the tip
of a wick soon dries after the flame is blown out - I took out my
penknife and attacked the wick at what might be called its root;
whereupon I found that where the threads had been protected by the
wax they were comparatively soft and penetrable.  The conclusion was
obvious.  True to my instinct in this matter the woman had not
lifted her weapon in darkness; this candle had been burning.  But
here my thoughts received a fresh shock.  If burning, then by whom
had it since been blown out?  Not by her; her wound was too fatally
sure for that.  The steps taken between the table where the
candelabrum stood and the place where she lay, were taken, if taken
at all by her, before that shot was fired.  Some one else - some one
whose breath still lingered in the air about me - had extinguished
this candle-flame after she fell, and the death I looked down upon
was not a suicide, but a murder.

The excitement which this discovery caused to tingle through my
every nerve had its birth in the ambitious feeling referred to in
the opening paragraph of this narrative.  I believed that my
long-sought-for opportunity had come; that with the start given me
by the conviction just stated, I should be enabled to collect such
clues and establish such facts as would lead to the acceptance of
this new theory instead of the apparent one of suicide embraced by
Hibbard and about to be promulgated at police headquarters.  If so,
what a triumph would be mine; and what a debt I should owe to the
crabbed old gentleman whose seemingly fantastic fears had first
drawn me to this place!

Realizing the value of the opportunity afforded me by the few
minutes I was likely to spend alone on this scene of crime, I
proceeded to my task with that directness and method which I had
always promised myself should characterize my first success in
detective work.

First, then, for another look at the fair young victim herself!
What a line of misery on the brow!  What dark hollows disfiguring
cheeks otherwise as delicate as the petals of a rose!  An interesting,
if not absolutely beautiful face, it told me something I could hardly
put into words; so that it was like leaving a fascinating but
unsolved mystery when I finally turned from it to study the hands,
each of which presented a separate problem.  That offered by the
right wrist you already know - the long white ribbon connecting it
with the discharged pistol.  But the secret concealed by the left,
while less startling, was perhaps fully as significant.  All the
rings were gone, even the wedding ring which had been placed there
such a short time before.  Had she been robbed?  There were no signs
of violence visible nor even such disturbances as usually follow
despoliation by a criminal's hand.  The boa of delicate black net
which encircled her neck rose fresh and intact to her chin; nor did
the heavy folds of her rich broadcloth gown betray that any
disturbance had taken place in her figure after its fall.  If a jewel
had flashed at her throat, or earrings adorned her ears, they had
been removed by a careful, if not a loving, hand.  But I was rather
inclined to think that she had entered upon the scene of her death
without ornaments, - such severe simplicity marked her whole attire.
Her hat, which was as plain and also as elegant as the rest of her
clothing, lay near her on the floor.  It had been taken off and
thrown down, manifestly by an impatient hand.  That this hand was
her own was evident from a small but very significant fact.  The
pin which had held it to her hair had been thrust again into the hat.
No hand but hers would have taken this precaution.  A man would have
flung it aside just as he would have flung the hat.

Question:

Did this argue a natural expectation on her part of resuming her
hat?  Or was the action the result of an unconscious habit?

Having thus noted all that was possible concerning her without
infringing on the rights of the coroner, I next proceeded to cast
about for clues to the identity of the person whom I considered
responsible for the extinguished candle.  But here a great
disappointment awaited me.  I could find nothing expressive of a
second person's presence save a pile of cigar ashes scattered
near the legs of a common kitchen chair which stood face to face
with the book shelves in that part of the room where the
candelabrum rested on a small table.  But these ashes looked old,
nor could I detect any evidence of tobacco smoke in the general
mustiness pervading the place.  Was the man who died here a
fortnight since accountable for these ashes?  If so, his unfinished
cigar must be within sight.  Should I search for it?  No, for this
would take me to the hearth and that was quite too deadly a place
to be heedlessly approached.

Besides, I was not yet finished with the spot where I then stood.
If I could gather nothing satisfactory from the ashes, perhaps I
could from the chair or the shelves before which it had been placed.
Some one with an interest in books had sat there; some one who
expected to spend sufficient time over these old tomes to feel the
need of a chair.  Had this interest been a general one or had it
centered in a particular volume?  I ran my eye over the shelves
within reach, possibly with an idea of settling this question, and
though my knowledge of books is limited I could see that these were
what one might call rarities.  Some of them contained specimens of
black letter, all moldy and smothered in dust; in others I saw
dates of publication which placed them among volumes dear to a
collector's heart.  But none of them, so far as I could see, gave
any evidence of having been lately handled; and anxious to waste no
time on puerile details, I hastily quitted my chair, and was
proceeding to turn my attention elsewhere, when I noticed on an
upper shelf, a book projecting slightly beyond the others.  Instantly
my foot was on the chair and the book in my hand.  Did I find it of
interest?  Yes, but not on account of its contents, for they were
pure Greek to me; but because it lacked the dust on its upper edge
which had marked every other volume I had handled.  This, then, was
what had attracted the unknown to these shelves, this - let me see
if I can remember its title - Disquisition upon Old Coastlines.
Pshaw!  I was wasting my time.  What had such a dry compendium as
this to do with the body lying in its blood a few steps behind me,
or with the hand which had put out the candle upon this dreadful
deed?  Nothing.  I replaced the book, but not so hastily as to push
it one inch beyond the position in which I found it.  For, if it
had a tale to tell, then was it my business to leave that tale to
be read by those who understood books better than I did.

My next move was toward the little table holding the candelabrum
with the glittering pendants.  This table was one of a nest standing
against a near-by wall.  Investigation proved that it had been
lifted from the others and brought to its present position within a
very short space of time.  For the dust lying thick on its top was
almost entirely lacking from the one which had been nested under it.
Neither had the candelabrum been standing there long, dust being
found under as well as around it.  Had her hand brought it there?
Hardly, if it came from the top of the mantel toward which I now
turned in my course of investigation.

I have already mentioned this mantel more than once.  This I could
hardly avoid, since in and about it lay the heart of the mystery for
which the room was remarkable.  But though I have thus freely spoken
of it, and though it was not absent from my thoughts for a moment,
I had not ventured to approach it beyond a certain safe radius.  Now,
in looking to see if I might not lessen this radius, I experienced
that sudden and overwhelming interest in its every feature which
attaches to all objects peculiarly associated with danger.

I even took a step toward it, holding up my lamp so that a stray ray
struck the faded surface of an old engraving hanging over the
fireplace.

It was the well-known one - in Washington at least - of Benjamin
Franklin at the Court of France; interesting no doubt in a general
way, but scarcely calculated to hold the eye at so critical an
instant.  Neither did the shelf below call for more than momentary
attention, for it was absolutely bare.  So was the time-worn, if not
blood-stained hearth, save for the impenetrable shadow cast over it
by the huge bulk of the great settle standing at its edge.

I have already described the impression made on me at my first
entrance by this ancient and characteristic article of furniture.

It was intensified now as my eye ran over the clumsy carving which
added to the discomfort of its high straight back and as I smelt the
smell of its moldy and possibly mouse-haunted cushions.  A crawling
sense of dread took the place of my first instinctive repugnance;
not because superstition had as yet laid its grip upon me, although
the place, the hour and the near and veritable presence of death
were enough to rouse the imagination past the bounds of the actual,
but because of a discovery I had made--a discovery which emphasized
the tradition that all who had been found dead under the mantel had
fallen as if from the end of this monstrous and patriarchal bench.
Do you ask what this discovery was?  It can be told in a word.  This
one end and only this end had been made comfortable for the sitter.
For a space scarcely wide enough for one, the seat and back at this
special point had been upholstered with leather, fastened to the
wood with heavy wrought nails.  The remaining portion stretched out
bare, hard and inexpressibly forbidding to one who sought ease there,
or even a moment of casual rest.  The natural inference was that the
owner of this quaint piece of furniture had been a very selfish man
who thought only of his own comfort.  But might he not have had some
other reason for his apparent niggardliness?  As I asked myself this
question and noted how the long and embracing arm which guarded this
cushioned retreat was flattened on top for the convenient holding of
decanter and glass, feelings to which I can give no name and which I
had fondly believed myself proof against, began to take the place of
judgment and reason.  Before I realized the nature of my own impulse
or to what it was driving me, I found myself moving slowly and
steadily toward this formidable seat, under an irresistible desire
to fling myself down upon these old cushions and -

But here the creaking of some far-off shutter - possibly the one I
had seen swaying from the opposite side of the street - recalled me
to the duties of the hour, and, remembering that my investigations
were but half completed and that I might be interrupted any moment
by detectives from headquarters, I broke from the accursed charm,
which horrified me the moment I escaped it, and quitting the room
by a door at the farther end, sought to find in some of the adjacent
rooms the definite traces I had failed to discover on this, the
actual scene of the crime.

It was a dismal search, revealing at every turn the almost maddened
haste with which the house had been abandoned.  The dining-room
especially roused feelings which were far from pleasant.  The table,
evidently set for the wedding breakfast, had been denuded in such
breathless hurry that the food had been tossed from the dishes and
now lay in moldering heaps on the floor.  The wedding cake, which
some one had dropped, possibly in the effort to save it, had been
stepped on; and broken glass, crumpled napery and withered flowers
made all the corners unsightly and rendered stepping over the
unwholesome floors at once disgusting and dangerous.  The pantries
opening out of this room were in no better case.  Shrinking from the
sights and smells I found there, I passed out into the kitchen and
so on by a close and narrow passage to the negro quarters clustered
in the rear.

Here I made a discovery.  One of the windows in this long disused
portion of the house was not only unlocked but partly open.  But as
I came upon no marks showing that this outlet had been used by the
escaping murderer, I made my way back to the front of the house and
thus to the stairs communicating with the upper floor.

It was on the rug lying at the foot of these stairs that I came upon
the first of a dozen or more burned matches which lay in a distinct
trail up the staircase and along the floors of the upper halls.  As
these matches were all burned as short as fingers could hold them,
it was evident that they had been used to light the steps of some
one seeking refuge above, possibly in the very room where we had
seen the light which had first drawn us to this house.  How then?
Should I proceed or await the coming of the "boys" before pushing
in upon a possible murderer?  I decided to proceed, fascinated, I
think, by the nicety of the trail which lay before me.

But when, after a careful following in the steps of him who had so
lately preceded me, I came upon a tightly closed door at the end
of aside passage, I own that I stopped a moment before lifting hand
to it.  So much may lie behind a tightly closed door!  But my
hesitation, if hesitation it was, lasted but a moment.  My natural
impatience and the promptings of my vanity overcame the dictates
of my judgment, and, reckless of consequences, perhaps disdainful
of them, I soon had the knob in my grasp.  I gave a slight push to
the door and, on seeing a crack of light leap into life along the
jamb, pushed the door wider and wider till the whole room stood
revealed.

The instantaneous banging of a shutter in one of its windows proved
the room to be the very one which we had seen lighted from below.
Otherwise all was still; nor was I able to detect, in my first
hurried glance, any other token of human presence than a candle
sputtering in its own grease at the bottom of a tumbler placed on
one corner of, an old-fashioned dressing table.  This, the one
touch of incongruity in a room otherwise rich if not stately in
its appointments, was loud in its suggestion of some hidden
presence given to expedients and reckless of consequences; but of
this presence nothing was to be seen.

Not satisfied with this short survey,-a survey which had given me
the impression of a spacious old-fashioned chamber, fully furnished
but breathing of the by-gone rather than of the present - and
resolved to know the worst, or, rather, to dare the worst and be
done with it, I strode straight into the center of the room and
cast about me quickly a comprehensive glance which spared nothing,
not even the shadows lurking in the corners.  But no low-lying
figure started up from those corners, nor did any crouching head
rise into sight from beyond the leaves of the big screen behind
which I was careful to look.

Greatly reassured, and indeed quite convinced that wherever the
criminal lurked at that moment he was not in the same room with me,
I turned my attention to my surroundings, which had many points of
interest.  Foremost among these was the big four-poster which
occupied a large space at my right.  I had never seen its like in
use before, and I was greatly attracted by its size and the air of
mystery imparted to it by its closely drawn curtains of faded
brocade.  In fact, this bed, whether from its appearance or some
occult influence inherent in it, had a fascination for me.  I
hesitated to approach it, yet could not forbear surveying it long
and earnestly.  Could it be possible that those curtains concealed
some one in hiding behind them?  Strange to say I did not feel
quite ready to lay hand on them and see.

A dressing table laden with woman's fixings and various articles of
the toilet, all of an unexpected value and richness, occupied the
space between the two windows; and on the floor, immediately in
front of a high mahogany mantel, there lay, amid a number of empty
boxes, an overturned chair.  This chair and the conjectures its
position awakened led me to look up at the mantel with which it
seemed to be in some way connected, and thus I became aware of a
wan old drawing hanging on the wall above it.  Why this picture,
which was a totally uninteresting sketch of a simpering girl face,
should have held my eye after the first glance, I can not say even
now.  It had no beauty even of the sentimental kind and very little,
if any, meaning.  Its lines, weak at the best, were nearly
obliterated and in some places quite faded out.  Yet I not only
paused to look at it, but in looking at it forgot myself and
well-nigh my errand.  Yet there was no apparent reason for the spell
it exerted over me, nor could I account in any way for the really
superstitious dread which from this moment seized me, making my
head move slowly round with shrinking backward looks as that swaying
shutter creaked or some of the fitful noises, which grow out of
silence in answer to our inner expectancy, drew my attention or
appalled my sense.

To all appearance there was less here than below to affect a man's
courage.  No inanimate body with the mark of the slayer upon it lent
horror to these walls; yet sensations which I had easily overcome in
the library below clung with strange insistence to me here, making
it an effort for me to move, and giving to the unexpected reflection
of my own image in the mirror I chanced to pass, a power to shock my
nerves which has never been repeated in my experience.

It may seem both unnecessary and out of character for a man of my
calling to acknowledge these chance sensations, but only by doing so
can I account for the minutes which elapsed before I summoned
sufficient self-possession to draw aside the closed curtains of the
bed and take the quick look inside which my present doubtful position
demanded.  But once I had broken the spell and taken the look just
mentioned, I found my manhood return and with it my old ardor for
clues.  The bed held no gaping, chattering criminal; yet was it not
quite empty.  Something lay there, and this something, while
commonplace in itself, was enough out of keeping with the place and
hour to rouse my interest and awaken my conjectures.  It was a lady's
wrap so rich in quality and of such a festive appearance that it was
astonishing to find it lying in a neglected state in this crumbling
old house.  Though I know little of the cost of women's garments, I
do know the value of lace, and this garment was covered with it.

Interesting as was this find, it was followed by one still more so.
Nestled in the folds of the cloak, lay the withered remains of what
could only have been the bridal bouquet.  Unsightly now and
scentless, it was once a beautiful specimen of the florist's art.
As I noted how the main bunch of roses and lilies was connected by
long satin ribbons to the lesser clusters which hung from it, I
recalled with conceivable horror the use to which a similar ribbon
had been put in the room below.  In the shudder called up by this
coincidence I forgot to speculate how a bouquet carried by the
bride could have found its way back to this upstairs room when, as
all accounts agree, she had fled from the parlor below without
speaking or staying foot the moment she was told of the catastrophe
which had taken place in the library.  That her wrap should be lying
here was not strange, but that the wedding bouquet -

That it really was the wedding bouquet and that this was the room
in which the bride had dressed for the ceremony was apparent to the
most casual observer.  But it became an established fact when in my
further course about the room I chanced on a handkerchief with the
name Veronica embroidered in one corner.

This handkerchief had an interest apart from the name on it.  It was
of dainty texture and quite in keeping, so far as value went, with
the other belongings of its fastidious owner.  But it was not clean.
Indeed it was strangely soiled, and this soil was of a nature I did
not readily understand.  A woman would doubtless have comprehended
immediately the cause of the brown streaks I found on it, but it took
me several minutes to realize that this bit of cambric, delicate as
a cobweb, had been used to remove dust.  To remove dust!  Dust from
what?  From the mantel-shelf probably, upon one end of which I found
it.  But no!  one look along the polished boards convinced me that
whatever else had been dusted in this room this shelf had not.  The
accumulation of days, if not of months, was visible from one end to
the other of its unrelieved surface save where the handkerchief had
lain, and - the greatest discovery yet - where five clear spots just
to the left of the center showed where some man's finger-tips had
rested.  Nothing but the pressure of fingertips could have caused
just the appearance presented by these spots.  By scrutinizing them
closely I could even tell where the thumb had rested, and at once
foresaw the possibility of determining by means of these marks both
the size and shape of the hand which had left behind it so neat and
unmistakable a clue.

Wonderful!  but what did it all mean?  Why should a man rest his
finger-tips on this out-of-the-way shelf ?  Had he done so in an
effort to balance himself for a look up the chimney?  No; for then
the marks made by his fingers would have extended to the edge of the
shelf, whereas these were in the middle of it.  Their shape, too,
was round, not oblong; hence, the pressure had come from above and -
ah!  I had it, these impressions in the dust of the shelf were just
such as would be made by a person steadying himself for a close look
at the old picture.  And this accounted also for the overturned
chair, and for the handkerchief used as a duster.  Some one's
interest in this picture had been greater than mine; some one who
was either very near-sighted or whose temperament was such that only
the closest inspection would satisfy an aroused curiosity.

This gave me an idea, or rather impressed upon me the necessity of
preserving the outline of these tell-tale marks while they were
still plain to the eye.  Taking out my penknife, I lightly ran the
point of my sharpest blade around each separate impression till I
had fixed them for all time in the well worn varnish of the mahogany.

This done, my thoughts recurred to the question already raised.  What
was there in this old picture to arouse such curiosity in one bent on
evil if not fresh from a hideous crime?  I have said before that the
picture as a picture was worthless, a mere faded sketch fit only for
lumbering up some old garret.  Then wherein lay its charm, - a charm
which I myself had felt, though not to this extent?  It was useless
to conjecture.  A fresh difficulty had been added to my task by this
puzzling discovery, but difficulties only increased my interest.  It
was with an odd feeling of elation that, in a further examination of
this room, I came upon two additional facts equally odd and
irreconcilable.

One was the presence of a penknife with the file blade open, on a
small table under the window marked by the loosened shutter.
Scattered about it were some filings which shone as the light from
my lantern fell upon them, but which were so fine as to call for a
magnifying-glass to make them out.  The other was in connection with
a closet not far from the great bed.  It was an empty closet so far
as the hooks went and the two great drawers which I found standing
half open at its back; but in the middle of the floor lay an
overturned candelabrum similar to the one below, but with its prisms
scattered and its one candle crushed and battered out of all shape
on the blackened boards.  If upset while alight, the foot which had
stamped upon it in a wild endeavor to put out the flames had been a
frenzied one.  Now, by whom had this frenzy been shown, and when?
Within the hour?  I could detect no smell of smoke.  At some former
time, then?  say on the day of the bridal?

Glancing from the broken candle at my feet to the one giving its last
sputter in the tumbler on the dressing table, I owned myself perplexed.

Surely, no ordinary explanation fitted these extraordinary and
seemingly contradictory circumstances.




IV

SIGNED, VERONICA


I am in some ways hypersensitive.  Among my other weaknesses I have
a wholesome dread of ridicule, and this is probably why I failed to
press my theory on the captain when he appeared, and even forbore
to mention the various small matters which had so attracted my
attention.  If he and the experienced men who came with him saw
suicide and nothing but suicide in this lamentable shooting of a
bride of two weeks, then it was not for me to suggest a deeper
crime, especially as one of the latter eyed me with open scorn when
I proposed to accompany them upstairs into the room where the light
had been seen burning.  No, I would keep my discoveries to myself
or, at least, forbear to mention them till I found the captain
alone, asking nothing at this juncture but permission to remain in
the house till Mr. Jeffrey arrived.

I had been told that an officer had gone for this gentleman, and
when I heard the sound of wheels in front I made a rush for the
door, in my anxiety to catch a glimpse of him.  But it was a woman
who alighted.

As this woman was in a state of great agitation, one of the men
hastened down to offer his arm.  As she took it, I asked Hibbard,
who had suddenly reappeared upon the scene, who she was.

He said that she was probably the sister of the woman who lay
inside.  Upon which I remembered that this lady, under the name of
Miss Tuttle - she was but half-sister to Miss Moore - had been
repeatedly mentioned by the reporters, in the accounts of the
wedding before mentioned, as a person of superior attainments and
magnificent beauty.

This did not take from my interest, and flinging decorum to the
winds, I approached as near as possible to the threshold which she
must soon cross.  As I did so I was astonished to hear the strains
of Uncle David's organ still pealing from the opposite side of the
way.  This at a moment so serious and while matters of apparent
consequence were taking place in the house to which he had himself
directed the attention of the police, struck me as carrying stoicism
to the extreme.  Not very favorably impressed by this display of
open if not insulting indifference on the part of the sole remaining
Moore, - an indifference which did not appear quite natural even in
a man of his morbid eccentricity, - I resolved to know more of this
old man and, above all, to make myself fully acquainted with the
exact relations which had existed between him and his unhappy niece.

Meanwhile Miss Tuttle had stepped within the circle of light cast
by our lanterns.

I have never seen a finer woman, nor one whose features displayed
a more heart-rending emotion.  This called for respect, and I, for
one, endeavored to show it by withdrawing into the background.  But
I soon stepped forward again.  My desire to understand her was too
great, the impression made by her bearing too complex, to be passed
over lightly by one on the lookout for a key to the remarkable
tragedy before us.

Meanwhile her lips had opened with the cry:

"My sister!  Where is my sister?"

The captain made a hurried movement toward the rear and then with
the laudable intention, doubtless, of preparing her for the ghastly
sight which awaited her, returned and opened a way for her into the
drawing-room.  But she was not to be turned aside from her course.
Passing him by, she made directly for the library which she entered
with a bound.  Struck by her daring, we all crowded up behind her,
and, curious brutes that we were, grouped ourselves in a semicircle
about the doorway as she faltered toward her sister's outstretched
form and fell on her knees beside it.  Her involuntary shriek and
the fierce recoil she made as her eyes fell on the long white ribbon
trailing over the floor from her sister's wrist, struck me as voicing
the utmost horror of which the human soul is capable.  It was as
though her very soul were pierced.  Something in the fact itself,
something in the appearance of this snowy ribbon tied to the scarce
whiter wrist, seemed to pluck at the very root of her being; and
when her glance, in traveling its length, lighted on the death dealing
weapon at its end, she cringed in such apparent anguish that we
looked to see her fall in a swoon or break out into delirium.  We
were correspondingly startled when she suddenly burst forth with
this word of stern command:

"Untie that knot!  Why do you leave that dreadful thing fast to her?
Untie it, I say, it is killing me; I can not bear the sight."  And
from trembling she passed to shuddering till her whole body shook
convulsively.

The captain, with much consideration, drew back the hand he had
impulsively stretched toward the ribbon.

"No, no," he protested; "we can not do that; we can do nothing till
the coroner comes.  It is necessary that he should see her just as
she was found.  Besides, Mr. Jeffrey has a right to the same
privilege.  We expect him any moment."

The beautiful head of the woman before us shook involuntarily, but
her lips made no protest.  I doubt if she possessed the power of
speech at that moment.  A change, subtle, but quite perceptible,
had taken place in her emotions at mention of her sister's husband,
and, though she exerted herself to remain calm, the effort seemed
too much for her strength.  Anxious to hide this evidence of weakness,
she rose impetuously; and then we saw how tall she was, how the long
lines of her cloak became her, and what a glorious creature she was
altogether.

"It will kill him," she groaned in a deep inward voice.  Then, with
a certain forced haste and in a tone of surprise which to my ear had
not quite a natural ring, she called aloud on her who could no longer
either listen or answer:

"Oh, Veronica, Veronica!  What cause had you for death?  And why do
we find you lying here in a spot you so feared and detested?"

"Don't you know?" insinuated the captain, with a mild persuasiveness,
such as he was seldom heard to use.  "Do you mean that you can not
account for your sister's violent end, you, who have lived with her
 - or so I have been told-ever since her marriage with Mr. Jeffrey?"

"Yes."

Keen and clear the word rang out, fierce in its keenness and almost
too clear to be in keeping with the half choked tones with which she
added: "I know that she was not happy, that she never has been happy
since the shadow which this room suggests fell upon her marriage.
But how could I so much as dream that her dread of the past or her
fear of the future would drive her to suicide, and in this place of
all places!  Had I done so - had I imagined in the least degree that
she was affected to this extent - do you think that I would have
left her for one instant alone?  None of us knew that she contemplated
death.  She had no appearance of it; she laughed when I -"

What had she been about to say?  The captain seemed to wonder, and
after waiting in vain for the completion of her sentence, he quietly
suggested:

"You have not finished what you had to say, Miss Tuttle."

She started and seemed to come back from some remote region of
thought into which she had wandered.  "I don't know - I forget," she
stammered, with a heart-broken sigh.  "Poor Veronica!  Wretched
Veronica!  How shall I ever tell him!  How, how, can we ever prepare
him!"

The captain took advantage of this reference to Mr. Jeffrey to ask
where that gentleman was.  The young lady did not seem eager to
reply, but when pressed, answered, though somewhat mechanically,
that it was impossible for her to say; Mr. Jeffrey had many friends
with any one of whom he might be enjoying a social evening.

"But it is far past midnight now," remarked the captain.  "Is he in
the habit of remaining out late?"

"Sometimes," she faintly admitted.  "Two or three times since his
marriage he has been out till one."

Were there other causes for the young bride's evident disappointment
and misery besides the one intimated?  There certainly was some
excuse for thinking so.

Possibly some one of as may have shown his doubts in this regard,
for the woman before us suddenly broke forth with this vehement
assertion:

"Mr. Jeffrey was a loving husband to my sister.  A very loving
husband," she emphasized.  Then, growing desperately pale, she added,
"I have never known a better man," and stopped.

Some hidden anguish in this cry, some self-consciousness in this
pause, suggested to me a possibility which I was glad to see ignored
by the captain in his next question.

"When did you see your sister last?" he asked.  "Were you at home
when she left her husband's house?"

"Alas!" she murmured.  Then seeing that a more direct answer was
expected of her, she added with as little appearance of effort as
possible: "I was at home and I heard her go out.  But I had no idea
that it was for any purpose other than to join some social gathering."

"Dressed this way?"

The captain pointed to the floor and her eyes followed.  Certainly
Mrs. Jeffrey was not appareled for an evening company.  As Miss
Tuttle realized the trap into which she had been betrayed, her words
rushed forth and tripped each other up.

"I did not notice.  She often wore black - it became her.  My sister
was eccentric."

Worse, worse than useless.  Some slips can not be explained away.
Miss Tuttle seemed to realize that this was one of them, for she
paused abruptly, with the words half finished on her tongue.  Yet
her attitude commanded respect, and I for one was ready to accord
it to her.

Certainly, such a woman was not to be seen every day, and if her
replies lacked candor, there was a nobility in her presence which
gave the lie to any doubt.  At least, that was the effect she
produced on me.  Whether or not her interrogator shared my feeling
I could not so readily determine, for his attention as well as mine
was suddenly diverted by the cry which now escaped her lips.

"Her watch!  Where is her watch?  It is gone!  I saw it on her
breast and it's gone.  It hung just - just where -"

"Wait!" cried one of the men who had been peering about the floor.
"Is this it?"

He held aloft a small object blazing with jewels.

"Yes," she gasped, trying to take it.

But the officer gave it to the captain instead.

"It must have slipped from her as she fell," remarked the latter,
after a cursory examination of the glittering trinket.  "The pin by
which she attached it to her dress must have been insecurely
fastened."  Then quickly and with a sharp look at Miss Tuttle: "Do
you know if this was considered an accurate timepiece?"

"Yes.  Why do you ask?  Is it -"

"Look!"  He held it up with the face toward us.  The hands stood at
thirteen minutes past seven.  "The hour and the moment when it struck
the floor," he declared.  "And consequently the hour and the moment
when Mrs. Jeffrey fell," finished Durbin.

Miss Tuttle said nothing, only gasped.

"Valuable evidence," quoth the captain, putting the watch in his
pocket.  Then, with a kind look at her, called forth by the sight
of her misery:

"Does this hour agree with the time of her leaving the house?"

"I can not say.  I think so.  It was some time before or after seven.
I don't remember the exact minute."

"It would take fifteen for her to walk here.  Did she walk?"

"I do not know.  I didn't see her leave.  My room is at the back of
the house."

"You can say if she left alone or in the company of her husband?"

"Mr. Jeffrey was not with her?"

"Was Mr. Jeffrey in the house?"

"He was not."

This last negative was faintly spoken.

The captain noticed this and ventured upon interrogating her further.

"How long had he been gone?"

Her lips parted; she was deeply agitated; but when she spoke it was
coldly and with studied precision.

"Mr. Jeffrey was not at home to-night at all.  He has not been in
all day."

"Not at home?  Did his wife know that he was going to dine out?"

"She said nothing about it."

The captain cut short his questions and in another moment I
understood why.  A gentleman was standing in the doorway, whose face
once seen, was enough to stop the words on any man's lips.  Miss
Tuttle saw this gentleman almost as quickly as we did and sank with
an involuntary moan to her knees.

It was Francis Jeffrey come to look upon his dead bride.

I have been present at many tragic scenes and have beheld men under
almost every aspect of grief, terror and remorse; but there was
something in the face of this man at this dreadful moment that was
quite new to me, and, as I judge, equally new to the other hardy
officials about me.  To be sure he was a gentleman and a very
high-bred one at that; and it is but seldom we have to do with any
of his ilk.

Breathlessly we awaited his first words.

Not that he showed frenzy or made any display of the grief or
surprise natural to the occasion.  On the contrary, he was the
quietest person present, and among all the emotions his white face
mirrored I saw no signs of what might be called sorrow.  Yet his
appearance was one to wring the heart and rouse the most
contradictory conjectures as to just what chord in his evidently
highly strung nature throbbed most acutely to the horror and
astonishment of this appalling end of so short a married life.

His eye, which was fixed on the prostrate body of his bride, did
not yield up its secret.  When he moved and came to where she lay
and caught his first sight of the ribbon and the pistol attached to
it, the most experienced among us were baffled as to the nature of
his feelings and thoughts.  One thing alone was patent to all.  He
had no wish to touch this woman whom he had so lately sworn to
cherish.  His eyes devoured her, he shuddered and strove several
times to speak, and though kneeling by her side, he did not reach
forth his hand nor did he let a tear fall on the appealing features
so pathetically turned upward as if to meet his look.

Suddenly he leaped to his feet.

"Must she stay here?" he demanded, looking about for the person most
in authority.

The captain answered by a question:

"How do you account for her being here at all?  What explanation
have you, as her husband, to give for this strange suicide of your
wife?"

For reply, Mr. Jeffrey, who was an exceptionally handsome man, drew
forth a small slip of crumpled paper, which he immediately handed
over to the speaker.

"Let her own words explain," said he.  "I found this scrap of
writing in our upstairs room when I returned home to-night.  She
must have written it just before - before -"

A smothered groan filled up the break, but it did not come from his
lips, which were fixed and set, but from those of the woman who
crouched amongst us.  Did he catch this expression of sorrow from
one whose presence he as yet had given no token of recognizing?  He
did not seem to.  His eye was on the captain, who was slowly reading,
by the light of a lantern held in a detective's hand, the almost
illegible words which Mr. Jeffrey had just said were his wife's last
communication.

Will they seem as pathetic to the eye as they did to the ear in that
room of awesome memories and present death?

"I find that I do not love you as I thought I did.  I can not live,
knowing this to be so.  I pray God that you may forgive me.

VERONICA"


A gasp from the figure in the corner; then silence.  We were glad to
hear the captain's voice again.

"A woman's heart is a great mystery," he remarked, with a short
glance at Mr. Jeffrey.

It was a sentiment we could all echo; for he, to whom she had alluded
in these few lines as one she could not love, was a man whom most
women would consider the embodiment of all that was admirable and
attractive.

That one woman so regarded him was apparent to all.  If ever the
heart spoke in a human face, it spoke in that of Miss Tuttle as she
watched her sister's husband struggling for composure above the
prostrate form of her who but a few hours previous had been the
envy of all the fashionable young women in Washington.  I found it
hard to fix my attention on the next question, interesting and
valuable as every small detail was likely to prove in case my theory
of this crime should ever come to be looked on as the true one.

"How came you to search here for the wife who had written you this
vague and far from satisfactory farewell?  I see no hint in these
lines of the place where she intended to take her life."

"No!  no!"  Even this strong man shrank from this idea and showed a
very natural recoil as his glances flew about the ill-omened room
and finally rested on the fireside over which so repellent a mystery
hung in impenetrable shadow.  "She said nothing of her intentions;
nothing!  But the man who came for me told me where she was to be
found.  He was waiting at the door of my house.  He had been on a
search for me up and down the town.  We met on the stoop."

The captain accepted this explanation without cavil.  I was glad he
did.  But to me the affair showed inconsistencies which I secretly
felt it to be my especial duty to unravel.




V

MASTER AND DOG


No further opportunity was afforded me that night for studying the
three leading characters in the remarkable drama I saw unfolding
before me.  A task was assigned me by the captain which took me from
the house, and I missed the next scene - the arrival of the coroner.
But I repaid myself for this loss in a way I thought justified by
the importance of my own theory and the evident necessity there was
of collecting each and every point of evidence which could give
coloring to the charge, in the event of this crime coming to be
looked on at headquarters as one of murder.

Observing that a light was still burning in Uncle David's domicile,
I crossed to his door and rang the bell.  I was answered by the deep
and prolonged howl of a dog, soon cut short by his master's amiable
greeting.  This latter was a surprise to me.  I had heard so often
of Mr. Moore's churlishness as a host that I had expected some
rebuff.  But I encountered no such tokens of hostility.  His brow
was smooth and his smile cheerfully condescending.  Indeed, he
appeared anxious to have me enter, and cast an indulgent look at
Rudge, whose irrepressible joy at this break in the monotony of his
existence was tinged with a very evident dread of offending his
master.  Interested anew, I followed this man of contradictory
impulses into the room toward which he led me.

The time has now come for a more careful description of this peculiar
man.  Mr. Moore was tall and of that refined spareness of shape which
suggests the scholar.  Yet he had not the scholar's eye.  On the
contrary, his regard was quick, if not alert, and while it did not
convey actual malice or ill-will, it roused in the spectator an
uncomfortable feeling, not altogether easy to analyze.  He wore his
iron gray locks quite long, and to this distinguishing idiosyncrasy,
as well as to his invariable custom of taking his dog with him
wherever he went, was due the interest always shown in him by street
urchins.  On account of his whimsicalities, he had acquired the
epithet of Uncle David among them, despite his aristocratic
connections and his gentlemanlike bearing.  His clothes formed no
exception to the general air of individuality which marked him.  They
were of different cut from those of other men, and in this as in many
other ways he was a law to himself; notably so in the following
instance:  He kept one day of the year religiously, and kept it
always in the same way.  Long years before, he had been blessed with
a wife who both understood and loved him.  He had never forgotten
this fact, and once a year, presumably on the anniversary of her
death, it was his custom to go to the cemetery where she lay and to
spend the whole day under the shadow of the stone he had raised to
her memory.  No matter what the weather, no matter what the condition
of his own health, he was always to be seen in this spot, at the hour
of seven, leaning against the shaft on which his wife's name was
written, eating his supper in the company of his dog.  It was a
custom he had never omitted.  So well known was it to the boys and
certain other curious individuals in the neighborhood that he never
lacked an audience, though woe betide the daring foot that presumed
to invade the precincts of the lot he called his, or the venturesome
voice which offered to raise itself in gibe or jeer.  He had but to
cast a glance at Rudge and an avenging rush scattered the crowd in
a twinkling.  But he seldom had occasion to resort to this extreme
measure for preserving the peace and quiet of his solemn watch.  As
a rule he was allowed to eat his meal undisturbed, and to pass out
unmolested even by ridicule, though his teeth might still be busy
over some final tidbit.  Often the great tears might be seen hanging
undried upon his withered cheeks.

So much for one oddity which may stand as a sample of many others.

One glance at the room into which he ushered me showed why he
cherished so marked a dislike for visitors.  It was bare to the
point of discomfort, and had it not been for a certain quaintness
in the shape of the few articles to be seen there, I should have
experienced a decided feeling of repulsion, so pronounced was the
contrast between this poverty-stricken interior and the polished
bearing of its owner.  He, I am sure, could have shown no more
elevated manners if he had been doing the honors of a palace.  The
organ, with the marks of home construction upon it, was the only
object visible which spoke of luxury or even comfort.

But enough of these possibly uninteresting details.  I did not dwell
on them myself, except in a vague way and while waiting for him to
open the conversation.  This he did as soon as he saw that I had no
intention of speaking first.

"And did you find any one in the old house?" he asked.

Keeping him well under my eye, I replied with intentional brusqueness:

"She has gone there once too often!"

The stare he gave me was that of an actor who feels that some
expression of surprise is expected from him.

"She?" he repeated.  "Whom can you possibly mean by she?"

The surprise I expressed at this bold attempt at ingenuousness was
better simulated than his, I hope.

"You don't know!" I exclaimed.  "Can you live directly opposite a
place of such remarkable associations and not interest yourself in
who goes in and out of its deserted doors?"

"I don't sit in my front window," he peevishly returned.

I let my eye roam toward a chair standing suspiciously near the
very window he had designated.

"But you saw the light?" I suggested.

"I saw that from the door-step when I went out to give Rudge his
usual five minutes' breathing spell on the stoop.  But you have not
answered my question; whom do you mean by she?"

"Veronica Jeffrey," I replied.  "She who was Veronica Moore.  She
has visited this haunted house of hers for the last time."

"Last time!"  Either he could not or would not understand me.

"What has happened to my niece?" he cried, rising with an energy
that displaced the great dog and sent him, with hanging head and
trailing tail, to his own special sleeping-place under the table.
"Has she run upon a ghost in those dismal apartments?  You interest
me greatly.  I did not think she would ever have the pluck to visit
this house again after what happened at her wedding."

"She has had the pluck," I assured him; "and what is more, she has
had enough of it not only to reenter the house, but to reenter it
alone.  At least, such is the present inference.  Had you been
blessed with more curiosity and made more frequent use of the chair
so conveniently placed for viewing the opposite house, you might
have been in a position to correct this inference.  It would help
the police materially to know positively that she had no companion
in her fatal visit."

"Fatal?" he repeated, running his finger inside his neckband, which
suddenly seemed to have grown too tight for comfort.  "Can it be
that my niece has been frightened to death in that old place?  You
alarm me."

He did not look alarmed, but then he was not of an impressible
nature.  Yet he was of the same human clay as the rest of us, and,
if he knew no more of this occurrence than he tried to make out,
could not be altogether impervious to what I had to say next.

"You have a right to be alarmed," I assented.  "She was not
frightened to death, yet is she lying dead on the library floor."
Then, with a glance at the windows about me, I added lightly: "I
take it that a pistol-shot delivered over there could not be heard
in this room."

He sank rather melodramatically into his seat, yet his face and
form did not lose that sudden assumption of dignity which I had
observed in him ever since my entrance into the house.

"I am overwhelmed by this news," he remarked.  "She has shot
herself?  Why?"

"I did not say that she had shot herself," I carefully repeated.
"Yet the facts point that way and Mr. Jeffrey accepts the suicide
theory without question."

"Ah,, Mr. Jeffrey is there!"

"Most certainly; he was sent for at once."

"And Miss Tuttle?  She came with him of course?"

"She came, but not with him.  She is very fond of her sister."

"I must go over at once," he cried, leaping again to his feet and
looking about for his hat.  "It is my duty to make them feel at
home; in short, to - to put the house at their disposal."  Here he
found his hat and placed it on his head.  "The property is mine now,
you know," he politely explained, turning, with a keen light in his
gray eye, full upon me and overwhelming me with the grand air of a
man who has come unexpectedly into his own.  "Mrs. Jeffrey's father
was my younger brother - the story is an old and long one - and the
property, which in all justice should have been divided between us,
went entirely to him.  But he was a good fellow in the main and saw
the injustice of his father's will as clearly as I did, and years
ago made one on his own account bequeathing me the whole estate in
case he left no issue, or that issue died.  Veronica was his only
child; Veronica has died; therefore the old house is mine and all
that goes with it, all that goes with it."

There was the miser's gloating in this repetition of a phrase
sufficiently expressive in itself, or rather the gloating of a man
who sees himself suddenly rich after a life of poverty.  There was
likewise a callousness as regarded his niece's surprising death
which I considered myself to have some excuse for noticing.

"You accept her death very calmly," I remarked.  "Probably you
knew her to be possessed of an erratic mind."

He was about to bestow an admonitory kick on his dog, who had been
indiscreet enough to rise at his master's first move, but his foot
stopped in mid air, in his anxiety to concentrate all his attention
on his answer.

"I am a man of few sentimentalities," he coldly averred.  "I have
loved but one person in my whole life.  Why then should I be expected
to mourn over a niece who did not care enough for me to invite me
to her wedding?  It would be an affectation unworthy the man who has
at last come to fill his rightful position in this community as the
owner of the great Moore estate.  For great it shall be," he
emphatically continued.  "In three years you will not know the house
over yonder.  Despite its fancied ghosts and death-dealing fireplace,
it will stand A Number One in Washington.  I, David Moore, promise you
this; and I am not a man to utter fatuous prophecies.  But I must be
missed over there."  Here he gave the mastiff the long delayed kick.
"Rudge, stay here!  The vestibule opposite is icy.  Besides, your
howls are not wanted in those old walls tonight even if you would go
with me, which I doubt.  He has never been willing to cross to that
side of the street," the old gentleman went on to complain, with his
first show of irritation.  "But he'll have to overcome that prejudice
soon, even if I have to tear up the old hearthstone and reconstruct
the walls.  I can't live without Rudge, and I will not live in any
other place than in the old home of my ancestors."

I was by this time following him out.

"You have failed to answer the suggestion I made you a minute
since," I hazarded.  "Will you pardon me if I put it now as a
question?  Your niece, Mrs. Jeffrey, seemed to have everything in
the world to make her happy, yet she took her life.  Was there a
taint of insanity in her blood, or was her nature so impulsive that
her astonishing death in so revolting a place should awaken in you
so little wonder?"

A gleam of what had made him more or less feared by the very urchins
who dogged his steps and made sport of him at a respectful distance
shot from his eye as he glowered back at me from the open door.  But
he hastily suppressed this sign of displeasure and replied with the
faintest tinge of sarcasm:

"There!  you are expecting from me feelings which belong to youth or
to men of much more heart than understanding.  I tell you that I
have no feelings.  My niece may have developed insanity or she may
simply have drunk her cup of pleasure dry at twenty-two and come to
its dregs prematurely.  I do not know and I do not care.  What
concerns me is that the responsibility of a large fortune has fallen
upon me most unexpectedly and that I have pride enough to wish to
show myself capable of sustaining the burden.  Besides, they may be
tempted to do some mischief to the walls or floors over there.  The
police respect no man's property.  But I am determined they shall
respect mine.  No rippings up or tearings down will I allow unless I
stand by to supervise the job.  I am master of the old homestead now
and I mean to show it."  And with a last glance at the dog, who
uttered the most mournful of protests in reply, he shut the front
door and betook himself to the other side of the street.

As I noticed his assured bearing as he disappeared within the
forbidding portal which, according to his own story, had for so long
a time been shut against him, I asked myself if the candle which I
had noticed lying on his mantel-shelf was of the same make and size
as those I had found in my late investigations in the house he was
then entering.




V

GOSSIP


Next morning the city was in a blaze of excitement.  All the burning
questions of the hour - the rapid mobilization of the army and the
prospect of a speedy advance on Cuba - were forgotten in the one
engrossing topic of young Mrs. Jeffrey's death and the awful
circumstances surrounding it.  Nothing else was in any one's mouth
and but little else in any one's heart.  Her youth, her prominence,
her union with a man of such marked attractions as Mr. Jeffrey, the
tragedy connected with her marriage, thrown now into shadow by the
still more poignant tragedy which had so suddenly terminated her
own life, gave to the affair an interest which for those first
twenty-four hours did not call for any further heightening by a
premature suggestion of murder.

Though I was the hero of the hour and, as such, subjected to an
infinite number of questions, I followed the lead of my superiors
in this regard and carefully refrained from advancing any theories
beyond the obvious one of suicide.  The moment for self-exploitation
was not ripe; I did not stand high enough in the confidence of the
major, or, I may say, of the lieutenant of my own precinct, to risk
the triumph I anticipated ultimately by a premature expression of
opinion.

I had an enemy at headquarters; or, rather, one of the men there
had always appeared peculiarly interested in showing me up in the
worst light.  The name of this man was Durbin, and it was he who
had uttered something like a slighting remark when on that first
night I endeavored to call the captain's attention to some of the
small matters which had offered themselves to me in the light of
clues.  Perhaps it was the prospect of surprising him some day
which made me so wary now as well as so alert to fill my mind with
all known facts concerning the Jeffreys.  One of my first acts was
to turn over the files of the Star and reread the following account
of the great wedding.  As it is a sensational description of a
sensational event, I shall make no apology for the headlines which
startled all Washington the night they appeared.

"STARTLING TERMINATION OF THE JEFFREY-MOORE WEDDING.

THE TRADITIONAL DOOM FOLLOWS THE OPENING OF
THE OLD HOUSE ON WAVERLEY AVENUE.

ONE OF THE GUESTS FOUND LYING DEAD ON THE LIBRARY HEARTHSTONE.

LETTERS IN HIS POCKET SHOW HIM TO HAVE BEEN ONE W. PFEIFFER OF DENVER.

NO INTERRUPTION TO THE CEREMONY FOLLOWS THIS GHASTLY DISCOVERY,
BUT THE GUESTS FLY IN ALL DIRECTIONS AS SOON AS THE NUPTIAL KNOT IS TIED.

"The festivities attendant upon the wedding of Miss Veronica Moore to
Mr. Francis Jeffrey of this city met with a startling check to-day.
As most of our readers know, the long-closed house on Waverley Avenue,
which for nearly a century has been in possession of the bride's
family, was opened for the occasion at the express wish of the bride.
For a week the preparations for this great function have been going
on.  When at an early hour this morning a line of carriages drew up
in front of the historic mansion and the bridal party entered under
its once gloomy but now seemingly triumphant portal, the crowds,
which blocked the street from curb to curb, testified to the interest
felt by the citizens of Washington in this daring attempt to brave
the traditions which have marked this house out as solitary, and by
a scene of joyous festivity make the past forgotten and restore
again to usefulness the decayed grandeurs of an earlier time.  As
Miss Moore is one of Washington's most charming women, and as this
romantic effort naturally lent an extraordinary interest to the
ceremony of her marriage, a  large number of our representative
people assembled to witness it, and by high noon the scene was one
of unusual brilliancy.

"Halls which had moldered away in an unbroken silence for years
echoed again with laughter and palpitated to the choicest strains
of the Marine Band.  All doors were open save those of the library
 - an exception which added a pleasing excitement to the occasion -
and when by chance some of the more youthful guests were caught
peering behind the two Corinthian pillars guarding these forbidden
precincts the memories thus evoked were momentary and the shadow
soon passed.

"The wedding had been set for high noon, and as the clock in the
drawing-room struck the hour every head was craned to catch the
first glimpse of the bride coming down the old-fashioned staircase.
But five minutes, ten minutes, a half-hour, passed without this
expectation being gratified.  The crowd above and below was growing
restless, when suddenly a cry was heard from beyond the gilded
pillars framing the library door, and a young lady was seen rushing
from the forbidden quarter, trembling with dismay and white with
horror.  It was Miss Abbott of Stratford Circle, who in the interim
of waiting had allowed her curiosity to master her dread, and by one
peep into the room, which seemed to exercise over her the
fascination of a Bluebeard's chamber, discovered the outstretched
form of a man lying senseless and apparently dead on the edge of the
hearthstone.  The terror which instantly spread amongst the guests
shows the hold which superstition has upon all classes of humanity.
Happily, however, an unseemly panic was averted, by the necessity
which all felt of preserving some sort of composure till the ceremony
for which they had assembled had been performed.  For simultaneously
with this discovery of death in the library there had come from above
the sound of the approaching bridal procession, and cries were hushed,
and beating hearts restrained, as Miss Moore's charming face and
exquisite figure appeared between the rows of flowering plants with
which the staircase was lined.  No need for the murmur to go about,
'Spare the bride!  Let nothing but cheer surround her till she is
Jeffrey's wife!'  The look of joy which irradiated her countenance,
and gave a fairy-like aspect to her whole exquisite person would
have deterred the most careless and self-centered person there from
casting a shadow across her pathway one minute sooner than necessity
demanded.  The richness of the ancestral veil which covered her
features and the natural timidity which prevents a bride from lifting
her eyes from the floor she traverses saved her from observing the
strange looks by which her presence was hailed.  She was consequently
enabled to go through the ceremony in happy unconsciousness of the
forced restraint which held that surging mass together.

"But the bridesmaids were not so happy.  Miss Tuttle especially held
herself upright simply by the exercise of her will; and though
resplendent in `beauty, suffered so much in her anxiety for the
bride that it was a matter of small surprise when she fainted at the
conclusion of the ceremony.

"Mr. Jeffrey showed more composure, but the inward excitement under
which he was laboring made him trip more than once in his responses,
as many there noted whose minds were not fixed too strongly on flight.

"Only Doctor Auchincloss was quite himself, and by means of the
solemnity with which he invested his words kept the hubbub down,
which was already making itself heard on the outskirts of the crowd.
But even his influence did not prevail beyond the moment devoted to
the benediction.  Once the sacred words were said, such a stampede
followed that the bride showed much alarm, and it was left for Mr.
Jeffrey to explain to her the cause of this astonishing conduct on
the part of her guests.  She bore the disclosure well, all things
considered, and once she was fully assured that the unhappy man
whose sudden death had thus interrupted the festivities was an
intruder upon the scene, and quite unknown, not only to herself but
to her newly-made husband, she brightened perceptibly, though, like
every one around her, she seemed anxious to leave the house, and,
indeed, did so as soon as Miss Tuttle's condition warranted it.

"The fact that the bride went through the ceremony without her bridal
bouquet is looked upon by many as an unfavorable omen.  In her
anxiety not to impose any longer upon the patience of her guests, she
had descended without it.

"As to the deceased, but little is known of him.  Letters found on
his person prove his name to be W. Pfeiffer, and his residence Denver.
His presence in Miss Moores house at a time so inopportune is
unexplained.  No such name is on the list of wedding guests, nor was
he recognized as one of Miss Moore's friends either by Mr. Jeffrey
or by such of her relatives and acquaintances as had the courage to
enter the library to see him.

"With the exception of the discolored mark on his temple, showing
where his head had come in contact with the hearthstone, his body
presents an appearance of natural robustness, which makes his sudden
end seem all the more shocking.

"His name has been found registered at the National Hotel."

Turning over the files, I next came upon the following despatch from
Denver:

"The sudden death in Washington of Wallace Pfeiffer, one of our best
known and most respected citizens, is deeply deplored by all who
knew him and his unfortunate mother.  He is the last of her three
sons, all of whom have died within the year.  The demise of Wallace
leaves her entirely unprovided for.  It was not known here that Mr.
Pfeiffer intended to visit Washington.  He was supposed to go in
quite the opposite direction, having said to more than one that he
had business in San Francisco.  His intrusion into the house of
Miss Moore during the celebration of a marriage in which he could
have taken no personal interest is explained in the following
manner by such as knew his mental peculiarities:  Though a merchant
by trade and latterly a miner in the Klondike, he had great
interest in the occult and was a strong believer in all kinds of
supernatural manifestations.  He may have heard of the unhappy
reputation attaching to the Moore house in Washington and,
fascinated by the mystery involved, embraced the opportunity
afforded by open doors and the general confusion incident to so
large a gathering to enter the interesting old place and investigate
for himself the fatal library.  The fact of his having been found
secluded in this very room, at a moment when every other person in
the house was pushing forward to see the bride, lends color to this
supposition; and his sudden death under circumstances tending to
rouse the imagination shows the extreme sensitiveness of his nature.

"He will be buried here."

The next paragraph was short.  Fresher events were already crowding
this three-days-old wonder to the wall.

"Verdict in the case of Wallace Pfeiffer, found lying dead on the
hearthstone of the old Moore house library.

"Concussion of the brain, preceded by mental shock or heart failure.

"The body went on to Denver to=day."

And below, separated by the narrowest of spaces:

"Mr. and Mrs. Francis Jeffrey have decided to give up their wedding
tour and spend their honeymoon in Washington.  They will occupy the
Ransome house on K Street."

The last paragraph brought me back to the question then troubling
my mind.  Was it in the household of this newly married pair and in
the possible secret passions underlying their union that one should
look for the cause of the murderous crime I secretly imagined to be
hidden behind this seeming suicide?  Or were these parties innocent
and old David Moore the one motive power in precipitating a tragedy,
the result of which had been to enrich him and impoverish them?
Certainly, a most serious and important question, and one which any
man might be pardoned for attempting to answer, especially if that
man was a young detective lamenting his obscurity and dreaming of a
recognition which would yield him fame and the wherewithal to marry
a certain clever but mischievous little minx of whom you are
destined to hear more.

But how was that same young detective, hampered as he was, and held
in thrall by a fear of ridicule and a total lack of record, to get
the chance to push an inquiry requiring opportunities which could
only come by special favor?  This was what I continually asked
myself, and always without result.

True, I might approach the captain or the major with my story of
the tell-tale marks I had discovered in the dust covering the
southwest chamber mantel-shelf, and, if fortunate enough to find
that these had been passed over by the other detectives, seek to
gain a hearing thereby and secure for myself the privileges I so
earnestly desired.  But my egotism was such that I wished to be
sure of the hand which had made these marks before I parted with
a secret which, once told, would make or mar me.  Yet to obtain
the slight concession of an interview with any of the principals
connected with this crime would be difficult without the aid of
one or both of my superiors.  Even to enter the house again where
but a few hours before I had made myself so thoroughly at home
would require a certain amount of pluck; for Durbin had been
installed there, and Durbin was a watch-dog whose bite as well as
his bark I regarded with considerable respect.  Yet into that
house I must sooner or later go, if only to determine whether or
not I had been alone in my recognition of certain clues pointing
plainly toward murder.  Should I trust my lucky star and remain
for the nonce quiescent?  This seemed a wise suggestion and I
decided to adopt it, comforting myself with the thought that if
after a day or two of modest waiting I failed in obtaining what I
wished, I could then appeal to the lieutenant of my own precinct.
He, I had sometimes felt assured, did not regard me with an
altogether unfavorable eye.

Meantime I spent all my available time in loitering around newspaper
offices and picking up such stray bits of gossip as were offered.
As no question had yet been raised of any more serious crime than
suicide, these mostly related to the idiosyncrasies of the Moore
family and the solitary position into which Miss Tuttle had been
plunged by this sudden death of her only relative.  As this beautiful
and distinguished young woman had been and still was a great belle
in her special circle, her present homeless, if not penniless,
position led to many surmises.  Would she marry, and, if so, to
which of the many wealthy or prominent men who had openly courted
her would she accord her hand?  In the present egotistic state of
my mind I secretly flattered myself that I was right in concluding
that she would say yes to no man's entreaty till a certain newly-made
widower's year of mourning had expired.

But this opinion received something of a check when in a quiet talk
with a reporter I learned that it was openly stated by those who
had courage to speak that the tie which had certainly existed at one
time between Mr. Jeffrey and the handsome Miss Tuttle had been
entirely of her own weaving, and that the person of Veronica Moore,
rather than the large income she commanded, had been the attractive
power which had led him away from the older sister.  This seemed
improbable; for the charms of the poor little bride were not to be
compared with those of her maturer sister.  Yet, as we all know,
there are other attractions than those offered by beauty.  I have
since heard it broadly stated that the peculiar twitch of the lip
observable in all the Moores had proved an irresistible charm in
the unfortunate Veronica, making her a radiant image when she
laughed.  This was by no means a rare occurrence, so they said,
before the fancy took her to be married in the ill-starred home of
her ancestors.

The few lines of attempted explanation which she had left behind
for her husband seemed to impose on no one.  To those who knew the
young couple well it was an open proof of her insanity; to those
who knew them slightly, as well as to the public at large, it was
a woman's way of expressing the disappointment she felt in her
husband.

That I might the more readily determine which of these two theories
had the firmest basis in fact, I took advantage of an afternoon
off and slipped away to Alexandria, where, I had been told, Mr.
Jeffrey had courted his bride.  I wanted a taste of local gossip,
you see, and I got it.  The air was fully charged with it, and being
careful not to rouse antagonism by announcing myself a detective, I
readily picked up many small facts.  Brought into shape and arranged
in the form of a narrative, the result was as follows:

John Judson Moore, the father of Veronica, had fewer oddities than
the other members of this eccentric family.  It was thought, however,
that he had shown some strain of the peculiar independence of his
race when, in selecting a wife, he let his choice fall on a widow
who was not only encumbered with a child, but who was generally
regarded as the plainest woman in Virginia - he who might have had
the pick of Southern beauty.  But when in the course of time this
despised woman proved to be the possessor of those virtues and
social graces which eminently fitted her to conduct the large
establishment of which she had been made mistress, he was forgiven
his lack of taste.  Little more was said of his peculiarities until,
his wife having died and his child proved weakly, he made the will
in his brother's favor which has since given that gentleman such
deep satisfaction,.

Why this proceeding should have been so displeasing to their friends
report says not; but that it was so, is evident from the fact that
great rejoicing took place on all sides when Veronica suddenly
developed into a healthy child and the probability of David Moore's
inheriting the coveted estate decreased to a minimum.  It was not a
long rejoicing, however, for John Judson followed his wife to the
grave before Veronica had reached her tenth year, leaving her and
her half-sister, Cora, to the guardianship of a crabbed old bachelor
who had been his father's lawyer.  This lawyer was morose and
peevish, but he was never positively unkind.  For two years the
sisters seemed happy enough when, suddenly and somewhat peremptorily,
they were separated, Veronica being sent to a western school, where
she remained, seemingly without a single visit east, till she was
seventeen.  During this long absence Miss Tuttle resided in
Washington, developing under masters into an accomplished woman.
Veronica's guardian, severe in his treatment of the youthful owner
of the large fortune of which he had been made sole executor, was
unexpectedly generous to the penniless sister, hoping, perhaps, in
his close, peevish old heart, that the charms and acquired graces
of this lovely woman would soon win for her a husband in the
brilliant set in which she naturally found herself.

But Cora Tuttle was not easy to please, and the first men of
Washington came and went before her eyes without awakening in her
any special interest till she met Francis Jeffrey, who stole her
heart with a look.

Those who remember her that winter say that under his influence
she developed from a handsome woman into a lovely one.  Yet no
engagement was announced, and society was wondering what held
Francis Jeffrey back from so great a prize, when Veronica Moore
came home, and the question was forever answered.

Veronica was now nearly eighteen, and during her absence had
blossomed into womanhood.  She was not as beautiful as her sister,
but she had a bright and pleasing expression with enough spice in
her temperament to rob her girlish features of insipidity and make
her conversation witty, if not brilliant.  Yet when Francis Jeffrey
turned his attentions from Miss Tuttle and fixed them without
reserve, or seeming shame, upon this pretty butterfly, but one
term could be found to characterize the proceeding, and that was,
fortune hunting.  Of small but settled income, he had hitherto shown
a certain contentment with his condition calculated to inspire
respect and make his attentions to Miss Tuttle seem both consistent
and appropriate.  But no sooner did Veronica's bright eyes appear
than he fell at the young heiress' feet and pressed his suit so
close and fast that in two months they were engaged and at the end
of the half-year, married - with the disastrous consequences just
made known.

So much for the general gossip of the town.  Now for the special.

A certain gentleman, whom it is unnecessary to name, had been present
at one critical instant in the lives of these three persons.  He was
not a scandalmonger, and if everything had gone on happily, if
Veronica had lived and Cora settled down into matrimony, he would
never have mentioned what he heard and saw one night in the great
drawing-room of a hotel in Atlantic City.

It was at the time when the engagement was first announced between
Jeffrey and the young heiress.  This and his previous attentions to
Cora had made much talk, both in Washington and elsewhere, and there
were not lacking those who had openly twitted him for his seeming
inconstancy.  This had been over the cups of course, and Jeffrey
had borne it well enough from his so-called friends and intimates.
But when, on a certain evening in the parlor of one of the large
hotels in Atlantic City, a fellow whom nobody knew and nobody liked
accused him of knowing on which side his bread was buttered, and
that certainly it was not on the side of beauty and superior
attainments, Jeffrey got angry.  Heedless of who might be within
hearing, he spoke up very plainly in these words: "You are all of a
kind, rank money-worshipers and self-seeker, or you would not be so
ready to see greed in my admiration for Miss Moore.  Disagreeable
as I find it to air my sentiments in this public manner, yet since
you provoke me to it, I will say once and for all, that I am ,deeply
in love with Miss Moore, and that it is for this reason only I am
going to marry her.  Were she the penniless girl her sister is, and
Miss Tuttle the proud possessor of the wealth which, in ,your eyes,
confers such distinction upon Miss Moore, you would still see me at
the latter's feet, and at hers only.  Miss Tuttle's charms are not
potent enough to hold the heart which has once been fixed by her
sister's smile."

This was pointed enough, certainly, but when at the conclusion of
his words a tall figure rose from a year corner and Cora Tuttle
passed the amazed group with a bow, I dare warrant that not one of
the men composing it but wished himself a hundred miles away.

Jeffrey himself was chagrined, and made a move to follow the woman
he had so publicly scorned, but the look she cast back at him was
one to remember, and he hesitated.  What was there left for him to
say, or even to do?  The avowal had been made in all its bald
frankness and nothing could alter it.  As for her, she behaved
beautifully, and by no word or look, so far as the world knew, ever
showed that her woman's pride, if not her heart, had been cut to
the quick, by the one man she adored.

With this incident filling my mind, I returned to Washington.  I
had acquainted myself with the open facts of this family's history;
but what of its inner life?  Who knew it?  Did any one?  Even the
man who confided to me the contretemps in the hotel parlor could not
be sure what underlay Mr. Jeffrey's warm advocacy of the woman he
had elected to marry.  He could not even be certain that he had
really understood the feeling shown by Cora Tuttle when she heard
the man, who had once lavished attentions on her, express in this
public manner a preference for her sister.  A woman has great
aptness in concealing a mortal hurt, and, from what I had seen of
this one, I thought it highly improbable that all was quiet in her
passionate breast because she had turned an impassive front to the
world.

I was becoming confused in the maze of my own imaginings.  To escape
the results of this confusion, I determined to drop theory and
confine myself to facts.

And thus passed the first few days succeeding the tragic discovery
in the Moore house.




VII

SLY WORK


The next morning my duty led me directly in the way of that little
friend of mine whom I have already mentioned.  It is strange how
often my duty did lead me in her way.

She is a demure little creature, with wits as bright 1s her eyes,
which is saying a great deal; and while, in the course of our long
friendship, I had admired without making use of the special abilities
I saw in her, I felt that the time had now come when they might
prove of inestimable value to me.

Greeting her with pardonable abruptness, I expressed my wishes in
these possibly alarming words:

"Jinny, you can do something for me.  Find out - I know you can,
and that, too, without arousing suspicion or compromising either of
us - where Mr. Moore, of Waverley Avenue, buys his groceries, and
when you have done that, whether or not he has lately resupplied
himself with candles."

The surprise which she showed had a touch of naivete in it which
was very encouraging.

"Mr. Moore?" she cried, "the uncle of her who - who -"

"The very same," I responded, and waited for her questions without
adding a single word in way of explanation.

She gave me a look - oh, what a look! It was as encouraging to the
detective as it was welcome to the lover; after which she nodded,
once in doubt, once in question and once in frank and laughing
consent, and darted off.

I thanked Providence for such a self-contained little aide-decamp
and proceeded on my way, in a state of great self-satisfaction.

An hour later I came upon her again.  It is really extraordinary
how frequently the paths of some people cross.

"Well?" I asked.

"Mr. Moore deals with Simpkins, just two blocks away from his house;
and only a week ago he bought some candles there."

I rewarded her with a smile which summoned into view the most
exasperating of dimples.

"You had better patronize Simpkins yourself for a little while," I
suggested; and by the arch glance with which my words were received,
I perceived that my meaning was fully understood.

Experiencing from this moment an increased confidence, not only in
the powers of my little friend, but in the line of investigation
thus happily established, I cast about for means of settling the
one great question which was a necessary preliminary to all future
action:  Whether the marks detected by me in the dust of the mantel
in the southwest chamber had been made by the hand of him who had
lately felt the need of candles, albeit his house appeared to be
fully lighted by gas?

The subterfuge by which, notwithstanding my many disadvantages, I
was finally enabled to obtain unmistakable answer to this query was
the fruit of much hard thought.  Perhaps I was too proud of it.
Perhaps I should have mistrusted myself more from the start.  But
I was a great egotist in those days, and reckoned quite above their
inherent worth any bright ideas which I could safely call my own.

The point aimed at was this: to obtain without Moore's knowledge an
accurate impression of his finger-tips.

The task presented difficulties, but these served duly to increase
my ardor.

Confiding to the lieutenant of the precinct my great interest in
the mysterious house with whose suggestive interior I had made
myself acquainted under such tragic circumstances, I asked  him as
a personal favor to obtain for me an opportunity of spending another
night there.

He was evidently surprised by the request, not cherishing, as I
suppose, any great longings himself in this direction; but
recognizing that for some reason I set great store on this
questionable privilege, - I do not think that he suspected in the
least what that reason was, - and being, as I have intimated,
favorably disposed to me, he exerted himself to such good effect
that I was formally detailed to assist in keeping watch over the
premises that very night.

I think that it was at this point I began to reckon on the success
which, after many failures and some mischances, was yet to reward
my efforts.

As I prepared to enter the old house at nightfall, I allowed myself
one short glance across the way to see if my approach had been
observed by the man whose secret, if secret he had, I was laying
plans to surprise.  I was met by a sight I had not expected.  Pausing
on the pavement in front of me stood a handsome elderly gentleman
whose appearance was so fashionable and thoroughly up to date, that
I should have failed to recognize him if my glance had not taken in
at the same instant the figure of Rudge crouching obstinately on the
edge of the curb where he had evidently posted himself in distinct
refusal to come any farther.  In vain his master, - for the
well-dressed man before me was no less a personage than the whilom
butt of all the boys between the Capitol and the Treasury building,
 - signaled and commanded him to cross to his side; nothing could
induce the mastiff to budge from that quarter of the street where
he felt himself safe.

Mr. Moore, glorying in the prospect of unlimited wealth, presented
a startling contrast in more ways than one to the poverty-stricken
old man whose curious garb and lonely habits had made him an object
of ridicule to half the town.  I own that I was half amused and
half awed by the condescending bow with which he greeted my offhand
nod and the affable way in which he remarked:

"You are making use of your prerogatives as a member of the police,
I see."

The words came as easily from his lips as if his practice in
affability had been of the very longest.

"I wonder how the old place enjoys its present distinction," he
went on, running his eye over the dilapidated walls under which we
stood, with very evident pride in their vast proportions and the air
of gloomy grandeur which signalized them.  "If it partakes in the
slightest degree of the feelings of its owner, I can vouch for its
impatience at the free use which is made of its time-worn rooms and
halls.  Are these intrusions necessary?  Now that Mrs. Jeffrey's
body has been removed, do you feel that the scene of her demise need
hold the attention of the police any longer?"

"That is a question to put to the superintendent and not to me," was
my deprecatory reply.  "The major has issued no orders for the watch
to be taken off, so we men have no choice.  I am sorry if it offends
you.  Doubtless a few days will end the matter and the keys will be
given into your hand.  I suppose you are anxious to move in?"

He cast a glance behind him at his dog, gave a whistle which passed
unheeded, and replied with dignity, if but little heart:

"When a man has passed his seventh decade he is not apt to be so
patient with delay as when he has a prospect of many years before
him.  I am anxious to enter my own house, yes; I have much to do
there."

I came very near asking him what, but feared to seem too familiar,
in case he was the cold but upright man he would fain appear, and
too interested and inquiring if he were the whited sepulcher I
secretly considered him.  So with a nod a trifle more pronounced
than if I had been unaffected by either hypothesis, I remounted the
steps, carelessly remarking:

"I'll see you again after taking a turn through the house.  If I
discover anything - ghost marks or human marks which might be of
interest to you - I'll let you know."

Something like a growl answered me.  But whether it came from master
or dog, I did not stop to inquire.  I had serious work before me;
very serious, considering that it was to be done on my own
responsibility and without the knowledge of my superiors.  But I
was sustained by the thought that no whisper of murder had as yet
been heard abroad or at headquarters, and that consequently I was
interfering in no great case; merely trying to formulate one.

It was necessary, for the success of my plan, that some time should
elapse before I reapproached Mr. Moore.  I therefore kept my word to
him and satisfied my own curiosity by taking a fresh tour through the
house.  Naturally, in doing this, I visited the library.  Here all
was dark.  The faint twilight still illuminating the streets failed
to penetrate here.  I was obliged to light my lantern.

My first glance was toward the fireplace.  Venturesome hands had
been there.  Not only had, the fender been drawn out and the grate
set aside, but the huge settle had been wrenched free from the mantel
and dragged into the center of the room.  Rather pleased at this
change, for with all my apparent bravado I did not enjoy too close a
proximity to the cruel hearthstone, I stopped to give this settle a
thorough investigation.  The result was disappointing.  To all
appearance and I did not spare it the experiment of many a thump and
knock - it was a perfectly innocuous piece of furniture, clumsy of
build, but solid and absolutely devoid of anything that could explain
the tragedies which had occurred so near it.  I even sat down on its
musty old cushion and shut my eyes, but was unrewarded by alarming
visions, or disturbance of any sort.  Nor did the floor where it had
stood yield any better results to the inquiring eye.  Nothing was to
be seen there but the marks left by the removal of its base from the
blackened boards.

Disgusted with myself, if not with this object of my present
disappointment, I left that portion of the room in which it stood
and crossed to where I had found the little table on the night of
Mrs. Jeffrey's death.  It was no longer there.  It had been set back
against the wall where it properly belonged, and the candelabrum
removed.  Nor was the kitchen chair any longer to be seen near the
book shelves.  This fact, small as it was, caused me an instant of
chagrin.  I had intended to look again at the book which I had
examined with such unsatisfactory results the time before.  A glance
showed me that this book had been pushed back level with the others;
but I remembered its title, and, had the means of reaching it been
at hand, I should certainly have stolen another peep at it.

Upstairs I found the same signs of police interference.  The shutter
had been fastened in the southwest room, and the bouquet and wrap
taken away from the bed.  The handkerchief, also, was missing from
the mantel where I had left it, and when I opened the closet door,
it was to find the floor bare and the second candelabrum and candle
removed.

"All gone," thought I; "each and every clue."

But I was mistaken.  In another moment I came upon the minute filings
I had before observed scattered over a small stand.  Concluding from
this that they had been passed over by Durbin and his associates as
valueless, I swept them, together with the dust in which they lay,
into an old envelope I happily found in my pocket.  Then I crossed to
the mantel and made a close inspection of its now empty shelf.  The
scratches which I had made there were visible enough, but the
impressions for which they stood had vanished in the handling which
everything in the house had undergone.  Regarding with great
thankfulness the result of my own foresight, I made haste to leave
the room.  I then proceeded to take my first steps in the ticklish
experiment by which I hoped to determine whether Uncle David had had
any share in the fatal business which had rendered the two rooms I
had just visited so memorable.

First, satisfying myself by a peep through the front drawing-room
window that he was positively at watch behind the vines, I went
directly to the kitchen, procured a chair and carried it into the
library, where I put it to a use that, to an onlooker's eye, would
have appeared very peculiar.  Planting it squarely on the hearthstone,
 - not without some secret perturbation as to what the results might
be to myself, - I mounted it and took down the engraving which I have
already described as hanging over this mantelpiece.

Setting it on end against one of the jambs of the fireplace, I
mounted the chair once more and carefully sifted over the high shelf
the contents of a little package which I had brought with me for this
purpose.

Then, leaving the chair where it was, I betook myself out of the front
door, ostentatiously stopping to lock it and to put the key in my
pocket.

Crossing immediately to Mr. Moore's side of the street, I encountered
him as I had expected to do, at his own gateway.

"Well, what now?" he inquired, with the same exaggerated courtesy I
had noticed in him on a previous occasion.  "You have the air of a
man bringing news.  Has anything fresh happened in the old house?"

I assumed a frankness which seemed to impose on him.

"Do you know," I sententiously informed him, "I have a wonderful
interest in that old hearthstone; or rather in the seemingly innocent
engraving hanging over it, of Benjamin Franklin at the Court of
France.  I tell you frankly that I had no idea of what would be found
behind the picture."

I saw, by his quick look, that I had stirred up a hornets' nest.
This was just what I had calculated to do.

"Behind it!" he repeated.  "There is nothing behind it."

I laughed, shrugged my shoulders, and backed slowly toward the door.

"Of course, you should know," I retorted, with some condescension.
Then, as if struck by a sudden remembrance: "Oh, by the way, have
you been told that there is a window on that lower floor which does
not stay fastened?  I speak of it that you may have it repaired as
soon as the police vacate.  It's the last one in the hall leading
to the negro quarters.  If you shake it hard enough, the catch falls
back and any one can raise it even from the outside."

"I will see to it," he replied, dropping his eyes, possibly to hide
their curious twinkle.  "But what do you mean about finding something
in the wall behind that old picture?  I've never heard"

But though he spoke quickly and shouted the last words after me at
the top of his voice, I was by this time too far away to respond
save by a dubious smile and a semi-patronizing wave of the hand.  Not
until I was nearly out of earshot did I venture to shout back the
following words:

"I'll be back in an hour.  If anything happens - if the boys annoy
you, or any one attempts to enter the old house, telephone to the
station or summon the officer at the corner.  I don't believe any
harm will come from leaving the place to itself for a while."  Then
I walked around the block.

When I arrived in front again it was quite dark.  So was the house;
but there was light in the library.  I felt assured that I should
find Uncle David there, and I did.  When, after a noiseless entrance
and a careful advance through the hall, I threw open the door beyond
the gilded pillars, it was to see the tall figure of this old man
mounted upon the chair I had left there, peering up at the nail from
which I had so lately lifted the picture.  He started as I presented
myself and almost fell from the chair.  But the careless laugh I
uttered assured him of the little importance I placed upon this
evidence of his daring and unappeasable curiosity, and he confronted
me with an enviable air of dignity; whereupon I managed to say:

"Really, Mr. Moore, I'm glad to see you here.  It is quite natural
for you to wish to learn by any means in your power what that picture
concealed.  I came back, because I suddenly remembered that I had
forgotten to rehang it"

Involuntarily he glanced again at the wall overhead, which was as
bare as his hand, save for the nail he had already examined.

"It has concealed nothing," he retorted.  "You can see yourself that
the wall is bare and that it rings as sound as any chimneypiece ever
made."  Here he struck it heavily with his fist.  "What did you
imagine that you had found?"

I smiled, shrugged my shoulders in tantalizing repetition of my
former action upon a like occasion and then answered brusquely:

"I did not come back to betray police secrets, but to restore this
picture to its place.  Or perhaps you prefer to have it down rather
than up?  It isn't much of an ornament"

He scrutinized me darkly from over his shoulder, a wary gleam showing
itself in his shrewd old eyes; and the idea crossed me that the
moment might possess more significance than appeared.  But I did not
step backward, nor give evidence in any way that I had even thought
of danger.  I simply laid my hand on the picture and looked up at him
for orders.

He promptly signified that he wished it hung, adding as I hesitated
these words: "The pictures in this house are supposed to stay on the
walls where they belong.  There is a traditional superstition against
removing them."

I immediately lifted the print from the floor.  No doubt he had me
at a disadvantage, if evil was in his heart, and my position on the
hearth was as dangerous as previous events had proved it to be.  But
it would not do to show the white feather at a moment when his fate,
if not my own, hung in the balance; so motioning him to step down,
I put foot on the chair and raised the picture aloft to hang it.  As
I did so, he moved over to the huge settle of his ancestors, and,
crossing his arms over its back, surveyed me with a smile I rather
imagined than saw.

Suddenly, as I strained to put the cord over the nail he called out:

"Look out! you'll fall."

If he had intended to give me a start in payment for my previous
rebuff he did not succeed; for my nerves had grown steady and my arm
firm at the glimpse I had caught of the shelf below me.  The fine
brown powder I had scattered there had been displaced in five distinct
spots, and not by my fingers.  I had preferred to risk the loss of my
balance, rather than rest my hand on the shelf, but he had taken no
such precaution.  The clue I so anxiously desired and for which I had
so recklessly worked, was obtained.

But when half an hour later I found an opportunity of measuring these
marks and comparing them with those upstairs, I did not enjoy the full
triumph I had promised myself.  For the two impressions utterly failed
to coincide, thus proving that whoever the person was who had been in
this house with Mrs. Jeffrey on the evening she died, it was not her
uncle David.




VIII

SLYER WOES


Let me repeat.  The person who had left the marks of his presence
in the upper chamber of the Moore house was not the man popularly
known as Uncle David.  Who, then, had it been?  But one name
suggested itself to me, - Mr. Jeffrey.

It was not so easy for me to reach this man as it had been for me
to reach his singular and unimaginative uncle.  In the first place,
his door had been closed to every one since his wife's death.
Neither friends nor strangers could gain admittance there unless
they came vested with authority from the coroner.  And this, even
if I could manage to obtain it, would not answer in my case.  What
I had to say and do would better follow a chance encounter.  But
no chance encounter with this gentleman seemed likely to fall to
my lot, and finally I swallowed my pride and asked another favor
of the lieutenant.  Would he see that I was given an opportunity
for carrying some message, or of doing some errand which would lead
to my having an interview with Mr. Jeffrey?  If he would, I stood
ready to promise that my curiosity should stop at this point and
that I would cease to make a nuisance of myself.

I think he suspected me by this time; but he made no remark, and in
a day or so I was summoned to carry a note to the house in K Street.

Mrs. Jeffrey's funeral had taken place the day before and the house
looked deserted.  But my summons speedily brought a neat-looking,
but very nervous maid to the door, whose eyes took on an unmistakable
expression of resistance when I announced my errand and asked to see
Mr. Jeffrey.  The expression would not have struck me as peculiar
if she had raised any objection to the interview I had solicited.
But she did not.  Her fear and antipathy, consequently, sprang from
some other source than her interest in the man most threatened by
my visit.  Was it-could it be, on her own account?  Recalling what
I had heard whispered about the station concerning a maid of the
Jeffreys who always seemed on the point of saying something which
never really left her lips, I stopped her as she was about to slip
upstairs and quietly asked:

"Are you Loretta?"

The way she turned, the way she looked at me as she gave me a short
affirmative, and then quickly proceeded on her way, convinced me
that my colleagues were right as to her being a woman who had some
cause for dreading police interference.  I instantly made up my mind
that here was a mine to be worked and that I knew just the demure
little soul best equipped to act the part of miner.

In a moment she came back, and I had a chance to note again her
pretty but expressionless features, among which the restless eyes
alone bespoke character or decision.

"Mr. Jeffrey is in the back room upstairs," she announced.  "He
says for you to come up."

"Is it the room Mrs. Jeffrey used to occupy?" I asked with open
curiosity, as I passed her.

An involuntary shudder proved that she was not without feeling.
So did the quick disclaimer:

"No, no!  Those rooms are closed.  He occupies the one Miss Tuttle
had before she went away."

"Oh, then, Miss Tuttle is gone?"

Loretta disdained to answer.  She had already said enough to cause
her to bite her lip as she disappeared down the basement stair.
Decidedly the boys were right.  An uneasy feeling followed any
conversation with this girl.  Yet, while there was slyness in her
manner, there was a certain frank honesty visible in it too, which
caused me to think that if she could ever be made to speak, her
evidence could be relied on.

Mr. Jeffrey was sitting with his back to the door when I entered,
but turned as I spoke his name and held out his hand for the note
I carried.  I had no expectation of his remembering me as one of
the men who had stood about that night in the Moore house, and I
was not disappointed.  To him I was merely a messenger, or common
policeman; and he consequently paid me no attention, while I
bestowed upon him the most concentrated scrutiny of my whole life.
Till now I had seen him only in half lights, or under circumstances
precluding my getting a very accurate idea of him as a man and a
gentleman.  Now he sat with the broad daylight on his face, and I
had every opportunity for noting both his features and expression.
He was of a distinguished type; but the cloud enshrouding him was
as heavy as any I had ever seen darkening about a man of his
position and character.  His manner, fettered though it was by
gloomy thoughts, was not just the manner I had expected to encounter.

He had a large, clear eye, but the veil which hid the brightness of
his regard was misty with suspicion, not with tears.  He appeared
to shrink from observation, and shifted uneasily as long as I stood
in front of him, though he said nothing and did not lift his eyes
from the letter he was perusing till he heard me step back to the
door I had purposely left open and softly close it.  Then he glanced
up, with a keen, if not an alarmed look, which seemed an exaggerated
one for the occasion, - that is, if he had no secret to keep.

"Do you suffer so from drafts?" he asked, rising in a way which in
itself was a dismissal.

I smiled an amused denial, then with the simple directness I thought
most likely to win me his confidence, entered straight upon my
business in these plain words:

"Pardon me, Mr. Jeffrey, I have something to say which is not exactly
fitted for the ears of servants."  Then, as he pushed his chair
suddenly back, I added reassuringly: "It is not a police matter, sir,
but an entirely personal one.  It may strike you as important, and it
may not.  Mr. Jeffrey, I was the man who made the unhappy discovery in
the Moore mansion, which has plunged this house into mourning."

This announcement startled him and produced a visible change in his
manner.  His eyes flew first to one door and then to another, as if
it were he who feared intrusion now.

"I beg your pardon for speaking on so painful a topic," I went on,
as soon as I saw he was ready to listen to me.  "My excuse is that
I came upon a little thing that same night which I have not thought
of sufficient importance to mention to any one else, but which it
may interest you to hear about."

Here I took from a book I held, a piece of blotting-paper.  It was
white on one side and blue on the other.  The white side I had
thickly chalked, though this was not apparent.  Laying down this
piece of blotting-paper, chalked side up, on the end of a large table
near which we were standing, I took out an envelope from my pocket,
and, shaking it gently to and fro, remarked:

"In an upper room of the Moore house - you remember the southwest
chamber, sir?"

Ali! didn't he!  There was no misdoubting the quick emotion - the
shrinking and the alarm with which he heard this room mentioned.

"It was in that room that I found these."

Tipping up the envelope, I scattered over the face of the blotter
a few of the glistening particles I had collected from the place
mentioned.

He bent over them, astonished.  Then, as was natural, brushed them
together in a heap with the tips of his fingers, and leaned to look
again, just as I breathed a heavy sigh which scattered them far and
wide.

Instinctively, he withdrew his hand; whereupon I embraced the
opportunity of turning the blotter over, uttering meanwhile the
most profuse apologies.  Then, as if anxious not to repeat my
misadventure, I let the blotter lie where it was, and pouring out
the few remaining particles into my palm, I held them toward the
light in such a way that he was compelled to lean across the table
in order to see them.  Naturally, for I had planned the distance
well, his finger-tips, white with the chalk he had unconsciously
handled, touched the blue surface of the blotter now lying uppermost
and left their marks there.

I could have shouted in my elation at the success of this risky
maneuver, but managed to suppress my emotion, and to stand quite
still while he took a good look at the filings.  They seemed to have
great and unusual interest for him and it was with no ordinary
emotion that he finally asked:

"What do you make out of these, and why do you bring them here?"

My answer was written under his hand; but this it was far from my
policy to impart.  So putting on my friendliest air, I returned,
with suitable respect:

"I don't know what to make of them.  They look like gold; but that
is for you to decide.  Do you want them, sir?"

"No," he replied, starting erect and withdrawing his hand from the
blotter.  "It's but a trifle, not worth our attention.  But I
thank you just the same for bringing it to my notice."

And again his manner became a plain dismissal.

This time I accepted it as such without question.  Carelessly
restoring the piece of blotting-paper to the book from which I had
taken it, I made a bow and withdrew toward the door.  He seemed to
be thinking, and the deep furrows which I am sure had been lacking
from his brow a week previous, became startlingly visible.  Finally
he observed:

"Mrs. Jeffrey was not in her right mind when she so unhappily took
her life.  I see now that the change in her dates back to her
wedding day, consequently any little peculiarity she may have shown
at that time is not to be wondered at."

"Certainly not," I boldly ventured; "if such peculiarities were
shown after the fright given her by the catastrophe which took place
in the library."

His eyes, which were fixed on mine, flashed, and his hands closed
convulsively.

"We will not consider the subject," he muttered, reseating himself
in the chair from which he had risen.

I bowed again and went out.  I did not dwell on the interview in my
own mind nor did I allow myself to draw any conclusions from it,
till I had carried the blotter into the southwest chamber of the
Moore house and carefully compared the impressions made on it with
the marks I had scratched on the surface of the mantel-shelf.  This
I did by laying the one over the other, after having made holes
where his finger-tips had touched the blotter.

The holes in the blotter and the marks outlined upon the shelf
coincided exactly.




IX

JINNY


I have already mentioned the man whom I secretly looked upon as
standing between me and all preferment.  He was a good-looking
fellow, but he wore a natural sneer which for some reason I felt to
be always directed toward myself.  This sneer grew pronounced about
this time, and that was the reason, no doubt, why I continued to
work as long as I did in secret.  I dreaded the open laugh of this
man, a laugh which always seemed hovering on his lips and which was
only held in restraint by the awe we all felt of the major.

Notwithstanding, I made one slight move.  Encountering the
deputy-coroner, I ventured to ask if he was quite satisfied with
the evidence collected in the Jeffrey case.

His surprise did not prevent him from asking my reasons for this
question.

I replied to this effect:

"Because I have a little friend, winsome enough and subtle enough
to worm the truth out of the devil.  I hear that the girl Loretta
is suspected of knowing more about this unfortunate tragedy than
she is willing to impart.  If you wish this little friend of mine
to talk to her, I will see that she does so and does so with effect."

The deputy-coroner looked interested.

"Whom do you mean by `little friend' and what is her name?"

"I will send her to you."

And I did.

The next day I was standing on the corner of Vermont Avenue when I
saw Jinny advancing from the house in K Street.  She was chipper,
and she was smiling in a way which made me say to myself:

"It is fortunate that Durbin is not here."

For Jinny's one weakness is her lack of power to hide the
satisfaction she takes in any detective work that comes her way.
I had told her of this and had more than once tried to impress
upon her that her smile was a complete give-away, but I noticed
that if she kept it from her lips, it forced its way out of her
eyes, and if she kept it out of her eyes, it beamed like an inner
radiance from her whole face.  So I gave up the task of making her
perfect and let her go on smiling, glad that she had such frequent
cause for it.

This morning her smile had a touch of pride in it as well as of
delight, and noting this, I remarked:

"You have made Loretta talk."

Her head went up and a demure dimple appeared in her cheek.

"What did she say?" I urged.  "What has she been keeping back?"

"You will have to ask the coroner.  My orders were strict to bring
the results of my interview immediately to him."

"Does that include Durbin?"

"Does it include you?"

"I am afraid not."

"You are right; but why shouldn't it include you?"

"What do you mean, Jinny ?"

"Why do you keep your own counsel so long?  You have ideas about
this crime, I know.  Why not mention them?"

"Jinny!"

"A word to the wise is sufficient;" she laughed and turned her
pretty face toward the coroner's once.  But she was a woman and
could not help glancing back, and, meeting my dubious look, she
broke into an arch smile and naively added this remark: "Loretta
is a busybody ashamed of her own curiosity.  So much there can be
no harm in telling you.  When one's knowledge has been gained by
lingering behind doors and peeping through cracks, one is not so
ready to say what one has seen and heard.  Loretta is in that box,
and being more than a little scared of the police, was glad to let
her anxiety and her fears overflow into a sympathizing ear.  Won't
she be surprised when she is called up some fine day by the coroner!
I wonder if she will blame me for it?"

"She will never think of doing so," I basely assured my little
friend, with an appreciative glance at her sparkling eye and dimpled
cheek.

The arch little creature started to move off again.  As she did so,
she cried: "Be good, and don't let Durbin cut in on you;" but stopped
for the second time when half across the street, and when, obedient
to her look, I hastily rejoined her, she whispered demurely: "Oh, I
forgot to tell you something that I heard this morning, and which
nobody but yourself has any right to know.  I was following your
commands and buying groceries at Simpkins', when just as I was coming
out with my arms full, I heard old Mr. Simpkins mention Mr. Jeffrey's
name and with such interest that I naturally wanted to hear what he
had to say.  Having no real excuse for staying, I poked my finger
into a bag of sugar I was carrying, till the sugar ran out and I had
to wait till it was put up again.  This did not take long, but it
took long enough for me to hear the old grocer say that he knew Mr.
Jeffrey, and that that gentleman had come into his shop only a day
or two before his wife's death, to buy - candles!"

The archness with which this was said, together with the fact itself,
made me her slave forever.  As her small figure faded from sight
down the avenue, I decided to take her advice and follow up whatever
communication she had to make to the coroner by a confession of my
own suspicions and what they had led me into.  If he laughed - well,
I could stand it.  It was not the coroner's laugh, nor even the
major's, that I feared; it was Durbin's.

X

FRANCIS JEFFREY

Jinny had not been gone an hour from the coroner's office when an
opportunity was afforded for me to approach that gentleman myself.

With few apologies and no preamble, I immediately entered upon my
story which I made as concise and as much to the point as possible.
I did not expect praise from him, but I did look for some slight
show of astonishment at the nature of my news.  I was therefore
greatly disappointed, when, after a moment's quiet consideration,
he carelessly remarked:

"Very good!  very good!  The one point you make is excellent and
may prove of use to us.  We had reached the same conclusion, but
by another road.  You ask, 'Who blew out the candle?'  We, 'Who
tied the pistol to Mrs. Jeffrey's arm?'  It could not have been
tied by herself.  Who was her accessory then?  Ah, you didn't think
of that."

I flushed as if a pail of hot water had been dashed suddenly over
me.  He was right.  The conclusion he spoke of had failed to strike
me.  Why?  It was a perfectly obvious one, as obvious as that the
candle had been blown out by another breath than hers; yet,
absorbed in my own train of thought, I had completely overlooked
it.  The coroner observing my embarrassment, smiled, and my
humiliation was complete or would have been had Durbin been there,
but fortunately he was not.

"I am a fool," I cried.  "I thought I had discovered something.  I
might have known that there were keener minds than mine in this
office -"

"Easy!  easy!" was the good-natured interruption.  "You have done
well.  If I did not think so, I would not keep you here a minute.
As it is, I am disposed to let you see that in a case like this,
one man must not expect to monopolize all the honors.  This matter
of the bow of ribbon would strike any old and experienced official.
I only wonder that we have not seen it openly discussed in the
papers."

Taking a box from his desk, he opened it and held it out toward me.
A coil of white ribbon surmounted by a crisp and dainty bow met my
eyes.

"You recognize it?" he asked.

Indeed I did.

"It was cut from her wrist by my deputy.  Miss Tuttle wished him to
untie it, but he preferred to leave the bow intact.  Now lift it out.
Careful, man, don't soil it; you will see why in a minute."

As I held the ribbon up, he pointed to some spots on its fresh white
surface.  "Do you see those?" he asked.  "Those are dust-marks, and
they were made as truly by some one's fingers, as the impressions
you noted on the mantel-shelf in the upper chamber.  This pistol was
tied to her wrist after the deed; possibly by that same hand."

It was my own conclusion but it did not sound as welcome to me from
his lips as I had expected.  Either my nature is narrow, or my
inordinate jealousy lays me open to the most astonishing
inconsistencies; for no sooner had he spoken these words than I
experienced a sudden revulsion against my own theory and the
suspicions which it threw upon the man whom an hour before I was
eager to proclaim a criminal.

But Coroner Z. gave me no chance for making such a fool of myself.
Rescuing the ribbon from my hands, which no doubt were running a
little too freely over its snowy surface, he smiled with the
indulgence proper from such a man to a novice like myself, and
observed quite frankly:

"You will consider these observations as confidential.  You know
how to hold your tongue; that you have proved.  Hold it then a
little longer.  The case is not yet ripe.  Mr. Jeffrey is a man
of high standing, with a hitherto unblemished reputation.  It won't
do, my boy, to throw the doubt of so hideous a crime upon so fine
a gentleman without ample reason.  That no such mistake may be made
and that he may have every opportunity for clearing himself, I am
going to have a confidential talk with him.  Do you want to be
present?"

I flushed again; but this time from extreme satisfaction.

"I am obliged for your confidence," said I; then, with a burst of
courage born of his good nature, I inquired with due respect if my
little friend had answered his expectations.  "Was she as clever as
I said?" I asked.

"Your little friend is a trump," was his blunt reply.  "With what
we have learned through her and now through you, we can approach Mr.
Jeffrey to some purpose.  It appears that, before leaving the house
on that Tuesday morning, he had an interview with his wife which
ought in some way to account for this tragedy.  Perhaps he will tell
us about it, and perhaps he will explain how he came to wander
through the Moore house while his wife lay dying below.  At all
events we will give him the opportunity to do so and, if possible,
to clear up mysteries which provoke the worst kind of conjecture.
It is time.  The ideas advanced by the papers foster superstition;
and superstition is the devil.  Go and tell my man out there that
I am going to K Street.  You may say 'we' if you like," he added
with a humor more welcome to me than any serious concession.

Did I feel set up by this?  Rather.

Mr. Jeffrey was expecting us.  This was evident from his first look,
though the attempt he made at surprise was instantaneous and very
well feigned.  Indeed, I think he was in a constant state of
apprehension during these days and that no inroad of the police
would have astonished him.  But expectation does not preclude dread;
indeed it tends to foster it, and dread was in his heart.  This he
had no power to conceal.

"To what am I indebted for this second visit from you?" he asked of
Coroner Z., with an admirable presence of mind.  "Are you not yet
satisfied with what we have been able to tell you of my poor wife's
unhappy end?"

"We are not," was the plain response.  "There are some things you
have not attempted to explain, Mr. Jeffrey.  For instance, why you
went to the Moore house previous to your being called there by the
death of your wife."

It was a shot that told; an arrow which found its mark.  Mr.
Jeffrey flushed, then turned pale, rallied and again lost himself
in a maze of conflicting emotions from which he only emerged to say:

"How do you know that I was there?  Have I said so; or do those old
walls babble in their sleep?"

"Old walls have been known to do this," was the grave reply.
"Whether they had anything to say in this case is at present quite
immaterial.  That you were where I charge you with being is evident
from your own manner.  May I then ask if you have anything to say
about this visit.  When a person has died under such peculiar
circumstances as Mrs. Jeffrey, everything bearing upon the case is
of interest to the coroner."

I was sorry he added that last sentence; sorry that he felt obliged
to qualify his action by anything savoring of apology; for the time
spent in its utterance afforded his agitated hearer an opportunity
not only of collecting himself but of preparing an answer for which
he would not have been ready an instant before.

"Mrs. Jeffrey's death was a strange one," her husband admitted with
tardy self-control.  "I find myself as much at a loss to understand
it as you do, and am therefore quite ready to answer the question
you have so openly broached.  Not that my answer has any bearing upon
the point you wish to make, but because it is your due and my
pleasure.  I did visit the Moore house, as I certainly had every
right to do.  The property was my wife's, and it was for my interest
to learn, if I could, the secret of its many crimes."

"Ah!"

Mr. Jeffrey looked quickly up.  "You think that an odd thing for me
to do?"

"At night.  Yes."

"Night is the time for such work.  I did not care to be seen
pottering around there in daylight."

"No?  Yet it would have been so much easier.  You would not have
had to buy candles or carry a pistol or -"

"I did not carry a pistol.  The only pistol carried there was the
one with which my demented wife chose to take her life.  I do not
understand this allusion."

"It grew out of a misunderstanding of the situation, Mr. Jeffrey;
excuse me if I supposed you would be likely to provide yourself
with some means of defense in venturing alone upon the scene of
so many mysterious deaths."

"I took no precaution."

"And needed none, I suppose."

"And needed none."

"When was this visit paid, Mr. Jeffrey?  Before or after your wife
pulled the trigger which ended her life?  You need not hesitate to
answer."

"I do not." The elegant gentleman before us had acquired a certain
fierceness.  "Why should I?  Certainly, you don't think that I was
there at the same time she was.  It was not on the same night, even.
So much the walls should have told you and probably did, or my
wife's uncle, Mr. David Moore.  Was he not your informant?"

"No; Mr. Moore has failed to call our attention to this fact.  Did
you meet Mr. Moore during the course of your visit to a neighborhood
over which he seems to hold absolute sway?"

"Not to my knowledge.  But his house is directly opposite, and as
he has little to do but amuse himself with what he can see from his
front window, I concluded that he might have observed me going in."

"You entered by the front door, then?"

"How else?"

"And on what night?"


Mr. Jeffrey made an effort.  These questions were visibly harassing
him.

"The night before the one - the one which ended all my earthly
happiness," he added in a low voice.

Coroner Z. cast a glance at me.  I remembered the lack of dust on
the nest of little tables from which the upper one had been drawn
forward to hold the candelabrum, and gently shook my head.  The
coroner's eyebrows went up, but none of his disbelief crept into
his voice as he made this additional statement

"The night on which you failed to return to your own house."

Instantly Mr. Jeffrey betrayed by a nervous action, which was quite
involuntary, that his outward calm was slowly giving way under a
fire of questions for which he had no ready reply.

"It was odd, your not going home that night," the coroner coldly
pursued.  "The misunderstanding you had with your wife immediately
after breakfast must have been a very serious one; more serious
than you have hitherto acknowledged."

"I had rather not discuss the subject," protested Mr. Jeffrey.
Then as if he suddenly recognized the official character of his
interlocutor, he hastily added: "Unless you positively request me
to do so; in which case I must."

"I am afraid that I must insist upon it," returned the other.  "You
will find that it will be insisted upon at the inquest, and if you
do not wish to subject yourself to much unnecessary unpleasantness,
you had better make clear to us to-day the cause of that
special quarrel which to all intents and purposes led to your wife's
death."

"I will try to do so," returned Mr. Jeffrey, rising and pacing the
room in his intense restlessness.  "We did have some words; her
conduct the night before had not pleased me.  I am naturally
jealous, vilely jealous, and I thought she was a little frivolous
at the German ambassador's ball.  But I had no idea she would take
my sharp speeches so much to heart.  I had no idea that she would
care so much or that I should care so much.  A little jealousy is
certainly pardonable in a bridegroom, and if her mind had not
already been upset, she would have remembered how I loved her and
hopefully waited for a reconciliation."

"You did love your wife, then?  It was you and not she who had a
right to be jealous?  I have heard the contrary stated.  It is a
matter of public gossip that you loved another woman previous to
your acquaintance with Miss Moore; a woman whom your wife regarded
with sisterly affection and subsequently took into her new home."

"Miss Tuttle?"  Mr. Jeffrey stopped in his walk to fling out this
ejaculation.  "I admire and respect Miss Tuttle," he went on to
declare, "but I never loved her.  Not as I did my wife," he finished,
but with a certain hard accent, apparent enough to a sensitive ear.

"Pardon me; it is as difficult for me to put these questions as it
is for you to hear them.  Were you and Miss Tuttle ever engaged?"

I started.  This was a question which half of Washington had been
asking itself for the last three months.

Would Mr. Jeffrey answer it?  or, remembering that these questions
were rather friendly than official, refuse to satisfy a curiosity
which he might well consider intrusive?  The set aspect of his
features promised little in the way of information, and we were
both surprised when a moment later he responded with a grim
emphasis hardly to be expected from one of his impulsive temperament:

"Unhappily, no.  My attentions never went so far."

Instantly the coroner pounced on the one weak word which Mr.
Jeffrey had let fall.

"Unhappily?" he repeated.  "Why do you say, unhappily?"

Mr. Jeffrey flushed and seemed to come out of some dream.

"Did I say unhappily?" he inquired.  "Well, I repeat it; Miss Tuttle
would never have given me any cause for jealousy."

The coroner bowed and for the present dropped her name out of the
conversation.

"You speak again of the jealousy aroused in you by your wife's
impetuosities.  Was this increased or diminished by the tone of
the few lines she left behind her?"

The response was long in coming.  It was hard for this man to lie.
The struggle he made at it was pitiful.  As I noted what it cost
him, I began to have new and curious thoughts concerning him and
the whole matter under discussion.

"I shall never overcome the remorse roused in me by those few
lines," he finally rejoined.  "She showed a consideration for me -"

"What!"

The coroner's exclamation showed all the surprise he felt.  Mr.
Jeffrey tottered under it, then grew slowly pale as if only through
our amazed looks he had come to realize the charge of inconsistency
to which he had laid himself open.

"I mean -" he endeavored to explain, "that Mrs. Jeffrey showed an
unexpected tenderness toward me by taking all the blame of our
misunderstanding upon herself.  It was generous of her and will
do much toward making my memory of her a gentle one."

He was forgetting himself again.  Indeed, his manner and attempted
explanations were full of contradictions.  To emphasize this fact
Coroner Z. exclaimed

"I should think so!  She paid a heavy penalty for her professed
lack of love.  You believe that her mind was unseated?"

"Does not her action show it?"

"Unseated by the mishap occurring at her marriage?"

"Yes."

"You really think that?"

"Yes."

"By anything that passed between you?"

"Yes."

"May I ask you to tell us what passed between you on this point?"

"Yes."

He had uttered the monosyllable so often it seemed to come
unconsciously from his lips.  But he recognized almost as soon as
we did that it was not a natural reply to the last question, and,
making a gesture of apology, he added, with the same monotony of
tone which had characterized these replies:

"She spoke of her strange guest's unaccountable death more than
once, and whenever she did so, it was with an unnatural excitement
and in an unbalanced way.  This was so noticeable to us all that
the subject presently was tabooed amongst us; but though she
henceforth spared us all allusion to it, she continued to talk
about the house itself and of the previous deaths which had occurred
there till we were forced to forbid that topic also.  She was never
really herself after crossing the threshold of this desolate house
to be married.  The shadow which lurks within its walls fell at that
instant upon her life.  May God have mercy -"

The prayer remained unfinished.  His head which had fallen on his
breast sank lower.

He presented the aspect of one who is quite done with life, even
its sorrows.

But men in the position of Coroner Z. can not afford to be
compassionate.  Everything the bereaved man said deepened the
impression that he was acting a part.  To make sure that this was
really so, the coroner, with just the slightest touch of sarcasm,
quietly observed:

"And to ease your wife's mind - the wife you were so deeply angered
with - you visited this house, and, at an hour which you should have
spent in reconciliation with her, went through its ancient rooms in
the hope - of what?"

Mr. Jeffrey could not answer.  The words which came from his lips
were mere ejaculations.

"I was restless - mad - I found this adventure diverting.  I had
no real purpose in mind."

"Not when you looked at the old picture?"

"The old picture?  What old picture?"

"The old picture in the southwest chamber.  You took a look at that,
didn't you?  Got up on a chair on purpose to do so?"

Mr. Jeffrey winced.  But he made a direct reply.

"Yes, I gave a look at that old picture; got up, as you say, on a
chair to do so.  Wasn't that the freak of an idle man, wandering, he
hardly knows why, from room to room in an old and deserted house?"

His tormentor did not answer.  Probably his mind was on his next
line of inquiry.  But Mr. Jeffrey did not take his silence with the
calmness he had shown prior to the last attack.  As no word came
from his unwelcome guest, he paused in his rapid pacing and,
casting aside with one impulsive gesture his hitherto imperfectly
held restraint, he cried out sharply:

"Why do you ask me these questions in tones of such suspicion?  Is
it not plain enough that my wife took her own life under a
misapprehension of my state of mind toward her, that you should feel
it necessary to rake up these personal matters, which, however
interesting to the world at large, are of a painful nature to me?"

"Mr. Jeffrey," retorted the other, with a sudden grave assumption of
dignity not without its effect in a case of such serious import, "we
do nothing without purpose.  We ask these questions and show this
interest because the charge of suicide which has hitherto been made
against your wife is not entirely sustained by the facts.  At least
she was not alone when she took her life.  Some one was in the house
with her."

It was startling to observe the effect of this declaration upon him.

"Impossible!" he cried out in a protest as forcible as it was
agonized.  "You are playing with my misery.  She could have had no
one there; she would not.  There is not a man living before whom she
would have fired that deadly shot; unless it was myself, - unless it
was my own wretched, miserable self."

The remorseful whisper in which those final words were uttered
carried them to my heart, which for some strange and unaccountable
reason had been gradually turning toward this man.  But my less
easily affected companion, seeing his opportunity and possibly
considering that it was this gentleman's right to know in what a
doubtful light he stood before the law, remarked with as light a
touch of irony as was possible:

"You should know better than we in whose presence she would choose
to die - if she did so choose.  Also who would be likely to tie the
pistol to her wrist and blow out the candle when the dreadful deed
was over."

The laugh which seemed to be the only means of violent expression
remaining to this miserable man was kept down by some amazing thought
which seemed to paralyze him.  Without making any attempt to refute
a suggestion that fell just short of a personal accusation, he sank
down in the first chair he came to and became, as it were, lost in
the vision of that ghastly ribbon-tying and the solitary blowing out
of the candle upon this scene of mournful death.  Then with a
struggling sense of having heard something which called for answer,
he rose blindly to his feet and managed to let fall these words:

"You are mistaken - no one was there, or if any one was - it was not
I.  There is a man in this city who can prove it."

But when Mr. Jeffrey was asked to give the name of this man, he
showed confusion and presently was obliged to admit that he could
neither recall his name nor remember anything about him, but that
he was some one whom he knew well, and who knew him well.  He
affirmed that the two had met and spoken near Soldiers' Home
shortly after the sun went down, and that the man would be sure
to remember this meeting if we could only find him.

As Soldiers' Home was several miles from the Moore house and quite
out of the way of all his accustomed haunts, Coroner Z. asked him
how he came to be there.  He replied that he had just come from Rock
Creek Cemetery.  That he had been in a wretched state of mind all
day, and possibly being influenced by what he had heard of the
yearly vigils Mr. Moore was in the habit of keeping there, had taken
a notion to stroll among the graves, in search of the rest and peace
of mind he had failed to find in his aimless walks about the city.
At least, that was the way he chose to account for the meeting he
mentioned.  Falling into reverie again, he seemed to be trying to
recall the name which at this moment was of such importance to him.
But it was without avail, as he presently acknowledged.

"I can not remember who it was.  My brain is whirling, and I can
recollect nothing but that this man and myself left the cemetery
together on the night mentioned, just as the gate was being closed.
As it closes at sundown, the hour can be fixed to a minute.  It was
somewhere near seven, I believe; near enough, I am sure, for it to
have been impossible for me to be at the Moore house at the time my
unhappy wife is supposed to have taken her life.  There is no doubt
about your believing this?" he demanded with sudden haughtiness, as,
rising to his feet, he confronted us in all the pride of his
exceptionally handsome person.

"We wish to believe it," assented the coroner, rising in his turn.
"That our belief may become certainty, will you let us know, the
instant you recall the name of the man you talked with at the
cemetery gate?  His testimony, far more than any word of yours, will
settle this question which otherwise may prove a vexed one."

Mr. Jeffrey's hand went up to his head.  Was he acting a part or
did he really forget just what it was for his own best welfare to
remember?  If he had forgotten, it argued that he was in a state of
greater disturbance on that night than would naturally be occasioned
by a mere lover's quarrel with his wife.

Did the same thought strike my companion?  I can not say; I can only
give you his next words.

"You have said that your wife would not be likely to end her life
in presence of any one but yourself.  Yet you must see that some one
was with her.  How do you propose to reconcile your assertions with
a fact so undeniable?"

"I can not reconcile them.  It would madden me to try.  If I thought
any one was with her at that moment -"

"Well?"

Mr. Jeffrey's eyes fell; and a startling change passed over him.
But before either of us could make out just what this change
betokened he recovered his aspect of fixed melancholy and quietly
remarked:

"It is dreadful to think of her standing there alone, aiming a pistol
at her young, passionate heart; but it is worse to picture her doing
this under the gaze of unsympathizing eyes.  I can not and will not
so picture her.  You have been misled by appearances or what in
police parlance is called a clue."

Evidently he did not mean to admit the possibility of the pistol
having been fired by any other hand than her own.  This the coroner
noted.  Bowing with the respect he showed every man before a jury
had decided upon his guilt, he turned toward the door out of which
I had already hurried.

"We hope to hear from you in the morning," he called back
significantly, as he stepped down the stairs.

Mr. Jeffrey did not answer; he was having his first struggle with
the new and terrible prospect awaiting him at the approaching inquest.






BOOK II - THE LAW AND ITS VICTIM



XI - DETAILS


The days of my obscurity were over.  Henceforth, I was regarded as
a decided factor in this case - a case which from this time on,
assumed another aspect both at headquarters and in the minds of
people at large.  The reporters, whom we had hitherto managed to
hold in check, now overflowed both the coroner's office and police
headquarters, and articles appeared in all the daily papers with
just enough suggestion in them to fire the public mind and make me,
for one, anticipate an immediate word from Mr. Jeffrey calculated
to establish the alibi he had failed to make out on the day we
talked with him.  But no such word came.  His memory still played
him false, and no alternative was left but to pursue the official
inquiry in the line suggested by the interview just recounted.

No proceeding in which I had ever been engaged interested me as did
this inquest.  In the first place, the spectators were of a very
different character from the ordinary.  As I wormed myself along to
the seat accorded to such witnesses as myself, I brushed by men of
the very highest station and a few of the lowest; and bent my head
more than once in response to the inquiring gaze of some fashionable
lady who never before, I warrant, had found herself in such a scene.
By the time I reached my place all the others were seated and the
coroner rapped for order.

I was first to take the stand.  What I said has already been fully
amplified in the foregoing pages.  Of course, my evidence was
confined to facts, but some of these facts were new to most of the
persons there.  It was evident that a considerable effect was
produced by them, not only on the spectators, but upon the
witnesses themselves.  For instance, it was the first time that the
marks on the mantel-shelf had been heard of outside the major's
office, or the story so told as to make it evident that Mrs. Jeffrey
could not have been alone in the house at the time of her death.

A photograph had been taken of those marks, and my identification
of this photograph closed my testimony.

As I returned to my seat I stole a look toward a certain corner
where, with face bent down upon his hand, Francis Jeffrey sat
between Uncle David and the heavily-veiled figure of Miss Tuttle.
Had there dawned upon him as my testimony was given any suspicion of
the trick by which he had been proved responsible for those marks?
It was impossible to tell.  From the way Miss Tuttle's head was
turned toward him, one might judge him to be laboring under an
emotion of no ordinary character, though he sat like a statue and
hardly seemed to realize how many eyes were at that moment riveted
upon his face.

I was followed by other detectives who had been present at the time
and who corroborated my statement as to the appearance of this
unhappy woman and the way the pistol had been tied to her arm.  Then
the doctor who had acted under the coroner was called.  After a long
and no doubt learned description of the bullet wound which had ended
the life of this unhappy lady, - a wound which he insisted, with a
marked display of learning, must have made that end instantaneous or
at least too immediate for her to move foot or hand after it, - he
was asked if the body showed any other mark of violence.

To this he replied

"There was a minute wound at the base of one of her fingers, the one
which is popularly called the wedding finger."

This statement made all the women present start with renewed interest;
nor was it altogether without point for the men, especially when the
doctor went on to say:

"The hands were entirely without rings.  As Mrs. Jeffrey had been
married with a ring, I noticed their absence."

"Was this wound which you characterize as minute a recent one?"

"It had bled a little.  It was an abrasion such as would be made if
the ring she usually wore there had been drawn off with a jerk.
That was the impression I received from its appearance.  I do not
state that it was so made."

A little thrill which went over the audience at the picture this
evoked communicated itself to Miss Tuttle, who trembled violently.
It even produced a slight display of emotion in Mr. Jeffrey, whose
hand shook where he pressed it against his forehead.  But neither
uttered a sound, nor looked up when the next witness was summoned.

This witness proved to be Loretta, who, on hearing her name called,
evinced great reluctance to come forward.  But after two or three
words uttered in her ear by the friendly Jinny, who had been given
a seat next her, she stepped into the place assigned her with a
suddenly assumed air of great boldness, which sat upon her with
scant grace.  She had need of all the boldness at her command, for
the eyes of all in the room were fixed on her, with the exception
of the two persons most interested in her testimony.  Scrutiny of
any kind did not appear to be acceptable to her, if one could read
the trepidation visible in the short, quick upheavals of the broad
collar which covered her uneasy breast.  Was this shrinking on her
part due to natural timidity, or had she failings to avow which,
while not vitiating her testimony, would certainly cause her shame
in the presence of so many men and women?  I was not able to decide
this question immediately; for after the coroner had elicited her
name and the position she held in Mr. Jeffrey's household he asked
whether her duties took her into Mrs. Jeffrey's room; upon her
replying that they did, he further inquired if she knew Mrs.
Jeffrey's rings, and could say whether they were all to be found
on that lady's toilet-table after the police came in with news of
her death.  The answer was decisive.  They were all there, her
rings and all the other ornaments she was in the daily habit of
wearing, with the exception of her watch.  That was not there.

"Did you take up those rings?"

"No, sir."

"Did you see any one else take them up?"

"No, sir; not till the officer did so."

"Very well, Loretta, sit down again till we hear what Durbin has to
say about these rings."

And then the man I hated came forward, and though I shrank from
acknowledging it even to myself, I could but observe how strong
and quiet and self-possessed he seemed and how decisive was his
testimony.  But it was equally brief.  He had taken up the rings
and he had looked at them; and on one, the wedding-ring, he had
detected a slight stain of blood.  He had called Mr. Jeffrey's
attention to it, but that gentleman had made no comment.  This
remark had the effect of concentrating general attention upon Mr.
Jeffrey.  But he seemed quite oblivious of it; his attitude remained
unchanged, and only from the quick stretching out and withdrawal of
Miss Tuttle's hand could it be seen that anything had been said
calculated to touch or arouse this man.  The coroner cast an uneasy
glance in his direction; then he motioned Durbin aside and recalled
Loretta.

And now I began to be sorry for the girl.  It is hard to have one's
weaknesses exposed, especially if one is more foolish than wicked.
But there was no way of letting this girl off without sacrificing
certain necessary points, and the coroner went relentlessly to work.

"How long have you been in this house?"

"Three weeks.  Ever since Mrs. Jeffrey's wedding day, sir."

"Were you there when she first came as a bride from the Moore house?"

"I was, sir."

"And saw her then for the first time?"

"Yes, sir."

"How did she look and act that first day?"

"I thought her the gayest bride I had ever seen,, then I thought
her the saddest, and then I did not know what to think.  She was so
merry one minute and so frightened the next, so full of talk when
she came running up the steps and so struck with silence the minute
she got into the parlor, that I set her down as a queer one till
some one whispered in my ear that she was suffering from a dreadful
shock; that ill-luck had attended her marriage and much more about
what had happened from time to time at the Moore house."

"And you believed what was told you?"

"Believed?"

"Believed it well enough to keep a watch on your young mistress to
see if she were happy or not?"

"Oh, sir!"

"It was but natural," the coroner suavely observed.  "Every one felt
interested in this marriage.  You watched her of course.  Now what
was the result?  Did you consider her well and happy?"

The girl's voice sank and she cast a glance at her master which he
did not lift his head to meet.

"I did not think her happy.  She laughed and sang and was always in
and out of the rooms like a butterfly, but she did not wear a happy
look, except now and then when she was seated with Mr. Jeffrey alone.
Then I have seen her flush in a way to make the heart ache; it was
such a contrast, sir, to other times when she was by herself or -"

"Or what?"

"Or just with her sister, sir."

The defiance with which this was said added point to what otherwise
might have been an unimportant admission.  Those who had already
scrutinized Miss Tuttle with the curiosity of an ill-defined suspicion
now scrutinized her with a more palpable one, and those who had
hitherto seen nothing in this heavily-veiled woman but the bereaved
sister of an irresponsible suicide allowed their looks to dwell
piercingly on that concealing veil, as if they would be glad to
penetrate its folds and read in those beautiful features the meaning
of an allusion uttered with such a sting in the tone.

"You refer to Miss Tuttle?" observed the coroner.

"Mrs. Jeffrey's sister?  Yes, sir."  The menace was gone from the
voice now, but no one could forget that it had been there.

"Miss Tuttle lived in the house with her sister, did she not?"

"Yes, sir; till that sister died and was buried; then she went away."

The coroner did not pursue this topic, preferring to return to the
former one.

"So you say that Mrs. Jeffrey showed uneasiness ever since her
wedding day.  Can you give me any instance of this; mention, I mean,
any conversations overheard by you which would show us just what you
mean?"

"I don't like to repeat things I hear.  But if you say that I must,
I can remember once passing Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey in the hall, just
as he was saying: 'You take it too much to heart!  I expected a
happy honeymoon.  Somehow, we have failed -'  That was all I heard,
sir.  But what made me remember his words was that she was dressed
for some afternoon reception and looked so charming and so - and so,
as if she ought to be happier."

"Just so.  Now, when was this?  How long before her death?"

"Oh, a week or so.  It was very soon after the wedding day."

"And did matters seem to improve after that? Did she appear any
better satisfied or more composed?"

"I think she endeavored to.  But there was something on her mind,
something which she tried to laugh off; something that annoyed Mr.
Jeffrey and worried Miss Tuttle; something which caused a cloud in
the house, for all the dances and dinners and goings and comings.
I am sorry to speak of it, but it was so."

"Something that showed an unsettled mind?"

"Almost.  The glitter in her eye was not natural; neither was the
way she looked at her sister and sometimes at her husband."

"Did she talk much about the catastrophe which attended her wedding?
Did her mind seem to run on that?"

"Incessantly at first; but afterward not so much.  I think Mr.
Jeffrey frowned on that subject."

"Did he ever frown on her?"

"No, sir - not - not when they were alone or with no one by but me.
He seemed to love her then very much."

"What do you mean by that, Loretta; that he lost patience with her
when other people were present - Miss Tuttle, for instance?"

"Yes, sir.  He used to change very much when - when - when Miss
Tuttle came into the room."

"Change toward his wife?"

"Yes, sir."

"How ?"

"He grew more distant, much more distant; got up quite fretfully
from his seat, if he were sitting beside her, and took up some
book or paper."

"And Miss Tuttle?"

"She never seemed to notice but"

"But - ?"

"She did not come in very often after this had happened once or
twice; I mean into the room upstairs where they used to sit."

"Loretta, I regret to put this question, but after your replies I
owe it to the jury, if not to the parties themselves, to make Miss
Tuttle's position in this household thoroughly understood.  Do you
think she was a welcome visitor in this house?"

The girl pursed up her lips, glanced at the lady and gentleman
whose feelings she was supposed to pass comment on, and seemed to
lose heart.  Then, as they failed to respond to her look of appeal,
she strove to get the better of her sense of shame and, with a
somewhat injured air, replied:

"I can only repeat what I once heard said about this by Mr.
Jeffrey himself.  Miss Tuttle had just left the diningroom and Mrs.
Jeffrey was standing in one of her black moods, with her hand on
the top of her chair, ready to go but forgetting to do so.  I was
there, but neither of them noticed me; he was staring at her, and
she was looking down.  Neither seemed at ease.  Suddenly he spoke
and asked, 'Why must Cora remain with us?'  She started and her
look grew strange and frightened.  'Because I want her to,' she
cried.  'I can not live without Cora."'

These words, so different from what we were expecting, caused a
sensation in the room and consequently a stir.  As the noise of
shifting feet and moving heads began to be heard in all directions,
Miss Tuttle's head drooped a little, but Francis Jeffrey did not
betray any sign of feeling or even of attention.  The coroner,
embarrassed, perhaps, by this exhibition of silent misery so near
him, hesitated a little before he put his next question.  Loretta,
on the contrary, had gathered courage with every word she spoke and
now looked ready for anything.

"It was Mrs. Jeffrey, then, who clung most determinedly to her
sister?" the coroner finally suggested.

"I have told you what she said."

"Yet these sisters spent but little time together?"

"Very little; as little as two persons could who lived together
in one house."

This statement, which seemed such a contradiction to her former one,
increased the interest; and much disappointment was covertly shown
when the coroner veered off from this topic and brusquely inquired
"Did you ever know Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey to have any open rupture?"

The answer was a decided one.

"Yes.  On Tuesday morning preceding her death they had a long and
angry talk in their own room, after which Mrs. Jeffrey made no
further effort to conceal her wretchedness.  Indeed, one may say
she began to die from that hour."

Mrs. Jeffrey's death had occurred on Wednesday evening.

"Let us hear what you have to say about this quarrel and what
happened after it."

The girl, with a renewed flush, cast a deprecatory look at the mass
of faces before her, and, meeting on all sides but one look of
intense and growing interest, drew up her neat figure with a
relieved air and began a story which I will proceed to transcribe
for you in the fewest possible words.

Tuesday morning's breakfast had been a silent one.  There had been a
ball the night before at some great place on Massachusetts Avenue;
but no one spoke of it.  Miss Tuttle made some remark about a friend
she had met there, but as no one listened to her, she soon stopped
and in a little while left the table.  Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey sat on,
but neither said anything.  Finally Mr. Jeffrey rose and, speaking in
a voice hardly recognizable, remarked that he had something to say to
her, and led the way to their room.  Mrs. Jeffrey looked frightened
as she followed him; so frightened that it was evident that something
very serious had occurred or was about to occur between them.  As
nothing of this kind had ever happened before, Loretta could not
help waiting about till Mr. Jeffrey reappeared; and when he did so
and she saw no signs of relief in his face or manner, she watched,
with the silly interest of a girl who had nothing else to occupy her
mind, to see if he would leave the house in such a mood, and without
making peace with his young bride.  To her surprise, he did not go
out at the usual time, but went to Miss Tuttle's room, where for a
full half-hour he remained closeted with his sister-in-law, talking
in excited and unnatural tones.  Then he went back for a few minutes
to where he had left his wife, in her own boudoir.  But he could not
have had much to say to her this time, for he presently came out
again and ran hastily downstairs and out, almost without stopping
to catch up his hat.

As it was Mary's business, and not the witness', to make Mrs.
Jeffrey's bed in the morning, Loretta could think of no excuse for
approaching her mistress' room at this moment; but later, when
letters came, followed by various messages and some visitors, she
went more than a dozen times to Mrs. Jeffrey's door.  She was not
admitted, nor were her appeals answered, except by a sharp "Go
away!"

Nor was Miss Tuttle received any better, though she tried more than
once to see her sister, especially as night came on and the hour
approached for Mr. Jeffrey's return.  Mrs. Jeffrey was simply
determined to remain alone; and when dinner time arrived, and no
Mr. Jeffrey, she could be induced to open her door only wide enough
to take in the cup of tea which Miss Tuttle insisted upon sending
her.

The witness here confessed that she had been very much excited by
these unusual proceedings and by the effect which they seemed to
have on the lady just mentioned; so she was ready to notice that
Mrs. Jeffrey's hand shook like that of an old and palsied woman when
she reached out for the tray.

Gladly would Loretta have caught one glimpse of her face, but it
was hidden by the door; nor did Mrs. Jeffrey answer a single one of
her questions.  She simply closed her door and kept it so till
toward midnight, when Miss Tuttle, coming into the hall, ordered the
house to be closed for the night.  Then the long-shut door softly
swung open, but before any one could reach it, it was again pulled to
and locked.

The next day brought no relief.  Miss Tuttle, who had changed greatly
during this unhappy day and night, succeeded no better than before in
getting access to her sister, nor could Loretta gain the least word
from her mistress till toward the latter part of the afternoon, when
that lady, ringing her bell, gave her first order.

"A substantial dinner," she cried; and when Loretta, greatly relieved,
brought up the required meal she was astonished to find the door open
and herself bidden to enter.  The sight which met her eyes staggered
her.  From one end of the room to the other were signs of great
nervous unrest and of terrible suffering.  The chairs were pushed
into corners as if the wretched bride had tramped the floor in an
agony of excitement.  Curtains were torn and the piano-cover was
hanging half on and half off the open upright, as if she had clutched
at it to keep herself from falling.  On the floor beneath lay several
pieces of broken china, - vases of whose value Mrs. Jeffrey had often
spoken, but which, jerked off with the cover, had been left where
they fell; while immediately in front of the fireplace lay one of
the rugs tossed into a heap, as if she had rolled in it on the floor
or used it to smother her cries of pain or anger.

So much for the state in which the witness found the boudoir.  The
adjoining bed-room was not in much better case, though it was evident
that the bed itself had not been lain in since it was made up the
day before at breakfast time.  By this token Mrs. Jeffrey had not
slept the night before, or if she had laid her head anywhere it had
been on the rug already spoken of.

These signs of extreme mental suffering, so much more extreme than
any Loretta had ever before witnessed, frightened her so that the
tray shook in her hand as she set it down on the table among the
countless objects Mrs. Jeffrey always had about her.  The noise
seemed to startle her mistress, who had walked to the window after
opening the door, for she wheeled impetuously about and Loretta saw
her face.  It was as if a blight had passed over it.  Once gay and
animated beyond the power of any one to describe, it had become in
twenty-four hours a ghost's face, with the glare of some awful
resolve on it.  Or so it would appear from the way Loretta described
it.  But such girls do not always see correctly, and perhaps all
that can be safely stated is that Mrs. Jeffrey was unnaturally pale
and had lost her butterfly-like way of incessant movement.

Loretta, who was evidently accustomed to seeing her mistress arrayed
in brilliant colors and much begemmed, laid great stress on the fact
that, though it was on the verge of evening and she was evidently
going out, she was dressed in black cloth and without even a diamond
or a flower to relieve its severe simplicity.  Her hair, too, which
was always her pride, was piled in a careless mass upon her head as
if she had tried to arrange it herself and had forgotten what she
was doing while her fingers were but half through their work.  There
was a cloak lying on a chair near which she was standing, and she
held a hat in her band; but Loretta saw no gloves.  As the maid's
glance and that of her mistress crossed, Mrs. Jeffrey spoke, and the
effort she made in doing so naturally frightened the girl still
more.  "I am going out," were her words.  "I may not be home till
late - What are you looking at?"

Loretta declared that the words took her by surprise and that she
did not know what to say, but managed to cover up her embarrassment
by intimating that if her mistress would let her touch up her hair
a bit she would make her look more natural.

At this suggestion, Mrs. Jeffrey cast a glance in the glass and
impetuously declared, "It doesn't matter."  But she seemed to think
better of it the next minute; for, throwing herself in a chair, she
bade the girl to bring a comb, and sat quiet enough, though evidently
in a great tremor of haste and impatience, while Loretta combed her
hair and put it up in the old way.

But the old way was not as becoming as usual, and Loretta was
wondering if she ought to call in Miss Tuttle, when Mrs. Jeffrey
jumped to her feet and went over to the table and began to eat with
the feverish haste of one who forces himself to take food in spite
of hurry and distaste.

This was the moment for Loretta to leave the room; but she did not
know how to do so.  She felt herself fixed to the spot and stood
watching Mrs. Jeffrey till that lady, suddenly becoming conscious
of the girl's presence, turned, and in the midst of the moans which
broke unconsciously from her lips, said with a pitiable effort at
her old manner:

"Go away, Loretta; I am ill; have been ill for two days.  I don't
like people to look at me like that!"  Then, as the girl shrank
back, added in a breaking voice: "When Mr. Jeffrey comes home -" and
said no more for several minutes, during which she clutched her
throat with both hands and struggled with herself till she got her
voice back and found herself able to repeat: "When Mr. Jeffrey comes,
 - if he does come, - tell him that I was right about the way that
novel ended.  Remember that you are to say to him the moment you
see him that I was right about the novel, and that he is to look and
see if it did not end as I said it would.  And "Loretta -" here she
rose and approached the speaker with a sweet, appealing look which
brought tears to the impressionable girl's eyes, "don't go gossiping
about me downstairs.  I sha'n't be sick long.  I am going to be
better soon, very soon.  By the time you see me here again I shall
be quite like my old self.  Forget how - how" - and Loretta said she
seemed to have difficulty in finding the right word here - "how
childish I have been."

Of course Loretta promised, but she is not sure that she would have
had the courage to keep all this to herself if she had not heard
Mrs. Jeffrey stop in Miss Tuttle's room on her way out.  That
relieved her, and enabled her to go downstairs to her own supper
with more appetite than she had thought ever to have again.  Alas!
it was the last good meal she was able to eat for days.  In three
hours afterward a man came from the station house with the news of
Mrs. Jeffrey's suicide in the horrible old house in which she had
been married only two weeks before.

As this had been a continuous narrative and concisely told, the
coroner had not interrupted her.  When at this point a little gasp
escaped Miss Tuttle and a groan broke from Francis Jeffrey's
hitherto sealed lips, the feelings of the whole assemblage seemed
to find utterance.  A young wife's misery culminating in death on
the very spot where she had been so lately married!  What could be
more thrilling, or appeal more closely to the general heart of
humanity?  But the cause of that misery!  This was what every one
present was eager to have explained.  This is what we now expected
the coroner to bring out.  But instead of continuing on the line he
had opened up, he proceeded to ask:

"Where were you when this officer brought the news you mention?"

"In the hall, sir.  I opened the door for him."

"And to whom did he first mention his errand?"

"To Miss Tuttle.  She had come in just before him and was standing
at the foot of the stairs"

"What!  Was Miss Tuttle out that evening?"

"Yes; she went out very soon after Mrs. Jeffrey left.  When she
came in she said that she had been around the block, but she must
have gone around it more than once, for she was absent two hours."

"Did you let her in?"

"Yes, sir."

"And she said she had been around the block?"

"Yes, sir"

"Did she say anything else?"

"She asked if Mr. Jeffrey had come in"

"Anything else?"

"Then if Mrs. Jeffrey had returned."

"To both of which questions you answered -"

"A plain 'No.'"

"Now tell us about the officer."

"He rang the bell almost immediately after she did.  Thinking she
would want to slip upstairs before I admitted any one, I waited a
minute for her to go, but she did not do so, and when the officer
stepped in she -"

"Well!"

"She shrieked."

"What!  before he spoke?"

"Yes, sir."

"Just at sight of him?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did he wear his badge in plain view?"

"Yes, on his breast."

"So that you knew him to be a police officer?"

"Yes."

"And Miss Tuttle shrieked at seeing a police officer?"

"Yes, and sprang forward."

"Did she say anything?"

"Not then."

"What did she do?"

"Waited for him to speak."

"Which he did?"

"At once, and very brutally.  He asked if she was Mrs. Jeffrey's
sister, and when she nodded and gasped 'Yes,' he blurted out that
Mrs. Jeffrey was dead; that he had just come from the old house in
Waverley Avenue, where she had just been found."

"And Miss Tuttle?"

"Didn't know what to say; just hid her face.  She was leaning
against the newel-post, so it was easy for her to do so.  I remember
that the man stared at her for taking it so quietly and asking no
questions."

"And did she speak at all?"

"Oh, yes, afterwards.  Her face was wrapped in the folds of her
cloak, but I heard her whisper, as if to herself: 'No!  no!  That
old hearth is not a lodestone.  She can not have fallen there.'
And then she looked up quite wildly and cried: 'There is something
more !  Something which you have not told me.' 'She shot herself,
if that's what you mean.'  Miss Tuttle's arms went straight up over
her head.  It was awful to see her.  'Shot herself?' she gasped.
'Oh, Veronica, Veronica!'  'With a pistol,' he went on - I suppose
he was going to say, 'tied to her wrist,' but he never got it out,
for Miss Tuttle, at the word 'pistol' clapped her hands to her ears
and for a moment looked quite distracted, so that he thought better
of worrying her any more and only demanded to know if Mr. Jeffrey
kept any such weapon.  Miss Tuttle's face grew very strange at this.
'Mr. Jeffrey!  was he there?' she asked.  The man looked surprised.
'They are searching for Mr. Jeffrey,' he replied.  'Isn't he here?
'No,' came both from her lips and mine.  The man acted very
impertinently.  'You haven't told me whether a pistol was kept here
or not,' said he.  Miss Tuttle tried to compose herself, but I saw
that I should have to speak if any one did, so I told him that Mr.
Jeffrey did have a pistol, which he kept in one of his bureau
drawers.  But when the officer wanted Miss Tuttle to go up and see
if it was there, she shook her head and made for the front door,
saying that she must be taken directly to her sister."

"And did no one go up?  Was no attempt made to see if the pistol
was or was not in the drawer?"

"Yes; the officer went up with me.  I pointed out the place where
it was kept, and he rummaged all through it, but found no pistol.
I didn't expect him to -"  Here the witness paused and bit her lip,
adding confusedly: "Mrs. Jeffrey had taken it, you see."

The jurors, who sat very much in the shadow, had up to this point
attracted but little attention.  But now they began to make their
presence felt, perhaps because the break in the witness' words had
been accompanied by a sly look at Jinny.  Possibly warned by this
that something lay back of this hitherto timid witness' sudden
volubility, one of them now spoke up.

"In what room did you say this pistol was kept?"

"In Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey's bed-room, sir; the room opening out of
the sitting-room where Mrs. Jeffrey had kept herself shut up all
day."

"Does this bed-room of which you speak communicate with the hall as
well as with the sitting room ?"

"No, sir; it is the defect of the house.  Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey often
spoke of it as a great annoyance.  You had to pass through the little
boudoir in order to reach it."

The juryman sank back, evidently satisfied with her replies, but we
who marked the visible excitement with which the witness had answered
this seemingly unimportant question, wondered what special interest
surrounded that room and the pistol to warrant the heightened color
with which the girl answered this new interlocutor.  We were not
destined to know at this time, for the coroner, when he spoke again,
pursued a different subject.

"How long was this before Mr. Jeffrey came in."

"Only a few minutes.  I was terribly frightened at being left there
alone and was on my way to ask one of the other girls to come up and
stay with me, when I heard his key in the lock and came back.  He had
entered the house and was standing near the door talking to an
officer, who had evidently come in with him.  It was a different
officer from the one who had gone away with Miss Tuttle.  Mr. Jeffrey
was saying, 'What's that?  My wife hurt!' 'Dead, sir!' blurted out
the man.  I had expected to see Mr. Jeffrey terribly shocked, but
not in so awful a way.  It really frightened me to see him and I
turned to run, but found that I couldn't and that I had to stand
still and look whether I wanted to or not.  Yet he didn't say a word
or ask a question."

"What did he do, Loretta?"

"I can not say; he was on his knees and was white - Oh, how white!
Yet he looked up when the man described how and where Mrs. Jeffrey,
had been found and even turned toward me when I said something
about his wife having left a message for him when she went out.
This message, which I almost hesitated to give after the awful news
of her death, was about the ending of some story, as you remember,
and it seemed heartless to speak of it at a moment like this, but
as she had told me to, I didn't dare to disobey her.  So, with the
man listening to my every word, and Mr. Jeffrey looking as if he
would fall to the ground before I could finish, I repeated her
words to him and was surprised enough when he suddenly started
upright and went flying upstairs.  But I was more surprised yet
when, at the top of the first flight, he stopped and, looking over
the balustrade, asked in a very strange voice where Miss Tuttle
was.  For he seemed just then to want her more than anything else
in the world and looked beaten and wild when I told him that she
was already gone to Waverley Avenue.  But he recovered himself
before the man could draw near enough to see his face, and rushed
into the sitting-room above and shut the door behind him, leaving
the officer and me standing down by the front door.  As I didn't
know what to say to a man like him, and he didn't know what to
say to me, the time seemed long, but it couldn't have been very
many minutes before Mr. Jeffrey came back with a slip of paper
in his hand and a very much relieved look on his face.  'The deed
was premeditated,' he cried.  'My unfortunate wife has misunderstood
my affection for her.'  And from being a very much broken-down man,
he stood up straight and tall and prepared himself very quietly to
go to the Moore house.  That is all I can tell about the way the
news was received by him."

Were these details necessary?  Many appeared to regard them as
futile and uncalled for.  But Coroner Z. was never known to waste
time on trivialities, and if he called for these facts, those who
knew him best felt certain that they were meant as a preparation for
Mr. Jeffrey's testimony, which was now called for.




XII

THRUST AND PARRY


When Francis Jeffrey's hand fell from his forehead and he turned to
face the assembled people, an instinctive compassion arose in every
breast at sight of his face, which, if not open in its expression,
was at least surcharged with the deepest misery.  In a flash the
scene took on new meaning.  Many remembered that less than a month
before his eye had been joyous and his figure a conspicuous one
among the favored sons of fortune.  And now he stood in sight of a
crowd, drawn together mainly by curiosity, to explain as best he
might why this great happiness and hope had come to a sudden
termination, and his bride of a fortnight had sought death rather
than continue to live under the same roof with him.

So much for what I saw on the faces about me.  What my own face
revealed I can not say.  I only know that I strove to preserve an
impassive exterior.  If I secretly held this man's misery to be a
mask hiding untold passions and the darkness of an unimaginable
deed, it was not for me to disclose in this presence either my
suspicions or my fears.  To me, as to those about me, he apparently
was a man who at some sacrifice to his pride, would, yet be able
to explain whatever seemed dubious in the mysterious case in which
he had become involved.

His wife's uncle, who to all appearance shared the general curiosity
as to the effect which this woeful tragedy had had upon his niece's
most interested survivor, eyed with a certain cold interest,
eminently in keeping with his general character, the pallid forehead,
sunken eyes and nervously trembling lip of the once "handsome
Jeffrey" till that gentleman, rousing from his depression, manifested
a realization of what was required of hire and turned with a bow
toward the coroner.

Miss Tuttle settled into a greater rigidity.  I pass over the
preliminary examination of this important witness and proceed at once
to the point when the coroner, holding out the two or three lines
of writing which Mr. Jeffrey had declared to have been left him by
his wife, asked:

"Are these words in your wife's handwriting?"

Mr. Jeffrey replied hastily, and, with just d glance at the paper
offered him:

"They are."

The coroner pressed the slip upon him.

"Look at them carefully," he urged.  "The handwriting shows hurry
and in places is scarcely legible.  Are you ready to swear that
these words were written by your wife and by no other?"

Mr. Jeffrey, with just a slight contraction of his brow expressive
of annoyance, did as he was bid.  He scanned, or appeared to scan,
the small scrap of paper which he now took into his own hand.

"It is my wife's writing," he impatiently declared.  "Written, as all
can see, under great agitation of mind, but hers without any doubt."

"Will you read aloud these words for our benefit?" asked the coroner:

It was a cruel request, causing an instinctive protest from the
spectators.  But no protest disturbed Coroner Z.  He had his reasons,
no doubt, for thus trying this witness, and when Coroner Z. had
reason for anything it took more than the displeasure of the crowd
to deter him.

Mr. Jeffrey, who had subdued whatever indignation he may have felt
at this unmistakable proof of the coroner's intention to have his
own way with him whatever the cost to his sensitiveness or pride,
obeyed the latter's command in firmer tones than I expected.

The lines he was thus called upon to read may bear repetition:

"I find that I do not love you as I thought.  I can not live knowing
this to be so.  Pray God you may forgive me!

VERONICA."


As the last word fell with a little tremble from Mr. Jeffrey's lips,
the coroner repeated:

"You still think these words were addressed to you by your wife;
that in short they contain an explanation of her death?"

"I do"

There was sharpness in the tone.  Mr. Jeffrey was feeling the prick.
There was agitation in it, too; an agitation he was trying hard to
keep down.

"You have reason, then," persisted the coroner, "for accepting this
peculiar explanation of your wife's death; a death which, in the
judgment of most people, was of a nature to call for the strongest
provocation possible."

"My wife was not herself.  My wife was in an over strained and
suffering condition.  For one so nervously overwrought many
allowances must be made.  She may have been conscious of not
responding fully to my affection.  That this feeling was strong
enough to induce her to take her life is a source of unspeakable
grief to me, but one for which you must find explanation, as I have
so often said, in the terrors caused by the dread event at the
Moore house, which recalled old tragedies and emphasized a most
unhappy family tradition."

The coroner paused a moment to let these words sink into the ears
of the jury, then plunged immediately into what might be called the
offensive part of his examination.

"Why, if your wife's death caused you such intense grief, did you
appear so relieved at receiving this by no means consoling
explanation?"

At an implication so unmistakably suggestive of suspicion Mr.
Jeffrey showed fire for the first time.

"Whose word have you for that?  A servant's, so newly come into my
house that her very features are still strange to me.  You must
acknowledge that a person of such marked inexperience can hardly be
thought to know me or to interpret rightly the feelings of my heart
by any passing look she may have surprised upon my face."

This attitude of defiance so suddenly assumed had an effect he
little realized.  Miss Tuttle stirred for the first time behind her
veil, and Uncle David, from looking bored, became suddenly quite
attentive.  These two but mirrored the feelings of the general
crowd, and mine especially.

"We do not depend on her judgment alone," the coroner now remarked.
"The change in you was apparent to many others.  This we can prove
to the jury if they require it."

But no man lifting a voice from that gravely attentive body, the
coroner proceeded to inquire if Mr. Jeffrey felt like volunteering
any explanations on this head.  Receiving no answer from him either,
he dropped the suggestive line of inquiry and took up the
consideration of facts.  The first question he now put was:

"Where did you find the slip of paper containing these last words
from your wife?"

"In a book I picked out of the book-shelf in our room upstairs.
When Loretta gave me my wife's message I knew that I should find
some word from her in the novel we had just been reading.  As we had
been interested in but one book since our marriage, there was no
possibility of my making an' mistake as to which one she referred"

"Will you give us the name of this novel?"

"COMPENSATION."

"And you found this book called COMPENSATION in your room upstairs?"

"Yes."

"On the book-shelf?"

"Yes."

"Where does this book-shelf stand?"

Mr. Jeffrey looked up as much as to say, "Why so many small questions
about so simple a matter?" but answered frankly enough:

"At the right of the door leading into the bedroom."

"And at right angles to the door leading into the hall?"

"Yes."

"Very good.  Now may I ask you to describe the cover of this book?"

"The cover?  I never noticed the cover.  Why do you -.  Excuse me,
I suppose you have your reasons for asking even these puerile and
seemingly unnecessary questions.  The cover is a queer one I believe;
partly red and partly green; and that is all I know about it."

"Is this the book?"

Mr. Jeffrey glanced at the volume the coroner held up before him.

"I believe so; it looks like it."

The book had a flaming cover, quite unmistakable in its character.

"The title shows it to be the same," remarked the coroner.  "Is this
the only book with a cover of this kind in the house?"

"The only one, I should say."

The coroner laid down the book.

"Enough of this, then, for the present; only let the jury remember
that the cover of this book is peculiar and that it was kept on a
shelf at the right of the opening leading into the adjoining
bed-room.  And now, Mr. Jeffrey, we must ask you to look at these
rings; or, rather, at this one.  You have seen it before; it is the
one you placed on Mrs. Jeffrey's hand when you were married to her
a little over a fortnight ago.  You recognize it?"

"I do."

"Do you also recognize this small mark of blood on it as having been
here when it was shown to you by the detective on your return from
seeing her dead body at the Moore house?"

"I do; yes."

"How do you account for that spot and the slight injury made to her
finger?  Should you not say that the ring had been dragged from her
hand?"

"I should."

"By whom was it dragged?  By you?"

"No, sir."

"By herself, then?"

"It would seem so."

"Much passion must have been in that act.  Do you think that any
ordinary quarrel between husband and wife would account for the
display of such fury?  Are we not right in supposing a deeper cause
for the disturbance between you than the slight one you offer in
way of explanation?"

An inaudible answer; then a sudden straightening of Francis Jeffrey's
fine figure.  And that was all.

"Mr. Jeffrey, in the talk you had with your wife on Tuesday morning
was Miss Tuttle's name introduced?"

"It was mentioned; yes, sir."

"With recrimination or any display of passion on the part of your
wife?"

"You would not believe me if I said no," was the unexpected rejoinder.

The coroner, taken aback by this direct attack from one who had
hitherto borne all his innuendoes with apparent patience, lost
countenance for a moment, but, remembering that in his official
capacity he was more than a match for the elegant gentleman, who
under other circumstances would have found it only too easy to put
him to the blush, he observed with dignity:

"Mr. Jeffrey, you are on oath.  We certainly have no reason for not
believing you."

Mr. Jeffrey bowed.  He was probably sorry for his momentary loss
of self-control, and gravely, but with eyes bent downward, answered
with the abrupt phrase:

"Well, then, I will say no."

The coroner shifted his ground.

"Will you make the same reply when I ask if the like forbearance
was shown toward your wife's name in the conversation you had with
Miss Tuttle immediately afterward?"

A halt in the eagerly looked-for reply; a hesitation, momentary
indeed, but pregnant with nameless suggestions, caused his answer,
when it did come, to lose some of the emphasis he manifestly wished
to put into it.

"Miss Tuttle was Mrs. Jeffrey's half-sister.  The bond between them
was strong.  Would she would I - be apt to speak of my young wife
with bitterness?"

"That is not an answer to my question, Mr. Jeffrey.  I must request
a more positive reply."

Miss Tuttle made a move.  The strain on all present was so great we
could but notice it.  He noticed it too, for his brows came together
with a quick frown, as he emphatically replied:

"There were no recriminations uttered.  Mrs. Jeffrey had displeased
me and I said so, but I did not forget that I was speaking of my
wife and to her sister."

As this was in the highest degree non-committal, the coroner could
be excused for persisting.

"The conversation, then, was about your wife?"

"It was."

"In criticism of her conduct?"

"Yes."

"At the ambassador's ball?"

"Yes."

Mr. Jeffrey was a poor hand at lying.  That last "yes" came with
great effort.

The coroner waited, possibly for the echo of this last "yes" to
cease; then he remarked with a coldness which lifted at once the
veil from his hitherto well disguised antagonism to this witness.

"If you will recount to us anything which your wife said or did on
that evening which, in your mind, was worthy of all this coil, it
might help us to understand the situation."

But the witness made no attempt to do so, and while many of us were
ready to pardon him this show of delicacy, others felt that under
the circumstances it would have been better had he been more open.

Among the latter was the coroner himself, who, from this moment,
threw aside all hesitation and urged forward his inquiries in a way
to press the witness closer and closer toward the net he was secretly
holding out for him.  First, he obliged him to say that his
conversation with Miss Tuttle had not tended to smooth matters; that
no reconciliation with his wife had followed it, and that in the
thirty-six hours which elapsed before he returned home again he had
made no attempt to soothe the feelings of one, who, according to his
own story, he considered hardly responsible for any extravagances
in which she might have indulged.  Then when this inconsistency had
been given time to sink into the minds of the jury, Coroner Z.
increased the effect produced by confronting Jeffrey with witnesses
who testified to the friendly, if not lover-like relations which had
existed between himself and Miss Tuttle prior to the appearance of
his wife upon the scene; closing with a question which brought out
the denial, by no means new, that an engagement had ever taken place
between him and Miss Tuttle and hence that a bond had been canceled
by his marriage with Miss Moore.

But his manner and careful choice of words in making this denial
did not satisfy those present of his entire candor; especially as
Miss Tuttle, for all her apparent immobility, showed, by the violent
locking of her hands, both her anxiety and the suffering she was
undergoing during this painful examination.  Was the suffering merely
one of outraged delicacy?  We felt justified in doubting it, and
looked forward, with cruel curiosity I admit, to the moment when
this renowned and universally admired beauty would be called on to
throw aside her veil axed reveal the highly praised features which
had been so openly scorned for the sake of one whose chief claims
to regard lay in her great wealth.

But this moment was as yet far distant.  The coroner was a man of
method, and his plan was now to prove, as had been apparent to most
of us from the first, that the assumption of suicide on the part of
Mrs. Jeffrey was open to doubt.  The communication suggesting such
an end to her troubles was the strongest proof Mr. Jeffrey could
bring forward that her death had been the result of her own act.
Consequently it was now the coroner's business to show that this
communication was either a forgery, or a substitution, and that if
she left some word in the book to which she had in so peculiar a
manner directed his attention, it was not necessarily the one
bewailing her absence of love for him and her consequent intention
of seeking relief from her disappointment in death.

Some hint of what the coroner contemplated had already escaped him
in the persistent and seemingly inconsequent questions to which he
had subjected this witness in reference to these very matters.  But
the time had now come for a more direct attack, and the interest
rose correspondingly high, when the coroner, lifting again to sight
the scrap of paper containing the few piteous lines so often quoted,
asked of the now anxious and agitated witness, if he had ever
noticed any similarity between the handwriting of his wife and that
of Miss Tuttle.

An indignant "No!" was about to pass his lips, when he suddenly
checked himself and said more mildly: "There may have been a
similarity; I hardly know, I have seen too little of Miss Tuttle's
hand to judge."

This occasioned a diversion.  Specimens of Miss Tuttle's handwriting
were produced, which, after having been duly proved, were passed
down to the jury along with the communication professedly signed by
Mrs. Jeffrey.  The grunts of astonishment which ensued as the knowing
heads drew near over these several papers caused Mr. Jeffrey to
flush and finally to cry out with startling emphasis:

"I know that those words were written by my wife."

But when the coroner asked him his reasons for this conviction, he
could, or would not state them.

"I have said," he stolidly repeated; and that was all.

The coroner made no comment, but when, after some further inquiry,
which added little to the general knowledge, he dismissed Mr.
Jeffrey and recalled Loretta, there was that in his tone which warned
us that the really serious portion of the day's examination was about
to begin.




XIII

CHIEFLY THRUST


The appearance of this witness had undergone a change since she
last stood before us.  She was shame-faced still, but her manner
showed resolve and a feverish determination to face the situation
which could but awaken in the breasts of those who had Mr. Jeffrey's
honor and personal welfare at heart a nameless dread; as if they
already foresaw the dark shadow which minute by minute was slowly
sinking over a household which, up to a week ago, had been the envy
and admiration of all Washington society.

The first answer she made revealed both the cause of her shame and
the reason of her firmness.  It was in response to the question
whether she, Loretta, had seen Miss Tuttle before she went out on
the walk she was said to have taken immediately after Mrs. Jeffrey's
final departure from the house.

Her words were these

"I did sir.  I do not think Miss Tuttle knows it, but I saw her in
Mrs. Jeffrey's room."

The emphatic tone, offering such a contrast to her former manner of
speech, might have drawn all eyes to the speaker had not the person
she mentioned offered a still more interesting subject to the general
curiosity.  As it was, all glances flew to that silent and seemingly
impassive figure upon which all open suggestions and covert innuendo
had hitherto fallen without creating more than a pressure of her
interlaced fingers.  This direct attack, possibly the most
threatening she had received, appeared to produce no more effect
upon her than the others; less, perhaps, for no stir was visible in
her now, and to some eyes she hardly seemed to breathe.

Curiosity, thus baffled, led the gaze on to Mr. Jeffrey, and even
to Uncle David; but the former had dropped his head again upon his
hand, and the other - well, there was little to observe in Mr. Moore
at any time, save the immense satisfaction he seemed to take in
himself; so attention returned to the witness, who, by this time,
had entered upon a consecutive tale.

As near as I can remember, these are the words with which she
prefaced it:

"I am not especially proud of what I did that night, but I was led
into it by degrees, and I am sure I beg the lady's pardon."  And
then she went on to relate how, after she had seen Mrs. Jeffrey
leave the house, she went into her room with the intention of putting
it to rights.  As this was no more than her duty, no fault could be
found with her; but she owned that when she had finished this task
and removed all evidence of Mrs. Jeffrey's frenzied condition, she
had no business to linger at the table turning over the letters she
found lying there.

Here the coroner stopped her and made some inquiries in regard to
these letters, but as they seemed to be ordinary epistles from
friends and quite foreign to the investigation, he allowed her to
proceed.

Her cheeks were burning now, for she had found herself obliged to
admit that she had read enough of these letters to be sure that they
had no reference to the quarrel then pending between her mistress
and Mr. Jeffrey.  Her eyes fell and she looked seriously distressed
as she went on to say that she was as conscious then as now of
having no business with these papers; so conscious, indeed, that
when she heard Miss Tuttle's step at the door, her one idea was to
hide herself.

That she could stand and face that lady never so much as occurred
to her.  Her own guilty consciousness made her cheeks too hot for
her to wish to meet an eye which had never rested on her any too
kindly; so noticing how straight the curtains fell over one of the
windows on the opposite side of the room, she dashed toward it and
slipped in out of sight just as Miss Tuttle came in.  This window
was one seldom used, owing to the fact that it overlooked an
adjoining wall, so she had no fear of Miss Tuttle's approaching it.
Consequently, she could stand there quite at her ease, and, as the
curtains in falling behind her had not come quite together, she
really could not help seeing just what that lady did.

Here the witness paused with every appearance of looking for some
token of disapprobation from the crowd.

But she encountered nothing there but eager anxiety for her to
proceed, so without waiting for the coroner's question, she added
in so many words:

"She went first to the book-shelves"

We had expected it; but yet a general movement took place, and a
few suppressed exclamations could be heard.

"And what did she do there?"

"Took down a book, after looking carefully up and down the shelves."

"What color of book?"

"A green one with red figures on it.  I could see the cover plainly
as she took it down."

"Like this one?"

"Exactly like that one."

"And what did she do with this book?"

"Opened it, but not to read it.  She was too quick in closing it
for that."

"Did she take the book away?"

"No; she put it back on the shelf."

"After opening and closing it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you see whether she put anything into the book?"

"I can not swear that she did; but then her back was to me, and I
could not have seen it if she had."

The implied suggestion caused some excitement, but the coroner,
frowning on this, pressed the girl to continue, asking if Miss
Tuttle left the room immediately after turning from the book-shelves.
Loretta replied no; that, on the contrary, she stood for some minutes
near them, gazing, in what seemed like a great distress of mind,
straight upon the floor; after which she moved in an agitated way
and with more than one anxious look behind her into the adjoining
room where she paused before a large bureau.  As this bureau was
devoted entirely to Mr. Jeffrey's use, Loretta experienced some
surprise at seeing his wife's sister approach it in so stealthy a
manner.  Consequently she was watching with all her might, when
this young lady opened the upper drawer and, with very evident
emotion, thrust her hand into it.

What she took out, or whether she took out anything, this spy upon
her movements could not say, for when Loretta heard the drawer being
pushed back into place she drew the curtains close, perceiving that
Miss Tuttle would have to face this window in coming back.  However,
she ventured upon one other peep through them just as that lady was
leaving the room, and remembered as if it were yesterday how
clay-white her face looked, and how she held her left hand pressed
close against the folds of her dress.  It was but a few minutes after
this that Miss Tuttle left the house.

As we all knew what was kept in that drawer, the conclusion was
obvious.  Whatever excuse Miss Tuttle might give for going into her
sister's room at this time, but one thought, one fear, or possibly
one hope, could have taken her to Mr. Jeffrey's private drawer.  She
wished to see if his pistol was still there, or if it had been taken
away by her sister, - a revelation of the extreme point to which her
thoughts had flown at this crisis, and one which effectually
contradicted her former statement that she had been conscious of no
alarm in behalf of her sister and had seen her leave the house
without dread or suspicion of evil.

The temerity which had made it possible to associate the name of
such a man as Francis Jeffrey with an outrageous crime having been
thus in a measure explained, the coroner recalled that gentleman and
again thoroughly surprised the gaping public.

Had the witness accompanied his wife to the Moore house?

"No"

Had he met her there by any appointment he had made with her or
which had been made for them both by some third person?

"No"

Had he been at the Moore house on the night of the eleventh at any
time previous to the hour when he was brought there by the officials?

"No."

Would he glance at this impression of certain finger-tips which had
been left in the dust of the southwest chamber mantel?

He had already noted them.

Now would he place his left hand on the paper and see -

"It is not necessary," he burst forth, in great heat.  "I own to
those marks.  That is, I have no doubt they were made by my hand"
Here, unconsciously, his eyes flew to the member thus referred to,
as if conscious that in some way it had proved a traitor to him;
after which his gaze traveled slowly my way, with an indescribable
question in it which roused my conscience and made the trick by
which I had got the impression of his hand seem less of a triumph
than I had heretofore considered it.  The next minute he was
answering the coroner under oath, very much as he had answered him
in the unofficial interview at which I had been present.

"I acknowledge having been in the Moore house and even having been
in its southwest chamber, but not at the time supposed.  It was on
the previous night."  He went on to relate how, being in a nervous
condition and having the key to this old dwelling in his pocket, he
had amused himself by going through its dilapidated interior.  All
of this made a doubtful impression which was greatly emphasized
when, in reply to the inquiry as to where he got the light to see
by, he admitted that he had come upon a candle in an upstairs room
and made use of that; though he could not remember what he had done
with this candle afterward, and looked dazed and quite at sea, till
the coroner suggested that he might have carried it into the closet
of the room where his fingers had left their impression in the dust
of the mantel-shelf.  Then he broke down like a man from whom some
prop is suddenly snatched and looked around for a seat.  This was
given him, while a silence, the most dreadful I ever experienced,
held every one there in check.  But he speedily rallied and, with
the remark that he was a little confused in regard to the incidents
of that night, waited with a wild look in his averted eye for the
coroner's next question.

Unhappily for him it was in continuation of the same subject.  Had
he bought candles or not at the grocer's around the corner?  Yes, he
had.  Before visiting the house?  Yes.  Had he also bought matches?
Yes.  What kind?  Common safety matches.  Had he noticed when he got
home that the box he had just bought was half empty?  No.
Nevertheless he had used many matches in going through this old
house, had he not?  Possibly.  To light his way upstairs, perhaps?
It might be.  Had he not so used them?  Yes.  Why had he done so,
if he had candles in his pocket, which were so much easier to hold
and so much more lasting than a lighted match?  Ah, he could not
say; he did not know; his mind was confused.  He was awake when
he should have been asleep.  It was all a dream to him.

The coroner became still more persistent.

"Did you enter the library on your solitary visit to this old house?"

"I believe so."

"What did you do there?"

"Pottered around.  I don't remember."

"What light did you use?"

"A candle, I think."

"You must know."

"Well, I had a candle; it was in a candelabrum."

"What candle and what candelabrum?"

"The same I used upstairs, of course"

"And you can not remember where you left this candle and candelabrum
when you finally quitted the house?"

"No.  I wasn't thinking about candles."

"What were you thinking about?"

"The rupture with my wife and the bad name of the house I was in."

"Oh! and this was on Tuesday night?"

"Yes, sir."

"How can you prove this to us?"


"I can not"
"But you swear -"

"I swear that it was Tuesday night, the night immediately preceding
the one when - when my wife's death robbed me of all earthly
happiness."

It was feelingly uttered, and several faces lightened; but the
coroner repeating: "Is there no way you can prove this to our
satisfaction?" the shadow settled again, and on no head more
perceptibly than on that of the unfortunate witness.

It was now late in the day and the atmosphere of the room had
become stifling; but no one seemed to be conscious of any discomfort,
and a general gasp of excitement passed through the room when the
coroner, taking out a box from under a pile of papers, disclosed to
the general gaze the famous white ribbon with its dainty bow, lying
on top of the fatal pistol.

That this special feature, the most interesting one of all connected
with this tragedy, should have been kept so long in reserve and
brought out just at this time, struck many of Mr. Jeffrey's closest
friends as unnecessarily dramatic; but when the coroner, lifting out
the ribbon, remarked tentatively, "You know this ribbon?" we were
more struck by the involuntary cry of surprise which rose from some
one in the crowd about the door, than by the look with which Mr.
Jeffrey eyed it and made the necessary reply.  That cry had something
more than nervous excitement in it.  Identifying the person who had
uttered it as a certain busy little  woman well known in town, I
sent an officer to watch her; then recalled my attention to the point
the coroner was attempting to make.  He had forced Mr. Jeffrey to
recognize the ribbon as the one which had fastened the pistol to
his wife's arm; now he asked whether, in his opinion, a woman could
tie such a bow to her own wrist, and when in common justice Mr.
Jeffrey was obliged to say no, waited a third time before he put
the general suspicion again into words:

"Can not you, by some means or some witness, prove to us that it
was on Tuesday night and not on Wednesday you spent the hours you
speak of on this scene of your marriage and your wife's death?"

The hopelessness which more than once had marked Mr. Jeffrey's
features since the beginning of this inquiry, reappeared with renewed
force as this suggestive question fell again upon his ears; and he
was about to repeat his plea of forgetfulness when the coroner's
attention was diverted by a request made in his ear by one of the
detectives.  In another moment Mr. Jeffrey had been waved aside and
a new witness sworn in.

You can imagine every one's surprise, mine most of all, when this
witness proved to be Uncle David.




XIV.

"TALLMAN!  LET US HAVE TALLMAN!"


I do not know why the coroner had so long delayed to call this
witness.  In the ordinary course of events his testimony should
have preceded mine, but the ordinary course of events had not been
followed, and it was only at the request of Mr. Moore himself that
he was now allowed the privilege of appearing before this coroner
and jury.

I speak of it as a privilege because he himself evidently regarded
it as such.  Indeed, his whole attitude and bearing as he addressed
himself to the coroner showed that he was there to be looked at and
that he secretly thought he was very well worth this attention.
Possibly some remembrance of the old days, in which he had gone in
and out before these people in a garb suggestive of penury, made
the moment when he could appear before them in a guise more
befitting his station one of incalculable importance to him.

At all events, he confronted us all with an aspect which openly
challenged admiration.  When, in answer to the coroner's inquiries,
it became his duty to speak, he did so with a condescension which
would have called up smiles if the occasion had been one of less
seriousness, and his connection with it as unimportant as he would
have it appear.

What he said was in the way of confirming the last witness'
testimony as to his having been at the Moore house on Tuesday
evening.  Mr. Moore, who was very particular as to dates and days,
admitted that the light which he had seen in a certain window of
his ancestral home on the evening when he summoned the police was
but the repetition of one he had detected there the evening before.
It was this repetition which alarmed him and caused him to break
through all his usual habits and leave his home at night to notify
the police.

"The old sneak!" thought I.  "Why didn't he tell us this before?"
And I allowed myself afresh doubt of his candor which had always
seemed to me somewhat open to question.  It is possible that the
coroner shared my opinion, or that he felt it incumbent upon him to
get what evidence he could from the sole person living within view
of the house in which such ghastly events had taken place.  For,
without betraying the least suspicion, and yet with the quiet
persistence for which men in his responsible position are noted,
he subjected this suave old man to such a rigid examination as to
what he had seen, or had not seen, from his windows, that no
possibility seemed to remain of his concealing a single fact which
could help to the elucidation of this or any other mystery connected
with the old mansion.

He asked him if he had seen Mr. Jeffrey go in on the night in
question; if he had ever seen any one go in there since the wedding;
or even if he had seen any one loitering about the steps, or sneaking
into the rear yard.  But the answer was always no; these same noes
growing more and more emphatic, and the gentleman more and more
impenetrable and dignified as the examination went on.  In fact, he
was as unassailable a witness as I have ever heard testify before
any jury.  Beyond the fact already mentioned of his having observed
a light in the opposite house on the two evenings in question, he
admitted nothing.  His life in the little cottage was so engrossing
 - he had his organ - his dog - why should he look out of the window?
Had it not been for his usual habit of letting his dog run the
pavements for a quarter of an hour before finally locking up for
the night, he would not have seen as much as he did.

"Have you any stated hour for doing this?" the coroner now asked.

"Yes; half-past nine"

"And was this the hour when you caw that light?"

"Yes, both times."

As he had appeared at the station-house at a few minutes before ten
he was probably correct in this statement.  But, notwithstanding
this, I did not feel implicit confidence in him.  He was too
insistent in his regret at not being able to give greater assistance
in the disentanglement of a mystery so affecting the honor of the
family of which he was now the recognized head.  His voice, nicely
attuned to the occasion, was admirable; so was his manner; but I
mentally wrote him down as one I should enjoy outwitting if the
opportunity ever came my way.

He wound up with such a distinct repetition of his former emphatic
assertion as to the presence of light in the old house on Tuesday
as well as Wednesday evening that Mr. Jeffrey's testimony in this
regard received a decided confirmation.  I looked to see some open
recognition of this, when suddenly, and with a persistence understood
only by the police, the coroner recalled Mr. Jeffrey and asked him
what proof he had to offer that his visit of Tuesday had not been
repeated the next night and that he was not in the building when
that fatal trigger was pulled.

At this leading question, a lawyer sitting near me, edged himself
forward as if he hoped for some sign from Mr. Jeffrey which would
warrant him in interfering.  But Mr, Jeffrey gave no such sign.  I
doubt if he even noticed this man's proximity, though he knew him
well and had often employed him as his legal adviser in times gone
by.  He was evidently exerting himself to recall the name which so
persistently eluded his memory, putting his hand to his head and
showing the utmost confusion.

"I can not give you one," he finally stammered.  "There is a man
who could tell - if only I could remember his name."  Suddenly with
a loud cry which escaped him involuntarily, he gave a gurgling
laugh and we heard the name "Tallman!" leap from his lips.

The witness had at last remembered whom he had met at the cemetery
gate at the hour, or near the hour, his wife lay dying in the lower
part of the city.

The effect was electrical.  One of the spectators - some country
boor, no doubt - so far forgot himself as to cry out loud enough for
all to hear:

"Tallman! Let us have Tallman!"

Of course he met with an instant rebuke, but I did not wait to hear
it, or to see order restored, for a glance from the coroner had
already sent me to the door in search of this new witness.

My destination was the Cosmos Club, for Phil Tallman and his habits
and haunts were as well known in Washington as the figure of Liberty
on the summit of the Capitol dome.  When I saw him I did not wonder.
Never have I seen a more amiable looking man, or one with a more
absentminded expression.  To my query as to whether he had ever met
Mr. Jeffrey at or near the entrance of Rock Creek Cemetery, he replied
with an amazed look and the quick response:

 "Of course I did.  It was the very night that his wife -  But what's
up?  You look excited for a detective."

"Come to the morgue and see.  This testimony of yours will prove
invaluable to Mr. Jeffrey."

I shall never forget the murmur of suppressed excitement which
greeted us as I reappeared before coroner and jury accompanied by
the gentleman who had been called for in such peremptory tones a
short time before.

Mr. Jeffrey, who had attempted to rise at our entrance, but seemed
to lack the ability, gave a faint smile as Tallman's good-natured
face appeared; and the coroner, feeling, perhaps, that some cords
are liable to break if stretched too strongly, administered the oath
and made the necessary inquiries with as little delay as was
compatible with the solemnity of the occasion.

The result was an absolute proof that Mr. Jeffrey had been near
Soldiers' Home as late as seven, which was barely fifteen minutes
previous to the hour Mrs. Jeffrey's watch was stopped by her fall
in the old house on Waverley Avenue.  As the distance between the
two places could not be compassed in that time, Mr. Jeffrey's alibi
could be regarded as established.

When we were all rising, glad of an adjournment which restored free
movement and an open interchange of speech, a sudden check in the
general rush called our attention back to Mr. Jeffrey.  He was
standing facing Miss Tuttle, who was still sitting in a strangely
immovable attitude in her old place.  He had just touched her on the
arm, and now, with a look of alarm, he threw up the veil which had
kept her face hidden from all beholders.

A vision of loveliness greeted us, but that was not all.  It was an
unconscious loveliness.  Miss Tuttle had fainted away, sitting
upright in her chair.



XV

WHITE BOW AND PINK


Mr. Jeffrey's examination and its triumphant conclusion created a
great furor in town.  Topics which had hitherto absorbed all minds
were forgotten in the discussion of the daring attempt which had
been made by the police to fix crime upon one of Washington's most
esteemed citizens, and the check which they had rightly suffered
for this outrage.  What might be expected next?  Something equally
bold and reprehensible, of course, but what?  It was a question
which at the next sitting completely filled the inquest room.

To my great surprise, Mr. Jeffrey was recalled to the stand.  He
had changed since the night before.  He looked older, and while
still handsome, for nothing could rob him of his regularity of
feature and extreme elegance of proportion, showed little of the
spirit which, in spite of the previous day's depression, had
upheld him through its most trying ordeal and kept his eye bright,
if only from excitement.  This was fact number one, and one which
I stored away in my already well-furnished memory.

Miss Tuttle sat in a less conspicuous position than on the previous
day, and Mr. Moore, her uncle, was not thereat all.

The testimony called for revived an old point which, seemingly, had
not been settled to the coroner's satisfaction.

Had Mr. Jeffrey placed the small stand holding the candelabrum on
the spot where it had been found?  No.  Had he carried into the
house, at the time of his acknowledged visit, the candles which had
been afterward discovered there?  No.  He had had time to think
since his hesitating and unsatisfactory replies of the day before,
and he was now in a position to say that while he distinctly
remembered buying candles on his way to the Moore house, he had not
found them in his pocket on getting there and had been obliged to
make use of the matches he always carried on his person in order to
find his way to the upstairs room where he felt positive he would
find a candle.

This gave the coroner an opportunity to ask:

"And why did you expect to find a candle there?"

The answer astonished me and, I have no doubt, many others.

"It was the room in which my wife had dressed for the ceremony.  It
had not been disturbed since that time.  My wife had little ways of
her own; one was to complete her toilet by using a curling iron on
a little lock she wore over her temple.  When at home she heated
this curling iron in the gas jet, but there being no gas in the Moore
house, I naturally concluded that she had made use of a candle, as
the curl had been noticeable under her veil."

Oh, the weariness in his tone! I could scarcely interpret it.  Was
he talking by rote, or was he utterly done with life and all its
interests?  No one besides myself seemed to note this strange
passivity.  To the masses he was no longer a suffering man, but an
individual from whom information was to be got.  The next question
was a vital one.

He had accounted for one candle in the house; could he account for
the one found in the tumbler or for the one lying crushed and
battered on the closet floor?

He could not.

And now we all observed a change of direction in the inquiry.
Witnesses were summoned to corroborate Mr. Jeffrey's statements,
statements which it seemed to be the coroner's present wish to
establish.  First came the grocer who had sold Mr. Jeffrey the
candles.  He acknowledged, much to Jinny's discomfort, that an hour
after Mr. Jeffrey had left the store, he had found on the counter
the package which that gentleman had forgotten to take.  Poor Jinny
had not stayed long enough to hear his story out.  The grocer
finished his testimony by saying that immediately upon his
discovery he had sent the candles to Mr. Jeffrey's house.

This the coroner caused to be emphasized to such an extent that we
were all convinced of its importance.  But as yet his purpose was
not evident save to those who were more in his confidence than myself.

The other witnesses were men from Rauchers, who had acted as waiters
at the time of the marriage.  One of them testified that immediately
on Miss Moore's arrival he had been sent for a candle and a box of
matches.  The other, that he had carried up to her room a large
candelabrum from the drawing-room mantel.  A pair of curling tongs
taken from the dressing table of this room was next produced,
together with other articles of toilet use which had been allowed
to remain there uncared for, though they were of solid silver and
of beautiful design.

The next witness was a member of Mr. Jeffrey's own household.  Chloe
was her name, and her good black face worked dolefully as she
admitted that the package of candles which the grocer boy had left
on the kitchen table, with the rest of the groceries on the morning
of that dreadful day when "Missus" killed herself, was not to be
found when she came to put the things away.  She had looked and
looked for it, but it was not there.

Further inquiry brought out the fact that but one other member of
the household was in the kitchen when these groceries were delivered;
and that this person gave a great start when the boy shouted out,
"The candles there were bought by Mr. Jeffrey," and hurried over to
the table and handled the packages, although Chloe did not see her
carry any of them away.

"And who was this person?"

"Miss Tuttle."

With the utterance of this name the veil fell from the coroner's
intentions and the purpose of this petty but prolonged inquiry stood
revealed.  It was to all a fearful and impressive moment.  To me it
was as painful as it was triumphant.  I had not anticipated such an
outcome when I put my wits to work to prove that murder, and not
suicide, was answerable for young Mrs. Jeffrey's death.

When the murmur which had hailed this startling turn in the inquiry
had subsided, the coroner drew a deep breath, and, with an uneasy
glance at the jury, who, to a man, seemed to wish themselves well
out of this job, he dismissed the cook and summoned a fresh witness.

Her name made the people stare.

"Miss Nixon."

Miss Nixon!  That was a name well known in Washington; almost as
well known as that of Uncle David, or even of Mr. Tallman.  What
could this quaint and characteristic little body have to do with
this case of doubtful suicide?  A word will explain.  She was the
person who, on the day before, had made that loud exclamation when
the box containing the ribbon and the pistol had been disclosed to
the jury.

As her fussy little figure came forward, some nudged and some
laughed, possibly because her bonnet was not of this year's style,
possibly because her manner was peculiar and as full of oddities
as her attire.  But they did not laugh long, for the little lady's
look was appealing, if not distressed.  The fact that she was
generally known to possess one of the largest bank accounts in the
District, made any marked show of disrespect toward her a matter
of poor judgment, if not of questionable taste.

The box in the coroner's hand prepared us for what was before us.
As he opened it and disclosed again the dainty white bow which, as
I have before said, was of rather a fantastic make, the whole
roomful of eager spectators craned forward and were startled enough
when he asked:

"Did you ever see a bow like this before?"

Her answer came in the faintest of tones.

"Yes, I have one like it; very like it; so like it that yesterday
I could not suppress an exclamation on seeing this one."

"Where did you get the one you have?  Who fashioned it, I mean, or
tied it for you, if that is what I ought to say?"

"It was tied for me by - Miss Tuttle.  She is a friend of mine, or
was - and a very good one; and one day while watching me struggling
with a piece of ribbon, which I wanted made into a bow, she took it
from my hand and tied a knot for which I was very much obliged to
her.  It was very pretty."

"And like this?"

"Almost exactly, sir."

"Have you that knot with you?"

She had.

"Will you show it to the jury?"

Heaving a sigh which she had much better have suppressed, she opened
a little bag she carried at her side and took out a pink satin bow.
It had been tied by a deft hand; and more than one pair of eyes fell
significantly at sight of it.

Amid a silence which was intense, two or three other witnesses were
called to prove that Miss Tuttle's skill in bow-tying was exceptional,
and was often made use of, not only by members of her household, but,
as in Miss Nixon's case, by outsiders; the special style shown in the
one under consideration being the favorite.

During all this, I kept my eyes on Mr. Jeffrey.  It had now become
so evident which way the coroner's inquiries tended that I wished to
be the first to note their effect on him.  It was less marked than I
had anticipated.  The man seemed benumbed by accumulated torment and
stared at the witnesses filing before him as if they were part of
some wild phantasmagoria which confused, without enlightening him.
When finally several persons of both sexes were brought forward to
prove that his attentions to Miss Tuttle had once been sufficiently
marked for an announcement of their engagement to be daily looked
for, he let his head fall forward on his breast as if the creeping
horror which had seized him was too much for his brain if not for
his heart.  The final blow was struck when the man whom I had myself
seen in Alexandria testified to the contretemps which had occurred
in Atlantic City; an additional point being given to it by the
repetition of some old conversation raked up for the purpose, by
which an effort was made to prove that Miss Tuttle found it hard to
forgive injuries even from those nearest and dearest to her.  This
subject might have been prolonged, but some of the jury objected,
and the time being now ripe for the great event of the day, the
name of the lady herself was called.

After so significant a preamble, the mere utterance of Miss Tuttle's
name had almost the force of an accusation; but the dignity with
which she rose calmed all minds, and subdued every expression of
feeling.  I could but marvel at her self-poise and noble equanimity,
and asked myself if, in the few days which had passed since first
the murmur of something more serious than suicide had gone about,
she had so schooled herself for all emergencies that nothing could
shake her self-possession, not even the suggestion that a woman of
her beauty and distinction could be concerned in a crime.  0r had
she within herself some great source of strength, which sustained
her in this most dreadful ordeal?  All were on watch to see.  When
the veil dropped from before her features and she stepped into the
full sight of the expectant crowd, it was not the beauty of her
face, notable and conspicuous as that was, which roused the hum of
surprise that swept from one end of the room to the other, but the
calmness, almost the elevation of her manner, a calmness and
elevation so unlooked for in the light of the strange contradictions
offered by the evidence to which we had been listening for a day and
a half, that all were affected; many inclined even to believe her
innocent of any undue connection with her sister's death before she
had stretched forth her hand to take the oath.

I was no exception to the rest.  Though I had exerted myself from
the first to bring matters to a climax - but not to this one - I
experienced such a shock under the steady gaze of her sad but
gentle eyes, that I found myself recoiling before my own presumption
with something like secret shame till I was relieved by the thought
that a perfectly innocent woman would show more feeling at so false
and cruel a position.  I felt that only one with something to conceal
would turn so calm a front upon men ready, as she knew, to fix upon
her a great crime.  This conviction steadied me and made me less
susceptible to her grace and to the tone of her quiet voice and the
far-away sadness of her look.  She faltered only when by chance she
glanced at the shrinking figure of Francis Jeffrey.

Her name which she uttered without emphasis and yet in a way to
arouse attention sank into all hearts with more or less disturbance.
"Alice Cora Tuttle!"  How in days gone by, and not so long gone by,
either, those three words had aroused the enthusiasm of many a
gallant man and inspired the toast at many a gallant feast! They
had their charm yet, if the heightened color observable on many a
cheek there was a true index to the quickening heart below.

"How are you connected with the deceased Mrs. Jeffrey?"

"I am the child of her mother by a former husband.  We were
half-sisters."

No bitterness in this statement, only an infinite sadness.  The
coroner continued to question her.  He asked for an account of her
childhood, and forced her to lay bare the nature of her relations
with her sister.  But little was gained by this, for their relations
seemed to have been of a sympathetic character up to the time of
Veronica's return from school, when they changed somewhat; but how
or why, Miss Tuttle was naturally averse to saying.  Indeed she
almost refused to do so, and the coroner, feeling his point gained
more by this refusal than by any admission she might have made, did
not press this subject but passed on to what interested us more: the
various unexplained actions on her part which pointed toward crime.

His first inquiry was in reference to the conversation held between
her and Mr. Jeffrey at the time he visited her room.  We had
listened to his account of it and now we wished to hear hers.  But
the cue which had been given her by this very account had been
invaluable to her, and her testimony naturally coincided with his.
We found ourselves not an inch advanced.  They had talked of her
sister's follies and she had advised patience, and that was all she
could say on the subject - all she would say, as we presently saw.

The coroner introduced a fresh topic.

"What can you tell us about the interview you had with you sister
prior to her going out on the night of her death?"

"Very little, except that it differed entirely from what is generally
supposed.  She did not come to my room for conversation but simply
to tell me that she had an engagement.  She was in an excited mood
but said nothing to alarm me.  She even laughed when she left me;
perhaps to put me off my guard, perhaps because she was no longer
responsible."

"Did she know that Mr. Jeffrey had visited you earlier in the day?
Did she make any allusion to it, I mean?"

"None at all.  She shrugged her shoulders when I asked if she was
well, and anticipated all further questions by running from the room.
She was always capricious in her ways and never more so than at that
moment.  Would to God that it had been different!  Would to God that
she had shown herself to be a suffering woman!  Then I might have
reached her heart and this tragedy would have been averted."

The coroner favored the witness with a look of respect, perhaps
because his next question must necessarily be cruel.

"Is that all you have to say concerning this important visit, the
last you held with your sister before her death?"

"No, sir, there is something else, something which I should like to
relate to this jury.  When she came into my room, she held in her
hand a white ribbon; that is, she held the two ends of a long satin
ribbon which seemed to come from her pocket.  Handing those two ends
to me, she asked me to tie them about her wrist.  'A knot under and
a bow on top,' she said, 'so that it can not slip off.'  As this was
something I had often been called on to do for her, I showed no
hesitation in complying with her request.  Indeed, I felt none.  I
thought it was her fan or her bouquet she held concealed in the folds
of her dress, but it proved to be - Gentlemen, you know what.  I pray
that you will not oblige me to mention it."

It was such a stroke as no lawyer would have advised her to make, - I
heard afterward that she had refused the offices of a dozen lawyers
who had proffered her their services.  But uttered as it was with a
noble air and a certain dignified serenity, it had a great effect upon
those about her and turned in a moment the wavering tide of favor in
her direction.

The coroner, who doubtless was perfectly acquainted with the
explanation with which she had provided herself, but who perhaps did
not look for it to antedate his attack, bowed in quiet acknowledgment
of her request and then immediately proceeded to ignore it.

"I should be glad to spare you," said he, "but I do not find it
possible.  You knew that Mr. Jeffrey had a pistol?"

"I did."

"That it was kept in their apartment?"

"Yes."

"In the upper drawer of a certain bureau?"

"Yes."

"Now, Miss Tuttle, will you tell us why you went to that drawer - if
you did go to that drawer - immediately after Mrs. Jeffrey left the
house?"

She had probably felt this question coming, not only since the
coroner began to speak but ever since the evidence elicited from
Loretta proved that her visit to this drawer had been secretly
observed.  Yet she had no answer ready.

"I did not go for the pistol," she finally declared.  But she did
not say what she had gone for, and the coroner did not press her.

Again the tide swung back.

She seemed to feel the change but did not show it in the way
naturally looked for.  Instead of growing perturbed or openly
depressed she bloomed into greater beauty and confronted with
steadier eye, not us, but the men she instinctively faced as the
tide of her fortunes began to lower.  Did the coroner perceive this
and recognize at last both the measure of her attractions and the
power they were likely to carry with them?  Perhaps, for his voice
took an acrid note as he declared:

"You had another errand in that room?"

She let her head droop just a trifle.

"Alas!" she murmured.

"You went to the book-shelves and took out a book with a peculiar
cover, a cover which Mr. Jeffrey has already recognized as that of
the book in which he found a certain note."

"You have said it," she faltered.

"Did you take such a book out?"

"I did."

"For what purpose, Miss Tuttle?"

She had meant to answer quickly.  But some consideration made her
hesitate and the words were long in coming; when she did speak, it
was to say:

"My sister asked another favor of me after I had tied the ribbon.
Pausing in her passage to the door, she informed me in a tone quite
in keeping with her whole manner, that she had left a note for her
husband in the book they were reading together.  Her reason for
doing this, she said, was the very natural one of wishing him to
come upon it by chance, but as she had placed it in the front of
the book instead of in the back where they were reading, she was
afraid that he would fail to find it.  Would I be so good as to take
it out for her and insert it again somewhere near the end?  She was
in a hurry or she would return and do it herself.  As she and Mr.
Jeffrey had parted in anger, I hailed with joy this evidence of her
desire for a reconciliation, and it was in obedience to her request,
the singularity of which did not strike me as forcibly then as now,
that I went to the shelves in her room and took down the book."

"And did you find the note where she said?"

"Yes, and put it in toward the end of the story."

"Nothing more?  Did you read the note?"

"It was folded," was Miss Tuttle's quiet answer.  Certainly this
woman was a thoroughbred or else she was an adept in deception such
as few of us had ever encountered.  The gentleness of her manner,
the easy tone, the quiet eyes, eyes in whose dark depths great
passions were visible, but passions that were under the control of
an equally forcible will, made her a puzzle to all men's minds; but
it was a fascinating puzzle that awoke a species of awe in those
who attempted to understand her.  To all appearances she was the
unlikeliest woman possible to cherish criminal intents, yet her
answers were rather clever than convincing, unless you allowed
yourself to be swayed by the look of her beautiful face or the music
of her rich, sad voice.

"You did not remain before these book-shelves long?" observed the
coroner.

"You have a witness who knows more about that than I do," she
suggested; and doubtless aware of the temerity of this reply, waited
with unmoved countenance, but with a visibly bounding breast, for
what would doubtless prove a fresh attack.

It was a violent one and of a character she was least fitted to meet.
Taking up the box I have so often mentioned, the coroner drew away
the ribbon lying on top and disclosed the pistol.  In a moment her
hands were over her ears.

"Why do you do that?" he asked.  "Did you think I was going to
discharge it?"

She smiled pitifully as she let her hands fall again.

"I have a dread of firearms," she explained.  "I always have had.
Now they are simply terrible to me, and this one -"

"I understand," said the coroner, with a slight glance in the
direction of Durbin.  They had evidently planned this test together
on the strength of an idea suggested to Durbin by her former action
when the memory of this shot was recalled to her.

"Your horror seems to lie in the direction of the noise they make,"
continued her inexorable interlocutor.  "One would say you had
heard this pistol discharged."

Instantly a complete breaking-up of her hitherto well maintained
composure altered her whole aspect and she vehemently cried:

"I did, I did.  I was on Waverley Avenue that night, and I heard
the shot which in all probability ended my sister's life.  I walked
farther than I intended; I strolled into the street which had such
bitter memories for us and I heard - No, I was not in search of my
sister.  I had not associated my sister's going out with any
intention of visiting this house; I was merely troubled in mind and
anxious and - and -"

She had overrated her strength or her cleverness.  She found herself
unable to finish the sentence, and so did not try.  She had been
led by the impulse of the moment farther than she had intended, and,
aghast at her own imprudence, paused with her first perceptible loss
of courage before the yawning gulf opening before her.

I felt myself seized by a very uncomfortable dread lest her
concealments and unfinished sentences hid a guiltier knowledge of
this crime than I was yet ready to admit.

The coroner, who is an older man than myself, betrayed a certain
satisfaction but no dread.  Never did the unction which underlies
his sharpest speeches show more plainly than when he quietly
remarked:

"And so under a similar impulse you, as well as Mr. Jeffrey, chose
this uncanny place to ramble in.  To all appearance that old hearth
acted much more like a lodestone upon members of your family than
you were willing at one time to acknowledge"

This reference to words she had herself been heard to use seemed to
overwhelm her.  Her calmness fled and she cast a fleeting look of
anguish at Mr. Jeffrey.  But his face was turned from sight, and,
meeting with no help there, or anywhere, indeed, save in her own
powerful nature, she recovered as best she could the ground she had
lost and, with a trembling question of her own, attempted to put
the coroner in fault and reestablish herself.

"You say 'ramble through.'  Do you for a moment think that I entered
that old house?"

"Miss Tuttle," was the grave, almost sad reply, "did you not know
that in some earth, dropped from a flower-pot overturned at the
time when a hundred guests flew in terror from this house, there is
to be seen the mark of a footstep, - a footstep which you are at
liberty to measure with your own?"

"Ah!" she murmured, her hands going up to her face.

But in another moment she had dropped them and looked directly at
the coroner.

"I walked there - I never said that I did not walk there - when I
went later to see my sister and in sight of a number of detectives
passed straight through the halls and into the library."

"And that this footstep," inexorably proceeded the coroner, "is not
in a line with the main thoroughfare extending from the front to the
back of the house, but turned inwards toward the wall as if she who
made it had stopped to lean her head against the partition?"

Miss Tuttle's head drooped.  Probably she realized at this moment,
if not before, that the coroner and jury had ample excuse for
mistrusting one who had been so unmistakably caught in a
prevarication; possibly her regret carried her far enough to wish
she had not disdained all legal advice from those who had so
earnestly offered it.  But though she showed alike her shame and
her disheartenment, she did not give up the struggle.

"If I went into the house," she said, "it was not to enter that room.
I had too great a dread of it.  If I rested my head against the wall
it was in terror of that shot.  It came so suddenly and was so
frightful, so much more frightful than anything you can conceive."

"Then you did enter the house?"

"I did."

"And it was while you were inside, instead of outside, that you
heard the shot?"

"I must admit that, too.  I was at the library door."

"You acknowledge that?"

"I do."

"But you did not enter the library?"

"No, not then; not till I was taken back by the officer who told me
of my sister's death"

"We are glad to hear this precise statement from you.  It encourages
me to ask again the nature of the freak which took you into this
house.  You say that it was not from any dread on your sister's
account?  What, then, was it?  No evasive answer will satisfy us,
Miss Tuttle."

She realized this as no one else could.

Mr. Jeffrey's reason for his visit there could not be her reason,
yet what other had she to give?  Apparently none.

"I can not answer," she said.

And the deep sigh which swept through the room was but an echo of
the despair with which she saw herself brought to this point.

"We will not oblige you to," said the coroner with apparent
consideration.  But to those who knew the law against forcing a
witness to incriminate himself, this was far from an encouraging
concession.

"However," he now went on, with suddenly assumed severity, "you
may answer this.  Was the house dark or light when you entered it?
And, how did you get in?"

"The house was dark, and I got in through the front door, which I
found ajar."

"You are more courageous than most women!  I fear there are few of
your sex who could be induced to enter it in broad daylight and
under every suitable protection."

She raised her figure proudly.

"Miss Tuttle, you have heard Chloe say that you were in the kitchen
of Mr. Jeffrey's house when the grocer boy delivered the candles
which had been left by your brother-in-law on the counter of the
store where he bought them.  Is this true?"

"Yes, sir, it is true."

"Did you see those candles?"

"No, sir."

"You did not see them?"

"No, sir."

"Yet you went over to the table?"

"Yes, sir, but I did not meddle with the packages.  I had really
no business with them."

The coroner, surveying her sadly, went quickly on as if anxious to
terminate this painful examination.

"You have not told us what you did when you heard that pistol-shot."

"I ran away as soon as I could move; I ran madly from the house."

"Where?"

"Home."

"But it was half-past ten when you got home."

"Was it?"

"It was half-past ten when the man came to tell you of your
sister's death."

"It may have been."

"Your sister is supposed to have died in a few minutes.  Where were
you in the interim?"

"God knows.  I do not."

A wild look was creeping into her face, and her figure was swaying.
But she soon steadied it.  I have never seen a more admirable
presence maintained in the face of a dreadful humiliation.

"Perhaps I can help you," rejoined the coroner, not unkindly.  "Were
you not in the Congressional Library looking up at the lunettes and
gorgeously painted walls?"

"I?"  Her eyes opened wide in wondering doubt.  "If I was, I did
not know it.  I have no remembrance of it."

She seemed to lose sight of her present position, the cloud under
which she rested, and even the construction which might be put upon
such a forgetfulness at a time confessedly prior to her knowledge
of the purpose and effect of the shot from which she had so
incontinently fled.

"Your condition of mind and that of Mr. Jeffrey seem to have been
strangely alike," remarked the coroner.

"No, no!" she protested.

"Arguing a like source."

"No, no," she cried again, this time with positive agony.  Then with
an effort which awakened respect for her powers of mind, if for
nothing else, she desperately added: "I can not say what was in his
heart that night, but I know what was in mine - dread of that old
house, to which I had been drawn in spite of myself, possibly by the
force of the tragedy going on inside it, culminating in a delirium
of terror, which sent me flying in an opposite direction from my home
and into places I had been accustomed to visit when my heart was
light and untroubled."

The coroner glanced at the jury, who unconsciously shook their heads.
He shook his, too, as he returned to the charge.

"Another question, Miss Tuttle.  When you heard a pistol-shot
sounding from the depths of that dark library, what did you think it
meant?"

She put her hands over her ears - it seemed as if she could not
prevent this instinctive expression of recoil at the mention of the
death-dealing weapon -and in very low tones replied:

"Something dreadful; something superstitious.  It was night, you
remember, and at night one has such horrible thoughts."

"Yet an hour or two later you declared that the hearth was no
lodestone.  You forgot its horrors and your superstition upon
returning to your own house."

"It might be;" she murmured; "but if so, they soon returned.  I
had reason for my horror, if not for my superstition, as the event
showed."

The coroner did not attempt to controvert this.  He was about to
launch a final inquiry.

"Miss Tuttle; upon the return of yourself and Mr. Jeffrey to your
home after your final visit to the Moore house, did you have any
interview that was without witnesses?"

"No."

"Did you exchange any words?"

"I think we did exchange some words; it would be only natural."

"Are you willing to state what words?"

She looked dazed and appeared to search her memory.

"I don't think I can," she objected.

"But something was said by you and some answer was made by him?"

"I believe so."

"Can not you say definitely?"

"We did speak."

"In English?"

"No, in French."

"Can not you translate that French for us?"

"Pardon me, sir; it was so long ago my memory fails me."

"Is it any better for the second and longer interview between you
the next day?"

"No-sir."

"You can not give us any phrase or word that was uttered there?"

"No."

"Is this your final reply on this subject?"

"It is."

She never had been subjected to an interrogation like this before.
It made her proud soul quiver in revolt, notwithstanding the
patience with which she had fortified herself.  With red cheeks
and glistening eyes she surveyed the man who had made her suffer so,
and instantly every other man there suffered with her; excepting
possibly Durbin, whose heart was never his strong point.  But our
hearts were moved, our reasons were not convinced, as was presently
shown, when, with a bow of dismissal, the coroner released her, and
she passed back to her seat.

Simultaneously with her withdrawal the gleam of sensibility left
the faces of the jury, and the dark and brooding look which had
marked their countenances from the beginning returned, and returned
to stay.

What would their verdict be?  There were present two persons who
affected to believe that it would be one of suicide occasioned by
dementia.  These were Miss Tuttle and Mr. Jeffrey, who, now that
the critical period had come, straightened themselves boldly in
their seats and met the glances concentrated upon them with dignity,
if not with the assurance of complete innocence.  But from the
carefulness with which they avoided each other's eyes and the almost
identical expression mirrored upon both faces, it was visible to
all that they regarded their cause as a common one, and that the
link which they denied, as having existed between them prior to
Mrs. Jeffrey's death, had in some way been supplied by that very
tragedy; so that they now unwittingly looked with the same eyes,
breathed with the same breath, and showed themselves responsive to
the same fluctuations of hope and fear.

The celerity with which that jury arrived at its verdict was a shock
to us all.  It had been a quiet body, offering but little assistance
to the coroner in his questioning; but when it fell to these men to
act, the precision with which they did so was astonishing.  In a
half-hour they returned from the room into which they had adjourned,
and the foreman gave warning that he was prepared to render a verdict.

Mr. Jeffrey and Miss Tuttle both clenched their hands; then Miss
Tuttle pulled down her veil.

"We find," said the solemn foreman, "that Veronica Moore Jeffrey, who
on the night of May eleventh was discovered lying dead on the floor
of her own unoccupied house in Waverley Avenue, came to her death by
means of a bullet, shot from a pistol connected to her wrist by a
length of white satin ribbon.

"That the first conclusion of suicide is not fully sustained by the
facts;

"And that attempt should be made to identify the hand that fired
this pistol."

It was as near an accusation of Miss Tuttle as was possible without
mentioning her name.  A groan passed through the assemblage, and Mr.
Jeffrey, bounding to his feet, showed an inclination to shout aloud
in his violent indignation.  But Miss Tuttle, turning toward him,
lifted her hand with a commanding gesture and held it so till he sat
down again.

It was both a majestic and an utterly incomprehensible movement on
her part, giving to the close of these remarkable proceedings a
dramatic climax which set all hearts beating and, I am bound to say,
all tongues wagging till the room cleared.




XVI

AN EGOTIST OF THE FIRST WATER


Had the control of affairs been mine at this moment I am quite
positive that I should have found it difficult to deny these two
the short interview which they appeared to crave and which would
have been to them such an undeniable comfort.  But a sterner spirit
than mine was in charge, and the district attorney, into whose hands
the affair had now fallen, was inexorable.  Miss Tuttle was treated
with respect, with kindness, even, but she was not allowed any
communication with her brother-in-law beyond the formal "Good
afternoon" incident upon their separation; while he, scorning to
condemn his lips to any such trite commonplace, said nothing at all,
only looked a haggard inquiry which called forth from her the most
exalted look of patience and encouraging love it has ever been my
good fortune to witness.  Durbin was standing near and saw this
look as plainly as I did, but it did not impose on him, he said.
But what in the nature of human woe could impose on him?  Durbin is
a machine - a very reliable and useful machine, no doubt, yet when
all is said, a simple contrivance of cogs and wheels; while I - well,
I hope that I am something more than that; or why was I a changed
man toward her from the moment I saw the smile which marked this
accused woman's good by to Francis Jeffrey.  No longer believing in
her guilt, I went about my business with tumult in brain and heart,
asking in my remorse for an opportunity to show her some small
courtesy whereby to relieve the torture I felt at having helped the
coroner in the inquiries which had brought about what looked to me
now like a cruel and unwarranted result.

That it should be given to Durbin to hold such surveillance over her
as her doubtful position demanded added greatly to my discomfort.
But I was enabled to keep my lips firmly shut over any expression of
secret jealousy or displeasure; and this was fortunate, as otherwise
I might have failed to obtain the chance of aiding her later on, in
other and deeper matters.

Meanwhile, and before any of us had left this room, one fact had
become apparent.  Mr. Jeffrey was not going to volunteer any fresh
statement in face of the distinct disapproval of his sister-in-law.
As his eye fell upon the district attorney, who had lingered near,
possibly in the hope of getting something more from this depressed
and almost insensible man, he made one remark, but it was an
automatic one, calculated to produce but little effect on the
discriminating ears of this experienced official.

"I do not believe that my wife was murdered."  This was what he said.
"It was a wicked verdict.  My wife killed herself.  Wasn't the pistol
found tied to her?"

Either from preoccupation or a dazed condition of mind, he seemed to
forget that Miss Tuttle had owned to tying on this pistol; and that
nothing but her word went to prove that this was done before and not
after the shot had been delivered in the Moore house library.  I
thought I understood him and was certain that I sympathized with his
condition; but in the ears of those less amiably disposed toward him,
his statements had lost force and the denial went for little.

Meanwhile a fact which all had noted and commented on had recurred to
my mind and caused me to ask a brother officer who was walking out
beside me what he thought of Mr. Moore's absence from an inquiry
presumably of such importance to all members of this family.

The fellow laughed and said:

"Old Dave has lost none of his peculiarities in walking into his
fortune.  This is his day at the cemetery.  Didn't you know that?
He will let nothing on earth get in the way of his pilgrimage to
that spot on the twenty-third of May, much less so trivial an
occurrence as an inquest over the remains of his nearest relative."

I felt my gorge rise; then a thought struck me and I asked how long
the old gentleman kept up his watch.

"From sunrise to sundown, the boys say.  I never saw him there myself.
My beat lies in an opposite direction."

I left him and started for Rock Creek Cemetery.  There were two good
hours yet before sundown and I resolved to come upon Uncle David at
his post.

It took just one hour and a quarter to get there by the most direct
route I could take.  Five minutes more to penetrate the grounds to
where a superb vehicle stood, drawn by two of the finest horses I
had seen in Washington for many a long day.  As I was making my way
around this equipage I came upon a plot in a condition of upheaval
preparatory to new sodding and the planting of several choice shrubs.
In the midst of the sand thus exposed a single head-stone rose.  On
his knees beside this simple monument I saw the figure of Uncle
David, dressed in his finest clothes and showing in his oddly
contorted face the satisfaction of great prosperity, battling with
the dissatisfaction of knowing that one he had so loved had not
lived to share his elevation.  He was rubbing away the mold from the
name which, by his own confession, was the only one to which his
memory clung in sympathy or endearment.  At his feet lay an open
basket, in which I detected the remains of what must have been a
rather sumptuous cold repast.  To all appearance he had foregone
none of his ancient customs; only those customs had taken on elegance
with his rise in fortune.  The carriage and the horses, and most of
all, the imperturbable driver, seemed to awaken some awe in the boys.
They were still in evidence, but they hung back sheepishly and eyed
the basket of neglected food as if they hoped he would forget to take
it away.  Meanwhile the clattering of chains against the harness, the
pawing of the horses and the low exclamations of the driver caused me
the queerest feelings.  Advancing quite unceremoniously upon the
watcher by the grave, I remarked aloud;

"The setting sun will soon release you, Mr. Moore.  Are you going
immediately into town?"

He paused in his rubbing, which was being done with a very tender
hand, and as if he really loved the name he was endeavoring to bring
into plainer view.  Scowling a little, he turned and met me
point-blank with a look which had a good deal of inquiry in it.

"I am not usually interrupted here," he emphasized; "except by the
boys," he added more mildly.  "They sometimes approach too closely,
but I am used to the imps and scarcely notice them.  Ah!  there are
some of my old friends now!  Well, it is time they knew that a
change has taken place in my fortunes.  Hi, there!  Hands up and
catch this, and this, and this!" he shouted.  "But keep quiet about
it or next year you will get pennies again."

And flinging quarters right and left, he smiled in such a pompous,
self-satisfied way at the hurrah and scramble which ensued, that it
was well worth my journey there just to see this exhibition of
combined vanity and good humor.

"Now go!" he vociferated; and the urchins, black and white, flew
away, flinging up their heels in delight and shouting: "Bully for you,
Uncle David!  We'll come again next year, not for twenty-fives but
fifties."

"I will make it dollars if I only live so long," he muttered.  And
deigning now to remember the question I had put to him, he grandly
remarked:

"I am going straight into town.  Can I do anything for you?"

"Nothing.  I thought you might like to know what awaits you there.
The city is greatly stirred up.  The coroner's jury in the
Jeffrey-Moore case has just brought in a verdict to the effect that
suicide has not been proved.  Naturally, this is equivalent to one
of murder."

"Ah!" he ejaculated, slightly taken aback for one so invariably
impassive.

"And to whom is the guilt of this crime ascribed?" he presently
ventured.

"There was mention of no name; but the opprobrium naturally falls
on Miss Tuttle."

"Miss Tuttle?  Ah!"

"Since Mr. Jeffrey is proved to have been too far away at the time
to have fired that shot, while she -"

"I am following you -"

"Was in the very house - at the door of the library in fact - and
heard the pistol discharged, if she did not discharge it herself -
which some believe, notably the district attorney.  You should have
been there, Mr. Moore."

He looked surprised at this suggestion.

"I never am anywhere but here on the twenty-third of May," he
declared.

"Miss Tuttle needed some adviser."

"Ah, probably."

"You would have been a good one."

"And a welcome one, eh?"

I hardly thought he would have been a welcome one, but I did not
admit the fact.  Nevertheless he seized on the advantage he evidently
thought he had gained and added, mildly enough, or rather without any
display of feeling:

"Miss Tuttle likes me even less than Veronica did.  I do not think
she would have accepted, certainly she would not have desired, my
presence in her counsels.  But of one thing I wish her to be assured,
her and the world in general.  Any money she may need at this - at
this unhappy crisis in her life, she will find amply supplied.  She
has no claims on me, but that makes little difference where the
family honor is concerned.  Her mother's husband was my brother - the
girl shall have all she needs.  I will write her so."

He was moving toward his carriage.

"Fine turnout?" he interrogatively remarked.

I assented with all the surprise, - with all the wonder even - which
his sublime egotism seemed to invite.

"It is the best that Downey could raise in the time I allotted him.
When I really finger the money, we shall see, we shall see."

His foot was on the carriage-step.  He looked up at the west.  The
sun was almost down but not quite.  "Have you any special business
with me?" he asked, lingering with what I thought a surprising
display of conscientiousness till the last ray of direct sunlight
had disappeared.

I glanced up at the coachman sitting on his box as rigid as any
stone.

"You may speak," said he; "Caesar neither hears nor sees anything
but his horses when he drives me."

The black did not wink.  He was as completely at home on the box
and as quiet and composed in his service as if he had driven this
man for years.

"He understands his duty," finished the master, but with no outward
appearance of pride.  "What have you to say to me?"

I hesitated no longer.

"Miss Tuttle is supposed to have secretly entered the Moore house
on the night you summoned us.  She even says she did.  I know that
you have sworn to having seen no one go into that house; but
notwithstanding this, haven't you some means at your disposal for
proving to the police and to the world at large that she never
fired that fatal shot?  Public opinion is so cruel.  She will be
ruined whether innocent or guilty, unless it can be very plainly
shown that she did not enter the library prior to going there with
the police."

"And how can you suppose me to be in a position to prove that?  Say
that I had sat in my front window all that evening, and watched with
uninterrupted assiduity the door through which so many are said to
have passed between sunset and midnight - something which I did not
do, as I have plainly stated on oath - how could you have expected
me to see what went on in the black interior of a house whose
exterior is barely discernible at night across the street?"

"Then you can not aid her?" I asked.

With a light bound he leaped into the carriage.  As he took his seat
he politely remarked:

"I should be glad to, since, though not a Moore, she is near enough
the family to affect its honor.  But not having even seen her enter
the house I can not testify in any way in regard to her.  Home,
Caesar, and drive quickly.  I do not thrive under these evening damps."

And leaning back, with an inexpressible air of contentment with
himself, his equipage and the prospect of an indefinite enjoyment of
the same, the last representative of the great Moore family was
quietly driven away.




XVII

A FRESH START


I was far from being good company that night.  I knew this without
being told.  My mind was too busy.  I was too full of regrets and
plans, seasonings and counter reasonings.  In my eyes Miss Tuttle
had suddenly become innocent, consequently a victim.  But a victim
to what?  To some exaggerated sense of duty?  Possibly; but to what
duty?  That was the question, to answer which offhand I would, in
my present excitement, have been ready to sacrifice a month's pay.

For I was moved, not only by the admiration and sympathy which all
men must feel for a beautiful woman caught in such a deadly snare
of circumstantial evidence, but by the conviction that Durbin, whose
present sleek complacency was more offensive to me than the sneering
superiority of a week ago, believed her to be a guilty woman, and as
such his rightful prey.  This alone would have influenced me to take
the opposite view; for we never ran along together, and in a case
where any division of opinion was possible, always found ourselves,
consciously or unconsciously, on different sides.  Yet I did not
really dislike Durbin, who is a very fine fellow.  I only hated his
success and the favor which rewarded it.

I know that I have some very nasty failings and I do not shrink from
owning them.  My desire is to represent myself as I am, and I must
admit that it was not entirely owing to disinterested motives that
I now took the secret stand I did in Miss Tuttle's favor.  To prove
her innocent whom once I considered the cause of, if not the guilty
accessory to her sister's murder, now became my dream by night and
my occupation by day.  Though I seemed to have no sympathizer in
this effort and though the case against her was being pushed very
openly in the district attorney's office, yet I clung to my
convictions with an almost insensate persistence, inwardly declaring
her the victim of circumstances, and hoping against hope that some
clue would offer itself by means of which I might yet prove her so.
But where was I to seek for this clue?

Alas, no ready answer to this very important query was forthcoming.
All possible evidence in this case seemed to have been exhausted save
such as Mr. Jeffrey and Miss Tuttle withheld.  And so the monstrous
accusation stood, and before it all Washington - my humble self
included - stood in a daze of mingled doubt and compassion, hunting
for explanations which failed to appear and seeking in vain for
some guiltier party, who evermore slipped from under our hand.  Had
Mr. Jeffrey's alibi been less complete he could not have stood up
against the suspicions which now ran riot.  But there was no
possibility of shifting the actual crime back to him after the
testimony of so frank and trustworthy a man as Tallman.  If the
stopping of Mrs. Jeffrey's watch fixed the moment of her death as
accurately as was supposed, - and I never heard the least doubt
thrown out in this regard, - he could not by any means of transit
then known in Washington have reached Waverley Avenue in time to
fire that shot.  The gates of the cemetery were closed at sundown;
sundown took place that night at one minute past seven, and the
distance into town is considerable.  His alibi could not be gainsaid.
So his name failed to be publicly broached in connection with the
shooting, though his influence over Miss Tuttle could not be
forgotten, suggesting to some that she had acted as his hand in the
deed which robbed him of an undesirable wife.  But this I would not
believe.  I preferred to accept the statement that she had stopped
short of the library door in her suspicious visit there, and that
the ribbon-tying, which went for so much, had been done at home.
That these facts, especially the latter, called for more than common
credulity, I was quite ready to acknowledge; and had her feeling for
Francis Jeffrey shown less unselfishness, I should certainly have
joined my fellows in regarding these assertions as very lame attempts
to explain what could only be explained by a confession of guilt.

So here was a tangle without a frayed end to pull at, unless the
impervious egotism of Uncle David afforded one, which I doubted.  For
how could any man with a frightful secret in his breast show that
unmixed delight in his new equipage and suddenly acquired position,
which had so plainly beamed from that gentleman's calm eye and
assured bearing?  When he met my scrutiny in the sacred precincts
where the one love of his heart lay buried, he did so without a
quiver or any sign of inner disturbance.  His tone to Caesar as he
drove off had been the tone of a man who can afford to speak quietly
because he is conscious of being so undeniably the master; and when
his foot rose to the carriage step it was with the confidence of one
who had been kept out of his rights for most of his natural life,
but who feels in his present enjoyment of them no apprehension of a
change.  His whole bearing and conversation on that day were, as I
am quite ready to admit, an exhibition of prodigious selfishness;
but it was also an exhibition of mental poise incompatible with a
consciousness of having acquired his fortune by any means which laid
him open to the possibility of losing it.  Or so I judged.

Finding myself, with every new consideration of the tantalizing
subject, deeper and deeper in the quagmire of doubt and uncertainty,
I sought enlightenment by making a memorandum of the special points
which must have influenced the jury in their verdict, as witness:

1.  The relief shown by Mr. Jeffrey at finding an apparent
communication from his wife hinting at suicide.

2.  The possibility, disclosed by the similarity between the sisters'
handwriting, of this same communication being a forgery substituted
for the one really written by Mrs. Jeffrey.

3.  The fact that, previous to Mr. Jeffrey's handling of the book
in which this communication was said to have been hidden, it had
been seen in Miss Tuttle's hands.

4.  That immediately after this she had passed to the drawer where
Mr. Jeffrey's pistol was kept.

5.  That while this pistol had not been observed in her hand, there
was as yet no evidence to prove that it had been previously taken
from the drawer, save such as was afforded by her own acknowledgment
that she had tied some unknown object, presumably the pistol, to her
sister's wrist before that sister left the house.

6.  That if this was so, the pistol and the ribbon connecting it
with Mrs. Jeffrey's wrist had been handled again before the former
was discharged, and by fingers which had first touched dust - of
which there was plenty in the old library.

7.  That Miss Tuttle had admitted, though not till after much
prevarication and apparent subterfuge, that she had extended her
walk on that fatal night not only as far as the Moore house, but
that she had entered it and penetrated as far as the library door
at the very moment the shot was fired within.

8.  That in acknowledging this she had emphatically denied
having associated the firing of this shot with any idea of harm to
her sister; yet was known to have gone from this house in a
condition of mind so serious that she failed to recollect the places
she visited or the streets she passed through till she found herself
again in her sister's house face to face with an officer.

9.  That her first greeting of this officer was a shriek, betraying
a knowledge of his errand before he had given utterance to a word.

10.  That the candles found in the Moore house were similar to those
bought by Mr. Jeffrey and afterward delivered at his kitchen door.

11.  That she was the only member of the household besides the cook
who was in the kitchen at the time, and that it was immediately
after her departure from the room that the package containing the
candles had been missed.

12.  That opportunities of coming to an understanding with Mr.
Jeffrey after his wife's death had not been lacking and it was not
until after such opportunities had occurred that any serious inquiry
into this matter had been begun by the police.  To which must be
added, not in way of proof but as an important factor in the case,
that her manner, never open, was such throughout her whole public
examination as to make it evident to all that only half of what had
occurred in the Jeffreys' house since the wedding had been given
out by her or by the man for whose release from a disappointing
matrimonial entanglement she was supposed to have worked; this,
though the suspicion hanging over them both called for the utmost
candor.

Verily, a serious list; and opposed to this I had as yet little to
offer but my own belief in her innocence and the fact, but little
dwelt on and yet not without its value, that the money which had
come to Mr. Jeffrey, and the home which had been given her, had both
been forfeited by Mrs. Jeffrey's death.

As I mused and mused over this impromptu synopsis, in my vain
attempt to reach some fresh clue to a proper understanding of the
inconsistencies in Miss Tuttle's conduct by means of my theory of
her strong but mistaken devotion to Mr. Jeffrey, a light suddenly
broke upon me from an entirely unexpected quarter.  It was a faint
one, but any glimmer was welcome.  Remembering a remark made by Mr.
Jeffrey in his examination, that Mrs. Jeffrey had not been the same
since crossing the fatal doorstep of the Moore house, I asked myself
if we had paid enough attention to the mental condition and conduct
of the bride prior to the alarm which threw a pall of horror over
her marriage; and caught by the idea, I sought for a fuller account
of the events of that day than had hitherto been supplied by
newspaper or witness.

Hunting up my friend, the reporter, I begged him to tell me where
he had obtained the facts from which he made that leading article
in the Star which had so startled all Washington on the evening of
the Jeffrey wedding.  That they had come from some eye-witness I
had no doubt, but who was the eye-witness?  Himself?  No.  Who then?
At first he declined to tell me, but after a fuller understanding of
my motives he mentioned the name of a young lady, who, while a
frequent guest at the most fashionable functions, was not above
supplying the papers with such little items of current gossip as
came under her own observation.

How I managed to approach this lady and by what means I succeeded
in gaining her confidence are details quite unnecessary to this
narrative.  Enough that I did obtain access to her and that she
talked quite frankly to me, and in so doing supplied me with a clue
which ultimately opened up to me an entirely new field of inquiry.
We had been discussing Mr. Jeffrey and Miss Tuttle, when suddenly,
and with no apparent motive beyond the natural love of gossip which
was her weakness, she launched out into remarks about the bride.
The ceremony had been late; did I know it?  A half-hour or
three-quarters past the time set for it.  And why?  Because Miss
Moore was not ready.  She had chosen to array herself in the house
and had come early enough for the purpose; but she would not accept
any assistance, not even that of her maid, and of course she kept
every one waiting.  "Oh, there was no more uneasy soul in the whole
party that morning than the bride!"  Let other people remark upon
the high look in Cora Tuttle's face, or gossip about the anxious
manner of the bridegroom; she, the speaker, could tell things about
the bride which would go to show that she was not all right even
before that ominous death's-head reared itself into view at her
marriage festival.  Why, the fact that she came downstairs and was
married without her bridal bouquet was enough.  Had there not been
so much else to talk about, people would have talked about that.
But the big event had so effectually swallowed up the little that
only herself, and possibly two other ladies she might name, seemed
to retain any memory of the matter.

"What ladies?" I asked.

"Oh, it doesn't matter what ladies.  Two of the very best sort.  I
know they noticed it, because I heard them talking about it.  We
were all standing in the upper hall and were all crowded into a
passage leading to the room where the bride was dressing.  It was
before the alarm had gone around of what had been discovered in the
library, and we were all impatient enough for the appearance of the
bride, who, we had been told, intended to wear the old point in
which her great-grandmother was married.  I have a weakness for old
point and I was determined to stand where I could see her come out,
even if I lost sight of the ceremony itself.  But it would have been
tedious enough waiting in that close hall if the ladies behind me
had not kept up a conversation, which I, of course, pretended not
to hear.  I remember it, every word, for it was my sole amusement
for half an hour.  What was it?  Oh, it was about that same bouquet,
which, by the way, I had the privilege of staring at all the time
they chatted.  For the boy who brought it had not been admitted
into Miss Moore's room, and, not knowing what else to do with it,
was lingering before her door, with the great streamers falling
from his hands, and the lilies making the whole place heavy with a
sickening perfume.  From what I heard the ladies say, he had been
standing there an hour, and the timid knock he gave from time to
time produced in me an odd feeling which those ladies behind me
seemed to share.

"'It's a shame!' I heard one of them cry.  'Veronica Moore has no
excuse for such thoughtlessness.  It is an hour now that she has
been shut up in her room alone.  She won't have even her maid in.
She prefers to dress alone, she says.  Peculiar in a bride, isn't
it?  But one thing is certain: she can not put on her veil without
help.  She will have to call some one in for that.'  At which the
other volunteered that the Moores were all queer, and that she
didn't envy Francis Jeffrey.  'What!  not with fifty thousand a
year to lighten her oddities?' returned her companion with a shrug
which communicated itself to me, so closely were we packed together.
'I have a son who could bear with them under such circumstances.'
Indeed she has, and all Washington knows it, but the remark passed
without comment, for they had not yet exhausted the main event, and
the person they now attacked was Miss Tuttle.  'Why doesn't she
come and see that that bouquet is taken in?  I declare it's not
decent.  Mr. Jeffrey would not feel complimented if he knew the fate
of those magnificent lilies and roses.  I presume he furnished the
bouquet.'

"'Miss Tuttle has looked out of her room once,' I heard the other
reply.  'She is in splendid beauty to-day, but pale.  But she
never could control Veronica.'  'Hush!  you speak louder than you
think'  This amused me, and I do believe that in another moment I
should have laughed outright if another boy had not appeared in
the hall before us, who, shoving aside the first, rapped on the
door with a spirit which called for answer.  But he was no more
successful than the other boy had been; so, being a brisk fellow,
with no time for nonsense, he called out, 'Your bouquet, Miss, and
a message, which I am to give you before you go downstairs!  The
gentleman is quite particular about it.'  These words were
literally shouted at the door, but in the hubbub of voices about
us I don't believe any one heard them but ourselves and the bride.
I know that she heard them, for she opened the door a very little
way, - such a very little way that the boy had to put his lips to
the crack when he spoke, and then turn and place his ear where his
lips had been in order to catch her reply.  This, for some reason,
seemed a long time in coming, and the fellow grew so impatient that
he amused himself by snatching the bouquet from the other boy and
thrusting it in through the crack, to the very great detriment of
its roses and lilies.  When she took it he bawled for his answer,
and when he got it, he stared and muttered doubtfully to himself as
he worked his way out again through the crowd, which by this time
was beginning to choke up all the halls and stairways.

"But why have I told you all this nonsense?" she asked quite suddenly.
"It isn't of the least consequence that Veronica Moore kept a boy
waiting at her door while she dressed herself for her wedding; but
it shows that she was queer even then, and I for one believe in the
theory of suicide, and in that alone, and in the excuse she gave for
it, too; for if she had really loved Francis Jeffrey she would not
have been so slow to take in the magnificent bouquet he had provided
for her."

But comment, even from those who had known these people well, was
not what I wanted at this moment, but facts.  So, without much
attention to these words, I said:

"You will excuse me if I suggest that you are going on too fast.
The door of the bride's room has just been shut upon the boy who
brought her a message.  When was it opened again?"

"Not for a good half-hour; not till every one had grown nervous and
Miss Tuttle and one or two of her most intimate friends had gone
more than once to her door; not, in fact, till the hour for the
ceremony had come and gone and Mr. Jeffrey had crossed the hall
twice under the impression that she was ready for him.  Then, when
weariness was general and people were asking what kept the bride
and how much longer they were to be kept waiting, her door suddenly
opened and I caught a glimpse of her face and heard her ask at
last for her maid.  O, I repeat that Veronica Moore was not all
right that day, and though I have heard no one comment on the fact,
it has been a mystery to me ever since why she gave that sudden
recoil when Francis Jeffrey took her hand after the benediction.
It was not timidity, nor was it fear, for she did not know till a
minute afterward what had happened in the house.  Did some sudden
realization of what she had done in marrying a man whom she
herself declared she did not love come when it was too late?
What do you think?"

Miss Freeman had forgotten herself; but the impetuosity which had
led her into asking my opinion made her forget in another moment
that she had done so.  And when in my turn I propounded a question
and inquired whether she ever again saw the boy who besieged the
bride's door with a message, she graciously replied:

"The boy; let me see.  Yes, I saw him twice; once in a back hall
talking earnestly to Mr. Jeffrey, and secondly at the carriage
door just before the bridal party rode away.  It was Mrs. Jeffrey
who was talking to him then, and I wondered to see him look so
pleased when everybody in and about the house was pale as ashes."

"Do you know the name of that boy?" I carelessly inquired.

"His name?  O no.  He is one of Raucher's waiters; the curly-haired
one.  You see him everywhere; but I don't know his name.  Do you
flatter yourself that he can tell you anything that other people
don't know?  Why, if he knew the least thing that wasn't in
everybody's mouth, you would have heard from him long ago.  Those
men are the greatest gossips in town" - I wonder what she thought
of herself, - "and so proud to be of any importance."  This was true
enough, though I did not admit it at the time; and when the interview
was closed and I went away, I have no doubt she considered me quite
the most heavy person she had ever met.  But this did not disturb me.
The little facts she had stated were new to me and, repeating my
former method, I was already busy arranging them in my mind.  Witness
the result:

1.  The ceremony of marriage between Francis Jeffrey and Veronica
Moore was fully three-quarters of an hour late.

2.  This was owing to the caprice of the bride, who would not have
any one in the room with her, not even her maid.

3.  The bridal bouquet did not figure in the ceremony.  In the flurry
of the moment it was forgotten or purposely left behind by the bride.
As this bouquet was undoubtedly the gift of Mr. Jeffrey, the fact
may be significant.

4.  She received a message of a somewhat peremptory character before
going below.  From whom?  Her bridegroom?  It would so appear from
the character of the message.

5.  The messenger showed great astonishment at the reply he was
given to carry back.  Yet he has not been known to mention the
matter.  Why?  When every one talked he was silent.  Through whose
influence?  This was something to find out.

6.  Though at the time the benediction was pronounced every one was
in a state of alarm except the bride, it was noticed that she gave
an involuntary recoil when her bridegroom stooped for the customary
kiss.  Why?  Were the lines of her last farewell true then, and did
she experience at that moment a sudden realization of her lack of
love?

7.  She did not go again upstairs, but very soon fled from the
house with the rest of the bridal party.

Petty facts, all, but possibly more significant than appeared.  I
made up my mind to find the boy who brought the bouquet and also
the one who carried back her message.

But here a surprise, if not a check, awaited me.  The florist's boy
had left his place and no one could tell where he had gone.  Neither
could I find the curly-haired waiter at Raucher's.  He had left also,
but it was to join the volunteers at San Antonio.

Was there meaning in this coincidence?  I resolved to know.  Visiting
the former haunts of both boys, I failed to come upon any evidence
of an understanding between them, or of their having shown any
special interest in the Jeffrey tragedy.  Both seemed to have been
strangely reticent in regard to it, the florist's boy showing
stupidity and the waiter such satisfaction in his prospective
soldiering that no other topic was deemed worthy his attention.  The
latter had a sister and she could not say enough of the delight her
brother had shown at the prospect of riding a horse again and of
fighting in such good company.  He had had some experience as a
cowboy before coming to Washington, and from the moment war was
declared had expressed his intention of joining the recruits for
Cuba as soon as he could see her so provided for that his death would
not rob her of proper support.  How this had come about she did not
know.  Three weeks before he had been in despair over the faint
prospect of doing what he wished; then suddenly, and without any
explanation of how the change had come about, he had rushed in upon
her with the news that he was going to enlist in a company made up
of bronco busters and rough riders from the West, that she need not
worry about herself or about him, for he had just put five hundred
dollars to her account in bank, and that as for himself he possessed
a charmed life and was immune, as she well knew, and need fear
bullets no more than the fever.  By this he meant that he had had
yellow fever years before in Louisiana, and that a ball which had
once been fired at him had gone clean through his body without
taking his life.

"What was the date of the evening on which be told you he had placed
money in bank for you?"

"April the twenty-ninth."

Two days after the Jeffrey-Moore wedding!

Convinced now that his departure from town was something more than
a coincidence, I pursued my inquiries and found that he had been
received, just as she had said, into the First Volunteer Corps under
Colonel Wood.  This required influence.  Whose was the influence?
It took me some time to find out, but after many and various
attempts, most of which ended in failure, I succeeded in learning
that the man who had worked and obtained for him a place in this
favored corps was FRANCIS JEFFREY.




XVIII

IN THE GRASS


I did some tall thinking that night.  I remembered that this man had
held some conversation with the Jeffreys at their carriage door
previous to their departure from the Moore house, and found myself
compelled to believe that only a matter of importance to themselves
as well as to him would have detained them at such a minute.  Oh,
that Tampa were not so far off or that I had happened on this clue
earlier!  But Tampa was at that moment a far prospect for me and I
could only reason from such facts as I had been able to collect in
Washington.

Fixing my mind now on Mrs. Jeffrey, I asked the cause of the many
caprices which had marked her conduct on her wedding morning.  Why
had she persisted in dressing alone, and what occasioned the
absorption which led to her ignoring all appeals at her door at a
time when a woman is supposed to be more than usually gracious?  But
one answer suggested itself.  Her heart was not in her marriage, and
that last hour of her maidenhood had been an hour of anguish and
struggle.  Perhaps she not only failed to love Francis Jeffrey, but
loved some other man.  This seemed improbable, but things as strange
as this have happened in our complex society and no reckoning can be
made with a woman's fancy.  If this was so - and what other theory
would better or even so well account for her peculiar behavior both
then and afterward?  The hour usually given by brides to dress and
gladsome expectation was with her one of farewell to past hopes and
an unfortunate, if not passionate, attachment.  No wonder that she
wished to be alone.  No wonder that interruption angered her.
Perhaps it had found her on her knees.  Perhaps -  Here I felt
myself seized by a strong and sudden excitement.  I remembered the
filings I had gathered up from the small stand by the window, filings
which had glittered and which must have been of gold.  What was the
conclusion?  In this last hour of her maiden life she had sought to
rid herself of some article of jewelry which she found it undesirable
to carry into her new life.  What article of jewelry?  In
consideration of the circumstances and the hour, I could think of
but one.  A ring! the symbol of some old attachment.

The slight abrasion at the base of her third finger, which had been
looked upon as the result of too rough and speedy a withdrawing of
the wedding-ring on the evening of her death, was much more likely
to have been occasioned by the reopening of some little wound made
two weeks before by the file.  If Durbin and the rest had taken into
account these filings, they must have come to very much the same
conclusion; but either they had overlooked them in their search
about the place, or, having noted them, regarded them as a clue
leading nowhere.

But for me they led the way to a very definite inquiry.  Asking to
see the rings Mrs. Jeffrey had left behind her on the night she
went for the last time to the Moore house, I looked them carefully
over, and found that none of them showed the least mark of the file.
This strengthened my theory, and I proceeded to take my next step
with increased confidence.  It seemed an easy one, but proved
unexpectedly difficult.  My desire was to ascertain whether she had
worn previous to her marriage any rings which had not been seen on
her finger since, and it took me one whole week to establish the
fact that she had.

But that fact once learned, the way cleared before me.  Allowing my
fancy full rein, I pictured to myself her anxious figure standing
alone in that ancient and ghostly room filing off this old ring
from her dainty finger.  Then I asked myself what she would be
likely to do with this ring after disengaging it from her hand?
Would she keep it?  Perhaps; but if so, why could it not be found?
None such had been discovered among her effects.  Or had she thrown
it away, and if so, where?  The vision of her which I had just seen
in my mind's eye came out with a clearness at this, which struck
me as providential.  I could discern as plainly as if I had been a
part of the scene the white-clad form of the bride bending toward
the light which came in sparsely through the half-open shutter she
had loosened for this task.  This was the shutter which had never
again been fastened and whose restless blowing to and fro had first
led attention to this house and the crime it might otherwise have
concealed indefinitely.  Had some glimpse of the rank grass growing
underneath this window lured her eye and led her to cast away the
ring which she had no longer any right to keep?  It would be like
a woman to yield to such an impulse; and on the strength of the
possibility I decided to search this small plot for what it might
very reasonably conceal.

But I did not wish to do this openly.  I was not only afraid of
attracting Durbin's attention by an attempt which could only awaken
his disdain, but I hesitated to arouse the suspicion of Mr. Moore,
whose interest in his newly acquired property made him very properly
alert to any trespass upon it.

The undertaking, therefore, presented difficulties.  But it was my
business to overcome these, and before long I conceived a plan by
which every blade of grass in the narrow strip running in front of
this house might be gone over without rousing anything more serious
than Uncle David's ire.

Calling together a posse of street urchins, I organized them into
a band, with the promise of a good supper all around if one of them
brought me the pieces of a broken ring which I had lost in the grass
plot of a house where I had been called upon to stay all night.
That they might win the supper in the shortest possible time and
before the owner of this house, who lived opposite, could interfere,
I advised them to start at the fence in a long line and, proceeding
on their knees, to search, each one, the ground before him to the
width of his own body.  The fortunate one was to have the privilege
of saying what the supper should consist of.  To give a plausible
excuse for this search, a ball was to be tossed up and down the
street till it lighted in the Moore house inclosure.

It was a scheme to fire the street boy's soul, and I was only afraid
of failure from the over-enthusiasm it aroused.  But the injunctions
which I gave them to spare the shrubs and not to trample the grass
any more than was necessary were so minute and impressive that they
moved away to their task in unexpected order and with a subdued
cheerfulness highly promising of success.

I did not accompany them.  Jinny, who has such an innocent air on
the street, took my place and promenaded up and down the block, just
to see that Mr. Moore did not make too much trouble.  And it was
well she did so, for though he was not at home, - I had chosen the
hour of his afternoon ride, his new man-servant was; and he no sooner
perceived this crowd of urchins making for the opposite house than
he rushed at them, and would have scattered them far and wide in a
twinkling if the demure dimples of my little ally had not come into
play and distracted his attention so completely as to make him
forget the throng of unkempt hoodlums who seemed bound to invade
his master's property.  She was looking for Mr. Moore's house, she
told him.  Did he know Mr. Moore, and his house which was somewhere
near?  Not his new, great, big house, where the horrible things
took place of which she had read in the papers, but his little old
house, which she had heard was soon to be for rent, and which she
thought would be just the right size for herself and mother.  Was
that it?  That dear little place all smothered in vines?  How
lovely!  and what would the rent be, did he think?  and had it a
back-yard with garden-room enough for her to raise pinks and
nasturtiums?  and so on, and so on, while he stared with delighted
eyes, and tried to put in a word edgewise, and the boys - well,
they went through that strip of grass in just ten minutes.  My
brave little Jinny had just declared with her most roguish smile
that she would run home and tell her mother all about this sweetest
of sweet little places, when a shout rose from the other side of
the street, and that collection of fifteen or twenty boys scampered
away as if mad, shouting in joyous echo of the boy at their head:

"It's to be chicken, heaping plates of ice cream and sponge cake."

By which token she knew that the ring had been found.

*******

When they brought this ring to me I would not have exchanged places
with any man on earth.  As Jinny herself was curious enough to
stroll along about this time, I held it out where we both could see
it and draw our conclusions.

It was a plain gold circlet set with a single small ruby.  It was
cut through and twisted out of shape, just as I had anticipated;
and as I examined it I wondered what part it had played and was
yet destined to play in the drama of Veronica Jeffrey's mysterious
life and still more mysterious death.  That it was a factor of some
importance, arguing some early school-girl love, I could but gather
from the fact that its removal from her finger was effected in
secrecy and under circumstances of such pressing haste.  How could
I learn the story of that ring and the possible connection between
it and Mr. Jeffrey's professed jealousy of his wife and the
disappointing honeymoon which had followed their marriage?  That
this feeling on his part had antedated the ambassador's ball no one
could question; but that it had started as far back as the wedding
day was a new idea to me and one which suggested many possibilities.
Could this idea be established, and, if so, how?  But one avenue of
inquiry offered itself.  The waiter, who had been spirited away so
curiously immediately after the wedding; might be able to give us
some information on this interesting point.  He had been the medium
of the messages which had passed between her and Mr. Jeffrey just
prior to the ceremony; afterward he had been seen talking earnestly
to that gentleman and later with her.  Certainly, it would add to
our understanding of the situation to know what reply she had sent
to the peremptory demand made upon her at so critical a time; an
understanding so desirable that the very prospect of it was almost
enough to warrant a journey to Tampa.  Yet, say that the results
were disappointing, how much time lost and what a sum of money!  I
felt the need of advice in this crisis, yet hesitated to ask it.
My cursed pride and my no less cursed jealousy of Durbin stood very
much in my way at this time.

A week had now passed since the inquest, and, while Miss Tuttle
still remained at liberty, it was a circumscribed liberty which
must have been very galling to one of her temperament and habits.
She rode and she walked, but she entered no house unattended nor
was she allowed any communication with Mr. Jeffrey.  Nevertheless
she saw him, or at least gave him the opportunity of seeing her.
Each day at three o'clock she rode through K Street, and the
detective who watched Mr. Jeffrey's house said that she never
passed it without turning her face to the second-story window,
where he invariably stood.  No signs passed between them; indeed,
they scarcely nodded; but her face, as she lifted it to meet his
eye, showed so marked a serenity and was so altogether beautiful
that this same detective had a desire to see if it maintained
like characteristics when she was not within reach of her
brother-in-law.  Accordingly, the next day he delegated his place
to another and took his stand farther down the street.  Alas!  it
was not the same woman's face he saw; but a far different and sadder
one.  She wore that look of courage and brave hope only in passing
Mr. Jeffrey's house.  Was it simply an expression of her secret
devotion to him or the signal of some compact which had been
entered into between them?

Whichever it was, it touched my heart, even in his description of
it.  After advising with Jinny I approached the superintendent, to
whom, without further reserve, I opened my heart.

The next day I found myself on the train bound for Tampa, with full
authority to follow Curly Jim until I found him.





BOOK III - THE HOUSE OF DOOM




XIX- IN TAMPA


When I started on this desperate search after a witness, war had
been declared, but no advance as yet ordered on Cuba.  But during
my journey south the long expected event happened, and on my
arrival in Tampa I found myself in the midst of departure and
everything in confusion.

Of course, under such conditions it was difficult to find my man on
the instant.  Innumerable inquiries yielded no result, and in the
absence of any one who would or could give me the desired information
I wandered from one end of the camp to the other till I finally
encountered a petty officer who gave signs of being a Rough Rider.
Him I stopped, and, with some hint of my business, asked where
James Calvert could be found.

His answer was a stare and a gesture toward the hospital tents.

Nothing could have astonished me more.

"Sick?" I cried.

"Dying," was his answer.

Dying!  Curly Jim!  Impossible.  I had misled my informant as to
the exact man I wanted, or else there were two James Calverts in
Tampa.  Curly Jim, the former cowboy, was not the fellow to succumb
in camp before he had ever smelt powder.

"It is James Calvert of the First Volunteer Corps I am after," said
I.  "A sturdy fellow -"

"No doubt, no doubt.  Many sturdy fellows are down.  He's down to
stay.  Typhoid, you know.  Bad case.  No hope from the start.  Pity,
but -"

I heard no more.  Dying!  Curly Jim.  He who was considered to be
immune!  He who held the secret -

"Let me see him," I demanded.  "It is important - a police matter
 - a word from him may save a life.  He is still breathing?"

"Yes, but I do not think there is any chance of his speaking.  He
did not recognize his nurse five minutes ago."

As bad as that!  But I did not despair.  I did not dare to.  I had
staked everything on this interview, and I was not going to lose
its promised results from any lack of effort on my own part.

"Let me see him," I repeated.

I was taken in.  The few persons I saw clustered about a narrow cot
in one corner gave way and I was cut to the heart to see that they
did this not so much out of consideration for me or my errand there
as from the consciousness that their business at the bedside of
this dying man was over.  He was on the point of breathing his
last.  I pressed forward, and after one quick scrutiny of the closed
eyes and pale face I knelt at his side and whispered a name into
his ear.  It was that of Veronica Moore.

He started; they all saw it.  On the threshold of death, some
emotion - we never knew what one - drew him back for an instant,
and the pale cheek showed a suspicion of color.  Though the eyes
did not open, the lips moved, and I caught these words:

"Kept word - told no one - she was so -"

And that was all.  He died the next instant.

Well!  I was woefully done up by this sudden extinction of all my
hopes.  They had been extravagant, no doubt, but they had sustained
me through all my haps and mishaps, trials and dangers, till now,
here, they ended with the one inexorable fact-death.  Was I doomed
to defeat, then?  Must I go back to the major with my convictions
unchanged but with no fresh proof, no real evidence to support them?
I certainly must.  With the death of this man, all means of reaching
the state of Mrs. Jeffrey's mind immediately preceding her marriage
were gone.  I could never learn now what to know would make a man
of me and possibly save Cora Tuttle.

Bending under this stroke of Providence, I passed out.  A little
boy was sobbing at the tent door.  I stared at him curiously, and
was hurrying on, when I felt myself caught by the hand.

"Take me with you," cried a choked and frightened voice in my ear.
"I have no friend here, now he is gone; take me back to Washington."

Washington!  I turned and looked at the lad who, kneeling in the
hot sand at the door of the tent, was clutching me with imploring
hands.

"Who are you?" I asked; "and how came you here?  Do you belong to
the army?"

"I helped care for his horse," he whispered.  "He found me smuggled
on board the train - for I was bound to go to the war - and he was
sorry for me and used to give me bits of his own rations, but - but
now no one will give me anything.  Take me back; she won't care.
She's dead, they say.  Besides, I wouldn't stay here now if she was
alive and breathing.  I have had enough of war since he - Oh, he
was good to me -I never cared for any one so much."

I looked at the boy with an odd sensation for which I have no name.

"Whom are you talking about?" I asked.  "Your mother your sister?"

"Oh, no;" the tone was simplicity itself.  "Never had no mother.
I mean the lady at the big house; the one that was married.  She
gave me money to go out of Washington, and, wanting to be a soldier,
I followed Curly Jim.  I didn't think he'd die - he looked so
strong -  What's the matter, sir?  Have I said anything I shouldn't?"

I had him by the arm.  I fear that I was shaking him.

"The lady!" I repeated.  "She who was married - who gave you money.
Wasn't it Mrs. Jeffrey?"

"Yes, I believe that was the name of the man she married.  I didn't
know him; but I saw he r-"

"Where?  And why did she give you money?  I will take you home with
me if you tell me the truth about it."

He glanced back at the tent from which I had slightly drawn him
and a hungry look crept into his eyes.

"Well, it's no secret now," he muttered.  "He used to say I must
keep my mouth shut; but he wouldn't say so now if he knew I could
get home by telling.  He used to be sorry for me, he used.  What
do you want to know?"

"Why Mrs. Jeffrey gave you money to leave Washington."

The boy trembled, drew a step away, and then came back, and under
those hot Florida skies, in the turmoil of departing troops, I
heard these words:

"Because I heard what she said to Jim."

I felt my heart go down, then up, up, beyond anything I had ever
experienced in my whole life.  The way before me was not closed
then.  A witness yet remained, though Jim was dead.  The boy was
oblivious of my emotion; he was staring with great mournfulness
t the tent.

"And what was that?" said I.

His attention, which had been wandering, came back, and it was
with some surprise he said:

"It was not much.  She told him to take the gentleman into the
library.  But it was the library where men died, and he just went
and died there, too, you remember, and Jim said he wasn't ever going
to speak of it, and so I promised not to, neither, but - but - when
do you think you will be starting, sir?"

I did not answer him.  I was feeling very queer, as men feel, I
suppose, who in some crisis or event recognize an unexpected
interposition of Providence.

"Are you the boy who ran away from the florist's in Washington?"
I inquired when ready to speak.  "The boy who delivered Miss Moore's
bridal bouquet?"

"Yes, sir."

I let go of his hand and sat down.  Surely there was a power greater
than chance governing this matter.  Through what devious ways and
from what unexpected sources had I come upon this knowledge?

"Mrs. Jeffrey, or Miss Moore, as she was then, told Jim to seat the
gentleman in the library," I now said.  "Why?"

"I do not know.  He told her the gentleman's name and then she
whispered him that.  I heard her, and that was why I got money, too.
But it's all gone now.  Oh, sir, when are you going back?"

I started to my feet.  Was it in answer to this appeal or because
I realized that I had come at last upon a clue calling for immediate
action?

"I am going now," said I, "and you are going with me.  Run!  for
the train we take leaves inside of ten minutes.  My business here
is over."




XX

"THE COLONEL'S OWN"

Words can not express the tediousness of that return journey.  The
affair which occupied all my thoughts was as yet too much enveloped
in mystery for me to contemplate it with anything but an anxious
and inquiring mind.  While I clung with new and persistent hope to
the thread which had been put in my hand, I was too conscious of
the maze through which we must yet pass, before the light could be
reached, to feel that lightness of spirit which in itself might
have lessened the hours, and made bearable those days of forced
inaction.  To beguile the way a little, I made a complete analysis
of the facts as they appeared to me in the light of this latest bit
of evidence.  The result was not strikingly encouraging, yet I will
insert it, if only in proof of my diligence and the extreme interest
I experienced in each and every stage of this perplexing affair.  It
again took the form of a summary and read as follows:

Facts as they now appear:

1.  The peremptory demand for an interview which had been delivered
to Miss Moore during the half-hour preceding her marriage had come,
not from the bridegroom as I had supposed, but from the so-called
stranger, Mr. Pfeiffer.

2.  Her reply to this demand had been an order for that gentleman
to be seated in the library.

3.  The messenger carrying this order had been met and earnestly
talked with by Mr. Jeffrey either immediately before or immediately
after the aforementioned gentleman had been so seated.

4.  Death reached Mr. Pfeiffer before the bride did.

5.  Miss Moore remained in ignorance of this catastrophe till after
her marriage, no intimation of the same having been given her by
the few persons allowed to approach her before she descended to her
nuptials; yet she was seen to shrink unaccountably when her husband's
lips touched hers, and when informed of the dreadful event before
which she beheld all her guests fleeing, went from the house a
changed woman.

6.  For all this proof that Mr. Pfeiffer was well known to her, if
not to the rest of the bridal party, no acknowledgment of this was
made by any of them then or afterward, nor any contradiction given
either by husband or wife to the accepted theory that this seeming
stranger from the West had gone into this fatal room of the Moores'
to gratify his own morbid curiosity.

7.  On the contrary, an extraordinary effort was immediately made
by Mr. Jeffrey to rid himself of the only witnesses who could tell
the truth concerning those fatal ten minutes; but this brought no
peace to the miserable wife, who never again saw a really happy
moment.

8.  Extraordinary efforts at concealment argue extraordinary causes
for fear.  Fully too understand the circumstances of Mrs. Jeffrey's
death, it would be necessary first to know what had happened in the
Moore house when Mr. Jeffrey learned from Curly Jim that the man,
whose hold upon his bride had been such that he dared to demand an
interview with her just as she was on the point of descending to
her nuptials, had been seated, or was about to be seated, in the
room where death had once held its court and might easily be
persuaded to hold court again.

This was the limit of my conclusions.  I could get no further, and
awaited my arrival in Washington with the greatest impatience.
But once there, and the responsibility of this new inquiry shifted
to broader shoulders than my own, I was greatly surprised and as
deeply chagrined to observe the whole affair lag unaccountably and
to note that, in spite of my so-called important discoveries,
the prosecution continued working up the case against Miss Tuttle
in manifest intention of presenting it to the grand jury at its
fall sitting.

Whether Durbin was to blame for this I could not say.  Certainly
his look was more or less quizzical when next we met, and this
nettled me so that I at once came to the determination that whatever
was in his mind, or in the minds of the men whose counsels he
undoubtedly shared, I was going to make one more great effort on my
own account; not to solve the main mystery, which had passed out of
my hands, but to reach the hidden cause of the equally unexplained
deaths which had occurred from time to time at the library fireplace.

For nothing could now persuade me that the two mysteries were not
indissolubly connected, or that the elucidation of the one would not
lead to the elucidation of the other.

To be sure, it was well accepted at headquarters that all possible
attempts had been made in this direction and with nothing but
failure as a result.  The floor, the hearth, the chimney, and, above
all, the old settle, had been thoroughly searched.  But to no avail.
The secret had not been reached and had almost come to be looked
upon as insolvable.

But I was not one to be affected by other men's failures.  The
encouragement afforded me by my late discoveries was such that I
felt confident that nothing could hinder my success save the
necessity of completely pulling down the house.  Besides, all
investigation had hitherto started, if it had not ended, in the
library.  I was resolved to begin work in quite a different spot.
I had not forgotten the sensations I had experienced in the
southwest chamber.

During my absence this house had been released from surveillance.
But the major still held the keys and I had no difficulty in
obtaining them.  The next thing was to escape its owner's vigilance.
This I managed to do through the assistance of Jinny, and when
midnight came and all lights went out in the opposite cottage I
entered boldly upon the scene.

As before, I went first of all to the library.  It was important
to know at the outset that this room was in its normal condition.
But this was not my only reason for prefacing my new efforts by a
visit to this scene of death and mysterious horror.  I had another,
so seemingly puerile, that I almost hesitate to mention it and
would not if the sequel warranted its omission.

I wished to make certain that I had exhausted every suspected, as
well as every known clue, to the information I sought.  In my long
journey home and the hours of thought it had forced upon me, I had
more than once been visited by flitting visions of things seen in
this old house and afterward nearly forgotten.  Among these was
the book which on that first night of hurried search had given
proofs of being in some one's hand within a very short period.  The
attention I had given it at a moment of such haste was necessarily
cursory, and when later a second opportunity was granted me of
looking into it again, I had allowed a very slight obstacle to
deter me.  This was a mistake I was anxious to rectify.  Anything
which had been touched with purpose at or near the time of so
mysterious a tragedy, - and the position of this book on a shelf so
high that a chair was needed to reach it proved that it had been
sought and touched with purpose, held out the promise of a clue which
one on so blind a trail as myself could not afford to ignore.

But when I had taken the book down and read again its totally
uninteresting and unsuggestive title and, by another reference to
its dim and faded leaves, found that my memory had not played me
false and that it contained nothing but stupid and wholly irrelevant
statistics, my confidence in it as a possible aid in the work I had
in hand departed just as it had on the previous occasion.  I was
about to put it back on the shelf, when I bethought me of running
my hand in behind the two books between which it had stood.  Ah!
that was it! Another book lay flat against the wall at the back of
the shelf; and when, by the removal of those in front I was enabled
to draw this book out, I soon saw why it had been relegated to
such a remote place of concealment on the shelves of the Moore
library.

It was a collection of obscure memoirs written by an English woman,
but an English woman who had been in America during the early part
of the century, and who had been brought more or less into contact
with the mysteries connected with the Moore house in Washington.
Several passages were marked, one particularly, by a heavy
pencil-line running the length of the margin.  As the name of Moore
was freely scattered through these passages as well as through two
or three faded newspaper clippings which I discovered pasted on the
inside cover, I lost no time in setting about their perusal.

The following extracts are from the book itself, taken in the order
in which I found them marked:

"It was about this time that I spent a week in the Moore house;
that grand and historic structure concerning which and its occupants
so many curious rumors are afloat.  I knew nothing then of its
discreditable fame; but from the first moment of my entrance into
its ample and well lighted halls I experienced a sensation which I
will not call dread, but which certainly was far from being the
impulse of pure delight which the graciousness of my hostess and
the imposing character of the place itself were calculated to
produce.  This emotion was but transitory, vanishing, as was natural,
in the excitement of my welcome and the extraordinary interest I
took in Callista Moore, who in those days was a most fascinating
little body.  Small to the point of appearing diminutive, and lacking
all assertion in manner and bearing, she was nevertheless such a
lady that she easily dominated all who approached her, and produced,
quite against her will I am sure, an impression of aloofness
seasoned with kindness, which made her a most surprising and
entertaining study to the analytic observer.  Her position as nominal
mistress of an establishment already accounted one of the finest in
Washington, - the real owner, Reuben Moore, preferring to live
abroad with his French wife, - gave to her least action an importance
which her shy, if not appealing looks, and a certain strained
expression most difficult to characterize, vainly attempted to
contradict.  I could not understand her, and soon gave up the
attempt; but my admiration held firm, and by the time the evening
was half over I was her obedient slave.  I think from what I know
of her now that she would have preferred to be mine.

"I was put to sleep in a great chamber which I afterward heard
called 'The Colonel's Own.' It was very grand and had a great bed
in it almost royal in its size and splendor.  I believe that I
shrank quite unaccountably from this imposing piece of furniture
when I first looked at it; it seemed so big and so out of
proportion to my slim little body.  But admonished by the look
which I surprised on Mistress Callista's high-bred face, I quickly
recalled an expression so unsuited to my position as guest, and,
with a gush of well-simulated rapture, began to expatiate upon
the interesting characteristics of the room, and express myself
as delighted at the prospect of sleeping there.

"Instantly the nervous look left her, and, with the quiet remark,
'It was my father's room,' she set down the candles with which both
her hands were burdened, and gave me a kiss so warm and surcharged
with feeling that it sufficed to keep me happy and comfortable for
a half-hour or more after she passed out.

"I had thought myself a very sleepy girl, but when, after a somewhat
lengthened brooding over the dying embers in the open fireplace, I
lay down behind the curtains of the huge bed, I found myself as far
from sleep as I had ever been in my whole life.

"And I did not recover from this condition for the entire night.
For hours I tossed from one side of the bed to the other in my
efforts to avoid the persistent eyes of a scarcely-to-be-perceived
drawing facing me from the opposite wall.  It had no merit as a
picture, this drawing, but seen as it was under the rays of a
gibbous moon looking in through the half-open shutter, it exercised
upon me a spell such as I can not describe and hope never again to
experience.  Finally I rose and pulled the curtains violently
together across the foot of the bed.  This shut out the picture;
but I found it worse to imagine it there with its haunting eyes
peering at me through the intervening folds of heavy damask than
to confront it openly; so I pushed the curtains back again, only
to rise a half-hour later and twitch them desperately together
once more.

"I fidgeted and worried so that night that I must have looked quite
pale when my attentive hostess met me at the head of the stairs the
next morning.  For her hand shook quite perceptibly as she grasped
mine, and her voice was pitched in no natural key as she inquired
how I had slept.  I replied, as truth, if not courtesy, demanded,
'Not as well as usual,' whereupon her eyes fell and she remarked
quite hurriedly; 'I am so sorry; you shall have another room
tonight,' adding, in what appeared to be an unconscious whisper:
'There is no use; all feel it; even the young and the gay;' then
aloud and with irrepressible anxiety: 'You didn't see anything,
dear?'

"'No!' I protested in suddenly awakened dismay; 'only the strange
eyes of that queer drawing peering at me through the curtains of my
bed.  Is it - is it a haunted room?'

"Her look was a shocked one, her protest quite vehement.  'Oh, no!
No one has ever witnessed anything like a ghost there, but every
one finds it impossible to sleep in that bed or even in the room.
I do not know why, unless it is that my father spent so many weary
years of incessant wakefulness inside its walls.'

"'And did he die in that bed?' I asked.

"She gave a startled shiver, and drew me hurriedly downstairs. As
we paused at the foot, she pressed my hand and whispered:

"'Yes; at night; with the full of the moon upon him.'

"I answered her look with one she probably understood as little as
I did hers.  I had heard of this father of hers.  He had been a
terrible old man and had left a terrible memory behind him.

"The next day my room was changed according to her promise, but in
the light of the charges I have since heard uttered against that
house and the family who inhabit it, I am glad that I spent one night
in what, if it was not a haunted chamber, had certainly a very
thrilling effect upon its occupants."

Second passage; the italics showing where it was most heavily marked.

"The house contained another room as interesting as the one I have
already mentioned.  It went by the name of the library and its walls
were heavily lined with books; but the family never sat there, nor
was I ever fortunate enough to see it with its doors unclosed except
on the occasion of the grand reception Mistress Callista gave in my
honor.  I have a fancy for big rooms and more than once urged my
hostess to tell me why this one stood neglected.  But the lady was
not communicative on this topic and it was from another member of
the household I learned that its precincts had been forever clouded
by the unexpected death within them of one of her father's friends,
a noted army officer.

"Why this should have occasioned a permanent disuse of the spot I
could not understand, and as every one who conversed on this topic
invariably gave the impression of saying less than the subject
demanded, my curiosity soon became too much for me and I attacked
Miss Callista once again in regard to it.  She gave me a quick smile,
for she was always amiable, but shook her head and introduced another
topic.  But one night when the wind was howling in the chimneys and
the sense of loneliness was even greater than usual in the great
house, we drew together on the rug in front of my bedroom fire, and,
as the embers burned down to ashes before us, Miss Callista became
more communicative.

"Her heart was heavy, she told me; had been heavy for years.  Perhaps
some ray of comfort would reach her if she took a friend into her
confidence.  God knew that she needed one, especially on nights like
this, when the wind woke echoes all over the house and it was hard
to tell which most to fear, the sounds which came from no one knew
where, or the silence which settled after.

"She trembled as she said this, and instinctively drew nearer my
side so that our heads almost touched over the flickering flame from
whose heat and light we sought courage.  She seemed to feel grateful
for this contact, and the next minute, flinging all her scruples to
the wind, she began a relation of events which more or less answered
my late unwelcome queries.

"The death in the library, about which her most perplexing memory
hung, took place when she was a child and her father held that high
governmental position which has reflected so much credit upon the
family.  Her father and the man who thus perished had been intimate
friends.  They had fought together in the War of 1812 and received
the same distinguishing marks of presidential approval afterward.
They were both members of an important commission which brought them
into diplomatic relations with England.  It was while serving on this
commission that the sudden break occurred which ended all intimate
relations between them,, and created a change in her father that was
equally remarked at home and abroad.  What occasioned this break no
one knew.  Whether his great ambition had received some check through
the jealousy of this so-called friend - a supposition which did not
seem possible, as he rose rapidly after this - or on account of other
causes darkly hinted at by his contemporaries, but never breaking
into open gossip, he was never the same man afterwards.  His children,
who used to rush with effusion to greet him, now shrank into corners
at his step, or slid behind half open doors, whence they peered with
fearful interest at his tall figure, pacing in moody silence the
halls of his ancestral home, or sitting with frowning brows over the
embers dying away on the great hearthstone of his famous library.

"Their mother, who was an invalid, did not share these terrors.  The
father was ever tender of her, and the only smile they ever saw on
his face came with his entrance into her darkened room.

"Such were Callista Moore's first memories.  Those which followed
were more definite and much more startling.  President Jackson, who
had a high opinion of her father's ability, advanced him rapidly.
Finally a position was given him which raised him into national
prominence.  As this had been the goal of his ambition for years,
he was much gratified by this appointment, and though his smiles
came no more frequently, his frowns lightened, and from being
positively threatening, became simply morose.

"Why this moroseness should have sharpened into menace after an
unexpected visit from his once dear, but long estranged
companion-in-arms, his daughter, even after long years of constant
brooding upon this subject, dares not decide.  If she could she
might be happier.

"The general was a kindly man, sharp of face and of a tall thin
figure, but with an eye to draw children and make them happy with
a look.  But his effect on the father was different.  From the
moment the two met in the great hall below, the temper of the host
betrayed how little he welcomed this guest.  He did not fail in
courtesy - the Moores are always gentlemen - but it was a hard
courtesy, which cut while it flattered.  The two children, shrinking
from its edge without knowing what it was that hurt them, slunk to
covert, and from behind the two pillars which mark the entrance to
the library, watched the two men as they walked up and down the
halls discussing the merits of this and that detail of the freshly
furnished mansion.  These two innocent, but eager spies, whom fear
rather than curiosity held in hiding, even caught some of the
sentences which passed between tire so-called friends; and though
these necessarily conveyed but little meaning to their childish
minds, the words forming them were never forgotten, as witness
these phrases confided to me by Mistress Callista twenty-five years
afterward.

"'You have much that most men lack,' remarked the general, as they
paused to admire some little specimen of Italian art which had been
lately received from Genoa.  'You have money - too much money, Moore,
by an amount I might easily name - a home which some might call
palatial, a lovely, if not altogether healthy wife, two fine
children, and all the honor which a man in a commonwealth like this
should ask for.  Drop politics.'

"'Politics are my life,' was the cold response.  'To bid me drop
them is to bid me commit suicide.'  Then, as an afterthought to
which a moment of intervening silence added emphasis, 'And for you
to drive me from them would be an act little short of murder.'

"'Justice dealt upon a traitor is not murder,' was the stern and
unyielding reply.  'By one black deed of treacherous barter and sale,
of which none of your countrymen is cognizant but myself, you have
forfeited the confidence of this government.  Were I, who so
unhappily surprised your secret, to allow you to continue in your
present place of trust, I myself would be a traitor to the republic
for which I have fought and for which I am ready to die.  That is
why I ask you to resign before -'

"The two children did not catch the threat latent in that last
word, but they realized the force of it from their father's look
and were surprised when he quietly said:

"'You declare yourself to be the only man on the commission who is
acquainted with the facts you are pleased to style traitorous?'

"The general's lips curled.  'Have I not said?' he asked.

"Something in this stern honesty seemed to affect the father.  His
face turned away and it was the other's voice which was next heard.
A change had taken place in it and it sounded almost mellow as it
gave form to these words:

"'Alpheus, we have been friends.  You shall have two weeks in which
to think over my demand and decide.  If at the end of that time you
have not returned to domestic life you may expect another visit from
me which can not fail of consequences.  You know my temper when
roused.  Do not force me into a position which will cause us both
endless regret.'

"Perhaps the father answered; perhaps he did not.  The children
heard nothing further, but they witnessed the gloom with which he
rode away to the White House the next day.  Remembering the general's
threat, they imagined in their childish hearts that their father had
gone to give up his post and newly acquired honors.  But he returned
at night without having done so, and from that day on carried his
head higher and showed himself more and more the master, both at home
and abroad.

"But he was restless, very restless, and possibly to allay a great
mental uneasiness, he began having some changes made in the house;
changes which occupied much of his time and with which he never
seemed satisfied.  Men working one day were dismissed the next and
others called in until this work and everything else was interrupted
by the return of his late unwelcome guest, who kept his appointment
to a day.

"At this point in her narrative Mistress Callista's voice fell and
the flame which had thrown a partial light on her countenance died
down until I could but faintly discern the secretly inquiring look
with which she watched me as she went on to say

"'Reuben and I,' - Reuben was her brother, - 'were posted in the
dark corner under the stairs when my father met the general at the
door.  We had expected to hear high words, or some explosion of
bitter feeling between them, and hardly knew whether to be glad or
sorry when our father welcomed his guest with the same elaborate
bow we once saw him make to the president in the grounds of the
White House.  Nor could we understand what followed.  We were
summoned in to supper.  Our mother was there - a great event in
those days - and toasts were drunk and our father proposed one to
the general's health.  This Reuben thought was an open signal of
peace, and turned upon me his great round eyes in surprise; but I,
who was old enough to notice that this toast was not responded to
and that the general did not even touch his lips to the glass he
had lifted in compliment to our mother, who had lifted hers, felt
that there was something terrifying rather than reassuring in this
attempt at good fellowship.

Though unable to reason over it at the time, I have often done so
since, and my father's attitude and look as he faced this strange
guest has dwelt so persistently in my memory that scarcely a year
passes without the scene coming up in my dreams with its accompanying
emotions of fear and perplexity.  For - perhaps you know the story -
that hour was the general's last.  He died before leaving the house;
died in that same dark library concerning which you have asked so
many questions.

"'I remember the circumstances well, how well down to each and every
detail.  Our mother had gone back to her room, and the general and
my father, who did not linger over their wine - why should they,
when the general would not drink? - had withdrawn to the library at
the suggestion of the general, whose last words are yet lingering
in my ears.

"'The time has come for our little talk,' said he.  'Your reception
augurs -'

"'You do not look well,' my father here broke in, in what seemed an
unnaturally loud voice.  'Come and sit down -'

"'Here the door closed.

"'We had hung about this door, curious children that we were, in
hopes of catching a glimpse of the queer new settle which had been
put into place that day.  But we scampered away at this, and were
playing in and out of the halls when the library door agin opened
and my father came out.

"'Where's Samba?' he cried.  'Tell him to carry a glass of wine in
to the general.  1 do not like his looks.  I am going upstairs for
some medicine.'  This he whispered in choked tones as he set foot
on the stairs.  Why I remember it I do not know, for Reuben, who
was standing where he could look into the library when our father
came out and saw the settle and the general sitting at one end of
it, was chattering about it in my ear at the very moment our father
was giving his orders.

"'Reuben is a man now, and I have asked him more than once since
then how the general looked at that critical instant.  It is
important to me, very, very important, and to him, too, now that
he has come to know a man's passions and temptations.  But he will
never tell me, never relieve my mind, and I can only hope that
there were real signs of illness on the general's brow; for then I
could feel that all had been right and that his death was the
natural result of the great distress he felt at opposing my father
in the one desire of his heart.  That glimpse which Reuben had of
him before he fell has always struck me with strange pathos.  A
little child looking in upon a man, who, for all his apparent
health, will in another moment be in eternity - I do not wonder he
does not like to talk of it, and yet -

"'It was Samba who came upon the general first.  Our father had not
yet descended.  When he did, it was with loud cries and piteous
ejaculations.  Word had gone upstairs and surprised him in the room
with my mother.  I recollect wondering in all childish simplicity
why he wrung his hands so over the death of a man he so hated and
feared.  Nor was it till years had passed and our mother had been
laid in the grave and the house had settled into a gloom too heavy
and somber for Reuben to endure, that I recognized in my father the
signs of a settled remorse.  These I endeavored to account for by
the fact that he had been saved from what he looked upon as political
death by the sudden but opportune decease of his best friend.  This
caused a shock to his feelings which had unnerved him for life.
Don't you think this the true explanation of his invariably moody
brow and the great distaste he always showed for this same library?
Though he would live in no other house, he would not enter that
room nor look at the gloomy settle from which the general had fallen
to his death.  The place was virtually tabooed, and though, as the
necessity arose, it was opened from time to time for great
festivities, the shadow it had acquired never left it and my father
hated its very door until he died.  Is it not natural that his
daughter should share this feeling?'

"It was, and I said so; but I would say no more, though she cast me
little appealing looks which acquired an eery significance from the
pressure of her small fingers on my arm and the wailing sound of
the wind which at that moment blew down in one gust, scattering the
embers and filling the house with banshee calls.  I simply kissed
her and advised her to go back with me to England and forget this
old house and all its miserable memories.  For that was the sum of
the comfort at my poor command.  When, after another restless night,
I crept down in the early morning to peer into the dim and unused
room whose story I had at last learned, I can not say but that I
half expected to behold the meager ghost of the unfortunate general
rise from the cushions of the prodigious bench which still kept its
mysterious watch over the deserted hearthstone."

So much for the passages culled from the book itself.  The newspaper
excerpts, to which I next turned, bore a much later date, and read
as follows:

"A strange coincidence marks the death of Albert Moore in his
brother's house yesterday.  He was discovered lying with his head
on the identical spot where General Lloyd fell forty years before.
It is said that this sudden demise of a man hitherto regarded as a
model of physical strength and endurance was preceded by a violent
altercation with his elder brother.  If this is so, the excitement
incident upon such a break in their usually pleasant relations may
account for his sudden death.  Edward Moore, who, unfortunately,
was out of the room when his brother succumbed - some say that he
was in his grandfather's room above - was greatly unnerved by this
unexpected end to what was probably merely a temporary quarrel,
and now lies in a critical condition.

"The relations between him and the deceased Albert have always been
of the most amicable character until they unfortunately fell in
love with the same woman."

Attached to this was another slip, apparently from a later paper.

"The quarrel between the two brothers Moore, just prior to the
younger one's death, turns out to have been of a more serious nature
than was first supposed.  It has since leaked out that an actual
duel was fought at that time between these two on the floor of the
old library; and that in this duel the elder one was wounded.  Some
even go so far as to affirm that the lady's hand was to be the
reward of him who drew the first blood; it is no longer denied that
the room was in great disorder when the servants first rushed in at
the sound he made in falling.  Everything movable had been pushed
back against the wall and an open space cleared, in the center of
which could be seen one drop of blood.  What is certain is that
Mr. Moore is held to the house by something even more serious than
his deep grief, and that the young lady who was the object of this
fatal dispute has left the city."

Pasted under this was the following short announcement:

"Married on the twenty-first of January, at the American consulate
in Rome, Italy, Edward Moore, of Washington, D. C., United States
of America, to Antoinette Sloan, daughter of Joseph Dewitt Sloan,
also of that city."

With this notice my interest in the book ceased and I prepared to
step down from the chair on which I had remained standing during
the reading of the above passages.

As I did so I spied a slip of paper lying on the floor at my feet.
As it had not been there ten minutes before there could be little
doubt that it had slipped from the book whose leaves I had been
turning over so rapidly.  Hastening to recover it, I found it to
be a sheet of ordinary note paper partly inscribed with words in
a neat and distinctive handwriting.  This was a great find, for
the paper was fresh and the handwriting one which could be readily
identified.  What I saw written there was still more remarkable.
It had the look of some of the memoranda I had myself drawn up
during the most perplexing moments of this strange case.  I
transcribe it just as it read:

"We have here two separate accounts of how death comes to those
who breathe their last on the ancestral hearthstone of the Moore
house library.

"Certain facts are emphasized in both:

"Each victim was alone when he fell.

"Each death was preceded by a scene of altercation or violent
controversy between the victim and the alleged master of these
premises.

"In each case the master of the house reaped some benefit, real or
fancied, from the other's death."

A curious set of paragraphs.  Some one besides myself was searching
for the very explanation I was at that moment intent upon.  I should
have considered it the work of our detectives if the additional
lines I now came upon could have been written by any one but a Moore.
But no one of any other blood or associations could have indited the
amazing words which followed.  The only excuse I could find for them
was the difficulty which some men feel in formulating their thoughts
otherwise than with pen and paper, they were so evidently intended
for the writer's eye and understanding only, as witness:

"Let me recall the words my father was uttering when my brother
rushed in upon us with that account of my misdeeds which changed
all my prospects in life.  It was my twenty-first birthday and the
old man had just informed me that as the eldest son I might expect
the house in which we stood to be mine one day and with it a secret
which has been handed down from father to son ever since the Moores
rose to eminence in the person of Colonel Alpheus.  Then he noted
that I was now of age and immediately went on to say: 'This means
that you must be told certain facts, without the knowledge of which
you would be no true Moore.  These facts you must hereafter relate
to your son or whoever may be fortunate enough to inherit from you.
It is the legacy which goes with this house and one which no
inheritor as yet has refused either to receive or to transmit.
Listen.  You have often noted the gold filigree ball which I wear
on my watch-guard.  This ball is the talisman of our house, of this
house.  If, in the course of your life you find yourself in an
extremity from which no issue seems possible mind the strictness
of the injunction - an extremity from which no issue seems possible
(I have never been in such a case; the gold filigree ball has never
been opened by me)you will take this trinket from its chain, press
upon this portion of it so, and use what you will find inside, in
connection with -'  Alas! it was at this point John Judson came
rushing in and those disclosures were made which lost me my father's
regard and gave to the informer my rightful inheritance, together
with the full secret of which I only got a part.  But that part
must help me now to the whole.  I have seen the filigree ball many
times; Veronica has it now.  But its contents have never been shown
me.  If I knew what they were and why the master of this secret
always left the library - "

Here the memorandum ceased with a long line straggling from the
letter y as if the writer had been surprised at his task.

The effect upon me of these remarkable words was to heighten my
interest and raise me into a state of renewed hope, if not of
active expectation.

Another mind than my own had been at work along the only groove
which held out any promise of success, and this mind, having at
its command certain family traditions, had let me into a most
valuable secret.  Another mind!  Whose mind?  That was a question
easily answered.  But one man could have written these words; the
man who was thrust aside in early life in favor of his younger
brother, and who now, by the sudden death of that brother's
daughter, had come again into his inheritance.  Uncle David, and
he only, was the puzzled inquirer whose self-communings I had just
read.  This fact raised a new problem far me to work upon, and I
could but ask when these lines were written - before or after Mr.
Pfeiffer's death and whether he had ever succeeded in solving the
riddle he had suggested, or whether it was still a baffling
mystery to him.  I was so moved by the suggestion conveyed in his
final and half-finished sentence, that I soon lost sight of these
lesser inquiries in the more important one connected with the
filigree ball.  For I had seen this filigree ball.  I had even
handled it.  From the description given I was very certain that
it had been one of the many trinkets I had observed lying on the
dressing table when I made my first hasty examination of the room
on the evening of Mrs. Jeffrey's death.  Why had no premonition
of its importance as a connecting link between these tragedies and
their mysterious cause come to me at the time when it was within
reach of my hand? It was too late now.  It had been swept away with
the other loose objects littering the place, and my opportunity for
pursuing this very promising investigation was gone for the night.

Yet it was with a decided feeling of triumph that I finally locked
the door of this old mansion behind me.  Certainly I had taken a
step forward since my entrance there, to which I had but to add
another of equal importance to merit the attention of the
superintendent himself.




XXI

THE HEART OF THE PUZZLE.


The next morning I swallowed my pride and sought out Durbin.  He
had superintended the removal of Mrs. Jeffrey's effects from the
southwest chamber, and should know, if any one, where this filigree
ball was now to be found.  Doubtless it had been returned with the
other things to Mr. Jeffrey, and yet, who knows?  Durbin is sly and
some inkling of its value as a clue may have entered his mind.  If
so, it would be anywhere but in Mr. Jeffrey's or Miss Tuttle's
possession.

To test my rival's knowledge of and interest in this seemingly
trivial object, I stooped to what I can but consider a pardonable
subterfuge.  Greeting him in the offhand way least likely to develop
his suspicion, I told him that I had a great idea in connection
with the Jeffrey case and that the clue to it lay in a little gold
ball which Mrs. Jeffrey sometimes wore and upon which she set great
store.  So far I spoke the truth.  It had been given her by some
one - not Mr. Jeffrey - and I believed, though I did not know, that
it contained a miniature portrait which it might be to our advantage
to see.

I expected his lip to curl; but for a wonder it maintained its
noncommittal aspect, though I was sure that I caught a slight, very
slight, gleam of curiosity lighting up for a moment his calm, gray
eye.

"You are on a fantastic trail," he sneered, and that was all.

But I had not expected more.  I had merely wished to learn what
place, if any, this filigree ball held in his own suspicions, and
in case he had overlooked it, to jog his curiosity so that he would
in some way betray its whereabouts.

That, for all its seeming inconsequence, it did hold some place in
his mind was evident enough to those who knew him; but that it was
within reach or obtainable by any ordinary means was not so plain.
Indeed, I very soon became convinced that he, for one, had no idea
where it was, or after the suggestive hint I had given him he would
never have wasted a half-hour on me.  What was I to do then?  Tell
my story to the major and depend on him to push the matter to its
proper conclusion?  "Not yet," whispered pride.  "Durbin thinks you
a fool.  Wait till you can show your whole hand before calling
attention to your cards."  But it was hard not to betray my
excitement and to act the fool they considered me when the boys
twitted me about this famous golden charm and asked what great
result had followed my night in the Moore house.  But remembering
that he who laughs last laughs best, and that the cause of mirth
was not yet over between Durbin and myself, I was able to preserve
an impassive exterior even when I came under the major's eye.  I
found myself amply repaid when one of the boys who had studiously
avoided chaffing me dropped the following words in my ear:

"I don't know what your interest is in the small gold charm you
were talking about, but you have done some good work in this case
and I don't mind telling you what I know about it.  That little
gold ball has caused the police much trouble.  It is on the list
of effects found in the room where the candle was seen burning; but
when all these petty belongings of Mrs. Jeffrey's were gathered up
and carried back to her husband, this special one was not to be
found amongst them.  It was lost in transit, nor has it ever been
seen since.  And who do you think it was who called attention to
this loss and demanded that the article be found?  Not Mr. Jeffrey,
who seems to lay little or no stress upon it, but the old man they
call Uncle David.  He who, to all appearance, possessed no interest
in his niece's personal property, was on hand the moment these
things were carried into her husband's house, with the express
intention, it seems, of inquiring for this gold ball, which he
declared to be a family heirloom.  As such it belonged to him as
the present holder of the property, and to him only.  Attention
being thus called to it, it was found to be missing, and as no one
but the police seemed to be to blame for its loss the matter was
hushed up and would have been regarded as too insignificant for
comment, the trinket being intrinsically worthless, if Mr. Moore
had not continued to make such a fuss about it.  This ball, he
declared, was worth as much to a Moore as all the rest of his
property, which was bosh, you know; and the folly of these
assertions and the depth of the passions he displayed whenever
the subject was mentioned have made some of us question if he is
the innocent inheritor he has tried to make himself out.  At all
events, I know for a certainty that the district attorney holds
his name in reserve, if the grand jury fails to bring in an
indictment against Miss Tuttle."

"The district attorney is wise," I remarked, and fell athinking.

Had this latent suspicion against Mr. Moore any solid foundation?
Was he the guilty man?  The memorandum I had come across in the
book which had been lately pulled down from the library shelves
showed that, notwithstanding his testimony to the contrary, he
had been in that house close upon that fatal night, if not on the
very night itself.  It also showed his extreme interest in the
traditions of the family.  But did it show anything more?  Had he
interrupted his writing to finish his query in blood, and had one
of his motives for this crime been the acquisition of this
filigree ball?  If so, why had he left it on the table upstairs?
A candle had been lit in that room - could it have been by him in
his search for this object?  It would be a great relief to believe
so.  What was the reason then that my mind refused so emphatically
to grasp this possibility and settle upon him as the murderer of
Mrs. Jeffrey?  I can not tell.  I hated the man, and I likewise
deeply distrusted him.  But I could not, even after this revelation
of his duplicity, connect him in my thoughts with absolute crime
without a shock to my intuitions.  Happily, my scruples were not
shared by my colleagues.  They had listed him.  Here I felt my
shoulder touched, and a newspaper was thrust into my hand by the
man who had just addressed me.

"Look down the lost and found column," said he.  "The third
advertisement you will see there came from the district attorney's
office; the next one was inserted by Mr. Moore himself."

I followed his pointing finer and read two descriptions of the
filigree ball.  The disproportion in the rewards offered was
apparent.  That promised by Uncle David was calculated to rouse
any man's cupidity and should have resulted in the bauble's
immediate return.

"He got ahead of the police that time," I laughed.  "When did
these advertisements appear?"

"During the days you were absent from Washington."

"And how sure are you that he did not get this jewel back?"

"Oh, we are sure.  His continued anxiety and still active interest
prove this, even if our surveillance had been less perfect."

"And the police have been equally unsuccessful?"

"Equally."

"After every effort?"

"Every."

"Who was the man who collected and carried out those things from
the southwest chamber?"

He smiled.

"You see him," said he.

"It was you?"

"Myself."

"And you are sure this small ball was among them?"

"No.  I only know that I have seen it somewhere, but that it
wasn't among the articles I delivered to Mr. Jeffrey."

"How did you carry them?"

"In a hand-bag which I locked myself."

"Before leaving the southwest chamber?"

"Yes."

"Then it is still in that room?"

"Find it," was his laconic reply.

Here most men would have stopped, but I have a bulldog's tenacity
when once I lay hold.  That night I went back to the Moore house
and, taking every precaution against being surprised by the
sarcastic Durbin or some of his many flatterers, I ransacked the
southwest chamber on my own behalf for what certainly I had
little reason to expect to find there.

It seemed a hopeless cause from the first, but I acted as if no
one had hunted for this object before.  Moving every article, I
sought first on the open floor and then in every possible cranny
for the missing trinket.  But I failed to find it and was about
to acknowledge myself defeated when my eye fell on the long
brocaded curtains which I had drawn across the several windows to
hide every gleam of light from the street.  They were almost free
from folds, but I shook them well, especially the one nearest the
table, and naturally with no effect.

"Folly," I muttered, yet did not quite desist.  For the great
tassels still hung at the sides and -  Well!  you may call it an
impossible find or say that if the bauble was there it should have
been discovered in the first search for it!  I will not say no.  I
can only tell you what happened.  When I took one of those tassels
in my band, I thought, as it twirled under my touch, that I saw
something gleam in its faded old threads which did not belong there.
Startled, and yet not thoroughly realizing that I had come upon the
object of my search, I picked at this thing and found it to be a
morsel of gold chain that had become entangled in it.  When I had
pulled it out, it showed a small golden ball at one end, filigreed
over and astonishingly heavy for its size and apparent delicacy.

How it came there - whether it rolled from the table, or was swept
off inadvertently by the detective's hand, and how it came to be
caught by this old tassel and held there in spite of the many
shakings it must have received, did not concern me at this momentous
instant.  The talisman of this old family was found.  I had but to
discover what it held concealed to understand what had baffled Mr.
Moore and made the mystery he had endeavored to penetrate so
insolvable.  Rejoicing in my triumph, but not wasting a moment in
self-congratulation, I bent over the candle with my prize and sought
for the clasp or fastening which held its two parts together.  I
have a knack at clasps and curious fastenings and was able at first
touch to spring this one open.  And what did I find inside?
Something so different from what I expected, something so trivial
and seemingly harmless, that it was not until I recalled the final
words of Uncle David's memorandum that I realized its full import
and the possibilities it suggested.  In itself it was nothing but
a minute magnifying glass; but when used in connection with - what?
Ah, that was just what Uncle David failed to say, possibly to know.
Yet this was now the important point, the culminating fact which
might lead to a full understanding of these many tragedies.  Could
I hope to guess what presented itself to Mr. Moore as a difficult
if not insolvable problem?  No; guessing would not answer.  I must
trust to the inspiration of the moment which suggested with almost
irresistible conviction:

The picture!  That inane and seemingly worthless drawing over the
fireplace in The Colonel's Own, whose presence in so rich a room
has always been a mystery!

Why this object should have suggested itself to me and with such
instant conviction, I can not readily say.  Whether, from my
position near the bed, the sight of this old drawing recalled the
restless nights of all who had lain in face of its sickly smile,
or whether some recollection of that secret law of the Moores
which forbade the removal of any of their pictures from the
time-worn walls, or a remembrance of the curiosity which this
picture excited in every one who looked at it - Francis Jeffrey
among the number - I no sooner asked myself what object in this
house might possibly yield counsel or suggest aid when subjected
to the influence of a magnifying glass, than the answer, which I
have already given, sprang instantly into my mind: The picture!

Greatly excited, I sprang upon a chair, took down the drawing from
the wall and laid it face up on the bed.  Then I placed the glass
over one of the large coils surrounding the insipid face, and was
startled enough, in spite of all mental preparation, to perceive
the crinkly lines which formed it, resolve themselves into script
and the script into words, some of which were perfectly legible.

The drawing, simple as it looked, was a communication in writing
to those who used a magnifying glass to read it.  I could hardly
contain my triumph, hardly find the self-control necessary to a
careful study of its undulating and often conflicting lines and to
the slow picking out of the words therein contained.

But when I had done this, and had copied the whole of the wandering
scrawl on a page of my note book the result was of value.

Read, and judge for yourself.

"Coward that I am, I am willing to throw upon posterity the shadow
of a crime whose consequences I dare not incur in life.  Confession
I must make.  To die and leave no record of my deed is impossible.
Yet how tell my story so that only my own heirs may read and they
when at the crisis of their fate?  I believe I have found the way
by this drawing and the injunction I have left to the holders of
the filigree ball.

"No man ever wished his enemy dead more than I did, and no man
ever spent more cunning on the deed.  Master in my own house, I
contrived a device by which the man who held my fate in his hands
fell on my library hearth with no one near and no sign by which
to associate me with the act.  Does this seem like the assertion
of a madman?  Go to the old chamber familiarly called "The Colonel's
Own."  Enter its closet, pull out its two drawers, and in the
opening thus made seek for the loophole at the back, through which,
if you stoop low enough, you can catch a glimpse of the library
hearth and its great settle.  With these in view, slip your finger
along the wall on your right and when it touches an obstruction
 - pass it if it is a handle, for that is only used to rewind the
apparatus and must be turned from you until it can be turned no
farther; but if it is a depression you encounter, press, and press
hard on the knob concealed within it.  But beware when any one you
love is seated in that corner of the settle where the cushion
invites rest, lest it be your fate to mourn and wail as it is mine
to curse the hour when I sought to clear my way by murder.  For
the doom of the man of blood is upon me.  The hindrance is gone
from my life, but a horror has entered it beyond the conception
of any soul that has not yielded itself to the unimaginable
influences emanating from an accomplished crime.  I can not be
content with having pressed that spring once.  A mania is upon me
which, after thirty years of useless resistance and superhuman
struggle, still draws me from bed and sleep to rehearse in ghastly
fashion that deed of my early manhood.  I can not resist it.  To
tear out the deadly mechanism, unhinge weight and drum and rid the
house of every evidence of crime would but drive me to shriek my
guilt aloud and act in open pantomime what I now go through in
fearsome silence and secrecy.  When the hour comes, as come it
must, that I can not rise and enter that fatal closet, I shall
still enact the deed in dreams, and shriek aloud in my sleep and
wish myself dead and yet fear to die lest my hell be to go through
all eternity, slaying over and over my man, in ever growing horror
and repulsion.

"Do you wish to share my fate?  Try to effect through blood a
release from the difficulties menacing you."




XXIII

A THREAD IN HAND


There are moments which stand out with intense force and clearness
in every man's life.  Mine was the one which followed the reading
of these lines which were meant for a warning, but which in
more than one case had manifestly served to open the way to a
repetition of the very crime they deplored.  I felt myself under
the same fascination.  I wanted to test the mechanism; to follow
out then and there the instructions given with such shortsighted
minuteness and mark the result.  But a sense of decorum prevented.
It was clearly my duty to carry so important a discovery as this
to the major and subject myself to his commands before making the
experiment suggested by the scroll I had so carefully deciphered.
Besides, it would be difficult to carry out this experiment alone,
and with no other light ht than that afforded by my lantern.
Another man and more lights were needed.

Influenced by these considerations, I restored the picture to its
place, and left the building.  As I did so, the first signs of
dawn became visible in the east.  I had expended three hours in
picking out the meaning concealed in the wavy lines of the old
picture.

I was early at headquarters that morning, but not so early as to
find the superintendent alone.  A group of men were already
congregated about him in his small office, and when, on being
admitted, I saw amongst them the district attorney, Durbin and
another famous detective, I instinctively knew what matter was
under discussion.

I was allowed to remain, possibly because I brought news in my
face, possibly because the major felt more kindly toward me than
I thought.  Though Durbin, who had been speaking, had at first
sight of me shut his mouth like a trap, and even went so far as
to drum an impatient protest with his fingers on the table before
which he stood, neither the major nor the district attorney turned
an unkindly face toward me, and my amiable friend was obliged to
accept my presence with what grace he could.

There was with them a fourth man, who stood apart.  On him the
general attention had been concentrated at my entrance and to him
it now returned.  He was an unpretentious person of kindly aspect.
To any one accustomed to Washington residents, he bore the
unmistakable signs of being one of the many departmental employees
whose pay is inadequate to the necessities of his family.  Of his
personal peculiarities I noted two.  He blinked when he talked,
and stuttered painfully when excited.  Notwithstanding these
defects he made a good impression, and commanded confidence.
This I soon saw was of importance, for the story he now entered
upon was one calculated to make me forget my own errand and even
to question my own convictions.

The first intimation I received of the curious nature of his
communication was through the following questions, put to him by
the major:

"You are sure this gentleman is identical with the one pointed out
to you last night?"

"Very sure, sir.  I can swear to it."

I omit all evidence of the defect in his speech above mentioned.

"You recognize him positively?"

"Positively.  I should have picked him out with the same assurance,
if I had seen him in some other city and in a crowd of as
fine-looking gentlemen as himself.  His face made a great impression
on me.  You see I had ample time to study it in the few minutes we
stood so close together."

"So you have said.  Will you be kind enough to repeat the
circumstance?  I should like the man who has just come in to hear
your description of this scene.  Give the action, please.  It is
all very interesting."

The stranger glanced inquisitively in my direction, and turned to
obey the superintendent.

"I was returning to my home in Georgetown, on the evening of May
the eleventh, the day of the great tragedy.  My wife was ill, and
I had been into town to see a physician and should have gone
directly home; but I was curious to see how high the flood was
running - you remember it was over the banks that night.  So I
wandered out on the bridge, and came upon the gentleman about whom
you have been questioning me.  He was standing all alone leaning
on the rail thus."  Here the speaker drew up a chair, and, crossing
his arms over its back, bent his head down over them.  "I did not
know him, but the way he eyed the water leaping and  boiling in a
yellow flood beneath was not the way of a curious man like myself,
but of one who was meditating some desperate deed.  He was handsome
and well dressed, but he looked a miserable wretch and was in a
state of such complete self-absorption that he did not notice me,
though I had stopped not five feet from his side.  I expected to
see him throw himself over, but instead of that, he suddenly
raised his head and, gazing straight before him, not at the heavy
current, but at some vision in his own mind, broke forth in these
words, spoken as I had never heard words spoken before - "

Here the speaker's stuttering got the better of him and the
district attorney had time to say:

"What were these words?  Speak them slowly; we have all the time
there is."

Instantly the man plucked up heart and, eying us all impressively,
was able to say:

"They were these: 'She must die!  she must die!'  No name, but just
the one phrase twice repeated, 'She must die!'  This startled me,
and hardly knowing whether to lay hands on him, or to turn about
and run, I was moving slowly away, when he drew his arms from the
rail, like this, and, still staring into space, added, in the same
hard and determined voice, this one word more, 'To-night!' ; and,
wheeling about, passed me with one blank and wholly unconscious
look and betook himself toward the city.  As he went by, his lips
opened for the third time.  'Which means - ' he cried, between a
groan and a shriek, 'a bullet for her and - ' I wish I had heard
the rest, but he was out of my hearing before his sentence was
finished."

"What time was this?"

"As near half-past five as possible.  It was six when I reached
home a few minutes later."

"Ah, he must have gone to the cemetery after this."

"I am quite sure of it."

"Why didn't you follow the man?" grumbled Durbin.

"It wasn't my business.  He was a stranger and possibly mad.  I
didn't know what to do."

"What did you do?"

"Went home and kept quiet; my wife was very ill that night and I
had my own cause for anxiety."

"You, however, read the papers next morning?"

"No, sir, nor for many days.  My wife grew constantly worse and
for a week I didn't leave her, not knowing but that every breath
would be her last.  I was dead to everything outside the sick-room
and when she grew better, which was very gradually, we had to take
her away, so that I had no opportunity of speaking of this
occurrence to any one till a week ago, when some remark, published
in connection with Mrs. Jeffrey's death, recalled that encounter
on the bridge.  I told a neighbor that I believed the man I had
seen there was Mr. Jeffrey, and we looked up the papers and ran
over them till we came upon his picture.  That settled it, and I
could no longer - being free from home anxieties now - hold my
tongue and the police heard - "

"That will do, Mr. Gelston," broke in the major.  "When we want
you again, we will let you know, Durbin, see Mr. Gelston out"

I was left alone with the major and the district attorney.

There was a moment's silence, during which my own heart beat so
loud that I was afraid they would hear it.  Since taking up Miss
Tuttle's cause I had never really believed in Mr. Jeffrey's
innocence in spite of the alibi he had brought forward, and now
I expected to hear these men utter the same conviction.  The major
was the first to speak.  Addressing the district attorney, he
remarked: "This will strengthen your case very materially.  We
have proof now that Mrs. Jeffrey's death was actually determined
upon.  If Miss Tuttle had not shot her, he would.  I wonder if it
was a relief to him on reaching his door to find that the deed
was done."

I could not suppress my surprise.

"Miss Tuttle!" I repeated.  "Is it so unmistakably evident that
Mr. Jeffrey did not get to the Moore house in time to do the
shooting himself?"

The major gave me a quick look.

"I thought you considered Miss Tuttle the guilty one."

I felt that the time had come to show my colors.

"I have changed my mind," said I.  "I can give you no good reason
for this; something in the woman herself, I suppose.  She does not
look nor act like a criminal.  While not desirous of raising myself
in opposition to the judgment of those so greatly my superior in
all respects, I have had this feeling, and I am courageous enough
to avow it.  And yet, if Mr. Jeffrey could not have left the
cemetery gates and reached the Moore house in time to fulfil all
the conditions of this tragedy, the case does look black against
the woman.  She admits to having been there when the pistol was
fired, unless - "

"Unless what?  You have something new to tell us.  That I have seen
ever since you entered the room.  What is it?"

I cast a glance at the door.  Should I be able to finish my story
before Durbin returned?  I thought it possible, and, though still
upset by this new evidence, which I could now see was not entirely
in Miss Tuttle's favor, I spoke up with what spirit I might.

"I have just come from spending another night in the Moore house.
All the efforts heretofore made to exhaust its secrets have been
founded upon a theory that has brought us nowhere.  I had another
in mind, and I was anxious to test it before resting from all
further attempt to solve this riddle.  And it has not failed me.
By pursuing a clue apparently so trivial that I allowed it to go
neglected for weeks, I have come upon the key to the many mysterious
crimes which have defiled the library hearthstone.  And where do
you think it lies?  Not in the hearthstone itself and not in the
floor under the settle; not, in fact, in the library at all, but
in the picture hanging upstairs in the southwest chamber."

"The picture!  that faded-out sketch, fit only for the garret?"

"Yes.  To you and to most people surveying it, it is just what you
say and nothing more.  But to the initiated few - pray Heaven they
may have been few - it is writing, conveying secret instructions.
The whole combination of curves which go to make up this sketch is
a curious arrangement of words inscribed with the utmost care, in
the smallest of characters.  Viewed with a magnifying glass, the
uncertain outlines of a shadowy face surmounted by a mass of
piled-up hair resolve themselves into lines of writing, the words
of which are quite intelligible and full of grim and unmistakable
purpose.  I have read those lines; and what is more, I have
transcribed them into plain copy.  Will you read them?  They
contain a most extraordinary confession; a confession that was
manifestly intended as a warning, but which unfortunately has had
very different results.  It may explain the death of the man from
Denver, even if it cast no light upon the other inexplicable
features of the remarkable case we are considering."

As I spoke I laid open on the table before me the transcription of
which I spoke.  Instantly the two men bent over it.  When they
looked up again, their countenances showed not excitement only but
appreciation; and in the one minute of triumph which I then enjoyed,
all that had wounded or disturbed me in the past was forgotten.

"You are a man in a thousand," was the major's first enthusiastic
comment; at which I was conscious of regretting, with very pardonable
inconsistency, that Durbin had not returned in time to hear these
words.

The major now proposed that we should go at once to the old house.
"A family secret like this does not crop up every day even in a city
so full of surprises as Washington.  We will hunt for the spring
under the closet drawers and see what happens, eh?  And on our way
there" - here he turned to me "I should like to hear the particulars
concerning the little clue just mentioned.  By the way, Mr. Jeffrey's
interest in this old drawing is now explained.  He knew its
diabolical secret."

This was self-evident, and my heart was heavy for Miss Tuttle, who
seemed to be so deep in her brother-in-law's confidence.

It grew still heavier when Durbin, joining us, added his incredulity
to the air of suspicion assumed by the others.  Through all the
explanations I now entered into, I found myself inwardly repeating
with somewhat forced iteration, "I will not believe her guilty under
any circumstances.  She carries the look of innocence, and innocent
she must be proved, whatever the result may be to Francis Jeffrey."

To such an extent had I been influenced by the lofty expression
which I had once surprised on her face.

Had Mr. David Moore been sitting open-eyed behind his vines that
morning, he would have been much surprised to see so many of his
natural enemies intrude on his property at so early an hour.  But,
happily, he had not yet risen, and we were able to enter upon our
investigations without being watched or interrupted by him.

Our first move was to go in a body to the southwest chamber, take
down the picture, examine it with a magnifying-glass and satisfy
ourselves that the words I had picked out of its mazy lines were
really to be found there.  This done and my veracity established,
we next proceeded to the closet where, according to the
instructions embodied in this picture, the secret spring was to be
found by which some unknown and devilish machinery would be released
in the library below.

To my great satisfaction the active part in this experiment was
delegated to me.  Durbin continued to be a mere looker-on.  Drawing
out the two large drawers from their place at the end of this closet,
I set them aside.  Then I hunted for and found the small loophole
which we had been told afforded a glimpse of the library hearthstone;
but seeing nothing through it, I called for a light to be placed in
the room below.

I heard Durbin go down, then the major, and finally, the district
attorney.  Nothing could stay their curiosity now, not even the
possibility of danger, which as yet was a lurking and mysterious one.
But when a light shot up from below, and the irregular opening
before me became a loophole through which I could catch a very wide
glimpse of the library beneath, I found that it was not necessary
for me to warn them to keep away from the hearth, as they were all
clustered very near the door - a precaution not altogether uncalled
for at so hazardous a moment.

"Are you ready?" I called down.

"Ready!" rose in simultaneous response from below.

"Then look out!"

Reaching for the spring cleverly concealed in the wall at my right
I vigorously pressed it.

The result was instantaneous.  Silently, but with unerring certainty,
something small, round, and deadly, fell plumb from the library
ceiling to where the settle had formerly stood against the
hearthstone.  Finding nothing there but vacancy to expend itself
upon, it swung about for a moment on what looked like a wire or a
whip-cord, then slowly came to rest within a foot or so from the
floor.

A cry from the horrified officials below was what first brought me
to myself.  Withdrawing from my narrow quarters I hastened down to
them and added one more white face to the three I found congregated
in the doorway.  In the diabolical ingenuity we had seen displayed,
crime had reached its acme and the cup of human depravity seemed
full.  When we had regained in some measure our self-possession, we
all advanced for a closer look at the murderous object dangling
before us.  We found it to be a heavy leaden weight painted on its
lower end to match the bosses of stucco-work which appeared at
regular intervals in the ornamentation of the ceiling.  When drawn
up into place, that is, when occupying the hole from which it now
hung suspended, the portion left to protrude would evidently bear
so small a proportion to its real bulk as to justify any eye in
believing it to be the mate, and the harmless mate, of all the
others.

"It hangs just where the settle stood," observed Durbin,
significantly.

"And just at the point where the cushions invite rest, as the
colonel so suggestively puts it in his strange puzzle of a
confession," added the district attorney.

"Replace the old seat," ordered the major, "and let us make sure of
this."

Ready hands at once grasped it, and, with some effort, I own, drew
it carefully back into position.

"You see!" quoth Durbin.

We did.

"Devilish!" came from the major's lips.  Then with a glance at the
ball which, pushed aside by the seat, now hung over its edge a foot
or so from the floor, he added briskly: "The ball has fallen to the
full length of the cord.  If it were drawn up a little - "

"Wait," I eagerly interposed.  "Let me see what I can do with it."

And I dashed back upstairs and into the closet of "The Colonel's Own."

With a single peep down to see if they were still on the watch, I
seized the handle whose position I had made sure of when searching
for the spring, and began to turn; when instantly - so quick was
the response - the long cord stiffened and I saw the ball rise into
sight above the settle top.

"Stop!" called out the major.  "Let go and press the spring again."

I hastened to obey and, though the back of the settle hid the result
from me, I judged from the look and attitude of those below that
the old colonel's calculations had been made with great exactness,
and that the one comfortable seat on the rude and cumbersome bench
had been so placed that this leaden weight in descending would at
the chosen moment strike the head of him who sat there, inflicting
death.  That the weight should be made just heavy enough to produce
a fatal concussion without damaging the skull was proof of the
extreme care with which this subtle apparatus had been contrived.
An open wound would have aroused questions, but a mere bruise might
readily pass as a result of the victim's violent contact with the
furnishings of the hearth toward which the shocked body would
naturally topple.  The fact that a modern jury had so regarded it
shows how justified he was in this expectation.

I was expending my wonder on this and on a new discovery which,
with a very decided shock to myself I had just made in the closet,
when the command came to turn the handle again and to keep on
turning it till it would turn no farther.

I complied, but with a trembling hand, and though I did not watch
the result, the satisfaction I heard expressed below was significant
of the celerity and precision with which the weight rose, foot by
foot, to the ceiling and finally slunk snugly and without seeming
jar into its lair.

When, a few minutes later, I rejoined those below, I found them all,
with eyes directed toward the cornice, searching for the hole
through which I had just been looking.  It was next to imperceptible,
so naturally had it been made to fit in with the shadows of the
scroll work; and even after I had discovered it and pointed it out
to them, I found difficulty in making them believe that they really
looked upon an opening.  But when once convinced of this, the
district attorney's remark was significant.

"I am glad that my name is not Moore."

The superintendent made no reply; his eye had caught mine, and he
had become very thoughtful.

"One of the two candelabra belonging to the parlor mantel was found
lying on that closet floor," he observed.  "Somebody has entered
there lately, as lately as the day when Mr. Pfeiffer was seated
here."

"Pardon me," I impetuously cried.  "Mr. Pfeiffer's death is quite
explained." And, drawing forward my hand, which up to this moment
I had held tight-shut behind my back, I slowly unclosed it before
their astonished eyes.

A bit of lace lay in my palm, a delicate bit, such as is only worn
by women in full dress.

"Where did you find that?" asked the major, with the first show of
deep emotion I have ever observed in him.

My agitation was greater than his as I replied:

"In the rough boarding under those drawers.  Some woman's arm and
hand has preceded mine in stealthy search after that fatal spring.
A woman who wore lace, valuable lace."

There was but one woman connected with this affair who rightly
answered these conditions.  The bride!  Veronica Moore.




XXIII

WORDS IN THE NIGHT


Had I any premonition of the astounding fact thus suddenly and, I
may say, dramatically revealed to us during the weeks I had devoted
to the elucidation of the causes and circumstances of Mrs. Jeffrey's
death?  I do not think so.  Nothing in her face, as I remembered it;
nothing in the feeling evinced toward her by husband or sister, had
prepared me for a disclosure of crime so revolting as to surpass all
that I had ever imagined or could imagine in a woman of such dainty
personality and unmistakable culture.  Nor was the superintendent
or the district attorney less confounded by the event.  Durbin only
tried to look wise and strut about, but it was of no use; he
deceived nobody.  Veronica Moore's real connection with Mr. Pfeiffer's
death, - a death which in some inscrutable way had in so short a time
led to her own, - was an overwhelming surprise to every one of us.

The superintendent, as was natural, recovered first.

"This throws quite a new light upon the matter," said he.  "Now we
can understand why Mr. Jeffrey uttered that extraordinary avowal
overheard on the bridge: 'She must die!'  She had come to him with
blood on her hands."

It seemed incredible, nay more, unreal.  I recalled the sweet
refined face turned up to me from the bare boards of this same floor,
the accounts I had read of the vivacity of her spirits and the wild
charm of her manner till the shadow of this old house fell upon her.
I marveled, still feeling myself in the dark, still clinging to my
faith in womankind, still asking to what depths her sister had
followed her in the mazes of crime we were forced to recognize but
could not understand.

Durbin had no such feelings and no such scruples, as was shown by
the sarcastic comment which now left his lips.

"So!" he cried, "we have to do with three criminals instead of two.
Nice family, the Moore-Jeffreys !"

But no one paid any attention to him.  Addressing the major, the
district attorney asked when he expected to hear from Denver, adding
that it had now become of the first importance to ascertain the
exact relations existing between the persons under suspicion and the
latest victim of this deadly mechanism.

The major's answer was abrupt.  He had been expecting a report for
days.  He was expecting one yet.  If it came in at any time, night
or day, he was to be immediately notified.  Word might be sent him
in an hour, in a minute.

Were his remarks a prophecy?  He had hardly ceased speaking when
an officer appeared with a telegram in his hand.  This the major
eagerly took and, noting that it was in cipher, read it by means
of the code he carried in his pocket.  Translated, it ran thus:

Result of open inquiry in Denver.

Three brothers Pfeiffer; all well thought of, but plain in their
ways and eccentric.  One doing business in Denver.  Died June,
'97.  One perished in Klondike, October, same year; and one, by
name Wallace, died suddenly three months since in Washington.

Nothing further gained by secret inquiry in this place.

Result of open inquiry in Owosso.

A man named Pfeiffer kept a store in Owosso during the time V. M.
attended school there.  He was one of three brothers, home Denver,
name Wallace.  Simultaneously with V. M.'s leaving school, P.
broke up business and at instigation of his brother William, who
accompanied him, went to the Klondike.  No especial relation between
lady and this same P. ever noted.  V. M. once heard to laugh at his
awkward ways.

Result of secret inquiry in Owosso.

V. M. very intimate with schoolmate who has since died.  Often rode
together; once gone a long time.  This was just before V. M. left
school for good.  Date same as that on which a marriage occurred in
a town twenty miles distant.  Bride, Antoinette Moore; groom, W.
Pfeiffer of Denver; witness, young girl with red hair.  Schoolmate
had red hair.  Had V. M. a middle initial, and was that initial A?

We all looked at each other; this last question was one none of us
could answer.

"Go for Mr. Jeffrey at once," ordered the major, "and let another
one of you bring Miss Tuttle.  No word to either of what has occurred
and no hint of their possible meeting here."

It fell to me to fetch Miss Tuttle.  I was glad of this, as it gave
me a few minutes by myself in which to compose my mind and adjust my
thoughts to the new conditions opened up by the amazing facts which
had just come to light.  But beyond the fact that Mrs. Jeffrey had
been answerable for the death which had occurred in the library at
the time of her marriage - that, in the words of the district
attorney, she had come to her husband with blood on her hands, my
thoughts would not go; confusion followed the least attempt to
settle the vital question of how far Miss Tuttle and Mr. Jeffrey
had been involved in the earlier crime and what the coming interview
with these two would add to our present knowledge.  In my anxiety to
have this question answered I hastened my steps and was soon at the
door of Miss Tuttle's present dwelling place.

I had not seen this lady since the inquest, and my heart beat high
as I sat awaiting her appearance in the dim little parlor where I
had been seated by the person who held her under secret surveillance.
The scene I had just been through, the uncertain nature of the
relations held by this beautiful woman both toward the crime just
discovered and the one long associated with her name, lent to these
few moments of anticipation an emotion which poorly prepared me for
the touching sight of the patient smile with which she presently
entered.

But I doubt if she noticed my agitation.  She was too much swayed
by her own.  Advancing upon me in all the unconscious pride of her
great beauty, she tremulously remarked:

"You have a message for me.  Is it from headquarters?  Or has the
district attorney still more questions to ask?"

"I have a much more trying errand than that," I hastened to say,
with some idea of preparing her for an experience that could not
fail to be one of exceptional trial.  "For reasons which will be
explained to you by those in greater authority than myself, you are
wanted at the house where - " I could not help stammering
under the light of her melancholy eyes - " where I saw you once
before," I lamely concluded.

"The house in Waverley Avenue?" she objected wildly, with the first
signs of positive terror I had ever beheld in her.

I nodded, dropping my eyes.  What call had I to penetrate the
conscience of this woman?

"Are they there?  all there?" she presently asked again.  "The
police and - and Mr. Jeffrey?"

"Madam," I respectfully protested, "my duty is limited to
conducting you to the place named.  A carriage is waiting.  May I
beg that you will prepare yourself to go at once to Waverley Avenue?"

For answer she subjected me to a long and earnest look which I found
it impossible to evade.  Then she hastened from the room, but with
very unsteady steps.  Evidently the courage which had upborne her so
long was beginning to fail.  Her very countenance was changed.  Had
she recognized, as I meant she should, that the secret of the Moore
house was no longer a secret confined to her own breast and to that
of her unhappy brother-in-law?

When she returned ready for her ride this change in her spirits was
less observable, and by the time we had reached the house in Waverley
Avenue she had so far regained her old courage as to move and speak
with the calmness of despair if not of mental serenity.

The major was awaiting us at the door and bowed gravely before her
heavily veiled figure.

"Miss Tuttle," he asked, without any preamble, the moment she was
well inside the house, "may I inquire of you here, and before I
show you what will excuse us for subjecting you to the distress of
entering these doors, whether your sister, Mrs. Jeffrey, had any
other name or was ever known by any other name than that of Veronica?"

"She was christened Antoinette, as well as Veronica; but the person
in whose memory the former name was given her was no honor to the
family and she very soon dropped it and was only known as Veronica.
Oh, what have I done?" she cried, awed and frightened by the silence
which followed the utterance of these simple words.

No one answered her.  For the first time in her presence, the minds
of those who faced her were with another than herself.  The bride!
the unhappy bride - no maiden but a wife!  nay, a wife one minute,
a widow the next, and then again a newly-wedded bride before the
husband lying below was cold!  What wander that she shrank when her
new-made bridegroom's lips approached her own!  or that their
honeymoon was a disappointment!  Or that the shadow which fell upon
her on that evil day never left her till she gave herself wholly up
to its influence and returned to die on the spot made awful by her
own crime.

Before any of us were quite ready to speak, a tap at the door told
us that Durbin had arrived with Mr. Jeffrey.  When they had been
admitted and the latter saw Miss Tuttle standing there, he, too,
seemed to realize that a turn had come in their affairs, and that
courage rather than endurance was the quality most demanded from
him.  Facing the small group clustered in the dismal hall fraught
with such unutterable associations, he earnestly prayed:

"Do not keep me in suspense.  Why am I summoned here?"

The reply was as grave as the occasion warranted.

"You are summoned to learn the murderous secret of these old walls,
and who it was that last made use of it.  Do you feel inclined to
hear these details from my lips, or are you ready to state that you
already know the means by which so many persons, in times past as
well as in times present, have met death here?  We do not require
you to answer us."

"I know the means," he allowed, recognizing without doubt that the
crisis of crises had come, and that denial would be worse than
useless.

"Then it only remains for us to acquaint you with the identity of
the person who last pressed the fatal spring.  But perhaps you know
that, too?"

"I - "  He paused; words were impossible to him; and in that pause
his eyes flashed helplessly in the direction of Miss Tuttle.

But the major was quick on his feet and was already between him and
that lady.  This act forced from Mr. Jeffrey's lips the following
broken sentence:

"I should - like - you - to - tell - me."  Great gasps came with
each heavily spoken word.

"Perhaps this morsel of lace will do it in a gentler manner than
I could," responded the district attorney, opening his hand, in
which lay the scrap of lace that, an hour or so before, I had
plucked away from the boarding of that fatal closet.

Mr. Jeffrey eyed it and understood.  His hands went up to his face
and he swayed to the point of falling.  Miss Tuttle came quickly
forward.

"Oh!" she moaned, as her eyes fell on the little white shred.  "The
providence of God has found us out.  We have suffered, labored and
denied in vain."

"Yes," came in dreary echo from the man none of us had understood
till now; "so great a crime could not be hid.  God will have
vengeance.  What are we that we should hope to avert it by any act
or at any cost?"

The major, with his eyes fixed piercingly on this miserable man,
replied with one pregnant, sentence:

"Then you forced your wife to suicide?"

"No," he began; but before another word could follow, Miss Tuttle,
resplendent in beauty and beaming with new life, broke in with the
fervid cry:

"You wrong him and you wrong her by such a suggestion.  It was not
her husband but her conscience that forced her to this retributive
act.  What Mr. Jeffrey might have done had she proved obdurate and
blind to the enormity of her own guilt, I do not know.  But that he
is innocent of so influencing her is proved by the shock he suffered
at finding she had taken her punishment into her own hands."

"Mr. Jeffrey will please answer the question," insisted the major.
Whereupon the latter, with great effort, but with the first
appearance of real candor yet seen in him, said earnestly:

"I did nothing to influence her.  I was in no condition to do so.
I was benumbed - dead.  When first she told me, - it was in some
words muttered in her sleep - I thought she was laboring under some
fearful nightmare; but when she persisted, and I questioned her,
and found the horror true, I was like a man turned instantly into
stone, save for one intolerable throb within.  I am still so;
everything passes by me like a dream.  She was so young, seemingly
so innocent and light-hearted.  I loved her!  Gentlemen, you have
thought me guilty of my wife's death, - this young fairy-like
creature to whom I ascribed all the virtues!  and I was willing,
willing that you should think so, willing even to face the distrust
and opprobrium of the whole world, - and so was her sister, the
noble woman whom you see before you - rather than that the full
horror of her crime should be known and a name so dear be given up
to execration.  We thought we could keep the secret - we felt that
we must keep the secret - we took an oath - in French - in the
carriage with the detectives opposite us.  She kept it - God bless
her!  I kept it.  But it was all useless - a tiny bit of lace is
found hanging to a lifeless splinter, and all our efforts, all the
hopes and agony of weeks are gone for naught.  The world will soon
know of her awful deed - and I - "

He still loved her!  That was apparent in every look, in every word
he uttered.  We marveled in awkward silence, and were glad when the
major said:

"The deed, as I take it, was an unpremeditated one on her part.  Is
that why her honor was dearer to you than your own, and why you
could risk the reputation if not the life of the woman who you say
sacrificed herself to it?"

"Yes, it was unpremeditated; she hardly realized her act.  If you
must know her heart through all this dreadful business, we have her
words to show you - words which she spent the last miserable day of
her life in writing.  The few lines which I showed the captain and
which have been published to the world was an inclosure meant for
the public eye.  The real letter, telling the whole terrible truth,
I kept for myself and for the sister who already knew her sin.  Oh,
we did everything we could!"  And he again moaned: "But it was in
vain; quite in vain."

There were no signs of subterfuge in him now, and we all, unless I
except Durbin, began to yield him credence.  Durbin never gives
credence to anybody whose name he has once heard associated with
crime.

"And this Pfeiffer was contracted to her?  A man she had secretly
married while a school-girl and who at this very critical instant
had found his way to the house."

"You shall read her letter.  It was meant for me, for me only - but
you shall see it.  I can not talk of him or of her crime.  It is
enough that I have been unable to think of anything else since first
those dreadful words fell front her lips in sleep, thirty-six hours
before she died."  Then with the inconsistency of great anguish he
suddenly broke forth into the details he shrank from and cried
"She muttered, lying there, that she was no bigamist.  That she had
killed one husband before she married the other.  Killed him in the
old house and by the method her ancestors had taught her.  And I,
risen on my elbow, listened, with the sweat oozing from my forehead,
but not believing her, oh, not believing her, any more than any one
of you would believe such words uttered in a dream by the darling of
your heart.  But when, with a long-drawn sigh, she murmured,
'Murderer!' and raised her fists - tiny fists, hands which I had
kissed a thousand times - and shook them in the air, an awful terror
seized me, and I sought to grasp them and hold them down, but was
hindered by some nameless inner recoil under which I could not speak,
nor gasp, nor move.  Of course, it was some dream-horror she was
laboring under, a nightmare of unimaginable acts and thoughts, but
it was one to hold me back; and when she lay quiet again and her
face resumed its old sweetness in the moonlight, I found myself
staring at her almost as if it were true - what she had said - that
word - that awful word which no woman could use with regard to
herself, even in dreams, unless - Something, an echo from the
discordant chord in our two weeks' married life, rose like the
confirmation of a doubt in my shocked and rebellious breast.  From
that hour till dawn nothing in that slowly brightening room seemed
real, not her face lying buried in its youthful locks upon the
pillow, not the objects well-known and well-prized by which we were
surrounded - not myself - most of all, not myself, unless the icy
dew oozing from the roots of my lifted hair was real, unless that
shape, fearsome, vague, but persistent, which hovered in the
shadows above us, drawing a line of eternal separation between me
and my wife, was a thing which could be caught and strangled and -
Oh!  I rave!  I chatter like a madman; but I did not rave that
night.  Nor did I rave when, in the bright, broad sunlight, her eye
slowly unclosed and she started to see me bending so near her, but
not with my usual kiss or glad good morning.  I could not question
her then; I dared not.  The smile which slowly rose to her lips was
too piteous - it showed confidence. I waited till after breakfast.
Then, while she was seated where she could not see my face, I
whispered the question: 'Do you know that you have had a horrible
dream?'  She shrieked and turned.  I saw her face and knew that what
she had uttered in her sleep was true.'

"I have no remembrance of what I said to her. She tried to tell me
how she had been tempted and how she had not realized her own act,
till the moment I bent down to kiss her lips as her husband.  But I
did not stop to listen - I could not.  I flew immediately to Miss
Tuttle with the violent demand as to whether she knew that her
sister was already a wife when she married me, and when she cried
out 'No!' and showed great dismay, I broke forth with the dreadful
tale and cowered in unmanly anguish at her feet, and went mad and
lost myself for a little while.  Then I went back to my wretched
wife and asked her how the awful deed had been done.  She told me,
and again I did not believe her and began to look upon it all as
some wild dream or the distempered fancies of a disordered brain.
This thought calmed me and I spoke gently to her and even tried to
take her hand.  But she herself was raving now, and clung about my
knees, murmuring words of such anguish and contrition that my worst
fears returned and, only stopping to take the key of the Moore
house from my bureau, I left the house and wandered madly - I know
not where.

"I did not go back that day.  I could not face her again till I
knew how much of her confession was fancy and how much was fact.
I roamed the streets, carrying that key from one end of the city to
the other, and at night I used it to open the house which she had
declared contained so dreadful a secret.

"I had bought candles on my way there but, forgetting to take them
from the store, I had no light with which to penetrate the horrible
place that even the moon refused to illumine. I realized this when
once in, but would not go back.  All I have told about using matches
to light me to the southwest chamber is true, also my coming upon
the old candelabrum there, with a candle in one of its sockets. This
candle I lit, my sole reason for seeking this room being my desire
to examine the antique sketch for the words which she had said could
be found there.

"I had failed to bring a magnifying-glass with me, but my eyes are
phenomenally sharp.  Knowing where to look, I was able to pick out
enough words here and there in the lines composing the hair, to feel
quite sure that my wife had neither deceived me nor been deceived
as to certain directions being embodied there in writing.  Shaken in
my last lingering hope, but not yet quite convinced that these words
pointed to outrageous crime, I flew next to the closet and drew out
the fatal drawer.

"You have been there and know what the place is, but no one but
myself can ever realize what it was for me, still loving, still
clinging to a wild inconsequent belief in my wife, to grope in that
mouth of hell for the spring she had chattered about in her sleep,
to find it, press it, and then to hear, down in the dark of the
fearsome recess, the sound of something deadly strike against what
I took to be the cushions of the old settle standing at the edge
of the library hearthstone.

"I think I must have fainted.  For when I found myself possessed
of sufficient consciousness to withdraw from that hole of death,
the candle in the candelabrum was shorter by an inch than when I
first thrust my head into the gap made by the removed drawers.
In putting back the drawers I hit the candelabrum with my foot,
upsetting it and throwing out the burning candle.  As the flames
began to lick the worm-eaten boarding of the floor a momentary
impulse seized me to rush away and leave the whole place to burn.
But I did not.  With a sudden frenzy, I stamped out the flame,
and then finding myself in darkness, griped my way downstairs and
out.  If I entered the library I do not remember it.  Some lapses
must be pardoned a man involved as I was."

"But the fact which you dismiss so lightly is an important one,"
insisted the major.  "We must know positively whether you entered
this room or not."

"I have no recollection of doing so"

"Then you can not tell us whether the little table was standing
there, with the candelabrum upon it or - "

"I can tell you nothing about it."

The major, after a long look at this suffering man, turned toward
Miss Tuttle.

"You must have loved your sister very much," he sententiously
remarked.

She flushed and for the first time her eyes fell from their
resting-place on Mr. Jeffrey's face.

"I loved her reputation," was her quiet answer, "and - "  The
rest died in her throat.

But we all - such of us, I mean, who were possessed of the least
sensibility or insight, knew how that sentence sounded as finished
in her heart" and I loved him who asked this sacrifice of me."

Yet was her conduct not quite clear.

"And to save that reputation you tied the pistol to her wrist?"
insinuated the major.

"No," was her vehement reply.  "I never knew what I was tying to
her.  My testimony in that regard was absolutely true.  She held
the pistol concealed in the folds of her dress.  I did not dream
 - I could not - that she was contemplating any such end to the
atrocious crime - to which she had confessed.  Her manner was too
light, too airy and too frivolous - a manner adopted, as I now see,
to forestall all questions and hold back all expressions of
feeling on my part.  'Tie these hanging ends of ribbon to my
wrist,' were her words.  'Tie them tight; a knot under and a bow
on top.  I am going out - There, don't say anything -  What you
want to talk about will keep till tomorrow.  For one night more I
am going to make merry - to - to enjoy myself.'  She was laughing.
I thought her horribly callous and trembled with such an
unspeakable repulsion that I had difficulty in making the knot.
To speak at all would have been impossible.  Neither did I dare
to look in her face.  I was touching the hand and she kept on
laughing - such a hollow laugh covering up such an awful resolve!
When she turned to give me that last injunction about the note,
this resolve glared still in her eyes."

"And you never suspected?"

"Not for an instant.  I chid not do justice either to her misery or
to her conscience.  I fear that I have never done her justice in
anyway.  I thought her light, pleasure-loving.  I did not know that
it was assumed to hide a terrible secret."

"Then you had no knowledge of the contract she had entered into
while a school-girl?"

"Not in the least.  Another woman, and not myself, had been her
confidante; a woman who has since died.  No intimation of her first
unfortunate marriage had ever reached me till Mr. Jeffrey rushed
in upon me that Tuesday morning with her dreadful confession on
his lips."

The district attorney, who did not seem quite satisfied on a certain
point passed over by the major, now took the opportunity of saying:

"You assure us that you had no idea that this once lighthearted
sister of yours meditated suicide when she left you?"

"And I repeat it, sir."

"Then why did you immediately go to Mr. Jeffrey's drawer, where
you could have no business, unless it was to see if she had taken
his pistol with her?"

Miss Tuttle's head fell and a soft flush broke through the pallor
of her cheek.

"Because I was thinking of him.  Because I was terrified for him.
He had left the house the morning before in a half-maddened condition
and had not come back to sleep or eat since.  I did not know what a
man so outraged in every sacred feeling of love and honor might be
tempted to do.  I thought of suicide.  I remembered the old house
and how he had said, 'I don't believe her.  I don't believe she ever
did so cold-blooded an act, or that any such dreadful machinery is
in that house.  I never shall believe it till I have seen and handled
it myself.  It is a nightmare, Cora.  We are insane.'  I thought of
this, sirs, and when I went into her room, to change the place of
the little note in the book, I went to his bureau drawer, not to
look for the pistol - I did not think of that then, - but to see if
the keys of the Moore house were still there.  I knew that they were
kept in this drawer, for I had been present in the room when they
were brought in after the wedding.  I had also been short-sighted
enough to conclude that if they were gone it was he who had taken
them.  They were gone, and that was why I flew immediately from the
house to the old place in Waverley Avenue.  I was concerned for Mr.
Jeffrey!  I feared to find him there, demented or dead"

"But you had no key."

"No.  Mr. Jeffrey had taken one of them and my sister the other.
But the lack of a key or even of a light - for the missing candles
were not taken by me* - could not keep me at home after

I was once convinced that he had gone to this dreadful house.  If I
could not get in I could at least hammer at the door or rouse the
neighbors.  Something must be done.  I did not think what; I merely
flew."
____________________________________________________________________

*We afterwards found that these candles were never delivered  at the
house at all; that they had been placed in the wrong basket and left
in a neighboring kitchen.
____________________________________________________________________

"Did you know that the house had two keys?"

"Not then."

"But your sister did?"

"Probably."

"And finding the only key, as you supposed, gone, you flew to the
Moore house?"

"Immediately."

"And now what else?"

"I found the door unlocked."

"That was done by Mrs. Jeffrey?"

"Yes, but I did not think of her then."

"And you went in?"

"Yes; it was all dark, but I felt my way till I came to the gilded
pillars."

"Why did you go there?"

"Because I felt - I knew - if he were anywhere in that house he
would be there!"

"And why did you stop?"

Her voice rose above its usual quiet pitch in shrill protest:

"You know!  you know!  I heard a pistol-shot from within, then a
fall.  I don't remember anything else.  They say I went wandering
about town.  Perhaps I did; it is all a blank to me - everything is
a blank till the policeman said that my sister was dead and I
learned for the first time that the shot I had heard in the Moore
house was not the signal of his death, but hers.  Had I been myself
when at that library door," she added, after a moment of silence,
"I would have rushed in at the sound of that shot and have received
my sister's dying breath"

"Cora!"  The cry was from Mr. Jeffrey, and seemed to be quite
involuntary.  "In the weeks during which we have been kept from
speaking together I have turned all these events over in my mind
till I longed for any respite, even that of the grave.  But in all
my thinking I never attributed this motive to your visit here.
Will you forgive me?"

There was a new tone in his voice, a tone which no woman could
hear without emotion.

"You had other things to think of," she said, and her lips trembled.
Never have I seen on the human face a more beautiful expression than
I saw on hers at that moment; nor do I think Mr. Jeffrey had either,
for as he marked it his own regard softened almost to tenderness.

The major had no time for sentimentalities.  Turning to Mr. Jeffrey,
he said:

"One more question before we send for the letter which you say will
give us full insight into your wife's crime.  Do you remember what
occurred on the bridge at Georgetown just before you came into town
that night?"

He shook his head.

"Did you meet any one there?"

"I do not know."

"Can you remember your state of mind?"

"I was facing the future."

"And what did you see in the future?"

"Death.  Death for her and death for me!  A crime was on her soul
and she must die, and if she, then myself.  I knew no other course.
I could not summon the police, point out my bride of a fortnight
and, with the declaration that she had been betrayed into killing a
man, coldly deliver her up to justice.  Neither could I live at her
side knowing the guilty secret which parted us; or live anywhere in
the world under this same consciousness.  Therefore, I meant to kill
myself before another sun rose.  But she was more deeply stricken
with a sense of her own guilt than I realized.  When I returned home
for the pistol which was to end our common misery I found that she
had taken her punishment into her own hands.  This strangely affected
me, but when I found that, in doing this, she had remembered that I
should have to face the world after she was gone, and so left a few
lines for me to show in explanation of her act, my revolt against
her received a check which the reading of her letter only increased.
But the lines she thus wrote and left were not true lines.  All her
heart was mine, and if it was a wicked heart she has atoned - "

He paused, quite overcome.  Others amongst us were overcome, too,
but only for a moment.  The following remark from the district
attorney soon recalled us to the practical aspects of the case.

"You have accounted for many facts not hitherto understood.  But
there is still a very important one which neither yourself nor
Miss Tuttle has yet made plain.  There was a candle on the scene
of crime; it was out when this officer arrived here.  There was
also one found burning in the upstairs room, aside from the one you
professedly used in your tour of inspection there.  Whence came
those candles?  And did your wife blow out the one in the library
herself, previous to the shooting, or was it blown out afterward
and by other lips?"

"These are questions which, as I have already said, I have no means
of answering," repeated Mr. Jeffrey.  "The courage which brought
her here may have led her to supply herself with light; and, hard
as it is to conceive, she may even have found nerve to blow out the
light before she lifted the pistol to her breast:"

The district attorney and the major looked unconvinced, and the
latter, turning toward Miss Tuttle, asked if she had any remark to
make on the subject.

But she could only repeat Mr. Jeffrey's statement.

"These are questions I can not answer either.  I have said that I
stopped at the library door, which means that I saw nothing of what
passed within."

Here the major asked where Mrs. Jeffrey's letter was to be found.
It was Mr. Jeffrey who replied:

"Search in my room for a book with an outside cover of paper still
on it.  You will probably find it on my table.  The inner cover is
red.  Bring that book here.  Our secret is hidden in it."

Durbin disappeared on this errand.  I followed him as far as the
door, but I did not think it necessary to state that I had seen
this book lying on the table when I paid my second visit to Mr.
Jeffrey's room in company with the coroner.  The thought that my
hand had been within reach of this man's secret so many weeks
before was sufficiently humiliating without being shared.




XXIV

TANTALIZING TACTICS

I made my way to the front door, but returned almost immediately.
Drawing the major aside, I whispered a request, which led to a
certain small article being passed over to me, after which I
sauntered out on the stoop just in time to encounter the spruce
but irate figure of Mr. Moore, who had crossed from the opposite
side.

"Ah!" said I.  "Good morning!" and made him my most deferential bow.

He glared and Rudge glared from his place on the farther curb.
Evidently the police were not in favor with the occupants of the
cottage that morning.

"When is this to cease?" he curtly demanded.  "When are these
early-morning trespasses upon an honest citizen's property coming
to an end?  I wake with a light heart, expecting that my house,
which is certainly as much mine as is any man's in Washington, would
be handed over this very day for my habitation, when what do I see
 - one police officer leaving the front door and another sunning
himself in the vestibule.  How many more of you are within I do not
presume to ask.  Some half-dozen, no doubt, and not one of you smart
enough to wind up this matter and have done with it."

"Ah!  I don't know about that," I drawled, and looked very wise.

His curiosity was aroused.

"Anything new?" he snapped.

"Possibly," I returned, in a way to exasperate a saint.

He stepped on to the porch beside me.  I was too abstracted to
notice; I was engaged in eying Rudge.

"Do you know," said I, after an instant of what I meant should be
one of uncomfortable suspense on his part, "that I have a greater
respect than ever for that animal of yours since learning the very
good reason he has for refusing to cross the street?"

"Ha!  what's that?" he asked, with a quick look behind him at the
watchful brute straining toward him with nose over the gutter.

"He sees farther than we can.  His eyes penetrate walls and
partitions," I remarked.  Then, carelessly and with the calm drawing
forth of a folded bit of paper which I held out toward him, I added:
"By the way, here is something of yours"

His hand rose instinctively to take it; then dropped.

"I don't know what you mean," he remarked.  "You have nothing of
mine."

"No?  Then John Judson Moore had another brother."  And I thrust
the paper back into my pocket.

He followed it with his eye.  It was the memorandum I had found in
the old book of memoirs plucked from the library shelf within, and
he recognized it for his and saw that I did also.  But he failed
to show the white feather.

"You are good at ransacking," he observed; "pity that it can not
be done to more purpose."

I smiled and made a fresh start.  With my hand thrust again into my
pocket, I remarked, without even so much as a glance at him:

"I fear that you do some injustice to the police.  We are not such
bad fellows; neither do we waste as much time as you seem to think."
And drawing out my hand, with the little filigree ball in it, I
whirled the latter innocently round and round on my finger.  As it
flashed under his eye, I cast him a penetrating look.

He tried to carry the moment off successfully; I will give him so
much credit.  But it was asking too much of his curiosity, and
there was no mistaking the eager glitter which lighted his glance
as he saw within his reach this article which a moment before he
had probably regarded as lost forever.

"For instance," I went on, watching him furtively, though quite
sure from his very first look that he knew no more now of the secret
of this little ball than he knew when he jotted down the memorandum
I had just pocketed before his eyes, "a little thing - such a little
thing as this," I repeated, giving the bauble another twist - "may
lead to discoveries such as no common search would yield in years.
I do not say that it has; but such a thing is possible, you know:
who better?"

My nonchalance was too much for him.  He surveyed me with covert
dislike, and dryly observed "Your opportunities have exceeded mine,
even with my own effects.  That petty trinket which you have
presumed to flaunt in my face - and of whose value I am the worst
judge in the world since I have never had it in my hand - descended
to me with the rest of Mrs. Jeffrey's property.  Your conduct,
therefore, strikes me in the light of an impertinence, especially
as no one could be supposed to have more interest than myself in
what has been for many years recognized as a family talisman."

"Ah," I remarked.  "You own to the memorandum then.  It was made
on the spot, but without the benefit of the talisman."

"I own to nothing," he snapped.  Then, realizing that denial in this
regard was fatal, he added more genially: "What do you mean by
memorandum?  If you mean that recapitulation of old-time mysteries
and their accompanying features with which I once whiled away an
idle hour, I own to it, of course.  Why shouldn't I?  It is only a
proof of my curiosity in regard to this old mystery which every
member of my family must feel.  That curiosity has not been appeased.
If it would not be indiscreet on your part, may I now ask if you
have found out what that little golden ball of mine which you sport
so freely before my eyes is to be used in connection with?"

"Read the papers," I said; "read tomorrow's papers, Mr. Moore; or,
better still, tonight's.  Perhaps they will inform you."

He was as angry as I had expected him to be, but as this ire proved
conclusively that his strongest emotion had been curiosity rather
than fear, I felt assured of my ground, and turned to reenter the
house.  Mr. Moore did not accompany me.

The major was standing in the hall.  The others had evidently
retreated to the parlor.

"The man opposite knows what he knows," said I; "but this does not
include the facts concerning the picture in the southwest chamber
or the devilish mechanism."

"You are sure?"

"As positive as one of my inexperience can be.  But, Major, I am
equally positive that he knows more than he should of Mrs. Jeffrey's
death.  I am even ready to state that in my belief he was in the
house when it occurred."

"Has he acknowledged this?"

"Not at all."

"Then what are your reasons for this belief?"

"They are many"

"Will you state them?"

"Gladly, if you will pardon the presumption.  Some of my conclusions
can not be new to you.  The truth is that I have possibly seen more
of this old man than my duty warranted, and I feel quite ready to
declare that he knows more of what has taken place in this house
than he is ready to avow.  I am sure that he has often visited it
in secret and knows about a certain broken window as well as we do.
I am also sure that he was here on the night of Mrs. Jeffrey's
suicide.  He was too little surprised when I informed him of what
had happened not to have had some secret inkling of it beforehand,
even if we had not the testimony of the lighted candle and the book
he so hurriedly replaced.  Besides, he is not the man to drag
himself out at night for so simple a cause as the one with which
he endeavored to impose upon us.  He knew what we should find in
this house."

"Very good.  If Mr. Jeffrey's present explanations are true, these
deductions of yours are probably correct.  But Mr. Moore's denial
has been positive.  I fear that it will turn out a mere question of
veracity."

"Not necessarily," I returned.  "I think I see a way of forcing
this man to acknowledge that he was in or about this house on that
fatal night"

"You do?"

"Yes, sir; I do not want to boast, and I should be glad if you
did not oblige me to confide to you the means by which I hope to
bring this out.  Only give me leave to insert an advertisement in
both evening and morning papers and in two days I will report
failure or success"

The major eyed me with an interest that made my heart thrill.
Then he quickly said: "You have earned the privilege; I will give
you two days."

At this moment Durbin reappeared.  As I heard his knock and turned
to open the door for him, I cast the major an entreating if not
eloquent look.

He smiled and waved his hand with friendly assurance.  The state of
feeling between Durbin and myself was evidently well known to him.

My enemy entered with a jaunty air, which changed ever so slightly
when he saw me in close conference with the superintendent.

He had the book in his pocket.  Taking it out, he handed it to the
major, with this remark:

"You won't find anything there; the gent's been fooling you."

The major opened the book, shook it, looked under the cover, found
nothing, and crossed hastily to the drawing-room.  We as hastily
followed him.  The district attorney was talking with Miss Tuttle;
Mr. Jeffrey was nervously pacing the floor.  The latter stopped as
we all entered and his eyes flashed to the book.

"Let me take it," said he.

"It is absolutely empty," remarked the major.  "The letter has
been abstracted, probably without your knowledge."

"I do not think so," was Mr. Jeffrey's unexpected retort.  "Do you
suppose that I would intrust a secret, for the preservation of
which I was ready to risk life and honor, to the open pages of a
book?  When I found myself threatened with all sorts of visits from
the police and realized that at any moment my effects might be
ransacked, I sought a hiding place for this letter, which no man
without superhuman insight could discover.  Look!"

And, pulling off the outside wrapper, he inserted the point of
his penknife under the edge of the paper lining the inside cover
and ripped it off with a jerk.

"I pasted this here myself," he cried, and showed us where between
this paper and the boards, in a place thinned out to hold it, there
lay a number of folded sheets, which, with a deep sigh, he handed
over to the major's inspection.  As he did so he remarked:

"I had rather have died any natural death than have had my miserable
wife's secret known.  But since the crime has come to light, this
story of her sin and her repentance may serve in some slight degree
to mitigate public opinion.  She was sorely tempted and she
succumbed; the crime of her ancestors was in her blood"

He again walked off.  The major unfolded the sheets.




XXV

"WHO WILL TELL THE MAN INSIDE THERE


Later I saw this letter.  It was like no other that has ever come
under my eye.  Written at intervals, as her hand had power or her
misery found words, it bore on its face all the evidences of that
restless, suffering spirit which for thirty-six hours drove her in
frenzy about her room, and caused Loretta to say, in her effort to
describe her mistress' face as it appeared to her at the end of
this awful time: "It was as if a blight had passed over it.  Once
gay and animated beyond the power of any one to describe, it had
become a ghost's face, with the glare of some awful resolve upon
it."  I give this letter just as it was written-disjointed
paragraphs, broken sentences, unfinished words and all.  The
breaks show where she laid down her pen, possibly for that wild
pacing of the floor which left such unmistakable signs behind it.
It opens abruptly:

"I killed him.  I am all that I said I was, and you can never again
give me a thought save in the way of cursing and to bewail the day
I came into your life.  But you can not hate me more than I hate
myself, my wicked self, who, seeing an obstacle in the way to
happiness, stamped it out of existence, and so forfeited all right
to happiness forever.

"It was so easy!  Had it been a hard thing to do; had it been
necessary to lay hand on knife or lift a pistol, I might have
realized the act and paused.  But just a little spring which a
child's hand could manage - Who, feeling for it, could help pressing
it, if only to see -

"I was always a reckless girl, mad for pleasure and without any
thought of consequences.  When school bored me, I took all my books
out of my desk, called upon my mates to do the same, and, stacking
them up into a sort of rostrum in a field where we played, first
delivered an oration from them in which reverence for my teachers
had small part, then tore them into pieces and burned them in full
sight of my admiring school-fellows.  I was dismissed, but not with
disgrace.  Teachers and scholars bewailed my departure, not because
they liked me, or because of any good they had found in me, but
because my money had thrown luster on them and on the whole
establishment.

This was when I was twelve, and it was on account of this reckless
escapade that I was sent west and kept so long from home and all
my flatterers.  My guardian meant well by this, but in saving me
from one pitfall he plunged me into another.  I grew up without
Cora and also without any idea of the requirements of my position
or what I might anticipate from the world when the time came for me
to enter it.  I knew that I had money; so did those about me; but I
had little or no idea of the amount, nor what that money would do
for me when I returned to Washington.  So, in an evil day, and when
I was just eighteen, I fell in love, or thought I did, with a man
 - (Oh, Francis, imagine it, now that I have seen you!) - of
sufficient attraction to satisfy one whose prospects were limited
to a contracted existence in some small town, but no more fitted
to content me after seeing Washington life than if he had been a
common farm hand or the most ordinary of clerks in a country store.
But I was young, ignorant and self-willed, and thought because my
cheek burned under his look that he was the man of men, and suited
to be my husband.  That is, if I thought at all, which is not likely;
for I was in a feverish whirl, and just followed the impulse of the
moment, which was to be with him whenever I could without attracting
the teacher's attention.  And this, alas!  was only too often, for
he was the brother of one of our storekeepers, a visitor in Owosso,
and often in the store where we girls went.  Why the teachers did
not notice how often we needed things there, I do not know.  But
they did not, and matters went on and -

"I can not write of those days, and you do not want to hear about
them.  They seem impossible to me now, and almost as if it had all
happened to some one else, so completely have I forgotten the man
except as the source and cause of an immeasurable horror.  Yet he
was not bad himself; only ordinary and humdrum.  Indeed, I believe
he was very good in ways, or so his brother once assured me.  We
would not have been married in the way we were if he had not wanted
to go to the Klondike for the purpose of making money and making
it quickly, so that his means might match mine.

"I do not know which of us two was most to blame for that marriage.
He urged it because he was going so far away and wanted to be sure
of me.  I accepted it because it seemed to be romantic and because
it pleased me to have my own way in spite of my hard old guardian
and the teachers, who were always prying about, and the girls, who
went silly over him - for he was really handsome in his way - and
who thought, (at least many of them did,) that he cared for them
when he cared only for me.

"I have hated black eyes for a year.  He had black eyes.

"I forgot Cora, or, rather, I did not let any remembrance of her
hinder me.  She was a very shadowy person to me in those days.  I
had not seen her since we were both children, and as for her
letters - they were almost a bore to me; she lived such a
different life from mine and wrote of so many things I had no
interest in.  On my knees I ask her pardon now.  I never understood
her.  I never understood myself.  I was light as thistledown and
blown by every breeze.  There came a gust one day which blew me
into the mouth of hell.  I am hovering there yet and am sinking,
Francis, sinking - Save me!  I love you - I - I -

"It was all planned by him - I have no head for such things.
Sadie helped him - Sadie was my friend - but Sadie had not much to
say about it, for he seemed to know just how to arrange it all so
that no one at the seminary should know or even suspect what had
occurred till we got ready to tell them.  He did not even take
his brother into his confidence, for Wallace kept store and
gossiped very much with his customers.  Besides, he was very busy
just then selling out, for he was going to the Klondike with
William, and he had too much on his mind to be bothered, or so
William said.  All this I must tell you or you will never
understand the temptation which assailed me when, having returned
to Washington, I awoke to my own position and the kind of men whom
I could now hope to meet.  I was the wife - oh, the folly of it
 - but this was known to so few, and those were so far removed,
and one even - my friend Sadie - being dead -  Why not ignore the
miserable secret ceremony and cheat myself into believing myself
free, and enjoy this world of pleasure and fashion as Cora was
enjoying it and - trust.  Trust what?  Why the Klondike!  That
swallower-up of men.  Why shouldn't it swallow one more -  Oh, I
know that it sounds hateful.  But I was desperate; I had seen you.

"I had one letter from him after he reached Alaska, but that was
before I left Owosso.  I never got another.  And I never wrote to
him.  He told me not to do so until he could send me word how and
where to write; but when these directions came my heart had changed
and my only wish was to forget his existence.  And I did forget it
 - almost.  I rode and danced with you and went hither and yon,
lavishing money and time and heart on the frivolities which came in
my way, calling myself Veronica and striving by these means to crush
out every remembrance of the days when I was known as Antoinette
and Antoinette only.  For the Klondike was far and its weather
bitter, and men were dying there every day, and no letters came (I
used to thank God for this), and I need not think - not yet - whither
I was tending.  One thing only made me recall my real position.
That was when your eyes turned on mine - your true eyes, so bright
with confidence and pride.  I wanted to meet them full, and when I
could not, I suddenly knew why, and suffered.

"Do you remember the night when we stood together on the balcony
at the Ocean View House and you laid your hand on my arm and
wondered why I persisted in looking at the moon instead of into
your expectant face?  It was because the music then being played
within recalled another night and the pressure of another hand on
my arm - a hand whose touch I hoped never to feel again, but which
at that moment was so much more palpable than yours that I came
near screaming aloud and telling you in one rush of maddened
emotion my whole abominable secret.

"I did not accept your attentions nor agree to marry you, without
a struggle.  You know that.  You can tell, as no one else can, how
I held back and asked for time and still for time, thus grieving
you and tearing my own breast till a day came - you remember the
day when you found me laughing like a mad woman in a circle of
astonished friends?  You drew me aside and said words which I
hardly waited for you to finish, for at last I was free to love
you, free to love and free to say so.  The morning paper had brought
news.  A telegraphic despatch from Seattle told how a man had
struggled into Nome, frozen, bleeding and without accouterments or
companion.  It was with difficulty he had kept his feet and turned
in at the first tent he came to.  Indeed, he had only time to
speak his name before he fell dead.  This name was what made this
despatch important to me.  It was William Pfeiffer.  For me there
was but one William Pfeiffer in the Klondike - my husband - and he
was dead!  That was why you found me laughing.  But not in mirth.
I am not so bad as that; but because I could breathe again without
feeling a clutch about my throat.  I did not know till then how
nearly I had been stifled.

"We were not long in marrying after that.  I was terrified at delay,
not because I feared any contradiction of the report which had given
this glorious release, but because I dreaded lest some hint of my
early folly should reach you and dim the pride with which you
regarded me.  I wanted to feel myself yours so closely and so dearly
that you would not mind if any one told you that I had once cared,
or thought I had cared, for another.  The week of our marriage came;
I was mad with gaiety and ecstatic with hope.  Nothing had occurred
to mar my prospects.  No letter from Denver - no memento from the
Klondike, no word even from Wallace, who had gone north with his
brother.  Soon I should be called wife again, but by lips I loved,
and to whose language my heart thrilled.  The past, always vague,
would soon be no more than a forgotten dream - an episode quite
closed.  I could afford from this moment on to view life like other
girls and rejoice in my youth and the love which every day was
becoming more and more to me.

"But God had His eye upon me, and in the midst of my happiness and
the hurry of our final preparations His bolt fell.  It struck me
while I was at the - don't laugh; rather shudder - at the
dressmaker's shop in Fourteenth Street.  I was leaning over a table,
chattering like a magpie over the way I wanted a gown trimmed, when
my eye fell on a scrap of newspaper in which something had come
rolled to madame.  It was torn at the edge, but on the bit lying
under my eyes I saw my husband's name, William Pfeiffer, and that
the paper was a Denver one.  There was but one William Pfeiffer
in Denver - and he was my husband.  And I read - feeling nothing.
Then I read again, and the world, my world, went from under my feet;
for the man who had fallen dead in the camp at Nome was Wallace,
William's brother, and not William himself.  William had been left
behind on the road by his more energetic brother, who had pushed
on for succor through the worst storm and under the worst conditions
possible even in that God-forsaken region.  With the lost one in
mind, the one word that Wallace uttered in sight of rescue, was
William.  A hope was expressed of finding the latter alive and a
party had started out - Did I read more? I do not think so.
Perhaps there was no more to read; here was where the paper was
torn across.  But it was no matter.  I had seen enough.  It was
Wallace who had fallen dead, and while William might have perished
also, and doubtless had, I had no certainty of it.  And my wedding
day was set for Thursday.

"Why didn't I tell Cora; why didn't I tell you? Pride held my tongue;
besides, I had had time to think before I saw either of you, and to
reason a bit and to feel sure that if Wallace had been spent enough
to fall dead on reaching the camp, William could never have survived
on the open road.  For Wallace was the stronger of the two and the
most hardy every way.  Free I certainly was.  Some later paper would
assure me of this.  I would hunt them up and see - but I never did.
I do not think I dared.  I was afraid I should see some account of
his rescue.  I was afraid of being made certain of what was now but
a possibility, and so I did nothing.  But for three nights I did not
sleep.

"The caprice which had led me to choose the old Moore house to be
married in led me to plan dressing there on my wedding morning.  It
was early when we started, Cora and I, for Waverley Avenue, but not
too early for the approaches to that dreadful house to be crowded
with people, eager to see the daring bride.  Why I should have
shrunk so from that crowd I can not say.  I trembled at sight of
their faces and at the sound of their voices, and if by chance a
head was thrust forward farther than the rest I cowered back
instinctively and nearly screamed.  Did I dread to recognize a too
familiar face?  The paper I had seen bore a date six months back.
A man could arrive here from Alaska in that time.  Or was my
conscience aroused at last and clamoring to be heard when it was
too late?  On the corner of N Street the carriage suddenly stopped.
A man had crossed in front of it.  I caught one glimpse of this
man and instantly the terrors of a lifetime were concentrated into
one instant of agonizing fear.  It was William Pfeiffer.  I knew
the look; I knew the gait.  He was gone in a moment and the
carriage rolled on.  But I knew my doom as well that minute as I
did an hour later.  My husband was alive and he was here.  He had
escaped the perils of the Klondike and wandered east to reclaim
his recreant wife.  There had been time for him to do this since
the rescue party left home in search of him; time for him to
recover, time for him to reach home, time for him to reach the
east.  He had heard of my wedding; it was in all the papers, and I
should find him at the house when I got there, and you would know
and Cora would know, and the wedding would stop and my name be
made a by-word the world over.  Instead of the joy awaiting me a
moment since, I should have to go away with him into some wilderness
or distant place of exile where my maiden name would never be heard,
and all the memories of this year of stolen delights be effaced.
Oh, it was horrible!  And all in a minute!  And Cora sat there,
pale, calm and beautiful as an angel, beaming on me with tender
eyes whose expression I have never understood!  Hell in my heart,
 - and she, in happy ignorance of this, brooding over my joy and
smiling to herself while the soft tears rose!

"You were waiting at the curb when I arrived, and I remember how my
heart stood still when you laid your hand on the carriage door and
confronted me with that light on your face I had never seen
disturbed since we first pledged ourselves to marry.  Would he see
it, too, and come forward from the secret place where he held
himself hidden?  Was I destined to behold a struggle in the streets,
an unseemly contest of words in sight of the door I had expected
to enter so joyously?  In terror of such an event, I seized the
hand which seemed my one refuge in this hour of mortal trouble,
and hastened into the house which, for all its doleful history,
had never received within its doors a heart more burdened or
rebellious.  As this thought rushed over me, I came near crying
out, 'The house of doom!  The house of doom!'  I had thought to
brave its terrors and its crimes and it has avenged itself.  But
instead of that, I pressed your hand with mine and smiled.  O
God!  if you could have seen what lay beneath that smile!  For,
with my entrance beneath those fatal doors a thought had come.
I remembered my heritage.  I remembered how I had been told by
my father when I was a very little girl, - I presume when he first
felt the hand of death upon him, - that if ever I was in great
trouble, - very great trouble, he had said, where no deliverance
seemed possible - I was to open a little golden ball which he
showed me and take out what I should find inside and hold it close
up before a picture which had hung from time immemorial in the
southwest corner of this old house.  He could not tell me what I
should encounter there this I remember his saying - but something
that would assist me, something which had passed with good effect
from father down to child for many generations.  Only, if I would
be blessed in my undertakings, I must not open the golden ball nor
endeavor to find out its mystery unless my trouble threatened death
or some great disaster.  Such a trouble had indeed come to me, and
 - startling coincidence - I was at this moment in the very house
where this picture hung, and - more startling fact yet - the
golden ball needed to interpret its meaning was round my neck - for
with such jealousy was this family trinket always guarded by its
owner.  Why then not test their combined effect?  I certainly needed
help from some quarter.  Never would William allow me to be married
to another while he lived.  He would yet appear and I should need
thus great assistance (great enough to be transmitted from father to
son) as none of the Moores had needed it yet; though what it was I
did not know and did not even try to guess.

"Yet when I got to the room I did not drag out the filigree ball at
once nor even take more than one fearful side-long look at the
picture.  In drawing off my glove I had seen his ring - the ring you
had once asked about.  It was such a cheap affair; the only one he
could get in that obscure little town where we were married.  I
lied when you asked me if it was a family jewel; lied but did not
take it off, perhaps because it clung so tightly, as if in
remembrance of the vows it symbolized.  But now the very sight of
it gave me a fright.  With his ring on my finger I could not defy
him and swear his claim to be false the dream of a man maddened by
his experiences in the Klondike.  It must come off.  Then, perhaps,
I should feel myself a free woman.  But it would not come off.  I
struggled with it and tugged in vain; then I bethought me of using
a nail file to sever it.  This I did, grinding and grinding at it
till the ring finally broke, and I could wrench it off and cast it
away out of sight and, as I hoped, out of my memory also.  I
breathed easier when rid of this token, yet choked with terror
whenever a step approached the door.  I was clad in my bridal dress,
but not in my bridal veil or ornaments, and naturally Cora, and
then my maid, came to assist me.  But I would not let them in.  I
was set upon testing the secret of the filigree ball and so
preparing myself for what my conscience told me lay between me and
the ceremony arranged for high noon.

"I did not guess that the studying out of that picture would take
so long.  The contents of the ball turned out to be a small
magnifying-glass, and the picture a maze of written words.  I did
not decipher it all; I did not decipher the half.  I did not need
to.  A spirit of divination was given me in that awful hour which
enabled me to grasp its full meaning from the few sentences I did
pick out.  And that meaning!  It was horrible, inconceivable.
Murder was taught; but murder from a distance, and by an act too
simple to awake revulsion.  Were the wraiths of my two ancestors
who had played with the spring hidden in the depths of this old
closet, drawn up in mockery beside me during the hour when I stood
spellbound in the middle of the floor, thinking of what I had just
read, and listening - listening for something less loud than the
sound of carriages now beginning to roll up in front or the stray
notes of the band tuning up below? - less loud, but meaning what?
A step into the empty closet yawning so near - an effort with a
drawer - a - a -  Do not ask me to recall it.  I did not shudder
when the moment came and I stood there.  Then I was cold as marble.
But I shudder now in thinking of it till soul and body seem
separating, and the horror which envelopes me gives me such a
foretaste of hell that I wonder I can contemplate the deed which,
if it releases me from this earthly anguish, will only plunge me
into a possibly worse hereafter.  Yet I shall surely take my life
before you see me again, and in that old house.  If it is despair
I feel, then despair will take me there.  If it is repentance,
then repentance will suffice to drive me to the one expiation
possible to me - to perish where I caused an innocent man to
perish, and so relieve you of a wife who was never worthy of you
and whom it would be your duty to denounce if she let another sun
rise upon her guilt.

"I did not stand there long between the wraiths of my murderous
ancestors.  A message was shouted through the door - the message for
which my ears had been strained in dreadful anticipation for the
last two hours.  A man named Pfeiffer wanted to see me before I
went down to be married.  A man named Pfeiffer!

"I looked closely at the boy who delivered this message.  He showed
no excitement, nor any feeling greater than impatience at being kept
waiting a minute or so at the door.  Then I glanced beyond him, at
the people chatting in the hall.  No alarm there; nothing but a very
natural surprise that the bride should keep so big a crowd waiting.
I felt that this fixed the event.  He who had sent me this quiet
message was true to himself and to our old compact.  He had not
published below what would have set the house in an uproar in a
moment.  He had left his secret to be breathed into my ear alone.
I could recall the moment he passed me his word, and his firm look
as he said, with his hand lifted to Heaven 'You have been good to
me and given me your precious self while I was poor and a nobody.
In return, I swear to keep our marriage a secret till great success
shows me to be worthy of you or till you with your own lips express
forgiveness of my failure and grant me leave to speak.  Nothing but
death or your permission shall ever unseal my lips.'  When I heard
that he was dead I feared lest he might have spoken, but now that
I had seen him alive, I knew that in no other breast, save his, my
own and that of the unknown minister in an almost unknown town,
dwelt any knowledge of the fact which stood between me and the
marriage which all these people had come here to see.  My confidence
in his rectitude determined me.  Without conscious emotion, without
fear even, - the ending of suspense had ended all that, - I told
the boy to seat the gentleman in the library.  Then "I am haunted
now, I am haunted always, by one vision, horrible but persistent.
It will not leave me; it rises between us now; it has stood between
us ever since I left that house with the seal of your affection on
my lips.  Last night it terrified me into unconscious speech.  I
dreamed that I saw again, and plainly, what I caught but a shadowy
glimpse of in that murderous hour: a man's form seated at the end
of the old settle, with his head leaning back, in silent
contemplation.  His face was turned the other way - I thanked God
for that - no, I did not thank God; I never thought of God in that
moment of my blind feeling about for a chink and a spring in the
wall.  I thought only of your impatience, and the people waiting,
and the pleasure of days to come when, free from this intolerable
bond, I could keep my place at your side and bear your name
unreproved and taste to the full the awe and delight of a passion
such as few women ever feel, because few women were ever loved by
a man like you.  Had my thoughts been elsewhere, my fingers might
have forgotten to fumble along that wall, and I had been simply
wretched to-day, - and innocent.  Innocent!  O, where in God's
universe can I be made innocent again and fit to look in your face
and to love - heart-breaking thought - even to love you again?

"To turn and turn a miserable crank after those moments of frenzied
action and silence that was the hard part-that was what tried my
nerve and first robbed me of calmness.  But I dared not leave that
fearful thing dangling there; I had to wind.  The machinery squeaked,
and its noise seemed to fill the house, but no one came nor did the
door below open.  Sometimes I have wished that it had.  I should not
then have been lured on and you would not have become involved in
my ruin.

"I have heard many say that I looked radiant when I came down to be
married.  The radiance was in their thoughts.  Or if my face did
shine, and if I moved as if treading on air, it was because I had
triumphed over all difficulties and could pass down to the altar
without fear of that interrupting voice crying out: `I forbid!  She
is mine!  The wife of William Pfeiffer can not wed another!'  No
such words could be dreaded now.  The lips which might have spoken
them were dumb.  I forgot that fleshless lips gibber loudest, and
that a lifetime, long or short, lay before me, in which to hear
them mumble and squeak their denunciation and threats.  Oh, but I
have been wretched!  At ball and dinner and dance those lips have
been ever at my ear, but most when we have sat alone together; most
then; Oh, most then!

"He is avenged; but you!  Who will avenge you, and where will you
ever find happiness?

"To blot myself from your memory I would go down deeper into the
vale of suffering than ever I have gone yet.  But no, no!  do not
quite forget me.  Remember me as you saw me one night - the night
you took the flower out of my hair and kissed it, saying that
Washington held many beautiful women, but that none of them save
myself had ever had the power to move your inmost heart-strings.
Ah, low was your voice and eloquent your eyes that hour, and I
forgot, - for a moment I forgot - everything but this pure love;
and the heartbeat it called up and the hope, never to be realized
 - that I should live to hear you repeat the same sweet words in
our old age, in just such a tone and with just such a look.  I
was innocent at that moment, innocent and good.  I am willing
that you should remember me as I was that night.

"When I think of him lying cold and dead in the grave I myself
dug for him, my heart is like stone, but when I think of you -

"I am afraid to die; but I am more afraid of failing in courage.
I shall have the pistol tied to me; this will make it seem
inevitable to use it.  Oh!  that the next twenty-four hours could
be blotted out of time!  Such horror can not be.  I was born for
joy and gaiety; yet no dismal depth of misery and fear has been
spared me!  But all on account of my own act.  I do not accuse
God; I do not accuse man; I only accuse myself, and my thoughtless
grasping after pleasure.

"I want Cora to read this as well as you.  She must know me dead as
she never knew me living.  But I can not tell her that I have left
a confession behind me.  She must come upon it unexpectedly, just
as I mean you to do.  Only thus can it reach either of you with any
power.  If I could but think of some excuse for sending her to the
book where I propose to hide it!  that would give her a chance of
reading it before you do, and this would be best.  She may know how
to prepare or comfort you - I hope so.  Cora is a noble woman, but
the secret which kept my thoughts in such a whirl has held us apart.

"You did what I asked.  You found a place for Rancher's waiter in
the volunteer corps.  Surprised as you were at the interest I
expressed in him, you honored my first request and said nothing.
Would you have shown the same anxious eagerness if you had known why
I whispered those few words to him from the carriage door?  Why I
could neither rest nor sleep till he and the other boy were safely
out of town?

"I must leave a line for you to show to people if they should wonder
why I killed myself so soon after my seemingly happy marriage.  You
will find it in the same book with this letter.  Some one will tell
you to look in the book - I can not write any more.

"I can not help writing.  It is all that connects me now with life
and with you.  But I have nothing more to say except, forgive -
forgive -

"Do you think that God looks at his wretched ones differently from
what men do?  That He will have tenderness for one so sorry - that
He will even find place -  But my mother is there!  my father!  Oh,
that makes it fearful to go - to meet -  But it was my father who
led me into this - only he did not know -  There!  I will think
only of God.

"Good by - good by - good - "

That was all.  It ended, as it began, without name and without date,
- the final heart-throbs of a soul, awakened to its own act when it
was quite too late.  A piteous memorial which daunted each one of
us as we read it, and when finished, drew us all together in the
hall out of the sight and hearing of the two persons most intimately
concerned in it.

Possibly because all had one thought - a thrilling one, which the
major was the first to give utterance to.

"The man she killed was buried under the name of Wallace.  How's
that, if he was her husband, William?"

An officer we had not before noted was standing near the front door.
He came forward at this and placed a second telegram in the
superintendent's hand.  It was from the same source as the one
previously received and appeared to settle this very question.

"I have just learned that the man married was not the one who kept
store in Owosso, but his brother William, who afterward died in
Klondike.  It is Wallace whose death you are investigating."

"What snarl is here?" asked the major.

"I think I understand," I ventured to put in.  "Her husband was the
one left on the road by the brother who staggered into camp for aid.
He was a weak man - the weaker of the two she said - and probably
died, while Wallace, after seemingly collapsing, recovered.  This
last she did not know, having failed to read the whole of the
newspaper slip which told about it, and so when she saw some one
with the Pfeiffer air and figure and was told later that a Mr.
Pfeiffer was waiting to see her, she took it for granted that it
was her husband, believing positively that Wallace was dead.  The
latter, moreover, may have changed to look more like his brother
in the time that had elapsed."

"A possible explanation which adds greatly to the tragic aspects
of the situation.  She was probably a widow when she touched the
fatal spring.  Who will tell the man inside there?  It will be his
crowning blow."




XXVI

RUDGE

I never saw any good reason for my changing the opinion just
expressed.  Indeed, as time went on and a further investigation
was made into the life and character of these two brothers, I came
to think that not only had the unhappy Veronica mistaken the person
of Wallace Pfeiffer for that of her husband William, but also the
nature of the message he sent her and the motives which actuated
it; that the interview he so peremptorily demanded before she
descended to her nuptials would, had she but understood it properly,
have yielded her an immeasurable satisfaction instead of rousing
in her alarmed breast the criminal instincts of her race; that it
was meant to do this; that he, knowing William's secret - a secret
which the latter naturally would confide to him at a moment so
critical as that which witnessed their parting in the desolate
Klondike pass - had come, not to reproach her with her new nuptials,
but to relieve her mind in case she cherished the least doubt of
her full right to marry again, by assurances of her husband's death
and of her own complete freedom.  To this he may have intended to
add some final messages of love and confidence from the man she
had been so ready to forget; but nothing worse.  Wallace Pfeiffer
was incapable of anything worse, and if she had only resigned
herself to her seeming fate and consented to see this man -

But to return to fact and leave speculation to the now doubly
wretched Jeffrey.

On the evening of the day which saw our first recognition of this
crime as the work of Veronica Moore, the following notice appeared
in the Star and all the other local journals:

"Any person who positively remembers passing through Waverley
Avenue between N and M Streets on the evening of May the eleventh
at or near the hour of a quarter past seven will confer a favor on
the detective force of the District by communicating the same to F.
at the police headquarters in C street."

I was "F.," and I was soon deep in business.  But I was readily
able to identify those who came from curiosity, and as the persons
who had really fulfilled the conditions expressed in my advertisement
were few, an evening and morning's work sufficed to sift the whole
matter down to the one man who could tell me just what I wanted to
know.  With this man I went to the major, and as a result we all
met later in the day at Mr. Moore's door.

This gentleman looked startled enough when he saw the number and
character of his visitors; but his grand air did not forsake him
and his welcome was both dignified and cordial.  But I did not like
the way his eye rested on me.

But the slight venom visible in it at that moment was nothing to
what he afterwards displayed when at a slight growl from Rudge,
who stood in an attitude of offense in the doorway beyond, I drew
the attention of all to the dog by saying sharply:

"There is our witness, sirs.  There is the dog who will not cross
the street even when his master calls him, but crouches on the
edge of the curb and waits with eager eyes but immovable body,
till that master comes back.  Isn't that so, Mr. Moore?  Have I
not heard you utter more than one complaint in this regard?"

"I can not deny it," was the stiff reply, "but what - "

I did not wait for him to finish.

"Mr. Correan,'' I asked, "is this the animal you gassed between the
hours of seven and eight on the evening of May the eleventh,
crouching in front of this house with his nose to the curbstone?"

"It is; I noted him particularly; he seemed to be watching the
opposite house."

Instantly I turned upon Mr. Moore.

"Is Rudge the dog to do that," I asked, "if his master were not
there?  Twice have I myself seen him in the self-same place and
with the self-same air of expectant attention, and both times
you had crossed to the house which you acknowledge he will
approach no nearer than the curb on this side of the street."

"You have me," was the short reply with which Mr. Moore gave up
the struggle.  "Rudge, go back to your place.  When you are wanted
in the court-room I will let you know."

The smile with which he said this was sarcastic enough, but it was
sarcasm directed mainly against himself.  We were not surprised
when, after some sharp persuasion on the part of the major, he
launched into the following recital of his secret relation to what
he called the last tragedy ever likely to occur in the Moore family.

"I never thought it wrong to be curious about the old place; I never
thought it wrong to be curious about its mysteries.  I only
considered it wrong, or at all events ill judged, to annoy Veronica,
in regard to them, or to trouble her in any way about the means by
which I might effect an entrance into its walls.  So I took the one
that offered and said nothing.

"I have visited the old house many times during my sojourn in this
little cottage.  The last time was, as one of your number has so
ably discovered on the most memorable night in its history; the one
in which Mrs. Jeffrey's remarkable death occurred there.  The
interest roused in me by the unexpected recurrence of the old
fatality attending the library hearthstone reached its culmination
when I perceived one night the glint of a candle burning in the
southwest chamber.  I did not know who was responsible for this
light, but I strongly suspected it to be Mr. Jeffrey; for who else
would dare to light a candle in this disused house without first
seeing that all the shutters were fast?  I did not dislike Mr.
Jeffrey or question his right to do this.  Nevertheless I was very
angry.  Though allied to a Moore he was not one himself and the
difference in our privileges affected me strongly.  Consequently I
watched till he came out and upon positively recognizing his figure
vowed in my wrath and jealous indignation to visit the old house
myself on the following night and make one final attempt to learn
the secret which would again make me the equal of this man, if not
his superior.

"It was early when I went; indeed it was not quite dark, but knowing
the gloom of those old halls and the almost impenetrable nature of
the darkness that settles over the library the moment the twilight
set in, I put in my pocket two or three candles, sirs, about which
you have made such a coil.  My errand was twofold.  I wanted first
to see what Mr.  Jeffrey had been up to the night before, and next,
to spend an hour over a certain book of old memoirs which in
recalling the past might explain the present.  You remember a door
leading into the library from the rear room.  It was by this door
I entered, bringing with me from the kitchen the chair you afterwards
found there.

I knew where the volume of memoirs I speak of was to be found - you
do, too, I see - for it was my hand which had placed it in its
present concealment.  Quite determined to reread such portions of
it, as I had long before marked as pertinent to the very attempt I
had in mind, I brought in the candelabrum from the parlor and drew
out a table to hold it.  But I waited a few moments before taking
down the book itself.  I wanted first to learn what Mr. Jeffrey had
been doing upstairs the night before. So leaving the light burning
in the library, I proceeded to the southwest chamber, holding an
unlit candle in my hand, the light feebly diffused through the
halls from some upper windows being sufficient for me to see my way.
But in the chamber itself all was dark.

The wind had not yet risen and the shutter which a half-hour later
moved so restlessly on its creaking hinges, hugged the window so
tightly that I imagined Mr. Jeffrey had fastened it the night before.
Looking for some receptacle in which to set the candle I now lit,
I failed to find anything but an empty tumbler, so I made use of
that.  Then I glanced about me, but seeing nothing worth my attention
 - Mrs. Jeffrey's wedding fixings did not interest me, and everything
else about the room looking natural except the overturned chair,
which struck me as immaterial.  I hurried downstairs again, leaving
the candle burning behind me in case I should wish to return aloft
after I had refreshed my mind with what had been written about this
old room.

"Not a sound disturbed the house as I seated myself to my reading
in front of the library shelves.  I was as much alone under that
desolate roof as mortal could be with men anywhere within reach of
him.  I enjoyed the solitude and was making a very pretty theory
for myself on a scrap of paper I tore from another old book when
a noise suddenly rose in front, which, slight as it was, was quite
unmistakable to ears trained in listening.  Some one was unlocking
the front door.

"Naturally I thought it to be Mr. Jeffrey returning for a second
visit to his wife's house, and knowing what I might expect if he
surprised me on the premises, I restored the book hastily to its
place and as hastily blew out the candle.  Then, with every
intention of flight, I backed toward the door by which I had
entered.  But some impulse stronger than that of escape made me
stop just before I reached it.  I could see nothing; the place was
dark as Tophet; but I could listen.  The person - Mr. Jeffrey, or
some other - was coming my way and in perfect darkness.  I could
hear the faltering steps - the fingers dragging along the walls;
then a rustle as of skirts, proving the intruder to be a woman - a
fact which greatly surprised me - then a long drawn sigh or gasp.

"The last determined me.  The situation was too intense for me to
leave without first learning who the woman was who in terror and
shrinking dared to drag her half resisting feet through these empty
halls and into a place cursed with such unwholesome memories.  I
did not think of Veronica.  No one looks for a butterfly in the
depths of a dungeon. But I did think of Miss Tuttle - that woman of
resolute will.  Without attempting to imaging the reason for her
presence, I stood my ground and harkened till the heavy mahogany door
at the other end of the room began to swing in by jerks under the
faint and tremulous push of a terrified hand.  Then there came
silence - a long silence - followed by a moan so agonized that I
realized that whatever was the cause of this panting woman's
presence here, it was due to no mere errand of curiosity.  This
whetted my purpose.  Anything done in this house was in a way done
to me; so I remained quiet and watched.  But the sounds which now
and then came from the remote corner upon which my attention was
concentrated were very eloquent.

I heard sighs and bitter groans, with now and then a murmured
prayer, broken by a low wailing, in which I caught the name of
Francis.  And still, possibly on account of the utterance of this
name, I thought the woman near me to be Miss Tuttle, and even went
so far as to imagine the cause of her suffering if not the nature
of her retribution.  Words succeeded cries and I caught phrases
expressive of fear and some sort of agonized hesitation.  Once
these broken ejaculations were interrupted by a dull sound.
Something had dropped to the bare floor.  We shall never know what
it was, but I have no doubt that it was the pistol, and that the
marks of dust to be found on the connecting ribbon were made by her
own fingers in taking it again in her hand.  (You will remember
that these same fingers had but a few minutes previous groped their
way along the walls.)  For her voice soon took a different tone,
and such unintelligible phrases as these could be heard issuing
from her partly paralyzed lips:

"'I must! - I can never meet his eye again alive.  He would despise
 -  Brave enough to - to - another's blood - coward - when - own.
Oh, God!  forgive!'  Then another silence during which I almost
made up my mind to interfere, then a loud report and a flash so
startling and unexpected that I recoiled, during which the room
leaped into sudden view - she too - Veronica - with baby face drawn
and set like a woman's - then darkness again and a heavy fall which
shook the floor, if not my hard old heart.  The flash and that fall
enlightened me.  I had just witnessed the suicide of the last Moore
saving myself; a suicide for which I was totally unprepared and one
which I do not yet understand.

"I did not go over to her.  She was as dead when she fell as she
ever would be.  In the flash which lit everything, I had seen where
her pistol was pointed.  Why disturb her then?  Nor did I return
upstairs.  I had small interest now in anything but my own escape
from a situation more or less compromising.

Do you blame me for this?  I was her heir and I was where I had no
legal right to be.  Do you think that I was called upon to publish
my shame and tell how I lingered there while my own niece shot
herself before my eyes?  That shot made me a millionaire.  This
certainly was excitement enough for one day - besides, I did not
leave her there neglected.  I notified you later - after I had got
my breath and had found some excuse.  That wasn't enough?  Ah, I
see that you are all models of courage and magnanimity.  You would
have laid yourselves open to every reproach rather than let a
little necessary perjury pass your lips.  But I am no model.  I
am simply an old man who has been too hardly dealt with for seventy
long years to possess every virtue.  I made a mistake - I see it
now - trusted a dog when I shouldn't - but if Rudge had not seen
ghosts - well, what now?"

We had, one and all, with an involuntary impulse, turned our backs
upon him.

"What are you doing?" he hotly demanded.

"Only what all Washington will do to-morrow, and afterwards the
whole world," gravely returned the major.  Then, as an ejaculation
escaped the astonished millionaire, he impressively added: "A
perjury which allows an innocent man and woman to remain under the
suspicion of murder for five weeks is one which not only the law
has a right to punish, but which all society will condemn.
Henceforth you will find yourself under a ban, Mr. Moore."*

My story ends here.  The matter never came before the grand jury.
Suicide had been proved, and there the affair rested.  Of myself it
is enough to add that I sometimes call in Durbin to help me in a
big case.

___________________________________________________________________

* Time amply verified this prophecy.  Mr.  Moore is living in great
style in the Moore house, and drives horses which are conspicuous
even in Washington.  But no one accepts his invitations, and he is
as much of a recluse in his present mansion as he ever was in the
humble cottage in which his days of penury were spent.
____________________________________________________________________




XXVII

YOU HAVE COME!  YOU RAVE SOUGHT ME!"


These are some words from a letter written a few months after the
foregoing by one Mrs. Edward Truscott to a friend in New York:

"Edinburgh, May 7th, 1900.

"Dear Louisa: - You have always accused me of seeing more and
hearing more than any other person of your acquaintance.  Perhaps
I am fortunate in that respect.  Certainly I have been favored
today with an adventure of some interest which I make haste to
relate to you.

"Being anxious to take home with me some sketches of the
exquisite ornamentation in the Rosslyn chapel about which I wrote
you so enthusiastically the other day, I took advantage of Edward's
absence this morning to visit the place again and this time alone.
The sky was clear and the air balmy, and as I approached the spot
from the near-by station I was not surprised to see another woman
straying quietly about the exterior of the chapel gazing at walls
which, interesting as they are, are but a rough shell hiding the
incomparable beauties within.  I noticed this lady; I could not
help it.  She was one to attract any eye.  Seldom have I seen such
grace, such beauty, and both infused by such melancholy.  Her
sadness added wonderfully to her charm, and I found it hard enough
to pass her with the single glance allowable to a stranger,
especially as she gave evidence of being one of my own countrywomen:

"However, I saw no alternative, and once within the charmed edifice,
forgot everything in the congenial task I had set for myself.  For
some reason the chapel was deserted at this moment by all but me.
As the special scroll-work I wanted was in a crypt down a short
flight of steps at the right of the altar, I was completely hidden
from view to any one entering above and was enjoying both my
seclusion and the opportunity it gave me of carrying out my purpose
unwatched when I heard a light step above and realized that the
exquisite beauty which had so awakened my admiration had at last
found its perfect setting.  Such a face amid such exquisite
surroundings was a rare sight, and interested as I always am in
artistic effects I was about to pocket pencil and pad and make my
way up to where she moved among the carved pillars when I heard a
soft sigh above and caught the rustle of her dress as she sat down
upon a bench at the head of the steps near which I stood.  Somehow
that sigh deterred me.  I hesitated to break in upon a melancholy
so invincible that even the sight of all this loveliness could not
charm it away, and in that moment of hesitation something occurred
above which fixed me to my place in irrepressible curiosity.

"Another step had entered the open door of the chapel - a man's
step - eager and with a purpose in it eloquent of something deeper
than a mere tourist's interest in this loveliest of interiors.  The
cry which escaped her lips, the tone in which he breathed her name
in his hurried advance, convinced me that this was a meeting of two
lovers after a long heart-break and that I should mar the supreme
moment of their lives by intruding into it the unwelcome presence
of a stranger.  So I lingered where I was and thus heard what
passed between them at this moment of all moments ire their lives.

"It was she who spoke first.

" Francis, you have come!  You have sought me!'

"To which he replied in choked accents which yet could not conceal
the inexpressible elation of his heart:

"'Yes I have come, I have sought you.  Why did you fly?  Did you not
see that my whole soul was turning to you as it never turned even
to - to her in the best days of our unshaken love; and that I could
never rest till I found you and told you how the eyes which have
once been blind enjoy a passion of seeing unknown to others - a
passion which makes the object seem so dear - so dear - '

"He paused, perhaps to look at her, perhaps to recover his own
self-possession, and I caught the echo of a sigh of such utter
content and triumph from her lips that I was surprised when in
another moment she exclaimed in a tone so thrilling that I am sure
no common circumstances had separated this pair:

"'Have we a right to happiness while she -  Oh, Francis, I can not!
She loved you.  It was her love for you which drove her - '

"'Cora!' came with a sort of loving authority, 'we have buried our
erring one and passionately as I loved her, she is no more mine,
but God's.  Let her woeful spirit rest.  You who suffered,
supported - who sacrificed all that woman holds dear to save what,
in the nature of things, could not be saved - have more than right
to happiness if it is in my power to give it to you; I, who have
failed in so much, but never in anything more than in not seeing
where true worth and real beauty lay.  Cora, there is but one hand
which can lift the shadow from my life.  That hand I am holding
now - do not draw it away - it is my anchor, my hope.  I dare not
confront life without the promise it holds out.  I should be a
wreck - '

"His emotion stopped him and there was silence; then I heard him
utter solemnly, as befitted the place: 'Thank God!' and I knew that
she had turned her wonderful eyes upon him or nestled her hand in
his clasp as only a loving woman may.

"The next moment I heard them draw away and leave the place.

"Do you wonder that I long to know who they are and what their story
is and whom they meant by 'the erring one?'"



THE END





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