Part 2 out of 6
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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?"
"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
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.
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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."
Mr. Jeffrey looked quickly up. "You think that an odd thing for me
"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
"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?"
"And on what night?"
Mr. Jeffrey made an effort. These questions were visibly harassing
"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
"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
"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 -"
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?"
"You really think that?"
"By anything that passed between you?"
"May I ask you to tell us what passed between you on this point?"
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
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,
"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
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
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 -"
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
"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.
THE LAW AND ITS VICTIM
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?"
"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
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?"
"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 it well enough to keep a watch on your young mistress to
see if she were happy or not?"
"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 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
"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
"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?"
"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
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
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
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?"