Part 4 out of 6
hand, and as if he really loved the name he was endeavoring to bring
into plainer view. Scowling a little, he turned and met me
point-blank with a look which had a good deal of inquiry in it.
"I am not usually interrupted here," he emphasized; "except by the
boys," he added more mildly. "They sometimes approach too closely,
but I am used to the imps and scarcely notice them. Ah! there are
some of my old friends now! Well, it is time they knew that a
change has taken place in my fortunes. Hi, there! Hands up and
catch this, and this, and this!" he shouted. "But keep quiet about
it or next year you will get pennies again."
And flinging quarters right and left, he smiled in such a pompous,
self-satisfied way at the hurrah and scramble which ensued, that it
was well worth my journey there just to see this exhibition of
combined vanity and good humor.
"Now go!" he vociferated; and the urchins, black and white, flew
away, flinging up their heels in delight and shouting: "Bully for you,
Uncle David! We'll come again next year, not for twenty-fives but
"I will make it dollars if I only live so long," he muttered. And
deigning now to remember the question I had put to him, he grandly
"I am going straight into town. Can I do anything for you?"
"Nothing. I thought you might like to know what awaits you there.
The city is greatly stirred up. The coroner's jury in the
Jeffrey-Moore case has just brought in a verdict to the effect that
suicide has not been proved. Naturally, this is equivalent to one
"Ah!" he ejaculated, slightly taken aback for one so invariably
"And to whom is the guilt of this crime ascribed?" he presently
"There was mention of no name; but the opprobrium naturally falls
on Miss Tuttle."
"Miss Tuttle? Ah!"
"Since Mr. Jeffrey is proved to have been too far away at the time
to have fired that shot, while she -"
"I am following you -"
"Was in the very house - at the door of the library in fact - and
heard the pistol discharged, if she did not discharge it herself -
which some believe, notably the district attorney. You should have
been there, Mr. Moore."
He looked surprised at this suggestion.
"I never am anywhere but here on the twenty-third of May," he
"Miss Tuttle needed some adviser."
"You would have been a good one."
"And a welcome one, eh?"
I hardly thought he would have been a welcome one, but I did not
admit the fact. Nevertheless he seized on the advantage he evidently
thought he had gained and added, mildly enough, or rather without any
display of feeling:
"Miss Tuttle likes me even less than Veronica did. I do not think
she would have accepted, certainly she would not have desired, my
presence in her counsels. But of one thing I wish her to be assured,
her and the world in general. Any money she may need at this - at
this unhappy crisis in her life, she will find amply supplied. She
has no claims on me, but that makes little difference where the
family honor is concerned. Her mother's husband was my brother - the
girl shall have all she needs. I will write her so."
He was moving toward his carriage.
"Fine turnout?" he interrogatively remarked.
I assented with all the surprise, - with all the wonder even - which
his sublime egotism seemed to invite.
"It is the best that Downey could raise in the time I allotted him.
When I really finger the money, we shall see, we shall see."
His foot was on the carriage-step. He looked up at the west. The
sun was almost down but not quite. "Have you any special business
with me?" he asked, lingering with what I thought a surprising
display of conscientiousness till the last ray of direct sunlight
I glanced up at the coachman sitting on his box as rigid as any
"You may speak," said he; "Caesar neither hears nor sees anything
but his horses when he drives me."
The black did not wink. He was as completely at home on the box
and as quiet and composed in his service as if he had driven this
man for years.
"He understands his duty," finished the master, but with no outward
appearance of pride. "What have you to say to me?"
I hesitated no longer.
"Miss Tuttle is supposed to have secretly entered the Moore house
on the night you summoned us. She even says she did. I know that
you have sworn to having seen no one go into that house; but
notwithstanding this, haven't you some means at your disposal for
proving to the police and to the world at large that she never
fired that fatal shot? Public opinion is so cruel. She will be
ruined whether innocent or guilty, unless it can be very plainly
shown that she did not enter the library prior to going there with
"And how can you suppose me to be in a position to prove that? Say
that I had sat in my front window all that evening, and watched with
uninterrupted assiduity the door through which so many are said to
have passed between sunset and midnight - something which I did not
do, as I have plainly stated on oath - how could you have expected
me to see what went on in the black interior of a house whose
exterior is barely discernible at night across the street?"
"Then you can not aid her?" I asked.
With a light bound he leaped into the carriage. As he took his seat
he politely remarked:
"I should be glad to, since, though not a Moore, she is near enough
the family to affect its honor. But not having even seen her enter
the house I can not testify in any way in regard to her. Home,
Caesar, and drive quickly. I do not thrive under these evening damps."
And leaning back, with an inexpressible air of contentment with
himself, his equipage and the prospect of an indefinite enjoyment of
the same, the last representative of the great Moore family was
quietly driven away.
A FRESH START
I was far from being good company that night. I knew this without
being told. My mind was too busy. I was too full of regrets and
plans, seasonings and counter reasonings. In my eyes Miss Tuttle
had suddenly become innocent, consequently a victim. But a victim
to what? To some exaggerated sense of duty? Possibly; but to what
duty? That was the question, to answer which offhand I would, in
my present excitement, have been ready to sacrifice a month's pay.
For I was moved, not only by the admiration and sympathy which all
men must feel for a beautiful woman caught in such a deadly snare
of circumstantial evidence, but by the conviction that Durbin, whose
present sleek complacency was more offensive to me than the sneering
superiority of a week ago, believed her to be a guilty woman, and as
such his rightful prey. This alone would have influenced me to take
the opposite view; for we never ran along together, and in a case
where any division of opinion was possible, always found ourselves,
consciously or unconsciously, on different sides. Yet I did not
really dislike Durbin, who is a very fine fellow. I only hated his
success and the favor which rewarded it.
I know that I have some very nasty failings and I do not shrink from
owning them. My desire is to represent myself as I am, and I must
admit that it was not entirely owing to disinterested motives that
I now took the secret stand I did in Miss Tuttle's favor. To prove
her innocent whom once I considered the cause of, if not the guilty
accessory to her sister's murder, now became my dream by night and
my occupation by day. Though I seemed to have no sympathizer in
this effort and though the case against her was being pushed very
openly in the district attorney's office, yet I clung to my
convictions with an almost insensate persistence, inwardly declaring
her the victim of circumstances, and hoping against hope that some
clue would offer itself by means of which I might yet prove her so.
But where was I to seek for this clue?
Alas, no ready answer to this very important query was forthcoming.
All possible evidence in this case seemed to have been exhausted save
such as Mr. Jeffrey and Miss Tuttle withheld. And so the monstrous
accusation stood, and before it all Washington - my humble self
included - stood in a daze of mingled doubt and compassion, hunting
for explanations which failed to appear and seeking in vain for
some guiltier party, who evermore slipped from under our hand. Had
Mr. Jeffrey's alibi been less complete he could not have stood up
against the suspicions which now ran riot. But there was no
possibility of shifting the actual crime back to him after the
testimony of so frank and trustworthy a man as Tallman. If the
stopping of Mrs. Jeffrey's watch fixed the moment of her death as
accurately as was supposed, - and I never heard the least doubt
thrown out in this regard, - he could not by any means of transit
then known in Washington have reached Waverley Avenue in time to
fire that shot. The gates of the cemetery were closed at sundown;
sundown took place that night at one minute past seven, and the
distance into town is considerable. His alibi could not be gainsaid.
So his name failed to be publicly broached in connection with the
shooting, though his influence over Miss Tuttle could not be
forgotten, suggesting to some that she had acted as his hand in the
deed which robbed him of an undesirable wife. But this I would not
believe. I preferred to accept the statement that she had stopped
short of the library door in her suspicious visit there, and that
the ribbon-tying, which went for so much, had been done at home.
That these facts, especially the latter, called for more than common
credulity, I was quite ready to acknowledge; and had her feeling for
Francis Jeffrey shown less unselfishness, I should certainly have
joined my fellows in regarding these assertions as very lame attempts
to explain what could only be explained by a confession of guilt.
So here was a tangle without a frayed end to pull at, unless the
impervious egotism of Uncle David afforded one, which I doubted. For
how could any man with a frightful secret in his breast show that
unmixed delight in his new equipage and suddenly acquired position,
which had so plainly beamed from that gentleman's calm eye and
assured bearing? When he met my scrutiny in the sacred precincts
where the one love of his heart lay buried, he did so without a
quiver or any sign of inner disturbance. His tone to Caesar as he
drove off had been the tone of a man who can afford to speak quietly
because he is conscious of being so undeniably the master; and when
his foot rose to the carriage step it was with the confidence of one
who had been kept out of his rights for most of his natural life,
but who feels in his present enjoyment of them no apprehension of a
change. His whole bearing and conversation on that day were, as I
am quite ready to admit, an exhibition of prodigious selfishness;
but it was also an exhibition of mental poise incompatible with a
consciousness of having acquired his fortune by any means which laid
him open to the possibility of losing it. Or so I judged.
Finding myself, with every new consideration of the tantalizing
subject, deeper and deeper in the quagmire of doubt and uncertainty,
I sought enlightenment by making a memorandum of the special points
which must have influenced the jury in their verdict, as witness:
1. The relief shown by Mr. Jeffrey at finding an apparent
communication from his wife hinting at suicide.
2. The possibility, disclosed by the similarity between the sisters'
handwriting, of this same communication being a forgery substituted
for the one really written by Mrs. Jeffrey.
3. The fact that, previous to Mr. Jeffrey's handling of the book
in which this communication was said to have been hidden, it had
been seen in Miss Tuttle's hands.
4. That immediately after this she had passed to the drawer where
Mr. Jeffrey's pistol was kept.
5. That while this pistol had not been observed in her hand, there
was as yet no evidence to prove that it had been previously taken
from the drawer, save such as was afforded by her own acknowledgment
that she had tied some unknown object, presumably the pistol, to her
sister's wrist before that sister left the house.
6. That if this was so, the pistol and the ribbon connecting it
with Mrs. Jeffrey's wrist had been handled again before the former
was discharged, and by fingers which had first touched dust - of
which there was plenty in the old library.
7. That Miss Tuttle had admitted, though not till after much
prevarication and apparent subterfuge, that she had extended her
walk on that fatal night not only as far as the Moore house, but
that she had entered it and penetrated as far as the library door
at the very moment the shot was fired within.
8. That in acknowledging this she had emphatically denied
having associated the firing of this shot with any idea of harm to
her sister; yet was known to have gone from this house in a
condition of mind so serious that she failed to recollect the places
she visited or the streets she passed through till she found herself
again in her sister's house face to face with an officer.
9. That her first greeting of this officer was a shriek, betraying
a knowledge of his errand before he had given utterance to a word.
10. That the candles found in the Moore house were similar to those
bought by Mr. Jeffrey and afterward delivered at his kitchen door.
11. That she was the only member of the household besides the cook
who was in the kitchen at the time, and that it was immediately
after her departure from the room that the package containing the
candles had been missed.
12. That opportunities of coming to an understanding with Mr.
Jeffrey after his wife's death had not been lacking and it was not
until after such opportunities had occurred that any serious inquiry
into this matter had been begun by the police. To which must be
added, not in way of proof but as an important factor in the case,
that her manner, never open, was such throughout her whole public
examination as to make it evident to all that only half of what had
occurred in the Jeffreys' house since the wedding had been given
out by her or by the man for whose release from a disappointing
matrimonial entanglement she was supposed to have worked; this,
though the suspicion hanging over them both called for the utmost
Verily, a serious list; and opposed to this I had as yet little to
offer but my own belief in her innocence and the fact, but little
dwelt on and yet not without its value, that the money which had
come to Mr. Jeffrey, and the home which had been given her, had both
been forfeited by Mrs. Jeffrey's death.
As I mused and mused over this impromptu synopsis, in my vain
attempt to reach some fresh clue to a proper understanding of the
inconsistencies in Miss Tuttle's conduct by means of my theory of
her strong but mistaken devotion to Mr. Jeffrey, a light suddenly
broke upon me from an entirely unexpected quarter. It was a faint
one, but any glimmer was welcome. Remembering a remark made by Mr.
Jeffrey in his examination, that Mrs. Jeffrey had not been the same
since crossing the fatal doorstep of the Moore house, I asked myself
if we had paid enough attention to the mental condition and conduct
of the bride prior to the alarm which threw a pall of horror over
her marriage; and caught by the idea, I sought for a fuller account
of the events of that day than had hitherto been supplied by
newspaper or witness.
Hunting up my friend, the reporter, I begged him to tell me where
he had obtained the facts from which he made that leading article
in the Star which had so startled all Washington on the evening of
the Jeffrey wedding. That they had come from some eye-witness I
had no doubt, but who was the eye-witness? Himself? No. Who then?
At first he declined to tell me, but after a fuller understanding of
my motives he mentioned the name of a young lady, who, while a
frequent guest at the most fashionable functions, was not above
supplying the papers with such little items of current gossip as
came under her own observation.
How I managed to approach this lady and by what means I succeeded
in gaining her confidence are details quite unnecessary to this
narrative. Enough that I did obtain access to her and that she
talked quite frankly to me, and in so doing supplied me with a clue
which ultimately opened up to me an entirely new field of inquiry.
We had been discussing Mr. Jeffrey and Miss Tuttle, when suddenly,
and with no apparent motive beyond the natural love of gossip which
was her weakness, she launched out into remarks about the bride.
The ceremony had been late; did I know it? A half-hour or
three-quarters past the time set for it. And why? Because Miss
Moore was not ready. She had chosen to array herself in the house
and had come early enough for the purpose; but she would not accept
any assistance, not even that of her maid, and of course she kept
every one waiting. "Oh, there was no more uneasy soul in the whole
party that morning than the bride!" Let other people remark upon
the high look in Cora Tuttle's face, or gossip about the anxious
manner of the bridegroom; she, the speaker, could tell things about
the bride which would go to show that she was not all right even
before that ominous death's-head reared itself into view at her
marriage festival. Why, the fact that she came downstairs and was
married without her bridal bouquet was enough. Had there not been
so much else to talk about, people would have talked about that.
But the big event had so effectually swallowed up the little that
only herself, and possibly two other ladies she might name, seemed
to retain any memory of the matter.
"What ladies?" I asked.
"Oh, it doesn't matter what ladies. Two of the very best sort. I
know they noticed it, because I heard them talking about it. We
were all standing in the upper hall and were all crowded into a
passage leading to the room where the bride was dressing. It was
before the alarm had gone around of what had been discovered in the
library, and we were all impatient enough for the appearance of the
bride, who, we had been told, intended to wear the old point in
which her great-grandmother was married. I have a weakness for old
point and I was determined to stand where I could see her come out,
even if I lost sight of the ceremony itself. But it would have been
tedious enough waiting in that close hall if the ladies behind me
had not kept up a conversation, which I, of course, pretended not
to hear. I remember it, every word, for it was my sole amusement
for half an hour. What was it? Oh, it was about that same bouquet,
which, by the way, I had the privilege of staring at all the time
they chatted. For the boy who brought it had not been admitted
into Miss Moore's room, and, not knowing what else to do with it,
was lingering before her door, with the great streamers falling
from his hands, and the lilies making the whole place heavy with a
sickening perfume. From what I heard the ladies say, he had been
standing there an hour, and the timid knock he gave from time to
time produced in me an odd feeling which those ladies behind me
seemed to share.
"'It's a shame!' I heard one of them cry. 'Veronica Moore has no
excuse for such thoughtlessness. It is an hour now that she has
been shut up in her room alone. She won't have even her maid in.
She prefers to dress alone, she says. Peculiar in a bride, isn't
it? But one thing is certain: she can not put on her veil without
help. She will have to call some one in for that.' At which the
other volunteered that the Moores were all queer, and that she
didn't envy Francis Jeffrey. 'What! not with fifty thousand a
year to lighten her oddities?' returned her companion with a shrug
which communicated itself to me, so closely were we packed together.
'I have a son who could bear with them under such circumstances.'
Indeed she has, and all Washington knows it, but the remark passed
without comment, for they had not yet exhausted the main event, and
the person they now attacked was Miss Tuttle. 'Why doesn't she
come and see that that bouquet is taken in? I declare it's not
decent. Mr. Jeffrey would not feel complimented if he knew the fate
of those magnificent lilies and roses. I presume he furnished the
"'Miss Tuttle has looked out of her room once,' I heard the other
reply. 'She is in splendid beauty to-day, but pale. But she
never could control Veronica.' 'Hush! you speak louder than you
think' This amused me, and I do believe that in another moment I
should have laughed outright if another boy had not appeared in
the hall before us, who, shoving aside the first, rapped on the
door with a spirit which called for answer. But he was no more
successful than the other boy had been; so, being a brisk fellow,
with no time for nonsense, he called out, 'Your bouquet, Miss, and
a message, which I am to give you before you go downstairs! The
gentleman is quite particular about it.' These words were
literally shouted at the door, but in the hubbub of voices about
us I don't believe any one heard them but ourselves and the bride.
I know that she heard them, for she opened the door a very little
way, - such a very little way that the boy had to put his lips to
the crack when he spoke, and then turn and place his ear where his
lips had been in order to catch her reply. This, for some reason,
seemed a long time in coming, and the fellow grew so impatient that
he amused himself by snatching the bouquet from the other boy and
thrusting it in through the crack, to the very great detriment of
its roses and lilies. When she took it he bawled for his answer,
and when he got it, he stared and muttered doubtfully to himself as
he worked his way out again through the crowd, which by this time
was beginning to choke up all the halls and stairways.
"But why have I told you all this nonsense?" she asked quite suddenly.
"It isn't of the least consequence that Veronica Moore kept a boy
waiting at her door while she dressed herself for her wedding; but
it shows that she was queer even then, and I for one believe in the
theory of suicide, and in that alone, and in the excuse she gave for
it, too; for if she had really loved Francis Jeffrey she would not
have been so slow to take in the magnificent bouquet he had provided
But comment, even from those who had known these people well, was
not what I wanted at this moment, but facts. So, without much
attention to these words, I said:
"You will excuse me if I suggest that you are going on too fast.
The door of the bride's room has just been shut upon the boy who
brought her a message. When was it opened again?"
"Not for a good half-hour; not till every one had grown nervous and
Miss Tuttle and one or two of her most intimate friends had gone
more than once to her door; not, in fact, till the hour for the
ceremony had come and gone and Mr. Jeffrey had crossed the hall
twice under the impression that she was ready for him. Then, when
weariness was general and people were asking what kept the bride
and how much longer they were to be kept waiting, her door suddenly
opened and I caught a glimpse of her face and heard her ask at
last for her maid. O, I repeat that Veronica Moore was not all
right that day, and though I have heard no one comment on the fact,
it has been a mystery to me ever since why she gave that sudden
recoil when Francis Jeffrey took her hand after the benediction.
It was not timidity, nor was it fear, for she did not know till a
minute afterward what had happened in the house. Did some sudden
realization of what she had done in marrying a man whom she
herself declared she did not love come when it was too late?
What do you think?"
Miss Freeman had forgotten herself; but the impetuosity which had
led her into asking my opinion made her forget in another moment
that she had done so. And when in my turn I propounded a question
and inquired whether she ever again saw the boy who besieged the
bride's door with a message, she graciously replied:
"The boy; let me see. Yes, I saw him twice; once in a back hall
talking earnestly to Mr. Jeffrey, and secondly at the carriage
door just before the bridal party rode away. It was Mrs. Jeffrey
who was talking to him then, and I wondered to see him look so
pleased when everybody in and about the house was pale as ashes."
"Do you know the name of that boy?" I carelessly inquired.
"His name? O no. He is one of Raucher's waiters; the curly-haired
one. You see him everywhere; but I don't know his name. Do you
flatter yourself that he can tell you anything that other people
don't know? Why, if he knew the least thing that wasn't in
everybody's mouth, you would have heard from him long ago. Those
men are the greatest gossips in town" - I wonder what she thought
of herself, - "and so proud to be of any importance." This was true
enough, though I did not admit it at the time; and when the interview
was closed and I went away, I have no doubt she considered me quite
the most heavy person she had ever met. But this did not disturb me.
The little facts she had stated were new to me and, repeating my
former method, I was already busy arranging them in my mind. Witness
1. The ceremony of marriage between Francis Jeffrey and Veronica
Moore was fully three-quarters of an hour late.
2. This was owing to the caprice of the bride, who would not have
any one in the room with her, not even her maid.
3. The bridal bouquet did not figure in the ceremony. In the flurry
of the moment it was forgotten or purposely left behind by the bride.
As this bouquet was undoubtedly the gift of Mr. Jeffrey, the fact
may be significant.
4. She received a message of a somewhat peremptory character before
going below. From whom? Her bridegroom? It would so appear from
the character of the message.
5. The messenger showed great astonishment at the reply he was
given to carry back. Yet he has not been known to mention the
matter. Why? When every one talked he was silent. Through whose
influence? This was something to find out.
6. Though at the time the benediction was pronounced every one was
in a state of alarm except the bride, it was noticed that she gave
an involuntary recoil when her bridegroom stooped for the customary
kiss. Why? Were the lines of her last farewell true then, and did
she experience at that moment a sudden realization of her lack of
7. She did not go again upstairs, but very soon fled from the
house with the rest of the bridal party.
Petty facts, all, but possibly more significant than appeared. I
made up my mind to find the boy who brought the bouquet and also
the one who carried back her message.
But here a surprise, if not a check, awaited me. The florist's boy
had left his place and no one could tell where he had gone. Neither
could I find the curly-haired waiter at Raucher's. He had left also,
but it was to join the volunteers at San Antonio.
Was there meaning in this coincidence? I resolved to know. Visiting
the former haunts of both boys, I failed to come upon any evidence
of an understanding between them, or of their having shown any
special interest in the Jeffrey tragedy. Both seemed to have been
strangely reticent in regard to it, the florist's boy showing
stupidity and the waiter such satisfaction in his prospective
soldiering that no other topic was deemed worthy his attention. The
latter had a sister and she could not say enough of the delight her
brother had shown at the prospect of riding a horse again and of
fighting in such good company. He had had some experience as a
cowboy before coming to Washington, and from the moment war was
declared had expressed his intention of joining the recruits for
Cuba as soon as he could see her so provided for that his death would
not rob her of proper support. How this had come about she did not
know. Three weeks before he had been in despair over the faint
prospect of doing what he wished; then suddenly, and without any
explanation of how the change had come about, he had rushed in upon
her with the news that he was going to enlist in a company made up
of bronco busters and rough riders from the West, that she need not
worry about herself or about him, for he had just put five hundred
dollars to her account in bank, and that as for himself he possessed
a charmed life and was immune, as she well knew, and need fear
bullets no more than the fever. By this he meant that he had had
yellow fever years before in Louisiana, and that a ball which had
once been fired at him had gone clean through his body without
taking his life.
"What was the date of the evening on which be told you he had placed
money in bank for you?"
"April the twenty-ninth."
Two days after the Jeffrey-Moore wedding!
Convinced now that his departure from town was something more than
a coincidence, I pursued my inquiries and found that he had been
received, just as she had said, into the First Volunteer Corps under
Colonel Wood. This required influence. Whose was the influence?
It took me some time to find out, but after many and various
attempts, most of which ended in failure, I succeeded in learning
that the man who had worked and obtained for him a place in this
favored corps was FRANCIS JEFFREY.
IN THE GRASS
I did some tall thinking that night. I remembered that this man had
held some conversation with the Jeffreys at their carriage door
previous to their departure from the Moore house, and found myself
compelled to believe that only a matter of importance to themselves
as well as to him would have detained them at such a minute. Oh,
that Tampa were not so far off or that I had happened on this clue
earlier! But Tampa was at that moment a far prospect for me and I
could only reason from such facts as I had been able to collect in
Fixing my mind now on Mrs. Jeffrey, I asked the cause of the many
caprices which had marked her conduct on her wedding morning. Why
had she persisted in dressing alone, and what occasioned the
absorption which led to her ignoring all appeals at her door at a
time when a woman is supposed to be more than usually gracious? But
one answer suggested itself. Her heart was not in her marriage, and
that last hour of her maidenhood had been an hour of anguish and
struggle. Perhaps she not only failed to love Francis Jeffrey, but
loved some other man. This seemed improbable, but things as strange
as this have happened in our complex society and no reckoning can be
made with a woman's fancy. If this was so - and what other theory
would better or even so well account for her peculiar behavior both
then and afterward? The hour usually given by brides to dress and
gladsome expectation was with her one of farewell to past hopes and
an unfortunate, if not passionate, attachment. No wonder that she
wished to be alone. No wonder that interruption angered her.
Perhaps it had found her on her knees. Perhaps - Here I felt
myself seized by a strong and sudden excitement. I remembered the
filings I had gathered up from the small stand by the window, filings
which had glittered and which must have been of gold. What was the
conclusion? In this last hour of her maiden life she had sought to
rid herself of some article of jewelry which she found it undesirable
to carry into her new life. What article of jewelry? In
consideration of the circumstances and the hour, I could think of
but one. A ring! the symbol of some old attachment.
The slight abrasion at the base of her third finger, which had been
looked upon as the result of too rough and speedy a withdrawing of
the wedding-ring on the evening of her death, was much more likely
to have been occasioned by the reopening of some little wound made
two weeks before by the file. If Durbin and the rest had taken into
account these filings, they must have come to very much the same
conclusion; but either they had overlooked them in their search
about the place, or, having noted them, regarded them as a clue
But for me they led the way to a very definite inquiry. Asking to
see the rings Mrs. Jeffrey had left behind her on the night she
went for the last time to the Moore house, I looked them carefully
over, and found that none of them showed the least mark of the file.
This strengthened my theory, and I proceeded to take my next step
with increased confidence. It seemed an easy one, but proved
unexpectedly difficult. My desire was to ascertain whether she had
worn previous to her marriage any rings which had not been seen on
her finger since, and it took me one whole week to establish the
fact that she had.
But that fact once learned, the way cleared before me. Allowing my
fancy full rein, I pictured to myself her anxious figure standing
alone in that ancient and ghostly room filing off this old ring
from her dainty finger. Then I asked myself what she would be
likely to do with this ring after disengaging it from her hand?
Would she keep it? Perhaps; but if so, why could it not be found?
None such had been discovered among her effects. Or had she thrown
it away, and if so, where? The vision of her which I had just seen
in my mind's eye came out with a clearness at this, which struck
me as providential. I could discern as plainly as if I had been a
part of the scene the white-clad form of the bride bending toward
the light which came in sparsely through the half-open shutter she
had loosened for this task. This was the shutter which had never
again been fastened and whose restless blowing to and fro had first
led attention to this house and the crime it might otherwise have
concealed indefinitely. Had some glimpse of the rank grass growing
underneath this window lured her eye and led her to cast away the
ring which she had no longer any right to keep? It would be like
a woman to yield to such an impulse; and on the strength of the
possibility I decided to search this small plot for what it might
very reasonably conceal.
But I did not wish to do this openly. I was not only afraid of
attracting Durbin's attention by an attempt which could only awaken
his disdain, but I hesitated to arouse the suspicion of Mr. Moore,
whose interest in his newly acquired property made him very properly
alert to any trespass upon it.
The undertaking, therefore, presented difficulties. But it was my
business to overcome these, and before long I conceived a plan by
which every blade of grass in the narrow strip running in front of
this house might be gone over without rousing anything more serious
than Uncle David's ire.
Calling together a posse of street urchins, I organized them into
a band, with the promise of a good supper all around if one of them
brought me the pieces of a broken ring which I had lost in the grass
plot of a house where I had been called upon to stay all night.
That they might win the supper in the shortest possible time and
before the owner of this house, who lived opposite, could interfere,
I advised them to start at the fence in a long line and, proceeding
on their knees, to search, each one, the ground before him to the
width of his own body. The fortunate one was to have the privilege
of saying what the supper should consist of. To give a plausible
excuse for this search, a ball was to be tossed up and down the
street till it lighted in the Moore house inclosure.
It was a scheme to fire the street boy's soul, and I was only afraid
of failure from the over-enthusiasm it aroused. But the injunctions
which I gave them to spare the shrubs and not to trample the grass
any more than was necessary were so minute and impressive that they
moved away to their task in unexpected order and with a subdued
cheerfulness highly promising of success.
I did not accompany them. Jinny, who has such an innocent air on
the street, took my place and promenaded up and down the block, just
to see that Mr. Moore did not make too much trouble. And it was
well she did so, for though he was not at home, - I had chosen the
hour of his afternoon ride, his new man-servant was; and he no sooner
perceived this crowd of urchins making for the opposite house than
he rushed at them, and would have scattered them far and wide in a
twinkling if the demure dimples of my little ally had not come into
play and distracted his attention so completely as to make him
forget the throng of unkempt hoodlums who seemed bound to invade
his master's property. She was looking for Mr. Moore's house, she
told him. Did he know Mr. Moore, and his house which was somewhere
near? Not his new, great, big house, where the horrible things
took place of which she had read in the papers, but his little old
house, which she had heard was soon to be for rent, and which she
thought would be just the right size for herself and mother. Was
that it? That dear little place all smothered in vines? How
lovely! and what would the rent be, did he think? and had it a
back-yard with garden-room enough for her to raise pinks and
nasturtiums? and so on, and so on, while he stared with delighted
eyes, and tried to put in a word edgewise, and the boys - well,
they went through that strip of grass in just ten minutes. My
brave little Jinny had just declared with her most roguish smile
that she would run home and tell her mother all about this sweetest
of sweet little places, when a shout rose from the other side of
the street, and that collection of fifteen or twenty boys scampered
away as if mad, shouting in joyous echo of the boy at their head:
"It's to be chicken, heaping plates of ice cream and sponge cake."
By which token she knew that the ring had been found.
When they brought this ring to me I would not have exchanged places
with any man on earth. As Jinny herself was curious enough to
stroll along about this time, I held it out where we both could see
it and draw our conclusions.
It was a plain gold circlet set with a single small ruby. It was
cut through and twisted out of shape, just as I had anticipated;
and as I examined it I wondered what part it had played and was
yet destined to play in the drama of Veronica Jeffrey's mysterious
life and still more mysterious death. That it was a factor of some
importance, arguing some early school-girl love, I could but gather
from the fact that its removal from her finger was effected in
secrecy and under circumstances of such pressing haste. How could
I learn the story of that ring and the possible connection between
it and Mr. Jeffrey's professed jealousy of his wife and the
disappointing honeymoon which had followed their marriage? That
this feeling on his part had antedated the ambassador's ball no one
could question; but that it had started as far back as the wedding
day was a new idea to me and one which suggested many possibilities.
Could this idea be established, and, if so, how? But one avenue of
inquiry offered itself. The waiter, who had been spirited away so
curiously immediately after the wedding; might be able to give us
some information on this interesting point. He had been the medium
of the messages which had passed between her and Mr. Jeffrey just
prior to the ceremony; afterward he had been seen talking earnestly
to that gentleman and later with her. Certainly, it would add to
our understanding of the situation to know what reply she had sent
to the peremptory demand made upon her at so critical a time; an
understanding so desirable that the very prospect of it was almost
enough to warrant a journey to Tampa. Yet, say that the results
were disappointing, how much time lost and what a sum of money! I
felt the need of advice in this crisis, yet hesitated to ask it.
My cursed pride and my no less cursed jealousy of Durbin stood very
much in my way at this time.
A week had now passed since the inquest, and, while Miss Tuttle
still remained at liberty, it was a circumscribed liberty which
must have been very galling to one of her temperament and habits.
She rode and she walked, but she entered no house unattended nor
was she allowed any communication with Mr. Jeffrey. Nevertheless
she saw him, or at least gave him the opportunity of seeing her.
Each day at three o'clock she rode through K Street, and the
detective who watched Mr. Jeffrey's house said that she never
passed it without turning her face to the second-story window,
where he invariably stood. No signs passed between them; indeed,
they scarcely nodded; but her face, as she lifted it to meet his
eye, showed so marked a serenity and was so altogether beautiful
that this same detective had a desire to see if it maintained
like characteristics when she was not within reach of her
brother-in-law. Accordingly, the next day he delegated his place
to another and took his stand farther down the street. Alas! it
was not the same woman's face he saw; but a far different and sadder
one. She wore that look of courage and brave hope only in passing
Mr. Jeffrey's house. Was it simply an expression of her secret
devotion to him or the signal of some compact which had been
entered into between them?
Whichever it was, it touched my heart, even in his description of
it. After advising with Jinny I approached the superintendent, to
whom, without further reserve, I opened my heart.
The next day I found myself on the train bound for Tampa, with full
authority to follow Curly Jim until I found him.
THE HOUSE OF DOOM
When I started on this desperate search after a witness, war had
been declared, but no advance as yet ordered on Cuba. But during
my journey south the long expected event happened, and on my
arrival in Tampa I found myself in the midst of departure and
everything in confusion.
Of course, under such conditions it was difficult to find my man on
the instant. Innumerable inquiries yielded no result, and in the
absence of any one who would or could give me the desired information
I wandered from one end of the camp to the other till I finally
encountered a petty officer who gave signs of being a Rough Rider.
Him I stopped, and, with some hint of my business, asked where
James Calvert could be found.
His answer was a stare and a gesture toward the hospital tents.
Nothing could have astonished me more.
"Sick?" I cried.
"Dying," was his answer.
Dying! Curly Jim! Impossible. I had misled my informant as to
the exact man I wanted, or else there were two James Calverts in
Tampa. Curly Jim, the former cowboy, was not the fellow to succumb
in camp before he had ever smelt powder.
"It is James Calvert of the First Volunteer Corps I am after," said
I. "A sturdy fellow -"
"No doubt, no doubt. Many sturdy fellows are down. He's down to
stay. Typhoid, you know. Bad case. No hope from the start. Pity,
I heard no more. Dying! Curly Jim. He who was considered to be
immune! He who held the secret -
"Let me see him," I demanded. "It is important - a police matter
- a word from him may save a life. He is still breathing?"
"Yes, but I do not think there is any chance of his speaking. He
did not recognize his nurse five minutes ago."
As bad as that! But I did not despair. I did not dare to. I had
staked everything on this interview, and I was not going to lose
its promised results from any lack of effort on my own part.
"Let me see him," I repeated.
I was taken in. The few persons I saw clustered about a narrow cot
in one corner gave way and I was cut to the heart to see that they
did this not so much out of consideration for me or my errand there
as from the consciousness that their business at the bedside of
this dying man was over. He was on the point of breathing his
last. I pressed forward, and after one quick scrutiny of the closed
eyes and pale face I knelt at his side and whispered a name into
his ear. It was that of Veronica Moore.
He started; they all saw it. On the threshold of death, some
emotion - we never knew what one - drew him back for an instant,
and the pale cheek showed a suspicion of color. Though the eyes
did not open, the lips moved, and I caught these words:
"Kept word - told no one - she was so -"
And that was all. He died the next instant.
Well! I was woefully done up by this sudden extinction of all my
hopes. They had been extravagant, no doubt, but they had sustained
me through all my haps and mishaps, trials and dangers, till now,
here, they ended with the one inexorable fact-death. Was I doomed
to defeat, then? Must I go back to the major with my convictions
unchanged but with no fresh proof, no real evidence to support them?
I certainly must. With the death of this man, all means of reaching
the state of Mrs. Jeffrey's mind immediately preceding her marriage
were gone. I could never learn now what to know would make a man
of me and possibly save Cora Tuttle.
Bending under this stroke of Providence, I passed out. A little
boy was sobbing at the tent door. I stared at him curiously, and
was hurrying on, when I felt myself caught by the hand.
"Take me with you," cried a choked and frightened voice in my ear.
"I have no friend here, now he is gone; take me back to Washington."
Washington! I turned and looked at the lad who, kneeling in the
hot sand at the door of the tent, was clutching me with imploring
"Who are you?" I asked; "and how came you here? Do you belong to
"I helped care for his horse," he whispered. "He found me smuggled
on board the train - for I was bound to go to the war - and he was
sorry for me and used to give me bits of his own rations, but - but
now no one will give me anything. Take me back; she won't care.
She's dead, they say. Besides, I wouldn't stay here now if she was
alive and breathing. I have had enough of war since he - Oh, he
was good to me -I never cared for any one so much."
I looked at the boy with an odd sensation for which I have no name.
"Whom are you talking about?" I asked. "Your mother your sister?"
"Oh, no;" the tone was simplicity itself. "Never had no mother.
I mean the lady at the big house; the one that was married. She
gave me money to go out of Washington, and, wanting to be a soldier,
I followed Curly Jim. I didn't think he'd die - he looked so
strong - What's the matter, sir? Have I said anything I shouldn't?"
I had him by the arm. I fear that I was shaking him.
"The lady!" I repeated. "She who was married - who gave you money.
Wasn't it Mrs. Jeffrey?"
"Yes, I believe that was the name of the man she married. I didn't
know him; but I saw he r-"
"Where? And why did she give you money? I will take you home with
me if you tell me the truth about it."
He glanced back at the tent from which I had slightly drawn him
and a hungry look crept into his eyes.
"Well, it's no secret now," he muttered. "He used to say I must
keep my mouth shut; but he wouldn't say so now if he knew I could
get home by telling. He used to be sorry for me, he used. What
do you want to know?"
"Why Mrs. Jeffrey gave you money to leave Washington."
The boy trembled, drew a step away, and then came back, and under
those hot Florida skies, in the turmoil of departing troops, I
heard these words:
"Because I heard what she said to Jim."
I felt my heart go down, then up, up, beyond anything I had ever
experienced in my whole life. The way before me was not closed
then. A witness yet remained, though Jim was dead. The boy was
oblivious of my emotion; he was staring with great mournfulness
t the tent.
"And what was that?" said I.
His attention, which had been wandering, came back, and it was
with some surprise he said:
"It was not much. She told him to take the gentleman into the
library. But it was the library where men died, and he just went
and died there, too, you remember, and Jim said he wasn't ever going
to speak of it, and so I promised not to, neither, but - but - when
do you think you will be starting, sir?"
I did not answer him. I was feeling very queer, as men feel, I
suppose, who in some crisis or event recognize an unexpected
interposition of Providence.
"Are you the boy who ran away from the florist's in Washington?"
I inquired when ready to speak. "The boy who delivered Miss Moore's
I let go of his hand and sat down. Surely there was a power greater
than chance governing this matter. Through what devious ways and
from what unexpected sources had I come upon this knowledge?
"Mrs. Jeffrey, or Miss Moore, as she was then, told Jim to seat the
gentleman in the library," I now said. "Why?"
"I do not know. He told her the gentleman's name and then she
whispered him that. I heard her, and that was why I got money, too.
But it's all gone now. Oh, sir, when are you going back?"
I started to my feet. Was it in answer to this appeal or because
I realized that I had come at last upon a clue calling for immediate
"I am going now," said I, "and you are going with me. Run! for
the train we take leaves inside of ten minutes. My business here
"THE COLONEL'S OWN"
Words can not express the tediousness of that return journey. The
affair which occupied all my thoughts was as yet too much enveloped
in mystery for me to contemplate it with anything but an anxious
and inquiring mind. While I clung with new and persistent hope to
the thread which had been put in my hand, I was too conscious of
the maze through which we must yet pass, before the light could be
reached, to feel that lightness of spirit which in itself might
have lessened the hours, and made bearable those days of forced
inaction. To beguile the way a little, I made a complete analysis
of the facts as they appeared to me in the light of this latest bit
of evidence. The result was not strikingly encouraging, yet I will
insert it, if only in proof of my diligence and the extreme interest
I experienced in each and every stage of this perplexing affair. It
again took the form of a summary and read as follows:
Facts as they now appear:
1. The peremptory demand for an interview which had been delivered
to Miss Moore during the half-hour preceding her marriage had come,
not from the bridegroom as I had supposed, but from the so-called
stranger, Mr. Pfeiffer.
2. Her reply to this demand had been an order for that gentleman
to be seated in the library.
3. The messenger carrying this order had been met and earnestly
talked with by Mr. Jeffrey either immediately before or immediately
after the aforementioned gentleman had been so seated.
4. Death reached Mr. Pfeiffer before the bride did.
5. Miss Moore remained in ignorance of this catastrophe till after
her marriage, no intimation of the same having been given her by
the few persons allowed to approach her before she descended to her
nuptials; yet she was seen to shrink unaccountably when her husband's
lips touched hers, and when informed of the dreadful event before
which she beheld all her guests fleeing, went from the house a
6. For all this proof that Mr. Pfeiffer was well known to her, if
not to the rest of the bridal party, no acknowledgment of this was
made by any of them then or afterward, nor any contradiction given
either by husband or wife to the accepted theory that this seeming
stranger from the West had gone into this fatal room of the Moores'
to gratify his own morbid curiosity.
7. On the contrary, an extraordinary effort was immediately made
by Mr. Jeffrey to rid himself of the only witnesses who could tell
the truth concerning those fatal ten minutes; but this brought no
peace to the miserable wife, who never again saw a really happy
8. Extraordinary efforts at concealment argue extraordinary causes
for fear. Fully too understand the circumstances of Mrs. Jeffrey's
death, it would be necessary first to know what had happened in the
Moore house when Mr. Jeffrey learned from Curly Jim that the man,
whose hold upon his bride had been such that he dared to demand an
interview with her just as she was on the point of descending to
her nuptials, had been seated, or was about to be seated, in the
room where death had once held its court and might easily be
persuaded to hold court again.
This was the limit of my conclusions. I could get no further, and
awaited my arrival in Washington with the greatest impatience.
But once there, and the responsibility of this new inquiry shifted
to broader shoulders than my own, I was greatly surprised and as
deeply chagrined to observe the whole affair lag unaccountably and
to note that, in spite of my so-called important discoveries,
the prosecution continued working up the case against Miss Tuttle
in manifest intention of presenting it to the grand jury at its
Whether Durbin was to blame for this I could not say. Certainly
his look was more or less quizzical when next we met, and this
nettled me so that I at once came to the determination that whatever
was in his mind, or in the minds of the men whose counsels he
undoubtedly shared, I was going to make one more great effort on my
own account; not to solve the main mystery, which had passed out of
my hands, but to reach the hidden cause of the equally unexplained
deaths which had occurred from time to time at the library fireplace.
For nothing could now persuade me that the two mysteries were not
indissolubly connected, or that the elucidation of the one would not
lead to the elucidation of the other.
To be sure, it was well accepted at headquarters that all possible
attempts had been made in this direction and with nothing but
failure as a result. The floor, the hearth, the chimney, and, above
all, the old settle, had been thoroughly searched. But to no avail.
The secret had not been reached and had almost come to be looked
upon as insolvable.
But I was not one to be affected by other men's failures. The
encouragement afforded me by my late discoveries was such that I
felt confident that nothing could hinder my success save the
necessity of completely pulling down the house. Besides, all
investigation had hitherto started, if it had not ended, in the
library. I was resolved to begin work in quite a different spot.
I had not forgotten the sensations I had experienced in the
During my absence this house had been released from surveillance.
But the major still held the keys and I had no difficulty in
obtaining them. The next thing was to escape its owner's vigilance.
This I managed to do through the assistance of Jinny, and when
midnight came and all lights went out in the opposite cottage I
entered boldly upon the scene.
As before, I went first of all to the library. It was important
to know at the outset that this room was in its normal condition.
But this was not my only reason for prefacing my new efforts by a
visit to this scene of death and mysterious horror. I had another,
so seemingly puerile, that I almost hesitate to mention it and
would not if the sequel warranted its omission.
I wished to make certain that I had exhausted every suspected, as
well as every known clue, to the information I sought. In my long
journey home and the hours of thought it had forced upon me, I had
more than once been visited by flitting visions of things seen in
this old house and afterward nearly forgotten. Among these was
the book which on that first night of hurried search had given
proofs of being in some one's hand within a very short period. The
attention I had given it at a moment of such haste was necessarily
cursory, and when later a second opportunity was granted me of
looking into it again, I had allowed a very slight obstacle to
deter me. This was a mistake I was anxious to rectify. Anything
which had been touched with purpose at or near the time of so
mysterious a tragedy, - and the position of this book on a shelf so
high that a chair was needed to reach it proved that it had been
sought and touched with purpose, held out the promise of a clue which
one on so blind a trail as myself could not afford to ignore.
But when I had taken the book down and read again its totally
uninteresting and unsuggestive title and, by another reference to
its dim and faded leaves, found that my memory had not played me
false and that it contained nothing but stupid and wholly irrelevant
statistics, my confidence in it as a possible aid in the work I had
in hand departed just as it had on the previous occasion. I was
about to put it back on the shelf, when I bethought me of running
my hand in behind the two books between which it had stood. Ah!
that was it! Another book lay flat against the wall at the back of
the shelf; and when, by the removal of those in front I was enabled
to draw this book out, I soon saw why it had been relegated to
such a remote place of concealment on the shelves of the Moore
It was a collection of obscure memoirs written by an English woman,
but an English woman who had been in America during the early part
of the century, and who had been brought more or less into contact
with the mysteries connected with the Moore house in Washington.
Several passages were marked, one particularly, by a heavy
pencil-line running the length of the margin. As the name of Moore
was freely scattered through these passages as well as through two
or three faded newspaper clippings which I discovered pasted on the
inside cover, I lost no time in setting about their perusal.
The following extracts are from the book itself, taken in the order
in which I found them marked:
"It was about this time that I spent a week in the Moore house;
that grand and historic structure concerning which and its occupants
so many curious rumors are afloat. I knew nothing then of its
discreditable fame; but from the first moment of my entrance into
its ample and well lighted halls I experienced a sensation which I
will not call dread, but which certainly was far from being the
impulse of pure delight which the graciousness of my hostess and
the imposing character of the place itself were calculated to
produce. This emotion was but transitory, vanishing, as was natural,
in the excitement of my welcome and the extraordinary interest I
took in Callista Moore, who in those days was a most fascinating
little body. Small to the point of appearing diminutive, and lacking
all assertion in manner and bearing, she was nevertheless such a
lady that she easily dominated all who approached her, and produced,
quite against her will I am sure, an impression of aloofness
seasoned with kindness, which made her a most surprising and
entertaining study to the analytic observer. Her position as nominal
mistress of an establishment already accounted one of the finest in
Washington, - the real owner, Reuben Moore, preferring to live
abroad with his French wife, - gave to her least action an importance
which her shy, if not appealing looks, and a certain strained
expression most difficult to characterize, vainly attempted to
contradict. I could not understand her, and soon gave up the
attempt; but my admiration held firm, and by the time the evening
was half over I was her obedient slave. I think from what I know
of her now that she would have preferred to be mine.
"I was put to sleep in a great chamber which I afterward heard
called 'The Colonel's Own.' It was very grand and had a great bed
in it almost royal in its size and splendor. I believe that I
shrank quite unaccountably from this imposing piece of furniture
when I first looked at it; it seemed so big and so out of
proportion to my slim little body. But admonished by the look
which I surprised on Mistress Callista's high-bred face, I quickly
recalled an expression so unsuited to my position as guest, and,
with a gush of well-simulated rapture, began to expatiate upon
the interesting characteristics of the room, and express myself
as delighted at the prospect of sleeping there.
"Instantly the nervous look left her, and, with the quiet remark,
'It was my father's room,' she set down the candles with which both
her hands were burdened, and gave me a kiss so warm and surcharged
with feeling that it sufficed to keep me happy and comfortable for
a half-hour or more after she passed out.
"I had thought myself a very sleepy girl, but when, after a somewhat
lengthened brooding over the dying embers in the open fireplace, I
lay down behind the curtains of the huge bed, I found myself as far
from sleep as I had ever been in my whole life.
"And I did not recover from this condition for the entire night.
For hours I tossed from one side of the bed to the other in my
efforts to avoid the persistent eyes of a scarcely-to-be-perceived
drawing facing me from the opposite wall. It had no merit as a
picture, this drawing, but seen as it was under the rays of a
gibbous moon looking in through the half-open shutter, it exercised
upon me a spell such as I can not describe and hope never again to
experience. Finally I rose and pulled the curtains violently
together across the foot of the bed. This shut out the picture;
but I found it worse to imagine it there with its haunting eyes
peering at me through the intervening folds of heavy damask than
to confront it openly; so I pushed the curtains back again, only
to rise a half-hour later and twitch them desperately together
"I fidgeted and worried so that night that I must have looked quite
pale when my attentive hostess met me at the head of the stairs the
next morning. For her hand shook quite perceptibly as she grasped
mine, and her voice was pitched in no natural key as she inquired
how I had slept. I replied, as truth, if not courtesy, demanded,
'Not as well as usual,' whereupon her eyes fell and she remarked
quite hurriedly; 'I am so sorry; you shall have another room
tonight,' adding, in what appeared to be an unconscious whisper:
'There is no use; all feel it; even the young and the gay;' then
aloud and with irrepressible anxiety: 'You didn't see anything,
"'No!' I protested in suddenly awakened dismay; 'only the strange
eyes of that queer drawing peering at me through the curtains of my
bed. Is it - is it a haunted room?'
"Her look was a shocked one, her protest quite vehement. 'Oh, no!
No one has ever witnessed anything like a ghost there, but every
one finds it impossible to sleep in that bed or even in the room.
I do not know why, unless it is that my father spent so many weary
years of incessant wakefulness inside its walls.'
"'And did he die in that bed?' I asked.
"She gave a startled shiver, and drew me hurriedly downstairs. As
we paused at the foot, she pressed my hand and whispered:
"'Yes; at night; with the full of the moon upon him.'
"I answered her look with one she probably understood as little as
I did hers. I had heard of this father of hers. He had been a
terrible old man and had left a terrible memory behind him.
"The next day my room was changed according to her promise, but in
the light of the charges I have since heard uttered against that
house and the family who inhabit it, I am glad that I spent one night
in what, if it was not a haunted chamber, had certainly a very
thrilling effect upon its occupants."
Second passage; the italics showing where it was most heavily marked.
"The house contained another room as interesting as the one I have
already mentioned. It went by the name of the library and its walls
were heavily lined with books; but the family never sat there, nor
was I ever fortunate enough to see it with its doors unclosed except
on the occasion of the grand reception Mistress Callista gave in my
honor. I have a fancy for big rooms and more than once urged my
hostess to tell me why this one stood neglected. But the lady was
not communicative on this topic and it was from another member of
the household I learned that its precincts had been forever clouded
by the unexpected death within them of one of her father's friends,
a noted army officer.
"Why this should have occasioned a permanent disuse of the spot I
could not understand, and as every one who conversed on this topic
invariably gave the impression of saying less than the subject
demanded, my curiosity soon became too much for me and I attacked
Miss Callista once again in regard to it. She gave me a quick smile,
for she was always amiable, but shook her head and introduced another
topic. But one night when the wind was howling in the chimneys and
the sense of loneliness was even greater than usual in the great
house, we drew together on the rug in front of my bedroom fire, and,
as the embers burned down to ashes before us, Miss Callista became
"Her heart was heavy, she told me; had been heavy for years. Perhaps
some ray of comfort would reach her if she took a friend into her
confidence. God knew that she needed one, especially on nights like
this, when the wind woke echoes all over the house and it was hard
to tell which most to fear, the sounds which came from no one knew
where, or the silence which settled after.
"She trembled as she said this, and instinctively drew nearer my
side so that our heads almost touched over the flickering flame from
whose heat and light we sought courage. She seemed to feel grateful
for this contact, and the next minute, flinging all her scruples to
the wind, she began a relation of events which more or less answered
my late unwelcome queries.
"The death in the library, about which her most perplexing memory
hung, took place when she was a child and her father held that high
governmental position which has reflected so much credit upon the
family. Her father and the man who thus perished had been intimate
friends. They had fought together in the War of 1812 and received
the same distinguishing marks of presidential approval afterward.
They were both members of an important commission which brought them
into diplomatic relations with England. It was while serving on this
commission that the sudden break occurred which ended all intimate
relations between them,, and created a change in her father that was
equally remarked at home and abroad. What occasioned this break no
one knew. Whether his great ambition had received some check through
the jealousy of this so-called friend - a supposition which did not
seem possible, as he rose rapidly after this - or on account of other
causes darkly hinted at by his contemporaries, but never breaking
into open gossip, he was never the same man afterwards. His children,
who used to rush with effusion to greet him, now shrank into corners
at his step, or slid behind half open doors, whence they peered with
fearful interest at his tall figure, pacing in moody silence the
halls of his ancestral home, or sitting with frowning brows over the
embers dying away on the great hearthstone of his famous library.
"Their mother, who was an invalid, did not share these terrors. The
father was ever tender of her, and the only smile they ever saw on
his face came with his entrance into her darkened room.
"Such were Callista Moore's first memories. Those which followed
were more definite and much more startling. President Jackson, who
had a high opinion of her father's ability, advanced him rapidly.
Finally a position was given him which raised him into national
prominence. As this had been the goal of his ambition for years,
he was much gratified by this appointment, and though his smiles
came no more frequently, his frowns lightened, and from being
positively threatening, became simply morose.
"Why this moroseness should have sharpened into menace after an
unexpected visit from his once dear, but long estranged
companion-in-arms, his daughter, even after long years of constant
brooding upon this subject, dares not decide. If she could she
might be happier.
"The general was a kindly man, sharp of face and of a tall thin
figure, but with an eye to draw children and make them happy with
a look. But his effect on the father was different. From the
moment the two met in the great hall below, the temper of the host
betrayed how little he welcomed this guest. He did not fail in
courtesy - the Moores are always gentlemen - but it was a hard
courtesy, which cut while it flattered. The two children, shrinking
from its edge without knowing what it was that hurt them, slunk to
covert, and from behind the two pillars which mark the entrance to
the library, watched the two men as they walked up and down the
halls discussing the merits of this and that detail of the freshly
furnished mansion. These two innocent, but eager spies, whom fear
rather than curiosity held in hiding, even caught some of the
sentences which passed between tire so-called friends; and though
these necessarily conveyed but little meaning to their childish
minds, the words forming them were never forgotten, as witness
these phrases confided to me by Mistress Callista twenty-five years
"'You have much that most men lack,' remarked the general, as they
paused to admire some little specimen of Italian art which had been
lately received from Genoa. 'You have money - too much money, Moore,
by an amount I might easily name - a home which some might call
palatial, a lovely, if not altogether healthy wife, two fine
children, and all the honor which a man in a commonwealth like this
should ask for. Drop politics.'
"'Politics are my life,' was the cold response. 'To bid me drop
them is to bid me commit suicide.' Then, as an afterthought to
which a moment of intervening silence added emphasis, 'And for you
to drive me from them would be an act little short of murder.'
"'Justice dealt upon a traitor is not murder,' was the stern and
unyielding reply. 'By one black deed of treacherous barter and sale,
of which none of your countrymen is cognizant but myself, you have
forfeited the confidence of this government. Were I, who so
unhappily surprised your secret, to allow you to continue in your
present place of trust, I myself would be a traitor to the republic
for which I have fought and for which I am ready to die. That is
why I ask you to resign before -'
"The two children did not catch the threat latent in that last
word, but they realized the force of it from their father's look
and were surprised when he quietly said:
"'You declare yourself to be the only man on the commission who is
acquainted with the facts you are pleased to style traitorous?'
"The general's lips curled. 'Have I not said?' he asked.
"Something in this stern honesty seemed to affect the father. His
face turned away and it was the other's voice which was next heard.
A change had taken place in it and it sounded almost mellow as it
gave form to these words:
"'Alpheus, we have been friends. You shall have two weeks in which
to think over my demand and decide. If at the end of that time you
have not returned to domestic life you may expect another visit from
me which can not fail of consequences. You know my temper when
roused. Do not force me into a position which will cause us both
"Perhaps the father answered; perhaps he did not. The children
heard nothing further, but they witnessed the gloom with which he
rode away to the White House the next day. Remembering the general's
threat, they imagined in their childish hearts that their father had
gone to give up his post and newly acquired honors. But he returned
at night without having done so, and from that day on carried his
head higher and showed himself more and more the master, both at home
"But he was restless, very restless, and possibly to allay a great
mental uneasiness, he began having some changes made in the house;
changes which occupied much of his time and with which he never
seemed satisfied. Men working one day were dismissed the next and
others called in until this work and everything else was interrupted
by the return of his late unwelcome guest, who kept his appointment
to a day.
"At this point in her narrative Mistress Callista's voice fell and
the flame which had thrown a partial light on her countenance died
down until I could but faintly discern the secretly inquiring look
with which she watched me as she went on to say
"'Reuben and I,' - Reuben was her brother, - 'were posted in the
dark corner under the stairs when my father met the general at the
door. We had expected to hear high words, or some explosion of
bitter feeling between them, and hardly knew whether to be glad or
sorry when our father welcomed his guest with the same elaborate
bow we once saw him make to the president in the grounds of the
White House. Nor could we understand what followed. We were
summoned in to supper. Our mother was there - a great event in
those days - and toasts were drunk and our father proposed one to
the general's health. This Reuben thought was an open signal of
peace, and turned upon me his great round eyes in surprise; but I,
who was old enough to notice that this toast was not responded to
and that the general did not even touch his lips to the glass he
had lifted in compliment to our mother, who had lifted hers, felt
that there was something terrifying rather than reassuring in this
attempt at good fellowship.
Though unable to reason over it at the time, I have often done so
since, and my father's attitude and look as he faced this strange
guest has dwelt so persistently in my memory that scarcely a year
passes without the scene coming up in my dreams with its accompanying
emotions of fear and perplexity. For - perhaps you know the story -
that hour was the general's last. He died before leaving the house;
died in that same dark library concerning which you have asked so
"'I remember the circumstances well, how well down to each and every
detail. Our mother had gone back to her room, and the general and
my father, who did not linger over their wine - why should they,
when the general would not drink? - had withdrawn to the library at
the suggestion of the general, whose last words are yet lingering
in my ears.
"'The time has come for our little talk,' said he. 'Your reception
"'You do not look well,' my father here broke in, in what seemed an
unnaturally loud voice. 'Come and sit down -'
"'Here the door closed.
"'We had hung about this door, curious children that we were, in
hopes of catching a glimpse of the queer new settle which had been
put into place that day. But we scampered away at this, and were
playing in and out of the halls when the library door agin opened
and my father came out.
"'Where's Samba?' he cried. 'Tell him to carry a glass of wine in
to the general. 1 do not like his looks. I am going upstairs for
some medicine.' This he whispered in choked tones as he set foot
on the stairs. Why I remember it I do not know, for Reuben, who
was standing where he could look into the library when our father
came out and saw the settle and the general sitting at one end of
it, was chattering about it in my ear at the very moment our father
was giving his orders.
"'Reuben is a man now, and I have asked him more than once since
then how the general looked at that critical instant. It is
important to me, very, very important, and to him, too, now that
he has come to know a man's passions and temptations. But he will
never tell me, never relieve my mind, and I can only hope that
there were real signs of illness on the general's brow; for then I
could feel that all had been right and that his death was the
natural result of the great distress he felt at opposing my father
in the one desire of his heart. That glimpse which Reuben had of
him before he fell has always struck me with strange pathos. A
little child looking in upon a man, who, for all his apparent
health, will in another moment be in eternity - I do not wonder he
does not like to talk of it, and yet -
"'It was Samba who came upon the general first. Our father had not
yet descended. When he did, it was with loud cries and piteous
ejaculations. Word had gone upstairs and surprised him in the room
with my mother. I recollect wondering in all childish simplicity
why he wrung his hands so over the death of a man he so hated and
feared. Nor was it till years had passed and our mother had been
laid in the grave and the house had settled into a gloom too heavy
and somber for Reuben to endure, that I recognized in my father the
signs of a settled remorse. These I endeavored to account for by
the fact that he had been saved from what he looked upon as political
death by the sudden but opportune decease of his best friend. This
caused a shock to his feelings which had unnerved him for life.
Don't you think this the true explanation of his invariably moody
brow and the great distaste he always showed for this same library?
Though he would live in no other house, he would not enter that
room nor look at the gloomy settle from which the general had fallen
to his death. The place was virtually tabooed, and though, as the
necessity arose, it was opened from time to time for great
festivities, the shadow it had acquired never left it and my father
hated its very door until he died. Is it not natural that his
daughter should share this feeling?'
"It was, and I said so; but I would say no more, though she cast me
little appealing looks which acquired an eery significance from the
pressure of her small fingers on my arm and the wailing sound of
the wind which at that moment blew down in one gust, scattering the
embers and filling the house with banshee calls. I simply kissed
her and advised her to go back with me to England and forget this
old house and all its miserable memories. For that was the sum of
the comfort at my poor command. When, after another restless night,
I crept down in the early morning to peer into the dim and unused
room whose story I had at last learned, I can not say but that I
half expected to behold the meager ghost of the unfortunate general
rise from the cushions of the prodigious bench which still kept its
mysterious watch over the deserted hearthstone."
So much for the passages culled from the book itself. The newspaper
excerpts, to which I next turned, bore a much later date, and read
"A strange coincidence marks the death of Albert Moore in his
brother's house yesterday. He was discovered lying with his head
on the identical spot where General Lloyd fell forty years before.
It is said that this sudden demise of a man hitherto regarded as a
model of physical strength and endurance was preceded by a violent
altercation with his elder brother. If this is so, the excitement
incident upon such a break in their usually pleasant relations may
account for his sudden death. Edward Moore, who, unfortunately,
was out of the room when his brother succumbed - some say that he
was in his grandfather's room above - was greatly unnerved by this
unexpected end to what was probably merely a temporary quarrel,
and now lies in a critical condition.
"The relations between him and the deceased Albert have always been
of the most amicable character until they unfortunately fell in
love with the same woman."
Attached to this was another slip, apparently from a later paper.
"The quarrel between the two brothers Moore, just prior to the
younger one's death, turns out to have been of a more serious nature
than was first supposed. It has since leaked out that an actual
duel was fought at that time between these two on the floor of the
old library; and that in this duel the elder one was wounded. Some
even go so far as to affirm that the lady's hand was to be the
reward of him who drew the first blood; it is no longer denied that
the room was in great disorder when the servants first rushed in at
the sound he made in falling. Everything movable had been pushed
back against the wall and an open space cleared, in the center of
which could be seen one drop of blood. What is certain is that
Mr. Moore is held to the house by something even more serious than
his deep grief, and that the young lady who was the object of this
fatal dispute has left the city."
Pasted under this was the following short announcement:
"Married on the twenty-first of January, at the American consulate
in Rome, Italy, Edward Moore, of Washington, D. C., United States
of America, to Antoinette Sloan, daughter of Joseph Dewitt Sloan,
also of that city."
With this notice my interest in the book ceased and I prepared to
step down from the chair on which I had remained standing during
the reading of the above passages.
As I did so I spied a slip of paper lying on the floor at my feet.
As it had not been there ten minutes before there could be little
doubt that it had slipped from the book whose leaves I had been
turning over so rapidly. Hastening to recover it, I found it to
be a sheet of ordinary note paper partly inscribed with words in
a neat and distinctive handwriting. This was a great find, for
the paper was fresh and the handwriting one which could be readily
identified. What I saw written there was still more remarkable.
It had the look of some of the memoranda I had myself drawn up
during the most perplexing moments of this strange case. I
transcribe it just as it read:
"We have here two separate accounts of how death comes to those
who breathe their last on the ancestral hearthstone of the Moore
"Certain facts are emphasized in both:
"Each victim was alone when he fell.
"Each death was preceded by a scene of altercation or violent
controversy between the victim and the alleged master of these
"In each case the master of the house reaped some benefit, real or
fancied, from the other's death."
A curious set of paragraphs. Some one besides myself was searching
for the very explanation I was at that moment intent upon. I should
have considered it the work of our detectives if the additional
lines I now came upon could have been written by any one but a Moore.
But no one of any other blood or associations could have indited the
amazing words which followed. The only excuse I could find for them
was the difficulty which some men feel in formulating their thoughts
otherwise than with pen and paper, they were so evidently intended
for the writer's eye and understanding only, as witness:
"Let me recall the words my father was uttering when my brother
rushed in upon us with that account of my misdeeds which changed
all my prospects in life. It was my twenty-first birthday and the
old man had just informed me that as the eldest son I might expect
the house in which we stood to be mine one day and with it a secret
which has been handed down from father to son ever since the Moores
rose to eminence in the person of Colonel Alpheus. Then he noted
that I was now of age and immediately went on to say: 'This means
that you must be told certain facts, without the knowledge of which
you would be no true Moore. These facts you must hereafter relate
to your son or whoever may be fortunate enough to inherit from you.
It is the legacy which goes with this house and one which no
inheritor as yet has refused either to receive or to transmit.
Listen. You have often noted the gold filigree ball which I wear
on my watch-guard. This ball is the talisman of our house, of this
house. If, in the course of your life you find yourself in an
extremity from which no issue seems possible mind the strictness
of the injunction - an extremity from which no issue seems possible
(I have never been in such a case; the gold filigree ball has never
been opened by me)you will take this trinket from its chain, press
upon this portion of it so, and use what you will find inside, in
connection with -' Alas! it was at this point John Judson came
rushing in and those disclosures were made which lost me my father's
regard and gave to the informer my rightful inheritance, together
with the full secret of which I only got a part. But that part
must help me now to the whole. I have seen the filigree ball many
times; Veronica has it now. But its contents have never been shown
me. If I knew what they were and why the master of this secret
always left the library - "
Here the memorandum ceased with a long line straggling from the
letter y as if the writer had been surprised at his task.
The effect upon me of these remarkable words was to heighten my
interest and raise me into a state of renewed hope, if not of
Another mind than my own had been at work along the only groove
which held out any promise of success, and this mind, having at
its command certain family traditions, had let me into a most
valuable secret. Another mind! Whose mind? That was a question
easily answered. But one man could have written these words; the
man who was thrust aside in early life in favor of his younger
brother, and who now, by the sudden death of that brother's
daughter, had come again into his inheritance. Uncle David, and
he only, was the puzzled inquirer whose self-communings I had just
read. This fact raised a new problem far me to work upon, and I
could but ask when these lines were written - before or after Mr.
Pfeiffer's death and whether he had ever succeeded in solving the
riddle he had suggested, or whether it was still a baffling
mystery to him. I was so moved by the suggestion conveyed in his
final and half-finished sentence, that I soon lost sight of these
lesser inquiries in the more important one connected with the
filigree ball. For I had seen this filigree ball. I had even
handled it. From the description given I was very certain that
it had been one of the many trinkets I had observed lying on the
dressing table when I made my first hasty examination of the room
on the evening of Mrs. Jeffrey's death. Why had no premonition
of its importance as a connecting link between these tragedies and
their mysterious cause come to me at the time when it was within
reach of my hand? It was too late now. It had been swept away with
the other loose objects littering the place, and my opportunity for
pursuing this very promising investigation was gone for the night.
Yet it was with a decided feeling of triumph that I finally locked
the door of this old mansion behind me. Certainly I had taken a
step forward since my entrance there, to which I had but to add
another of equal importance to merit the attention of the
THE HEART OF THE PUZZLE.
The next morning I swallowed my pride and sought out Durbin. He
had superintended the removal of Mrs. Jeffrey's effects from the
southwest chamber, and should know, if any one, where this filigree
ball was now to be found. Doubtless it had been returned with the
other things to Mr. Jeffrey, and yet, who knows? Durbin is sly and
some inkling of its value as a clue may have entered his mind. If
so, it would be anywhere but in Mr. Jeffrey's or Miss Tuttle's
To test my rival's knowledge of and interest in this seemingly
trivial object, I stooped to what I can but consider a pardonable
subterfuge. Greeting him in the offhand way least likely to develop
his suspicion, I told him that I had a great idea in connection
with the Jeffrey case and that the clue to it lay in a little gold
ball which Mrs. Jeffrey sometimes wore and upon which she set great
store. So far I spoke the truth. It had been given her by some
one - not Mr. Jeffrey - and I believed, though I did not know, that
it contained a miniature portrait which it might be to our advantage
I expected his lip to curl; but for a wonder it maintained its
noncommittal aspect, though I was sure that I caught a slight, very
slight, gleam of curiosity lighting up for a moment his calm, gray
"You are on a fantastic trail," he sneered, and that was all.
But I had not expected more. I had merely wished to learn what
place, if any, this filigree ball held in his own suspicions, and
in case he had overlooked it, to jog his curiosity so that he would
in some way betray its whereabouts.
That, for all its seeming inconsequence, it did hold some place in
his mind was evident enough to those who knew him; but that it was
within reach or obtainable by any ordinary means was not so plain.
Indeed, I very soon became convinced that he, for one, had no idea
where it was, or after the suggestive hint I had given him he would
never have wasted a half-hour on me. What was I to do then? Tell
my story to the major and depend on him to push the matter to its
proper conclusion? "Not yet," whispered pride. "Durbin thinks you
a fool. Wait till you can show your whole hand before calling
attention to your cards." But it was hard not to betray my
excitement and to act the fool they considered me when the boys
twitted me about this famous golden charm and asked what great
result had followed my night in the Moore house. But remembering
that he who laughs last laughs best, and that the cause of mirth
was not yet over between Durbin and myself, I was able to preserve
an impassive exterior even when I came under the major's eye. I
found myself amply repaid when one of the boys who had studiously
avoided chaffing me dropped the following words in my ear:
"I don't know what your interest is in the small gold charm you
were talking about, but you have done some good work in this case
and I don't mind telling you what I know about it. That little
gold ball has caused the police much trouble. It is on the list
of effects found in the room where the candle was seen burning; but
when all these petty belongings of Mrs. Jeffrey's were gathered up
and carried back to her husband, this special one was not to be
found amongst them. It was lost in transit, nor has it ever been
seen since. And who do you think it was who called attention to
this loss and demanded that the article be found? Not Mr. Jeffrey,
who seems to lay little or no stress upon it, but the old man they
call Uncle David. He who, to all appearance, possessed no interest
in his niece's personal property, was on hand the moment these
things were carried into her husband's house, with the express
intention, it seems, of inquiring for this gold ball, which he
declared to be a family heirloom. As such it belonged to him as
the present holder of the property, and to him only. Attention
being thus called to it, it was found to be missing, and as no one
but the police seemed to be to blame for its loss the matter was
hushed up and would have been regarded as too insignificant for
comment, the trinket being intrinsically worthless, if Mr. Moore
had not continued to make such a fuss about it. This ball, he
declared, was worth as much to a Moore as all the rest of his
property, which was bosh, you know; and the folly of these
assertions and the depth of the passions he displayed whenever
the subject was mentioned have made some of us question if he is
the innocent inheritor he has tried to make himself out. At all
events, I know for a certainty that the district attorney holds
his name in reserve, if the grand jury fails to bring in an
indictment against Miss Tuttle."
"The district attorney is wise," I remarked, and fell athinking.
Had this latent suspicion against Mr. Moore any solid foundation?
Was he the guilty man? The memorandum I had come across in the
book which had been lately pulled down from the library shelves
showed that, notwithstanding his testimony to the contrary, he
had been in that house close upon that fatal night, if not on the
very night itself. It also showed his extreme interest in the
traditions of the family. But did it show anything more? Had he
interrupted his writing to finish his query in blood, and had one
of his motives for this crime been the acquisition of this
filigree ball? If so, why had he left it on the table upstairs?
A candle had been lit in that room - could it have been by him in
his search for this object? It would be a great relief to believe
so. What was the reason then that my mind refused so emphatically
to grasp this possibility and settle upon him as the murderer of
Mrs. Jeffrey? I can not tell. I hated the man, and I likewise
deeply distrusted him. But I could not, even after this revelation
of his duplicity, connect him in my thoughts with absolute crime
without a shock to my intuitions. Happily, my scruples were not
shared by my colleagues. They had listed him. Here I felt my
shoulder touched, and a newspaper was thrust into my hand by the
man who had just addressed me.
"Look down the lost and found column," said he. "The third
advertisement you will see there came from the district attorney's
office; the next one was inserted by Mr. Moore himself."
I followed his pointing finer and read two descriptions of the
filigree ball. The disproportion in the rewards offered was
apparent. That promised by Uncle David was calculated to rouse
any man's cupidity and should have resulted in the bauble's
"He got ahead of the police that time," I laughed. "When did
these advertisements appear?"
"During the days you were absent from Washington."
"And how sure are you that he did not get this jewel back?"
"Oh, we are sure. His continued anxiety and still active interest
prove this, even if our surveillance had been less perfect."
"And the police have been equally unsuccessful?"
"After every effort?"
"Who was the man who collected and carried out those things from
the southwest chamber?"
"You see him," said he.
"It was you?"
"And you are sure this small ball was among them?"
"No. I only know that I have seen it somewhere, but that it
wasn't among the articles I delivered to Mr. Jeffrey."
"How did you carry them?"
"In a hand-bag which I locked myself."
"Before leaving the southwest chamber?"
"Then it is still in that room?"
"Find it," was his laconic reply.
Here most men would have stopped, but I have a bulldog's tenacity
when once I lay hold. That night I went back to the Moore house
and, taking every precaution against being surprised by the
sarcastic Durbin or some of his many flatterers, I ransacked the
southwest chamber on my own behalf for what certainly I had
little reason to expect to find there.
It seemed a hopeless cause from the first, but I acted as if no
one had hunted for this object before. Moving every article, I
sought first on the open floor and then in every possible cranny
for the missing trinket. But I failed to find it and was about
to acknowledge myself defeated when my eye fell on the long
brocaded curtains which I had drawn across the several windows to
hide every gleam of light from the street. They were almost free
from folds, but I shook them well, especially the one nearest the
table, and naturally with no effect.
"Folly," I muttered, yet did not quite desist. For the great
tassels still hung at the sides and - Well! you may call it an
impossible find or say that if the bauble was there it should have
been discovered in the first search for it! I will not say no. I
can only tell you what happened. When I took one of those tassels
in my band, I thought, as it twirled under my touch, that I saw
something gleam in its faded old threads which did not belong there.
Startled, and yet not thoroughly realizing that I had come upon the
object of my search, I picked at this thing and found it to be a
morsel of gold chain that had become entangled in it. When I had
pulled it out, it showed a small golden ball at one end, filigreed
over and astonishingly heavy for its size and apparent delicacy.
How it came there - whether it rolled from the table, or was swept
off inadvertently by the detective's hand, and how it came to be
caught by this old tassel and held there in spite of the many
shakings it must have received, did not concern me at this momentous
instant. The talisman of this old family was found. I had but to
discover what it held concealed to understand what had baffled Mr.
Moore and made the mystery he had endeavored to penetrate so
insolvable. Rejoicing in my triumph, but not wasting a moment in
self-congratulation, I bent over the candle with my prize and sought
for the clasp or fastening which held its two parts together. I
have a knack at clasps and curious fastenings and was able at first
touch to spring this one open. And what did I find inside?
Something so different from what I expected, something so trivial
and seemingly harmless, that it was not until I recalled the final
words of Uncle David's memorandum that I realized its full import
and the possibilities it suggested. In itself it was nothing but
a minute magnifying glass; but when used in connection with - what?
Ah, that was just what Uncle David failed to say, possibly to know.
Yet this was now the important point, the culminating fact which
might lead to a full understanding of these many tragedies. Could
I hope to guess what presented itself to Mr. Moore as a difficult
if not insolvable problem? No; guessing would not answer. I must
trust to the inspiration of the moment which suggested with almost
The picture! That inane and seemingly worthless drawing over the
fireplace in The Colonel's Own, whose presence in so rich a room
has always been a mystery!
Why this object should have suggested itself to me and with such
instant conviction, I can not readily say. Whether, from my
position near the bed, the sight of this old drawing recalled the
restless nights of all who had lain in face of its sickly smile,
or whether some recollection of that secret law of the Moores
which forbade the removal of any of their pictures from the
time-worn walls, or a remembrance of the curiosity which this
picture excited in every one who looked at it - Francis Jeffrey
among the number - I no sooner asked myself what object in this
house might possibly yield counsel or suggest aid when subjected
to the influence of a magnifying glass, than the answer, which I
have already given, sprang instantly into my mind: The picture!
Greatly excited, I sprang upon a chair, took down the drawing from
the wall and laid it face up on the bed. Then I placed the glass
over one of the large coils surrounding the insipid face, and was
startled enough, in spite of all mental preparation, to perceive
the crinkly lines which formed it, resolve themselves into script
and the script into words, some of which were perfectly legible.
The drawing, simple as it looked, was a communication in writing
to those who used a magnifying glass to read it. I could hardly
contain my triumph, hardly find the self-control necessary to a
careful study of its undulating and often conflicting lines and to
the slow picking out of the words therein contained.
But when I had done this, and had copied the whole of the wandering
scrawl on a page of my note book the result was of value.
Read, and judge for yourself.
"Coward that I am, I am willing to throw upon posterity the shadow
of a crime whose consequences I dare not incur in life. Confession
I must make. To die and leave no record of my deed is impossible.
Yet how tell my story so that only my own heirs may read and they
when at the crisis of their fate? I believe I have found the way
by this drawing and the injunction I have left to the holders of
the filigree ball.
"No man ever wished his enemy dead more than I did, and no man
ever spent more cunning on the deed. Master in my own house, I
contrived a device by which the man who held my fate in his hands
fell on my library hearth with no one near and no sign by which
to associate me with the act. Does this seem like the assertion
of a madman? Go to the old chamber familiarly called "The Colonel's
Own." Enter its closet, pull out its two drawers, and in the
opening thus made seek for the loophole at the back, through which,
if you stoop low enough, you can catch a glimpse of the library
hearth and its great settle. With these in view, slip your finger
along the wall on your right and when it touches an obstruction
- pass it if it is a handle, for that is only used to rewind the
apparatus and must be turned from you until it can be turned no
farther; but if it is a depression you encounter, press, and press
hard on the knob concealed within it. But beware when any one you
love is seated in that corner of the settle where the cushion
invites rest, lest it be your fate to mourn and wail as it is mine
to curse the hour when I sought to clear my way by murder. For
the doom of the man of blood is upon me. The hindrance is gone
from my life, but a horror has entered it beyond the conception
of any soul that has not yielded itself to the unimaginable
influences emanating from an accomplished crime. I can not be
content with having pressed that spring once. A mania is upon me
which, after thirty years of useless resistance and superhuman
struggle, still draws me from bed and sleep to rehearse in ghastly
fashion that deed of my early manhood. I can not resist it. To
tear out the deadly mechanism, unhinge weight and drum and rid the
house of every evidence of crime would but drive me to shriek my
guilt aloud and act in open pantomime what I now go through in
fearsome silence and secrecy. When the hour comes, as come it
must, that I can not rise and enter that fatal closet, I shall
still enact the deed in dreams, and shriek aloud in my sleep and
wish myself dead and yet fear to die lest my hell be to go through
all eternity, slaying over and over my man, in ever growing horror
"Do you wish to share my fate? Try to effect through blood a
release from the difficulties menacing you."