Part 5 out of 6
A THREAD IN HAND
There are moments which stand out with intense force and clearness
in every man's life. Mine was the one which followed the reading
of these lines which were meant for a warning, but which in
more than one case had manifestly served to open the way to a
repetition of the very crime they deplored. I felt myself under
the same fascination. I wanted to test the mechanism; to follow
out then and there the instructions given with such shortsighted
minuteness and mark the result. But a sense of decorum prevented.
It was clearly my duty to carry so important a discovery as this
to the major and subject myself to his commands before making the
experiment suggested by the scroll I had so carefully deciphered.
Besides, it would be difficult to carry out this experiment alone,
and with no other light ht than that afforded by my lantern.
Another man and more lights were needed.
Influenced by these considerations, I restored the picture to its
place, and left the building. As I did so, the first signs of
dawn became visible in the east. I had expended three hours in
picking out the meaning concealed in the wavy lines of the old
I was early at headquarters that morning, but not so early as to
find the superintendent alone. A group of men were already
congregated about him in his small office, and when, on being
admitted, I saw amongst them the district attorney, Durbin and
another famous detective, I instinctively knew what matter was
I was allowed to remain, possibly because I brought news in my
face, possibly because the major felt more kindly toward me than
I thought. Though Durbin, who had been speaking, had at first
sight of me shut his mouth like a trap, and even went so far as
to drum an impatient protest with his fingers on the table before
which he stood, neither the major nor the district attorney turned
an unkindly face toward me, and my amiable friend was obliged to
accept my presence with what grace he could.
There was with them a fourth man, who stood apart. On him the
general attention had been concentrated at my entrance and to him
it now returned. He was an unpretentious person of kindly aspect.
To any one accustomed to Washington residents, he bore the
unmistakable signs of being one of the many departmental employees
whose pay is inadequate to the necessities of his family. Of his
personal peculiarities I noted two. He blinked when he talked,
and stuttered painfully when excited. Notwithstanding these
defects he made a good impression, and commanded confidence.
This I soon saw was of importance, for the story he now entered
upon was one calculated to make me forget my own errand and even
to question my own convictions.
The first intimation I received of the curious nature of his
communication was through the following questions, put to him by
"You are sure this gentleman is identical with the one pointed out
to you last night?"
"Very sure, sir. I can swear to it."
I omit all evidence of the defect in his speech above mentioned.
"You recognize him positively?"
"Positively. I should have picked him out with the same assurance,
if I had seen him in some other city and in a crowd of as
fine-looking gentlemen as himself. His face made a great impression
on me. You see I had ample time to study it in the few minutes we
stood so close together."
"So you have said. Will you be kind enough to repeat the
circumstance? I should like the man who has just come in to hear
your description of this scene. Give the action, please. It is
all very interesting."
The stranger glanced inquisitively in my direction, and turned to
obey the superintendent.
"I was returning to my home in Georgetown, on the evening of May
the eleventh, the day of the great tragedy. My wife was ill, and
I had been into town to see a physician and should have gone
directly home; but I was curious to see how high the flood was
running - you remember it was over the banks that night. So I
wandered out on the bridge, and came upon the gentleman about whom
you have been questioning me. He was standing all alone leaning
on the rail thus." Here the speaker drew up a chair, and, crossing
his arms over its back, bent his head down over them. "I did not
know him, but the way he eyed the water leaping and boiling in a
yellow flood beneath was not the way of a curious man like myself,
but of one who was meditating some desperate deed. He was handsome
and well dressed, but he looked a miserable wretch and was in a
state of such complete self-absorption that he did not notice me,
though I had stopped not five feet from his side. I expected to
see him throw himself over, but instead of that, he suddenly
raised his head and, gazing straight before him, not at the heavy
current, but at some vision in his own mind, broke forth in these
words, spoken as I had never heard words spoken before - "
Here the speaker's stuttering got the better of him and the
district attorney had time to say:
"What were these words? Speak them slowly; we have all the time
Instantly the man plucked up heart and, eying us all impressively,
was able to say:
"They were these: 'She must die! she must die!' No name, but just
the one phrase twice repeated, 'She must die!' This startled me,
and hardly knowing whether to lay hands on him, or to turn about
and run, I was moving slowly away, when he drew his arms from the
rail, like this, and, still staring into space, added, in the same
hard and determined voice, this one word more, 'To-night!' ; and,
wheeling about, passed me with one blank and wholly unconscious
look and betook himself toward the city. As he went by, his lips
opened for the third time. 'Which means - ' he cried, between a
groan and a shriek, 'a bullet for her and - ' I wish I had heard
the rest, but he was out of my hearing before his sentence was
"What time was this?"
"As near half-past five as possible. It was six when I reached
home a few minutes later."
"Ah, he must have gone to the cemetery after this."
"I am quite sure of it."
"Why didn't you follow the man?" grumbled Durbin.
"It wasn't my business. He was a stranger and possibly mad. I
didn't know what to do."
"What did you do?"
"Went home and kept quiet; my wife was very ill that night and I
had my own cause for anxiety."
"You, however, read the papers next morning?"
"No, sir, nor for many days. My wife grew constantly worse and
for a week I didn't leave her, not knowing but that every breath
would be her last. I was dead to everything outside the sick-room
and when she grew better, which was very gradually, we had to take
her away, so that I had no opportunity of speaking of this
occurrence to any one till a week ago, when some remark, published
in connection with Mrs. Jeffrey's death, recalled that encounter
on the bridge. I told a neighbor that I believed the man I had
seen there was Mr. Jeffrey, and we looked up the papers and ran
over them till we came upon his picture. That settled it, and I
could no longer - being free from home anxieties now - hold my
tongue and the police heard - "
"That will do, Mr. Gelston," broke in the major. "When we want
you again, we will let you know, Durbin, see Mr. Gelston out"
I was left alone with the major and the district attorney.
There was a moment's silence, during which my own heart beat so
loud that I was afraid they would hear it. Since taking up Miss
Tuttle's cause I had never really believed in Mr. Jeffrey's
innocence in spite of the alibi he had brought forward, and now
I expected to hear these men utter the same conviction. The major
was the first to speak. Addressing the district attorney, he
remarked: "This will strengthen your case very materially. We
have proof now that Mrs. Jeffrey's death was actually determined
upon. If Miss Tuttle had not shot her, he would. I wonder if it
was a relief to him on reaching his door to find that the deed
I could not suppress my surprise.
"Miss Tuttle!" I repeated. "Is it so unmistakably evident that
Mr. Jeffrey did not get to the Moore house in time to do the
The major gave me a quick look.
"I thought you considered Miss Tuttle the guilty one."
I felt that the time had come to show my colors.
"I have changed my mind," said I. "I can give you no good reason
for this; something in the woman herself, I suppose. She does not
look nor act like a criminal. While not desirous of raising myself
in opposition to the judgment of those so greatly my superior in
all respects, I have had this feeling, and I am courageous enough
to avow it. And yet, if Mr. Jeffrey could not have left the
cemetery gates and reached the Moore house in time to fulfil all
the conditions of this tragedy, the case does look black against
the woman. She admits to having been there when the pistol was
fired, unless - "
"Unless what? You have something new to tell us. That I have seen
ever since you entered the room. What is it?"
I cast a glance at the door. Should I be able to finish my story
before Durbin returned? I thought it possible, and, though still
upset by this new evidence, which I could now see was not entirely
in Miss Tuttle's favor, I spoke up with what spirit I might.
"I have just come from spending another night in the Moore house.
All the efforts heretofore made to exhaust its secrets have been
founded upon a theory that has brought us nowhere. I had another
in mind, and I was anxious to test it before resting from all
further attempt to solve this riddle. And it has not failed me.
By pursuing a clue apparently so trivial that I allowed it to go
neglected for weeks, I have come upon the key to the many mysterious
crimes which have defiled the library hearthstone. And where do
you think it lies? Not in the hearthstone itself and not in the
floor under the settle; not, in fact, in the library at all, but
in the picture hanging upstairs in the southwest chamber."
"The picture! that faded-out sketch, fit only for the garret?"
"Yes. To you and to most people surveying it, it is just what you
say and nothing more. But to the initiated few - pray Heaven they
may have been few - it is writing, conveying secret instructions.
The whole combination of curves which go to make up this sketch is
a curious arrangement of words inscribed with the utmost care, in
the smallest of characters. Viewed with a magnifying glass, the
uncertain outlines of a shadowy face surmounted by a mass of
piled-up hair resolve themselves into lines of writing, the words
of which are quite intelligible and full of grim and unmistakable
purpose. I have read those lines; and what is more, I have
transcribed them into plain copy. Will you read them? They
contain a most extraordinary confession; a confession that was
manifestly intended as a warning, but which unfortunately has had
very different results. It may explain the death of the man from
Denver, even if it cast no light upon the other inexplicable
features of the remarkable case we are considering."
As I spoke I laid open on the table before me the transcription of
which I spoke. Instantly the two men bent over it. When they
looked up again, their countenances showed not excitement only but
appreciation; and in the one minute of triumph which I then enjoyed,
all that had wounded or disturbed me in the past was forgotten.
"You are a man in a thousand," was the major's first enthusiastic
comment; at which I was conscious of regretting, with very pardonable
inconsistency, that Durbin had not returned in time to hear these
The major now proposed that we should go at once to the old house.
"A family secret like this does not crop up every day even in a city
so full of surprises as Washington. We will hunt for the spring
under the closet drawers and see what happens, eh? And on our way
there" - here he turned to me "I should like to hear the particulars
concerning the little clue just mentioned. By the way, Mr. Jeffrey's
interest in this old drawing is now explained. He knew its
This was self-evident, and my heart was heavy for Miss Tuttle, who
seemed to be so deep in her brother-in-law's confidence.
It grew still heavier when Durbin, joining us, added his incredulity
to the air of suspicion assumed by the others. Through all the
explanations I now entered into, I found myself inwardly repeating
with somewhat forced iteration, "I will not believe her guilty under
any circumstances. She carries the look of innocence, and innocent
she must be proved, whatever the result may be to Francis Jeffrey."
To such an extent had I been influenced by the lofty expression
which I had once surprised on her face.
Had Mr. David Moore been sitting open-eyed behind his vines that
morning, he would have been much surprised to see so many of his
natural enemies intrude on his property at so early an hour. But,
happily, he had not yet risen, and we were able to enter upon our
investigations without being watched or interrupted by him.
Our first move was to go in a body to the southwest chamber, take
down the picture, examine it with a magnifying-glass and satisfy
ourselves that the words I had picked out of its mazy lines were
really to be found there. This done and my veracity established,
we next proceeded to the closet where, according to the
instructions embodied in this picture, the secret spring was to be
found by which some unknown and devilish machinery would be released
in the library below.
To my great satisfaction the active part in this experiment was
delegated to me. Durbin continued to be a mere looker-on. Drawing
out the two large drawers from their place at the end of this closet,
I set them aside. Then I hunted for and found the small loophole
which we had been told afforded a glimpse of the library hearthstone;
but seeing nothing through it, I called for a light to be placed in
the room below.
I heard Durbin go down, then the major, and finally, the district
attorney. Nothing could stay their curiosity now, not even the
possibility of danger, which as yet was a lurking and mysterious one.
But when a light shot up from below, and the irregular opening
before me became a loophole through which I could catch a very wide
glimpse of the library beneath, I found that it was not necessary
for me to warn them to keep away from the hearth, as they were all
clustered very near the door - a precaution not altogether uncalled
for at so hazardous a moment.
"Are you ready?" I called down.
"Ready!" rose in simultaneous response from below.
"Then look out!"
Reaching for the spring cleverly concealed in the wall at my right
I vigorously pressed it.
The result was instantaneous. Silently, but with unerring certainty,
something small, round, and deadly, fell plumb from the library
ceiling to where the settle had formerly stood against the
hearthstone. Finding nothing there but vacancy to expend itself
upon, it swung about for a moment on what looked like a wire or a
whip-cord, then slowly came to rest within a foot or so from the
A cry from the horrified officials below was what first brought me
to myself. Withdrawing from my narrow quarters I hastened down to
them and added one more white face to the three I found congregated
in the doorway. In the diabolical ingenuity we had seen displayed,
crime had reached its acme and the cup of human depravity seemed
full. When we had regained in some measure our self-possession, we
all advanced for a closer look at the murderous object dangling
before us. We found it to be a heavy leaden weight painted on its
lower end to match the bosses of stucco-work which appeared at
regular intervals in the ornamentation of the ceiling. When drawn
up into place, that is, when occupying the hole from which it now
hung suspended, the portion left to protrude would evidently bear
so small a proportion to its real bulk as to justify any eye in
believing it to be the mate, and the harmless mate, of all the
"It hangs just where the settle stood," observed Durbin,
"And just at the point where the cushions invite rest, as the
colonel so suggestively puts it in his strange puzzle of a
confession," added the district attorney.
"Replace the old seat," ordered the major, "and let us make sure of
Ready hands at once grasped it, and, with some effort, I own, drew
it carefully back into position.
"You see!" quoth Durbin.
"Devilish!" came from the major's lips. Then with a glance at the
ball which, pushed aside by the seat, now hung over its edge a foot
or so from the floor, he added briskly: "The ball has fallen to the
full length of the cord. If it were drawn up a little - "
"Wait," I eagerly interposed. "Let me see what I can do with it."
And I dashed back upstairs and into the closet of "The Colonel's Own."
With a single peep down to see if they were still on the watch, I
seized the handle whose position I had made sure of when searching
for the spring, and began to turn; when instantly - so quick was
the response - the long cord stiffened and I saw the ball rise into
sight above the settle top.
"Stop!" called out the major. "Let go and press the spring again."
I hastened to obey and, though the back of the settle hid the result
from me, I judged from the look and attitude of those below that
the old colonel's calculations had been made with great exactness,
and that the one comfortable seat on the rude and cumbersome bench
had been so placed that this leaden weight in descending would at
the chosen moment strike the head of him who sat there, inflicting
death. That the weight should be made just heavy enough to produce
a fatal concussion without damaging the skull was proof of the
extreme care with which this subtle apparatus had been contrived.
An open wound would have aroused questions, but a mere bruise might
readily pass as a result of the victim's violent contact with the
furnishings of the hearth toward which the shocked body would
naturally topple. The fact that a modern jury had so regarded it
shows how justified he was in this expectation.
I was expending my wonder on this and on a new discovery which,
with a very decided shock to myself I had just made in the closet,
when the command came to turn the handle again and to keep on
turning it till it would turn no farther.
I complied, but with a trembling hand, and though I did not watch
the result, the satisfaction I heard expressed below was significant
of the celerity and precision with which the weight rose, foot by
foot, to the ceiling and finally slunk snugly and without seeming
jar into its lair.
When, a few minutes later, I rejoined those below, I found them all,
with eyes directed toward the cornice, searching for the hole
through which I had just been looking. It was next to imperceptible,
so naturally had it been made to fit in with the shadows of the
scroll work; and even after I had discovered it and pointed it out
to them, I found difficulty in making them believe that they really
looked upon an opening. But when once convinced of this, the
district attorney's remark was significant.
"I am glad that my name is not Moore."
The superintendent made no reply; his eye had caught mine, and he
had become very thoughtful.
"One of the two candelabra belonging to the parlor mantel was found
lying on that closet floor," he observed. "Somebody has entered
there lately, as lately as the day when Mr. Pfeiffer was seated
"Pardon me," I impetuously cried. "Mr. Pfeiffer's death is quite
explained." And, drawing forward my hand, which up to this moment
I had held tight-shut behind my back, I slowly unclosed it before
their astonished eyes.
A bit of lace lay in my palm, a delicate bit, such as is only worn
by women in full dress.
"Where did you find that?" asked the major, with the first show of
deep emotion I have ever observed in him.
My agitation was greater than his as I replied:
"In the rough boarding under those drawers. Some woman's arm and
hand has preceded mine in stealthy search after that fatal spring.
A woman who wore lace, valuable lace."
There was but one woman connected with this affair who rightly
answered these conditions. The bride! Veronica Moore.
WORDS IN THE NIGHT
Had I any premonition of the astounding fact thus suddenly and, I
may say, dramatically revealed to us during the weeks I had devoted
to the elucidation of the causes and circumstances of Mrs. Jeffrey's
death? I do not think so. Nothing in her face, as I remembered it;
nothing in the feeling evinced toward her by husband or sister, had
prepared me for a disclosure of crime so revolting as to surpass all
that I had ever imagined or could imagine in a woman of such dainty
personality and unmistakable culture. Nor was the superintendent
or the district attorney less confounded by the event. Durbin only
tried to look wise and strut about, but it was of no use; he
deceived nobody. Veronica Moore's real connection with Mr. Pfeiffer's
death, - a death which in some inscrutable way had in so short a time
led to her own, - was an overwhelming surprise to every one of us.
The superintendent, as was natural, recovered first.
"This throws quite a new light upon the matter," said he. "Now we
can understand why Mr. Jeffrey uttered that extraordinary avowal
overheard on the bridge: 'She must die!' She had come to him with
blood on her hands."
It seemed incredible, nay more, unreal. I recalled the sweet
refined face turned up to me from the bare boards of this same floor,
the accounts I had read of the vivacity of her spirits and the wild
charm of her manner till the shadow of this old house fell upon her.
I marveled, still feeling myself in the dark, still clinging to my
faith in womankind, still asking to what depths her sister had
followed her in the mazes of crime we were forced to recognize but
could not understand.
Durbin had no such feelings and no such scruples, as was shown by
the sarcastic comment which now left his lips.
"So!" he cried, "we have to do with three criminals instead of two.
Nice family, the Moore-Jeffreys !"
But no one paid any attention to him. Addressing the major, the
district attorney asked when he expected to hear from Denver, adding
that it had now become of the first importance to ascertain the
exact relations existing between the persons under suspicion and the
latest victim of this deadly mechanism.
The major's answer was abrupt. He had been expecting a report for
days. He was expecting one yet. If it came in at any time, night
or day, he was to be immediately notified. Word might be sent him
in an hour, in a minute.
Were his remarks a prophecy? He had hardly ceased speaking when
an officer appeared with a telegram in his hand. This the major
eagerly took and, noting that it was in cipher, read it by means
of the code he carried in his pocket. Translated, it ran thus:
Result of open inquiry in Denver.
Three brothers Pfeiffer; all well thought of, but plain in their
ways and eccentric. One doing business in Denver. Died June,
'97. One perished in Klondike, October, same year; and one, by
name Wallace, died suddenly three months since in Washington.
Nothing further gained by secret inquiry in this place.
Result of open inquiry in Owosso.
A man named Pfeiffer kept a store in Owosso during the time V. M.
attended school there. He was one of three brothers, home Denver,
name Wallace. Simultaneously with V. M.'s leaving school, P.
broke up business and at instigation of his brother William, who
accompanied him, went to the Klondike. No especial relation between
lady and this same P. ever noted. V. M. once heard to laugh at his
Result of secret inquiry in Owosso.
V. M. very intimate with schoolmate who has since died. Often rode
together; once gone a long time. This was just before V. M. left
school for good. Date same as that on which a marriage occurred in
a town twenty miles distant. Bride, Antoinette Moore; groom, W.
Pfeiffer of Denver; witness, young girl with red hair. Schoolmate
had red hair. Had V. M. a middle initial, and was that initial A?
We all looked at each other; this last question was one none of us
"Go for Mr. Jeffrey at once," ordered the major, "and let another
one of you bring Miss Tuttle. No word to either of what has occurred
and no hint of their possible meeting here."
It fell to me to fetch Miss Tuttle. I was glad of this, as it gave
me a few minutes by myself in which to compose my mind and adjust my
thoughts to the new conditions opened up by the amazing facts which
had just come to light. But beyond the fact that Mrs. Jeffrey had
been answerable for the death which had occurred in the library at
the time of her marriage - that, in the words of the district
attorney, she had come to her husband with blood on her hands, my
thoughts would not go; confusion followed the least attempt to
settle the vital question of how far Miss Tuttle and Mr. Jeffrey
had been involved in the earlier crime and what the coming interview
with these two would add to our present knowledge. In my anxiety to
have this question answered I hastened my steps and was soon at the
door of Miss Tuttle's present dwelling place.
I had not seen this lady since the inquest, and my heart beat high
as I sat awaiting her appearance in the dim little parlor where I
had been seated by the person who held her under secret surveillance.
The scene I had just been through, the uncertain nature of the
relations held by this beautiful woman both toward the crime just
discovered and the one long associated with her name, lent to these
few moments of anticipation an emotion which poorly prepared me for
the touching sight of the patient smile with which she presently
But I doubt if she noticed my agitation. She was too much swayed
by her own. Advancing upon me in all the unconscious pride of her
great beauty, she tremulously remarked:
"You have a message for me. Is it from headquarters? Or has the
district attorney still more questions to ask?"
"I have a much more trying errand than that," I hastened to say,
with some idea of preparing her for an experience that could not
fail to be one of exceptional trial. "For reasons which will be
explained to you by those in greater authority than myself, you are
wanted at the house where - " I could not help stammering
under the light of her melancholy eyes - " where I saw you once
before," I lamely concluded.
"The house in Waverley Avenue?" she objected wildly, with the first
signs of positive terror I had ever beheld in her.
I nodded, dropping my eyes. What call had I to penetrate the
conscience of this woman?
"Are they there? all there?" she presently asked again. "The
police and - and Mr. Jeffrey?"
"Madam," I respectfully protested, "my duty is limited to
conducting you to the place named. A carriage is waiting. May I
beg that you will prepare yourself to go at once to Waverley Avenue?"
For answer she subjected me to a long and earnest look which I found
it impossible to evade. Then she hastened from the room, but with
very unsteady steps. Evidently the courage which had upborne her so
long was beginning to fail. Her very countenance was changed. Had
she recognized, as I meant she should, that the secret of the Moore
house was no longer a secret confined to her own breast and to that
of her unhappy brother-in-law?
When she returned ready for her ride this change in her spirits was
less observable, and by the time we had reached the house in Waverley
Avenue she had so far regained her old courage as to move and speak
with the calmness of despair if not of mental serenity.
The major was awaiting us at the door and bowed gravely before her
heavily veiled figure.
"Miss Tuttle," he asked, without any preamble, the moment she was
well inside the house, "may I inquire of you here, and before I
show you what will excuse us for subjecting you to the distress of
entering these doors, whether your sister, Mrs. Jeffrey, had any
other name or was ever known by any other name than that of Veronica?"
"She was christened Antoinette, as well as Veronica; but the person
in whose memory the former name was given her was no honor to the
family and she very soon dropped it and was only known as Veronica.
Oh, what have I done?" she cried, awed and frightened by the silence
which followed the utterance of these simple words.
No one answered her. For the first time in her presence, the minds
of those who faced her were with another than herself. The bride!
the unhappy bride - no maiden but a wife! nay, a wife one minute,
a widow the next, and then again a newly-wedded bride before the
husband lying below was cold! What wander that she shrank when her
new-made bridegroom's lips approached her own! or that their
honeymoon was a disappointment! Or that the shadow which fell upon
her on that evil day never left her till she gave herself wholly up
to its influence and returned to die on the spot made awful by her
Before any of us were quite ready to speak, a tap at the door told
us that Durbin had arrived with Mr. Jeffrey. When they had been
admitted and the latter saw Miss Tuttle standing there, he, too,
seemed to realize that a turn had come in their affairs, and that
courage rather than endurance was the quality most demanded from
him. Facing the small group clustered in the dismal hall fraught
with such unutterable associations, he earnestly prayed:
"Do not keep me in suspense. Why am I summoned here?"
The reply was as grave as the occasion warranted.
"You are summoned to learn the murderous secret of these old walls,
and who it was that last made use of it. Do you feel inclined to
hear these details from my lips, or are you ready to state that you
already know the means by which so many persons, in times past as
well as in times present, have met death here? We do not require
you to answer us."
"I know the means," he allowed, recognizing without doubt that the
crisis of crises had come, and that denial would be worse than
"Then it only remains for us to acquaint you with the identity of
the person who last pressed the fatal spring. But perhaps you know
"I - " He paused; words were impossible to him; and in that pause
his eyes flashed helplessly in the direction of Miss Tuttle.
But the major was quick on his feet and was already between him and
that lady. This act forced from Mr. Jeffrey's lips the following
"I should - like - you - to - tell - me." Great gasps came with
each heavily spoken word.
"Perhaps this morsel of lace will do it in a gentler manner than
I could," responded the district attorney, opening his hand, in
which lay the scrap of lace that, an hour or so before, I had
plucked away from the boarding of that fatal closet.
Mr. Jeffrey eyed it and understood. His hands went up to his face
and he swayed to the point of falling. Miss Tuttle came quickly
"Oh!" she moaned, as her eyes fell on the little white shred. "The
providence of God has found us out. We have suffered, labored and
denied in vain."
"Yes," came in dreary echo from the man none of us had understood
till now; "so great a crime could not be hid. God will have
vengeance. What are we that we should hope to avert it by any act
or at any cost?"
The major, with his eyes fixed piercingly on this miserable man,
replied with one pregnant, sentence:
"Then you forced your wife to suicide?"
"No," he began; but before another word could follow, Miss Tuttle,
resplendent in beauty and beaming with new life, broke in with the
"You wrong him and you wrong her by such a suggestion. It was not
her husband but her conscience that forced her to this retributive
act. What Mr. Jeffrey might have done had she proved obdurate and
blind to the enormity of her own guilt, I do not know. But that he
is innocent of so influencing her is proved by the shock he suffered
at finding she had taken her punishment into her own hands."
"Mr. Jeffrey will please answer the question," insisted the major.
Whereupon the latter, with great effort, but with the first
appearance of real candor yet seen in him, said earnestly:
"I did nothing to influence her. I was in no condition to do so.
I was benumbed - dead. When first she told me, - it was in some
words muttered in her sleep - I thought she was laboring under some
fearful nightmare; but when she persisted, and I questioned her,
and found the horror true, I was like a man turned instantly into
stone, save for one intolerable throb within. I am still so;
everything passes by me like a dream. She was so young, seemingly
so innocent and light-hearted. I loved her! Gentlemen, you have
thought me guilty of my wife's death, - this young fairy-like
creature to whom I ascribed all the virtues! and I was willing,
willing that you should think so, willing even to face the distrust
and opprobrium of the whole world, - and so was her sister, the
noble woman whom you see before you - rather than that the full
horror of her crime should be known and a name so dear be given up
to execration. We thought we could keep the secret - we felt that
we must keep the secret - we took an oath - in French - in the
carriage with the detectives opposite us. She kept it - God bless
her! I kept it. But it was all useless - a tiny bit of lace is
found hanging to a lifeless splinter, and all our efforts, all the
hopes and agony of weeks are gone for naught. The world will soon
know of her awful deed - and I - "
He still loved her! That was apparent in every look, in every word
he uttered. We marveled in awkward silence, and were glad when the
"The deed, as I take it, was an unpremeditated one on her part. Is
that why her honor was dearer to you than your own, and why you
could risk the reputation if not the life of the woman who you say
sacrificed herself to it?"
"Yes, it was unpremeditated; she hardly realized her act. If you
must know her heart through all this dreadful business, we have her
words to show you - words which she spent the last miserable day of
her life in writing. The few lines which I showed the captain and
which have been published to the world was an inclosure meant for
the public eye. The real letter, telling the whole terrible truth,
I kept for myself and for the sister who already knew her sin. Oh,
we did everything we could!" And he again moaned: "But it was in
vain; quite in vain."
There were no signs of subterfuge in him now, and we all, unless I
except Durbin, began to yield him credence. Durbin never gives
credence to anybody whose name he has once heard associated with
"And this Pfeiffer was contracted to her? A man she had secretly
married while a school-girl and who at this very critical instant
had found his way to the house."
"You shall read her letter. It was meant for me, for me only - but
you shall see it. I can not talk of him or of her crime. It is
enough that I have been unable to think of anything else since first
those dreadful words fell front her lips in sleep, thirty-six hours
before she died." Then with the inconsistency of great anguish he
suddenly broke forth into the details he shrank from and cried
"She muttered, lying there, that she was no bigamist. That she had
killed one husband before she married the other. Killed him in the
old house and by the method her ancestors had taught her. And I,
risen on my elbow, listened, with the sweat oozing from my forehead,
but not believing her, oh, not believing her, any more than any one
of you would believe such words uttered in a dream by the darling of
your heart. But when, with a long-drawn sigh, she murmured,
'Murderer!' and raised her fists - tiny fists, hands which I had
kissed a thousand times - and shook them in the air, an awful terror
seized me, and I sought to grasp them and hold them down, but was
hindered by some nameless inner recoil under which I could not speak,
nor gasp, nor move. Of course, it was some dream-horror she was
laboring under, a nightmare of unimaginable acts and thoughts, but
it was one to hold me back; and when she lay quiet again and her
face resumed its old sweetness in the moonlight, I found myself
staring at her almost as if it were true - what she had said - that
word - that awful word which no woman could use with regard to
herself, even in dreams, unless - Something, an echo from the
discordant chord in our two weeks' married life, rose like the
confirmation of a doubt in my shocked and rebellious breast. From
that hour till dawn nothing in that slowly brightening room seemed
real, not her face lying buried in its youthful locks upon the
pillow, not the objects well-known and well-prized by which we were
surrounded - not myself - most of all, not myself, unless the icy
dew oozing from the roots of my lifted hair was real, unless that
shape, fearsome, vague, but persistent, which hovered in the
shadows above us, drawing a line of eternal separation between me
and my wife, was a thing which could be caught and strangled and -
Oh! I rave! I chatter like a madman; but I did not rave that
night. Nor did I rave when, in the bright, broad sunlight, her eye
slowly unclosed and she started to see me bending so near her, but
not with my usual kiss or glad good morning. I could not question
her then; I dared not. The smile which slowly rose to her lips was
too piteous - it showed confidence. I waited till after breakfast.
Then, while she was seated where she could not see my face, I
whispered the question: 'Do you know that you have had a horrible
dream?' She shrieked and turned. I saw her face and knew that what
she had uttered in her sleep was true.'
"I have no remembrance of what I said to her. She tried to tell me
how she had been tempted and how she had not realized her own act,
till the moment I bent down to kiss her lips as her husband. But I
did not stop to listen - I could not. I flew immediately to Miss
Tuttle with the violent demand as to whether she knew that her
sister was already a wife when she married me, and when she cried
out 'No!' and showed great dismay, I broke forth with the dreadful
tale and cowered in unmanly anguish at her feet, and went mad and
lost myself for a little while. Then I went back to my wretched
wife and asked her how the awful deed had been done. She told me,
and again I did not believe her and began to look upon it all as
some wild dream or the distempered fancies of a disordered brain.
This thought calmed me and I spoke gently to her and even tried to
take her hand. But she herself was raving now, and clung about my
knees, murmuring words of such anguish and contrition that my worst
fears returned and, only stopping to take the key of the Moore
house from my bureau, I left the house and wandered madly - I know
"I did not go back that day. I could not face her again till I
knew how much of her confession was fancy and how much was fact.
I roamed the streets, carrying that key from one end of the city to
the other, and at night I used it to open the house which she had
declared contained so dreadful a secret.
"I had bought candles on my way there but, forgetting to take them
from the store, I had no light with which to penetrate the horrible
place that even the moon refused to illumine. I realized this when
once in, but would not go back. All I have told about using matches
to light me to the southwest chamber is true, also my coming upon
the old candelabrum there, with a candle in one of its sockets. This
candle I lit, my sole reason for seeking this room being my desire
to examine the antique sketch for the words which she had said could
be found there.
"I had failed to bring a magnifying-glass with me, but my eyes are
phenomenally sharp. Knowing where to look, I was able to pick out
enough words here and there in the lines composing the hair, to feel
quite sure that my wife had neither deceived me nor been deceived
as to certain directions being embodied there in writing. Shaken in
my last lingering hope, but not yet quite convinced that these words
pointed to outrageous crime, I flew next to the closet and drew out
the fatal drawer.
"You have been there and know what the place is, but no one but
myself can ever realize what it was for me, still loving, still
clinging to a wild inconsequent belief in my wife, to grope in that
mouth of hell for the spring she had chattered about in her sleep,
to find it, press it, and then to hear, down in the dark of the
fearsome recess, the sound of something deadly strike against what
I took to be the cushions of the old settle standing at the edge
of the library hearthstone.
"I think I must have fainted. For when I found myself possessed
of sufficient consciousness to withdraw from that hole of death,
the candle in the candelabrum was shorter by an inch than when I
first thrust my head into the gap made by the removed drawers.
In putting back the drawers I hit the candelabrum with my foot,
upsetting it and throwing out the burning candle. As the flames
began to lick the worm-eaten boarding of the floor a momentary
impulse seized me to rush away and leave the whole place to burn.
But I did not. With a sudden frenzy, I stamped out the flame,
and then finding myself in darkness, griped my way downstairs and
out. If I entered the library I do not remember it. Some lapses
must be pardoned a man involved as I was."
"But the fact which you dismiss so lightly is an important one,"
insisted the major. "We must know positively whether you entered
this room or not."
"I have no recollection of doing so"
"Then you can not tell us whether the little table was standing
there, with the candelabrum upon it or - "
"I can tell you nothing about it."
The major, after a long look at this suffering man, turned toward
"You must have loved your sister very much," he sententiously
She flushed and for the first time her eyes fell from their
resting-place on Mr. Jeffrey's face.
"I loved her reputation," was her quiet answer, "and - " The
rest died in her throat.
But we all - such of us, I mean, who were possessed of the least
sensibility or insight, knew how that sentence sounded as finished
in her heart" and I loved him who asked this sacrifice of me."
Yet was her conduct not quite clear.
"And to save that reputation you tied the pistol to her wrist?"
insinuated the major.
"No," was her vehement reply. "I never knew what I was tying to
her. My testimony in that regard was absolutely true. She held
the pistol concealed in the folds of her dress. I did not dream
- I could not - that she was contemplating any such end to the
atrocious crime - to which she had confessed. Her manner was too
light, too airy and too frivolous - a manner adopted, as I now see,
to forestall all questions and hold back all expressions of
feeling on my part. 'Tie these hanging ends of ribbon to my
wrist,' were her words. 'Tie them tight; a knot under and a bow
on top. I am going out - There, don't say anything - What you
want to talk about will keep till tomorrow. For one night more I
am going to make merry - to - to enjoy myself.' She was laughing.
I thought her horribly callous and trembled with such an
unspeakable repulsion that I had difficulty in making the knot.
To speak at all would have been impossible. Neither did I dare
to look in her face. I was touching the hand and she kept on
laughing - such a hollow laugh covering up such an awful resolve!
When she turned to give me that last injunction about the note,
this resolve glared still in her eyes."
"And you never suspected?"
"Not for an instant. I chid not do justice either to her misery or
to her conscience. I fear that I have never done her justice in
anyway. I thought her light, pleasure-loving. I did not know that
it was assumed to hide a terrible secret."
"Then you had no knowledge of the contract she had entered into
while a school-girl?"
"Not in the least. Another woman, and not myself, had been her
confidante; a woman who has since died. No intimation of her first
unfortunate marriage had ever reached me till Mr. Jeffrey rushed
in upon me that Tuesday morning with her dreadful confession on
The district attorney, who did not seem quite satisfied on a certain
point passed over by the major, now took the opportunity of saying:
"You assure us that you had no idea that this once lighthearted
sister of yours meditated suicide when she left you?"
"And I repeat it, sir."
"Then why did you immediately go to Mr. Jeffrey's drawer, where
you could have no business, unless it was to see if she had taken
his pistol with her?"
Miss Tuttle's head fell and a soft flush broke through the pallor
of her cheek.
"Because I was thinking of him. Because I was terrified for him.
He had left the house the morning before in a half-maddened condition
and had not come back to sleep or eat since. I did not know what a
man so outraged in every sacred feeling of love and honor might be
tempted to do. I thought of suicide. I remembered the old house
and how he had said, 'I don't believe her. I don't believe she ever
did so cold-blooded an act, or that any such dreadful machinery is
in that house. I never shall believe it till I have seen and handled
it myself. It is a nightmare, Cora. We are insane.' I thought of
this, sirs, and when I went into her room, to change the place of
the little note in the book, I went to his bureau drawer, not to
look for the pistol - I did not think of that then, - but to see if
the keys of the Moore house were still there. I knew that they were
kept in this drawer, for I had been present in the room when they
were brought in after the wedding. I had also been short-sighted
enough to conclude that if they were gone it was he who had taken
them. They were gone, and that was why I flew immediately from the
house to the old place in Waverley Avenue. I was concerned for Mr.
Jeffrey! I feared to find him there, demented or dead"
"But you had no key."
"No. Mr. Jeffrey had taken one of them and my sister the other.
But the lack of a key or even of a light - for the missing candles
were not taken by me* - could not keep me at home after
I was once convinced that he had gone to this dreadful house. If I
could not get in I could at least hammer at the door or rouse the
neighbors. Something must be done. I did not think what; I merely
*We afterwards found that these candles were never delivered at the
house at all; that they had been placed in the wrong basket and left
in a neighboring kitchen.
"Did you know that the house had two keys?"
"But your sister did?"
"And finding the only key, as you supposed, gone, you flew to the
"And now what else?"
"I found the door unlocked."
"That was done by Mrs. Jeffrey?"
"Yes, but I did not think of her then."
"And you went in?"
"Yes; it was all dark, but I felt my way till I came to the gilded
"Why did you go there?"
"Because I felt - I knew - if he were anywhere in that house he
would be there!"
"And why did you stop?"
Her voice rose above its usual quiet pitch in shrill protest:
"You know! you know! I heard a pistol-shot from within, then a
fall. I don't remember anything else. They say I went wandering
about town. Perhaps I did; it is all a blank to me - everything is
a blank till the policeman said that my sister was dead and I
learned for the first time that the shot I had heard in the Moore
house was not the signal of his death, but hers. Had I been myself
when at that library door," she added, after a moment of silence,
"I would have rushed in at the sound of that shot and have received
my sister's dying breath"
"Cora!" The cry was from Mr. Jeffrey, and seemed to be quite
involuntary. "In the weeks during which we have been kept from
speaking together I have turned all these events over in my mind
till I longed for any respite, even that of the grave. But in all
my thinking I never attributed this motive to your visit here.
Will you forgive me?"
There was a new tone in his voice, a tone which no woman could
hear without emotion.
"You had other things to think of," she said, and her lips trembled.
Never have I seen on the human face a more beautiful expression than
I saw on hers at that moment; nor do I think Mr. Jeffrey had either,
for as he marked it his own regard softened almost to tenderness.
The major had no time for sentimentalities. Turning to Mr. Jeffrey,
"One more question before we send for the letter which you say will
give us full insight into your wife's crime. Do you remember what
occurred on the bridge at Georgetown just before you came into town
He shook his head.
"Did you meet any one there?"
"I do not know."
"Can you remember your state of mind?"
"I was facing the future."
"And what did you see in the future?"
"Death. Death for her and death for me! A crime was on her soul
and she must die, and if she, then myself. I knew no other course.
I could not summon the police, point out my bride of a fortnight
and, with the declaration that she had been betrayed into killing a
man, coldly deliver her up to justice. Neither could I live at her
side knowing the guilty secret which parted us; or live anywhere in
the world under this same consciousness. Therefore, I meant to kill
myself before another sun rose. But she was more deeply stricken
with a sense of her own guilt than I realized. When I returned home
for the pistol which was to end our common misery I found that she
had taken her punishment into her own hands. This strangely affected
me, but when I found that, in doing this, she had remembered that I
should have to face the world after she was gone, and so left a few
lines for me to show in explanation of her act, my revolt against
her received a check which the reading of her letter only increased.
But the lines she thus wrote and left were not true lines. All her
heart was mine, and if it was a wicked heart she has atoned - "
He paused, quite overcome. Others amongst us were overcome, too,
but only for a moment. The following remark from the district
attorney soon recalled us to the practical aspects of the case.
"You have accounted for many facts not hitherto understood. But
there is still a very important one which neither yourself nor
Miss Tuttle has yet made plain. There was a candle on the scene
of crime; it was out when this officer arrived here. There was
also one found burning in the upstairs room, aside from the one you
professedly used in your tour of inspection there. Whence came
those candles? And did your wife blow out the one in the library
herself, previous to the shooting, or was it blown out afterward
and by other lips?"
"These are questions which, as I have already said, I have no means
of answering," repeated Mr. Jeffrey. "The courage which brought
her here may have led her to supply herself with light; and, hard
as it is to conceive, she may even have found nerve to blow out the
light before she lifted the pistol to her breast:"
The district attorney and the major looked unconvinced, and the
latter, turning toward Miss Tuttle, asked if she had any remark to
make on the subject.
But she could only repeat Mr. Jeffrey's statement.
"These are questions I can not answer either. I have said that I
stopped at the library door, which means that I saw nothing of what
Here the major asked where Mrs. Jeffrey's letter was to be found.
It was Mr. Jeffrey who replied:
"Search in my room for a book with an outside cover of paper still
on it. You will probably find it on my table. The inner cover is
red. Bring that book here. Our secret is hidden in it."
Durbin disappeared on this errand. I followed him as far as the
door, but I did not think it necessary to state that I had seen
this book lying on the table when I paid my second visit to Mr.
Jeffrey's room in company with the coroner. The thought that my
hand had been within reach of this man's secret so many weeks
before was sufficiently humiliating without being shared.
I made my way to the front door, but returned almost immediately.
Drawing the major aside, I whispered a request, which led to a
certain small article being passed over to me, after which I
sauntered out on the stoop just in time to encounter the spruce
but irate figure of Mr. Moore, who had crossed from the opposite
"Ah!" said I. "Good morning!" and made him my most deferential bow.
He glared and Rudge glared from his place on the farther curb.
Evidently the police were not in favor with the occupants of the
cottage that morning.
"When is this to cease?" he curtly demanded. "When are these
early-morning trespasses upon an honest citizen's property coming
to an end? I wake with a light heart, expecting that my house,
which is certainly as much mine as is any man's in Washington, would
be handed over this very day for my habitation, when what do I see
- one police officer leaving the front door and another sunning
himself in the vestibule. How many more of you are within I do not
presume to ask. Some half-dozen, no doubt, and not one of you smart
enough to wind up this matter and have done with it."
"Ah! I don't know about that," I drawled, and looked very wise.
His curiosity was aroused.
"Anything new?" he snapped.
"Possibly," I returned, in a way to exasperate a saint.
He stepped on to the porch beside me. I was too abstracted to
notice; I was engaged in eying Rudge.
"Do you know," said I, after an instant of what I meant should be
one of uncomfortable suspense on his part, "that I have a greater
respect than ever for that animal of yours since learning the very
good reason he has for refusing to cross the street?"
"Ha! what's that?" he asked, with a quick look behind him at the
watchful brute straining toward him with nose over the gutter.
"He sees farther than we can. His eyes penetrate walls and
partitions," I remarked. Then, carelessly and with the calm drawing
forth of a folded bit of paper which I held out toward him, I added:
"By the way, here is something of yours"
His hand rose instinctively to take it; then dropped.
"I don't know what you mean," he remarked. "You have nothing of
"No? Then John Judson Moore had another brother." And I thrust
the paper back into my pocket.
He followed it with his eye. It was the memorandum I had found in
the old book of memoirs plucked from the library shelf within, and
he recognized it for his and saw that I did also. But he failed
to show the white feather.
"You are good at ransacking," he observed; "pity that it can not
be done to more purpose."
I smiled and made a fresh start. With my hand thrust again into my
pocket, I remarked, without even so much as a glance at him:
"I fear that you do some injustice to the police. We are not such
bad fellows; neither do we waste as much time as you seem to think."
And drawing out my hand, with the little filigree ball in it, I
whirled the latter innocently round and round on my finger. As it
flashed under his eye, I cast him a penetrating look.
He tried to carry the moment off successfully; I will give him so
much credit. But it was asking too much of his curiosity, and
there was no mistaking the eager glitter which lighted his glance
as he saw within his reach this article which a moment before he
had probably regarded as lost forever.
"For instance," I went on, watching him furtively, though quite
sure from his very first look that he knew no more now of the secret
of this little ball than he knew when he jotted down the memorandum
I had just pocketed before his eyes, "a little thing - such a little
thing as this," I repeated, giving the bauble another twist - "may
lead to discoveries such as no common search would yield in years.
I do not say that it has; but such a thing is possible, you know:
My nonchalance was too much for him. He surveyed me with covert
dislike, and dryly observed "Your opportunities have exceeded mine,
even with my own effects. That petty trinket which you have
presumed to flaunt in my face - and of whose value I am the worst
judge in the world since I have never had it in my hand - descended
to me with the rest of Mrs. Jeffrey's property. Your conduct,
therefore, strikes me in the light of an impertinence, especially
as no one could be supposed to have more interest than myself in
what has been for many years recognized as a family talisman."
"Ah," I remarked. "You own to the memorandum then. It was made
on the spot, but without the benefit of the talisman."
"I own to nothing," he snapped. Then, realizing that denial in this
regard was fatal, he added more genially: "What do you mean by
memorandum? If you mean that recapitulation of old-time mysteries
and their accompanying features with which I once whiled away an
idle hour, I own to it, of course. Why shouldn't I? It is only a
proof of my curiosity in regard to this old mystery which every
member of my family must feel. That curiosity has not been appeased.
If it would not be indiscreet on your part, may I now ask if you
have found out what that little golden ball of mine which you sport
so freely before my eyes is to be used in connection with?"
"Read the papers," I said; "read tomorrow's papers, Mr. Moore; or,
better still, tonight's. Perhaps they will inform you."
He was as angry as I had expected him to be, but as this ire proved
conclusively that his strongest emotion had been curiosity rather
than fear, I felt assured of my ground, and turned to reenter the
house. Mr. Moore did not accompany me.
The major was standing in the hall. The others had evidently
retreated to the parlor.
"The man opposite knows what he knows," said I; "but this does not
include the facts concerning the picture in the southwest chamber
or the devilish mechanism."
"You are sure?"
"As positive as one of my inexperience can be. But, Major, I am
equally positive that he knows more than he should of Mrs. Jeffrey's
death. I am even ready to state that in my belief he was in the
house when it occurred."
"Has he acknowledged this?"
"Not at all."
"Then what are your reasons for this belief?"
"They are many"
"Will you state them?"
"Gladly, if you will pardon the presumption. Some of my conclusions
can not be new to you. The truth is that I have possibly seen more
of this old man than my duty warranted, and I feel quite ready to
declare that he knows more of what has taken place in this house
than he is ready to avow. I am sure that he has often visited it
in secret and knows about a certain broken window as well as we do.
I am also sure that he was here on the night of Mrs. Jeffrey's
suicide. He was too little surprised when I informed him of what
had happened not to have had some secret inkling of it beforehand,
even if we had not the testimony of the lighted candle and the book
he so hurriedly replaced. Besides, he is not the man to drag
himself out at night for so simple a cause as the one with which
he endeavored to impose upon us. He knew what we should find in
"Very good. If Mr. Jeffrey's present explanations are true, these
deductions of yours are probably correct. But Mr. Moore's denial
has been positive. I fear that it will turn out a mere question of
"Not necessarily," I returned. "I think I see a way of forcing
this man to acknowledge that he was in or about this house on that
"Yes, sir; I do not want to boast, and I should be glad if you
did not oblige me to confide to you the means by which I hope to
bring this out. Only give me leave to insert an advertisement in
both evening and morning papers and in two days I will report
failure or success"
The major eyed me with an interest that made my heart thrill.
Then he quickly said: "You have earned the privilege; I will give
you two days."
At this moment Durbin reappeared. As I heard his knock and turned
to open the door for him, I cast the major an entreating if not
He smiled and waved his hand with friendly assurance. The state of
feeling between Durbin and myself was evidently well known to him.
My enemy entered with a jaunty air, which changed ever so slightly
when he saw me in close conference with the superintendent.
He had the book in his pocket. Taking it out, he handed it to the
major, with this remark:
"You won't find anything there; the gent's been fooling you."
The major opened the book, shook it, looked under the cover, found
nothing, and crossed hastily to the drawing-room. We as hastily
followed him. The district attorney was talking with Miss Tuttle;
Mr. Jeffrey was nervously pacing the floor. The latter stopped as
we all entered and his eyes flashed to the book.
"Let me take it," said he.
"It is absolutely empty," remarked the major. "The letter has
been abstracted, probably without your knowledge."
"I do not think so," was Mr. Jeffrey's unexpected retort. "Do you
suppose that I would intrust a secret, for the preservation of
which I was ready to risk life and honor, to the open pages of a
book? When I found myself threatened with all sorts of visits from
the police and realized that at any moment my effects might be
ransacked, I sought a hiding place for this letter, which no man
without superhuman insight could discover. Look!"
And, pulling off the outside wrapper, he inserted the point of
his penknife under the edge of the paper lining the inside cover
and ripped it off with a jerk.
"I pasted this here myself," he cried, and showed us where between
this paper and the boards, in a place thinned out to hold it, there
lay a number of folded sheets, which, with a deep sigh, he handed
over to the major's inspection. As he did so he remarked:
"I had rather have died any natural death than have had my miserable
wife's secret known. But since the crime has come to light, this
story of her sin and her repentance may serve in some slight degree
to mitigate public opinion. She was sorely tempted and she
succumbed; the crime of her ancestors was in her blood"
He again walked off. The major unfolded the sheets.
"WHO WILL TELL THE MAN INSIDE THERE
Later I saw this letter. It was like no other that has ever come
under my eye. Written at intervals, as her hand had power or her
misery found words, it bore on its face all the evidences of that
restless, suffering spirit which for thirty-six hours drove her in
frenzy about her room, and caused Loretta to say, in her effort to
describe her mistress' face as it appeared to her at the end of
this awful time: "It was as if a blight had passed over it. Once
gay and animated beyond the power of any one to describe, it had
become a ghost's face, with the glare of some awful resolve upon
it." I give this letter just as it was written-disjointed
paragraphs, broken sentences, unfinished words and all. The
breaks show where she laid down her pen, possibly for that wild
pacing of the floor which left such unmistakable signs behind it.
It opens abruptly:
"I killed him. I am all that I said I was, and you can never again
give me a thought save in the way of cursing and to bewail the day
I came into your life. But you can not hate me more than I hate
myself, my wicked self, who, seeing an obstacle in the way to
happiness, stamped it out of existence, and so forfeited all right
to happiness forever.
"It was so easy! Had it been a hard thing to do; had it been
necessary to lay hand on knife or lift a pistol, I might have
realized the act and paused. But just a little spring which a
child's hand could manage - Who, feeling for it, could help pressing
it, if only to see -
"I was always a reckless girl, mad for pleasure and without any
thought of consequences. When school bored me, I took all my books
out of my desk, called upon my mates to do the same, and, stacking
them up into a sort of rostrum in a field where we played, first
delivered an oration from them in which reverence for my teachers
had small part, then tore them into pieces and burned them in full
sight of my admiring school-fellows. I was dismissed, but not with
disgrace. Teachers and scholars bewailed my departure, not because
they liked me, or because of any good they had found in me, but
because my money had thrown luster on them and on the whole
This was when I was twelve, and it was on account of this reckless
escapade that I was sent west and kept so long from home and all
my flatterers. My guardian meant well by this, but in saving me
from one pitfall he plunged me into another. I grew up without
Cora and also without any idea of the requirements of my position
or what I might anticipate from the world when the time came for me
to enter it. I knew that I had money; so did those about me; but I
had little or no idea of the amount, nor what that money would do
for me when I returned to Washington. So, in an evil day, and when
I was just eighteen, I fell in love, or thought I did, with a man
- (Oh, Francis, imagine it, now that I have seen you!) - of
sufficient attraction to satisfy one whose prospects were limited
to a contracted existence in some small town, but no more fitted
to content me after seeing Washington life than if he had been a
common farm hand or the most ordinary of clerks in a country store.
But I was young, ignorant and self-willed, and thought because my
cheek burned under his look that he was the man of men, and suited
to be my husband. That is, if I thought at all, which is not likely;
for I was in a feverish whirl, and just followed the impulse of the
moment, which was to be with him whenever I could without attracting
the teacher's attention. And this, alas! was only too often, for
he was the brother of one of our storekeepers, a visitor in Owosso,
and often in the store where we girls went. Why the teachers did
not notice how often we needed things there, I do not know. But
they did not, and matters went on and -
"I can not write of those days, and you do not want to hear about
them. They seem impossible to me now, and almost as if it had all
happened to some one else, so completely have I forgotten the man
except as the source and cause of an immeasurable horror. Yet he
was not bad himself; only ordinary and humdrum. Indeed, I believe
he was very good in ways, or so his brother once assured me. We
would not have been married in the way we were if he had not wanted
to go to the Klondike for the purpose of making money and making
it quickly, so that his means might match mine.
"I do not know which of us two was most to blame for that marriage.
He urged it because he was going so far away and wanted to be sure
of me. I accepted it because it seemed to be romantic and because
it pleased me to have my own way in spite of my hard old guardian
and the teachers, who were always prying about, and the girls, who
went silly over him - for he was really handsome in his way - and
who thought, (at least many of them did,) that he cared for them
when he cared only for me.
"I have hated black eyes for a year. He had black eyes.
"I forgot Cora, or, rather, I did not let any remembrance of her
hinder me. She was a very shadowy person to me in those days. I
had not seen her since we were both children, and as for her
letters - they were almost a bore to me; she lived such a
different life from mine and wrote of so many things I had no
interest in. On my knees I ask her pardon now. I never understood
her. I never understood myself. I was light as thistledown and
blown by every breeze. There came a gust one day which blew me
into the mouth of hell. I am hovering there yet and am sinking,
Francis, sinking - Save me! I love you - I - I -
"It was all planned by him - I have no head for such things.
Sadie helped him - Sadie was my friend - but Sadie had not much to
say about it, for he seemed to know just how to arrange it all so
that no one at the seminary should know or even suspect what had
occurred till we got ready to tell them. He did not even take
his brother into his confidence, for Wallace kept store and
gossiped very much with his customers. Besides, he was very busy
just then selling out, for he was going to the Klondike with
William, and he had too much on his mind to be bothered, or so
William said. All this I must tell you or you will never
understand the temptation which assailed me when, having returned
to Washington, I awoke to my own position and the kind of men whom
I could now hope to meet. I was the wife - oh, the folly of it
- but this was known to so few, and those were so far removed,
and one even - my friend Sadie - being dead - Why not ignore the
miserable secret ceremony and cheat myself into believing myself
free, and enjoy this world of pleasure and fashion as Cora was
enjoying it and - trust. Trust what? Why the Klondike! That
swallower-up of men. Why shouldn't it swallow one more - Oh, I
know that it sounds hateful. But I was desperate; I had seen you.
"I had one letter from him after he reached Alaska, but that was
before I left Owosso. I never got another. And I never wrote to
him. He told me not to do so until he could send me word how and
where to write; but when these directions came my heart had changed
and my only wish was to forget his existence. And I did forget it
- almost. I rode and danced with you and went hither and yon,
lavishing money and time and heart on the frivolities which came in
my way, calling myself Veronica and striving by these means to crush
out every remembrance of the days when I was known as Antoinette
and Antoinette only. For the Klondike was far and its weather
bitter, and men were dying there every day, and no letters came (I
used to thank God for this), and I need not think - not yet - whither
I was tending. One thing only made me recall my real position.
That was when your eyes turned on mine - your true eyes, so bright
with confidence and pride. I wanted to meet them full, and when I
could not, I suddenly knew why, and suffered.
"Do you remember the night when we stood together on the balcony
at the Ocean View House and you laid your hand on my arm and
wondered why I persisted in looking at the moon instead of into
your expectant face? It was because the music then being played
within recalled another night and the pressure of another hand on
my arm - a hand whose touch I hoped never to feel again, but which
at that moment was so much more palpable than yours that I came
near screaming aloud and telling you in one rush of maddened
emotion my whole abominable secret.
"I did not accept your attentions nor agree to marry you, without
a struggle. You know that. You can tell, as no one else can, how
I held back and asked for time and still for time, thus grieving
you and tearing my own breast till a day came - you remember the
day when you found me laughing like a mad woman in a circle of
astonished friends? You drew me aside and said words which I
hardly waited for you to finish, for at last I was free to love
you, free to love and free to say so. The morning paper had brought
news. A telegraphic despatch from Seattle told how a man had
struggled into Nome, frozen, bleeding and without accouterments or
companion. It was with difficulty he had kept his feet and turned
in at the first tent he came to. Indeed, he had only time to
speak his name before he fell dead. This name was what made this
despatch important to me. It was William Pfeiffer. For me there
was but one William Pfeiffer in the Klondike - my husband - and he
was dead! That was why you found me laughing. But not in mirth.
I am not so bad as that; but because I could breathe again without
feeling a clutch about my throat. I did not know till then how
nearly I had been stifled.
"We were not long in marrying after that. I was terrified at delay,
not because I feared any contradiction of the report which had given
this glorious release, but because I dreaded lest some hint of my
early folly should reach you and dim the pride with which you
regarded me. I wanted to feel myself yours so closely and so dearly
that you would not mind if any one told you that I had once cared,
or thought I had cared, for another. The week of our marriage came;
I was mad with gaiety and ecstatic with hope. Nothing had occurred
to mar my prospects. No letter from Denver - no memento from the
Klondike, no word even from Wallace, who had gone north with his
brother. Soon I should be called wife again, but by lips I loved,
and to whose language my heart thrilled. The past, always vague,
would soon be no more than a forgotten dream - an episode quite
closed. I could afford from this moment on to view life like other
girls and rejoice in my youth and the love which every day was
becoming more and more to me.
"But God had His eye upon me, and in the midst of my happiness and
the hurry of our final preparations His bolt fell. It struck me
while I was at the - don't laugh; rather shudder - at the
dressmaker's shop in Fourteenth Street. I was leaning over a table,
chattering like a magpie over the way I wanted a gown trimmed, when
my eye fell on a scrap of newspaper in which something had come
rolled to madame. It was torn at the edge, but on the bit lying
under my eyes I saw my husband's name, William Pfeiffer, and that
the paper was a Denver one. There was but one William Pfeiffer
in Denver - and he was my husband. And I read - feeling nothing.
Then I read again, and the world, my world, went from under my feet;
for the man who had fallen dead in the camp at Nome was Wallace,
William's brother, and not William himself. William had been left
behind on the road by his more energetic brother, who had pushed
on for succor through the worst storm and under the worst conditions
possible even in that God-forsaken region. With the lost one in
mind, the one word that Wallace uttered in sight of rescue, was
William. A hope was expressed of finding the latter alive and a
party had started out - Did I read more? I do not think so.
Perhaps there was no more to read; here was where the paper was
torn across. But it was no matter. I had seen enough. It was
Wallace who had fallen dead, and while William might have perished
also, and doubtless had, I had no certainty of it. And my wedding
day was set for Thursday.
"Why didn't I tell Cora; why didn't I tell you? Pride held my tongue;
besides, I had had time to think before I saw either of you, and to
reason a bit and to feel sure that if Wallace had been spent enough
to fall dead on reaching the camp, William could never have survived
on the open road. For Wallace was the stronger of the two and the
most hardy every way. Free I certainly was. Some later paper would
assure me of this. I would hunt them up and see - but I never did.
I do not think I dared. I was afraid I should see some account of
his rescue. I was afraid of being made certain of what was now but
a possibility, and so I did nothing. But for three nights I did not
"The caprice which had led me to choose the old Moore house to be
married in led me to plan dressing there on my wedding morning. It
was early when we started, Cora and I, for Waverley Avenue, but not
too early for the approaches to that dreadful house to be crowded
with people, eager to see the daring bride. Why I should have
shrunk so from that crowd I can not say. I trembled at sight of
their faces and at the sound of their voices, and if by chance a
head was thrust forward farther than the rest I cowered back
instinctively and nearly screamed. Did I dread to recognize a too
familiar face? The paper I had seen bore a date six months back.
A man could arrive here from Alaska in that time. Or was my
conscience aroused at last and clamoring to be heard when it was
too late? On the corner of N Street the carriage suddenly stopped.
A man had crossed in front of it. I caught one glimpse of this
man and instantly the terrors of a lifetime were concentrated into
one instant of agonizing fear. It was William Pfeiffer. I knew
the look; I knew the gait. He was gone in a moment and the
carriage rolled on. But I knew my doom as well that minute as I
did an hour later. My husband was alive and he was here. He had
escaped the perils of the Klondike and wandered east to reclaim
his recreant wife. There had been time for him to do this since
the rescue party left home in search of him; time for him to
recover, time for him to reach home, time for him to reach the
east. He had heard of my wedding; it was in all the papers, and I
should find him at the house when I got there, and you would know
and Cora would know, and the wedding would stop and my name be
made a by-word the world over. Instead of the joy awaiting me a
moment since, I should have to go away with him into some wilderness
or distant place of exile where my maiden name would never be heard,
and all the memories of this year of stolen delights be effaced.
Oh, it was horrible! And all in a minute! And Cora sat there,
pale, calm and beautiful as an angel, beaming on me with tender
eyes whose expression I have never understood! Hell in my heart,
- and she, in happy ignorance of this, brooding over my joy and
smiling to herself while the soft tears rose!
"You were waiting at the curb when I arrived, and I remember how my
heart stood still when you laid your hand on the carriage door and
confronted me with that light on your face I had never seen
disturbed since we first pledged ourselves to marry. Would he see
it, too, and come forward from the secret place where he held
himself hidden? Was I destined to behold a struggle in the streets,
an unseemly contest of words in sight of the door I had expected
to enter so joyously? In terror of such an event, I seized the
hand which seemed my one refuge in this hour of mortal trouble,
and hastened into the house which, for all its doleful history,
had never received within its doors a heart more burdened or
rebellious. As this thought rushed over me, I came near crying
out, 'The house of doom! The house of doom!' I had thought to
brave its terrors and its crimes and it has avenged itself. But
instead of that, I pressed your hand with mine and smiled. O
God! if you could have seen what lay beneath that smile! For,
with my entrance beneath those fatal doors a thought had come.
I remembered my heritage. I remembered how I had been told by
my father when I was a very little girl, - I presume when he first
felt the hand of death upon him, - that if ever I was in great
trouble, - very great trouble, he had said, where no deliverance
seemed possible - I was to open a little golden ball which he
showed me and take out what I should find inside and hold it close
up before a picture which had hung from time immemorial in the
southwest corner of this old house. He could not tell me what I
should encounter there this I remember his saying - but something
that would assist me, something which had passed with good effect
from father down to child for many generations. Only, if I would
be blessed in my undertakings, I must not open the golden ball nor
endeavor to find out its mystery unless my trouble threatened death
or some great disaster. Such a trouble had indeed come to me, and
- startling coincidence - I was at this moment in the very house
where this picture hung, and - more startling fact yet - the
golden ball needed to interpret its meaning was round my neck - for
with such jealousy was this family trinket always guarded by its
owner. Why then not test their combined effect? I certainly needed
help from some quarter. Never would William allow me to be married
to another while he lived. He would yet appear and I should need
thus great assistance (great enough to be transmitted from father to
son) as none of the Moores had needed it yet; though what it was I
did not know and did not even try to guess.
"Yet when I got to the room I did not drag out the filigree ball at
once nor even take more than one fearful side-long look at the
picture. In drawing off my glove I had seen his ring - the ring you
had once asked about. It was such a cheap affair; the only one he
could get in that obscure little town where we were married. I
lied when you asked me if it was a family jewel; lied but did not
take it off, perhaps because it clung so tightly, as if in
remembrance of the vows it symbolized. But now the very sight of
it gave me a fright. With his ring on my finger I could not defy
him and swear his claim to be false the dream of a man maddened by
his experiences in the Klondike. It must come off. Then, perhaps,
I should feel myself a free woman. But it would not come off. I
struggled with it and tugged in vain; then I bethought me of using
a nail file to sever it. This I did, grinding and grinding at it
till the ring finally broke, and I could wrench it off and cast it
away out of sight and, as I hoped, out of my memory also. I
breathed easier when rid of this token, yet choked with terror
whenever a step approached the door. I was clad in my bridal dress,
but not in my bridal veil or ornaments, and naturally Cora, and
then my maid, came to assist me. But I would not let them in. I
was set upon testing the secret of the filigree ball and so
preparing myself for what my conscience told me lay between me and
the ceremony arranged for high noon.
"I did not guess that the studying out of that picture would take
so long. The contents of the ball turned out to be a small
magnifying-glass, and the picture a maze of written words. I did
not decipher it all; I did not decipher the half. I did not need
to. A spirit of divination was given me in that awful hour which
enabled me to grasp its full meaning from the few sentences I did
pick out. And that meaning! It was horrible, inconceivable.
Murder was taught; but murder from a distance, and by an act too
simple to awake revulsion. Were the wraiths of my two ancestors
who had played with the spring hidden in the depths of this old
closet, drawn up in mockery beside me during the hour when I stood
spellbound in the middle of the floor, thinking of what I had just
read, and listening - listening for something less loud than the
sound of carriages now beginning to roll up in front or the stray
notes of the band tuning up below? - less loud, but meaning what?
A step into the empty closet yawning so near - an effort with a
drawer - a - a - Do not ask me to recall it. I did not shudder
when the moment came and I stood there. Then I was cold as marble.
But I shudder now in thinking of it till soul and body seem
separating, and the horror which envelopes me gives me such a
foretaste of hell that I wonder I can contemplate the deed which,
if it releases me from this earthly anguish, will only plunge me
into a possibly worse hereafter. Yet I shall surely take my life
before you see me again, and in that old house. If it is despair
I feel, then despair will take me there. If it is repentance,
then repentance will suffice to drive me to the one expiation
possible to me - to perish where I caused an innocent man to
perish, and so relieve you of a wife who was never worthy of you
and whom it would be your duty to denounce if she let another sun
rise upon her guilt.
"I did not stand there long between the wraiths of my murderous
ancestors. A message was shouted through the door - the message for
which my ears had been strained in dreadful anticipation for the
last two hours. A man named Pfeiffer wanted to see me before I
went down to be married. A man named Pfeiffer!
"I looked closely at the boy who delivered this message. He showed
no excitement, nor any feeling greater than impatience at being kept
waiting a minute or so at the door. Then I glanced beyond him, at
the people chatting in the hall. No alarm there; nothing but a very
natural surprise that the bride should keep so big a crowd waiting.
I felt that this fixed the event. He who had sent me this quiet
message was true to himself and to our old compact. He had not
published below what would have set the house in an uproar in a
moment. He had left his secret to be breathed into my ear alone.
I could recall the moment he passed me his word, and his firm look
as he said, with his hand lifted to Heaven 'You have been good to
me and given me your precious self while I was poor and a nobody.
In return, I swear to keep our marriage a secret till great success
shows me to be worthy of you or till you with your own lips express
forgiveness of my failure and grant me leave to speak. Nothing but
death or your permission shall ever unseal my lips.' When I heard
that he was dead I feared lest he might have spoken, but now that
I had seen him alive, I knew that in no other breast, save his, my
own and that of the unknown minister in an almost unknown town,
dwelt any knowledge of the fact which stood between me and the
marriage which all these people had come here to see. My confidence
in his rectitude determined me. Without conscious emotion, without
fear even, - the ending of suspense had ended all that, - I told
the boy to seat the gentleman in the library. Then "I am haunted
now, I am haunted always, by one vision, horrible but persistent.
It will not leave me; it rises between us now; it has stood between
us ever since I left that house with the seal of your affection on
my lips. Last night it terrified me into unconscious speech. I
dreamed that I saw again, and plainly, what I caught but a shadowy
glimpse of in that murderous hour: a man's form seated at the end
of the old settle, with his head leaning back, in silent
contemplation. His face was turned the other way - I thanked God
for that - no, I did not thank God; I never thought of God in that
moment of my blind feeling about for a chink and a spring in the
wall. I thought only of your impatience, and the people waiting,
and the pleasure of days to come when, free from this intolerable
bond, I could keep my place at your side and bear your name
unreproved and taste to the full the awe and delight of a passion
such as few women ever feel, because few women were ever loved by
a man like you. Had my thoughts been elsewhere, my fingers might
have forgotten to fumble along that wall, and I had been simply
wretched to-day, - and innocent. Innocent! O, where in God's
universe can I be made innocent again and fit to look in your face
and to love - heart-breaking thought - even to love you again?
"To turn and turn a miserable crank after those moments of frenzied
action and silence that was the hard part-that was what tried my
nerve and first robbed me of calmness. But I dared not leave that
fearful thing dangling there; I had to wind. The machinery squeaked,
and its noise seemed to fill the house, but no one came nor did the
door below open. Sometimes I have wished that it had. I should not
then have been lured on and you would not have become involved in
"I have heard many say that I looked radiant when I came down to be
married. The radiance was in their thoughts. Or if my face did
shine, and if I moved as if treading on air, it was because I had
triumphed over all difficulties and could pass down to the altar
without fear of that interrupting voice crying out: `I forbid! She
is mine! The wife of William Pfeiffer can not wed another!' No
such words could be dreaded now. The lips which might have spoken
them were dumb. I forgot that fleshless lips gibber loudest, and
that a lifetime, long or short, lay before me, in which to hear
them mumble and squeak their denunciation and threats. Oh, but I
have been wretched! At ball and dinner and dance those lips have
been ever at my ear, but most when we have sat alone together; most
then; Oh, most then!
"He is avenged; but you! Who will avenge you, and where will you
ever find happiness?
"To blot myself from your memory I would go down deeper into the
vale of suffering than ever I have gone yet. But no, no! do not
quite forget me. Remember me as you saw me one night - the night
you took the flower out of my hair and kissed it, saying that
Washington held many beautiful women, but that none of them save
myself had ever had the power to move your inmost heart-strings.
Ah, low was your voice and eloquent your eyes that hour, and I
forgot, - for a moment I forgot - everything but this pure love;
and the heartbeat it called up and the hope, never to be realized
- that I should live to hear you repeat the same sweet words in
our old age, in just such a tone and with just such a look. I
was innocent at that moment, innocent and good. I am willing
that you should remember me as I was that night.
"When I think of him lying cold and dead in the grave I myself
dug for him, my heart is like stone, but when I think of you -
"I am afraid to die; but I am more afraid of failing in courage.
I shall have the pistol tied to me; this will make it seem
inevitable to use it. Oh! that the next twenty-four hours could
be blotted out of time! Such horror can not be. I was born for
joy and gaiety; yet no dismal depth of misery and fear has been
spared me! But all on account of my own act. I do not accuse
God; I do not accuse man; I only accuse myself, and my thoughtless
grasping after pleasure.
"I want Cora to read this as well as you. She must know me dead as
she never knew me living. But I can not tell her that I have left
a confession behind me. She must come upon it unexpectedly, just
as I mean you to do. Only thus can it reach either of you with any
power. If I could but think of some excuse for sending her to the
book where I propose to hide it! that would give her a chance of
reading it before you do, and this would be best. She may know how
to prepare or comfort you - I hope so. Cora is a noble woman, but
the secret which kept my thoughts in such a whirl has held us apart.
"You did what I asked. You found a place for Rancher's waiter in
the volunteer corps. Surprised as you were at the interest I
expressed in him, you honored my first request and said nothing.
Would you have shown the same anxious eagerness if you had known why
I whispered those few words to him from the carriage door? Why I
could neither rest nor sleep till he and the other boy were safely
out of town?
"I must leave a line for you to show to people if they should wonder
why I killed myself so soon after my seemingly happy marriage. You
will find it in the same book with this letter. Some one will tell
you to look in the book - I can not write any more.
"I can not help writing. It is all that connects me now with life
and with you. But I have nothing more to say except, forgive -
"Do you think that God looks at his wretched ones differently from
what men do? That He will have tenderness for one so sorry - that
He will even find place - But my mother is there! my father! Oh,
that makes it fearful to go - to meet - But it was my father who
led me into this - only he did not know - There! I will think
only of God.
"Good by - good by - good - "
That was all. It ended, as it began, without name and without date,
- the final heart-throbs of a soul, awakened to its own act when it
was quite too late. A piteous memorial which daunted each one of
us as we read it, and when finished, drew us all together in the
hall out of the sight and hearing of the two persons most intimately
concerned in it.
Possibly because all had one thought - a thrilling one, which the
major was the first to give utterance to.
"The man she killed was buried under the name of Wallace. How's
that, if he was her husband, William?"
An officer we had not before noted was standing near the front door.
He came forward at this and placed a second telegram in the
superintendent's hand. It was from the same source as the one
previously received and appeared to settle this very question.
"I have just learned that the man married was not the one who kept
store in Owosso, but his brother William, who afterward died in
Klondike. It is Wallace whose death you are investigating."
"What snarl is here?" asked the major.
"I think I understand," I ventured to put in. "Her husband was the
one left on the road by the brother who staggered into camp for aid.
He was a weak man - the weaker of the two she said - and probably
died, while Wallace, after seemingly collapsing, recovered. This
last she did not know, having failed to read the whole of the
newspaper slip which told about it, and so when she saw some one
with the Pfeiffer air and figure and was told later that a Mr.
Pfeiffer was waiting to see her, she took it for granted that it
was her husband, believing positively that Wallace was dead. The
latter, moreover, may have changed to look more like his brother
in the time that had elapsed."
"A possible explanation which adds greatly to the tragic aspects
of the situation. She was probably a widow when she touched the
fatal spring. Who will tell the man inside there? It will be his
I never saw any good reason for my changing the opinion just
expressed. Indeed, as time went on and a further investigation
was made into the life and character of these two brothers, I came
to think that not only had the unhappy Veronica mistaken the person
of Wallace Pfeiffer for that of her husband William, but also the
nature of the message he sent her and the motives which actuated
it; that the interview he so peremptorily demanded before she
descended to her nuptials would, had she but understood it properly,
have yielded her an immeasurable satisfaction instead of rousing
in her alarmed breast the criminal instincts of her race; that it
was meant to do this; that he, knowing William's secret - a secret
which the latter naturally would confide to him at a moment so
critical as that which witnessed their parting in the desolate
Klondike pass - had come, not to reproach her with her new nuptials,
but to relieve her mind in case she cherished the least doubt of
her full right to marry again, by assurances of her husband's death
and of her own complete freedom. To this he may have intended to
add some final messages of love and confidence from the man she
had been so ready to forget; but nothing worse. Wallace Pfeiffer
was incapable of anything worse, and if she had only resigned
herself to her seeming fate and consented to see this man -
But to return to fact and leave speculation to the now doubly
On the evening of the day which saw our first recognition of this
crime as the work of Veronica Moore, the following notice appeared
in the Star and all the other local journals:
"Any person who positively remembers passing through Waverley
Avenue between N and M Streets on the evening of May the eleventh
at or near the hour of a quarter past seven will confer a favor on
the detective force of the District by communicating the same to F.
at the police headquarters in C street."
I was "F.," and I was soon deep in business. But I was readily
able to identify those who came from curiosity, and as the persons
who had really fulfilled the conditions expressed in my advertisement
were few, an evening and morning's work sufficed to sift the whole
matter down to the one man who could tell me just what I wanted to
know. With this man I went to the major, and as a result we all
met later in the day at Mr. Moore's door.
This gentleman looked startled enough when he saw the number and
character of his visitors; but his grand air did not forsake him
and his welcome was both dignified and cordial. But I did not like
the way his eye rested on me.
But the slight venom visible in it at that moment was nothing to
what he afterwards displayed when at a slight growl from Rudge,
who stood in an attitude of offense in the doorway beyond, I drew
the attention of all to the dog by saying sharply:
"There is our witness, sirs. There is the dog who will not cross
the street even when his master calls him, but crouches on the
edge of the curb and waits with eager eyes but immovable body,
till that master comes back. Isn't that so, Mr. Moore? Have I
not heard you utter more than one complaint in this regard?"
"I can not deny it," was the stiff reply, "but what - "
I did not wait for him to finish.
"Mr. Correan,'' I asked, "is this the animal you gassed between the
hours of seven and eight on the evening of May the eleventh,
crouching in front of this house with his nose to the curbstone?"
"It is; I noted him particularly; he seemed to be watching the
Instantly I turned upon Mr. Moore.
"Is Rudge the dog to do that," I asked, "if his master were not
there? Twice have I myself seen him in the self-same place and
with the self-same air of expectant attention, and both times
you had crossed to the house which you acknowledge he will
approach no nearer than the curb on this side of the street."
"You have me," was the short reply with which Mr. Moore gave up
the struggle. "Rudge, go back to your place. When you are wanted
in the court-room I will let you know."
The smile with which he said this was sarcastic enough, but it was
sarcasm directed mainly against himself. We were not surprised
when, after some sharp persuasion on the part of the major, he
launched into the following recital of his secret relation to what
he called the last tragedy ever likely to occur in the Moore family.
"I never thought it wrong to be curious about the old place; I never
thought it wrong to be curious about its mysteries. I only
considered it wrong, or at all events ill judged, to annoy Veronica,
in regard to them, or to trouble her in any way about the means by
which I might effect an entrance into its walls. So I took the one
that offered and said nothing.
"I have visited the old house many times during my sojourn in this