Part 6 out of 6
little cottage. The last time was, as one of your number has so
ably discovered on the most memorable night in its history; the one
in which Mrs. Jeffrey's remarkable death occurred there. The
interest roused in me by the unexpected recurrence of the old
fatality attending the library hearthstone reached its culmination
when I perceived one night the glint of a candle burning in the
southwest chamber. I did not know who was responsible for this
light, but I strongly suspected it to be Mr. Jeffrey; for who else
would dare to light a candle in this disused house without first
seeing that all the shutters were fast? I did not dislike Mr.
Jeffrey or question his right to do this. Nevertheless I was very
angry. Though allied to a Moore he was not one himself and the
difference in our privileges affected me strongly. Consequently I
watched till he came out and upon positively recognizing his figure
vowed in my wrath and jealous indignation to visit the old house
myself on the following night and make one final attempt to learn
the secret which would again make me the equal of this man, if not
"It was early when I went; indeed it was not quite dark, but knowing
the gloom of those old halls and the almost impenetrable nature of
the darkness that settles over the library the moment the twilight
set in, I put in my pocket two or three candles, sirs, about which
you have made such a coil. My errand was twofold. I wanted first
to see what Mr. Jeffrey had been up to the night before, and next,
to spend an hour over a certain book of old memoirs which in
recalling the past might explain the present. You remember a door
leading into the library from the rear room. It was by this door
I entered, bringing with me from the kitchen the chair you afterwards
I knew where the volume of memoirs I speak of was to be found - you
do, too, I see - for it was my hand which had placed it in its
present concealment. Quite determined to reread such portions of
it, as I had long before marked as pertinent to the very attempt I
had in mind, I brought in the candelabrum from the parlor and drew
out a table to hold it. But I waited a few moments before taking
down the book itself. I wanted first to learn what Mr. Jeffrey had
been doing upstairs the night before. So leaving the light burning
in the library, I proceeded to the southwest chamber, holding an
unlit candle in my hand, the light feebly diffused through the
halls from some upper windows being sufficient for me to see my way.
But in the chamber itself all was dark.
The wind had not yet risen and the shutter which a half-hour later
moved so restlessly on its creaking hinges, hugged the window so
tightly that I imagined Mr. Jeffrey had fastened it the night before.
Looking for some receptacle in which to set the candle I now lit,
I failed to find anything but an empty tumbler, so I made use of
that. Then I glanced about me, but seeing nothing worth my attention
- Mrs. Jeffrey's wedding fixings did not interest me, and everything
else about the room looking natural except the overturned chair,
which struck me as immaterial. I hurried downstairs again, leaving
the candle burning behind me in case I should wish to return aloft
after I had refreshed my mind with what had been written about this
"Not a sound disturbed the house as I seated myself to my reading
in front of the library shelves. I was as much alone under that
desolate roof as mortal could be with men anywhere within reach of
him. I enjoyed the solitude and was making a very pretty theory
for myself on a scrap of paper I tore from another old book when
a noise suddenly rose in front, which, slight as it was, was quite
unmistakable to ears trained in listening. Some one was unlocking
the front door.
"Naturally I thought it to be Mr. Jeffrey returning for a second
visit to his wife's house, and knowing what I might expect if he
surprised me on the premises, I restored the book hastily to its
place and as hastily blew out the candle. Then, with every
intention of flight, I backed toward the door by which I had
entered. But some impulse stronger than that of escape made me
stop just before I reached it. I could see nothing; the place was
dark as Tophet; but I could listen. The person - Mr. Jeffrey, or
some other - was coming my way and in perfect darkness. I could
hear the faltering steps - the fingers dragging along the walls;
then a rustle as of skirts, proving the intruder to be a woman - a
fact which greatly surprised me - then a long drawn sigh or gasp.
"The last determined me. The situation was too intense for me to
leave without first learning who the woman was who in terror and
shrinking dared to drag her half resisting feet through these empty
halls and into a place cursed with such unwholesome memories. I
did not think of Veronica. No one looks for a butterfly in the
depths of a dungeon. But I did think of Miss Tuttle - that woman of
resolute will. Without attempting to imaging the reason for her
presence, I stood my ground and harkened till the heavy mahogany door
at the other end of the room began to swing in by jerks under the
faint and tremulous push of a terrified hand. Then there came
silence - a long silence - followed by a moan so agonized that I
realized that whatever was the cause of this panting woman's
presence here, it was due to no mere errand of curiosity. This
whetted my purpose. Anything done in this house was in a way done
to me; so I remained quiet and watched. But the sounds which now
and then came from the remote corner upon which my attention was
concentrated were very eloquent.
I heard sighs and bitter groans, with now and then a murmured
prayer, broken by a low wailing, in which I caught the name of
Francis. And still, possibly on account of the utterance of this
name, I thought the woman near me to be Miss Tuttle, and even went
so far as to imagine the cause of her suffering if not the nature
of her retribution. Words succeeded cries and I caught phrases
expressive of fear and some sort of agonized hesitation. Once
these broken ejaculations were interrupted by a dull sound.
Something had dropped to the bare floor. We shall never know what
it was, but I have no doubt that it was the pistol, and that the
marks of dust to be found on the connecting ribbon were made by her
own fingers in taking it again in her hand. (You will remember
that these same fingers had but a few minutes previous groped their
way along the walls.) For her voice soon took a different tone,
and such unintelligible phrases as these could be heard issuing
from her partly paralyzed lips:
"'I must! - I can never meet his eye again alive. He would despise
- Brave enough to - to - another's blood - coward - when - own.
Oh, God! forgive!' Then another silence during which I almost
made up my mind to interfere, then a loud report and a flash so
startling and unexpected that I recoiled, during which the room
leaped into sudden view - she too - Veronica - with baby face drawn
and set like a woman's - then darkness again and a heavy fall which
shook the floor, if not my hard old heart. The flash and that fall
enlightened me. I had just witnessed the suicide of the last Moore
saving myself; a suicide for which I was totally unprepared and one
which I do not yet understand.
"I did not go over to her. She was as dead when she fell as she
ever would be. In the flash which lit everything, I had seen where
her pistol was pointed. Why disturb her then? Nor did I return
upstairs. I had small interest now in anything but my own escape
from a situation more or less compromising.
Do you blame me for this? I was her heir and I was where I had no
legal right to be. Do you think that I was called upon to publish
my shame and tell how I lingered there while my own niece shot
herself before my eyes? That shot made me a millionaire. This
certainly was excitement enough for one day - besides, I did not
leave her there neglected. I notified you later - after I had got
my breath and had found some excuse. That wasn't enough? Ah, I
see that you are all models of courage and magnanimity. You would
have laid yourselves open to every reproach rather than let a
little necessary perjury pass your lips. But I am no model. I
am simply an old man who has been too hardly dealt with for seventy
long years to possess every virtue. I made a mistake - I see it
now - trusted a dog when I shouldn't - but if Rudge had not seen
ghosts - well, what now?"
We had, one and all, with an involuntary impulse, turned our backs
"What are you doing?" he hotly demanded.
"Only what all Washington will do to-morrow, and afterwards the
whole world," gravely returned the major. Then, as an ejaculation
escaped the astonished millionaire, he impressively added: "A
perjury which allows an innocent man and woman to remain under the
suspicion of murder for five weeks is one which not only the law
has a right to punish, but which all society will condemn.
Henceforth you will find yourself under a ban, Mr. Moore."*
My story ends here. The matter never came before the grand jury.
Suicide had been proved, and there the affair rested. Of myself it
is enough to add that I sometimes call in Durbin to help me in a
* Time amply verified this prophecy. Mr. Moore is living in great
style in the Moore house, and drives horses which are conspicuous
even in Washington. But no one accepts his invitations, and he is
as much of a recluse in his present mansion as he ever was in the
humble cottage in which his days of penury were spent.
YOU HAVE COME! YOU RAVE SOUGHT ME!"
These are some words from a letter written a few months after the
foregoing by one Mrs. Edward Truscott to a friend in New York:
"Edinburgh, May 7th, 1900.
"Dear Louisa: - You have always accused me of seeing more and
hearing more than any other person of your acquaintance. Perhaps
I am fortunate in that respect. Certainly I have been favored
today with an adventure of some interest which I make haste to
relate to you.
"Being anxious to take home with me some sketches of the
exquisite ornamentation in the Rosslyn chapel about which I wrote
you so enthusiastically the other day, I took advantage of Edward's
absence this morning to visit the place again and this time alone.
The sky was clear and the air balmy, and as I approached the spot
from the near-by station I was not surprised to see another woman
straying quietly about the exterior of the chapel gazing at walls
which, interesting as they are, are but a rough shell hiding the
incomparable beauties within. I noticed this lady; I could not
help it. She was one to attract any eye. Seldom have I seen such
grace, such beauty, and both infused by such melancholy. Her
sadness added wonderfully to her charm, and I found it hard enough
to pass her with the single glance allowable to a stranger,
especially as she gave evidence of being one of my own countrywomen:
"However, I saw no alternative, and once within the charmed edifice,
forgot everything in the congenial task I had set for myself. For
some reason the chapel was deserted at this moment by all but me.
As the special scroll-work I wanted was in a crypt down a short
flight of steps at the right of the altar, I was completely hidden
from view to any one entering above and was enjoying both my
seclusion and the opportunity it gave me of carrying out my purpose
unwatched when I heard a light step above and realized that the
exquisite beauty which had so awakened my admiration had at last
found its perfect setting. Such a face amid such exquisite
surroundings was a rare sight, and interested as I always am in
artistic effects I was about to pocket pencil and pad and make my
way up to where she moved among the carved pillars when I heard a
soft sigh above and caught the rustle of her dress as she sat down
upon a bench at the head of the steps near which I stood. Somehow
that sigh deterred me. I hesitated to break in upon a melancholy
so invincible that even the sight of all this loveliness could not
charm it away, and in that moment of hesitation something occurred
above which fixed me to my place in irrepressible curiosity.
"Another step had entered the open door of the chapel - a man's
step - eager and with a purpose in it eloquent of something deeper
than a mere tourist's interest in this loveliest of interiors. The
cry which escaped her lips, the tone in which he breathed her name
in his hurried advance, convinced me that this was a meeting of two
lovers after a long heart-break and that I should mar the supreme
moment of their lives by intruding into it the unwelcome presence
of a stranger. So I lingered where I was and thus heard what
passed between them at this moment of all moments ire their lives.
"It was she who spoke first.
" Francis, you have come! You have sought me!'
"To which he replied in choked accents which yet could not conceal
the inexpressible elation of his heart:
"'Yes I have come, I have sought you. Why did you fly? Did you not
see that my whole soul was turning to you as it never turned even
to - to her in the best days of our unshaken love; and that I could
never rest till I found you and told you how the eyes which have
once been blind enjoy a passion of seeing unknown to others - a
passion which makes the object seem so dear - so dear - '
"He paused, perhaps to look at her, perhaps to recover his own
self-possession, and I caught the echo of a sigh of such utter
content and triumph from her lips that I was surprised when in
another moment she exclaimed in a tone so thrilling that I am sure
no common circumstances had separated this pair:
"'Have we a right to happiness while she - Oh, Francis, I can not!
She loved you. It was her love for you which drove her - '
"'Cora!' came with a sort of loving authority, 'we have buried our
erring one and passionately as I loved her, she is no more mine,
but God's. Let her woeful spirit rest. You who suffered,
supported - who sacrificed all that woman holds dear to save what,
in the nature of things, could not be saved - have more than right
to happiness if it is in my power to give it to you; I, who have
failed in so much, but never in anything more than in not seeing
where true worth and real beauty lay. Cora, there is but one hand
which can lift the shadow from my life. That hand I am holding
now - do not draw it away - it is my anchor, my hope. I dare not
confront life without the promise it holds out. I should be a
wreck - '
"His emotion stopped him and there was silence; then I heard him
utter solemnly, as befitted the place: 'Thank God!' and I knew that
she had turned her wonderful eyes upon him or nestled her hand in
his clasp as only a loving woman may.
"The next moment I heard them draw away and leave the place.
"Do you wonder that I long to know who they are and what their story
is and whom they meant by 'the erring one?'"