The Filigree Ball
Anna Katherine Green
Part 3 out of 6
"To Miss Tuttle. She had come in just before him and was standing
at the foot of the stairs"
"What! Was Miss Tuttle out that evening?"
"Yes; she went out very soon after Mrs. Jeffrey left. When she
came in she said that she had been around the block, but she must
have gone around it more than once, for she was absent two hours."
"Did you let her in?"
"And she said she had been around the block?"
"Did she say anything else?"
"She asked if Mr. Jeffrey had come in"
"Then if Mrs. Jeffrey had returned."
"To both of which questions you answered -"
"A plain 'No.'"
"Now tell us about the officer."
"He rang the bell almost immediately after she did. Thinking she
would want to slip upstairs before I admitted any one, I waited a
minute for her to go, but she did not do so, and when the officer
stepped in she -"
"What! before he spoke?"
"Just at sight of him?"
"Did he wear his badge in plain view?"
"Yes, on his breast."
"So that you knew him to be a police officer?"
"And Miss Tuttle shrieked at seeing a police officer?"
"Yes, and sprang forward."
"Did she say anything?"
"What did she do?"
"Waited for him to speak."
"Which he did?"
"At once, and very brutally. He asked if she was Mrs. Jeffrey's
sister, and when she nodded and gasped 'Yes,' he blurted out that
Mrs. Jeffrey was dead; that he had just come from the old house in
Waverley Avenue, where she had just been found."
"And Miss Tuttle?"
"Didn't know what to say; just hid her face. She was leaning
against the newel-post, so it was easy for her to do so. I remember
that the man stared at her for taking it so quietly and asking no
"And did she speak at all?"
"Oh, yes, afterwards. Her face was wrapped in the folds of her
cloak, but I heard her whisper, as if to herself: 'No! no! That
old hearth is not a lodestone. She can not have fallen there.'
And then she looked up quite wildly and cried: 'There is something
more ! Something which you have not told me.' 'She shot herself,
if that's what you mean.' Miss Tuttle's arms went straight up over
her head. It was awful to see her. 'Shot herself?' she gasped.
'Oh, Veronica, Veronica!' 'With a pistol,' he went on - I suppose
he was going to say, 'tied to her wrist,' but he never got it out,
for Miss Tuttle, at the word 'pistol' clapped her hands to her ears
and for a moment looked quite distracted, so that he thought better
of worrying her any more and only demanded to know if Mr. Jeffrey
kept any such weapon. Miss Tuttle's face grew very strange at this.
'Mr. Jeffrey! was he there?' she asked. The man looked surprised.
'They are searching for Mr. Jeffrey,' he replied. 'Isn't he here?
'No,' came both from her lips and mine. The man acted very
impertinently. 'You haven't told me whether a pistol was kept here
or not,' said he. Miss Tuttle tried to compose herself, but I saw
that I should have to speak if any one did, so I told him that Mr.
Jeffrey did have a pistol, which he kept in one of his bureau
drawers. But when the officer wanted Miss Tuttle to go up and see
if it was there, she shook her head and made for the front door,
saying that she must be taken directly to her sister."
"And did no one go up? Was no attempt made to see if the pistol
was or was not in the drawer?"
"Yes; the officer went up with me. I pointed out the place where
it was kept, and he rummaged all through it, but found no pistol.
I didn't expect him to -" Here the witness paused and bit her lip,
adding confusedly: "Mrs. Jeffrey had taken it, you see."
The jurors, who sat very much in the shadow, had up to this point
attracted but little attention. But now they began to make their
presence felt, perhaps because the break in the witness' words had
been accompanied by a sly look at Jinny. Possibly warned by this
that something lay back of this hitherto timid witness' sudden
volubility, one of them now spoke up.
"In what room did you say this pistol was kept?"
"In Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey's bed-room, sir; the room opening out of
the sitting-room where Mrs. Jeffrey had kept herself shut up all
"Does this bed-room of which you speak communicate with the hall as
well as with the sitting room ?"
"No, sir; it is the defect of the house. Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey often
spoke of it as a great annoyance. You had to pass through the little
boudoir in order to reach it."
The juryman sank back, evidently satisfied with her replies, but we
who marked the visible excitement with which the witness had answered
this seemingly unimportant question, wondered what special interest
surrounded that room and the pistol to warrant the heightened color
with which the girl answered this new interlocutor. We were not
destined to know at this time, for the coroner, when he spoke again,
pursued a different subject.
"How long was this before Mr. Jeffrey came in."
"Only a few minutes. I was terribly frightened at being left there
alone and was on my way to ask one of the other girls to come up and
stay with me, when I heard his key in the lock and came back. He had
entered the house and was standing near the door talking to an
officer, who had evidently come in with him. It was a different
officer from the one who had gone away with Miss Tuttle. Mr. Jeffrey
was saying, 'What's that? My wife hurt!' 'Dead, sir!' blurted out
the man. I had expected to see Mr. Jeffrey terribly shocked, but
not in so awful a way. It really frightened me to see him and I
turned to run, but found that I couldn't and that I had to stand
still and look whether I wanted to or not. Yet he didn't say a word
or ask a question."
"What did he do, Loretta?"
"I can not say; he was on his knees and was white - Oh, how white!
Yet he looked up when the man described how and where Mrs. Jeffrey,
had been found and even turned toward me when I said something
about his wife having left a message for him when she went out.
This message, which I almost hesitated to give after the awful news
of her death, was about the ending of some story, as you remember,
and it seemed heartless to speak of it at a moment like this, but
as she had told me to, I didn't dare to disobey her. So, with the
man listening to my every word, and Mr. Jeffrey looking as if he
would fall to the ground before I could finish, I repeated her
words to him and was surprised enough when he suddenly started
upright and went flying upstairs. But I was more surprised yet
when, at the top of the first flight, he stopped and, looking over
the balustrade, asked in a very strange voice where Miss Tuttle
was. For he seemed just then to want her more than anything else
in the world and looked beaten and wild when I told him that she
was already gone to Waverley Avenue. But he recovered himself
before the man could draw near enough to see his face, and rushed
into the sitting-room above and shut the door behind him, leaving
the officer and me standing down by the front door. As I didn't
know what to say to a man like him, and he didn't know what to
say to me, the time seemed long, but it couldn't have been very
many minutes before Mr. Jeffrey came back with a slip of paper
in his hand and a very much relieved look on his face. 'The deed
was premeditated,' he cried. 'My unfortunate wife has misunderstood
my affection for her.' And from being a very much broken-down man,
he stood up straight and tall and prepared himself very quietly to
go to the Moore house. That is all I can tell about the way the
news was received by him."
Were these details necessary? Many appeared to regard them as
futile and uncalled for. But Coroner Z. was never known to waste
time on trivialities, and if he called for these facts, those who
knew him best felt certain that they were meant as a preparation for
Mr. Jeffrey's testimony, which was now called for.
THRUST AND PARRY
When Francis Jeffrey's hand fell from his forehead and he turned to
face the assembled people, an instinctive compassion arose in every
breast at sight of his face, which, if not open in its expression,
was at least surcharged with the deepest misery. In a flash the
scene took on new meaning. Many remembered that less than a month
before his eye had been joyous and his figure a conspicuous one
among the favored sons of fortune. And now he stood in sight of a
crowd, drawn together mainly by curiosity, to explain as best he
might why this great happiness and hope had come to a sudden
termination, and his bride of a fortnight had sought death rather
than continue to live under the same roof with him.
So much for what I saw on the faces about me. What my own face
revealed I can not say. I only know that I strove to preserve an
impassive exterior. If I secretly held this man's misery to be a
mask hiding untold passions and the darkness of an unimaginable
deed, it was not for me to disclose in this presence either my
suspicions or my fears. To me, as to those about me, he apparently
was a man who at some sacrifice to his pride, would, yet be able
to explain whatever seemed dubious in the mysterious case in which
he had become involved.
His wife's uncle, who to all appearance shared the general curiosity
as to the effect which this woeful tragedy had had upon his niece's
most interested survivor, eyed with a certain cold interest,
eminently in keeping with his general character, the pallid forehead,
sunken eyes and nervously trembling lip of the once "handsome
Jeffrey" till that gentleman, rousing from his depression, manifested
a realization of what was required of hire and turned with a bow
toward the coroner.
Miss Tuttle settled into a greater rigidity. I pass over the
preliminary examination of this important witness and proceed at once
to the point when the coroner, holding out the two or three lines
of writing which Mr. Jeffrey had declared to have been left him by
his wife, asked:
"Are these words in your wife's handwriting?"
Mr. Jeffrey replied hastily, and, with just d glance at the paper
The coroner pressed the slip upon him.
"Look at them carefully," he urged. "The handwriting shows hurry
and in places is scarcely legible. Are you ready to swear that
these words were written by your wife and by no other?"
Mr. Jeffrey, with just a slight contraction of his brow expressive
of annoyance, did as he was bid. He scanned, or appeared to scan,
the small scrap of paper which he now took into his own hand.
"It is my wife's writing," he impatiently declared. "Written, as all
can see, under great agitation of mind, but hers without any doubt."
"Will you read aloud these words for our benefit?" asked the coroner:
It was a cruel request, causing an instinctive protest from the
spectators. But no protest disturbed Coroner Z. He had his reasons,
no doubt, for thus trying this witness, and when Coroner Z. had
reason for anything it took more than the displeasure of the crowd
to deter him.
Mr. Jeffrey, who had subdued whatever indignation he may have felt
at this unmistakable proof of the coroner's intention to have his
own way with him whatever the cost to his sensitiveness or pride,
obeyed the latter's command in firmer tones than I expected.
The lines he was thus called upon to read may bear repetition:
"I find that I do not love you as I thought. I can not live knowing
this to be so. Pray God you may forgive me!
As the last word fell with a little tremble from Mr. Jeffrey's lips,
the coroner repeated:
"You still think these words were addressed to you by your wife;
that in short they contain an explanation of her death?"
There was sharpness in the tone. Mr. Jeffrey was feeling the prick.
There was agitation in it, too; an agitation he was trying hard to
"You have reason, then," persisted the coroner, "for accepting this
peculiar explanation of your wife's death; a death which, in the
judgment of most people, was of a nature to call for the strongest
"My wife was not herself. My wife was in an over strained and
suffering condition. For one so nervously overwrought many
allowances must be made. She may have been conscious of not
responding fully to my affection. That this feeling was strong
enough to induce her to take her life is a source of unspeakable
grief to me, but one for which you must find explanation, as I have
so often said, in the terrors caused by the dread event at the
Moore house, which recalled old tragedies and emphasized a most
unhappy family tradition."
The coroner paused a moment to let these words sink into the ears
of the jury, then plunged immediately into what might be called the
offensive part of his examination.
"Why, if your wife's death caused you such intense grief, did you
appear so relieved at receiving this by no means consoling
At an implication so unmistakably suggestive of suspicion Mr.
Jeffrey showed fire for the first time.
"Whose word have you for that? A servant's, so newly come into my
house that her very features are still strange to me. You must
acknowledge that a person of such marked inexperience can hardly be
thought to know me or to interpret rightly the feelings of my heart
by any passing look she may have surprised upon my face."
This attitude of defiance so suddenly assumed had an effect he
little realized. Miss Tuttle stirred for the first time behind her
veil, and Uncle David, from looking bored, became suddenly quite
attentive. These two but mirrored the feelings of the general
crowd, and mine especially.
"We do not depend on her judgment alone," the coroner now remarked.
"The change in you was apparent to many others. This we can prove
to the jury if they require it."
But no man lifting a voice from that gravely attentive body, the
coroner proceeded to inquire if Mr. Jeffrey felt like volunteering
any explanations on this head. Receiving no answer from him either,
he dropped the suggestive line of inquiry and took up the
consideration of facts. The first question he now put was:
"Where did you find the slip of paper containing these last words
from your wife?"
"In a book I picked out of the book-shelf in our room upstairs.
When Loretta gave me my wife's message I knew that I should find
some word from her in the novel we had just been reading. As we had
been interested in but one book since our marriage, there was no
possibility of my making an' mistake as to which one she referred"
"Will you give us the name of this novel?"
"And you found this book called COMPENSATION in your room upstairs?"
"On the book-shelf?"
"Where does this book-shelf stand?"
Mr. Jeffrey looked up as much as to say, "Why so many small questions
about so simple a matter?" but answered frankly enough:
"At the right of the door leading into the bedroom."
"And at right angles to the door leading into the hall?"
"Very good. Now may I ask you to describe the cover of this book?"
"The cover? I never noticed the cover. Why do you -. Excuse me,
I suppose you have your reasons for asking even these puerile and
seemingly unnecessary questions. The cover is a queer one I believe;
partly red and partly green; and that is all I know about it."
"Is this the book?"
Mr. Jeffrey glanced at the volume the coroner held up before him.
"I believe so; it looks like it."
The book had a flaming cover, quite unmistakable in its character.
"The title shows it to be the same," remarked the coroner. "Is this
the only book with a cover of this kind in the house?"
"The only one, I should say."
The coroner laid down the book.
"Enough of this, then, for the present; only let the jury remember
that the cover of this book is peculiar and that it was kept on a
shelf at the right of the opening leading into the adjoining
bed-room. And now, Mr. Jeffrey, we must ask you to look at these
rings; or, rather, at this one. You have seen it before; it is the
one you placed on Mrs. Jeffrey's hand when you were married to her
a little over a fortnight ago. You recognize it?"
"Do you also recognize this small mark of blood on it as having been
here when it was shown to you by the detective on your return from
seeing her dead body at the Moore house?"
"I do; yes."
"How do you account for that spot and the slight injury made to her
finger? Should you not say that the ring had been dragged from her
"By whom was it dragged? By you?"
"By herself, then?"
"It would seem so."
"Much passion must have been in that act. Do you think that any
ordinary quarrel between husband and wife would account for the
display of such fury? Are we not right in supposing a deeper cause
for the disturbance between you than the slight one you offer in
way of explanation?"
An inaudible answer; then a sudden straightening of Francis Jeffrey's
fine figure. And that was all.
"Mr. Jeffrey, in the talk you had with your wife on Tuesday morning
was Miss Tuttle's name introduced?"
"It was mentioned; yes, sir."
"With recrimination or any display of passion on the part of your
"You would not believe me if I said no," was the unexpected rejoinder.
The coroner, taken aback by this direct attack from one who had
hitherto borne all his innuendoes with apparent patience, lost
countenance for a moment, but, remembering that in his official
capacity he was more than a match for the elegant gentleman, who
under other circumstances would have found it only too easy to put
him to the blush, he observed with dignity:
"Mr. Jeffrey, you are on oath. We certainly have no reason for not
Mr. Jeffrey bowed. He was probably sorry for his momentary loss
of self-control, and gravely, but with eyes bent downward, answered
with the abrupt phrase:
"Well, then, I will say no."
The coroner shifted his ground.
"Will you make the same reply when I ask if the like forbearance
was shown toward your wife's name in the conversation you had with
Miss Tuttle immediately afterward?"
A halt in the eagerly looked-for reply; a hesitation, momentary
indeed, but pregnant with nameless suggestions, caused his answer,
when it did come, to lose some of the emphasis he manifestly wished
to put into it.
"Miss Tuttle was Mrs. Jeffrey's half-sister. The bond between them
was strong. Would she would I - be apt to speak of my young wife
"That is not an answer to my question, Mr. Jeffrey. I must request
a more positive reply."
Miss Tuttle made a move. The strain on all present was so great we
could but notice it. He noticed it too, for his brows came together
with a quick frown, as he emphatically replied:
"There were no recriminations uttered. Mrs. Jeffrey had displeased
me and I said so, but I did not forget that I was speaking of my
wife and to her sister."
As this was in the highest degree non-committal, the coroner could
be excused for persisting.
"The conversation, then, was about your wife?"
"In criticism of her conduct?"
"At the ambassador's ball?"
Mr. Jeffrey was a poor hand at lying. That last "yes" came with
The coroner waited, possibly for the echo of this last "yes" to
cease; then he remarked with a coldness which lifted at once the
veil from his hitherto well disguised antagonism to this witness.
"If you will recount to us anything which your wife said or did on
that evening which, in your mind, was worthy of all this coil, it
might help us to understand the situation."
But the witness made no attempt to do so, and while many of us were
ready to pardon him this show of delicacy, others felt that under
the circumstances it would have been better had he been more open.
Among the latter was the coroner himself, who, from this moment,
threw aside all hesitation and urged forward his inquiries in a way
to press the witness closer and closer toward the net he was secretly
holding out for him. First, he obliged him to say that his
conversation with Miss Tuttle had not tended to smooth matters; that
no reconciliation with his wife had followed it, and that in the
thirty-six hours which elapsed before he returned home again he had
made no attempt to soothe the feelings of one, who, according to his
own story, he considered hardly responsible for any extravagances
in which she might have indulged. Then when this inconsistency had
been given time to sink into the minds of the jury, Coroner Z.
increased the effect produced by confronting Jeffrey with witnesses
who testified to the friendly, if not lover-like relations which had
existed between himself and Miss Tuttle prior to the appearance of
his wife upon the scene; closing with a question which brought out
the denial, by no means new, that an engagement had ever taken place
between him and Miss Tuttle and hence that a bond had been canceled
by his marriage with Miss Moore.
But his manner and careful choice of words in making this denial
did not satisfy those present of his entire candor; especially as
Miss Tuttle, for all her apparent immobility, showed, by the violent
locking of her hands, both her anxiety and the suffering she was
undergoing during this painful examination. Was the suffering merely
one of outraged delicacy? We felt justified in doubting it, and
looked forward, with cruel curiosity I admit, to the moment when
this renowned and universally admired beauty would be called on to
throw aside her veil axed reveal the highly praised features which
had been so openly scorned for the sake of one whose chief claims
to regard lay in her great wealth.
But this moment was as yet far distant. The coroner was a man of
method, and his plan was now to prove, as had been apparent to most
of us from the first, that the assumption of suicide on the part of
Mrs. Jeffrey was open to doubt. The communication suggesting such
an end to her troubles was the strongest proof Mr. Jeffrey could
bring forward that her death had been the result of her own act.
Consequently it was now the coroner's business to show that this
communication was either a forgery, or a substitution, and that if
she left some word in the book to which she had in so peculiar a
manner directed his attention, it was not necessarily the one
bewailing her absence of love for him and her consequent intention
of seeking relief from her disappointment in death.
Some hint of what the coroner contemplated had already escaped him
in the persistent and seemingly inconsequent questions to which he
had subjected this witness in reference to these very matters. But
the time had now come for a more direct attack, and the interest
rose correspondingly high, when the coroner, lifting again to sight
the scrap of paper containing the few piteous lines so often quoted,
asked of the now anxious and agitated witness, if he had ever
noticed any similarity between the handwriting of his wife and that
of Miss Tuttle.
An indignant "No!" was about to pass his lips, when he suddenly
checked himself and said more mildly: "There may have been a
similarity; I hardly know, I have seen too little of Miss Tuttle's
hand to judge."
This occasioned a diversion. Specimens of Miss Tuttle's handwriting
were produced, which, after having been duly proved, were passed
down to the jury along with the communication professedly signed by
Mrs. Jeffrey. The grunts of astonishment which ensued as the knowing
heads drew near over these several papers caused Mr. Jeffrey to
flush and finally to cry out with startling emphasis:
"I know that those words were written by my wife."
But when the coroner asked him his reasons for this conviction, he
could, or would not state them.
"I have said," he stolidly repeated; and that was all.
The coroner made no comment, but when, after some further inquiry,
which added little to the general knowledge, he dismissed Mr.
Jeffrey and recalled Loretta, there was that in his tone which warned
us that the really serious portion of the day's examination was about
The appearance of this witness had undergone a change since she
last stood before us. She was shame-faced still, but her manner
showed resolve and a feverish determination to face the situation
which could but awaken in the breasts of those who had Mr. Jeffrey's
honor and personal welfare at heart a nameless dread; as if they
already foresaw the dark shadow which minute by minute was slowly
sinking over a household which, up to a week ago, had been the envy
and admiration of all Washington society.
The first answer she made revealed both the cause of her shame and
the reason of her firmness. It was in response to the question
whether she, Loretta, had seen Miss Tuttle before she went out on
the walk she was said to have taken immediately after Mrs. Jeffrey's
final departure from the house.
Her words were these
"I did sir. I do not think Miss Tuttle knows it, but I saw her in
Mrs. Jeffrey's room."
The emphatic tone, offering such a contrast to her former manner of
speech, might have drawn all eyes to the speaker had not the person
she mentioned offered a still more interesting subject to the general
curiosity. As it was, all glances flew to that silent and seemingly
impassive figure upon which all open suggestions and covert innuendo
had hitherto fallen without creating more than a pressure of her
interlaced fingers. This direct attack, possibly the most
threatening she had received, appeared to produce no more effect
upon her than the others; less, perhaps, for no stir was visible in
her now, and to some eyes she hardly seemed to breathe.
Curiosity, thus baffled, led the gaze on to Mr. Jeffrey, and even
to Uncle David; but the former had dropped his head again upon his
hand, and the other - well, there was little to observe in Mr. Moore
at any time, save the immense satisfaction he seemed to take in
himself; so attention returned to the witness, who, by this time,
had entered upon a consecutive tale.
As near as I can remember, these are the words with which she
"I am not especially proud of what I did that night, but I was led
into it by degrees, and I am sure I beg the lady's pardon." And
then she went on to relate how, after she had seen Mrs. Jeffrey
leave the house, she went into her room with the intention of putting
it to rights. As this was no more than her duty, no fault could be
found with her; but she owned that when she had finished this task
and removed all evidence of Mrs. Jeffrey's frenzied condition, she
had no business to linger at the table turning over the letters she
found lying there.
Here the coroner stopped her and made some inquiries in regard to
these letters, but as they seemed to be ordinary epistles from
friends and quite foreign to the investigation, he allowed her to
Her cheeks were burning now, for she had found herself obliged to
admit that she had read enough of these letters to be sure that they
had no reference to the quarrel then pending between her mistress
and Mr. Jeffrey. Her eyes fell and she looked seriously distressed
as she went on to say that she was as conscious then as now of
having no business with these papers; so conscious, indeed, that
when she heard Miss Tuttle's step at the door, her one idea was to
That she could stand and face that lady never so much as occurred
to her. Her own guilty consciousness made her cheeks too hot for
her to wish to meet an eye which had never rested on her any too
kindly; so noticing how straight the curtains fell over one of the
windows on the opposite side of the room, she dashed toward it and
slipped in out of sight just as Miss Tuttle came in. This window
was one seldom used, owing to the fact that it overlooked an
adjoining wall, so she had no fear of Miss Tuttle's approaching it.
Consequently, she could stand there quite at her ease, and, as the
curtains in falling behind her had not come quite together, she
really could not help seeing just what that lady did.
Here the witness paused with every appearance of looking for some
token of disapprobation from the crowd.
But she encountered nothing there but eager anxiety for her to
proceed, so without waiting for the coroner's question, she added
in so many words:
"She went first to the book-shelves"
We had expected it; but yet a general movement took place, and a
few suppressed exclamations could be heard.
"And what did she do there?"
"Took down a book, after looking carefully up and down the shelves."
"What color of book?"
"A green one with red figures on it. I could see the cover plainly
as she took it down."
"Like this one?"
"Exactly like that one."
"And what did she do with this book?"
"Opened it, but not to read it. She was too quick in closing it
"Did she take the book away?"
"No; she put it back on the shelf."
"After opening and closing it?"
"Did you see whether she put anything into the book?"
"I can not swear that she did; but then her back was to me, and I
could not have seen it if she had."
The implied suggestion caused some excitement, but the coroner,
frowning on this, pressed the girl to continue, asking if Miss
Tuttle left the room immediately after turning from the book-shelves.
Loretta replied no; that, on the contrary, she stood for some minutes
near them, gazing, in what seemed like a great distress of mind,
straight upon the floor; after which she moved in an agitated way
and with more than one anxious look behind her into the adjoining
room where she paused before a large bureau. As this bureau was
devoted entirely to Mr. Jeffrey's use, Loretta experienced some
surprise at seeing his wife's sister approach it in so stealthy a
manner. Consequently she was watching with all her might, when
this young lady opened the upper drawer and, with very evident
emotion, thrust her hand into it.
What she took out, or whether she took out anything, this spy upon
her movements could not say, for when Loretta heard the drawer being
pushed back into place she drew the curtains close, perceiving that
Miss Tuttle would have to face this window in coming back. However,
she ventured upon one other peep through them just as that lady was
leaving the room, and remembered as if it were yesterday how
clay-white her face looked, and how she held her left hand pressed
close against the folds of her dress. It was but a few minutes after
this that Miss Tuttle left the house.
As we all knew what was kept in that drawer, the conclusion was
obvious. Whatever excuse Miss Tuttle might give for going into her
sister's room at this time, but one thought, one fear, or possibly
one hope, could have taken her to Mr. Jeffrey's private drawer. She
wished to see if his pistol was still there, or if it had been taken
away by her sister, - a revelation of the extreme point to which her
thoughts had flown at this crisis, and one which effectually
contradicted her former statement that she had been conscious of no
alarm in behalf of her sister and had seen her leave the house
without dread or suspicion of evil.
The temerity which had made it possible to associate the name of
such a man as Francis Jeffrey with an outrageous crime having been
thus in a measure explained, the coroner recalled that gentleman and
again thoroughly surprised the gaping public.
Had the witness accompanied his wife to the Moore house?
Had he met her there by any appointment he had made with her or
which had been made for them both by some third person?
Had he been at the Moore house on the night of the eleventh at any
time previous to the hour when he was brought there by the officials?
Would he glance at this impression of certain finger-tips which had
been left in the dust of the southwest chamber mantel?
He had already noted them.
Now would he place his left hand on the paper and see -
"It is not necessary," he burst forth, in great heat. "I own to
those marks. That is, I have no doubt they were made by my hand"
Here, unconsciously, his eyes flew to the member thus referred to,
as if conscious that in some way it had proved a traitor to him;
after which his gaze traveled slowly my way, with an indescribable
question in it which roused my conscience and made the trick by
which I had got the impression of his hand seem less of a triumph
than I had heretofore considered it. The next minute he was
answering the coroner under oath, very much as he had answered him
in the unofficial interview at which I had been present.
"I acknowledge having been in the Moore house and even having been
in its southwest chamber, but not at the time supposed. It was on
the previous night." He went on to relate how, being in a nervous
condition and having the key to this old dwelling in his pocket, he
had amused himself by going through its dilapidated interior. All
of this made a doubtful impression which was greatly emphasized
when, in reply to the inquiry as to where he got the light to see
by, he admitted that he had come upon a candle in an upstairs room
and made use of that; though he could not remember what he had done
with this candle afterward, and looked dazed and quite at sea, till
the coroner suggested that he might have carried it into the closet
of the room where his fingers had left their impression in the dust
of the mantel-shelf. Then he broke down like a man from whom some
prop is suddenly snatched and looked around for a seat. This was
given him, while a silence, the most dreadful I ever experienced,
held every one there in check. But he speedily rallied and, with
the remark that he was a little confused in regard to the incidents
of that night, waited with a wild look in his averted eye for the
coroner's next question.
Unhappily for him it was in continuation of the same subject. Had
he bought candles or not at the grocer's around the corner? Yes, he
had. Before visiting the house? Yes. Had he also bought matches?
Yes. What kind? Common safety matches. Had he noticed when he got
home that the box he had just bought was half empty? No.
Nevertheless he had used many matches in going through this old
house, had he not? Possibly. To light his way upstairs, perhaps?
It might be. Had he not so used them? Yes. Why had he done so,
if he had candles in his pocket, which were so much easier to hold
and so much more lasting than a lighted match? Ah, he could not
say; he did not know; his mind was confused. He was awake when
he should have been asleep. It was all a dream to him.
The coroner became still more persistent.
"Did you enter the library on your solitary visit to this old house?"
"I believe so."
"What did you do there?"
"Pottered around. I don't remember."
"What light did you use?"
"A candle, I think."
"You must know."
"Well, I had a candle; it was in a candelabrum."
"What candle and what candelabrum?"
"The same I used upstairs, of course"
"And you can not remember where you left this candle and candelabrum
when you finally quitted the house?"
"No. I wasn't thinking about candles."
"What were you thinking about?"
"The rupture with my wife and the bad name of the house I was in."
"Oh! and this was on Tuesday night?"
"How can you prove this to us?"
"I can not"
"But you swear -"
"I swear that it was Tuesday night, the night immediately preceding
the one when - when my wife's death robbed me of all earthly
It was feelingly uttered, and several faces lightened; but the
coroner repeating: "Is there no way you can prove this to our
satisfaction?" the shadow settled again, and on no head more
perceptibly than on that of the unfortunate witness.
It was now late in the day and the atmosphere of the room had
become stifling; but no one seemed to be conscious of any discomfort,
and a general gasp of excitement passed through the room when the
coroner, taking out a box from under a pile of papers, disclosed to
the general gaze the famous white ribbon with its dainty bow, lying
on top of the fatal pistol.
That this special feature, the most interesting one of all connected
with this tragedy, should have been kept so long in reserve and
brought out just at this time, struck many of Mr. Jeffrey's closest
friends as unnecessarily dramatic; but when the coroner, lifting out
the ribbon, remarked tentatively, "You know this ribbon?" we were
more struck by the involuntary cry of surprise which rose from some
one in the crowd about the door, than by the look with which Mr.
Jeffrey eyed it and made the necessary reply. That cry had something
more than nervous excitement in it. Identifying the person who had
uttered it as a certain busy little woman well known in town, I
sent an officer to watch her; then recalled my attention to the point
the coroner was attempting to make. He had forced Mr. Jeffrey to
recognize the ribbon as the one which had fastened the pistol to
his wife's arm; now he asked whether, in his opinion, a woman could
tie such a bow to her own wrist, and when in common justice Mr.
Jeffrey was obliged to say no, waited a third time before he put
the general suspicion again into words:
"Can not you, by some means or some witness, prove to us that it
was on Tuesday night and not on Wednesday you spent the hours you
speak of on this scene of your marriage and your wife's death?"
The hopelessness which more than once had marked Mr. Jeffrey's
features since the beginning of this inquiry, reappeared with renewed
force as this suggestive question fell again upon his ears; and he
was about to repeat his plea of forgetfulness when the coroner's
attention was diverted by a request made in his ear by one of the
detectives. In another moment Mr. Jeffrey had been waved aside and
a new witness sworn in.
You can imagine every one's surprise, mine most of all, when this
witness proved to be Uncle David.
"TALLMAN! LET US HAVE TALLMAN!"
I do not know why the coroner had so long delayed to call this
witness. In the ordinary course of events his testimony should
have preceded mine, but the ordinary course of events had not been
followed, and it was only at the request of Mr. Moore himself that
he was now allowed the privilege of appearing before this coroner
I speak of it as a privilege because he himself evidently regarded
it as such. Indeed, his whole attitude and bearing as he addressed
himself to the coroner showed that he was there to be looked at and
that he secretly thought he was very well worth this attention.
Possibly some remembrance of the old days, in which he had gone in
and out before these people in a garb suggestive of penury, made
the moment when he could appear before them in a guise more
befitting his station one of incalculable importance to him.
At all events, he confronted us all with an aspect which openly
challenged admiration. When, in answer to the coroner's inquiries,
it became his duty to speak, he did so with a condescension which
would have called up smiles if the occasion had been one of less
seriousness, and his connection with it as unimportant as he would
have it appear.
What he said was in the way of confirming the last witness'
testimony as to his having been at the Moore house on Tuesday
evening. Mr. Moore, who was very particular as to dates and days,
admitted that the light which he had seen in a certain window of
his ancestral home on the evening when he summoned the police was
but the repetition of one he had detected there the evening before.
It was this repetition which alarmed him and caused him to break
through all his usual habits and leave his home at night to notify
"The old sneak!" thought I. "Why didn't he tell us this before?"
And I allowed myself afresh doubt of his candor which had always
seemed to me somewhat open to question. It is possible that the
coroner shared my opinion, or that he felt it incumbent upon him to
get what evidence he could from the sole person living within view
of the house in which such ghastly events had taken place. For,
without betraying the least suspicion, and yet with the quiet
persistence for which men in his responsible position are noted,
he subjected this suave old man to such a rigid examination as to
what he had seen, or had not seen, from his windows, that no
possibility seemed to remain of his concealing a single fact which
could help to the elucidation of this or any other mystery connected
with the old mansion.
He asked him if he had seen Mr. Jeffrey go in on the night in
question; if he had ever seen any one go in there since the wedding;
or even if he had seen any one loitering about the steps, or sneaking
into the rear yard. But the answer was always no; these same noes
growing more and more emphatic, and the gentleman more and more
impenetrable and dignified as the examination went on. In fact, he
was as unassailable a witness as I have ever heard testify before
any jury. Beyond the fact already mentioned of his having observed
a light in the opposite house on the two evenings in question, he
admitted nothing. His life in the little cottage was so engrossing
- he had his organ - his dog - why should he look out of the window?
Had it not been for his usual habit of letting his dog run the
pavements for a quarter of an hour before finally locking up for
the night, he would not have seen as much as he did.
"Have you any stated hour for doing this?" the coroner now asked.
"Yes; half-past nine"
"And was this the hour when you caw that light?"
"Yes, both times."
As he had appeared at the station-house at a few minutes before ten
he was probably correct in this statement. But, notwithstanding
this, I did not feel implicit confidence in him. He was too
insistent in his regret at not being able to give greater assistance
in the disentanglement of a mystery so affecting the honor of the
family of which he was now the recognized head. His voice, nicely
attuned to the occasion, was admirable; so was his manner; but I
mentally wrote him down as one I should enjoy outwitting if the
opportunity ever came my way.
He wound up with such a distinct repetition of his former emphatic
assertion as to the presence of light in the old house on Tuesday
as well as Wednesday evening that Mr. Jeffrey's testimony in this
regard received a decided confirmation. I looked to see some open
recognition of this, when suddenly, and with a persistence understood
only by the police, the coroner recalled Mr. Jeffrey and asked him
what proof he had to offer that his visit of Tuesday had not been
repeated the next night and that he was not in the building when
that fatal trigger was pulled.
At this leading question, a lawyer sitting near me, edged himself
forward as if he hoped for some sign from Mr. Jeffrey which would
warrant him in interfering. But Mr, Jeffrey gave no such sign. I
doubt if he even noticed this man's proximity, though he knew him
well and had often employed him as his legal adviser in times gone
by. He was evidently exerting himself to recall the name which so
persistently eluded his memory, putting his hand to his head and
showing the utmost confusion.
"I can not give you one," he finally stammered. "There is a man
who could tell - if only I could remember his name." Suddenly with
a loud cry which escaped him involuntarily, he gave a gurgling
laugh and we heard the name "Tallman!" leap from his lips.
The witness had at last remembered whom he had met at the cemetery
gate at the hour, or near the hour, his wife lay dying in the lower
part of the city.
The effect was electrical. One of the spectators - some country
boor, no doubt - so far forgot himself as to cry out loud enough for
all to hear:
"Tallman! Let us have Tallman!"
Of course he met with an instant rebuke, but I did not wait to hear
it, or to see order restored, for a glance from the coroner had
already sent me to the door in search of this new witness.
My destination was the Cosmos Club, for Phil Tallman and his habits
and haunts were as well known in Washington as the figure of Liberty
on the summit of the Capitol dome. When I saw him I did not wonder.
Never have I seen a more amiable looking man, or one with a more
absentminded expression. To my query as to whether he had ever met
Mr. Jeffrey at or near the entrance of Rock Creek Cemetery, he replied
with an amazed look and the quick response:
"Of course I did. It was the very night that his wife - But what's
up? You look excited for a detective."
"Come to the morgue and see. This testimony of yours will prove
invaluable to Mr. Jeffrey."
I shall never forget the murmur of suppressed excitement which
greeted us as I reappeared before coroner and jury accompanied by
the gentleman who had been called for in such peremptory tones a
short time before.
Mr. Jeffrey, who had attempted to rise at our entrance, but seemed
to lack the ability, gave a faint smile as Tallman's good-natured
face appeared; and the coroner, feeling, perhaps, that some cords
are liable to break if stretched too strongly, administered the oath
and made the necessary inquiries with as little delay as was
compatible with the solemnity of the occasion.
The result was an absolute proof that Mr. Jeffrey had been near
Soldiers' Home as late as seven, which was barely fifteen minutes
previous to the hour Mrs. Jeffrey's watch was stopped by her fall
in the old house on Waverley Avenue. As the distance between the
two places could not be compassed in that time, Mr. Jeffrey's alibi
could be regarded as established.
When we were all rising, glad of an adjournment which restored free
movement and an open interchange of speech, a sudden check in the
general rush called our attention back to Mr. Jeffrey. He was
standing facing Miss Tuttle, who was still sitting in a strangely
immovable attitude in her old place. He had just touched her on the
arm, and now, with a look of alarm, he threw up the veil which had
kept her face hidden from all beholders.
A vision of loveliness greeted us, but that was not all. It was an
unconscious loveliness. Miss Tuttle had fainted away, sitting
upright in her chair.
WHITE BOW AND PINK
Mr. Jeffrey's examination and its triumphant conclusion created a
great furor in town. Topics which had hitherto absorbed all minds
were forgotten in the discussion of the daring attempt which had
been made by the police to fix crime upon one of Washington's most
esteemed citizens, and the check which they had rightly suffered
for this outrage. What might be expected next? Something equally
bold and reprehensible, of course, but what? It was a question
which at the next sitting completely filled the inquest room.
To my great surprise, Mr. Jeffrey was recalled to the stand. He
had changed since the night before. He looked older, and while
still handsome, for nothing could rob him of his regularity of
feature and extreme elegance of proportion, showed little of the
spirit which, in spite of the previous day's depression, had
upheld him through its most trying ordeal and kept his eye bright,
if only from excitement. This was fact number one, and one which
I stored away in my already well-furnished memory.
Miss Tuttle sat in a less conspicuous position than on the previous
day, and Mr. Moore, her uncle, was not thereat all.
The testimony called for revived an old point which, seemingly, had
not been settled to the coroner's satisfaction.
Had Mr. Jeffrey placed the small stand holding the candelabrum on
the spot where it had been found? No. Had he carried into the
house, at the time of his acknowledged visit, the candles which had
been afterward discovered there? No. He had had time to think
since his hesitating and unsatisfactory replies of the day before,
and he was now in a position to say that while he distinctly
remembered buying candles on his way to the Moore house, he had not
found them in his pocket on getting there and had been obliged to
make use of the matches he always carried on his person in order to
find his way to the upstairs room where he felt positive he would
find a candle.
This gave the coroner an opportunity to ask:
"And why did you expect to find a candle there?"
The answer astonished me and, I have no doubt, many others.
"It was the room in which my wife had dressed for the ceremony. It
had not been disturbed since that time. My wife had little ways of
her own; one was to complete her toilet by using a curling iron on
a little lock she wore over her temple. When at home she heated
this curling iron in the gas jet, but there being no gas in the Moore
house, I naturally concluded that she had made use of a candle, as
the curl had been noticeable under her veil."
Oh, the weariness in his tone! I could scarcely interpret it. Was
he talking by rote, or was he utterly done with life and all its
interests? No one besides myself seemed to note this strange
passivity. To the masses he was no longer a suffering man, but an
individual from whom information was to be got. The next question
was a vital one.
He had accounted for one candle in the house; could he account for
the one found in the tumbler or for the one lying crushed and
battered on the closet floor?
He could not.
And now we all observed a change of direction in the inquiry.
Witnesses were summoned to corroborate Mr. Jeffrey's statements,
statements which it seemed to be the coroner's present wish to
establish. First came the grocer who had sold Mr. Jeffrey the
candles. He acknowledged, much to Jinny's discomfort, that an hour
after Mr. Jeffrey had left the store, he had found on the counter
the package which that gentleman had forgotten to take. Poor Jinny
had not stayed long enough to hear his story out. The grocer
finished his testimony by saying that immediately upon his
discovery he had sent the candles to Mr. Jeffrey's house.
This the coroner caused to be emphasized to such an extent that we
were all convinced of its importance. But as yet his purpose was
not evident save to those who were more in his confidence than myself.
The other witnesses were men from Rauchers, who had acted as waiters
at the time of the marriage. One of them testified that immediately
on Miss Moore's arrival he had been sent for a candle and a box of
matches. The other, that he had carried up to her room a large
candelabrum from the drawing-room mantel. A pair of curling tongs
taken from the dressing table of this room was next produced,
together with other articles of toilet use which had been allowed
to remain there uncared for, though they were of solid silver and
of beautiful design.
The next witness was a member of Mr. Jeffrey's own household. Chloe
was her name, and her good black face worked dolefully as she
admitted that the package of candles which the grocer boy had left
on the kitchen table, with the rest of the groceries on the morning
of that dreadful day when "Missus" killed herself, was not to be
found when she came to put the things away. She had looked and
looked for it, but it was not there.
Further inquiry brought out the fact that but one other member of
the household was in the kitchen when these groceries were delivered;
and that this person gave a great start when the boy shouted out,
"The candles there were bought by Mr. Jeffrey," and hurried over to
the table and handled the packages, although Chloe did not see her
carry any of them away.
"And who was this person?"
With the utterance of this name the veil fell from the coroner's
intentions and the purpose of this petty but prolonged inquiry stood
revealed. It was to all a fearful and impressive moment. To me it
was as painful as it was triumphant. I had not anticipated such an
outcome when I put my wits to work to prove that murder, and not
suicide, was answerable for young Mrs. Jeffrey's death.
When the murmur which had hailed this startling turn in the inquiry
had subsided, the coroner drew a deep breath, and, with an uneasy
glance at the jury, who, to a man, seemed to wish themselves well
out of this job, he dismissed the cook and summoned a fresh witness.
Her name made the people stare.
Miss Nixon! That was a name well known in Washington; almost as
well known as that of Uncle David, or even of Mr. Tallman. What
could this quaint and characteristic little body have to do with
this case of doubtful suicide? A word will explain. She was the
person who, on the day before, had made that loud exclamation when
the box containing the ribbon and the pistol had been disclosed to
As her fussy little figure came forward, some nudged and some
laughed, possibly because her bonnet was not of this year's style,
possibly because her manner was peculiar and as full of oddities
as her attire. But they did not laugh long, for the little lady's
look was appealing, if not distressed. The fact that she was
generally known to possess one of the largest bank accounts in the
District, made any marked show of disrespect toward her a matter
of poor judgment, if not of questionable taste.
The box in the coroner's hand prepared us for what was before us.
As he opened it and disclosed again the dainty white bow which, as
I have before said, was of rather a fantastic make, the whole
roomful of eager spectators craned forward and were startled enough
when he asked:
"Did you ever see a bow like this before?"
Her answer came in the faintest of tones.
"Yes, I have one like it; very like it; so like it that yesterday
I could not suppress an exclamation on seeing this one."
"Where did you get the one you have? Who fashioned it, I mean, or
tied it for you, if that is what I ought to say?"
"It was tied for me by - Miss Tuttle. She is a friend of mine, or
was - and a very good one; and one day while watching me struggling
with a piece of ribbon, which I wanted made into a bow, she took it
from my hand and tied a knot for which I was very much obliged to
her. It was very pretty."
"And like this?"
"Almost exactly, sir."
"Have you that knot with you?"
"Will you show it to the jury?"
Heaving a sigh which she had much better have suppressed, she opened
a little bag she carried at her side and took out a pink satin bow.
It had been tied by a deft hand; and more than one pair of eyes fell
significantly at sight of it.
Amid a silence which was intense, two or three other witnesses were
called to prove that Miss Tuttle's skill in bow-tying was exceptional,
and was often made use of, not only by members of her household, but,
as in Miss Nixon's case, by outsiders; the special style shown in the
one under consideration being the favorite.
During all this, I kept my eyes on Mr. Jeffrey. It had now become
so evident which way the coroner's inquiries tended that I wished to
be the first to note their effect on him. It was less marked than I
had anticipated. The man seemed benumbed by accumulated torment and
stared at the witnesses filing before him as if they were part of
some wild phantasmagoria which confused, without enlightening him.
When finally several persons of both sexes were brought forward to
prove that his attentions to Miss Tuttle had once been sufficiently
marked for an announcement of their engagement to be daily looked
for, he let his head fall forward on his breast as if the creeping
horror which had seized him was too much for his brain if not for
his heart. The final blow was struck when the man whom I had myself
seen in Alexandria testified to the contretemps which had occurred
in Atlantic City; an additional point being given to it by the
repetition of some old conversation raked up for the purpose, by
which an effort was made to prove that Miss Tuttle found it hard to
forgive injuries even from those nearest and dearest to her. This
subject might have been prolonged, but some of the jury objected,
and the time being now ripe for the great event of the day, the
name of the lady herself was called.
After so significant a preamble, the mere utterance of Miss Tuttle's
name had almost the force of an accusation; but the dignity with
which she rose calmed all minds, and subdued every expression of
feeling. I could but marvel at her self-poise and noble equanimity,
and asked myself if, in the few days which had passed since first
the murmur of something more serious than suicide had gone about,
she had so schooled herself for all emergencies that nothing could
shake her self-possession, not even the suggestion that a woman of
her beauty and distinction could be concerned in a crime. 0r had
she within herself some great source of strength, which sustained
her in this most dreadful ordeal? All were on watch to see. When
the veil dropped from before her features and she stepped into the
full sight of the expectant crowd, it was not the beauty of her
face, notable and conspicuous as that was, which roused the hum of
surprise that swept from one end of the room to the other, but the
calmness, almost the elevation of her manner, a calmness and
elevation so unlooked for in the light of the strange contradictions
offered by the evidence to which we had been listening for a day and
a half, that all were affected; many inclined even to believe her
innocent of any undue connection with her sister's death before she
had stretched forth her hand to take the oath.
I was no exception to the rest. Though I had exerted myself from
the first to bring matters to a climax - but not to this one - I
experienced such a shock under the steady gaze of her sad but
gentle eyes, that I found myself recoiling before my own presumption
with something like secret shame till I was relieved by the thought
that a perfectly innocent woman would show more feeling at so false
and cruel a position. I felt that only one with something to conceal
would turn so calm a front upon men ready, as she knew, to fix upon
her a great crime. This conviction steadied me and made me less
susceptible to her grace and to the tone of her quiet voice and the
far-away sadness of her look. She faltered only when by chance she
glanced at the shrinking figure of Francis Jeffrey.
Her name which she uttered without emphasis and yet in a way to
arouse attention sank into all hearts with more or less disturbance.
"Alice Cora Tuttle!" How in days gone by, and not so long gone by,
either, those three words had aroused the enthusiasm of many a
gallant man and inspired the toast at many a gallant feast! They
had their charm yet, if the heightened color observable on many a
cheek there was a true index to the quickening heart below.
"How are you connected with the deceased Mrs. Jeffrey?"
"I am the child of her mother by a former husband. We were
No bitterness in this statement, only an infinite sadness. The
coroner continued to question her. He asked for an account of her
childhood, and forced her to lay bare the nature of her relations
with her sister. But little was gained by this, for their relations
seemed to have been of a sympathetic character up to the time of
Veronica's return from school, when they changed somewhat; but how
or why, Miss Tuttle was naturally averse to saying. Indeed she
almost refused to do so, and the coroner, feeling his point gained
more by this refusal than by any admission she might have made, did
not press this subject but passed on to what interested us more: the
various unexplained actions on her part which pointed toward crime.
His first inquiry was in reference to the conversation held between
her and Mr. Jeffrey at the time he visited her room. We had
listened to his account of it and now we wished to hear hers. But
the cue which had been given her by this very account had been
invaluable to her, and her testimony naturally coincided with his.
We found ourselves not an inch advanced. They had talked of her
sister's follies and she had advised patience, and that was all she
could say on the subject - all she would say, as we presently saw.
The coroner introduced a fresh topic.
"What can you tell us about the interview you had with you sister
prior to her going out on the night of her death?"
"Very little, except that it differed entirely from what is generally
supposed. She did not come to my room for conversation but simply
to tell me that she had an engagement. She was in an excited mood
but said nothing to alarm me. She even laughed when she left me;
perhaps to put me off my guard, perhaps because she was no longer
"Did she know that Mr. Jeffrey had visited you earlier in the day?
Did she make any allusion to it, I mean?"
"None at all. She shrugged her shoulders when I asked if she was
well, and anticipated all further questions by running from the room.
She was always capricious in her ways and never more so than at that
moment. Would to God that it had been different! Would to God that
she had shown herself to be a suffering woman! Then I might have
reached her heart and this tragedy would have been averted."
The coroner favored the witness with a look of respect, perhaps
because his next question must necessarily be cruel.
"Is that all you have to say concerning this important visit, the
last you held with your sister before her death?"
"No, sir, there is something else, something which I should like to
relate to this jury. When she came into my room, she held in her
hand a white ribbon; that is, she held the two ends of a long satin
ribbon which seemed to come from her pocket. Handing those two ends
to me, she asked me to tie them about her wrist. 'A knot under and
a bow on top,' she said, 'so that it can not slip off.' As this was
something I had often been called on to do for her, I showed no
hesitation in complying with her request. Indeed, I felt none. I
thought it was her fan or her bouquet she held concealed in the folds
of her dress, but it proved to be - Gentlemen, you know what. I pray
that you will not oblige me to mention it."
It was such a stroke as no lawyer would have advised her to make, - I
heard afterward that she had refused the offices of a dozen lawyers
who had proffered her their services. But uttered as it was with a
noble air and a certain dignified serenity, it had a great effect upon
those about her and turned in a moment the wavering tide of favor in
The coroner, who doubtless was perfectly acquainted with the
explanation with which she had provided herself, but who perhaps did
not look for it to antedate his attack, bowed in quiet acknowledgment
of her request and then immediately proceeded to ignore it.
"I should be glad to spare you," said he, "but I do not find it
possible. You knew that Mr. Jeffrey had a pistol?"
"That it was kept in their apartment?"
"In the upper drawer of a certain bureau?"
"Now, Miss Tuttle, will you tell us why you went to that drawer - if
you did go to that drawer - immediately after Mrs. Jeffrey left the
She had probably felt this question coming, not only since the
coroner began to speak but ever since the evidence elicited from
Loretta proved that her visit to this drawer had been secretly
observed. Yet she had no answer ready.
"I did not go for the pistol," she finally declared. But she did
not say what she had gone for, and the coroner did not press her.
Again the tide swung back.
She seemed to feel the change but did not show it in the way
naturally looked for. Instead of growing perturbed or openly
depressed she bloomed into greater beauty and confronted with
steadier eye, not us, but the men she instinctively faced as the
tide of her fortunes began to lower. Did the coroner perceive this
and recognize at last both the measure of her attractions and the
power they were likely to carry with them? Perhaps, for his voice
took an acrid note as he declared:
"You had another errand in that room?"
She let her head droop just a trifle.
"Alas!" she murmured.
"You went to the book-shelves and took out a book with a peculiar
cover, a cover which Mr. Jeffrey has already recognized as that of
the book in which he found a certain note."
"You have said it," she faltered.
"Did you take such a book out?"
"For what purpose, Miss Tuttle?"
She had meant to answer quickly. But some consideration made her
hesitate and the words were long in coming; when she did speak, it
was to say:
"My sister asked another favor of me after I had tied the ribbon.
Pausing in her passage to the door, she informed me in a tone quite
in keeping with her whole manner, that she had left a note for her
husband in the book they were reading together. Her reason for
doing this, she said, was the very natural one of wishing him to
come upon it by chance, but as she had placed it in the front of
the book instead of in the back where they were reading, she was
afraid that he would fail to find it. Would I be so good as to take
it out for her and insert it again somewhere near the end? She was
in a hurry or she would return and do it herself. As she and Mr.
Jeffrey had parted in anger, I hailed with joy this evidence of her
desire for a reconciliation, and it was in obedience to her request,
the singularity of which did not strike me as forcibly then as now,
that I went to the shelves in her room and took down the book."
"And did you find the note where she said?"
"Yes, and put it in toward the end of the story."
"Nothing more? Did you read the note?"
"It was folded," was Miss Tuttle's quiet answer. Certainly this
woman was a thoroughbred or else she was an adept in deception such
as few of us had ever encountered. The gentleness of her manner,
the easy tone, the quiet eyes, eyes in whose dark depths great
passions were visible, but passions that were under the control of
an equally forcible will, made her a puzzle to all men's minds; but
it was a fascinating puzzle that awoke a species of awe in those
who attempted to understand her. To all appearances she was the
unlikeliest woman possible to cherish criminal intents, yet her
answers were rather clever than convincing, unless you allowed
yourself to be swayed by the look of her beautiful face or the music
of her rich, sad voice.
"You did not remain before these book-shelves long?" observed the
"You have a witness who knows more about that than I do," she
suggested; and doubtless aware of the temerity of this reply, waited
with unmoved countenance, but with a visibly bounding breast, for
what would doubtless prove a fresh attack.
It was a violent one and of a character she was least fitted to meet.
Taking up the box I have so often mentioned, the coroner drew away
the ribbon lying on top and disclosed the pistol. In a moment her
hands were over her ears.
"Why do you do that?" he asked. "Did you think I was going to
She smiled pitifully as she let her hands fall again.
"I have a dread of firearms," she explained. "I always have had.
Now they are simply terrible to me, and this one -"
"I understand," said the coroner, with a slight glance in the
direction of Durbin. They had evidently planned this test together
on the strength of an idea suggested to Durbin by her former action
when the memory of this shot was recalled to her.
"Your horror seems to lie in the direction of the noise they make,"
continued her inexorable interlocutor. "One would say you had
heard this pistol discharged."
Instantly a complete breaking-up of her hitherto well maintained
composure altered her whole aspect and she vehemently cried:
"I did, I did. I was on Waverley Avenue that night, and I heard
the shot which in all probability ended my sister's life. I walked
farther than I intended; I strolled into the street which had such
bitter memories for us and I heard - No, I was not in search of my
sister. I had not associated my sister's going out with any
intention of visiting this house; I was merely troubled in mind and
anxious and - and -"
She had overrated her strength or her cleverness. She found herself
unable to finish the sentence, and so did not try. She had been
led by the impulse of the moment farther than she had intended, and,
aghast at her own imprudence, paused with her first perceptible loss
of courage before the yawning gulf opening before her.
I felt myself seized by a very uncomfortable dread lest her
concealments and unfinished sentences hid a guiltier knowledge of
this crime than I was yet ready to admit.
The coroner, who is an older man than myself, betrayed a certain
satisfaction but no dread. Never did the unction which underlies
his sharpest speeches show more plainly than when he quietly
"And so under a similar impulse you, as well as Mr. Jeffrey, chose
this uncanny place to ramble in. To all appearance that old hearth
acted much more like a lodestone upon members of your family than
you were willing at one time to acknowledge"
This reference to words she had herself been heard to use seemed to
overwhelm her. Her calmness fled and she cast a fleeting look of
anguish at Mr. Jeffrey. But his face was turned from sight, and,
meeting with no help there, or anywhere, indeed, save in her own
powerful nature, she recovered as best she could the ground she had
lost and, with a trembling question of her own, attempted to put
the coroner in fault and reestablish herself.
"You say 'ramble through.' Do you for a moment think that I entered
that old house?"
"Miss Tuttle," was the grave, almost sad reply, "did you not know
that in some earth, dropped from a flower-pot overturned at the
time when a hundred guests flew in terror from this house, there is
to be seen the mark of a footstep, - a footstep which you are at
liberty to measure with your own?"
"Ah!" she murmured, her hands going up to her face.
But in another moment she had dropped them and looked directly at
"I walked there - I never said that I did not walk there - when I
went later to see my sister and in sight of a number of detectives
passed straight through the halls and into the library."
"And that this footstep," inexorably proceeded the coroner, "is not
in a line with the main thoroughfare extending from the front to the
back of the house, but turned inwards toward the wall as if she who
made it had stopped to lean her head against the partition?"
Miss Tuttle's head drooped. Probably she realized at this moment,
if not before, that the coroner and jury had ample excuse for
mistrusting one who had been so unmistakably caught in a
prevarication; possibly her regret carried her far enough to wish
she had not disdained all legal advice from those who had so
earnestly offered it. But though she showed alike her shame and
her disheartenment, she did not give up the struggle.
"If I went into the house," she said, "it was not to enter that room.
I had too great a dread of it. If I rested my head against the wall
it was in terror of that shot. It came so suddenly and was so
frightful, so much more frightful than anything you can conceive."
"Then you did enter the house?"
"And it was while you were inside, instead of outside, that you
heard the shot?"
"I must admit that, too. I was at the library door."
"You acknowledge that?"
"But you did not enter the library?"
"No, not then; not till I was taken back by the officer who told me
of my sister's death"
"We are glad to hear this precise statement from you. It encourages
me to ask again the nature of the freak which took you into this
house. You say that it was not from any dread on your sister's
account? What, then, was it? No evasive answer will satisfy us,
She realized this as no one else could.
Mr. Jeffrey's reason for his visit there could not be her reason,
yet what other had she to give? Apparently none.
"I can not answer," she said.
And the deep sigh which swept through the room was but an echo of
the despair with which she saw herself brought to this point.
"We will not oblige you to," said the coroner with apparent
consideration. But to those who knew the law against forcing a
witness to incriminate himself, this was far from an encouraging
"However," he now went on, with suddenly assumed severity, "you
may answer this. Was the house dark or light when you entered it?
And, how did you get in?"
"The house was dark, and I got in through the front door, which I
"You are more courageous than most women! I fear there are few of
your sex who could be induced to enter it in broad daylight and
under every suitable protection."
She raised her figure proudly.
"Miss Tuttle, you have heard Chloe say that you were in the kitchen
of Mr. Jeffrey's house when the grocer boy delivered the candles
which had been left by your brother-in-law on the counter of the
store where he bought them. Is this true?"
"Yes, sir, it is true."
"Did you see those candles?"
"You did not see them?"
"Yet you went over to the table?"
"Yes, sir, but I did not meddle with the packages. I had really
no business with them."
The coroner, surveying her sadly, went quickly on as if anxious to
terminate this painful examination.
"You have not told us what you did when you heard that pistol-shot."
"I ran away as soon as I could move; I ran madly from the house."
"But it was half-past ten when you got home."
"It was half-past ten when the man came to tell you of your
"It may have been."
"Your sister is supposed to have died in a few minutes. Where were
you in the interim?"
"God knows. I do not."
A wild look was creeping into her face, and her figure was swaying.
But she soon steadied it. I have never seen a more admirable
presence maintained in the face of a dreadful humiliation.
"Perhaps I can help you," rejoined the coroner, not unkindly. "Were
you not in the Congressional Library looking up at the lunettes and
gorgeously painted walls?"
"I?" Her eyes opened wide in wondering doubt. "If I was, I did
not know it. I have no remembrance of it."
She seemed to lose sight of her present position, the cloud under
which she rested, and even the construction which might be put upon
such a forgetfulness at a time confessedly prior to her knowledge
of the purpose and effect of the shot from which she had so
"Your condition of mind and that of Mr. Jeffrey seem to have been
strangely alike," remarked the coroner.
"No, no!" she protested.
"Arguing a like source."
"No, no," she cried again, this time with positive agony. Then with
an effort which awakened respect for her powers of mind, if for
nothing else, she desperately added: "I can not say what was in his
heart that night, but I know what was in mine - dread of that old
house, to which I had been drawn in spite of myself, possibly by the
force of the tragedy going on inside it, culminating in a delirium
of terror, which sent me flying in an opposite direction from my home
and into places I had been accustomed to visit when my heart was
light and untroubled."
The coroner glanced at the jury, who unconsciously shook their heads.
He shook his, too, as he returned to the charge.
"Another question, Miss Tuttle. When you heard a pistol-shot
sounding from the depths of that dark library, what did you think it
She put her hands over her ears - it seemed as if she could not
prevent this instinctive expression of recoil at the mention of the
death-dealing weapon -and in very low tones replied:
"Something dreadful; something superstitious. It was night, you
remember, and at night one has such horrible thoughts."
"Yet an hour or two later you declared that the hearth was no
lodestone. You forgot its horrors and your superstition upon
returning to your own house."
"It might be;" she murmured; "but if so, they soon returned. I
had reason for my horror, if not for my superstition, as the event
The coroner did not attempt to controvert this. He was about to
launch a final inquiry.
"Miss Tuttle; upon the return of yourself and Mr. Jeffrey to your
home after your final visit to the Moore house, did you have any
interview that was without witnesses?"
"Did you exchange any words?"
"I think we did exchange some words; it would be only natural."
"Are you willing to state what words?"
She looked dazed and appeared to search her memory.
"I don't think I can," she objected.
"But something was said by you and some answer was made by him?"
"I believe so."
"Can not you say definitely?"
"We did speak."
"No, in French."
"Can not you translate that French for us?"
"Pardon me, sir; it was so long ago my memory fails me."
"Is it any better for the second and longer interview between you
the next day?"
"You can not give us any phrase or word that was uttered there?"
"Is this your final reply on this subject?"
She never had been subjected to an interrogation like this before.
It made her proud soul quiver in revolt, notwithstanding the
patience with which she had fortified herself. With red cheeks
and glistening eyes she surveyed the man who had made her suffer so,
and instantly every other man there suffered with her; excepting
possibly Durbin, whose heart was never his strong point. But our
hearts were moved, our reasons were not convinced, as was presently
shown, when, with a bow of dismissal, the coroner released her, and
she passed back to her seat.
Simultaneously with her withdrawal the gleam of sensibility left
the faces of the jury, and the dark and brooding look which had
marked their countenances from the beginning returned, and returned
What would their verdict be? There were present two persons who
affected to believe that it would be one of suicide occasioned by
dementia. These were Miss Tuttle and Mr. Jeffrey, who, now that
the critical period had come, straightened themselves boldly in
their seats and met the glances concentrated upon them with dignity,
if not with the assurance of complete innocence. But from the
carefulness with which they avoided each other's eyes and the almost
identical expression mirrored upon both faces, it was visible to
all that they regarded their cause as a common one, and that the
link which they denied, as having existed between them prior to
Mrs. Jeffrey's death, had in some way been supplied by that very
tragedy; so that they now unwittingly looked with the same eyes,
breathed with the same breath, and showed themselves responsive to
the same fluctuations of hope and fear.
The celerity with which that jury arrived at its verdict was a shock
to us all. It had been a quiet body, offering but little assistance
to the coroner in his questioning; but when it fell to these men to
act, the precision with which they did so was astonishing. In a
half-hour they returned from the room into which they had adjourned,
and the foreman gave warning that he was prepared to render a verdict.
Mr. Jeffrey and Miss Tuttle both clenched their hands; then Miss
Tuttle pulled down her veil.
"We find," said the solemn foreman, "that Veronica Moore Jeffrey, who
on the night of May eleventh was discovered lying dead on the floor
of her own unoccupied house in Waverley Avenue, came to her death by
means of a bullet, shot from a pistol connected to her wrist by a
length of white satin ribbon.
"That the first conclusion of suicide is not fully sustained by the
"And that attempt should be made to identify the hand that fired
It was as near an accusation of Miss Tuttle as was possible without
mentioning her name. A groan passed through the assemblage, and Mr.
Jeffrey, bounding to his feet, showed an inclination to shout aloud
in his violent indignation. But Miss Tuttle, turning toward him,
lifted her hand with a commanding gesture and held it so till he sat
It was both a majestic and an utterly incomprehensible movement on
her part, giving to the close of these remarkable proceedings a
dramatic climax which set all hearts beating and, I am bound to say,
all tongues wagging till the room cleared.
AN EGOTIST OF THE FIRST WATER
Had the control of affairs been mine at this moment I am quite
positive that I should have found it difficult to deny these two
the short interview which they appeared to crave and which would
have been to them such an undeniable comfort. But a sterner spirit
than mine was in charge, and the district attorney, into whose hands
the affair had now fallen, was inexorable. Miss Tuttle was treated
with respect, with kindness, even, but she was not allowed any
communication with her brother-in-law beyond the formal "Good
afternoon" incident upon their separation; while he, scorning to
condemn his lips to any such trite commonplace, said nothing at all,
only looked a haggard inquiry which called forth from her the most
exalted look of patience and encouraging love it has ever been my
good fortune to witness. Durbin was standing near and saw this
look as plainly as I did, but it did not impose on him, he said.
But what in the nature of human woe could impose on him? Durbin is
a machine - a very reliable and useful machine, no doubt, yet when
all is said, a simple contrivance of cogs and wheels; while I - well,
I hope that I am something more than that; or why was I a changed
man toward her from the moment I saw the smile which marked this
accused woman's good by to Francis Jeffrey. No longer believing in
her guilt, I went about my business with tumult in brain and heart,
asking in my remorse for an opportunity to show her some small
courtesy whereby to relieve the torture I felt at having helped the
coroner in the inquiries which had brought about what looked to me
now like a cruel and unwarranted result.
That it should be given to Durbin to hold such surveillance over her
as her doubtful position demanded added greatly to my discomfort.
But I was enabled to keep my lips firmly shut over any expression of
secret jealousy or displeasure; and this was fortunate, as otherwise
I might have failed to obtain the chance of aiding her later on, in
other and deeper matters.
Meanwhile, and before any of us had left this room, one fact had
become apparent. Mr. Jeffrey was not going to volunteer any fresh
statement in face of the distinct disapproval of his sister-in-law.
As his eye fell upon the district attorney, who had lingered near,
possibly in the hope of getting something more from this depressed
and almost insensible man, he made one remark, but it was an
automatic one, calculated to produce but little effect on the
discriminating ears of this experienced official.
"I do not believe that my wife was murdered." This was what he said.
"It was a wicked verdict. My wife killed herself. Wasn't the pistol
found tied to her?"
Either from preoccupation or a dazed condition of mind, he seemed to
forget that Miss Tuttle had owned to tying on this pistol; and that
nothing but her word went to prove that this was done before and not
after the shot had been delivered in the Moore house library. I
thought I understood him and was certain that I sympathized with his
condition; but in the ears of those less amiably disposed toward him,
his statements had lost force and the denial went for little.
Meanwhile a fact which all had noted and commented on had recurred to
my mind and caused me to ask a brother officer who was walking out
beside me what he thought of Mr. Moore's absence from an inquiry
presumably of such importance to all members of this family.
The fellow laughed and said:
"Old Dave has lost none of his peculiarities in walking into his
fortune. This is his day at the cemetery. Didn't you know that?
He will let nothing on earth get in the way of his pilgrimage to
that spot on the twenty-third of May, much less so trivial an
occurrence as an inquest over the remains of his nearest relative."
I felt my gorge rise; then a thought struck me and I asked how long
the old gentleman kept up his watch.
"From sunrise to sundown, the boys say. I never saw him there myself.
My beat lies in an opposite direction."
I left him and started for Rock Creek Cemetery. There were two good
hours yet before sundown and I resolved to come upon Uncle David at
It took just one hour and a quarter to get there by the most direct
route I could take. Five minutes more to penetrate the grounds to
where a superb vehicle stood, drawn by two of the finest horses I
had seen in Washington for many a long day. As I was making my way
around this equipage I came upon a plot in a condition of upheaval
preparatory to new sodding and the planting of several choice shrubs.
In the midst of the sand thus exposed a single head-stone rose. On
his knees beside this simple monument I saw the figure of Uncle
David, dressed in his finest clothes and showing in his oddly
contorted face the satisfaction of great prosperity, battling with
the dissatisfaction of knowing that one he had so loved had not
lived to share his elevation. He was rubbing away the mold from the
name which, by his own confession, was the only one to which his
memory clung in sympathy or endearment. At his feet lay an open
basket, in which I detected the remains of what must have been a
rather sumptuous cold repast. To all appearance he had foregone
none of his ancient customs; only those customs had taken on elegance
with his rise in fortune. The carriage and the horses, and most of
all, the imperturbable driver, seemed to awaken some awe in the boys.
They were still in evidence, but they hung back sheepishly and eyed
the basket of neglected food as if they hoped he would forget to take
it away. Meanwhile the clattering of chains against the harness, the
pawing of the horses and the low exclamations of the driver caused me
the queerest feelings. Advancing quite unceremoniously upon the
watcher by the grave, I remarked aloud;
"The setting sun will soon release you, Mr. Moore. Are you going
immediately into town?"
He paused in his rubbing, which was being done with a very tender
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