Chapter 11




DETAILS


The days of my obscurity were over. Henceforth, I was regarded as a decided factor in this case--a case which from this time on, assumed another aspect both at headquarters and in the minds of people at large. The reporters, whom we had hitherto managed to hold in check, now overflowed both the coroner's office and police headquarters, and articles appeared in all the daily papers with just enough suggestion in them to fire the public mind and make me, for one, anticipate an immediate word from Mr. Jeffrey calculated to establish the alibi he had failed to make out on the day we talked with him. But no such word came. His memory still played him false, and no alternative was left but to pursue the official inquiry in the line suggested by the interview just recounted.

No proceeding in which I had ever been engaged interested me as did this inquest. In the first place, the spectators were of a very different character from the ordinary. As I wormed myself along to the seat accorded to such witnesses as myself, I brushed by men of the very highest station and a few of the lowest; and bent my head more than once in response to the inquiring gaze of some fashionable lady who never before, I warrant, had found herself in such a scene. By the time I reached my place all the others were seated and the coroner rapped for order.

I was first to take the stand. What I said has already been fully amplified in the foregoing pages. Of course, my evidence was confined to facts, but some of these facts were new to most of the persons there. It was evident that a considerable effect was produced by them, not only on the spectators, but upon the witnesses themselves. For instance, it was the first time that the marks on the mantel-shelf had been heard of outside the major's office, or the story so told as to make it evident that Mrs. Jeffrey could not have been alone in the house at the time of her death.

A photograph had been taken of those marks, and my identification of this photograph closed my testimony.

As I returned to my seat I stole a look toward a certain corner where, with face bent down upon his hand, Francis Jeffrey sat between Uncle David and the heavily-veiled figure of Miss Tuttle. Had there dawned upon him as my testimony was given any suspicion of the trick by which he had been proved responsible for those marks? It was impossible to tell. From the way Miss Tuttle's head was turned toward him, one might judge him to be laboring under an emotion of no ordinary character, though he sat like a statue and hardly seemed to realize how many eyes were at that moment riveted upon his face.

I was followed by other detectives who had been present at the time and who corroborated my statement as to the appearance of this unhappy woman and the way the pistol had been tied to her arm. Then the doctor who had acted under the coroner was called. After a long and no doubt learned description of the bullet wound which had ended the life of this unhappy lady,--a wound which he insisted, with a marked display of learning, must have made that end instantaneous or at least too immediate for her to move foot or hand after it,--he was asked if the body showed any other mark of violence.

To this he replied

"There was a minute wound at the base of one of her fingers, the one which is popularly called the wedding finger."

This statement made all the women present start with renewed interest; nor was it altogether without point for the men, especially when the doctor went on to say:

"The hands were entirely without rings. As Mrs. Jeffrey had been married with a ring, I noticed their absence."

"Was this wound which you characterize as minute a recent one?"

"It had bled a little. It was an abrasion such as would be made if the ring she usually wore there had been drawn off with a jerk. That was the impression I received from its appearance. I do not state that it was so made."

A little thrill which went over the audience at the picture this evoked communicated itself to Miss Tuttle, who trembled violently. It even produced a slight display of emotion in Mr. Jeffrey, whose hand shook where he pressed it against his forehead. But neither uttered a sound, nor looked up when the next witness was summoned.

This witness proved to be Loretta, who, on hearing her name called, evinced great reluctance to come forward. But after two or three words uttered in her ear by the friendly Jinny, who had been given a seat next her, she stepped into the place assigned her with a suddenly assumed air of great boldness, which sat upon her with scant grace. She had need of all the boldness at her command, for the eyes of all in the room were fixed on her, with the exception of the two persons most interested in her testimony. Scrutiny of any kind did not appear to be acceptable to her, if one could read the trepidation visible in the short, quick upheavals of the broad collar which covered her uneasy breast. Was this shrinking on her part due to natural timidity, or had she failings to avow which, while not vitiating her testimony, would certainly cause her shame in the presence of so many men and women? I was not able to decide this question immediately; for after the coroner had elicited her name and the position she held in Mr. Jeffrey's household he asked whether her duties took her into Mrs. Jeffrey's room; upon her replying that they did, he further inquired if she knew Mrs. Jeffrey's rings, and could say whether they were all to be found on that lady's toilet-table after the police came in with news of her death. The answer was decisive. They were all there, her rings and all the other ornaments she was in the daily habit of wearing, with the exception of her watch. That was not there.

"Did you take up those rings?"

"No, sir."

"Did you see any one else take them up?"

"No, sir; not till the officer did so."

"Very well, Loretta, sit down again till we hear what Durbin has to say about these rings."

And then the man I hated came forward, and though I shrank from acknowledging it even to myself, I could but observe how strong and quiet and self-possessed he seemed and how decisive was his testimony. But it was equally brief. He had taken up the rings and he had looked at them; and on one, the wedding-ring, he had detected a slight stain of blood. He had called Mr. Jeffrey's attention to it, but that gentleman had made no comment. This remark had the effect of concentrating general attention upon Mr. Jeffrey. But he seemed quite oblivious of it; his attitude remained unchanged, and only from the quick stretching out and withdrawal of Miss Tuttle's hand could it be seen that anything had been said calculated to touch or arouse this man. The coroner cast an uneasy glance in his direction; then he motioned Durbin aside and recalled Loretta.

And now I began to be sorry for the girl. It is hard to have one's weaknesses exposed, especially if one is more foolish than wicked. But there was no way of letting this girl off without sacrificing certain necessary points, and the coroner went relentlessly to work.

"How long have you been in this house?"

"Three weeks. Ever since Mrs. Jeffrey's wedding day, sir."

"Were you there when she first came as a bride from the Moore house?"

"I was, sir."

"And saw her then for the first time?"

"Yes, sir."

"How did she look and act that first day?"

"I thought her the gayest bride I had ever seen,, then I thought her the saddest, and then I did not know what to think. She was so merry one minute and so frightened the next, so full of talk when she came running up the steps and so struck with silence the minute she got into the parlor, that I set her down as a queer one till some one whispered in my ear that she was suffering from a dreadful shock; that ill-luck had attended her marriage and much more about what had happened from time to time at the Moore house."

"And you believed what was told you?"

"Believed?"

"Believed it well enough to keep a watch on your young mistress to see if she were happy or not?"

"Oh, sir!"

"It was but natural," the coroner suavely observed. "Every one felt interested in this marriage. You watched her of course. Now what was the result? Did you consider her well and happy?"

The girl's voice sank and she cast a glance at her master which he did not lift his head to meet.

"I did not think her happy. She laughed and sang and was always in and out of the rooms like a butterfly, but she did not wear a happy look, except now and then when she was seated with Mr. Jeffrey alone. Then I have seen her flush in a way to make the heart ache; it was such a contrast, sir, to other times when she was by herself or -"

"Or what?"

"Or just with her sister, sir."

The defiance with which this was said added point to what otherwise might have been an unimportant admission. Those who had already scrutinized Miss Tuttle with the curiosity of an ill-defined suspicion now scrutinized her with a more palpable one, and those who had hitherto seen nothing in this heavily-veiled woman but the bereaved sister of an irresponsible suicide allowed their looks to dwell piercingly on that concealing veil, as if they would be glad to penetrate its folds and read in those beautiful features the meaning of an allusion uttered with such a sting in the tone.

"You refer to Miss Tuttle?" observed the coroner.

"Mrs. Jeffrey's sister? Yes, sir." The menace was gone from the voice now, but no one could forget that it had been there.

"Miss Tuttle lived in the house with her sister, did she not?"

"Yes, sir; till that sister died and was buried; then she went away."

The coroner did not pursue this topic, preferring to return to the former one.

"So you say that Mrs. Jeffrey showed uneasiness ever since her wedding day. Can you give me any instance of this; mention, I mean, any conversations overheard by you which would show us just what you mean?"

"I don't like to repeat things I hear. But if you say that I must, I can remember once passing Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey in the hall, just as he was saying: 'You take it too much to heart! I expected a happy honeymoon. Somehow, we have failed -' That was all I heard, sir. But what made me remember his words was that she was dressed for some afternoon reception and looked so charming and so--and so, as if she ought to be happier."

"Just so. Now, when was this? How long before her death?"

"Oh, a week or so. It was very soon after the wedding day."

"And did matters seem to improve after that? Did she appear any better satisfied or more composed?"

"I think she endeavored to. But there was something on her mind, something which she tried to laugh off; something that annoyed Mr. Jeffrey and worried Miss Tuttle; something which caused a cloud in the house, for all the dances and dinners and goings and comings. I am sorry to speak of it, but it was so."

"Something that showed an unsettled mind?"

"Almost. The glitter in her eye was not natural; neither was the way she looked at her sister and sometimes at her husband."

"Did she talk much about the catastrophe which attended her wedding? Did her mind seem to run on that?"

"Incessantly at first; but afterward not so much. I think Mr. Jeffrey frowned on that subject."

"Did he ever frown on her?"

"No, sir--not--not when they were alone or with no one by but me. He seemed to love her then very much."

"What do you mean by that, Loretta; that he lost patience with her when other people were present--Miss Tuttle, for instance?"

"Yes, sir. He used to change very much when--when--when Miss Tuttle came into the room."

"Change toward his wife?"

"Yes, sir."

"How ?"

"He grew more distant, much more distant; got up quite fretfully from his seat, if he were sitting beside her, and took up some book or paper."

"And Miss Tuttle?"

"She never seemed to notice but"

"But--?"

"She did not come in very often after this had happened once or twice; I mean into the room upstairs where they used to sit."

"Loretta, I regret to put this question, but after your replies I owe it to the jury, if not to the parties themselves, to make Miss Tuttle's position in this household thoroughly understood. Do you think she was a welcome visitor in this house?"

The girl pursed up her lips, glanced at the lady and gentleman whose feelings she was supposed to pass comment on, and seemed to lose heart. Then, as they failed to respond to her look of appeal, she strove to get the better of her sense of shame and, with a somewhat injured air, replied:

"I can only repeat what I once heard said about this by Mr. Jeffrey himself. Miss Tuttle had just left the diningroom and Mrs. Jeffrey was standing in one of her black moods, with her hand on the top of her chair, ready to go but forgetting to do so. I was there, but neither of them noticed me; he was staring at her, and she was looking down. Neither seemed at ease. Suddenly he spoke and asked, 'Why must Cora remain with us?' She started and her look grew strange and frightened. 'Because I want her to,' she cried. 'I can not live without Cora."'

These words, so different from what we were expecting, caused a sensation in the room and consequently a stir. As the noise of shifting feet and moving heads began to be heard in all directions, Miss Tuttle's head drooped a little, but Francis Jeffrey did not betray any sign of feeling or even of attention. The coroner, embarrassed, perhaps, by this exhibition of silent misery so near him, hesitated a little before he put his next question. Loretta, on the contrary, had gathered courage with every word she spoke and now looked ready for anything.

"It was Mrs. Jeffrey, then, who clung most determinedly to her sister?" the coroner finally suggested.

"I have told you what she said."

"Yet these sisters spent but little time together?"

"Very little; as little as two persons could who lived together in one house."

This statement, which seemed such a contradiction to her former one, increased the interest; and much disappointment was covertly shown when the coroner veered off from this topic and brusquely inquired "Did you ever know Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey to have any open rupture?"

The answer was a decided one.

"Yes. On Tuesday morning preceding her death they had a long and angry talk in their own room, after which Mrs. Jeffrey made no further effort to conceal her wretchedness. Indeed, one may say she began to die from that hour."

Mrs. Jeffrey's death had occurred on Wednesday evening.

"Let us hear what you have to say about this quarrel and what happened after it."

The girl, with a renewed flush, cast a deprecatory look at the mass of faces before her, and, meeting on all sides but one look of intense and growing interest, drew up her neat figure with a relieved air and began a story which I will proceed to transcribe for you in the fewest possible words.

Tuesday morning's breakfast had been a silent one. There had been a ball the night before at some great place on Massachusetts Avenue; but no one spoke of it. Miss Tuttle made some remark about a friend she had met there, but as no one listened to her, she soon stopped and in a little while left the table. Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey sat on, but neither said anything. Finally Mr. Jeffrey rose and, speaking in a voice hardly recognizable, remarked that he had something to say to her, and led the way to their room. Mrs. Jeffrey looked frightened as she followed him; so frightened that it was evident that something very serious had occurred or was about to occur between them. As nothing of this kind had ever happened before, Loretta could not help waiting about till Mr. Jeffrey reappeared; and when he did so and she saw no signs of relief in his face or manner, she watched, with the silly interest of a girl who had nothing else to occupy her mind, to see if he would leave the house in such a mood, and without making peace with his young bride. To her surprise, he did not go out at the usual time, but went to Miss Tuttle's room, where for a full half-hour he remained closeted with his sister-in-law, talking in excited and unnatural tones. Then he went back for a few minutes to where he had left his wife, in her own boudoir. But he could not have had much to say to her this time, for he presently came out again and ran hastily downstairs and out, almost without stopping to catch up his hat.

As it was Mary's business, and not the witness', to make Mrs. Jeffrey's bed in the morning, Loretta could think of no excuse for approaching her mistress' room at this moment; but later, when letters came, followed by various messages and some visitors, she went more than a dozen times to Mrs. Jeffrey's door. She was not admitted, nor were her appeals answered, except by a sharp "Go away!"

Nor was Miss Tuttle received any better, though she tried more than once to see her sister, especially as night came on and the hour approached for Mr. Jeffrey's return. Mrs. Jeffrey was simply determined to remain alone; and when dinner time arrived, and no Mr. Jeffrey, she could be induced to open her door only wide enough to take in the cup of tea which Miss Tuttle insisted upon sending her.

The witness here confessed that she had been very much excited by these unusual proceedings and by the effect which they seemed to have on the lady just mentioned; so she was ready to notice that Mrs. Jeffrey's hand shook like that of an old and palsied woman when she reached out for the tray.

Gladly would Loretta have caught one glimpse of her face, but it was hidden by the door; nor did Mrs. Jeffrey answer a single one of her questions. She simply closed her door and kept it so till toward midnight, when Miss Tuttle, coming into the hall, ordered the house to be closed for the night. Then the long-shut door softly swung open, but before any one could reach it, it was again pulled to and locked.

The next day brought no relief. Miss Tuttle, who had changed greatly during this unhappy day and night, succeeded no better than before in getting access to her sister, nor could Loretta gain the least word from her mistress till toward the latter part of the afternoon, when that lady, ringing her bell, gave her first order.

"A substantial dinner," she cried; and when Loretta, greatly relieved, brought up the required meal she was astonished to find the door open and herself bidden to enter. The sight which met her eyes staggered her. From one end of the room to the other were signs of great nervous unrest and of terrible suffering. The chairs were pushed into corners as if the wretched bride had tramped the floor in an agony of excitement. Curtains were torn and the piano-cover was hanging half on and half off the open upright, as if she had clutched at it to keep herself from falling. On the floor beneath lay several pieces of broken china,--vases of whose value Mrs. Jeffrey had often spoken, but which, jerked off with the cover, had been left where they fell; while immediately in front of the fireplace lay one of the rugs tossed into a heap, as if she had rolled in it on the floor or used it to smother her cries of pain or anger.

So much for the state in which the witness found the boudoir. The adjoining bed-room was not in much better case, though it was evident that the bed itself had not been lain in since it was made up the day before at breakfast time. By this token Mrs. Jeffrey had not slept the night before, or if she had laid her head anywhere it had been on the rug already spoken of.

These signs of extreme mental suffering, so much more extreme than any Loretta had ever before witnessed, frightened her so that the tray shook in her hand as she set it down on the table among the countless objects Mrs. Jeffrey always had about her. The noise seemed to startle her mistress, who had walked to the window after opening the door, for she wheeled impetuously about and Loretta saw her face. It was as if a blight had passed over it. Once gay and animated beyond the power of any one to describe, it had become in twenty-four hours a ghost's face, with the glare of some awful resolve on it. Or so it would appear from the way Loretta described it. But such girls do not always see correctly, and perhaps all that can be safely stated is that Mrs. Jeffrey was unnaturally pale and had lost her butterfly-like way of incessant movement.

Loretta, who was evidently accustomed to seeing her mistress arrayed in brilliant colors and much begemmed, laid great stress on the fact that, though it was on the verge of evening and she was evidently going out, she was dressed in black cloth and without even a diamond or a flower to relieve its severe simplicity. Her hair, too, which was always her pride, was piled in a careless mass upon her head as if she had tried to arrange it herself and had forgotten what she was doing while her fingers were but half through their work. There was a cloak lying on a chair near which she was standing, and she held a hat in her band; but Loretta saw no gloves. As the maid's glance and that of her mistress crossed, Mrs. Jeffrey spoke, and the effort she made in doing so naturally frightened the girl still more. "I am going out," were her words. "I may not be home till late--What are you looking at?"

Loretta declared that the words took her by surprise and that she did not know what to say, but managed to cover up her embarrassment by intimating that if her mistress would let her touch up her hair a bit she would make her look more natural.

At this suggestion, Mrs. Jeffrey cast a glance in the glass and impetuously declared, "It doesn't matter." But she seemed to think better of it the next minute; for, throwing herself in a chair, she bade the girl to bring a comb, and sat quiet enough, though evidently in a great tremor of haste and impatience, while Loretta combed her hair and put it up in the old way.

But the old way was not as becoming as usual, and Loretta was wondering if she ought to call in Miss Tuttle, when Mrs. Jeffrey jumped to her feet and went over to the table and began to eat with the feverish haste of one who forces himself to take food in spite of hurry and distaste.

This was the moment for Loretta to leave the room; but she did not know how to do so. She felt herself fixed to the spot and stood watching Mrs. Jeffrey till that lady, suddenly becoming conscious of the girl's presence, turned, and in the midst of the moans which broke unconsciously from her lips, said with a pitiable effort at her old manner:

"Go away, Loretta; I am ill; have been ill for two days. I don't like people to look at me like that!" Then, as the girl shrank back, added in a breaking voice: "When Mr. Jeffrey comes home -" and said no more for several minutes, during which she clutched her throat with both hands and struggled with herself till she got her voice back and found herself able to repeat: "When Mr. Jeffrey comes, --if he does come,--tell him that I was right about the way that novel ended. Remember that you are to say to him the moment you see him that I was right about the novel, and that he is to look and see if it did not end as I said it would. And "Loretta -" here she rose and approached the speaker with a sweet, appealing look which brought tears to the impressionable girl's eyes, "don't go gossiping about me downstairs. I sha'n't be sick long. I am going to be better soon, very soon. By the time you see me here again I shall be quite like my old self. Forget how--how"--and Loretta said she seemed to have difficulty in finding the right word here--"how childish I have been."

Of course Loretta promised, but she is not sure that she would have had the courage to keep all this to herself if she had not heard Mrs. Jeffrey stop in Miss Tuttle's room on her way out. That relieved her, and enabled her to go downstairs to her own supper with more appetite than she had thought ever to have again. Alas! it was the last good meal she was able to eat for days. In three hours afterward a man came from the station house with the news of Mrs. Jeffrey's suicide in the horrible old house in which she had been married only two weeks before.

As this had been a continuous narrative and concisely told, the coroner had not interrupted her. When at this point a little gasp escaped Miss Tuttle and a groan broke from Francis Jeffrey's hitherto sealed lips, the feelings of the whole assemblage seemed to find utterance. A young wife's misery culminating in death on the very spot where she had been so lately married! What could be more thrilling, or appeal more closely to the general heart of humanity? But the cause of that misery! This was what every one present was eager to have explained. This is what we now expected the coroner to bring out. But instead of continuing on the line he had opened up, he proceeded to ask:

"Where were you when this officer brought the news you mention?"

"In the hall, sir. I opened the door for him."

"And to whom did he first mention his errand?"

"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?"

"Yes, sir."

"And she said she had been around the block?"

"Yes, sir"

"Did she say anything else?"

"She asked if Mr. Jeffrey had come in"

"Anything else?"

"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 -"

"Well!"

"She shrieked."

"What! before he spoke?"

"Yes, sir."

"Just at sight of him?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did he wear his badge in plain view?"

"Yes, on his breast."

"So that you knew him to be a police officer?"

"Yes."

"And Miss Tuttle shrieked at seeing a police officer?"

"Yes, and sprang forward."

"Did she say anything?"

"Not then."

"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 questions."

"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 day."

"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.




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