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The Filigree Ball

18. In The Grass
I did some tall thinking that night. I remembered that this man had held some
conversation with the Jeffreys at their carriage door previous to their departure from the
Moore house, and found myself compelled to believe that only a matter of importance to
themselves as well as to him would have detained them at such a minute. Oh, that Tampa
were not so far off or that I had happened on this clue earlier! But Tampa was at that
moment a far prospect for me and I could only reason from such facts as I had been able
to collect in Washington.
Fixing my mind now on Mrs. Jeffrey, I asked the cause of the many caprices which had
marked her conduct on her wedding morning. Why had she persisted in dressing alone,
and what occasioned the absorption which led to her ignoring all appeals at her door at a
time when a woman is supposed to be more than usually gracious? But one answer
suggested itself. Her heart was not in her marriage, and that last hour of her maidenhood
had been an hour of anguish and struggle. Perhaps she not only failed to love Francis
Jeffrey, but loved some other man. This seemed improbable, but things as strange as this
have happened in our complex society and no reckoning can be made with a woman's
fancy. If this was so - and what other theory would better or even so well account for her
peculiar behavior both then and afterward? The hour usually given by brides to dress and
gladsome expectation was with her one of farewell to past hopes and an unfortunate, if
not passionate, attachment. No wonder that she wished to be alone. No wonder that
interruption angered her. Perhaps it had found her on her knees. Perhaps - Here I felt
myself seized by a strong and sudden excitement. I remembered the filings I had gathered
up from the small stand by the window, filings which had glittered and which must have
been of gold. What was the conclusion? In this last hour of her maiden life she had
sought to rid herself of some article of jewelry which she found it undesirable to carry
into her new life. What article of jewelry? In consideration of the circumstances and the
hour, I could think of but one. A ring! the symbol of some old attachment.
The slight abrasion at the base of her third finger, which had been looked upon as the
result of too rough and speedy a withdrawing of the wedding-ring on the evening of her
death, was much more likely to have been occasioned by the reopening of some little
wound made two weeks before by the file. If Durbin and the rest had taken into account
these filings, they must have come to very much the same conclusion; but either they had
overlooked them in their search about the place, or, having noted them, regarded them as
a clue leading nowhere.
But for me they led the way to a very definite inquiry. Asking to see the rings Mrs.
Jeffrey had left behind her on the night she went for the last time to the Moore house, I
looked them carefully over, and found that none of them showed the least mark of the
file. This strengthened my theory, and I proceeded to take my next step with increased
confidence. It seemed an easy one, but proved unexpectedly difficult. My desire was to
ascertain whether she had worn previous to her marriage any rings which had not been
seen on her finger since, and it took me one whole week to establish the fact that she had.
 
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