The Filigree Ball
21. The Heart Of The Puzzle
The next morning I swallowed my pride and sought out Durbin. He had superintended
the removal of Mrs. Jeffrey's effects from the southwest chamber, and should know, if
any one, where this filigree ball was now to be found. Doubtless it had been returned with
the other things to Mr. Jeffrey, and yet, who knows? Durbin is sly and some inkling of its
value as a clue may have entered his mind. If so, it would be anywhere but in Mr.
Jeffrey's or Miss Tuttle's possession.
To test my rival's knowledge of and interest in this seemingly trivial object, I stooped to
what I can but consider a pardonable subterfuge. Greeting him in the offhand way least
likely to develop his suspicion, I told him that I had a great idea in connection with the
Jeffrey case and that the clue to it lay in a little gold ball which Mrs. Jeffrey sometimes
wore and upon which she set great store. So far I spoke the truth. It had been given her by
some one - not Mr. Jeffrey - and I believed, though I did not know, that it contained a
miniature portrait which it might be to our advantage to see.
I expected his lip to curl; but for a wonder it maintained its noncommittal aspect, though I
was sure that I caught a slight, very slight, gleam of curiosity lighting up for a moment
his calm, gray eye.
"You are on a fantastic trail," he sneered, and that was all.
But I had not expected more. I had merely wished to learn what place, if any, this filigree
ball held in his own suspicions, and in case he had overlooked it, to jog his curiosity so
that he would in some way betray its whereabouts.
That, for all its seeming inconsequence, it did hold some place in his mind was evident
enough to those who knew him; but that it was within reach or obtainable by any ordinary
means was not so plain. Indeed, I very soon became convinced that he, for one, had no
idea where it was, or after the suggestive hint I had given him he would never have
wasted a half-hour on me. What was I to do then? Tell my story to the major and depend
on him to push the matter to its proper conclusion? "Not yet," whispered pride. "Durbin
thinks you a fool. Wait till you can show your whole hand before calling attention to your
cards." But it was hard not to betray my excitement and to act the fool they considered
me when the boys twitted me about this famous golden charm and asked what great result
had followed my night in the Moore house. But remembering that he who laughs last
laughs best, and that the cause of mirth was not yet over between Durbin and myself, I
was able to preserve an impassive exterior even when I came under the major's eye. I
found myself amply repaid when one of the boys who had studiously avoided chaffing
me dropped the following words in my ear:
"I don't know what your interest is in the small gold charm you were talking about, but
you have done some good work in this case and I don't mind telling you what I know
about it. That little gold ball has caused the police much trouble. It is on the list of effects