The Filigree Ball
23. Words In The Night
Had I any premonition of the astounding fact thus suddenly and, I may say, dramatically
revealed to us during the weeks I had devoted to the elucidation of the causes and
circumstances of Mrs. Jeffrey's death? I do not think so. Nothing in her face, as I
remembered it; nothing in the feeling evinced toward her by husband or sister, had
prepared me for a disclosure of crime so revolting as to surpass all that I had ever
imagined or could imagine in a woman of such dainty personality and unmistakable
culture. Nor was the superintendent or the district attorney less confounded by the event.
Durbin only tried to look wise and strut about, but it was of no use; he deceived nobody.
Veronica Moore's real connection with Mr. Pfeiffer's death, - a death which in some
inscrutable way had in so short a time led to her own, - was an overwhelming surprise to
every one of us.
The superintendent, as was natural, recovered first.
"This throws quite a new light upon the matter," said he. "Now we can understand why
Mr. Jeffrey uttered that extraordinary avowal overheard on the bridge: 'She must die!' She
had come to him with blood on her hands."
It seemed incredible, nay more, unreal. I recalled the sweet refined face turned up to me
from the bare boards of this same floor, the accounts I had read of the vivacity of her
spirits and the wild charm of her manner till the shadow of this old house fell upon her. I
marveled, still feeling myself in the dark, still clinging to my faith in womankind, still
asking to what depths her sister had followed her in the mazes of crime we were forced to
recognize but could not understand.
Durbin had no such feelings and no such scruples, as was shown by the sarcastic
comment which now left his lips.
"So!" he cried, "we have to do with three criminals instead of two. Nice family, the
But no one paid any attention to him. Addressing the major, the district attorney asked
when he expected to hear from Denver, adding that it had now become of the first
importance to ascertain the exact relations existing between the persons under suspicion
and the latest victim of this deadly mechanism.
The major's answer was abrupt. He had been expecting a report for days. He was
expecting one yet. If it came in at any time, night or day, he was to be immediately
notified. Word might be sent him in an hour, in a minute.
Were his remarks a prophecy? He had hardly ceased speaking when an officer appeared
with a telegram in his hand. This the major eagerly took and, noting that it was in cipher,
read it by means of the code he carried in his pocket. Translated, it ran thus: