The Filigree Ball
25. Who Will Tell The Man Inside There
Later I saw this letter. It was like no other that has ever come under my eye. Written at
intervals, as her hand had power or her misery found words, it bore on its face all the
evidences of that restless, suffering spirit which for thirty-six hours drove her in frenzy
about her room, and caused Loretta to say, in her effort to describe her mistress' face as it
appeared to her at the end of this awful time: "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 a ghost's
face, with the glare of some awful resolve upon it." I give this letter just as it was written-
disjointed paragraphs, broken sentences, unfinished words and all. The breaks show
where she laid down her pen, possibly for that wild pacing of the floor which left such
unmistakable signs behind it. It opens abruptly:
"I killed him. I am all that I said I was, and you can never again give me a thought save in
the way of cursing and to bewail the day I came into your life. But you can not hate me
more than I hate myself, my wicked self, who, seeing an obstacle in the way to happiness,
stamped it out of existence, and so forfeited all right to happiness forever.
"It was so easy! Had it been a hard thing to do; had it been necessary to lay hand on knife
or lift a pistol, I might have realized the act and paused. But just a little spring which a
child's hand could manage - Who, feeling for it, could help pressing it, if only to see -
"I was always a reckless girl, mad for pleasure and without any thought of consequences.
When school bored me, I took all my books out of my desk, called upon my mates to do
the same, and, stacking them up into a sort of rostrum in a field where we played, first
delivered an oration from them in which reverence for my teachers had small part, then
tore them into pieces and burned them in full sight of my admiring school-fellows. I was
dismissed, but not with disgrace. Teachers and scholars bewailed my departure, not
because they liked me, or because of any good they had found in me, but because my
money had thrown luster on them and on the whole establishment.
This was when I was twelve, and it was on account of this reckless escapade that I was
sent west and kept so long from home and all my flatterers. My guardian meant well by
this, but in saving me from one pitfall he plunged me into another. I grew up without
Cora and also without any idea of the requirements of my position or what I might
anticipate from the world when the time came for me to enter it. I knew that I had money;
so did those about me; but I had little or no idea of the amount, nor what that money
would do for me when I returned to Washington. So, in an evil day, and when I was just
eighteen, I fell in love, or thought I did, with a man - (Oh, Francis, imagine it, now that I
have seen you!) - of sufficient attraction to satisfy one whose prospects were limited to a
contracted existence in some small town, but no more fitted to content me after seeing
Washington life than if he had been a common farm hand or the most ordinary of clerks
in a country store. But I was young, ignorant and self-willed, and thought because my
cheek burned under his look that he was the man of men, and suited to be my husband.
That is, if I thought at all, which is not likely; for I was in a feverish whirl, and just