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The Filigree Ball

12. Thrust And Parry
When Francis Jeffrey's hand fell from his forehead and he turned to face the assembled
people, an instinctive compassion arose in every breast at sight of his face, which, if not
open in its expression, was at least surcharged with the deepest misery. In a flash the
scene took on new meaning. Many remembered that less than a month before his eye had
been joyous and his figure a conspicuous one among the favored sons of fortune. And
now he stood in sight of a crowd, drawn together mainly by curiosity, to explain as best
he might why this great happiness and hope had come to a sudden termination, and his
bride of a fortnight had sought death rather than continue to live under the same roof with
him.
So much for what I saw on the faces about me. What my own face revealed I can not say.
I only know that I strove to preserve an impassive exterior. If I secretly held this man's
misery to be a mask hiding untold passions and the darkness of an unimaginable deed, it
was not for me to disclose in this presence either my suspicions or my fears. To me, as to
those about me, he apparently was a man who at some sacrifice to his pride, would, yet
be able to explain whatever seemed dubious in the mysterious case in which he had
become involved.
His wife's uncle, who to all appearance shared the general curiosity as to the effect which
this woeful tragedy had had upon his niece's most interested survivor, eyed with a certain
cold interest, eminently in keeping with his general character, the pallid forehead, sunken
eyes and nervously trembling lip of the once "handsome Jeffrey" till that gentleman,
rousing from his depression, manifested a realization of what was required of hire and
turned with a bow toward the coroner.
Miss Tuttle settled into a greater rigidity. I pass over the preliminary examination of this
important witness and proceed at once to the point when the coroner, holding out the two
or three lines of writing which Mr. Jeffrey had declared to have been left him by his wife,
asked:
"Are these words in your wife's handwriting?"
Mr. Jeffrey replied hastily, and, with just d glance at the paper offered him:
"They are."
The coroner pressed the slip upon him.
"Look at them carefully," he urged. "The handwriting shows hurry and in places is
scarcely legible. Are you ready to swear that these words were written by your wife and
by no other?"
 
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