The Filigree Ball HTML version

16. An Egotist Of The First Water
Had the control of affairs been mine at this moment I am quite positive that I should have
found it difficult to deny these two the short interview which they appeared to crave and
which would have been to them such an undeniable comfort. But a sterner spirit than
mine was in charge, and the district attorney, into whose hands the affair had now fallen,
was inexorable. Miss Tuttle was treated with respect, with kindness, even, but she was
not allowed any communication with her brother-in-law beyond the formal "Good
afternoon" incident upon their separation; while he, scorning to condemn his lips to any
such trite commonplace, said nothing at all, only looked a haggard inquiry which called
forth from her the most exalted look of patience and encouraging love it has ever been
my good fortune to witness. Durbin was standing near and saw this look as plainly as I
did, but it did not impose on him, he said. But what in the nature of human woe could
impose on him? Durbin is a machine - a very reliable and useful machine, no doubt, yet
when all is said, a simple contrivance of cogs and wheels; while I - well, I hope that I am
something more than that; or why was I a changed man toward her from the moment I
saw the smile which marked this accused woman's good by to Francis Jeffrey. No longer
believing in her guilt, I went about my business with tumult in brain and heart, asking in
my remorse for an opportunity to show her some small courtesy whereby to relieve the
torture I felt at having helped the coroner in the inquiries which had brought about what
looked to me now like a cruel and unwarranted result.
That it should be given to Durbin to hold such surveillance over her as her doubtful
position demanded added greatly to my discomfort. But I was enabled to keep my lips
firmly shut over any expression of secret jealousy or displeasure; and this was fortunate,
as otherwise I might have failed to obtain the chance of aiding her later on, in other and
deeper matters.
Meanwhile, and before any of us had left this room, one fact had become apparent. Mr.
Jeffrey was not going to volunteer any fresh statement in face of the distinct disapproval
of his sister-in-law. As his eye fell upon the district attorney, who had lingered near,
possibly in the hope of getting something more from this depressed and almost insensible
man, he made one remark, but it was an automatic one, calculated to produce but little
effect on the discriminating ears of this experienced official.
"I do not believe that my wife was murdered." This was what he said. "It was a wicked
verdict. My wife killed herself. Wasn't the pistol found tied to her?"
Either from preoccupation or a dazed condition of mind, he seemed to forget that Miss
Tuttle had owned to tying on this pistol; and that nothing but her word went to prove that
this was done before and not after the shot had been delivered in the Moore house library.
I thought I understood him and was certain that I sympathized with his condition; but in
the ears of those less amiably disposed toward him, his statements had lost force and the
denial went for little.