The Filigree Ball HTML version

17. A Fresh Start
I was far from being good company that night. I knew this without being told. My mind
was too busy. I was too full of regrets and plans, seasonings and counter reasonings. In
my eyes Miss Tuttle had suddenly become innocent, consequently a victim. But a victim
to what? To some exaggerated sense of duty? Possibly; but to what duty? That was the
question, to answer which offhand I would, in my present excitement, have been ready to
sacrifice a month's pay.
For I was moved, not only by the admiration and sympathy which all men must feel for a
beautiful woman caught in such a deadly snare of circumstantial evidence, but by the
conviction that Durbin, whose present sleek complacency was more offensive to me than
the sneering superiority of a week ago, believed her to be a guilty woman, and as such his
rightful prey. This alone would have influenced me to take the opposite view; for we
never ran along together, and in a case where any division of opinion was possible,
always found ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, on different sides. Yet I did not
really dislike Durbin, who is a very fine fellow. I only hated his success and the favor
which rewarded it.
I know that I have some very nasty failings and I do not shrink from owning them. My
desire is to represent myself as I am, and I must admit that it was not entirely owing to
disinterested motives that I now took the secret stand I did in Miss Tuttle's favor. To
prove her innocent whom once I considered the cause of, if not the guilty accessory to her
sister's murder, now became my dream by night and my occupation by day. Though I
seemed to have no sympathizer in this effort and though the case against her was being
pushed very openly in the district attorney's office, yet I clung to my convictions with an
almost insensate persistence, inwardly declaring her the victim of circumstances, and
hoping against hope that some clue would offer itself by means of which I might yet
prove her so. But where was I to seek for this clue?
Alas, no ready answer to this very important query was forthcoming. All possible
evidence in this case seemed to have been exhausted save such as Mr. Jeffrey and Miss
Tuttle withheld. And so the monstrous accusation stood, and before it all Washington -
my humble self included - stood in a daze of mingled doubt and compassion, hunting for
explanations which failed to appear and seeking in vain for some guiltier party, who
evermore slipped from under our hand. Had Mr. Jeffrey's alibi been less complete he
could not have stood up against the suspicions which now ran riot. But there was no
possibility of shifting the actual crime back to him after the testimony of so frank and
trustworthy a man as Tallman. If the stopping of Mrs. Jeffrey's watch fixed the moment
of her death as accurately as was supposed, - and I never heard the least doubt thrown out
in this regard, - he could not by any means of transit then known in Washington have
reached Waverley Avenue in time to fire that shot. The gates of the cemetery were closed
at sundown; sundown took place that night at one minute past seven, and the distance into
town is considerable. His alibi could not be gainsaid. So his name failed to be publicly
broached in connection with the shooting, though his influence over Miss Tuttle could