The Filigree Ball HTML version

3. I Remain
Not for an instant did I doubt the correctness of this identification. All the pictures I had
seen of this well-known society belle had been marked by an individuality of expression
which fixed her face in the memory and which I now saw repeated in the lifeless features
before me.
Greatly startled by the discovery, but quite convinced that this was but the dreadful
sequel of an already sufficiently dark tragedy, I proceeded to take such steps as are
common in these cases. Having sent the too-willing Hibbard to notify headquarters, I was
on the point of making a memorandum of such details as seemed important, when my
lantern suddenly went out, leaving me in total darkness.
This was far from pleasant, but the effect it produced upon my mind was not without its
result. For no sooner did I find myself alone and in the unrelieved darkness of this grave-
like room, than I became convinced that no woman, however frenzied, would make her
plunge into an unknown existence from the midst of a darkness only too suggestive of the
tomb to which she was hastening. It was not in nature, not in woman's nature, at all
events. Either she had committed the final act before such daylight as could filter through
the shutters of this closed-up room had quite disappeared, - an hypothesis instantly
destroyed by the warmth which still lingered in certain portions of her body, - or else the
light which had been burning when she pulled the fatal trigger had since been carried
elsewhere or extinguished.
Recalling the uncertain gleams which we had seen flashing from one of the upper
windows, I was inclined to give some credence to the former theory, but was disposed to
be fair to both. So after relighting my lamp, I turned on one of the gas cocks of the
massive chandelier over my head and applied a match. The result was just what I
anticipated; no gas in the pipes. A meter had not been put in for the wedding. This the
papers had repeatedly stated in dwelling upon the garish effect of the daylight on the
elaborate costumes worn by the ladies. Candles had not even been provided - ah, candles!
What, then, was it that I saw glittering on a small table at the other end of the room?
Surely a candlestick, or rather an old-fashioned candelabrum with a half-burned candle in
one of its sockets. Hastily crossing to it, I felt of the candlewick. It was quite stiff and
hard. But not considering this a satisfactory proof that it had not been lately burning - the
tip of a wick soon dries after the flame is blown out - I took out my penknife and attacked
the wick at what might be called its root; whereupon I found that where the threads had
been protected by the wax they were comparatively soft and penetrable. The conclusion
was obvious. True to my instinct in this matter the woman had not lifted her weapon in
darkness; this candle had been burning. But here my thoughts received a fresh shock. If
burning, then by whom had it since been blown out? Not by her; her wound was too
fatally sure for that. The steps taken between the table where the candelabrum stood and
the place where she lay, were taken, if taken at all by her, before that shot was fired.
Some one else - some one whose breath still lingered in the air about me - had