The Filigree Ball HTML version

5. Master And Dog
No further opportunity was afforded me that night for studying the three leading
characters in the remarkable drama I saw unfolding before me. A task was assigned me
by the captain which took me from the house, and I missed the next scene - the arrival of
the coroner. But I repaid myself for this loss in a way I thought justified by the
importance of my own theory and the evident necessity there was of collecting each and
every point of evidence which could give coloring to the charge, in the event of this
crime coming to be looked on at headquarters as one of murder.
Observing that a light was still burning in Uncle David's domicile, I crossed to his door
and rang the bell. I was answered by the deep and prolonged howl of a dog, soon cut
short by his master's amiable greeting. This latter was a surprise to me. I had heard so
often of Mr. Moore's churlishness as a host that I had expected some rebuff. But I
encountered no such tokens of hostility. His brow was smooth and his smile cheerfully
condescending. Indeed, he appeared anxious to have me enter, and cast an indulgent look
at Rudge, whose irrepressible joy at this break in the monotony of his existence was
tinged with a very evident dread of offending his master. Interested anew, I followed this
man of contradictory impulses into the room toward which he led me.
The time has now come for a more careful description of this peculiar man. Mr. Moore
was tall and of that refined spareness of shape which suggests the scholar. Yet he had not
the scholar's eye. On the contrary, his regard was quick, if not alert, and while it did not
convey actual malice or ill-will, it roused in the spectator an uncomfortable feeling, not
altogether easy to analyze. He wore his iron gray locks quite long, and to this
distinguishing idiosyncrasy, as well as to his invariable custom of taking his dog with
him wherever he went, was due the interest always shown in him by street urchins. On
account of his whimsicalities, he had acquired the epithet of Uncle David among them,
despite his aristocratic connections and his gentlemanlike bearing. His clothes formed no
exception to the general air of individuality which marked him. They were of different
cut from those of other men, and in this as in many other ways he was a law to himself;
notably so in the following instance: He kept one day of the year religiously, and kept it
always in the same way. Long years before, he had been blessed with a wife who both
understood and loved him. He had never forgotten this fact, and once a year, presumably
on the anniversary of her death, it was his custom to go to the cemetery where she lay and
to spend the whole day under the shadow of the stone he had raised to her memory. No
matter what the weather, no matter what the condition of his own health, he was always
to be seen in this spot, at the hour of seven, leaning against the shaft on which his wife's
name was written, eating his supper in the company of his dog. It was a custom he had
never omitted. So well known was it to the boys and certain other curious individuals in
the neighborhood that he never lacked an audience, though woe betide the daring foot
that presumed to invade the precincts of the lot he called his, or the venturesome voice
which offered to raise itself in gibe or jeer. He had but to cast a glance at Rudge and an
avenging rush scattered the crowd in a twinkling. But he seldom had occasion to resort to
this extreme measure for preserving the peace and quiet of his solemn watch. As a rule he