The Filigree Ball HTML version

13. Chiefly Thrust
The appearance of this witness had undergone a change since she last stood before us.
She was shame-faced still, but her manner showed resolve and a feverish determination
to face the situation which could but awaken in the breasts of those who had Mr. Jeffrey's
honor and personal welfare at heart a nameless dread; as if they already foresaw the dark
shadow which minute by minute was slowly sinking over a household which, up to a
week ago, had been the envy and admiration of all Washington society.
The first answer she made revealed both the cause of her shame and the reason of her
firmness. It was in response to the question whether she, Loretta, had seen Miss Tuttle
before she went out on the walk she was said to have taken immediately after Mrs.
Jeffrey's final departure from the house.
Her words were these
"I did sir. I do not think Miss Tuttle knows it, but I saw her in Mrs. Jeffrey's room."
The emphatic tone, offering such a contrast to her former manner of speech, might have
drawn all eyes to the speaker had not the person she mentioned offered a still more
interesting subject to the general curiosity. As it was, all glances flew to that silent and
seemingly impassive figure upon which all open suggestions and covert innuendo had
hitherto fallen without creating more than a pressure of her interlaced fingers. This direct
attack, possibly the most threatening she had received, appeared to produce no more
effect upon her than the others; less, perhaps, for no stir was visible in her now, and to
some eyes she hardly seemed to breathe.
Curiosity, thus baffled, led the gaze on to Mr. Jeffrey, and even to Uncle David; but the
former had dropped his head again upon his hand, and the other - well, there was little to
observe in Mr. Moore at any time, save the immense satisfaction he seemed to take in
himself; so attention returned to the witness, who, by this time, had entered upon a
consecutive tale.
As near as I can remember, these are the words with which she prefaced it:
"I am not especially proud of what I did that night, but I was led into it by degrees, and I
am sure I beg the lady's pardon." And then she went on to relate how, after she had seen
Mrs. Jeffrey leave the house, she went into her room with the intention of putting it to
rights. As this was no more than her duty, no fault could be found with her; but she
owned that when she had finished this task and removed all evidence of Mrs. Jeffrey's
frenzied condition, she had no business to linger at the table turning over the letters she
found lying there.