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the emotions by which it was stirred. I am a man of regular habits myself — a bachelor – and Colonel T. soon became, so to speak, a part of my daily life. I looked for him in his usual haunts each day, and was at rest if he were there — or felt uneasy if, perchance, my eye did not rest upon his manly figure during my evening walk; or if his quiet corner on the hotel verandah was without him.
As for the Colonel himself, he exchanged but few words with any one. Every body knew him — by sight, that is — and so he passed current in our society. He seemed essentially a solitary man. Not misanthropic, but simply solitary. And this, at least, was so plainly written upon his face, that he was not troubled by social appeals on the part of those among whom he moved, but was left to pursue his pleasures unmolested.
To be sure, once in a while some new-comer among us would ask, “Who is Colonel T. ?' and we, shrugging our shoulders, would repeat the question, by way of answer, and ourselves wonder who he was. But then, he dressed well, was civil to every body, and was evidently a man of the world; and one soon loses curiosity about people who have no striking peculiarity to distinguish them from the mass.
Yet I could not help watching the Colonel. And so much did my interest in him increase, by reason of his taciturnity, I suppose, that I finally determined at all hazards to approach him and seek his acquaintance. It was already late in autumn, when I proceeded one afternoon, as usual, on my daily promenade, thinking that when I met the object of my speculations, I would make some occasion for addressing him. But he was not there.
In vain I walked and looked. I walked on, and had already continued my promenade much farther along the sea-shore than I had intended, when I was suddenly made aware, by a few big premonitory drops, that a rain-cloud was about to burst over-head. I had on light summer clothing, and, fearful of taking cold, looked hastily about for a shelter. At a little distance, I saw an unfinished house, and within its walls I found shelter from the rain, which soon began to pour down in right earnest. The clouds had shortened the twilight, and it was now quite dark.
Presently I became aware that I was not the only occupant of the shelter. I heard voices, seemingly at but little distance. I was enabled to distinguish two; both base, but one evidently belonging to a young man, the other, the deeper and energetic tones of an older man.
The rain ceased as suddenly as it had begun. As I was preparing to step forth from my place of shelter, the owners of the voices approached. I stepped back involuntarily, when the tones of the elder struck my ear familiarly.
• You have all, now?' asked he. * Yes, all,' was the answer of the younger, in a somewhat excited tone.
And you recollect your oath ?' “Yes, Sir ; you may depend upon me.'
'Neither sooner nor later; let nothing prevent you. You know the house. You will surely go ?'
Punctually, Sir.' VOL. LVIII.
*Well, you may remain now, and let me pass on in advance. Remember your reward. Good-by till to-night.'
* Till to-night; I will not forget, Sir.'
The steps approached the doorway near which I had taken shelter. I stepped back silently, and peered out at the speaker, who walked swiftly by. As he passed, the sky brightened a little and I beheld — certainly, and beyond the shadow of a doubt - my mysterious friend, the Colonel. He walked at speed; and ere I had recovered from my surprise, was lost to sight in the gloom.
Singular, thought I, as I walked along homeward. It was certainly the Colonel. But what was he doing here? And who was the young person whom he adjured to remember his oath ?' And what about to-night?
The next morning I was sitting in my private office, busily studying up an important case, for which I had to prepare the papers, when I heard my copyist denying admittance to some one who evidently desired to see me. I recognized the voice of my friend W., the insurance-agent, and willing to be excused from even him, listened to hear him go down-stairs again.
'I must see him,' said he. “It is important to me. Just announce my name; and say I will not stay more than five minutes.'
I flung open my door, and greeted W., saying that business of pressing importance forced me to deny myself to every body for some hours.
"But what is the matter? You look agitated.'
Why, yes,' said he; “it is a misfortune, so to speak. You remember Colonel T. ?'
Certainly; what of him,' said I quickly — remembering also the incident of the previous evening.
He is dead. He was found dead in bed this morning — his throat cut. I have just seen the corpse.'
He continued, after a pause: "You can see how unpleasant this is for me, when you bear in mind the large risk taken on his life, and that it was at my advice it was taken.'
I still stared him in the face in vacant surprise. The news was so unex pected.
* Tell me,' said I, “how it was.'
'The negro woman who took care of the Colonel's rooms, had gone as usual about nine o'clock to clear them up for the day. She had found the outer door fastened; had knocked repeatedly, and, not receiving any answer, had informed her master, who lived near by. A lock-smith was called to open the door, and behold a tragedy. In the inner room they had found the Colonel lying upon the bed, dead, and in a pool of blood.'
'In what condition were the rooms ?
• The inner communicating doors were wide open. The windows of the sleeping apartment were open, they opened upon the street. The furniture was in perfect order. The Colonel's gold watch and purse lay upon a toiletstand near the head of the bed. There was some disarrangement of the bedclothes, but not much — apparently the result of the struggles of the death
agony. Aside from this, no article of apparel or furniture in the room seemed in the slightest degree disarranged. Life had evidently fled some hours ago. The corpse of the unhappy man was stiff and cold. A razor lay on the floor, at the bedside, as though it had fallen out of his hands.'
And no sign of outside violence ?' I asked.
‘Not the least. Clearly a case of suicide ; and I am not going to let our Company suffer for such a rascally proceeding,' said the irate Willard, who evidently regarded the deceased Colonel as one who had designs upon the coffers of the Volcano Life-Insurance Company. .
• Of course the coroner has the matter in hand ?' “Yes.'
• Well, telegraph immediately to Boston,' said I, after momentary, consideration. In two hours I will meet you at Colonel T.'s rooms.'
When I arrived upon the scene of the tragedy, Dr. Davis, the coroner, had · already impannelled a jury, and examined the other residents of the house. My head full of the strange colloquy to which I had been an unwilling listener the previous evening, and mystified by this far more than any of the others, I listened eagerly to the evidence.
The ground-floor of the house was occupied as a dry-goods store. Its owner slept elsewhere. The floor above the Colonel's apartments was rented by an invalid with her servant. The attic was occupied by the negro woman who attended the Colonel's rooms, and by a negro laundress.
The lock of the outer door of the Colonel's apartments had not been tampered with. The key was found under the pillow, in the bed. The window, as before mentioned, was found open; but a close scrutiny of the wall, outside and in, and of the window-sill, revealed no marks of unlawful entrance.
On the floor lay the mystery! From the bed-side, where a little pool of blood had gathered on the floor, to the door, and one step beyond, on the outside of the room, there were the tracks of a human foot! tracked in blood ! Only once was the impression of the whole foot given ; the other tracks were as of one walking on his toes. All were of a bare foot.
The dead man's feet were bare ; but they were bloodless. Moreover, on comparing, his foot was not quite so large as that which had made the track. So said one of the persons who measured. But the doctor, who examined all very carefully, was of opinion that the Colonel's bare and living foot would have left just such a track.
So far, those present were about equally divided between the two suppositions : murder and suicide.
“Why should he be murdered? He was not robbed,' said one jury-man to another.
“Why should he commit suicide ; and why go out of the door after he had cut his throat; and how get back ?' was asked in answer.
Several persons were now examined. A night-watchman deposed to seeing a light in the Colonel's room till about ten o'clock the previous night.
The lady who resided above, had heard, between two and three o'clock in the morning, a noise as of one hastily throwing open a door, in the Colonel's
The woman-servant of the invalid lady had seen the Colonel going up-stairs to his room about nine the previous evening. She noticed no change from his usual appearance, but thought he walked slower than in general.
The laundress, being interrogated, stated that she was awakened about three o'clock, by a noise as of a door or window being opened. That, having to go early to work, she presently arose, dressed, and sallied out into the street. That she found the street-door simply latched — not locked — though the key hung up upon its usual hook upon the back of the door. Finally, that as she emerged into the street, she saw a man stooping down, on the other side of the street. Hearing her step, he got up hurriedly, but slowly walked away. Owing to the darkness, she could not distinguish his features; but he was short, stout, and dressed loosely, somewhat like a sailor.
Just at this stage of the proceedings, a carriage stopped before the house. , 'Here is Mrs. T.,' said Doctor Davis.
She had been sent for. As she was ushered into the sitting-room, the Doctor advanced to meet her; the rest of us remained in the adjoining room. I looked through the door-crack, and beheld a slender form, a face showing traces of suffering, but also traces of a beauty now in its decline.
After some words of respectful condolence upon the sad occasion which drew her hither, the coroner proceeded to ask her some questions as to the deceased.
How long is it, Madam, since you last saw your husband ?'
Her tears fell fast, and a heavy sob interrupted her as she essayed to answer—at last :
'I have not spoken to him for nearly four years,' said she in a voice still broken with emotion.
Would you like to see him ?'
She was led into the next room, and there left alone with the corpse. She sank upon her knees at the bed-side, yet without touching the corpse, and wept silently, her whole body heaving convulsively with the violence of her grief.
When she returned, the coroner again interrogated her.
She buried her face in her hands, and trembled in silent agony, for a while, ere she could answer, with much hesitation : ‘He did, Sir; but only once.'
'I told you so,' whispered the suicidal juryman, to his murderous fellow.
Will you explain the occasion of that, Madam?'
After consideration, the lady looked up, with a somewhat stern, composed face, and said calmly: "No, Sir, I would rather not. It has nothing - and than stopped abruptly.
There was a little consultation among the lawyers and the coroner, and the • latter asked again :
'I am sorry to put the question, but it is necessary, Madam : do you know
any circumstance which would elucidate the mystery of your husband's death ?'
Again she covered her face with her hands, and wept and trembled in that dreadful agony of spirit which seemed to seize her, but when she could speak, answered with a tolerably clear voice, and certainly a truthful look : ‘No, Sir, I know nothing.'
"We shall not need you more for the present, Madam,' said the coroner presently.
The lady retired, casting a last and seemingly almost despairing look of sorrow toward the corpse, and even making a step toward the bed, as though she would catch the hand of the deceased in hers. But she refrained.
The waitress was recalled, and asked if she missed any accustomed object about the room. She said no. The fire-place, which was protected by a tightfitting screen, was exposed. There was no mark of an extraordinary advent or exit in this direction. Finally, I related what had occurred to me the preceding evening. My statement, as may be readily conceived, excited the liveliest attention. But it had no real bearing upon the mystery of the Colonel's death. I could not even depose certainly that it was the Colonel I saw. And if it was he, the circumstance by no means cleared up the case. It rather complicated it. . The more we heard the deeper the mystery became. The jury agreed to suspend their verdict ; indeed, they were so divided between suicide and murder, and there were so many floating theories and suppositions, that a verdict was an impossibility. The coroner thought it a case of suicide. Willard, the agent, thought it a complicated case of conspiracy to defraud his company, and desired to have Mrs. T. arrested as a leader in the plot. The jurymen were wise, as all jurymen are. But whatever they guessed, they knew so little that, as I have said, they finally agreed to suspend the verdict and await the possible developments of the day. Meantime, the papers of the deceased were being looked over. Every thing was in apple-pie order, as a fruit-seller on the jury observed. But they shed no light upon the mystery. There was no will found; of silver, ready money and jewelry, there was absolutely scarce a trace. This was astonishing in one of the Colonel's habits and means. Willard remarked that it strengthened him in the belief that the man had committed suicide with felonious intents upon the Volcano; while a keen-scented juryman thought he smelled a robbery, perhaps a murder.
We were about to retire, when entered a gentleman who claimed to be a friend of the deceased, and whom I recognized immediately as a person with whom he sometimes played chess. Captain Snyder, so he gave his name, appeared astonished and grieved at the sudden death, but could give no information. He had just received a note from Mrs. T., asking him to attend on her part to the obsequies, etc., and now offered to take charge of any thing not in the hands of the authorities.
"By the way, Doctor,' he remarked to the coroner, as we were going out, 'I would like very much to have a remembrance of my deceased friend. If the effects are sold, I desire to purchase for myself a set of silver chess-men, with the help of which he and I have passed so many pleasant hours, and also,