Part 1 out of 4
The originally strange paragrphing has been retained.
The Darrow Enigma
by Melvin L. Severy
THE EPISODE OF THE DARKENED ROOM
THE EPISODE OF THE SEALED DOCUMENT
THE EPISODE OF RAMA RAGOBAH
THE EPISODE OF THE PARALLEL READERS
THE EPISODE OF THE TALETALE THUMB
THE EPISODE OF THE DARKENED ROOM
What shall we say when Dream-Pictures leave their frames
of night and push us from the waking world?
As the part I played in the events I am about to narrate was rather
that of a passive observer than of an active participant, I need say
little of myself. I am a graduate of a Western university and, by
profession, a physician. My practice is now extensive, owing to my
blundering into fame in a somewhat singular manner, but a year ago
I had, I assure you, little enough to do. Inasmuch as my practice
is now secure, I feel perfectly free to confess that the cure I
effected in the now celebrated case of Mrs. P- was altogether the
result of chance, and not, as I was then only too glad to have
people believe, due to an almost supernatural power of diagnosis.
Mrs. P- was not more surprised at the happy result than was I; the
only difference being that she showed her astonishment, while I
endeavoured to conceal mine, and affected to look upon the whole
thing as a matter of course.
My fame spread; the case got into the medical journals, where my
skill was much lauded, and my practice became enormous. There is
but one thing further I need mention regarding myself: that is,
that I am possessed of a memory which my friends are pleased to
consider phenomenal. I can repeat a lecture, sermon, or
conversation almost word for word after once hearing it, provided
always, that the subject commands my interest. My humble abilities
in this direction have never ceased to be a source of wonderment to
my acquaintance, though I confess, for my own part, when I compare
them with those of Blind Tom, or of the man who, after a single
reading, could correctly repeat the London Times, advertisements
and all, they seem modest indeed.
It was about the time when, owing to the blessed Mrs. P -, my
creditors were beginning to receive some attention, that I first met
George Maitland. He had need, he said, of my professional services;
he felt much under the weather; could I give him something which
would brace him up a bit; he had some important chemical work on
hand which he could not afford to put by; in fact, he didn't mind
saying that he was at work upon a table of atomical pitches to match
Dalton's atomic weights; if he succeeded in what he had undertaken
he would have solved the secret of the love and hatred of atoms,
and unions hitherto unknown could easily be effected.
I do not know how long he would have continued had not my interest
in the subject caused me to interrupt him. I was something of an
experimenter myself, and here was a man who could help me.
It was a dream of mine that the great majority of ailments could be
cured by analysing a patient's blood, and then injecting into his
veins such chemicals as were found wanting, or were necessary to
counteract the influence of any deleterious matter present. There
were, of course, difficulties in the way, but had they not already
at Cornell University done much the same for vegetable life? And
did not those plants which had been set in sea sand out of which
every particle of nutriment had been roasted, and which were then
artificially fed with a solution of the chemicals of which they were
known to be composed, grow twice as rank as those which had been set
in the soil ordinarily supposed to be best adapted to them? What
was the difference between a human cell and a plant cell? Yes, since
my patient was a chemist, I would cultivate his acquaintance.
He proceeded to tell me how he felt, but I could make nothing of it,
so I forthwith did the regulation thing; what should we doctors do
without it! I looked at his tongue, pulled down his eyelid, and
pronounced him bilious. Yes, there were the little brown spots under
his skin - freckles, perhaps - and probably he had an occasional
ringing in his ears. He was willing to admit that he was dizzy on
suddenly rising from a stooping posture, and that eggs, milk, and
coffee were poison to him; and he afterward told me he should have
said the same of any other three articles I might have mentioned, for
he looked so hale and vigorous, and felt so disgracefully well, that
he was ashamed of himself. We have had many a laugh over it since.
The fact of the matter is the only affliction from which he was
suffering was an inordinate desire to make my acquaintance. Not for
my own sake - oh, dear, no! - but because I was John Darrow's family
physician, and would be reasonably sure to know Gwen Darrow, that
gentleman's daughter. He had first met her, he told me after we had
become intimate, at an exhibition of paintings by William T. Richards,
- but, as you will soon be wondering if it were, on his part, a case
of love at first sight, I had best relate the incident to you in his
own words as he told it to me. This will relieve me of passing any
judgment upon the matter, for you will then know as much about it as
I, and, doubtless, be quite as capable of answering the question, for
candour compels me to own that my knowledge of the human heart is
entirely professional. Think of searching for Cupid's darts with a
"I was standing," Maitland said, "before a masterpiece of sea and
rock, such as only Richards can paint. It was a view of Land's End,
Cornwall, and in the artist's very best vein. My admiration made
me totally unmindful of my surroundings, so much so, indeed, that,
although the gallery was crowded, I caught myself expressing my
delight in a perfectly audible undertone. My enthusiasm, since it
was addressed to no one, soon began to attract attention, and people
stopped looking at the pictures to look at me. I was conscious of
this in a vague, far-off way, much as one is conscious of a
conversation which seems to have followed him across the borderland
of sleep, and I even thought that I ought to be embarrassed. How
long I remained thus transported I do not know. The first thing I
remember is hearing someone close beside me take a quick, deep
breath, one of those full inhalations natural to all sensitive
natures when they come suddenly upon something sublime. -I turned
and looked. I have said I was transported by that canvas of sea
and rocks, and have, therefore, no word left to describe the emotion
with which I gazed upon the exquisite, living, palpitating picture
beside me. A composite photograph of all the Madonnas ever painted,
from the Sistine to Bodenhausen's, could not have been more lovely,
more ineffably womanly than that young girl, radiant with the divine
glow of artistic delight - at least, that is my opinion, which, by
the bye, I should, perhaps, have stated a little more gingerly,
inasmuch as you are yourself acquainted with the young lady. Now,
don't look incredulous [noticing my surprise]. Black hair - not
brown, black; clear pink and white complexion; large, deep violet
eyes with a remarkable poise to them." - Here I continued the
description for him: "Slight of figure; a full, honest waist,
without a suggestion of that execrable death-trap, Dame Fashion's
hideous cuirass; a little above middle height; deliberate, and
therefore graceful, in all her movements; carries herself in a way
to impress one with the idea that she is innocent, without that
time-honoured concomitant, ignorance; half girl, half woman; shy,
yet strong; and in a word, very beautiful - that's Gwen Darrow."
I paused here, and Maitland went on somewhat dubiously: "Yes, it's
not hard to locate such a woman. She makes her presence as clearly
felt among a million of her sex as does a grain of fuchsine in a
hogshead of water. If, with a few ounces of this, Tyndall could
colour Lake Geneva, so with Gwen Darrow one might, such is the power
of the ideal, change the ethical status of a continent."
He then told me how he had made a study of Miss Darrow's movements,
and had met her many times since; in fact, so often that he fancied,
from something in her manner, that she had begun to wonder if his
frequent appearance were not something more than a coincidence. The
fear that she might think him dogging her footsteps worried him, and
he began as sedulously to avoid the places he knew she frequented,
as he previously had sought them. This, he confessed, made him
utterly miserable. He had, to be sure, never spoken to her, but it
was everything to be able to see her. When he could endure it no
longer he had come to me under pretence of feeling ill, that he
might, when he had made my acquaintance, get me to introduce him to
You will understand, of course, that I did not learn all this at our
first interview. Maitland did not take me into his confidence until
we had had a conference at his laboratory devoted entirely to
scientific speculations. On this occasion he surprised me not a
little by turning to me suddenly and saying: "Some of the grandest
sacrifices the world has ever known, if one may judge by the
fortitude they require,=20and the pain they cause, have occurred in
the laboratory." I looked at him inquiringly, and he continued:
"When a man, simply for the great love of truth that is in him, has
given his life to the solution of some problem, and has at last
arrived, after years of closest application, at some magnificent
generalisation - when he has, perhaps, published his conclusions,
and received the grateful homage of all lovers of truth, his life
has, indeed, borne fruit. Of him may it then be justly said that
"'. . . life hath blossomed downward like
The purple bell-flower.'
But suddenly, in the privacy of his laboratory, a single fact arises
from the test-tube in his trembling hand and confronts him! His
brain reels; the glass torment falls upon the floor, and shatters
into countless pieces, but he is not conscious of it, for he feels
it thrust through his heart. When he recovers from the first shock,
he can only ejaculate: 'Is it possible?' After a little he is able
to reason. 'I was fatigued,' he says; 'perhaps my senses erred. I
can repeat the experiment again, and be sure. But if it overthrow
those conclusions for which I have given my life?' he gasps. 'My
generalisation is firmly established in the minds of all - all but
myself - no one will ever chance upon this particular experiment,
and it may not disprove my theory after all; better, much better,
that the floor there keep the secret of it all both from me and from
others!' But even as he says this to himself he has taken a new
tube from the rack and crawled - ten years older for that last ten
minutes - to his chemical case. The life-long habit of truth is so
strong in him that self-interest cannot submerge it. He repeats the
experiment, and confirms his fears. The battle between his life and
a few drops of liquid in a test-tube has been mercilessly fought,
and he has lost! The elasticity of the man is gone forever, and the
only indication the world ever receives of this terrible conflict
between a human soul and its destiny is some half a dozen lines in
Nature, giving the experiment and stating that it utterly refutes
its author's previous conclusions. Half a dozen lines - the epitaph
of a dead, though unburied, life!"
My companion paused there, but I found myself unable to reply. He
had spoken with such intensity, such dramatic fervour, that I was
completely swept away by his eloquence; so much so, indeed, that it
did not even occur to me to ask myself why he should have burst out
in this peculiar strain. I have given you the incident in order
that you may see the strange moods into which Maitland occasionally
relapsed - at least, at that time. After a quick glance at me he
continued, in a quieter vein: "All of us men of science have felt
something, however little, of this, and I believe, as a class,
scientists transcend all other men in their respect for absolute
truth." He cast another one of his searching glances at me, and
said quickly: "This is precisely why I am going to confide in you
and rely upon your assistance in a matter, the successful termination
of which would please me as much as the discovery of an absolute
standard of measurement."
He then made the confession which I have already given you, and
ended by asking me to secure him an introduction to Miss Darrow.
I cheerfully promised to bring this about at the first opportunity.
He asked me if I thought, on account of his having met her so
frequently, she would be likely to think it was all a "put up job."
"I do not know," I replied. "Miss Darrow is a singularly close
observer. On the whole I think you had better reach her through
her father. Do you play croquet?" He replied that he was considered
something of an expert in that line. That, then, was surely the best
way. John Darrow was known in the neighbourhood as a "crank" on the
subject of croquet. He had spent many hundreds of dollars on his
grounds. His wickets were fastened to hard pine planks, and these
were then carefully buried two feet deep. The surface of the ground,
he was wont to descant, must be of a particular sort of gravel,
sifted just so, and rolled to a nicety. The balls must be of hard
rubber, and have just one-eighth inch clearance in passing through
the wickets, with the exception of the two wires forming the "cage,"
where it was imperative that this clearance should be reduced to
one-sixteenth of an inch - but I need not state more to show how he
came to be considered a "crank" upon the subject.
It was easy enough to bring Maitland and Darrow together. "My
friend is himself much interested in the game; he heard of your
superb ground; may he be permitted to examine it closely?" Darrow
was all attention. He would be delighted to show it. Suppose they
make a practical test of it by playing a game. This they did and
Maitland played superbly, but he was hardly a match for the old
gentleman, who sought to palliate his defeat by saying: "You play
an excellent game, sir; but I am a trifle too much for you on my own
ground. Now, if you can spare the time, I should like to witness a
game between you and my daughter; I think you will be pretty evenly
If he could spare the time! I laughed outright at the idea. Why,
with the prospect of meeting Gwen Darrow before him, an absolute
unit of measure, with a snail's pace, would have made good its
escape from him. As it is a trick of poor humanity to refuse when
offered the very thing one has been madly scheming to obtain, I
hastened to accept Darrow's invitation for my friend, and to assure
him on my own responsibility, that time was just then hanging heavily
on Maitland's hands. Well, the game was played, but Maitland was so
unnerved by the girl's presence that he played execrably, so poorly,
indeed, that the always polite Darrow remarked: "You must charge
your easy victory, Gwen, to your opponent's gallantry, not to his
lack of skill, for I assure you he gave me a much harder rub." The
young lady cast a quick glance at Maitland, which said so plainly
that she preferred a fair field and no favour that he hastened to
say: "Your father puts too high an estimate upon my play. I did my
best to win, but - but I was a little nervous; I see, however, that
you would have defeated me though I had been in my best form." Gwen
gave him one of those short, searching looks, so peculiarly her own,
which seem to read, with mathematical certainty, one's innermost
thoughts, - and the poor fellow blushed to the tips of his ears.
- But he was no boy, this Maitland, and betrayed no other sign of
the tempest that was raging within him. His utterance remained as
usual, deliberate and incisive, and I thought this perplexed the
young lady. Before leaving, both Maitland and I were invited to
become parties to a six-handed game to be played the following week,
after the grounds had been redressed with gravel.
Maitland looked forward to this second meeting with Miss Darrow
with an eagerness which made every hour seem interminably long, and
he was in such a flutter of expectancy that I was sure if
"We live . . . in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial
We should count time by heart-throbs,"
he must have passed through a period as long as that separating the
Siege of Troy from the "late unpleasantness." The afternoon came at
last, however. The party consisted, besides Darrow and his daughter,
Maitland and myself, of two young gentlemen with whom personally I
had but a slight acquaintance, although I knew them somewhat by
reputation. The younger one, Clinton Browne, is a young artist whose
landscapes were beginning to attract wide attention in Boston, and
the elder, Charles Herne, a Western gentleman of some literary
attainments, but comparatively unknown here in the East. There is
nothing about Mr. Herne that would challenge more than passing
attention. If you had said of him, "He is well-fleshed, well-groomed,
and intellectually well-thatched," you would have voiced the opinion
of most of his acquaintances.
This somewhat elaborately upholstered old world has a deal of mere
filling of one kind and another, and Mr. Herne is a part of it. To
be sure, he leaves the category of excelsior very far behind and
approaches very nearly to the best grade of curled hair, but, in
spite of all this, he is simply a sort of social filling.
Mr. Browne, on the other hand, is a very different personage. Of
medium height, closely knit, with the latent activity and grace of
the cat flowing through every movement and even stagnating in his
pose, he is a man that the first casual gaze instantly returns to
with sharpened focus. You have seen gymnasts whose normal movements
were slowly performed springs, just as rust is a slow combustion and
fire the same thing in less time. Well, Clinton Browne strongly
suggested that sort of athlete. Add to this a regularly formed,
clearly cut, and all-but-beautiful face, with a pair of wonderfully
piercing, albeit somewhat shifty, black eyes, and one need not marvel
that men as well as women stared at him. I have spoken of his gaze
as "somewhat shifty," yet am not altogether sure that in that term
I accurately describe it. What first fastened my attention was this
vague, unfocussed, roving, quasi-introspective vision flashing with
panther-like suddenness into a directness that seemed to burn and
pierce one like the thrust of a hot stiletto, His face was
clean-shaven, save for a mere thumb-mark of black hair directly
under the centre of his lower lip. This Iago-like tab and the
almost fierce brilliancy of his concentrated gaze gave to his
countenance at times a sinister, Machiavellian expression that was
irresistible and which, to my thinking, seriously marred an otherwise
fine face. Of=20course due allowance must be made for the strong
prejudice I have against any form of beard. However, I'd wager a
box of my best liver-pills against any landscape Browne ever painted,
- I don't care if it's as big as a cyclorama, - that if he had known
how completely Gwen shared my views, - how she disliked the
appearance of bewhiskered men, - that delicately nurtured little
imperial would soon have been reduced to a tender memory, - that is
to say, if a physician can diagnose a case of love from such symptoms
as devouring glances and an attentiveness so marked that it quite
disgusted Maitland, who repeatedly measured his rival with the
apparent cold precision of a mathematician, albeit there was warmth
This singular self-poise is one of Maitland's most noticeable
characteristics and is, I think, rather remarkable in a man of such
strong emotional tendencies and lightning-like rapidity of thought.
No doubt some small portion of it is the result of acquirement, for
life can hardly fail to teach us all something of this sort; still
I cannot but think that the larger part of it is native to him.
Born of well-to-do parents, he had never had the splendid tuition
of early poverty. As soon as he had left college he had studied law,
and had been admitted to the bar. This he had done more to gratify
the wishes of his father than to further any desires of his own, but
he had soon found the profession, so distasteful to him that he
practically abandoned it in favour of scientific research. True,
he still occasionally took a legal case when it turned upon
scientific points which interested him, but, as he once confessed
to me, he swallowed, at such times, the bitter pill of the law
for the sugar coating of science which enshrouded it. This legal
training could, therefore, it seems to me, have made no deep or
radical change in his character, which leads me to think that the
self-control he exhibited, despite the angry disgust with which I
know Browne's so apparent attentions to Gwen inspired him, must,
for the most part, have been native to him rather than acquired.
Nothing worthy of record occurred until evening; at least nothing
which at the time impressed me as of import, though I afterward
remembered that Darrow's behaviour was somewhat strange. He
appeared singularly preoccupied, and on one occasion started
nervously when I coughed behind him. He explained that a
disagreeable dream had deprived him of his sleep the previous night
and left his nerves somewhat unstrung, and I thought no more of it.
When the light failed we were all invited into the parlour to
listen to a song by Miss Darrow. The house, as you are perhaps
aware, overlooks Dorchester Bay. The afternoon had been very hot,
but at dusk a cold east wind had sprung up, which, as it was still
early in the season, was not altogether agreeable to our host,
sitting as he was, back to, though fully eight feet from, an open
window looking to the east. Maitland, with his usual quick
observation, noticed his discomfort and asked if he should not
close the window. The old gentleman did not seem to hear the
question until it was repeated, when, starting as if from a reverie,
he said: "If it will not be too warm for the rest of you, I would
like to have it partly closed, say to within six inches, for the
wind is cold"; and he seemed to relapse again into his reverie.
Maitland was obliged to use considerable strength to force the
window down, as it stuck in the casing, and when it finally gave
way it closed with a loud shrieking sound ending in the bang of
the counterweights. At the noise Darrow sprang to his feet,
exclaiming: "Again! The same sound! I knew I could not mistake
it!" but by this time Gwen was at his side, pressing him gently back
into his seat, as she said to him in an undertone audible to all of
us: "What is it, father?" The old gentleman only pressed her
closer by way of reply, while he said to us apologetically: "You
must excuse me, gentlemen. I have a certain dream which haunts
me, - the dream of someone striking me out of the darkness. Last
night I had the same dream for the seventh time and awoke to hear
that window opened. There is no mistaking the sound I heard just
now; it is identical with that I heard last night. I sprang out
of bed, took a light, and rushed down here, for I am not afraid
to meet anything I can see, but the window was closed and locked,
as I had left it! What do you think, Doctor," he said, turning to
me, "are dreams ever prophetic?"
"I have never," I replied, anxious to quiet him, "had any
personal experience justifying such a conclusion." I did not tell
him of certain things which had happened to friends of mine, and
so my reply reassured him.
Maitland, who had been startled by the old gentleman's conduct,
now returned to the window and opened it about six inches. There
was no other window open in the room, and yet so fresh was the air
that we were not uncomfortable. Darrow, with ill-concealed pride,
then asked his daughter to sing, and she left him and went to the
piano. "Shall I not light the lamp?" I asked. "I think we shall
not need it," the old gentleman replied, "music is always better
in the gloaming."
In order that you may understand what follows, it will be necessary
for me to describe to you our several positions in the room. The
apartment is large, nearly square, and occupies the southeast corner
of the house. The eastern side of the room has one window, that
which had been left open about six inches, and on the southern side
of the room there were two windows, both of which were securely
fastened and the blinds of which had been closed by the painters who,
that morning, had primed the eastern and southern sides of the house,
preparatory to giving it a thorough repainting. On the north side of
the room, but much nearer to the western than the eastern end, are
folding doors. These on this occasion were closed and fastened. On
the western side of the room is the piano, and to the left of it,
near the southwest corner, is a door leading to the hallway. This
door was closed. As I have already told you, Darrow sat in a
high-backed easy-chair facing the piano and almost in the centre of
the room. The partly opened window on the east side was directly
behind him and fully eight feet away. Herne and Browne sat upon
Darrow's right and a little in front of him against the folding
doors, while Maitland and I were upon his left, between him and the
hall door. Gwen was at the piano. There are no closets, draperies,
or niches in the room. I think you will now be able to understand
the situation fully.
Whether the gloom of the scene suggested it to her, or whether it
was merely a coincidence, I do not know, but Miss Darrow began to
sing "In the Gloaming" in a deep, rich contralto voice which seemed
fraught with a weird, melancholy power. When I say that her voice
was ineffably sympathetic I would not have you confound this quality
either with the sepulchral or the aspirated tone which usually is
made to do duty for sympathy, especially in contralto voices. Every
note was as distinct, as brilliantly resonant, as a cello in a
master's hand. So clear, so full the notes rang out that I could
plainly feel the chair vibrate beneath me.
"In the gloaming, 0 my darling!
When the lights are dim and low,
And the quiet shadows falling
Softly come and softly go.
When the winds are sobbing faintly
With a gentle unknown woe,
Will you think of me and love me
As you did once, long ago?
"In the gloaming, 0 my darling!
Think not bitterly of me,
Though I passed away in silence,
Left you lonely, set you free.
For my heart was crushed with longing.
What had been could never be:
It was best to leave you thus, dear,
Best for you and best"
But the line was never finished. With a wild cry, more of fear than
of pain, Darrow sprang from his chair. "Gentlemen, I have been
stabbed!" was all he said, and fell back heavily into his seat. Gwen
was kneeling before him in an instant, even before I could assist
him. His right hand was pressed to his throat and his eyes seemed
starting from their sockets as he shouted hoarsely: "A light, a
light! For God's sake, don't let him strike me again in the dark!"
Maitland was already lighting the gas and Herne and Browne, so Browne
afterward told me, were preparing to seize the assailant. I
remembered, after it all was over, a quick movement Browne had made
toward the darkest corner of the room.
The apartment was now flooded with light, and I looked for the
assassin. He was not to be found! The room contained only Gwen,
Darrow, and his four invited guests! The doors were closed; the
windows had not been touched. No one could possibly have entered
or left the room, and yet the assassin was not there. But one
solution remained; Darrow was labouring under a delusion, and
Gwen's voice would restore him. As she was about to speak I
stepped back to note the effect of her words upon him. "Do not
fear, father," she said in a low voice as she laid her face against
his cheek, "there is nothing here to hurt you. You are ill, - I
will get you a glass of cordial and you will be yourself again in
a moment." She was about to rise when her father seized her
frantically by the arm, exclaiming in a hoarse whisper: "Don't
leave me! Can't you see? Don't leave me!" and for the first time
he removed his hand from his throat, and taking her head between
his palms, gazed wistfully into her face. He tried to speak again,
but could not, and glanced up at us with=20a helpless expression
which I shall never forget. Maitland, his eyes riveted upon the
old gentleman, whose thoughts he seemed to divine, hurriedly
produced a pencil and note-book and held them toward him, but
he did not see them, for he had drawn Gwen's face down to him and
was kissing her passionately. The next instant he was on his feet
and from the swollen veins that stood out like cords upon his neck
and forehead, we could see the terrible effort he was making to
speak. At last the words came, - came as if they were torn hissing
from his throat, for he took a full breath between each one of them.
"Gwen - I - knew - it! Good-bye! Remember - your - promise!"
- and he fell a limp mass into his chair, overcome, I felt sure,
by the fearful struggle he had made. Maitland seized a glass of
water and threw it in his face. I loosened the clothing about his
neck and, in doing so, his head fell backward and his face was
turned upward toward me. The features were drawn, - the eyes were
glazed and set. I felt of his heart; he was dead!
Silence is the only tender Death can make to Mystery.
The look of pain and astonishment upon my face said plainly enough
"Your father is dead." I could not speak. In the presence of her
great affliction we all stood silent, and with bowed heads. I had
thought Darrow's attack the result of an overwrought mental condition
which would speedily readjust itself, and had so counted upon his
daughter's influence as all but certain to immediately result in a
temporary cure. When, therefore, I found him dead without any
apparent cause, I was, for the time being, too dazed to think, much
less to act, and I think the other gentlemen were quite as much
incapacitated as I. My first thought, when I recovered so that I
could think, was of Gwen. I felt sure her reason must give way under
the strain, and I thought of going nearer to her in case she should
fall, but refrained when I noticed that Maitland had noiselessly
glided within easy reach of her. To move seemed impossible to me.
Such a sudden transition from warm, vigorous life to cold, impassive
death seems to chill the dynamic rivers of being into a horrible
winter, static and eternal. Though death puts all things in the
past tense, even we physicians cannot but be strangely moved when
the soul thus hastily deserts the body without the usual farewell of
Contrary to my expectations Gwen did not faint. For a long time,
- it may not have been more than twenty minutes, but it seemed,
under the peculiar circumstances, at least an hour, - she remained
perfectly impassive. She neither changed colour nor exhibited any
other sign of emotion. She stood gazing quietly, tenderly, at her
father's body as if he were asleep and she were watching for some
indication of his awakening. Then a puzzled expression came over
her countenance. There was no trace of sorrow in it, only the look
of perplexity. I decided to break the gruesome silence, but the
thought of how my own voice would sound in that awe-inspired
stillness frightened me. Gwen herself was the first to speak. She
looked up with the same impassive countenance, from which now the
perplexed look had fled, and said simply:
"Gentlemen, what is to be done?" Her voice was firm and sane, - that
it was pitched lower than usual and had a suggestion of intensity in
it, was perfectly natural. I thought she did not realise her loss
and said: "He has gone past recall." "Yes," she replied, "I know
that, but should we not send for an officer?" "An officer!" I
exclaimed. "Is it possible you entertain a doubt that your father's
death resulted from natural causes?" She looked at me a moment
fixedly, and then said deliberately: "My father was murdered!" I
was so surprised and pained that, for a moment, I could not reply,
and no one else sought to break the silence.
Maitland, as if Gwen's last remark had given rise to a sudden
determination, glided to the body. He examined the throat, raised
the right hand and looked at the fingers: then he stepped back a
little and wrote something in his note-book. This done, he tried
the folding doors and found them locked on the inside; then the two
windows on the south side of the room, which he also found fastened.
He opened the hall door slightly and the hinges creaked noisily, of
all of which he made a note. Then taking a rule from his pocket he
went to the east window, and measured the opening, and then the
distance between this window and the chair in which the old gentleman
had sat, recording his results as before. His next act astonished
me not a little and had the effect of recalling me to my senses.
With his penknife he cut a circle in the carpet around each leg of
the chair on which the body rested. He continued his examinations
with quiet thoroughness, but I ceased now to follow him closely,
since I had begun to feel the necessity of convincing Gwen of her
error, and was casting about for the best way to do so.
"My dear Miss Darrow," I said at length; "you attach too much
importance to the last words of your father, who, it is clear, was
not in his right mind. You must know that he has, for some months,
had periods of temporary aberration, and that all his delusions
have been of a sanguinary nature. Try to think calmly," I said,
perceiving from her expression that I had not shaken her conviction
in the least. "Your father said he had been stabbed. You must see
that such a thing is physically impossible. Had all the doors and
windows been open, no object so large as a man could possibly have
entered or left the room without our observing him; but the windows
were closed and fastened, with the exception of the east window,
which, as you may see for yourself, is open some six inches or so,
in which position it is secured by the spring fastening. The folding
doors are locked on the inside and the only possible means of
entrance, therefore, would have been by the hall door. Directly in
front of that, between it and your father, sat Mr. Maitland and
myself. You see by my chair that I was less than two feet from the
door. It is inconceivable that, in that half-light, anyone could
have used that entrance and escaped observation. Do you not see
how untenable your idea is? Had your father been stabbed he would
have bled, but I am as certain as though I had made a thorough
examination that there is not so much as a scratch anywhere upon his
body." Gwen heard me through in silence and then said wearily, in
a voice which had now neither intensity nor elasticity, "I understand
fully the apparent absurdity of my position, yet I know my father
was murdered. The wound which caused his death has escaped your
notice, but - "
"My dear Miss Darrow," I interrupted, "there is no wound, you may
be sure of that!" For the first time since Darrow's death Maitland
spoke. "If you will look at the throat a little more closely, you
will see what may be a wound," he said, and went on quietly with his
examinations. He was right; there was a minute abrasion visible.
The girl's quick observation had detected what had escaped me,
convinced as I was that there was nothing to be found by a scrutiny
Gwen now transferred her attention to Maitland, and asked: "Had not
one of us better go for an officer?" Maitland, whose power of
concentration is so remarkable as on some occasions to render him
utterly oblivious of his surroundings, did not notice the question
and Browne replied to it for him. "I should be only too happy to
fetch an officer for you, if you wish," he said. Have you ever
noticed how acute the mind is for trifles and slight incongruities
when under the severe tension of such a shock as we had experienced?
Such attacks, threatening to invade and forever subjugate our
happiness, seem to have the effect of so completely manning the
ramparts of our intellect the nothing, however trivial, escapes
observation. Gwen's father, her only near relative, lay cold before
her, - his death, from her standpoint, the most painful of mysteries,
- and yet the incongruity of Browne's "only too happy " did not
escape her, as was evident by the quick glance and sudden relaxation
of the mouth into the faintest semblance of a smile. All this was
momentary and, I doubt not, half unconscious. She replied gravely:
"I would indeed be obliged if you would do so."
Maitland, who had now finished his examination, noticed that Browne
was about to depart. When the artist would have passed him on his
way to the hall door, he placed his hand upon that gentleman's
shoulder, saying: "Pardon me, sir, but I would strongly urge that
you do not leave the room!"
Browne paused. Both men stood like excited animals at gaze.
Nothing is so full of possibilities as the seemingly impossible.
Maitland's request that Browne should not leave the room seemed to
us all a veritable thunderbolt. It impressed me at the time as
being a thinly veneered command, and I remember fearing lest the
artist should be injudicious enough to disregard it. If he could
have seen his own face for the next few moments, he would have had
a lesson in expression which years of portrait work may fail to
teach him. At length the rapidly changing kaleidoscope of his mind
seemed to settle, to group its varied imaginings about a definite
idea, - the idea that he had been all but openly accused, in the
presence of Miss Darrow, of being instrumental in her father's death.
For a moment, as he faced Maitland, whom he instinctively felt to be
a rival, he looked so dark and sinister that one could easily have
believed him capable of almost any crime.
Gwen was no less surprised than the rest of us at Maitland's
interference, but she did not permit it to show in her voice as she
said quietly: "Mr. Browne has consented to go for an officer." As
I felt sure she must have thought Maitland already knew this, as
anyone else must have heard what had passed, I looked upon her
remark as a polite way of saying:
"I am mistress here."
Maitland apparently so regarded it, for he replied quickly: "I hope
you will not think me officious, or unmindful of your right to
dictate in a matter so peculiarly your own affair. My only desire
is to help you. Mr. Browne's departure would still further
complicate a case already far to difficult of solution. My legal
training has given me some little experience in these matters, and
I only wish that you may have the benefit thereof. It is now nearly
three-quarters of an hour since your father's death, and, I assure
you, time at this particular juncture may be of the utmost
importance. Not a moment should be wasted in needless discussion.
If you will consent to despatch a servant to the police station
I will, in due time, explain to you why I have taken the liberty of
being so insistent on this point."
He had hardly ceased speaking before Gwen rang for a servant. She
hurriedly told him what had transpired and sent him to the nearest
police station. As this was but a few rods away and the messenger
was fleet of foot, an officer was soon upon the scene. "We were
able," he said to us generally as he entered the room, "to catch
Medical Examiner Ferris by 'phone at his home in F- Street, and
he will be here directly. In the meantime I have been sent along
merely to see that the body is not moved before his examination and
that everything in the room remains exactly as it was at the time
of the old gentleman's death. Did I not understand," he said to
Maitland in an undertone, "that there is a suspicion of foul play?"
"Yes," replied George, "that is one explanation which certainly will
have to be considered."
"I thought I heard the Cap'n say 'murder' when he 'phoned in town
for some specials. They're for detective work on this case, I reckon.
Hello! That sounds like the Doctor's rig."
A moment later the bell rang and Dr. Ferris entered the room.
"Ah, Doctor," he said extending his hand to me, "what have we here?"
Before I could answer he had noticed Maitland and advanced to shake
hands with him.
"Is this indeed so serious as I have been told?" he asked, after
"It seems to me likely," replied Maitland slowly, "to develop into
the darkest mystery I have ever known."
"Hum!" replied the Examiner. "Has the body been moved or the
disposition of its members altered?"
"Not since I arrived," replied Officer Barker.
"And before?" queried Dr. Ferris, turning to Maitland.
"Everything is absolutely intact. I have made a few notes and
measurements, but I have disturbed nothing," replied Maitland.
"Good," said the Examiner. "May I see those notes before I go?
You were on that Parker case and you have, you know, something of a
reputation for thoroughness. Perhaps you may have noted something
that would escape me."
"The notes, Doctor, are at your service," George replied.
Dr. Ferris' examination of the body was very thorough, yet, since
it was made with the rapid precision which comes from extended
practice, it was soon over. Short as it was, however, it was still
an ordeal under which Gwen suffered keenly, to judge from her manner.
The Examiner then took Maitland aside, looked at his notes, and
conversed earnestly with him in an undertone for several minutes. I
do not know what passed between them. When he left, a few moments
later, Officer Barker accompanied him.
As soon as the door closed behind them Gwen turned to Maitland.
"Did he give you his opinion?" she asked with a degree of interest
which surprised me.
"He will report death as having resulted from causes at present
unknown," rejoined Maitland.
Gwen seemed greatly relieved by this answer, though I confess I was
utterly at a loss to see why she should be.
Observing this change in her manner Maitland approached her, saying:
"Will you now permit me to explain my seeming rudeness in interfering
with your plan to make Mr. Browne your messenger, and at the same
time allow me to justify myself in the making of yet another request?"
Gwen bowed assent and he proceeded to state the following case as
coolly and accurately as if it were a problem in geometry.
"Mr. Darrow," he began, "has just died under peculiar circumstances.
Three possible views of the case at once suggest themselves. First:
his death may have been due to natural causes and his last expressions
the result of an hallucination under which he was labouring. Second:
he may have committed suicide, as the result, perhaps, of a mania
which in that case would also serve to explain his last words and
acts; or, - you will pardon me, Miss Darrow, - these last appearances
may have been intentionally assumed with a view to deceiving us. The
officers you have summoned will not be slow in looking for motives
for such a deception, and several possible ones cannot fail at once
to suggest themselves to them. Third: your father may have been
murdered and his last expressions a more or less accurate description
of the real facts of the case. It seems to me that these three
theories exhaust the possibilities of the case. Can anyone suggest
anything further?" And he paused for a reply.
"It is clear," replied Mr. Herne with portly deliberation, "that all
deaths must be either natural or unnatural; and equally clear that
when unnatural the agent, if human, must be either the victim himself,
or some person external to him."
"Precisely so," continued Maitland. "Now our friend, the Doctor,
believes that Mr. Darrow's death resulted from natural causes. The
official authorities will at first, in all probability, agree with
him, but it is impossible to tell what theory they will ultimately
adopt. If sufficient motive for the act can be found, some are
almost certain to adopt the suicide theory. Miss Darrow has
expressed her conviction that we are dealing with a case of murder.
Mr. Browne and Mr. Herne have expressed no opinion on the subject,
so far as I am aware."
At this point Gwen, with an eagerness she had not before displayed,
- or possibly it was nervousness, - exclaimed: "And your own view
of the case?" "I believe," Maitland replied deliberately, "that
your father's death resulted from poison injected into the blood;
but this is a matter so easily settled that I prefer not to theorise
upon it. There are several poisons which might have produced the
effects we have observed. If, however, I am able to prove this
conjecture correct I have still only eliminated one of the three
hypotheses and resolved the matter to a choice between the suicide
and murder theories, yet that is something gained. It is because I
believe it can be shown death did not result from natural causes
that I have so strongly urged Mr. Browne not to leave the room."
"Pardon me, sir!" ejaculated Browne, growing very dark and
threatening. "You mean to insinuate - " "Nothing," continued
Maitland, finishing his sentence for him, and then quietly ignoring
the interruption. "As I have already said, I am somewhat familiar
with the usual methods of ferreting out crime. As a lawyer, and
also as a chemical expert, I have listened to a great deal of
evidence in criminal cases, and in this and other ways, learned
the lines upon which detectives may confidently be expected to act,
when once they have set up an hypothesis. The means by which they
arrive at their hypotheses occasionally surpass all understanding,
and we have, therefore, no assurance as to the view they will take
of this case. The first thing they will do will be to make what
they will call a 'thorough examination' of the premises; but a
study of chemistry gives to the word 'thorough' a significance of
which they have no conception. It is to shorten this examination
as much as possible, - to prevent it from being more tiresome to
you than is absolutely necessary," he said to Gwen, "that I have
taken the liberty of ascertaining and recording most of the data
the officers will require."
"Believe me," Gwen said to him in an undertone not intended for the
rest of us, though we heard it, "I am duly grateful for your
consideration and shall find a fitting time to thank you."
With no other reply than a deprecating gesture, Maitland continued:
"Now let us look at the matter from the standpoint of the officers.
"They must first determine in their own minds how Mr. Darrow met his
death. This will constitute the basis of their first hypothesis.
I say 'first' because they are liable to change it at any moment it
seems to them untenable. If they conclude that death resulted from
natural causes, I shall doubtless be able to induce them to waive
that view of the case until I have been given time to prove it
untenable - if I can - and to act for the present upon one of the
other two possible theories. It appears, from our present
knowledge of the case, that, whichever one of these they choose,
the same difficulty will confront them."
Gwen looked at him inquiringly and he continued, answering the
question in her eyes:
"This is what I mean. Your father, whether he committed suicide
or was murdered, in all probability met his death through that
almost imperceptible wound under his chin. This wound, so far as
I have yet been able to examine it without a glass, was made with
a somewhat blunt instrument, able, apparently, to little more than
puncture the skin and draw a drop or so of blood. Of course, on
such a theory, death must have resulted from poisoning. The
essential point is: Where is the instrument that inflicted the
"Might it not be buried in the flesh?" Gwen asked.
"Possibly, but as I have not been able to find it I cannot believe
it very likely, though closer search may reveal it," replied
Maitland. "Your father's right forefinger," he continued, "is
slightly stained with blood, but the wound is of a nature which
could not have been caused by a finger nail previously poisoned.
Since we know he pressed his hand to his throat this blood-stain
makes no more strongly toward the truth of the suicide theory than
it does toward that of the murder hypothesis. Suppose now, for we
must look at all sides of the question, the officers begin to act
upon the assumption that murder has been committed. What will
they then do? They will satisfy themselves that the east window
was opened six and three-quarters inches and securely fastened in
that position; that the two south windows were closed and fastened
and that the blinds thereof were also closed. They will ascertain
the time when death occurred, - we can easily tell them, - and this
will show them that neither of the blinds on the south side could
have been opened without so increasing the light in the room as to
be sure to attract our attention. They will learn also that the
folding doors were locked, as they are now, on this side and that
these two gentlemen [indicating Browne and Herne] sat against them.
They will then turn to the hall door as the only possible means of
entrance and I shall tell them that the Doctor and I sat directly
in front of this door and between it and Mr. Darrow. I have taken
the liberty to cut the carpet to mark the positions of our chairs.
In view of all these facts what must they conclude? Simply this:
no one entered the room, did the deed, and then left it, at least
not without being observed." "But surely," I ventured to suggest,
"you do not think they will presume to question the testimony of
all of us that no one was observed."
"That is all negative evidence," he replied, "and does not
conclusively prove that another might not have observed what we
failed to detect. However, it is all so self-evident that they
will not question it. I know so well their methods of reasoning
that I am already prepared to refute their conclusions at every
point, without, I regret to say, being myself able to solve the
mystery, though I may say in passing that I purposely am refraining
from formulating any theory whatever until I have ascertained
everything which it is possible to learn in the matter. In this way
I hope to avoid the error into which the detective is so prone to
fall. Once you set up an hypothesis you unconsciously, and in spite
of yourself, accentuate unduly the importance of all data making
toward that hypothesis, while, on the other hand you either utterly
neglect, misconstrue, or fail to fully appreciate, the evidence
oppugnant to your theory. In chemical research I gather the material
for an entire series of experiments before performing any, so that
the first few shall not, either by satisfying or discouraging me,
cause me to leave the bush half beaten.
"Let us see how, from the officers' standpoint, the murder hypothesis
now stands. No assassin, it will be clear to them, could have
entered or left this room unobserved. If, therefore, a man did enter
the room and kill our friend, we, all of us, must be his accomplices."
This remark drew some sort of exclamatory protest from every other
person in the room save Browne.
"Ah, that is probably the true solution," said the artist with
This remark and the tone in which it was uttered would have been
discourteous under any circumstances; at this particular time and in
the painful situation in which we all found ourselves it was boorish
almost beyond endurance.
There was nothing in Maitland's manner to indicate that he had heard
Browne's remark, as he quietly continued:
"You see this cold-blooded view, the mere statement of which causes
you all to shudder, - the more so because one of our number is the
daughter of the dead man, - is not to be entertained a moment and
is only mentioned to show the logical chain which will force the
officers into the certain conviction that no assassin did enter or
leave this room. What, then, remains of their theory? Two
possibilities. First, the murderer may have done the deed without
entering. If so, it is clear that he must have made use of the
partly-opened window. This seems so likely that they will seize
upon it with avidity. At first they will suggest that the assassin
reached in at the window and struck his victim as he sat by it.
This, they will urge, accounts for our not finding the weapon, and
they will be so sure that this is the correct solution of the
problem that I shall probably have to point out to them its patent
absurdity. This illustrates the danger of forming an hypothesis
from imperfect data. Remind them that Mr. Darrow did not sit by
the window, but eight feet three and one-half inches from it, in
almost the exact centre of the room, and their theory falls to the
ground, only to be hastily replaced, as a drowning man catches at a
straw, by a slightly varied theory. If the victim sat that distance
from the window, they will inform us, it is clear the murderous
implement must have been thrown or shot at him by the assassin."
"Indeed," said Mr. Herne, "though I had not thought of that theory
it seems to me so plausible, now that you mention it, that I think
the officers will show rare acumen if they adopt it. Very properly
may they hold that some projectile might have been shot through the
partly opened window and none of us have detected the act."
"Ah, yes," rejoined Maitland; "but when I ask them where this
implement is under this assumption, and remind them of what I shall
already have told them, viz., that Mr. Darrow sat back to the window
as well as over eight feet from it, and sat in a chair, the solid
back of which extended, like a protecting shield, fully six inches
above the top of his head, they will find it difficult to show how,
unless projectiles travel in sharp curves or angles, a man in this
position could thus receive a wound directly beneath his chin, a
wound so slight as not to penetrate the thyroid cartilage immediately
"The abandonment of this hypothesis will force them to relinquish
the idea that the murder was committed from without. What then
remains? Only the second alternative. They must either give up
altogether the idea of murder, or have recourse to what is known as
the theory of exclusive opportunity."
"Theory of exclusive opportunity," repeated Gwen, as a puzzled look
overspread her countenance. "I - I fear I do not quite understand
what you mean."
"Pardon me, Miss Darrow, for not making my meaning clearer to you,"
said Maitland with a deferential inclination of the head. "The
theory of exclusive opportunity, to state it plainly in this case,
means simply this: if Mr. Darrow were murdered, some one of us five,
we being the only ones having an opportunity to do the deed, must
be the assassin. Whether this view be taken, or that of suicide, it
becomes of paramount importance to find the weapon. Do you not now
see why I objected to having anyone leave the room? If, as appears
likely from my search, the weapon is not to be found, and if, as I
feel reasonably certain, either the suicide or the murder theory be
substantiated, then, anyone who left the room before official search
was made would be held to have taken the weapon with him and disposed
of it, because his would have been the exclusive opportunity of so
doing. Someone must have disposed of it, and no one else had a
chance to do so; that would be the way it would be stated. But,
since no one of us has left the room, a thorough search both of it
and of our persons, must convince the officers that we, at least,
are not responsible for the fact that the weapon is not forthcoming."
Maitland paused and looked at Browne as if he expected him to speak,
but that gentleman only shut his square jaws the more firmly together
and held his peace, - at least in so far as words were concerned.
If looks, like actions, "speak louder than words," this black visage
with its two points of fire made eloquent discourse. I charged all
this display of malice to jealousy. It is not altogether pleasant
to be placed at a disadvantage before the one being whose good
opinion one prizes above all things else, - that is to say, I have
read that such is the case. I do not consider my own views upon
such matters expert testimony. In all affairs of the heart my
opinions cease to have weight at exactly the point where that organ
ceases to be a pump.
Even Gwen, I think, noticed Browne's determined silence, for she
said to Maitland:
"I am very grateful that your forethought prevented me from causing
Mr. Browne even temporary annoyance by making him my messenger."
She paused a moment and then continued:
"You were speaking of the officers' theories. When they have
convinced themselves that no one of us has removed the weapon, what
"In my opinion," said Maitland, "they will ultimately fall back upon
the suicide theory, but they must find the weapon here before they
can substantiate it; for if it be not here someone must have taken
it away and that someone could have only been the one who used it
- the assassin, in short - but here are the officers. Let each one
of us insist upon being searched. They can send to the station for
a woman to search you," he said in an undertone to Gwen and then
added: "I trust you will pardon my suggesting a course which, in
your case, seems so utterly unnecessary, but, believe me, there are
urgent reasons for it which I can explain later. If we would hope
to solve this mystery, everything depends upon absolute thoroughness
at this juncture."
"I should evince but poor appreciation," Gwen replied, "of the
ability you have already shown should I fail to follow your slightest
suggestion. It is all I can offer you by way of thanks for the
kind interest you have taken."
The return of Officer Barker, accompanied by three other men, now
changed the tide of conversation. Maitland advanced and shook hands
with one whom he introduced as Mr. Osborne, and this gentleman in
turn introduced his brother officer, a Mr. Allen, and , a
Osborne impressed me as a man of only mediocre ability, thoroughly
imbued with the idea that he is exceptionally clever. He spoke
loudly and, I thought, a bit ostentatiously, yet withal in a manner
so frank and hearty that I could not help liking the fellow.
, on the contrary, seemed retiring almost to the point of
self-abnegation. He said but little, apparently preferring to keep
in the background, where he could record his own observations in
his note-book without too frequent interruption. His manner was
polished in the extreme, and so frank withal that he seemed to me
like a man of glass through whom every thought shone unhindered.
I wondered how one who seemed powerless to conceal his own emotions
should possess a detective's ability to thread his way through the
dark and hidden duplicity of crime. When he spoke it was in a low,
velvety, and soothing voice, that fell upon the ear with an
irresistible charm. When Osborne would make some thoughtless
remark fraught with bitterness for Gwen, such an expression of pain
would flit across 's fine face as one occasionally sees
in those highly organised and sympathetic natures, - usually found
among women if a doctor's experience may be trusted, - which catch
the throb of another's hurt, even as adjacent strings strive to
sing each other's songs.
seemed to me more priest than detective. His clean-shaven
face, its beautifully chiselled features suffused with that peculiar
pallor which borrows the transparency of marble; the large, limpid
brown eyes and the delicate, kindly mouth - all these, combined with
a faultless manner and a carriage suggestive of power in reserve,
so fascinated me that I found myself watching him continually. I
remember saying to myself: "What a rival he would make in a woman's
At just that time he was looking at Gwen with tender, solicitous
sympathy written in every feature, and that doubtless suggested my
Mr. Allen was even more ordinary than Mr. Osborne in manner and
appearance. I do not presume to judge his real merits, for I did
not notice him sufficiently to properly portray him to you, even
if I had the gift of description, which I think you will admit I
have not. He lives in my memory only as a something tall, spare,
coarse of texture, red, hairy, and redolent of poor tobacco.
How different men are! (Of course women are all alike!) While
Osborne, like a good-natured bumble-bee, was buzzing noisily about,
as though all the world were his clover-blossom; and Allen, so far
as I know, was doing nothing; , alert and keen despite his
gentleness and a modesty which kept him for the most part
unobtrusively in the shadow of his chosen corner, was writing
rapidly in a note-book and speaking no word. It seemed as if
nothing escaped him. Clearly he was there to enlighten himself
rather than others. At length, pausing to make a measurement,
he noticed my gaze and said to me in an undertone, as he glanced
solicitously at Gwen lest she should hear:
"Pardon me, but did any of you observe anything, at or about the
time of Mr. Darrow's death, which impressed you as singular, - any
noise, any shadow, any draught or change of temperature, say a
rushing or I might say swishing sound, - anything, in fact, that
would seem to you as at all unusual?"
"Nothing whatever," I replied. "Everything seemed perfectly normal
"Hum! Strange!" he said, and returned to his notes.
I felt sure had had a theory and that my testimony had not
strengthened it, but he did not volunteer any information, neither
did he take part in the conversation of his companions, and so my
curiosity remained ungratified. It was clear that 's methods
were very different from those of Osborne and Allen.
I need not weary you by further narrating what occurred at this
official examination. Suffice it to say that, with one or two minor
exceptions, Osborne and Allen followed the precise course of
reasoning prophesied by Maitland, and, as for , he
courteously, but firmly, held his peace. The two officers did not,
however, lean as strongly to the theory that death resulted from
natural causes as Maitland had anticipated, and, I think, this
him. He had already told them that he expected to be able to show
death to have resulted from poison hypodermically applied, and, as
I overheard a remark made by Osborne to Allen, I readily understood
their speedy abandonment of their natural-death theory. They were
engaged in verifying Maitland's measurement of the east side of the
room when Osborne said softly to his companion: "He has figured in
several of my cases as a chemical expert, and when he expresses an
opinion on a matter it's about the same as proved. He's not the
kind that jumps in the dark. He's a lawyer as well as chemist and
knows what's evidence, so I reckon we'd better see if we can make
anything out of the suicide and murder theories."
Maitland had asked them to send to the station for a woman to search
Gwen and she had just arrived. We all requested that a most
thorough examination should now be made to assure the officers that
no one of us possessed the missing weapon. This done, the officers
and departed for the night, assuring Gwen that there was
nothing further to be done till morning, and Osborne, doubtless with
a view to consoling her, said: "It may be a relief to you, miss,
to know that there is scarcely a doubt that your father took his
own life." This had an effect upon Gwen very different from that
which had been intended. Her face contracted, and it was plain to
see she was beginning to think everyone was determined to force a
falsehood upon her. Herne and Browne also prepared to take their
leave. A glance from Maitland told me he wished me to remain with
him a moment after the others had departed, and I accordingly did so.
When we were alone with Gwen he said to her: "I think I understand
your feeling with regard to Mr. Osborne's remark, as well as your
conviction that it does not represent the truth. I foresaw they
would come to this conclusion, and know very well the pains they
will take to prove their hypothesis." "Can nothing be done?" she
asked beseechingly. "It is that of which I wish to speak," he
replied. "If you have sufficient confidence in me to place the
case in my hands, I will do everything in my power to establish
the truth, - on one condition," and he glanced at her face, now
pale and rigid from her long-continued effort of self-control.
"And that condition is?" she said quickly. "That you follow my
directions and permit me to order your movements in all things, so
long as the case remains in my hands; if at any time I seek to
abuse your faith, you are as free to discharge me as if I were a
paid detective." Gwen looked searchingly at him; then, extending
her hand to him, she said impulsively: "You are very kind; I
accept the condition. What shall I do?"
I tried to catch Maitland's eye to tell him what he should counsel
her, but a man with his ability to observe conditions and grasp
situations can very well do without prompting. "First," he said,
"you must return home with the Doctor and spend the rest of the
night with his sister; I shall stay here until morning; and second,
I desire that you use your utmost endeavour to keep the incidents
of this evening out of your mind. You cannot, of course, forget
your loss, unless you sleep," - and he gave me a look which said:
"I depend on you to see to that," - "but you must not continually
re-enact the scene in imagination, In the morning the Doctor will
come here to bring me my camera, microscope, and a few things I
shall require " - and he passed me a list he had written. "If you
have slept well you can be of considerable service, and may
accompany him - if not, you must remain quietly at his house."
With this he turned to me, and said: "She is making a condenser of
herself, Doctor, and will soon break through the insulation. Sparks
will be dangerous - you must secure the brush effect." He spoke
quickly, and used electrical terms, that she might not understand
him, but either he failed of his purpose, or the observation she
immediately made was a strange coincidence. I believe she
understood, for, while young women educated by their mothers are
usually ignorant upon all the more masculine subjects, those who
have long been their father's companions are ever prone to startle
one with the most unexpected flashes of intelligence. "I am in
rather a high state of tension now," she said, turning calmly to
Maitland; "but when alone the expression which has been denied me
here will afford relief." Maitland glanced at her quickly, and
then at me, and I knew he was wondering if she had understood.
Then he said: "It is getting late. I shall expect you to sleep
well and to come in the morning. Please say to the servants as
you go that I shall stay here all night, and that no one must enter
without permission. Good-night." She held out her hand to him,
but made no reply; then she fervently kissed her father's lips,
and together we left the chamber of death.
Death speaks with the tongue of Memory, and his ashen hand reaches
out of the great unknown to seize and hold fast our plighted souls.
What Maitland's reason was for spending the night with the dead body
of Darrow, or how he busied himself until morning, I do not know.
Perhaps he desired to make sure that everything remained untouched,
or, it may be, that he chose. this method of preventing Gwen from
performing a vigil by the body. I thought this latter view very
probable at the time, as I had been singularly impressed with the
remarkable foresight my friend had displayed in so quickly and
adroitly getting Gwen away from everything connected with her
father's sad and mysterious death.
Arriving at my house my sister took an early opportunity to urge
upon Gwen a glass of wine, in which I had placed a generous sedative.
The terrible tension soon began to relax, and in less than half an
hour she was sleeping quietly. I dreaded the moment when she should
awake and the memory of all that had happened should descend like an
avalanche upon her. I told my sister that this would be a critical
moment, cautioning her to stay by Gwen and to give her, immediately
upon her arising, a draught I had prepared for the purpose of
somewhat deadening her sensibilities. I arose early, and went to
Maitland's laboratory to collect the things he desired. When I
returned Gwen was awake, and to my intense gratification in even a
better condition than I had dared to hope.
It was quite late when we reached her house, and Maitland had
evidently been at work several hours. He looked sharply at Gwen
when she entered, and seemed much pleased at her condition. "You
have obeyed my instructions, I see, and slept," he said, as he gave
her his hand. "Yes," she replied, "I was very tired, and the
doctor's cordial quite overcame me;" and she cast an inquiring
glance at the network of white string which Maitland had stretched
across the carpet, dividing it into squares like an immense
checker-board. In reply to her questioning look, he said: "French
detectives are the most thorough in the world, and I am about to
make use of their method of instituting an exhaustive search. Each
one of the squares formed by these intersecting strings is numbered,
and represents one square foot of carpet, the numbers running from
one to two hundred and eighty-eight. Every inch of every one of
these squares I shall examine under a microscope, and anything found
which can be of any possible interest will be carefully preserved,
and its exact location accurately marked upon this chart I have
prepared, which, as you will see, has the same number of squares as
the room, the area of each square being reduced from one square foot
to one square inch. You will note that I have already marked the
location of all doors, windows, and furniture. The weapon, if there
be one, may be very minute, but if it be on the floor we may be
assured the microscope will find it. The walls of the room,
especially any shelving projections, and the furniture, I shall
examine with equal thoroughness, though I have now some additional
reasons for believing the weapon is not here."
"Have you discovered anything new?" Gwen exclaimed, unable to control
the excitement caused by this last remark. "You must pardon me,"
Maitland rejoined, "if I ask you and the Doctor a question before
replying." She nodded assent, and he continued: "I wish to know if
you agree with me that we shall be more likely to arrive at a
solution of the problem before us if we keep our own counsel than
if we take the officers of the law, or, for that matter, anyone
else, into our confidence. You undoubtedly noticed how carefully M.
Godin kept his own counsel. Official methods, and the hasty
generalisations which form a part thereof - to say nothing of the
petty rivalries and the passion for notoriety - can do much to hinder
our own work, and, I believe, nothing to help it. What say you?"
"That we keep our work to ourselves," Gwen quickly rejoined, and I
signified that I was of the same opinion. "Then," Maitland continued,
"I may say this in answer to your question. I have ascertained
something which may bear upon the case in hand. You will remember
that part of the gravel for redressing the croquet ground was dumped
under the east window there. The painters, I learn, finished
painting that side of the house yesterday forenoon before the gravel
was removed and placed upon the ground, so that any footprints they
may have made in it while about their work were obliterated. As you
see, there was loose gravel left under the window to the depth of
about two inches. I carefully examined this gravel this morning -=20
there were no footprints."
I glanced at Gwen; her face had a set expression, and she was deathly
pale. "There were, however," he continued, "places where the gravel
had been tamped down as if by the pressure of a rectangular board.
I examined these minutely and, by careful measurement and close
scrutiny of some peculiar markings suggestive of the grain of wood,
satisfied myself that the depressions in the gravel were made by two,
and not, as I had at first thought, by one small piece of wood. I
found further that these two boards had always borne certain relative
relations to each other, and that when one had been turned around
the other had undergone a similar rotation. This last is, in my mind,
a most important point, for, when coupled with the fact that between
any two impressions of the same board the distance was sensibly
constant, and was that of a short stride, there could be no reasonable
doubt but these boards had been worn upon some person's feet. They
could not have been thrown down merely to be stepped upon, for, in
that case, they would not have borne fixed relations to each other
- probably would not have been turned end for end at all - and
certainly, both would not always have happened to get turned at the
same time. I procured a board of the combined area of the two
supposed to have made the impressions in the gravel, and weighted it
down until, as nearly as I could measure, it impacted the soil to
the same extent the others had. The weight was one hundred and
thirty-five pounds, which is about right for a man five feet five
inches tall. The position of the depressions in the gravel indicated
a stride just about right for a man of that height.
"There was one other most important discovery which I made after I
had divided the impressions into two classes - according as they
were produced by the right or left board - which was that when the
right foot was thrown forward the stride was from three to four
inches longer than when the left foot led. Directly under the
window there was a deep impression in the sand. I took a plaster
cast of it, and here it is," he said, producing an excellent
facsimile of a closed hand. "There can be little doubt," he
continued, "from the position occupied by the depression, of which
this is a reverse copy, that it was either accidentally made by
someone who, stooping before the east window to avoid obstructing
its light, suddenly lost his balance and regained his equilibrium
by thus thrusting out his hand, or - and this seems far more likely
to me - that the hand was deliberately placed in the gravel in order
to steady its possessor while he performed some peculiar operation."
At this point I ventured to ask why he regarded the latter view as
so much more tenable than the former. "There are several reasons,"
he replied, "which render the view I prefer to take all but certain.
First, the impression was made by the left hand. Second, it is the
impression of a closed hand, with the upper joints of the fingers
undermost. Did you ever know one to save himself from falling by
thrusting out a closed hand? Certainly not. There is a certain
amount of fear, however slight, invariably associated with losing
one's balance. This sentiment, so far as the hand is concerned, is
expressed by opening it and spreading the fingers. This he would
instinctively have done, if falling. Then there is the position of
the impression relative to the window and some slight testimony upon
the sill and glass, for the thorough investigation of which I have
been obliged to await my microscope. I have worked diligently, but
that is all I have been able to accomplish."
"All!" exclaimed Gwen, regarding him with ill-concealed admiration.
"It seems to me a very great deal. The thoroughness, the minuteness
of it all, overwhelms me; but, tell me, have your discoveries led
you to any conclusion?" "No," he replied, "nothing definite yet; I
must not allow myself to become wedded to any theory, so long as
there is anything further to be learned. If I were to hazard a few
idle guesses, I should say your father was murdered in some
mysterious way - by a person about five feet five inches tall,
weighing, say, one hundred and thirty-five pounds, and having a lame
leg, or, perhaps, one limb shorter than the other, - at all events
having some deformity or ailment causing a variation in the length
of the strides. I should guess also that this person's feet had some
marked peculiarity, since such pains had been taken to conceal the
footprints. Then the cast of the hand here encourages speculation.
Fingers long, slim, and delicate, save at the nails, where, with the
exception of the little finger, are to be found unmistakable signs
of the habit of biting the nails, - see, here are the hang-nails,
- but, strange to say, the nail of the little finger has been
spared, and suffered to grow to an unusual length. I ask myself why
this particular nail has been so favoured, and can only answer,
'because it has some peculiar use.' It is clear this is not the hand
of a manual labourer; the joints are too small, the fingers too
delicate, the texture of the skin, which is clearly visible, much too
fine - in short, wouldn't it pass anywhere for a woman's hand? Say a
woman who bit her nails. If it were really such there would be a
pair of feminine feet also to be concealed, and boards would do it
very nicely - but this is all guesswork, and must not be allowed to
affect any subsequent conclusions. If you will excuse me a few
minutes I will use the microscope a little on the sill of the east
window before we are interrupted by our friends the officers, who
will be sure to be here soon."
While Maitland was thus engaged I did all in my power to distract
Gwen's attention, as much as possible, from her father's body.
Whenever she regarded it, the same intense and set expression
overspread her countenance as that which at first had alarmed me.
I was glad when Maitland returned from the window and began mixing
some of the chemicals I had brought him, for Gwen invariably
followed all his movements, as if her very existence depended upon
her letting nothing escape her. Maitland, who had asked me for a
prescription blank, now dipped it in the chemicals he had mixed
and, this accomplished, put the paper in his microscope box to dry.
"I have something here," ,he said, "which I desire to photograph
quite as much as this room and some of its larger objects," and he
pinned a tiny, crumpled mass against the wall, and made an exposure
of it in that condition. "Do you know what this is?" he said, as
he carefully smoothed it out for another picture. "I haven't the
slightest idea," I said. "It is plain enough under the microscope,"
he continued, placing it upon the slide, and adjusting the focus.
"Would you like to examine it, Miss Darrow?" Gwen had scarcely put
her eye to the instrument before she exclaimed: "Why, it's a piece
of thin outside bark from a twig of alder." Maitland's face was a
study... "Would you mind telling me," he said deliberately, "how
you found that out so quickly?" She hesitated a moment, and then
said methodically, pointing toward the water, "I know the alder well
- our boat is moored near a clump of them." "You are a keen
observer," he replied, as he took the prepared paper from his box
and spread the film of bark upon it to take a blue print of it.
"There is one other object upon the sill which, unfortunately, I
cannot take away with me," he continued, "but shall have to content
myself with photographing. I refer to a sinuous line made in the
paint, while green, and looking as if a short piece of rope, or,
more properly, rubber tubing, since there is no rope-like texture
visible, had been dropped upon it, and hastily removed - but see,
here are Osborne and Allen looking for all the world as if they
were prepared to demonstrate a fourth dimension of space. Now we
shall see the suicide theory proved - to their own satisfaction, at
least. But, whatever they say, don't forget we are to keep our own
work to ourselves."
The two officers were alone. had apparently decided to work
by himself. This did not in the least surprise me, since I could
easily see that he had nothing to gain by working with these two
"We've solved the matter," was the first thing Osborne said after
passing the time of day. "Indeed?" replied Maitland in a tone which
was decidedly ambiguous; "you make it suicide, I suppose?" "That's
just what we make it," returned the other. "We hadn't much doubt of
it last night, but there were some things, such as the motive, for
example, not quite clear to us; but it is all as plain as daylight
"And what says ?" asked Maitland.
Mr. Osborne burst into a loud guffaw.
"Oho, but that's good! What says ? I say, Allen, Maitland
wants to know what 'Frenchy' says," and the pair laughed boisterously.
"It's plain enough you don't know ," he continued, addressing
Maitland. "He's tighter 'n any champagne bottle you ever saw. The
corkscrew ain't invented that '11 draw a word out of . You
saw him making notes here last night. Well, the chances are that if
this were a murder case, which it isn't, you'd see no more of M.
Godin till he bobbed up some day, perhaps on the other side of the
earth, with a pair of twisters on the culprit. He's a 'wiz,' is M.
Godin. What does he think? He knows what he thinks, and he's the
only individual on the planet that enjoys that distinction. I say,
Allen, do you pump 'Frenchy' for the gentleman's enlightenment," and
again the pair laughed long and heartily.
"Well, then," said Maitland, "since we can't have 's views
we shall have to content ourselves with those of your more confiding
selves. Let's hear all about the suicide theory."
"I think," said Osborne in an undertone, "you had better ask Miss
Darrow to withdraw for a few moments, as there are some details
likely to pain her." This suggestion was intended only for Maitland,
but the officer, used to talking in the open air, spoke so loudly
that we all overheard him. "I thank you for your consideration,"
Gwen said to him, "but I would much prefer to remain. There can be
nothing connected with this matter which I cannot bear to hear, or
should not know. Pray proceed."
Osborne, anxious to narrate his triumph, needed no further urging.
"We felt sure," he began, "that it was a case of suicide, but were
perplexed to know why Mr. Darrow should wish to make it appear a
murder. Of course, we thought he might wish to spare his daughter
the shame such an act would visit upon her, but when this was
exchanged for the horrible notoriety of murder, the motive didn't
seem quite sufficient, so we looked for a stronger one - and found
it." "Ah! you are getting interesting," Maitland observed.
Osborne cast a furtive glance at Gwen, and then continued: "We
learned on inquiry that certain recent investments of Mr. Darrow's
had turned out badly. In addition to this he had been dealing
somewhat extensively in certain electric and sugar stocks, and when
the recent financial crash came, he found himself unable to cover
his margins, and was so swept clean of everything. Nor is this all;
he had lost a considerable sum of money in yet another way - just
how my informant would not disclose - and all of these losses
combined made his speedy failure inevitable. Under such conditions
many another man has committed suicide, unable to face financial
ruin. But this man had a daughter to consider, and, as I have
already said, he would wish to spare her the disgrace which the
taking of his own life would visit upon her, and, more than all,
would desire that she should not be left penniless. The creditors
would make away with his estate, and his daughter be left a beggar.
We could see but one way of his preventing this, and that was to
insure his life in his daughter's favour. We instituted inquiries
at the insurance offices, and found that less than a month ago he
had taken out policies in various companies aggregating nearly
fifty thousand dollars, whereas, up to that time, he had been
carrying only two thousand dollars insurance. Why this sudden and
tremendous increase? Clearly to provide for his daughter after
his act should have deprived her of his own watchful care. And now
we can plainly see why he wished his suicide to pass for murder.
He had been insured but a month, and immediate ruin stared him in
the face. His death must be consummated at once, and yet, by
our law, a man who takes his life before the payment of his second
annual insurance premium relieves the company issuing his policy of
all liability thereunder, and robs his beneficiary of the fund
intended for her. Here, then, is a sufficient motive, and nothing
more is required to make the whole case perfectly clear. Of course,
it would be a little more complete if we could find the weapon, but
even without it, there can be no doubt, in the light of our work,
that John Darrow took his own life with the intentions, and for the
purposes, I have already set forth."
"Upon my soul, gentlemen," exclaimed Maitland, "you have reasoned
that out well! Did you carefully read the copies of the various
policies when interrogating the companies insuring Mr. Darrow?"
"Hardly," Osborne replied. "We learned from the officials all we
needed to know, and didn't waste any time in gratifying idle
curiosity." A long-drawn "hm-m" was the only reply Maitland
vouchsafed to this. "We regret," said Osborne, addressing Gwen,
"that our duty, which has compelled us to establish the truth in
this matter, has been the means of depriving you of the insurance
money which your father intended for you." Gwen bowed, and a slight
enigmatical smile played for a moment about her lips, but she made
no other reply, and, as neither Maitland nor I encouraged
conversation, the two officers wished us a good-morning, and left
the house without further remark.
"I wish to ask you a few questions," Maitland said to Gwen as soon
as the door had closed behind Osborne and his companion, 'and I beg
you will remember that in doing so, however personal my inquiries
may seem, they have but one object in view - the solution of this
mystery." "I have already had good proof of your singleness of
purpose," she replied. "Only too gladly will I give you any
information in my possession. Until this assassin is found, and my
father's good name freed from the obloquy which has been cast upon
it, my existence will be but a blank, - yes, worse, it will be an
unceasing torment; for I know my father's spirit - if the dead have
power to return to this earth - can never rest with this weight of
shame upon it." As she spoke these words the depth of grief she had
hitherto so well concealed became visible for a moment, and her whole
frame shook as the expression of her emotion reacted upon her. The
next instant she regained her old composure, and said calmly:
"You see I have every reason to shed whatever light I can upon this
"Please, then, to answer my questions methodically, and do not permit
yourself to reason why I have asked them. What was your father's age?"
"Did he drink?"
"Did he play cards?"
"Yes, and several other games."
"Was he as fond of them as of croquet?"
"No; nothing pleased him as croquet did - nothing, unless it were
"Hum! Do you play chess?"
"Yes; I played a good deal with father."
"What kind of a game did he play?"
"I do not understand you. He played a good game; my father did not
enjoy doing anything that he could not do well."
"I mean to ask if his positions were steadily sustained - or if,
on the other hand, his manoeuvres were swift, and what you might
"I think you would call them brilliant."
"Hum! How old are you?"
"Tell me your relations with your father."
"We were most constant companions. My mother - she and my father
- they were not altogether companionable - in short, they were
ill-mated, and, being wise enough to find it out, and having no
desire to longer embitter each other's lives, they agreed to
separate when I was only four. They parted without the slightest
ill-feeling, and I remained with father. He was very fond of me,
and would permit no one else to teach me. At seven I was drawing
and painting under his guidance. At eight the violin was put into
my hands and my studies in voice began. In the meantime father was
most careful not to neglect my physical training; he taught me the
use of Indian clubs, and how to walk easily. At eight I could
walk four miles an hour without fatigue. The neighbours used to
urge that I be put to school, but my father would reply - many a
time I have heard him say it - 'a child's brain is like a flower
that blossoms in perceptions and goes to seed in abstractions.
Correct concepts are the raw material of reason. Every desk in
your school is an intellectual loom which is expected to weave a
sound fabric out of rotten raw material. While your children are
wasting their fibre in memorising the antique errors of classical
thought my child is being fitted to perceive new truths for herself.'
It is needless to say his friends considered these views altogether
too radical. But for all that I was never sent to school. My
father's library was always at my disposal, and I was taught how
to use it. We were constantly together, and grew so into each
other's lives that " - but her voice failed her, and her eyes
moistened. Maitland, though he apparently did not notice her
emotion, so busy was he in making notes, quickly put a question
which diverted her attention.
"Your father seemed last night to have a presentiment of some
impending calamity. Was this a common experience?"
"Of late, yes. He has told me some six or seven times of dreaming
the same dreams - a dream in which some assassin struck him out of
the darkness." "Did you at any of these times notice anything
which might now lead you to believe this fancied repetition was the
result of any mental malady?"
"Was his description of the dreams always the same?"
"No; never were they twice alike, save in the one particular of the
"Hum!, Did the impression of these dreams remain long with him?"
"He never recovered from it, and each dream only accentuated his
assurance that the experience was prophetic. When once I tried to
dissuade him from this view, he said to me: 'Gwen, it is useless;
I am making no mistake. When I am gone you will know why I am now
so sure - I cannot tell you now, it would only ' - here he stopped
short, and, turning abruptly to me, said with a fierceness entirely
alien to his disposition: 'Hatred is foreign to my nature, but I
hate that man with a perfect hell of loathing! Have I been a kind
father to you, Gwen? If so, promise me ' - and he seized me by the
wrist - ' promise me if I'm murdered - I may as well say when I'm
murdered - you will look upon the man who brings my assassin to
justice - the thought that he may escape is damning - as your dearest
friend on earth! You will deny him nothing. You will learn later
that I have taken care to reward him. My child, you will owe this
man a debt you can never repay, for he will have enabled your
father's soul to find repose. I dreamed last night that I came back
from the dead, and heard my avenger ask you to be his wife. You
refused, and at your ingratitude my restless soul returned to torment
everlasting. Swear to me, Gwen, that you'll deny him nothing,
nothing, nothing!' I promised him, and he seemed much reassured.
'I am satisfied,' he said, 'and now can die in peace, for you are
an anomaly, Gwen, - a woman who fully knows the nature of a covenant,'
and he put his arm about me, and drew me to him. His fierceness
had subsided as quickly as it had appeared, and he was now all
Maitland, who appeared somewhat agitated by her recital, said to
her: "After the exaction of such a promise you have, of course, no
doubt that your father was the victim of a mental malady - at least,
at such times as those of which you speak?"
Gwen replied deliberately: "Indeed, I have grave doubts. My father
was possessed by a strange conviction, but I never saw anything
which impressed me as indicating an unsound mind. I am, of course,
scarcely fitted to judge in such matters."
Maitland's face darkened as he asked: "You would not have me infer
that you would consider your promise in any sense binding?"
"And why not?" she ejaculated in astonishment.
"Because," he continued, "the request is so unnatural as to be in
itself sufficient evidence that it was not made by a man in his
"I cannot agree with you as to my father's condition," Gwen replied
firmly; " yet you may be right; I only know that I, at least, was
in my right mind, and that I promised. If it cost me my life to
keep that pledge, I shall not hesitate a moment. Have you forgotten
that my father's last words were, 'remember your promise'?" She
glanced up at Maitland as she said this, and started a little as she
saw the expression of pain upon his face. "I seem to you foolishly
deluded," she said apologetically; "and you are displeased to see
that my purpose is not shaken. Think of all my father was to me,
and then ask yourself if I could betray his faith. The contemplation
of the subject is painful at best; its realisation may, from the
standpoint of a sensitive woman, be fraught with unspeakable horror,
- I dare not think of it! May we not change the subject?"
For a long time Maitland did not speak, and I forbore to break the
silence. At last he said: "Let us hope, if the supposed assassin
be taken, the discovery may be made by someone worthy the name of
man - someone who will not permit you to sacrifice either yourself
or your money." Gwen glanced at him quickly, for his voice was
strangely heavy and inelastic, and an unmistakable gloom had settled
upon him. I thought she was a little startled, and I was considering
if I had not better call her aside and explain that he was subject
to these moods, when he continued, apparently unaware of the
impression he had made: "Do you realise how strong a case of suicide
the authorities have made out? Like all of their work it has weak
places. We must search these in order to overthrow their conclusion.
The insurance policies they were 'too busy' to read we must peruse.
Then, judging from your story, there seems little doubt that your
father has left some explanation of affairs hitherto not confided to
you - some document which he has reserved for your perusal after his
death. No time should be lost in settling this question. The papers
may be here, or in the hands of his attorney. Let us search here
"His private papers," Gwen said, rising to lead the way, "are in his
desk in the study."
"One moment, please," Maitland interrupted, calling her back, "I
have something I have been trying to ask you for the last hour, but
have repeatedly put off. I believe your father's death to have
resulted from poisoning. You know the result of the post-mortem
inquest. It is necessary to make an analysis of the poison, if
there be any, and an absolutely thorough microscopic examination of
the wound. I - I regret to pain you - but to do this properly it
will be necessary to cut away the wounded portion. Have we your
permission to do so?"
For a moment Gwen did not answer. She fell upon her knees before
her father's body, and kissed the cold face passionately. For the
first time since the tragedy she found relief in tears. When she
arose a great change had come over her. She was very pale and
seized a chair for support as she replied to Maitland's question
between the convulsive sobs which she seemed powerless to check:
"I - I have bidden him good-bye. We shall but obey his command in
sparing no pains to reach the assassin. You - you have my permission
to do anything - everything - that may be - necessary to that end.
I - I know you will be as gentle - " But she could not finish her
sentence. The futility of gentleness - the realisation that her
father was forever past all need of tenderness, fell like a shroud
about her soul. The awakening I had dreaded had come. Her hand
fell from the chair, she staggered, and would have fallen to the
floor had not Maitland caught her in his arms.
THE EPISODE OF THE SEALED DOCUMENT
Father of all surveyors, Time drags his chain of rust through
every life, and only Love - unaging God of the Ages - immeasurable,
keeps his untarnished youth.
Maitland carried the unconscious girl into the study, and for some
time we busied ourselves in bringing her to herself. When this task
was accomplished we did not feel like immediately putting any further
tax upon her strength. Maitland insisted that she should rest while
he and I ransacked the desk, and, ever mindful of her promise to obey
his instructions, she yielded without remonstrance. Our search
revealed the insurance policies, and a sealed envelope bearing the
inscription: "To Miss Gwen Darrow, to be opened after the death of
John Darrow," and three newspapers with articles marked in blue
pencil. I read the first aloud. It ran as follows:
I have reason to believe an attempt will sooner or later be made
upon my life, and that the utmost cunning will be employed to lead
the authorities astray. The search for the assassin will be long,
expensive, and discouraging - just such a task as is never
successfully completed without some strong personal incentive.
This I propose to supply in advance. My death will place in my
daughter's hands a fund of fifty thousand dollars, to be held in
trust by her, and delivered, in the event of my being murdered, to
such person or persons as shall secure evidence leading to the
conviction of the murderer.
(Signed) JOHN HINTON DARROW.
I glanced at the other two papers - the marked article was the same
in each. "I wonder what your friend Osborne would say to that," I
said to Maitland.
"How old are the papers?" he replied.
"March l5th, - only a little over a month," I answered.
"Let me see them, please," he said. "Hum! All of the same date,
and each in the paid part of the paper! It is clear Mr. Darrow
inserted these singular notices himself. I will tell you what
Osborne will say when he learns of these articles. He will say
they strengthen his theory; that no sane man would publish such a
thing, except as a weak attempt to deceive the insurance companies.
As for the money all being paid to the discoverer of the assassin,
instead of to his daughter, he will simply dispose of that by
saying: 'No assassin, no reward, and the fund remains intact.' If
now, the other papers permit Miss Darrow to use the interest of this
fund while holding the principal in trust, we do not at present know
enough of this matter to successfully refute Osborne's reasoning.
This mystery seems to grow darker rather than lighter. The one
thing upon which we seem continually to get evidence is the question
of sanity. If Mr. Darrow's suspicions were directed against no one
in particular, then it is clear his dreams, and all the rest of his
fears for that matter, had a purely subjective origin, which is to
say that upon this one subject, at least, he was of unsound mind."
"I cannot think so," Gwen interrupted. "He was so rational in
"That is quite possible," I replied. "I have known people to be
monomaniacs upon the subject of water, and to go nowhere without a
glass of it in their hands. There is also a well-authenticated case
of a man who was as sane as you or I until he heard the words 'real
estate.' One day while quietly carving the meat at a dinner to
which he had invited several guests, a gentleman opposite him
inadvertently spoke the fatal words, when, without a word of warning,
he sprang at him across the table, using the carving-knife with all
the fury of the most violent maniac; and yet, under all other
conditions, he was perfectly rational."
"If, on the other hand," said Maitland, continuing his remarks as if
unaware of our interruption, "Mr. Darrow's suspicions had any
foundation in fact, it is almost certain they must have been directed
against some specific person or persons. If so, why did he not name
them ? - but, stay - how do we know that he did not? Let us proceed
with our examination of the papers," and he began perusing the
insurance policies. Neither Gwen nor I spoke till he had finished
and thrown them down, when we both turned expectantly toward him.
"All in Osborne's favour so far," he said. "Principal to be held in
trust by Miss Darrow under the terms of a will which we have yet to
find; the income, until the discharge of the trust, to go to Miss
Darrow. Now for this," and he passed Gwen the sealed envelope
addressed to her.
She broke the seal with much agitation. "Shall I read it aloud?"
We signified our desire to hear it, and she read as follows:
MY DEAR GWEN:
My forebodings have seemed to you strange and uncalled for, but when
this comes to your hand you will know whether or not they were
groundless. Of one episode in my career which shook the structure
of my being to its foundation stone, you have been carefully kept
in ignorance. It is necessary that you should know it when I am
gone, and I have accordingly committed it to this paper, which will
then fall into your hands. My early life, until two years after I
married your mother, was spent in India, the adult portion thereof
being devoted to the service of the East India Company. I had charge
of a department in their depot at Bombay. You have seen Naples.
Add to the beauties of that city the interesting and motley
population of Cairo and you can form some idea of the attractions of
Bombay. I was very happy there until the occurrence of the event I
am about to narrate.
One morning, my duties calling me to one of the wharves, my attention
was attracted by a young girl dancing upon the flags by the water's
edge. The ordinary bayadere is so common an object in India as to
attract but little notice from anyone of refined tastes, but this
girl, judging from the chaste beauty of her movements, was of a very
different type. As my curiosity drew me nearer to her she turned her
face toward me, and in that instant I knew my hour had come.
Though many years her senior she was still my first love, - the one
great passion of my life.
I do not attempt to describe her ineffable loveliness, for, like the
beauty of a flower, it was incapable of analysis. Nothing that I
could write would give you any adequate idea of this girl's seraphic
face, for she was like unto no one you have ever seen in this cold
Western world. I watched in a wild, nervous transport, I know not
how long - time and space had no part in this new ecstasy of mine!
I could think of nothing, do nothing - only feel, - feel the hot
blood deluge my brain only to fall back in scalding torrents upon
my heart with a pain that was exquisite pleasure.
Suddenly she changed her step and executed a quick backward movement
toward the water, stopping just as her heels touched the curb at the
edge of the wharf; then forward, and again a quick return to the
backward movement, but this time she mistook the distance, her heels
struck the curb forcibly, and she was precipitated backward into the
water. For a moment I stood as one petrified, unable to reason,
much less to act; then the excited voices of the crowd recalled me.
They had thrown a rope into the water and were waiting for her to
come to the surface and grasp it. The wall from which she had fallen
must have been at least fifteen feet above the water, which was
littered with broken spars, pieces of timber, and other odd bits of
wood. It seemed as if she would never come to the surface, and when
at length she did, she did not attempt to seize the rope thrown to
her, but sank without a movement. The truth flashed upon me in an
instant. She had struck her head against some of the floating drift
and was unconscious! Something must be done at once. I seized the
rope and sprang in after her, taking good care to avoid obstructions,
and although, as you know, I never learned to swim, I succeeded in
reaching her, and we were drawn up together. I bore her in my arms
into one of the storerooms close by, and, laying her upon a bale of
cotton, used such restoratives as could be quickly procured.
I was kneeling by her, my arm under her neck, in the act of raising
her head, when she opened her eyes, and fastened them, full of
wonderment, upon my face. A moment more, her memory returning to her,
she made a little movement, as if to free herself. I was too excited
then to heed it, and continued to support her head. She did not
repeat the movement, but half closed her eyes and leaned back
resignedly against my arm. If, I thought, these few minutes could
be expanded into an eternity, it would be my idea of heaven. She
was recovering rapidly now and soon raised herself into a sitting
posture, saying, in very good English, "I think I can stand now,
Sahib." I gave her my arm and assisted her to her feet. Her
hand closed upon my sleeve as if to see how wet it was, and glancing
at my dripping garments, she said simply: "You have been in the
water, Sahib, and it is to you I owe my life. I shall never forget
your kindness. She raised her eyes to my face and met my gaze for
a moment, as she spoke. We are told that the eye is incapable of
any expression save that lent it by the lids and brow, - that the
eyeball itself, apart from its direction, and the changes of the
pupil resulting from variations in the intensity of light, can
carry no message whatsoever. This may be so, but, without any
noticeable movement of the eyes that met mine, I learned with
ineffable delight that this young girl's soul and mine were threaded
upon the same cord of destiny. My emotion so overpowered me that
I could not speak, and when my self-possession returned the young
girl had vanished.
>From the height of bliss I now plunged into the abyss of despair.
I had let her go without a word. I did not even know her name. I
had caught her to myself from the ocean only to suffer her to drown
herself among the half-million inhabitants of Bombay. What must she
think of me? I asked the wharfinger if he knew her, but he had never
seen her before. All my other inquiries proved equally fruitless.
I wondered if she knew that I loved her, but hardiy dared to hope
she had been able to correctly interpret my boorish conduct. I
could think of but one thing to do. If I did not know her name,
neither did she know mine, and so if she desired a further
acquaintance, she, like myself, must rely upon a chance meeting.
If she had detected my admiration for her she must know that I too
would strive to meet her again. Where would she be most likely to
expect me to look for her? Clearly at the same place we had met
before, and at the same time of day. She might naturally think my
duties called me there daily at that hour. I determined to be there
at the same time the next day.
I arrived to find her there before me, anxiously peering at the