Part 2 out of 4
passers-by. She was certainly looking for me, - there was ecstasy
in the thought!
It is not necessary, my dear child, that I should describe the
details of our love-making, for my present purpose is not merely to
interest you, but rather to acquaint you with certain occurrences
which I now deem it wise you should know. Time only intensified our
love for each other, and for several months all went well. One
serious obstacle to our union presented itself, - that of caste.
Her people, Lona said, would never permit her to marry outside her
own station in life, besides which there was another ground upon
which we might be equally sure of their opposition. They had already
chosen for her and she was betrothed to Rama Ragobah. It is of this
man that I have chiefly to speak. By birth he was of the same Vaisya
caste as Lona. Early in life his lot had fallen among fakirs and
he had acquired all their secrets. This did not satisfy his
ambitions, for he wished to be numbered among the rishis or adepts,
and subjected himself to the most horrible asceticism to qualify
himself for adeptship. His indifference to physical pain was truly
marvellous. He had rolled his naked body to the Ganges over
hundreds of miles of burning sands! He had held his hands clinched
until the nails had worn through the palm and out at the back of the
hand. He had at one time maintained for weeks a slow fire upon the
top of his head, keeping the skin burned to the skull.
When he came wooing Lona, his rigid asceticism had much relaxed, but
he would still seek to amuse her by driving knives into his body
until she would sicken at the blood, a condition of affairs which,
she said, afforded him great enjoyment. Ragobah was a man of
gigantic build and immense physical strength. His features were
heavy and forbidding. You are familiar with pictures of Nana Sahib.
If I had not known this fiend to have died while beset in a swamp,
I should have mistaken Ragobah for him. It was to such a being that
Lona was betrothed in spite of the loathing her parents knew she
felt for him. She told me all this one night at our accustomed
tryst on Malabar Hill. We had chosen to meet here on account of
the beauty of the place and the seclusion it offered. There, on
bright moonlit nights, with the sea and the city below me, the
"Tower of Silence" in the Parsees' burial plot ablaze with reflected
glory, the majestic banyan over me rustling gently in the soft sea
breeze, while Lona nestled close beside me, - the exquisite perfume
of the luxuriant garden less welcome than the delicious fragrance
of her breath, - hours fraught with years of bliss would pass as if
but pulse-beats. In the world of love the heart is the only true
timepiece. On one or two occasions Lona had thought she had been
followed when coming to meet me, and she began to conceive a strange
dislike for a little cavelike recess in the rocks just back of the
tree by which we sat. I tried on one occasion to reassure her by
telling her it was so shallow that, with the moonlight streaming
into it, I could see clear to the back wall, and arose to enter it
to convince her there was no one there, but she clung to me in
terror, saying: "Don't go! Don't leave me! I was foolish to
mention it. I cannot account for my fear, - and yet, do you know,"
she continued in a low, frightened tone, "there is a shaft at the
back of the cave that has, they say, no bottom, but goes down,
- down, - down, - hundreds of feet to the sea?" It is useless,
as you know only too well, to strive to reason down a presentiment,
and so, instead, I sought to make use of her fear in the
accomplishment of my dearest wish. "Why need we," I urged, "come
here; why longer continue these clandestine meetings? Let us be
brave, darling, in our loves. Your people have chosen another
husband for you, - my people another wife for me; but we are both
quite able to choose for ourselves. We have done so, and it is
our most sacred duty to adhere to and consummate that choice. Let
us, I beseech you, do so without further delay. Dearest, meet me
here to-morrow night prepared for a journey. We will take the
late train for Matheron Station, where I have friends who can be
trusted. We will be married immediately upon our arrival, and
can communicate by post with our respective families, remaining
away from them until they are glad to welcome us with open arms."
She raised some few objections to my plan and expressed some
misgivings, but she loved me and I was able to reason away the
one and kiss away the other, and with our souls upon our lips we
parted for the night. The last thing I had said to her, - I
remember it as if it all happened yesterday, - was: "Think of
it, dear heart, there will be no more such partings between us
after to-night!" and she had replied by silently nestling closer
to me and twining her arms about my neck. And so we parted on
that never-to-be-forgotten night more than a score of years
The twenty-four hours intervening between this parting and our
next meeting may be passed over in silence, as nothing occurred
during that time at all essential to the purpose this narrative
subserves. The longed-for time came at last and, with a depth of
happiness I had never known before - a peace passing all
understanding - I set out for Malabar Hill. The night was perfect
and the moonlight so bright I could distinctly see the air-roots
of our trysting tree when more than a quarter of a mile away. I
thought at the time how this tree, with its crown of luxuriant
foliage and its writhing roots, might well pass for some gigantic
Medusa-head with its streaming serpent-hair. As I neared the tree
Lona stepped from behind it and awaited my approach. She was even
more impatient than I, I thought, and my heart beat more wildly
than ever. "Sweet saint, have I kept you waiting?" I asked, as
I came within speaking distance of her. She stood motionless
against the tree and apparently did not hear me. I waited till I
was within ten feet of her and repeated the question, but, although
she fixed her unfathomable eyes full upon mine, she made no reply,
and gave no evidence of having heard me. I stood as if petrified.
A nameless dread was settling upon me, paralysing my faculties.
She had always before sprung forward at sight of me and thrown
herself with a bewitching little pirouette into my arms, now she
stood coldly aloof, silent and motionless, on this, our wedding
night! I waited for some word of explanation, but none came. The
suspense became unbearable - I could endure it no longer!
"For God's sake, what has happened? "I cried, rushing forward to
seize her in my arms. She raised her right hand above her head
and, as I had almost reached her, threw something full in my face!
Instinctively I struck at it with my walking-stick, and it fell
in the grass at my feet, - it was a young Indian cobra - Naja
tripudians - a serpent of the deadliest sort. I did not pause to
reason how this sweet angel had been so quickly changed into a
venomous fiend, although the thought that somehow she had been led
to think me false to her, and that this act was the swift vengeance
of her hot Eastern blood, flashed momentarily through my mind, - all
that could be explained as soon as I had her nestling in my arms.
I reached forward to embrace her, but she struck me in the face and
fled! For an instant my heart stood still. It seemed to me it
would never start, but it soon began to throb again like a thing
of lead, and the blood it pumped was cold, for the winter had
closed in upon it. The elasticity of my life, that ineffable
resiliency of the soul which makes us more than beasts of burden,
was gone forever. An automaton, informed only with the material
life, remained, - the spirit followed that fleeting figure down
the hill. More than twenty years have passed and still the
unrewarded chase continues!
But it is to facts I have to call your attention, rather than to
their effects. A flutter of white muslin in the moonlit distance
was all that was visible of the retreating girl when I started
mechanically, and without any particular purpose in view, in pursuit
of her. My path lay by the banyan tree under which we had so often
sat, but every air-root seemed changed to a writhing serpent. As I
threaded my way among them, a man stepped from behind the trunk
and disputed my passage. His gigantic form was silhouetted against
the mass of rock forming the entrance to the little cave. The bright
moonlight did what it could to illumine that sinister face. It was
Rama Ragobah! For fully a minute we stood silently face to face,
each expecting the assault of the other. It was Ragobah who spoke
first. "She is mine, body and soul; and the English cur may find
a mate in his own kennel!" He bent toward me and hissed these words
in my very face. His hot breath seemed to poison me. It made me
beside myself. I knew he meant to take advantage of his physical
superiority and attack me, by the narrow watch he kept upon the
heavy walking-stick I still carried in my right hand. He had
expected I would attempt to strike with this, but my constant
practice at boxing had made my fists the more natural weapon. I
was so enraged I did not notice he was too close to use my stick to
advantage. I simply acted without any thought whatever. His
attitude was such, as he hissed his venom into my face, as to enable
me to give him a powerful "upper cut" under the jaw. This, as I
was so much lighter than he, was the most effective blow I could
deliver; yet, although it took him off his feet, it did not disable
him. I had not succeeded in placing it as I had intended, and it
had only the effect of rendering him demoniacal. In an instant he
was again upon his feet, and unsheathing a long knife. I knew it
meant death for me if he were able to close with me. It was useless
for me to call for help, for in those days this part of Malabar Hill
was as deserted as a wilderness. Now, the very spot on which we
stood is highly cultivated, and forms a part of the garden of the
Blasehek villa. There, early in the eighties, as the guest of the
hospitable Herr Blasehek, Professor Ernst Haeckel botanised a week,
on his way to Ceylon. Now, in response to a cry from his intended
victim, an assassin might be frustrated by assistance from a dozen
bungalows, but at the time of which I write, the victim, if he were
wise, saved his breath for the struggle which he knew he must make
Ragobah paused, and coolly bared his right arm to the elbow. There
was a studied deliberation in his movements, which said only too
plainly: "There is no hurry in killing you, for you cannot escape."
I grasped my stick firmly as my only hope, and awaited his onslaught.
My early military drill now stood me in good stead, and to it I owe
my life. Without the knowledge which I had derived from the use of
the broadsword, I should have been all but certain to have attempted
to strike him a downward blow upon the head. This is just what he
was expecting, and it would have cost me my life. He would have had
only to throw up his left arm to catch the blow, while with his right
hand he plunged the knife into my heart. My experience had taught
me how much easier it is to protect one's self from a cutting blow
than from a thrust, and I determined to adopt this latter means of
assault. Ragobah advanced upon me slowly, much as a cat steals upon
an unsuspecting bird. I raised my stick as if to strike him, and he
instinctively threw up his left arm, and advanced upon me. My
opportunity had come; I lowered the point of my cane to the level
of his face, and made a vigorous lunge forward, throwing my whole
weight upon the thrust. As nearly as I could tell, the point of my
stick caught him in the socket of the left eye, just as he sprang
forward, and hurled him backward, blinded and stupefied. Before
he had recovered sufficiently to protect himself, I dealt him a blow
upon the head that brought him quickly to the earth. Without
stopping to ascertain whether or not I had killed him, I fled
precipitately to my lodgings, hastily packed my belongings, and set
out for Matheron Station by the same train I had so fondly believed
would convey Lona and me to our nuptial altar. Words cannot describe
the suffering I endured upon that journey. For the first time since
my terrible desertion I had an opportunity to think, and I did think,
if the pulse of an overwhelming pain, perpetually recurring like the
beat of a loaded wheel, can be called thought. Although there is
no insanity in our family nearer than a great-uncle, I marvel that
I retained my wits under this terrible blow. I seriously
contemplated suicide, and probably should have taken my life had not
my mental condition gradually undergone a change. I was no longer
conscious of suffering, nor of a desire to end my life. I was
simply indifferent. It was all one to me whether I lived or died.
The power of loving or caring for anything or anybody had entirely
left me, and when I would reflect how utterly indifferent I was even
to my own father and mother, I would regard myself as an unnatural
monster. I tried to conceal my lack of affection by a greater
attention to their wishes, and it was in this way that I yielded,
without remonstrance, to those same views regarding my marriage,
to which, but a little while before, I had made such strenuous
objections as to quite enrage my father. I was an only child, and
(as often happens in such cases) my father never could be brought
to realise that I had many years since attained my majority. It
had been his wish, ever since my boyhood, that I should marry your
mother, and he made use, when I was nearly forty, of the selfsame
insistent and coercive methods with which he had sought to subdue my
will when I was but twenty, and at last he attained his end. I had
learned from friends in Bombay that not only had Rama Ragobah
recovered from the blows I had given him, but that, shortly after my
encounter with him, he had married Lona, she whom I had loved, God
only knows how madly! It was all one to me now whether I was
married or single, living or dead. So it was all arranged. I
myself told the lady that, so far as I then understood my feelings,
I had no affection for any person on earth; but it seemed only to
pique her, and I think she determined then and there to make herself
an exception to this universal rule. This is how I came to marry
your mother. There was not the slightest community of thought,
sentiment, or interest between us. The things I liked did not
interest her; what she liked bored me; yet she was pre-eminently a
sensible woman, and when she learned the real state of affairs was
the first to suggest a separation, which was effected. We parted
with the kindliest feelings, and, as you know, remained fast friends
up to her
It was nearly a year after the affair on Malabar Hill before I had
the heart to return with your mother to Bombay. I had thought all
emotion forever dead within me, but, ah! how little do we understand
ourselves. Twelve months had not passed, and already I was conscious
of a vague ache - a feeling that something, I scarcely knew what, had
gone wrong, so terribly wrong! I told myself that I was now married,
and had a duty both to my wife and society, and I tried hard to
ignore the ache, on the one hand, and not to permit myself to define
and analyse it on the other. But a man does not have to understand
anatomy in order to break his heart, and so my longing defined itself
even by itself. The old fire, built on a virgin hearth, was far
from out. Society had heaped a mouthful of conventional ashes upon
it, but they had served only to preserve it. From the fiat of the
human heart there is no court of appeal.
One night, to my utter amazement, I received a letter from Lona which
you will find filed away among my other valuable documents.
It was addressed in her own quaint little hand, and I trembled
violently as I opened the envelope. It was but a brief note, and
ran as follows:
"I am dying, and have much to explain before I go. Be generous,
and do not think too harshly of me. Suspend your judgment until
I have spoken. You must come by stealth, or you will not be
permitted to see me. Follow my directions carefully and you will
have no trouble in reaching me. Go at once to the cave on Malabar
Hill, whistle thrice, and one will appear who will conduct you
safely to me. Follow him, and whatever happens, make no noise.
Do not delay - I can last but little longer.
I did not even pause to re-read the letter, or to ask why it was
necessary to follow such singular directions in order to be led to
her. I simply knew she had written to me; that she was dying; that
she wanted me; that was all, but it was enough. Dazed, filled with
a strange mixture of dread and yearning, I hurried to the cave. It
was already night when I reached it - just such a moonlit night as
that on which, nearly a year before, Lona and I had planned our
elopement; and now that heart, which then had beaten so wildly
against mine, was slowly throbbing itself into eternal silence,
- and I - I had been more than dead ever since.
I looked about on all sides, but no human being was visible. I
whistled thrice, but no sound came in response. Again I whistled,
with the same result. Where was my guide? Perhaps he was in the
cave and had not heard me. I entered it to see, but had barely
passed the narrow portal when a voice said close behind me: "Did
you whistle, Sahib?" The suddenness, the strangeness of this
uncanny appearance, so close to me that I felt the breath of the
words upon my neck, sent a chill over me. I shall never forget that
feeling! Many times since then have I dreamt of a hand that struck
me from out the darkness, while the same unspeakable dread froze up
my life, until, by repetition, it has sunk deep into my soul with
the weight of a positive conviction. I know, as I now write, that
this will be my end, and his will be the hand that strikes. The
fibre of our lives is twisted in a certain way, and each has its own
fixed mode of unravelling, - this will be mine.
When I had recovered from the first momentary shock I turned and
looked behind me. There, close upon me, with his huge form blocking
the narrow entrance, stood Rama Ragobah, my rival, his face hideous
with malignant triumph! I was trapped, and that, too, by a man whom
my hatred, could it have worked its will, would have plunged into the
uttermost hell of torment. I felt sure my hour had come, but my
assassin should not have the satisfaction of thinking I feared him.
I did not permit myself to betray the slightest concern as to my
position - indeed, after the shock of the first surprise, I did not
care so very much what fate awaited me. Why should I? Had I not
seriously thought of taking my own life? Was it not clear now that
Lona, whose own handwriting had decoyed me, had most basely
betrayed me into her husband's hands? If I had wished to end my
own life before, surely now, death, at the hands of another, was no
very terrible thing. Could I have dragged that other down with me,
I would have rejoiced at the prospect!
Ragobah broke the silence. "You have left your stick this time, I
see," he said, as he unsheathed the long knife I had once before
escaped, and ostentatiously felt its edge as if he were about to
shave with it.
"You were in haste, Sahib, when you left me last time, or I should
not now have the pleasure of this interview. Be assured I shall do
my work more thoroughly this time. Behind you there is a hole
partly filled with water. If you drop a stone into this well, it
is several seconds before you hear the splash, and there is a saying
hereabouts that it is bottomless. I am curious to know if this be
true, and I am going to send you to see. Of course, if the story is
well founded, I shall not expect you to come back. That would be
All this was said with a refined sarcasm which maddened me, and, as
he concluded, he began to edge stealthily toward me. So strong is
the instinct of self-preservation within us that I doubt not a
would-be suicide, caught in the act of hanging himself, would
struggle madly for his life were someone else to forcibly adjust the
noose about his neck. At all events, I found myself unwilling, at
the last moment, to have someone else launch me into eternity and,
as I wished to gain time to think what I should do to escape, I
said to him:
"Why do you bear me such malice? Can you not see that any injury I
may have done you was purely in self-defence? You sought the quarrel,
and I took the only means at hand to protect myself. I did not, as
you know, seek to kill you, a thing I could easily have done, but
was content merely to make good my escape. I -"
"Bah!" he said, interrupting me savagely. "That has nothing to do
with it. Had you only pounded my head you might live, but you have
pounded my heart! It is for that I hate you, and for that you die!"
"What have I done?" I asked.
"What have you done?" he roared, furious with rage. "I will tell
you. You have by magic possessed the mind of my wife. Your name,
your cursed name is ever upon her lips! My entreaties, my
supplications are answered by nothing else. Even in her sleep she
starts up and calls for you. You have cast a spell upon her. Day
by day she droops and withers like a lotus-flower whose root is
severed; yet ever and always, is your cursed name upon her lips,
goading me to madness, until at last I have registered a sacred oath
to kill you, and remove the accursed spell you have thrown upon her."
Had he advanced upon me at this moment he would have found me as
helpless as a child, so overcome was I by the sudden joy which seized
upon me, and seemed to turn my melancholy inside out. Those words of
hatred had been as a torch illumining the gloom of my despair, for
they had shown me that my existence was not altogether barren and
unproductive. The life which has known the heaven of true love
cannot be called a failure. There is no wall so high, no distance
so great, no separation so complete as to defy the ineffable commerce
of two loving hearts! Lona, then, was still mine, despite all
obstacles. What a change this knowledge made! In an instant life
became an inexpressible benefaction, for it permitted me to realise
I was beloved, - and death was dowered with a new horror - the fear
that I should cease to know it.
I was roughly aroused from my reflections by Rama Ragobah.
"Come, Sahib," he said, as his thick lips curled sneeringly, "suppose
you try your spells upon me? You will never have a better chance
than now to show your power," and again he made a slight movement
toward me with the gleaming knife. The moon, low down upon the
horizon, sent a broad beam of light into the entrance of the cave
and over the head and shoulders of the Indian. Its cold light
shimmered along the blade which was now held threateningly toward
me. The crisis had been reached.
In times of such great urgency one has frequently an inspiration
- instantaneous, disconnected, unbidden - which no amount of quiet,
peaceful thought would suggest. Such extraordinary flashes are the
result of reasoning too rapid for consciousness to note. The Indian
had already laid bare his right arm to the elbow before I had
determined upon the desperate course I would pursue, and upon which
I must hazard all. As he advanced upon me I seized the large, white
sola hat from my head, and hurled it full in his face. It was a
schoolboy trick, yet upon its success depended my life.
Instinctively, and in spite of himself, Ragobah dodged, closed his
eyes, and raised his right hand, knife and all, to shield his face.
I sprang upon him at the same instant I threw my hat, and so was
able to reach him before he opened his eyes. I had well calculated
his movements, and had made no mistake. As I reached him his head
was bent downward and forward to let the hat pass over him. His
position could not have been better for my purpose. I "swung on
him," as we used to say at the gymnasium, catching him under his
protruded jaw, not far from the region of the carotid artery. The
blow was well placed, and desperation lent me phenomenal strength.
It raised him bodily off his feet, and hurled him backward out
of the cave, where he lay motionless. He was now in my power. I
seized his knife and bent over him. Words cannot express the hatred,
the loathing I felt for him then and always. Between me and the
light of my happiness he had ever stood, an impenetrable black mass.
Twice had he sought my life, yet now, when he was in my power, I
could not plunge his weapon into his heart. Would it not be just,
I thought, to drag him into the cave, and hurl him down the abyss
he had intended for me? Yes; he certainly merited it; yet I could
not do that either. I wished the snake a thousand times dead, yet
I could not stamp it into the earth.
He was beginning to slightly move now, and something must be done.
It was useless to run, for the way was long, and he could easily
overtake me. You may wonder why I did not take to the thicket,
but if you had ever had any experience with Indian jungles you
would know that, without the use of fire and axe, they are
practically impenetrable. Professor Haeckel, botanising near that
same spot, spent an hour in an endeavour to force his way into
one of these jungles, but only succeeded in advancing a few steps
into the thicket, when, stung by mosquitoes, bitten by ants, his
clothing torn from his bleeding arms and legs, wounded by the
thousands of sharp thorns of the calamus, hibiscus, euphorbias,
lantanas, and myriad other jungle plants, he was obliged, utterly
discomfited, to desist. If this were the result of his efforts,
made in broad daylight, and with deliberation, what might I expect
rushing into the thicket at night, as a refuge from a pursuer far
my superior in physical strength and fleetness of foot, and who,
moreover, had known the jungle from his boyhood? Once overtaken
by my enemy, the long knife in my hands would be of no avail
against a stick in his. I saw all this clearly, and realised that
he must be prevented from following me.
There was no time to be lost, for he was rapidly recovering
possession of his powers. I seized a large rock and hurled it with
all the force I could command upon his left foot and ankle.
Notwithstanding his immense strength his hands and feet were scarcely
larger than a woman's, and the small bones cracked like pipe-stems.
Though I had not the will to kill him, my own safety demanded that
I should maim him as the only other means of making good my escape.
As the rock crushed his foot the pain seemed to bring him immediately
into full possession of his faculties, and he roared like an enraged
bull. I turned and looked back as I beat a hasty retreat down the
hill. He had seized one of the air-roots of the banyan tree, and
raised himself upon his right leg. The expression of his face as
the moonlight fell upon it was something never to be forgotten. It
riveted me to the spot with the fascination of horror. He shook his
fist at me fiercely, as he shrieked from the back of his throat:
"You infidel cur! You may as well try to brush away the Himalyas
with a silk handkerchief as to escape the wrath of Rama Ragobah.
Go! Bury yourself in seclusion at the farthermost corner of the
earth, and on one night Ragobah and the darkness shall be with you!"
These were the last words this fiend incarnate ever spoke to me, but
I know they are prophetic, and that he will keep his oath.
The next day I learned that Lona was dead. She had died with my
name upon her lips, and her secret - the explanation of her strange
conduct on that night - died with her. I shall never know it.
Bitterly did I repent my inability to reach her. The thought that
she had waited in vain for me, that with her last breath she had
called upon me, and I had answered not, was unendurable torture,
and I fled India and came to America in the futile endeavour to
forget it all. Out of my black past there shone but one bright star
- her love! All these long years have I oriented my soul by that
sweet, unforgettable radiance, prizing it above a galaxy of lesser
There is little more to be said. I shall meet death as I have
stated - I am sure of it - and no man will see the blow given.
Remember, as I loved that Indian maiden with a passion which death
has not chilled, so I loathe my rival with a hatred infinite and
all-consuming; for, somehow, I know that demon crushed out the life
of my fragile lotus-flower. He will work his will upon me, but if
his cunning enable him to escape the gallows, my soul, if there be
a conscious hereafter, will never rest in peace. Remember this, my
dear child, and your promise, that God may bless you even as I
It was some time after Gwen had finished this interesting document
before any of us spoke. The narrative, and the peculiar
circumstances under which it had been read, deeply impressed us.
At length Maitland said in a subdued voice, as if he feared to
break some spell:
"The Indian girl's letter; let us find that, and also the will."
Gwen went to the drawer in which her father kept his private papers,
and soon produced them both. Maitland glanced hastily at the
letter, and said: "You have already heard its contents"; then turning
to Gwen, he said: "I will keep it with your permission. Now for the
will." It was handed to him, and his face fell as he read it. In a
moment he turned to us, and said: "The interest on the insurance
money is to go to Miss Darrow, the entire principal to be held in
trust and paid to the person bringing the assassin to justice, unless
said person shall wed Miss Darrow, in which case half of the fund
shall go to the husband, and the other half to the wife in her own
right. The balance of the estate, which, by the way, is considerable,
despite the reports given to Osborne, is to go to Miss Darrow. This
is all the will contains having any bearing upon the case in hand.
Let us proceed with the rest of the papers." We made a long and
diligent search, but nothing of importance came to light. When we
had finished Maitland said:
"Our friend Osborne would say the document we have just perused made
strongly for his theory, and was simply another fabrication to blind
the eyes of the insurance company. That's what comes of wedding
one's self to a theory founded on imperfect data."
"And what do you think?" Gwen inquired.
"That Rama Ragobah has small hands and feet," he replied. "That his
left foot has met with an injury, and is probably deformed; that most
likely he is lame in the left leg; that he had the motive for which
we have been looking; that he may or may not have the habit of biting
his nails; that he is crafty, and that if he were to do murder it is
almost certain his methods would be novel and surprising, as well as
extremely difficult to fathom - in short, that suspicion points
unmistakably to Rama Ragobah. That is easily said, but to bring the
deed home to him is quite another thing. I shall analyse the poison
of the wound and microscopically examine the nature of the abrasion
this afternoon. To-night I take the midnight train for New York.
To-morrow I shall sail for Bombay, via London and the Continent. I
will keep you informed of my address. While I am away I would ask
that you close the house here, leaving everything just as it is now
dismiss the servants, and take up your abode with the Doctor and his
sister." He rose to go as he said this, and then continued, as he
turned to me: "I shall depend upon you to look after Miss Darrow's
immediate interests in my absence." I knew this meant that I was
to guard her health, not permitting her to be much by herself, and
I readily acquiesced.
The look of amazement which had at first overspread Gwen's face at
the mention of this precipitate departure gave place to one of
modest concern, as she said softly to Maitland: "Is it necessary
that you should encounter the dangers of such a journey, to say
nothing, of the time and inconvenience it will cost?" He looked
down at her quickly, and then said reassuringly: "Do you know one
is, by actual statistics, safer in an English railway carriage than
when walking the crowded streets of London? I am daily subjecting
myself to laboratory dangers which, I believe, are graver than any
I am likely to meet between here and Bombay, or, for that matter,
even at Bombay in the presence of our recent acquaintance Ragobah."
"I deeply appreciate," she replied, "the generous sacrifice you
would make in my interests - hut Bombay is such a long way - and "
"If suspicion directed me to the North Pole," he interrupted, "I
should start with equal alacrity," and he held out his hand to her
to bid her farewell. She took it in a way that bespoke a world of
gratitude, if nothing more. He retained the small hand, while he
said: "Have you forgotten, my friend, your promise to your father?
Do you not see in what terrible relations it may place you? How
important, then, that no effort should be spared to prevent you
from becoming indebted to one unmanly enough to take advantage of
your position. I shall use every means within my power to myself
discover your father's murderer, and you may comfort yourself with
the assurance that, if successful, I shall make no demand of any
kind whatsoever upon your gratitude. I think you understand me."
As he said this Gwen looked him full in the face. A little nervous
tremor seized the corners of her mouth, and the tears sprang to her
eyes. "Good-bye" was all she could say before she was compelled
to turn aside to conceal her emotion.
Maitland, observing her agitation, said to her tenderly: "Your
gratitude for the little that I have already done is reward, more
than ample, for all I shall ever be able to do. Good-bye," and he
left the room.
Oh, man with your microscope! How is it that you find the smallest
speck of dust, yet miss the mountain? Does the time seem too short?
It would not if you realised that events, not clocks, were the real
THE EPISODE OF RAMA RAGOBAH
Life is but a poor accountant when it leaves the Future to
balance its entries long years after the parties to the
transactions are but a handful of insolvent dust. When, in such
wise, the chiefest item of one side of the sheet fails to explain
itself to the other, the tragic is attained.
On the day following Maitland's departure On for New York, Mr. Darrow
was buried. The Osborne theory seemed to be universally accepted,
and many women who had never seen Mr. Darrow during his life attended
his funeral, curious to see what sort of a person this suicide might
be. Gwen bore the ordeal with a fortitude which spoke volumes for
her strength of character, and I took good care, when it was all
over, that she should not be left alone. In compliance with
Maitland's request, whose will, since her promise to him, was law to
her, she prepared to close the house and take up her abode with us.
It was on the night of the funeral, just after the lamps were
lighted, that an event occurred which made a deep impression upon
Gwen, though neither she nor I fully appreciated its significance
till weeks afterward.
Gwen, who was to close the house on the morrow, was going from room
to room collecting such little things as she wished to take with her.
The servants had been dismissed and she was entirely alone in the
house. She had gathered the things she had collected in a little
heap upon the sitting-room table, preparatory to doing them up. She
could think of but one thing more which she must take - a cabinet
photograph of her father. This was upon the top of the piano in the
room where he had met his death. She knew its exact location and
could have put her hand right upon it had it been perfectly dark,
which it was not. She arose, therefore, and, without taking a
light with her, went into the parlour. A faint afterglow illumined
the windows and suffused the room with an uncertain, dim, ghostly
light which lent to all its objects that vague flatness from which
the imagination carves what shapes. it lists. As Gwen reached for
the picture, a sudden conviction possessed her that her father
stood just behind her in the exact spot where he had met his death,
- that if she turned she would see him again with his hand clutching
his throat and his eyes starting from their sockets with that
never-to-be-forgotten look of frenzied helplessness.
It would be difficult to find a woman upon whom superstition has so
slight a hold as it has upon Gwen Darrow, yet, for all that, it
required an effort for her to turn and gaze toward the centre of
the room. A dim, ill-defined stain of light fell momentarily upon
the chair in which the dead man had sat, and then flickered
unsteadily across the room and, as it seemed to her, out through
its western side, the while a faint, rustling sound caught her ear.
She was plainly conscious, too, of a something swishing by her, as
if a strong draught had just fallen upon her. She was not naturally
superstitious, as I have said before, yet there was something in the
gloom, the deserted house, and this fatal room with its untold story
of death which, added to her weird perceptions and that indescribable
conviction of an unseen presence, caused even Gwen to press her hand
convulsively upon her throbbing heart. For the first time in her
life the awful possibilities of darkness were fully borne in upon
her and she knew just how her father had felt.
In a moment, however, she had recovered from her first shock and had
begun to reason. Might not the sound she had heard, and the movement
she had felt, both be explained by an open window? She knew she had
closed and locked all the windows of the room when she had finished
airing it after the funeral, and she was not aware that anyone had
been there since, yet she said to herself that perhaps one of the
servants had come in and opened a window without her knowledge. She
turned and looked. The lower sash of the eastern window - the one
through which she felt sure death had approached her father - was
raised to its utmost.
"How=20fortunate," she murmured, "that I discovered this before
She was all but fully reassured now, as she stepped to the window
to close it. Remembering how the sash stuck in the casing she
raised both hands to forcibly lower it. As she did so a strong
arm caught the sash from the outer side, and a stalwart masculine
form arose directly in front of her. His great height brought his
head almost to a level with her own, despite the fact that he was
standing upon the ground outside. He was so near that she could
feel his breath upon her face. His eyes, like two great coals of
fire, blazed into hers with a sinister and threatening light. His
countenance seemed to utterly surpass any personal malignancy and
to exhibit itself as a type of all the hatreds that ever poisoned
Only a moment before Gwen had felt a creepy, sickening sensation
stealing over her as the result of an ill-defined and apparently
causeless dread. Now an actual, imminent, and fearful peril
confronted her. Under such circumstances most women would have
fainted, and, indeed, if Gwen had herself been asked how she would
have acted under such a supreme test, she would have prophesied the
same maidenly course as her own, yet, in the real exigency - how
little do we know of ourselves, save what actual experience has
taught us! - this is precisely what she did not do. When the
horrible apparition first rose in her very face, as it were, a
momentary weakness caught her and she clung to the sash for support.
Then the wonderful fire of the malignant eyes, green, serpentine,
opalescent, with the wave-like flux of a glowworm's light seen
under a glass, riveted her attention. She had ceased to tremble.
Our fear of death varies with our desire for life. Dulled by a
great grief, she did not so very much care what became of her. The
future's burden was heavy, and if it were necessary she now put it
down, there would still be a sense of relief. As this thought
passed like a shadow over her consciousness she felt herself
irresistibly attracted to the awful face before her. Her assailant's
gaze seemed to have wound itself about her own till she could not
disentangle it. She was dimly conscious that she was falling under
a spell and summoned all her remaining strength to break it. Quick
as the uncoiling of a released spring, and without the slightest
movement of warning, she threw her entire weight upon the sash in
a last endeavour to close the window, but the man's upraised arm
held both her weight and it, as if its muscles had been rods of
steel. Gwen saw a long knife in his free hand, - saw the light
shimmer along its blade, saw him raise it aloft to plunge it into
her bosom, yet made no movement to withdraw beyond his reach and
uttered no cry for help. It seemed to her that all this was
happening to another and that she herself was only a fascinated
spectator. She was wondering whether or not the victim would try
to defend herself when the knife began its descent. It seemed
ages in its downward passage, - so long, indeed, that it gave her
time to think of most of the main experiences of her life. At last
it paused irresolutely within an inch of her bosom. She wondered
that the victim made no attempt to escape, uttered no cry for help.
Suddenly she felt something whirling and buzzing in her brain, while
a wild fluttering filled both her ears; then the swirling, fluttering
torment rose in a swift and awful crescendo which seemed to involve
all creation in its vortex; then a pang like a lightning-thrust and
a crash like the thunder that goes with it, and she saw a tall man
striding rapidly from the window. She was still sure it was no
personal concern of hers, yet an idle curiosity noted his great
height, his dark, mulatto-like skin, and a slight halt in his walk
as he passed through a narrow beam of light and off into the
It was many minutes before Gwen regained any considerable command
of her faculties, and she afterwards told me that she was even then
more than half inclined to consider the whole thing as a weird dream
of an overwrought mind. At length, however, she realised that she
had had an actual experience, and that it was of sufficient
importance to make it known at once. She accordingly hastened to
lay the whole matter before me, and I, in my turn, notified the
police, who, at once instituted as thorough a search as Gwen's
description made possible. She had told me that her assailant was
dark-skinned, yet with straight hair, and a cast of features that
gave no hint of any Ethiopian taint. This, and his halting gait
and great stature, were all the police had in the way of description,
and I may as well add that the information was insufficient, for they
never found any trace of Gwen's assailant.
I had had some hopes of this clue, but they were doomed to
disappointment. It seemed evident to us that if anything were ever
done in bringing Mr. Darrow's assassin to justice, Maitland would
have to do it, unless, indeed, M. Godin solved the problem.=20
Osborne, Allen, and their associates were simply out of the question.
We debated for some time as to whether or not we should write
Maitland about Gwen's strange experience, and finally decided that
the knowledge would be a constant source of worriment without being
of the least assistance to him while he was so far away. We,
therefore, decided to keep our own counsel, for the present at least.
Maitland had written us a few lines from New York telling us the
result of his analysis, and ended by saying:
There is no doubt that Mr. Darrow died of poison injected into the
blood through the slight wound in the throat. This wound was not
deep, and seemed to have been torn rather than cut in the flesh.
What sort of weapon or projectile produced that wound is a question
of the utmost importance, shrouded in the deepest of mysteries.
Once this point is settled, however, its very uniqueness will be
greatly in our favour. I have an idea our friend Ragobah might be
able to throw some light upon this subject, therefore I am starting
on my way to visit him this afternoon, and shall write you en route
whenever occasion offers. My kindest regards to Miss Darrow.
P. S. I shall have leisure now on shipboard to set tie that question
of atomic pitches, which is still a thorn in my intellectual flesh.
I handed this letter to Gwen, and, after she had read it through
very carefully, she questioned me about this new theory of Maitland's.
I went through the form of telling her, after the usual practice of
amiable men discoursing to women, feeling sure she would be no wiser
when I had finished, and was dumfounded when she replied: "It looks
very reasonable. Professor Bjerknes, if I remember the name, has
produced all the phenomena of magnetic attraction, repulsion, and
polarisation, by air vibrations corresponding, I suppose, to certain
fixed musical notes. Why might not something similar to this be
true of atomic, as well as of larger, bodies?"
If the roof of my house had fallen in, I should not have been more
surprised than at this quiet remark. How many times had I said:
"You can always count on a young woman, however much she flutter over
the surface of things, being ignorant of all the great underlying
verities of existence"? I promptly decided, on all future occasions,
to add to that - " When not brought up by her father." I was
convinced that of the attainments of a girl educated by her father
absolutely nothing could be definitely predicted.
We had a short note from Maitland written at Trieste. He excused
its brevity by saying he had been obliged to travel night and day
in order to reach this port in time to catch the Austrian Lloyd
steamer Helois, bound for Aden, Bombay, Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong
Kong. From Aden I received the following:
MY DEAR DOCTOR:
We have just been through the Red Sea, and I know now the real origin
of the Calvinistic hell. Imagine it! A cloudless sky; the sun
beating down with an intolerable fierceness; not a breath stirring,
and the thermometer registering 120 degrees F. in the shade! It
seemed as though reason must desert us. The constant motion of the
punkas in the saloons, and an unlimited supply of ice-water was all
that saved us. Sleep was hardly to be thought of, for at no time
during the night did the mercury drop below 100=B0 F. Apart from the
oppressive heat referred to, the entire voyage has been exceedingly
pleasant. I have not solved the atomic-pitch problems, as attendance
at meals has left me little time for anything else. They seem to
eat all the time on these boats. At 8 A. M. coffee and bread; at
ten a hearty breakfast of meat, eggs, curry and rice, vegetables and
fruit; at 1 P. M. a luncheon, called "tiffin," of cold meats, bread
and butter, potatoes, and tea; at five o'clock a regular dinner of
soups, meats with relishes, farinaceous dishes, dessert, fruits, and
coffee, and lastly, at 8 P. M., the evening meal of tea, bread and
butter, and other light dishes. Five meals a day, and there are some
English people who fill up the gaps between them by constantly
munching nuts and sweets! Verily, if specialisation of function
means anything, some of these people will soon become huge gastric
balloons with a little wart on top representing the atrophied brain
structure. They run their engines of digestion wholly on the
After eight days' voyage on the Indian Ocean we shall be in Bombay.
I must close now, for there is really nothing to say, and, besides,
I am wanted on deck. My engagement is with a Rev. Mr. Barrows,
who is bound as missionary to Hong Kong. This worthy Methodist
gentleman is very much exercised because I insist that potentiality
is necessity and rebut his arguments on free-will. He got quite
excited yesterday, and said to me severely: "Do you mean to say,
young man, that I can't do as I please?" I must say I don't think
his warmth was much allayed by my replying: "I certainly mean to
say you can't please as you please. You may eat sugar because
you prefer it to vinegar, but you can't prefer it just because you
will to do so." He has probably got some new arguments now and is
anxious to try their effect, so, with kind regards to Miss Darrow
- I trust she is well - I remain,
Cordially your friend,
P. S. (Like a woman I always write a postscript.) You shall hear
again from me as soon as I reach Bombay.
This last promise was religiously kept, though his letter was short
and merely announced his safe arrival early that morning. He closed
by saying: "I have not yet breakfasted, preferring to do so on land,
and I feel that I can do justice to whatever is set before me. I
intend, as soon as I have taken the edge off my appetite, to set out
immediately for Malabar Hill, as I believe that to be our proper
starting-point. I inclose a little sketch I made of Bombay as we
came up its harbour, thinking it may interest Miss Darrow. Kindly
give it to her with my regards. You will note that there are two
tongues of land in the picture. On the eastern side is the suburb
of Calaba, and on the western our Malabar Hill. Good-bye until I
have something of interest to report."
I gave the sketch to Gwen, and she seemed greatly pleased with it.
"Are you aware," she said to me that Mr. Maitland draws with rare
"I am fully persuaded," I rejoined, "that he does not do anything
which he cannot do well."
"I believe there is nothing," she continued, "which so conduces to
the habit of thoroughness as the experiments of chemistry. When one
learns that even a grain of dust will, in some cases, vitiate
everything, he acquires a new conception of the term 'clean' and is
likely to be thorough in washing his apparatus. From this the habit
grows upon him and widens its application until it embraces all his
This remark did not surprise me as it would have a few weeks before,
for I had come to learn that Gwen was liable at any time to suddenly
evince a very unfeminine depth of observation and firmness of
Maitland had been gone just six weeks to a day when we received from
him the first news having any particular bearing upon the matter
which had taken him abroad. I give this communication in his own
words, omitting only a few personal observations which I do not feel
justified in disclosing, and which, moreover, are not necessary to
the completeness of this narrative:
MY DEAR DOCTOR:
I have at last something to report bearing upon the case that brought
me here, and perhaps I can best relate it by simply telling you what
my movements have been since my arrival. My first errand was to
Malabar Hill. I thought it wise to possess myself, so far as
possible, of facts proving the authenticity of Mr. Darrow's narrative.
I found without difficulty the banyan tree which had been the
trysting-place, and close by it the little cave with its mysterious
well, - everything in fact precisely as related, even to the
"Farsees'" garden or cemetery, with its "Tower of Silence," or
"Dakhma," as it is called by the natives. The cave and the banyan
are among the many attractions of what is now Herr Blaschek's villa.
This gentleman, with true German hospitality, asked me to spend a
few days with him, and I was only too glad to accept his invitation,
as I believed his knowledge of Bombay might be of great service to
me. In this I did not mistake. I told him I wished to ascertain the
whereabouts of a Rama Ragobah, who had been something between a rishi
and a fakir, and he directed me at once to a fakir named Parinama
who, he said, would be able to locate my man, if he were still alive
and in Bombay.
You can imagine how agreeably surprised I was to find that Parinama
knew Ragobah well. I had anticipated some considerable difficulty
in learning the latter's whereabouts, and here was a man who could=20
- for a sufficient consideration - tell me much, if not all, about
him. I secured an interpreter, paid Parinama my money, and
proceeded to catechise him. I give you my questions and his answers
just as I jotted them down in my notebook:
Q. What is Ragobah's full name?
A. Rama Ragobah. =20
Q. How long have you known him?
A. Thirty-five year.
Q. Has he always lived in Bombay?
A. No, Sahib,
Q. Where else?
A. For a good many year he have travel all the time.
Q. Is he in Bombay now?
A. No, Sahib.
Q. Where is he?
A. Over the sea, Sahib.
Q. Do you know where?
A. He sail for America; New York.
A. About eleven week ago.
Q. Do you know for what he undertook this journey?
A. Some personal affair of long time ago which he wish to settle - the
same which make him so many year travel through India.
Q. Was he in search of someone?
A. Yes, Sahib.
Q. Some Indian woman?
A. No, Sahib.
Q. Some other woman, then?
A. No, Sahib.
Q. A man, then; an Englishman,
A. Yes, Sahib.
Q. What kind of a man is this Ragobah?
A. He very big man.
Q. What is his disposition? Is he generally liked?
A. No. His temper bad. He cruel, revengeful, overbearing, and
selfish. He most hated by those who best know him.
Q. He is a friend of yours, you say?
A. I say no such thing! Do you think I sell secret of friend? I
have great reason for hating him, or I not now be earning your money.
Q. Ah! I see. What did you say he wanted of this Englishman?
A. I no say, Sahib.
Q. You said some personal affair of long standing, I believe.
A. Yes, Sahib.
Q. Do you know its nature?
A. No; I not know it, but I have not much doubt about it, Sahib.
Q. What do you think, then?
A. I think there but one passion strong enough in Ragobah to make
plain his hunt like dog for last twenty year. Such persevere mean
strong motive, and as I have good reason to remember how quick he
forget a kindness, I know he not moved by friendship, Sahib.
Q .His motive then is -=20
Q. Have you any idea why he cherishes this malice?
A. I think it because some old love affair; some rival in his wife's
Q. Indeed! Then he has been married?
A. Yes, Sahib.
Q. Where shall I find his wife?
A. All that is left of her is in the bottomless well in the cave on
Q. Did Ragobah kill her?
A. No; that is, not with his own hand.
Q. How long ago did she die?
A. More than twenty year, Sahib.
Q. Are any of her relatives living?
A. Her husband, Sahib, and a cousin, that is all.
Q. Is there anyone else who could tell me of this woman?
A. Moro Scindia could, but he not do it.
Q. Why? Is he Ragobah's friend?
A. Ragobah has no friends, Sahib.
Q. Why, then?
A. He under oath to tell what was told him only to one person. He
has keep his secret out of every year for more as twenty year, and
can no be expect to tell to you, Sahib.
Q. Can you bring this man to me? You will both be well paid for your
time, of course.
A. I bring him, Sahib, but I not make him speak.
Q. Let me see you both, then, to-night at eight, at Herr Blaschek's
villa on Malabar Hill. Ask for Mr. Maitland.
A. We be there. Anything more, Sahib?
Q. Yes. When is Ragobah expected to return?
A. He write that he think he return on the Dalmatia. She due next
day after to-morrow.
Q. Has Ragobah any physical peculiarities?
A. His hands and feet they very small for man so big and strong.
Q. Anything else?
A. His left leg been hurt. The foot very bad shape, and the whole
leg some bad, and, - what you call - halt when he walk.
Q. Has he the habit of biting his finger nails?
A. I not know he has, Sahib.
This completed the list of questions which I had desired to ask him,
so, after once more receiving his assurance that he would meet me in
the evening with his friend Scindia, I left him. As you know, I am
not wont to draw conclusions until all the evidence is in, but I must
confess that, looking at the whole matter from start to finish, there
seems to have fallen upon Ragobah a net of circumstantial evidence
so strong, and with a mesh of detail so minute, that it does not seem
possible a mosquito could escape from it. Look at it a moment from
this standpoint. Ragobah alone, so far as we know, has a motive for
the murder. His victim has related the feud existing between them
and foretold, with an air of the utmost assurance, just such an
outcome thereof. Add to this that this man leaves India on a mission
which those about him do not hesitate to pronounce one of vengeance,
at just such a time as would enable him to reach Boston just a little
before the commission of the murder; that this mission is the
culmination of twenty years of unremitting search for revenge; that
this malignity is supposed to be directed against some rival in his
wife's affections, and the chain of circumstantial evidence
possesses, so far as it extends, no weak link. Then, too, Ragobah
has very small hands, a deformed left foot, and a limping gait, -=20
everything almost which we had already predicted of the assassin.
So sure am I that Ragobah is the guilty man that I shall ask for his
arrest upon his arrival day after to-morrow should he return then,
a thing which, I regret to say, does not impress me as altogether
likely. Should he not come I shall cable you to institute a search
for your end of the line. The next thing in order which I have to
relate is my interview with Moro Scindia. I had engaged an
interpreter, but was able to dismiss him as my guest spoke English
with more ease and fluency than he, being an intelligent and
well-to-do member of the Vaisya caste. I thought it wise to see the
venerable Scindia alone, and accordingly sent Parinama out of the
room with the interpreter. As before; I give you what passed between
us as I jotted it down in my notebook.
Q. You are a friend of Rama Ragobah, are you not?
A. No, Sahib; he has no friends.
Q. You speak as if you disliked him.
A. It is not Mono Scindia's habit to play the hypocrite. I have good
reason to hate him.
Q. You would not, then, had he committed a crime, assist him to escape
A. I would track him like a bloodhound to the ends of the earth.
Q. You knew Ragobah's wife?
A. She was my cousin, Sahib.
Q. Were your relations friendly?
A. They were more than friendly. I loved her dearly, and would have
tried to win her had I not been so much her senior.
Q. Did she live happily with Ragobah?
A. No, Sahib.
A. I cannot answer. I have sworn to reveal the last experiences of
my cousin to but one person.
Q. And that person is.?
A. I must decline to answer that also, Sahib.
Q. If I succeed in naming him will you acknowledge it?
A. You will not succeed, Sahib.
Q. But if I should?
A. I will acknowledge it.
Q. The person is John Hinton Darrow.
The old man started as if he had been stabbed, and looked at me in
amazement. He seemed at first to think I had read his thoughts and
riveted his dark eyes upon me as if, by way of return, he would read
my very soul. I think he did so, for his scrutiny seemed to satisfy
him. He replied, somewhat reassured: "I can speak only to John
"John Darrow is dead," I said.
"Dead!" he exclaimed, springing to his feet; "Darrow Sahib dead!" and
he fell back into his chair, covering his face with his hands. "Ah,
my poor Lona!" he muttered feebly; "I have failed to keep my promise.
Do not reproach me, for I have done my best. For twenty years have I
searched in vain for this man that I might fulfil your last request,
and the very first information I receive is the news of his death. I
have been no less vigilant than Ragobah, yet I have failed, even as
he has failed."
I took this opportunity to again question him.
Q. Are you sure Ragobah failed?
A. Yes; had he found Darrow Sahib he would have killed him. His
mission was one of revenge; mine one of love and justice; both have
failed utterly since their object is dead. My pledge is broken!
Q. In its letter, yes; but the chance is still left you to keep the
spirit of your covenant.
A. I do not understand you, Sahib.
Q. I will explain. Lona Ragobah confided to you certain facts in
explanation of her conduct toward John Darrow. She loved him
passionately, and it was her desire to stand acquitted in his sight.
Were she alive now, any wish he had expressed during his life
would be fulfilled by her as a sacred and pleasurable duty. This,
then, as one who lovingly performs her will, should be your attitude
also. John Darrow was the only man she ever loved, and, were she
living, every drop of her loyal blood would rise against anyone who
had done him injury. Do I not speak the truth?
A. Yes; she was loyal unto death and so shall I be. My hand has ever
been against all who have done her harm; Ragobah knows that full well.
Q. Were she alive, you certainly would aid her in bringing to justice
one who has done her the most cruel of wrongs and, at the same time,
fulfilling the dying request of the man who to her was more than
A. I should do her bidding, Sahib.
Q. How much more need, then, now that the poor woman is dead, that
you should act for her as she would, were she here.
A. You have not told me all; speak your mind freely, Sahib. You may
depend upon my doing whatever I believe Lona would do were she here.
Q. I ask nothing more, and am now prepared to fully confide in you.
As you doubtless know, Rama Ragobah left Bombay for New York about
eleven weeks ago. He went, I have been told, on an errand of revenge.
Six weeks ago John Darrow was murdered. He left behind him a written
statement describing his wooing of Lona Scindia and his experiences
with Rama Ragobah. He asserted, furthermore, his belief that he
would die by Ragobah's hand, - the hand which twice before had
attempted his life. Even as he loved your cousin, so he hated her
husband, and, confident that he would ultimately be killed by him,
he was haunted by the fear that he would escape the just penalty for
his crime. He bound his heir by the most solemn of promises to use,
in the event of his murder, every possible means to bring the
assassin to justice. There can, of course, be little doubt that the
assassin and Rama Ragobah are one and the same person. The last
request John Darrow ever made - it was after he had been attacked
by the assassin - had for its object the punishment of his murderer.
Were your cousin living, do you think she would be deaf to that
A. No. She would make its fulfilment the one object of her life, and,
acting in her stead, I shall do all in my power to see justice done.
If I can render you any aid in that direction you may command me,
Q. You can assist me by telling me all you know of your cousin's
married life, and, more especially, the message she confided to you.
A. In doing this I shall break the letter of my oath, but, were I not
to do it, I should break the spirit thereof, therefore listen:
You have, I suppose, already learned from the statement of Darrow
Sahib what occurred at his last meeting with my cousin on Malabar
Hill. Her act, in throwing a venomous serpent in his face, was one
which doubtless led him to believe she wished to kill him, although
it must have puzzled him to assign any reason for such a desire.
Not long after this incident my cousin married Ragobah, a man for
whom she had always cherished an ill-concealed hatred. I saw but
little of her at this time, yet, for all that, I could not but
observe that she was greatly changed. But one solution suggested
itself to me, and that was that she had discovered her lover false
to her and had, out of spite as it is called, hastily married
Ragobah. I confess that when this conclusion forced itself home
upon me, I felt much dissatisfied with Lona, for I thought such a
course unworthy of her. As I saw more of her I noted still greater
changes in her character. As I had known her from childhood, she
had been most uniform in her temper and her conduct; now all this
was changed. To-day, perhaps, she would be like her old self, -=20
only weaker and more fragile, - to-morrow a new being entirely,
stronger and more restless, with a demoniac light in her eyes, and
a sort of feverish malignancy dominating her whole personality.
When I noticed this I studied to avoid her. If the Lona I had
known were merely an ideal of which no actual prototype existed, I
wished to be allowed to cherish that ideal rather than to have it
cruelly shattered to make room for the real Lona. I had not seen
her for many weeks when one day, to my surprise, I received a note
from her. It was short, and so impressed me that I can remember
every word of it.
"My DEAR COUSIN:
"I send this note to you by Kandia that you may get it before it is
too late for you to do what I wish. I am a caged bird in my
husband's house. My every movement is watched, and they would not
let you come to me were my husband at home, so, I beseech you, come
at once lest he should return before I have had time to intrust to
you my last request. I am dying, Moro, and it is within your power
to say whether my spirit shall rest in peace, or be torn forever and
ever by the fangs of a horrible regret. My secret is as lead upon
my soul and to you only can I tell it. Come - come at once!
You can imagine the effect of this revelation upon me better than
I can describe it. I did not even know she was seriously ill, and
with her urgent request for an interview came the sad tidings that
she was dying, and the confirmation of my fear - that she had adopted
the religion of her English lover. I lost no time in going to her.
I found her in a state of feverish expectation, fearful lest I should
either not be able to come at all, or her husband would return before
my arrival. She was worn to a shadow of her former self, and I
realised with a pang that she was indeed dying.
"I knew I could depend upon you, Moro," she said as I entered, "even
though you think I have lost all claim upon your regard. I said to
myself, 'He will come because of the respect he once had for me,'
and I was right. Yes," she continued, noticing my astonishment at
the change in her condition, "I am almost gone. I should not have
lasted so long, were it not that I could not die till I had spoken.
Now I shall be free to go, and the horrible struggle will be over.
You have been much among the English, Moro, both here and in England,
and know they believe they will meet again in heaven those they have
loved on earth."
She sank back exhausted from excitement and effort, as she said this,
and I feared for a moment she would be unable to proceed. I told
her what I knew about the Christian's hope of heaven, and suggested
to her that, as her husband might return at any moment, she had best
confide to me at once any trust with which she wished to charge me.
For a moment she made no reply, but said at length:
"Yes, you are right. It is not a very long story, and I suppose I
had better begin at the beginning. You remember well my being rescued
by an English gentleman, a Mr. John Darrow. I afterward became well
acquainted, - in fact we were to be married. To this union my parents
strongly objected. They had promised me to Rama Ragobah, and were
horrified at my seeking to outrage the laws of caste by bestowing my
hand not only outside of my station but upon a foreigner and Christian
as well. This had only the effect of causing me to meet the Sahib
secretly. We chose for our meeting-place the great banyan on the top
of Malabar Hill, where I passed the happiest moments I have ever known.
Everything went well until the night on which we had planned to run
away. We were to meet at the usual place and hour, take the night
train for Matheron Station, and there be married.
"My heart bounded with joy as I climbed Malabar Hill on that fatal
evening, but my delight was of short duration. In my fear lest I
should keep my lover waiting I must have arrived fully fifteen
minutes before the appointed time. I was standing with my back
against the banyan tree, awaiting the first sound of his approach,
when my attention was attracted by what seemed to be two little
balls of fire shining from a clump of bushes almost directly in
front of me. They seemed to burn with a lurid and wicked glare, and,
as my gaze became entangled by them, a tremor ran through my frame
and a cold sweat bathed my entire body. Overcome by an unspeakable
dread I made one last frantic effort to withdraw my eyes, but could
not. Then gradually, by slow degrees, my terror was succeeded by an
over-whelming fascination. I felt myself drawn irresistibly toward
the thicket. Then came a vague sense of falling, falling, falling,
and I knew no more, at least for some little time.
"The next thing I remember is seeing my lover stretch out his arms
to me, while I was inspired with an unaccountable hatred of him so
bitter that it left me mute and transfixed. Then he sought to
embrace me, and I threw a young cobra, which, coiled in a wicker
basket, had been placed in my hand, full in his face. I think, also,
that I struck him, and then ran down the hill and straight to the
house of Ragobah. What happened during the next few months I know
not. I seemed to have been in a continual sleep full of dreams.
When I awoke I seemed conscious that I had dreamt, but could not
tell of what. You can imagine my horror, my despair, when I was
first addressed as Ragobah's wife. I denied the relation, but
everyone told me the same story - I was Ragobah Sahibah. This shock,
coming as it did with the memory of my conduct that terrible night
on Malabar Hill, nearly killed me, and was followed by another long
period of the dream existence. I began to think I was a sufferer
from some terrible brain disease, and to doubt which was my real
existence, the dreams or the waking moments.
"One day when, for the first time in several weeks, I was in
possession of my normal faculties, Ragobah came into my room and
sat down beside me. I arose instantly and fled to the farther
corner of the apartment. He pursued me and sought to conquer my all
too apparent aversion for him by terms of endearment, but the more
he pressed his suit the more my loathing grew until, maddened by
references made to Darrow Sahib, I lost all self-control and
permitted him to learn my detestation of him. He heard me through
in silence, his face growing darker with every word, and when I had
finished said with slow and studied malice:
"'You forget that you are my wife and that I can follow my entreaty
by command. You spurn my love. You are not yet weaned from that
English cur whose life, let me tell you, is in my hands. Fool, can
you not see how powerless you are? I have but to will you to kill
him and your first cursed failure on Malabar Hill will be washed out
with his infidel blood. You will do well to yield peaceably. The
thread of your very existence passes through my hands, to cut or
tangle it as I list - yield you must!' With this he strode
frantically from the room, leaving me more dead than alive. As
he disclosed his fiendish secret something about my heart kept
tightening with every word till, at length, it seemed as if it must
burst, so terrible was the pressure. I could not breathe. My lungs
seemed filled with molten lead. How long this agony continued I do
not know, for the thread of consciousness broke under its terrible
tension and I fell senseless upon the floor.
"When I recovered from my swoon the inexpressible horror of my
situation again descended upon my spirit like a snuffer upon a
candle. I was Ragobah's wife, his slave, his tool, as powerless to
resist his will as if I were one of his limbs. All was now clear.
The long sleep, crowded with unremembered dreams, represented the
period when I was under Ragobah's control, - the horrible night on
Malabar Hill being one of them, - and the waking moments, those
periods when my feeble, overridden consciousness flickered back to
dimly light for a time the gloom of this intellectual night. There
was no hope for me. Already had I been so dominated by his will and
inspired by his malice as to attempt the life of my lover. What
might I not be made to do in future? As I thought of this, Ragobah's
last threat rang with a sinister warning upon my ears till it seemed
as if it would drive me into madness. The suspicion grew to be a
certainty from which there was but one means of escape - death - and
I determined at once to embrace it before I could be made the
instrument for the infliction of further injury upon my lover. I
seized a little dagger which in my normal moments I always kept
concealed about me, and was about to plunge it into my bosom when I
was smitten by the thought, - and it cut me as the steel could not
have done, - that Darrow Sahib would never know the truth, and that
his love for me would be forever buried beneath a mass of black
misgivings. The certainty of this conviction paralysed my will, and
my arm dropped nervelessly at my side. It would be a simple matter,
I thought, to find some way of confiding my story to you and pledging
you to explain everything to Darrow Sahib, after which I could die
in peace, if not without regret. But it was not so easy to
communicate with you as I had expected. Days passed before I had a
chance to make the attempt, and the only result of it was to show
me how closely I was watched. If Ragobah were absent, there was
always someone in his employ who made it his business to acquaint
himself with my every movement. I dare not take the time to tell
you how I succeeded in obtaining this interview further than to say
that I was able to win to my cause the man who bore my message to
you - a servant in whom Ragobah has the utmost confidence. When my
husband departed this morning Kandia was left in charge of me, and
so your visit was made possible.
"You are now acquainted with the trust I would impose upon you: swear
to me, Moro, that you will make this explanation for me to John
Darrow and to no other human being! Swear it by the love you once
said you bore me!" She sank back exhausted and awaited my response.
For a moment I dared not trust myself to speak, yet something must
be said. As I noted her impatience I replied: "Lona, you have lifted
a great weight from my heart and placed a lesser one upon it.
Forgive me that I have ever doubted you. Even as you have been true
to yourself, I swear by the love I still bear you to deliver your
message to Darrow Sahib and to no other human being. I shall commit
your words at once to writing that nothing may be lost through the
failure of my memory."
She reached her hand out feebly to me, and never shall I forget the
look of gratitude which accompanied its tremulous pressure as she
murmured: "After John, Moro, you are dearest. I shall not try to
thank you. May the ineffable peace which you bring my aching heart
return a thousand-fold into your own. Farewell. Ragobah may return
at any moment. Let us not needlessly imperil your safety. Once
more good-bye. The dew-drop now may freely fall into the shining
sea." Poor distraught child! She had tried to adopt her lover's
religion without abandoning her own. I bent over and kissed her.
It was my first and last kiss and she gave it with a sweet sadness,
the memory of which, through all these years, has dwelt in the
better part of me, like a fragrance in the vesture of the soul.
One long, lingering look and I departed, never to see again this
woman I had so fondly, so hopelessly loved.
You now know the exact nature of the covenant I have felt constrained
to violate. I have told you her story in her own words. I wrote it
out immediately after my interview with her and have read it so many
times, during the last twenty years, that I have committed it to
memory. The recollection of that last meeting, of her kiss and her
grateful look has been throughout all these long, weary years the
one verdant spot in the desert of my life.
[Moro Scindia paused here, as one who had reached the end of his
narrative, and I continued my interrogations.]
Q. Although you never again saw your cousin you must, I think, have
heard something of her fate.
A I learned of it through Nana Kandia, the servant who had secretly
embraced Lona's cause, and who had borne her message to me. It
seems that, after my interview with her, my cousin was seized with
a consuming desire to see her English lover once more before her
death; so she devised a plan by which, with Kandia's help, Darrow
Sahib was to be secretly conducted to her under cover of night. She
wrote a letter asking him, as a last request, to meet her messenger
on Malabar Hill, and instructing him how to make himself known.
This she gave to Kandia to post early in the morning of the day upon
which their plan was to be put into execution. As he was about
leaving the house Ragobah called him into his chamber and demanded
to know what was taking him forth so early in the morning. Kandia
saw at once that the purpose of his errand had been discovered, and
determined to meet the issue bravely. "I was going to post a letter,
Sahib," he replied quietly. "Let me see it!" Ragobah roared. "I
have no right to do so," Kandia replied, springing toward the door.
But be was not quick enough for the wary Ragobah, who felled him to
the floor with a chair before he had reached the threshold. When
he returned to consciousness he found his assailant, who had
skilfully opened the letter, standing over him perusing it in
malicious glee. When he had finished reading he carefully resealed
it and placed it in his pocket. Then he called two of his servants
and gave Kandia into their charge with orders to gag him, to bind
him hand and foot, and, as they valued their lives, not to permit
him to leave the room till he ordered it.
What occurred between that time and the return of Ragobah, wounded
and furious, late in the evening, we can only surmise. He doubtless
posted the letter, and went himself to meet Darrow Sahib on Malabar
Hill. When he returned home he hobbled into his wife's apartment
and then ordered Kandia to be sent to him. His left leg was badly
crushed and his face, contorted with pain and fiendish malevolence,
was horrible to look upon.
"Our trusty friend here," he said, addressing his wife and pointing
to Kandia, "could not conveniently post your letter this morning, my
dear, so I did it myself." Lona's face turned ashen pale, but she
made no reply.
"I thought," he continued in his sweetest accents and with the same
demoniac sarcasm, "that you would be anxious to know if the Sahib
received it, - our mail service is so lax of late, - so I went tonight
to Malabar Hill to see, for I felt certain he would come if he got
your note, and, sure enough, he was there even ahead of time. I was
obliged to forego the pleasure of bringing him to you on account of
two most unfortunate accidents. As you see I hurt my foot, and poor
Darrow Sahib slipped and fell headlong into the well in the little
cave. As it has no bottom I could not, of course, get the Sahib out,
and so was obliged to return, as best I could, alone." As he
finished this heartless lie, every word of which he knew was a
poisoned dart, Lona fell fainting upon the floor. Kandia raised her
gently, expecting to find her dead, but was able at length to revive
her. The first words she said were directed to Ragobah in a voice
devoid of passion or reproach, - of everything in fact save an
"I am ill," she said; "will you permit Nana to get me some medicine
which has helped me in similar attacks?" Ragobah's reply was
directed to Kandia.
"You may do as the Sahibah bids you," was all he said.
Kandia turned to Lona for instructions and she said to him, "Get me
half an ounce of - stay, there are several ingredients - I had better
write them down." She wrote upon a little slip of paper, naming
aloud the ingredients and quantities as she did so, and then asked
Kandia to move her chair to an open window before he left. When he
had done so, she passed him the note, saying, "Please get it as
quickly as possible." As he took the paper she seized his hand for
a moment and pressed it firmly. He noticed this at the time, but
its significance did not dawn upon him until he had nearly reached
his destination, when, all at once, he realised with a pang that the
momentary pressure of the hand and the mute gratitude which shone
from the eyes were meant as a farewell. His first impulse was to
hurriedly retrace his steps, but before he had acted upon it, the
thought occurred to him that she intended to poison herself with the
drugs he was about to procure. If this were the case, there was no
great need of hurry. Then he began to recall to mind the names of
the drugs she had mentioned as she wrote and to reflect that not
one of them was poisonous. With this new light all his former
uneasiness returned. He strove to reassure himself with the thought
that she might, in order to mislead Ragobah, have spoken the name
of a harmless drug while she wrote down that of a poisonous one.
It was easy to settle this question, and he determined to do so at
the next light. He unfolded the paper, expecting to see a
prescription, but read instead these words:
"To MORO SCINDIA;
"My Dear Cousin: Death has relieved you of the task I imposed upon
you. John Darrow's body is in the well in the cave on Malabar Hill,
where, before this reaches you, my body will have also gone to meet
it. To this fragment of paper, then, must I confide the debt of
gratitude I owe to you and to him who will bear it to you, Nana
Kandia. Good-bye. If I had had two hearts, I should have given
you one. Do not mourn me, but rather rejoice that my struggle and
its agony are over. John has already gone - one tomb shall inclose
both our bodies - how could it have been better?
No sooner had Kandia grasped the import of this letter than he
rushed with all speed to Malabar Hill, but he was too late, for
scarcely had he left the house upon Lona's errand before she had
sprung out of the window by which he had placed her. Ragobah's
wound prevented his following her, and when he had summoned others
to pursue her, the darkness had closed about her form and none
knew the way she had taken. At the edge of the fatal well Kandia
found a piece of paper beneath a stone and on it these words:
"Farewell, Moro and Nana, the only beings on earth I regret to
The body was never recovered. The news of his wife's death, and
the knowledge that he was the cause of it, produced an effect upon
Ragobah from which he never recovered. More than twenty years have
passed since then, yet from that day to this he has never been known
to smile. Long before his mangled limb had healed it became evident
to all who knew him that he had henceforth but one purpose in life,
- revenge, and that nothing save death could turn him from his
purpose, so long as his rival lived. The knowledge of this made my
search for Darrow Sahib more than ever difficult from the fact that
it must be prosecuted secretly. I could only learn that he had
left Bombay for the interior, nothing more. My inquiries in all
the Indian cities proved fruitless, and in many instances, I was
informed that Ragobah had instituted a search for the same man. I
think, in spite of my precautions, some of my agents ultimately
told Ragobah of my efforts, for I found myself so closely watched
by men in his interests that I was at length compelled to give up
the personal conduct of the search, and to continue it through a
deputy, unknown to him. All my endeavours to find the Sahib were,
as you are already aware, fruitless, and, until I met you, I had
no doubt Ragobah's efforts were equally unproductive. You have now
all the information I can offer upon the subject. If I can be of
any further service to you, you need not hesitate to command me.
As he said this he rose to depart and I promised to keep him
informed of what occurred. I have nothing now to do but to await,
with such patience as I can command, the arrival of the Dalmatia.
It does not seem to me altogether probable that Ragobah will return
upon this boat, but if he should I shall have him arrested the
moment he sets foot on shore. If he escape the net that has been
woven about him, I shall be a convert to Eastern occultism and no
mistake. I trust Miss Darrow is well and hopeful. I know she
will religiously keep the promise she made, for she is one of those
women who fully understand the nature of a covenant, and I am
easier, therefore, than I otherwise could be regarding her condition.
Give her my kind regards and tell her that she may expect news of
importance by my next communication. It is very late, so good-bye,
until the arrival of the Dalmatia.
This letter was delivered one morning when Gwen, my sister Alice,
and I were at breakfast. As I broke the seal I noticed that both
ladies put down their knives and forks and ceased to eat. A glance
at Gwen's eager face convinced me that she had no appetite for
anything but my letter, and I accordingly read it aloud. When I
came to the last part of it, where Maitland referred to her, a flush,
of pride I thought at the time, overspread her face, and when I had
finished she said with some show of excitement, "If Mr. Maitland
succeed in bringing Ragobah to justice I - I shall owe him a debt
of gratitude I can never repay! It all seems like a romance, only so
frightfully real. We may expect another letter in a few days, may
we not? And Mr. Maitland, when may we expect him?"
I replied that I thought we might reasonably expect news of
importance within five or six days, and that, so far as Maitland's
return was concerned, I did not look for it for as many weeks, as
he would doubtless have to cope with the law's delay there, as he
would if here, and to comply with many tedious formalities before
the government would allow Ragobah to be brought to this country for
trial. The only reply Gwen vouchsafed to this statement was a
long-drawn unconscious sigh, which I interpreted as meaning, "Will
it never end!"
He who shakes the tree of Vengeance but harvests apples of Sodom
in whose fruit of ashes he becomes buried, for the wage of the
sinner is death.
There was no doubt of Ragobah's guilt in any of our minds, so that
action at our end of the line seemed entirely useless, and nothing
was left us but to quietly await whatever developments Maitland
should disclose. We were not kept long in suspense, for in less than
a week his next letter arrived. I broke its seal in the presence of
Gwen and my sister who, if possible, were even more excited than I
myself. Is it to be wondered at? Here was the letter which was to
tell us whether or not the murderer of John Darrow had been caught.
We felt that if Ragobah had returned to India, according to his
expressed intention, there could be no doubt upon this point. But
had he so returned? I read as follows:
MY DEAR DOCTOR:
The Dalmatia arrived as expected on Thursday, and on her came Ragobah.
I had him arrested as he stepped from the boat. When examined he
did not seem in the least disconcerted at the charges I preferred
against him. This did not surprise me, however, as I had expected
that a man who could roll his naked body over the burning sands from
Mabaj an to the Ganges, and who could rise from the Vaisyan to the
Brahman caste, - albeit he fell again, - would not be likely to betray
his cause by exhibiting either fear or excitement. He acknowledged
his acquaintance with Mr. Darrow and the ill-feeling existing between
them. When charged with his murder at Dorchester on the night of the
22d of April he coolly asked if I were aware when and how he had left
India. I had not neglected to look this matter up and told him he had
left on the same steamer which had brought him back - the Dalmatia -=20
which should have arrived at New York on the 21st of April, thus
leaving him ample time to get to Boston before the night of the 22d.
To this he replied with the utmost assurance. (I give you the exact
gist of what he said. Since I was not able to immediately commit his
language to writing, you will, of course, hardiy expect me to remember
those peculiar Oriental idioms which an Indian, however great his
command of English, never drops. What I say here is, of course, true
of all conversations I put before you except such as I practically
reported.) - But to return to our muttons. As I was saying, he
replied with the utmost assurance:
"The Sahib is right. I did sail upon the Dalmatia, due at New York
on the 21st of April. This steamer, as you are perhaps aware, is
propelled by twin screws. On the trip in question she broke one
of her propellers in mid-Atlantic and in consequence, arrived in New
York on the 24th of April, three days late, without the transference
of any of her passengers to other boats. If you will take the
trouble to at once verify this statement at the steamship office,
you will be able to relieve me of the annoyance of further detention."
All this was said with a rare command of language and a cold, cynical
politeness which cut like a knife. I at first thought it was merely
a ruse to gain time, but the steamship officials substantiated every
word uttered by Ragobah relative to their vessel. The Dalmatia had
steamed into New York at eleven o'clock on the morning of the 24th
day of April with a broken screw!
Imagine my amazement! The net of circumstantial evidence wound
around Ragobah seemed to be such as to leave no possibility of
escape, and yet, the very first effort made to draw it tighter about
him had resulted in his walking, with the utmost ease, right through
its meshes! There is no gainsaying such an alibi, and I am,
therefore, forced to acknowledge that Rama Ragobah could not, by any
possibility, have murdered John Darrow. That he may have planned
the deed and that he may have intended to be present at its execution
is quite possible, but we may at once dismiss the idea of his having
personally committed the act. You will immediately appreciate that
nearly all of the evidence which we secured against Ragobah was
directed against him as the assassin, and is of little or no use to
prove his complicity in an affair committed by another. In his
hatred of Mr. Darrow we have, I believe, a sufficient motive for
the act, but what evidence have we to support the theory that the
murder was committed by anyone acting in his interests? I must
confess my inability to detect, at present writing, the slightest
evidence that Ragobah acted through an accomplice. So, here the
I may state in closing that Ragobah has requested the "pleasure"
(sic) of a private interview with me on Malabar Hill to-morrow
night. As there is a bare possibility he may let fall something
which may shed some light upon the accomplice hypothesis, I have
agreed to meet him at the entrance to the little cave at nine
o'clock. He has requested that I come (alone and I shall do so,
but, lest you fear for my safety, let me assure you that I know
very well the unscrupulous nature of the man with whom I am to
deal and that I shall take good care not to afford him any
opportunity to catch me unawares. You will hear from me again
after I meet Ragobah.
Remember me kindly to Miss Darrow. The failure of my enterprise
will, I know, be a bitter disappointment to her, and you must temper
this acknowledgment of it with such a hope of ultimate success as
you may enjoy. Tell her I shall never cease my efforts to solve
this mystery so long as I am able to find a clue, however slight,
to follow. At present I am all at sea, and it looks as if I should
have to go clear back and start all over again. Ragobah, as a
point of departure, has not proved a success. With my kind regards
to you all,
I remain, cordially yours,
I read this through aloud, despite the fact that I knew some parts
of it were intended only for my perusal. Gwen did not speak until
some minutes after I had finished, and then only to express a fear
that, despite his caution, harm might come to Maitland at his
interview with Ragobah. She seemed to be far less disappointed at
Maitland's failure to convict Ragobah than she was fearful for her
friend's personal safety. She was restless and ill at ease for the
next two or three days - in fact, until the arrival of Maitland's
next letter. This came during my absence on a professional call,
and when I returned home she met me with it at the door with an
expression of relief upon her countenance so plain as not to be
misconstrued. We went into the sitting-room, where my sister was
awaiting the news, and I read as follows:
MY DEAR DOCTOR:
I kept my appointment last night with Rama Ragobah and, although
nothing transpired at all likely to assist me in locating Mr.
Darrow's assassin, yet the interview, though short, was interesting
and worth narrating. Promptly at nine o'clock I was at my post by
the little cave. I am still staying with Herr Blaschek and, as I
had but a few rods to travel, I did not quit the house until within
five minutes of the time appointed for our meeting. As I stepped
out into the darkness I noticed a tall form glide behind a tree,
about a rod away from the door. I could not be sure it was Ragobah,
yet I had little doubt of it. I was a trifle taken aback at the
moment, and instinctively placed my hand upon my revolver and
grasped my cane more firmly. Should occasion require it, I counted
upon this cane quite as much as upon my revolver, for, innocent and
inoffensive as it looked, it was capable of most deadly execution.
I had chosen it in preference to many other more pretentious weapons
which had suggested themselves to me. It consisted of a small,
flexible steel wire hardly bigger than the blade of a foil,
surmounted by a good-sized lead ball, and the whole covered with a
closely woven fabric. By grasping the cane by its lower end a
tremendously heavy blow could be struck with the ball, and, if an
attempt were made to shield the head by throwing up the arm, it
was almost certain to fail of its object since the flexibility of
the wire permitted it to bend about an obstruction until its loaded
end was brought home. You will perhaps think that, since I did not
make use of this weapon, I need not have troubled myself to describe
it. Perhaps that is so, but, let me assure you, when I saw Ragobah,
for it was he, glide behind that tree, and reflected how capable he
was of every kind of treachery, I wouldn't have parted with that
cane for its weight in gold. The Indian had pledged me to come
alone and had promised to do likewise, but I felt any tree might
conceal one of his minions, hired to assassinate me while he engaged
my attention. All this, of course, did not in the least affect my
decision. I had promised to go alone, and Miss Darrow's interests
required - that I should keep my covenant. I should have done so,
even though I had known Ragobah meant to betray me. I may as well,
however, tell you at once that my suspicions wronged the fellow.
He had evidently taken his station behind a tree to satisfy himself,
without exposure, that I meant to keep my promise and come alone.
When I reached the cave I found him awaiting me. How he was able
to get there before me passes my comprehension, but there he was.
He did not waste time, but addressed me at once, and, as my memory
is excellent and our interview was short, I am able to give you an
accurate report of what passed between us. I copy it here just as
I entered it in my notebook, immediately upon my return to the house.
"You naturally wish to know," Ragobah began, "why I have sought this
interview. That is easily explained. You have done me the honour,
Sahib, for I feel it is such, to suspect me of the murder of John
Darrow. You have come here from America to fasten the crime upon
me, and, from the bottom of my heart, I regret your failure to do
so. I would give everything I possess on earth, and would gladly
suffer a life of torment, to be able truthfully to say: 'I, Rama
Ragobah, killed John Darrow.' But despite all my efforts, I, wretch
that I am, am innocent! For more than twenty years I have had but
one purpose, - one thought, - and that was to track down and slay
John Darrow. This desire consumed me. It led me all over India
in vain search for him. For nineteen years- I laboured incessantly,
without discovering so much as a trace of him. When he fled Bombay
his belongings went inland, so I was told. I believed the story
and felt sure I should one day find him on Indian soil. Years
passed and I did not find him. It was but a few months ago that
I discovered his ruse and learned his whereabouts. I could scarcely
contain myself for joy. My life-work was at last to be completed.
Nothing now remained but to plan his destruction. This, however,
was not so easy a thing to do, since, in order to make my revenge
complete, I must disclose my identity before killing him. At
length I decided upon a plan. I would come upon him at night, when
asleep, gag him and bind him to his bed. Then he should learn the
name of his doomsman, and the horrible nature of the death that
Ragobah paused here as if overcome by his disappointment, and I
said, "And how did you intend to kill him?" He gave a throaty
chuckle, as he replied: "It was all so very pretty! I had only to
saturate the bedclothes with oil and set fire to them. I should
have lighted them at his feet and watched the flames creep upward
toward his head till safety compelled my retreat. It was for this
purpose I went to New York. You already know the fatal delay I
incurred. When I landed I made all haste to the home of Darrow
Sahib, in Dorchester, only to learn that he had killed himself a
few days before my arrival. The morsel for which I had striven and
hungered for twenty long years was whipped from my hand, even as I
raised it to my mouth. My enemy was dead, beyond the power of
injury, and my hands were unstained by his blood.
"I then determined to kill his daughter. It was the night of my
enemy's burial. The Sahibah was alone in the house and was intending
to leave it that night. I knew she would see that everything was
securely fastened before she went away, and so, when I opened one
of the windows, I was sure she would come to close it. Crouching
down outside I awaited her approach, intending to spring up and stab
her while she was pulling the window down. Everything happened as
I planned - what ails the Sahib? I did not kill her! No, at the
last moment something - never mind what - stayed my arm! The death
of an innocent girl did not promise me any lasting satisfaction and
I gave up the idea, returned to New York, and re-embarked for Bombay
as innocent in act as when I left it. My life had been a failure
and I had no desire to prolong it. When you arrested me on the
charge of murder, nothing would have given me greater pleasure than
to have been able to plead guilty.
"You already know why I so hated Darrow. He robbed me of the only
woman I ever loved. Maddened by jealousy, I told her I had thrown
him into the well in the cave here. It was a lie, but she believed
it, and fled from me, and in a few minutes had thrown herself into
that bottomless hole. See, Sahib," he said, entering the cave and
pointing down the dark shaft, - "that is the road she took in order
that her bones might rest with his, and, after all, they are
thousands of miles apart. It's not the triumph I planned, but it's
all I have! And this is why I brought you here; that you may take
back to my enemy's family the knowledge that in death I am triumphant.
Tell them," he said, rising to his full height, "that while the
carcass of the English cur rots in a foreign land, Rama Ragobah's
bones lie mingled with those of his beautiful Lona!" - My blood
was up, and I rushed fiercely at him. With the quickness of a cat
he dodged me, spat in my face as I turned, and, with a horrible
laugh, sprang headlong into the well. Down deeper and deeper sank
the laugh - then it died away - then a faint plash - and all was
silent. Rama Ragobah was gone! For fully ten minutes I stood
dazed and irresolute and then returned mechanically to the house.
I at first thought of informing the authorities of the whole
affair, but, when I realised how hard it would be for me to prove
my innocence were I charged with Ragobah's murder, I decided to keep
the secret of the well.
I shudder when I think of Miss Darrow's narrow escape. Did you
suspect who her assailant really was? I wonder you have written me
nothing about it, but suppose you thought it would only needlessly
alarm me. If you had known it was our friend Ragobah, you would
doubtless have felt it imperative that I should know of it, - so I
conclude from your silence that you did not discover his identity.
I need not, of course, tell you, my dear Doctor, that we have
reached the end of our Indian clue, and that I deem it wise, all
things considered, for me to get out of India just as soon as
possible. If this letter is in any way delayed, you need not be
surprised if I have the pleasure of relating its contents in person.
Remember me to Miss Darrow and tell her how sorry I am that, thus
far, I have been unable to be of any real service to her. As I
shall see you so soon I need write nothing further. Kind regards
to Miss Alice.
When I had finished reading this letter I looked up at Gwen,
expecting to see that its news had depressed her. I must confess,
however, that I could not detect any such effect. On the contrary,
she seemed to be in much better spirits than when I began reading.
"According to this letter, then," she said, addressing me somewhat
excitedly, "we may - " but she let fall her eyes and did not complete
her sentence. My sister bestowed upon her one of those glances
described in the vernacular of woman as "knowing" and then said to
me: "We may expect Mr. Maitland at any time, it seems." "Yes," I
replied; "he will lose no time in getting here. He undoubtedly feels
much chagrined at his failure and will now be more than ever
determined to see the affair through to a successful conclusion. He
is in the position of a hound that has lost its scent, and is eager
to return to its point of departure for a fresh start. I fancy it
will be no easy task to discover a new clue, and I shall watch
Maitland's work in this direction with a great deal of curiosity."
Gwen did not speak, but she listened to our conversation with a
nearer approach to a healthy interest than I had known her to display
on any other occasion since her father's death. I regarded this as
a good omen. Her condition, since that sad occurrence, had worried
me a good deal. She seemed to have lost her hold on life and to
exist in a state of wearied listlessness. Nothing seemed to impress
her and she would at times forget, in the midst of a sentence, what
she had intended to say when she began it! Her elasticity was gone
and every effort a visible burden to her. I knew the consciousness
of her loss was as a dull, heavy weight bearing her down, and I knew,
too, that she could not marshal her will to resist it, - that, in
fact, she really didn't care, so tired was she of it all. Experience
had taught me how the dull, heavy ache of a great loss will press
upon the consciousness with the regular, persistent, relentless
throb of a loaded wheel and eat out one's life with the slow
certainty of a cancer. This I knew to have been Gwen's state since
her father's death, and all my attempts to bring about a healthful
reaction had hitherto been futile. It is not to be wondered at,
therefore, that even the transient interest she had evinced was
hailed by me with delight as the beginning of that healthful
reaction for which I had so long sought. When a human bark in the
full tide of life is suddenly dashed upon the rocks of despair the
wreckage is strewn far and wide, and it is with no little difficulty
that enough can be rescued to serve in the rebuilding of even the
smallest of craft. The thought, therefore, that Gwen's intellectual
flotsam was beginning at length to swirl about a definite object in
a way to facilitate the rescue of her faculties was to me a
decidedly reassuring one, and I noted with pleasure that the state
of excited expectancy which she had tried in vain to conceal did not
wane, but waxed stronger as the days went by.
THE EPISODE OF THE PARALLEL READERS
The events of the present are all strung upon the thread of the
past, and in telling over this chronological rosary, it not
infrequently happens that strange, unlike beads follow each other
between our questioning fingers.
It was nearly a week after his letter before Maitland arrived. He
sent us no further word, but walked in one evening as we were talking
about him. He came upon us so suddenly that we were all taken
aback and, for a moment, I felt somewhat alarmed about Gwen. She
had started up quickly when the servant had mentioned Maitland's
name and pressed her hand convulsively upon her heart, while her
face and neck became of a deep crimson colour. I was saying to
myself that this was a common effect of sudden surprise, when I saw
her clutch quickly at the back of her chair, as if to steady herself.
A moment later she sank into her seat. Her face was now as pale as
ashes, and I felt I had good reason to be alarmed. I think she was
conscious of my scrutiny, for she turned her face from me and
remained motionless. The movement told me she was trying to regain
command of her faculties and I forbore to interfere in the struggle,
though I watched her with some solicitude.=20 My fears were at once
dispelled, however, when Maitland entered, for Gwen was the first
to welcome him. She extended her hand with much of her old
impulsiveness, saying: "I have so much for which to thank you - "
but Maitland interrupted her. "Indeed, I regret to say," he
rejoined, "that I have been unable thus far to be of any real service
to you. The Ragobah clue was a miserable failure, though we may do
ourselves the justice to admit that we had no alternative but to
follow it to the end. I confess I have never been more disappointed
than in the outcome of this affair.?" "My dear fellow," I said,
"we all have much to be thankful for in your safe return, let us
not forget that." Maitland laughed: "That reminds me," he said,
"of the man who passed the hat at a coloured camp-meeting. When
asked how much he had collected, he replied: 'I didn't get no money,
but I'se done got de hat back.' You've got your hat back, and that's
about all. However, with Miss Darrow's permission, I shall go back
to the starting point and begin all over again."