The Darrow Enigma by Melvin L. Severy
THE EPISODE OF THE DARKENED ROOM
What shall we say when Dream-Pictures leave their frames
of night and push us from the waking world?
As the part I played in the events I am about to narrate was rather
that of a passive observer than of an active participant, I need say
little of myself. I am a graduate of a Western university and, by
profession, a physician. My practice is now extensive, owing to my
blundering into fame in a somewhat singular manner, but a year ago
I had, I assure you, little enough to do. Inasmuch as my practice
is now secure, I feel perfectly free to confess that the cure I
effected in the now celebrated case of Mrs. P- was altogether the
result of chance, and not, as I was then only too glad to have
people believe, due to an almost supernatural power of diagnosis.
Mrs. P- was not more surprised at the happy result than was I; the
only difference being that she showed her astonishment, while I
endeavoured to conceal mine, and affected to look upon the whole
thing as a matter of course.
My fame spread; the case got into the medical journals, where my
skill was much lauded, and my practice became enormous. There is
but one thing further I need mention regarding myself: that is,
that I am possessed of a memory which my friends are pleased to
consider phenomenal. I can repeat a lecture, sermon, or
conversation almost word for word after once hearing it, provided
always, that the subject commands my interest. My humble abilities
in this direction have never ceased to be a source of wonderment to
my acquaintance, though I confess, for my own part, when I compare
them with those of Blind Tom, or of the man who, after a single
reading, could correctly repeat the London Times, advertisements
and all, they seem modest indeed.
It was about the time when, owing to the blessed Mrs. P -, my
creditors were beginning to receive some attention, that I first met
George Maitland. He had need, he said, of my professional services;
he felt much under the weather; could I give him something which
would brace him up a bit; he had some important chemical work on
hand which he could not afford to put by; in fact, he didn't mind
saying that he was at work upon a table of atomical pitches to match
Dalton's atomic weights; if he succeeded in what he had undertaken
he would have solved the secret of the love and hatred of atoms,
and unions hitherto unknown could easily be effected.
I do not know how long he would have continued had not my interest
in the subject caused me to interrupt him. I was something of an
experimenter myself, and here was a man who could help me.
It was a dream of mine that the great majority of ailments could be
cured by analysing a patient's blood, and then injecting into his
veins such chemicals as were found wanting, or were necessary to
counteract the influence of any deleterious matter present. There
were, of course, difficulties in the way, but had they not already
at Cornell University done much the same for vegetable life? And
did not those plants which had been set in sea sand out of which
every particle of nutriment had been roasted, and which were then
artificially fed with a solution of the chemicals of which they were
known to be composed, grow twice as rank as those which had been set
in the soil ordinarily supposed to be best adapted to them? What
was the difference between a human cell and a plant cell? Yes, since
my patient was a chemist, I would cultivate his acquaintance.
He proceeded to tell me how he felt, but I could make nothing of it,
so I forthwith did the regulation thing; what should we doctors do
without it! I looked at his tongue, pulled down his eyelid, and
pronounced him bilious. Yes, there were the little brown spots under
his skin - freckles, perhaps - and probably he had an occasional
ringing in his ears. He was willing to admit that he was dizzy on
suddenly rising from a stooping posture, and that eggs, milk, and
coffee were poison to him; and he afterward told me he should have
said the same of any other three articles I might have mentioned, for
he looked so hale and vigorous, and felt so disgracefully well, that
he was ashamed of himself. We have had many a laugh over it since.
The fact of the matter is the only affliction from which he was
suffering was an inordinate desire to make my acquaintance. Not for
my own sake - oh, dear, no! - but because I was John Darrow's family
physician, and would be reasonably sure to know Gwen Darrow, that
gentleman's daughter. He had first met her, he told me after we had
become intimate, at an exhibition of paintings by William T. Richards,
but, as you will soon be wondering if it were, on his part, a case
of love at first sight, I had best relate the incident to you in his
own words as he told it to me. This will relieve me of passing any
judgment upon the matter, for you will then know as much about it as
I, and, doubtless, be quite as capable of answering the question, for
candour compels me to own that my knowledge of the human heart is
entirely professional. Think of searching for Cupid's darts with a
"I was standing," Maitland said, "before a masterpiece of sea and
rock, such as only Richards can paint. It was a view of Land's End,
Cornwall, and in the artist's very best vein. My admiration made
me totally unmindful of my surroundings, so much so, indeed, that,
although the gallery was crowded, I caught myself expressing my
delight in a perfectly audible undertone. My enthusiasm, since it
was addressed to no one, soon began to attract attention, and people
stopped looking at the pictures to look at me. I was conscious of
this in a vague, far-off way, much as one is conscious of a
conversation which seems to have followed him across the borderland
of sleep, and I even thought that I ought to be embarrassed. How
long I remained thus transported I do not know. The first thing I
remember is hearing someone close beside me take a quick, deep
breath, one of those full inhalations natural to all sensitive
natures when they come suddenly upon something sublime. -I turned
and looked. I have said I was transported by that canvas of sea
and rocks, and have, therefore, no word left to describe the emotion
with which I gazed upon the exquisite, living, palpitating picture
beside me. A composite photograph of all the Madonnas ever painted,
from the Sistine to Bodenhausen's, could not have been more lovely,
more ineffably womanly than that young girl, radiant with the divine
glow of artistic delight - at least, that is my opinion, which, by
the bye, I should, perhaps, have stated a little more gingerly,
inasmuch as you are yourself acquainted with the young lady. Now,
don't look incredulous [noticing my surprise]. Black hair - not
brown, black; clear pink and white complexion; large, deep violet
eyes with a remarkable poise to them." - Here I continued the
description for him: "Slight of figure; a full, honest waist,
without a suggestion of that execrable death-trap, Dame Fashion's
hideous cuirass; a little above middle height; deliberate, and
therefore graceful, in all her movements; carries herself in a way
to impress one with the idea that she is innocent, without that
time-honoured concomitant, ignorance; half girl, half woman; shy,
yet strong; and in a word, very beautiful - that's Gwen Darrow."
I paused here, and Maitland went on somewhat dubiously: "Yes, it's
not hard to locate such a woman. She makes her presence as clearly
felt among a million of her sex as does a grain of fuchsine in a
hogshead of water. If, with a few ounces of this, Tyndall could
colour Lake Geneva, so with Gwen Darrow one might, such is the power
of the ideal, change the ethical status of a continent."
He then told me how he had made a study of Miss Darrow's movements,
and had met her many times since; in fact, so often that he fancied,
from something in her manner, that she had begun to wonder if his
frequent appearance were not something more than a coincidence. The
fear that she might think him dogging her footsteps worried him, and
he began as sedulously to avoid the places he knew she frequented,
as he previously had sought them. This, he confessed, made him
utterly miserable. He had, to be sure, never spoken to her, but it
was everything to be able to see her. When he could endure it no
longer he had come to me under pretence of feeling ill, that he
might, when he had made my acquaintance, get me to introduce him to
You will understand, of course, that I did not learn all this at our
first interview. Maitland did not take me into his confidence until
we had had a conference at his laboratory devoted entirely to
scientific speculations. On this occasion he surprised me not a
little by turning to me suddenly and saying: "Some of the grandest
sacrifices the world has ever known, if one may judge by the
fortitude they require,=20and the pain they cause, have occurred in
the laboratory." I looked at him inquiringly, and he continued:
"When a man, simply for the great love of truth that is in him, has
given his life to the solution of some problem, and has at last
arrived, after years of closest application, at some magnificent
generalisation - when he has, perhaps, published his conclusions,
and received the grateful homage of all lovers of truth, his life
has, indeed, borne fruit. Of him may it then be justly said that
"'. . . life hath blossomed downward like
The purple bell-flower.'
But suddenly, in the privacy of his laboratory, a single fact arises
from the test-tube in his trembling hand and confronts him! His
brain reels; the glass torment falls upon the floor, and shatters
into countless pieces, but he is not conscious of it, for he feels
it thrust through his heart. When he recovers from the first shock,
he can only ejaculate: 'Is it possible?' After a little he is able
to reason. 'I was fatigued,' he says; 'perhaps my senses erred. I
can repeat the experiment again, and be sure. But if it overthrow
those conclusions for which I have given my life?' he gasps. 'My
generalisation is firmly established in the minds of all - all but
myself - no one will ever chance upon this particular experiment,
and it may not disprove my theory after all; better, much better,
that the floor there keep the secret of it all both from me and from
others!' But even as he says this to himself he has taken a new
tube from the rack and crawled - ten years older for that last ten
minutes - to his chemical case. The life-long habit of truth is so
strong in him that self-interest cannot submerge it. He repeats the
experiment, and confirms his fears. The battle between his life and
a few drops of liquid in a test-tube has been mercilessly fought,
and he has lost! The elasticity of the man is gone forever, and the
only indication the world ever receives of this terrible conflict
between a human soul and its destiny is some half a dozen lines in
Nature, giving the experiment and stating that it utterly refutes
its author's previous conclusions. Half a dozen lines - the epitaph
of a dead, though unburied, life!"
My companion paused there, but I found myself unable to reply. He
had spoken with such intensity, such dramatic fervour, that I was
completely swept away by his eloquence; so much so, indeed, that it
did not even occur to me to ask myself why he should have burst out
in this peculiar strain. I have given you the incident in order
that you may see the strange moods into which Maitland occasionally
relapsed - at least, at that time. After a quick glance at me he
continued, in a quieter vein: "All of us men of science have felt
something, however little, of this, and I believe, as a class,
scientists transcend all other men in their respect for absolute
truth." He cast another one of his searching glances at me, and
said quickly: "This is precisely why I am going to confide in you
and rely upon your assistance in a matter, the successful termination
of which would please me as much as the discovery of an absolute
standard of measurement."
He then made the confession which I have already given you, and
ended by asking me to secure him an introduction to Miss Darrow.
I cheerfully promised to bring this about at the first opportunity.
He asked me if I thought, on account of his having met her so
frequently, she would be likely to think it was all a "put up job."
"I do not know," I replied. "Miss Darrow is a singularly close
observer. On the whole I think you had better reach her through
her father. Do you play croquet?" He replied that he was considered
something of an expert in that line. That, then, was surely the best
way. John Darrow was known in the neighbourhood as a "crank" on the
subject of croquet. He had spent many hundreds of dollars on his
grounds. His wickets were fastened to hard pine planks, and these
were then carefully buried two feet deep. The surface of the ground,
he was wont to descant, must be of a particular sort of gravel,
sifted just so, and rolled to a nicety. The balls must be of hard
rubber, and have just one-eighth inch clearance in passing through
the wickets, with the exception of the two wires forming the "cage,"
where it was imperative that this clearance should be reduced to
one-sixteenth of an inch - but I need not state more to show how he
came to be considered a "crank" upon the subject.
It was easy enough to bring Maitland and Darrow together. "My
friend is himself much interested in the game; he heard of your
superb ground; may he be permitted to examine it closely?" Darrow
was all attention. He would be delighted to show it. Suppose they
make a practical test of it by playing a game. This they did and
Maitland played superbly, but he was hardly a match for the old
gentleman, who sought to palliate his defeat by saying: "You play
an excellent game, sir; but I am a trifle too much for you on my own
ground. Now, if you can spare the time, I should like to witness a
game between you and my daughter; I think you will be pretty evenly
If he could spare the time! I laughed outright at the idea. Why,
with the prospect of meeting Gwen Darrow before him, an absolute
unit of measure, with a snail's pace, would have made good its
escape from him. As it is a trick of poor humanity to refuse when
offered the very thing one has been madly scheming to obtain, I
hastened to accept Darrow's invitation for my friend, and to assure
him on my own responsibility, that time was just then hanging heavily
on Maitland's hands. Well, the game was played, but Maitland was so
unnerved by the girl's presence that he played execrably, so poorly,
indeed, that the always polite Darrow remarked: "You must charge
your easy victory, Gwen, to your opponent's gallantry, not to his
lack of skill, for I assure you he gave me a much harder rub." The
young lady cast a quick glance at Maitland, which said so plainly
that she preferred a fair field and no favour that he hastened to
say: "Your father puts too high an estimate upon my play. I did my
best to win, but - but I was a little nervous; I see, however, that
you would have defeated me though I had been in my best form." Gwen
gave him one of those short, searching looks, so peculiarly her own,
which seem to read, with mathematical certainty, one's innermost
thoughts, - and the poor fellow blushed to the tips of his ears.
But he was no boy, this Maitland, and betrayed no other sign of
the tempest that was raging within him. His utterance remained as
usual, deliberate and incisive, and I thought this perplexed the
young lady. Before leaving, both Maitland and I were invited to
become parties to a six-handed game to be played the following week,
after the grounds had been redressed with gravel.
Maitland looked forward to this second meeting with Miss Darrow
with an eagerness which made every hour seem interminably long, and
he was in such a flutter of expectancy that I was sure if
"We live . . . in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial
We should count time by heart-throbs,"
he must have passed through a period as long as that separating the
Siege of Troy from the "late unpleasantness." The afternoon came at
last, however. The party consisted, besides Darrow and his daughter,
Maitland and myself, of two young gentlemen with whom personally I
had but a slight acquaintance, although I knew them somewhat by
reputation. The younger one, Clinton Browne, is a young artist whose
landscapes were beginning to attract wide attention in Boston, and
the elder, Charles Herne, a Western gentleman of some literary
attainments, but comparatively unknown here in the East. There is
nothing about Mr. Herne that would challenge more than passing
attention. If you had said of him, "He is well-fleshed, well-groomed,
and intellectually well-thatched," you would have voiced the opinion
of most of his acquaintances.
This somewhat elaborately upholstered old world has a deal of mere
filling of one kind and another, and Mr. Herne is a part of it. To
be sure, he leaves the category of excelsior very far behind and
approaches very nearly to the best grade of curled hair, but, in
spite of all this, he is simply a sort of social filling.
Mr. Browne, on the other hand, is a very different personage. Of
medium height, closely knit, with the latent activity and grace of
the cat flowing through every movement and even stagnating in his
pose, he is a man that the first casual gaze instantly returns to
with sharpened focus. You have seen gymnasts whose normal movements
were slowly performed springs, just as rust is a slow combustion and
fire the same thing in less time. Well, Clinton Browne strongly
suggested that sort of athlete. Add to this a regularly formed,
clearly cut, and all-but-beautiful face, with a pair of wonderfully
piercing, albeit somewhat shifty, black eyes, and one need not marvel
that men as well as women stared at him. I have spoken of his gaze
as "somewhat shifty," yet am not altogether sure that in that term
I accurately describe it. What first fastened my attention was this
vague, unfocussed, roving, quasi-introspective vision flashing with
panther-like suddenness into a directness that seemed to burn and
pierce one like the thrust of a hot stiletto, His face was
clean-shaven, save for a mere thumb-mark of black hair directly
under the centre of his lower lip. This Iago-like tab and the
almost fierce brilliancy of his concentrated gaze gave to his
countenance at times a sinister, Machiavellian expression that was
irresistible and which, to my thinking, seriously marred an otherwise
fine face. Of=20course due allowance must be made for the strong
prejudice I have against any form of beard. However, I'd wager a
box of my best liver-pills against any landscape Browne ever painted,
I don't care if it's as big as a cyclorama, - that if he had known
how completely Gwen shared my views, - how she disliked the
appearance of bewhiskered men, - that delicately nurtured little
imperial would soon have been reduced to a tender memory, - that is
to say, if a physician can diagnose a case of love from such symptoms
as devouring glances and an attentiveness so marked that it quite
disgusted Maitland, who repeatedly measured his rival with the
apparent cold precision of a mathematician, albeit there was warmth
This singular self-poise is one of Maitland's most noticeable
characteristics and is, I think, rather remarkable in a man of such
strong emotional tendencies and lightning-like rapidity of thought.
No doubt some small portion of it is the result of acquirement, for
life can hardly fail to teach us all something of this sort; still
I cannot but think that the larger part of it is native to him.
Born of well-to-do parents, he had never had the splendid tuition
of early poverty. As soon as he had left college he had studied law,
and had been admitted to the bar. This he had done more to gratify
the wishes of his father than to further any desires of his own, but
he had soon found the profession, so distasteful to him that he
practically abandoned it in favour of scientific research. True,
he still occasionally took a legal case when it turned upon
scientific points which interested him, but, as he once confessed
to me, he swallowed, at such times, the bitter pill of the law
for the sugar coating of science which enshrouded it. This legal
training could, therefore, it seems to me, have made no deep or
radical change in his character, which leads me to think that the
self-control he exhibited, despite the angry disgust with which I
know Browne's so apparent attentions to Gwen inspired him, must,
for the most part, have been native to him rather than acquired.
Nothing worthy of record occurred until evening; at least nothing
which at the time impressed me as of import, though I afterward
remembered that Darrow's behaviour was somewhat strange. He
appeared singularly preoccupied, and on one occasion started
nervously when I coughed behind him. He explained that a
disagreeable dream had deprived him of his sleep the previous night
and left his nerves somewhat unstrung, and I thought no more of it.
When the light failed we were all invited into the parlour to
listen to a song by Miss Darrow. The house, as you are perhaps
aware, overlooks Dorchester Bay. The afternoon had been very hot,
but at dusk a cold east wind had sprung up, which, as it was still
early in the season, was not altogether agreeable to our host,
sitting as he was, back to, though fully eight feet from, an open
window looking to the east. Maitland, with his usual quick
observation, noticed his discomfort and asked if he should not
close the window. The old gentleman did not seem to hear the
question until it was repeated, when, starting as if from a reverie,
he said: "If it will not be too warm for the rest of you, I would
like to have it partly closed, say to within six inches, for the
wind is cold"; and he seemed to relapse again into his reverie.
Maitland was obliged to use considerable strength to force the
window down, as it stuck in the casing, and when it finally gave
way it closed with a loud shrieking sound ending in the bang of
the counterweights. At the noise Darrow sprang to his feet,
exclaiming: "Again! The same sound! I knew I could not mistake
it!" but by this time Gwen was at his side, pressing him gently back
into his seat, as she said to him in an undertone audible to all of
us: "What is it, father?" The old gentleman only pressed her
closer by way of reply, while he said to us apologetically: "You
must excuse me, gentlemen. I have a certain dream which haunts
me, - the dream of someone striking me out of the darkness. Last
night I had the same dream for the seventh time and awoke to hear
that window opened. There is no mistaking the sound I heard just
now; it is identical with that I heard last night. I sprang out
of bed, took a light, and rushed down here, for I am not afraid
to meet anything I can see, but the window was closed and locked,
as I had left it! What do you think, Doctor," he said, turning to
me, "are dreams ever prophetic?"
"I have never," I replied, anxious to quiet him, "had any
personal experience justifying such a conclusion." I did not tell
him of certain things which had happened to friends of mine, and
so my reply reassured him.
Maitland, who had been startled by the old gentleman's conduct,
now returned to the window and opened it about six inches. There
was no other window open in the room, and yet so fresh was the air
that we were not uncomfortable. Darrow, with ill-concealed pride,
then asked his daughter to sing, and she left him and went to the
piano. "Shall I not light the lamp?" I asked. "I think we shall
not need it," the old gentleman replied, "music is always better
in the gloaming."
In order that you may understand what follows, it will be necessary
for me to describe to you our several positions in the room. The
apartment is large, nearly square, and occupies the southeast corner
of the house. The eastern side of the room has one window, that
which had been left open about six inches, and on the southern side
of the room there were two windows, both of which were securely
fastened and the blinds of which had been closed by the painters who,
that morning, had primed the eastern and southern sides of the house,
preparatory to giving it a thorough repainting. On the north side of
the room, but much nearer to the western than the eastern end, are
folding doors. These on this occasion were closed and fastened. On
the western side of the room is the piano, and to the left of it,
near the southwest corner, is a door leading to the hallway. This
door was closed. As I have already told you, Darrow sat in a
high-backed easy-chair facing the piano and almost in the centre of
the room. The partly opened window on the east side was directly
behind him and fully eight feet away. Herne and Browne sat upon
Darrow's right and a little in front of him against the folding
doors, while Maitland and I were upon his left, between him and the
hall door. Gwen was at the piano. There are no closets, draperies,
or niches in the room. I think you will now be able to understand
the situation fully.
Whether the gloom of the scene suggested it to her, or whether it
was merely a coincidence, I do not know, but Miss Darrow began to
sing "In the Gloaming" in a deep, rich contralto voice which seemed
fraught with a weird, melancholy power. When I say that her voice
was ineffably sympathetic I would not have you confound this quality
either with the sepulchral or the aspirated tone which usually is
made to do duty for sympathy, especially in contralto voices. Every
note was as distinct, as brilliantly resonant, as a cello in a
master's hand. So clear, so full the notes rang out that I could
plainly feel the chair vibrate beneath me.
"In the gloaming, 0 my darling!
When the lights are dim and low,
And the quiet shadows falling
Softly come and softly go.
When the winds are sobbing faintly
With a gentle unknown woe,
Will you think of me and love me
As you did once, long ago?
"In the gloaming, 0 my darling!
Think not bitterly of me,
Though I passed away in silence,
Left you lonely, set you free.
For my heart was crushed with longing.
What had been could never be:
It was best to leave you thus, dear,
Best for you and best"
But the line was never finished. With a wild cry, more of fear than
of pain, Darrow sprang from his chair. "Gentlemen, I have been
stabbed!" was all he said, and fell back heavily into his seat. Gwen
was kneeling before him in an instant, even before I could assist
him. His right hand was pressed to his throat and his eyes seemed
starting from their sockets as he shouted hoarsely: "A light, a
light! For God's sake, don't let him strike me again in the dark!"
Maitland was already lighting the gas and Herne and Browne, so Browne
afterward told me, were preparing to seize the assailant. I
remembered, after it all was over, a quick movement Browne had made
toward the darkest corner of the room.
The apartment was now flooded with light, and I looked for the
assassin. He was not to be found! The room contained only Gwen,
Darrow, and his four invited guests! The doors were closed; the
windows had not been touched. No one could possibly have entered
or left the room, and yet the assassin was not there. But one
solution remained; Darrow was labouring under a delusion, and
Gwen's voice would restore him. As she was about to speak I
stepped back to note the effect of her words upon him. "Do not
fear, father," she said in a low voice as she laid her face against
his cheek, "there is nothing here to hurt you. You are ill, - I
will get you a glass of cordial and you will be yourself again in
a moment." She was about to rise when her father seized her
frantically by the arm, exclaiming in a hoarse whisper: "Don't
leave me! Can't you see? Don't leave me!" and for the first time
he removed his hand from his throat, and taking her head between
his palms, gazed wistfully into her face. He tried to speak again,
but could not, and glanced up at us with=20a helpless expression
which I shall never forget. Maitland, his eyes riveted upon the
old gentleman, whose thoughts he seemed to divine, hurriedly
produced a pencil and note-book and held them toward him, but
he did not see them, for he had drawn Gwen's face down to him and
was kissing her passionately. The next instant he was on his feet
and from the swollen veins that stood out like cords upon his neck
and forehead, we could see the terrible effort he was making to
speak. At last the words came, - came as if they were torn hissing
from his throat, for he took a full breath between each one of them.
"Gwen - I - knew - it! Good-bye! Remember - your - promise!"
and he fell a limp mass into his chair, overcome, I felt sure,
by the fearful struggle he had made. Maitland seized a glass of
water and threw it in his face. I loosened the clothing about his
neck and, in doing so, his head fell backward and his face was
turned upward toward me. The features were drawn, - the eyes were
glazed and set. I felt of his heart; he was dead!
Silence is the only tender Death can make to Mystery.
The look of pain and astonishment upon my face said plainly enough
"Your father is dead." I could not speak. In the presence of her
great affliction we all stood silent, and with bowed heads. I had
thought Darrow's attack the result of an overwrought mental condition
which would speedily readjust itself, and had so counted upon his
daughter's influence as all but certain to immediately result in a
temporary cure. When, therefore, I found him dead without any
apparent cause, I was, for the time being, too dazed to think, much
less to act, and I think the other gentlemen were quite as much
incapacitated as I. My first thought, when I recovered so that I
could think, was of Gwen. I felt sure her reason must give way under
the strain, and I thought of going nearer to her in case she should
fall, but refrained when I noticed that Maitland had noiselessly
glided within easy reach of her. To move seemed impossible to me.
Such a sudden transition from warm, vigorous life to cold, impassive
death seems to chill the dynamic rivers of being into a horrible
winter, static and eternal. Though death puts all things in the
past tense, even we physicians cannot but be strangely moved when
the soul thus hastily deserts the body without the usual farewell of
Contrary to my expectations Gwen did not faint. For a long time,
it may not have been more than twenty minutes, but it seemed,
under the peculiar circumstances, at least an hour, - she remained
perfectly impassive. She neither changed colour nor exhibited any
other sign of emotion. She stood gazing quietly, tenderly, at her
father's body as if he were asleep and she were watching for some
indication of his awakening. Then a puzzled expression came over
her countenance. There was no trace of sorrow in it, only the look
of perplexity. I decided to break the gruesome silence, but the
thought of how my own voice would sound in that awe-inspired
stillness frightened me. Gwen herself was the first to speak. She
looked up with the same impassive countenance, from which now the
perplexed look had fled, and said simply:
"Gentlemen, what is to be done?" Her voice was firm and sane, - that
it was pitched lower than usual and had a suggestion of intensity in
it, was perfectly natural. I thought she did not realise her loss
and said: "He has gone past recall." "Yes," she replied, "I know
that, but should we not send for an officer?" "An officer!" I
exclaimed. "Is it possible you entertain a doubt that your father's
death resulted from natural causes?" She looked at me a moment
fixedly, and then said deliberately: "My father was murdered!" I
was so surprised and pained that, for a moment, I could not reply,
and no one else sought to break the silence.
Maitland, as if Gwen's last remark had given rise to a sudden
determination, glided to the body. He examined the throat, raised
the right hand and looked at the fingers: then he stepped back a
little and wrote something in his note-book. This done, he tried
the folding doors and found them locked on the inside; then the two
windows on the south side of the room, which he also found fastened.
He opened the hall door slightly and the hinges creaked noisily, of
all of which he made a note. Then taking a rule from his pocket he
went to the east window, and measured the opening, and then the
distance between this window and the chair in which the old gentleman
had sat, recording his results as before. His next act astonished
me not a little and had the effect of recalling me to my senses.
With his penknife he cut a circle in the carpet around each leg of
the chair on which the body rested. He continued his examinations
with quiet thoroughness, but I ceased now to follow him closely,
since I had begun to feel the necessity of convincing Gwen of her
error, and was casting about for the best way to do so.
"My dear Miss Darrow," I said at length; "you attach too much
importance to the last words of your father, who, it is clear, was
not in his right mind. You must know that he has, for some months,
had periods of temporary aberration, and that all his delusions
have been of a sanguinary nature. Try to think calmly," I said,
perceiving from her expression that I had not shaken her conviction
in the least. "Your father said he had been stabbed. You must see
that such a thing is physically impossible. Had all the doors and
windows been open, no object so large as a man could possibly have
entered or left the room without our observing him; but the windows
were closed and fastened, with the exception of the east window,
which, as you may see for yourself, is open some six inches or so,
in which position it is secured by the spring fastening. The folding
doors are locked on the inside and the only possible means of
entrance, therefore, would have been by the hall door. Directly in
front of that, between it and your father, sat Mr. Maitland and
myself. You see by my chair that I was less than two feet from the
door. It is inconceivable that, in that half-light, anyone could
have used that entrance and escaped observation. Do you not see
how untenable your idea is? Had your father been stabbed he would
have bled, but I am as certain as though I had made a thorough
examination that there is not so much as a scratch anywhere upon his
body." Gwen heard me through in silence and then said wearily, in
a voice which had now neither intensity nor elasticity, "I understand
fully the apparent absurdity of my position, yet I know my father
was murdered. The wound which caused his death has escaped your
notice, but - "
"My dear Miss Darrow," I interrupted, "there is no wound, you may
be sure of that!" For the first time since Darrow's death Maitland
spoke. "If you will look at the throat a little more closely, you
will see what may be a wound," he said, and went on quietly with his
examinations. He was right; there was a minute abrasion visible.
The girl's quick observation had detected what had escaped me,
convinced as I was that there was nothing to be found by a scrutiny
Gwen now transferred her attention to Maitland, and asked: "Had not
one of us better go for an officer?" Maitland, whose power of
concentration is so remarkable as on some occasions to render him
utterly oblivious of his surroundings, did not notice the question
and Browne replied to it for him. "I should be only too happy to
fetch an officer for you, if you wish," he said. Have you ever
noticed how acute the mind is for trifles and slight incongruities
when under the severe tension of such a shock as we had experienced?
Such attacks, threatening to invade and forever subjugate our
happiness, seem to have the effect of so completely manning the
ramparts of our intellect the nothing, however trivial, escapes
observation. Gwen's father, her only near relative, lay cold before
her, - his death, from her standpoint, the most painful of mysteries,
and yet the incongruity of Browne's "only too happy " did not
escape her, as was evident by the quick glance and sudden relaxation
of the mouth into the faintest semblance of a smile. All this was
momentary and, I doubt not, half unconscious. She replied gravely:
"I would indeed be obliged if you would do so."
Maitland, who had now finished his examination, noticed that Browne
was about to depart. When the artist would have passed him on his
way to the hall door, he placed his hand upon that gentleman's
shoulder, saying: "Pardon me, sir, but I would strongly urge that
you do not leave the room!"
Browne paused. Both men stood like excited animals at gaze.
Nothing is so full of possibilities as the seemingly impossible.
Maitland's request that Browne should not leave the room seemed to
us all a veritable thunderbolt. It impressed me at the time as
being a thinly veneered command, and I remember fearing lest the
artist should be injudicious enough to disregard it. If he could
have seen his own face for the next few moments, he would have had
a lesson in expression which years of portrait work may fail to
teach him. At length the rapidly changing kaleidoscope of his mind
seemed to settle, to group its varied imaginings about a definite
idea, - the idea that he had been all but openly accused, in the
presence of Miss Darrow, of being instrumental in her father's death.
For a moment, as he faced Maitland, whom he instinctively felt to be
a rival, he looked so dark and sinister that one could easily have
believed him capable of almost any crime.
Gwen was no less surprised than the rest of us at Maitland's
interference, but she did not permit it to show in her voice as she
said quietly: "Mr. Browne has consented to go for an officer." As
I felt sure she must have thought Maitland already knew this, as
anyone else must have heard what had passed, I looked upon her
remark as a polite way of saying:
"I am mistress here."
Maitland apparently so regarded it, for he replied quickly: "I hope
you will not think me officious, or unmindful of your right to
dictate in a matter so peculiarly your own affair. My only desire
is to help you. Mr. Browne's departure would still further
complicate a case already far to difficult of solution. My legal
training has given me some little experience in these matters, and
I only wish that you may have the benefit thereof. It is now nearly
three-quarters of an hour since your father's death, and, I assure
you, time at this particular juncture may be of the utmost
importance. Not a moment should be wasted in needless discussion.
If you will consent to despatch a servant to the police station
I will, in due time, explain to you why I have taken the liberty of
being so insistent on this point."
He had hardly ceased speaking before Gwen rang for a servant. She
hurriedly told him what had transpired and sent him to the nearest
police station. As this was but a few rods away and the messenger
was fleet of foot, an officer was soon upon the scene. "We were
able," he said to us generally as he entered the room, "to catch
Medical Examiner Ferris by 'phone at his home in F- Street, and
he will be here directly. In the meantime I have been sent along
merely to see that the body is not moved before his examination and
that everything in the room remains exactly as it was at the time
of the old gentleman's death. Did I not understand," he said to
Maitland in an undertone, "that there is a suspicion of foul play?"
"Yes," replied George, "that is one explanation which certainly will
have to be considered."
"I thought I heard the Cap'n say 'murder' when he 'phoned in town
for some specials. They're for detective work on this case, I reckon.
Hello! That sounds like the Doctor's rig."
A moment later the bell rang and Dr. Ferris entered the room.
"Ah, Doctor," he said extending his hand to me, "what have we here?"
Before I could answer he had noticed Maitland and advanced to shake
hands with him.
"Is this indeed so serious as I have been told?" he asked, after
"It seems to me likely," replied Maitland slowly, "to develop into
the darkest mystery I have ever known."
"Hum!" replied the Examiner. "Has the body been moved or the
disposition of its members altered?"
"Not since I arrived," replied Officer Barker.
"And before?" queried Dr. Ferris, turning to Maitland.
"Everything is absolutely intact. I have made a few notes and
measurements, but I have disturbed nothing," replied Maitland.
"Good," said the Examiner. "May I see those notes before I go?
You were on that Parker case and you have, you know, something of a
reputation for thoroughness. Perhaps you may have noted something
that would escape me."
"The notes, Doctor, are at your service," George replied.
Dr. Ferris' examination of the body was very thorough, yet, since
it was made with the rapid precision which comes from extended
practice, it was soon over. Short as it was, however, it was still
an ordeal under which Gwen suffered keenly, to judge from her manner.
The Examiner then took Maitland aside, looked at his notes, and
conversed earnestly with him in an undertone for several minutes. I
do not know what passed between them. When he left, a few moments
later, Officer Barker accompanied him.
As soon as the door closed behind them Gwen turned to Maitland.
"Did he give you his opinion?" she asked with a degree of interest
which surprised me.
"He will report death as having resulted from causes at present
unknown," rejoined Maitland.
Gwen seemed greatly relieved by this answer, though I confess I was
utterly at a loss to see why she should be.
Observing this change in her manner Maitland approached her, saying:
"Will you now permit me to explain my seeming rudeness in interfering
with your plan to make Mr. Browne your messenger, and at the same
time allow me to justify myself in the making of yet another request?"
Gwen bowed assent and he proceeded to state the following case as
coolly and accurately as if it were a problem in geometry.
"Mr. Darrow," he began, "has just died under peculiar circumstances.
Three possible views of the case at once suggest themselves. First:
his death may have been due to natural causes and his last expressions
the result of an hallucination under which he was labouring. Second:
he may have committed suicide, as the result, perhaps, of a mania
which in that case would also serve to explain his last words and
acts; or, - you will pardon me, Miss Darrow, - these last appearances
may have been intentionally assumed with a view to deceiving us. The
officers you have summoned will not be slow in looking for motives
for such a deception, and several possible ones cannot fail at once
to suggest themselves to them. Third: your father may have been
murdered and his last expressions a more or less accurate description
of the real facts of the case. It seems to me that these three
theories exhaust the possibilities of the case. Can anyone suggest
anything further?" And he paused for a reply.
"It is clear," replied Mr. Herne with portly deliberation, "that all
deaths must be either natural or unnatural; and equally clear that
when unnatural the agent, if human, must be either the victim himself,
or some person external to him."
"Precisely so," continued Maitland. "Now our friend, the Doctor,
believes that Mr. Darrow's death resulted from natural causes. The
official authorities will at first, in all probability, agree with
him, but it is impossible to tell what theory they will ultimately
adopt. If sufficient motive for the act can be found, some are
almost certain to adopt the suicide theory. Miss Darrow has
expressed her conviction that we are dealing with a case of murder.
Mr. Browne and Mr. Herne have expressed no opinion on the subject,
so far as I am aware."
At this point Gwen, with an eagerness she had not before displayed,
or possibly it was nervousness, - exclaimed: "And your own view
of the case?" "I believe," Maitland replied deliberately, "that
your father's death resulted from poison injected into the blood;
but this is a matter so easily settled that I prefer not to theorise
upon it. There are several poisons which might have produced the
effects we have observed. If, however, I am able to prove this
conjecture correct I have still only eliminated one of the three
hypotheses and resolved the matter to a choice between the suicide
and murder theories, yet that is something gained. It is because I
believe it can be shown death did not result from natural causes
that I have so strongly urged Mr. Browne not to leave the room."
"Pardon me, sir!" ejaculated Browne, growing very dark and
threatening. "You mean to insinuate - " "Nothing," continued
Maitland, finishing his sentence for him, and then quietly ignoring
the interruption. "As I have already said, I am somewhat familiar
with the usual methods of ferreting out crime. As a lawyer, and
also as a chemical expert, I have listened to a great deal of
evidence in criminal cases, and in this and other ways, learned
the lines upon which detectives may confidently be expected to act,
when once they have set up an hypothesis. The means by which they
arrive at their hypotheses occasionally surpass all understanding,
and we have, therefore, no assurance as to the view they will take
of this case. The first thing they will do will be to make what
they will call a 'thorough examination' of the premises; but a
study of chemistry gives to the word 'thorough' a significance of
which they have no conception. It is to shorten this examination
as much as possible, - to prevent it from being more tiresome to
you than is absolutely necessary," he said to Gwen, "that I have
taken the liberty of ascertaining and recording most of the data
the officers will require."
"Believe me," Gwen said to him in an undertone not intended for the
rest of us, though we heard it, "I am duly grateful for your
consideration and shall find a fitting time to thank you."
With no other reply than a deprecating gesture, Maitland continued:
"Now let us look at the matter from the standpoint of the officers.
"They must first determine in their own minds how Mr. Darrow met his
death. This will constitute the basis of their first hypothesis.
I say 'first' because they are liable to change it at any moment it
seems to them untenable. If they conclude that death resulted from
natural causes, I shall doubtless be able to induce them to waive
that view of the case until I have been given time to prove it
untenable - if I can - and to act for the present upon one of the
other two possible theories. It appears, from our present
knowledge of the case, that, whichever one of these they choose,
the same difficulty will confront them."
Gwen looked at him inquiringly and he continued, answering the
question in her eyes:
"This is what I mean. Your father, whether he committed suicide
or was murdered, in all probability met his death through that
almost imperceptible wound under his chin. This wound, so far as
I have yet been able to examine it without a glass, was made with
a somewhat blunt instrument, able, apparently, to little more than
puncture the skin and draw a drop or so of blood. Of course, on
such a theory, death must have resulted from poisoning. The
essential point is: Where is the instrument that inflicted the
"Might it not be buried in the flesh?" Gwen asked.
"Possibly, but as I have not been able to find it I cannot believe
it very likely, though closer search may reveal it," replied
Maitland. "Your father's right forefinger," he continued, "is
slightly stained with blood, but the wound is of a nature which
could not have been caused by a finger nail previously poisoned.
Since we know he pressed his hand to his throat this blood-stain
makes no more strongly toward the truth of the suicide theory than
it does toward that of the murder hypothesis. Suppose now, for we
must look at all sides of the question, the officers begin to act
upon the assumption that murder has been committed. What will
they then do? They will satisfy themselves that the east window
was opened six and three-quarters inches and securely fastened in
that position; that the two south windows were closed and fastened
and that the blinds thereof were also closed. They will ascertain
the time when death occurred, - we can easily tell them, - and this
will show them that neither of the blinds on the south side could
have been opened without so increasing the light in the room as to
be sure to attract our attention. They will learn also that the
folding doors were locked, as they are now, on this side and that
these two gentlemen [indicating Browne and Herne] sat against them.
They will then turn to the hall door as the only possible means of
entrance and I shall tell them that the Doctor and I sat directly
in front of this door and between it and Mr. Darrow. I have taken
the liberty to cut the carpet to mark the positions of our chairs.
In view of all these facts what must they conclude? Simply this:
no one entered the room, did the deed, and then left it, at least
not without being observed." "But surely," I ventured to suggest,
"you do not think they will presume to question the testimony of
all of us that no one was observed."
"That is all negative evidence," he replied, "and does not
conclusively prove that another might not have observed what we
failed to detect. However, it is all so self-evident that they
will not question it. I know so well their methods of reasoning
that I am already prepared to refute their conclusions at every
point, without, I regret to say, being myself able to solve the
mystery, though I may say in passing that I purposely am refraining
from formulating any theory whatever until I have ascertained
everything which it is possible to learn in the matter. In this way
I hope to avoid the error into which the detective is so prone to
fall. Once you set up an hypothesis you unconsciously, and in spite
of yourself, accentuate unduly the importance of all data making
toward that hypothesis, while, on the other hand you either utterly
neglect, misconstrue, or fail to fully appreciate, the evidence
oppugnant to your theory. In chemical research I gather the material
for an entire series of experiments before performing any, so that
the first few shall not, either by satisfying or discouraging me,
cause me to leave the bush half beaten.
"Let us see how, from the officers' standpoint, the murder hypothesis
now stands. No assassin, it will be clear to them, could have
entered or left this room unobserved. If, therefore, a man did enter
the room and kill our friend, we, all of us, must be his accomplices."
This remark drew some sort of exclamatory protest from every other
person in the room save Browne.
"Ah, that is probably the true solution," said the artist with
This remark and the tone in which it was uttered would have been
discourteous under any circumstances; at this particular time and in
the painful situation in which we all found ourselves it was boorish
almost beyond endurance.
There was nothing in Maitland's manner to indicate that he had heard
Browne's remark, as he quietly continued:
"You see this cold-blooded view, the mere statement of which causes
you all to shudder, - the more so because one of our number is the
daughter of the dead man, - is not to be entertained a moment and
is only mentioned to show the logical chain which will force the
officers into the certain conviction that no assassin did enter or
leave this room. What, then, remains of their theory? Two
possibilities. First, the murderer may have done the deed without
entering. If so, it is clear that he must have made use of the
partly-opened window. This seems so likely that they will seize
upon it with avidity. At first they will suggest that the assassin
reached in at the window and struck his victim as he sat by it.
This, they will urge, accounts for our not finding the weapon, and
they will be so sure that this is the correct solution of the
problem that I shall probably have to point out to them its patent
absurdity. This illustrates the danger of forming an hypothesis
from imperfect data. Remind them that Mr. Darrow did not sit by
the window, but eight feet three and one-half inches from it, in
almost the exact centre of the room, and their theory falls to the
ground, only to be hastily replaced, as a drowning man catches at a
straw, by a slightly varied theory. If the victim sat that distance
from the window, they will inform us, it is clear the murderous
implement must have been thrown or shot at him by the assassin."
"Indeed," said Mr. Herne, "though I had not thought of that theory
it seems to me so plausible, now that you mention it, that I think
the officers will show rare acumen if they adopt it. Very properly
may they hold that some projectile might have been shot through the
partly opened window and none of us have detected the act."
"Ah, yes," rejoined Maitland; "but when I ask them where this
implement is under this assumption, and remind them of what I shall
already have told them, viz., that Mr. Darrow sat back to the window
as well as over eight feet from it, and sat in a chair, the solid
back of which extended, like a protecting shield, fully six inches
above the top of his head, they will find it difficult to show how,
unless projectiles travel in sharp curves or angles, a man in this
position could thus receive a wound directly beneath his chin, a
wound so slight as not to penetrate the thyroid cartilage immediately
"The abandonment of this hypothesis will force them to relinquish
the idea that the murder was committed from without. What then
remains? Only the second alternative. They must either give up
altogether the idea of murder, or have recourse to what is known as
the theory of exclusive opportunity."
"Theory of exclusive opportunity," repeated Gwen, as a puzzled look
overspread her countenance. "I - I fear I do not quite understand
what you mean."
"Pardon me, Miss Darrow, for not making my meaning clearer to you,"
said Maitland with a deferential inclination of the head. "The
theory of exclusive opportunity, to state it plainly in this case,
means simply this: if Mr. Darrow were murdered, some one of us five,
we being the only ones having an opportunity to do the deed, must
be the assassin. Whether this view be taken, or that of suicide, it
becomes of paramount importance to find the weapon. Do you not now
see why I objected to having anyone leave the room? If, as appears
likely from my search, the weapon is not to be found, and if, as I
feel reasonably certain, either the suicide or the murder theory be
substantiated, then, anyone who left the room before official search
was made would be held to have taken the weapon with him and disposed
of it, because his would have been the exclusive opportunity of so
doing. Someone must have disposed of it, and no one else had a
chance to do so; that would be the way it would be stated. But,
since no one of us has left the room, a thorough search both of it
and of our persons, must convince the officers that we, at least,
are not responsible for the fact that the weapon is not forthcoming."
Maitland paused and looked at Browne as if he expected him to speak,
but that gentleman only shut his square jaws the more firmly together
and held his peace, - at least in so far as words were concerned.
If looks, like actions, "speak louder than words," this black visage
with its two points of fire made eloquent discourse. I charged all
this display of malice to jealousy. It is not altogether pleasant
to be placed at a disadvantage before the one being whose good
opinion one prizes above all things else, - that is to say, I have
read that such is the case. I do not consider my own views upon
such matters expert testimony. In all affairs of the heart my
opinions cease to have weight at exactly the point where that organ
ceases to be a pump.
Even Gwen, I think, noticed Browne's determined silence, for she
said to Maitland:
"I am very grateful that your forethought prevented me from causing
Mr. Browne even temporary annoyance by making him my messenger."
She paused a moment and then continued:
"You were speaking of the officers' theories. When they have
convinced themselves that no one of us has removed the weapon, what
"In my opinion," said Maitland, "they will ultimately fall back upon
the suicide theory, but they must find the weapon here before they
can substantiate it; for if it be not here someone must have taken
it away and that someone could have only been the one who used it
the assassin, in short - but here are the officers. Let each one
of us insist upon being searched. They can send to the station for
a woman to search you," he said in an undertone to Gwen and then
added: "I trust you will pardon my suggesting a course which, in
your case, seems so utterly unnecessary, but, believe me, there are
urgent reasons for it which I can explain later. If we would hope
to solve this mystery, everything depends upon absolute thoroughness
at this juncture."
"I should evince but poor appreciation," Gwen replied, "of the
ability you have already shown should I fail to follow your slightest
suggestion. It is all I can offer you by way of thanks for the
kind interest you have taken."
The return of Officer Barker, accompanied by three other men, now
changed the tide of conversation. Maitland advanced and shook hands
with one whom he introduced as Mr. Osborne, and this gentleman in
turn introduced his brother officer, a Mr. Allen, and , a
Osborne impressed me as a man of only mediocre ability, thoroughly
imbued with the idea that he is exceptionally clever. He spoke
loudly and, I thought, a bit ostentatiously, yet withal in a manner
so frank and hearty that I could not help liking the fellow.
, on the contrary, seemed retiring almost to the point of
self-abnegation. He said but little, apparently preferring to keep
in the background, where he could record his own observations in
his note-book without too frequent interruption. His manner was
polished in the extreme, and so frank withal that he seemed to me
like a man of glass through whom every thought shone unhindered.
I wondered how one who seemed powerless to conceal his own emotions
should possess a detective's ability to thread his way through the
dark and hidden duplicity of crime. When he spoke it was in a low,
velvety, and soothing voice, that fell upon the ear with an
irresistible charm. When Osborne would make some thoughtless
remark fraught with bitterness for Gwen, such an expression of pain
would flit across 's fine face as one occasionally sees
in those highly organised and sympathetic natures, - usually found
among women if a doctor's experience may be trusted, - which catch
the throb of another's hurt, even as adjacent strings strive to
sing each other's songs.
seemed to me more priest than detective. His clean-shaven
face, its beautifully chiselled features suffused with that peculiar
pallor which borrows the transparency of marble; the large, limpid
brown eyes and the delicate, kindly mouth - all these, combined with
a faultless manner and a carriage suggestive of power in reserve,
so fascinated me that I found myself watching him continually. I
remember saying to myself: "What a rival he would make in a woman's
At just that time he was looking at Gwen with tender, solicitous
sympathy written in every feature, and that doubtless suggested my
Mr. Allen was even more ordinary than Mr. Osborne in manner and
appearance. I do not presume to judge his real merits, for I did
not notice him sufficiently to properly portray him to you, even
if I had the gift of description, which I think you will admit I
have not. He lives in my memory only as a something tall, spare,
coarse of texture, red, hairy, and redolent of poor tobacco.
How different men are! (Of course women are all alike!) While
Osborne, like a good-natured bumble-bee, was buzzing noisily about,
as though all the world were his clover-blossom; and Allen, so far
as I know, was doing nothing; , alert and keen despite his
gentleness and a modesty which kept him for the most part
unobtrusively in the shadow of his chosen corner, was writing
rapidly in a note-book and speaking no word. It seemed as if
nothing escaped him. Clearly he was there to enlighten himself
rather than others. At length, pausing to make a measurement,
he noticed my gaze and said to me in an undertone, as he glanced
solicitously at Gwen lest she should hear:
"Pardon me, but did any of you observe anything, at or about the
time of Mr. Darrow's death, which impressed you as singular, - any
noise, any shadow, any draught or change of temperature, say a
rushing or I might say swishing sound, - anything, in fact, that
would seem to you as at all unusual?"
"Nothing whatever," I replied. "Everything seemed perfectly normal
"Hum! Strange!" he said, and returned to his notes.
I felt sure had had a theory and that my testimony had not
strengthened it, but he did not volunteer any information, neither
did he take part in the conversation of his companions, and so my
curiosity remained ungratified. It was clear that 's methods
were very different from those of Osborne and Allen.
I need not weary you by further narrating what occurred at this
official examination. Suffice it to say that, with one or two minor
exceptions, Osborne and Allen followed the precise course of
reasoning prophesied by Maitland, and, as for , he
courteously, but firmly, held his peace. The two officers did not,
however, lean as strongly to the theory that death resulted from
natural causes as Maitland had anticipated, and, I think, this
him. He had already told them that he expected to be able to show
death to have resulted from poison hypodermically applied, and, as
I overheard a remark made by Osborne to Allen, I readily understood
their speedy abandonment of their natural-death theory. They were
engaged in verifying Maitland's measurement of the east side of the
room when Osborne said softly to his companion: "He has figured in
several of my cases as a chemical expert, and when he expresses an
opinion on a matter it's about the same as proved. He's not the
kind that jumps in the dark. He's a lawyer as well as chemist and
knows what's evidence, so I reckon we'd better see if we can make
anything out of the suicide and murder theories."
Maitland had asked them to send to the station for a woman to search
Gwen and she had just arrived. We all requested that a most
thorough examination should now be made to assure the officers that
no one of us possessed the missing weapon. This done, the officers
and departed for the night, assuring Gwen that there was
nothing further to be done till morning, and Osborne, doubtless with
a view to consoling her, said: "It may be a relief to you, miss,
to know that there is scarcely a doubt that your father took his
own life." This had an effect upon Gwen very different from that
which had been intended. Her face contracted, and it was plain to
see she was beginning to think everyone was determined to force a
falsehood upon her. Herne and Browne also prepared to take their
leave. A glance from Maitland told me he wished me to remain with
him a moment after the others had departed, and I accordingly did so.
When we were alone with Gwen he said to her: "I think I understand
your feeling with regard to Mr. Osborne's remark, as well as your
conviction that it does not represent the truth. I foresaw they
would come to this conclusion, and know very well the pains they
will take to prove their hypothesis." "Can nothing be done?" she
asked beseechingly. "It is that of which I wish to speak," he
replied. "If you have sufficient confidence in me to place the
case in my hands, I will do everything in my power to establish
the truth, - on one condition," and he glanced at her face, now
pale and rigid from her long-continued effort of self-control.
"And that condition is?" she said quickly. "That you follow my
directions and permit me to order your movements in all things, so
long as the case remains in my hands; if at any time I seek to
abuse your faith, you are as free to discharge me as if I were a
paid detective." Gwen looked searchingly at him; then, extending
her hand to him, she said impulsively: "You are very kind; I
accept the condition. What shall I do?"
I tried to catch Maitland's eye to tell him what he should counsel
her, but a man with his ability to observe conditions and grasp
situations can very well do without prompting. "First," he said,
"you must return home with the Doctor and spend the rest of the
night with his sister; I shall stay here until morning; and second,
I desire that you use your utmost endeavour to keep the incidents
of this evening out of your mind. You cannot, of course, forget
your loss, unless you sleep," - and he gave me a look which said:
"I depend on you to see to that," - "but you must not continually
re-enact the scene in imagination, In the morning the Doctor will
come here to bring me my camera, microscope, and a few things I
shall require " - and he passed me a list he had written. "If you
have slept well you can be of considerable service, and may
accompany him - if not, you must remain quietly at his house."
With this he turned to me, and said: "She is making a condenser of
herself, Doctor, and will soon break through the insulation. Sparks
will be dangerous - you must secure the brush effect." He spoke
quickly, and used electrical terms, that she might not understand
him, but either he failed of his purpose, or the observation she
immediately made was a strange coincidence. I believe she
understood, for, while young women educated by their mothers are
usually ignorant upon all the more masculine subjects, those who
have long been their father's companions are ever prone to startle
one with the most unexpected flashes of intelligence. "I am in
rather a high state of tension now," she said, turning calmly to
Maitland; "but when alone the expression which has been denied me
here will afford relief." Maitland glanced at her quickly, and
then at me, and I knew he was wondering if she had understood.
Then he said: "It is getting late. I shall expect you to sleep
well and to come in the morning. Please say to the servants as
you go that I shall stay here all night, and that no one must enter
without permission. Good-night." She held out her hand to him,
but made no reply; then she fervently kissed her father's lips,
and together we left the chamber of death.
Death speaks with the tongue of Memory, and his ashen hand reaches
out of the great unknown to seize and hold fast our plighted souls.
What Maitland's reason was for spending the night with the dead body
of Darrow, or how he busied himself until morning, I do not know.
Perhaps he desired to make sure that everything remained untouched,
or, it may be, that he chose. this method of preventing Gwen from
performing a vigil by the body. I thought this latter view very
probable at the time, as I had been singularly impressed with the
remarkable foresight my friend had displayed in so quickly and
adroitly getting Gwen away from everything connected with her
father's sad and mysterious death.
Arriving at my house my sister took an early opportunity to urge
upon Gwen a glass of wine, in which I had placed a generous sedative.
The terrible tension soon began to relax, and in less than half an
hour she was sleeping quietly. I dreaded the moment when she should
awake and the memory of all that had happened should descend like an
avalanche upon her. I told my sister that this would be a critical
moment, cautioning her to stay by Gwen and to give her, immediately
upon her arising, a draught I had prepared for the purpose of
somewhat deadening her sensibilities. I arose early, and went to
Maitland's laboratory to collect the things he desired. When I
returned Gwen was awake, and to my intense gratification in even a
better condition than I had dared to hope.
It was quite late when we reached her house, and Maitland had
evidently been at work several hours. He looked sharply at Gwen
when she entered, and seemed much pleased at her condition. "You
have obeyed my instructions, I see, and slept," he said, as he gave
her his hand. "Yes," she replied, "I was very tired, and the
doctor's cordial quite overcame me;" and she cast an inquiring
glance at the network of white string which Maitland had stretched
across the carpet, dividing it into squares like an immense
checker-board. In reply to her questioning look, he said: "French
detectives are the most thorough in the world, and I am about to
make use of their method of instituting an exhaustive search. Each
one of the squares formed by these intersecting strings is numbered,
and represents one square foot of carpet, the numbers running from
one to two hundred and eighty-eight. Every inch of every one of
these squares I shall examine under a microscope, and anything found
which can be of any possible interest will be carefully preserved,
and its exact location accurately marked upon this chart I have
prepared, which, as you will see, has the same number of squares as
the room, the area of each square being reduced from one square foot
to one square inch. You will note that I have already marked the
location of all doors, windows, and furniture. The weapon, if there
be one, may be very minute, but if it be on the floor we may be
assured the microscope will find it. The walls of the room,
especially any shelving projections, and the furniture, I shall
examine with equal thoroughness, though I have now some additional
reasons for believing the weapon is not here."
"Have you discovered anything new?" Gwen exclaimed, unable to control
the excitement caused by this last remark. "You must pardon me,"
Maitland rejoined, "if I ask you and the Doctor a question before
replying." She nodded assent, and he continued: "I wish to know if
you agree with me that we shall be more likely to arrive at a
solution of the problem before us if we keep our own counsel than
if we take the officers of the law, or, for that matter, anyone
else, into our confidence. You undoubtedly noticed how carefully M.
Godin kept his own counsel. Official methods, and the hasty
generalisations which form a part thereof - to say nothing of the
petty rivalries and the passion for notoriety - can do much to hinder
our own work, and, I believe, nothing to help it. What say you?"
"That we keep our work to ourselves," Gwen quickly rejoined, and I
signified that I was of the same opinion. "Then," Maitland continued,
"I may say this in answer to your question. I have ascertained
something which may bear upon the case in hand. You will remember
that part of the gravel for redressing the croquet ground was dumped
under the east window there. The painters, I learn, finished
painting that side of the house yesterday forenoon before the gravel
was removed and placed upon the ground, so that any footprints they
may have made in it while about their work were obliterated. As you
see, there was loose gravel left under the window to the depth of
about two inches. I carefully examined this gravel this morning -=20
there were no footprints."
I glanced at Gwen; her face had a set expression, and she was deathly
pale. "There were, however," he continued, "places where the gravel
had been tamped down as if by the pressure of a rectangular board.
I examined these minutely and, by careful measurement and close
scrutiny of some peculiar markings suggestive of the grain of wood,
satisfied myself that the depressions in the gravel were made by two,
and not, as I had at first thought, by one small piece of wood. I
found further that these two boards had always borne certain relative
relations to each other, and that when one had been turned around
the other had undergone a similar rotation. This last is, in my mind,
a most important point, for, when coupled with the fact that between
any two impressions of the same board the distance was sensibly
constant, and was that of a short stride, there could be no reasonable
doubt but these boards had been worn upon some person's feet. They
could not have been thrown down merely to be stepped upon, for, in
that case, they would not have borne fixed relations to each other
probably would not have been turned end for end at all - and
certainly, both would not always have happened to get turned at the
same time. I procured a board of the combined area of the two
supposed to have made the impressions in the gravel, and weighted it
down until, as nearly as I could measure, it impacted the soil to
the same extent the others had. The weight was one hundred and
thirty-five pounds, which is about right for a man five feet five
inches tall. The position of the depressions in the gravel indicated
a stride just about right for a man of that height.
"There was one other most important discovery which I made after I
had divided the impressions into two classes - according as they
were produced by the right or left board - which was that when the
right foot was thrown forward the stride was from three to four
inches longer than when the left foot led. Directly under the
window there was a deep impression in the sand. I took a plaster
cast of it, and here it is," he said, producing an excellent
facsimile of a closed hand. "There can be little doubt," he
continued, "from the position occupied by the depression, of which
this is a reverse copy, that it was either accidentally made by
someone who, stooping before the east window to avoid obstructing
its light, suddenly lost his balance and regained his equilibrium
by thus thrusting out his hand, or - and this seems far more likely
to me - that the hand was deliberately placed in the gravel in order
to steady its possessor while he performed some peculiar operation."
At this point I ventured to ask why he regarded the latter view as
so much more tenable than the former. "There are several reasons,"
he replied, "which render the view I prefer to take all but certain.
First, the impression was made by the left hand. Second, it is the
impression of a closed hand, with the upper joints of the fingers
undermost. Did you ever know one to save himself from falling by
thrusting out a closed hand? Certainly not. There is a certain
amount of fear, however slight, invariably associated with losing
one's balance. This sentiment, so far as the hand is concerned, is
expressed by opening it and spreading the fingers. This he would
instinctively have done, if falling. Then there is the position of
the impression relative to the window and some slight testimony upon
the sill and glass, for the thorough investigation of which I have
been obliged to await my microscope. I have worked diligently, but
that is all I have been able to accomplish."
"All!" exclaimed Gwen, regarding him with ill-concealed admiration.
"It seems to me a very great deal. The thoroughness, the minuteness
of it all, overwhelms me; but, tell me, have your discoveries led
you to any conclusion?" "No," he replied, "nothing definite yet; I
must not allow myself to become wedded to any theory, so long as
there is anything further to be learned. If I were to hazard a few
idle guesses, I should say your father was murdered in some
mysterious way - by a person about five feet five inches tall,
weighing, say, one hundred and thirty-five pounds, and having a lame
leg, or, perhaps, one limb shorter than the other, - at all events
having some deformity or ailment causing a variation in the length
of the strides. I should guess also that this person's feet had some
marked peculiarity, since such pains had been taken to conceal the
footprints. Then the cast of the hand here encourages speculation.
Fingers long, slim, and delicate, save at the nails, where, with the
exception of the little finger, are to be found unmistakable signs
of the habit of biting the nails, - see, here are the hang-nails,
but, strange to say, the nail of the little finger has been
spared, and suffered to grow to an unusual length. I ask myself why
this particular nail has been so favoured, and can only answer,
'because it has some peculiar use.' It is clear this is not the hand
of a manual labourer; the joints are too small, the fingers too
delicate, the texture of the skin, which is clearly visible, much too
fine - in short, wouldn't it pass anywhere for a woman's hand? Say a
woman who bit her nails. If it were really such there would be a
pair of feminine feet also to be concealed, and boards would do it
very nicely - but this is all guesswork, and must not be allowed to
affect any subsequent conclusions. If you will excuse me a few
minutes I will use the microscope a little on the sill of the east
window before we are interrupted by our friends the officers, who
will be sure to be here soon."
While Maitland was thus engaged I did all in my power to distract
Gwen's attention, as much as possible, from her father's body.
Whenever she regarded it, the same intense and set expression
overspread her countenance as that which at first had alarmed me.
I was glad when Maitland returned from the window and began mixing
some of the chemicals I had brought him, for Gwen invariably
followed all his movements, as if her very existence depended upon
her letting nothing escape her. Maitland, who had asked me for a
prescription blank, now dipped it in the chemicals he had mixed
and, this accomplished, put the paper in his microscope box to dry.
"I have something here," ,he said, "which I desire to photograph
quite as much as this room and some of its larger objects," and he
pinned a tiny, crumpled mass against the wall, and made an exposure
of it in that condition. "Do you know what this is?" he said, as
he carefully smoothed it out for another picture. "I haven't the
slightest idea," I said. "It is plain enough under the microscope,"
he continued, placing it upon the slide, and adjusting the focus.
"Would you like to examine it, Miss Darrow?" Gwen had scarcely put
her eye to the instrument before she exclaimed: "Why, it's a piece
of thin outside bark from a twig of alder." Maitland's face was a
study... "Would you mind telling me," he said deliberately, "how
you found that out so quickly?" She hesitated a moment, and then
said methodically, pointing toward the water, "I know the alder well
- our boat is moored near a clump of them." "You are a keen
observer," he replied, as he took the prepared paper from his box
and spread the film of bark upon it to take a blue print of it.
"There is one other object upon the sill which, unfortunately, I
cannot take away with me," he continued, "but shall have to content
myself with photographing. I refer to a sinuous line made in the
paint, while green, and looking as if a short piece of rope, or,
more properly, rubber tubing, since there is no rope-like texture
visible, had been dropped upon it, and hastily removed - but see,
here are Osborne and Allen looking for all the world as if they
were prepared to demonstrate a fourth dimension of space. Now we
shall see the suicide theory proved - to their own satisfaction, at
least. But, whatever they say, don't forget we are to keep our own
work to ourselves."
The two officers were alone. had apparently decided to work
by himself. This did not in the least surprise me, since I could
easily see that he had nothing to gain by working with these two
"We've solved the matter," was the first thing Osborne said after
passing the time of day. "Indeed?" replied Maitland in a tone which
was decidedly ambiguous; "you make it suicide, I suppose?" "That's
just what we make it," returned the other. "We hadn't much doubt of
it last night, but there were some things, such as the motive, for
example, not quite clear to us; but it is all as plain as daylight
"And what says ?" asked Maitland.
Mr. Osborne burst into a loud guffaw.
"Oho, but that's good! What says ? I say, Allen, Maitland
wants to know what 'Frenchy' says," and the pair laughed boisterously.
"It's plain enough you don't know ," he continued, addressing
Maitland. "He's tighter 'n any champagne bottle you ever saw. The
corkscrew ain't invented that '11 draw a word out of . You
saw him making notes here last night. Well, the chances are that if
this were a murder case, which it isn't, you'd see no more of M.
Godin till he bobbed up some day, perhaps on the other side of the
earth, with a pair of twisters on the culprit. He's a 'wiz,' is M.
Godin. What does he think? He knows what he thinks, and he's the
only individual on the planet that enjoys that distinction. I say,
Allen, do you pump 'Frenchy' for the gentleman's enlightenment," and
again the pair laughed long and heartily.
"Well, then," said Maitland, "since we can't have 's views
we shall have to content ourselves with those of your more confiding
selves. Let's hear all about the suicide theory."
"I think," said Osborne in an undertone, "you had better ask Miss
Darrow to withdraw for a few moments, as there are some details
likely to pain her." This suggestion was intended only for Maitland,
but the officer, used to talking in the open air, spoke so loudly
that we all overheard him. "I thank you for your consideration,"
Gwen said to him, "but I would much prefer to remain. There can be
nothing connected with this matter which I cannot bear to hear, or
should not know. Pray proceed."
Osborne, anxious to narrate his triumph, needed no further urging.
"We felt sure," he began, "that it was a case of suicide, but were
perplexed to know why Mr. Darrow should wish to make it appear a
murder. Of course, we thought he might wish to spare his daughter
the shame such an act would visit upon her, but when this was
exchanged for the horrible notoriety of murder, the motive didn't
seem quite sufficient, so we looked for a stronger one - and found
it." "Ah! you are getting interesting," Maitland observed.
Osborne cast a furtive glance at Gwen, and then continued: "We
learned on inquiry that certain recent investments of Mr. Darrow's
had turned out badly. In addition to this he had been dealing
somewhat extensively in certain electric and sugar stocks, and when
the recent financial crash came, he found himself unable to cover
his margins, and was so swept clean of everything. Nor is this all;
he had lost a considerable sum of money in yet another way - just
how my informant would not disclose - and all of these losses
combined made his speedy failure inevitable. Under such conditions
many another man has committed suicide, unable to face financial
ruin. But this man had a daughter to consider, and, as I have
already said, he would wish to spare her the disgrace which the
taking of his own life would visit upon her, and, more than all,
would desire that she should not be left penniless. The creditors
would make away with his estate, and his daughter be left a beggar.
We could see but one way of his preventing this, and that was to
insure his life in his daughter's favour. We instituted inquiries
at the insurance offices, and found that less than a month ago he
had taken out policies in various companies aggregating nearly
fifty thousand dollars, whereas, up to that time, he had been
carrying only two thousand dollars insurance. Why this sudden and
tremendous increase? Clearly to provide for his daughter after
his act should have deprived her of his own watchful care. And now
we can plainly see why he wished his suicide to pass for murder.
He had been insured but a month, and immediate ruin stared him in
the face. His death must be consummated at once, and yet, by
our law, a man who takes his life before the payment of his second
annual insurance premium relieves the company issuing his policy of
all liability thereunder, and robs his beneficiary of the fund
intended for her. Here, then, is a sufficient motive, and nothing
more is required to make the whole case perfectly clear. Of course,
it would be a little more complete if we could find the weapon, but
even without it, there can be no doubt, in the light of our work,
that John Darrow took his own life with the intentions, and for the
purposes, I have already set forth."
"Upon my soul, gentlemen," exclaimed Maitland, "you have reasoned
that out well! Did you carefully read the copies of the various
policies when interrogating the companies insuring Mr. Darrow?"
"Hardly," Osborne replied. "We learned from the officials all we
needed to know, and didn't waste any time in gratifying idle
curiosity." A long-drawn "hm-m" was the only reply Maitland
vouchsafed to this. "We regret," said Osborne, addressing Gwen,
"that our duty, which has compelled us to establish the truth in
this matter, has been the means of depriving you of the insurance
money which your father intended for you." Gwen bowed, and a slight
enigmatical smile played for a moment about her lips, but she made
no other reply, and, as neither Maitland nor I encouraged
conversation, the two officers wished us a good-morning, and left
the house without further remark.
"I wish to ask you a few questions," Maitland said to Gwen as soon
as the door had closed behind Osborne and his companion, 'and I beg
you will remember that in doing so, however personal my inquiries
may seem, they have but one object in view - the solution of this
mystery." "I have already had good proof of your singleness of
purpose," she replied. "Only too gladly will I give you any
information in my possession. Until this assassin is found, and my
father's good name freed from the obloquy which has been cast upon
it, my existence will be but a blank, - yes, worse, it will be an
unceasing torment; for I know my father's spirit - if the dead have
power to return to this earth - can never rest with this weight of
shame upon it." As she spoke these words the depth of grief she had
hitherto so well concealed became visible for a moment, and her whole
frame shook as the expression of her emotion reacted upon her. The
next instant she regained her old composure, and said calmly:
"You see I have every reason to shed whatever light I can upon this
"Please, then, to answer my questions methodically, and do not permit
yourself to reason why I have asked them. What was your father's age?"
"Did he drink?"
"Did he play cards?"
"Yes, and several other games."
"Was he as fond of them as of croquet?"
"No; nothing pleased him as croquet did - nothing, unless it were
"Hum! Do you play chess?"
"Yes; I played a good deal with father."
"What kind of a game did he play?"
"I do not understand you. He played a good game; my father did not
enjoy doing anything that he could not do well."
"I mean to ask if his positions were steadily sustained - or if,
on the other hand, his manoeuvres were swift, and what you might
"I think you would call them brilliant."
"Hum! How old are you?"
"Tell me your relations with your father."
"We were most constant companions. My mother - she and my father
they were not altogether companionable - in short, they were
ill-mated, and, being wise enough to find it out, and having no
desire to longer embitter each other's lives, they agreed to
separate when I was only four. They parted without the slightest
ill-feeling, and I remained with father. He was very fond of me,
and would permit no one else to teach me. At seven I was drawing
and painting under his guidance. At eight the violin was put into
my hands and my studies in voice began. In the meantime father was
most careful not to neglect my physical training; he taught me the
use of Indian clubs, and how to walk easily. At eight I could
walk four miles an hour without fatigue. The neighbours used to
urge that I be put to school, but my father would reply - many a
time I have heard him say it - 'a child's brain is like a flower
that blossoms in perceptions and goes to seed in abstractions.
Correct concepts are the raw material of reason. Every desk in
your school is an intellectual loom which is expected to weave a
sound fabric out of rotten raw material. While your children are
wasting their fibre in memorising the antique errors of classical
thought my child is being fitted to perceive new truths for herself.'
It is needless to say his friends considered these views altogether
too radical. But for all that I was never sent to school. My
father's library was always at my disposal, and I was taught how
to use it. We were constantly together, and grew so into each
other's lives that " - but her voice failed her, and her eyes
moistened. Maitland, though he apparently did not notice her
emotion, so busy was he in making notes, quickly put a question
which diverted her attention.
"Your father seemed last night to have a presentiment of some
impending calamity. Was this a common experience?"
"Of late, yes. He has told me some six or seven times of dreaming
the same dreams - a dream in which some assassin struck him out of
the darkness." "Did you at any of these times notice anything
which might now lead you to believe this fancied repetition was the
result of any mental malady?"
"Was his description of the dreams always the same?"
"No; never were they twice alike, save in the one particular of the
"Hum!, Did the impression of these dreams remain long with him?"
"He never recovered from it, and each dream only accentuated his
assurance that the experience was prophetic. When once I tried to
dissuade him from this view, he said to me: 'Gwen, it is useless;
I am making no mistake. When I am gone you will know why I am now
so sure - I cannot tell you now, it would only ' - here he stopped
short, and, turning abruptly to me, said with a fierceness entirely
alien to his disposition: 'Hatred is foreign to my nature, but I
hate that man with a perfect hell of loathing! Have I been a kind
father to you, Gwen? If so, promise me ' - and he seized me by the
wrist - ' promise me if I'm murdered - I may as well say when I'm
murdered - you will look upon the man who brings my assassin to
justice - the thought that he may escape is damning - as your dearest
friend on earth! You will deny him nothing. You will learn later
that I have taken care to reward him. My child, you will owe this
man a debt you can never repay, for he will have enabled your
father's soul to find repose. I dreamed last night that I came back
from the dead, and heard my avenger ask you to be his wife. You
refused, and at your ingratitude my restless soul returned to torment
everlasting. Swear to me, Gwen, that you'll deny him nothing,
nothing, nothing!' I promised him, and he seemed much reassured.
'I am satisfied,' he said, 'and now can die in peace, for you are
an anomaly, Gwen, - a woman who fully knows the nature of a covenant,'
and he put his arm about me, and drew me to him. His fierceness
had subsided as quickly as it had appeared, and he was now all
Maitland, who appeared somewhat agitated by her recital, said to
her: "After the exaction of such a promise you have, of course, no
doubt that your father was the victim of a mental malady - at least,
at such times as those of which you speak?"
Gwen replied deliberately: "Indeed, I have grave doubts. My father
was possessed by a strange conviction, but I never saw anything
which impressed me as indicating an unsound mind. I am, of course,
scarcely fitted to judge in such matters."
Maitland's face darkened as he asked: "You would not have me infer
that you would consider your promise in any sense binding?"
"And why not?" she ejaculated in astonishment.
"Because," he continued, "the request is so unnatural as to be in
itself sufficient evidence that it was not made by a man in his
"I cannot agree with you as to my father's condition," Gwen replied
firmly; " yet you may be right; I only know that I, at least, was
in my right mind, and that I promised. If it cost me my life to
keep that pledge, I shall not hesitate a moment. Have you forgotten
that my father's last words were, 'remember your promise'?" She
glanced up at Maitland as she said this, and started a little as she
saw the expression of pain upon his face. "I seem to you foolishly
deluded," she said apologetically; "and you are displeased to see
that my purpose is not shaken. Think of all my father was to me,
and then ask yourself if I could betray his faith. The contemplation
of the subject is painful at best; its realisation may, from the
standpoint of a sensitive woman, be fraught with unspeakable horror,
I dare not think of it! May we not change the subject?"
For a long time Maitland did not speak, and I forbore to break the
silence. At last he said: "Let us hope, if the supposed assassin
be taken, the discovery may be made by someone worthy the name of
man - someone who will not permit you to sacrifice either yourself
or your money." Gwen glanced at him quickly, for his voice was
strangely heavy and inelastic, and an unmistakable gloom had settled
upon him. I thought she was a little startled, and I was considering
if I had not better call her aside and explain that he was subject
to these moods, when he continued, apparently unaware of the
impression he had made: "Do you realise how strong a case of suicide
the authorities have made out? Like all of their work it has weak
places. We must search these in order to overthrow their conclusion.
The insurance policies they were 'too busy' to read we must peruse.
Then, judging from your story, there seems little doubt that your
father has left some explanation of affairs hitherto not confided to
you - some document which he has reserved for your perusal after his
death. No time should be lost in settling this question. The papers
may be here, or in the hands of his attorney. Let us search here
"His private papers," Gwen said, rising to lead the way, "are in his
desk in the study."
"One moment, please," Maitland interrupted, calling her back, "I
have something I have been trying to ask you for the last hour, but
have repeatedly put off. I believe your father's death to have
resulted from poisoning. You know the result of the post-mortem
inquest. It is necessary to make an analysis of the poison, if
there be any, and an absolutely thorough microscopic examination of
the wound. I - I regret to pain you - but to do this properly it
will be necessary to cut away the wounded portion. Have we your
permission to do so?"
For a moment Gwen did not answer. She fell upon her knees before
her father's body, and kissed the cold face passionately. For the
first time since the tragedy she found relief in tears. When she
arose a great change had come over her. She was very pale and
seized a chair for support as she replied to Maitland's question
between the convulsive sobs which she seemed powerless to check:
"I - I have bidden him good-bye. We shall but obey his command in
sparing no pains to reach the assassin. You - you have my permission
to do anything - everything - that may be - necessary to that end.
I - I know you will be as gentle - " But she could not finish her
sentence. The futility of gentleness - the realisation that her
father was forever past all need of tenderness, fell like a shroud
about her soul. The awakening I had dreaded had come. Her hand
fell from the chair, she staggered, and would have fallen to the
floor had not Maitland caught her in his arms.
THE EPISODE OF THE SEALED DOCUMENT
Father of all surveyors, Time drags his chain of rust through
every life, and only Love - unaging God of the Ages - immeasurable,
keeps his untarnished youth.
Maitland carried the unconscious girl into the study, and for some
time we busied ourselves in bringing her to herself. When this task
was accomplished we did not feel like immediately putting any further
tax upon her strength. Maitland insisted that she should rest while
he and I ransacked the desk, and, ever mindful of her promise to obey
his instructions, she yielded without remonstrance. Our search
revealed the insurance policies, and a sealed envelope bearing the
inscription: "To Miss Gwen Darrow, to be opened after the death of
John Darrow," and three newspapers with articles marked in blue
pencil. I read the first aloud. It ran as follows:
I have reason to believe an attempt will sooner or later be made
upon my life, and that the utmost cunning will be employed to lead
the authorities astray. The search for the assassin will be long,
expensive, and discouraging - just such a task as is never
successfully completed without some strong personal incentive.
This I propose to supply in advance. My death will place in my
daughter's hands a fund of fifty thousand dollars, to be held in
trust by her, and delivered, in the event of my being murdered, to
such person or persons as shall secure evidence leading to the
conviction of the murderer.
(Signed) JOHN HINTON DARROW.
I glanced at the other two papers - the marked article was the same
in each. "I wonder what your friend Osborne would say to that," I
said to Maitland.
"How old are the papers?" he replied.
"March l5th, - only a little over a month," I answered.
"Let me see them, please," he said. "Hum! All of the same date,
and each in the paid part of the paper! It is clear Mr. Darrow
inserted these singular notices himself. I will tell you what
Osborne will say when he learns of these articles. He will say
they strengthen his theory; that no sane man would publish such a
thing, except as a weak attempt to deceive the insurance companies.
As for the money all being paid to the discoverer of the assassin,
instead of to his daughter, he will simply dispose of that by
saying: 'No assassin, no reward, and the fund remains intact.' If
now, the other papers permit Miss Darrow to use the interest of this
fund while holding the principal in trust, we do not at present know
enough of this matter to successfully refute Osborne's reasoning.
This mystery seems to grow darker rather than lighter. The one
thing upon which we seem continually to get evidence is the question
of sanity. If Mr. Darrow's suspicions were directed against no one
in particular, then it is clear his dreams, and all the rest of his
fears for that matter, had a purely subjective origin, which is to
say that upon this one subject, at least, he was of unsound mind."
"I cannot think so," Gwen interrupted. "He was so rational in
"That is quite possible," I replied. "I have known people to be
monomaniacs upon the subject of water, and to go nowhere without a
glass of it in their hands. There is also a well-authenticated case
of a man who was as sane as you or I until he heard the words 'real
estate.' One day while quietly carving the meat at a dinner to
which he had invited several guests, a gentleman opposite him
inadvertently spoke the fatal words, when, without a word of warning,
he sprang at him across the table, using the carving-knife with all
the fury of the most violent maniac; and yet, under all other
conditions, he was perfectly rational."
"If, on the other hand," said Maitland, continuing his remarks as if
unaware of our interruption, "Mr. Darrow's suspicions had any
foundation in fact, it is almost certain they must have been directed
against some specific person or persons. If so, why did he not name
them ? - but, stay - how do we know that he did not? Let us proceed
with our examination of the papers," and he began perusing the
insurance policies. Neither Gwen nor I spoke till he had finished
and thrown them down, when we both turned expectantly toward him.
"All in Osborne's favour so far," he said. "Principal to be held in
trust by Miss Darrow under the terms of a will which we have yet to
find; the income, until the discharge of the trust, to go to Miss
Darrow. Now for this," and he passed Gwen the sealed envelope
addressed to her.
She broke the seal with much agitation. "Shall I read it aloud?"
We signified our desire to hear it, and she read as follows:
MY DEAR GWEN:
My forebodings have seemed to you strange and uncalled for, but when
this comes to your hand you will know whether or not they were
groundless. Of one episode in my career which shook the structure
of my being to its foundation stone, you have been carefully kept
in ignorance. It is necessary that you should know it when I am
gone, and I have accordingly committed it to this paper, which will
then fall into your hands. My early life, until two years after I
married your mother, was spent in India, the adult portion thereof
being devoted to the service of the East India Company. I had charge
of a department in their depot at Bombay. You have seen Naples.
Add to the beauties of that city the interesting and motley
population of Cairo and you can form some idea of the attractions of
Bombay. I was very happy there until the occurrence of the event I
am about to narrate.
One morning, my duties calling me to one of the wharves, my attention
was attracted by a young girl dancing upon the flags by the water's
edge. The ordinary bayadere is so common an object in India as to
attract but little notice from anyone of refined tastes, but this
girl, judging from the chaste beauty of her movements, was of a very
different type. As my curiosity drew me nearer to her she turned her
face toward me, and in that instant I knew my hour had come.
Though many years her senior she was still my first love, - the one
great passion of my life.
I do not attempt to describe her ineffable loveliness, for, like the
beauty of a flower, it was incapable of analysis. Nothing that I
could write would give you any adequate idea of this girl's seraphic
face, for she was like unto no one you have ever seen in this cold
Western world. I watched in a wild, nervous transport, I know not
how long - time and space had no part in this new ecstasy of mine!
I could think of nothing, do nothing - only feel, - feel the hot
blood deluge my brain only to fall back in scalding torrents upon
my heart with a pain that was exquisite pleasure.
Suddenly she changed her step and executed a quick backward movement
toward the water, stopping just as her heels touched the curb at the
edge of the wharf; then forward, and again a quick return to the
backward movement, but this time she mistook the distance, her heels
struck the curb forcibly, and she was precipitated backward into the
water. For a moment I stood as one petrified, unable to reason,
much less to act; then the excited voices of the crowd recalled me.
They had thrown a rope into the water and were waiting for her to
come to the surface and grasp it. The wall from which she had fallen
must have been at least fifteen feet above the water, which was
littered with broken spars, pieces of timber, and other odd bits of
wood. It seemed as if she would never come to the surface, and when
at length she did, she did not attempt to seize the rope thrown to
her, but sank without a movement. The truth flashed upon me in an
instant. She had struck her head against some of the floating drift
and was unconscious! Something must be done at once. I seized the
rope and sprang in after her, taking good care to avoid obstructions,
and although, as you know, I never learned to swim, I succeeded in
reaching her, and we were drawn up together. I bore her in my arms
into one of the storerooms close by, and, laying her upon a bale of
cotton, used such restoratives as could be quickly procured.
I was kneeling by her, my arm under her neck, in the act of raising
her head, when she opened her eyes, and fastened them, full of
wonderment, upon my face. A moment more, her memory returning to her,
she made a little movement, as if to free herself. I was too excited
then to heed it, and continued to support her head. She did not
repeat the movement, but half closed her eyes and leaned back
resignedly against my arm. If, I thought, these few minutes could
be expanded into an eternity, it would be my idea of heaven. She
was recovering rapidly now and soon raised herself into a sitting
posture, saying, in very good English, "I think I can stand now,
Sahib." I gave her my arm and assisted her to her feet. Her
hand closed upon my sleeve as if to see how wet it was, and glancing
at my dripping garments, she said simply: "You have been in the
water, Sahib, and it is to you I owe my life. I shall never forget
your kindness. She raised her eyes to my face and met my gaze for
a moment, as she spoke. We are told that the eye is incapable of
any expression save that lent it by the lids and brow, - that the
eyeball itself, apart from its direction, and the changes of the
pupil resulting from variations in the intensity of light, can
carry no message whatsoever. This may be so, but, without any
noticeable movement of the eyes that met mine, I learned with
ineffable delight that this young girl's soul and mine were threaded
upon the same cord of destiny. My emotion so overpowered me that
I could not speak, and when my self-possession returned the young
girl had vanished.
>From the height of bliss I now plunged into the abyss of despair.
I had let her go without a word. I did not even know her name. I
had caught her to myself from the ocean only to suffer her to drown
herself among the half-million inhabitants of Bombay. What must she
think of me? I asked the wharfinger if he knew her, but he had never
seen her before. All my other inquiries proved equally fruitless.
I wondered if she knew that I loved her, but hardiy dared to hope
she had been able to correctly interpret my boorish conduct. I
could think of but one thing to do. If I did not know her name,
neither did she know mine, and so if she desired a further
acquaintance, she, like myself, must rely upon a chance meeting.
If she had detected my admiration for her she must know that I too
would strive to meet her again. Where would she be most likely to
expect me to look for her? Clearly at the same place we had met
before, and at the same time of day. She might naturally think my
duties called me there daily at that hour. I determined to be there
at the same time the next day.
I arrived to find her there before me, anxiously peering at the
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?
- Rama Ragobah. =20
- How long have you known him?
- Thirty-five year.
- Has he always lived in Bombay?
- No, Sahib,
- Where else?
- For a good many year he have travel all the time.
- Is he in Bombay now?
- No, Sahib.
- Where is he?
- Over the sea, Sahib.
- Do you know where?
- He sail for America; New York.
- About eleven week ago.
- Do you know for what he undertook this journey?
- Some personal affair of long time ago which he wish to settle - the
same which make him so many year travel through India.
- Was he in search of someone?
- Yes, Sahib.
- Some Indian woman?
- No, Sahib.
- Some other woman, then?
- No, Sahib.
- A man, then; an Englishman,
- Yes, Sahib.
- What kind of a man is this Ragobah?
- He very big man.
- What is his disposition? Is he generally liked?
- No. His temper bad. He cruel, revengeful, overbearing, and
selfish. He most hated by those who best know him.
- He is a friend of yours, you say?
- 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.
- Ah! I see. What did you say he wanted of this Englishman?
- I no say, Sahib.
- You said some personal affair of long standing, I believe.
- Yes, Sahib.
- Do you know its nature?
- No; I not know it, but I have not much doubt about it, Sahib.
- What do you think, then?
- 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
- Have you any idea why he cherishes this malice?
- I think it because some old love affair; some rival in his wife's
- Indeed! Then he has been married?
- Yes, Sahib.
- Where shall I find his wife?
- All that is left of her is in the bottomless well in the cave on
- Did Ragobah kill her?
- No; that is, not with his own hand.
- How long ago did she die?
- More than twenty year, Sahib.
- Are any of her relatives living?
- Her husband, Sahib, and a cousin, that is all.
- Is there anyone else who could tell me of this woman?
- Moro Scindia could, but he not do it.
- Why? Is he Ragobah's friend?
- Ragobah has no friends, Sahib.
- Why, then?
- 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.
- Can you bring this man to me? You will both be well paid for your
time, of course.
- I bring him, Sahib, but I not make him speak.
- Let me see you both, then, to-night at eight, at Herr Blaschek's
villa on Malabar Hill. Ask for Mr. Maitland.
- We be there. Anything more, Sahib?
- Yes. When is Ragobah expected to return?
- He write that he think he return on the Dalmatia. She due next
day after to-morrow.
- Has Ragobah any physical peculiarities?
- His hands and feet they very small for man so big and strong.
- Anything else?
- His left leg been hurt. The foot very bad shape, and the whole
leg some bad, and, - what you call - halt when he walk.
- Has he the habit of biting his finger nails?
- 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?
- No, Sahib; he has no friends.
- You speak as if you disliked him.
- It is not Mono Scindia's habit to play the hypocrite. I have good
reason to hate him.
- You would not, then, had he committed a crime, assist him to escape
- I would track him like a bloodhound to the ends of the earth.
- You knew Ragobah's wife?
- She was my cousin, Sahib.
- Were your relations friendly?
- They were more than friendly. I loved her dearly, and would have
tried to win her had I not been so much her senior.
- Did she live happily with Ragobah?
- No, Sahib.
- I cannot answer. I have sworn to reveal the last experiences of
my cousin to but one person.
- And that person is.?
- I must decline to answer that also, Sahib.
- If I succeed in naming him will you acknowledge it?
- You will not succeed, Sahib.
- But if I should?
- I will acknowledge it.
- 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?
- 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!
- In its letter, yes; but the chance is still left you to keep the
spirit of your covenant.
- I do not understand you, Sahib.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
- I should do her bidding, Sahib.
- How much more need, then, now that the poor woman is dead, that
you should act for her as she would, were she here.
- 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.
- 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
- 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,
- 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.
- 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."
"You are making me your debtor," Gwen replied slowly, "beyond my
power ever to repay you."
"It is in the hope that no payment may ever be demanded of you,"
he rejoined, "that I am busying myself in your affairs." The colour
sprang to Gwen's cheeks, but she only replied by a grateful glance.
I knew what was passing through her mind. She was thinking of her
promise - of her father's last words, and of the terrible
possibilities thereof from which Maitland was seeking to rescue her.
She felt that she could safely owe him any debt of gratitude, however
great, while he, on his part, took what I fancied, both then and
afterward, were unnecessary pains to assure her that, in the event
of his finding the assassin, she need have no fear of his making
any claim whatsoever upon her. And so the whole affair was dropped
for the time being and the rest of the evening devoted to listening
to Maitland's account of his experiences while abroad.
The next morning I called upon our detective at his laboratory and
asked him what he intended to do next. He replied that he had no
plans as yet, but that he wished to review with me all the evidence
"You see," he said, "the thing that renders the solution of this
mystery so difficult is the fact that all our clues, while they
would be of the utmost service in the conviction of the assassin
had we found him, are almost destitute of any value until he has
been located. Add to this that we are now unable to find any
motive for the crime and you can see how slight are our hopes of
success. If ever we chance to find the man, - for I feel that
such a consummation would result more from chance than from
anything else, - I think we can convict him.
"Here, for example," he said, taking up a small slip of glass
which he had cut from the eastern parlour window of the Darrow
house, "is something I have never shown either you or Miss Darrow.
It is utterly worthless, so far as assisting us to track the
assassin is concerned, but, if ever we suspect the right man, the
evidence on that glass would probably convict him, though there
were ten thousand other suspects."
I took the glass from him and, examining it with the utmost care,
I detected a smutch of yellowish paint upon it, nothing more.
"For Heaven's sake, Maitland!" I said in astonishment, "of what
possible use can that formless daub of paint be, or is there
something else on the glass that has escaped me?" He laughed at
my excitement as he replied:
"There is nothing there hut the paint spot. Regarding that, however,
you have come to a very natural though erroneous conclusion. It is
not formless"; and he passed me a jeweller's eye-glass to assist me
in a closer examination. He was right. The paint lay upon the
glass in little irregular furrows which arranged themselves
concentrically about a central oval groove somewhat imperfect in
shape. "Well," continued. Maitland, as I returned him the
magnifying glass, "what do you make of it?" "If you hadn't already
attached so much importance to the thing," I said, "I should
pronounce it a daub of paint transferred to the glass by somebody's
thumb, but, as such a thing would be clearly useless, I am at a loss
to know what it is."
"Well," he rejoined, "you've hit the nail on the head, - that's just
what it is, but you are entirely wrong in your assumption that the
thumb-mark can have no value as evidence. Do you not know that
there are no two thumbs in the world which are capable of making
indistinguishable marks?" I was not aware of this. "How do you
know," I asked, "that this mark was made by the assassin? It seems
to me there can hardly be a doubt that one of the painters, while
priming the sill, accidentally pressed his thumb against the glass.
His hands would naturally have been painty, and this impression
would as naturally have resulted."
"What you say," replied Maitland, "is very good, so far as it goes.
My reasons for believing this thumb-mark was made by the assassin are
easily understood. First: there was another impression of a thumb
in the moist paint of the sill directly under that upon the glass.
Both marks were made by the same thumb and, in the lower one, the
microscope revealed minute traces of gravel dust, not elsewhere
discernible upon the sill. The thumb carried the dust there, and
was the thumb of the hand pressed into the gravel, - the hand of
which I have a cast. You see how this shows how the thumb came to
have paint upon it when pressed upon the glass. Second: the two
men engaged in priming the house, James Cogan and Charles Rice, were
the only persons save the assassin known to have been upon that side
of the house the day of the murder. "Here," he said, carefully
removing two strips of glass from a box, "are the thumb-marks of
Cogan and Rice made with the same paint. You see that neither of
these men could, by any possibility, have made the mark upon the
glass. So there you are. But we are missing the question before
us. What line of procedure can you suggest, Doc? I'm all at sea."
"We must find someone," I said, "who could have had a motive. This
someone ought to have a particularly good reason for concealing his
footprints, and is evidently lame besides. I can't for the life of
me see anything else we have to go by, unless it be the long nail
of the little finger, and I don't see how that is going to help us
find the assassin - unless we can find out why it was worn long.
If we knew that it might assist us. As I have already suggested, a
Chinaman might have a long nail on the little finger, but he would
also have the other nails long, wouldn't he? Furthermore, he might
use the boards to conceal the prints of his telltale foot-gear; but
why should he not have put on shoes of the ordinary type? If he had
time to prepare the boards, - the whole affair shows premeditation,
clearly he had time to change his boots. The Chinese are usually
small, and this might easily account for the smallness of the hand
as shown by your cast. These are the pros and cons of the only clue
that suggests itself to me. By the way, Maitland, it's a shame we
did not try, before it was too late, to track this fellow down with
"Ah," he replied, "there is another little thing I have not told you.
After you had left the house with Miss Darrow on the night of the
murder, and all the servants had retired, I locked the parlour
securely and quietly slipped out to look about a bit. As you know,
the moon was very bright and any object moderately near was plainly
visible. I went around to the eastern side of the house where the
prints of the hand and boards were found, and examined them with
extreme care. What I particularly wished to learn was the direction
taken by the assassin as he left the house and the point at which
he had removed the boards from his feet. The imprints of the boards
were clearly discernible so far as the loose gravel extended, but
beyond that nothing could be discovered. I sat down and pondered
over the matter. I had about concluded to drive two nails into the
heels of my boots to enable me to distinguish my own footprints from
any other trail I might intersect, and then, starting with the house
as a centre, to describe an involute about it in the hope of being
able to detect some one or more points where my course crossed that
of the assassin, when I remembered that my friend Burwell, whose
Uncle Tom's Cabin Combination recently stranded at Brockton was at
home. As you are perhaps aware an Uncle Tom Company consists of
a 'Legree,' one or two 'Markses,' one or two 'Topsies,' 'Uncle Tom,'
a 'Little Eva,' who should not be over fifty years old, - or at
least should not appear to be, - two bloodhounds, and anybody else
that happens to be available. It really doesn't make the least
difference how many or how few people are in the cast. I have
heard that an Uncle Tom manager on a Western circuit, most of whose
company deserted him because the 'ghost' never walked, succeeded
in cutting and rewriting the piece so as to double 'George Harris'
and 'Legree,' ' Marks' and 'Topsy,' 'Uncle Tom' and 'Little Eva.'
As for the rest he had it so arranged that he could himself 'get
off the door' in time to 'do,' with the aid of the dogs, all the
other characters. You see the dogs held the stage while he changed,
say, from 'Eliza' to Eva's father. 'George Harris' would look off
left second entrance and say that 'Legree' was after him. Then he
would discharge a revolver, rush off right first entrance, where he
would pass his weapon to 'Eva' and 'Uncle Tom,' and this bisexual
individual would discharge it in the wings at the imaginary pursuer,
while 'Harris ' would put on a wire beard, slouch hat, black
melodramatic cape, and,=20rushing behind the flat, enter left as
"The hardest thing to manage was the death of 'Little Eva' with
'Uncle Tom' by the bedside, but managerial genius overcame the
difficulty after the style of Mantell's 'Corsican Brothers.' You
see it is all easy enough when you know how. 'Little Eva' is
discovered, sitting up in bed with the curtains drawn back. She
says what she has to say to her father and the rest. Then her
father has a line in which he informs 'Eva' that she is tired and
had better try to sleep. She says she will try, just to please him,
and he gently lowers her back upon the pillows and draws the
curtains in front of the bed. But instead of utilising this
seclusion for a refreshing sleep 'Eva' rolls out at the back side
of the bed. 'Legree' snatches off 'Eva's' wig and 'Topsy' deftly
removes the white nightdress concealing his - 'Eva's' - 'Uncle Tom'
make-up, while the erstwhile little girl hastily blackens his face
and hands, puts on a negro wig, and in less than a minute is
changed in colour, race, and sex. He 'gets round' left and enters
the sick room as 'Uncle Tom' with 'Topsy.' They are both told that
'Little Eva' is asleep, and 'Topsy' peeps cautiously between the
curtains and remarks that the child's eyes are open and staring.
The father looks in and, overcome by grief, informs the audience
that his child is dead. 'Topsy,' tearful and grief-stricken,
'gets off' right and washes up to 'do' 'Little Eva' climbing the
golden stair in the last tableau. Meanwhile 'Uncle Tom,' in a
paroxysm of grief, throws himself upon the bed and holds the stage
till he smells the red fire for the vision; then he staggers down
stage, strikes an attitude; the others do likewise; picture of
'Little Eva,' curtain. Talk about doubling 'Marcellus,' 'Folonius,'
'Osric,' and the 'First Grave Digger'! Why, that's nothing to these
'Uncle Tom' productions. But hold on, where did I get side-tracked?
Oh, yes, the dogs.
"Well, as I was saying, as soon as I thought of Burwell I made up
my mind at once to borrow one of his hounds. It was late when I got
to his house. When I knocked at the door both Pompey and Caesar
began sub-bass solos of growls, and Burwell was awake in a minute.
I told him I wanted a dog for private business and took Caesar off
with me. He found the trail with no difficulty, and followed it in
a bee-line down to the water, where he raised his big muzzle and
howled in dismal impotency. The assassin had taken to the water.
I took the dog up and down the shore to see if he had returned to
land, but all I found of interest was a clump of alders from
which a pole had been cut. I knew by the dog's actions that the
assassin had been there, for Caesar immediately took a new trail
back to the house. Try as I might I could learn nothing further,
and I at once returned the dog. There is no doubt that the
murderer made his escape in a boat and took with him the pole he
had cut, the boards he had worn, and everything else, I dare say,
connected with his crime. One thing seems clear, and that is that
we are dealing with no ordinary criminal. I would wager a good
deal that this fellow, if ever he is caught, will be found to be
a man of brains. I don't place much confidence in the Chinese
theory, Doc, but as I have nothing better to offer, let us go see
Miss Darrow. If her father has ever had any dealings with Chinamen,
we shall probably deem it wise to look the Orientals up a bit."
We immediately acted upon this suggestion, waiting upon Gwen at my
house. She said she and her father had spent a year in San
Francisco when she was about seven years of age. While there their
household was looked after by two Chinese servants, named Wah Sing
and Sam Lee. The latter had been discharged by her father because
of his refusal to perform certain minor duties which, through
oversight, had not been set down as part of his work when he was
engaged. So far as she knew no altercation had taken place and
there were no hard feelings on either side. Sam Lee had bade her
good-bye and had seemed sorry to leave, notwithstanding which,
however, he refused, with true Chinese pertinacity, to assume the
new duties. She did not think it likely that either of these
Chinamen had been instrumental in her father's death, yet she
agreed with Maitland that it would be a point gained to be assured
of this fact. Maitland accordingly determined to depart at once
for San Francisco, and the next day he was off.
We received no letters from him during his absence and were,
accordingly, unable to tell when he expected to get back. Since
his return from India Gwen had given evidence of a reviving interest
in life, but now that he was again away, she relapsed into her old
listless condition, from which we found it impossible to arouse her.
Alice, who did her utmost to please her, was at her wit's end. She
could never tell which of two alternatives Gwen preferred, since
that young lady would invariably express herself satisfied with
either and did not seem to realise why she should be expected to have
any choice in the matter. Alice was quite at a loss to understand
this state of affairs, until I told her that Gwen was in a condition
of semi-torpor in which even the effort of choice seemed an
unwarrantable outlay. She simply did not care what happened. She
felt nothing, save a sense of fatigue, and even what she saw was
viewed as from afar, - and seemed to her a drama in which she took
no other part than that of an idle, tired, and listless spectator.
Clearly she was losing her hold on life. I told Alice we must do
our utmost to arouse her, to stimulate her will, to awaken her
interest, and we tried many things in vain.
Maitland had been gone, I think, about three weeks when my sister
and I hit upon a plan which we thought might have the desired effect
upon Gwen. Before her father's death she had been one of the most
active members of a Young People's Club which devoted every
Wednesday evening to the study of Shakespeare. She had attended
none of its meetings since her bereavement, but Alice and I soon
persuaded her to accompany us on the following week and I succeeded,
by a little quiet wire-pulling, in getting her appointed to take
charge of the following meeting, which was to be devoted to the
study of "Antony and Cleopatra." When informed of the task which
had been imposed upon her Gwen was for declining the honour at once,
and the most Alice and I were able to do was to get her to promise
to think it over a day or so before she refused.
The next morning Maitland walked in upon us. He had found both of
Mr. Darrow's former servants and satisfied himself that they were
in San Francisco on the night of the murder. So that ended my
Chinese clue. While Alice and Gwen were discussing the matter, I
took occasion to draw Maitland aside, and told him of Gwen's
appointment to take charge of the Cleopatra night, and how necessary
it was to her health that she should be aroused from her torpor. It
doesn't take long for Maitland to see a thing, and before I had
whispered a dozen sentences he had completely grasped the situation.
He crossed the room, drew a chair up beside Gwen, and sat down.
"Miss Darrow," he began, "I am afraid you will have a poor opinion
of me as a detective. This is the second time I have failed. I
feel that I should remind you again of our compact, at least, that
part of it which permits you to dispense with my services whenever
you shall see fit to do so, and, at the same time, to relieve you
from your obligation to let me order your actions. I tell you
frankly it will be necessary for you to discharge me, if you would be
rid of me, for, unless you do so, or I find the assassin, I shall
never cease my search so long as I have the strength and means to
conduct it. What do you say? Have I not proved my uselessness?"
This was said in a tentative, half-jesting tone. Gwen answered it
"You have done for me," she said, in the deep, vibrating tones of her
rich contralto voice, "all that human intelligence could suggest. You
have examined the evidence and conducted the whole affair with a
thoroughness which I never could have obtained elsewhere. That your
search has been unavailing is due, not to any fault of yours, but
rather to the consummate skill of the assassin, who, I think, we may
conclude, is no ordinary criminal. I do not know much of the
abilities of Messrs. Osborne and Allen, but I understand that M.
Godin has the reputation of being the cleverest detective in America.
I cannot learn that he has made any progress whatsoever in the
solution of this terrible mystery. I do not feel, therefore, that
you have any right to reproach yourself. Such hope as I have that
my father's murderer may ever be brought to justice rests in your
efforts; else I should feel bound to relieve you of a task, which,
though self-imposed, is, none the less, onerous and ill-paid. Do
not consider me altogether selfish if I ask that you still continue
the search, and that I - that I still be held to my covenant. I am
aware that I can never fully repay the kindness I am asking of you,
but - "
Maitland did not wait for her to finish. "Let us not speak of that,"
he said. "It is enough to know that you are still satisfied with my,
thus far, unsuccessful efforts in your behalf. There is nothing
affords me keener pleasure than to struggle with and solve an
intricate problem, whether it be in algebra, geometry, or the
mathematics of crime; and then - well, even if I succeed, I shall
quit the work your debtor."
He had spoken this last impulsively, and when he had finished he
remained silent, as if surprised and a bit nettled at his own failure
to control himself. Gwen made no reply, not even raising her eyes;
but I noticed that her=20fingers at once busied themselves with the
entirely uncalled-for labour of readjusting the tidy upon the arm of
her chair, and I thought that, if appearances were to be trusted,
she was very happy and contented at the change she had made in the
bit of lacework beneath her hands. With singular good sense, with
which she was always surprising me, Alice now introduced the subject
of the Young People's Club, and mentioned incidentally that Gwen was
to have charge of the next meeting. Before Gwen had time to inform
Maitland that she intended to decline this honour, he congratulated
her upon it, and rendered her withdrawal difficult by saying: "I feel
that I should thank you, Miss Darrow, for the faithful way in which
you fulfil the spirit of your agreement to permit me to order your
actions. I know, if you consulted your own desires, you would
probably decline the honour conferred upon you, and that in accepting
it, you are influenced by the knowledge that you are pursuing just
the course I most wish you to follow. Verily, you make my office of
tyrant over you a perfect sinecure. I had expected you to chafe a
little under restraint, but, instead, I find you voluntarily yielding
to my unexpressed desires."
Gwen made no reply, but we heard no more of her resignation. She
applied herself at once to the preparation of her paper upon
"Antony and Cleopatra." Maitland, who, like all vigorous, healthy,
and informed intellects, was an ardent admirer of Shakespeare, found
time to call on Gwen and to discuss the play with her. This seemed
to please her very much, and I am sure his interest in the play was
abnormal. He confessed to me that every morning, as he awoke, the
first thing which flashed into his mind, even before he had full
possession of his senses, was these words of Antony:
"I am dying, Egypt, dying."
He professed himself utterly unable to account for this, and asked
me what I thought was the cause of it. He furthermore suddenly
decided that he would ask Gwen to propose his name for membership at
the next meeting of the Young People's Club. I hastily indorsed
this resolution, for I had a vague sort of feeling that it would
The "Antony and Cleopatra" night at length arrived. We all attended
the meeting and listened to a very able paper upon the play. One
of the most marked traits of Gwen's character is that whatever she
does she does thoroughly, and this was fully exemplified on the night
in question. Maitland was very much impressed by some verse Gwen
had written for the occasion, and a copy of which he succeeded in
procuring from her. I think, from certain remarks he made, that it
was the broad and somewhat unfeminine charity expressed in the verse
which most astonished and attracted him, but of this, after what I
have said, you will, when you have perused it, be as good a judge
In Egypt, where the lotus sips the waters
Of ever-fruitful Nile, and the huge Sphinx
In awful silence, - mystic converse with
The stars, - doth see the pale moon hang her crescent on
The pyramid's sharp peak, - e'en there, well in
The straits of Time's perspective,
Went out, by Caesarean gusts from Rome,
The low-burned candle of the Ptolemies:
Went out without a flicker in full glare
Of noon-day glory. When her flame lacked oil
Too proud was Egypt's queen to be
The snuff of Roman spirits; so she said,
"Good-night," and closed the book of life half read
And little understood; perchance misread
The greater part, - yet, who shall say? Are we
An ermined bench to call her culprit failings up
And make them plead for mercy? Or can we,
Upon whom soon shall fall the awful shadow of
The Judgment Seat, stand in her light and throw
Ourselves that shadow? Rather let fall upon
Her memory the softening gauze of Time,
As mantle of a charity which else
We might not serve. She was a woman,
And as a woman loved! What though the fierce
Simoom blew ever hot within the sail
Of her desire? What if it shifted with
Direction of her breath? Or if the rudder of
Her will did lean as many ways as trampled straws,
And own as little worth? She was a woman still,
And queen. They do best understand themselves
Who trust themselves the least; as they are wisest
Who, for their safety, thank more the open sea
Than pilot will. Oh, Egypt's self-born Isis!
Ought we to fasten in thy memory the fangs
Of unalloyed distrust? We know how little
Better is History's page than leaf whereat the ink
Is thrown. Nor yet should we forget how much
The nearer thou than we didst come to
The rough-hewn corner-stone of Time. We know
Thy practised love enfolded Antony;
And that around the heart of Hercules'
Descendant, threading through and through,
Like the red rivers of its life, in tangled mesh
No circumstance could e'er unravel, thou
Didst coil, - the dreamy, dazzling "Serpent of
The Nile!" Thy sins stick jagged out
From history's page, and bleeding tear
Fair Judgment from thy merits. We perchance
Do wrong thee, Isis; for that coward, History,
Who binds in death his object's jaw and then
Besmuts her name, hath crossed his focus in
Another age, and paled his spreading figment from
Our sight. Thou art so far back toward
The primal autocrat whose wish, hyena-like,
Was his religion, that, appearing as thou dost
On an horizon new flushed in the first
Uncertain ray of Altruism, thou seem'st
More ghost than human. Yet thou lovest, loving ghost,
And thy fierce parent flame thyself snuffed out
Scarce later than the dark'ning of the fire
Thou gav'st to be eternal vestal of
Thine Antony's spirit. Thou didst love and die
Of love; let, therefore, no light tongue, brazen
In censure, say that nothing in thy life
Became thee like the leaving it. The cloth
From which humanity is cut is woven of
The warp and woof of circumstance, and all
Are much alike. We spring from out the mantle, Earth,
And hide at last beneath it; in the interim
Our acts are less of us than it. We are
No judge, then, of thy sins, thou ending link
Of Ptolemy's chain. Forsooth, we are too much
O'erfilled with wondering how like to thee
We all had been, inclipt and dressed in thine
Own age and circumstance.
The exercises of the evening concluded with the reading of the
familiar poem, beginning:
"I am dying, Egypt, dying;
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast."
It was about noon the next day when Maitland called upon me. "See
here, Doc," he began at once, "do you believe in coincidences?" I
informed him that his question was not altogether easy to understand.
"Wait a moment," he said, "while I explain. For at least two years
prior to my recent return from California the name 'Cleopatra' has
not entered my mind. You were the first to mention it to me, and
from you I learned that Miss Darrow was to have charge of the 'Antony
and Cleopatra' night. That is all natural enough. But why should I,
on every morning since you first mentioned the subject to me, awake
with Antony's words upon my lips? Why should every book or paper I
pick up contain some reference to Cleopatra? Why, man, if I were
superstitious, it would seem positively spookish. I am getting to
believe that I shall be confronted either by Cleopatra's name, or
some allusion to her, every time I pick up a book. It's getting to
be decidedly interesting."
"I have had," I replied, "similar, though less remarkable,
experiences. It is quite a common occurrence to learn of a thing,
say, this morning for the first time in one's life, and then to
find, in the course of the day's reading, three or four independent
references to the same thing. Suppose we step into the library, and
pick out a few books haphazard, just to see if we chance upon any
reference to Cleopatra."
To this Maitland agreed, and, entering the library, I pushed the
Morning Herald across the table to him, saying: "One thing's as good
as another; try that." He started a little, but did not touch the
paper. "You will have to find something harder than that," he said,
pointing to the outspread paper.
I followed the direction of his finger, and read:
"Boston Theatre. Special engagement of Miss Fanny Davenport.
For one week. Beginning Monday, the 12th of December, Sardou's
I was indeed surprised, but I said nothing. The next thing I handed
him was a copy of Godey's Magazine, several years old. He opened it
carelessly, and in a moment read the following line: "I am dying,
sweetheart, dying." "Doesn't that sound familiar? It reminds me at
once of the poetic alarm clock that wakens me every morning, - 'I am
dying, Egypt, dying.' There is no doubt that Higginson's poem
suggested this one. Here is the whole of the thing as it is printed
here," he said, and read the following:
I am dreaming, loved one, dreaming
Of the sweet and beauteous past
When the world was as its seeming,
Ere the fatal shaft was cast.
I am sobbing, sad-eyed, sobbing,
At the darkly sullen west,
Of the smile of ignorance robbing
The pale face against the breast.
I am smiling, tear-stained, smiling,
As the sun glints on the crest
Of the troubled wave, beguiling
Shipwrecked Hope to its long rest.
I am parting, broken, parting,
From a soul that I hold dear,
And the music of whose beauty
Fades a dead strain on my ear.
I am dying, sweetheart, dying,
Drips life's gold through palsied hands, -=20
See; the dead'ning Sun is sighing
His last note in red'ning bands.
So I'm sighing, sinking, sighing,
Flows life's river to the sea.
Death my throbbing heart is tying
With the strings that ache for thee.
"Yes," I said, when he had finished. "I shall have to admit that
immediately suggests Higginson's poem and Cleopatra's name. But
here, try this," and I threw an old copy of the Atlantic Monthly
upon the table. Maitland opened it and laughed. "This may be mere
chance, Doc," he said, "but it is remarkable, none the less. See
here!" He held the magazine toward me, and I read: "Cleopatra's
Needle. The Historic Significance of Central Park's New Monument.
Some of the Difficulties that Attended its Transportation and
Erection. By James Theodore Wright, Ph. D." I was dumfounded.
Things were indeed getting interesting.
"Magazines and newspapers," I said, "seem to be altogether too much
in your line. We'll try a book this time. Here," and I pulled the
first one that came to hand, "is a copy of Tennyson's Poems I fancy
it will trouble you to find your reference in that." Maitland took
it in silence, and, opening it at random, began to read. The result
surprised him even more than it did me. He had chanced upon these
verses from "A Dream of Fair Women":
"'We drank the Libyan Sun to sleep, and lit
Lamps which outburn'd Canopus. 0 my life
In Egypt! 0 the dalliance and the wit,
The flattery and the strife.
"'And the wild kiss when fresh from war's alarms,
My Hercules, my Roman Antony,
My mailed Bacchus leapt into my arms,
Contented there to die!
"'And there he died! And when I heard my name
Sigh'd forth with life, I would not brook my fear
Of the other! With a worm I balked his fame.
What else was left? look here!'
"With that she tore her robe apart and half
The polished argent of her breast to sight
Laid bare. Thereto she pointed with a laugh,
Showing the aspic's bite."
"There is no doubt about that," I said, as he laid the book upon the
table. "I want to try this thing once more. Here is Pascal; if you
can find any reference to the 'Serpent of the Nile' in that, you
needn't go any farther, I shall be satisfied," and I passed the book
to him. He turned the pages over in silence for half a minute, or
so, and then said: "I guess this counts as a failure, - no, though,
by Jove! Look here!" His face was of almost deathly pallor, and
his finger trembled upon the passage it indicated as he held the
book toward me. I glanced with some anxiety from his face to the
book, and read, as nearly as I now can remember: "If Cleopatra's
nose had been shorter, the entire face of the world would have been
It was some minutes before Maitland fully regained his composure,
and during that time neither of us spoke. "Well, Doc," he said at
length, and his manner was decidedly grave, even for him:
"What do you make of it?" I didn't know what to make of it, and
I admitted my ignorance with a frankness at which, considering my
profession, I have often since had occasion to marvel. I told
him that I could scarcely account for it on the ground of mere
coincidence, and I called his attention to that part of "The Mystery
of Marie Roget," where Poe figures out the mathematical likelihood
of a certain combination of peculiarities of clothing being found
to obtain in the case of two young women who were unknown to each
other. If the finding of a single reference to Cleopatra had been
a thing of so infrequent occurrence as to at once challenge
Maitland's attention, what was to be said when, all of a sudden, her
name, or some reference to her, seemed to stare at him from every
page he read?
"'There is something in this more than natural,
If philosophy could find it out,'"=20
murmured Maitland, more to himself than to me. "Come, what do you
say?" and he turned abruptly to me with one of those searching looks
so peculiar to him in moments of excitement. "I see," I replied,
"that you are determined I shall give my opinion now and here,
without a moment's reflection. Very well; you have just quoted
'Hamlet'; I will do likewise:
"'There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy I'
"You seem in some strange way to be dominated by the shade of
Cleopatra. Now, if I believed in metempsychosis, I should think you
were Mark Antony brought down to date. There, with that present
sober air of yours, you'd pass anywhere for such an anachronism.
But to be serious, and to give you advice which is positively bilious
with gravity, I should say, investigate this thing fully; make a
study of this ancient charmer. By the way, why not begin by going
to see Davenport in Sardou's 'Cleopatra'? You have never seen her
in it, have you?"
In this way. I succeeded in getting him out of his depressed state.
We got into an argument concerning the merits of Miss Davenport's
work. I know of nothing Maitland would sooner do than argue, and,
if attacked on a subject upon which he feels strongly, he is, for
the time being, totally oblivious of everything else. For this
reason I trapped him into this argument. I abominate what is now
known as "realism" just as much as he does, but you don't have much
of an argument without some apparent difference of opinion, so, for
the nonce, I became a realist of whom Zola himself would have been
proud. "Why, man," I said, "realism is truth. You certainly can't
have any quarrel with that." I knew this would have the effect of
a red rag flaunted in the face of a bull.
"Truth! Bah!" he exclaimed excitedly. "I have no patience with
such aesthetic hod-carriers! Truth, indeed! Is there no other truth
in art but that coarse verisimilitude, that vulgar trickery, which
appeals to the eyes and the ears of the rabble? Are there not
psychological truths of immensely greater importance? What sane man
imagines for a moment that the pleasure he derives from seeing that
greatest of all tragedians, Edwin Booth, in one of Shakespeare's
matchless tragedies, is dependent upon his believing that this or
that character is actually killed? Why, even the day of the
cranberry-juice dagger is long since passed. When Miss Davenport
shrieks in 'Fedora,' the shriek is literal - 'real,' you would call
it - and you find yourself instinctively saying, 'Don't! - don't!'
and wishing you were out of the house. When Mr. Booth, as 'Shylock'
shrieks at 'Tubal's' news, the cry is not real, is not literal, but
is suggestive, and you see at once the fiendish glee of which it is
the expression. The difference between the two is the difference
between vocal cords and grey matter."
"But surely," I rejoined, "one doesn't want untruth; one wants - "
but he did not let me finish.
"Always that cry of truth!" he retorted. "Do you not see how absurd
it is, as used by your exponents of realism? With a bit of charcoal
some Raphael draws a face with five lines, and some photographer
snaps a camera at the same face. Which would any sane man choose as
the best work of art? The five-line face, of course. Why? Is the
work of the camera unreal? Is it not more accurate in drawing, more
subtle in gradation than the less mechanical picture? To be sure.
What, then, makes the superiority of the few lines of our Raphael?
That which makes the superiority of all noble art - its truth,, not
on a low, but on a high, plane: its power of interpreting. See!"
he said, fairly aglow with excitement. "What does your realist do,
even assuming that he has reached that never-to--be-attained
perfection which is the lifelong Mecca of his desires? He gives
you, by his absolutely realistic goes with you, and interprets its
grandeur to you. Stand before his canvas and enjoy it as you would
Nature herself if there. Surely, you say, nothing more could be
desired, and you clap your hands, and shout, 'Bravo!' But wait a
bit; the other side is yet to be heard from. What does the true
artist do for you by his picture of Yosemite Valley? He not only
gives you a free conveyance to it, but he goes with you, and
interprets its grandeur to you. He translates into the language of
your consciousness beauties which, without him, you would entirely
miss. It is this very capability of seeing more in Nature than is
ever perceived by the common throng that constitutes the especial
genius of the artist, and a work that is not aglow with its creator's
personality - personality, mind you, not coarse realism - can never
rank as a masterpiece. But, come, this won't do. Why did you want
to get me astride my hobby?"
I thought it advisable to answer this question by asking another,
so I said: "But how about Davenport? Will you go?"
"Yes," he replied. "Anything with a Cleopatra to it interests me.
I'll go now and see about the tickets," and he left me.
I have related Maitland's aesthetic views as expressed to me upon
this occasion, not because they have any particular bearing upon the
mystery I am narrating, but because they cast a strong side-light
upon the young man's character, and also for the reason that I
believe his personality to be sufficiently strong and unique to be
of general interest.
We went that same night to see Sardou's "Cleopatra." I asked Maitland
how he liked the piece, and the only reply he vouchsafed was: "I have
recently read Shakespeare's treatment of the same theme."=20
If events spread themselves out fanwise from the past into the
future, then must the occurrences of the present exhibit
convergence toward some historical burning-point, - some focal
centre whereat the potential was warmed=20into the kinetic.
It was nearly a week after the events last narrated before I saw
Maitland again, and then only by chance. We happened to meet in the
Parker House, and, as he had some business pertaining to a case he
was on, to transact at the Court House, I walked up Beacon Street
with him. There is a book or stationery store, on Somerset Street,
just before you turn down toward Pemberton Square. As we were
passing this store, Maitland espied a large photographic reproduction
of some picture.
"Let us cross over and see what it is," he said. We did so. It was
a photograph of L. Alma-Tadema's painting of Antony and Cleopatra.
Maitland started a little as he read the title, and then said
lightly: "Do you suppose, Doc, that woman's mummy is in existence?
I should like to find it. I've an idea she left some hieroglyphic
message for me on her mummy-case, and doesn't propose to let me
rest easy until I find and translate it. Now, if I believed in
transmigration of souls - do you see any mark of Antony about me?
Say, though, just imagine the spirit of Marcus Antonius in a rubber
apron, making an analysis of oleomargarine! But here we are;
good-bye," and he left me without awaiting any reply. He seemed to
me to be in decidedly better spirits than formerly, and I was at
the time at a loss to account for it. The cause of his levity,
however, was soon explained, for that night, as Gwen, my sister, and
I were sitting cosily in the study according to our usual custom,
Maitland walked in, unannounced. He had come now to be a regular
visitor, and I invented not a few subterfuges to get him to call
even oftener than he otherwise would, for I perceived that his
coming gave pleasure to Gwen. She exhibited less depression when
in his presence than at any other time. I had learned that hers
was one of those deep natures in which grief crystallises slowly,
but with an unconquerable persistence. Instead of her forgetting
her bereavement, or the sense thereof waxing weaker by time, she
seemed to be drifting toward that ever-present consciousness of
loss in which the soul feels itself gradually, but surely, sinking
under an insupportable burden - a burden so long borne, so well
known, that the mind no longer thinks of it. The heart beats
stolidly under its load, and seems to forget the time when it was
not so oppressed. No one knows better than we physicians the danger
of this autocracy of grief, and I watched Gwen with a solicitude at
times almost bordering on despair. But, as I said before, she always
seemed to show more interest in affairs when Maitland was present,
and, on the night in question, his abrupt and unexpected entrance
surprised her into the betrayal of more pleasure than she would have
wished us to note, and, indeed, so quickly did she conceal her
confusion that I was the only one who noticed it. Maitland was too
busy with the news he brought.
"Well, Miss Darrow," he began at once, "at last your detective has
got a clue - not much of a one - but still a clue. I can pick the
man for whom we are looking from among a million of his fellows - if
I am ever fortunate enough to get the chance."
Somebody has already called attention to the fact that women are
more or less curious, and there are well-authenticated cases on
record where this inquisitiveness has even extended to things which
did not immediately concern themselves; so I have little doubt I
shall be believed when I say the women folk were in a fever of
expectancy, and besought Maitland with an earnestness quite
unnecessary - (it would have required a great deal to have prevented
his telling it) - to begin at the beginning, and relate the whole
thing. He readily acceded to this request, and began by telling
them the experiences which I have just narrated. It was, he said,
during the last act of Sardou's "Cleopatra" that the idea had
suddenly come to him to change the plan of search from the analytical
to the synthetical.
"You see," he continued, "I had from the first been trying to find
the assassin without knowing the exact way in which the crime was
committed. I now determined to ascertain how, under the same
circumstances, I could commit such a crime, and leave behind no
other evidences of the deed than those which are in our possession.
I began to read detective stories, with all the avidity of a Western
Union Telegraph messenger, and, of course, read those by Conan Doyle.
The assertion of 'Sherlock Holmes' that there is no novelty in crime;
that crimes, like history, repeat themselves; and that criminals read
and copy each other's methods, deeply impressed me, and I at once
said to myself: 'If our assassin was not original, whom did he copy?'
"It was while reading 'The Sign of the Four,' which I had procured
at the Public Library, that I made the first discovery. The crime
therein narrated had been committed in such a singular manner that
it at once attracted my attention. The victim had apparently been
murdered without anyone having either entered or left the room. In
this respect it was like the problem we are trying to solve. Might
not this book, I said to myself, have suggested to your father's
assassin the course he pursued. I concluded to go to the library
and ask for a list of the names of persons who had taken out this
book for a few months prior to your father's death. I was fully
aware that the chance of my learning anything in this way was very
slight, In the first place; I reasoned that it was not especially
likely your father's murderer had read 'The Sign of the Four,'
and, in the second place, even if he had, what assurance had I that
he had read this particular copy of it? Notwithstanding this,
however, I felt impelled to give my synthetical theory a fair
experimental trial. I was informed by the Library attendants that
the book had been much read, and given the list of some twenty
names of persons who had borrowed the book during the time I had
specified. With these twenty-odd names before me, I sat down to
think what my next step should be. I went carefully over this chain
of reasoning link by link. 'I wish to find a certain murderer, and
have adopted this method in the hope that it may help me. If I
derive any assistance at all from it, it will be because my man has
read this particular copy of this work; therefore, I may as well
assume at the start that among these twenty-odd names is that of
the man I want. Is there any possibility of this crime having been
committed by a woman?' was my next question, and my answer was, 'Yes,
a possibility, but it is so decidedly improbable that I may count it
out for the time being.' Accordingly, I set aside all the female
names, which cut my list down to eighteen. Several of the applicants
had only signed the initials of their given names, and the attendant,
copying them from the slips, had done likewise; so I was obliged to
go to the registration clerk to determine this question of sex, and,
while there, I also ascertained the age of each applicant - that is,
of all but two. The registrar could give me no information regarding
J. Z. Weltz, or B. W. Rizzi. When I told him that one of the clerks
had copied the names for me from application slips, he informed me
that if I would go back to her I would undoubtedly find she had taken
the two last-mentioned names from the green slips used in applying
for books for hall use, as neither J. Z. Weltz nor B. W. Rizzi was a
"I decided to let these two names rest a while, and to give my
attention to the others. After careful deliberation I felt
reasonably sure your father's assassin could not fail to be a man
of mature judgment and extraordinary cunning, probably a man past
middle life - at all events, I could safely say he was over
twenty-one years of age. Proceeding upon this assumption my list
was reduced to ten names. But how should I further continue this
process of exclusion? This was the question which now confronted
me. I could think of but one way, apart from personally making the
gentlemen's acquaintance, which I did not then wish to do, and that
was to ascertain what other books they had borrowed immediately
before and after they had read 'The Sign of the Four.' This was
the course I determined to pursue.
"If you ask me why I so persistently followed an investigation, a
successful outcome of which anyone must recognise would be little
short of miraculous, I can only say that I felt impelled to do so.
Perhaps the impulse was due to my habit of testing patiently and
thoroughly each new theory which impresses me as having any degree
of probability, and perhaps it was due to something else - Cleopatra,
perhaps, eh, Doctor? - I don't know. I determined, however, to
thoroughly satisfy myself regarding these ten men. I made a careful
list, with the assistance of an attendant, of ten books taken by
each man, five taken just prior to 'The Sign of the Four,' and the
other five just following it. I made no deductions until the list
was completed, although I began to see certain things of interest
as we worked upon it. At length the whole hundred titles were spread
before me, and I sat down to see what I could make of them. I
purposely reserved consideration of the books borrowed by Weltz and
Rizzi until the last, because I had been able to learn nothing of
them, and considered, therefore, that they were the most difficult
persons in the list about whom to satisfy myself. I found the
other eight exhibited no system in their reading. One had read
- I think I can remember the books in the order in which they were
borrowed - 'Thelma,' 'Under Two Flags,' 'David Copperfield,' 'The
Story of an African Farm,' 'A Study in Scarlet,' 'The Sign of the
Four,' 'The Prisoner of Zenda,' 'The Dolly Dialogues,' 'The Yellow
Aster,' 'The Superfluous Woman,' and 'Ideala.' This is a fair sample
of the other seven. Not so, however, with Messrs. Weltz and Rizzi.
The reading of these men at once impressed me as having a purpose
"I will read you a list of the books taken by Weltz and Rizzi, just
to see what you will make out of it:
I."Lecons de Toxicologic," 1."Traite de Toxicologic,"
par M. Orifia. par C. P. Galtier.
2."The Poisons of Asps and 2."The Poisons of Asps and
Other Stories," by Florence Other Stories," by Florence
3."A Practical Essay on 3."A Practical Essay on
Cancer," by C. T. Johnson. Cancer," by C. T. Johnson.
4."The Sharper Detected 4."The Sharper Detected
and Exposed," by R. Houdin. and Exposed," by R. Houdin.
5."The Sign of the Four," 5."The Sign of the Four,"
by A. Conan Doyle. by A. Conan Doyle.
6."Cancer, a New Method of 6."Legal Chemistry: A
Treatment," by W. H. Guide to the Detection of
Broadbent. Poisons, Examinations of
Stains, etc., as Applied to=20
From the French of A. Naquet=20
by J. P. Battershall, Nat.Sc.D.
7."Reports of Trials for 7."Traite Pratique des =20
Murder by Poisoning," Maladies Cancerences,"
by G. L. Browne and C. par H. Lebert.
8."A Practical Treatise on 8."A Practical Treatise on
Poisons," by 0. H. Costill. Poisons," by 0. H. Costill.
9."Poisons, Their Effects 9."A Treatise on Poisons in
and Detection," by Alexander Relation to Medical=20
Wynter Blyth. Jurisprudence, Physiology,
and the Practice of Physic,"=20
by R. Christison,M.D., F.R.S.E.
10."Poisons, Their Effects 10."Poisons, Their Effects
and Detection," by Alexander and Detection," by Alexander =20
Wynter Blyth. Wynter Blyth.
"There, do you wonder that the perusal of that list excited me?
Come, now, before I go any further, tell me what you make of it,
Doc," and he passed it to me.
"There seems to me to be a singular unanimity of purpose existing
between these two men," I said; "not only as regards the
subject-matter of their reading, but in no less than six cases they
have both perused the same volume. This never happened by chance.
Clearly, they are acquaintances, and are working together toward
some common end. I should think it very likely, judging from their
interest in cancers and toxicology, that they were medical students.
Numbers four and five don't exactly seem to strengthen my medical
hypothesis, but they are only two out of the ten. That's about all
I can make out of it;" and I returned the list to him.
"Your views in the matter," replied Maitland, "are precisely those
which first occurred to me, and I am not sure but I should still
hold them, had I been obliged to decide solely from the evidence I
have submitted to you. It was clear to my mind from the first that
some common purpose actuated both Weltz and Rizzi. With a view to
ascertaining where they lived as a preparatory step toward learning
more of them, I consulted a Boston directory, only to learn that it
contained no such names. I was about to examine some of the
directories of neighbouring towns when it occurred to me that the
easiest way to find their places of residence would be to consult
the green slips upon which they had procured their books, and I
accordingly asked the attendant to kindly let me look at them.
While she was collecting the slips I re-examined the list of books
taken by Weltz and Rizzi, especially those which had been taken by
both men. One thing at once struck my attention, and that was that
most of these latter were large books which would take a long time
to peruse and would require to be borrowed several times for hall
use, were they to be examined with any care. I put this fact down
for future reference and gave my attention to the green slips, the
whole twenty of which the attendant now placed before me. The
residence of Weltz was given as No. 15 Staniford Place, Boston,
while that of Rizzi was No. 5 Oak Street, Boston. I was about to
walk over to Oak Street to see if Rizzi were still there when, in
returning the slips to the attendant, I noticed a peculiarity
in Weltz's 'z' which I had thought I had seen in Rizzi's signature.
I immediately compared the slips. There was the same oddly shaped
'z' in both. It was made like this" - and he handed us a slip of
paper with this z* upon it.
"You see," he continued, "it is so unusual a way of making the
letter that it at once attracted my attention, notwithstanding the
fact that Rizzi wrote with his left hand. Closer examination
revealed other peculiarities, as in the r*'s, common to both hands.
Well, to make a long story short, I satisfied myself that the same
person wrote the whole twenty slips and was, moreover, ambidextrous.
This I considered as a very promising discovery, so much so, indeed,
that I gave up an engagement I had for the evening and decided to
camp right there until the Library closed. Happily the books I had
been consulting were still on the table. I picked out those borrowed
under the names of Weltz and Rizzi, and began a most careful
examination of them. I had been working about two hours when I
discovered something that fairly took my breath away. I was not
sure that I was right, but I knew that, if my microscope bore me out,
I would be able to stake my life that the murderer of John Darrow
had read that book. I was aware, however, that even then I should
not be able to name the man who had put his mark upon the book, but
I could take oath that the record was made by the same hand that
committed the murder.
transcriber's note: the symbols designated z* and r* are shown as
script which is not reproducible here.
"I was too excited to do more till this had been settled, so I
besought the official in charge to let me take all the books home
with me, if only for a day, explaining to him the vital importance
of my request. He readily consented and I hastened home with the
whole lot. You may imagine with what interest I put the page I
wished to examine under my microscope and laid beside it the piece
of glass which, you will perhaps remember, I cut from a window of
the room in which the murder was committed. I believe I have never
yet explained to Miss Darrow why I preserved that bit of glass.
There were two reasons for it. The house had been primed that day
and there were two smutches of paint upon the glass and two almost
identical smutches upon the sill. One was a sinuous line, as if
the glass had been struck with a short bit of rope, - or possibly
rubber tubing since no rope-like texture was visible, - which had
previously been soiled with the paint from the sill. The other mark
was that of a human thumb. I had seen at the World's Fair an exhibit
of these thumbmarks collected by a Frenchman who has made an
exhaustive study of the subject, and had learned there for the first
time that no two thumbs in the world can make the same mark. I knew,
therefore, that this slip of glass would at any time tell me whether
or not a suspected man were guilty. I had not failed to get the
thumb-marks of the men who painted the house on that day, as well
as those of every other person known to be about the place. The
marks upon the glass could not, by any possibility, have been made
by any of them. The deduction was inevitable. They were made by
the man who stood by the window when the murder was committed.
"You will be surprised when I tell you it was some moments before
I could summon up courage to look through my microscope upon the
page beneath it. You see, I had been seized by an unaccountable
conviction that I had at last found a real clue to the murderer,
and I dreaded lest the first glance should show this to have been
an idle delusion. At length I looked. The thumb that had pressed
the paper was the thumb that had pressed the glass! There was not
a doubt of it. My suspicions were confirmed. Everything now
regarding this book was of immense importance. The page upon which
the mark was found - well, I think you would open your eyes if I
were to read it to you. I will defer this pleasure, however, till
I see if my suspicions are correct. The thumb-mark is upon page
469 of 'Poisons, Their Effects and Detection,' by Alexander Wynter
"No sooner had I made sure of my discovery than I set out for No. 5
Oak Street, the address given by Rizzi. There was no such person
there, nor had there been anyone of that name in the house during
the three years of the present tenant's occupancy. I went to 15
Staniford Place with the same result. A young woman about
twenty-five years of age came to the door. She informed me that
she had been born in the house and had always lived there. She had
never known anyone by the name of Weltz. This was just what I had
expected. The man for whom we are searching is shrewd almost beyond
belief, and if we succeed in finding him it will not, we may be
assured, be the result of any bungling on his part.
"I have now told you all I have learned, or rather all that is
sufficiently definite to communicate - it is not much, yet it is a
clue and may serve to give our hope a new lease of life. What do
you think of it, Miss Darrow?"
"I think what you have learned," Gwen replied, "will be of the
utmost importance. You have now something definite to guide you.
I am most fortunate in having the services of such a detective,
indeed, I am at a loss to know how to thank you for all you have
done, - for all you are doing, I - "
"My dear Miss Darrow," Maitland interrupted, "I need no thanks. Be
assured I am selfish in all I do. It is a pleasure to me, therefore
I do it. You see I deserve no credit. If I am able to free you
from the danger of sacrificing yourself, I shall be more than
Gwen made no reply, but I, sitting as I did close beside her, saw
the moisture gather between her drooping lids. Maitland took his
leave almost immediately, having, he said, a long evening's work
before him; while Gwen, Alice, and I discussed the news he had
brought us, until far into the night. I did not see him the next
day, which was Tuesday, and I believe not on Wednesday. It was
Thursday afternoon, if I do not mistake, that he sent me a note
asking me to call on him at his office. I went at once, thinking
it might be something very important. I found him alone and
waiting for me.
"I wanted," he began as soon as I was seated, "to talk this matter
over with you. You see the great difficulty which besets me in this
case is that nearly all our evidence, while it is of a nature to
enable us to convict our man once we have him, is yet of almost no
assistance to us in finding him. What do we know of him up to date;
or at least of what do we feel reasonably assured? Let us see.
John Darrow was poisoned in some mysterious way by a man who was
stationed just outside the partly opened window. The weapon, or
whatever was used as such, was taken away by the murderer. Nothing
in the nature of a projectile could have been employed, since the
wound was upon a part of the victim's throat known to have been
turned away from the window and to have been completely shielded
upon that side by the high and massive back of the chair in which
the victim sat.
"He was fully eight feet from the casement, so that the assassin
could not have reached in and struck him. There were no footprints
by the window, as the assassin had strapped small boards upon his
feet. It is most likely, therefore, that he has some peculiarity
about his feet which he thought best to conceal. He is about five
feet five inches tall, weighs about one hundred and thirty-five
pounds, and steps three or four inches longer when the right foot
is thrown forward than he does when the left foot leads. We have a
cast of the assassin's hand showing unmistakable evidence of the
habit of biting the nails, with the exception of that of the little
finger, which nail, by the way, is abnormally long, and could only
have been spared for some special reason. The murderer is most
likely a foreigner. His handwriting would indicate this even if we
did not know, from the books he read, how conversant he is with at
least one foreign tongue. Again, he has some decided interest in
the subject of cancers and, perhaps, some interest in legerdemain,
if we may judge from his perusal of Robert Houdin's book.
"There are one or two other things I have learned, but this, so far
as any present effect is concerned, is about all we know, and it
doesn't seem to make the conduct of our search a very easy matter.
We have clearly to deal with a man who is possessed not merely of
low criminal cunning, but, I have reason to believe, with one who
has education and culture, and, if anything can be judged from
handwriting, rare strength of character as well. If we could only
find some motive! No one but a maniac would do such a deed without
a motive, yet we can't find one. A maniac! By Jove! I hadn't
thought of that. What do you think of the idea? 'Though this be
madness, yet there is method in't,' eh?"
I told him that the maniac theory did not appeal to me very strongly.
"Madness, to be sure, is often exceedingly cunning," I said, "but
it is hardly capable of such sustained masterfulness as our criminal
"Look here, Doc," Maitland said, breaking out suddenly, "I've an
idea. Might not this fellow's interest in cancers be due to his
having one himself? Suppose you make a canvass of the specialists
on cancer in Boston and vicinity, and see if any of them remember
being consulted by a patient answering the description with which I
will provide you. In addition to this I will insert an ad in the
papers calling attention to a new method for the cure of cancer,
and asking all interested to call at your office for further
particulars. The plan does not promise much, still it may bring
him. What do you say?"
I expressed my willingness to do all in my power to aid him, and he
left me. The next morning's papers contained the advertisement and
I had several calls in answer to it. These would have caused me
much inconvenience had I not explained the whole ruse in confidence
to a medical friend who made a specialty of the treatment of cancers,
and persuaded him to come to my office during the hours specified
in the advertisement. When a patient would call I would satisfy
myself that it was neither the person we were searching for, nor
anyone sent by him to make inquiries, and then turn him over to my
colleague, Dr. Rhodes. It would never have occurred to me to
interest myself in any patient who did not answer the description
given me by Maitland, had he not especially cautioned me in this
"We have," he said, "to deal with a man possessed of ability of no
common order. We have already seen that he never runs a risk,
however slight, which he can avoid. It is more than likely,
therefore, if our advertisement meets his eye and interests him, he
will inquire into it through some second party. Again, we are by
no means certain that his interest in cancers is a purely personal
one. Perhaps it is a wife, a sister, or some other relative who is
afflicted. In this case we could hardly expect him to come himself.
Let me caution you, therefore, to closely scrutinise all applicants
and question them until you are satisfied they are in nowise
connected with the man for whom we are searching."
I followed this advice most carefully and had no difficulty in
convincing myself that none of my callers had any relation whatsoever
with the murderer of John Darrow. This order of things was
continued for several days with the same result. In the meantime
Maitland was working upon a new clue he had discovered. He would
tell me all about it, he said, when he had followed it to the end.
This was on Tuesday. On Friday he came to the house and informed us
that he had met a man who had known a M. Henri Cazot, a Frenchman
whose description seemed to tally perfectly with nearly all we knew
of Mr. Darrow's murderer.
"It came about in this way," Maitland began in response to Gwen's
request that he should tell us all about it: "I determined to
thoroughly search every book on the 'Weltz-Rizzi' list, to see if I
might not get some additional clue. In the work by Robert Houdin
entitled 'The Sharper Detected and Exposed' I found the statement
that gamblers often neutralised a cut in a pack of cards by a rapid
and dexterous sleight. This, the book went on to say, was
accomplished in the following manner: When the cards are cut and
left in two packets upon the table, the sharper picks up with his
right hand the parcel of cards which was originally at the bottom
of the pack. This is brought above the other packet, as in an=20
onest cut, but, just before releasing the cards, the lower parcel
is deftly tilted up by inserting the right little finger under it,
and the upper packet quickly slid beneath it, leaving the cards in
precisely the position they occupied before cutting; For this
purpose, the book continued, the nail of the right little finger is
worn very long, so as to facilitate its being thrust beneath a
packet of cards. Here, I said to myself, is a possible explanation
of one of the peculiarities of my plaster cast. The long nail on
the left little finger may have served its function at the gaming
table. If so, however, it would seem to indicate that our man is
left-handed, while, as we have already seen, the writing upon the
library slips would indicate that he is ambidextrous. We need not,
therefore, I reasoned, be surprised if we find that both little
fingers have long nails. I at once acted upon these thoughts and
began a search of the gambling resorts of this city. In order not
to excite suspicion I played a little in each place, watching my
opportunity to engage the proprietor in conversation. In every case
I followed the same formula. Did he remember the gentleman who used
to come there? Foreigner, - spoke French, a little under medium
height; had a sort of halt in his walk; bit his finger nails, etc.,
etc. I met with no encouragement in the down-town places, though
the proprietor of one of the Hayward Place 'dives' had an idea such
a man had been there, but only once or twice and he was not sure he
could place him. I then went up to the South End and on Decatur
Street found a man who promptly responded to my inquiries: 'Gad!
that's Henri Cazot fast enough, in all but the height and gait.
Dick there, he'll tell you all about him. He owes him a little
debt of honour of about a hundred plunks. He gave him his note for
it, and Dick carries it around with him, not because he thinks he'll
ever get it, but he likes the writing. M. Henri Cazot! eh, Dick?'
and he burst into a coarse laugh. I turned to Dick for further
information. He had already produced a much-crumpled paper and was
smoothing it out upon the table.
"'There's the article,' he said, bringing his hand down emphatically
upon it. 'The cuss was hard up. Luck had gone agin him and he had
lost every cent he had. Jem Macey was a-dealin' and Cazot didn't
seem to grasp that fact, but kept bettin' heavy. You see, young
feller, ye ain't over likely to win at cards when yer playin' agin
the dealer. Cazot didn't know this and I wouldn't tell him, for he
was rather fly with the cards himself when he wan't watched too
close. Well, he struck me for a loan; said his little girl was
hungry and he hadn't a cent to buy bread. Gad, but he looked wild
though! I always thought he was more'n half loony. Well, as I had
helped to fleece him I lent him a hundred and took this here note.
That's the last I ever see of M. Henri Cazot,' and he handed the
paper to me. I glanced at the signature. It was the same hand that
had written 'Weltz' and 'Rizzi' upon the library slips. There was
that unmistakable z and the peculiar r which had just attracted my
attention! It required considerable effort on my part to so restrain
my feelings as not to appear especially interested in what I had
learned. I think, however, I succeeded, as they freely answered my
questions regarding Cazot and the daughter of whom he had spoken.
They knew nothing further, they said, than what they had told me.
"'It was a year ago come next month that I lent him the money,' my
informant continued. He pocketed it, hurried out, and that is the
last I have ever seen or heard of him. Shouldn't wonder if he'd
blown his brains out long ago. He used to have a mighty desperate
look at times. He was one of them Monte Carlo fellers, I reckon.'
"That's all I have been able to learn thus far. It isn't very much,
but it shows we are on the right track. By the way, Doc, I'm going
to change that ad to-morrow, offering treatment by letter. Perhaps
our man is too shy to apply in person. At all events we'll give the
other method a trial."
When we least expect it the Ideal meets us in the street of the
Commonplace and locks arms with us. Nevermore shall we choose
our paths uninfluenced. A new leaven has entered our personality
to dominate and direct it.
The new advertisement duly appeared and on the next day, which was
Wednesday - I remember it because it was my hospital day - I received
several written answers, and among them, one in which I felt confident
I recognised the peculiar z*'s and r*'s of Weltz and Rizzi.
I took it at once to Maitland. He glanced at it a moment and then
impulsively grasped my hand. "By Jove, Doc!" he exclaimed, "if this
crafty fox doesn't scent the hound, we shall soon run him to earth.
You see he has given no address and signs a new name. We are to write
to Carl Cazenove, General Delivery, Boston. Good! we will do so at
once, and I will then arrange with the postal authorities to notify
me when they deliver the letter. Of course this will necessitate a
continuous watch, perhaps for several days, of the general delivery
window. It is hardly likely our crafty friend will himself call for
the letter, so it will be imperative that someone be constantly on
hand to shadow whomsoever he may send as a substitute. May I depend
on your assistance in this matter?"
"I will stand by you till we see the thing through," I said, "though
I have to live in the Post Office a month."
Well, I wrote and mailed the decoy letter and Maitland explained the
situation to the postal authorities, who furnished us a comfortable
place inside and near the general delivery window. They promised to
notify us when anyone called for our letter. Our vigil was not a
very long one. On Thursday afternoon the postal clerk signalled to
us that Carl Cazenove's mail had been asked for, and, while he was
consuming as much time as possible in finding our letter, Maitland
and I quietly stepped out into the corridor. The sight that met our
gaze was one for which we had not been at all prepared. There at the
window stood a beautiful young girl just on the verge of womanhood.
Her frank blue eyes met mine with the utmost candour as I passed by
her so that she should be between Maitland and me, and thus unable
to elude us, whichever way she turned upon leaving the window. We
had previously planned how we should shadow our quarry, one on each
side of the street in order not to attract attention, but these
tactics seemed to be entirely unnecessary, for the young lady did
not have the slightest suspicion that anyone could be in the least
interested in her movements. She walked leisurely along, stopping
now occasionally to gaze at the shop windows and never once turning
to look back. She did not even conceal the letter, but held it in
her hand with her porte-monnaie, and I could see that the address
was uppermost. A strange sensation came over me as I dogged her
steps. I felt as an assassin must feel who tracks his victim into
some lonely spot where he may dare to strike him. It was useless
for me to tell myself that I was on the side of justice and engaged
in an honourable errand. A single glance at the girl's delicate
face, as frank and open as the morning light, brought the hot blush
of shame to my cheek. In following her I dimly felt that, in some
way, I was seeking to associate her with evil, which seemed little
less than sacrilege. I could do nothing, however, but keep on, so
I followed her through Devonshire Street, to New Washington and
thence down Hanover Street almost to the ferry. Here she turned
into an alleyway and, waiting for Maitland to come up, we both
saw her enter a house at its farther end.
George glanced hastily up at the house and then said, as he seized
me impatiently by the arm: "It's a tenement house; come on, the
chase is not up yet; we, too, must go in!"
So in we went. The young lady had disappeared, but as we entered
we heard a door close on the floor above, and felt sure we knew
where she had gone. We mounted the stairs as noiselessly as
possible and listened in the hall. We could distinguish a woman's
voice and occasionally that of a man, but we could not hear what
passed between them. On our right there was a door partly ajar.
Maitland pushed it open, and looked in. The room was empty and
unfurnished, with the exception of a dilapidated stove which stood
against the partition separating this room from the one the young
lady had entered. Maitland beckoned to me and I followed him into
the room. There was a key on the inside of the door which he
noiselessly turned in the lock. He then began to investigate the
premises. Three other rooms communicated with the one of which we
had taken possession, forming, evidently, a suite which had been
let for housekeeping. Everything was in ill-repair, as is the
case with most of the cheap tenements in this locality. The
previous tenant had not thought it necessary to clean the apartments
when quitting them, - for altruism does not flourish at the North
End, - but had been content to leave all the dirt for the next
When we had finished reconnoitering we returned to the room we first
entered, which apparently was the kitchen. We could still hear
the voices, but not distinctly. "Do you stay here, Doc," whispered
Maitland, "while I get into some old clothes and hunt up the
landlord of this place. I'm going to rent these rooms long enough
to acquaint myself with my neighbours on the other side of the wall.
I'll be back soon. Don't let any man leave that room without your
knowing where he goes." With this he left me and I soon found a
way to busy myself in his absence. In the wall above the stove,
where the pipe passed through the partition into our neighbour's
apartment, there was a chink large enough to permit me, when
mounted upon the stove, to overlook the greater part of the adjacent
room. I availed myself of this privilege, though not without those
same twinges of conscience which I had felt some minutes before
when following the young lady. The apartment was poorly furnished,
and yet, despite this scantiness of appointment, there was
unmistakable evidence of refinement. Everything visible in the
room was scrupulously neat and the few pictures that adorned the
walls, while they were inexpensive half-tones, were yet reproductions
of masterpieces. In the centre of the room stood a small, deal
table, on the opposite side of which sat the man who had answered my
At one end of the table, poised upon the back of a chair, sat a
small Capucin monkey of the Weeper or Sai species. He watched the
man with that sober, judicial air which is by no means confined
exclusively to supreme benches. I, too, observed the man carefully.
He was tall and spare. He must have measured nearly six feet in
height and could not, I think, have weighed over one hundred and
fifty pounds. His face was pinched and careworn, but this effect
was more than redeemed by a pair of full, black eyes having a depth
and penetration I have never seen equalled, albeit there was, ever
and anon, a suggestion of wildness which somewhat marred their deep,
contemplative beauty. The brows and the carriage of the head at
once bespoke the scholar. While thus I watched him, the young girl
came from a corner of the room I could not overlook and laid my
letter before him. She stood behind his chair as he opened it,
smoothing his hair caressingly and, every now and then, kissing him
gently. He paused with the open letter before him, reached up both
arms, drew her down to him, kissed her passionately, sighed, and
picked up the letter again. I took pains that no act, word, or look
should escape me. This show of affection surprised me, and I
remember the thought flashed through my mind, "What inconsistent
beings we all are! Here is a man apparently capable of a causeless
and cold-blooded assassination of a harmless old man. You would
say such a murderer must be hopelessly selfish and brutal, amenable
to none of the better sentiments of mankind, and yet it needs but
a casual glance to see how his whole life is bound up in the young
girl before him."
While this was passing through my mind the man had glanced through
my letter and thrown it upon the table with an exclamation of
disgust. "Bah! he has had the effrontery," he said petulantly, "to
send me what he calls a new mode of treatment and it is in every
essential that of Broadbent, well known for more than a quarter of
a century. New indeed! I shall never find a doctor who has any
scientific acumen. I may as well abandon the search now. Mon Dieu!
and they call medicine a science! Bah!" and with a frown he dropped
his head despondently upon his hand. The young girl passed her hand
gently, soothingly, over his forehead and did not speak for nearly
"You are not feeling well to-night, father," she said at length.
"M. Godin has been here during my absence."
"M. Godin!" I exclaimed half aloud, catching at the stovepipe lest
I should fall from the stove. "So our rival is hot upon the scent,
- probably even ahead of us. How on earth - " But I did not finish
the exclamation. My seizure of the pipe upon my side of the
partition had produced an audible vibration of that portion extending
over the heads of my neighbours. The young girl's quick ear had
detected the sound and she had ceased speaking and fastened her eyes
suspiciously upon the aperture through which I was gazing. It seemed
to me as if she must see me, yet I dared not move. After a little
she seemed reassured and continued: "I knew he had been here. You
are always this way after his visits. Why, of late, does he always
come when I am away?" The question seemed innocent enough, yet the
man to whom it was addressed turned crimson and then as pale as
ashes. When he spoke the effort his self-control cost him was
"We have private business, dear," he said, "private business." He
hesitated a moment and again his eyes wore the wild look I had first
noticed. "I am selling him something," he continued, "very dear to
me - as dear as my heart's blood, and I expect to get enough for it
to guard you from want."
"And you, father?" the young girl questioned fervently. I thought
I noticed a tremor run through his frame, as drawing her face down
to his, he said, kissing her, "Me? Never mind me, Puss; this cancer
here will take care of me."
She made no reply, but turned away to hide the tears that sprang to
her eyes. As she did so she raised her face toward me. I have
never been considered particularly sympathetic, - that is, no more
than the average, - but there was something in the expression of her
face that went to my heart like a knife. I felt as if I were about
to sob with her. I do not know what it was that so aroused my
sympathies. We are, I fancy, more apt to feel for those whose beauty
is like to the ideals we have learned to love, than we are to be
moved by the suffering of those whose looks repel us, - and this may
have had something to do with my condition, - for the young girl was
radiantly beautiful, - yet it could hardly have been the real cause
So rapt was I in the sympathetic contemplation of her that I did not
see Maitland's entrance or realise I was observed till he plucked me
by the coat and motioned me to get down. I did so and he told me
he had rented the rooms, and laid before me the plan he meant to
As soon as he had ceased speaking I said to him: "George, you are
undoubtedly on the right track. The man in there is the one we are
looking for, fast enough, but I am afraid we are a bit too late."
"Too late!" he exclaimed in a tone that I feared might be overheard.
"What the mischief do you mean?"
"I mean," I replied, "that M. Godin is already upon the scene."
In the next ten seconds Maitland turned all colours and I edged
nearer to him, expecting him to fall, but he did not.
"M. Godin!" he ejaculated at length. "How in the name of all the
gods at once - Doc, he's all they claim for him, and as fascinating
as he is clever;" at which last remark a heavy cloud passed over
Maitland's face. "Come," he continued listlessly, "you may as well
tell me all you know about it."
I then confided to him what I had heard and ended by asking him
what he proposed to do.
"Do?" he replied. "There is but one thing I can do, which makes
the choice decidedly easy," and he set his jaws together with a
determined expression, the meaning of which I knew full well.
"I shall camp right here," he said, " till I learn all I wish to
know of our neighbours yonder. I have already provided myself with
instruments which will enable me to note every movement they make,
indeed to photograph them, if necessary, and to hear and record
every word they utter. You look surprised, but it is easily done.
I will place my lenses there at the chink through which you were
gazing and bring the image down into my camera obscura by a prism
arranged for total internal reflection. As for the hearing, that
is easier yet. I will carefully work away the plaster on this
side to-night till I get through to the paper covering their wall.
This I will leave intact to use as a diaphragm. I have then only
to fasten my carbon to it, and, behold, we have a microphone or
telephone - whichever you choose to call it. All I have to look
out for is that I get it high enough to avoid the danger of the
paper being accidentally broken from the other side, and that I
work quietly while removing the plaster. I shall, of course, cover
it with a bit of black felt to prevent our light from showing, and
to deaden any sounds from this side. This will enable us to hear
all that goes on in the other room, but this may not be enough.
We may need a phonographic record of what transpires.
"The device whereby I secure this at such a distance is an invention
of my own which, for patent reasons - I might almost say 'patent
patent reasons' - I will ask you to kindly keep to yourself. To the
diaphragm there I fasten this bit of burnished silver. Upon this I
concentrate a pencil of light which, when reflected, acts
photographically upon a sensitised moving tape in this little box,
and perfectly registers the minutest movement of the receiving
diaphragm. How I develop, etch, and reproduce this record, and
transform it into a record of the ordinary type, you will see in
due time - and will kindly keep secret for the present. You had
better go now and send me the things on this list, as soon as
possible," and he passed me a paper, continuing:
"We will not despair yet. Our clever rival may not be ready to
prove his case so quickly as we. At all events, when he comes again
I shall be in a condition to ascertain how far he has progressed. I
have some things I must settle before I can ask for an arrest, and
I am not at all sure that M. Godin is in any better condition in
this regard than I am. By Jove! I'd give something to know how
that wizard has gotten so far without so much as a single sign
to indicate that he had even moved in the matter. I say, Doc, it
beats me, blessed if it doesn't! Please say to Miss Darrow that I
am at work upon a promising clue-promising for someone, anyway - and
may not see her for some time yet."
I did as he requested, and, if I am any judge of feminine
indications, my message did not yield Gwen unmixed pleasure; still,
she said nothing to warrant such a supposition on my part. I
visited Maitland every day to learn what he might wish me to bring
him, and also to carry him his mail, for he had determined to remain
constantly on the watch at his new quarters.
I have thus far, in the narration of these incidents been perfectly
candid both as regards my friends and myself, and, therefore, that
I may continue in like manner to the end, I shall suppress certain
qualms which are urging me to silence, and confess myself guilty of
some things of which you will, perhaps, think I may well be ashamed.
Be that as it may, you shall have the whole truth, however it may
affect your opinion of me. One reason why I went to Maitland's new
quarters so often, and stayed there so long, was because I was always
permitted to relieve him of his watch. With a telephone receiver
strapped to my right ear, and my eyes fastened upon the screen of
the camera obscura, I would sit by the hour prying into the affairs
of the two people in the next room. I tried for a number of days
to ease my conscience by telling myself that I was labouring in
the cause of justice, and was not a common eavesdropper. This
permitted me to retain a sort of quasi self-respect for a day or two
till my honesty rallied itself, and forced me to realise and to
admit that I was, to all intents and purposes, a common Paul Pry,
performing a disreputable act for the gratification it gave me. I
determined I would at least be honest with myself - and this was my
verdict. You will, perhaps, fancy that when I arrived at this
decision I at once mended my ways and resigned my seat of observation
to Maitland's entirely professional care. This, doubtless, I should
have done, if we fallible human beings governed our conduct by our
knowledge of what is right and proper. Inasmuch, however, as desires
and emotions are the determining factors of human conduct, I did
nothing of the sort. I simply watched there day after day, with
ever-increasing avidity, until at length I got to be impatient of
the duties that took me away, and more than half inclined to neglect
I shall gain nothing by attempting to make you believe it was the
man in the neighbouring room that interested me, so I shall not
essay it. I confess, with a feeling of guilt because I am not
more ashamed of it - that it was the young lady who attracted me.
You will, I trust, assume I had enough interest in her father to
palliate my conduct in a measure. Be generous in your judgment.
How do you know you will not be in the same predicament? Think
of it! A young woman beautiful beyond my feeble powers of
description; her eyes of a heavenly blue; her luxuriant hair like
a mass of spun gold; her complexion matched to the tint and
transparency of the blush rose - and such a throat! From it came
a voice as musical as the unguided waters when Winter rushes down
the hills in search of Spring. Never you mind, that's the way I
felt about it, and, if you had been in my place, you'd have been
just as bad as I; come, now, you know you would. Suppose I was a
bachelor, and almost old enough to be her father. Does that help
matters any? Is the heart less hungry because it has been starved?
Just look at your history. When nuns have relapsed from
other-worldliness to this-worldliness how have they been? I'll
tell you. They have been just a round baker's dozen times worse
than they would have been if they had never undertaken to cheat
Nature. Look at the thing fairly. I don't expect to dodge any
blame that I deserve, yet I do want all the palliating circumstances
duly noted. Many months have passed since then, and yet the thought
of that sweet girl sends a thrill all over me. I wonder where she
is now? I feel that we shall meet again some time, and perhaps you
will see her yourself. If so, you will see that I couldn't be
expected to withstand any such temptation.
On these visits Maitland and I talked but very little, and while I
was spying nothing of interest occurred - i. e., nothing of interest
to him - or, if it did, things of interest to me prevented my
observing it. On several occasions he alluded vaguely to things he
had learned which he said he should not divulge even to me until the
proper time came.
Things went on in this way for about two weeks. I visited Maitland
daily, and daily the little lady in the next room wove her spell
around me. If, as I am inclined to believe, thinking a great deal
of a person is much the same thing as thinking of a person a great
deal, I must have adored her.
One night, about a fortnight after Maitland's change of abode, I
found Alice in a terrible state of excitement upon my arrival home.
She met me at the door, and said Gwen needed my attention at once.
I did not stop to hear further particulars, but hastened to the
sitting-room, where Gwen lay upon the lounge. She was in a stupor
from which it seemed impossible to arouse her. In vain I tried to
attract her attention. Her fixed, staring eyes looked through
me as if I had been glass. I saw she had received a severe shock,
and so, after giving her some medicine, I took Alice aside and asked
her what had happened. She said that Gwen and she had been sitting
sewing by the window all the afternoon, and talking about Maitland's
recent discoveries. At about five o'clock the Evening Herald was
brought in as usual. She, Alice, had picked it up to glance over
the news, when, in the column headed "Latest," she had seen the
heading: "The Darrow Mystery Solved!" This she had read aloud,
without thinking of the shock the unexpected announcement might give
Gwen, when the sudden pallor that had overspread the young woman's
face had brought her to her senses, and she had paused. Her
companion, however, had seized the paper when she had hesitated and,
in a fever of excitement, had read in a half-audible voice:
John Darrow was murdered. - The assassin's inability to pay a
gambling debt the motive for the crime. - Extraordinary work
of a French detective! - The net -=20
But at this juncture the paper had dropped from Gwen's hands, and
she had fallen upon the floor before Alice could reach her.
THE EPISODE OF THE TELLTALE THUMB
When Disaster is bigger than its victim its bolt o'erlaps the
It was some time after Gwen had fallen before Alice had succeeded
in getting her upon the lounge, and then all her efforts to revive
her had failed. She had remained in the same nerveless stupor as
that in which I had found her. I asked Alice if she knew why this
announcement had produced such an effect upon Gwen, and she returned
my question with a look of amazement.
"Have you forgotten Gwen's promise to her father in this matter?"
she replied. "Has she not already told you that she should keep
that promise, whatever the sacrifice cost her? She is, therefore,
entirely at the mercy of this M. Godin, and she is also obliged to
advise him of this fact, if she would carry out her father's wishes.
Is this nothing for a sensitive nature like hers? If she has any
love for anyone else she must crush it out of her heart, for she is
M. Godin's now. Surely, Ned, you are not so stupid as your question
"We won't discuss that," I rejoined. "Let us go to Gwen and get
her to bed."
This done, and the sufferer made easy for the night, I glanced at
the article which had so upset her, and read its sensational
"scare-head." In full it ran as follows:
THE DARROW MYSTERY SOLVED!
JOHN DARROW WAS MURDERED!
The Assassin's Inability to Pay a Gambling Debt the
Motive for the Crime.
EXTRAORDINARY WORK OF A FRENCH DETECTIVE!
The Net so Completely Woven About the Alleged
Assassin That it is Thought He Will Confess.
The Arrest Entirely Due to the Unassisted Efforts of
M. LOUIS GODIN!
I did not stop to read the article, but seized my hat and hastened
at once to Maitland.
A copy of the Herald lay upon his table, advising me that he was
already acquainted with the strange turn affairs had taken. He
told me that he had heard the newsboys in the street calling out
"The Darrow Mystery Solved!" and had at once rushed out and bought
I informed him of Gwen's condition and he wished to go to her at
once, but I told him he must wait until the morrow, as she had
already retired, and was, I had reason to hope, fast asleep. I
reassured him with the information that a night's sleep and the
medicine I had given her would probably put Gwen in full possession
of her faculties. Having thus satisfied his fears, I thought it
fitting he should satisfy mine. I asked him what had become of the
young woman in the next room. He did not reply, but quietly led me
into his camera obscura that I might see for myself. She was
sitting at the table in the centre of the room, with her face buried
in her hands. I watched her for a long time, and the only movement
I could discern was that occasioned ever and anon by a convulsive
catching of her breath. The pet monkey was nowhere to be seen.
"They took her father away early this morning," Maitland said, "and,
after the first shock, she sank into this condition. She has not
moved since. When I see the despair her father's arrest has
occasioned I am almost tempted to rejoice that I had no hand in it,
and yet - well, there's no great harm without some small good - no
one will say now that John Darrow took his own life, eh? What do
you think our friends, Osborne and Allen, will say now? They were
so sure their theory was the only tenable one. Ah, well! we should
ever hold ourselves in readiness=20
"And for emergencies too," I continued; "and this strikes me as
being very like one. That young woman needs attention, if I am any
judge of appearances, and I'm going in there." "No use, Doc,"
Maitland replied, "the door is locked, and she either cannot or
will not open it. I knocked there for an hour, hoping to be able
to comfort her. It's no use for you to try, she won't open the
door." "Won't, eh! then I'll go through it!" I exclaimed, in a
tone that so amazed Maitland that he seized me by the shoulders and
gazed fixedly into my face. "It's all right, George," I said,
answering his look. "I'm going in there, and I'm not going to be
at all delicate about my entrance either."
He looked at me a little doubtfully, but I could see that, on the
whole, he was pleased with my decision. I went into the hall and
knocked loudly on the door. There was no response. I kicked it
till I must have been heard all over the house, but still there
was no response. It was now clear I should not enter by invitation,
so I went up four or five stairs of the flight opposite the door and
from that position sprang against it. I am not, if you remember, a
heavy man, but momentum is MV and I made up in the 'V' what I lacked
in the 'M.' The door opened inwardly, and I tore it from its hinges
and precipitated both myself and it into the centre of the apartment.
As I look back upon this incident I regard it as the most precipitous
thing I ever did in the way of a professional visit. If the young
lady started at all, she did so before I had gathered myself together
sufficiently to notice it. I spoke to her, but she gave no evidence
of hearing me. I raised her head. Her eyes were wide open and
stared full at me, yet in such a blank way that I knew she did not
hear me. The contraction of the brows, the knotted appearance of
the forehead, and the rigor of the face told me she was under an
all-but-breaking tension. There were tear-stains from tears which
long since had ceased to flow. The fire of fever had dried them up.
I regarded her case as far more desperate than Gwen's and determined
to lose no time in taking charge of it. It seemed to me so like
sacrilege to touch her without an explanation that, though I knew
she could not understand me, I said to her, as I took her in my arms.
"You are ill, and I must take you away from here."
She was just blossoming into womanhood and her form had that
exquisite roundness and grace which it is the particular function
of fashion to annihilate. If I held her closely, I think all
bachelors will agree that it was because this very roundness made
her heavy; if I did not put her down immediately I reached Maitland's
room, it is because, as a doctor of medicine, I have my own ideas as
to how a couch should be fixed before a patient is laid upon it.
Maitland may say what he pleases, but I know how important these
things are in sickness, and you know, quick as he is in most things,
George has moments when his head is so much in the clouds that he
doesn't know what he is doing, and moves as if he were in a dream
set to dirge music. He kept telling me to "put her on the couch!
- put her on the couch!" To this day, he fondly believes that when
I finally did release her, it was as the result of his advice, rather
than because he had at last made a suitable bed for her.
I sent Maitland for some medicine, which I knew would relax the
tension she was under and make it possible for her to sleep. When
I had administered this, Maitland and I talked the matter over and
we decided to take her at once to my house, where, with Gwen, she
could share the watchful care of my sister Alice. This we did,
though I was not without some misgivings as to Gwen's attitude in
the matter when she should recover sufficiently to know of it. I
expressed my doubts to Maitland and he replied: "Give yourself no
uneasiness on that score; Miss Darrow is too womanly to visit the
sins of a guilty father upon an unoffending daughter, and, besides,
this man, - it seems that his real name is Latour, not Cazenove, -=20
has a right to be judged innocent until his guilt is proved."
I found this to be sage counsel, for, when Gwen was able to
understand what I had done, she exhibited no antipathy toward the
new member of our household, but, on the contrary, became exceedingly
interested in her. I was especially glad of this, not only on
account of Miss Latour, the suspect's daughter, but also because the
one thing Gwen needed above all others was something to challenge
her interest. She had again relapsed into the old, state of passive
endurance, wherein nothing seemed to reach her consciousness. Her
actions appeared to flow more from her nerve-centres than from her
mind. She moved like an automaton. There is scarcely any condition
of which I am more fearful than this. The patient becomes wax in
one's hands. She will do anything without a murmur, or as willingly
refrain from anything. She simply is indifferent to life and all
that therein is. Is it any wonder, then, that I rejoiced to see
Gwen interest herself in poor Jeannette? It was a long time,
however, before Jeannette repaid this interest with anything more
than a dreamy, far-off gaze, that refused to focus itself upon
anything. As time wore on, however, I noticed with relief that there
was a faint expression of wonder in her look, and, as this daily
grew stronger, I knew she was beginning to realise her novel
surroundings and to ask herself if she were still dreaming. Yet she
did not speak; she seemed to fear the sound of her own voice and to
determine to solve, unaided, the mystery confronting her. I
requested that no one question her or make any attempt to induce
her to break silence, for I knew the time would come when she would
do so of her own free will. As it happened, her first words were
spoken to me, and, as my writing this recalls the event, a thrill
of pleasurable pain passes through me. You may think this foolish,
the more so, indeed, when you learn that nothing was said to warrant
such a feeling, but I must urge upon you not to let your satisfied
heart set itself up as judge in bachelor regions.
I had been mixing some medicine for her and was holding the cup to
her lips that she might drink the draught. She laid her hand upon
my wrist and gently put the cup aside, saying, as she gazed
thoughtfully at me: "Did you not bring me here?" "Yes," I replied.
She reached for the cup, and drinking its contents, sank back upon
the pillows with a half-satisfied look upon her face, as if my reply
had cleared up one mystery, but left many more to be solved.
>From this day Jeannette steadily improved, and within two weeks she
and Gwen had come to a very good understanding. It was plainly
evident that Alice, too, came in for a very good share of the little
French girl's love. They did not exchange confidences to any great
degree, for, as Maitland used to say, Alice was one of those rare,
sweet women who say but little, but seem to act upon all around them
by a sort of catalysis, sweetening the atmosphere by their very
Belief, though it be as ample as the ocean, does not always
similarly swell in crystallising. It has, however, its point of
maximum density, but this, not infrequently, is also ifs point
of minimum knowledge.
During all these days Gwen was gaining rapidly. Maitland came to
visit us almost every night, and he told Gwen that he did not feel
altogether certain that, in arresting M. Latour, the law had secured
her father's real assassin. It would be necessary to account for,
he told her, some very singular errors in his early calculations if
M. Latour was the man.
"When first I took up my abode under the same roof with him," he
said, "I had no doubt that we had at last run down our man. Now,
although another detective has come to the same conclusion, I myself
have many misgivings, and you may be assured, Miss Darrow, that I
shall lose no time in getting these doubts answered one way or the
other. At present you may say to your friend Jeannette that I am
straining every nerve in her father's behalf."
Why all this should so please Gwen I was at a loss to comprehend,
but I could not fail to see that it did please her greatly. She
had been the most anxious of us all to see her father's murderer
brought to justice, and now, when through the efforts of M. Godin,
a man stood all but convicted of the crime, she was pleased to hear
Maitland, whose efforts to track Latour she had applauded in no
equivocal way, say that he should spare no pains to give the suspect
every possible chance to prove his innocence. There was certainly
a reason, whatever it might have been, for Gwen's attitude in this
matter, for that young woman was exceptionally rational in all
things. Nothing of especial moment occurred between this time and
the beginning of the trial. Maitland, for the most part, kept his
own counsel and gave us little information other than a hint that
he still thought there was a chance of clearing M. Latour.
With this end in view he had become an associate attorney with
Jenkins in order the better to conduct M. Latour's case along the
lines which seemed to him the most promising. I asked him on one
occasion what led him to entertain a hope that Latour could be
cleared and he replied: "A good many things." "Well, then," I
rejoined, "what are some of them?" He hesitated a moment and then
replied laughingly: "You see I hate to acknowledge the falsity of
my theories. I said shortly after the murder was committed that I
thought the assassin was short and probably did not weigh over one
hundred and thirty-five pounds; that he most likely had some especial
reason for concealing his footprints, and that he had a peculiarity
in his gait. I felt tolerably sure then of all this, but now it
turns out that M. Latour is six feet tall in his stockings, and thin;
and that, emaciated as he is, he tips the scales at one hundred and
fifty pounds by reason of his large frame. His feet are as
commonplace as - as yours, Doc, and his gait as regular as - mine.
Is it to be expected that I am going to give up all my pet illusions
without a struggle?"
When the hour for the trial arrived Gwen insisted on accompanying us
to the court-room. She had a great deal of confidence in George and
felt sure that, as he expressed a strong doubt of the prisoner's
guilt, he would triumph in proving him innocent. She determined,
therefore, to be present at the trial, even before her attendance
should be required as a witness.
M. Latour, when he was led into the prisoner's box, seemed to have
aged greatly during his incarceration. It was with a marked effort
that he arose and straightened himself up as the indictment was read
to him. When the words: "Are you guilty or not guilty?" were
addressed to him every eye was turned upon him and every ear listened
to catch the first sound of his voice, but no sound came. The
question was repeated more loudly, "Are you guilty or not guilty?"
Like one suddenly awakened from a reverie M. Latour started, turned
toward his questioner, and in a full, firm voice replied:" Guilty,!"
I was so dumfounded that I could offer Gwen no word of comfort to
alleviate this sudden shock. Maitland and Godin seemed about the
only ones in the court-room who were not taken off their feet, so to
speak, by this unexpected plea, and George was at Gwen's side in a
moment and whispered something to her which I could not hear, but
which I could see had a very beneficial effect upon her. We had all
expected a long, complicated trial, and here the whole matter was
reduced to a mere formality by M. Latour's simple confession,
"Guilty!" Is it any wonder, therefore, that we were taken aback?
While we were recovering from our surprise at this sudden turn of
affairs, Maitland was engaged in private conversation with the Judge,
with whom, he afterward told me, he had become well acquainted both
in his own cases and in those of other lawyers requiring his services
as an=20expert chemist. He never told me what passed between them, nor
the substance of any of the brief interviews which followed with the
prosecuting attorney, his associate counsel, and other legal
functionaries. All I know is that when the case was resumed M.
Latour's senior counsel, Jenkins, kept carefully in the background,
leaving the practical conduct of the case in Maitland's hands.
If a hazelnut had the shell of a cocoanut, its meat would, in my
opinion, sustain about the same relation to its bulk as the gist of
the usual legal proceeding sustains to the mass of verbiage in which
it is enshrouded. For this reason you will not expect me to give a
detailed account of this trial. I couldn't if I would, and I wouldn't
if I could. My knowledge of legal procedure is far from profound,
albeit I once began the study of law. My memories of Blackstone
are such as need prejudice no ambitious aspirant for legal honours.
I have a recollection that somewhere Blackstone says something
about eavesdropping, - I mean in its literal sense - something
about the drippings from A's roof falling on B's estate; but for
the life of me I couldn't tell what he says. More distinctly do
I remember this learned lawgiver stated that there could be no
doubt of the evidence of witchcraft, because the Bible was full
of it, and that witches should be punished with death. This made
an impression upon me, because it was an instance, rare to me then,
but common enough now, of how minds, otherwise exceptionally able,
may have a spot so encankered with creed, bigotry, and superstition
as to render their judgments respecting certain classes of phenomena
erroneous and illogical, puerile and ridiculous.
But to return to those points of the trial which I can remember,
and which I think of sufficient interest to put before you. These
refer chiefly to Maitland's examination of M. Latour, and of the
government's chief witness, M. Godin. Such portions of their
testimony as I shall put before you I shall quote exactly as it
was given and reported by Maitland's friend, Simonds.
When Maitland began for the defence he said:
"At about half-past seven on the night of the 22d of April, John
Darrow met his death at his home in Dorchester. He died in the
presence of his daughter, Messrs. Willard, Browne, Herne, and
myself. His death was caused by injecting a virulent poison into
his system through a slight incision in his neck. That wound the
prisoner before you confesses he himself inflicted. I would like
to know a little more definitely how he succeeded in doing it
without detection, in the presence, not only of his victim, but
of five other persons sitting close about him. M. Latour will
please take the stand."
As M. Latour stepped into the witness-box, a wave of suppressed
excitement ran all over the court-room. Every nerve was strained
to its tensest pitch, every ear eager for the slightest syllable
he might utter. What could be done for a man who had confessed,
and what would be the solution of the crime which had so long
defied the authorities? The explanation was now to be made and it
is no wonder that the excitement was intense.
I omit all uninteresting formalities.
Q. Have you ever seen me before to-day?
- Not to my knowledge.
- Have you any reason to believe I have ever seen you before to-day?
- None whatever - er - that is - unless on the night of the murder.
- Were you acquainted with John Darrow?
- How long have you known him?
- About six months - perhaps seven.
- What were your relations?
- I don't understand. - We had gambled together.
- In this city - Decatur Street. =20
- What motive led you to kill him?
- He cheated me at cards, and I swore to be even with him.
- Had you any other reason?
- I owed him twelve hundred and thirty-five dollars which I borrowed
of him hoping my luck would change. He won it all back from me by
false play, and when I could not meet it he pressed me over hard.
- You say this occurred on Decatur Street. What was the date?
- I do not remember.
- What month was it?
- It was in March. Early in March.
- You are sure it was in March?
- Should you say it was between the 1st and 15th of March?
- Yes. I am positive it was before the 15th of March.
- Have you long known that M. Godin was at work upon this case?
- When did you first become aware of it?
- Not until my arrest.
- When did you first see M. Godin?
- When I was arrested.
- Did he ever call at your rooms?
- Never - not to my knowledge - I never saw him till the day of my
- With what weapon did you kill Mr. Darrow?
- I made use of a specially constructed hypodermic syringe.
Half-smothered exclamations of surprise were heard from every part
of the room. Even the Judge gave a start at this astounding bit of
testimony. Every person present knew perfectly well that no human
being could have entered or left the Darrow parlour without certain
discovery, yet here was a man, apparently in his right mind, who
soberly asserted that he had used a hypodermic syringe. Maitland
and Godin alone seemed cool and collected. Throughout all Latour's
testimony, M. Godin watched the witness with a burning concentration.
It seemed as if the great detective meant to bore through Latour's
gaze down to the most secret depths of his soul. Not for an instant
did he take his eyes from Latour. I said to myself at the time that
this power of concentration explained, in a great measure, this
detective's remarkable success. Nothing was permitted to escape
him, and little movements which another man would doubtless never
notice, had, for M. Godin, I felt sure, a world of suggestive
Maitland's calm demeanour, so resourceful in its serenity, caused
all eyes to turn at length to him as if for explanation. He
continued with slow deliberation.
Q. In what particulars was this hypodermic syringe of special
M. Latour seemed nervous and ill at ease. He shifted from side to
side as if M. Godin's glance had pierced him like a rapier, and he
were trying vainly to wriggle off of it. He seemed unable to
disengage himself and at length replied in a wearied and spiritless
- In two particulars only. In the first place, it was very small,
having a capacity of but five or six drops, and, in the second place,
it was provided with an internal spring which, when released, worked
the plunger and ejected the contents with extreme rapidity.
- What operated this spring?
- Around the needle-like point of the syringe, less than a quarter
of an inch from its end, was a tiny, annular bit of metal. This
little metallic collar was forced upward by the pressure of the flesh
as the sharp point entered it, and this movement released the spring
and instantly and forcibly ejected the contents of the cylinder.
- Did you use a poison in this syringe?=20
- Yes, sir.
- What did you use?
- LATOUR hesitated and shifted helplessly about as if he dreaded to
go farther into these particulars, and fondly hoped someone might
come to his rescue. His gaze seemed to shift about the room without
in the least being able to disentangle itself from that of M. Godin.
He remained silent and the question was repeated.
- What did you use?
Again the witness hesitated while everyone, save only Maitland and
Godin, leaned eagerly forward to catch his reply. At length it
came in a voice scarcely above a whisper.
- Anhydrous hydrocyanic acid.
A long-drawn "Hum!" escaped from Maitland, while M. Godin gave not
the slightest indication of surprise. It was quite evident to us
all that the astute Frenchman had acquired complete control of the
case before he had arrested the assassin. At this juncture the Court
said, addressing Maitland:
"This substance is extremely poisonous, I take it."
"Your Honour," Maitland replied, "it is the most fatal of all poisons
known to chemists. It is also called cyanhydric, and, more commonly,
prussic acid. An insignificant amount, when inhaled or brought into
contact with the skin, causes immediate death. If a drop be placed
upon the end of a glass rod and brought toward the nose of a live
rabbit he will be dead before it reaches him."
A profound silence - the death-like quiet which accompanies an almost
breaking tension - reigned in the court-room as Maitland turned again
Q. I understand you to say you used anhydrous hydrocyanic or
- Yes, sir.
- Do you sufficiently understand chemistry to use these terms with
accuracy? Might you not have used potassium cyanide or prussiate
- I am a tolerably good chemist, and have spoken understandingly.
Potassium cyanide, KCN, is a white, crystalline compound, and could
hardly be used in a hypodermic syringe save in solution, in which
condition it would not have been sufficiently poisonous to have
served my purpose.
At this reply many of the audience exchanged approving glances.
They believed M. Latour had shown himself quite a match for Maitland
in not falling easily into what they regarded as a neat little trap
which had been set to prove his lack of chemical knowledge. They
attributed Maitland's failure to further interrogate Latour upon
his understanding of chemistry as evidence that he had met an equal.
To be sure, they were not quite clear in their own minds why Latour's
counsel should be at such pains to carefully examine a man who had
already confessed, but they believed they knew when a lawyer had met
his match, and felt sure that this was one such instance. Clinton
Browne, who sat in one of the front seats, seemed to find a deal
more to amuse him in this incident than was apparent to me. Some
men have such=20a wonderful sense of humour!
Q. When Mr. Darrow was murdered he sat in the centre of his parlour,
surrounded by his daughter and invited guests. Will you tell the
Court how you entered and left this room without detection?
Again the witness hesitated and looked irresolutely, almost
tremblingly, about him, but seemed finally to steady himself, as it
were, upon Godin's glance. It's a strange thing how the directness
and intense earnestness of a strong man will pull the vacillation
of a weak one into line with it, even as great ships draw lesser
ones into their wakes. The excited audience hung breathlessly upon
Latour's utterance. At last they were to know how this miracle of
crime had been performed. Every auditor leaned forward in his seat,
and those who were a trifle dull of hearing placed their hands to
their ears, fearful lest some syllable of the riddle's solution
should escape them. M. Latour remained dumb. The Judge regarded
him sternly and said:
"Answer the question. How did you enter the Darrow parlour?"
- I - I did - I did not enter it.
Again a half-suppressed exclamation of surprise traversed the room.
Q. If you did not enter the room how did you plunge the hypodermic
syringe into your victim's neck?
It seemed for a moment as if the witness would utterly collapse,
but he pulled himself together, as with a mighty effort, and fairly
took our breath away with his astounding answer:
- I - I did not strike Mr. Darrow with the syringe.
The audience literally gasped in open-mouthed amazement, while the
Court turned fiercely upon Latour and said:
"What do you mean by first telling us you killed Mr. Darrow by
injecting poison into his circulation from a specially prepared
hypodermic syringe, and then telling us that you did not strike him
with this syringe. What do you mean, sir? Answer me!"
A sudden change came over M. Latour. All his timidity seemed to
vanish in a moment, as he drew himself up to his full height and
faced the Judge. It seemed to me as if till now he had cherished
a hope that he might not be forced to give the details of his awful
crime, but that he had at last concluded he would be obliged to
disclose all the particulars, and had decided to manfully face the
Every eye was fixed upon him, and every ear strained to its utmost
as he turned slowly toward the Judge and said with a calm dignity
- Your Honour is in error. I said that I made use of a specially
constructed hypodermic syringe. I have not said that I struck Mr.
Darrow with it. There is, therefore, nothing contradictory in my
Again the prisoner had scored, and again the audience exchanged
approving glances which plainly said: "He's clever enough for them
Then the Court continued the examination.
Q. Were you upon the Darrow estate when Mr. Darrow met his death?
- Yes, your Honour.
- Just outside the eastern parlour-window, your Honour.
- Did you strike the blow which caused Mr. Darrow's death?
- No, your Honour. =20
- What! Have you not said you are responsible for his murder?
- Yes, your Honour.
- Ah, I see! You had some other person for an accomplice?
- No, your Honour.
- Look here, sir! Do you propose to tell us anything of your
own accord, or must we drag it out of you piecemeal?
- No power can make me speak if I do not elect to, and I only elect
to answer questions. Commission for contempt will hardly discipline
a man in my position, and may lead me to hold my peace entirely.
The Court turned away with an expression of disgust and engaged
Jenkins and Maitland in a whispered conversation. The prisoner had
again scored. There is enough of the bully in many judges to cause
the public to secretly rejoice when they are worsted. It was plain
to be seen that the audience was pleased with Latour's defiance.
Maitland now resumed the examination with his accustomed ease. One
would have thought he was addressing a church sociable, - if he
judged by his manner.
Q. You have testified to being responsible for the death of John
Darrow. The instrument with which he was killed was directly or
indirectly your handiwork, yet you did not strike the blow, and you
have said you had no other person for an accomplice. Am I
substantially correct in all this?
- You are quite correct.
- Very good. Did John Darrow's death result from a poisoned wound
made by the instrument you have described?
- It did.
This reply seemed to nonplus us all with the exception of Maitland
and Godin. These two seemed proof against all surprises. The rest
of us looked helplessly each at his neighbour as if to say, "What
next?" and we all felt, - at least I did and the others certainly
looked it, - as if the solution of the enigma were farther away
Maitland proceeded in the same methodical strain.
Q. A blow was given, yet neither you nor any person acting as your
accomplice gave it. Did Mr. Darrow himself give the blow?
- No, sir.
- I thought not. Did any person give it?
- No, sir.
The audience drew a deep inspiration, as if with one accord! They
had ceased to reason. Again and again had we been brought, as we
all felt sure, within a single syllable of the truth, only to find
ourselves at the next word more mystified than ever. It would
hardly have surprised us more if the prisoner had informed us that
Mr. Darrow still lived. The excitement was so intense that thought
was impossible, so we could only listen with bated breath for someone
else to solve the thing for our beleaguered and discouraged minds.
After a word with his colleague, Maitland resumed.
Q. A blow was given, yet no person gave it. Was it given by anything
which is alive?
- It was not.
You could have heard a pin drop, so silent was the room during the
pause which preceded Maitland's next question.
Q. Did you arrange some inanimate object or objects outside the
eastern window, or elsewhere, on the Darrow estate so that it or
they might wound Mr. Darrow?
- No, - no inanimate object other than the hypodermic syringe
already referred to.
- To my question: "A blow was given, yet no person gave it. Was
it given by anything which is alive?" you have answered: "It was
not." Let me now ask: Was it given by anything which was at that
- It was.
There was a stir all over the court-room. Here at last was a
suggestive admission. The examination was approaching a crisis!
Q. And you have said it was not a person. Was it not an animal?
- It was.
"An animal!" we all ejaculated with the unanimity of a Greek chorus.
So audible were the exclamations of incredulity which arose from the
spellbound audience that the crier's gavel had to be brought into
requisition before Maitland could proceed.
Q. Did you train a little Capucin monkey to strike this blow?
- I did.
A great sigh, the result of suddenly relieved tension, liberally
interlarded with unconscious exclamations, swept over the court-room
and would not be gavelled into silence until it had duly spent itself.
Even the Judge so far forgot his dignity as to give vent to a
Q. In order that this monkey might not attack the wrong man after you
had armed him, you taught him to obey certain signals given by little
twitches upon the cord by which you held him. A certain signal was
to creep stealthily forward, another to strike, and still another to
crawl quickly back with the weapon. When circumstances seemed most
favourable to the success of your designs, - that is, when Miss
Darrow's voice and the piano prevented any slight sound from
attracting attention, - you gently dropped the monkey in at the
window and signalled him what to do. When Mr. Darrow sprang to his
feet you recalled the monkey and hastened away. Is not this a fairly
correct description of what occurred?
- It is true to the letter.
- And subsequently you killed the monkey lest he should betray you
by exhibiting his little tricks, at an inopportune moment in a way
to compromise you. Is it not so?
- It is. I killed him, though he was my daughter's pet.
We were stricken aghast at Maitland's sudden grasp of the case.
Even Godin was surprised. What could it all mean? Had Maitland
known the facts all along? Had he simply been playing with the
witness for reasons which we could not divine? M. Godin's face
was a study. He ceased boring holes in Latour with his eyes and
turned those wonderful orbs full upon Maitland, in whom they
seemed to sink to the depths of his very soul. Clearly M. Godin
was surprised at this exhibition of Maitland's power.
Browne, who throughout the trial had glared at Maitland with an
unfriendliness which must have been apparent to everyone, now
lowered blacker than ever, it seemed to me. I wondered what could
have occurred to still further displease him, and finally concluded
it must either be some transient thought which had come uncalled
into his mind, or else a feeling of envy at his rival's prominence
in the case, and the deservedly good reputation he was making. His
general ill-feeling I, of course, charged to jealousy, for I could
not but note his uncontrollable admiration for Gwen. I fully
believed he would have given his own life - or anyone else's for
that matter - to possess her, and I decided to speak a word of
warning to George. After a short, whispered consultation with
Jenkins and the prosecuting attorney, Maitland turned to the prisoner
"That will do. M. Latour may leave the stand."
It seemed to the spectators that the affair was now entirely cleared
up, and they accordingly settled themselves comfortably for the
formal denouement. They were, therefore, much taken aback when
Maitland continued, addressing the jury:
"The evidence against the prisoner would indeed seem overwhelming,
even had we not his confession. Apart from this confession we have
no incriminating evidence save such as has been furnished by the
government's chief witness, M. Godin. As it is through this
gentleman's efforts that Latour was brought within reach of justice,
it is but natural that much should be clear to him which may be
puzzling to those who have not made so close a study of the case.
I think he will enlighten us upon a few points. M. Godin will
please take the stand."
At this there was much whispering in the courtroom.. Maitland's
course seemed decidedly anomalous. Everyone wondered why he should
be at such pains to prove that which had been already admitted and
which, moreover, since he was representing Latour, it would seem he
would most naturally wish to disprove. M. Godin, however, took the
stand and Maitland proceeded to examine him in a way which only
added amazement to wonder.
Q. How long have you been at work on this case?
- Ever since the murder.
- When did you first visit M. Latour's rooms?
- Do you mean to enter them?
- I did not enter his rooms until the day he was arrested. I went
to other rooms of the same tenement-house on previous occasions.
- Have you reason to believe M. Latour ever saw you prior to the
day of his arrest?
- No. I am sure he did not. I was especially careful to keep out
of his way.
- You are certain that on the several occasions when you say you
entered his rooms you were not observed by him while there?
- I did not say I entered his rooms on several occasions.
- What did you say?
- I said I never was in his rooms but once, and that was upon the
day of his arrest.
- I understand. Were you not assisted in your search for Mr.
Darrow's murderer by certain library books which you discovered M.
Latour had been reading?
- I - I don't quite understand.
- M. Latour obtained some books from the Public Library for hall
use, giving his name as - as -=20
- Weltz. Yes, they did assist me. There were some also taken under
the name of Rizzi.
- Exactly. Those are the names, I think. How was your attention
called to these books?
- I met Latour at the library by accident, and he at once struck me
as a man anxious to avoid observation. This made it my business to
watch him. I saw that he signed his name as "Weltz" on the slips.
The next day I saw him there again, and this time he signed the
slips "Rizzi." This was long before the murder, and I was not at
work upon any case into which I could fit this "Weltz" or "Rizzi."
I was convinced in my own mind, however, that he was guilty of some
crime, and so put him down in my memory for future reference. During
my work upon this present case this incident recurred to me, and I
followed up the suggestion as one which might possibly throw some
light upon the subject.
- Did you peruse the books M. Latour borrowed under the names of
Weltz and Rizzi?
- I did not.
- Did you not look at any of them?
- No. It did not occur to me to examine their names.
- You probably noticed that there were several of them. Among the
pile was one by Alexander Wynter Blyth entitled, "Poisons, Their
Effects and Detection." Did you notice that?
- No. I did not notice any of them.
- But after you became suspicious of M. Latour, did you not then
look up the slips, find this work, and read it?
- No. I have never seen the book in my life and did not even know
such a work existed.
- Oh! Then the perusal of the books had no part in the tracking of
- None whatever.
- Do you ever play cards?
- Yes, sometimes, to pass the time.
- Do you play for money?
- Sometimes for a small stake - just enough to make it interesting.
- Are you familiar with the house in which Mr. Darrow was murdered?
- I have only such knowledge of it as I acquired at the examination
immediately after the murder. You will remember I entered but the
- And the grounds about the house? Surely you examined them?
- On the contrary, I did not.
- Did you not even examine the eastern side of the house?
- I did not. I have never been within the gate save on the night in
question, and then only to traverse the front walk to and from the
house in company with Messieurs Osborne and Allen. I was convinced
that the solution of the problem was to be found within the room in
which the murder was committed, and that my notes taken the night
of the tragedy contained all the data I could hope to get.
- Was not this rather a singular assumption?
- For many doubtless it would be; but I have my own methods, and I
think I may say they have been measurably successful in most cases.
[This last was said with a good-natured smile and a modest dignity
that completely won the audience.]
At this point Maitland dismissed M. Godin and the court adjourned
for the day. That night M. Godin made his first call upon Gwen.
Their interview was private, and Gwen had nothing to say about it
further than that her caller had not hesitated to inform her that
he was aware a reward had been offered and that he considered he
had earned it. Maitland questioned her as to what he had claimed
as his due, but Gwen, with her face alternately flushed and ashen,
begged to be permitted to keep silence.
This attitude was, of course, not without its significance to
Maitland, and it was easy to see that M. Godin's visit had much
displeased him. But he was not the only one who was displeased
that night. I regret that my promise of utter candour compels me
to bear witness to my own foolishness; for when Maitland found it
necessary to take Jeannette into the back parlour and to remain
there alone with her in earnest conversation one hour and twelve
minutes - I happened to notice the exact time - it seemed to me he
was getting unpleasantly confidential, and it nettled me. You may
fancy that I was jealous, but it was, most likely, only pique, or,
at the worst, envy. I was provoked at the nonchalant ease with
which this fellow did offhand a thing I had been trying to work
myself up to for several days, and had finally abandoned from sheer
lack of courage. Why couldn't I carelessly say to her, "Miss
Jeannette, a word with you if you please," and then take her into
the parlour and talk a "whole history." Oh, it was envy, that's
what it was! And then the change in Jeannette! If he had not been
making love to her - well, I have often wondered since if it were
all envy, after all
The next morning M. Latour's trial was resumed, and Maitland again
put M. Godin upon the stand. The object of this did not appear at
the time, though I think the Judge fully understood it. Maitland's
first act was to show the Judge and Jury a glass negative and a
letter, which he asked them to examine carefully as he held the
articles before them. He then passed the negative to M. Godin,
"Please take this by the lower corner, between your thumb and
forefinger, so that you may be sure not to touch the sight of the
picture; hold it to the light, and tell me if you recognise the
face." M. Godin did as directed and replied without hesitancy: "It
is a picture of M. Latour." "Good," rejoined Maitland, taking back
the negative and passing him the letter; "now tell me if you
recognise that signature." M. Godin looked sharply at the letter,
holding it open between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, and
read the signature, "'Carl Cazenove.' I should say that was M.
"Good again," replied Maitland, reaching for the paper and appearing
somewhat disconcerted as he glanced at it. "You have smutched the
signature; - however, it doesn't matter," and he exhibited the paper
to the Judge and Jury. "The negative must have been oily - yes,
that's where it came from," and he quietly examined it with a
magnifying glass, to the wonderment of us all. "That is all, M.
Godin; thank you."
As the celebrated detective left the stand we were all doing our best
to fathom what possible bearing all this could have upon Latour's
confession. M. Godin for once seemed equally at a loss to comprehend
the trend of affairs, if I may judge by the deep furrows which
gathered between his eyes.
Maitland then proceeded to address the Court and to sum up his case,
the gist of which I shall give you as nearly as possible in his own
words, omitting only such portions as were purely formal,
uninteresting, or unnecessarily verbose.
"Your Honour and Gentlemen of the Jury: John Darrow was murdered and
the prisoner, M. Gustave Latour, has confessed that he did the deed.
When a man denies the commission of a crime we do not feel bound to
consider his testimony of any particular value; but when, on the
other hand, a prisoner accused of so heinous a crime as murder
responds to the indictment, 'I am guilty,' we instinctively feel
impelled to believe his testimony. Why is this? Why do we doubt
his word when he asserts his innocence and accept it when he
acknowledges his guilt? I will tell you. It is all a question of
motive. Could we see as cogent a motive for asseverating his guilt
as we find for his insisting upon his innocence, we should lend as
much credence to the one as to the other. I propose to show that M.
Latour has what seems to him the strongest of motives for confessing
to the murder of John Darrow. If I am able to do this to your
satisfaction, I shall practically have thrown M. Latour's entire
testimony out of court, and nothing of importance will then remain
but the evidence of the government's witness, M. Godin."
A great wave of excitement swept over the room at these remarks.
"What!" each said to himself, "is it possible that this lawyer will
try to prove that Latour, despite his circumstantial confession,
did not commit the murder after all?" We did not dare let such a
thought take hold of us, yet could not see what else could explain
Maitland's remarks. Is it any wonder, therefore, that we all waited
breathlessly for him to continue? M. Godin's face was dark and
lowering. It was evident he did not propose to have his skill as a
detective, - and with it the Darrow reward, - set aside without a
struggle - at least so it seemed to me. The room was as quiet as
the grave when Maitland continued.
"I shall show you that M. Godin's testimony is utterly unreliable,
and, moreover, that it is intentionally so."
This was a direct accusation, and at it M. Godin's face became of
ashen pallor. I felt that he was striving to control his anger and
saw the effort that it cost him as he fastened Maitland with a
stiletto-like look that was anything but reassuring. George did
not appear to notice it and continued easily:
"I shall prove to you beyond a doubt that, in the actual murder of
John Darrow, only one person was concerned, - by which I mean, that
only one person was outside the east window when he met his death.
I shall also show that M. Latour was not, and could not by any
possibility have been, that person. [At this juncture Browne arose
and walked toward the door. He was very pale and looked anything
but well. I thought he was going to leave, but he reseated himself
at the back of the room near the door.] I shall convince you that
M. Latour's description of the way the murder was committed is false."
All eyes were turned toward Latour, but he made no sign either of
affirmation or dissent. With his eyes closed and his hands falling
listlessly in front of him, he sat in a half-collapsed condition,
like one in a stupor. M. Godin shifted uneasily in his chair, as
if he could not remain silent much longer. Maitland proceeded with
"Mr. Clinton Browne - "
But he did not finish the sentence. At the name "Mr. Clinton Browne"
he was interrupted by a sudden commotion at the rear of the room,
followed by a heavy fall which shook the whole apartment. We all
turned and looked toward the door. Several men had gathered about
someone lying upon the floor, and one of them was throwing water in
the face of the prostrate man. Presently he revived a little, and
they bore him out into the cooler air of the corridor. It was
Clinton Browne. The great tension of the trial, his own strong
emotions, and the closeness of the room had doubtless been too much
for him. I could not but marvel at it, however. Here were delicate
women with apparently little or no staying power, and yet this
athlete, with the form of a Mars and the fibre of a Hercules, must
be the first to succumb. Verily, even physicians are subject to
When quiet had been fully restored Maitland continued:
"I was about to say when the interruption occurred that Mr. Clinton
Browne and Mr. Charles Herne would both testify to the fact that a
very sensible time elapsed between the delivery of the blow and the
death of the victim. You will see, therefore, that I shall prove to
your satisfaction that Mr. Darrow's death did not result from prussic
acid, as stated by the prisoner. I shall show you that a chemical
analysis of the wound made in my laboratory shortly after the murder
gave none of the well-known prussic-acid reactions. I shall prove
to you that John Darrow sprang to his feet after receiving the blow
which caused his death. That he clutched at his throat, and that,
after an effort consuming several seconds, he spoke disjointedly.
I shall convince you that if he had been poisoned in the manner
described he would have been dead before he could have so much as
raised his hand to his throat. We have been very particular to
make sure the exact nature of the poison which it is claimed was
used, so there can be no possible doubt upon this point. I shall
show you further that the little Capucin monkey which M. Latour says
he killed is still alive, and I will produce him, if necessary, and
will challenge M. Latour, or anyone else for that matter, to put him
through the drill which it is claimed he has been taught. I shall
inform you that, since I claim the monkey had no part in Mr. Darrow's
death, I could not, during my examination of the prisoner, have been
stating anything from knowledge when I spoke of the manner in which
he had trained the animal, and gave details which M. Latour accepted
as those of the murder. My sole effort was to state a plausible way,
in order to see if the prisoner would not adopt it as the actual
course pursued. I also coupled with this the killing of the monkey
(though I knew the animal was still alive), that I might see if M.
Latour would follow my lead in this also. You have seen that he did
so; that he indorsed my guesses where they were purely guesses, and
that he also accepted the one statement I knew to be false. I shall
therefore ask you to consider about what the chances are that a
series of guesses like those which I made would represent the exact
facts as M. Latour has claimed, while at the same time you do not
lose sight of the undeniable fact that upon the only detail regarding
which I had positive information, M. Latour bore false testimony."
Here Maitland whispered to Jenkins, who in turn spoke to the sheriff
or some other officer of the court. I would have given a good deal
just then to have been able to translate M. Godin's thoughts. His
face was a study. Maitland immediately resumed:
"It has been positively stated by M. Latour that he gambled with Mr.
Darrow on Decatur Street between the 1st and 15th day of March. This
is false. In the first place it can be shown that while Mr. Darrow
occasionally played cards at his own home, he never gambled,
uniformly refusing to play for even the smallest stake. Furthermore,
Mr. Darrow's physician will testify that Mr. Darrow was confined
to his bed from the 25th day of February to the 18th day of March,
and that he visited him during that time at least once, and oftener
twice, every day.
"Again; M. Latour asserts that he never saw M. Godin till the day
of his arrest, and M. Godin asserts that he never entered M. Latour's
rooms until that day. I have a photograph and here a phonographic
record. The picture shows M. Latour's rooms with that gentleman and
M. Godin sitting at a table and evidently engaged in earnest
conversation. This cylinder is a record of a very interesting
portion of that conversation - M. Godin will please not leave the
This last was said as M. Godin started toward the door. The officer
to whom Jenkins had recently spoken laid his hand upon the detective
and detained him. "We may need M. Godin," Maitland continued, "to
explain things to us.
"I invite your attention to the fact that M. Godin has testified
that he was assisted in his search for Mr. Darrow's murderer by
certain library slips which he saw M. Latour make out in two
different names. He has also testified that he did not know even
the names of any of the books procured on these slips, and that
one of them, entitled 'Poisons, Their Effects and Detection,' he
not only never read, but never even heard of. I shall show you
that all of these books were procured with M. Godin's knowledge,
and that most of them were read by him. I shall prove to you
beyond a doubt that he has not only heard of this particular work
on poisons, but that he has read it and placed his unmistakable
signature on page 469 thereof beside the identical paragraph which
suggested to Mr. Darrow's murderer the manner of his assassination!"
M. Godin started as if he had been stabbed, but quickly regained
his self-control as Maitland continued: "Here is the volume in
question. You will please note the thumb-mark in the margin of page
469. There is but one thumb in the world that could have made that
mark, and that is the thumb you have seen register itself upon this
letter. It is also the thumb that made this paint smutch upon this
slip of glass."
All eyes were turned upon M. Godin. He was very pale, yet his jaw
was firmly set and something akin to a defiant smile played about
his handsome mouth. To say that the audience was amazed is to convey
no adequate idea of their real condition. We felt prepared for
anything. I almost feared lest some sudden turn in the case might
cast suspicion upon myself, or even Maitland. Without apparently
noticing M. Godin's discomfiture, George continued:
"M. Godin has testified that he sometimes plays cards, but only for
a small stake - just enough, he says, to make it interesting. I
shall show you that he is a professional gambler as well as a
"The morning after the murder was committed I made a most careful
examination of the premises, particularly of the grounds near the
eastern window. As the result of my observations, I informed Miss
Darrow that I had reason to believe that her father had been murdered
by a person who had some good motive for concealing his footprints,
and who also had a halting gait. The weight of this person I was
able to estimate at not far from one hundred and thirty-five pounds,
and his height as about five feet and five inches. I also stated it
as my opinion that the person who did the deed had the habit of
biting his finger nails, and a particular reason for sparing the
nail of the little finger and permitting it to grow to an abnormal
length. This was not guesswork on my part, for in the soft soil
beneath the eastern window I found a perfect impression of a closed
hand. Here is the cast of that hand. Look well at it. Notice the
wart upon the upper joint of the thumb, and the crook in the third
finger where it has evidently been broken. M. Godin says he never
entered the yard of the Darrow estate, except on the night of the
murder in company with Messrs. Osborne and Allen, and that then he
merely passed up and down the front walk on his way to and from the
house, yet the paint-mark on this slip of glass was made by his
thumb, and the glass itself was cut by me from the eastern window
of the Darrow house - the window through which the murder was
committed. This plaster cast was taken from an impression in the
soil beneath the same window on the morning after the murder. The
hand is the hand of M. Godin. You will note that one of this
gentleman's feet is deformed and that he habitually halts in his
We all glanced at M. Godin to verify these assertions, but that
gentleman folded his arms in a way to conceal his hands and thrust
his feet out of sight beneath the chair in front of him, while he
smiled at us with the utmost apparent good nature. He would be
game to the last, there was no doubt of that.
Maitland recalled our attention by saying:
"Officer, you will please arrest M. Godin!"
An excited whisper was heard from every corner, and many were the
half-audible comments that were broken off by the imperative fall
of the crier's gavel. So tense had been the strain that it was some
time before complete order could be restored. When it was again
quiet Maitland continued:
"Your Honour and Gentlemen of the Jury: We will rest our case here
for to-day. To-morrow, or rather on Monday, we shall show the
strange influence which M. Godin exercised over M. Latour, as well
as M. Latour's reasons for his confession. We shall endeavour to
make clear to you how M. Latour was actually led to believe he had
murdered John Darrow, and how he was bribed to confess a crime=20
committed by another. Of the hypnotic power of M. Godin over M.
Latour I have indisputable proof, though we shall see that M. Godin
by no means relied wholly upon this power. We shall show you also
that sufficient time elapsed to enable M. Godin, by great skill
and celerity, to make away with the evidences of his guilt in time
to enable him to be present with Messrs. Osborne and Allen at the
examination. In short, we shall unravel before you a crime which,
for cleverness of conception and adroitness of execution, has never
been equalled in the history of this community."
Maitland having thus concluded his remarks by dropping into a
courteous plural in deference to Mr. Jenkins, the court adjourned
until Monday, and I left Gwen in Maitland's charge while I hurried
home, fearful lest I should not be the first to bring to Jeannette
the glad news of her father's innocence, for I had not the slightest
doubt of Maitland's ability to prove conclusively all he had
I need not describe to you my interview with Jeannette. There are
things concerning it which, even at this late day, when their
roseate hue glows but dimly in the blue retrospect of the past, - it
would seem sacrilege for me to mention to another. Believe me, I am
perfectly aware of your inquisitive nature, and I know that this
omission may nettle you. Charge it all up, then, to the perversity
of a bachelor in the throes of his first, last, and only love
experience. You must see that such things cannot be conveyed to
another with anything like their real significance. Were I to say
I was carried beyond myself by her protestations of gratitude until,
in a delirium of joy, I seized her in my arms and covered her with
kisses, do you for a moment fancy you could appreciate my feelings?
Do you imagine that the little tingle of sympathy which you might
experience were I to say that, instead of pushing me from her, I
felt her clasp tighten about me, - would tell you anything of the
great torrent of hot blood that deluged my heart as she lay there
in my arms, quivering ecstatically at every kiss? No! a thousand
times no! Therefore have I thought best to say nothing about it.
Our love can keep its own secrets. - But alas! this was long ago,
and as I sit here alone writing this to you, I cannot but wonder,
with a heavy sense of ever-present longing, where on this great
earth Jeannette - 'my Jeannette,' I have learned to call her - is
now. You see a bachelor's love-affair is a serious thing, and years
cannot always efface it. But to return to the past:
Jeannette, I think, was not more pleased than Gwen at the turn
affairs had taken. Indeed, so exuberant was Gwen in her quiet way
that I marvelled much at the change in her, so much, indeed, that
finally I determined to question Alice about it.
"I can understand," I said to her, "why Gwen, on account of her
sympathy and love for Jeannette, should be glad that M. Latour is
likely to be acquitted. I can also appreciate the distaste she may
have felt at the prospect of having to deal with M. Godin under the
terms of her father's will; but even both of these considerations
seem to me insufficient to account for her present almost ecstatic
condition. There is an immediateness to her joy which could hardly
result from mere release from a future disagreeable possibility.
How do you account for it, sis?" Alice's answer was somewhat
enigmatical and didn't give me the information I sought. "Ned,"
she replied," I'll pay for the tickets to the first circus that
comes here, just to see if you can find the trunks on the elephants."
Do my best, I couldn't make her enlighten me any further, for, to
every question, she replied with a most provoking laugh.
Maitland called and spent most of the next day, which was Sunday,
with us, and we all talked matters over. He did not seem either
to share or understand Gwen's exuberance of spirits, albeit one
could easily observe that he had a measure of that satisfaction
which always comes from success. More than once I saw him glance
questioningly at Gwen with a look which said plainly enough: "What
is the meaning of this remarkable change? Why should it so matter
to her whether M. Latour's or M. Godin's death avenges her father's
murder?" When he left us at night I could see he had not answered
that question to his own satisfaction.
The Devil throws double sixes when he turns genius heliward.
The next morning after the events last narrated I was utterly
dumfounded by an article which met my gaze the instant I took up
my paper. It was several moments before I sufficiently recovered
my faculties to read it aloud to Gwen, Alice, and Jeannette, all
of whom had noticed my excitement, and were waiting with such
patience as they could command. I read the following article
through from beginning to end without pause or comment:
M. Godin Anticipates the Law. - The Real Murderer of John Darrow
Writes His Confession and Then Suicides in His Cell. - Contrived
to Mix His Own Poison Under the Very Nose of His Jailer! -=20
The Dorchester Mystery Solved at Last. - Full Description of the
Life of One of the Cleverest Criminals of the Century.
At 4.30 this morning M. Godin was found dead in his cell, No. 26, at
Charles Street Jail. The manner of his death might still be a
mystery had he not left a written confession of his crime and the
summary manner of his taking off. This was written yesterday
afternoon and evening, M. Godin being permitted to have a light on
the ground that he had important legal documents to prepare for use
on the morrow. We give below the confession in full.
"I am beaten at a game in which I did my own shuffling. I never
believe in trying to bluff a full hand. Had I had but ordinary
detectives with whom to deal, I make bold to say I should have come
off rich and triumphant. 'I had no means of knowing that I was to
play with a chemist who would use against me the latest scientific
implements of criminal warfare. It is, therefore, to the
extraordinary means used for my detection that I impute my defeat,
rather than to any bungling of my own. This is a grim consolation,
but it is still a consolation, for I have always prided myself upon
being an artist in my line. As I propose to put myself beyond the
reach of further cross-examination, I take this opportunity to make
a last statement of such things as I care to have known. After this
is finished I shall sup on acetate of lead and bid good-night to the
"Lest some may marvel how I came by this poison, and even lay
suspicions upon my jailers, let me explain that there is a small
piece of lead water-pipe crossing the west angle of my room. This
being Sunday, I was permitted to have beans and brown bread for
breakfast. I asked for a little vinegar for my beans, and a small
cruet was brought to me. I had no difficulty in secreting a
considerable quantity of the vinegar in order that I might, when
occasion served, apply it to the lead pipe. This I have done, and
have now by me enough acetate of lead to kill a dozen men. This
form of death will not be particularly pleasant, I am aware, but I
prefer it to its only alternative. So much for that.
"I was horn in Marseilles, and my right name is Jean Fouchet. My
father intended me for the priesthood, and gave me a good college
education in Paris. His hopes, however, were destined to
disappointment. In college I formed the habit of gambling, and a
year after my graduation found me at Monte Carlo. While there I
quarrelled with a gambling accomplice and ended by killing him.
This made my stay in France dangerous for me, and I took the first
opportunity which presented itself to embark for America.
"Familiarity with criminals had made me familiar with crime, and I
added the occupation of detective to my profession of gambling.
These two avocations had now become my sole means of support, and I
plied my trades in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia for several
years, during which time I became a naturalised citizen of the
"When the Cuban rebellion broke out I could not restrain my longing
for adventure, and joined a filibustering expedition sailing from
New York. I did this from no love I bore the Cuban cause, but merely
for the excitement it promised. While handling a heavy shot during
my first engagement I accidentally dropped it upon my left foot,
crushing that member so badly that it has never regained its shape.
This deformity has rendered it impossible for me to conceal my
identity. Three months after this accident I was taken prisoner by
the Spanish and shipped to Spain as a political malefactor. A farce
of a trial was granted to me, not to see whether or not I was guilty,
but simply to determine between the dungeon and the garrote. It
would have been far better for me had I been sentenced to the latter
instead of the former.
"As a political offender I was doomed to imprisonment at Ceuta, an
old Moorish seaport town in Morocco, opposite Gibraltar and upon
the side of the ancient mountain Abyla. This mountain forms one
of the 'Pillars of Hercules,' the Rock of Gibraltar being the other.
It is almost impregnable, and is used by Spain as Siberia is used
by Russia, only it is far, far more horrible. The town was built
by the Moors in 945, and nowhere else on earth are there to be found
an equal number of devices for the torture of human beings. If
anyone thinks the horrors of the Inquisition are no longer
perpetrated let him get sent to Ceuta: I have good cause to believe
that the Inquisition itself is far from dead in Spain. Alas for the
person who is sent to Ceuta! The town is small, and, to guard
against possible attack, the Moors constructed a chain of fortresses
around it. It is in the black cellars of these disintegrating
fortresses that the dungeons are located. They are in tiers to the
depth of fifty or sixty feet, and are hewn out of the solid rock.
They are reached through narrow openings in the stone floors of the
fortresses, and when one of these horrible holes is opened the foul
odor of filth and decomposition is utterly overpowering. Some of
these dungeons contain as many as thirty or forty men. I was placed
in a cell reserved for solitary confinement. I have never been a
man who regarded life seriously, or feared to risk it upon sufficient
occasion, but my heart froze within me when the horror of my
situation was revealed to me. A stone box perhaps eight feet square
- as I lay upon the floor I could touch its opposite sides with my
hands and feet - had been prepared for my entrance by cutting a slit
in one of its walls just large enough for the passage of my body.
Through this narrow opening I was dropped into the total darkness
within. A blacksmith followed and welded my fetters, for locks and
keys are never used. A chain having a heavy weight pendant from it
was riveted to my ankle, and an iron band was similarly fastened to
my waist. This band was fastened by a chain to an iron ring deeply
sunk in the solid rock. When these horrible preparations were
completed the blacksmith left me and a mason bricked up the slit
through which I had entered, leaving only a hand-breadth of space
for air and the thrusting through of such scraps of food as were to
be allowed me. Language is powerless to describe the feelings of a
man in such a position. He realises that his only hope is in disease
- disease bred of the darkness, the dampness, the starvation, and
the horrible filth. He says to himself: 'How long, 0 God! how
long?' - For hours I remained prone and inert - how long I do not
know; night and day are all one in the dungeons of Ceuta. Then I
began to think. Could I escape? I felt that all power of thought,
all cleverness would soon desert me, and I said to myself: 'If
anything is to be done, it must be done at once.' I knew not then
what long-drawn horrors a mortal could endure. Whenever I attempted
to walk the iron mass fastened to my leg would 'bring me up short,'
often, in my early forgetfulness of it, throwing me prone upon my
face. After a little I learned to move with a halting gait,
striding out with the free limb and pausing to pull my burden after
me with the other. This habit, learned in the squalor and darkness
of the dungeon hells of Ceuta, I have never been able to unlearn.
"It was many days before I could see how anything short of a miracle
could enable me to escape. I tried to calmly reason it all out, and
every time came to the same horrible conclusion, viz.: I must rot
there unless help came to me from without. This seemed impossible,
and all the horrors of a lingering death stared me in the face.
Every two or three days one of the jailers would come to the slit
in the masonry and leave there a dish of water and a few crusts of
bread. I tried on one occasion to speak with him, but he only
laughed in my face and turned away. Finally I hit upon a plan which
seemed to offer the only possible means of escape. In my college
days I was well acquainted with M. Charcot, and even assisted in
some of his earlier hypnotic experiments. The subject interested
me, and I followed it closely till I became something of an adept
myself. There were in those days but few people I could not
mesmerise, provided sufficient opportunity were allowed me for
hypnotic suggestion. I determined to see if any of this old power
still remained with me, and, if so, to strive to render my jailer
subservient to my will. But how should I keep him within ear-shot
long enough to work upon him? Clearly all appeals to pity were
useless. I must excite his greed, nothing else would reach him.
This was not an easy thing to do without a sou in my possession,
yet I did it. When I heard his step I crawled to the opening in
the wall and mumbled in a crazy sort of a way about a hidden
treasure. At the word 'treasure' I saw him pause and listen, but
I pretended not to be aware of his presence and rambled on, in a
loose, disjointed fashion, about piracies committed by me and the
great amount of booty I had secreted. My plan worked perfectly.
The jailer came to the aperture in the wall and called me to him.
Muttering incoherently, I obeyed. He asked me what offence brought
me there, and I, with a good deal of intentional misunderstanding,
told him I was a pirate and a smuggler. He asked me where the
treasure I had been talking about was hidden. My reply, - I
remember the exact words in which I couched it, - made him mine
completely. I said: 'We buried it near Fez - Treasure? I don't
know anything about any treasure.'
"To all the many questions he then asked me I returned only
incoherent replies, but I was careful to be again raving about
buried riches upon the next visit. In this way I kept him by me
long enough to influence him, and in less than a month he was
completely subject to my will. I tested my power over him in divers
ways. Any delicacy I wished I compelled him to bring me. In this
way I was enabled to regain a portion of my lost strength. When I
concluded the time had come for me to make good my escape, I caused
him to come to my cell at midnight and remove the bricks from the
slit while I put on the disguise he had brought me. Once out of my
stone tomb we carefully walled it up again and then departed to find
my imaginary hidden treasure. We made our way without trouble to
Algiers, for my companion had money, and sailed thence via Gibraltar
for England. During the trip my companion jumped overboard and was
drowned in the Bay of Biscay. Thus I was completely freed from Ceuta
and its terrible pest-hole.
"From England I sailed to New York, reaching America penniless and
in ill health. Things not going to my liking in New York, I came
to Boston and took up my old callings of gambler and detective. It
was at this time that I saw John Darrow's curious notice in the
newspaper, offering, in the event of his murder, a most liberal
reward to anyone who would bring the assassin to justice.
"Mon Dieu! How I needed money. I would have bartered my soul for
a tithe of that amount. It was the old, old story, only new in Eden.
Ah! but how I loved her! She must have money, money, always money!
That was ever her cry. When I could not supply it she sought it of
others, and this drove me mad. If, I said to myself, I could only
get this reward! This was something really worth working for, and if
I could but get it, she should be mine only. I at once set to work
upon the problem.
"It was not an easy thing to solve. I might be able to hire a man
to do the deed for me, but he would hardly be willing to hang for
it without disclosing my part in the transaction. It was at this
time that I first met M. Latour on Decatur Street. He at once
impressed me as being just the man I wanted, and I began to gradually
subdue his will. In this circumstances greatly aided me. When I
found him he was in very poor health and without any means of
sustenance. His daughter was able to earn a little, but not nearly
enough to keep the wolf from the door. Add to this that he had a
cancer, which several physicians had assured him would prove fatal
within a year, that he was afflicted with an almost insane fear that
his daughter would come to want after his death, and you have before
you the conditions which determined my course. My first thought
was to influence him to do the deed himself, but, recalling the
researches of M. Charcot in these matters, I came to the conclusion
that such a course would be almost certain to lead to detection,
since a hypnotic subject can only be depended upon so long as the
conditions under which he acts are precisely those which have been
suggested to him. Any unforeseen variations in these conditions
and he fails to act, exposes everything, and the whole carefully
planned structure falls to the ground. When, therefore, the time
came which I had set for the deed, I found it possible to drug M.
Latour, abduct him from his home, and to keep him confined and
unconscious until I had killed Mr. Darrow in a manner I will describe
in due course. As soon as I had committed the murder and established
what I fondly believed would be a perfect alibi in my attendance at
the examination, I secretly conveyed the still unconscious M. Latour
to his rooms and awaited his return to consciousness. I then asked
him how he came in such a state and what he was doing in Dorchester.
He was, of course, ignorant of everything. Little by little I
worked upon him till he came to believe himself guilty of John
"I had availed myself of his interest in the subject of cancer to
get him to the library. It is one of my maxims never to take an
avoidable risk, for which reason I made Latour apply for the books
I wanted, as well as for the medical works he desired to peruse.
As he was ambidextrous, I suggested the use of the two names Weltz
and Rizzi, the former to be written with his right and the latter
with his left hand. I was actuated in all this by two motives.
First, I was manufacturing evidence which might stand me in good
stead later, as well as minimising somewhat my own risk in getting
the information I needed; and, secondly, I was getting Latour into
a good atmosphere for my hypnotic influence. Not a word of all
these matters did he relate to his daughter, whom he loves with a
devotion I have never seen equalled. Indeed, it was this very
affection that made my plan feasible. When I had convinced him he
was a murderer I showed him Mr. Darrow's curious advertisement
offering a reward, should he be assassinated, to anyone bringing
about the conviction of his assailant.
"'In a year,' I said to him, 'you will die of cancer, if your crime
be not previously discovered and punished. Your daughter will then
be penniless. How much better for you to permit me in a few months
to accuse you of the murder. You then confess; I claim and secure
the reward and secretly divide with you; you are sentenced; but as
considerable time will transpire between this and the date set for
your execution, you in the meantime will die of cancer, leaving
Jeannette well provided for.'
"I think my influence over him would have been sufficient to have
compelled him to all this, could he have reasoned out no benefit
accruing to himself or daughter by such a course, but with
circumstances thus in my favour my task was an easy one. The
public knows all it need know of what occurred after this. This
man, Maitland, was in the next room to Latour's, overheard our
conversation, and even phonographed our words and photographed our
positions. It has always been a matter of pride with me to
gracefully acknowledge that three aces are not so good as a full
house, therefore I confess myself beaten, though not subdued.
"I consider this the very best tribute I can pay to the genius of
the man who has undone me. I take my punishment, however, into my
"In my haste to have done with all this and to start on my long and
chartless journey, I had well-nigh forgotten to tell just how I
killed Mr. Darrow. No hypodermic syringe had anything to do with
it. The while plan came to me while reading that fatal page upon
which I left my telltale thumb-signature in my search for some
feasible plan of making away with my victim. I need not go into
particulars, for I know perfectly well that this Maitland knows to
a nicety how the thing was done. The Daboia Russellii, or Russell's
viper, is one of the best known and most deadly of Indian vipers.
I procured one of these reptiles at the cost of great delay and some
slight risk. That is the whole story. On the night of the murder
I took the viper in a box and went down to the water-front, near the
Darrow estate. Here I cut a small pole from a clump of alders, made
a split in one end of it, and thrust it over the tail of the viper.
It pinched him severely and held him fast despite his angry struggles
to free himself and to attack anything within his reach. All that
remained to be done was to thrust this through the window into the
darkened room and to bring the viper within reach of Mr. Darrow.
This I did, being careful to crouch so as not to obstruct the light
of the window. When I heard my victim's outcry I withdrew the pole,
and with it, of course, the viper, and made good my escape. That
the reptile bit Mr. Darrow under the chin while his back was toward
the window was mere chance, though I regarded it as a very lucky
occurrence, since it seemed to render the suicide theory at first
"I had had some fear lest the hissing of the viper might have been
heard, for which reason I hazarded the only question I asked at the
examination, and was completely reassured by its answer. I should
perhaps state that my purpose in keeping in the background at this
examination was my desire to avoid attracting attention to my
deformed foot and my halting gait. This latter I had taken pains to
conceal at my entrance, but I knew that the first step I took in
forgetfulness would expose my halting habit. I had no fear of either
Osborne or Allen, but there was something about this Maitland that
bade me at once be on my guard, and, as I have said before, I never
take an avoidable risk. For this reason I sat at once in the darkest
corner I could find and remained there throughout the examination. I
thought it extremely unlikely, though possible, that an attempt might
be made to track the assassin with dogs, yet, since that is precisely
the first thing I myself would have done, I decided that the risk was
worth avoiding. I accordingly set the boat adrift to indicate an
escape by water, and then waded along the beach for half a mile or
so, carrying the pole, boards, etc., with me. As I kept where the
water was at least six inches deep I knew no dog could follow my
trail. At the point where I left the water I sat down upon a rock
and put on my stockings and shoes, thoroughly saturating them at the
same time with turpentine, and pouring the remainder of the bottle
upon the rock where I had sat. As I had known prisoners escaped
from Libby Prison to pass in this way undetected within twenty feet
of bloodhounds upon their trail, I felt that my tracks had been well
covered, and made all possible haste to get ready to attend the
examination with the special detail.
"And now I have finished. Before this meets any other eye than mine
I shall be dead - beyond the punishment of this world and awaiting
the punishment of the next. Lest some may fancy I do not believe
this, - thinking that if I did I could not so have acted, - let me
say there is no moral restraining power in fear. Fear is essentially
selfish, and selfishness is at the bottom of all crimes, my own among
the rest. I leave behind me none who will mourn me, and have but one
satisfaction, viz.: the knowledge that I shall be regarded as an
artist in crime. I take this occasion to bid the public an adieu
not altogether, I confess, unmixed with regrets. I am now on that
eminence called 'Life'; in a few minutes I shall have jumped off into
the darkness, and then - all is mystery."
When I had finished reading this article we all remained silent for
a long time. Gwen was the first to speak, and then only to say
slowly, as if thinking aloud: " And so it is all over."
It often happens that two souls who love are, like the parts of
a Mexican gemel-ring, the more difficult to intertwine the better
they fit each other.
You may be assured that, after reading M. Godin's confession, we
looked forward to seeing Maitland with a good deal of interest. We
knew this new turn of affairs would cause him to call at once, so
we all strove to possess our souls in patience while we awaited his
coming. In less than half an hour he was with us. "The news of your
success has preceded you," said Gwen as soon as he was seated. "I
wish to he the first to offer you my congratulations. You have done
for me what none other could have done and I owe you a debt of
gratitude I can never repay. The thought that I was unable to carry
out my father's wishes, - that I could do nothing to free his name
from the reproaches which had been cast upon it, was crushing my
heart like a leaden weight. You have removed this burden, and,
believe me, words fail to express the gratitude I feel. I shall
beg of you to permit me to pay you the sum my father mentioned and
to - to - " She hesitated and Maitland did not permit her to
finish her sentence.
"You must pardon me, Miss Darrow," he replied, "but I can accept no
further payment for the little I have done. It has been a pleasure
to do it and the knowledge that you are now released from the
disagreeable possibilities of your father's will is more than
sufficient remuneration. If you still feel that you owe me anything,
perhaps you will be willing to grant me a favour."
"There is nothing," she said earnestly, "within my power to grant
for which you shall ask in vain."
"Let me beg of you then," he replied, "never again to seek to repay
me for any services you may fancy I have rendered. There is nothing
you could bestow upon me which I would accept." She gave him a
quick, searching glance and I noticed a look of pain upon her face,
but Maitland gave it no heed, for, indeed, he seemed to have much
ado either to know what he wanted to say, or knowing it, to say it.
"And now," he continued, "I must no longer presume to order your
actions. You have considered my wishes so conscientiously, have
kept your covenant so absolutely, that what promised to be a
disagreeable responsibility has become a pleasure which I find
myself loth to discontinue. All power leads to tyranny. Man cannot
be trusted with it. Its exercise becomes a consuming passion, and
he abuses it. The story is the same, whether nations or individuals
be considered. I myself, you see, am a case in point. I thank you
for the patience you have shown and the pains you have taken to make
everything easy and pleasant for me; and now I must be going, as I
have yet much to do in this matter. "It may be a long time," he
said, extending his hand to her, "before we meet again. We have
travelled the same path - " but he paused as if unable to proceed,
and a deadly pallor overspread his face as he let fall both her hand
and his own. He made a heroic effort to proceed.
"I - I shall miss - very - very much miss - pray pardon me - I - I
believe I'm ill - a little faint I'd - I'd better get out into the
air - I shall - shall miss - pardon - I - I'm not quite myself -
goodbye, good-bye!" and he staggered unsteadily, half blindly to the
door and out into the street without another word. He certainly
did look ill.
Gwen's face was a study. In it surprise, fear, pain, and dismay,
each struggled for predominance. She tried to retain her
self-control while I was present, but it was all in vain. A moment
later she threw herself upon the sofa, and, burying her face in the
cushions, wept long and bitterly. I stole quietly away and sent
Alice to her, and after a time she regained her self-control, if
not her usual interest in affairs.
As day after day passed, however, and Maitland neglected to call,
transacting such business as he had through me, the shadow on
Gwen's face deepened, and the elasticity of manner, whereof she
had given such promise at Maitland's last visit, totally deserted
her, giving place to a dreamy, far-away stolidity of disposition
which I knew full well boded no good. I stood this sort of thing
as long as I could, and then I determined to call on Maitland and
give him a "piece of my mind."
I did call, but when I saw him all my belligerent resolutions
vanished. He was sitting at his table trying to work out some
complicated problem, and he was utterly unfitted for a single
minute's consecutive thought. I had not seen him for more than two
weeks, and during that time he had grown to look ten years older.
His face was drawn, haggard, and deathly pale.
"For Heaven's sake, George," I exclaimed, "what is the matter with
"I've an idea I'm spleeny," he replied with a ghastly attempt at a
smile. This was too much for me. He should have the lecture after
all. The man who thinks he is dying may be spleeny, but the man
who says he is spleeny is, of the two, the one more likely to be
"See here, old man," I began, "don't you get to thinking that when
you hide your own head in the sand no one can see the colour of
your feathers. You might as well try to cover up Bunker Hill
Monument with a wisp of straw. Don't you suppose I know you love
Gwen Darrow? That's what's the matter with you."
"Well," he replied, "and if it is, what then?"
"What then?" I ejaculated. "What then? Why go to her like a man;
tell her you love her and ask her to be your wife. That's what I'd
do if I loved - " But he interrupted me before I had finished the
lie, and I was not sorry, for, if I had thought before I became
involved in that last sentence, how I feared to speak to Jeannette
well, I should have left it unsaid. I have made my living
giving advice till it has become a fixed habit.
"See here, Doc," he broke in upon me, "I do love Gwen Darrow as few
men ever love a woman, and the knowledge that she can never be my
wife is killing me. Don't interrupt me! I know what I am saying.
She can never be my wife! Do you think I would sue for her hand?
Do you think I would be guilty of making traffic of her gratitude?
Has she not her father's command to wed me if I but ask her, even
as she would have wed that scoundrel, Godin, had things gone as he
planned them? Did she not tell us both that she should keep her
covenant with her father though it meant for her a fate worse than
death? And you would have me profit by her sacrifice? For shame!
Love may wither my heart till it rustles in my breast like a dried
leaf, but I will never, never let her know how I love her. And see
here, Doc, promise me that you will not tell her I love her - nay,
I insist on it."
Thus importuned I said, though it went much against the grain, for
that was the very thing I had intended, "She shall not learn it
first through me." This seemed to satisfy him, for he said no more
upon the subject. When I went back to Gwen I was in no better frame
of mind than when I left her. Here were two people so determined
to be miserable in spite of everything and everybody that I sought
Jeannette by way of counter-irritant for my wounded sympathy.
Ah, Jeannette! Jeannette! to this day the sound of your sweet name
is like a flash of colour to the eye. You were a bachelor's first
and last love, and he will never forget you.
All human things cease - some end. Happy are they who can spring
the hard and brittle bar of experience into a bow of promise. For
such, there shall ever more be an orderly gravitation.
My next call on Maitland was professional. I found him abed and in
a critical condition. I blamed myself severely that I had allowed
other duties to keep me so long away, and had him at once removed to
the house, where I might, by constant attendance in the future,
atone for my negligence in the past. Despite all our efforts,
however, Maitland steadily grew worse. Gwen watched by him night
and day until I was finally obliged to insist, on account of her
own health, that she should leave the sick room long enough to take
the rest she so needed. Indeed, I feared lest I should soon have
two invalids upon my hands, but Gwen yielded her place to Jeannette
and Alice during the nights and soon began to show the good effects
I should have told you that, during all this time, Jeannette was
staying with us as a guest. I had convinced her father that it was
best she should remain with us until the unpleasant notoriety caused
by his arrest had, in a measure, subsided. Then, too, I told him
with a frankness warranted, I thought, by circumstances that he
could not hope to live many weeks longer, and that every effort
should be made to make the blow his death would deal Jeannette as
light as possible. At this he almost lost his self-control. "What
will become of my child when I am gone?" he moaned. "I shall leave
her penniless and without any means of support."
"My dear Mr. Latour," I replied, "you need give yourself no
uneasiness on that score. I will give you my word, as a man of
honour, that so long as Miss Darrow and I live we will see that your
daughter wants for none of the necessities of life, - unless she
shall find someone who shall have a better right than either of us
to care for her." This promise acted like magic upon him. He
showered his blessings upon me, exclaiming, "You have lifted a great
load from my heart, and I can now die in peace!" And so, indeed,
he did. In less than a week he was dead. I had prepared Jeannette
for the shock and so had her father, but, for all this, her grief
was intense, for she loved her father with a strength of love few
children give their parents. In time, however, her grief grew less
insistent and she began to gain something of her old buoyancy.
In the meantime, Maitland's life seemed to hang by a single thread.
It was the very worst case of nervous prostration I have ever been
called to combat, and for weeks we had to be contented if we enabled
him to hold his own. During all this time Gwen watched both
Maitland and myself with a closeness that suffered nothing to escape
her. I think she knew the changes in his condition better even than
And now I am to relate a most singular action on Gwen's part. I
doubt not most of her own sex would have considered it very
unfeminine, but anyone who saw it all as I did could not, I think,
fail to appreciate the nobility of womanhood which made it possible.
Gwen was not dominated by those characteristics usually epitomised
in the epithet 'lady.' She was a woman, and she possessed, in a
remarkable degree, that fineness of fibre, that solidity of
character, and that largeness of soul which rise above the petty
conventionalities of life into the broad realm of the real verities
It occurred on the afternoon of the first day that Maitland showed
the slightest improvement. I remember distinctly how he had fallen
into a troubled sleep from which he would occasionally cry out in a
half-articulate manner, and how Gwen and I sat beside him waiting for
him to awaken. Suddenly he said something in his sleep that riveted
our attention. "I tell you, Doc," he muttered, "though love of her
burn my heart to a cinder, I will never trade upon her gratitude,
nor seek to profit by the promise she made her father. Never, so
help me God!"
Gwen gave me one hurried, sweeping glance and then, throwing herself
upon the sofa, buried her face in the cushions. I forbore to
disturb her till I saw that Maitland was waking, when I laid my hand
upon her head and asked her to dry her eyes lest he should notice her
"May I speak to him?" she said, with a look of resolution upon her
face. I could not divine her thoughts, as she smiled at me through
her tears, but I had no hesitancy in relying upon her judgment, so
I gave her permission and started to leave the room.
"Please don't go," she said to me. "I would prefer you should hear
what I have to say." I=20reseated myself and Gwen drew near the
bedside. Maitland was now awake and following her every motion.
"I have something I want to say to you," she said, bending over him.
"Do you feel strong enough to listen?" He nodded his head and she
continued. "You have already done a great deal for me, yet I come
to you now to ask a further favour, - I will not say a sacrifice
- greater than all the rest. Will you try to grant it?"
The rich, deep tones of her voice, vibrant with tender earnestness,
seemed to me irresistible.
"I will do anything in my power," the invalid replied, never once
moving his eyes from hers.
"Then Heaven grant it be within your power!" she murmured, scarcely
above a whisper. "Try not to despise me for what I am about to say.
Be lenient in your judgment. My happiness, perhaps my very life,
depends upon this issue. I love you more than life; try to love me,
if only a little!"
I watched the effect of this declaration with a good deal of anxiety.
For fully half a minute Maitland seemed to doubt the evidence of his
senses. I saw him pinch himself to see if he were awake, and being
thus reassured, he said slowly: "Try - to - love - - you! In vain
have I tried not to love you from the moment I first saw you. Oh,
my God! how I adore you!" He reached his arms out toward her, and,
in a moment, they were locked in each other's embrace.
I saw the first kiss given and then stole stealthily from the room.
There was now no need of a doctor. The weird, irresistible alchemy
of love was at work and the reign of medicine was over. I did not
wish to dim the newly found light by my shadow, and, - well, - I
wanted to see Jeannette, so I left.
I need not tell you, even though you are a bachelor, how fast
Maitland improved. Gwen would permit no one else to nurse him, and
this had much to do with the rapidity of his recovery. In a month
he was able to go out, and in another month Gwen became Mrs. Maitland.
A happier pair, or one better suited to each other, it has never
been my privilege to know. As I visited them in their new home I
became more and more dissatisfied with bachelor existence, and there
were times when I had half a mind to go straight to Jeannette and
ask her advice in the matter. Ah, those days! They will never come
to me again. Never again will a pink and white angel knock so loudly
at my heart, or be so warmly welcomed. I wonder where she is and if
she is thinking of me.
And now I may as well stop, for my narrative is over, and I hear
someone coming along the hail, doubtless after me. It is only
Harold, so I may add a word or two more. I am writing now with
difficulty, for some frolicsome individual has placed a hand over
my eyes and says, "Guess." I can just see to write between the
fingers. Again I am commanded, " Guess!" so I say carelessly,
"Alice." Then, would you believe it, someone kisses me and
says: "Will you ever have done with that writing? The children
wish me to inform you that they have some small claim upon your
time." You see how it is. I've got to stop, so I say, as becomes
an obedient gentleman: "Very well, I will quit upon one condition.
I have been wondering where on earth you were. Tell me what you
have been doing with yourself. I have been repeating in retrospect
all the horrors of bachelordom."
"Why, Ned dear," my wife replies, "I've only been down-town
shopping for Harold and little Jeannette. Bless me, I should think
I'd been gone a year!"
"Bless you, my dear Jeannette," I reply; "I should think you had,"
and I draw her down gently into my lap and kiss her again and again
for the sake of the conviction it will carry. She says I am
smothering her, which means she is convinced.
You see I have learned some things since I was a bachelor.