The Darrow Enigma

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Author: Melvin Linwood Severy

Chapter V

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 of sleep.

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 I did.

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 of existence.

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 tears.

"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.

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Chicago: Melvin Linwood Severy, "Chapter V," The Darrow Enigma, ed. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 and trans. Boswell, Robert Bruce in The Darrow Enigma (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed September 20, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2T7M2WYRK1Z2I8.

MLA: Severy, Melvin Linwood. "Chapter V." The Darrow Enigma, edited by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, and translated by Boswell, Robert Bruce, in The Darrow Enigma, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 20 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2T7M2WYRK1Z2I8.

Harvard: Severy, ML, 'Chapter V' in The Darrow Enigma, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, The Darrow Enigma, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 20 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D2T7M2WYRK1Z2I8.