The Darrow Enigma

Author: Melvin Linwood Severy

Chapter I

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 leaving."

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 human hearts.

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 engulfing darkness.

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.
Yours sincerely,

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:


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 high-pressure system.

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 precision?"

"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 actions."

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 philosophical grasp.

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:


I have at last something to report bearing upon the case that brought me here, and perhaps I can best relate it by simply telling you what my movements have been since my arrival. My first errand was to Malabar Hill. I thought it wise to possess myself, so far as possible, of facts proving the authenticity of Mr. Darrow’s narrative. I found without difficulty the banyan tree which had been the trysting-place, and close by it the little cave with its mysterious well, - everything in fact precisely as related, even to the "Farsees’" garden or cemetery, with its "Tower of Silence," or "Dakhma," as it is called by the natives. The cave and the banyan are among the many attractions of what is now Herr Blaschek’s villa. This gentleman, with true German hospitality, asked me to spend a few days with him, and I was only too glad to accept his invitation, as I believed his knowledge of Bombay might be of great service to me. In this I did not mistake. I told him I wished to ascertain the whereabouts of a Rama Ragobah, who had been something between a rishi and a fakir, and he directed me at once to a fakir named Parinama who, he said, would be able to locate my man, if he were still alive and in Bombay.

You can imagine how agreeably surprised I was to find that Parinama knew Ragobah well. I had anticipated some considerable difficulty in learning the latter’s whereabouts, and here was a man who could=20 - for a sufficient consideration - tell me much, if not all, about him. I secured an interpreter, paid Parinama my money, and proceeded to catechise him. I give you my questions and his answers just as I jotted them down in my notebook:

Q. What is Ragobah’s full name?

A. Rama Ragobah. =20

Q. How long have you known him?

A. Thirty-five year.

Q. Has he always lived in Bombay?

A. No, Sahib,

Q. Where else?

A. For a good many year he have travel all the time.

Q. Is he in Bombay now?

A. No, Sahib.

Q. Where is he?

A. Over the sea, Sahib.

Q. Do you know where?

A. He sail for America; New York.

Q. When?

A. About eleven week ago.

Q. Do you know for what he undertook this journey?

A. Some personal affair of long time ago which he wish to settle - the same which make him so many year travel through India.

Q. Was he in search of someone?

A. Yes, Sahib.

Q. Some Indian woman?

A. No, Sahib.

Q. Some other woman, then?

A. No, Sahib.

Q. A man, then; an Englishman,

A. Yes, Sahib.

Q. What kind of a man is this Ragobah?

A. He very big man.

Q. What is his disposition? Is he generally liked?

A. No. His temper bad. He cruel, revengeful, overbearing, and selfish. He most hated by those who best know him.

Q. He is a friend of yours, you say?

A. I say no such thing! Do you think I sell secret of friend? I have great reason for hating him, or I not now be earning your money.

Q. Ah! I see. What did you say he wanted of this Englishman?

A. I no say, Sahib.

Q. You said some personal affair of long standing, I believe.

A. Yes, Sahib.

Q. Do you know its nature?

A. No; I not know it, but I have not much doubt about it, Sahib.

Q. What do you think, then?

A. I think there but one passion strong enough in Ragobah to make plain his hunt like dog for last twenty year. Such persevere mean strong motive, and as I have good reason to remember how quick he forget a kindness, I know he not moved by friendship, Sahib.

Q .His motive then is -=20

A. Revenge.

Q. Have you any idea why he cherishes this malice?

A. I think it because some old love affair; some rival in his wife’s love.

Q. Indeed! Then he has been married?

A. Yes, Sahib.

Q. Where shall I find his wife?

A. All that is left of her is in the bottomless well in the cave on Malabar Hill.

Q. Did Ragobah kill her?

A. No; that is, not with his own hand.

Q. How long ago did she die?

A. More than twenty year, Sahib.

Q. Are any of her relatives living?

A. Her husband, Sahib, and a cousin, that is all.

Q. Is there anyone else who could tell me of this woman?

A. Moro Scindia could, but he not do it.

Q. Why? Is he Ragobah’s friend?

A. Ragobah has no friends, Sahib.

Q. Why, then?

A. He under oath to tell what was told him only to one person. He has keep his secret out of every year for more as twenty year, and can no be expect to tell to you, Sahib.

Q. Can you bring this man to me? You will both be well paid for your time, of course.

A. I bring him, Sahib, but I not make him speak.

Q. Let me see you both, then, to-night at eight, at Herr Blaschek’s villa on Malabar Hill. Ask for Mr. Maitland.

A. We be there. Anything more, Sahib?

Q. Yes. When is Ragobah expected to return?

A. He write that he think he return on the Dalmatia. She due next day after to-morrow.

Q. Has Ragobah any physical peculiarities?

A. His hands and feet they very small for man so big and strong.

Q. Anything else?

A. His left leg been hurt. The foot very bad shape, and the whole leg some bad, and, - what you call - halt when he walk.

Q. Has he the habit of biting his finger nails?

A. I not know he has, Sahib.

This completed the list of questions which I had desired to ask him, so, after once more receiving his assurance that he would meet me in the evening with his friend Scindia, I left him. As you know, I am not wont to draw conclusions until all the evidence is in, but I must confess that, looking at the whole matter from start to finish, there seems to have fallen upon Ragobah a net of circumstantial evidence so strong, and with a mesh of detail so minute, that it does not seem possible a mosquito could escape from it. Look at it a moment from this standpoint. Ragobah alone, so far as we know, has a motive for the murder. His victim has related the feud existing between them and foretold, with an air of the utmost assurance, just such an outcome thereof. Add to this that this man leaves India on a mission which those about him do not hesitate to pronounce one of vengeance, at just such a time as would enable him to reach Boston just a little before the commission of the murder; that this mission is the culmination of twenty years of unremitting search for revenge; that this malignity is supposed to be directed against some rival in his wife’s affections, and the chain of circumstantial evidence possesses, so far as it extends, no weak link. Then, too, Ragobah has very small hands, a deformed left foot, and a limping gait, -=20 everything almost which we had already predicted of the assassin. So sure am I that Ragobah is the guilty man that I shall ask for his arrest upon his arrival day after to-morrow should he return then, a thing which, I regret to say, does not impress me as altogether likely. Should he not come I shall cable you to institute a search for your end of the line. The next thing in order which I have to relate is my interview with Moro Scindia. I had engaged an interpreter, but was able to dismiss him as my guest spoke English with more ease and fluency than he, being an intelligent and well-to-do member of the Vaisya caste. I thought it wise to see the venerable Scindia alone, and accordingly sent Parinama out of the room with the interpreter. As before; I give you what passed between us as I jotted it down in my notebook.

Q. You are a friend of Rama Ragobah, are you not?

A. No, Sahib; he has no friends.

Q. You speak as if you disliked him.

A. It is not Mono Scindia’s habit to play the hypocrite. I have good reason to hate him.

Q. You would not, then, had he committed a crime, assist him to escape justice?

A. I would track him like a bloodhound to the ends of the earth.

Q. You knew Ragobah’s wife?

A. She was my cousin, Sahib.

Q. Were your relations friendly?

A. They were more than friendly. I loved her dearly, and would have tried to win her had I not been so much her senior.

Q. Did she live happily with Ragobah?

A. No, Sahib.

Q. Why?

A. I cannot answer. I have sworn to reveal the last experiences of my cousin to but one person.

Q. And that person is.?

A. I must decline to answer that also, Sahib.

Q. If I succeed in naming him will you acknowledge it?

A. You will not succeed, Sahib.

Q. But if I should?

A. I will acknowledge it.

Q. The person is John Hinton Darrow.

The old man started as if he had been stabbed, and looked at me in amazement. He seemed at first to think I had read his thoughts and riveted his dark eyes upon me as if, by way of return, he would read my very soul. I think he did so, for his scrutiny seemed to satisfy him. He replied, somewhat reassured: "I can speak only to John Hinton Darrow."

"John Darrow is dead," I said.

"Dead!" he exclaimed, springing to his feet; "Darrow Sahib dead!" and he fell back into his chair, covering his face with his hands. "Ah, my poor Lona!" he muttered feebly; "I have failed to keep my promise. Do not reproach me, for I have done my best. For twenty years have I searched in vain for this man that I might fulfil your last request, and the very first information I receive is the news of his death. I have been no less vigilant than Ragobah, yet I have failed, even as he has failed."

I took this opportunity to again question him.

Q. Are you sure Ragobah failed?

A. Yes; had he found Darrow Sahib he would have killed him. His mission was one of revenge; mine one of love and justice; both have failed utterly since their object is dead. My pledge is broken!

Q. In its letter, yes; but the chance is still left you to keep the spirit of your covenant.

A. I do not understand you, Sahib.

Q. I will explain. Lona Ragobah confided to you certain facts in explanation of her conduct toward John Darrow. She loved him passionately, and it was her desire to stand acquitted in his sight. Were she alive now, any wish he had expressed during his life would be fulfilled by her as a sacred and pleasurable duty. This, then, as one who lovingly performs her will, should be your attitude also. John Darrow was the only man she ever loved, and, were she living, every drop of her loyal blood would rise against anyone who had done him injury. Do I not speak the truth?

A. Yes; she was loyal unto death and so shall I be. My hand has ever been against all who have done her harm; Ragobah knows that full well.

Q. Were she alive, you certainly would aid her in bringing to justice one who has done her the most cruel of wrongs and, at the same time, fulfilling the dying request of the man who to her was more than life.

A. I should do her bidding, Sahib.

Q. How much more need, then, now that the poor woman is dead, that you should act for her as she would, were she here.

A. You have not told me all; speak your mind freely, Sahib. You may depend upon my doing whatever I believe Lona would do were she here.

Q. I ask nothing more, and am now prepared to fully confide in you. As you doubtless know, Rama Ragobah left Bombay for New York about eleven weeks ago. He went, I have been told, on an errand of revenge. Six weeks ago John Darrow was murdered. He left behind him a written statement describing his wooing of Lona Scindia and his experiences with Rama Ragobah. He asserted, furthermore, his belief that he would die by Ragobah’s hand, - the hand which twice before had attempted his life. Even as he loved your cousin, so he hated her husband, and, confident that he would ultimately be killed by him, he was haunted by the fear that he would escape the just penalty for his crime. He bound his heir by the most solemn of promises to use, in the event of his murder, every possible means to bring the assassin to justice. There can, of course, be little doubt that the assassin and Rama Ragobah are one and the same person. The last request John Darrow ever made - it was after he had been attacked by the assassin - had for its object the punishment of his murderer. Were your cousin living, do you think she would be deaf to that entreaty?

A. No. She would make its fulfilment the one object of her life, and, acting in her stead, I shall do all in my power to see justice done. If I can render you any aid in that direction you may command me, Sahib.

Q. You can assist me by telling me all you know of your cousin’s married life, and, more especially, the message she confided to you.

A. In doing this I shall break the letter of my oath, but, were I not to do it, I should break the spirit thereof, therefore listen:

You have, I suppose, already learned from the statement of Darrow Sahib what occurred at his last meeting with my cousin on Malabar Hill. Her act, in throwing a venomous serpent in his face, was one which doubtless led him to believe she wished to kill him, although it must have puzzled him to assign any reason for such a desire. Not long after this incident my cousin married Ragobah, a man for whom she had always cherished an ill-concealed hatred. I saw but little of her at this time, yet, for all that, I could not but observe that she was greatly changed. But one solution suggested itself to me, and that was that she had discovered her lover false to her and had, out of spite as it is called, hastily married Ragobah. I confess that when this conclusion forced itself home upon me, I felt much dissatisfied with Lona, for I thought such a course unworthy of her. As I saw more of her I noted still greater changes in her character. As I had known her from childhood, she had been most uniform in her temper and her conduct; now all this was changed. To-day, perhaps, she would be like her old self, -=20 only weaker and more fragile, - to-morrow a new being entirely, stronger and more restless, with a demoniac light in her eyes, and a sort of feverish malignancy dominating her whole personality. When I noticed this I studied to avoid her. If the Lona I had known were merely an ideal of which no actual prototype existed, I wished to be allowed to cherish that ideal rather than to have it cruelly shattered to make room for the real Lona. I had not seen her for many weeks when one day, to my surprise, I received a note from her. It was short, and so impressed me that I can remember every word of it.


"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 unutterable weariness.

"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:


"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 leave!
- Lona."

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.
Your friend,

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!"


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Chicago: Melvin Linwood Severy, "Chapter I," 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 January 31, 2023,

MLA: Severy, Melvin Linwood. "Chapter I." 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. 31 Jan. 2023.

Harvard: Severy, ML, 'Chapter I' in The Darrow Enigma, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, The Darrow Enigma, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 31 January 2023, from