The Darrow Enigma

Author: Melvin Linwood Severy

Chapter I

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 everything else."

"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?" she asked.

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 ago.

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 unaided.

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 death.

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.
"LONA."

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 unreasonable, Sahib."

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 joys.

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 bless you.

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 measure thereof.

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Chicago: Melvin Linwood Severy, 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 October 3, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KPGJA6GFU8D5SEG.

MLA: Severy, Melvin Linwood. 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. 3 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KPGJA6GFU8D5SEG.

Harvard: Severy, ML, The Darrow Enigma, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, The Darrow Enigma, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 3 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KPGJA6GFU8D5SEG.