“People don’t die without a reason,” said the doctor.
“That is so, of course, but all the same . . . I cannot admit that she poisoned herself. But it is strange that the idea has never struck me before! And no one thought of it! Everyone was astonished that her prediction had come to pass, and the idea . . . of such a death was far from their mind. And indeed, it cannot be that she poisoned herself! No!”
The examining magistrate pondered. The thought of the woman who had died so strangely haunted him all through the inquest. As he noted down what the doctor dictated to him he moved his eyebrows gloomily and rubbed his forehead.
“And are there really poisons that kill one in a quarter of an hour, gradually, without any pain?” he asked the doctor while the latter was opening the skull.
“Yes, there are. Morphia for instance.”
“H’m, strange. I remember she used to keep something of the sort . . . . But it could hardly be.”
On the way back the examining magistrate looked exhausted, he kept nervously biting his moustache, and was unwilling to talk.
“Let us go a little way on foot,” he said to the doctor. “I am tired of sitting.”
After walking about a hundred paces, the examining magistrate seemed to the doctor to be overcome with fatigue, as though he had been climbing up a high mountain. He stopped and, looking at the doctor with a strange look in his eyes, as though he were drunk, said:
“My God, if your theory is correct, why it’s. . . it was cruel, inhuman! She poisoned herself to punish some one else! Why, was the sin so great? Oh, my God! And why did you make me a present of this damnable idea, doctor!”
The examining magistrate clutched at his head in despair, and went on:
“What I have told you was about my own wife, about myself. Oh, my God! I was to blame, I wounded her, but can it have been easier to die than to forgive? That’s typical feminine logic—cruel, merciless logic. Oh, even then when she was living she was cruel! I recall it all now! It’s all clear to me now!”
As the examining magistrate talked he shrugged his shoulders, then clutched at his head. He got back into the carriage, then walked again. The new idea the doctor had imparted to him seemed to have overwhelmed him, to have poisoned him; he was distracted, shattered in body and soul, and when he got back to the town he said good-bye to the doctor, declining to stay to dinner though he had promised the doctor the evening before to dine with him.