But the line was never finished. With a wild cry, more of fear than of pain, Darrow sprang from his chair. “Gentlemen, I have been stabbed!” was all he said, and fell back heavily into his seat. Gwen was kneeling before him in an instant, even before I could assist him. His right hand was pressed to his throat and his eyes seemed starting from their sockets as he shouted hoarsely: “A light, a light! For God’s sake, don’t let him strike me again in the dark!” Maitland was already lighting the gas and Herne and Browne, so Browne afterward told me, were preparing to seize the assailant. I remembered, after it all was over, a quick movement Browne had made toward the darkest corner of the room.
The apartment was now flooded with light, and I looked for the assassin. He was not to be found! The room contained only Gwen, Darrow, and his four invited guests! The doors were closed; the windows had not been touched. No one could possibly have entered or left the room, and yet the assassin was not there. But one solution remained; Darrow was labouring under a delusion, and Gwen’s voice would restore him. As she was about to speak I stepped back to note the effect of her words upon him. “Do not fear, father,” she said in a low voice as she laid her face against his cheek, “there is nothing here to hurt you. You are ill,—I will get you a glass of cordial and you will be yourself again in a moment.” She was about to rise when her father seized her frantically by the arm, exclaiming in a hoarse whisper: “Don’t leave me! Can’t you see? Don’t leave me!” and for the first time he removed his hand from his throat, and taking her head between his palms, gazed wistfully into her face. He tried to speak again, but could not, and glanced up at us with a helpless expression which I shall never forget. Maitland, his eyes riveted upon the old gentleman, whose thoughts he seemed to divine, hurriedly produced a pencil and note-book and held them toward him, but he did not see them, for he had drawn Gwen’s face down to him and was kissing her passionately. The next instant he was on his feet and from the swollen veins that stood out like cords upon his neck and forehead, we could see the terrible effort he was making to speak. At last the words came,—came as if they were torn hissing from his throat, for he took a full breath between each one of them. “Gwen—I—knew—it! Good-bye! Remember—your—promise!” —and he fell a limp mass into his chair, overcome, I felt sure, by the fearful struggle he had made. Maitland seized a glass of water and threw it in his face. I loosened the clothing about his neck and, in doing so, his head fell backward and his face was turned upward toward me. The features were drawn,—the eyes were glazed and set. I felt of his heart; he was dead!
Silence is the only tender Death can make to Mystery.