One night, about a fortnight after Maitland’s change of abode, I found Alice in a terrible state of excitement upon my arrival home. She met me at the door, and said Gwen needed my attention at once. I did not stop to hear further particulars, but hastened to the sitting-room, where Gwen lay upon the lounge. She was in a stupor from which it seemed impossible to arouse her. In vain I tried to attract her attention. Her fixed, staring eyes looked through me as if I had been glass. I saw she had received a severe shock, and so, after giving her some medicine, I took Alice aside and asked her what had happened. She said that Gwen and she had been sitting sewing by the window all the afternoon, and talking about Maitland’s recent discoveries. At about five o’clock the Evening Herald was brought in as usual. She, Alice, had picked it up to glance over the news, when, in the column headed “Latest,” she had seen the heading: “The Darrow Mystery Solved!” This she had read aloud, without thinking of the shock the unexpected announcement might give Gwen, when the sudden pallor that had overspread the young woman’s face had brought her to her senses, and she had paused. Her companion, however, had seized the paper when she had hesitated and, in a fever of excitement, had read in a half-audible voice:
John Darrow was murdered. —The
assassin’s inability to pay a
gambling debt the motive for the crime. —Extraordinary work
of a French detective!—The net—
But at this juncture the paper had dropped from Gwen’s hands, and she had fallen upon the floor before Alice could reach her.
The episode of the telltale thumb
When Disaster is bigger than its
victim its bolt o’erlaps the
It was some time after Gwen had fallen before Alice had succeeded in getting her upon the lounge, and then all her efforts to revive her had failed. She had remained in the same nerveless stupor as that in which I had found her. I asked Alice if she knew why this announcement had produced such an effect upon Gwen, and she returned my question with a look of amazement.
“Have you forgotten Gwen’s promise to her father in this matter?” she replied. “Has she not already told you that she should keep that promise, whatever the sacrifice cost her? She is, therefore, entirely at the mercy of this M. Godin, and she is also obliged to advise him of this fact, if she would carry out her father’s wishes. Is this nothing for a sensitive nature like hers? If she has any love for anyone else she must crush it out of her heart, for she is M. Godin’s now. Surely, Ned, you are not so stupid as your question would indicate.”
“We won’t discuss that,” I rejoined. “Let us go to Gwen and get her to bed.”
This done, and the sufferer made easy for the night, I glanced at the article which had so upset her, and read its sensational “scare-head.” In full it ran as follows: