The look of pain and astonishment upon my face said plainly enough to Gwen:
“Your father is dead.” I could not speak. In the presence of her great affliction we all stood silent, and with bowed heads. I had thought Darrow’s attack the result of an overwrought mental condition which would speedily readjust itself, and had so counted upon his daughter’s influence as all but certain to immediately result in a temporary cure. When, therefore, I found him dead without any apparent cause, I was, for the time being, too dazed to think, much less to act, and I think the other gentlemen were quite as much incapacitated as I. My first thought, when I recovered so that I could think, was of Gwen. I felt sure her reason must give way under the strain, and I thought of going nearer to her in case she should fall, but refrained when I noticed that Maitland had noiselessly glided within easy reach of her. To move seemed impossible to me. Such a sudden transition from warm, vigorous life to cold, impassive death seems to chill the dynamic rivers of being into a horrible winter, static and eternal. Though death puts all things in the past tense, even we physicians cannot but be strangely moved when the soul thus hastily deserts the body without the usual farewell of an illness.
Contrary to my expectations Gwen did not faint. For a long time, —it may not have been more than twenty minutes, but it seemed, under the peculiar circumstances, at least an hour,—she remained perfectly impassive. She neither changed colour nor exhibited any other sign of emotion. She stood gazing quietly, tenderly, at her father’s body as if he were asleep and she were watching for some indication of his awakening. Then a puzzled expression came over her countenance. There was no trace of sorrow in it, only the look of perplexity. I decided to break the gruesome silence, but the thought of how my own voice would sound in that awe-inspired stillness frightened me. Gwen herself was the first to speak. She looked up with the same impassive countenance, from which now the perplexed look had fled, and said simply:
“Gentlemen, what is to be done?” Her voice was firm and sane,—that it was pitched lower than usual and had a suggestion of intensity in it, was perfectly natural. I thought she did not realise her loss and said: “He has gone past recall.” “Yes,” she replied, “I know that, but should we not send for an officer?” “An officer!” I exclaimed. “Is it possible you entertain a doubt that your father’s death resulted from natural causes?” She looked at me a moment fixedly, and then said deliberately: “My father was murdered!” I was so surprised and pained that, for a moment, I could not reply, and no one else sought to break the silence.