Maitland, as if Gwen’s last remark had given rise to a sudden determination, glided to the body. He examined the throat, raised the right hand and looked at the fingers: then he stepped back a little and wrote something in his note-book. This done, he tried the folding doors and found them locked on the inside; then the two windows on the south side of the room, which he also found fastened. He opened the hall door slightly and the hinges creaked noisily, of all of which he made a note. Then taking a rule from his pocket he went to the east window, and measured the opening, and then the distance between this window and the chair in which the old gentleman had sat, recording his results as before. His next act astonished me not a little and had the effect of recalling me to my senses. With his penknife he cut a circle in the carpet around each leg of the chair on which the body rested. He continued his examinations with quiet thoroughness, but I ceased now to follow him closely, since I had begun to feel the necessity of convincing Gwen of her error, and was casting about for the best way to do so.
“My dear Miss Darrow,” I said at length; “you attach too much importance to the last words of your father, who, it is clear, was not in his right mind. You must know that he has, for some months, had periods of temporary aberration, and that all his delusions have been of a sanguinary nature. Try to think calmly,” I said, perceiving from her expression that I had not shaken her conviction in the least. “Your father said he had been stabbed. You must see that such a thing is physically impossible. Had all the doors and windows been open, no object so large as a man could possibly have entered or left the room without our observing him; but the windows were closed and fastened, with the exception of the east window, which, as you may see for yourself, is open some six inches or so, in which position it is secured by the spring fastening. The folding doors are locked on the inside and the only possible means of entrance, therefore, would have been by the hall door. Directly in front of that, between it and your father, sat Mr. Maitland and myself. You see by my chair that I was less than two feet from the door. It is inconceivable that, in that half-light, anyone could have used that entrance and escaped observation. Do you not see how untenable your idea is? Had your father been stabbed he would have bled, but I am as certain as though I had made a thorough examination that there is not so much as a scratch anywhere upon his body.” Gwen heard me through in silence and then said wearily, in a voice which had now neither intensity nor elasticity, “I understand fully the apparent absurdity of my position, yet I know my father was murdered. The wound which caused his death has escaped your notice, but—”
“My dear Miss Darrow,” I interrupted, “there is no wound, you may be sure of that!” For the first time since Darrow’s death Maitland spoke. “If you will look at the throat a little more closely, you will see what may be a wound,” he said, and went on quietly with his examinations. He was right; there was a minute abrasion visible. The girl’s quick observation had detected what had escaped me, convinced as I was that there was nothing to be found by a scrutiny however close.