The Woman of the Inner Room
by W. C. Morrow
Dr. Osborne, hastily summoned to the receiving hospital, found
there a handsome, well-dressed young man with an ugly hole in his
skull about an inch and a half above the left ear. The injured man
evidently was not suffering, but the desperate nature of his hurt was
seen in the deep pallor of his face. His expression was placid,
unintelligent, and absolutely silly. Yet he was freely alive—his
breathing was good, his heart observed its functions, his temperature
was normal, and his skin was warm and moist. Dr. Osborne cleared the
wound with a sponge.
"How was the lad hurt?" he asked of the officers who were standing
No one could tell. A few minutes ago some one had seen him
staggering along the street, clinging to the house-walls to keep from
falling, a thin stream of blood trickling down his face, and had
pointed him out to a policeman.
Dr. Osborne looked closely at the wound. Then he tried to insert a
finger in the opening, but failed. He looked around upon the men, and
asked them to show him their hands.
"No," he said, after examining them; "your fingers are all too
blunt Farley, go and call my daughter—she is sitting in my buggy at
Before she came, Dr. Osborne asked:
"Do you know who he is?"
None could inform him. Not a scrap of paper by which he might be
identified could be found upon him.
The surgeon's daughter entered. She was an attractive girl—rather
tall and slight, had brown eyes and hair, and carried herself with a
fine unconscious grace. She glanced at the man lying on the
operating-table, suddenly checked her advance, and became pale. Her
father, with a reassuring manner, took her by the arm, and led her
"Don't be alarmed, Agnes," he said; "I have tested your nerve
before, and have never seen it fail. Let me see your hand." He took it
in his and examined it closely. "That is just what I need,"
he resumed; "long, slender fingers—you have a beautiful hand,
This embarrassed her, hut she became stronger.
"Now, my child, I must learn the nature of the wound in this young
man's head. Come a little closer, my dear; he does not know what is
going on. Have you ever seen him before?"
"No," she replied, approaching nearer and regarding his face
steadily; "but he appears to be a man of means and refinement."
"Yes; that is clear. But come closer, Agnes. Why, you are all
right! You see, it is a small hole, and that probably accounts for the
fact that he is still alive; but it has penetrated the skull, and that
makes the case a very serious one. It is necessary that I know what
made the wound, in order to determine what to do; and the quickest way
in the world is to let the wound tell its own story.
My fingers are so thick that I can do nothing. Yours are exactly
"My fingers? What do you want me to do, father?"
"I want you to insert a finger in the wound and tell me what you
find, after a careful examination of the edges of the bone."
The girl hesitated. "But—why?" she asked.
"So that I may know what instrument was employed, if the hole is
round and has rather clean edges, it was made by a bullet—in which
event, there is no reasonable hope of recovery, If,.however, it is
three-cornered, or otherwise angular, or in any great degree ragged,
then something else made it—a pick-axe or some other instrument; and
in that case there is a bare chance of saving his life. Besides, the
knowledge will be very useful to the officers in digging up what
appears to he a mysterious crime. You can ascertain that, can't you?"
"I will try."
Under her father's direction, but in a gingerly manner, she stood
behind the young man's head, her face close above his, and put the
fine, long forefinger of her left hand into the wound. As she did so,
her eyes met the empty stare of his. Very slowly and carefully,
watching his face all the time, she felt the edges of the bone and
then withdrew her finger.
"It is smooth and round," she said.
"Ah!" exclaimed her father; "then there is no hope, poor fellow!
But let us try a little further Agnes, my dear, you did that bravely,
as I knew you would: but now I want you to put your finger in again,
and push it very slowly and carefully as far as you can. The bullet may
not have gone far."
The girl, again looking down upon the calm, peaceful face, with its
blank stare and senseless smile, explored the wound with her finger.
Her touch was sure and gentle, but as her finger came in contact with
the brain, and she felt its warmth and the regular and smooth pressure
of the pulsations, her nerves went upon a strain. Still she looked
down into the handsome young face, but she was growing pale. All of a
sudden, for some wholly unaccountable reason, the young man's blank
expression and silly smile passed away, and a certain intelligence sat
upon his fare.
The surgeon saw this, and it appeared to him to be a matter of
uncommon importance. At the same moment, a peculiar look came into his
daughter's face. She had begun to relax in the course of fainting, but
instantly she swung back upon a nervous balance which was so prominent
as to suggest a strong stimulation. The young man looked up into her
eyes with a vague interest; she looked down into his with fear and
horror. Then she suddenly withdrew her finger and stepped back beyond
the range of his vision. The look of vacuity again took a hold upon
The girl, without addressing any one particularly, said, nervously
and hurriedly; "You had better send to the bank and tell his father."
"What bank?" asked her father, in surprise.
"The Citizens' Bank."
"Who is his father?"
"Mr. Blanchard, the president of the bank. This is his son,
Her father regarded her with amazement, but he refrained from
asking her questions. He merely remarked; "But you said just now that
you did not know him"
The girl looked confused and made no reply.
The surgeon sent an officer to the bank. His attention returned to
the patient, and as his daughter had not made as thorough an
examination as he desired, he asked her if she felt strong enough to
make another attempt. She complied, but with much hesitation. Again did
a sickness and weakness assail her as her finger slipped into the
wound, and again did the young man's face brighten. He fixed his eyes
on her face, seemingly in recognition, and in a thick, stammering
voice, he said:
"Why, Agnes, is it you? So, you are the one—this is what jealousy
has done. This is what I get for being his friend."
"Do you blame me, Charles?"
"Why should I? It is too late for that now."
"Does Frank know?"
"He does not; but she is madly in love with him."
"And she is a stranger to you?"
"Absolutely. I never saw her before. I believe he has her in
hiding, and that he will shield her."
"But he is not a traitor."
"She may have some unaccountable hold upon him."
"He would not deceive me so."
"Who can tell?"
The excitement which had kept back the encroachment of weakness now
failed of purpose.
The girl withdrew her finger, and the young man sank back into his
former lethargic condition.
All color fled the girl's face; her eyes were fixed vacantly in a
stare of horror.
"Agnes," said her father, approaching her hastily, "what is the
matter? Are you faint?"
"I—I don't know, father." She trembled, as though with apoplexy.
"What is all this he has been telling you?" he asked.
She was too far gone to reply, but her father mistook her weakness
"Come into the open air, my child. This repulsive ordeal and the
ravings of that delirious man have borne too heavily upon your nerves.
Come, my daughter."
Those were his words, but a great dread had arisen within him. As
soon as they had stepped without, he pressed the question upon her
with a certain hardness which came from his anxiety:
"What does all this mean? What do you know about the shooting?"
Her voice was kept back by a gasp, and with a lurch she slipped
from her father's grasp and went all disorganized down to the ground
before he could save her. He picked her up, placed her in the buggy,
and drove rapidly to his home. When she recovered she found her mother
in anxious watch upon her, for her father had gone to see what could
be done for the wounded man.
Mrs. Osborne had been informed by her husband of the singular
occurrence at the receiving hospital, and the good woman was unhappy
over it. But with her usual fair tact she asked no questions,
believing that the close understanding between her and her daughter
would bring forth an explanation in safe time. She was disappointed,
therefore, when Agnes, upon coming into consciousness, spoke no word
of the most important matter. More than that, she said she had a
grievous headache and desired to be left alone, that she might sleep.
Mrs. Osborne withdrew, and immediately the girl went about the task of
slipping away from the house unseen. She did this with whole success.
In a few minutes she was in the office of a young physician named Frank
There was nothing commonplace in this young man's appearance. He
was tall, slender, and pale, and to the manifest effects of rigorous
study were added evidences of some kind of trouble that was wearing
him out. He occupied two rooms—a reception-room and, behind it, a
consultation-room. She found him sitting in the front room; the door
leading into the other was closed. His face brightened greatly when he
saw her standing before him.
"Agnes'" he cried; "I am very glad to see you. All loads drop from
my shoulders when your sweet face appears. You said the other day that
you were not coming to the office any more, for fear people would talk
about you—as though that should make any difference, seeing that we
are soon to be married!"
His manner was so gentle, so full of evidences of genuine
affection, that her suspicions concerning him were much weakened. But
she had come to make sure of her position, and the mysteries of the
wounded man's speech had to be cleared up.
"Frank," she asked, "have you seen your friend Charles Blanchard
"No; I haven't seen him since last night. By the way, he scolded me
again for not taking him around to your house and introducing him to
you. Now, really, Agnes, I don't think you ought to keep putting me
off about bringing him, as he is really a very delightful man, and I am
sure you will like him."
"We will talk about that some other time, Frank. There is something
else I want to ask you now. Do you really think you love me and me
"I am very certain of it, Agnes; but I don't see any reason for
such a question."
"I know that you never go into society, and you have told me that
you pay attentions to no one except me."
"That is the truth, Agnes; but to save my life I don't understand
you. You are pale and ill.
Something has happened to give you trouble and you have suddenly
become suspicious of me."
Should she tell him of the fatal wounding of his best friend? Was
it not possible first to extort from him some explanation of that
friend's singular disclosures? The fact that she had received this
knowledge from him—if, indeed, knowledge it was—troubled her greatly.
The man had sown distrust in her mind, and it was like poison.
"Frank," she said, presently, unable to see him longer in ignorance
of his friend's condition, "Charles Blanchard has been seriously hurt,
and I came to tell you so."
"Seriously hurt?" asked Armour, in alarm; "when and how?"
"He was found less than two hours ago and taken to the receiving
hospital, where my father is attending him now."
The young physician was now upon his feet, nervous and excited.
"How was he hurt, Agnes? Tell me all about it."
"Nothing is known except that he was found staggering along the
street with a pistol wound in the head."
Armour's face was livid, and his trembling legs nearly failed to
support his weight.
"He was not killed instantly?" he asked.
"No; but he is unconscious."
"The bullet must have been a small one."
"No doubt, no doubt!" cried the unhappy man; "I must go to see him
He picked up his hat and was starting away, expecting her to leave
the room with him. But she sat still, remarking:
"I will wait until you return, if you promise to come back soon."
Armour's disappointment and annoyance were visibly manifest. He
shot a quick glance toward the door of the adjoining room, and then
walked over to it and cautiously tried the knob. The door was locked.
He made a show of feeling in his pocket for the key, but his whole
manner was so openly embarrassed that the sharp-sighted girl noticed
"Agnes," said he, turning upon her somewhat impatiently, "there is
no doubt I shall be gone a long time, and it would be unreasonable for
me to ask you to wait."
"Nevertheless," she said, in rather a hard tone, looking him
steadily in the eyes, "I will stay here and wait for you. If you stay
away long I will turn on the spring-latch and thus lock the door when
An evident fear seized upon the young physician. He was anxious to
go to his suffering friend, and was unwilling to leave Agnes in his
office. She saw all this very plainly.
"And, by the way, Frank," she resumed, "as I am very tired, I will
go into the back room and rest on the lounge.".She started toward the
door, pretending not to have noticed that it was locked, and tried to
"Why, it is locked!" she exclaimed.
Armour's uneasiness had increased to positive suffering.
"Yes— he stammered.
"Is any one in there?"
"You are acting in a strange and unaccountable way to-day."
"I?" she asked, in great astonishment; "I don't understand you,
Frank." Then she walked straight up to him, and, placing her hands on
his shoulders, said, with dignity and tenderness: "I merely asked you
if there was any one in the room, and you are offended. Let us be
candid with each other, Frank. What does it mean?"
"I may have a patient in that room, and— A low moaning in a
woman's voice, indistinctly heard from the inner room, interrupted him,
His faced turned scarlet and then pale, and all the time the steady
gaze of the surgeon's daughter was upon him. She took her hands from
his shoulders, looking much humiliated; and, with a painful sadness
which he had never before seen in her conduct, she simply said:
"I don't think it is customary for physicians to lock their
patients up; but if I have been rude I beg you to forgive me. I will
not annoy you by staying. Good-bye, Frank."
She extended her hand, which he seized eagerly; but she quickly
withdrew it and left the room.
He followed her into the passage-way.
Agnes he said "you surely don't suspect that— but she was fleeing
down the stairs so rapidly that he could not finish the foolish
The girl went so quickly along the crowded street that people
turned in wonder to look at her.
Her eyes were filled with tears, her face was very pale, and her
lips were tightly caught between her teeth. "I never would have
dreamed it," she said to herself, over and over; "never, never, never!
Oh, it will kill me, it will kill me!" She reentered her home as
secretly as she had left it, flung herself wearily upon her bed, and
cried as though her heart was broken.
The police had gone intelligently to work upon the mystery of the
shooting. Mr. Blanchard, the father of the wounded man, had arrived,
overcome with grief and horror. Dr. Armour, he said, was the only
intimate friend his son had. He was entirely unable to suggest any
cause for the shooting, which undoubtedly had not been done with a
suicidal hand. The police repeated to him all that they could remember
of the disjointed and unintelligible conversation between his son and
Agnes Osborne, and this account puzzled him sorely. What mysterious
blind was there between his son and this young woman? She had denied
all knowledge of him, and yet she gave the information of his
identity. When and how had he been her friend, not knowing her? Why
had she discovered an anxiety that he should not blame her for the
deed that would cost him his life? Why was she desirous of learning
from him whether Frank Armour knew anything about the tragedy? Who was
this that was madly in love with Armour. and what possible connection
could there be between this fact and that of the shooting? Who was the
woman referred to in their conversation, and why should Armour keep
her in hiding? How could her jealousy of young Blanchard be the moving
cause of the desperate assault?p
Mr. Blanchard was not the only one who tried to bring some light
out of the darkness of all this singular and deplorable transaction. A
broken-hearted girl, tossing and weeping on her bed, asked herself
these questions, or some of them, many times, and the police were
weighing them.with all the care and precision of trained hunters of
crime, With Dr. Osborne the matter was far more serious than with the
police. Lacking his knowledge that the young man's temporary
restoration to a state of consciousness was not explainable on
ordinary grounds, they did not see the true value of the fact Dr.
Osborne reasoned that a wound of that character must necessarily
produce a disorganization of the mental functions and present a
condition of unconsciousness This had been the case until his daughter
had inserted her finger far into the wound, when at once the
sufferer's face brightened and a condition resembling consciousness
ensued. Dr. Osborne was too wise to assume that young Blanchard's
ability to speak and apparently carry forward a conversation was
positive evidence of consciousness, for he knew that the vagaries of a
disorganized mind are of unimaginable variety. But this case was
unqiue—nothing in the books or his experience had a suggestion of its
form or color. The whole case was this: His daughter had betrayed
fright upon seeing the wounded man at the station, but had recovered
from that; and, indeed, her condition might have been construed as one
of natural repugnance, overcome by an intelligent direction of the
will. It was clear enough so far. When she placed her finger in the
edge of the wound there was sign neither of recognition on her part
nor consciousness on his; it was only when she had pushed her finger
into the brain that those two facts came into existence.
This appeared to the surgeon to be a very strange coincidence. Not
only was the young man apparently restored to consciousness, but the
two, supposed to have been strangers, recognized each other, and,
worse than all else, betrayed a certain ill-defined common knowledge of
the crime. All these things threw Dr. Osborne into the most
conflicting surmises and brought him into a condition of positive
unhappiness. The extraordinary scientific features of the case were
overshadowed by his anxieties, His daughter had engaged herself, with
his assent, to marry Dr.
Armour, and yet this young physician had been placed in a peculiar
light by the words of the dying man. Prolonged thinking brought only
wider distraction, and the unhappy father determined to question his
daughter, depending on the close sympathy between them to bring the
whole truth from her.
It was some time, however, before he could find the opportunity.
Mr. Blanchard had removed his son to his home and had retained Dr.
Osborne to attend him. When the surgeon had done all that was
possible, he went to his home and sought his daughter. But she could
not be found.
After nearly crying her heart out upon her return from Armour's
office, she got up, brought herself under control, and then realized
that she had been treated shamefully by the man whom she loved above
all others in the world. It was easy for her grief to become shame and
her shame anger. It was not possible for her yet to think seriously
upon any plan that might bring suffering or ruin to her lover; but it
was within her power to work serious mischief to some mysterious woman
who had come between her and him, and this was a matter to be attended
to. Accordingly she cleared up her face, made herself very bright and
pretty, and went at once to consult the chief of police.
That functionary was vastly surprised so see her. He had been given
a full report of the scene at the receiving hospital, and when he saw
the girl enter his office looking so bright, confident, and handsome,
and announce her name and mission, he was sorely perplexed. In truth,
Chief Holloway had certain ideas which would have given Miss Agnes
discomfort if she had known of their existence.
"I have come to ask you, Mr. Holloway," she said, "if you have made
any discoveries concerning the shooting of Mr. Blanchard."
The officer, somewhat taken aback by her directness, tried, after a
heavy fashion, to cover his position under some remarks in which
discretion was outlined as a duty. "But this is rather a.singular
question from yolk, Miss Osborne, considering that you yourself are
supposed to know all about the mater."
The very boldness and brutality of the assault served an excellent
purpose; for the girl, not dreaming that her talk with young Blanchard
had taken wings, or that any one suspected her of knowledge, was
shocked with surprise.
"What makes you think that?" she quickly asked.
This put him in command of the situation, for he felt his power.
"Your conversation with young Blanchard showed that both you and he
know all about it, and then, after you left him you went to see Dr.
Armour, who also appears to be pretty badly mixed up in the whole
All this came like a whirlwind, and badly frightened the girl.
"Now," resumed Holloway, "although you have come ostensibly to make
inquiries, I think your ultimate purpose was to give some very
important information. I should be pleased to hear it."
Agnes caught her breath. "How can I know anything?" she asked,
realizing that her time had come, but with a rush that unnerved her;
"Mr. Blanchard spoke in a rambling way."
"But he was not as evasive as you are at this moment."
"Evasive? Really, sir— "This is no time for by-play." sternly
interrupted the officer; "no doubt you understand that you yourself
are in a very peculiar position. If what you know would endanger your
own safety by your telling it, I can easily understand your feelings."
The sting was felt, but the girl rallied and gave this opinion:
"You said something just now that makes me think you suspect Dr.
Armour of having a guilty knowledge of the affair. If you mean by that
to charge him with the crime, you are entirely in error."
"But you are careful not to deny that he knows something of
importance. Why do you not say openly that you and Armour know who
fired the shot, and that you two, possibly for prudential reasons, are
doing all you can to conceal your knowledge and shield the criminal?"
The very brutality and directness of the question roused the inmost
nature of the girl. With scarlet face and flashing eyes she said:
"If you will come with me, I will show you the murderer."
This was a windfall that Holloway had not dared to hope for. He
promptly followed Agnes.
When they had reached the street, she said:
"It will be necessary to see Dr. Armour first, and I think he is at
Mr. Blanchard's. We will go there first."
"As you please."
They found both Dr. Amour and Dr. Osborne at the young man's house.
The two physicians— the father and the lover—were vastly surprised
so see Agnes and the chief of police walk in together. For her part,
Agnes felt so guilty that she could not bear to look Armour full in the
She felt that a wild jealousy had led her so take a desperate and
dangerous step, the end of which she could not foresee. But did her
lover really deserve to be spared? Had he not deceived her shamefully?
The young man felt that a high barrier had come between him and Agnes,
and hence he had nothing to say to her. Holloway readily saw that a
heavy constraint rested upon them both, and it appeared, in his eyes,
an important affair.
"Agnes," said her father, taking her by the hand, and looking her
anxiously in the eyes, "where have you been?"
"To see Mr. Holloway, father."
"For what purpose?"
"To learn if he had discovered anything."
This was not the place for pressing the matter, and so her father
asked her no more questions.
There was a moment of general embarrassment among the four persons
in the room, and it was broken by the chief, who asked that in the
cause of justice Miss Osborne be permitted to repeat the experiment of
inserting her finger in the wound. With surprising alacrity both the
physicians objected, saying that the wound had been dressed, that the
sufferer was then very low from shock, and that such an experiment
would likely have a fatal issue. Holloway smiled in a peculiar manner,
and, looking steadily at Armour, added:
"I hardly expected that you would consent."
This thrust cut the young man to the quick, and he shot a look at
Agnes that revealed his suspicion of her hand in the policy of the
"Of course I have no desire to increase the young man's danger,"
remarked Holloway; "but the result of the former experiment was so
important that I deemed it advisable to repeat it if possible.
However, I think it is hardly necessary. As soon as I had learned all
the particulars of that experiment, I laid them before a prominent
physician of this city, and requested his written opinion concerning
them. I think this is the proper time to inform you concerning it, for
several reasons, which will appear later."
Thereupon Holloway read an ingenious paper, only a short extract
from which can be set forth here. It is as follows:
"Admitting a wide latitude for deception on the part of the young
woman, and the possibility of error in your account, the whole affair
seems preposterous and not worthy of serious attention.
But we shall treat it, not as a fact, but as a hypothetical case."
(The hypothesis was here stated in agreement with the reported facts,
and this explanation followed:) "The bullet was small, and hence the
laceration of the brain matter was not extensive nor the primary shock
very great. The unconsciousness observed apparently resulted from the
severing of the nerves ramifying throughout the brain and from the
rupturing of the innumerable chains of brain-cells in the path of the
bullet. These lacerations, by destroying the continuity of the brain
texture, disorganized the mind by interrupting the coordination of its
"If, now, some plan could have been devised for bringing together
the severed ends of tissue in such a manner as would permit of their
resuming theft normal occupation of transmitting molecular activity,
there is a rare possibility that its employment would have restored
consciousness. By a very singular accident, the young woman may have
performed that service when she inserted her finger deep into the
brain; but, in order for this result to have been accomplished, a most
extraordinary series of events must have occurred.
"The finger is a sensitive member, from the fact that it contains
so large a number of nerves.
These nerves, called peripheral, terminate under a thin cuticle,
through which sensation is easily experienced. When her finger was
inserted in the brain tissue, her nerve-ends came approximately in
contact with the severed nerves of the brain over the entire field of
Thus the mechanical condition of nerve-continuity was restored in
the brain of the wounded man, and consciousness was the result.
"But it is evident that the molecular transmission did not occur
directly through her finger.
That was not possible, for the reason that her nerves do not run
straight through her finger from one side to the other. If we should
trace one of these nerves, we should find that, starting at the
termination in the finger, it runs up the arm into the brain. A
sensation, starting from the end and.going to the brain, would there
meet and be assimilated by a large number of other sensations, this
being the result of coordination. The brain would then decide what
action to take, and then would direct the efferent, or outrunning,
nerves to move the muscles with a definite purpose. It is clear, then,
that the movement of sensation through the wounded man's brain tissue,
after the restoration of continuity, must have become communicated to
the nervous system of the woman.
In other words, no sensation could pass through his brain without
passing through hers also. In this way, their two brains would act
largely as one, and the active thoughts of one would be known to the
other. By this sort of reasoning we may account for the fact that,
although the two persons were strangers to each other, mutual
recognition came when the knowledge of both became the possession of
each. Hence we must infer that the young woman knows as much
concerning the person who did the shooting as does the wounded man
The effect of this extraordinary document can hardly be imagined.
From Dr. Osborne it lifted a load that was likely to crush him. But
why had not his daughter been candid with him? Now that there no
longer could be a fair suspicion that she had any criminal association
with the crime, why had she acted in so strange a manner?p
Armour's thoughts took a very different turn. His pallor increased
until it became alarming, and his knees were unsteady from weakness.
The man's agony was so painfully visible that Agnes felt a fearful
dread for the end that must come.
The immediate result of all this was that the three men fixed a
steady gaze upon her, in which was a commingling of peculiar motives
"Miss Osborne," finally said Holloway, "this scientific report
leads us to believe that you are fully aware of the identity of the
one who fired the shot. In corroboration of these conclusions, you
have confessed your knowledge by offering your services to point out
the murderer to me.
Will you be so kind as to keep your promise?"
All that was womanly in the girl found cause both for alarm and
encouragement in this situation. Against her sense of wrong weighed
that of tenderness and affection. She found courage to look Armour
squarely in the face, hoping to receive some sign that might guide her;
but she found—as she read his expression—only contempt and defiance
struggling through the cloud of anguish which sat upon him.
"I will keep my promise," she said, with much firmness; "we will
now go to Dr. Armour's office."
Besides becoming somewhat more rigid, as though bracing himself to
meet some fearful ordeal, Armour betrayed no emotion. Dr. Osborne
appeared to be overcome with astonishment and anxiety. Chief Holloway
These four went at once to Armour's office in utter silence, each
feeling the imminence of a catastrophe. The young physician admitted
them into the outer room, and then closed the door.
With great abruptness, he then asked this question:
"Will some one be kind enough to explain the object of this
Holloway was on the point of speaking, but Agnes stepped before
him, and, looking Armour firmly in the face, said:
"I believe that the person who committed this crime is concealed in
your consultation-room. If I am wrong, heaven will punish me as I
deserve. So far as I am able to discover, no reason exists why I
should pretend to deny the knowledge which I have. The murderer is a
woman, and you are concealing and shielding her in that room."
Armour, though pale as death, did not flinch before this
accusation. On the contrary, his chest expanded, his eyes flashed,
and, with head thrown back, he said:."It was a woman who did the
shooting, as I now believe, and it is true that she at this moment is
kept in concealment by me in my inner office. I had hoped to be able to
conceal her act from the world, for if ever there was an occasion for
the exercise of the noblest human traits, it is in the case before us.
Let me tell you something—you who mistake suspicion for skill in
unearthing crime, and you who are moved by even less worthy
motives—crime can not exist in the absence of accountability. Has it
occurred to you to imagine that this woman may not have been
responsible for her act? Do you know what an epileptic fit is? Surely
you do, Dr. Osborne. You are familiar with the strange forms which
this disease may take. You know that the sweetest natures are at times
wholly perverted by it; that its manifestations are complex and
obscure; that sometimes, instead of the violent spasms with which we
are all familiar the malady takes the form of mental and physical
activity, in which we find an impulse to commit extraordinary acts as
the result of monstrous misconceptions. When this condition occurs, all
the principles of the victim's nature may be wholly eclipsed,
conscience entirely suppressed, and the power to discriminate between
right and wrong completely lost. After the attack has passed, there
remains no recollection of what was done during its continuance.
"I inform you—and I am able to prove my assertion—that the woman
who shot my dearest friend is now in my inner office; that she came to
me from a distant city only yesterday to be treated for this very
malady; that very soon after her arrival, I informed her, as was my
duty and pleasure, that I was engaged to marry a very charming and
kind-hearted young lady. It is a breach of delicate confidence on my
part to inform you that, in spite of a brave effort to appear glad for
my good fortune, she could not conceal a certain unhappiness which I
know was perfectly natural, but it is my duty now to tell you
everything. I now know that the sorrow which my news caused her
brought on an attack of what is known as masked epilepsy, to which she
is subject. The thing uppermost in her mind was that some one was
dearer to me than she was; although normally a woman of unexampled
sweetness and goodness, she determined, in her condition of temporary
insanity, to kill that person. I need not inform you that she most have
started out with the clear purpose of killing the young lady to whom I
was affianced. But she knew, also, that young Blanchard was my dearest
friend, and, in her wild mental condition, she happened to find him
fast, and she fired into his brain the bullet that was intended for
The young man paused awhile, but he did not cast a glance at Agnes,
who, feeling unaccountably faint as these strange revelations were
made, had sunk helpless upon a chair "Ms. Holloway," resumed Armour,
"I ask your promise that you will not arrest this woman now, but that
you take proper steps to verify my assertions; and as she has recovered
from her attack, and has no recollection whatever of the tragedy, you
say nothing to her about it now, and that you never mention it to a
soul if you find that what I have told you is true.
"I cheerfully give those two promises," said Holloway.
"Then," said Armour, "I will present the lady to you."
With that he went to the door of the inner room, unlocked it, and
stepped within. In the next moment he returned, supporting on his arm
a pale, sweet-faced, beautiful woman of fifty, in whose sad and gentle
face was no trace of the fearful thing she had done. Armour, with his
head thrown hack and glowing with all the pride of a gentleman, thus
"Miss Osborne and gentlemen, I have the honor to make you
acquainted with my mother."