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10: We Read the Narrative of Robin Gaunt

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« on: November 20, 2023, 04:46:35 am »

MANY TIMES since then have I read that strange document, the original of which now lies in Scotland Yard. And whenever I do my mind goes back to that September morning, when, sitting in a circle on the short clipped turf two hundred feet above the Atlantic, we first learned the truth. For after a while Robin grew quiet, though I kept an eye on him lest he should try and snatch his precious papers away. But he didn't: he just sat a little apart from us staring out to sea, and occasionally babbling out some foolish nonsense.

Before me as I write is an exact copy. Not a line will be altered: not a comma. But I would ask those who may read to visualise the circumstances under which we first read that poor madman's closely guarded secret with the writer himself beside us, and the gulls screaming discordantly over our heads.

I am going mad.

[Thus it started without preamble.]

I, Robin Caxton Gaunt, believe that I shall shortly lose my reason. The wound inflicted on me in my rooms in London: the daily torture I am subjected to, and above all the final unbelievable atrocity which I saw committed with my own eyes, and for which, so help me God, I feel a terrible personal responsibility, are undermining my brain. I have some rudimentary medical knowledge: I know how tiny is the dividing line between sanity and madness. And I have been seeing things lately that are not there: and hearing things that do not exist.

It may be that I shall never complete this document. Perhaps my brain will go first: perhaps one of these devils will discover me writing. But I am making the attempt, and maybe in the future the result will fall into the hands of someone who will search out the arch monster responsible and kill him as one kills a mad dog. Also---for they showed me the newspapers at the time---it may help to clear my character from the foul blot which now rests on it. Though why John Stockton, who I thought was my friend, didn't say what he knew at the inquest I can't imagine.

[That hurt, as you may guess.]

I will begin at the beginning. During the European war I was employed at Head-quarters on the chemical branch. And just before the Armistice was signed I had evolved a poison which, if applied subcutaneously, caused practically instant death. It was a new poison unknown before to toxicologists, and if it were possible I would like the secret to die with me. God knows, I wish now I had never discovered it. Anyway I will not put down its nature here. Sufficient to say that it is the most rapid and deadly drug known at present in the civilised world.

As a death-dealing weapon, however, it suffered from one grave disadvantage: it had to be applied under the skin. To impinge on a cut or a small open place was enough, but it was not possible to rely on finding such a thing. Moreover, the method of distribution was faulty. I had evolved a portable cistern capable of carrying five gallons, which could be ejected through a fine-pointed nozzle for a distance of over fifty yards when pressure was applied by means of a pump, on the principle of a pressure-fed feed in a motor-car. But a rifle bullet carries considerably more than fifty yards, and therefore rifle fire afforded a perfectly effective counter except in isolated cases of surprise.

The possibilities of shells filled with the liquid, of distribution by aeroplane or airship, were all discussed and rejected for one reason or another. And the scheme which was finally approved consisted of the use of the poison on a large scale from fleets of tanks.

All that, however, is ancient history. The Armistice was signed: the war was over: an era of peace and plenty was to take place. So we thought---poor deluded fools. Six years later found Europe an armed camp with every nation snarling at every other nation. Scientific soldiers gave lectures in which they stated their ideas of the next war: civilised human beings talked glibly of raining down myriads of disease germs on huge cities. It was horrible---incredible: man had called in science to aid him in destroying his fellowmen, and science had obeyed him---at a price. It was a price that had not been contemplated: it was a case of another Frankenstein's monster. Man had now to obey science, not science man: he had created a thing which he could not control.

It was in the summer of 1924 that the idea first came to me of inventing a weapon so frightful that its mere existence would control the situation. The bare fact that it was there would act as the presence of the headmaster in a room full of small boys. One very forgetful lad might have to be caned once, after that the lesson would be learned. At first it seemed a wildly fanciful notion, but the more I thought of it the more the idea gripped me. And quite by chance in the July of that year when I was stopping in Scotland playing golf I met a man called David Ganton---an Australian---whose two sons had been killed in Gallipoli. He was immensely wealthy---a multi-millionaire, and rather to my surprise when I mentioned my idea to him casually one evening he waxed enthusiastic over it. To him war was as abhorrent as it was to me: and he, like me, was doubtful as to the efficacy of the League of Nations. He immediately placed at my disposal a large sum of money for research work, and told me that I could call on him for any further amount I required.

My starting-point, somewhat naturally, was the poison I had discovered during the war. And the first difficulty to be overcome was the problem of the subcutaneous injection. A wound, or an opening of some sort, must be caused on the skin before the poison could act. For months I wrestled with the problem till I was almost in despair. And then one evening I got the solution---obvious, as things like that so often are. Why not mix with the poison an irritant blister which would make the little openings necessary?

Again months of work, but this time with renewed hope. The main idea was, I knew, the right one: the difficulty now was to find some liquid capable of blistering the skin, which when mixed with the poison would not react with it chemically and so impair its deadliness. The blister and the poison had, in short, though mixed together as liquids, each to retain its own individuality.

In December 1925 I solved the problem: I had in my laboratory a liquid so perfectly blended that two or three drops touching the skin meant instantaneous death.

Then came the second great difficulty---distribution. The tank scheme, however effective it might have been when a war was actually raging, was clearly an impossibility in such circumstances as I contemplated. Something far more sudden, far more mobile was essential.

Aeroplanes had great disadvantages. Their lifting power was limited: they were unable to hover: they were noisy.

And then there came to my mind the so-called silent raid on London during the war when a fleet of Zeppelins drifted down-wind over the capital with their engines shut off. Was that the solution?

There were disadvantages there too. First and foremost---vulnerability. Silent raids by night were not my idea of the function of a world policeman. But by day an airship is a comparatively easy thing to hit; and once hit she comes down in flames.

The solution to that was obvious: helium. Instead of hydrogen she would be filled with the non-inflammable gas helium.

Which brought me to the second difficulty---expense. Hydrogen can be produced by a comparatively cheap process---the electrolysis of water: helium is rare and costly.

I met Ganton in London early in 1926 and told him my ideas. His enthusiasm was unbounded: the question of expense he waved aside as a trifle.

"That's my side of the business, Gaunt: leave that to me. You've done your part: I'll do the rest."

And then, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, he calmly announced his intention of having a rigid dirigible constructed of the Zeppelin type.

For many months after that I did not see him, though I was in constant communication with him by letter. Difficulties had arisen, as I had rather anticipated they might, but with a man like Ganton difficulties only increased his determination. And then there came on the scene the man---if such a being can be called a man---who goes by the name of Wilmot. What that devil's real name is I know not; but if these words are ever read, then to the reader I say, seek out Wilmot and kill him, for a man such as he has no right to live.

From the very first poor Ganton was utterly deceived. Letter after letter to me contained glowing eulogies of Wilmot. He too was heart and soul with me in his abhorrence of war; and, what was far more to the point, he was in a position to help very considerably with regard to the airship. It appeared that a firm in Germany had very nearly completed a dirigible of the Zeppelin type, to be used for commercial purposes. It was to be the first of a fleet, and the firm was prepared to hand it over when finished provided they secured a very handsome profit on the deal. They made no bones about it: they were constructing her for their own use and they were not going to sell unless it was really made worth their while.

Ganton agreed. The exact figure he paid I don't know---but it was enormous. And his idea, suggested again by Wilmot, was to employ the airship for a dual purpose. Ostensibly she was to be a commercial vessel, and, in fact, she was literally to be employed as one. But, in addition, she was to have certain additions made to her water ballast tanks which would enable those tanks to be filled with my poison if the necessity arose. The English Government was to be informed, and the vessel was to be subjected to any tests which the War Office might desire. After that the airship would remain a commercial one until occasion should arise for using her in the other capacity. Such was the proposition that I was going to put before the Army Council on the morning of April 28th of this year. The appointment was made, and mentioned by me to John Stockton when I dined with him at Prince's the preceding evening. Why did he say nothing about it in his evidence at the inquest?

As the reader may remember, on the night of April 27th, a ghastly tragedy occurred in my rooms in Kensington---a tragedy for which I have been universally blamed. That I know: I have seen it in the Press. They say I am a madman, a cold-blooded murderer, a super-vivisectionist. They lie, damn them, they lie.

[In the original document it was easy to see the savage intensity with which that last sentence was written.]

Here and now I will put down the truth of what happened in my rooms that night. It must be remembered that I had never seen Wilmot, but I knew that he was coming round with Ganton to see the demonstration. Ganton had written me to that effect, and so I was expecting them both. He proved to be a big, thick-set man, clean-shaven, and with hair greying a little over the temples. His eyes were steady and compelling: in fact the instant you looked at him you realised that his was a dominating personality.

I let them both in myself---Mrs. Rogers, my landlady, being stone deaf---and took them at once up to my room. I was the only lodger in the house at the time, and looking back now I wonder what that devil would have done had there been others. He'd have succeeded all right: he isn't a man who fails. But it would have complicated things for him.

He professed to be keenly interested, and stated that he regarded it as an honour to be allowed to be present at such an epoch-making event. And then briefly I told them how matters stood. Since I had perfected the poison, I had spent my time in searching for an antidote: a month previously I had discovered one. It was not an antidote in the accepted sense of the word, in that it was of no use if applied after the poison. It consisted of an ointment containing a drug which neutralised not the poison but the blister. So that if it was rubbed into the skin before the application of the poison the blister failed to act, and the poison---not being applied subcutaneously---was harmless. I pointed out that it was for additional security, though the special indiarubber gloves and overalls I had had made were ample protection.

He was interested in the matter of the antidote, was that devil Wilmot.

Then I showed them the special syringes and cisterns I had designed more out of curiosity than anything else, for our plan did not include any close-range work.

And he was interested---very interested in those---was that devil Wilmot.

Then I experimented on two guinea-pigs. The first I killed with the poison: the second I saved with the antidote. And I saw one fool in the papers who remarked that I must obviously be mad since I had left something alive in the room!

"Most interesting," remarked Wilmot. He went to the window and threw it up. "The smell is rather powerful," he continued, leaning out for a moment. Then he closed the window again and came back: he had signalled to his brother devils outside from before our very eyes and we didn't guess it. Why should we have? We had no suspicions of him.

"And to-morrow you demonstrate to the War Office," he said.

"I have an appointment at ten-thirty," I told him.

"And no one save us three at present knows anything about it."

"No one," I said. "And even you two don't know the composition of the poison or of the antidote."

"But presumably, given samples, it would be easy to analyse them both."

"The antidote---yes: the poison---no," I remarked. "The poison is a secret known only to me, though, of course, I propose to tell you. I take it that there will be no secrets between us three?"

"None, I hope," he answered. "We are all engaged on the same great work."

And just then a stair creaked outside. Now I knew Mrs. Rogers slept downstairs, and rarely if ever came up at that hour. And so almost unconsciously---certainly suspecting nothing---I went to the door and opened it. What happened then is still a confused blur in my mind, but as far as I can sort it out I will try and record it.

Standing just outside the door were two men. One was the man whom I afterwards got to know as Doctor Helias: the other I never saw again till he was carried in dead to the cellar where they confined me.

But it was the appearance of Helias that dumbfounded me for a moment or two. Never have I seen such an appalling-looking man: never have I dreamed that such a being could exist. Now that a description of him has been circulated by the police he has shaved off the mass of black hair that covered his face; but nothing can ever remove the mass of vile devilry that covers his black soul.

But to go back to that moment. I heard a sudden cry behind me, and there was Ganton struggling desperately with Wilmot. In Wilmot's hand was a syringe filled with the poison, and he was snarling like a brute beast. For a second I stood there stupefied; then it seemed to me we all sprang forward together---I to Ganton's assistance, the other two to Wilmot's. And after that I'm not clear. I know that I found myself fighting desperately with the second man, whilst out of the corner of my eye I saw Wilmot, Helias and Ganton go crashing through the open door.

"Telephone Stockton."

It was Ganton's voice, and I fought my way to the machine. I was stronger than my opponent, and I hurled him to the floor, half stunning him. It was Stockton's number that came first to my head, and I just got through to him. I found out from the papers that he heard me, for he came down at once; but as for me I know no more. I can still see Helias springing at me from the door with something in his hand that gleamed in the light: then I received a fearful blow in the face. And after that all is blank. It wasn't till later that I found out that little Joe---my terrier---had sprung barking at Wilmot as he came back into the room and had been killed with what was left of the poison after Ganton had been murdered in the next room.

How long afterwards it was before I recovered consciousness I cannot say. I found myself in a dimly-lit stone-floored room which I took to be a cellar. Where it was I know not to this day. At first I could not remember anything. My head was splitting, and I barely had the strength to lift a hand. Now I realise that the cause of my weakness was loss of blood from the wound inflicted on me by Helias: at the time I could only lie in a kind of stupor in which hours were as minutes and minutes as days.

And then gradually recollection began to come back---and with it a blind hatred of the treacherous devil who called himself Wilmot. What had he done it for? The answer seemed clear. He wished to get the secret of the poison in order to sell it to a foreign Power. Ganton had confided in him believing him to be straight, and all the time he had been waiting and planning for this. And if once the secret was handed over to a nation which could not be trusted to use it in the way I intended---God help the world. I imagined Russia possessing it---Russia ruled by its clique of homicidal alien Jews. And it would be my fault---my responsibility.

In my agony of mind I tried to get up. It was useless: I was too weak to move. And suddenly I happened to look at my hands in the dim light and I saw they were covered with blood. I was lying in a pool of it, and it was my own. Once again time ceased, but I did not actually lose consciousness. Automatically my brain went on working, though my thoughts were the jumbled chaos of a fever dream. And then out of the hopeless confusion there came an idea---vague at first but growing in clearness as time went on. I was still in evening clothes, and in the pockets of my dinner jacket I had placed the two samples---the bottle containing the poison, and the box full of the antidote. Were they still there? I felt, and they were. Would it be possible to hide them somewhere in the hopes of them being found by the police? And if they were found, then at any rate my own country would be in the possession of the secret too.

But where to hide them? Remember, I was too weak to even stand, much less walk, so the hiding-place would have to be one which I could reach from where I sat. And just then I noticed, because my hand was resting on the ground, that some of the bricks in the floor were loose.

Now I know from what Wilmot has told me since that the hiding-place was discovered by the authorities. Was it my handkerchief, I wonder, on which I scrawled the clue in blood with my finger? But oh! dear Heavens, why did they lose the antidote? Why didn't they guard John Dallas? He was murdered, of course: you know that. He was murdered by Wilmot himself. He was murdered by that devil---that devil---that. . . I must take a pull at myself. I must be calm. But the noises are roaring in my head: they always do when I think that it was all in vain. Besides, I'm going on too fast.

I buried the two things under two bricks, and I pushed the handkerchief into a crack in the wall behind me. And then I think I must have slept---for the next thing I remember was the door of the cellar opening and men coming in carrying another in their arms. They pitched him down in a corner, and I saw he was dead. Then I looked closer, and I saw it was the man I had fought with at the telephone.

But how had he died? Why did his eyes stare so horribly? Why was he so rigid?

It was Helias who told me---he had followed the other two in.

"Well, Mr. Pacifist," he remarked, "do you like the effects of your poison? That man died of it."

Until my reason snaps, which can't be long now, I shall never forget the horror of that moment. It was the first time I had seen the result of my handiwork on a human being. Since then, God help me, I have seen it often---but that first time, in the dim light of the cellar, is the one that haunts me.

For a while I could think of nothing else: those eyes seemed to curse me. I think I screamed at them to turn his head away. I know that Helias came over and kicked me in the ribs.

"Shut that noise, damn you," he snarled. "We've got quite enough to worry us as it is without your help. I'll gag you if you make another sound."

Then he turned to the other two.

"That fool has brought the police into the next house," he raved, and wild hope sprang up in my mind. "That means we must get these two out of it to-night. Get his clothes."

One of the men went out, to come back almost at once with a suit of mine.

"Look here, Helias," he said, "if we're to keep him alive we'd better handle him gently. He's lost about two buckets of blood."

"Handle him how you like," returned Helias, "but he's got to be out of this in an hour."

And so they took off my evening clothes and put on the others. Then one of them put a rough bandage on my head and face, and here and now I would say---if ever that vile gang be caught---that I hope mercy will be shown him. I don't know his name, and I have never seen him since, but he is the only one who has treated me with even a trace of kindness since I fell into their clutches.

I think I must have become unconscious again: certainly I have no coherent recollection of anything for the next few hours. Dimly I remember being put into a big motor-car, seeing fields and houses flash past. But where I was taken to I have no idea. Beyond the fact that it was somewhere in the country and that there were big trees around the house I can give no description of the place in which I was kept a prisoner for the next few weeks.

Little by little I recovered my strength, and the ghastly wound on my face healed up. But I was never allowed out of doors, and when I asked any question, no answer was given. The window was barred on the outside: escape was impossible even had I possessed the necessary strength.

But one night, when I was feeling desperate, I determined to chance things. I flashed my electric light on and off, hoping possibly to attract the attention of some passer-by. And two minutes later Helias came into the room. I had not seen him since the night in the cellar, and at first I did not recognise him, for he had shaved his face clean.

"You would, would you?" he said softly. "Signalling! How foolish. Because anyway no one could see. But you obviously need a lesson."

He called to another man, and between them they slung me up to a hook in the wall by my feet, so that I hung head downwards. And after a while the pressure of blood on the partially healed wound on my face became so terrible that I thought my head would burst.

"Don't be so stupid another time," he remarked as they cut me down. "If you do I'll have your window boarded up."

They left me, and in my weakness I sobbed like a child. Had I had any, I would have killed myself then and there with my own poison. But I hadn't, and they took care to see that I had no weapon which could take its place. I wasn't allowed to shave: I wasn't even allowed a steel knife with my meals.

The days dragged on into weeks, and weeks into months, and still nothing happened. And I grew more and more mystified as to what it was all about. Remember that then I had seen no papers, and knew nothing. I wasn't even sure that David Ganton was dead. Why did they bother to keep me alive? was the question I asked myself again and again. They had the secret: at least I assumed they must have, for the paper on which I had written the formula of the poison was no longer in my possession. So what use could I be to them?

And then one day---I'd almost lost count of time, but I should say it was about the 10th of June---the door of my room opened and Helias came in, followed by Wilmot.

"You certainly hit him pretty hard, Doctor," said Wilmot, after he'd looked at me for some time. "Well, Mr. Gaunt---been happy and comfortable?"

"You devil," I burst out, and then, maddened by his mocking smile, I cursed and raved at him till I was out of breath.

"Quite finished?" he remarked when I stopped. "I'm in no particular hurry, and as I can easily understand a slight feeling of annoyance on your part, please don't mind me. Say it all over again if it comforts you in any way."

"What do you want?" I said, almost choking with sullen rage.

"Ah! that's better. Will you have a cigar? No. Then you won't mind if I do. The time has come, Mr. Gaunt," he went on, when it was drawing to his satisfaction, "when you must make a little return for the kindness we have shown you in keeping you alive. For a while I was undecided as to whether I would dispose of you like your lamented confrère Mr. Ganton, but finally I determined to keep you with us."

"So Ganton is dead," I said. "You murdered him that night."

"Yes," he agreed. "As you say, I killed him that night. I have a few little fads, Mr. Gaunt, and one of them is a dislike of the word murder. It's so coarse and crude. Well---to return, Mr. Ganton's sphere of usefulness as far as I was concerned was over the moment he had afforded me the pleasure of meeting you. But for the necessity of his doing that, he would have---er---disappeared far sooner. He had very kindly paid a considerable sum of money to acquire an airship, and as I wanted the airship and not Mr. Ganton, the inference is obvious. You've no idea, Mr. Gaunt, how enormously it simplifies matters when you can get other people to pay for what you want yourself."

I found myself staring at him speechlessly: in comparison with this cold, deadly suavity Helias seemed merely a coarse, despicable bully.

"In addition to that," he went on quietly, "the late Mr. Ganton presented me with an idea. And ideas are my stock-in-trade. For twenty years now I have lived by turning ideas into deeds, and though I have accumulated a modest pittance I have not yet got enough to retire on. I trust that with the help of Mr. Ganton's idea---elaborated somewhat naturally by me---I shall be able to spend my declining years in the comfort to which I consider myself entitled."

"I don't understand what you're talking about," I muttered stupidly.

"It is hardly likely that you would at this stage of the proceedings," he continued. "It is also quite unnecessary that you should. But I like everyone with whom I work to take an intelligent interest in the proceedings. And the thought that your labours during the next few weeks will help to provide me with my pension should prove a great incentive to you. In addition you must remember that it will also repay a little of the debt you owe to Doctor Helias for his unremitting care of you during your period of convalescence."

"For God's sake, don't go on mocking," I cried. "What is it you want me to do?"

"First, you will move from here to other quarters which have been got ready for you. Not quite so comfortable, perhaps, but I trust they will do. Then you will take in hand the manufacture of your poison on a large scale, a task for which you are peculiarly fitted. A plant has been installed which may perhaps need a little alteration under your expert eye: anything of that sort will be attended to at once. You have only to ask."

"But what do you want the poison for?" I asked.

"That, as Mr. Gilbert once said---or was it Mr. Sullivan?---is just like the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la-la. It has nothing to do with the case. In time you will know, Mr. Gaunt: until then, you won't."

"Is it for a foreign country?" I demanded.

He smiled. "It is for me, Mr. Gaunt, and I am cosmopolitan. But you need have no fears on that score. I am aware of the charming ideal that actuated you and Mr. Ganton, but, believe me, my dear young friend, there's no money in it."

"It was never a question of money," I cried.

"I know." His voice was almost pained. "That is what struck me as being so incredible about it all. And that is where my elaboration comes in. Now there is money in it: very big money if things work out as I have every reason to hope they will."

"And what if I refuse?" I said.

He studied the ash on the end of his cigar.

"In the course of the twenty years I have already mentioned, Mr. Gaunt," he said, "I wouldn't like to say how many people have made that remark to me. And the answer has become monotonous with repetition. Latterly one of your celebrated politicians has given me an alternative reply, which I will now give to you. Wait and see. We've been very kind to you, Gaunt, up to date. You gave me a lot of trouble over that box of antidote which you hid in the cellar"---how my heart sank at that---"though I realise that it was partially my fault---in not remembering sooner that you had it in your pocket. In fact, I had to dispose of an eminent savant, Sir John Dallas, in order to get hold of it."

"Then the authorities got it?" I almost shouted.

"Only to lose it again, I regret to say. By the way," he leaned forward suddenly in his chair---"do you know a man called Drummond---Captain Hugh Drummond?"

From beside me as I read, Drummond heaved a deep sigh of joy.

"It is Peterson," he said. "That proves it. Go on, Stockton."

"Hugh Drummond! No, I've never heard of the man. But do you mean to say you murdered Sir John?"

"Dear me! That word again. I keep on forgetting that you have been out of touch with current affairs. Yes, Sir John failed to see reason---so it was necessary to dispose of him. Your omission of the formula for the antidote on the paper containing that of the poison has deprived the world, I regret to state, of an eminent scientist. However, during the sea-voyage which you are shortly going to take I will see that you have an opportunity of perusing the daily papers of that date. They should interest you, because really, you know, your discovery of this poison has had the most far-reaching results. Still, if you will give me these ideas . . ."

He rose shrugging his shoulders.

"Am I to be taken abroad?" I cried.

"You are not," he answered, curtly. "You will remain in England. And if I may give you one word of warning, Mr. Gaunt, it is this. I require your services on one or two matters, and I intend to have your services. And my earnest advice to you is that you should give that service willingly. It will save me trouble, and you---discomfort."

With that they left me, if possible more completely bewildered than before. I turned it over from every point of view in my mind, and I could see no ray of light in the darkness. The only point of comfort was that at any rate I was going to change my quarters, and it was possible that I might escape from the new ones. Vain hope! It is dead now, but it buoyed me up for a time.

It was two days later that Helias entered the room and told me to get ready.

"You are going in a car," he said. "And I am going with you. If you make the slightest endeavour to communicate or signal to anyone I shall gag you and truss you up on the floor."

And that brings me to the point. . . . Eyes, those ghastly staring eyes. And the woman screaming. . . . Oh! God, my head . . .

+++

At this point the narrative as a narrative breaks off. It is continued in the form of a diary. But it has given rise to much conjecture. Personally I think the matter is clear. I believe, in fact from a perusal of the original it is obvious, that "head" was the last coherent word written by Robin Gaunt. The rest of the sheet is covered with meaningless scrawls and blots. In fact I think that at that point the poor chap's reason gave way. How comes it, then, that the diary records events which occurred after he had been taken away in the motor-car? To me the solution is clear. The diary, though its chronological position comes after the narrative given above, was actually written first.

Surely it must be so. Up to the time when he was removed in the car he was in such a dazed physical and mental condition that the mere effort of keeping a diary would have been beyond him. Besides, what was there to record? His mind, as he says, was hopelessly fogged. He knew nothing when he left the house in which he had been confined as to what had happened in his rooms in London---or rather shall I say he knew nothing as to what had been reported in the papers? And yet the narrative already given was obviously written with a full knowledge of those reports.

Besides---take his first paragraph, "Daily torture." There had been no question of daily torture. "Final unbelievable atrocity." There had been none. No: it is clear. When things began to happen Gaunt kept a diary. And when, at the end he felt his reason going, he wrote the narrative to fill in the gap not covered by the subsequent notes. Had he not gone mad we might have had the whole story in the form in which he presented the first half.

I know that certain people hold a different view. They agree with me that he went mad at this point, but they maintain that the diary was written by him when he was insane. They say, in fact, that he scrawled down the disordered fancies of his brain, and for confirmation of their argument they point to the bad writing---sometimes well-nigh illegible: to the scraps of paper the notes were made on: to the general untidiness and dirt of the record.

I can only say that I am utterly convinced they are wrong. The bad writing, the scraps of paper were due, I feel certain, to the inherent difficulties under which they were written. Always was he trying to escape detection: he just scribbled when he could and where he could. Then for some reason which we shall never know he found himself in the position of being able to write coherently and at length. And the fortunate thing is that he brought his narrative so very close to the point where his diary starts.
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