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Home -> Arthur Conan Doyle -> The Parasite -> - IV -

The Parasite - - IV -

1. - I -

2. - II -

3. - III -

4. - IV -


6.45 P. M. No, it is useless. There is no human help
for me; I must fight this out single-handed. Two
courses lie before me. I might become this woman's
lover. Or I must endure such persecutions as she can
inflict upon me. Even if none come, I shall live in a
hell of apprehension. But she may torture me, she may
drive me mad, she may kill me: I will never, never,
never give in. What can she inflict which would be
worse than the loss of Agatha, and the knowledge that I
am a perjured liar, and have forfeited the name of

Pratt-Haldane was most amiable, and listened with all
politeness to my story. But when I looked at his heavy
set features, his slow eyes, and the ponderous study
furniture which surrounded him, I could hardly tell him
what I had come to say. It was all so substantial, so
material. And, besides, what would I myself have said
a short month ago if one of my colleagues had come to
me with a story of demonic possession? Perhaps. I
should have been less patient than he was. As it was,
he took notes of my statement, asked me how much tea I
drank, how many hours I slept, whether I had been
overworking much, had I had sudden pains in the head,
evil dreams, singing in the ears, flashes before the
eyes--all questions which pointed to his belief that
brain congestion was at the bottom of my trouble.
Finally he dismissed me with a great many platitudes
about open-air exercise, and avoidance of nervous
excitement. His prescription, which was for chloral
and bromide, I rolled up and threw into the gutter.

No, I can look for no help from any human being. If I
consult any more, they may put their heads together and
I may find myself in an asylum. I can but grip my
courage with both hands, and pray that an honest man
may not be abandoned.

April 10. It is the sweetest spring within the memory
of man. So green, so mild, so beautiful t Ah, what a
contrast between nature without and my own soul so torn
with doubt and terror! It has been an uneventful day,
but I know that I am on the edge of an abyss. I know
it, and yet I go on with the routine of my life. The
one bright spot is that Agatha is happy and well and
out of all danger. If this creature had a hand on each
of us, what might she not do?

April 16. The woman is ingenious in her torments. She
knows how fond I am of my work, and how highly my
lectures are thought of. So it is from that point that
she now attacks me. It will end, I can see, in my
losing my professorship, but I will fight to the
finish. She shall not drive me out of it without a

I was not conscious of any change during my lecture
this morning save that for a minute or two I had a
dizziness and swimminess which rapidly passed away. On
the contrary, I congratulated myself upon having made
my subject (the functions of the red corpuscles) both
interesting and clear. I was surprised, therefore,
when a student came into my laboratory immediately
after the lecture, and complained of being puzzled by
the discrepancy between my statements and those in the
text books. He showed me his note-book, in which I was
reported as having in one portion of the lecture
championed the most outrageous and unscientific
heresies. Of course I denied it, and declared that he
had misunderstood me, but on comparing his notes with
those of his companions, it became clear that he was
right, and that I really had made some most
preposterous statements. Of course I shall explain it
away as being the result of a moment of aberration, but
I feel only too sure that it will be the first of a
series. It is but a month now to the end of the
session, and I pray that I may be able to hold out
until then.

April 26. Ten days have elapsed since I have had the
heart to make any entry in my journal. Why should I
record my own humiliation and degradation? I had vowed
never to open it again. And yet the force of habit is
strong, and here I find myself taking up once more the
record of my own dreadful experiences--in much the same
spirit in which a suicide has been known to take notes
of the effects of the poison which killed him.

Well, the crash which I had foreseen has come--and that
no further back than yesterday. The university
authorities have taken my lectureship from me. It has
been done in the most delicate way, purporting to be a
temporary measure to relieve me from the effects of
overwork, and to give me the opportunity of recovering
my health. None the less, it has been done, and I am
no longer Professor Gilroy. The laboratory is still in
my charge, but I have little doubt that that also will
soon go.

The fact is that my lectures had become the laughing-
stock of the university. My class was crowded with
students who came to see and hear what the eccentric
professor would do or say next. I cannot go into the
detail of my humiliation. Oh, that devilish woman!
There is no depth of buffoonery and imbecility to which
she has not forced me. I would begin my lecture
clearly and well, but always with the sense of a coming
eclipse. Then as I felt the influence I would struggle
against it, striving with clenched hands and beads of
sweat upon my brow to get the better of it, while the
students, hearing my incoherent words and watching my
contortions, would roar with laughter at the antics of
their professor. And then, when she had once fairly
mastered me, out would come the most outrageous
things--silly jokes, sentiments as though I were
proposing a toast, snatches of ballads, personal abuse
even against some member of my class. And then in a
moment my brain would clear again, and my lecture would
proceed decorously to the end. No wonder that my
conduct has been the talk of the colleges. No wonder
that the University Senate has been compelled to take
official notice of such a scandal. Oh, that devilish

And the most dreadful part of it all is my own
loneliness. Here I sit in a commonplace English bow-
window, looking out upon a commonplace English street
with its garish 'buses and its lounging policeman, and
behind me there hangs a shadow which is out of all
keeping with the age and place. In the home of
knowledge I am weighed down and tortured by a power of
which science knows nothing. No magistrate would
listen to me. No paper would discuss my case. No
doctor would believe my symptoms. My own most intimate
friends would only look upon it as a sign of brain
derangement. I am out of all touch with my kind. Oh,
that devilish woman! Let her have a care! She may
push me too far. When the law cannot help a man, he
may make a law for himself.

She met me in the High Street yesterday evening and
spoke to me. It was as well for her, perhaps, that it
was not between the hedges of a lonely country road.
She asked me with her cold smile whether I had been
chastened yet. I did not deign to answer her. "We
must try another turn of the screw;" said she. Have a
care, my lady, have a care! I had her at my mercy
once. Perhaps another chance may come.

April 28. The suspension of my lectureship has had the
effect also of taking away her means of annoying me,
and so I have enjoyed two blessed days of peace. After
all, there is no reason to despair. Sympathy pours in
to me from all sides, and every one agrees that it is
my devotion to science and the arduous nature of my
researches which have shaken my nervous system. I have
had the kindest message from the council advising me to
travel abroad, and expressing the confident hope that I
may be able to resume all my duties by the beginning of
the summer term. Nothing could be more flattering than
their allusions to my career and to my services to the
university. It is only in misfortune that one can test
one's own popularity. This creature may weary of
tormenting me, and then all may yet be well. May God
grant it!

April 29. Our sleepy little town has had a small
sensation. The only knowledge of crime which we ever
have is when a rowdy undergraduate breaks a few lamps
or comes to blows with a policeman. Last night,
however, there was an attempt made to break-into the
branch of the Bank of England, and we are all in a
flutter in consequence.

Parkenson, the manager, is an intimate friend of mine,
and I found him very much excited when I walked round
there after breakfast. Had the thieves broken into the
counting-house, they would still have had the safes to
reckon with, so that the defence was considerably
stronger than the attack. Indeed, the latter does not
appear to have ever been very formidable. Two of the
lower windows have marks as if a chisel or some such
instrument had been pushed under them to force them
open. The police should have a good clue, for the
wood-work had been done with green paint only the day
before, and from the smears it is evident that some of
it has found its way on to the criminal's hands or

4.30 P. M. Ah, that accursed woman! That thrice
accursed woman! Never mind! She shall not beat me!
No, she shall not! But, oh, the she-devil! She has
taken my professorship. Now she would take my honor.
Is there nothing I can do against her, nothing save----
Ah, but, hard pushed as I am, I cannot bring myself to
think of that!

It was about an hour ago that I went into my bedroom,
and was brushing my hair before the glass, when
suddenly my eyes lit upon something which left me so
sick and cold that I sat down upon the edge of the bed
and began to cry. It is many a long year since I shed
tears, but all my nerve was gone, and I could but sob
and sob in impotent grief and anger. There was my
house jacket, the coat I usually wear after dinner,
hanging on its peg by the wardrobe, with the right
sleeve thickly crusted from wrist to elbow with daubs
of green paint.

So this was what she meant by another turn of the
screw! She had made a public imbecile of me. Now she
would brand me as a criminal. This time she has
failed. But how about the next? I dare not think of
it--and of Agatha and my poor old mother! I wish that
I were dead!

Yes, this is the other turn of the screw. And this is
also what she meant, no doubt, when she said that I had
not realized yet the power she has over me. I look
back at my account of my conversation with her, and I
see how she declared that with a slight exertion of her
will her subject would be conscious, and with a
stronger one unconscious. Last night I was
unconscious. I could have sworn that I slept soundly
in my bed without so much as a dream. And yet those
stains tell me that I dressed, made my way out,
attempted to open the bank windows, and returned. Was
I observed? Is it possible that some one saw me do it
and followed me home? Ah, what a hell my life has
become! I have no peace, no rest. But my patience is
nearing its end.

10 P. M. I have cleaned my coat with turpentine. I do
not think that any one could have seen me. It was with
my screw-driver that I made the marks. I found it all
crusted with paint, and I have cleaned it. My head
aches as if it would burst, and I have taken five
grains of antipyrine. If it were not for Agatha, I
should have taken fifty and had an end of it.

May 3. Three quiet days. This hell fiend is like a
cat with a mouse. She lets me loose only to pounce
upon me again. I am never so frightened as when every
thing is still. My physical state is deplorable--
perpetual hiccough and ptosis of the left eyelid.

I have heard from the Mardens that they will be back
the day after to-morrow. I do not know whether I am
glad or sorry. They were safe in London. Once here
they may be drawn into the miserable network in which I
am myself struggling. And I must tell them of it. I
cannot marry Agatha so long as I know that I am not
responsible for my own actions. Yes, I must tell them,
even if it brings every thing to an end between us.

To-night is the university ball, and I must go. God
knows I never felt less in the humor for festivity, but
I must not have it said that I am unfit to appear in
public. If I am seen there, and have speech with some
of the elders of the university it will go a long way
toward showing them that it would be unjust to take my
chair away from me.

10 P. M. I have been to the ball. Charles Sadler and
I went together, but I have come away before him. I
shall wait up for him, however, for, indeed, I fear to
go to sleep these nights. He is a cheery, practical
fellow, and a chat with him will steady my nerves. On
the whole, the evening was a great success. I talked
to every one who has influence, and I think that I made
them realize that my chair is not vacant quite yet.
The creature was at the ball--unable to dance, of
course, but sitting with Mrs. Wilson. Again and again
her eyes rested upon me. They were almost the last
things I saw before I left the room. Once, as I sat
sideways to her, I watched her, and saw that her gaze
was following some one else. It was Sadler, who was
dancing at the time with the second Miss Thurston. To
judge by her expression, it is well for him that he is
not in her grip as I am. He does not know the escape
he has had. I think I hear his step in the street now,
and I will go down and let him in. If he will----

May 4. Why did I break off in this way last night? I
never went down stairs, after all--at least, I have no
recollection of doing so. But, on the other hand, I
cannot remember going to bed. One of my hands is
greatly swollen this morning, and yet I have no
remembrance of injuring it yesterday. Otherwise, I am
feeling all the better for last night's festivity. But
I cannot understand how it is that I did not meet
Charles Sadler when I so fully intended to do so. Is
it possible---- My God, it is only too probable! Has
she been leading me some devil's dance again? I will
go down to Sadler and ask him.

Mid-day. The thing has come to a crisis. My life is
not worth living. But, if I am to die, then she shall
come also. I will not leave her behind, to drive some
other man mad as she has me. No, I have come to the
limit of my endurance. She has made me as desperate
and dangerous a man as walks the earth. God knows I
have never had the heart to hurt a fly, and yet, if I
had my hands now upon that woman, she should never
leave this room alive. I shall see her this very day,
and she shall learn what she has to expect from me.

I went to Sadler and found him, to my surprise, in bed.
As I entered he sat up and turned a face toward me
which sickened me as I looked at it.

"Why, Sadler, what has happened?" I cried, but my heart
turned cold as I said it.

"Gilroy," he answered, mumbling with his swollen lips,
"I have for some weeks been under the impression that
you are a madman. Now I know it, and that you are a
dangerous one as well. If it were not that I am
unwilling to make a scandal in the college, you would
now be in the hands of the police."

"Do you mean----" I cried.

"I mean that as I opened the door last night you rushed
out upon me, struck me with both your fists in the
face, knocked me down, kicked me furiously in the side,
and left me lying almost unconscious in the street.
Look at your own hand bearing witness against you."

Yes, there it was, puffed up, with sponge-like
knuckles, as after some terrific blow. What could I
do? Though he put me down as a madman, I must tell him
all. I sat by his bed and went over all my troubles
from the beginning. I poured them out with quivering
hands and burning words which might have carried
conviction to the most sceptical. "She
hates you and she hates me!" I cried. "She revenged
herself last night on both of us at once. She saw me
leave the ball, and she must have seen you also. She
knew how long it would take you to reach home. Then
she had but to use her wicked will. Ah, your bruised
face is a small thing beside my bruised soul!"

He was struck by my story. That was evident. "Yes,
yes, she watched me out of the room," he muttered.
"She is capable of it. But is it possible that she has
really reduced you to this? What do you intend to do?"

"To stop it!" I cried. "I am perfectly desperate; I
shall give her fair warning to-day, and the next time
will be the last."

"Do nothing rash," said he.

"Rash!" I cried. "The only rash thing is that I should
postpone it another hour." With that I rushed to my
room, and here I am on the eve of what may be the great
crisis of my life. I shall start at once. I have
gained one thing to-day, for I have made one man, at
least, realize the truth of this monstrous experience
of mine. And, if the worst should happen, this diary
remains as a proof of the goad that has driven me.

Evening. When I came to Wilson's, I was shown up, and
found that he was sitting with Miss Penclosa. For half
an hour I had to endure his fussy talk about his recent
research into the exact nature of the spiritualistic
rap, while the creature and I sat in silence looking
across the room at each other. I read a sinister
amusement in her eyes, and she must have seen hatred
and menace in mine. I had almost despaired of having
speech with her when he was called from the room, and
we were left for a few moments together.

"Well, Professor Gilroy--or is it Mr. Gilroy?" said
she, with that bitter smile of hers. "How is your
friend Mr. Charles Sadler after the ball?"

"You fiend!" I cried. "You have come to the end of
your tricks now. I will have no more of them. Listen
to what I say." I strode across and shook her roughly
by the shoulder "As sure as there is a God in heaven, I
swear that if you try another of your deviltries upon
me I will have your life for it. Come what may, I will
have your life. I have come to the end of what a man
can endure."

"Accounts are not quite settled between us," said she,
with a passion that equalled my own. "I can love, and
I can hate. You had your choice. You chose to spurn
the first; now you must test the other. It will take a
little more to break your spirit, I see, but broken it
shall be. Miss Marden comes back to-morrow, as I

"What has that to do with you?" I cried. "It is a
pollution that you should dare even to think of her.
If I thought that you would harm her----"

She was frightened, I could see, though she tried to
brazen it out. She read the black thought in my mind,
and cowered away from me.

"She is fortunate in having such a champion," said she.
"He actually dares to threaten a lonely woman. I must
really congratulate Miss Marden upon her protector."

The words were bitter, but the voice and manner were
more acid still.

"There is no use talking," said I. "I only came here
to tell you,--and to tell you most solemnly,--that your
next outrage upon me will be your last." With that, as
I heard Wilson's step upon the stair, I walked from the
room. Ay, she may look venomous and deadly, but, for
all that, she is beginning to see now that she has as
much to fear from me as I can have from her. Murder!
It has an ugly sound. But you don't talk of murdering
a snake or of murdering a tiger. Let her have a care

May 5. I met Agatha and her mother at the station at
eleven o'clock. She is looking so bright, so happy, so
beautiful. And she was so overjoyed to see me. What
have I done to deserve such love? I went back home
with them, and we lunched together. All the troubles
seem in a moment to have been shredded back from my
life. She tells me that I am looking pale and worried
and ill. The dear child puts it down to my loneliness
and the perfunctory attentions of a housekeeper. I
pray that she may never know the truth! May the
shadow, if shadow there must be, lie ever black across
my life and leave hers in the sunshine. I have just
come back from them, feeling a new man. With her by my
side I think that I could show a bold face to any thing
which life might send.

5 P. M. Now, let me try to be accurate. Let me try to
say exactly how it occurred. It is fresh in my mind,
and I can set it down correctly, though it is not
likely that the time will ever come when I shall forget
the doings of to-day.

I had returned from the Mardens' after lunch, and was
cutting some microscopic sections in my freezing
microtome, when in an instant I lost consciousness in
the sudden hateful fashion which has become only too
familiar to me of late.

When my senses came back to me I was sitting in a small
chamber, very different from the one in which I had
been working. It was cosey and bright, with chintz-
covered settees, colored hangings, and a thousand
pretty little trifles upon the wall. A small
ornamental clock ticked in front of me, and the hands
pointed to half-past three. It was all quite familiar
to me, and yet I stared about for a moment in a half-
dazed way until my eyes fell upon a cabinet photograph
of myself upon the top of the piano. On the other side
stood one of Mrs. Marden. Then, of course, I
remembered where I was. It was Agatha's boudoir.

But how came I there, and what did I want? A horrible
sinking came to my heart. Had I been sent here on some
devilish errand? Had that errand already been done?
Surely it must; otherwise, why should I be allowed to
come back to consciousness? Oh, the agony of that
moment! What had I done? I sprang to my feet in my
despair, and as I did so a small glass bottle fell from
my knees on to the carpet.

It was unbroken, and I picked it up. Outside was
written "Sulphuric Acid. Fort." When I drew the round
glass stopper, a thick fume rose slowly up, and a
pungent, choking smell pervaded the room. I recognized
it as one which I kept for chemical testing in my
chambers. But why had I brought a bottle of vitriol
into Agatha's chamber? Was it not this thick, reeking
liquid with which jealous women had been known to mar
the beauty of their rivals? My heart stood still as I
held the bottle to the light. Thank God, it was full!
No mischief had been done as yet. But had Agatha come
in a minute sooner, was it not certain that the hellish
parasite within me would have dashed the stuff into
her---- Ah, it will not bear to be thought of! But it
must have been for that. Why else should I have
brought it? At the thought of what I might have done
my worn nerves broke down, and I sat shivering and
twitching, the pitiable wreck of a man.

It was the sound of Agatha's voice and the rustle of
her dress which restored me. I looked up, and saw her
blue eyes, so full of tenderness and pity, gazing down
at me.

"We must take you away to the country, Austin," she
said. "You want rest and quiet. You look wretchedly

"Oh, it is nothing!" said I, trying to smile. "It was
only a momentary weakness. I am all right again now."

"I am so sorry to keep you waiting. Poor boy, you must
have been here quite half an hour! The vicar was in
the drawing-room, and, as I knew that you did not care
for him, I thought it better that Jane should show you
up here. I thought the man would never go!"

"Thank God he stayed! Thank God he stayed!" I cried

"Why, what is the matter with you, Austin?" she asked,
holding my arm as I staggered up from the chair. "Why
are you glad that the vicar stayed? And what is this
little bottle in your hand?"

"Nothing," I cried, thrusting it into my pocket. "But
I must go. I have something important to do."

"How stern you look, Austin! I have never seen your
face like that. You are angry?"

"Yes, I am angry."

"But not with me?"

"No, no, my darling! You would not understand."

"But you have not told me why you came."

"I came to ask you whether you would always love me--no
matter what I did, or what shadow might fall on my
name. Would you believe in me and trust me however
black appearances might be against me?"

"You know that I would, Austin."

"Yes, I know that you would. What I do I shall do for
you. I am driven to it. There is no other way out, my
darling!" I kissed her and rushed from the room.

The time for indecision was at an end. As long as the
creature threatened my own prospects and my honor there
might be a question as to what I should do. But now,
when Agatha--my innocent Agatha--was endangered, my
duty lay before me like a turnpike road. I had no
weapon, but I never paused for that. What weapon
should I need, when I felt every muscle quivering with
the strength of a frenzied man? I ran through the
streets, so set upon what I had to do that I was only
dimly conscious of the faces of friends whom I met--
dimly conscious also that Professor Wilson met me,
running with equal precipitance in the opposite
direction. Breathless but resolute I reached the house
and rang the bell. A white cheeked maid opened the
door, and turned whiter yet when she saw the face that
looked in at her.

"Show me up at once to Miss Penclosa," I demanded.

"Sir," she gasped, "Miss Penclosa died this afternoon
at half-past three!"

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