RECALLED TO LIFE
BY GRANT ALLEN
I. UNA CALLINGHAM'S FIRST RECOLLECTION
II. BEGINNING LIFE AGAIN
III. AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
IV. THE STORY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS
V. I BECOME A WOMAN
VI. RE-LIVING MY LIFE
VII. THE GRANGE AT WOODBURY
VIII. A VISION OF DEAD YEARS
IX. HATEFUL SUSPICIONS
X. YET ANOTHER PHOTOGRAPH
XI. THE VISION RECURS
XII. THE MOORES OF TORQUAY
XIII. DR. IVOR OF BABBICOMBE
XIV. MY WELCOME TO CANADA
XV. A NEW ACQUAINTANCE
XVI. MY PLANS ALTER
XVII. A STRANGE RECOGNITION
XVIII. MURDER WILL OUT
XIX. THE REAL MURDERER
XX. THE STRANGER FROM THE SEA
XXI. THE PLOT UNRAVELS ITSELF
XXII. MY MEMORY RETURNS
XXIII. THE FATAL SHOT
XXIV. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
UNA CALLINGHAM'S FIRST RECOLLECTION
It may sound odd to say so, but the very earliest fact that impressed itself on my memory was a scene that took place—so I was told—when I was eighteen years old, in my father's house, The Grange, at Woodbury.
My babyhood, my childhood, my girlhood, my school-days were all utterly blotted out by that one strange shock of horror. My past life became exactly as though it had never been. I forgot my own name. I forgot my mother-tongue. I forgot everything I had ever done or known or thought about. Except for the power to walk and stand and perform simple actions of every-day use, I became a baby in arms again, with a nurse to take care of me. The doctors told me, later, I had fallen into what they were pleased to call "a Second State." I was examined and reported upon as a Psychological Curiosity. But at the time, I knew nothing of all this. A thunderbolt, as it were, destroyed at one blow every relic, every trace of my previous existence; and I began life all over again, with that terrible scene of blood as my first birthday and practical starting point.
I remember it all even now with horrible distinctness. Each item in it photographed itself vividly on my mind's eye. I saw it as in a picture—just as clearly, just as visually. And the effect, now I look back upon it with a maturer judgment, was precisely like a photograph in another way too. It was wholly unrelated in time and space: it stood alone by itself, lighted up by a single spark, without rational connection before or after it. What led up to it all, I hadn't the very faintest idea. I only knew the Event itself took place; and I, like a statue, stood rooted in the midst of it.
And this was the Picture as, for many long months, it presented itself incessantly to my startled brain, by day and by night, awake or asleep, in colours more distinct than words can possibly paint them.
I saw myself standing in a large, square room—a very handsome old room, filled with bookshelves like a library. On one side stood a table, and on the table a box. A flash of light rendered the whole scene visible. But it wasn't light that came in through the window. It was rather like lightning, so quick it was, and clear, and short-lived, and terrible. Half-way to the door, I stood and looked in horror at the sight revealed before my eyes by that sudden flash. A man lay dead in a little pool of blood that gurgled by short jets from a wound on his left breast. I didn't even know at the moment the man was my father; though slowly, afterward, by the concurrent testimony of others, I learnt to call him so. But his relationship wasn't part of the Picture to me. There, he was only in my eyes a man—a man well past middle age, with a long white beard, now dabbled with the thick blood that kept gurgling so hatefully from the red spot in his waistcoat. He lay on his back, half-curled round toward one arm, exactly as he fell. And the revolver he had been shot with lay on the ground not far from him.
But that wasn't all the Picture. The murderer was there as well as the victim. Besides the table, and the box, and the wounded man, and the pistol, I saw another figure behind, getting out of the window. It was the figure of a man, I should say about twenty-five or thirty: he had just raised himself to the ledge, and was poising to leap; for the room, as I afterwards learned, though on the ground floor, stood raised on a basement above the garden behind. I couldn't see the man's face, or any part of him, indeed, except his stooping back, and his feet, and his neck, and his elbows. But what little I saw was printed indelibly on the very fibre of my nature. I could have recognised that man anywhere if I saw him in the same attitude. I could have sworn to him in any court of justice on the strength of his back alone, so vividly did I picture it.
He was tall and thin, but he stooped like a hunchback.
There were other points worth notice in that strange mental photograph. The man was well-dressed, and had the bearing of a gentleman. Looking back upon the scene long after, when I had learned once more what words and things meant, I could feel instinctively this was no common burglar, no vulgar murderer. Whatever might have been the man's object in shooting my father, I was certain from the very first it was not mere robbery. But at the time, I'm confident, I never reasoned about his motives or his actions in any way. I merely took in the scene, as it were, passively, in a great access of horror, which rendered me incapable of sense or thought or speech or motion. I saw the table, the box, the apparatus by its side, the murdered man on the floor, the pistol lying pointed with its muzzle towards his body, the pool of blood that soaked deep into the Turkey carpet beneath, the ledge of the window, the young man's rounded back as he paused and hesitated. And I also saw, like an instantaneous flash, one hand pushed behind him, waving me off, I almost thought, with the gesture of one warning.
Why didn't I remember the murderer's face? That puzzled me long after. I must have seen him before: I must surely have been there when the crime was committed. I must have known at the moment everything about it. But the blank that came over my memory, came over it with the fatal shot. All that went before, was to me as though it were not. I recollect vaguely, as the first point in my life, that my eyes were shut hard, and darkness came over me. While they were so shut, I heard an explosion. Next moment, I believe, I opened them, and saw this Picture. No sensitive-plate could have photographed it more instantaneously, as by an electric spark, than did my retina that evening, as for months after I saw it all. In another moment, I shut my lids again, and all was over. There was darkness once more, and I was alone with my Horror.
In years then to come, I puzzled my head much as to the meaning of the Picture. Gradually, step by step, I worked some of it out, with the aid of my friends, and of the evidence tendered at the coroner's inquest. But for the moment I knew nothing of all that. I was a newborn baby again. Only with this important difference. They say our minds at birth are like a sheet of white paper, ready to take whatever impressions may fall upon them. Mine was like a sheet all covered and obscured by one hateful picture. It was weeks, I fancy, before I knew or was conscious of anything else but that. The Picture and a great Horror divided my life between them.
Recollect, I didn't even remember the murdered man was my father. I didn't recognise the room as one in our own old house at Woodbury. I didn't know anything at all except what I tell you here. I saw the corpse, the blood, the box on the table, the wires by the side, the bottles and baths and plates of an amateur photographer's kit, without knowing what they all meant. I saw even the books not as books but as visible points of colour. It had something the effect on me that it might have upon anyone else to be dropped suddenly on the stage of a theatre at the very moment when a hideous crime was being committed, and to believe it real, or rather, to know it by some vague sense as hateful and actual.
Here my history began. I date from that Picture. My second babyhood was passed in the shadow of the abiding Horror.
BEGINNING LIFE AGAIN
Wha happened after is far more vague to me. Compared with the vividness of that one initial Picture, the events of the next few months have only the blurred indistinctness of all childish memories. For I was a child once more, in all save stature, and had to learn to remember things just like other children.
I will try to tell the whole tale over again exactly as it then struck me.
After the Picture, I told you, I shut my eyes in alarm for a second. When I opened them once more there was a noise, a very great noise, and my recollection is that people had burst wildly into the room, and were lifting the dead body, and bending over it in astonishment, and speaking loud to me, and staring at me. I believe they broke the door open, though that's rather inference than memory; I learnt it afterwards. Soon some of them rushed to the open window and looked out into the garden. Then, suddenly, a man gave a shout, and leaping on to the sill, jumped down in pursuit, as I thought, of the murderer. As time went on, more people flocked in; and some of them looked at the body and the pool of blood; and some of them turned round and spoke to me. But what they said or what they meant I hadn't the slightest idea. The noise of the pistol-shot still rang loud in my ears: the ineffable Horror still drowned all my senses.
After a while, another man came in, with an air of authority, and felt my pulse and my brow, and lifted me on to a sofa. But I didn't even remember there was such a thing as a doctor. I lay there for a while, quite dazed; and the man, who was kindly-looking and close-shaven and fatherly, gave me something in a glass: after which he turned round and examined the body. He looked hard at the revolver, too, and chalked its place on the ground. Then I saw no more, for two women lifted me in their arms and took me up to bed; and with that, the first scene of my childhood seemed to end entirely.
I lay in bed for a day or two, during which time I was dimly aware of much commotion going on here and there in the house; and the doctor came night and morning, and tended me carefully. I suppose I may call him the doctor now, though at the time I didn't call him so—I knew him merely as a visible figure. I don't believe I THOUGHT at all during those earliest days, or gave things names in any known language. They rather passed before me dreamily in long procession, like a vague panorama. When people spoke to me, it was like the sound of a foreign tongue. I attached no more importance to anything they said than to the cawing of the rooks in the trees by the rectory.
At the end of five days, the doctor came once more, and watched me a great deal, and spoke in a low voice with a woman in a white cap and a clean white apron who waited on me daily. As soon as he was gone, my nurse, as I learned afterwards to call her,—it's so hard not to drop into the language of everyday life when one has to describe things to other people,—my nurse got me up, with much ado and solemnity, and dressed me in a new black frock, very dismal and ugly, and put on me a black hat, with a dreary-looking veil; and took me downstairs, with the aid of a man who wore a suit of blue clothes and a queer kind of helmet. The man was of the sort I now call a policeman. These pictures are far less definite in my mind than the one that begins my second life; but still, in a vague kind of way, I pretty well remember them.
On the ground floor, nurse made me walk; and I walked out to the door, where a cab was in waiting, drawn slowly by a pair of horses. People were looking on, on either side, between the door and the cab—great crowds of people, peering eagerly forward; and two more men in blue suits were holding them off by main force from surging against me and incommoding me. I don't think they wanted to hurt me: it was rather curiosity than anger I saw in their faces. But I was afraid, and shrank back. They were eager to see me, however, and pressed forward with loud cries, so that the men in blue suits had hard work to prevent them.
I know now there were two reasons why they wanted to see me. I was the murdered man's daughter, and I was a Psychological Phenomenon.
We drove away, through green lanes, in the cab, nurse and I; and in spite of the Horror, which surrounded me always, and the Picture, which recurred every time I shut my eyes to think, I enjoyed that drive very much, with all the fresh vividness of childish pleasure. Though I learnt later I was eighteen years old at least, I was in my inner self just like a baby of ten months, going ta-ta. At the end of the drive, we drew up sharp at a house, where some more men stood about, with red bands on their caps, and took boxes from the cab and put them into a van, while nurse and I got into a different carriage, drawn quickly by a thing that went puff-puff, puff-puff. I didn't know it was a railway, and yet in a way I did. I half forgot, half remembered it. Things that I'd seen in my previous state seemed to come back to me, in fact, as soon as I saw them; or at least to be more familiar to me than things I'd never seen before. Especially afterwards. But while things were remembered, persons, I found by-and-by, were completely forgotten. Or rather, while I remembered after a while generalities, such as houses and men, recognising them in the abstract as a house, or a man, or a horse, or a baby, I forgot entirely particulars, such as the names of people and the places I had lived in. Words soon came back to me: names and facts were lost: I knew the world as a whole, not my own old part in it.
Well, not to make my story too long in these early childish stages, we went on the train, as it seemed to me, a long way across fields to Aunt Emma's. I didn't know she was Aunt Emma then for, indeed, I had never seen her before; but I remember arriving there at her pretty little cottage, and seeing a sweet old lady—barely sixty, I should say, but with smooth white hair,—who stood on the steps of the house and cried like a child, and held out her hands to me, and hugged me and kissed me. And it was there that I learned my first word. A great many times over, she spoke about "Una." She said it so often, I caught vaguely at the sound. And nurse, when she answered her, said "Una" also. Then, when Aunt Emma called me, she always said "Una." So it came to me dimly that Una meant ME. But I didn't exactly recollect it had been my name before, though I learned in due time afterwards that I'd always been called so. However, just at first, I picked up the word as a child might pick it up; and when, some months later, I began to talk easily, I spoke of myself always in the third person as Una. I can remember with a smile now how I went one day to Aunt Emma—I, a great girl of eighteen—and held up my skirt, that I'd muddied in the street, and said to her, with great gravity:
"Una naughty girl: Una got her frock wet. Aunt Emma going to scold poor Una for being so naughty!"
Not that I often smiled, in those days; for, in spite of Aunt Emma's kindness, my second girlhood, like my first, was a very unhappy one. The Horror and the Picture pursued me too close. It was months and months before I could get rid for a moment of that persistent nightmare. And yet I had everything else on earth to make me happy. Aunt Emma lived in a pretty east-coast town, with high bracken-clad downs, and breezy common beyond; while in front stretched great sands, where I loved to race about and to play cricket and tennis. It was the loveliest town that ever you saw in your life, with a broken chancel to the grand old church, and a lighthouse on a hill, with delicious views to seaward. The doctor had sent me there (I know now) as soon as I was well enough to move, in order to get me away from the terrible associations of The Grange at Woodbury. As long as I lived in the midst of scenes which would remind me of poor father, he said, and of his tragical death, there was no hope of my recovery. The only chance for me to regain what I had lost in that moment of shock was complete change of air, of life, of surroundings. Aunt Emma, for her part, was only too glad to take me in: and as poor papa had died intestate, Aunt Emma was now, of course, my legal guardian.
She was my mother's sister, I learned as time went on; and there had been feud while he lived between her and my father. Why, I couldn't imagine. She was the sweetest old soul I ever knew, indeed, and what on earth he could have quarrelled with her about I never could fathom. She tended me so carefully that as months went by, the Horror began to decrease and my soul to become calm again. I grew gradually able to remain in a room alone for a few minutes at a time, and to sleep at night in a bed by myself, if only there was a candle, and nurse was in another bed in the same room close by me.
Yet every now and again a fresh shivering fit came on. At such times I would cover my head with the bedclothes and cower, and see the Picture even so floating visibly in mid-air like a vision before me.
My second education must have been almost as much of a business as my first had been, only rather less longsome. I had first to relearn the English language, which came back to me by degrees, much quicker, of course, than I had picked it up in my childhood. Then I had to begin again with reading, writing, and arithmetic—all new to me in a way, and all old in another. Whatever I learned and whatever I read seemed novel while I learned it, but familiar the moment I had thoroughly grasped it. To put it shortly, I could remember nothing of myself, but I could recall many things, after a time, as soon as they were told me clearly. The process was rather a process of reminding than of teaching, properly so called. But it took some years for me to recall things, even when I was reminded of them.
I spent four years at Aunt Emma's, growing gradually to my own age again. At the end of that time I was counted a girl of twenty-two, much like any other. But I was older than my age; and the shadow of the Horror pursued me incessantly.
All that time I knew, too, from what I heard said in the house that my father's murderer had never been caught, and that nobody even knew who he was, or anything definite about him. The police gave him up as an uncaught criminal. He was still at large, and might always be so. I knew this from vague hints and from vague hints alone; for whenever I tried to ask, I was hushed up at once with an air of authority.
"Una, dearest," Aunt Emma would say, in her quiet fashion, "you mustn't talk about that night. I have Dr. Wade's strict orders that nothing must be said to you about it, and above all nothing that could in any way excite or arouse you."
So I was fain to keep my peace; for though Aunt Emma was kind, she ruled me still in all things like a little girl, as I was when I came to her.
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
One morning, after I'd been four whole years at Aunt Emma's, I heard a ring at the bell, and, looking over the stairs, saw a tall and handsome man in a semi-military coat, who asked in a most audible voice for Miss Callingham.
Maria, the housemaid, hesitated a moment.
"Miss Callingham's in, sir," she answered in a somewhat dubious tone; "but I don't know whether I ought to let you see her or not. My mistress is out; and I've strict orders that no strangers are to call on Miss Callingham when her aunt's not here."
And she held the door ajar in her hand undecidedly.
The tall man smiled, and seemed to me to slip a coin quietly into Maria's palm.
"So much the better," he answered, with unobtrusive persistence; "I thought Miss Moore was out. That's just why I've come. I'm an officer from Scotland Yard, and I want to see Miss Callingham—alone—most particularly."
Maria drew herself up and paused.
My heart stood still within me at this chance of enlightenment. I guessed what he meant; so I called over the stairs to her, in a tremor of excitement:
"Show the gentleman into the drawing-room, Maria. I 'll come down to him at once."
For I was dying to know the explanation of the Picture that haunted me so persistently; and as nobody at home would ever tell me anything worth knowing about it, I thought this was as good an opportunity as I could get for making a beginning towards the solution of the mystery.
Well, I ran into my own room as quick as quick could be, and set my front hair straight, and slipped on a hat and jacket (for I was in my morning dress), and then went down to the drawing-room to see the Inspector.
He rose as I entered. He was a gentleman, I felt at once. His manner was as deferential, as kind, and as considerate to my sensitiveness, as anything it's possible for you to imagine in anyone.
"I'm sorry to have to trouble you, Miss Callingham," he said, with a very gentle smile; "but I daresay you can understand yourself the object of my visit. I could have wished to come in a more authorised way; but I've been in correspondence with Miss Moore for some time past as to the desirability of reopening the inquiry with regard to your father's unfortunate death; and I thought the time might now have arrived when it would be possible to put a few questions to you personally upon that unhappy subject. Miss Moore objected to my plan. She thought it would still perhaps be prejudicial to your health—a point in which Dr. Wade, I must say, entirely agrees with her. Nevertheless, in the interests of Justice, as the murderer is still at large, I've ventured to ask you for this interview; because what I read in the newspapers about the state of your health—."
I interrupted him, astonished.
"What you read in the newspapers about the state of my health!" I repeated, thunderstruck. "Why, surely they don't put the state of MY health in the newspapers!"
For I didn't know then I was a Psychological Phenomenon.
The Inspector smiled blandly, and pulling out his pocket-book, selected a cutting from a pile that apparently all referred to me.
"You're mistaken," he said, briefly. "The newspapers, on the contrary, have treated your case at great length. See, here's the latest report. That's clipped from last Wednesday's Telegraph."
I remembered then that a paragraph of just that size had been carefully cut out of Wednesday's paper before I was allowed by Aunt Emma to read it. Aunt Emma always glanced over the paper first, indeed, and often cut out such offending paragraphs. But I never attached much importance to their absence before, because I thought it was merely a little fussy result of auntie's good old English sense of maidenly modesty. I supposed she merely meant to spare my blushes. I knew girls were often prevented on particular days from reading the papers.
But now I seized the paragraph he handed me, and read it with deep interest. It was the very first time I had seen my own name in a printed newspaper. I didn't know then how often it had figured there.
The paragraph was headed, "THE WOODBURY MURDER," and it ran something like this, as well as I can remember it:
"There are still hopes that the miscreant who shot Mr. Vivian Callingham at The Grange, at Woodbury, some four years since, may be tracked down and punished at last for his cowardly crime. It will be fresh in everyone's memory, as one of the most romantic episodes in that extraordinary tragedy, that at the precise moment of her father's death, Miss Callingham, who was present in the room during the attack, and who alone might have been a witness capable of recognising or describing the wretched assailant, lost her reason on the spot, owing to the appalling shock to her nervous system, and remained for some months in an imbecile condition. Gradually, as we have informed our readers from time to time, Miss Callingham's intellect has become stronger and stronger; and though she is still totally unable to remember spontaneously any events that occurred before her father's death, it is hoped it may be possible, by describing vividly certain trains of previous incidents, to recall them in some small degree to her imperfect memory. Dr. Thornton, of Welbeck Street, who has visited her from time to time on behalf of the Treasury, in conjunction with Dr. Wade, her own medical attendant, went down to Barton-on-the-Sea on Monday, and once more examined Miss Callingham's intellect. Though the Doctor is judiciously reticent as to the result of his visit, it is generally believed at Barton that he thinks the young lady sufficiently recovered to undergo a regular interrogatory; and in spite of the fact that Dr. Wade is opposed to any such proceeding at present, as prejudicial to the lady's health, it is not unlikely that the Treasury may act upon their own medical official's opinion, and send down an Inspector from Scotland Yard to make inquiries direct on the subject from Miss Callingham in person."
My head swam round. It was all like a dream to me. I held my forehead with my hands, and gazed blankly at the Inspector.
"You understand what all this means?" he said interrogatively, leaning forward as he spoke. "You remember the murder?"
"Perfectly," I answered him, trembling all over. "I remember every detail of it. I could describe you exactly all the objects in the room. The Picture it left behind has burned itself into my brain like a flash of lightning!"
The Inspector drew his chair nearer. "Now, Miss Callingham," he said in a very serious voice, "that's a remarkable expression—like a flash of lightning.' Bear in mind, this is a matter of life and death to somebody somewhere. Somebody's neck may depend upon your answers. Will you tell me exactly how much you remember?"
I told him in a few words precisely how the scene had imprinted itself on my memory. I recalled the room, the box, the green wires, the carpet; the man who lay dead in his blood on the floor; the man who stood poised ready to leap from the window. He let me go on unchecked till I'd finished everything I had to say spontaneously. Then he took a photograph from his pocket, which he didn't show me. Looking at it attentively, he asked me questions, one by one, about the different things in the room at the time in very minute detail: Where exactly was the box? How did it stand relatively to the unlighted lamp? What was the position of the pistol on the floor? In which direction was my father's head lying? Though it brought back the Horror to me in a fuller and more terrible form than ever, I answered all his questions to the very best of my ability. I could picture the whole scene like a photograph to myself; and I didn't doubt the object he held in his hand was a photograph of the room as it appeared after the murder. He checked my statements, one by one as I went on, by reference to the photograph, murmuring half to himself now and again: "Yes, yes, exactly so"; "That's right"; "That was so," at each item I mentioned.
At the end of these inquiries, he paused and looked hard at me.
"Now, Miss Callingham," he said again, peering deep into my eyes, "I want you to concentrate your mind very much, not on this Picture you carry so vividly in your own brain, but on the events that went immediately before and after it. Pause long and think. Try hard to remember. And first, you say there was a great flash of light. Now, answer me this: was it one flash alone, or had there been several?"
I stopped and racked my brain. Blank, blank, as usual.
"I can't remember," I faltered out, longing terribly to cry. "I can recall just that one scene, and nothing else in the world before it."
He looked at me fixedly, jotting down a few words in his note-book as he looked. Then he spoke again, still more slowly:
"Now, try once more," he said, with an encouraging air. "You saw this man's back as he was getting out of the window. But can't you remember having seen his face before? Had he a beard? a moustache? what eyes? what nose? Did you see the shot fired? And if so, what sort of person was the man who fired it?"
Again I searched the pigeon-holes of my memory in vain, as I had done a hundred times before by myself.
"It's no use," I cried helplessly, letting my hands drop by my side. "I can't remember a thing, except the Picture. I don't know whether I saw the shot fired or not. I don't know what the murderer looked like in the face. I've told you all I know. I can recall nothing else. It's all a great blank to me."
The Inspector hesitated a moment, as if in doubt what step to take next. Then he drew himself up and said, still more gravely:
"This inability to assist us is really very singular. I had hoped, after Dr. Thornton's report, that we might at last count with some certainty upon arriving at fresh results as to the actual murder. I can see from what you tell me you're a young lady of intelligence—much above the average—and great strength of mind. It's curious your memory should fail you so pointedly just where we stand most in need of its aid. Recollect, nobody else but you ever saw the murderer's face. Now, I'm going to presume you're answering me honestly, and try a bold means to arouse your dormant memory. Look hard, and hark back.—Is that the room you recollect? Is that the picture that still haunts and pursues you?"
He handed me the photograph he held in his fingers. I took it, all on fire. The sight almost made me turn sick with horror. To my awe and amazement, it was indeed the very scene I remembered so well. Only, of course, it was taken from another point of view, and represented things in rather different relative positions to those I figured them in. But it showed my father's body lying dead upon the floor; it showed his poor corpse weltering helpless in its blood; it showed myself, as a girl of eighteen, standing awestruck, gazing on in blank horror at the sight; and in the background, half blurred by the summer evening light, it showed the vague outline of a man's back, getting out of the window. On one side was the door: that formed no part of my mental picture, because it was at my back; but in the photograph it too was indistinct, as if in the very act of being burst open. The details were vague, in part—probably the picture had never been properly focussed;—but the main figures stood out with perfect clearness, and everything in the room was, allowing for the changed point of view, exactly as I remembered it in my persistent mental photograph.
I drew a deep breath.
"That's my Picture," I said, slowly. "But it recalls to me nothing new. I—I don't understand it."
The Inspector stared at me hard once more.
"Do you know," he asked, "how that photograph was produced, and how it came into our possession?"
I trembled violently.
"No, I don't," I answered, reddening. "But—I think it had something to do with the flash like lightning."
The Inspector jumped at those words like a cat upon a mouse.
"Quite right," he cried briskly, as one who at last, after long search, finds a hopeful clue where all seemed hopeless. "It had to do with the flash. The flash produced it. This is a photograph taken by your father's process.... Of course you recollect your father's process?"
He eyed me close. The words, as he spoke them, seemed to call up dimly some faint memory of my pre-natal days—of my First State, as I had learned from the doctors to call it. But his scrutiny made me shrink. I shut my eyes and looked back.
"I think," I said slowly, rummaging my memory half in vain, "I remember something about it. It had something to do with photography, hadn't it?...No, no, with the electric light....I can't exactly remember which. Will you tell me all about it?"
He leaned back in his chair, and, eyeing me all the time with that same watchful glance, began to describe to me in some detail an apparatus which he said my father had devised, for taking instantaneous photographs by the electric light, with a clockwork mechanism. It was an apparatus that let sensitive-plates revolve one after another opposite the lens of a camera; and as each was exposed, the clockwork that moved it produced an electric spark, so as to represent such a series of effects as the successive positions of a horse in trotting. My father, it seemed, was of a scientific turn, and had just perfected this new automatic machine before his sudden death. I listened with breathless interest; for up to that time I had never been allowed to hear anything about my father—anything about the great tragedy with which my second life began. It was wonderful to me even now to be allowed to speak and ask questions on it with anybody. So hedged about had I been all my days with mystery.
As I listened, I saw the Inspector could tell by the answering flash in my eye that his words recalled SOMETHING to me, however vaguely. As he finished, I leant forward, and with a very flushed face, that I could feel myself, I cried, in a burst of recollection:
"Yes, yes. I remember. And the box on the table—the box that's in my mental picture, and is not in the photograph—THAT was the apparatus you've just been describing."
The Inspector turned upon me with a rapidity that fairly took my breath away.
"Well, where are the other ones?" he asked, pouncing down upon me quite fiercely.
"The other WHAT?" I repeated, amazed; for I didn't really understand him.
"Why, the other photographs!" he replied, as if trying to surprise me. "There must have been more, you know. It held six plates. Except for this one, the apparatus, when we found it, was empty."
His manner seemed to crush out the faint spark of recollection that just flickered within me. I collapsed at once. I couldn't stand such brusqueness.
"I don't know what you mean," I answered in despair. "I never saw the plates. I know nothing about them."
THE STORY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS
The Inspector scanned me close for a few minutes in silence. He seemed doubtful, suspicious. At last he made a new move. "I believe you, Miss Callingham," he said, more gently. "I can see this train of thought distresses you too much. But I can see, too, our best chance lies in supplying you with independent clues which you may work out for yourself. You must re-educate your memory. You want to know all about this murder, of course. Well, now, look over these papers. They'll tell you in brief what little we know about it. And they may succeed in striking afresh some resonant chord in your memory."
He handed me a book of pasted newspaper paragraphs, interspersed here and there in red ink with little manuscript notes and comments. I began to read it with profound interest. It was so strange for me thus to learn for the first time the history of my own life; for I was quite ignorant as yet of almost everything about my First State, and my father and mother.
The paragraphs told me the whole story of the crime, as far as it was known to the world, from the very beginning. First of all, in the papers, came the bald announcement that a murder had been committed in a country town in Staffordshire; and that the victim was Mr. Vivian Callingham, a gentleman of means, residing in his own house, The Grange, at Woodbury. Mr. Callingham was the inventor of the acmegraphic process. The servants, said the telegram to the London papers, had heard the sound of a pistol-shot, about half-past eight at night, coming from the direction of Mr. Callingham's library. Aroused by the report, they rushed hastily to the spot, and broke open the door, which was locked from within. As they did so, a horrible sight met their astonished eyes. Mr. Callingham's dead body lay extended on the ground, shot right through the heart, and weltering in its life-blood. Miss Callingham stood by his side, transfixed with horror, and mute in her agony. On the floor lay the pistol that had fired the fatal shot. And just as the servants entered, for one second of time, the murderer who was otherwise wholly unknown, was seen to leap from the window into the shrubbery below. The gardener rushed after him, and jumped down at the same spot. But the murderer had disappeared as if by magic. It was conjectured he must have darted down the road at full speed, vaulted the gate, which was usually locked, and made off at a rapid run for the open country. Up to date of going to press, the Telegraph said, he was still at large and had not been apprehended.
That was the earliest account—bald, simple, unvarnished. Then came mysterious messages from the Central Press about the absence of any clue to identify the stranger. He hadn't entered the house by any regular way, it seemed; unless, indeed, Mr. Callingham had brought him home himself and let him in with the latchkey. None of the servants had opened the door that evening to any suspicious character; not a soul had they seen, nor did any of them know a man was with their master in the library. They heard voices, to be sure—voices, loud at times and angry,—but they supposed it was Mr. Callingham talking with his daughter. Till roused by the fatal pistol-shot, the gardener said, they had no cause for alarm. Even the footmarks the stranger might have left as he leaped from the window were obliterated by the prints of the gardener's boots as he jumped hastily after him. The only person who could cast any light upon the mystery at all was clearly Miss Callingham, who was in the room at the moment. But Miss Callingham's mind was completely unhinged for the present by the nervous shock she had received as her father fell dead before her. They must wait a few days till she recovered consciousness, and then they might confidently hope that the murderer would be identified, or at least so described that the police could track him.
After that, I read the report of the coroner's inquest. The facts there elicited added nothing very new to the general view of the case. Only, the servants remarked on examination, there was a strange smell of chemicals in the room when they entered; and the doctors seemed to suggest that the smell might be that of chloroform, mixed with another very powerful drug known to affect the memory. Miss Callingham's present state, they thought, might thus perhaps in part be accounted for.
You can't imagine how curious it was for me to see myself thus impersonally discussed at such a distance of time, or to learn so long after that for ten days or more I had been the central object of interest to all reading England. My name was bandied about without the slightest reserve. I trembled to see how cavalierly the press had treated me.
As I went on, I began to learn more and more about my father. He had made money in Australia, it was said, and had come to live at Woodbury some fourteen years earlier, where my mother had died when I was a child of four; and some accounts said she was a widow of fortune. My father had been interested in chemistry and photography, it seemed, and had lately completed a new invention, the acmegraph, for taking successive photographs at measured intervals of so many seconds by electric light. He was a grave, stern man, the papers said, more feared than loved by his servants and neighbours; but nobody about was known to have a personal grudge against him. On the contrary, he lived at peace with all men. The motive for the murder remained to the end a complete mystery.
On the second morning of the inquest, however, a curious thing happened. The police, it appeared, had sealed up the room where the murder took place, and allowed nobody to enter it till the inquiry was over. But after the jury came round to view the room, the policeman in charge found the window at the back of the house had been recently opened, and the box with the photographic apparatus had been stolen from the library. Till that moment nobody had attached any importance to the presence of this camera. It hadn't even been opened and examined by the police, who had carefully noted everything else in the library. But as soon as the box was missed strange questions began to be asked and conjecturally answered. The police for the first time then observed that though it was half-past eight at night when the murder occurred, and the lamp was not lighted, the witnesses who burst first into the room described all they saw as if they had seen it clearly. They spoke of things as they would be seen in a very bright light, with absolute definiteness. This set up inquiry, and the result of the inquiry was to bring out the fact, which in the excitement of the moment had escaped the notice of all the servants, that as they entered the room and stared about at the murder, the electric flash of the apparatus was actually in operation. But the scene itself had diverted their attention from the minor matter of the light that showed it.
The Inspector had been watching me narrowly as I read these extracts. When I reached that point, he broke in with a word of explanation.
"Well, that put me on the track, you see," he said, leaning forward once more. "I thought to myself, if the light was acting, then the whole apparatus must necessarily have been at work, and the scene as it took place must have been photographed, act by act and step by step, exactly as it happened. At the time the murderer, whoever he was, can't have known the meaning of the flashes. But later, he must have come to learn in some way what the electric light meant, and must have realised, sooner than we did, that therein the box, in the form of six successive negatives of the stages in the crime, was the evidence that would infallibly convict him of this murder." He stroked his moustache thoughtfully. "And to think, too," he went on with a somewhat sheepish air, "we should have had those photographs there in our power all those days and nights, and have let them in the end slip like that through our fingers! To think he should have found it out sooner than we! To think that an amateur like the murderer should have outwitted us!"
"But how do you know," I cried, "there was ever more than one photograph? How do you know this wasn't the only negative?"
"Because," the Inspector answered quickly, pointing to a figure in the corner of the proof, "do you see that six? Well, that tells the tale. Each plate of the series was numbered so in the apparatus. Number six could only fall into focus after numbers one, and two, and three, and four, and five, had first been photographed. We've only got the last—and least useful for our purpose. There must have been five earlier ones, showing every stage of the crime, if only we'd known it."
I was worked up now to a strange pitch of excitement.
"And how did this one come into your possession?" I asked, all breathless. "If you managed to lay your hands on one, why not on all six of them?"
The Inspector drew a long breath.
"Ah, that's the trouble!" he replied, still gazing at me hard. "You see, it was this way. As soon as we found the camera was missing, we came to the conclusion the murderer must have returned to The Grange to fetch it. But it was a large and heavy box, and the only one of its kind as yet manufactured; so, to carry it away in his hands would no doubt have led to instant detection. I concluded, therefore, the man would take off the box entire, so as to prevent the danger of removing the plates on the spot; and as soon as he reached a place of safety in the shrubbery, he'd fling away the camera, either destroying the incriminating negatives then and there or carrying them off with him. The details of the invention had already been explained to me by your father's instrument-maker, who set up the clockwork for him from his own designs; and I knew that the removal of the plates from the box was a delicate, and to some extent a difficult, operation. So I felt sure they could only have been taken out in a place of comparative safety, not far from the house; and I searched the shrubbery carefully, to find the camera."
"And you found it at last?" I asked, unable to restrain my agitation.
"I found it at last," he answered, "near the far end of the grounds, just flung into the deep grass, behind a clump of lilacs. The camera was there intact, but five plates were missing. The sixth, from which the positive you hold in your hand was taken, had got jammed in the mechanism in the effort to remove it. Evidently the murderer had tried to take out the plates in a very great hurry and with trembling hands, as was not unnatural. He had succeeded with five, when the sixth stuck fast in the groove of the clockwork. Just at that moment, as we judged, either an alarm was raised in the rear, or some panic fear seized on him. Probably the fellow judged right that the most incriminating pictures of all had by that time been removed, and that the last would only show his back, if it included him at all, or if he came into focus. Perhaps he had even been able unconsciously to count the flashes at the moment, and knew that before the sixth flash arrived he was on the ledge of the window. At any rate, he clearly gave up the attempt to remove the sixth, and flung the whole apparatus away from him in a sudden access of horror. We guessed as much both from the appearance of the spot where the grass was trampled down, and the way the angle of the camera was imbedded forcibly in the soft ground of the shrubbery."
"And he got away with the rest!" I exclaimed, following it up like a story, but a story in which I was myself an unconscious character.
"No doubt," the Inspector answered, stroking his chin regretfully. "And what's most annoying of all, we've every reason to suppose the fellow stole the things only a few minutes before we actually missed them. For we saw grounds for supposing he jumped away from the spot, and climbed over the wall at the back, cutting his hands as he went with the bottle-glass on the top to prevent intruders. And what makes us think only a very short time must have elapsed between the removal of the plates and the moment we came upon his tracks is this—the blood from his cut hands was still fresh and wet upon the wall when we found it."
"Then you only just missed him!" I exclaimed. "He got off by the skin of his teeth. It's wonderful, when you were so near, you shouldn't have managed to overtake him! One would have thought you must have been able to track him to earth somehow!"
"One would have thought so," the Inspector answered, rather crestfallen. "But policemen, after all, are human like the rest of us. We missed the one chance that might have led to an arrest. And now, what I want to ask you once more is this: Reflecting over what you've heard and read to-day, do you think you can recollect—a very small matter—whether or not there were SEVERAL distinct flashes?"
I shut my eyes once more, and looked hard into the past. Slowly, as I looked, a sort of dream seemed to come over me. I saw it vaguely now, or thought I saw it. Flash, flash, flash, flash. Then the sound of the pistol. Then the Picture, and the Horror, and the awful blank. I opened my eyes again, and told the Inspector so.
"And once more," he went on, in a very insinuating voice. "Shut your eyes again, and look back upon that day. Can't you remember whether or not, just a moment before, you saw the murderer's face by the light of the flashes?"
I shut my eyes and thought. Again the flashes seemed to stand out clear and distinct. But no detail supervened—no face came back to me. I felt it was useless.
"Impossible!" I said shortly. "It only makes my head swim. I can remember no further."
"I see," the Inspector answered. "It's just as Dr. Wade said. Suggest a fact in your past history, and you may possibly remember it; but ask you to recall anything not suggested or already known, and all seems a mere blank to you! You haven't the faintest idea, then, who the murderer was or what he looked like?"
I rose up before him solemnly, and stared him full in the face. I was wrought up by that time to a perfect pitch of excitement and interest.
"I haven't the faintest idea," I answered, feeling myself a woman at last, and realising my freedom; "I know and remember no more of it than you do. But from this moment forth, I shall not rest until I've found him out and tracked him down, and punished him. I shall never let my head rest in peace on my pillow until I've discovered my father's murderer!"
"That's well," the Inspector said sharply, shutting his notes up to go. "If you persevere in that mind, and do as you say, we shall soon get to the bottom of the Woodbury Mystery!"
And even as he spoke a key turned in the front door. I knew it was Aunt Emma, come in from her marketing.
I BECOME A WOMAN
Aunt Emma burst into the room, all horror and astonishment. She looked at the Inspector for a few seconds in breathless indignation; then she broke out in a tone of fiery remonstrance which fairly surprised me:
"What do you mean by this intrusion, sir? How dare you force your way into my house in my absence? How dare you encourage my servants to disobey my orders? How dare you imperil this young lady's health by coming here to talk with her?"
She turned round to me anxiously. I suppose I was very flushed with excitement and surprise.
"My darling child," she cried, growing pale all at once, "Maria should never have allowed him to come inside the door! You should have stopped upstairs! You should have refused to see him! I shall have you ill again on my hands, as before, after this. He'll have undone all the good the last four years have done for you!"
But I was another woman now. I felt it in a moment.
"Auntie dearest," I answered, moving across to her, and laying my hand on her shoulder to soothe her poor ruffled nerves, "don't be the least alarmed. It's I who'm to blame, and not Maria. I told her to let this gentleman in. He's done me good, not harm. I'm so glad to have been allowed at last to speak freely about it!"
Aunt Emma shook all over, visibly to the naked eye.
"You'll have a relapse, my child!" she exclaimed, half crying, and clinging to me in her terror. "You'll forget all you've learned: you'll go back these four years again!—Leave my house at once, sir! You should never have entered it!"
I stood between them like a statue.
"No, stop here a little longer," I said, waving my hand towards him imperiously. "I haven't yet heard all it's right for me to hear.... Auntie, you mistake. I'm a woman at last. I see what everything means. I'm beginning to remember again. For four years that hateful Picture has haunted me night and day. I could never shut my eyes for a minute without seeing it. I've longed to know what it all meant; but whenever I've asked, I've been repressed like a baby. I'm a baby no longer: I feel myself a woman. What the Inspector here has told me already, half opens my eyes: I must have them opened altogether now. I can't stop at this point. I'm going back to Woodbury."
Aunt Emma clung to me still harder in a perfect agony of passionate terror.
"To Woodbury, my darling!" she cried. "Going back! Oh, Una, it'll kill you!"
"I think not," the Inspector answered, with a very quiet smile. "Miss Callingham has recovered, I venture to say, far more profoundly than you imagine. This repression, our medical adviser tells us, has been bad for her. If she's allowed to visit freely the places connected with her earlier life, it may all return again to her; and the ends of Justice may thus at last be served for us. I notice already one hopeful symptom: Miss Callingham speaks of going back to Woodbury."
Aunt Emma looked up at him, horrified. All her firmness was gone now.
"It's YOU who've put this into her head!" she exclaimed, in a ferment of horror. "She'd never thought of it herself. You've made her do it!"
"On the contrary, auntie," I answered, feeling my ground grow surer under me every moment as I spoke, "this gentleman has never even by the merest hint suggested such an idea to my mind. It occurred to me quite spontaneously. I MUST find out now who was my father's murderer! All the Inspector has told me seems to arouse in my brain some vague, forgotten chords. It brings back to me faint shadows. I feel sure if I went to Woodbury I should remember much more. And then, you must see for yourself, there's another reason, dear, that ought to make me go. Nobody but I ever saw the murderer's face. It's a duty imposed upon me from without, as it were, never to rest again in peace till I've recognised him."
Aunt Emma collapsed into an easy-chair. Her face was deadly pale. Her ringers trembled.
"If you go, Una," she cried, playing nervously with her gloves, "I must go with you too! I must take care of you: I must watch over you!"
I took her quivering hand in mine and stroked it gently. It was a soft and delicate white little hand, all marked inside with curious ragged scars that I'd known and observed ever since I first knew her. I held it in silence for a minute. Somehow I felt our positions were reversed to-day. This interview had suddenly brought out what I know now to be my own natural and inherent character—self-reliant, active, abounding in initiative. For four years I had been as a child in her hands, through mere force of circumstances. My true self came out now and asserted its supremacy.
"No, dear," I said, soothing her cheek; "I shall go alone. I shall try what I can discover and remember myself without any suggestion or explanation from others. I want to find out how things really stand. I shall set to work on my own account to unravel this mystery."
"But how can you manage things by yourself?" Aunt Emma exclaimed, wringing her hands despondently. "A girl of your age! without even a maid! and all alone in the world! I shall be afraid to let you go. Dr. Wade won't allow it."
I drew myself up very straight, and realised the position.
"Aunt Emma," I said plainly, in a decided voice, "I'm a full-grown woman, over twenty-one years of age, mistress of my own acts, and no longer a ward of yours. I can do as I like, and neither Dr. Wade nor anybody else can prevent me. He may ADVICE me not to go: he has no power to ORDER me. I'm my father's heiress, and a person of independent means. I've been a cipher too long. From to-day I take my affairs wholly into my own hands. I 'll go round at once and see your lawyer, your banker, your agent, your tradesmen, and tell them that henceforth I draw my own rents, I receive my own dividends, I pay my own bills, I keep my own banking account. And to-morrow or the next day I set out for Woodbury."
The Inspector turned to Aunt Emma with a demonstrative smile.
"There, you see for. yourself," he said, well pleased, "what this interview has done for her!"
But Aunt Emma only drew back, wrung her hands again in impotent despair, and stared at him blankly like a wounded creature.
The Inspector took up his hat to leave. I followed him out to the door, and shook hands with him cordially. The burden felt lighter on my shoulders already. For four long years that mystery had haunted me day and night, as a thing impenetrable, incomprehensible, not even to be inquired about. The mere sense that I might now begin to ask what it meant seemed to make it immediately less awful and less burdensome to me.
When I returned to the drawing-room, Aunt Emma sat there on the sofa, crying silently, the very picture of misery.
"Una," she said, without even raising her eyes to mine, "the man may have done as he says: he may have restored you your mind again; but what's that to me? He's lost me my child, my darling, my daughter!"
I stooped down and kissed her. Dear, tender-hearted auntie! she had always been very good to me. But I knew I was right, for all that, in becoming a woman,—in asserting my years, my independence, my freedom, my duty. To have shirked it any longer would have been sheer cowardice. So I just kissed her silently, and went up to my own room—to put on my brown hat, and go out to the banker's.
From that moment forth, one fierce desire in life alone possessed me. The brooding mystery that enveloped my life ceased to be passive, and became an active goad, as it were, to push me forward incessantly on my search for the runaway I was the creature of a fixed idea. A fiery energy spurred me on all my time. I was determined now to find out my father's murderer. I was determined to shake off the atmosphere of doubt and forgetfulness. I was determined to recall those first scenes of my life that so eluded my memory.
Yet, strange to say, it was rather a burning curiosity and a deep sense of duty that urged me on, than anything I could properly call affection—still less, revenge or malice. I didn't remember my father as alive at all: the one thing I could recollect about him was the ghastly look of that dead body, stretched at full length on the library floor, with its white beard all dabbled in the red blood that clotted it. It was abstract zeal for the discovery of the truth that alone pushed me on. This search became to me henceforth an end and aim in itself. It stood out, as it were, visibly in the imperative mood: "go here;" "go there;" "do this;" "try that;" "leave no stone unturned anywhere till you've tracked down the murderer!" Those were the voices that now incessantly though inaudibly pursued me.
Next day I spent in preparations for my departure. I would hunt up Woodbury now, though fifty Aunt Emma's held their gentle old faces up in solemn warning against me. The day after that again, I set out on my task. The pull was hard. I had taken my own affairs entirely into my own hands by that time, and had provided myself with money for a long stay at Woodbury. But it was the very first railway journey I could ever remember to have made alone; and I confess, when I found myself seated all by myself in a first-class carriage, with no friend beside me, my resolution for a moment almost broke down again. It was so terrible to feel oneself boxed up there for an hour or two alone, with that awful Picture staring one in the face all the time from every fence and field and wall and hoarding. It obliterated Fry's Cocoa; it fixed itself on the yellow face of Colman's Mustard.
I went by Liverpool Street, and drove across to Paddington. I had never, to my knowledge, been in London before: and it was all so new to me. But Liverpool Street was even newer to me than Paddington, I noticed. A faint sense of familiarity seemed to hang about the Great Western line. And that was not surprising, I thought, as I turned it over; for, of course, in the old days, when we lived at Woodbury, I must often have come down from town that way with my father. Yet I remembered nothing of it all definitely; the most I could say was that I seemed dimly to recollect having been there before—though when or where or how, I hadn't the faintest notion.
I was early at Paddington. The refreshment room somehow failed to attract me. I walked up and down the platform, waiting for my train. As I did so, a boy pasted a poster on a board: it was the contents-sheet of one of the baser little Society papers. Something strange in it caught my eye. I looked again in amazement. Oh, great heavens! what was this in big flaring letters?
"MISS UNA CALLINGHAM AND THE WOODBURY MYSTERY! Is SHE SCREENING THE MURDERER? A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION!"
The words took my breath away. They were too horrible to realise. I positively couldn't speak. I went up to the bookstall, laid down my penny without moving my lips, and took the paper in my hand in tremulous silence.
I dared not open it there and then, I confess. I waited till I was in the train, and on my way to Woodbury.
When I did so, it was worse, even worse than my fears. The article was short, but it was very hateful. It said nothing straight out—the writer had evidently the fear of the law of libel before his eyes as he wrote,—but it hinted and insinuated in a detestable undertone the most vile innuendoes. A Treasury Doctor and a Police Inspector, it said, had lately examined Miss Callingham again, and found her intellect in every respect perfectly normal, except that she couldn't remember the face of her father's murderer. Now, this was odd, because, you see, Miss Callingham was in the room at the moment the shot was fired; and, alone in the world, Miss Callingham had seen the face of the man who fired it. Who was that man? and why was he there, unknown to the servants, in a room with nobody but Mr. Callingham and his daughter? A correspondent (who preferred to guard his incognito) had suggested in this matter some very searching questions: Could the young man—for it was allowed he was young—have been there with Miss Callingham when Mr. Callingham entered? Could he have been on terms of close intimacy with the heroine of The Grange Mystery, who was a young lady—as all the world knew from her photographs—of great personal attractiveness, and who was also the heiress to a considerable property? Could he have been there, then, by appointment, without the father's knowledge? Was this the common case of a clandestine assignation? Could the father have returned to the house unexpectedly, at an inopportune moment, and found his daughter there, closeted with a stranger—perhaps with a man who had already, for sufficient grounds, been forbidden the premises? Such things might be, in this world that we live in: he would be a bold man who would deny them categorically. Could an altercation have arisen on the father's return, and the fatal shot have been fired in the ensuing scuffle? And could the young lady then have feigned this curious relapse into that Second State we had all heard so much about, for no other reason than to avoid giving evidence at a trial for murder against her guilty lover?
These were suggestions that deserved the closest consideration of the Authorities charged with the repression of crime. Was it not high time that the inquest on Mr. Callingham's body should be formally reopened, and that the young lady, now restored (as we gathered) to her own seven senses, should be closely interrogated by trained legal cross-examiners?
I laid down the paper with a burning face. I learned now, for the first time, how closely my case had been watched, how eagerly my every act and word had been canvassed. It was hateful to think of my photograph having been exposed in every London shop-window, and of anonymous slanderers being permitted to indite such scandal as this about an innocent woman. But, at any rate, it had the effect of sealing my fate. If I meant even before to probe this mystery to the bottom, I felt now no other course was possibly open to me. For the sake of my own credit, for the sake of my own good fame, I must find out and punish my father's murderer.
RELIVING MY LIFE
Often, as you walk down a street, a man or woman passes you by. You look up at them and say to yourself, "I seem to know that face"; but you can put no name to it, attach to it no definite idea, no associations of any sort. That was just how Woodbury struck me when I first came back to it. The houses, the streets, the people, were in a way familiar; yet I could no more have found my way alone from the station to The Grange than I could find my way alone from here to Kamschatka.
So I drove up first in search of lodgings. At the station even several people had bowed or shaken hands with me respectfully as I descended from the train. They came up as if they thought I must recognise them at once: there was recognition in their eyes; but when they met my blank stare, they seemed to remember all about it, and merely murmured in strange tones:
"Good-morning, miss! So you're here: glad to see you've come back again at last to Woodbury."
This reception dazzled me. It was so strange, so uncanny. I was glad to get away in a fly by myself, and to be driven to lodgings in the clean little High Street. For to me, it wasn't really "coming back" at all: it was coming to a strange town, where everyone knew me, and I knew nobody.
"You'd like to go to Jane's, of course," the driver said to me with a friendly nod as he reached the High Street: and not liking to confess my forgetfulness of Jane, I responded with warmth that Jane's would, no doubt, exactly suit me.
We drew up at the door of a neat little house. The driver rang the bell.
"Miss Una's here," he said, confidentially; "and she's looking for lodgings."
It was inexpressibly strange and weird to me, this one-sided recognition, this unfamiliar familiarity: it gave me a queer thrill of the supernatural that I can hardly express to you. But I didn't know what to do, when a kindly-faced, middle-aged English upper-class servant rushed out at me, open-armed, and hugging me hard to her breast, exclaimed with many loud kisses:
"Miss Una, Miss Una! So it's YOU, dear; so it is! Then you've come back at last to us!"
I could hardly imagine what to say or do. The utmost I could assert with truth was, Jane's face wasn't exactly and entirely in all ways unfamiliar to me. Yet I could see Jane herself was so unfeignedly delighted to see me again, that I hadn't the heart to confess I'd forgotten her very existence. So I took her two hands in mine— since friendliness begets friendliness—and holding her off a little way, for fear the kisses should be repeated, I said to her very gravely:
"You see, Jane, since those days I've had a terrible shock, and you can hardly expect me to remember anything. It's all like a dream to me. You must forgive me if I don't recall it just at once as I ought to do."
"Oh! yes, miss," Jane answered, holding my hands in her delight and weeping volubly. "We've read about all that, of course, in the London newspapers. But there, I'm glad anyhow you remembered to come and look for my lodgings. I think I should just have sat down and cried if they told me Miss Una'd come back to Woodbury, and never so much as asked to see me."
I don't think I ever felt so like a hypocrite in my life before. But I realised at least that even if Jane's lodgings were discomfort embodied, I must take them and stop in them, while I remained there, now. Nothing else was possible. I COULDN'T go elsewhere.
Fortunately, however, the rooms turned out to be as neat as a new pin, and as admirably kept as any woman in England could keep them. I gathered from the very first, of course, that Jane had been one of the servants at The Grange in the days of my First State; and while I drank my cup of tea, Jane herself came in and talked volubly to me, disclosing to me, parenthetically, the further fact that she was the parlour-maid at the time of my father's murder. That gave me a clue to her identity. Then she was the witness Greenfield who gave evidence at the inquest! I made a mental note of that, and determined to look up what she'd said to the coroner, in the book of extracts the Inspector gave me, as soon as I got alone in my bedroom that evening.
After dinner, however, Jane came in again, with the freedom of an old servant, and talked to me much about the Woodbury Mystery. Gradually, as time went on that night, though I remembered nothing definite of myself about her, the sense of familiarity and friendliness came home to me more vividly. The appropriate emotion seemed easier to rouse, I observed, than the intellectual memory. I knew Jane and I had been on very good terms, some time, somewhere. I talked with her easily, for I had a consciousness of companionship.
By-and-by, without revealing to her how little I could recollect about her own personality, I confessed to Jane, by slow degrees, that the whole past was still gone utterly from my shattered memory. I told her I knew nothing except the Picture and the facts it comprised; and to show her just how small that knowledge really was, I showed her (imprudently enough) the photograph the Inspector had left with me.
Jane looked at it long and slowly, with tears in her eyes. Then she said at last, after a deep pause, in a very hushed voice:
"Why, how did you get this? It wasn't put in the papers."
"No," I answered quietly, "it wasn't put in the papers. For reasons of their own, the police kept it unpublished."
Jane gazed at the proof still closer. "They oughtn't to have done that," she said.
"They ought to have sent it out everywhere broadcast—so that anybody who knew the man could tell him by his back."
That seemed to me such obvious good sense that I wondered to myself the police hadn't thought long since of it; but I supposed they had some good ground of their own for holding it all this time in their own possession.
Jane went on talking to me still for many minutes about the scene:
"Ah, yes; that was just how he lay, poor dear gentleman! And the book on the chair, too! Well, did you ever in your life see anything so like! And to think it was taken all by itself, as one might say, by magic. But there! your poor papa was a wonderful clever man. Such things as he used to invent! Such ideas and such machines! We were sorry for him, though we always thought, to be sure, he was dreadful severe with you, Miss Una. Such a gentleman to have his own way, too —so cold and reserved like. But one mustn't talk nothing but good about the dead, they say. And if he was a bit hard, he was more than hard treated for it in the end, poor gentleman!"
It interested me to get these half side-lights on my father's character. Knowing nothing of him, as I did, save the solitary fact that he was the white-haired gentleman I saw dead in my Picture, I naturally wanted to learn as much as I could from this old servant of ours as to the family conditions.
"Then you thought him harsh, in the servants'-hall?" I said tentatively to Jane. "You thought him hard and unbending?"
"Well, there, Miss," Jane ran on, putting a cushion to my back tenderly—it was strange to be the recipient of so much delicate attention from a perfect stranger,—"not exactly what you'd call harsh to us ourselves, you know: he was a good master enough, as long as one did what was ordered, though he was a little bit fidgetty. But to you, we all thought he was always rather hard. People said so in Woodbury. And yet, in a way, I don't know how it was, he always seemed more'n half afraid of you. He was careful about your health, and spoiled and petted you for that; yet he was always pulling you up, you know, and looking after what you did: and for one thing, I remember, there's many a time you were sent to bed when you were a good big girl for nothing on earth else but because he heard you talking to us in the hall about Australia."
"Talking to you about Australia!" I cried, pricking my ears. "Why, what harm was there in that? Why on earth didn't he want me to talk about Australia?"
"Ah! what harm indeed?" Jane echoed blandly. "That's what we often used to say among ourselves downstairs. But Mr. Callingham, he was always that way, miss—so strict and particular. He said he'd forbidden you to say a word to anybody about that confounded country; and you must do as you were told. He seemed to have a grudge against Australia, though it was there he made his money. And he always would have his own way, your father would."
While she spoke, I looked hard at the white head in the photograph. Even as I did so, a thought occurred to me that had never occurred before. Both in my mental Picture, and in looking at the photograph when I saw it first, the feeling that was uppermost in my mind was not sorrow, but horror. I didn't think with affection and regret and a deep sense of bereavement about my father's murder. The emotional accompaniment that had stamped itself upon the very fibre of my soul, was not pain but awe. I think my main feeling was a feeling that a foul crime had taken place in the house, not a feeling that I had lost a very dear and near relative. Rightly or wrongly, I drew from this the inference, which Jane's gossip confirmed, that I had probably rather feared than loved my father.
It was strange to be reduced to such indirect evidence on such a point as that; but it was all I could get, and I had to be content with it.
Jane, leaning over my shoulder, looked hard at the photograph too. I could see her eyes were fixed on the back of the man who was seen disappearing through the open window. He was dressed like a gentleman, in knickerbockers and jacket, as far as one could judge; for the evening light rather blurred that part of the picture. One hand was just waved, palm open, behind him. Jane regarded it hard. Then she gave an odd little start:
"Why, just look at that hand!" she cried, with a tremor of surprise. "Don't you see what it is? Don't you think it's a woman's?"
I gazed back at her incredulously.
"Impossible," I answered, shaking my head. "It belongs as clear as day to the man you see in the photograph. How on earth could his hand be a woman's then, I'd like to know? I can see the shirt-cuff."
"Why, yes," Jane answered, with simple common-sense: "it's DRESSED like a man, of course, and it's a man to look at; but the hand's a woman's, as true as I'm standing here. Why mightn't a woman dress in a man's suit on purpose? And perhaps it was just because they were so sure it was a man as did it, that the police has gone wrong so long in trying to find the murderer."
I looked hard at the hand myself. Then I shut my eyes, and thought of the corresponding object in my mental Picture. The result fairly staggered me. The impression in each case was exactly the same. It was a soft and delicate hand, very white and womanlike. But was it really a woman's? I couldn't feel quite sure in my own mind about that; but the very warning Jane gave me seemed to me a most useful one. It would be well, after all, to keep one's mind sedulously open to every possible explanation, and to take nothing for granted as to the murderer's personality.
THE GRANGE AT WOODBURY
I stopped for three weeks in Jane's lodgings; and before the end of that time, Jane and I had got upon the most intimate footing. It was partly her kindliness that endeared her to me, and her constant sense of continuity with the earlier days which I had quite forgotten; but it was partly too, I felt sure, a vague revival within my own breast of a familiarity that had long ago subsisted between us. I was coming to myself again, on one side of my nature. Day by day I grew more certain that while facts had passed away from me, appropriate emotions remained vaguely present. Among the Woodbury people that I met, I recognised none to say that I knew them; but I knew almost at first sight that I liked this one and disliked that one. And in every case alike, when I talked the matter over afterwards with Jane, she confirmed my suspicion that in my First State I had liked or disliked just those persons respectively. My brain was upset, but my heart remained precisely the same as ever.
On my second morning I went up to The Grange with her. The house was still unlet. Since the day of the murder, nobody cared to live in it. The garden and shrubbery had been sadly neglected: Jane took me out of the way as we walked up the path, to show me the place where the photographic apparatus had been found embedded in the grass, and where the murderer had cut his hands getting over the wall in his frantic agitation. The wall was pretty high and protected with bottle-glass. I guessed he must have been tall to scramble over it. That seemed to tell against Jane's crude idea that a woman might have done it.
But when I said so to Jane, she met me at once with the crushing reply: "Perhaps it wasn't the same person that came back for the box." I saw she was right again. I had jumped at a conclusion. In cases like this, one must leave no hypothesis untried, jump at no conclusions of any sort. Clearly, that woman ought to have been made a detective.
As I entered the house the weird sense of familiarity that pursued me throughout rose to a very high pitch. I couldn't fairly say, indeed, that I remembered the different rooms. All I could say with certainty was that I had seen them before. To this there were three exceptions—the three that belonged to my Second State—the library, my bedroom, and the hall and staircase. The first was indelibly printed on my memory as a component part of the Picture, and I found my recollection of every object in the room almost startling in its correctness. Only, there was an alcove on one side that I'd quite forgotten, and I saw why most clearly. I stood with my back to it as I looked at the Picture. The other two bits I remembered as the room in which I had had my first great illness, and the passage down which I had been carried or helped when I was taken to Aunt Emma's.
I had begun to recognise now that the emotional impression made upon me by people and things was the only sure guide I still possessed as to their connection or association with my past history. And the rooms at The Grange had each in this way some distinctive characteristic. The library, of course, was the chief home of the Horror which had hung upon my spirit even during the days when I hardly knew in any intelligible sense the cause of it. But the drawing-room and dining-room both produced upon my mind a vague consciousness of constraint. I was dimly aware of being ill at ease and uncomfortable in them. My own bedroom, on the contrary, gave me a pleasant feeling of rest and freedom and security: while the servants'-hall and the kitchen seemed perfect paradises of liberty.
"Ah! many's the time, miss," Jane said with a sigh, looking over at the empty grate, "you'd come down here to make cakes or puddings, and laugh and joke like a child with Mary an' me. I often used to say to Emily—her as was cook here before Ellen Smith,—'Miss Una's never so happy as when she's down here in the kitchen.' And 'That's true what you say,' says Emily to me, many a time and often."
That was exactly the impression left upon my own mind. I began to conclude, in a dim, formless way, that my father must have been a somewhat stern and unsympathetic man; that I had felt constrained and uncomfortable in his presence upstairs, and had often been pleased to get away from his eye to the comparative liberty and ease of my own room or of the maid-servants' quarters.
At last, in the big attic that had once been the nursery, I paused and looked at Jane. A queer sensation came over me.
"Jane," I said slowly, hardly liking to frame the words, "there's something strange about this room. He wasn't cruel to me, was he?"
"Oh! no, miss," Jane answered promptly. "He wasn't never what you might call exactly cruel. He was a very good father, and looked after you well; but he was sort of stern and moody-like—would have his own way, and didn't pay no attention to fads and fancies, he called 'em. When you were little, many's the time he sent you up here for punishment—disobedience and such like."
I took out the photograph and tried, as it were, to think of my father as alive and with his eyes open. I couldn't remember the eyes. Jane told me they were blue; but I think what she said was the sort of impression the face produced upon me. A man not unjust or harsh in his dealings with myself, but very strong and masterful. A man who would have his own way in spite of anybody. A father who ruled his daughter as a vessel of his making, to be done as he would with, and be moulded to his fashion.
Still, my visit to The Grange resulted in the end in casting very little light upon the problem before me. It pained and distressed me greatly, but it brought no new elements of the case into view: at best, it only familiarised me with the scene of action of the tragedy. The presence of the alcove was the one fresh feature. Nothing recalled to me as yet in any way the murderer's features. I racked my brain in vain; no fresh image came up in it. I could recollect nothing about the man or his antecedents.
I almost began to doubt that I would ever succeed in reconstructing my past, when even the sight of the home in which I had spent my childish days suggested so few new thoughts or ideas to me.
For a day or two after that I rested at Jane's, lest I should disturb my brain too much. Then I called once more on the doctor who had made the post mortem on my father, and given evidence at the inquest, to see if anything he could say might recall my lapsed memory.
The moment he came into the room—a man about fifty, close-shaven and kindly-looking—I recognised him at once, and held out my hand to him frankly. He surveyed me from head to foot with a good medical stare, and then wrung my hand in return with extraordinary warmth and effusion. I could see at once he retained a most pleasing recollection of my First State, and was really glad to see me.
"What, you remember me then, Una!" he cried, with quite fatherly delight. "You haven't forgotten me, my dear, as you've forgotten all the rest, haven't you?"
It was startling to be called by one's Christian name like that, and by a complete stranger, too; but I was getting quite accustomed now to these little incongruities.
"Oh, yes; I remember you perfectly," I answered, half-grieved to distress him, "though I shouldn't have known your name, and didn't expect to see you. You're the doctor who attended me in my first great illness—the illness with which my present life began—just after the murder."
He drew back, a little crestfallen.
"Then that's all you recollect, is it?" he asked. "You don't remember me before, dear? Not Dr. Marten, who used to take you on his knee when you were a tiny little girl, and bring you lollipops from town, to the great detriment of your digestion, and get into rows with your poor father for indulging you and spoiling you? You must surely remember me?"
I shook my head slowly. I was sorry to disappoint him; but it was necessary before all things to get at the bare truth.
"I'm afraid not," I answered. "Do please forgive me! You must have read in the papers, like everybody else, of the very great change that has so long come over me. Bear in mind, I can't remember anything at all that occurred before the murder. That first illness is to me the earliest recollection of childhood."
He gazed across at me compassionately.
"My poor child," he said in a low voice, like a very affectionate friend, "it's much better so. You have been mercifully spared a great deal of pain. Una, when I first saw you at The Grange after your father's death, I thanked heaven you had been so seized. I thanked heaven the world had become suddenly a blank to you. I prayed hard you might never recover your senses again, or at least your memory. And now that you're slowly returned to life once more, against all hope or fear, I'm heartily glad it's in this peculiar way. I'm heartily glad all the past's blotted out for you. You can't understand that, my child? Ah, no, very likely not. But I think it's much best for you, all your first life should be wholly forgotten." He paused for a second. Then he added slowly: "If you remembered it all, the sense of the tragedy would be far more acute and poignant even than at present."
"Perhaps so," I said resolutely; "but not the sense of mystery. It's THAT that appals me so! I'd rather know the truth than be so wrapped up in the incomprehensible."
He looked at me pityingly once more.
"My poor child," he said, in the same gentle and fatherly voice, "you don't wholly understand. It doesn't all come home to you. I can see clearly, from what Inspector Wolferstan told me, after his visit to you the other day—"
I broke in, in surprise.
"Inspector Wolferstan!" I cried. "Then he came down here to see you, did he?"
It was horrible to find how all my movements were discussed and chronicled.
"Yes, he came down here to see me and talk things over," Dr. Marten went on, as calmly as if it were mere matter of course. "And I could see from what he said you were still spared much. For instance, you remember it all only as an event that happened to an old man with a long white beard. You don't fully realise, except intellectually, that it was your own father. You're saved, as a daughter, the misery and horror of thinking and feeling it was your father who lay dead there."
"That's quite true," I answered. "I admit that I can't feel it all as deeply as I ought. But none the less, I've come down here to make a violent effort. Let it cost what it may, I must get at the truth. I wanted to see whether the sight of The Grange and of Woodbury may help me to recall the lost scenes in my memory."
To my immense surprise, Dr. Marten rose from his seat, and standing up before me in a perfect agony of what seemed like terror, half mixed with affection, exclaimed in a very earnest and resolute voice:
"Oh, Una, my child, whatever you do—I beg of you—I implore you—don't try to recall the past at all! Don't attempt it! Don't dream of it!"
"Why not?" I cried, astonished. "Surely it's my duty to try and find out my father's murderer!"
Instead of answering me, he looked about him for half a minute in suspense, as if doubtful what next to do or to say. Then he walked across with great deliberation to the door of the room, and locked and double-locked it with furtive alarm, as I interpreted his action.
So terrified did he seem, indeed, that for a moment the idea occurred to me in a very vague way—Was I talking with the murderer? Had the man who himself committed the crime conducted the post mortem, and put Justice off the scent? And was I now practically at the mercy of the criminal I was trying to track down? The thought for a second or two made me feel terribly uncomfortable. But I glanced at his back and at his hands, and reassured myself. That broad, short man was not the slim figure of my Picture and of the photograph. Those large red hands were not the originals of the small and delicate white palm just displayed at the back in both those strange documents of the mysterious murder.
The doctor came over again, and drew his chair close to mine.
"Una, my child," he said slowly, "I love you very much, as if you were my own daughter. I always loved you and admired you, and was sorry—oh, so sorry!—for you. You've quite forgotten who I am; but I've not forgotten you. Take what I say as coming from an old friend, from one who loves you and has your interest at heart. For heaven's sake, I implore you, my child, make no more inquiries. Try to forget—not to remember. If you do recollect, you'll be sorry in the end for it."
"Why so?" I asked, amazed, yet somehow feeling in my heart I could trust him implicitly. "Why should the knowledge of the true circumstances of the case make me more unhappy than I am at present?"
He gazed harder at me than ever.
"Because," he replied in slow tones, weighing each word as he spoke, "you may find that the murder was committed by some person or persons you love or once loved very much indeed. You may find it will rend your very heart-strings to see that person or those persons punished. You may find the circumstances were wholly otherwise than you imagine them to be.... Let sleeping dogs lie, my dear. Without your aid, nothing more can be done. Don't trouble yourself to put the blood-hounds on the track of some unhappy creature who might otherwise escape. Don't rake it all up afresh. Bury it—bury it—bury it!"