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- Recalled to Life - 10/30 -


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!"

He spoke so earnestly that he filled me with vague alarm.

"Dr. Marten," I said solemnly, "answer me just one question. Do you know who was the murderer?"

"No, no!" he exclaimed, starting once more. "Thank heaven, I can't tell you that! I don't know. I know nothing. Nobody on earth knows but the two who were present on the night of the murder, I feel sure. And of those two, one's unknown, and the other has forgotten."

"But you suspect who he is?" I put in, probing the secret curiously.

He trembled visibly.

"I suspect who he is," he replied, after a moment's hesitation. "But I have never communicated, and will never communicate, my suspicions to anybody, not even to you. I will only say this: the person whom I suspect is one with whom you may now have forgotten all your past relations, but whom you would be sorry to punish if you recovered your memory. I formed a strong opinion at the time who that person was. I formed it from the nature and disposition of the wound, and the arrangement of the objects in the room when I was called in to see your father's body."

"And you never said so at the inquest!" I cried, indignant.

He looked at me hard again. Then he spoke in a very slow and earnest voice:

"For your sake, Una, and for the sake of your affections, I held my peace," he said. "My dear, the suspicion was but a very slender one: I had nothing to go upon. And why should I have tried to destroy your happiness?"

That horrible article in the penny Society paper came back to my mind once more with hideous suggestiveness. I turned to him almost fiercely.

"So far as you know, Dr. Marten," I asked, "was I ever in love? Had I ever an admirer? Was I ever engaged to anyone?"

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled a sort of smile of relief.

"How should I know?" he answered. "Admirers?--yes, dozens of them; I was one myself. Lovers?--who can say? But I advise you not to push the inquiry further."

I questioned him some minutes longer, but could get nothing more from him. Then I rose to go.

"Dr. Marten," I said firmly, "if I remember all, and if it wrings my heart to remember, I tell you I will give up that man to justice all the same! I think I know myself well enough to know this much at least, that I never, never could stoop either to love or to screen a man who could commit such a foul and dastardly crime as this one."

He took my hand fervently, raised it with warmth to his lips and kissed it twice over.

"My dear," he said, with tears dropping down his gentle old cheeks, "this is a very great mystery--a terrible mystery. But I know you speak the truth. I can see you mean it. Therefore, all the more earnestly do I beg and beseech you, go away from Woodbury at once, and as long as you live think no more about it."

CHAPTER VIII.

A VISION OF DEAD YEARS

The interview with Dr. Marten left me very much disquieted. But it wasn't the only disquieting thing that occurred at Woodbury. Before I left the place I happened to go one day into Jane's own little sitting-room. Jane was anxious I should see it--she wanted me to know all her house, she said, for the sake of old times: and for the sake of those old times that I couldn't remember, but when I knew she'd been kind to me, I went in and looked at it.

There was nothing very peculiar about Jane's little sitting-room: just the ordinary English landlady's parlour. You know the type:--square table in the middle; bright blue vases on the mantelpiece; chromo-lithograph from the Illustrated London News on the wall; rickety whatnot with glass-shaded wax-flowers in the recess by the window. But over in one corner I chanced to observe a framed photograph of early execution, which hung faded and dim there. Perhaps it was because my father was such a scientific amateur; but photography, I found out in time, struck the key-note of my history in every chapter. I didn't know why, but this particular picture attracted me strangely. It came from The Grange, Jane told me: she'd hunted it out in the attic over the front bedroom after the house was shut up. It belonged to a lot of my father's early attempts that were locked in a box there. "He'd always been trying experiments and things," she said, "with photography, poor gentleman."

Faded and dim as it was, the picture riveted my eyes at once by some unknown power of attraction. I gazed at it long and earnestly. It represented a house of colonial aspect, square, wood-built, and verandah-girt, standing alone among strange trees whose very names and aspects were then unfamiliar to me, but which I nowadays know to be Australian eucalyptuses. On the steps of the verandah sat a lady in deep mourning. A child played by her side, and a collie dog lay curled up still and sleepy in the foreground. The child, indeed, stirred no chord of any sort in my troubled brain; but my heart came up into my mouth so at sight of the lady, that I said to myself all at once in my awe, "That must surely be my mother!"

The longer I looked at it, the more was I convinced I must have judged aright. Not indeed that in any true sense I could say I remembered her face or figure: I was so young when she died, according to everybody's account, that even if I'd remained in my First State I could hardly have retained any vivid recollection of her. But both lady and house brought up in me once more to some vague degree that strange consciousness of familiarity I had noticed at The Grange: and what was odder still, the sense of wont seemed even more marked in the Australian cottage than in the case of the house which all probability would have inclined one beforehand to think I must have remembered better. If this was indeed my earliest home, then I seemed to recollect it far more readily than my later one.

I turned trembling to Jane, hardly daring to frame the question that rose first to my lips.

"Is that--my mother?" I faltered out slowly.

But there Jane couldn't help me. She'd never seen the lady, she said.

"When first I come to The Grange, miss, you see, your mother'd been buried a year; there was only you and Mr. Callingham in family. And I never saw that photograph, neither, till I picked it out of the box locked up in the attic. The little girl might be you, like enough, when you look at it sideways; and yet again it mightn't. But the lady I don't know. I never saw your mother."

So I was fain to content myself with pure conjecture.

All day long, however, the new picture haunted me almost as persistently as the old one.

That night I went to sleep fast, and slept for some hours heavily. I woke with a start. I had been dreaming very hard. And my dream was peculiarly clear and lifelike. Never since the first night of my new life--the night of the murder--had I dreamed such a dream, or seen dead objects so vividly. It came out in clear colours, like the terrible Picture that had haunted me so long. And it affected me strangely. It was a scene, rather than a dream--a scene, as at the theatre; but a scene in which I realised and recognised everything.

I stood on the steps of a house--a white wooden house, with a green-painted verandah--the very house I had seen that afternoon in the faded photograph in Jane's little sitting-room. But I didn't think of it at first as the house in the old picture: I thought of it as home--our own place--the cottage. The steps seemed to me very high, as in childish recollection. A lady walked about on the verandah and called to me: a lady in a white gown, like the lady in the photograph, only younger and prettier, and dressed much more daintily. But I didn't think of her as that either: I called her mamma to myself: I looked up into her face, oh, ever so much above me: I must have been very small indeed when that picture first occurred to me. There was a gentleman, too, in a white linen coat, who pinched my mamma's ear, and talked softly and musically. But I didn't think of him quite so: I knew he was my papa: I played about his knees, a little scampering child, and looked up in his face, and teased him and laughed at him. My papa looked down at me, and called me a little kitten, and rolled me over on my back, and fondled me and laughed with me. There were trees growing all about, big trees with long grey leaves: the same sort of trees as the ones in the photograph. But I didn't remember that at first: in my dream, and in the first few minutes of my waking thought, I knew them at once as the big blue-gum-trees.

I awoke in the midst of it: and the picture persisted.

Then, with a sudden burst of intuition, the truth flashed upon me all at once. My dream was no mere dream, but a revelation in my sleep. It was my intellect working unconsciously and spontaneously in an automatic condition. For the very first time in my life, since the night of the murder, I had really REMEMBERED something that occurred before it.

This was a scene of my First State. In all probability it was my earliest true childish recollection.


Recalled to Life - 10/30

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