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- Recalled to Life - 3/30 -
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
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