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- Recalled to Life - 4/30 -
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
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