Chapter XII. The Moores of Torquay

Strange to say, in spite of everything, my sleep refreshed me. I woke up in the morning strong and vigorous--thank goodness, I have physically a magnificent constitution--and packed my box, with Jane's help, for my Torquay expedition.

I went up to London and down to Torquay alone, though Jane offered to accompany me. I was learning to be self-reliant. It suited my plans better. Nobody could bear this burden for me but myself; and the sooner I learnt to bear it my own way, the happier for me.

At Torquay station, to my great surprise, a fresh-looking girl of my own age rushed up to me suddenly, and kissed me without one word of warning. She was a very pretty girl, pink-cheeked and hazel-eyed: and as she kissed me, she seized both my hands in hers, and cried out to me frankly:

"Why, there you are, Una dear! Cousin Emma telegraphed us what train you'd arrive by; so I've driven down to meet you. And now, you're coming up with us this very minute in the pony-carriage."

"You're Minnie Moore, I suppose?" I said, gazing at her admiringly. Her sweet, frank smile and apple-blossom cheek somehow inspired me with confidence.

She looked back at me quite distressed. Tears rose at once into her eyes with true Celtic suddenness.

"Oh, Una," she cried, deeply hurt and drawing back into her shell, "don't tell me you don't know me! Why, I'm Minnie! Minnie!"

My heart went out to her at once. I took her hand in mine again.

"Minnie dear," I said softly, quite remorseful for my mistake, "you must remember what has happened to me, and not be angry. I've forgotten everything, even my own past life. I've forgotten that I ever before set eyes upon you. But, my dear, there's one thing I've not in a way forgotten; and that is, that I loved you and love you dearly. And I 'll give you a proof of it. When I started, I knew none of you; and I told Aunt Emma I wouldn't go among strangers. The moment I see you, I know you're no stranger, but a very dear cousin. When I've forgotten myself, how can I remember you? But I'll go up with you at once. And I'll countermand the room I ordered by telegram at the Imperial."

The tears stood fuller in Minnie's eyes than before. She clasped my hand hard. Her pretty lips trembled.

"Una darling," she said, "we always were friends, and we always shall be. If you love me, that's all. You're a darling. I love you."

I looked at her sweet face, and knew it was true. And oh, I was so glad to have a new friend--an old friend, already! For somehow, as always, while the intellectual recollection had faded, the emotion survived. I felt as if I'd known Minnie Moore for years, though I never remembered to have seen her in my life till that minute.

Well, I remained at the Moores' for a week, and felt quite at home there. They were all very nice, Cousin Willie, and Aunt Emily (she made me call her aunt; she said I'd always done so), and Minnie, and all of them. They were really dear people; and blood, after all, is thicker than water. But I made no haste to push inquiries just at first. I preferred to feel my way. I wanted to find out what they knew, if anything, about Berry Pomeroy.

The first time I ventured to mention the subject to Minnie, she gave a very queer smile--a smile of maidenly badinage.

"Well, you remember that, any way," she said, in a teasing little way, looking down at me and laughing. "I thought you'd remember that. I must say you enjoyed yourself wonderfully at Berry Pomeroy!"

"Remember what?" I cried, all eagerness; for I saw she attached some special importance to the recollection. And yet, it was terrible she should jest about the clue to my father's murderer!

Minnie looked arch. When she looked arch, she was charming.

"Why, I never saw you prettier or more engaging in your life than you were that day," she said evasively, as if trying to pique me. "And you flirted so much, too! And everybody admired you so. Everybody on the grounds... especially one person!"

I looked up at her in surprise. I was in my own room, seated by the dressing-table, late at night, when we'd gone up to bed; and Minnie was beside me, standing up, with her bedroom candle in that pretty white little hand of hers.

"What do you mean?" I exclaimed eagerly. "Was it a dance--or a picnic?"

"Oh, you know very well," Minnie went on teasingly, "though you pretend you forget. He was there, don't you know. You must remember him, if you've forgotten all the rest of your previous life. You say you remember the appropriate emotions. Well, he was an emotion: at least, you thought so. It was an Athletic Club Meeting: and Dr. Ivor was there. He went across on his bicycle."

I gave a start of surprise. Minnie looked down at me half maliciously.

"There, you see," she said archly again, "at Dr. Ivor you change colour. I told you you'd remember him!"

I grew pale with astonishment.

"Minnie dear," I said, holding her hands very tight in my own, "it wasn't that, I assure you. I've forgotten him, utterly. If ever I knew a Dr. Ivor, if ever I flirted with him, as you seem to imply, he's gone clean out of my head. His name stirs no chord--recalls absolutely nothing. But I want to know about that Athletic Meeting. Was my poor father there that day? And did he take a set of photographs?"

Minnie clapped her hands triumphantly.

"I knew you remembered!" she cried. "Of course, Cousin Vivian was there. We drove over in a break. You must remember that. And he took a whole lot of instantaneous photographs."

My hand trembled violently in my cousin's. I felt I was now on the very eve of a great discovery.

"Minnie," I said, tentatively, "do you think your papa would drive us over some day and--and show us the place again?"

"Of course he would, dear," Minnie answered, with a gentle pressure of my hand. "He'd be only too delighted. Whatever you choose. You know you were always such a favourite of daddy's."

I knew nothing of the sort; but I was glad to learn it. I drew Minnie out a little more about the Athletics and my visit to Berry Pomeroy. She wouldn't tell me much: she was too illusive and indefinite: she never could get the notion out of her head, somehow, that I remembered all about it, and was only pretending to forgetfulness. But I gathered from what she said, that Dr. Ivor and I must have flirted a great deal; or, at least, that he must have paid me a good lot of attention. My father didn't like it, Minnie said; he thought Dr. Ivor wasn't well enough off to marry me. He was a distant cousin of ours, of course--everything was always "of course" with that dear bright Minnie--what, didn't I know that? Oh, yes, his mother was one of the Moores of Barnstaple, cousin Edward's people. His name was Courtenay Moore Ivor, you know--though I knew nothing of the sort. And he was awfully clever. And, oh, so handsome!

"Is he at Berry Pomeroy still?" I asked, trembling, thinking this would be a good person to get information from about the people at the Athletic Sports.

"Oh dear, no," Minnie answered, looking hard at me, curiously. "He was never at Berry Pomeroy. He had a practice at Babbicombe. He's in Canada now, you know. He went over six months after Cousin Vivian's death. I think, dear,"--she hesitated,--"he never quite got over your entirely forgetting him, even if you forgot your whole past history."

This was a curious romance to me, that Minnie thus sprang on me--a romance of my own past life of which I myself knew nothing.

We sat late talking, and I could see Minnie was very full indeed of Dr. Ivor. Over and over again she recurred to his name, and always as though she thought it might rouse some latent chord in my memory. But nothing came of it. If ever I had cared for Dr. Ivor at all, that feeling had passed away utterly with the rest of my experiences.

When Minnie rose to go, I took her hand once more in mine. As I did so, I started. Something about it seemed strangely familiar. I looked at it close with a keen glance. Why, this was curious! It was Aunt Emma's hand: it was my mother's hand: it was the hand in my mental Picture: it was the hand of the murderer!

"It's just like auntie's," I said with an effort, seeing Minnie noticed my start.

She looked at it and laughed.

"The Moore hand," she said gaily. "We all have it, except you. It's awfully persistent."

I turned it over in front and examined the palm. At sight of it my brain reeled. This was surely magic! Minnie Moore's hand, too, was scarred over with cuts, exactly like Aunt Emma's!"

"Why, how on earth did you do that?" I cried, thunderstruck at the discovery.

But Minnie only laughed again, a bright girlish laugh.

"Climbing over that beastly wall at The Grange," she said with a merry look. "Oh, what fun we did have! We climbed it together. We were dreadful tomboys in those days, dear, you and I: but you were luckier than I was, and didn't cut yourself with the bottle-glass."

This was too surprising to be passed over unnoticed. When Minnie was gone, I lay awake and pondered about it. Had all the Moores got scars on their hands, I wondered? And how many people, I asked myself, had cut themselves time and again in climbing over that barricaded garden-wall of my father's?

The Moore hand might be hereditary, but not surely the scars. Was the murderer, then, a Moore, and was that the meaning of Dr. Marten's warning?