Chapter XIII. Dr. Ivor of Babbicombe
 

Two days later, Cousin Willie drove us over to Berry Pomeroy. The lion of the place is the castle, of course; but Minnie had told him beforehand I wanted, for reasons of my own, to visit the cricket-field where the sports were held "the year Dr. Ivor won the mile race, you remember." So we went there straight. As soon as we entered, I recognised the field at once, and the pavilion, and the woods, as being precisely the same as those presented in the photograph. But I got no further than that. The captain of the cricket-club was on the ground that day, and I managed to get into conversation with him, and strolled off in the grounds. There I showed him the photograph, and asked if he could identify the man climbing over the wagon: but he said he couldn't recognise him. Somebody or other from Torquay, perhaps; not a regular resident. The figures were so small, and so difficult to make sure about. If I'd leave him the photograph, perhaps--but at that I drew back, for I didn't want anybody, least of all at Torquay, to know what quest I was engaged upon.

We drove back, a merry party enough, in spite of my failure. Minnie was always so jolly, and her mirth was contagious. She talked all the way still of Dr. Ivor, half-teasing me. It was all very well my pretending not to remember, she said; but why did I want to see the cricket-field if it wasn't for that? Poor Courtenay! if only he knew, how delighted he'd be to know he wasn't forgotten! For he really took it to heart, my illness--she always called it my illness, and so I suppose it was. From the day I lost my memory, nothing seemed to go right with him; and he was never content till he went and buried himself somewhere in the wilds of Canada.

That evening again, I sat with Minnie in my room. I was depressed and distressed. I didn't want to cry before Minnie, but I could have cried with good heart for sheer vexation. Of course I couldn't bear to go showing the photograph to all the world, and letting everybody see I'd made myself a sort of amateur detective. They would mistake my motives so. And yet I didn't know how I was ever to find out my man any other way. It was that or nothing. I made up my mind I would ask Cousin Willie.

I took out the photograph, as if unintentionally, when I went to my box, and laid it down with my curling-tongs on the table close by Minnie. Minnie took it up abstractedly and looked at it with an indefinite gaze.

"Why, this is the cricket-field!" she cried, as soon as she collected her senses. "One of your father's experiments. The earliest acmegraphs. How splendidly they come out! See, that's Sir Everard at the bottom; and there's little Jack Hillier above; and this on one side's Captain Brooks; and there, in front of all--well, you know him anyhow, Una. Now, don't pretend you forget! That's Courtenay Ivor!"

Her finger was on the man who stood poised ready to jump. With an awful recoil, I drew back and suppressed a scream. It was on the tip of my tongue to cry out, "Why, that's my father's murderer!"

But, happily, with a great effort of will I restrained myself. I saw it all at a glance. That, then, was the meaning of Dr. Marten's warning! No wonder, I thought, the shock had disorganised my whole brain. If Minnie was right, I was in love once with that man. And I must have seen my lover murder my father!

For I didn't doubt, from what Minnie said, I had really once loved Dr. Ivor. Horrible and ghastly as it might be to realise it, I didn't doubt it was the truth. I had once loved the very man I was now bent on pursuing as a criminal and a murderer!

"You're sure that's him, Minnie?" I cried, trying to conceal my agitation. "You're sure that's Courtenay Ivor, the man stooping on the wagon-top?"

Minnie looked at me, smiling. She thought I was asking for a very different reason.

"Yes, that's him, right enough, dear," she said. "I could tell him among a thousand. Why, the Moore hand alone would be quite enough to know him by. It's just like my own. We've all of us got it--except yourself. I always said you weren't one of us. You're a regular born Callingham."

I gazed at her fixedly. I could hardly speak.

"Oh, Minnie!" I cried once more, "have you ... have you any photograph of him?"

"No, we haven't, dear," Minnie answered.

"That was a fad of Courtenay's, you know. Wherever he went, he'd never be photographed. He was annoyed that day that your father should have taken him unawares. He hated being 'done,' he said. He's so handsome and so nice, but he's not a bit conceited. And he was such a splendid bicyclist! He rode over and back on his bicycle that day, and then ran in all the races as if it were nothing."

A light burst over me at once. This was circumstantial evidence. The murderer who disappeared as if by magic the moment his crime was committed must have come and gone all unseen, no doubt, on his bicycle. He must have left it under the window till his vile deed was done, and then leapt out upon it in a second and dashed off whence he came like a flash of lightning.

It was a premeditated crime, in that case, not the mere casual result of a sudden quarrel.

I must find out this man now, were it only to relieve my own sense of mystery.

"Minnie," I said once more, screwing up my courage to ask, "where's Dr. Ivor now? I mean--that is to say--in what part of Canada?"

Minnie looked at me and laughed.

"There, I told you so!" she said, merrily. "It's not the least bit of use your pretending you're not in love with him, Una. Why, just look how you tremble! You're as white as a ghost! And then you say you don't care for poor Courtenay! I forget the exact name of the place where he lives, but I've got it in my desk, and I can tell you to-morrow.--Oh, yes; it's Palmyra, on the Canada Pacific. I suppose you want to write to him. Or perhaps you mean to go out and offer yourself bodily."

It was awful having to bottle up the truth in one's own heart, and to laugh and jest like this; but I endured it somehow.

"No, it's not that," I said gravely. "I've other reasons of my own for asking his address, Minnie. I want to go out there, it's true; but not because I cherish the faintest pleasing recollection of Dr. Ivor in any way."

Minnie scanned me over in surprise.

"Well, how you are altered, Una!" she cried. "I love you, dear, and like you every bit as much as ever. But you've changed so much. I don't think you're at all what you used to be. You're so grave and sombre."

"No wonder, Minnie," I exclaimed, bursting gladly into tears--the excuse was such a relief--"no wonder, when you think how much I've passed through!"

Minnie flung her arms around my neck, and kissed me over and over again.

"Oh, dear!" she cried, melting. "What have I done? What have I said? I ought never to have spoken so. It was cruel of me--cruel, Una dear. I shall stop here to-night, and sleep with you."

"Oh, thank you, darling!" I cried. "Minnie, that is good of you. I'm so awfully glad. For to-morrow I must be thinking of getting ready for Canada."

"Canada!" Minnie exclaimed, alarmed. "You're not really going to Canada! Oh, Una, you're joking! You don't mean to say you're going out there to find him!"

I took her hand in mine, and held it up in the air above her head solemnly.

"Dear cousin," I said, "I love you. But you must promise me this one thing. Whatever may happen, give me your sacred word of honour you'll never tell anybody what we've said here to-night. You'll kill me if you do. I don't want any living soul on earth to know of it."

I spoke so seriously, Minnie felt it was important.

"I promise you," she answered, growing suddenly far graver than her wont. "Oh, Una, I haven't the faintest idea what you mean, but no torture on earth shall ever wring a word of it from me!"

So I went to bed in her arms, and cried myself to sleep, thinking with my latest breath, in a tremor of horror, that I'd found it at last. Courtenay Ivor was the name of my father's murderer!