Recalled to Life by Grant Allen
Chapter VII. The Grange at Woodbury
I stopped for three weeks in Jane's lodgings; and before the end of that time, Jane and I had got upon the most intimate footing. It was partly her kindliness that endeared her to me, and her constant sense of continuity with the earlier days which I had quite forgotten; but it was partly too, I felt sure, a vague revival within my own breast of a familiarity that had long ago subsisted between us. I was coming to myself again, on one side of my nature. Day by day I grew more certain that while facts had passed away from me, appropriate emotions remained vaguely present. Among the Woodbury people that I met, I recognised none to say that I knew them; but I knew almost at first sight that I liked this one and disliked that one. And in every case alike, when I talked the matter over afterwards with Jane, she confirmed my suspicion that in my First State I had liked or disliked just those persons respectively. My brain was upset, but my heart remained precisely the same as ever.
On my second morning I went up to The Grange with her. The house was still unlet. Since the day of the murder, nobody cared to live in it. The garden and shrubbery had been sadly neglected: Jane took me out of the way as we walked up the path, to show me the place where the photographic apparatus had been found embedded in the grass, and where the murderer had cut his hands getting over the wall in his frantic agitation. The wall was pretty high and protected with bottle-glass. I guessed he must have been tall to scramble over it. That seemed to tell against Jane's crude idea that a woman might have done it.
But when I said so to Jane, she met me at once with the crushing reply: "Perhaps it wasn't the same person that came back for the box." I saw she was right again. I had jumped at a conclusion. In cases like this, one must leave no hypothesis untried, jump at no conclusions of any sort. Clearly, that woman ought to have been made a detective.
As I entered the house the weird sense of familiarity that pursued me throughout rose to a very high pitch. I couldn't fairly say, indeed, that I remembered the different rooms. All I could say with certainty was that I had seen them before. To this there were three exceptions--the three that belonged to my Second State--the library, my bedroom, and the hall and staircase. The first was indelibly printed on my memory as a component part of the Picture, and I found my recollection of every object in the room almost startling in its correctness. Only, there was an alcove on one side that I'd quite forgotten, and I saw why most clearly. I stood with my back to it as I looked at the Picture. The other two bits I remembered as the room in which I had had my first great illness, and the passage down which I had been carried or helped when I was taken to Aunt Emma's.
I had begun to recognise now that the emotional impression made upon me by people and things was the only sure guide I still possessed as to their connection or association with my past history. And the rooms at The Grange had each in this way some distinctive characteristic. The library, of course, was the chief home of the Horror which had hung upon my spirit even during the days when I hardly knew in any intelligible sense the cause of it. But the drawing-room and dining-room both produced upon my mind a vague consciousness of constraint. I was dimly aware of being ill at ease and uncomfortable in them. My own bedroom, on the contrary, gave me a pleasant feeling of rest and freedom and security: while the servants'-hall and the kitchen seemed perfect paradises of liberty.
"Ah! many's the time, miss," Jane said with a sigh, looking over at the empty grate, "you'd come down here to make cakes or puddings, and laugh and joke like a child with Mary an' me. I often used to say to Emily--her as was cook here before Ellen Smith,--'Miss Una's never so happy as when she's down here in the kitchen.' And 'That's true what you say,' says Emily to me, many a time and often."
That was exactly the impression left upon my own mind. I began to conclude, in a dim, formless way, that my father must have been a somewhat stern and unsympathetic man; that I had felt constrained and uncomfortable in his presence upstairs, and had often been pleased to get away from his eye to the comparative liberty and ease of my own room or of the maid-servants' quarters.
At last, in the big attic that had once been the nursery, I paused and looked at Jane. A queer sensation came over me.
"Jane," I said slowly, hardly liking to frame the words, "there's something strange about this room. He wasn't cruel to me, was he?"
"Oh! no, miss," Jane answered promptly. "He wasn't never what you might call exactly cruel. He was a very good father, and looked after you well; but he was sort of stern and moody-like--would have his own way, and didn't pay no attention to fads and fancies, he called 'em. When you were little, many's the time he sent you up here for punishment--disobedience and such like."
I took out the photograph and tried, as it were, to think of my father as alive and with his eyes open. I couldn't remember the eyes. Jane told me they were blue; but I think what she said was the sort of impression the face produced upon me. A man not unjust or harsh in his dealings with myself, but very strong and masterful. A man who would have his own way in spite of anybody. A father who ruled his daughter as a vessel of his making, to be done as he would with, and be moulded to his fashion.
Still, my visit to The Grange resulted in the end in casting very little light upon the problem before me. It pained and distressed me greatly, but it brought no new elements of the case into view: at best, it only familiarised me with the scene of action of the tragedy. The presence of the alcove was the one fresh feature. Nothing recalled to me as yet in any way the murderer's features. I racked my brain in vain; no fresh image came up in it. I could recollect nothing about the man or his antecedents.
I almost began to doubt that I would ever succeed in reconstructing my past, when even the sight of the home in which I had spent my childish days suggested so few new thoughts or ideas to me.
For a day or two after that I rested at Jane's, lest I should disturb my brain too much. Then I called once more on the doctor who had made the post mortem on my father, and given evidence at the inquest, to see if anything he could say might recall my lapsed memory.
The moment he came into the room--a man about fifty, close-shaven and kindly-looking--I recognised him at once, and held out my hand to him frankly. He surveyed me from head to foot with a good medical stare, and then wrung my hand in return with extraordinary warmth and effusion. I could see at once he retained a most pleasing recollection of my First State, and was really glad to see me.
"What, you remember me then, Una!" he cried, with quite fatherly delight. "You haven't forgotten me, my dear, as you've forgotten all the rest, haven't you?"
It was startling to be called by one's Christian name like that, and by a complete stranger, too; but I was getting quite accustomed now to these little incongruities.
"Oh, yes; I remember you perfectly," I answered, half-grieved to distress him, "though I shouldn't have known your name, and didn't expect to see you. You're the doctor who attended me in my first great illness--the illness with which my present life began--just after the murder."
He drew back, a little crestfallen.
"Then that's all you recollect, is it?" he asked. "You don't remember me before, dear? Not Dr. Marten, who used to take you on his knee when you were a tiny little girl, and bring you lollipops from town, to the great detriment of your digestion, and get into rows with your poor father for indulging you and spoiling you? You must surely remember me?"
I shook my head slowly. I was sorry to disappoint him; but it was necessary before all things to get at the bare truth.
"I'm afraid not," I answered. "Do please forgive me! You must have read in the papers, like everybody else, of the very great change that has so long come over me. Bear in mind, I can't remember anything at all that occurred before the murder. That first illness is to me the earliest recollection of childhood."
He gazed across at me compassionately.
"My poor child," he said in a low voice, like a very affectionate friend, "it's much better so. You have been mercifully spared a great deal of pain. Una, when I first saw you at The Grange after your father's death, I thanked heaven you had been so seized. I thanked heaven the world had become suddenly a blank to you. I prayed hard you might never recover your senses again, or at least your memory. And now that you're slowly returned to life once more, against all hope or fear, I'm heartily glad it's in this peculiar way. I'm heartily glad all the past's blotted out for you. You can't understand that, my child? Ah, no, very likely not. But I think it's much best for you, all your first life should be wholly forgotten." He paused for a second. Then he added slowly: "If you remembered it all, the sense of the tragedy would be far more acute and poignant even than at present."
"Perhaps so," I said resolutely; "but not the sense of mystery. It's that that appals me so! I'd rather know the truth than be so wrapped up in the incomprehensible."
He looked at me pityingly once more.
"My poor child," he said, in the same gentle and fatherly voice, "you don't wholly understand. It doesn't all come home to you. I can see clearly, from what Inspector Wolferstan told me, after his visit to you the other day--"
I broke in, in surprise.
"Inspector Wolferstan!" I cried. "Then he came down here to see you, did he?"
It was horrible to find how all my movements were discussed and chronicled.
"Yes, he came down here to see me and talk things over," Dr. Marten went on, as calmly as if it were mere matter of course. "And I could see from what he said you were still spared much. For instance, you remember it all only as an event that happened to an old man with a long white beard. You don't fully realise, except intellectually, that it was your own father. You're saved, as a daughter, the misery and horror of thinking and feeling it was your father who lay dead there."
"That's quite true," I answered. "I admit that I can't feel it all as deeply as I ought. But none the less, I've come down here to make a violent effort. Let it cost what it may, I must get at the truth. I wanted to see whether the sight of The Grange and of Woodbury may help me to recall the lost scenes in my memory."
To my immense surprise, Dr. Marten rose from his seat, and standing up before me in a perfect agony of what seemed like terror, half mixed with affection, exclaimed in a very earnest and resolute voice:
"Oh, Una, my child, whatever you do--I beg of you--I implore you--don't try to recall the past at all! Don't attempt it! Don't dream of it!"
"Why not?" I cried, astonished. "Surely it's my duty to try and find out my father's murderer!"
Instead of answering me, he looked about him for half a minute in suspense, as if doubtful what next to do or to say. Then he walked across with great deliberation to the door of the room, and locked and double-locked it with furtive alarm, as I interpreted his action.
So terrified did he seem, indeed, that for a moment the idea occurred to me in a very vague way--Was I talking with the murderer? Had the man who himself committed the crime conducted the post mortem, and put Justice off the scent? And was I now practically at the mercy of the criminal I was trying to track down? The thought for a second or two made me feel terribly uncomfortable. But I glanced at his back and at his hands, and reassured myself. That broad, short man was not the slim figure of my Picture and of the photograph. Those large red hands were not the originals of the small and delicate white palm just displayed at the back in both those strange documents of the mysterious murder.
The doctor came over again, and drew his chair close to mine.
"Una, my child," he said slowly, "I love you very much, as if you were my own daughter. I always loved you and admired you, and was sorry--oh, so sorry!--for you. You've quite forgotten who I am; but I've not forgotten you. Take what I say as coming from an old friend, from one who loves you and has your interest at heart. For heaven's sake, I implore you, my child, make no more inquiries. Try to forget--not to remember. If you do recollect, you'll be sorry in the end for it."
"Why so?" I asked, amazed, yet somehow feeling in my heart I could trust him implicitly. "Why should the knowledge of the true circumstances of the case make me more unhappy than I am at present?"
He gazed harder at me than ever.
"Because," he replied in slow tones, weighing each word as he spoke, "you may find that the murder was committed by some person or persons you love or once loved very much indeed. You may find it will rend your very heart-strings to see that person or those 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."