Gradually memory and consciousness once more reasserted themselves, and he became aware that he was lying in bed. But this was a slow process of intense mental effort, and was as laboriously and logically built up of premises and deductions as were his theological theses learned twenty years before in his seminary. There was the sheet below his chin; there was a red coverlet (seen at first as a blood-coloured landscape of hills and valleys); there was a ceiling, overhead, at first as remote as the vault of heaven. Then, little by little, the confused roaring in his ears sank to a murmur. It had been just now as the sound of brazen hammers clanging in reverberating caves, the rolling of wheels, the tramp of countless myriads of men. But it had become now a soothing murmur, not unlike the coming in of a tide at the foot of high cliffs—just one gentle continuous note, overlaid with light, shrill sounds. This too required long argument and reasoning before any conclusion could be reached; but it was attained at last, and he became certain that he lay somewhere within sound of busy streets. Then rashly he leapt to the belief that he must be in his own lodgings in Bloomsbury; but another long slow stare upwards showed him that the white ceiling was too far away.
The effort of thought seemed too much for him; it gave him a sense of inexplicable discomfort. He determined to think no more, for fear that the noises should revert again to the crash of hammers in his hollow head. . . .
He was next conscious of a pressure on his lip, and a kind of shadow of a taste of something. But it was no more than a shadow: it was as if he were watching some one else drink and perceiving some one else to swallow. . . . Then with a rush the ceiling came back into view: he was aware that he was lying in bed under a red coverlet; that the room was large and airy about him; and that two persons, a doctor in white and a nurse, were watching him. He rested in that knowledge for a long time, watching memory reassert itself. Detail after detail sprang into view: farther and farther back into his experience, far down into the childhood he had forgotten. He remembered now who he was, his story, his friends, his life up to a certain blank day or set of days, between him and which there was nothing. Then he saw the faces again, and it occurred to him, with a flash as of illumination, to ask. So he began to ask; and he considered carefully each answer, turning it over and reflecting upon it with what seemed to him an amazing degree of concentration.
“. . . So I am in Westminster Hospital,” he considered. “That is extraordinarily interesting and affecting. I have often seen the outside of it. It is of discoloured brick. And I have been here . . . how long? how long, did they say? . . . Oh! that is a long time. Five days! And what in the world can have happened to my work? They will be looking out for me in the Museum. How can Dr. Waterman’s history get on without me? I must see about that at once. He’ll understand that it’s not my fault. . . .