In face of the yet unsolved mystery of his own presence in the room, this new surprise caused Balder no special wonder. Beyond the apparition of the ugly dumb woman, he recollected nothing of the previous evening’s experience. Could she have transported him hither? Well, he would not let himself be disturbed by apparent miracles. “No doubt the explanation is simple,” thought he; and with that he began his toilet. The dressing-table displayed a variety of dainty articles such as a lady might be supposed to use,—pearl-handled brushes, enamelled powder-boxes, slender vases of Meissen porcelain, a fanciful ring-stand; from the half-open drawer a rich glimpse of an Indian fan; a pair of delicate kid gloves, which only a woman’s hands could have worn, were thrown carelessly on the table. There were still the little wrinkles in the fingers, but time had changed the pristine white to dingy yellow.
“Whose hands could have worn them? whose chamber was this?” mused Balder. “Not Gnulemah’s; she knows nothing of kid gloves and powder! and these things were in use before she was born. Whose face was reflected in this glass, when those gloves were thrown down here? Was that her marriage-bed? Were children born in it?”
His seizure of the night before must have dulled the edge of his wit, else he had scarce asked questions which chance now answered for him. A scratch on one corner of the polished mirror-surface showed, on closer inspection, a name and a date written with a diamond. Shading off the light with his hand, Balder read, “Helen, 1831.”
“My mother’s name; the year I was born. My mother!” he repeated softly, taking up the old yellow gloves. “And this room was my birthplace,—and my little sister’s! My mother’s things, as she left them; for father once told me that he never entered her room after she was buried. She died here; and here my little sister and I began to live. And here I am, again,—really the same little helpless innocent baby who cried on that bed so long ago. Only not innocent now! Perhaps, not helpless, either!
“How happy that barber was yesterday! prattled about being born again. Cannot I be born again,—to-day,—in this room? Here I first began, and have come round the world to my starting-point. I will begin afresh this morning.”
And heavily as he was weighted in the new race, he would not be disheartened. Unuttered resolves brightened his eyes and made his courage high.
Before beginning breakfast, he returned to the window and drank again of the divine blue and green. From the branch of a near tree the hoopoe startled him and made him color. Was the bird an emissary from Gnulemah? Balder’s mouth drew back, and his chin and eyes strengthened, as though some part of his unuttered resolves were recalled by the thought of her.
When he was ready to go, he turned at the door, and threw a parting glance round the dainty old-fashioned chamber, trying to gather into one all the thoughts, memories, and resolves connected with it. He had nearly forgotten the frescos; the victorious sunshine had reduced the figures, satanic or beautiful, to a meaningless agglomeration of wandering lines and faded colors. As for his own portrait, it was no longer distinguishable.