Because he remembered nothing and know nothing, he may at first have been tolerated as a “cur’ous chap,” then employed as he had explained. He could take the place of a better man where men were greatly needed.
This theory could solve the problem; and Martine’s hospital experience prepared his mind to understand what would be a hopeless mystery to many. He was so fearfully excited that be could not remain in the ward. The very proximity to this strange being, who had virtually risen from the dead and appeared to him of all others, was a sort of torture in itself.
What effect would this discovery have on his relations to Helen? He dared not think yet he must think. Already the temptation of his life was forming in his mind. His cousin was sleeping; and with a wild impatience to escape, to get away from all his kind, he stole noiselessly out into the midnight and deserted streets. On, on he went, limping he knew not, cared not where, for his passion and mental agony drove him hither and thither like a leaf before a fitful gale.
“No one knows of this,” he groaned. “I can still return and marry Helen. But oh, what a secret to carry!”
Then his heart pleaded. “This is not the lover she lost—only a horrible, mocking semblance. He has lost his own identity; he does not even know himself—would not know her. Ah! I’m not sure of that. I would be dead indeed if her dear features did not kindle my eyes in recognition. It may be that the sight of her face is the one thing essential to restore him. I feel this would be true were it my case. But how can I give her up now? How can?—how can I? Oh, this terrible journey! No wonder Helen had forebodings. She loves me; she is mine. No one else has so good a right. We were to be married only a few hours hence. Then she whom I’ve loved from childhood would make my home a heaves on earth. And yet—and yet— " Even in the darkness he buried his face in his hands, shuddered, moaned, writhed, and grated his teeth in the torment of the conflict.
Hour after hour he wavered, now on the point of yielding, then stung by conscience into desperate uncertainty. The night was cold, the howling wind would have chilled him at another time, but during his struggle great drops of sweat often poured from his face. Only the eye of God saw that battle, the hardest that was fought and won during the war.
At last, when well out of the city, he lifted his agonized eyes and saw the beautiful hues of morning tingeing the east. Unconsciously, he repeated the sublime, creative words, “Let there be light.” It came to him. With the vanishing darkness, he revolted finally against the thought of any shadows existing between him and Helen. She should have all the light that he had, and decide her own course. He had little hope that she would wed him, even if she did not marry Nichol in his present condition—a condition probably only temporary and amenable to skilful treatment.