“There, papa,” interrupted Helen, “I’d be more or less than human if I could take! this undreamed-of news quietly, I can see how perplexed and troubled you’ve been, and how you’ve kindly tried to prepare me for the tidings. You will find that I have strength of mind to meet all that is required of me. It is all simpler to me than to you, for in a matter of this kind the heart is the guide, indeed, the only guide. Think! If Albert had come back months ago; if Hobart had brought him back wounded and disabled—how would we have acted? Only our belief in his death led to what has happened since, and the fact of life changes everything back to—”
“Now, Helen, stop and listen to me,” said her father, firmly. “In one sense the crisis is over, and you’ve heard the news which I scarcely knew how to break to you. You say you will have strength of mind to meet what is required of you. I trust you may. But it’s time you understood the situation as far as I do. Mother’s words show she’s off the track in her suspicion. Nichol is not to blame in any sense. He is deserving of all sympathy, and yet—oh, dear, it is such a complication!” and the old man groaned as he thought of the personality who best knew himself as Yankee Blank. “The fact is,” he resumed to his breathless listeners, “Nichol is not ill at all physically. His mind is affected—”
Mrs. Kemble sank back in her chair, and Helen uttered a cry of dismay.
“Yes, his mind is affected peculiarly. He remembers nothing that happened before he was wounded. You must realize this, Helen; you must prepare yourself for it. His loss of memory is much more sad than if he had lost an arm or a leg. He remembers only what he has picked up since his injury.”
“Then, then, he’s not insane?” gasped Helen.
“No, no, I should say not,” replied her father, dubiously; “yet his words and manner produce much the same effect as if he were— even a stronger effect.”
“Oh, this is dreadful!” cried his wife.
“Dreadful indeed, but not hopeless, you know. Keep in mind doctors say that his memory may come back at any time; and Hobart has the belief that the sight and voice of Helen will bring it back.”
“God bless Hobart,” said Helen, with a deep breath, “and God help him! His own love inspired that belief. He’s right; I know he’s right.”
“Well, perhaps he is. I don’t know. I thought Nichol would recognize me; but there wasn’t a sign.”
“Oh, papa,” cried Helen, smiling through her tears, “there are some things which even your experience and wisdom fail in. Albert will know me. We have talked long enough; now let us act.”
“You don’t realize it all yet, Helen; you can’t. You must remember that Nichol regained consciousness in a Southern hospital. He has learned to talk and act very much like such soldiers as would associate with him.”
“The fact that he’s alive and that I now may restore him is enough, papa.”