It may sound odd to say so, but the very earliest fact that impressed itself on my memory was a scene that took place—so I was told—when I was eighteen years old, in my father’s house, The Grange, at Woodbury.
My babyhood, my childhood, my girlhood, my school-days were all utterly blotted out by that one strange shock of horror. My past life became exactly as though it had never been. I forgot my own name. I forgot my mother-tongue. I forgot everything I had ever done or known or thought about. Except for the power to walk and stand and perform simple actions of every-day use, I became a baby in arms again, with a nurse to take care of me. The doctors told me, later, I had fallen into what they were pleased to call “a Second State.” I was examined and reported upon as a Psychological Curiosity. But at the time, I knew nothing of all this. A thunderbolt, as it were, destroyed at one blow every relic, every trace of my previous existence; and I began life all over again, with that terrible scene of blood as my first birthday and practical starting point.
I remember it all even now with horrible distinctness. Each item in it photographed itself vividly on my mind’s eye. I saw it as in a picture—just as clearly, just as visually. And the effect, now I look back upon it with a maturer judgment, was precisely like a photograph in another way too. It was wholly unrelated in time and space: it stood alone by itself, lighted up by a single spark, without rational connection before or after it. What led up to it all, I hadn’t the very faintest idea. I only knew the Event itself took place; and I, like a statue, stood rooted in the midst of it.
And this was the Picture as, for many long months, it presented itself incessantly to my startled brain, by day and by night, awake or asleep, in colours more distinct than words can possibly paint them.
I saw myself standing in a large, square room—a very handsome old room, filled with bookshelves like a library. On one side stood a table, and on the table a box. A flash of light rendered the whole scene visible. But it wasn’t light that came in through the window. It was rather like lightning, so quick it was, and clear, and short-lived, and terrible. Half-way to the door, I stood and looked in horror at the sight revealed before my eyes by that sudden flash. A man lay dead in a little pool of blood that gurgled by short jets from a wound on his left breast. I didn’t even know at the moment the man was my father; though slowly, afterward, by the concurrent testimony of others, I learnt to call him so. But his relationship wasn’t part of the Picture to me. There, he was only in my eyes a man—a man well past middle age, with a long white beard, now dabbled with the thick blood that kept gurgling so hatefully from the red spot in his waistcoat. He lay on his back, half-curled round toward one arm, exactly as he fell. And the revolver he had been shot with lay on the ground not far from him.