“Impossible!” I said shortly. “It only makes my head swim. I can remember no further.”
“I see,” the Inspector answered. “It’s just as Dr. Wade said. Suggest a fact in your past history, and you may possibly remember it; but ask you to recall anything not suggested or already known, and all seems a mere blank to you! You haven’t the faintest idea, then, who the murderer was or what he looked like?”
I rose up before him solemnly, and stared him full in the face. I was wrought up by that time to a perfect pitch of excitement and interest.
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” I answered, feeling myself a woman at last, and realising my freedom; “I know and remember no more of it than you do. But from this moment forth, I shall not rest until I’ve found him out and tracked him down, and punished him. I shall never let my head rest in peace on my pillow until I’ve discovered my father’s murderer!”
“That’s well,” the Inspector said sharply, shutting his notes up to go. “If you persevere in that mind, and do as you say, we shall soon get to the bottom of the Woodbury Mystery!”
And even as he spoke a key turned in the front door. I knew it was Aunt Emma, come in from her marketing.
I BECOME A WOMAN
Aunt Emma burst into the room, all horror and astonishment. She looked at the Inspector for a few seconds in breathless indignation; then she broke out in a tone of fiery remonstrance which fairly surprised me:
“What do you mean by this intrusion, sir? How dare you force your way into my house in my absence? How dare you encourage my servants to disobey my orders? How dare you imperil this young lady’s health by coming here to talk with her?”
She turned round to me anxiously. I suppose I was very flushed with excitement and surprise.
“My darling child,” she cried, growing pale all at once, “Maria should never have allowed him to come inside the door! You should have stopped upstairs! You should have refused to see him! I shall have you ill again on my hands, as before, after this. He’ll have undone all the good the last four years have done for you!”
But I was another woman now. I felt it in a moment.
“Auntie dearest,” I answered, moving across to her, and laying my hand on her shoulder to soothe her poor ruffled nerves, “don’t be the least alarmed. It’s I who’m to blame, and not Maria. I told her to let this gentleman in. He’s done me good, not harm. I’m so glad to have been allowed at last to speak freely about it!”
Aunt Emma shook all over, visibly to the naked eye.
“You’ll have a relapse, my child!” she exclaimed, half crying, and clinging to me in her terror. “You’ll forget all you’ve learned: you’ll go back these four years again!—Leave my house at once, sir! You should never have entered it!”