I laid down the paper with a burning face. I learned now, for the first time, how closely my case had been watched, how eagerly my every act and word had been canvassed. It was hateful to think of my photograph having been exposed in every London shop-window, and of anonymous slanderers being permitted to indite such scandal as this about an innocent woman. But, at any rate, it had the effect of sealing my fate. If I meant even before to probe this mystery to the bottom, I felt now no other course was possibly open to me. For the sake of my own credit, for the sake of my own good fame, I must find out and punish my father’s murderer.
RELIVING MY LIFE
Often, as you walk down a street, a man or woman passes you by. You look up at them and say to yourself, “I seem to know that face”; but you can put no name to it, attach to it no definite idea, no associations of any sort. That was just how Woodbury struck me when I first came back to it. The houses, the streets, the people, were in a way familiar; yet I could no more have found my way alone from the station to The Grange than I could find my way alone from here to Kamschatka.
So I drove up first in search of lodgings. At the station even several people had bowed or shaken hands with me respectfully as I descended from the train. They came up as if they thought I must recognise them at once: there was recognition in their eyes; but when they met my blank stare, they seemed to remember all about it, and merely murmured in strange tones:
“Good-morning, miss! So you’re here: glad to see you’ve come back again at last to Woodbury.”
This reception dazzled me. It was so strange, so uncanny. I was glad to get away in a fly by myself, and to be driven to lodgings in the clean little High Street. For to me, it wasn’t really “coming back” at all: it was coming to a strange town, where everyone knew me, and I knew nobody.
“You’d like to go to Jane’s, of course,” the driver said to me with a friendly nod as he reached the High Street: and not liking to confess my forgetfulness of Jane, I responded with warmth that Jane’s would, no doubt, exactly suit me.
We drew up at the door of a neat little house. The driver rang the bell.
“Miss Una’s here,” he said, confidentially; “and she’s looking for lodgings.”
It was inexpressibly strange and weird to me, this one-sided recognition, this unfamiliar familiarity: it gave me a queer thrill of the supernatural that I can hardly express to you. But I didn’t know what to do, when a kindly-faced, middle-aged English upper-class servant rushed out at me, open-armed, and hugging me hard to her breast, exclaimed with many loud kisses:
“Miss Una, Miss Una! So it’s you, dear; so it is! Then you’ve come back at last to us!”