In years then to come, I puzzled my head much as to the meaning of the Picture. Gradually, step by step, I worked some of it out, with the aid of my friends, and of the evidence tendered at the coroner’s inquest. But for the moment I knew nothing of all that. I was a newborn baby again. Only with this important difference. They say our minds at birth are like a sheet of white paper, ready to take whatever impressions may fall upon them. Mine was like a sheet all covered and obscured by one hateful picture. It was weeks, I fancy, before I knew or was conscious of anything else but that. The Picture and a great Horror divided my life between them.
Recollect, I didn’t even remember the murdered man was my father. I didn’t recognise the room as one in our own old house at Woodbury. I didn’t know anything at all except what I tell you here. I saw the corpse, the blood, the box on the table, the wires by the side, the bottles and baths and plates of an amateur photographer’s kit, without knowing what they all meant. I saw even the books not as books but as visible points of colour. It had something the effect on me that it might have upon anyone else to be dropped suddenly on the stage of a theatre at the very moment when a hideous crime was being committed, and to believe it real, or rather, to know it by some vague sense as hateful and actual.
Here my history began. I date from that Picture. My second babyhood was passed in the shadow of the abiding Horror.
BEGINNING LIFE AGAIN
Wha happened after is far more vague to me. Compared with the vividness of that one initial Picture, the events of the next few months have only the blurred indistinctness of all childish memories. For I was a child once more, in all save stature, and had to learn to remember things just like other children.
I will try to tell the whole tale over again exactly as it then struck me.
After the Picture, I told you, I shut my eyes in alarm for a second. When I opened them once more there was a noise, a very great noise, and my recollection is that people had burst wildly into the room, and were lifting the dead body, and bending over it in astonishment, and speaking loud to me, and staring at me. I believe they broke the door open, though that’s rather inference than memory; I learnt it afterwards. Soon some of them rushed to the open window and looked out into the garden. Then, suddenly, a man gave a shout, and leaping on to the sill, jumped down in pursuit, as I thought, of the murderer. As time went on, more people flocked in; and some of them looked at the body and the pool of blood; and some of them turned round and spoke to me. But what they said or what they meant I hadn’t the slightest idea. The noise of the pistol-shot still rang loud in my ears: the ineffable Horror still drowned all my senses.