The doctor came over again, and drew his chair close to mine.
“Una, my child,” he said slowly, “I love you very much, as if you were my own daughter. I always loved you and admired you, and was sorry—oh, so sorry!—for you. You’ve quite forgotten who I am; but I’ve not forgotten you. Take what I say as coming from an old friend, from one who loves you and has your interest at heart. For heaven’s sake, I implore you, my child, make no more inquiries. Try to forget—not to remember. If you do recollect, you’ll be sorry in the end for it.”
“Why so?” I asked, amazed, yet somehow feeling in my heart I could trust him implicitly. “Why should the knowledge of the true circumstances of the case make me more unhappy than I am at present?”
He gazed harder at me than ever.
“Because,” he replied in slow tones, weighing each word as he spoke, “you may find that the murder was committed by some person or persons you love or once loved very much indeed. You may find it will rend your very heart-strings to see that person or those persons punished. You may find the circumstances were wholly otherwise than you imagine them to be.... Let sleeping dogs lie, my dear. Without your aid, nothing more can be done. Don’t trouble yourself to put the blood-hounds on the track of some unhappy creature who might otherwise escape. Don’t rake it all up afresh. Bury it—bury it—bury it!”
He spoke so earnestly that he filled me with vague alarm.
“Dr. Marten,” I said solemnly, “answer me just one question. Do you know who was the murderer?”
“No, no!” he exclaimed, starting once more. “Thank heaven, I can’t tell you that! I don’t know. I know nothing. Nobody on earth knows but the two who were present on the night of the murder, I feel sure. And of those two, one’s unknown, and the other has forgotten.”
“But you suspect who he is?” I put in, probing the secret curiously.
He trembled visibly.
“I suspect who he is,” he replied, after a moment’s hesitation. “But I have never communicated, and will never communicate, my suspicions to anybody, not even to you. I will only say this: the person whom I suspect is one with whom you may now have forgotten all your past relations, but whom you would be sorry to punish if you recovered your memory. I formed a strong opinion at the time who that person was. I formed it from the nature and disposition of the wound, and the arrangement of the objects in the room when I was called in to see your father’s body.”
“And you never said so at the inquest!” I cried, indignant.
He looked at me hard again. Then he spoke in a very slow and earnest voice:
“For your sake, Una, and for the sake of your affections, I held my peace,” he said. “My dear, the suspicion was but a very slender one: I had nothing to go upon. And why should I have tried to destroy your happiness?”