And it was the sight of the photograph that had produced the dream. This was curious, very. A weird idea came across me. Had I begun, in all past efforts to remember, at the wrong end? Instead of trying to recollect the circumstances that immediately preceded the murder, ought I to have set out by trying to reinstate my First Life, chapter by chapter and verse by verse, from childhood upward? Ought I to start by recalling as far as possible my very earliest recollections in my previous existence, and then gradually work up through all my subsequent history to the date of the murder?
The more I thought of it, the more convinced was I that that was the right procedure.
It was certainly significant that this vague childish recollection of something which might have happened when I was just about two years old should be the very first thing to recur to my my memory. Yet so appalled and alarmed was I by the weirdness of this sudden apparition, looming up, as it were, all by itself in the depths of my consciousness, that I hardly dared bring myself to think of trying to recall any other scenes of that dead and past existence. The picture rose like an exhalation, hanging unrelated in mid-air, a mere mental mirage: and it terrified me so much, that I shrank unutterably from the effort of calling up another of like sort to follow it.
The rest of that night I lay awake in my bed, the scene in the verandah by the big blue-gum-trees haunting me all the time, much as in earlier days the Picture of the murder had pursued and haunted me. Early in the morning I rose up, and went down to Jane in her little parlour. I longed for society in my awe. I needed human presence. I couldn’t bear to be left alone by myself with all these pressing and encompassing mysteries.
“Jane,” I said after a few minutes’ careless talk—for I didn’t like to tell her about my wonderful dream,—“where exactly did you find the picture of that house hanging over in the corner there?”
“Lor’ bless your heart, miss,” Jane answered, “there’s a whole boxful of them at The Grange. Nobody ever cared for them. They’re up in the top attic. They were locked till your papa died, and then they were opened by order of the executors. Some of ’em’s faded even worse than that one, and none of ’em’s very good; but I picked this one out because it was better worth framing for my room than most of ’em. The executors took no notice when they found what they was. They opened the box to see if it was dockyments.”
“Well, Jane,” I said, “I shall go up and bring them every one away with me. It’s possible they may help me to recollect things a bit.” I drew my hand across my forehead. “It all seems so hazy,” I went on. “Yet when I see things again, I sometimes feel as if I almost recognised them.”
So that very morning we went up together (I wouldn’t go alone), and got the rest of the photographs—very faded positives from old-fashioned plates, most of them representing persons and places I had never seen; and a few of them apparently not taken in England.