And then, in my utter horror and loneliness, a still more awful and ghastly thought presented itself to me. This was my mother’s hand I saw in the picture. Was it my mother, indeed, who wrought the murder? Was she living or dead? Had my father put upon her some grievous wrong? Had he pretended to get her out of the way? Had he buried her alive, so to speak, in some prison or madhouse? Had she returned in disguise from the asylum or the living grave to avenge herself and murder him? In my present frame of mind, no idea was too wild or too strange for me to entertain. If this strain continued much longer, I should go mad myself with suspense and horror!
YET ANOTHER PHOTOGRAPH
Next morning my head ached. After all I’d suffered, I could hardly bear to recur to the one subject that now always occupied my thoughts. And yet, on the other hand, I couldn’t succeed in banishing it. To relieve my mind a little, I took out the photographs I had brought from the box at The Grange, and began to sort them over according to probable date and subject.
They were of different periods, some old, some newer. I put them together in series, as well as I could, by the nature of the surroundings. The most recent of all were my father’s early attempts at instantaneous electric photography—the attempts which led up at last to his automatic machine, the acmegraph, that produced all unconsciously the picture of the murder. Some of these comparatively recent proofs represented men running and horses trotting: but the best of all, tied together with a bit of tape, clearly belonged to a single set, and must have been taken at the same time at an athletic meeting. There was one of a flat race, viewed from a little in front, with the limbs of the runners in seemingly ridiculous attitudes, so instantaneous and therefore so grotesquely rigid were they. There was another of a high jump, seen from one side at the very moment of clearing the pole, so that the figure poised solid in mid-air as motionless as a statue. And there was a third, equally successful, of a man throwing the hammer, in which the hammer, in the same way, seemed to hang suspended of itself like Mahomet’s coffin between earth and heaven.
But the one that attracted my attention the most was a photograph of an obstacle-race, in which the runners had to mount and climb over a wagon placed obtrusively sideways across the course on purpose to baffle them. This picture was taken from a few yards in the rear; and the athletes were seen in it in the most varied attitudes. Some of them were just climbing up one side of the wagon: others had mounted to the top ledge of the body: and one, standing on the further edge, was in the very act of leaping down to the ground in front of him. He was bent double, to spring, with a stoop like a hunchback, and balanced himself with one hand held tightly behind him.