In the first place, though I was still in my dream a little girl, much time must have elapsed since the earlier vision; for my papa looked far older, and graver, and sterner. He had more hair about his face, too, a long brown beard and heavy moustache; and when I gazed hard at him mentally, I could recognise the likeness with the white-bearded man who lay dead on the floor: while in my former recollection, I could scarcely make out any resemblance of the features. This showed that the second scene came long after the first: my father must by that time have begun to resemble his later self. A weird feeling stole over me. Was I going to relive my previous life, piecemeal? Was the past going to unroll itself in slow but regular panorama to my sleeping vision? Was my First State to become known like this in successive scenes to my Second?
But that wasn’t all. There were strange questions to decide, too, about this new dream of dead days. What could be the meaning of that mysterious baby? She seemed to be so vivid, so natural, so real; her presence there was so much a pure matter of course to me, that I couldn’t for a moment separate her from the rest of the Picture. I remembered the baby, now; as I remembered my mother, and my father, and Australia. There was no room for doubt as to that. The baby was an integral part of my real recollection. Floating across the dim ocean of years, I was certain that night I had once lived in such a scene, with my mamma, and baby.
Yet oh, what baby? I never had a brother or sister of my own, except the half-sister that died—the clergyman’s child, Mary Wharton. And Mary, from what I had learned from Aunt Emma and others, must have died when I was only just five months old, immediately before we left Australia. How, then, could I remember her, even in this exalted mental state of trance or dream? And, above all, how could I remember a far earlier scene, when my papa was younger, when his face was smooth, and when there was no other baby?
This mystery only heightened the other mysteries which surrounded my life. I was surfeited with them now. In very despair and listlessness, I turned round on my side, and dozed dreamily off again, unable to grapple with it.
But still that scene haunted me. And still, even in sleep, I asked myself over and over again, “How on earth can this be? What’s the meaning of the baby?”
Perhaps it was a little sister that died young, whom I never had heard of. And perhaps not. In a life such as mine, new surprises are always possible.
THE MOORES OF TORQUAY
Strange to say, in spite of everything, my sleep refreshed me. I woke up in the morning strong and vigorous—thank goodness, I have physically a magnificent constitution—and packed my box, with Jane’s help, for my Torquay expedition.
I went up to London and down to Torquay alone, though Jane offered to accompany me. I was learning to be self-reliant. It suited my plans better. Nobody could bear this burden for me but myself; and the sooner I learnt to bear it my own way, the happier for me.