“Why, Jack,” I cried clinging to him in a perfect whirlwind of wonder, “one can hardly believe it—that was only an hour ago!”
“That was only an hour ago,” Jack answered, smiling. “But as for you, I suppose you’ve lived half a lifetime again in it. And now you know the whole secret of the Woodbury Mystery. And you won’t want to give yourself up to the police any longer.”
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
But why didn’t you explain it all to me at the very first?” I exclaimed, all tremulous. “When you met me at Quebec, I mean—why didn’t you tell me then? Did you and Elsie come there on purpose to meet me?”
“Yes, we came there to meet you,” Jack answered. “But we were afraid to make ourselves known to you all at once just at first, because, you see, Una, I more than half suspected then, what I know now to be the truth, that you were coming out to Canada on purpose to hunt me up, not as your friend and future husband, but in enmity and suspicion as your father’s murderer. And in any case we were uncertain which attitude you might adopt towards me. But I see I must explain a little more even now. I haven’t told you yet why I came at all to Canada.”
“Tell me now,” I answered. “I must know everything to-day. I can never rest now till I’ve heard the whole story.”
“Well,” Jack went on more calmly, “after the first excitement wore off in the public mind, there came after a bit a lull of languid interest; the papers began to forget the supposed facts of the murder, and to dwell far more upon your own new role as a pyschological curiosity. They talked much about your strange new life and its analogies elsewhere. I was anxious to see you, of course, to satisfy myself of your condition; but the doctors who had charge of you refused to let you mix for a while with anyone you had known in your First State; and I now think wisely. It was best you should recover your general health and faculties by slow degrees, without being puzzled and distracted by constant upsetting recollections and suggestions of your past history.
“But for me, of course, at the time, the separation was terrible. Each morning, I read with feverish interest the reports of your health, and longed, day after day, to hear of some distinct improvement. And yet at the same time, I was terrified at every approach to complete convalescence: I feared that if you got better at all, you might remember too quick, and that then the sudden rush of recollection might kill you or upset your reason. But by-and-by, it became clear to me you could remember nothing of the actual shot itself. And I saw plainly why. It was the firing of the pistol that obliterated, as it were, every trace of your past life in your disorganised brain. And it obliterated itself too. Your new life began just one moment later, with the Picture of the dead man stretched before you in his blood on the floor, and a figure in the background disappearing through the window.”