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Someone is trying to kill me. That much I think is clear now. The attack outside the chapel and the drugged coffee--no accidents or misadventures, but attempts by the same hand to do away with me. Why? Surely of all the harmless people in this great big world, no one could be more harmless than a girl who doesn't even know her own name.
Maybe if I lie still in the dark it will come back to me. "What's your name? "I'm ..." "Allow me to introduce Miss ..." "Of course you know my daughter ..." Nothing. Ever since that night in the snow I have been Miss Nobody, or possibly Mrs. Nobody, though I have no recollection of a husband or beloved children clinging to me. Surely one would remember such precious possessions, more precious even than a name. Being without a name is no more than an inconvenience, really. It is the lack of a past that bedevils one, and the uncertainty of a future after these "accidents" that cause the blood to run cold.
As cold as the wind that night. How cold it was, but then it was December. And it was snowing. When I awoke lying in the ditch, there was snow falling on me, soft white flakes, so lovely they looked, each with a little yellowish-blue iridescent halo around it, caused by light striking them from behind. Moving, bobbing lights they were, like two small moons come to earth to frolic down this road. Like a fool I lay cowering silently in my cold ditch and let them go by, those two carriage lights, and felt very cunning doing it, too. Only after the sound of the wheels had receded well into the distance did it occur to me there would have been help in the carriage. I tried to stand up then, to shout after the fast disappearing shadow, and thenI nearly passed out again. Sunk down on to the cold blanket of snow while the world spun around me. Black limbs nude of leaves scarcely visible through the swirling snow began wheeling in crazy circles, becoming fuzzy, then completely invisible as a purple curtain fell over them, then back into focus again, sharply etched in outline now like a charcoal sketch, except that they swayed slightly with an occasional creak as they strained against the trunk.
I felt a sudden compulsion to run as fast as my wobbly legs would carry me, away. But where was away? Was it down the lane after the carriage, or behind me, in the other direction, down the black, empty road? Where was I, and what was I doing here? It did not yet occur to me to ask the other great unanswerable. Who am I?
That came a whole hour later, after I had taken the arbitrary decision to follow the carriage. Actually, I rather enjoyed that walk through the darkness. It was black as pitch, with the white flakes swirling against my face, so I felt safe. No one could see me in the dark. It was necessary that no one see me. I wore a good warm cape with a hood and serviceable woolen gloves, but my feet were numb with no galoshes. For an hour I trudged on, taking great gulps of the cold, clean air, looking behind me and straining my eyes forward through the snow, always with a trembling fear that someone would come. Someone would find me. No one did. After an hour, I had walked roughly four miles, and found myself at a place called Wickey, pop. 324, Winchester, 10 miles. I felt able to walk on the ten miles and see the cathedral, despite the cold.
Wickey had a church of its own. Not a cathedral, but a pretty little building of gray stone with a deeply recessed doorway. There appeared to be carvings in bas-relief around the arch of the main door, and pillars, in the Norman style. I stood there in the dark admiring what I could see of it, all alone. No one would harm anyone right in front of a church. Why did I have this uneasy feeling someone wanted to? I shook my head. I would sleep in the church. I tried the door, and it didn't move an inch. Locked. Naturally a church would be locked in the dead of night! But they were sometimes left open in Spain and France, the Catholic countries. Never mind, my lady, you're in good old Anglican England now, and it is locked. Well then, get the minister to open it, and let you spend the night on a wooden bench. Pilgrims have done it before in other countries. I peered around to discern a small brick cottage set back to the right of the church, but it had no lights on. The Reverend must be in bed, I thought. I would have to wait till morning. Where should I wait?
I realize now I was in a state of shock. I am not usually so foolish as this past recital would indicate. It took me full ten minutes to come to the conclusion the open street was a poor place to spend a night, in the middle of what turned out to be a blizzard, though it was only beginning then. I decided what I ought to do was go to an inn. I retained that much sense, knew, too, it would look odd for me to go without my woman, but this seemed not to distress me. What did bother me, however, was to find my pockets to let--no money, no sign of a reticule to my name. Nothing, barring the clothes on my back.
I looked up and down the deserted street, where no one stirred but myself and a mutt, a mongrel who sniffed twice at my feet, then turned his tail to me and trotted off. The lucky dog seemed to know what he was about. I didn't.
Back to the church. A church was safe--maybe a rectory was safe, too? It was becoming bitterly cold, the wind rising and finding its way under the folds of my cape. I stepped cautiously to the door of the rectory and tapped timidly at the brass knocker. Nothing happened. Why was I standing here shivering while an unfeeling housekeeper slept snugly in her bed? I tapped louder, and still nothing happened. Impatient, I gave the brass knocker a couple of resounding crashes that rattled the door on its hinges. At length a lamp appeared within, jiggling towards me. The inner door was opened by a little lady in a cap and dressing gown, holding her lamp high now, looking through the storm door. She appeared frightened, but when she saw it was a lone female seeking entrance, she undid the lock and stuck her bead out.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"I want to come in."
"Who are you?"
"I'm ..." That's when I discovered I didn't know who I was. Till that moment it had not occurred to me to wonder. I was me, that's all.