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    Chapter 8

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    Chapter 8
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    A CHAPTER ON DREAMS

    THE past is all of one texture - whether feigned or suffered -
    whether acted out in three dimensions, or only witnessed in that
    small theatre of the brain which we keep brightly lighted all night
    long, after the jets are down, and darkness and sleep reign
    undisturbed in the remainder of the body. There is no distinction
    on the face of our experiences; one is vivid indeed, and one dull,
    and one pleasant, and another agonising to remember; but which of
    them is what we call true, and which a dream, there is not one hair
    to prove. The past stands on a precarious footing; another straw
    split in the field of metaphysic, and behold us robbed of it.
    There is scarce a family that can count four generations but lays a
    claim to some dormant title or some castle and estate: a claim not
    prosecutable in any court of law, but flattering to the fancy and a
    great alleviation of idle hours. A man's claim to his own past is
    yet less valid. A paper might turn up (in proper story-book
    fashion) in the secret drawer of an old ebony secretary, and
    restore your family to its ancient honours, and reinstate mine in a
    certain West Indian islet (not far from St. Kitt's, as beloved
    tradition hummed in my young ears) which was once ours, and is now
    unjustly some one else's, and for that matter (in the state of the
    sugar trade) is not worth anything to anybody. I do not say that
    these revolutions are likely; only no man can deny that they are
    possible; and the past, on the other baud, is, lost for ever: our
    old days and deeds, our old selves, too, and the very world in
    which these scenes were acted, all brought down to the same faint
    residuum as a last night's dream, to some incontinuous images, and
    an echo in the chambers of the brain. Not an hour, not a mood, not
    a glance of the eye, can we revoke; it is all gone, past conjuring.
    And yet conceive us robbed of it, conceive that little thread of
    memory that we trail behind us broken at the pocket's edge; and in
    what naked nullity should we be left! for we only guide ourselves,
    and only know ourselves, by these air-painted pictures of the past.

    Upon these grounds, there are some among us who claim to have lived
    longer and more richly than their neighbours; when they lay asleep
    they claim they were still active; and among the treasures of
    memory that all men review for their amusement, these count in no
    second place the harvests of their dreams. There is one of this
    kind whom I have in my eye, and whose case is perhaps unusual
    enough to be described. He was from a child an ardent and
    uncomfortable dreamer. When he had a touch of fever at night, and
    the room swelled and shrank, and his clothes, hanging on a nail,
    now loomed up instant to the bigness of a church, and now drew away
    into a horror of infinite distance and infinite littleness, the
    poor soul was very well aware of what must follow, and struggled
    hard against the approaches of that slumber which was the beginning
    of sorrows.

    But his struggles were in vain; sooner or later the night-hag would
    have him by the throat, and pluck him strangling and screaming,
    from his sleep. His dreams were at times commonplace enough, at
    times very strange, at times they were almost formless: he would
    be haunted, for instance, by nothing more definite than a certain
    hue of brown, which he did not mind in the least while he was
    awake, but feared and loathed while he was dreaming; at times,
    again, they took on every detail of circumstance, as when once he
    supposed he must swallow the populous world, and awoke screaming
    with the horror of the thought. The two chief troubles of his very
    narrow existence - the practical and everyday trouble of school
    tasks and the ultimate and airy one of hell and judgment - were
    often confounded together into one appalling nightmare. He seemed
    to himself to stand before the Great White Throne; he was called
    on, poor little devil, to recite some form of words, on which his
    destiny depended; his tongue stuck, his memory was blank, hell
    gaped for him; and he would awake, clinging to the curtain-rod with
    his knees to his chin.

    These were extremely poor experiences, on the whole; and at that
    time of life my dreamer would have very willingly parted with his
    power of dreams. But presently, in the course of his growth, the
    cries and physical contortions passed away, seemingly for ever; his
    visions were still for the most part miserable, but they were more
    constantly supported; and he would awake with no more extreme
    symptom than a flying heart, a freezing scalp, cold sweats, and the
    speechless midnight fear. His dreams, too, as befitted a mind
    better stocked with particulars, became more circumstantial, and
    had more the air and continuity of life. The look of the world
    beginning to take hold on his attention, scenery came to play a
    part in his sleeping as well as in his waking thoughts, so that he
    would take long, uneventful journeys and see strange towns and
    beautiful places as he lay in bed. And, what is more significant,
    an odd taste that he had for the Georgian costume and for stories
    laid in that period of English history, began to rule the features
    of his dreams; so that he masqueraded there in a three-cornered hat
    and was much engaged with Jacobite conspiracy between the hour for
    bed and that for breakfast. About the same time, he began to read
    in his dreams - tales, for the most part, and for the most part
    after the manner of G. P. R. James, but so incredibly more vivid
    and moving than any printed book, that he has ever since been
    malcontent with literature.

    And then, while he was yet a student, there came to him a dream-
    adventure which he has no anxiety to repeat; he began, that is to
    say, to dream in sequence and thus to lead a double life - one of
    the day, one of the night - one that he had every reason to believe
    was the true one, another that he had no means of proving to be
    false. I should have said he studied, or was by way of studying,
    at Edinburgh College, which (it may be supposed) was how I came to
    know him. Well, in his dream-life, he passed a long day in the
    surgical theatre, his heart in his mouth, his teeth on edge, seeing
    monstrous malformations and the abhorred dexterity of surgeons. In
    a heavy, rainy, foggy evening he came forth into the South Bridge,
    turned up the High Street, and entered the door of a tall LAND, at
    the top of which he supposed himself to lodge. All night long, in
    his wet clothes, he climbed the stairs, stair after stair in
    endless series, and at every second flight a flaring lamp with a
    reflector. All night long, he brushed by single persons passing
    downward - beggarly women of the street, great, weary, muddy
    labourers, poor scarecrows of men, pale parodies of women - but all
    drowsy and weary like himself, and all single, and all brushing
    against him as they passed. In the end, out of a northern window,
    he would see day beginning to whiten over the Firth, give up the
    ascent, turn to descend, and in a breath be back again upon the
    streets, in his wet clothes, in the wet, haggard dawn, trudging to
    another day of monstrosities and operations. Time went quicker in
    the life of dreams, some seven hours (as near as he can guess) to
    one; and it went, besides, more intensely, so that the gloom of
    these fancied experiences clouded the day, and he had not shaken
    off their shadow ere it was time to lie down and to renew them. I
    cannot tell how long it was that he endured this discipline; but it
    was long enough to leave a great black blot upon his memory, long
    enough to send him, trembling for his reason, to the doors of a
    certain doctor; whereupon with a simple draught he was restored to
    the common lot of man.

    The poor gentleman has since been troubled by nothing of the sort;
    indeed, his nights were for some while like other men's, now blank,
    now chequered with dreams, and these sometimes charming, sometimes
    appalling, but except for an occasional vividness, of no
    extraordinary kind. I will just note one of these occasions, ere I
    pass on to what makes my dreamer truly interesting. It seemed to
    him that he was in the first floor of a rough hill-farm. The room
    showed some poor efforts at gentility, a carpet on the floor, a
    piano, I think, against the wall; but, for all these refinements,
    there was no mistaking he was in a moorland place, among hillside
    people, and set in miles of heather. He looked down from the
    window upon a bare farmyard, that seemed to have been long disused.
    A great, uneasy stillness lay upon the world. There was no sign of
    the farm-folk or of any live stock, save for an old, brown, curly
    dog of the retriever breed, who sat close in against the wall of
    the house and seemed to be dozing. Something about this dog
    disquieted the dreamer; it was quite a nameless feeling, for the
    beast looked right enough - indeed, he was so old and dull and
    dusty and broken-down, that he should rather have awakened pity;
    and yet the conviction came and grew upon the dreamer that this was
    no proper dog at all, but something hellish. A great many dozing
    summer flies hummed about the yard; and presently the dog thrust
    forth his paw, caught a fly in his open palm, carried it to his
    mouth like an ape, and looking suddenly up at the dreamer in the
    window, winked to him with one eye. The dream went on, it matters
    not how it went; it was a good dream as dreams go; but there was
    nothing in the sequel worthy of that devilish brown dog. And the
    point of interest for me lies partly in that very fact: that
    having found so singular an incident, my imperfect dreamer should
    prove unable to carry the tale to a fit end and fall back on
    indescribable noises and indiscriminate horrors. It would be
    different now; he knows his business better!

    For, to approach at last the point: This honest fellow had long
    been in the custom of setting himself to sleep with tales, and so
    had his father before him; but these were irresponsible inventions,
    told for the teller's pleasure, with no eye to the crass public or
    the thwart reviewer: tales where a thread might be dropped, or one
    adventure quitted for another, on fancy's least suggestion. So
    that the little people who manage man's internal theatre had not as
    yet received a very rigorous training; and played upon their stage
    like children who should have slipped into the house and found it
    empty, rather than like drilled actors performing a set piece to a
    huge hall of faces. But presently my dreamer began to turn his
    former amusement of story-telling to (what is called) account; by
    which I mean that he began to write and sell his tales. Here was
    he, and here were the little people who did that part of his
    business, in quite new conditions. The stories must now be trimmed
    and pared and set upon all fours, they must run from a beginning to
    an end and fit (after a manner) with the laws of life; the
    pleasure, in one word, had become a business; and that not only for
    the dreamer, but for the little people of his theatre. These
    understood the change as well as he. When he lay down to prepare
    himself for sleep, he no longer sought amusement, but printable and
    profitable tales; and after he had dozed off in his box-seat, his
    little people continued their evolutions with the same mercantile
    designs. All other forms of dream deserted him but two: he still
    occasionally reads the most delightful books, he still visits at
    times the most delightful places; and it is perhaps worthy of note
    that to these same places, and to one in particular, he returns at
    intervals of months and years, finding new field-paths, visiting
    new neighbours, beholding that happy valley under new effects of
    noon and dawn and sunset. But all the rest of the family of
    visions is quite lost to him: the common, mangled version of
    yesterday's affairs, the raw-head-and-bloody-bones nightmare,
    rumoured to be the child of toasted cheese - these and their like
    are gone; and, for the most part, whether awake or asleep, he is
    simply occupied - he or his little people - in consciously making
    stories for the market. This dreamer (like many other persons) has
    encountered some trifling vicissitudes of fortune. When the bank
    begins to send letters and the butcher to linger at the back gate,
    he sets to belabouring his brains after a story, for that is his
    readiest money-winner; and, behold! at once the little people begin
    to bestir themselves in the same quest, and labour all night long,
    and all night long set before him truncheons of tales upon their
    lighted theatre. No fear of his being frightened now; the flying
    heart and the frozen scalp are things by-gone; applause, growing
    applause, growing interest, growing exultation in his own
    cleverness (for he takes all the credit), and at last a jubilant
    leap to wakefulness, with the cry, "I have it, that'll do!" upon
    his lips: with such and similar emotions he sits at these
    nocturnal dramas, with such outbreaks, like Claudius in the play,
    he scatters the performance in the midst. Often enough the waking
    is a disappointment: he has been too deep asleep, as I explain the
    thing; drowsiness has gained his little people, they have gone
    stumbling and maundering through their parts; and the play, to the
    awakened mind, is seen to be a tissue of absurdities. And yet how
    often have these sleepless Brownies done him honest service, and
    given him, as he sat idly taking his pleasure in the boxes, better
    tales than he could fashion for himself.

    Here is one, exactly as it came to him. It seemed he was the son
    of a very rich and wicked man, the owner of broad acres and a most
    damnable temper. The dreamer (and that was the son) had lived much
    abroad, on purpose to avoid his parent; and when at length he
    returned to England, it was to find him married again to a young
    wife, who was supposed to suffer cruelly and to loathe her yoke.
    Because of this marriage (as the dreamer indistinctly understood)
    it was desirable for father and son to have a meeting; and yet both
    being proud and both angry, neither would condescend upon a visit.
    Meet they did accordingly, in a desolate, sandy country by the sea;
    and there they quarrelled, and the son, stung by some intolerable
    insult, struck down the father dead. No suspicion was aroused; the
    dead man was found and buried, and the dreamer succeeded to the
    broad estates, and found himself installed under the same roof with
    his father's widow, for whom no provision had been made. These two
    lived very much alone, as people may after a bereavement, sat down
    to table together, shared the long evenings, and grew daily better
    friends; until it seemed to him of a sudden that she was prying
    about dangerous matters, that she had conceived a notion of his
    guilt, that she watched him and tried him with questions. He drew
    back from her company as men draw back from a precipice suddenly
    discovered; and yet so strong was the attraction that he would
    drift again and again into the old intimacy, and again and again be
    startled back by some suggestive question or some inexplicable
    meaning in her eye. So they lived at cross purposes, a life full
    of broken dialogue, challenging glances, and suppressed passion;
    until, one day, he saw the woman slipping from the house in a veil,
    followed her to the station, followed her in the train to the
    seaside country, and out over the sandhills to the very place where
    the murder was done. There she began to grope among the bents, he
    watching her, flat upon his face; and presently she had something
    in her hand - I cannot remember what it was, but it was deadly
    evidence against the dreamer - and as she held it up to look at it,
    perhaps from the shock of the discovery, her foot slipped, and she
    hung at some peril on the brink of the tall sand-wreaths. He had
    no thought but to spring up and rescue her; and there they stood
    face to face, she with that deadly matter openly in her hand - his
    very presence on the spot another link of proof. It was plain she
    was about to speak, but this was more than he could bear - he could
    bear to be lost, but not to talk of it with his destroyer; and he
    cut her short with trivial conversation. Arm in arm, they returned
    together to the train, talking he knew not what, made the journey
    back in the same carriage, sat down to dinner, and passed the
    evening in the drawing-room as in the past. But suspense and fear
    drummed in the dreamer's bosom. "She has not denounced me yet" -
    so his thoughts ran - "when will she denounce me? Will it be to-
    morrow?" And it was not to-morrow, nor the next day, nor the next;
    and their life settled back on the old terms, only that she seemed
    kinder than before, and that, as for him, the burthen of his
    suspense and wonder grew daily more unbearable, so that he wasted
    away like a man with a disease. Once, indeed, he broke all bounds
    of decency, seized an occasion when she was abroad, ransacked her
    room, and at last, hidden away among her jewels, found the damning
    evidence. There he stood, holding this thing, which was his life,
    in the hollow of his hand, and marvelling at her inconsequent
    behaviour, that she should seek, and keep, and yet not use it; and
    then the door opened, and behold herself. So, once more, they
    stood, eye to eye, with the evidence between them; and once more
    she raised to him a face brimming with some communication; and once
    more he shied away from speech and cut her off. But before he left
    the room, which he had turned upside down, he laid back his death-
    warrant where he had found it; and at that, her face lighted up.
    The next thing he heard, she was explaining to her maid, with some
    ingenious falsehood, the disorder of her things. Flesh and blood
    could bear the strain no longer; and I think it was the next
    morning (though chronology is always hazy in the theatre of the
    mind) that he burst from his reserve. They had been breakfasting
    together in one corner of a great, parqueted, sparely-furnished
    room of many windows; all the time of the meal she had tortured him
    with sly allusions; and no sooner were the servants gone, and these
    two protagonists alone together, than he leaped to his feet. She
    too sprang up, with a pale face; with a pale face, she heard him as
    he raved out his complaint: Why did she torture him so? she knew
    all, she knew he was no enemy to her; why did she not denounce him
    at once? what signified her whole behaviour? why did she torture
    him? and yet again, why did she torture him? And when he had done,
    she fell upon her knees, and with outstretched hands: "Do you not
    understand?" she cried. "I love you!"

    Hereupon, with a pang of wonder and mercantile delight, the dreamer
    awoke. His mercantile delight was not of long endurance; for it
    soon became plain that in this spirited tale there were
    unmarketable elements; which is just the reason why you have it
    here so briefly told. But his wonder has still kept growing; and I
    think the reader's will also, if he consider it ripely. For now he
    sees why I speak of the little people as of substantive inventors
    and performers. To the end they had kept their secret. I will go
    bail for the dreamer (having excellent grounds for valuing his
    candour) that he had no guess whatever at the motive of the woman -
    the hinge of the whole well-invented plot - until the instant of
    that highly dramatic declaration. It was not his tale; it was the
    little people's! And observe: not only was the secret kept, the
    story was told with really guileful craftsmanship. The conduct of
    both actors is (in the cant phrase) psychologically correct, and
    the emotion aptly graduated up to the surprising climax. I am
    awake now, and I know this trade; and yet I cannot better it. I am
    awake, and I live by this business; and yet I could not outdo -
    could not perhaps equal - that crafty artifice (as of some old,
    experienced carpenter of plays, some Dennery or Sardou) by which
    the same situation is twice presented and the two actors twice
    brought face to face over the evidence, only once it is in her
    hand, once in his - and these in their due order, the least
    dramatic first. The more I think of it, the more I am moved to
    press upon the world my question: Who are the Little People? They
    are near connections of the dreamer's, beyond doubt; they share in
    his financial worries and have an eye to the bank-book; they share
    plainly in his training; they have plainly learned like him to
    build the scheme of a considerate story and to arrange emotion in
    progressive order; only I think they have more talent; and one
    thing is beyond doubt, they can tell him a story piece by piece,
    like a serial, and keep him all the while in ignorance of where
    they aim. Who are they, then? and who is the dreamer?

    Well, as regards the dreamer, I can answer that, for he is no less
    a person than myself; - as I might have told you from the
    beginning, only that the critics murmur over my consistent egotism;
    - and as I am positively forced to tell you now, or I could advance
    but little farther with my story. And for the Little People, what
    shall I say they are but just my Brownies, God bless them! who do
    one-half my work for me while I am fast asleep, and in all human
    likelihood, do the rest for me as well, when I am wide awake and
    fondly suppose I do it for myself. That part which is done while I
    am sleeping is the Brownies' part beyond contention; but that which
    is done when I am up and about is by no means necessarily mine,
    since all goes to show the Brownies have a hand in it even then.
    Here is a doubt that much concerns my conscience. For myself -
    what I call I, my conscious ego, the denizen of the pineal gland
    unless he has changed his residence since Descartes, the man with
    the conscience and the variable bank-account, the man with the hat
    and the boots, and the privilege of voting and not carrying his
    candidate at the general elections - I am sometimes tempted to
    suppose he is no story-teller at all, but a creature as matter of
    fact as any cheesemonger or any cheese, and a realist bemired up to
    the ears in actuality; so that, by that account, the whole of my
    published fiction should be the single-handed product of some
    Brownie, some Familiar, some unseen collaborator, whom I keep
    locked in a back garret, while I get all the praise and he but a
    share (which I cannot prevent him getting) of the pudding. I am an
    excellent adviser, something like Moliere's servant; I pull back
    and I cut down; and I dress the whole in the best words and
    sentences that I can find and make; I hold the pen, too; and I do
    the sitting at the table, which is about the worst of it; and when
    all is done, I make up the manuscript and pay for the registration;
    so that, on the whole, I have some claim to share, though not so
    largely as I do, in the profits of our common enterprise.

    I can but give an instance or so of what part is done sleeping and
    what part awake, and leave the reader to share what laurels there
    are, at his own nod, between myself and my collaborators; and to do
    this I will first take a book that a number of persons have been
    polite enough to read, the STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.
    I had long been trying to write a story on this subject, to find a
    body, a vehicle, for that strong sense of man's double being which
    must at times come in upon and overwhelm the mind of every thinking
    creature. I had even written one, THE TRAVELLING COMPANION, which
    was returned by an editor on the plea that it was a work of genius
    and indecent, and which I burned the other day on the ground that
    it was not a work of genius, and that JEKYLL had supplanted it.
    Then came one of those financial fluctuations to which (with an
    elegant modesty) I have hitherto referred in the third person. For
    two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and
    on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene
    afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took
    the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his
    pursuers. All the rest was made awake, and consciously, although I
    think I can trace in much of it the manner of my Brownies. The
    meaning of the tale is therefore mine, and had long pre-existed in
    my garden of Adonis, and tried one body after another in vain;
    indeed, I do most of the morality, worse luck! and my Brownies have
    not a rudiment of what we call a conscience. Mine, too, is the
    setting, mine the characters. All that was given me was the matter
    of three scenes, and the central idea of a voluntary change
    becoming involuntary. Will it be thought ungenerous, after I have
    been so liberally ladling out praise to my unseen collaborators, if
    I here toss them over, bound hand and foot, into the arena of the
    critics? For the business of the powders, which so many have
    censured, is, I am relieved to say, not mine at all but the
    Brownies'. Of another tale, in case the reader should have glanced
    at it, I may say a word: the not very defensible story of OLALLA.
    Here the court, the mother, the mother's niche, Olalla, Olalla's
    chamber, the meetings on the stair, the broken window, the ugly
    scene of the bite, were all given me in bulk and detail as I have
    tried to write them; to this I added only the external scenery (for
    in my dream I never was beyond the court), the portrait, the
    characters of Felipe and the priest, the moral, such as it is, and
    the last pages, such as, alas! they are. And I may even say that
    in this case the moral itself was given me; for it arose
    immediately on a comparison of the mother and the daughter, and
    from the hideous trick of atavism in the first. Sometimes a
    parabolic sense is still more undeniably present in a dream;
    sometimes I cannot but suppose my Brownies have been aping Bunyan,
    and yet in no case with what would possibly be called a moral in a
    tract; never with the ethical narrowness; conveying hints instead
    of life's larger limitations and that sort of sense which we seem
    to perceive in the arabesque of time and space.

    For the most part, it will be seen, my Brownies are somewhat
    fantastic, like their stories hot and hot, full of passion and the
    picturesque, alive with animating incident; and they have no
    prejudice against the supernatural. But the other day they gave me
    a surprise, entertaining me with a love-story, a little April
    comedy, which I ought certainly to hand over to the author of A
    CHANCE ACQUAINTANCE, for he could write it as it should be written,
    and I am sure (although I mean to try) that I cannot. - But who
    would have supposed that a Brownie of mine should invent a tale for
    Mr. Howells?
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