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The Grocer's Cough
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The Lost Securities






A lady dreamed that she was sitting at a window, watching the end of
an autumn sunset. There came a knock at the front door and a
gentleman and lady were ushered in. The gentleman wore an old-
fashioned snuff-coloured suit, of the beginning of the century; he
was, in fact, an aged uncle, who, during the Napoleonic wars, had been
one of the English detenus in France. The lady was very beautiful and
wore something like a black Spanish mantilla. The pair carried with
them a curiously wrought steel box. Before conversation was begun,
the maid (still in the dream) brought in the lady's chocolate and the
figures vanished. When the maid withdrew, the figures reappeared
standing by the table. The box was now open, and the old gentleman
drew forth some yellow papers, written on in faded ink. These, he
said, were lists of securities, which had been in his possession, when
he went abroad in 18--, and in France became engaged to his beautiful
companion.

"The securities," he said, "are now in the strong box of Messrs. ---;"
another rap at the door, and the actual maid entered with real hot
water. It was time to get up. The whole dream had its origin in the
first rap, heard by the dreamer and dramatised into the arrival of
visitors. Probably it did not last for more than two or three seconds
of real time. The maid's second knock just prevented the revelation
of the name of "Messrs. ---," who, like the lady in the mantilla, were
probably non-existent people. {13}

Thus dream dramatises on the impulse of some faint, hardly perceived
real sensation. And thus either mere empty fancies (as in the case of
the lost securities) or actual knowledge which we may have once
possessed but have totally forgotten, or conclusions which have passed
through our brains as unheeded guesses, may in a dream be, as it were,
"revealed" through the lips of a character in the brain's theatre--
that character may, in fact, be alive, or dead, or merely fantastical.
A very good case is given with this explanation (lost knowledge
revived in a dramatic dream about a dead man) by Sir Walter Scott in a
note to The Antiquary. Familiar as the story is it may be offered
here, for a reason which will presently be obvious.





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Previous: The Lost Key



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