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The Lost Securities

Categories: Ghost Stories
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

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 lik
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


"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.