Imágenes de páginas

have some hideous familiar. To say there can be no such things as ghosts is a paltry blasphemy. It is a theory of the smug, comfortable kind. A ghost need not wear a white sheet and have intelligible designs on personal property. A ghost need not be the spirit of a dead person. A ghost need have no moral mission whatever.

I once met a haunted man, a man who had seen a real ghost; a ghost that had, as the

ape, no ascertainable moral mission but to drive his victim mad. In this case too the victim was a clergyman. He is, I believe, alive and well now. He has shaken off the incubus and walks a free man. I was travelling at the time, and accidentally got into chat with him on the deck of a steamboat by night. We were quite alone in the darkness and far from land when he told me his extraordinary story. I do not of course intend retailing it here. I look on it as a private communication. I asked him what brought him to the mental plight in which he had found himself, and he answered briefly, “ Overwork." He was then convalescent, and had been assured by his physicians that with care


the ghost which had been laid would appear no

The spectre he saw threatened physical harm, and while he was haunted by it he went in constant dread of death by violence. It had nothing good or bad to do with his ordinary life or his sacred calling. It had no foundation on fact, no basis on justice. He had been for months pursued by the figure of a man threatening to take away his life. He did not believe this man had any corporeal existence. He did not know whether the creature had the power to kill him or not. The figure was there in the attitude of menace and would not be banished. He knew that no one but himself could see the murderous being. That ghost was there for him, and there for him alone.

Respecting the Canadian nuns whose convent was beleaguered and infested by ghostly enemies that came not by ones or twos but in battalions, I had a fancy at the time. I do not intend using the terminologies or theories of the dissecting room, or the language of physiology found in books. I am not sure the fancy is wholly my own, but some of it is original.

I shall suppose that the nerves are not only capable of various conditions of health and disease, but of large structural alteration in life; structural alteration not yet recorded or observed in fact; structural alteration which, if you will, exists in life but disappears instantly at death. In fine, I mean rather to illustrate my fancy than to describe anything that exists or could exist. Before letting go the last strand of sense, let me say that talking of nerves being highly strung is sheer nonsense, and not good nonsense either. The muscles it is that are highly strung. The poor nerves are merely insulated wires from the battery in the head. Their tension is no more affected by the messages that go over them, than an Atlantic cable is tightened or loosened by the signals indicating fluctuations in the Stock Exchanges of London and New York,

The nerves, let us suppose, in their normal condition of health have three skins over the absolute sentient tissue. In the ideal man in perfect health, let us say Hodge, the man whose privilege it is to "draw nutrition, propagate, and

rot," the three skins are always at their thickest and toughest. Now genius is a disease, and it falls, as ladies of Mrs. Gamp's degree say, " on the nerves.' That is, the first of these skins having been worn away or never supplied by nature, the patient “sees visions and dreams dreams." The man of genius is not exactly under delusions. He does not think he is in China because he is writing of Canton in London, but his optic nerve, wanting the outer coating, can build up images out of statistics until the images are as full of line and colour and as incapable of change at will as the image of a barrel of cider which occupies Hodge's retina when it is imminent to his desires, present to his touch. The sensibility of the nerves of genius is greater than the sensibility of the nerves of Hodge. Not all the eloquence of an unabridged dictionary could create an image in Hodge's mind of a thing he had never seen. From a brief description a painter of genius could make a picture-not a likeness of course of Canton, although he had never been outside the four corners of these kingdoms,

The painting would not, in all likelihood, be in the least like Canton, but it would be very like the image formed in the painter's mind of that city. In the painter such an image comes and goes at will. He can either see it or not see it as he pleases. It is the result of the brain reacting on the nerve. It relies on data and combination, It is his slave, not his master. Before it can be formed there must be great increase of sensibility. Hodge is crude silver, the painter is the polished mirror. The painter can see things which are not, things which he himself makes in his mind. His invention is at least as vivid as his memory.

I suppose then that the man of genius, , the painter or poet, is one who, having lost the first skin, or portion of the first skin of his nerves, can create and see in his mind's eye things never seen by the eye of any other man, and see them as vividly as men of no genius can see objects of memory.

Now peel off the second skin. The more exquisitely sensitive or the innermost skin of the nerve is exposed. Things which the eye of

« AnteriorContinuar »