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Chesterton's Pounce

Dreamed 1920/4/6 by William Archer

One of the oddest dreams I ever had. The place and circumstances are quite vague, but I was standing somewhere with someone when a leopard came into our field of vision. I said to my neighbour, "You mightn't think it, but that is Gilbert Chesterton". Then the leopard hung himself by his tail upon something which I vaguely conceived as the opening of an arbour or pergola; and I thought (and I believe said) that Chesterton was lying in wait for Bernard Shaw, and that by thus looking as if he were hanging dead, he was lulling Shaw's suspicions.

Then Shaw appeared, I think also in animal form, but what form I cannot say. At all events the leopard fell upon him and it seemed that, in a moment, he had not only killed him but sucked all his blood and left him like a squeezed-out rag.

Then the leopard disappeared and I rushed to the scene of the tragedy in an agony of grief and remorse. I somehow felt that I had regarded it all as a joke, and that, if I had had my wits about me, I might have interfered to avert this fatal and horrible termination.

I never saw either Shaw or Chesterton--the dead body, whether that of an animal or a man, was not in the least like Shaw--but I had not the least doubt that Shaw was dead and that the leopard Chesterton had sucked his blood.

from William Archer's On Dreams, 1935, quoted in The Oxford Book of Dreams (ed. Stephen Brook), 1983


--Chris Wayan

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