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Skylight

Dreamed well before 1894 by an Honorable Lady

Source: Imagination in Dreams by Frederick Greenwood (1894; p. 100). The passage is untitled; Skylight is my just my title of convenience. Anonymous Victorian dream-accounts are often third-hand or worse, but I trust Greenwood when he says he knows the source. He was a dream researcher, not a typical Victorian collector of anecdotes. The book is mostly theory--in fact, a theory of the unconscious, six years before Freud! But he never coined a clear name for it, and so he was lost in Sigmund's shadow.

A lady whose name is honourably known to the world sent me the following story a little while since:
Until I was more than sixteen years old I had never lived at home. I was always away at English or foreign schools; and when I did come home for vacation it was to join my family at a house by the sea. Therefore a great town businesshouse belonging to my father was perfectly strange to me when I went home to it a little while before his death.

After his death the business fell into the hands of my mother, who knew nothing of such affairs, and was robbed shamefully by her servants. We girls were never allowed to know anything of business matters; and though it is possible that I heard these robberies complained of, I gave little heed to them.

One night when all the family had gone to bed I stayed up reading Don Quixote. I read by the light of a single candle in a large drawingroom. Even now, looking back, I cannot be convinced that I fell asleep, or decide that what was perhaps a dream was not a vision. On hearing a church-bell ring the first quarter past one I looked up from my book. Opposite was my dead father's favourite armchair. To my astonishment a black veil seemed to lie over it. While I rubbed my eyes and again stared, the veil lightened till it became gray; and in the ugly mist a shape became visible. With a slowness which still fills me with horror to remember, the shape took the lineaments of my father: not as I had seen him dead, but grayer, thinner, and with a dreadful clayey look about him. Taking up the candle, he told me to follow him and learn the secret of the robberies, which, he said, were greater than they were supposed to be; and at the same time he named as culprit a man-servant whom we all trusted and were attached to. As for me, I should as soon have suspected my mother as this man. I followed my father downstairs into parts of the house that were unfamiliar to me. He opened the doors without any difficulty, though the keys were upstairs in my mother's room.

I can affirm that I never heard the word "sky-light" until my father pronounced it that night, as he showed me the thing of that name above a back door leading into a dark, unfrequented street. This he told me had been in his day carefully locked every night. Since then, it seemed, nobody had ever thought of fastening it; and by means of my dream it was soon proved that thieves who were the accomplices of our trusted servant used to come in and go out through this skylight.

EDITOR'S NOTES

So don't let skepticism or mysticism distract you. Check your skylight.

--Chris Wayan



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