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White-Faced

Dreamed July 3, 1861 by John Addington Symonds

I passed a very bad night, in the course of which I had this dream.

I thought that papa and I were travelling, and were sleeping in adjoining rooms. We were in some hot country, and I had just come to the end of a night spent in great pain. Toward the morning I slept fairly, and when I woke the sun was shining hot upon my darkened room. For some reason or other papa had left his room, and I was alone. As I rose a horrid sense of impending evil oppressed me. I could hardly stand, and in great weakness I tottered to a chair that stood before a tall looking-glass.

There I saw myself a hideous sight. My skin was leprous white, like parchment, and all shrivelled. From every pore burst a river of perspiration, and ran to my feet. My feet were cramped and blanched, and cockled up with pain. But the face was the most awful sight. It was all white -- the lips white and parched -- the eyes pale, and presenting a perfectly flat surface. They were dilated, and shone with a cold blue eerie light.

I heard a noise in papa's room, and knocked. He said, 'Come in' in his usual tone, and I crept up to him. He was shaving and did not see me, till I roused him by touching him and saying slowly, 'Papa.' Then he turned round and looked intently at me and inquiringly. I shrieked, 'Papa, don't you know me?' but even while I cried the vision of my own distorted features came across me, and filled me with my utter loneliness. At last he cried,"My son,' and, burying his face in his hands, he added, 'All in one night.'

In an ecstasy of deliverance I clasped his neck, and felt that now I need not go back into that twilight room with its bed and the mystery behind its curtains. But he went on in a hesitating voice, 'My poor boy! what fiend -- or demon?' I stopped the question with a yell. Something seemed to tear me, and I awoke struggling.

Such was my dream -- more horrible than it seems, for the terror of dreams bears no relation to the hideousness of their incidents, but to some hidden emotion.

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