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BY S. WEIR MITCHELL, M. D., AUTHOR OF "IN WAR TIME," ETC.
E met by agreement at Vincent's a week later. When I came in St. Clair was talking of my story. "The possibilities of the ghost-tales are pretty well worked out," he said, "but Owen's was really fresh." "The logical character of the old Scot in your story was past praise," said Clayborne.
"And what about the arrears ?" remarked Vincent. "I should like to be employed to bring suit for them."
"Oh, I then and there made him write the bill against Mr. Gillespie's ghost. The old banker was delighted when I told him the story; he admitted the obligation, dead or alive, he said, and he was as good as his word."
"That ends it neatly," said Mrs. Vincent. "And now we must really have the character doctor."
I went on to read it, saying:
"The friend who gave me, at my desire, the notes of a part of a rather odd life is now abroad. I have woven what I knew of him into his own account of himself, and have tried to preserve the peculiar abruptness of his style."
THE CHARACTER DOCTOR.
AT the age of twenty-three I was an orphan. I was independent as to means, and by profession a doctor of medicine. I began to practise in L, and, as I obtained only by slow degrees the patients I needed rather than wanted, I found increasing difficulties. If a case were painful, I suffered too. If it ended ill, I was tormented by self-reproaches. In a word, I was too sensitive to be of use. Weak or hysterical women liked me and my too ready show of sympathy. It was, in fact, real, and quite too real for my good or my comfort. Moreover, I hated to be told that I had so much sympathy. It is a quality to use with wisdom. I could not control it. It was valuable to some patients; it was useless to many, or even did harm. It made me anxious when my mind told me there was no need to be anxious. I was, in fact, too intensely troubled at times over a child or a young mother to be efficient. Decided or paingiving treatment I shrank from using. I was
inclined to gloomy prognostications, and this weakened my capacity to do good. And yet I was a conscientious man, and eager to do what was right. I have, however, observed that sanguine men, or men who deliberately and constantly predict relief or cure, do best. If failure comes, it explains itself or may be explained. I knew once a foxy old country doctor, who said to me, " Hide your indecisions; tell folks they will get well; tell their friends your doubts afterward." This may be one way of practising a profession; it was not mine.
A few years of practice wore me out, and yet I liked it in a way, and best of all the infinite varieties of life and character laid open to one's view. At last I consulted Professor N-. "And you feel," he said, " more and more the troubles and pain of your patients? To feel too sharply is not rare, and not bad for the young. Sympathy should harden by repeated blows into the tempered steel of usefulness, which has values in proportion to what it has borne; otherwise it and you are useless. Get out of our profession." And I did. I accepted the chair of psychology at B University, and plunged with joy into mere study. I soon found a want. The study of man in books and through self-observation became wearisome. The study of myself in the mirror of myself made me morbid. I might have known it would. There may be some who can do this. Autopsychological study seemed to me profitless. Can a man see his own eyes move in a mirror? Also the single man is useless as a field of examination. You recall my lecture on "Genera and Species of Mind," and on "Varieties of the Same." After all, it appeared to me that what I wanted was to collect notes of characters, good, bad, and neutral, if there be such; to study motives, large and small, and to collate them with the history of men intellectually regarded, and to see, also, how the moral nature modifies the mental product, and the reverse. Out of all this I must get some good for others. This my nature made imperative. I obtained a long holiday, which it was supposed I would spend in Germany with Herr Valzenberg, whose study of the diameters of the nerve-cells in relation to criminal tendencies has attracted so much notice.
Nothing was further from my intention. I left B- in February, 1863, and a week later had an office in quiet West street in the city of
Baypoint. I put on my door "Sylvian West, Character Doctor." You will see that I changed my name. For this I had good reasons. I meant to be another man for the time. I believed that change of name would mentally assist me to this, and I had no desire to be called insane because I chose to strike out a novel method of study, with which I meant to combine immediate utility.
During my office-hours I sat for a while near my window to observe the effect of my business-sign. It was a rather pleasant study. The street was a quiet byway, but morning and evening many people of all classes passed through it. Most of them went by with a passing glance of amusement or vague curiosity; others paused in wonder, went on, looked back, and again went on. Some crossed the street to make sure they had rightly read my sign. On the fourth day a young man crossed the street, rang the bell, and was shown into my office. I recognized the type at once. He was very sprucely dressed, was not over-clean as to his hands, and in his side-pocket I saw the top of a note-book. He sat down as I rose from my seat at the window. "Dr. West?" he said.
"Yes. You are a reporter?"
"I am. How did you guess that?" "It is simple. A note-book and pencil, soiled fingers, and, also-"
Now that's rather smart," he broke in. "And what else?"
"A collector of garbage to manure with fools' vanities the devil's farms," I said. "You may not be bad yourself, but you are part of a bad system. I do not want you." On this his look of alert smartness suddenly faded.
He did not lose his temper, but replied in a tone of some thoughtfulness:
"A man must make a living."
"I wish," I said, "there was such a phrase as make a dying. That's what you are making. Go your way; mine is an honest business." "But the public are interested. The thing is unusual. I should like to ask you a few questions." "As man to man let me ask you one. Are you never ashamed of yourself?"
He flushed a little. "Well, sometimes. I hate it."
"Then go and sin no more," I said, rising. "Good morning." At this he too rose, replaced the note-book he had drawn from his pocket, and, urging me no further, went out with a simple "Good morning." He must be young at the business, I reflected, and perhaps I may have done him good. I was undeceived two days later when I read in the "Standard": VOL. XLIV.-40.
GREAT SENSATION ON WEST STREET.
Crowds assembled about a curious sign: DR: SYLVIAN WEST,
Our reporter was courteously received by Dr. West, who said he was glad in the interest of the public to answer any questions. The interview was as follows:
is to furnish characters to those who need them. "Yes; I am a character doctor. My business Also I attend to sick characters. Sometimes whole families consult me as to the amendment and reconstruction of conflicting characters. Yes; I expect to have a character hospital, with wards for jealousy, anger, folly."
Then came details of my life. How I was born in Kamchatka, etc. I let the paper fall in dismay. It was the dull season, and there was much more of it. The man's trade-habit had been too much for him. I had more of them, but I gave up advising, and simply said that I would not answer. Then they interviewed my maid, and, at last, the cook at the back gate. It was almost as bad as the case of my friend who found a reporter under his table just before a dinner he was to give to a stranger of high position. I made a note upon the influence of business upon character. In a few days the plague abated.
Very soon my harvest began. At first I had an influx of Biddies, who each wanted a character. It seemed hard to make the public comprehend my purpose.
One afternoon about five I was told that some one wished to see me, and, leaving the up-stairs room I reserved for my books, went down to the office. On the lounge lay a man about twenty, of a death-like pallor. He sprang up as I came in, staggered, and fell back. I saw that he was ill, and called to the maid to bring wine, which he took eagerly. I said, "When did you last eat?"
"At seven to-day."
Upon this I went out and came back with food. "Eat," I said. By and by he rose, saying: "I thank you. I came to see you-for- but now I must tell you all. I left the penitentiary today. I got a year for stealing from my employer. A woman was the cause. Ah, three months would have done. When I got out I walked and walked; I thought I could walk forever, and at the corners the wind was in my face, sir. It was like heaven. Of a sudden I grew weak, and, seeing your sign, I came in. Now you know all. I fancy you 'll think I certainly do need a character."
"Yes. Where are you going?"
"To B, in Indiana. I have my goodservice money. I will go to L, and then
walk. I am an Englishman. I have no friends
He looked at me, at the money, and began
"Don't," I said. "I never could stand that," and went out of the room. In a few minutes he was gone. I ought to add that he did greatly prosper, and is to-day an esteemed citizen with many happy children.
About a week later a lad of seventeen called on me. He was well dressed and well bred. As he faced me I saw that he looked troubled, and that he hesitated.
“Well,” I said.
"You are a character doctor?" "Yes. What can I do for you?"
"I do not know. I don't know why I came here at all. Do I look like a bad fellow?" And he regarded me with eyes of honest calm
Maybe I'm a fool. I saw in the paper that you could tell if a man was bad, and why he was bad."
"Oh, hang the papers! What is it ?” "Do you think, sir, a fellow could steal and not know he did it ?'
"Yes. Suppose you tell me your story." Always people have been too ready to confess things to me; it was one of the many torments of my life as a doctor.
"Well, suppose a fellow had the key of a safe in charge, and something was missing. Could any one have taken it but him?"
I replied: "You are only half trusting me. Were I you I would be quite frank, or say nothing at least to me."
There was a certain sweetness in the young man's face as he looked up at me and said, "Well, I know about doctors; they are like priests-but-"
"I am a physician."
"Must I tell you my name?"
"Well, father went out of town a month ago, and left with me the key of the safe in his library-in our own house, you know. I did not want it, but my elder brother is ill in bed, and there was no one else. The day father left he showed me where all the papers were, in case he wired for any of them, and also showed me a necklace of emeralds my aunt-my au-nt, -oh, I came awfully near telling her name,
- my aunt left in his care, because she's in Europe. That safe kept me anxious. Yes, sir ; it seems silly, but my mind was on it, and I am just nearly through college, and I never have had any cares. Of course it wore off by degrees, and then father came back. Indeed, sir, he was worse troubled than I, but I think I have been nearly crazy. I mean the necklace was gone. Why, I heard mother tell father I was very young and he must forgive me; but she sits in her room and rocks and rocks, and takes valerian. And now there is a detective, and he searches the house, and the servants look at me as if I were a thief, and that scoundrel he talked to me yesterday and guessed I'd best own up."
"And is that all?"
"No, sir; I-they all try not to think I did it, and they believe I did. I think I must have done it. I was wondering when it was. If I only knew what I did with it! Every one thinks I took it. But where is it? How can I confess it? I am not sure."
At this he rose and moved about, looked out of the window, and suddenly came back, saying, "By George! there 's that detective."
"Sit down," I said. "You need not tell me you have been a good lad or worked at school."
"I'm in the honor list, and I'm captain of the eleven," he said, with sorrowful pride, "and to think-but I did it. It 's so."
"Hush!" I returned. "The man who slanders himself is wicked or weak. You are only weak, and only that just now. You never did this act. I say so. If a dozen people say to a man daily, 'You are going to be ill,' that at last affects the most wholesome. If all you love tell you in words, looks, and ways that you have been a thief, at last a man doubts the evidence of his own memory and conscience, and loses his mental equilibrium, and joins the majority against himself. Then he is on the verge of becoming insane. Now, really, are all your people of one opinion?
"No; my sister Helen she just laughs at the whole thing. I mean when she don't cry."
"Sister Helen has some sense, I should say. And now listen. Go and play cricket to-day. Settle down to your work; you have neglected it. Mind, these are prescriptions. It will come right. I know you for an honest gentleman; now hurry out of the door and detect your detective. Tell him you have told me all, and come back to-morrow. And your name, please?"
He hesitated, and said, "Frederick Winslow."
"And mind, make a good score at cricket, and leave it all to me."
"Thank you," he said. "I must try, sir. I - what is your charge?"
"Let that rest now. When you go the detective will visit me. It is our turn now."
A minute later, as I expected, the detective walked in. "Mr. Winslow," he said, "says he has told you all. I am Mr. Diggles. Here's my card." It bore a large eye in the center, and over it, "John Diggles, Confidential Detective Agency."
"Glad he owned up. Pretty smart boy, but they gets worried into lettin' out at last." All this rather volubly.
"Sit down," I said. “You believe that young fellow stole an emerald necklace?" "Why, who else could have done it?" "There is a reason for crime, usually?" "Yes; I guess there 's always reason for wanting other folks' things. But he has told you he took it ? "
"No; and if he had, in the state he is in now, I should not have believed him."
"Why? Not believe him! Why not?" "Because you took it yourself." At this he sprang to his feet and exclaimed, "I did not come here to be insulted."
I was about to explain that the probability of his being the thief was to me not less than of the necklace having been stolen by my young captain of the cricket eleven, but something in the sudden flush and rage of a man living always in familiar nearness to crime gave me reason to hesitate. Crime for these men loses its horror, and becomes a mere enemy to be technically dealt with. It troubles them as little as deceit does the soldier, who plays the game of war. Fraud is his weapon. I returned quickly: "What has been your life compared to this boy's? His has been honest, dutiful, and correct. And yours? What have you been?" The man was singularly bewildered, and said nothing. I went on: "Who is most likely to be the thief, you or he? You had best go home and say the prayer of a wiser man'God be merciful to me, a fool.'"
"I want to know what that boy told you." "That you will never know. Send me that lad's father."
"I won't do it."
"Take care how you act in this case." "You called me a thief."
"Well, then, you look out, that's all." He was clearly foolish, as well as angry. "You think I stole that necklace. That's the kind of character doctor you are!"
"I said you were a thief. And now it is a man's character, his honor, you are helping to steal, because you have no sense, and come to a point on any obvious fact."
“Oh, that's all, is it?"
The Winslows were well-known people, and I readily found Mr.Winslow. He was a slow, pre
cise, over-accurate man of sixty. No imagination; horizons limited; undergoing in advance physical, moral, and mental ossification. Of course, as a character doctor, I was to him a queer, extra-social animal. I soon found that I must tell him my whole story.
His astonishment was as large as his nature let it be; but as he knew my people, and conceded to the class to which we belonged larger privileges than he would admit for others, I was able to win his confidence.
I then explained to him my conviction as to his son's innocence.
"Oh, of course," he replied, "that is so. But, then, the facts," -and he began elaborately to describe them, ending with, "Of course it was n't he, but who was it?"
I told him that the boy was being goaded by hints, looks, doubts, half-beliefs, and the detective's folly into a form of mental disorder which would end in the avowal of what he had never done.
He was puzzled and alarmed, but, on careful examination, nothing new came out. On my casually asking for his sick son, he said that he was an invalid unable to walk; had neurasthenia, and now, refusing to see doctors, remained in bed. I was nearly at the end of my resources; I asked if I might see him, for, after our talk, I had so won my way that I was allowed to examine the safe, and to talk with the mother and daughter.
Mr. Winslow said: "Miss Winslow will take you up. He dislikes me to come in. He says my boots creak. He says some people's boots always creak."
Miss Helen went up with me. I was on her side, as she knew. She said to me: "He may refuse to see you. Why do you want to see him?”
"Because," I said, "we are in the tangle of a mystery, and he too is rather mysterious." She laughed. "I see." Clearly she had imaginative possibilities, and I like that. I said, "I will go in alone."
"I would," she returned firmly.
The room was in half light. I said as I went in: "Mr. Winslow, I am a physician. Your father desires me to see you. My name is West. Let me open the windows."
“Oh, if I must, I must," he said peevishly. The flood of light showed me a thin, apathetic man of thirty. I sat down.
"Open your eyes." He obeyed. Then I went carefully into his case, and at the close he said:
"No, I can't walk or read; but I was better until this necklace business. Every one bothers about it. Aunt L- says it is for my wife; and so I say, it is mine, and if I don't care, who else need care?"
As I rose to go he said: " My legs hurt me. Now you are here, just look at them."
I did so. There were on each leg bruises in the same place, below the knees. Hesitating, I went on to look at the feet. Then I said: "That will do. What fire do you burn? Oh, soft coal, I see. I will think it over, and see you again." Down-stairs I found Mr. Winslow.
"Well?" he exclaimed.
"Your son says he cannot walk. On his soles are marks of the black from the fire. On his legs are two bruises; one has a slight break of the skin. Either he is untruthful, or he walks in his sleep."
"He did as a boy."
The result was that I had a watch set on the invalid. After three nights he rose, lighted his candle, walked into his brother's room, and with curious care searched his clothes' pockets. At last he took a bundle of keys from one of them, and went quietly down-stairs to the safe. He was quite unconscious of being watched, and foolishly but deliberately tried key after key, small or large, and at last went back to his bed, dropping the keys on the way.
When I was told of all this, I was greatly puzzled, and regretted that the key of the safe had not been left where he could get it. Saying that I was still better satisfied of my young friend's innocence, I went away, and before going home called at the steamer agency to engage passage for the coming autumn. As I entered I saw my detective go out of another door. After settling for my berth, I asked if Mr. Diggles was going to Europe. The clerk said, "Who?"
I replied, "The man who just went out." "Name of Stimpson," said the clerk. "He sails next week."
The next day I sent for the man. He came early.
Any news?" he said abruptly. "No; I merely wanted to ask you a question or two."
"All right. Go ahead." He exhibited no hostility.
"When did you search the safe?"
and in a certain loosening of his features I saw alarm and astonishment.
"Name of Stimpson?" I urged. As I spoke I rose. "Look here," I said, " to-morrow you will go to the house and ask leave to search that safe. The necklace will be found the day after in a bundle of deeds." "Are you crazy? "
"No; but you will be, and worse, if that necklace is not found. Now, I know, and you have one day, and no more. Remember, I know. It is this or ruin, and you are watched."
He looked at me a moment and then went out without a word, and did precisely what I had ordered him to do.
"And the necklace?" said Mrs. Vincent. "Was found in a roll of deeds. My friend goes on to say that his theory was that the sleep-walker took the key, opened the safe, and-who can say why?-removed the necklace from its case, and put it inside a roll of old papers. On the detective's more thorough search at his first inspection, he found it, and easily contrived to pocket it."
X, æt. 30. Male, good habits, fugitive ambitions, intellect about No. 12 of my scale. Inexorably materialistic tendencies, with longings to see things more spiritually. Want of imagination; general lack of persistent energy; hence constant efforts aborted by incapacity for continued labor, and lack of the bribes offered by imagination. Shifts responsibility on to his ancestral inheritances. A life of self-excuses, but says he is a failure. Advise the tonic of a desperate love-affair with a woman of sense. He says the medicine seems to be wisely ordered, but who is to be the apothecary? Prognosis bad.
"I think I shall call on that doctor," said "The third day after Mr. Winslow came St. Clair, laughing. "I know an apothecary— home." what next?
"You did it thoroughly?"
"I did. Mr. Winslow he had n't unrolled all the bundles. He said it was no use, they was only deeds and such. I done it thorough." "And are you not at the end of your resources."
"No, sir. By this day month we shall have him. He is a boy, and he'll try to sell or pawn it. I've got an eye on him." "But you sail next week."
Mrs. B, æt. 33. Not a strong nature, but mildly disposed to do good, to attend to life's duties. No tastes, no strong traits; morally anemic. Spoilt as a child; indulged by a husband; petted by fortune. No intense maternal instincts, and relieved of the care of her children. Is bored to the limit of endurance, and is a little pleased with her capacity for ennui; regards it as a distinction. A life with
The man suddenly tilted back his chair, out motives, and, as a result, peevish discon