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A Case Of Metaphantasmia
by [?]

The stranger was a guest of Halson’s, and Halson himself was a comparative stranger, for he was of recent election to our dining-club, and was better known to Minver than to the rest of our little group, though one could not be sure that he was very well known to Minver. The stranger had been dining with Halson, and we had found the two smoking together, with their cups of black coffee at their elbows, before the smouldering fire in the Turkish room when we came in from dinner–my friend Wanhope the psychologist, Rulledge the sentimentalist, Minver the painter, and myself. It struck me for the first time that a fire on the hearth was out of keeping with a Turkish room, but I felt that the cups of black coffee restored the lost balance in some measure.

Before we had settled into our wonted places–in fact, almost as we entered–Halson looked over his shoulder and said: “Mr. Wanhope, I want you to hear this story of my friend’s. Go on, Newton–or, rather, go back and begin again–and I’ll introduce you afterwards.”

The stranger made a becoming show of deprecation. He said he did not think the story would bear immediate repetition, or was even worth telling once, but, if we had nothing better to do, perhaps we might do worse than hear it; the most he could say for it was that the thing really happened. He wore a large, drooping, gray mustache, which, with the imperial below it, quite hid his mouth, and gave him, somehow, a martial effect, besides accurately dating him of the period between the latest sixties and earliest seventies, when his beard would have been black; I liked his mustache not being stubbed in the modern manner, but allowed to fall heavily over his lips, and then branch away from the corners of his mouth as far as it would. He lighted the cigar which Halson gave him, and, blowing the bitten-off tip towards the fire, began:

“It was about that time when we first had a ten-o’clock night train from Boston to New York. Train used to start at nine, and lag along round by Springfield, and get into the old Twenty-sixth Street Station here at six in the morning, where they let you sleep as long as you liked. They call you up now at half-past five, and, if you don’t turn out, they haul you back to Mott Haven, or New Haven, I’m not sure which. I used to go into Boston and turn in at the old Worcester Depot, as we called it then, just about the time the train began to move, and I usually got a fine night’s rest in the course of the nine or ten hours we were on the way to New York; it didn’t seem quite the same after we began saying Albany Depot: shortened up the run, somehow.

“But that night I wasn’t very sleepy, and the porter had got the place so piping hot with the big stoves, one at each end of the car, to keep the good, old-fashioned Christmas cold out, that I thought I should be more comfortable with a smoke before I went to bed; and, anyhow, I could get away from the heat better in the smoking-room. I hated to be leaving home on Christmas Eve, for I never had done that before, and I hated to be leaving my wife alone with the children and the two girls in our little house in Cambridge. Before I started in on the old horse-car for Boston, I had helped her to tuck the young ones in and to fill the stockings hung along the wall over the register–the nearest we could come to a fireplace–and I thought those stockings looked very weird, five of them, dangling lumpily down, and I kept seeing them, and her sitting up sewing in front of them, and afraid to go to bed on account of burglars. I suppose she was shyer of burglars than any woman ever was that had never seen a sign of them. She was always calling me up, to go down-stairs and put them out, and I used to wander all over the house, from attic to cellar, in my nighty, with a lamp in one hand and a poker in the other, so that no burglar could have missed me if he had wanted an easy mark. I always kept a lamp and a poker handy.”