When I awoke I felt greatly refreshed, and lay a considerable time in
a dozing state, enjoying the sensation of bodily comfort. The
experiences of the day previous, my waking to find myself in the year
2000, the sight of the new Boston, my host and his family, and the
wonderful things I had heard, were a blank in my memory. I thought I
was in my bed-chamber at home, and the half-dreaming, half-waking
fancies which passed before my mind related to the incidents and
experiences of my former life. Dreamily I reviewed the incidents of
Decoration Day, my trip in company with Edith and her parents to Mount
Auburn, and my dining with them on our return to the city. I recalled
how extremely well Edith had looked, and from that fell to thinking of
our marriage; but scarcely had my imagination begun to develop this
delightful theme than my waking dream was cut short by the
recollection of the letter I had received the night before from the
builder announcing that the new strikes might postpone indefinitely
the completion of the new house. The chagrin which this recollection
brought with it effectually roused me. I remembered that I had an
appointment with the builder at eleven o'clock, to discuss the strike,
and opening my eyes, looked up at the clock at the foot of my bed to
see what time it was. But no clock met my glance, and what was more, I
instantly perceived that I was not in my room. Starting up on my
couch, I stared wildly round the strange apartment.
I think it must have been many seconds that I sat up thus in bed
staring about, without being able to regain the clew to my personal
identity. I was no more able to distinguish myself from pure being
during those moments than we may suppose a soul in the rough to be
before it has received the ear-marks, the individualizing touches
which make it a person. Strange that the sense of this inability
should be such anguish! but so we are constituted. There are no words
for the mental torture I endured during this helpless, eyeless groping
for myself in a boundless void. No other experience of the mind gives
probably anything like the sense of absolute intellectual arrest from
the loss of a mental fulcrum, a starting point of thought, which comes
during such a momentary obscuration of the sense of one's identity. I
trust I may never know what it is again.
I do not know how long this condition had lasted,--it seemed an
interminable time,--when, like a flash, the recollection of everything
came back to me. I remembered who and where I was, and how I had come
here, and that these scenes as of the life of yesterday which had
been passing before my mind concerned a generation long, long ago
mouldered to dust. Leaping from bed, I stood in the middle of the room
clasping my temples with all my might between my hands to keep them
from bursting. Then I fell prone on the couch, and, burying my face in
the pillow, lay with out motion. The reaction which was inevitable,
from the mental elation, the fever of the intellect that had been the
first effect of my tremendous experience, had arrived. The emotional
crisis which had awaited the full realization of my actual position,
and all that it implied, was upon me, and with set teeth and laboring
chest, gripping the bedstead with frenzied strength, I lay there and
fought for my sanity. In my mind, all had broken loose, habits of
feeling, associations of thought, ideas of persons and things, all had
dissolved and lost coherence and were seething together in apparently
irretrievable chaos. There were no rallying points, nothing was left
stable. There only remained the will, and was any human will strong
enough to say to such a weltering sea "Peace, be still"? I dared not
think. Every effort to reason upon what had befallen me, and realize
what it implied, set up an intolerable swimming of the brain. The idea
that I was two persons, that my identity was double, began to
fascinate me with its simple solution of my experience.
I knew that I was on the verge of losing my mental balance. If I lay
there thinking, I was doomed. Diversion of some sort I must have, at
least the diversion of physical exertion. I sprang up, and, hastily
dressing, opened the door of my room and went down-stairs. The hour
was very early, it being not yet fairly light, and I found no one in
the lower part of the house. There was a hat in the hall, and, opening
the front door, which was fastened with a slightness indicating that
burglary was not among the perils of the modern Boston, I found myself
on the street. For two hours I walked or ran through the streets of
the city, visiting most quarters of the peninsular part of the town.
None but an antiquarian who knows something of the contrast which the
Boston of to-day offers to the Boston of the nineteenth century can
begin to appreciate what a series of bewildering surprises I underwent
during that time. Viewed from the house-top the day before, the city
had indeed appeared strange to me, but that was only in its general
aspect. How complete the change had been I first realized now that I
walked the streets. The few old landmarks which still remained only
intensified this effect, for without them I might have imagined myself
in a foreign town. A man may leave his native city in childhood, and
return fifty years later, perhaps, to find it transformed in many
features. He is astonished, but he is not bewildered. He is aware of a
great lapse of time, and of changes likewise occurring in himself
meanwhile. He but dimly recalls the city as he knew it when a child.
But remember that there was no sense of any lapse of time with me. So
far as my consciousness was concerned, it was but yesterday, but a few
hours, since I had walked these streets in which scarcely a feature
had escaped a complete metamorphosis. The mental image of the old city
was so fresh and strong that it did not yield to the impression of the
actual city, but contended with it, so that it was first one and then
the other which seemed the more unreal. There was nothing I saw which
was not blurred in this way, like the faces of a composite photograph.
Finally, I stood again at the door of the house from which I had come
out. My feet must have instinctively brought me back to the site of my
old home, for I had no clear idea of returning thither. It was no more
homelike to me than any other spot in this city of a strange
generation, nor were its inmates less utterly and necessarily
strangers than all the other men and women now on the earth. Had the
door of the house been locked, I should have been reminded by its
resistance that I had no object in entering, and turned away, but it
yielded to my hand, and advancing with uncertain steps through the
hall, I entered one of the apartments opening from it. Throwing myself
into a chair, I covered my burning eyeballs with my hands to shut out
the horror of strangeness. My mental confusion was so intense as to
produce actual nausea. The anguish of those moments, during which my
brain seemed melting, or the abjectness of my sense of helplessness,
how can I describe? In my despair I groaned aloud. I began to feel
that unless some help should come I was about to lose my mind. And
just then it did come. I heard the rustle of drapery, and looked up.
Edith Leete was standing before me. Her beautiful face was full of the
most poignant sympathy.
"Oh, what is the matter, Mr. West?" she said. "I was here when you
came in. I saw how dreadfully distressed you looked, and when I heard
you groan, I could not keep silent. What has happened to you? Where
have you been? Can't I do something for you?"
Perhaps she involuntarily held out her hands in a gesture of
compassion as she spoke. At any rate I had caught them in my own and
was clinging to them with an impulse as instinctive as that which
prompts the drowning man to seize upon and cling to the rope which is
thrown him as he sinks for the last time. As I looked up into her
compassionate face and her eyes moist with pity, my brain ceased to
whirl. The tender human sympathy which thrilled in the soft pressure
of her fingers had brought me the support I needed. Its effect to calm
and soothe was like that of some wonder-working elixir.
"God bless you," I said, after a few moments. "He must have sent you
to me just now. I think I was in danger of going crazy if you had not
come." At this the tears came into her eyes.
"Oh, Mr. West!" she cried. "How heartless you must have thought us!
How could we leave you to yourself so long! But it is over now, is it
not? You are better, surely."
"Yes," I said, "thanks to you. If you will not go away quite yet, I
shall be myself soon."
"Indeed I will not go away," she said, with a little quiver of her
face, more expressive of her sympathy than a volume of words. "You
must not think us so heartless as we seemed in leaving you so by
yourself. I scarcely slept last night, for thinking how strange your
waking would be this morning; but father said you would sleep till
late. He said that it would be better not to show too much sympathy
with you at first, but to try to divert your thoughts and make you
feel that you were among friends."
"You have indeed made me feel that," I answered. "But you see it is a
good deal of a jolt to drop a hundred years, and although I did not
seem to feel it so much last night, I have had very odd sensations
this morning." While I held her hands and kept my eyes on her face, I
could already even jest a little at my plight.
"No one thought of such a thing as your going out in the city alone so
early in the morning," she went on. "Oh, Mr. West, where have you
Then I told her of my morning's experience, from my first waking till
the moment I had looked up to see her before me, just as I have told
it here. She was overcome by distressful pity during the recital, and,
though I had released one of her hands, did not try to take from me
the other, seeing, no doubt, how much good it did me to hold it. "I
can think a little what this feeling must been like," she said. "It
must have been terrible. And to think you were left alone to struggle
with it! Can you ever forgive us?"
"But it is gone now. You have driven it quite away for the present," I
"You will not let it return again," she queried anxiously.
"I can't quite say that," I replied. "It might be too early to say
that, considering how strange everything will still be to me."
"But you will not try to contend with it alone again, at least," she
persisted. "Promise that you will come to us, and let us sympathize
with you, and try to help you. Perhaps we can't do much, but it will
surely be better than to try to bear such feelings alone."
"I will come to you if you will let me," I said.
"Oh yes, yes, I beg you will," she said eagerly. "I would do anything
to help you that I could."
"All you need do is to be sorry for me, as you seem to be now," I
"It is understood, then," she said, smiling with wet eyes, "that you
are to come and tell me next time, and not run all over Boston among
This assumption that we were not strangers seemed scarcely strange, so
near within these few minutes had my trouble and her sympathetic tears
"I will promise, when you come to me," she added, with an expression
of charming archness, passing, as she continued, into one of
enthusiasm, "to seem as sorry for you as you wish, but you must not
for a moment suppose that I am really sorry for you at all, or that I
think you will long be sorry for yourself. I know, as well as I know
that the world now is heaven compared with what it was in your day,
that the only feeling you will have after a little while will be one
of thankfulness to God that your life in that age was so strangely cut
off, to be returned to you in this."