“GOOD-MORNING, Miss Dorothy; do you know I think it’s quite time this state of things should come to an end. We are both tired of the humbug of treating you for want of health when you are quite strong and well.”
Dorothy looked up with flushed face (I had it all later from both Dr Evans and Dorothy herself), and eyes half relieved, half doubtful, but not resentful, and stood quietly waiting.
“All the same, I think you are in a bad way, and are in great need of help. Will you bear with me while I tell you what is the matter, and how you may be cured?”
Dorothy was past speaking, and gave a silent assent.
“Don’t be frightened, poor child; I don’t speak to hurt you, but to help. A considerable part of a life which should be all innocent gaiety of heart, is spent in gloom, and miserable isolation. Some one fails to dot his i’s, and you resent it, not in words or manner, being too well brought up; but the light within you is darkened by a flight of black thought. ‘He (or she) shouldn’t have done it! It’s too bad! They don’t care how they hurt me! I should never have done so to her!’—and so on without end. Presently you find yourself swathed in a sort of invisible shroud;
you cannot reach out a living hand to anybody, nor speak in living and loving glance. There you sit, like a dead man at the feast. By this time you have forgotten the first offence, and would give the world to get out of this death-in-life. You cry, you say your prayers, beg to be forgiven and restored, but your eyes are fixed upon yourself as a hateful person, and you are still wrapped in the cloud; until, suddenly (no doubt in answer to your prayers), a hug from little May, the first primrose of the year, a lark, filling the world with his gladness, and, presto! they key is turned, the enchanted princess liberated, glad as the lark, sweet as the flower, and gay as the bright child!”
No answer: Dorothy’s arms were on the table, and her face hidden upon them. At last she said in a choked voice—“Please go on, doctor!”
“All this nay be helped” (she looked up), “may, within two or three months, be completely cured, become a horrid memory and nothing more!” Dorothy raised streaming eyes, where the light of hope was struggling with fear and shame.
“This is very trying for you, dear child! But I must get on with my task, and when I have done, it’s my belief you’ll forget the pain for joy. In the first place, you are not a very wicked girl because these ugly thoughts master you; I don’t say, mind you, that you will be without offence once you get the key between your fingers; but as it is, you need not sit in judgment on yourself any more.”
Then Dr Evans went on to make clear to Dorothy what he had already made clear to us of the interaction of thought and brain; how that Thought, Brain & Co. were such close allies that nobody could tell
which of the two did what: that they even ran a business of their own, independently of Ego, who was supposed to be the active head of the firm, and so on.
Dorothy listened with absorbed intentness, as if every word were saving; but the light of hope died slowly out.
“I think I see what you mean; these black thoughts come and rampage even against the desire of the Ego, I, myself: but, oh doctor, don’t you see, that’s all the worse for me?”
“Stop a bit, stop a bit, my dear young lady, I have not done yet. Ego, sees things are going wrong and asserts himself; sets up new thoughts in a new course, and stops the old traffic; and in course of time, and a very short time too, the old nerve connections are broken, and the old way under tillage; no more opening for traffic there. Have you got it?”
“I think so. I’m to think of something else, and soon there will be no room in the brain for the ugly thoughts which distress me. But that’s just the thing I can’t do!”
“But that is exactly the only thing you have power to do! Have you any idea what the will is, and what are its functions?”
“I don’t know much about it. I suppose your will should make you able to do the right thing when you feel you can’t! You should say, ‘I will,’ and go and do it. But you don’t know how weak I am. It makes no difference to me to say, I will!”
“Well, now, to own up honestly, I don’t think it ever made much difference to anybody outside of the story-books. All the same, Will is a mighty fellow in his own way, but he goes with a sling and a stone,
and not with the sword of Goliath. He attacks the giant with what seems a child’s plaything, and the giant is slain. This is how it works. When ill thoughts begin to molest you, turn away your mind with a vigorous turn, and think of something else. I don’t mean think good forgiving thoughts, perhaps you are not ready for that yet; but think of something interesting and pleasant; the new dress you must plan, the friend you like best, the book you are reading; best of all, fill heart and mind suddenly with some capital plan for giving pleasure to some poor body whose days are dull. The more exciting the thing you think of, the safer you are. Never mind about fighting the evil thought. This is the one thing you have to do; for this is, perhaps, the sole power the will has. It enables you to change your thoughts; to turn yourself round from gloomy thoughts to cheerful ones. Then you will find that your prayers will be answered, for you will know what to ask for, and will not turn your back on the answer when it comes. There, child, I have told you the best secret I know—given to me by a man I revere—and have put into your hands the key of self-government and a happy life. Now you know how to be better than he that taketh a city.”
“Thank you a thousand times for your precious secret. You have lifted my feet out of the slough. I will change my thoughts (may I say that?). You shall find that your key does not rust for want of use. I trust I may be helped never to enter the cloud again.”
It is five years since Dorothy had that talk in the library with Dr Evans (he died within the year, to our exceeding regret). What battles she fought we
never heard; never again was the subject alluded to. For two years she was our joyous home daughter; for three, she has been Arthur Brisbane’s happy wife; and her little sunbeam of an Elsie—no fear that she will ever enter the cloud in which mother and grand-mother were so nearly lost.