I have thought myself justified in printing the following narrative, found
among the papers of my dead friend, Douglas Cameron, who left me
discretion to deal with them as I saw fit. It was written indeed, as its
opening words imply, rather for his own solace and relief than with the
expectation that it would be read by any other. But, painful and intimate
as it is in parts, I cannot think that any harm will be done by printing it
now, with some necessary alterations in the names of the characters
Before, however, leaving the story to speak for itself, I should like to
state, in justice to my friend, that during the whole of my acquaintance
with him, which began in our college days, I never saw anything to
indicate the morbid timidity and weakness of character that seem to have
marked him as a boy. Reserved he undoubtedly was, with a taste for
solitude that made him shrink from the society of all but a small circle,
and with a sensitive and shy nature which prevented him from doing
himself complete justice; but he was very capable of holding his own on
occasion, and in his disposition, as I knew it, there was no want of moral
courage, nor any trace of effeminacy.
How far he may have unconsciously exaggerated such failings in the
revelation of his earlier self, or what the influence of such an experience
as he relates may have done to strengthen the moral fibre, are points on
which I can express no opinion, any more than I can pledge myself to the
credibility of the supernatural element of his story.
It may be that only in the boy's overwrought imagination, the innocent
Child-spirit came back to complete the work of love and pity she had
begun in life; but I know that he himself believed otherwise, and, truly, if
those who leave us are permitted to return at all, it must be on some
such errand as Marjory's.
Douglas Cameron's life was short, and in it, so far as I am aware, he met
no one who at all replaced his lost ideal. Of this I cannot be absolutely
certain, for he was a reticent man in such matters; but I think, had it
been so, I should have known of it, for we were very close friends. Onewould hardly expect, perhaps, that an ordinary man would remain faithful
all his days to the far-off memory of a child-love; but then Cameron was
not quite as other men, nor were his days long in the land.
And if this ideal of his was never dimmed for him by some grosser, and
less spiritual, passion, who shall say that he may not have been a better
and even a happier man in consequence.
* * * * *
It is not without an effort that I have resolved to break, in the course of
this narrative, the reserve maintained for nearly twenty years. But the
chief reason for silence is removed now that all those are gone who might
have been pained or harmed by what I have to tell, and, though I shrink
still from reviving certain memories that are fraught with pain, there are
others associated therewith which will surely bring consolation and relief.
I must have been about eleven at the time I am speaking of, and the
change which--for good or ill--comes over most boys' lives had not yet
threatened mine. I had not left home for school, nor did it seem at all
probable then that I should ever do so.
When I read (I was a great reader) of Dotheboys Hall and Salem House--
a combination of which establishments formed my notion of school-life--it
was with no more personal interest than a cripple might feel in perusing
the notice of an impending conscription; for from the battles of school-life
I was fortunately exempted.
I was the only son of a widow, and we led a secluded life in a London
suburb. My mother took charge of my education herself, and, as far as
mere acquirements went, I was certainly not behind other boys of my
age. I owe too much to that loving and careful training, Heaven knows, to
think of casting any reflection upon it here, but my surroundings were
such as almost necessar