Mind-Reading by Common Sense
—There is a kind of common-sense mind-reading which I like to practice, and which I can recommend to psychologically disposed persons as very entertaining. The method is simply to start from some object which you perceive has attracted the attention of your companion, or from some remark made by either one of you, and follow the probable links of association in his mind to some point which you suddenly announce to him. You will often miss it, but whenever you succeed, especially if the train of ideas have led to some point quite remote from the starting-place, the effect is somewhat startling. For example, I am sitting on a garden bench, one afternoon, with my wife. The faintest whiff of a good cigar comes borne on the air through a hedge of trees. Nothing is said, but I feel reasonably sure that it suggests to her mind, as it does to my own, a passage in Jane Eyre, of which we were speaking only yesterday, — the fragrance of “ Rochester’s cigar.” Now it was but the day before that we had a letter from our friend Jane B-, recounting the tumble of her baby from the phaeton. I am therefore pretty safe in assuming that the one Jane will suggest the other, and that the thought of the young mother will suggest the child. So I remark quietly, as I poke my cane at a pebble in an absent way, “ It is odd that it did n’t hurt her more.” Whereupon my wife exclaims, “ Well! ” and says I must be a witch, a remark always gratifying to a husband. I do not respond, as I am lying low for a still further feat of guess-work. It seems to me probable that the mention of the phaeton accident will bring to mind the bump which cousin Fanny received lately, in being thrown from a runaway saddle-horse. This will suggest the matter of saddlehorses in general, and especially the question we had been discussing in the morning, whether it would pay to take a riding-habit in the trunk, on our trip to W——. This, allowing a reasonable time, would be sure to lead to the more pressing question concerning the journey, — What road, and what train ? So, after about a minute and a half, I casually remark, still poking at the pebble, “ Lake Shore, leaving at 2.30, had n’t we better? ” Again the exclamation point and the agreeable imputation.