A Lucid Interval

— Some months ago, at a session of the Club, I had occasion to refer passingly to certain shrewd views regarding Providence, held by an insane woman of my neighborhood. Lately she has furnished me with yet more suggestive matter for speculation, and on this wise. Her mental disorder is subject to intervals of days, and sometimes of weeks, of sanity. During these periods there is not in the whole neighborhood a more quiet, homekeeping body. But on the return of her affliction she is much given to fantastic apparel, to roving about, and to chatty discourse. In this condition she recently visited me. On my inquiring, soothingly, as to the state of her health, she replied with jaunty reassurance, “ Oh, don’t you fret about me ; I’m all right. You know I’m a little out sometimes, and then my head is bad. I’ve had one of those spells , but I ‘ve got over it now, and am just as pert and chipper as ever ! ” Her concluding statement I could not doubt; indeed, her face beaming with smiles, her bright eye, and her brisk tones might have inveigled a stranger to credit her entire testimony. She soon departed, but not so the train of reflections her words had started. Poor soul! I thought, was this her lucid interval ? And were those times in which we accounted her rational, and in which appeared an unusually retiring and selfcontained spirit, now presented to her mind as the periods of mental unsteadiness ? Of course my light-brained neighbor was in error, and we were in the right, as to her condition on these occasions — yet — and here I fell into a limbo of confusing speculation on the whole subject of human sanity or nonsanity.

“ A mad world, my masters ! ” Then who shall judge when its lucid intervals occur ? Who knows but that those most specifically accused are after all the least topsy - turvy at the cerebral centre! Why did some ancient peoples hold in religious reverence those who were adjudged insane ? Why was such regard paid to the ravings of the pythoness ? The poet — why, the poet, if gray authority does not err, is a creature futile by himself, potential only when beside himself, enjoying a lucid interval only when the fine madness is on !

In my reflections on the question, I could but recall how one period of life shifts this accusation of giddyhead back from itself upon another. Is youth the lucid interval? Yes, if youth be allowed to witness; no, if mature years are consulted. But youth suspects that middle age and beyond have the judgment and temper merely mulled, not mellowed. To bring the matter home, I reflected that there were acts in my life that, as I looked back upon them, appeared those of turbid brainsickness, whimsical folly ; and yet at the time of their commission I certainly did not question my sanity, nor did any friend suggest the advisability of a straitjacket, or even of a special custodian, in my case. Strange that certain procedures of mine which had once seemed ordered by a wise dispassionateness of temper should now be clearly revealed as the effect of mere torpid fatuity! Strange, also, that conduct which had once impressed me as evidence of a glowing impetuosity, a generous spontaneity, in myself should now show like the tumid self-importance and vainglory of some magnifico of the madhouse itself ! Had I been somewhat beside myself in these remembered instances, and was my present attitude of severe survey a lucid interval, or was I, perhaps, still “ far wide ” ?

In sleep none ever dreams that he has lost his wits or become a bedlamite, however his waking senses advise him of extravagance in his dream-conduct. To liken human life to a dream would be to propound no startling novelty ; but let us follow up the suggestions of the analogy : since no one in dreams doubts his sanity, so we, in like manner, in the great dream of all, suspect not ourselves of aberrance. What if we but flatter our dreaming souls that we have at least gleams of right reason all through life ? And what if the true lucid interval comes only after the “ fitful fever ” departs ?