VICTORIA LINCOLN is the author of three novels and is known also for her short fiction and magazine writing.

I CAME down to the kitchen a few years ago and told the cook that I had just dreamed of her husband in Ireland. She paled and seized my hand. “Tell me the truth,”she said. “Don’t keep anything back. How was he looking?" “Just fine,” I replied. “Wonderful. He was the picture of health.”“Thank God,”she exclaimed, “and may he keep so.”

Being in analysis at the time, I was working a different system, but with people in my business the willing suspension of disbelief usually comes easy. The White Queen would never have to pity me: I can handily accept both Freud and the Celtic twilight before breakfast. ‘Yes,”I said again; “nice new suit, too.”

And when Delia was superseded by a colored girl who could never remember her dreams, I was delighted to supply her from the only too vivid harvest of my own, by means of which she made quite a tidy sum playing the numbers. After all, my dreams were costing me plenty every week, and it was nice to feel that in the general economy they could be turned to account. It balanced things.

Sophie, the numbers player, had reason to congratulate herself on Inning come to the right house. The children and I all go to bed and start talking a blue streak. Fven mv husband, who tends to forget his visions, and specializes instead on insomnia, comes nut with an occasional pronouncement; and he has grown so indifferent to my chatter that he pays it no mind at all. Sometimes I wake myself, and wonder what I was saving, particularly when I have been reading aloud in my sleep, which I do a good deal; but if I question him he will only reply mildly. “Lord, I was thinking about something else, dear.”

When I hear myself, I am usually gratified. I have remembered over the years a line from one of those books; a stage direction which I was reading in a singularly precise and overelegant voice: “The melancholy Pierrot is knocking the tops from the talcum-powder bottles.”

I get a good deal of poetry read that way. I have learned, of course, that the morning brings another light, but still a line is occasionally so compelling that I am forced to reach for pencil and flashlight to set it down. A recent lyric came with an intensity of insight, a meaningfulness that illuminated the whole human scene. It celebrated the familiar ritual of reversing the bark, inside out, on the near-by trees in spring as a symbol of the renewing life, and as I set down the strong final couplet I nearly wept for joy: —

Ah, run with me from tree to tree and
turn the hark again!
Yea, we will run from tree to tree and
turn the bark again.

That happiness of aesthetic satisfaction mated with understanding was once mine for a full twenty-four hours. The pronouncement came to me under other, and for all that exquisite time I lay bathed in bliss, knowing and at peace. I knew, and it was a fact, that I might die: but I also knew that I didn’t give a hoot, because my life was fulfilled. For me, the veil was rent. And then I began to come back: the words didn’t mean quite as much as they had . . . not quite . . . ah, fading . . . and finally, loss unimaginable, I had to face it: they didn’t mean a mortal thing. The sense of revelation, however, was so strong that I am moved to hand the words on to you in the hope that you may be able (like Sophie) to do more with them than I ran. “Not to become,”I was saying over and over, “not to become, but to become of, O Zed.

The melting of poems and prophecies, I can bear— my day is always quick enough to manufacture its new illusions. The hardest disappointment is always the discoierv that the hue which was so funny isn ’t funny,

I never laughed so hard as I did w hen I read a certain slorv in a dream issue of the New Yorker. In my eiforl not to wake my husband, I was choking into my handkerchief as I got out of bed. The tears of laughter were pouring dow n my cheeks as I fumbled for the pencil. Only a word or two, I thought, would be enough to let me reconstruct it. Every one would laugh, but there was only one person in the world, I knew, who would think it was as funny as I did. As I set it down, I was whispering to myself, between strangled snorts, “This will kill James Thurber.”

Alas, I overestimated my powers of memory. The memorandum, while evocative to a degree in its own right, was not complete. “Sears and Busk,”it said, tersely; “Savvbucks and Rearbucks: Chinese story about Sears Roebuck.”

On the Endicott side, my family has always laid claim to the second sight. Prophetic dreams and daytime provisionings are, in our household saga, as common as a head cold. But whether the temper of the times is against such goings on, or whether I am too densely mixed with baser clay, I lack the gift; on the tripod, I am a total flop. I have had, however, in my lifetime, two prophetic dreams, both of such wanton lack of importance as to show a singular misdirection of emphasis on the part of the power that sent them.

I once dreamed that a submarine was moored by a bridge on which there stood an imitation clock; I went aboard and got green paint on my

shoe’s. I can produce no witnesses for this one — it wasn’t worth repeating but take my word for it that shortly thereafter my husband, my children, and I were on a vacation; we crossed a bridge on which stood a wooden clockface, the hands set to the time of the next high tide; and on the far side of the bridge a sign announced: U.S.N. Submarine Sawfish [or some such name] Open for Public Inspection.

In sheer terror, I heard the children shriek with delight and fell my husband stop the car. “I dreamed about this place,” I kept telling them, wildly. “Don’t go. I tell you, I dreamed about it.”

Sensibly, they suggested that I soak my head, and went right along. I sat in the car and waited for a sailor to come running through the lot, crying disaster. A chilly wind had come up an hour before and my oldest child had complained that her hands were cold. Mine were warm, and I had given her my gloves. Now they were cold enough, and I sat nursing them in my pockets, waiting in terror.

At last they came back, all smiling but one. “I’m awful sorry, Mama,” she said. “There was fresh green paint on the rail and I wrecked your gloves.”

Grateful as I tried to be for the warning, I could only feel, and still do, that I never heard of a worse piece of officious foolishness. After all, they were fabric gloves, and not even new.

“All right ” I said, angrily 1o the surrounding air, “you proved it, and so what? Climb a tree!”

I suppose, indeed I hope, that I sent it into a fit of the sulks, because it only came back once again, and that after several years. Then I dreamed not once, but on four successive nights, that we came one late afternoon to a white-shingled, ugly Edwardian house at the top of a high bank, approached by a flight of stairs. An old man in riding breeches, a bald, withered old man whom I had never seen before, opened the door and called me by name. Well . . .

The furniture van had not arrived when we got to the new house in the new town. An acquaintance said that the hotel on the main street was noisy, and suggested a tourist home, run by an elderly couple whom he knew. “Odd old bird,” he said vaguely; “ideas about the world being against him. Nice, though; very nice wife; nice place.”

And I walked right up those long stairs and rang that bell, and the little man in riding breeches opened the door and looked at me with that remembered sidelong glance that might have been shyness or craft and said, “Mrs. Lowe? Dr. Wyman just called me about you. We can give you two double rooms.”

Paranoid, I thought quietly. It will be in the papers by morning. Professor, Wife, Children Slain. I walked in without a word. I have never been a fatalist, but for that once I knew, completely, that the cards were stacked.

“This is that house I kept dreaming about,” I told my husband as I took out my toothbrush. “You remember . . . when I said at breakfast, ’This is getting monotonous.’”

“I telephoned Boston again before I came upstairs,” he replied unhelpfully. “The van had called in. Breakdown near Schenectady; be here about nine, they think.”

I brushed my teeth, though it seemed a little futile. I suppose that through the night I slept occasionally, but the greatest efforts of angry common sense could not rid my mind of one dear, persistent image. The old man was down in the kitchen standing by the sink. His face wore a still, open smile, shockingly innocent and at peace with itself, and with the side of his thumb he gently tested the sharpness of a heavy butcher’s knife.

“What’s the matter?” said my husband, looking at me sympathetically, next morning. “Headache?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Too bad. You must have done my homework for me. I slept straight through.”

The enormity of the whole thing rushed over me in a wave. “The tomfoolery!” I cried. “The damned impertinence. And not even a dirty old glove!” I guess people get. used to me if they stay around long enough. My husband just went right on dressing.