Recognized HTML document
Previous Index Next

Childhood and Boyhood   79

"I was at home during the Christmas Holidays when an attic was my bedroom. Awaking one morning before daylight, when a" faint light came from the street lamps, I saw vaguely, the dark form of a man, standing by my bedside, but saw very clearly the white blurs made by his face and hands, for he was on the side opposite the window. Still it was impossible to be sure of the reality. I was but a small boy, in so great a terror that my tongue refused to articulate properly, when I tried to speak. Then with a great effort, I sprang out of bed and pushed at the figure. My hand came against the body of a man. Forthwith I pulled the bedclothes over my head, expecting every moment too be stabbed through the counterpane. Thus I lay in agony until the day broke and light coming through the clothes made it seem safe to look out. When I told my story at breakfast, I was laughed to scorn, they said it was a nightmare, but I knew better'. The robbery took place a few days later, when I had returned to school and the attic was empty. The thieves gained access through that room, entering through the window from the roof and leaving the dirty marks of the slippers they wore all about the floor. The servants then said that similar marks but fewer of them, had been seen the morning after my adventure. My conclusion was that the man by my bedside, was a reality and no dream, and that he had entered, it might be merely to prospect the premises, believing that the attic was vacant, more probably that he came with the intention of making the theft, but finding the attic occupied, and fearing an alarm, he decamped, to return on another occasion, when assured that the occupant of the room was gone. He doubtless heard through an accomplice, servant that no credit had been given to my tale.   -

FRANCIS GALTON, Sept. 2, 1898."

In this robbery at Lansdowne Place Francis lost his watch', and the accompanying letter received March 1, 1834, reminds his mother that a year has sped without a new watch.


I now write this letter to you on particular business to remind you of something which although you may have forgotten is still as fresh as possible in my memory which is that a few days after the robbery (the day of which was yesterday) you did, for tire purpose of solacing and comforting me on account of the watch, faithfully promise that if that said article was not discovered another exactly similar to that

1 An almost identical incident occurred to the present writer as a child of nine, except that the man-lunatic or sleepwalker-was seated on the edge of the bed and visible in the moonlight that fell on him from the open window. I recollect keenly to this day, the effort to test the reality and the solidity of the man, then the hours of torture under the bed-clothes, to be told it was a nightmare, but I too knew better, though no demonstration of its reality ever came to justify me!

2 In the police advertisement : £50 Reward, Robbery of Jewels etc., February 23, 1833, we read among other things : "a small silver French Hunting Watch, supposed to have F. G. engraved upon the Back." It is probable that this. watch was a present from Francis' grandfather Samuel, from whom a nice letter is still extant to his son Tertius; this letter covered a draft to purchase watches for the grandchildren.

Previous Index Next