Elsie Venner eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 416 pages of information about Elsie Venner.

Mr. Bernard thought it was very odd, and not very old-gentlemanlike, to be fitting him out for treason, stratagem, and spoils, in this way.  There was no harm, however, in carrying a doctor’s powder in his pocket, or in amusing himself with shooting at a mark, as he had often done before.  If the old gentleman had these fancies, it was as well to humor him.

So he thanked old Doctor Kittredge, and shook his hand warmly as he left him.

“The fellow’s hand did not tremble, nor his color change,” the Doctor said, as he watched him walking away.  “He is one of the right sort.”

CHAPTER XVI

Epistolary.

Mr. Langdon to the Professor.

My dear professor, You were kind enough to promise me that you would assist me in any professional or scientific investigations in which I might become engaged.  I have of late become deeply interested in a class of subjects which present peculiar difficulty, and I must exercise the privilege of questioning you on some points upon which I desire information I cannot otherwise obtain.  I would not trouble you, if I could find any person or books competent to enlighten me on some of these singular matters which have so excited me.  The leading doctor here is a shrewd, sensible man, but not versed in the curiosities of medical literature.

I proceed, with your leave, to ask a considerable number of questions,—­hoping to get answers to some of them, at least.

Is there any evidence that human beings can be infected or wrought upon by poisons, or otherwise, so that they shall manifest any of the peculiarities belonging to beings of a lower nature?  Can such peculiarities—­be transmitted by inheritance?  Is there anything to countenance the stories, long and widely current, about the “evil eye”? or is it a mere fancy that such a power belongs to any human being?  Have you any personal experience as to the power of fascination said to be exercised by certain animals?  What can you make of those circumstantial statements we have seen in the papers, of children forming mysterious friendships with ophidians of different species, sharing their food with them, and seeming to be under some subtile influence exercised by those creatures?  Have you read, critically, Coleridge’s poem of “Christabel,” and Keats’s “Lamia"?—­If so, can you understand them, or find any physiological foundation for the story of either?

There is another set of questions of a different nature I should like to ask, but it is hardly fair to put so many on a single sheet.  There is one, however, you must answer.  Do you think there may be predispositions, inherited or ingrafted, but at any rate constitutional, which shall take out certain apparently voluntary determinations from the control of the will, and leave them as free from moral responsibility as the instincts of the lower animals?  Do you not think there may be a crime which is not a sin?

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Elsie Venner from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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