Admiration of the ingenuity which had woven this smooth and finished texture out of the ravelled skein was naturally the first impression that I felt, on handing the manuscript back to Ezra Jennings. He modestly interrupted the first few words in which my sense of surprise expressed itself, by asking me if the conclusion which he had drawn from his notes was also the conclusion at which my own mind had arrived.
"I am too ignorant of the influence of laudanum to have an opinion of my own," I answered. "I can only follow your opinion, and feel convinced that you are right."
"Very well. The next question is this. You are convinced; and I am convinced - how are we to carry our conviction to the minds of other people?"
I pointed to the two manuscripts, lying on the table between us. Ezra Jennings shook his head.
"Useless, Mr. Blake! Quite useless, as they stand now for three unanswerable reasons. In the first place, those notes have been taken under circumstances entirely out of the experience of the mass of mankind. Against them, to begin with! In the second place, those notes represent a medical and metaphysical theory. Against them, once more! In the third place, those notes are of my making; there is nothing but my assertion to the contrary, to guarantee that they are not fabrications. Remember what I told you on the moor - and ask yourself what my assertion is worth. No! my notes have but one value, looking to the verdict of the world outside. Your innocence is to be vindicated; and they show how it can be done. We must put our conviction to the proof - and You are the man to prove it!"
"How?" I asked.
He leaned eagerly nearer to me across the table that divided us.
"Are you willing to try a bold experiment?"
"I will do anything to clear myself of the suspicion that rests on me now."
"Will you submit to some personal inconvenience for a time?"
"To any inconvenience, no matter what it may be."
"Will you be guided implicitly by my advice? It may expose you to the ridicule of fools; it may subject you to the remonstrances of friends whose opinions you are bound to respect."
"Tell me what to do!" I broke out impatiently. "And, come what may, I'll do it."
"You shall do this, Mr. Blake," he answered. "You shall steal the Diamond, unconsciously, for the second time, in the presence of witnesses whose testimony is beyond dispute."
I started to my feet. I tried to speak. I could only look at him.
"I believe it CAN be done," he went on. "And it shall be done - if you will only help me. Try to compose yourself - sit down, and hear what I have to say to you. You have resumed the habit of smoking; I have seen that for myself. How long have you resumed it."
"For nearly a year."
"Do you smoke more or less than you did?"
"Will you give up the habit again? Suddenly, mind! - as you gave it up before."
I began dimly to see his drift. "I will give it up, from this moment," I answered.
"If the same consequences follow, which followed last June," said Ezra Jennings - "if you suffer once more as you suffered then, from sleepless nights, we shall have gained our first step. We shall have put you back again into something assimilating to your nervous condition on the birthday night. If we can next revive, or nearly revive, the domestic circumstances which surrounded you; and if we can occupy your mind again with the various questions concerning the Diamond which formerly agitated it, we shall have replaced you, as nearly as possible in the same position, physically and morally, in which the opium found you last year. In that case we may fairly hope that a repetition of the dose will lead, in a greater or lesser degree, to a repetition of the result. There is my proposal, expressed in a few hasty words. You shall now see what reasons I have to justify me in making it."
He turned to one of the books at his side, and opened it at a place marked by a small slip of paper.
"Don't suppose that I am going to weary you with a lecture on physiology," he said. "I think myself bound to prove, in justice to both of us, that I am not asking you to try this experiment in deference to any theory of my own devising. Admitted principles, and recognised authorities, justify me in the view that I take. Give me five minutes of your attention; and I will undertake to show you that Science sanctions my proposal, fanciful as it may seem. Here, in the first place, is the physiological principle on which I am acting, stated by no less a person than Dr. Carpenter. Read it for yourself."
He handed me the slip of paper which had marked the place in the book. It contained a few lines of writing, as follows: -
"There seems much ground for the belief, that every sensory impression which has once been recognised by the perceptive consciousness, is registered (so to speak) in the brain, and may be reproduced at some subsequent time, although there may be no consciousness of its existence in the mind during the whole intermediate period." "Is that plain, so far?" asked Ezra Jennings.
He pushed the open book across the table to me, and pointed to a passage, marked by pencil lines.
"Now," he said, "read that account of a case, which has - as I believe - a direct bearing on your own position, and on the experiment which I am tempting you to try. Observe, Mr. Blake, before you begin, that I am now referring you to one of the greatest of English physiologists. The book in your hand is Doctor Elliotson's HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY; and the case which the doctor cites rests on the well-known authority of Mr. Combe."
The passage pointed out to me was expressed in these terms: -