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NOTE--My readers will perceive that I have purposely left them, with reference
to the Dream in this story, in the position which they would occupy in the case of
a dream in real life: they are free to interpret it by the natural or the supernatural
theory, as the bent of their own minds may incline them. Persons disposed to take
the rational view may, under these circumstances, be interested in hearing of a
coincidence relating to the present story, which actually happened, and which in
the matter of "extravagant improbability" sets anything of the same kind that a
novelist could imagine at flat defiance.
In November, 1865, that is to say, when thirteen monthly parts of "Armadale" had
been published, and, I may add, when more than a year and a half had elapsed
since the end of the story, as it now appears, was first sketched in my notebook--a
vessel lay in the Huskisson Dock at Liverpool which was looked after by one
man, who slept on board, in the capacity of shipkeeper. On a certain day in the
week this man was found dead in the deck-house. On the next day a second man,
who had taken his place, was carried dying to the Northern Hospital. On the third
day a third ship-keeper was appointed, and was found dead in the deck-house
which had already proved fatal to the other two. The name of that ship was "The
Armadale." And the proceedings at the Inquest proved that the three men had
been all suffocated by sleeping in poisoned air!
I am indebted for these particulars to the kindness of the reporters at Liverpool,
who sent me their statement of the facts. The case found its way into most of the
newspapers. It was noticed--to give two instances in which I can cite the dates--in
the Times of November 30th, 1865, and was more fully described in the Daily
News of November 28th, in the same year.
Before taking leave of "Armadale," I may perhaps be allowed to mention, for the
benefit of any readers who may be curious on such points, that the "Norfolk
Broads" are here described after personal investigation of them. In this, as in other
cases, I have spared no pains to instruct myself on matters of fact. Wherever the
story touches on questions connected with Law, Medicine, or Chemistry, it has
been submitted before publication to the experience of professional men. The
kindness of a friend supplied me with a plan of the doctor's apparatus, and I saw
the chemical ingredients at work before I ventured on describing the action of
them in the closing scenes of this book.