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It is with some little trepidation that I venture to submit to the critical world this small collection of short stories. I feel that in doing so I owe some apology both to my readers and to the regular story-tellers. Being by trade a psychologist and scientific journeyman, I have been bold enough at times to stray surreptitiously and tentatively from my proper sphere into the flowery fields of pure fiction. Some of these my divarications from the strict path of sterner science, however, having been already publicly performed under the incognito of "J. Arbuthnot Wilson," have been so far condoned by generous and kindly critics that I am emboldened to present them to the judgment of readers under a more permanent form, and even to dispense with the convenient cloak of a pseudonym, under which one can always so easily cover one's hasty retreat from an untenable position. I can only hope that my confession will be accepted in partial extenuation of this culpable departure from the good old rule, "Ne sutor ultra crepidam;" and that older hands at the craft of story-telling will pardon an amateur novice his defective workmanship on the general plea of his humble demeanour.
I may perhaps also venture to plead in self-defence that though these stories do not profess to be anything more than mere short sensational tales, I have yet endeavoured to give to most of them some slight tinge of scientific or psychological import and meaning. "The Eeverend John Creedy," for example, is a study from within of a singular persistence of hereditary character, well known to all students of modern anthropological papers and reports. Members of barbarous or savage races, trained for a time in civilized habits, are liable at any moment to revert naturally to their primitive condition, especially under the contagious influence of companionship with persons of their own blood, and close subjection to the ancestral circumstances. The tale which I have based upon several such historical instances in real life endeavours briefly to hint at the modes of feeling likely to accompany such a relapse into barbarism in an essentially fine and sensitive savage nature. To most European readers, no doubt, such a sheer fall from the pinnacle of civilization to the nethermost abysses of savagery, would seem to call for the display of no other emotion than pure disgust and aversion; but those who know intimately the whole gamut of the intensely impressionable African mind will be able to treat its temptations and its tendencies far more sympathetically. In " The Curate of Churnside," again, I have tried to present a psychical analysis of a temperament not uncommon among the cultured class of the Italian Eenaissance, and less rare than many people will be inclined to imagine among the colder type of our own emancipated and cultivated classes. The union of high intellectual and aesthetic culture with a total want of moral sensibility is a recognized fact in many periods of history,