"Those that want to be safe must hoist flags."

This is the second entry in our thrilling two-part series on lunatics whom Charles Dickens met in an asylum in Hartford, Connecticut in 1842.

Yesterday Dickens met a woman who styled herself “an antediluvian.” Today we meet an aspiring diplomat:

“There was a male patient in bed;” Dickens writes in his American Notes, “very much flushed and heated.

‘Well,’ said he, starting up, and pulling off his night-cap: ‘It’s all settled at last. I have arranged it with Queen Victoria.’

‘Arranged what?’ asked the Doctor.

‘Why, that business about the siege of New York,’ he passed his hand wearily across his forehead.

‘Oh!’ said I, like a man suddenly enlightened. For he looked at me for an answer.

‘Yes. Every house without a signal will be fired upon by the British troops. No harm will be done to the others. No harm at all. Those that want to be safe must hoist flags. That’s all they’ll have to do. They must hoist flags.’

Even while he was speaking he seemed, I thought, to have some faint idea that his talk was incoherent. Directly he had said these words, he lay down again; gave a kind of a groan; and covered his hot head with the blankets.”