oeTHE SHADOW WORLD
Author of "The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop" "Money Magic" etc.
New York and London Harper & Brothers Publishers MCMVIII
Copyright, 1908, by Hamlin Garland. Copyright, 1908, by the Ridgway Company. All rights reserved.
Published September, 1908.
This book is a faithful record, so far as I can make it, of the most marvellous phenomena which have come under my observation during the last sixteen or seventeen years. I have used my notes (made immediately after the sittings) and also my reports to the American Psychical Society (of which I was at one time a director) as the basis of my story. For literary purposes I have substituted fictitious names for real names, and imaginary characters for the actual individuals concerned; but I have not allowed these necessary expedients to interfere with the precise truth of the account.
For example, Miller, an imaginary chemist, has been put in the place of a scientist much older than thirty-five, in whose library the inexplicable "third sitting" took place. Fowler, also, is not intended to depict an individual. The man in whose shoes he stands is one of the most widely read and deeply experienced spiritists I have ever known, and I have sincerely tried to present through Fowler the argument which his prototype might have used. Mrs. Quigg, Miss Brush, Howard, the Camerons, and most of the others, are purely imaginary. The places in which the sittings took place are not indicated, for the reason that I do not wish to involve any unwilling witnesses.
In the case of the psychics, they are, of course, delineated exactly as they appeared to me, although I have concealed their real names and places of residence. Mrs. Smiley, whose admirable patience under investigation makes her an almost ideal subject, is the chief figure among my "mediums," and I have tried to give her attitude toward us and toward her faith as she expressed it in our sittings, although the conversation is necessarily a mixture of imagination and memory. Mrs. Hartley is a very real and vigorous character—a professional psychic, it is true, but a woman of intelligence and power. Those in private life I have guarded with scrupulous care, and I am sure that none of them, either private or professional, will feel that I have wilfully misrepresented what took place. My aim throughout has been to deal directly and simply with the facts involved.
I have not attempted to be profound or mystical or even scientific, but I have tried to present clearly, simply, and as nearly without bias as possible, an account of what I have seen and heard. The weight of evidence seems, at the moment, to be on the side of the biologists; but I am willing to reopen the case at any time, although I am, above all, a man of the open air, of the plains and the mountains, and do not intend to identify myself with any branch of metapsychical research. It is probable, therefore, that this is my one and final contribution to the study of the shadow world.
HAMLIN GARLAND. CHICAGO, July, 1908.
THE SHADOW WORLD
A hush fell over the dinner-table, and every ear was open and inclined as Cameron, the host, continued: "No, I wouldn't say that. There are some things that are pretty well established—telepathy, for instance."
"I don't believe even in telepathy," asserted Mrs. Quigg, a very positive journalist who sat at his right. "I think even that is mere coincidence."
Several voices rose in a chorus of protest. "Oh no! Telepathy is real. Why, I've had experiences—"
"There you go!" replied Mrs. Quigg, still in the heat of her opposition. "You will all tell the same story. Your friend was dying in Bombay or Vienna, and his spirit appeared to you, a la Journal of Psychic Research, with a message, at the exact hour, computing difference in time (which no one ever does), and so on. I know that kind of thing—but that isn't telepathy."
"What is telepathy, then?" asked little Miss Brush, who paints miniatures.
"I can't describe a thing that doesn't exist," replied Mrs. Quigg. "The word means feeling at a distance, does it not, professor?"
Harris, a teacher of English, who seldom took a serious view of anything, answered, "I should call it a long-distance touch."
"Do you believe in hypnotism, Dr. Miller?" asked Miss Brush, quietly addressing her neighbor, a young scientist whose specialty was chemistry.
"No," replied he; "I don't believe in a single one of these supernatural forces."
"You mean you don't believe in anything you have not seen yourself," said I.
To this Miller slowly replied: "I believe in Vienna, which I have never seen, but I don't believe in a Vienna doctor who claims to be able to hypnotize a man so that he can smile while his leg is being taken off."
"Oh, that's a fact," stated Brierly, the portrait-painter; "that happens every day in our hospitals here in New York City."
"Have you ever seen it done?" asked Miller, bristling with opposition.
"Well," asserted Miller, "I wouldn't believe it even if I saw the operation performed."
"You don't believe in any mystery unless it is familiar," said I, warming to the contest.
"I certainly do not believe in these childish mysteries," responded Miller, "and it is strange to me that men like Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir William Crookes should believe in slate-writing and levitation and all the rest of that hocus-pocus."
"Nevertheless, hypnotism is a fact," insisted Brierly. "You must have some faith in the big books on the subject filled with proof. Think of the tests—"
"I don't call it a test to stick pins into a person's tongue," said Mrs. Quigg. "We newspaper people all know that there are in the hypnotic business what they call 'horses'—that is to say, wretched men and boys, women sometimes, who have trained themselves so that they can hold hot pennies, eat red pepper, and do other 'stunts'—we've had their confessions times enough."
"Yes, but their confessions are never quite complete," retorted young Howard. "When I was in college I had one of these 'horses' appeal to me for help. He was out of a job, and I told him I'd blow him to the supper of his life if he would render up the secrets of his trade. He took my offer, but jarred me by confessing that the professor really could hypnotize him. He had to make believe only part of the time. His 'stunts' were mostly real."
"It's the same way with mediums," said I. "I have had a good deal of experience with them, and I've come to the conclusion that they all, even the most untrustworthy of them, start with at least some small basis of abnormal power. Is it not rather suggestive that the number of practising mediums does not materially increase? If it were a mere matter of deception, would there not be thousands at the trade? As a matter of fact, there are not fifty advertising mediums in New York at this moment, though of course the number is kept down by the feeling that it is a bit disreputable to have these powers."
"You're too easy on them," said Howard. "I never saw one that wasn't a cheap skate."
Again I protested. "Don't be hasty. There are nice ones. My own mother had this power in her youth, so my father tells me. Her people were living in Wisconsin at the time when this psychic force developed in her, and the settlers from many miles around came to see her 'perform.' An uncle, when a boy of four, did automatic writing, and one of my aunts recently wrote to me, in relation to my book The Tyranny of the Dark, that for two years (beginning when she was about seventeen) these powers of darkness made her life a hell. It won't do to be hasty in condemning the mediums wholesale. There are many decent people who are possessed by strange forces, but are shy of confessing their abnormalities. Ask your family physician. He will tell you that he always has at least one patient who is troubled by occult powers."
"Medical men call it 'hysteria,'" said Harris.
"Which doesn't explain anything," I answered. "Many apparently healthy people possess the more elementary of these powers—often without knowing it."
"We are all telepathic in some degree," declared Brierly.
"Perhaps all the so-called messages from the dead come from living minds," I suggested—"I mean the minds of those about us. Dr. Reed, a friend of mine, once arranged to go with a patient to have a test sitting with a very celebrated psychic who claimed to be able to read sealed letters. Just before the appointed day, Reed's patient died suddenly of heart-disease, leaving a sealed letter on his desk. The doctor, fully alive to the singular opportunity, put the letter in his pocket and hastened to the medium. The magician took it in his hand and pondered. At last he said: 'This was written by a man now in the spirit world. I cannot sense it. There isn't a medium in the world who can read it, but if you will send it to any person anywhere on the planet and have it read and resealed, I will tell you what is in it. I cannot get the words unless some mind in the earth-plane has absorbed them.'"
Harris spoke first. "That would seem to prove a sort of universal mind reservoir, wouldn't it?"
"That is the way my friend figured it. But isn't that a staggering hypothesis? I have never had a sealed letter read, but the psychic research people seem to have absolutely proved psychometry to be a fact. After you read Myers you are ready to believe anything—or nothing."
The hostess rose. "Suppose we go into the library and have more ghost stories. Come, Mr. Garland, we can't leave you men here to talk yourselves out on these interesting subjects. You must let us all hear what you have to say."
In more or less jocose mood the company trooped out to the library, where a fire was glowing in the grate and easy-chairs abounded. The younger people, bringing cushions, placed themselves beside the hearth, while I took a seat near Mrs. Cameron and Harris.
"There!" said Miss Brush, with a gurgle of delight. "This is more like the proper light and surroundings for creepy tales. Please go on, Mr. Garland. You said you'd had a good deal of experience—tell us all about it. I always think of you as a trailer, a man of the plains. How did you happen to get into this shadow world?"
"It came about while I was living in Boston. It was in 1891, or possibly 1892. A friend, the editor of the Arena, asked me to become a member of the American Psychical Society, which he was helping to form. He wished me to go on the Board of Directors, because, as he said, I was 'young, a keen observer, and without emotional bias'—by which he meant that I had not been bereaved."
"Quite right; the loss of a child or a wife weakens even the best of us illogical," commented Harris. "No man who is mourning a relative has any business to be calling himself an investigator of spiritualism."
"Well, the upshot was, I joined the society, became a member of the Executive Board, was made a special committee on 'physical phenomena'—that is to say, slate-writing, levitation, and the like—and set to work. It was like entering a new, vague, and mysterious world. The first case I investigated brought out one of the most fundamental of these facts, which is, that this shadow world lies very close to the sunny, so-called normal day. The secretary of the society had already begun to receive calls for help. A mechanic had written from South Boston asking us to see his wife's automatic writing, and a farmer had come down from Concord to tell us of a haunted house and the mysterious rappings on its walls. Almost in a day I was made aware of the illusory side of life."
"Why illusory?" asked Brierly.
"Let us call it that for the present," I answered. "Among those who wrote to us was a woman from Lowell whose daughter had developed strange powers. Her account, so straightforward and so precise, determined us to investigate the case. Therefore, our secretary (a young clergyman) and I took the train for Lowell one autumn afternoon. We found Mrs. Jones living in a small, old-fashioned frame house standing hard against the sidewalk, and through the parlor windows, while we awaited the psychic, I watched an endless line of derby hats as the town's mechanics plodded by—incessant reminders of the practical, hard-headed world that filled the street. This was, indeed, a typical case. In half an hour we were all sitting about the table in a dim light, while the sweet-voiced mother was talking with 'Charley,' her 'poltergeist'—"
"What is that, please?" asked Mrs. Quigg.
"The word means a rollicking spirit who throws things about. I did not value what happened at this sitting, for the conditions were all the psychic's own. By-the-way, she was a large, blond, strapping girl of twenty or so—one of the mill-hands—not in the least the sickly, morbid creature I had expected to see. As I say, the conditions were such as to make what took place of no scientific value, and I turned in no report upon it; but it was all very curious."
"What happened? Don't skip," bade Mrs. Cameron.
"Oh, the table rapped and heaved and slid about. A chair crawled to my lap and at last to the top of the table, apparently of its own motion. A little rocking-chair moved to and fro precisely as if some one were sitting in it, and so on. It was all unconvincing at the time, but as I look back upon it now, after years of experience, I am inclined to think part of it at least was genuine. And this brings me to say to Mrs. Quigg, and to any other doubter, that you have only to step aside into silence and shadow and wait for a moment—and the bewildering will happen, or you will imagine it to happen. I will agree to furnish from this company a medium that will astonish even our materialistic friend Miller."
There was a loud outcry: "What do you mean? Explain yourself!"
"I am perfectly certain that if this company will sit as I direct for twenty-one days at the same hour, in the same room, under the same conditions, phenomena will develop which will not merely amaze but scare some of you; and as for you, Mrs. Quigg, you who are so certain that nothing ever happens, you will be the first to turn pale with awe."
"Try me! I am wild to be 'shown.'"
Harris was not so boastful. "You mean, of course, that some of these highly cultured ladies would develop hysteria?"
"I am not naming the condition; I only say that I have seen some very hard-headed and self-contained people cut strange capers. The trance and 'impersonation' usually come first."
"Let's do it!" cried out Miss Brush. "It would be such fun!"
"You'd be the first to 'go off,'" said I, banteringly.
Harris agreed. "She is neuropathic."
"I propose we start a psychic society here and now," said Cameron. "I'll be president, Mrs. Quigg secretary, and Garland can be the director of the awful rites. Miss Brush, you shall be the 'mejum.'"
"Oh no, no!" she cried, "please let some one else be it."
This amused me, but I seized upon Cameron's notion. "I accept the arrangement provided you do not hold me responsible for any ill effects," I said. "It's ticklish business. There are many who hold the whole process diabolic."
"Is the house ready for the question?" asked Cameron.
"Ay, ay!" shouted every one present.
"The society is formed," announced Cameron. "As president, I suggest a sitting right now. How about it, Garland?"
"Certainly!" I answered, "for I have an itching in my thumbs that tells me something witching this way comes."
The guests rose in a flutter of pleased excitement.
"How do we go at it?" asked Mrs. Cameron.
"The first requisite is a small table—"
"Why a table?" asked Mrs. Quigg.
"The theory is that it helps to concentrate the minds of the sitters, and it will also furnish a convenient place to rest our hands. Anyhow, all the great investigators began this way," I replied, pacifically. "We may also require a pencil and a pad."
Miller was on his dignity. "I decline to sit at a table in that foolish way. I shall look on in lonely grandeur."
The others were eager to "sit in," as young Howard called it, and soon nine of us were seated about an oblong mahogany table. Brierly was very serious, Miss Brush ecstatic, and Mrs. Harris rather nervous.
I was careful to prepare them all for failure. "This is only a trial sitting, you know, merely to get our hands in," I warned.
"Must we keep still?"
"Oh no! You may talk, if you do so quietly. Please touch fingers, so as to make a complete circuit. I don't think it really necessary, but it sometimes helps to produce the proper mental state; singing softly also tends to harmonize the 'conditions,' as the professionals say. Don't argue and don't be too eager. Lean back and rest. Take a passive attitude toward the whole problem. I find the whole process very restful. Harris, will you turn down the lights before—"
"There!" said Miller, "the hocus-pocus begins. Why not perform in the light?"
"Subdued light will bring the proper negative and inward condition sooner," I replied, taking a malicious delight in his disgust. "Now will some one sing 'Annie Laurie,' or any other sweet, low song? Let us get into genial, receptive mood. Miller, you and your fellow-doubters please retire to the far end of the room."
In a voice that trembled a little, Mrs. Harris started the dear old melody, and all joined in, producing a soft and lulling chorus.
At the end of the song I asked, matter-of-factly: "Are the conditions right? Are we sitting right?"
Mrs. Quigg sharply queried, "Whom are you talking to?"
"The 'guides,'" I answered.
"The 'guides'!" she exclaimed. "Do you believe in the guides?"
"I believe in the belief of the guides," was my cryptic rejoinder. "Sing again, please."
I really had no faith in the conditions of the circle, but for the joke of it I kept my sitters in place for nearly an hour by dint of pretending to hear creakings and to feel throbbings, until at last little Miss Brush became very deeply concerned. "I feel them, too," she declared. "Did some one blow on my hands? I felt a cold wave."
Harris got up abruptly. "I'll join the doubters," said he. "This tomfoolery is too idiotic for me."
Cameron followed, and Mrs. Quigg also rose. "I'll go with you," she said, decidedly. I was willing to quit, too, but Mrs. Harris and Miss Brush pleaded with me to continue.
"Close up the circle, then. Probably Harris was the hoodoo. Things will happen now," I said, briskly, though still without any faith in the experiment.
Hardly had Harris left the table when a shudder passed over Mrs. Harris, her head lifted, and her eyes closed.
"What's the matter, Dolly?" whispered Mrs. Cameron. "Do you feel faint?"
"Don't be alarmed! Mrs. Harris is only passing into a sleep. Not a word, Harris!" I said, warningly. "Please move farther away."
In the dusky light the faces of all the women looked suddenly blanched and strange as the entranced woman seized upon the table with her hands, shaking it hard from side to side. The table seemed to wake to diabolic energy under her palms. This was an unexpected development, and I was almost as much surprised as the others were.
"Sing again," I commanded, softly.
As they sang, Mrs. Harris withdrew her hands from the table and sat rigidly erect, yet with a peaceful look upon her face. "She does it well," I thought. "I didn't think it in the quiet little lady." At length one hand lifted and dropped limply upon the table. "It wants to write," said I. "Where is the pad? I have a pencil."
As I put a pencil under the hand, it was seized in a very singular way, and almost instantly Mrs. Cameron gasped, "That's very strange!"
"Hush!" said I. "Wait!"
Holding the pencil clumsily as a crippled person might do, the hand crept over the paper, and at last, after writing several lines, stopped and lay laxly open. I passed the pad to Brierly. "Read it aloud," I said.
He took it to the light and read:
"Sara, be not sceptical. Believe and you will be happier. Life is only the minutest segment of the great circle. MARTIN."
"My father!" exclaimed Mrs. Cameron. "Let me see the writing." Brierly handed the pad to her. She stared upon it in awe and wonder. "It is his exact signature—and Dolly held the pen just as he did—he was paralyzed toward the last—and could only write by holding his pen that way."
"Look! it's moving again," I exclaimed.
The hand caught up the pencil, and, holding it between the thumb and forefinger in a peculiar way, began moving it in the air. Brierly, who sat opposite, translated these movements. "She is drawing, free-hand, in the air. She is sketching the outline of a boat. See how she measures and plumbs her lines! Are you addressing me?" he asked of Mrs. Harris.
The sleeper nodded.
"Can't you write?" I asked. "Can't you speak?"
A low gurgle in the throat was the only answer at the moment, but after a few trials a husky whisper began to be heard. "I will try," she said, and suddenly began to chuckle, rolling upon one hip and throwing one foot over the other like a man taking an easy attitude. She now held the pencil as if it were a cigarette, laughing again with such generous tone that the other women recoiled. Then she spoke, huskily. "You know—San Remo—Sands," came brokenly from her lips.
"Sands?" queried the painter; "who is Sands?"
The painter was puzzled. "I don't remember any Sands at San Remo. It must be some student I knew in Paris. Is that what you mean?"
Mrs. Harris violently nodded. As abruptly as it came, this action left her, and then slowly, imperceptibly, her expression changed, a look of ineffable maternal sweetness came into her face; she seemed to cradle a tiny babe upon her arm. At last she sighed, "Oh, the pity of it, the pity of it!"
For a minute we sat in silence, so compelling were her gestures and her tone. At last I asked, "Has any one here lost a little child?"
Mrs. Cameron spoke, hesitatingly, "Yes—I lost a little baby—years ago."
"She is addressing you—perhaps."
Mrs. Harris did not respond to this suggestion, but changed into an impersonation of a rollicking girl of rather common fibre. "Hello, Sally!" she cried out, and Mrs. Cameron stared at her in blank dismay as she asked, "Are you talking to me?"
"You bet I am, you old bag o' wool. Remember Geny? Remember the night on the door-step? Ooo! but it was cold! You were to blame."
"What is she talking about?" I asked, seeing that Mrs. Cameron was reluctant to answer this challenge.
"She seems to be impersonating an old class-mate of mine at college—"
"That's what!" broke in the voice.
Mrs. Cameron went on, "Her name was Eugenia Hull—"
"Is yet," laughed the voice. "Same old sport. Couldn't find any man good enough. You didn't like me, but no matter; I want to tell you that you're in danger of fire. Don't play with fire. Be careful of fire—"
Again a calm blankness fell upon the psychic's delicate and sensitive face, and the hand once more slowly closed upon the pencil.
"My father again!" exclaimed Mrs. Cameron. "How could Dolly have known that he held his pen in just that way? She never saw him."
"Do not place too much value on such performances," I cautioned. "She has probably heard you describe it. Or she might have taken it out of your subconscious mind."
The pencil dropped. The hand lifted. The form of the sleeper expanded with power. Her face took on benignity and lofty serenity. She rose slowly, impressively, and with her hand upraised in a peculiar gesture, laid a blessing upon the head of her hostess. There was so much of sweetness and tolerance in her face, so much of dignity and power in every movement that I was moved to applaud the actress. As we all sat thus, deeply impressed by her towering attitude, Mrs. Cameron whispered: "Why, it is Bishop Blank! That is exactly the way he held his hand—his robe!"
"Is it the bishop?" I asked.
The psychic bowed and in solemn answer spoke. "Tell James all will yet be well," she said, and, making the sign of blessing once more, sank back into her chair.
Meanwhile the irreverent ribalds in the far end of the room were disturbing the solemnity of all this communion with the shades, and at my suggestion we went up-stairs to Mrs. Cameron's own sitting-room, where we could be quiet. Seizing a moment when Mrs. Harris was free from the "influence," I woke her and told her what we were about to do. She followed Mrs. Cameron readily, although she seemed a little dazed, and five of us continued the sitting, with Mrs. Quigg and Cameron looking on with perfectly evident doubt of our psychic's sincerity. Harris was rigidly excluded.
In the quiet of this room Mrs. Harris passed almost immediately into trance—or what seemed like a trance—and ran swiftly over all her former impersonations. Voice succeeded voice, almost without pause. The sweet mother with the child, the painter of San Remo, the jovial and slangy girl, the commanding and majestic figure of the bishop—all returned repeatedly, in bewildering mixture, dropping away, one after the other, with disappointing suddenness. And yet each time the messages grew a little more definite, a little more coherent, until at last they all cleared up, and this in opposition to our thought, to our first interpretations. It developed that the painter was not named "Sands," but "Felipi," and that he was only trying to tell Brierly that to succeed he should paint rocks and sands and old boats at San Remo. "Pauline," the woman who had seemed to hold a babe, was a friend of Mrs. Cameron's who had died in childbirth. And then swiftly, unaccountably, all these gentle or genial influences were scattered as if by something hellish, something diabolic. The face of the sweet little woman became fiendish in line. Her lips snarled, her hands clawed like those of a cat, and out of her mouth came a hoarse imprecation. "I'll tear your heart out!" she snarled. "I'll kill you soul and body—I'll rip you limb from limb!" We all recoiled in amazement and wonder. It was as if our friend had suddenly gone insane.
I confess to a feeling of profound astonishment. I had never met Mrs. Harris before, but as she was an intimate friend of Mrs. Cameron, and quite evidently a woman of culture, I could not think her so practised a joker as to be "putting all this on."
While still we sat in silence, another voice uttered a wail of infinite terror and despair. "I didn't do it! Don't kill me! It was not my work." And then, still more horrible to hear, a sound like the gurgling of blood came from the psychic's lips, mixed with babbled, frantic, incoherent words. I had a perfectly definite impression that she was impersonating some one with his throat cut. Her grimaces were disgusting and terrifying. The women shivered with horror. A few seconds later and her face changed; the hideous mask became white, expressing rigid, exalted terror. Her arms were drawn back as if tied at the elbow behind her back. Her head was uplifted, and in a low, monotonous, hushed voice she prayed: "Lord Jesus, receive—"
A gasping, gurgling cry cut short her prayer, and, with tongue protruding from her mouth, she presented such a picture of a strangling woman that a sudden clear conception of what it all meant came to me. "She's impersonating a woman on the scaffold," I explained. "She has shown us a murder, and now she is depicting an execution. Is it Mrs. R., of Vermont?" I asked.
She nodded slowly. "Save me!" she whispered.
"Waken her, please. Don't let her do that any more," pleaded Mrs. Cameron, in poignant distress.
Thereupon I called out, sharply: "That is enough! Wake! Wake!"
In answer to my command she ceased to groan; her face smoothed out, and with a bewildered smile she opened her eyes. "What are you saying? Have I been asleep?"
"You have, indeed," I replied, "and you've disclosed a deal of dubious family history. How do you feel?"
"I feel very funny around my neck," she answered, wonderingly. "What have you been doing to me?" She rubbed her throat. "My neck feels as if it had a band round it, and my tongue seems swollen. What have you been about?"
I held up a warning hand to the others. "You went off into a quiet little trance, that's all. I was mistaken. Either you are a psychic or you should have been an actress."
As we stood thus confronting one another, Mrs. Cameron came between us, saying, "Do you know, Pauline came and talked with me—"
At the word Pauline the spell seemed to fall again over the bright spirit of Mrs. Harris. Her eyelids drooped, her limbs lost their power, and she sank into her chair as before, a helpless victim, apparently, to the hidden forces. For a moment I was at a loss. I could not believe that she was deceiving us, but it was possible that she was deceiving herself. "In either case, she must be brought out of this," I decided, and, putting my hands on her shoulders, I said: "If there is any 'control' here, let them stop this. We want no more of it. Stop it!"
My command was again obeyed, and the psychic slowly came back to herself, and as she did so I said, warningly, to Mrs. Cameron: "Do not utter another word of this in Mrs. Harris's presence. She seems to be extremely sensitive to hypnotic influence, and I think she had better go out into the air at once."
In rather subdued mood we went below to rejoin the frankly contemptuous members of the party.
"Well, what luck?" cried Howard.
"You all look rather solemn," said Harris. "What about it? Dolly, what have you been doing?"
Mrs. Cameron described the sitting as wonderful, but Mrs. Harris only smiled vaguely, and I said: "Your wife seemed to go into a trance and impersonate a number of individuals. She shows all the signs of a real sensitive."
Harris, who had been studying his wife with half-humorous intentness, now took command. "If you've been shamming, you need discipline; and if you haven't, you need a doctor. I think we'll go home and have it out," he added, and shortly after led her away. "Some nice cool air is what we need," he said at the door.
No sooner were the Harrises out of the door than the women of the party fell upon me.
"What do you think of it, Mr. Garland?" asked Mrs. Cameron.
"If Mrs. Harris were not your friend, and if I had not seen other performances of the same sort, I should instantly say that she was having her joke with us. But I have seen too much of this sort of thing to take it altogether lightly. That's the way this investigating goes. One thing corroborates another. 'Impersonation' in the case of a public medium may mean nothing—on the part of a psychic like your friend Mrs. Harris it means a very great deal. In support of this, let me tell you of a similar case. I have a friend, a perfectly trustworthy woman, and of keen intelligence, whose 'stunt,' as she laughingly calls it, is to impersonate nameless and suffering spirits who have been hurled into outer darkness by reason of their own misdeeds or by some singular chance of their taking off. My friend seems to be able in some way to free these poor 'earth-bound souls' and send them flying upward to some heaven. It's all very creepy," I added, warningly.
"Oh, delightful! Let it be very creepy," called Mrs. Quigg.
"To begin with, my friend is as keen-eyed, as level-headed as any woman I know—the last person in the world to be taken for a 'sensitive.' I had never suspected it in her; but one night she laughingly admitted having been 'in the work' at one time, and I begged for a sitting. We were dining at her house—Jack Ross, a Miss Wilcox, and I, all intimate friends of hers, and she consented. After sitting a few minutes she turned to me and said: 'My "guide" is here. Be sure to keep near me; don't let me fall.' She still spoke smilingly, but I could see she was in earnest.
"'You see,' she explained, 'I seem to leave the body and to withdraw a little distance above my chair. From this height I survey my material self, which seems to be animated by an entirely alien influence. Sometimes my body is moved by these forces to rise and walk about the room. In such cases it is necessary for some friend to follow close behind me, for between the going of "the spirit" and the return of my "astral self" there lies an appreciable interval when my body is as limp as an empty sack. I came very near having a bad fall once.'
"'I understand,' said I. 'I'll keep an eye on you.'
"In a few moments a change came over her face. She sank into a curious negative state between trance and reverie. Her lips parted, and a soft voice came from them. She spoke to Miss Wilcox, who sat opposite her: 'Sister—I am very happy. I am surrounded by children. It is beautiful here in the happy valley—warm and golden—and oh, the merry children!'
"Miss Wilcox was deeply moved by this message and for a moment could not reply. At length she recovered her voice and asked, 'Are you speaking to me?'
"'Yes. I am worried about mother. She is sick. Go to her. She needs help. Good-bye!' The smile faded; my friend's face resumed its impersonal calm.
"'Did you recognize the spirit?' I asked.
"Miss Wilcox hesitated, but at last said: 'My sister was active in the work of caring for orphan children. But that proves nothing. Anna may have known it—there is no test in this. It may be only mind-reading.'
"'You are quite right,' I replied. 'But the message concerning your mother can be tested, can it not?'
"At this moment the face of the psychic squared, and a deep, slow voice came pulsing forth. 'Why do you wilfully blind your eyes? The truth will prevail. Mystery is all about you. Why doubt that which would comfort you?'
"'Who are you?' I inquired.
"'I am Theodore Parker, the psychic's control,' was the answer.
"Soon after this my friend opened her eyes and smiled. 'Do you know what you've said?' I asked. 'Yes, I always have a dim notion of what is going on,' she answered, 'but why I am moved to speak and act as I do I don't know. It is just the same when I write automatically. I know when I do it, but I can't see the connection between my own mind and the writing. It is as if one lobe of my brain kept watch over the action of the other.'
"She now passed into another period of immobility and so sat for a long time. Suddenly her face hardened, became coarse, common, vicious in line. Flinging out her hand, she struck me in the breast. 'What do you want of me?' she demanded, in the voice of a harridan. 'What are you all doing here? You're a nice lot of fools.'
"'Who are you?' I asked.
"'You know who I am,' she answered, with a hoarse laugh. 'A sweet bunch you are! Where's Jim?'
"'Does any one recognize this "party"?' I asked. 'Ross, this must be one of your set.'
"Ross laughed, and the 'influence,' thrusting her face close to his, blurted out, menacingly: 'Don't know me, hey? Well, here I am. I wanted a show, and they let me in. What you going to do about it?'
"'I reckon you lit in the wrong door-yard,' I replied; 'nobody knows you here. Skiddoo!'
"She made an ugly face at me, and struck at me with her claw-like hand. 'I'd like to smash you!'
"'Good-bye,' said I. 'Get out!' And she was gone.
"Before a word could be spoken, a look of hopeless, heart-piercing woe came over my friend's face. She began to moan and wring her hands most piteously. 'Oh, where am I?' she wailed. 'It is so cold, so cold! So cold and dark! Won't somebody help me? Oh, help me!'
"I gently asked: 'Who are you? Can't you tell us your name?'
"'Oh, I don't know, I can't tell,' moaned the voice. 'It's all so dark and cold and lonely. Please tell me where I am. I've lost my name. All is so dark and cold. Oh, pity me! Let me come in. Let me feel your light. I'm freezing! Oh, pity me. I'm so lonely. It's so dark.'
"'Come in,' I said. 'We will help you.'
"The hands of the psychic crept timidly up my arm and touched my cheek. 'Thank you! Thank you! Oh, the cheer! Oh, the light!' she cried, ecstatically. 'I see! I know! Good-bye!' And with a sigh of ecstasy the voice ceased.
"I can hardly express to you the vivid and yet sombre impression this made upon me. It was as if a chilled and weary bird, having winged its way from the winter's midnight into a warm room, had been heartened and invigorated, had rushed away confident and swift to the sun-lands of the South.
"One by one other 'earth-bound souls' who, from one cause or another, were 'unable to find their way upward,' came into our ken like chilled and desperate bats condemned to whirl in endless outer darkness and silence—poor, abortive, anomalous shadows, whose voices pleaded piteously for release. Nameless, agonized, bewildered, they clung like moths to the light of our psychic.
"Some of them appeared to be suffering all the terrors of the damned, and as they moaned and pleaded for light, the lovely face of my friend was convulsed with agony and her hands fluttered about like wounded birds. Singular conception! Wonderful power of suggestion!
"At length, with a glad cry, the last of these blind souls saw, sighed with happiness, and seemed to vanish upward, as if into some unfathomable, fourth-dimension heaven. Then the sweet first spirit, the woman with the glad children, returned to say to Miss Wilcox, 'Be happy—George is coming back to you.'
"After she passed, my friend opened her eyes as before, clearly, smilingly, and said, 'Have you had enough?'
"'Plenty,' said I. 'You nearly took my eye out in your dramatic fervor. I must say your ghosts are most unhappy creatures.'
"She became very serious. 'Please don't think that these spirits are my affinities. My work is purely philanthropic, so Theodore Parker used to tell mother. It was my duty, he said, to comfort the cheerless, to liberate the earth-bound, and so I had to have these poor creatures waiting around. That's why I gave it up. It got to be too dreadful. We never could tell what would come next. Murderers and barnburners and every other accursed spirit seemed to be privileged to come into my poor empty house and abuse it, although Parker and his band promised to protect me. I stopped it. I will not sit again,' she said, firmly. 'I don't like it. It would be bad enough to be dominated by one's dead friends, or the dead friends of one's friends, but to be helpless in the hands of all the demons and suicides and miscreants of the other world is intolerable. And if I am not dominated by dead people, I fear I am acting in response to the minds of vicious living people, and I don't like that. It's a dreadful feeling—can't you see it is?—this being open to every wandering gust of passion. I wouldn't let any one of my children be controlled for the world. Don't ask me to sit again, and please don't let my friends know of my "gift."'
"Of course we promised, but the effect of that sitting I shall not soon forget. By-the-way, Miss Wilcox 'phoned and proved the truth of her message. Her mother really was ill and in need of her."
As I closed this story, Cameron said: "Garland, you tell that as if you believed in it."
"I certainly do believe in my friend. It's no joke with her. She is quite certain that she is controlled by those 'on the other side,' and that to submit is to lose so much of her own individuality. You may call it hysteria, somnambulism, hypnotism, anything you like, but that certain people are moved subconsciously to impersonate the dead I am quite ready to believe. However, 'impersonation' is the least convincing (from my point of view) of all the phases of mediumship. I have paid very little attention to it in the course of my investigation. It has no value as evidence. You are still in the tattered fringes of 'spiritism,' even when you have seen all that impersonation can show you."
"Well, what do you suggest as the proper method for the society?"
"As I told you at beginning, I have had a great deal of experience with these elusive 'facts,' and it chances that a practised though non-professional psychic with whom I have held many baffling sittings, is in the city. I may be able to induce her to sit for us."
"Oh, do, do!" cried Mrs. Cameron and Miss Brush together.
"Who is she?" asked Miller.
"I'll tell you more about her—next time," I said, tantalizingly. "She is very puzzling, I assure you. When and where shall we meet?"
"Here," said Cameron, promptly. "I'm getting interested. Bring on your marvels."
"Yes," said Miller, and his mouth shut like a steel trap. "Bring on your faker. It won't take us long to expose her little game."
"Bigger scientific bigots than you have been conquered," I retorted. "All right. I'll see what I can do. We'll meet one week from to-day."
"Yes," said Cameron; "come for dinner."
As I was going out, Mrs. Quigg detained me. "If it had been anybody but nice little Mrs. Harris, I should say that you had made this all up between you. As it is, I guess I'll have to admit that there is something in thought transference and hypnotism. You were her control."
"That will serve for one evening," I retorted. "I'll make you doubt the existence of matter before we finish this series of sittings." And with this we parted.
I was a little late at Cameron's dinner-party, and no sooner had I shown my face inside the door than a chorus of excited inquiry arose.
"Where is the medium?" demanded Cameron.
"Don't tell us you haven't got her!" exclaimed Mrs. Quigg.
"I haven't her in my pocket, but she has promised to appear a little later," I replied, serenely.
"Why didn't you bring her to dinner?" asked Mrs. Cameron.
"Well, she seemed a little shy, and, besides, I was quite sure you would all want to discuss her, and so—"
"Yes, do tell us about her. Who is she? Does she perform for a living? What kind of a person are we to expect?" volleyed Miss Brush.
To this I replied: "She is a native of the Middle West—Ohio, I believe. No, she does not do this for a living; in fact, she makes no charge for her services. She is very gentle and lady-like, and much interested, naturally, in converting you to spiritualism; for, like most psychics, she believes in spirits. She says her 'controls' have especially urged her to give me sittings. I am highly flattered to think the spirit folk should consider me so particularly valuable to their cause. Seriously, I hope you will appreciate the wonderful concessions Mrs. Smiley is making in thus putting herself into our hands with the almost certain result of being discredited by some of us. I believe she really is doing it from a sense of duty, and is entitled to be treated fairly."
"Has she been in the business long?" asked Mrs. Quigg, with lurking sarcasm.
"Ever since she was about ten years old, I believe, but she sits only 'to spread the glad tidings.'"
"Is she married?"
"Yes, and has a devoted husband, and a nice little American village home. I know, for she sent me a photograph of it. She has two children 'in the other world.' Please don't think all mediums the ignorant and vicious harpies which the newspapers make them out to be. I know several who are very nice, serious-minded women."
At this point dinner was announced, and the dining-room became the field of a hot verbal warfare. The members of the society were all present excepting Mrs. Harris, who had been greatly upset by her own performance. Bart Brierly, the painter, was there to defend the mystery of life against our scientific friend Miller, whose conception of the universe was very definite indeed. Mrs. Quigg supported Miller. Young Howard was everywhere in the lists, and his raillery afforded Cameron a great deal of amusement.
I contented myself with listening for the first half-hour, but at last took occasion to say to Miller: "Like all violent opponents of the metapsychical, you know very little of the subject you are discussing. To sustain this contention, let me ask if you have ever read the account of Sir William Crookes's experiments with psychic force?"
Miller confessed that he had not. "I have avoided doing so, for I respect Crookes as a chemist," he added.
I continued: "Crookes began by pooh-poohing the whole subject of spiritualism, very much as you do, Miller; but after three years of rigid investigation, he was forced to announce himself convinced of the truth of many of the so-called spirit phenomena. It is instructive to recall that when he was willing to hazard his scientific reputation on a report of this character to the Royal Society, of which he was a member, his paper was thrown out. The secretary refused even to enter it upon the files of the institution."
"I know about that," replied Miller, "and I consider the secretary justified. To his thinking, Crookes had lost his head."
"No matter what he thought," I replied. "Any paper by a man of Crookes's standing, with his knowledge of chemistry and of life, and his long training in exact observation, should have been considered. The action of the secretary was due simply to prejudice, and many of those who voted to ignore that report are to-day more than half convinced that Sir William has been justified. Each of his experiments has been repeated and his findings verified by scientific men of Europe. It is a pleasure to add that our own Smithsonian Institution published two of his speculative papers some years ago. So it goes—the heresy of to-day is the orthodoxy of to-morrow."
"Didn't Crookes afterward repudiate that early report?" asked Miller.
"On the contrary, in 1898, upon being elected to the presidency of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he said (I think I can recall almost his exact words): 'No incident in my scientific career is more widely known than the part I took in certain psychic researches. Thirty years have passed since I published an account of experiments tending to show that outside our scientific knowledge there exists a force exercised by intelligences differing from the ordinary intelligence common to mortals. This fact in my life is well understood by those who honored me with the invitation to become your president. Perhaps among my audience some may feel curious as to whether I shall speak out or be silent. I elect to speak, although briefly. I have nothing to retract. I adhere to my published statements. Indeed, I might add much thereto.' And when you realize that this includes his astounding experience with 'Katie King,' his words become tremendous in their significance."
"What was the 'Katie King' experience?" asked Mrs. Cameron. "I never heard of it."
"It is a long and very interesting story, but in substance it is this: While in a condition of contemptuous disbelief as to the alleged phenomena of spiritualism, Sir William chanced to witness a seance wherein a young girl named Florence Cook was the medium. Her doings so puzzled and interested him that he went again and again to see her. Dissatisfied with the conditions under which the wonders took place, he asked Miss Cook to come to his house and sit for him and his friends. This she did. She was a mere girl at the time, about seventeen years of age, and yet she baffled this great chemist and all his assistants. You sometimes hear people say, 'Yes, but he was in his dotage.' He was not. He was in his early prime. He brought to bear all his thirty years' training in exact observation, and all the mechanical and electrical appliances he could devise, without once detecting anything deceitful."
"Even in the 'Katie King' episode?" asked Harris.
"Even Katie stood the test. But before going into that, let me tell you some of his other experiments. He says (among other amazing things) that he has seen a chair move on its own account, without contact with a medium. He saw Daniel Home—another medium with whom he had sittings—raised by invisible power completely from the floor of the room. 'Under rigid test condition,' he writes, 'I have seen a solid, self-luminous body the size of an egg float noiselessly about the room!' But wait! I will quote from my notes his exact words." Here I produced my note-book, and read as follows: "'I have seen a luminous cloud floating upward toward a picture. Under the strictest test conditions, I have more than once had a solid, self-luminous, crystalline body placed in my hand by a hand which did not belong to any person in the room. In the light, I have seen a luminous cloud hover over a heliotrope on a side-table, break a sprig off, and carry it to a lady; and on some occasions I have seen a similar luminous cloud condense to the form of a hand and carry small objects about. During a seance in full light, a beautifully formed small hand rose up from an opening in a dining-table and gave me a flower. This occurred in the light in my own room, while I was holding the medium's hands and feet. I have retained one of these perfectly life-like and graceful (spirit) hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vapor, and faded in that manner from my grasp.'"
"Oh, come now," shouted Howard, "you're joking! Crookes couldn't have written that."
I continued to read: "'Under satisfactory test conditions, I have seen phantom forms and faces—a phantom form came from the corner of the room, took an accordion in its hand, and glided about the room playing the instrument.'"
As I paused, Harris said: "Was all that in his report to the Royal Society?"
"Well, I don't wonder they thought he was crazy. The whole statement is preposterous."
"But that is not all," I hastened to say. "Under rigid conditions scales were depressed without contact, and a flower, separating itself from a bouquet, passed through a solid table."
Miller made a gesture of angry disgust. "To save the reputation of a really great scientist, don't quote any more of that insane dreaming."
"I didn't know any one but campers in 'Lily Dale' could be so bug-house," added Howard.
I went on. "Crookes might have induced his brother scientists at least to listen to his report had he stopped with this. But he proceeded to say that he had witnessed the magic birth of a sentient, palpable, intelligent human being, who walked about in his household, conversing freely, while the medium, from whom the spirit form sprang, lay in the cabinet like one dead. It was his account of this 'spirit,' who called herself 'Katie King,' that caused the whole scientific world to jeer at the great chemist as a man gone mad."
"We have a right to draw the line between Crookes the chemist and Crookes the befuddled dupe," insisted Miller.
Mrs. Cameron drew a long breath. "Do you mean to say that this 'Katie King' phantom actually talked with the people in the room? Does Sir William Crookes say that?"
"Yes. Over and over again he declares that 'Katie King' appeared as real as any one else in his house. He becomes quite lyrical in description of her beauty. She was like a pearl in her purity. Her flesh seemed a sublimation of ordinary human flesh. And the grace of her manner was so extraordinary that Lady Crookes and all who saw her became deeply enamoured of her. She allowed some of them to kiss her, and Crookes himself was permitted to grasp her hand and walk up and down the room with her."
"How was she dressed?" asked Mrs. Brush.
"There! Now we are getting at the essentials," I exclaimed. "Usually in white with a turban."
"Did she look like the medium?"
"She was utterly unlike Miss Cook in several physical details. She was half a head taller, her face was broader, her ears had not been pierced, and she was free from certain facial scars that Miss Cook bore; and once when Miss Cook was suffering from a severe cold, Sir William tested 'Katie King's' lungs and found them in perfect health. On several occasions he and several of his friends, among them eminent scientists, saw 'Katie' and the medium together, and at last succeeded in photographing them both on the same plate, although never with Miss Cook's face exposed, because of the danger, to one in a trance, from the shock of a flash-light."
"I don't take any stock in that excuse," said Howard. "But go on, I like this."
"For months the great chemist brought all his skill to bear on Miss Cook's mediumship without detecting any fraud or finding any solution of the mystery. The sittings, which took place in his own library, were under his own conditions, and he had the assistance of several young and clever physicists, and yet he could not convict Miss Cook of double-dealing. The story of the final seance, when 'Katie King' announced her departure, is as affecting as a scene in a play. She had said that her real name was 'Annie Morgan,' but that in the spirit world she was known as 'Katie King.' She came, she said, to do a certain work, and now, after three years, that work was done, and she must return to the spirit world."
"What was that work?"
"To convince the world of the spirit life, I imagine. 'When the time came for "Katie" to take her farewell,' writes Crookes, 'I asked that she would let me see the last of her. Accordingly when she had called each of the company up to her and had spoken a few words in private, she gave some general directions for the future guidance and protection of Miss Cook. From these, which were taken down in shorthand, I quote the following: "Mr. Crookes has done very well throughout, and I leave Florrie [the medium], with the greatest confidence, in his hands." Having concluded her directions, "Katie" invited me into the cabinet with her, and allowed me to remain until the end.'"
"Touching confidence!" interrupted Harris.
"'After closing the curtain she conversed with me for some time, and then walked across to where Miss Cook was lying senseless on the floor. Stooping over her, "Katie" touched her and said: "Wake up, Florrie, wake up! I must leave you now."
"'Miss Cook then woke, and tearfully entreated "Katie" to stay a little time longer.
"'"My dear, I can't; my work is done. God bless you," "Katie" replied, and then continued speaking to Miss Cook for several minutes. For several minutes the two were conversing with each other, till at last Miss Cook's tears prevented her speaking. Following "Katie's" instructions, I then came forward to support Miss Cook, who was falling onto the floor, sobbing hysterically. I looked round, but the white-robed "Katie" had gone, never to return to the earth-plane.'"
I glanced about the table at my silent listeners, and added: "Could anything be more dramatic than this sad farewell? Evidently the fourth dimension is both near and very far."
All the women were deeply impressed with this story, but to Miller it was as idle as the blowing of the wind. "The man was duped. It is absolutely impossible to think that he was not grossly deceived."
"Wait a moment," said I. "I defy you or any man to remain unchanged by it. The world is just catching up to this brave pioneer. At that time there were very few scientific men in the metapsychical field. Sir William stood almost alone. But public sentiment changed rapidly as the years passed. The English Society for Psychical Research was formed, and one by one Wallace, Lodge, and other scientific men were convinced of the truth of these phenomena. In Europe, as early as 1853, the work was taken up in the true scientific spirit, and Professor Marc Thury and the Count de Gasparin completely demonstrated the fact of telekinesis; and at about the same time that the Dialectical Society was getting into action, Flammarion, the astronomer, took up his study of the subject. But it was not until 1891 that anything like Crookes's searching analysis was made of a medium. This important sitting—a sitting which marks an epoch in science—took place in Milan, and was attended, among others, by Lombroso and Richet. For the first time, so far as is known, a flash-light photograph was taken of a table floating in the air."
At this moment the bell rang, and Mrs. Cameron exclaimed: "There! that may be your wonder-worker."
I looked at my watch. "I shouldn't wonder. She is a prompt little person."
We trooped into the sitting-room, where Mrs. Smiley, a plain little woman with a sweet mouth and bright black eyes, was awaiting us. She was perceptibly abashed by the keen glances that the men directed upon her, but her manners were those of one natively thoughtful and refined. She made an excellent impression on every one.
"Did you bring your magic horn, Mrs. Smiley?" I asked, to relieve her embarrassment.
"Oh yes!" she answered, brightly. "I carry that just as a fiddler carries his fiddle—ready for a tune at any moment."
She brought a large package from the foot of the sofa and gave it to me. I took it, but turned it over to Miller. "Here, open this parcel yourself, Mr. Scientist. I want you to be satisfied as to its character."
Miller undid the package as cautiously as if it were an infernal machine. As the paper opened and fell away, a short, truncated cone of tin was disclosed, with another smaller one loosely held within it. The two sections, when adjusted, made a plain megaphone, about twenty-four inches in length and some five inches in diameter at the larger end.
"What do you do with that?" asked Mrs. Cameron.
In a perfectly matter-of-fact way Mrs. Smiley replied: "Many of the spirit voices are very faint, and cannot be heard without this horn. I am what they call a 'trumpet medium,'" she added, in further explanation.
"Do you mean to say spirits speak through that horn?"
"Yes. That is my 'phone.'"
The ladies looked at one another, and Harris said: "Isn't it rather absurd to expect an immaterial mouth to speak through a tin tube, like the grocer's boy?"
She smiled composedly. "I suppose it seems so to you, but to me it just happens."
I set briskly to work arranging the library for the circle. In the middle of the room I placed a plain oaken table, which had been procured specially for the sitting. On this I stood the tin horn, upright on its larger end; beside it I laid a pad, a pencil, and a small slate.
"Mrs. Smiley, you are to sit here," I said, drawing an arm-chair to the end of the table nearest the wall. She took her seat submissively; and looking around upon my fellow-members with a full knowledge of what was in their minds, I remarked: "If all goes well to-night, this little woman, alone and unaided, except by this megaphone, will utterly confound you. We have had many sittings. We understand each other perfectly. I am going to treat her as if she were an unconscious trickster. I am going to use every effort to discover how she accomplishes these mysterious results, and Miller is to be notably remorseless. We are going to concede (for the present) the dim light required. I don't like this, but Mrs. Smiley is giving us every other condition, and as this is but a trial sitting, we grant it." I turned to Miller. "The theory is that light acts in direct opposition to the psychic force, weakening it unaccountably. Nevertheless, darkness is not absolutely essential. Maxwell secured many convincing movements in the light, and no doubt we shall be able to do so later."
"Who is Maxwell?" asked Miss Brush.
"Dr. Joseph Maxwell, Deputy Attorney-General of the Court of Appeals at Bordeaux and Doctor of Medicine. He is a noted experimenter with psychic forces. Indeed, he has the power himself. Now, Mrs. Smiley, I wish to begin my tests by tying your wrists to the arms of your chair. May I do so?"
"Certainly," she cheerfully answered. "You may padlock me, or put me in an iron cage, if you please. I leave it all to you."
"Well, there is a certain virtue in knotting a silk thread, for the reason that it is almost impossible to untie, even in the light, and to break it, we will agree, invalidates the sitting. For to-night we will use the thread. Miller, will you watch me?"
"With the greatest pleasure in the world," he answered, "and as a scientist I am going to treat you as a possible confederate."
"Very good. Let each watch the other."
Beneath the gaze of the smiling company, I took from my pocket a spool of strong silk twist, and proceeded to fasten the psychic's wrists. Each arm was tied separately in such wise that she was unable to bring her hands together, and could not raise her wrists an inch from the chair. Next, with the aid of Mrs. Cameron, I looped a long piece of tape about Mrs. Smiley's ankles, knotted it to the rungs of the chair at the back, and nailed the loose ends to the floor. I then drew chalk marks on the floor about the chair legs, in order that any movement of the chair, no matter how slight, might show. Finally, I pushed the table about two feet away from the psychic's utmost reach.
"With this arrangement we ought to be able to detect any considerable movement on your part," I said to my prisoner; "at any rate, I think we can keep you from jumping upon the table. Miller, you are to sit at her left; I will keep watch and ward at her right; the others of the society may take seats as they please—only the tradition is that the sexes should alternate. Cameron, please lock both doors and keep the keys in your pocket."
As soon as we were all seated and Cameron had locked the doors, I asked him to turn down the light, which he did, grumbling: "I don't like this part of it."
"Neither do I, but at a first sitting we must not expect too much. I am sure we shall be able to have more light later on. And now, while we are all getting into a harmonious frame of mind, suppose we ask Mrs. Smiley to tell us a little about herself. Where were you born, Mrs. Smiley?"
She replied, very simply and candidly: "I was born near Cincinnati. My father was a spiritualist early in the 'craze,' as it was called, and I was about nine when I became a medium. At first we did not know that I was the psychic. Demons seemed to take possession of our house, and for a few weeks nothing movable was safe. After awhile my father became sure that I was the cause of these disturbances, because everywhere I went raps were heard: the movement of small objects near where I sat made me an object of aversion or of actual terror to my school-mates. So finally my father asked me to sit. I didn't want to do so at first, but he told me it was my duty. They used to tie me in every way and experiment with me. It was very wearisome to me, but I submitted, and I have been devoted to the work ever since. After my father and mother died I gave up all opposition to my gift, and now it is a great comfort to me; for now I get messages from my father and my little daughter almost every day."
"Do they speak to you directly?" I asked.
"Yes. Sometimes clairaudiently, but generally through this cone when I sit in the dark."
"What do you mean by speaking?" asked Howard. "Do you mean they sound like actual people?"
"Just as real as you or any one," she answered.
I was waiting to say: "Don't be in haste; you will all know from actual experience what she means by voices."
"Have you ever seen these forces at work?" asked Harris.
"No; not the way you mean. I had a terrible shock once that cured me of being too curious. I was holding an accordion under a table by its bellows end, as Home used to do, and while the playing was going on I just believed if I looked under the table I could see something. So I lifted the cover and peeped under. I didn't know any more for a long time. When I came to my father was bathing my face and rubbing my hands. I never tried to 'peek' after that."
"Do you mean that they did this to punish you for your peeping?"
"Yes. They don't like to have you look directly at them when they are at work."
"I don't know. I never was punished again. I didn't need it."
"Would 'they' bat me if I were to peek?" asked Howard.
"They might not; but they refuse to 'work' while any one is looking."
"All that is suspicious."
"I know it is, but that is the way they act."
"You believe 'they' are spirits?"
"I know they are," she repeated. "If I didn't, I would be desolate. I have been sitting now for over thirty years, and these friendly voices are a part of my life. They comfort me more than I can tell."
She gave this account of herself with an air of quiet conviction that deeply impressed the circle, and at the end of her little speech I added: "She has agreed to put herself into our hands for a series of experiments, and if her health does not fail I think we shall be able to rival the doings of Florence Cook and Daniel Home, whose mediumships were the basis of Crookes's report. Now let each one of you spread his hands, or her hands, upon the table, just touching the little fingers, in order that a complete circuit may be established. Miller and I will make connection with our psychic."
"It all seems childish folly, but we'll do it," said Harris.
"What may we expect to happen first, Mrs. Smiley?" asked Mrs. Cameron, after we were in position.
"I don't know," she answered, frankly. "I have very little control over these forces. Often, when I am most anxious, nothing happens. Please don't expect much of anything to-night: my first sittings in a new place are seldom very good, and so much depends upon those who make up the circle. I never sit without a fear that my power has gone never to come back."
I helped her out in explanation: "The honest medium does not advertise to perform regularly, for the reason that this force, whatever it is, seems to lie almost wholly outside the will. Flammarion says 'it may be set down as a rule that all professional mediums cheat.' That is putting it pretty strong; but it seems true that the condition which leads to these phenomena is a very subtle physical and mental adjustment, and that the slightest distraction or mental unrest defeats everything. If the medium is paid for her work she is too eager to serve, and everything tempts her to deceive. Furthermore, it has been proved that the psychic is in the very nature of the case extremely liable to suggestion, and the combined wills of the sitters focussed on one desired phenomena becomes an almost irresistible force to certain psychics. On the other hand, the best observers say that the most striking proofs of spiritualism lies in the fact that the most amazing phenomena come in opposition to the will of both the psychic and the sitters. We may not secure a single movement to-night, and, indeed, we may have two or three barren sittings, but I am confident that in the end you will be satisfied. I am going to attempt to put Mrs. Smiley to sleep now, and when she is in her trance we can discuss her methods freely."
I began to hum a low, monotonous tune, and one by one the others joined in the refrain; soon the psychic's breath became labored, and in the pauses of the song she moaned. At length she drew her hands as far away from Miller's and mine as the threads would permit, thus breaking the circuit.
"She is in trance," I reported. "Now we have nothing to do but wait. You may say anything you please, or tell stories or sing songs, only don't argue. We will remain as we are for a while, and if the 'guides' are dissatisfied, they will order a change. Generally speaking, the 'controls' are very notional, and when we get into full communication with 'them' the entire present arrangement may be broken up. The theory is that all success is due to the co-operation of those 'on the other side.'"
"It looks to me like a plain case of hypnotism from this side," remarked Harris.
"Aren't there any fixed rules to the game?" asked Howard.
"After many years' exhaustive study of these antic spirits (approaching them always from the naturalistic side), Maxwell deduces certain helpful rules: 'Use a small room,' he says, 'and have it warm. Medium and sitters must not have cold hands or feet.'"
"I can understand the psychic having cold feet now and then," interjected Harris.
"Maxwell finds dry air and clear weather most favorable; rainy and windy weather often cause failures. There seems to be some connection with the electrical condition of the atmosphere. After proving that a white light deters phenomena, he uses green, violet, or yellow screens for his lamps. 'Any kind of a table will do for the raps, or for levitation,' he says, 'but one with a double top seems to give best results.' His sitters use wooden chairs with cane seats, and my own experience is that a bare floor helps. He especially directs that the guide be consulted—'let the phenomena come as spontaneously as possible,' he adds."
"Does he find this sandwiching of the sexes helpful?"
"Yes. He says six or eight people, men and women alternating, make the best circle. 'Take things seriously, but not solemnly,' he advises. 'Don't argue; address the "control," and follow his advice. Avoid confusion by electing a director and asking for only one thing at a time. Keep the same people in the group for at least six sittings. Sit in a circle and touch hands. Be patient and good-tempered. A worried, irritated, sullen medium is a poor instrument. Finally'—and this is most important—'don't overwork the medium.' And with this important statement he ends: 'I am persuaded of the absolute harmlessness of these experiments, provided they are properly conducted.'"
"I am glad to know that," said Mrs. Quigg. "After seeing Mrs. Harris's trance, I was in doubt."
"Maxwell's hints are extremely valuable to me," I continued, "for they confirm my own methods, some of which I had to learn by tedious experience. If I had known, for instance, the folly of allowing everybody to quiz the psychic, I might have been spared many hours of tiresome sitting. Maxwell is, indeed, an ideal investigator—he has made a great advance in methods, and his conclusions, though tentative, are most suggestive. No unprejudiced reader can finish his book, Metapsychical Phenomena, without feeling that its author is a brave and fearless writer, as well as a cautious and sane reasoner. His published experience throws a flood of light on mediums and their puzzling peculiarities."
"But it seems to me those rules give the medium and his 'guides' the free hand," said Miller, discontentedly.
"By no means," I retorted. "Maxwell plainly says, 'Where the "control" is insisting upon something which I do not like, I politely resist, and end by getting my own way.' Note the 'politely.' In short, he recognizes that a genuine medium is a very precious instrument, and he does not begin by clubbing him—or her—into submission. For all their wondrous powers, the people who possess these powers are very weak. They are not allowed to make anything more than a living out of the practise of the magic, and they live under the threat of having the power withdrawn. They are helpless in the face of a challenge to produce the phenomena, and yet the hidden forces are themselves helpless without them—"
"Is the table throbbing?" asked Brierly.
"I don't feel it."
"Have you ever had any convincing evidence of this psychic force—such as movement of objects without contact?" asked Harris.
"Yes. I have had a table rise at least twenty inches from the floor in the full light, with no one present but the medium and myself, and while our finger-tips alone touched the top. It felt as if it were floating in a thick and resilient liquid, and when I pressed upon it, it oscillated, in a curious way, as if the power were applied from below and in the centre of the table. The psychic was a young girl, and I am certain played no trick. I could see her feet on the floor, and her finger-tips were, like mine, on the top of the table. This was the clearest test of levitation I ever had, but the lifting of a pencil in independent writing is the same thing in effect."
"I see you have acquired all the 'patter,'" remarked Miller.
"Oh, yes indeed; all the 'patter,' and some of the guile. For instance, when I want to use 'those who have passed on' I do so, and when I don't I invent means to deceive them."
Mrs. Quigg caught me up on that. "Can you deceive 'them'?"
"I don't know that I do, really; but, at any rate, 'they' are not always mind-readers—that I have proved very conclusively. In all my experience I have never had any satisfactory evidence of the clairvoyance of these manifesting intelligences."
"I thought 'they' could read one's every thought."
"I do not find that 'they' can read so much as one of my thoughts, and I would not invest a dollar on their recommendations. Seldom does so much as a familiar name come up in my sittings, and no message of any intimate sort has ever come from the shadow world for me. The messages are intelligent, but below rather than above the average. 'They' always seem very fallible, very human to me, and nothing 'they' do startles me. I have no patience with those who make much of the morbid side of this business. To me it is neither 'theism' nor 'diabolism,' and is neither destruction of an old religion or the basis of a new one—But all this verges on the controversial, and is not good for our psychic. Let's sing some good old tune, like 'Suwanee River' or 'Lily Dale.' We must keep to the genial side of conversation. Spread your hands wide on the table and be as comfortable as you can. We may have to wait a long time now, all on Miller's account."
"Because he is a sceptic?"
"No; because he's belligerent," I answered. "It doesn't matter whether you believe or not if you do not stir up controversy. Miller's 'suggestion' is adverse to the serenity of the psychic, that's all. The old-time sleepy back-parlor logic has no weight with me. Maxwell and Flammarion are my guides."
For four hours we sat thus, and nothing happened. How I kept them at it I do not now understand, but they stayed. We sang, joked, told stories, gossiped in desperate effort to kill time, and not one rap, tap, or crackle came to guide us or to give indication of the presence of any unusual power. Part of the time Mrs. Smiley was awake and sorely grieved at her failure. She understood very well the position in which I seemed to stand. To Miller I was a dupe, the victim of a trickster. He himself afterward confessed that at the time he almost regretted his preternatural acuteness, and was ready to take himself away in order to let the show go on. But he didn't, and from time to time I encouraged our psychic by saying: "Never mind, Mrs. Smiley, there are other evenings to come. We will not despair."
At last she sank into profound sleep, and at exactly twelve o'clock I heard a faint tapping on top of the piano, just behind Miller. "Hooray, here they are!" I exclaimed, with vast relief. "What is the matter?" I asked of "the presence." "Aren't we sitting right?"
"No," was the answer, by means of one decided tap.
"Am I right?"
"No," answered the taps.
I may explain at this point that in the accepted code of signals one tap means "No," three taps mean "Yes," and two taps, "Don't know," "Will try," or any other doubtful state of mind. One has, of course, to guess at the precise meaning; but one may confirm one's interpretation by putting it in the form of a question that can be answered by "Yes" or "No."
"Shall I change with Miller?" I asked.
Three brisk taps made affirmative answer.
I exchanged places with Miller, but did not again touch Mrs. Smiley's hand. Immediately thereafter the sound of soft drumming came from the piano at a point entirely out of reach of the psychic, and at my request the drummer kept time to my whistling. After some minutes of this foolery "the force" left the piano abruptly, as if with a leap, and dropped to the middle of the table. A light, fumbling noise followed, and I called out: "Is every hand in the circle accounted for?"
While the members of the group were, in turn, assuring me of this, a small bell on the table was taken up and rung, and the table itself was shoved powerfully toward the circle and away from the psychic. I assure you, my sitters were profoundly interested now, and some of the women were startled. A sharp, pecking sound came upon the cone. I called attention to the fact that this took place at least six feet from the psychic, and a moment later, with intent to detect her in any movement, I leaned far forward so that my head came close to her breast. I could not discern the slightest motion; I could not even hear her breathe. All this, while very impressive to me, was referred by the others to trickery on Mrs. Smiley's part.
At my request, the drumming on the cone kept time to "Dixey" and "Yankee Doodle," and at length I said to "the spirit": "You must have liked topical songs when you were on the earth-plane."
Instantly the cone was swept violently from the table, and a deep, jovial, strong whisper came from the horn to me. "I do now," was the amazing answer.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Oh, it is you, is it? Well, I am glad you've found a voice; I felt rather helpless up to this moment. Are we sitting right?"
"What are you going to do for us to-night? Can you raise the table?"
"I'll try," he whispered again.
"Are there other 'spirits' here?"
"Can't 'they' write their names on the pad?"
There was a moment's silence, and then the sound of writing began in the middle of the table. When this had finished, I said, "Did you succeed?"
Again the cone rose, and another whisper, a fainter voice, answered: "Yes, but the writing is very miserable."
The rest of the sitters were silent with amazement till Miller said, in a tone of disgust: "That is of no value. It is so easy for Howard, or some one else, to break the circle and write or speak through the cone."
"Yes, we'll have to trust one another for to-night," I admitted.
The psychic now began to twist and moan and struggle, choking, gasping in such evident suffering that Mrs. Cameron cried out: "Mr. Garland, don't you hear? She is ill! Let me go to her!"
"Don't be alarmed," I replied. "This struggle almost always precedes her strongest manifestations. It seems cruel to say so, but, remember, Mrs. Smiley has been through these paroxysms hundreds of times. It appears very painful and exhausting, but she has assured me that 'they' take care of her. She suffers almost no ill effects from her trance."
Miller, living up to his character as remorseless scientist, remarked: "I'd like to control her hands. Shall I try?"
"Not now, not till the 'guides' consent to it," I replied. "It is said to be dangerous to the psychic to touch her unexpectedly."
"I can understand that it might be inconvenient," remarked Harris, with biting brevity.
Again we sat in expectant silence until several of the group became restless. "What is she about now?" asked Cameron, wearily.
"She is in dead trance, apparently. Please be patient a little while longer. Are you still with us, 'Wilbur'?"
I was delighted to hear the three taps that answer "Yes."
"Will you be able to do something more for us?"
Tap, tap, tap—given apparently with the pencil.
I observed: "From a strictly scientific standpoint, the movement of that pencil, provided it can be proved to have taken place without the agency of any known form of force, is as important as the fall of a mountain. It heralds a new day in science. Is every hand accounted for?" Each answered, "Yes." At this moment there was a rustling at the base of the cone. "Listen! 'they' are at work with the horn."
The cone rocked slowly on its base, and at last leaped over the shoulders of the sitters and fell with a crash to the floor. "Mercy on us!" gasped Mrs. Cameron.
"Don't touch it! Don't move!" I called out. "Everybody clasp hands now. Here is a chance for a fine test. 'Wilbur,' can you put the cone back on the table?"
Tap, tap, answered "Wilbur." The two taps were given slowly, and I understood them to mean "Don't know" or "Will try."
"Miller," I said, impressively, "unless some one of our circle is betraying us, we are having as good a demonstration as we could expect, barring the absence of light. Be watchful. 'Wilbur,' we're trusting to you now. Let's see what you can do."
As I spoke, the horn, with a ringing scrape, left the carpet, and a moment later bumped down upon Mrs. Quigg's head. "Oh!" she shrieked, "it hit me!"
Almost immediately a breathy chuckle came from the horn: "Ha, ha! That shook you up a little, I reckon."
The other women were frozen with horror. "Don't let it touch me," pleaded Miss Brush.
And Mrs. Quigg, much shaken, called out: "Frank Howard, are you doing this?"
He was highly indignant. "Certainly not. Are you not holding one hand and Miss Brush the other? I am in-no-cent; I swear it!"
I commented on their dialogue severely. "See how you all treat an event that is wonderful enough to convulse the National Academy of Science. I do not believe the psychic's hands have moved an inch, and yet, unless some one of you is false to his trust, the miraculous has happened—Are you there, 'Wilbur?'" I queried of the mystic presence.
The cone swung toward me, and "Wilbur" answered: "I am, old horse."
"Well, Wilbur, there are two bigoted scientific people here to-night, and I want you to put them to everlasting rout."
"I'll do it, don't you worry," replied the voice, and the cone dropped with a bang on the table, again making everybody jump.
"That brought the goose-flesh!" remarked "Wilbur," with humorous satisfaction.
I took a malicious delight in the mystification of my fellows. "Go down and shake up young Howard at the foot of the table," I suggested. "He is a little in the conjuring line himself."
Almost instantly Howard cried out: "The blooming thing is touching me on the ear!"
"Observe," called I, in the tone of a man exhibiting some kind of trained animal, "the cone is now at least six feet from the psychic's utmost reach. How do you account for that, Miller?"
"The boy lied," said Miller, curtly.
Howard was offended. "I'll take that out of you, old chap, when we meet in the street. I am telling the square-toed truth. I am not doing a thing but hold two very scared ladies' hands."
"Oh, come now!" I interposed. "If we are to be so 'tarnal suspicious of one another, we might just as well give up the sitting. If each of us must be padlocked, proof of any phenomenon is impossible."
A firmer hand now seemed to grasp the cone, and a deep whisper that was almost a tone came from it. "You are right," this new personality said, with measured and precise utterance. "We come with the best tests of a supremely important revelation; we come as scientists from our side of the line; and you scoff, and take it all as a piece of folly, as an entertainment. Is this just? No, it is unworthy men of science."
"You are entirely justified in your indignation," I responded. "But who are you?"
"My name on the earth-plane was Mitchell."
"I am glad to make your acquaintance, 'Mr. Mitchell,' and your rebuke is deserved. I, for one, mean to proceed in this matter seriously. What can you do for us to-night?"
"Be very patient. Carry this investigation forward, and this psychic will astonish the world. Do not abuse her; do not tax her beyond her strength." He spoke with the precise and rather pedantic accent of an old gentleman nurtured on the classics, and produced upon me a distinct impression of age and serious demeanor utterly different from the rollicking, not too refined "Wilbur."
"I will see that she is treated fairly, 'Mr. Mitchell,' but of course this is not a rigid test. Will you be able to permit conditions more convincing?"
"Yes, very much more convincing," he replied, slowly and ponderously, "but do not worry the instrument to-night. Narrow your circle; be harmonious, and not too eager, and you will be abundantly rewarded."
"Won't you tell me who you were on the earth-plane?"
"I was a friend of the father of the instrument," he answered.
The horn returned to the table quietly, and young Howard was the first to speak. "That is a fine piece of ventriloquism, any way you look at it," said he. "It is a nice trick to give that peculiar tinny sound to a whisper."
"So far as I can judge, so far as my sense of hearing goes (and I have kept my ear close to the psychic's face), Mrs. Smiley has not moved, nor uttered a sound. What is your verdict, Mr. Cocksure Scientist?"
For the first time Miller's voice indicated some slight hesitation. "I haven't been able to detect any movement on the part of the psychic," he replied, "but of course I can't answer for the rest of the company. The performance has no scientific value. In the dark, deceit is easy. Harris may be the ventriloquist."
"Why not accuse the arch-conspirator of us all, our director?" exclaimed Mrs. Quigg.
"You flatter me," I responded. "If I could produce those voices I would go on the vaudeville stage to-morrow. I give you my word I am acting in entire good faith. I am quite as eager for the truth as any of you.—But, hark! the cone is on the wing again."
The megaphone was indeed moving, as if a weak, unskilled hand were struggling with it, and at last it swung feebly into the air, and a whisper that was hardly more than a breath was directed toward Mrs. Quigg: "Daughter!"
"Are you speaking to me?" she asked, in a voice that trembled a little.
The answer was but a sibilant sigh: "Yes."
"Who are you?"
The answer was so faint that no one save Mrs. Quigg could distinguish the word. Almost at the same moment I caught the sound of other moving lips in the air just before me. "Who is it?" I asked. Like a little, hopeless sigh the answer came: "Jessie." This was the name of my younger sister. Then the cone dropped as though falling from exhausted hands, and I had no further message from this "spirit."
As we waited breathlessly the clear, silver-sweet voice of a little girl was heard by every one at the table. "Good-evening, everybody. I am Maud; I came with my mamma. I have come to ask you to be very kind to her."
"I am very glad to hear you, 'Maud,'" I answered. "Are there other spirits present?"
"Yes, many, many spirits. My grandpa is here; he is treating my mamma so that she will not be sick. Some one is here to see you, but is too weak to speak. My grandpa says 'we are trusting you.'"
With astonishing clearness this voice created in my mind (not as light would create it) the vision of a self-contained, womanly little girl, whose voice and accent formed a curious silvery replica of the psychic's, and yet I could not say that the psychic's vocal organs gave out these words. At last she said "Good-bye," and the cone was softly laid upon the table.
All of this was performed in profound silence. There was no sound in the cone, except that of the voice, no rustle of garments, no grasp of fingers on the tin; and though I leaned far over, and once more placed my ear close to the psychic's lips, I could not trace the slightest movement connecting her with the movements on the table. I had the conviction at the moment that she sat in a death-like trance at my side.
A few moments later the cone was jammed together and thrown upon the floor—a movement, I had learned to know, that announced that the sitting was ended.
While the sitters still waited, I said: "Now, Cameron, you may turn on the gas, but do so very slowly. Mrs. Smiley seems in deep sleep, and we are warned not to startle her."
When the light became strong enough to see a form, we found our psychic sitting limply, her head drooping sidewise, her eyes closed, her face white and calm. The cone was lying not far from her chair, separated into two parts. The threads that bound her to her seat were to all appearance precisely as at the beginning of the sitting, except that they were deeply sunk into the flesh of her wrists. Her chair had not moved a hair's-breadth from the chalk-marks on the floor.
A moment later she opened her eyes, and, smiling rather wanly, asked of me: "Did anything happen?"
"Oh yes, a great deal. 'Wilbur' came, and 'Maud,' and 'Mr. Mitchell.'"
"I am very glad," she answered, with a faint, happy smile.
Mrs. Cameron bent to her pityingly. "How do you feel?"
"Very numb, but I'll be all right in a very short time. My wrists hurt; your thread is very tight. My arms always swell. Please give me a drink of water."
As I held the glass to her lips I was conscience-smitten to think that for five hours she had been sitting in this constrained position—a martyr to science; but I deferred the moment of her release till Miller had examined every bond. I used a small pair of scissors to cut the thread out of the deep furrows in her wrist, and it took a quarter of an hour of chafing to restore her arms to their normal condition, all of which had a convincing effect upon the doubters.
Miss Brush was indignant. "I think it is a shame the way you have treated your psychic."
"Oh, this is nothing," responded Mrs. Smiley. "I'd be unhappy and uneasy if you didn't tie me. I'm like the old man's chickens (you've heard the story?): he had moved so much that the chickens, whenever they saw him put a cover on his wagon, would lie down and cross their feet to be tied."
After Mrs. Cameron had taken Mrs. Smiley to the dining-room for a cup of tea, the rest of us remained staring at one another.
"Now, which of us did that?" I asked.
"So far as the psychic was concerned, I don't see how she could have had any hand in it," said Miller. "But, then, it was all in the dark."
I had to admit that this diminished the value of the experiment. "But now listen," I said: "as we all seem to be suspicious of one another, I propose that we resort to a process of elimination. I shall take 'Mitchell's' advice and narrow the circle. Howard, you are a suspect. You are ruled out of the next sitting."
"Oh no," protested Howard. "That isn't fair. I did nothing, I swear!"
"You admit being a prestidigitator?"
"Yes, but I had nothing to do with this performance."
"Nevertheless, so far as conclusive proof is concerned, your presence in the circle invalidates it. Now I propose that Mrs. Smiley go to Miller's house, with no one present but Mr. and Mrs. Cameron and Mr. and Mrs. Miller. If we secure these same phenomena under Miller's conditions, we will then readmit one by one the entire membership of the society."
Mrs. Quigg resented being left out, and I pretended surprise.
"I thought from what you had said that these 'dark shows' were of no value?"
"The next one ought to have decided value if Professor Miller has any share in the test," she answered, quickly. "I believe in him."
"And not in me? That's a nice thing to say."
"I mean in his method. He is a cold, calm, merciless scientist. You're a man of imagination."
"Thank you," said I. "My critics would take issue with you there. However, if we get anywhere in this campaign we must begin with the smallest possible circle and slowly enlarge it. We hope also to increase the amount of light."
After some further argument, Cameron settled the matter by saying: "Garland is right; and, to show my own scientific temper, I rule Mrs. Cameron and myself out of the next sitting. That will put the whole problem up to Miller and Garland."
Miller and I walked away to the club together, pondering deeply on the implications of the night's performance.
"I don't see how it was done," Miller repeated. "Certainly she did not rise from her chair, not for an instant, and yet to believe that she did not have a hand in what took place is to admit the impossible. You have had other sittings with her, haven't you? You believe in her?"
"Yes, I think she is sincere, but possibly self-deceived. The fact that she is willing to put herself into our hands in this way is most convincing."
"There is nothing of the trickster about her appearance, and yet I wish she had permitted us to hold her hands to-night."
"Miller," said I, earnestly, "if you'll go with me into this experimentation with an open mind, I'll convince you that Crookes and Flammarion are the true scientists. It is the fashion to smile at Flammarion as a romantic astronomer, but I can't see now that he is lacking in patience and caution. For all his rather fervid utterances, he keeps his head and goes on patiently investigating. He has had more experience than even Crookes or Lombroso. For forty years he has been searching the dark for these strange forces, and yet he says: 'We create in these seances an imaginary being; we speak to it, and in its replies it almost always reflects the mentality of the experimenter. Spirits have taught us nothing. They have not led science forward a single step.... I must say that if there are spirits, or beings independent of us, in action, they know no more than we do about the other world's.' And yet as regards the physical facts of mediumship, he sustains all the investigators. 'These phenomena exist,' he says."