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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Shadow World - Chapter 1
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The Shadow World - Chapter 1 Post by :Jeff_Carter Category :Nonfictions Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :2365

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The Shadow World - Chapter 1

CHAPTER I

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.

"No."

"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?"

"Sands--San Remo--boats."

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.

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CHAPTER III 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?
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