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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Shadow World - Chapter 3
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The Shadow World - Chapter 3 Post by :Jeff_Carter Category :Nonfictions Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :3405

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The Shadow World - Chapter 3

CHAPTER III

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."

"Why?"

"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.

"_Wilbur Thompson._"

"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?"

"_All 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?"

"_Yes; many._"

"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?"

"_Mother._"

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."

"Candidly, Garland, what is your own belief?" asked Miller, a few moment's later.

I evaded him. "I have seen enough to make me believe in Zoellner's fourth dimension, but I don't. My mind is so constructed that such wonders as we have seen to-night produce very little effect on me. They are as normal to me now as the popping of corn or the roasting of potatoes. As I say, I have demonstrated certain of these physical doings. But as for belief--well, that is not a matter of the will, but of evidence, and the evidence is not yet sufficient to bring me to any definite conclusion; in fact, in the broad day, and especially the second day after I have been through one of these astounding experiences, I begin to doubt my senses. Richet speaks of this curious recession of belief, and admits his own inability to retain the conviction that, at the moment of the phenomenon, was complete. 'No sooner is the sitting over than my doubts come swarming back upon me,' he says. 'The real world which surrounds us, with its prejudices, its schemes of habitual opinions, holds us in so strong a grasp that we can scarcely free ourselves completely. Certainty does not follow on demonstration, but on habit.' And in that saying you have my own mental limitations admirably put."

Miller plodded along by my side in silence for a few minutes, and then asked, abruptly: "What is the real reason that you keep up the fiction of the 'guide' when you don't believe in him?"

"For the reason that I think Mrs. Smiley honest in her faith, and that to be polite to the 'guides' is one of the first requisites of a successful sitting. Suppose the whole action to be terrestrial. Suppose each successful sitting to be, as Flammarion suggests, nothing but a subtle adjustment of our 'collective consciousness' to hers. Can't you see how necessary it is that we should proceed with her full consent? After an immense experience, following closely Crookes, de Rochas, Lodge, Richet, Duclaux, Lombroso, and Ochorowicz, Maxwell says: 'I believe in these phenomena, but I see no need to attribute them to any supernatural intervention. I am inclined to think they are produced by some force within ourselves--'"

"Just what does he mean by that?"

"I can't precisely explain. It's harder to understand than the spirit hypothesis. He himself admits this, and goes on to say that while he is certain that we are in the presence of an unknown force, he is convinced that the phenomena will ultimately be found orderly, like all other facts of nature. 'Therefore, in the critical state of research, the scientific problem, it seems to me, is not whether spiritism be true or false, but whether metapsychical phenomena are real or imaginary. Some future Newton will discover a more complete formula than ours,' he prophesies. 'Every natural fact should be studied, and if it be real, incorporated in the patrimony of knowledge.' He then adds, with the true scientist's humble acknowledgment of the infinite reach of the undiscovered universe: 'Our knowledge is very limited and our experience young.'"

"That is good talk," said Miller in reply, "but the question is, Does he really experiment in that condition of mind? An astronomer with his eye to a telescope is a highly specialized and competent being. An astronomer listening to whispers in the dark may be as simple and credulous as a child."

"I grant all that. But I see in it the greater reason why men like yourself should take up the investigation of these illusive and disturbing problems. These phenomena, as Flammarion says, introduce us into uncharted seas, and we need the most cautious and clearest-sighted scientists in this world as pilots. Will you be one of them?"

"You flatter me. As a matter of fact, I'm a very poor sailor," he answered, with a smile.

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CHAPTER IVIf there is any one thing true in these manifestations of "spirit power," it is that the psychic is the agent for their production. Actively or passively, consciously or unconsciously, she completes the formula--her "odic force" is the final chemical which permits precipitation. Sometimes her will to produce, her wish to serve, hinders rather than helps. Often when she is most persistent nothing happens. Sometimes an aching foot or a disturbing thought cuts off all phenomena. For the best results, apparently, the psychic should be confident, easy of mind, and not too anxious to please. I approached this sitting at
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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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