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by [?]

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth

“What!” thought the Author, “shall the Great Secret which has puzzled so many heads–heads in caps and heads in turbans, heads in bonnets and heads in berettas, as Heine hath it–shall the explanation of the Universe, which baffled Aristotle, and puzzled Hegel, and still more his readers, be the property of this wretched little unborn babe, this infant rapping in the night, and with no language but a rap? Was, then, Wordsworth right, and is our birth ‘but a sleep and a forgetting’?” And, mingled with these questionings, a sort of compassion for the poor orphan spirit, inarticulate and misunderstood, beating humbly at the gates of speech. Natheless was the Author quite incredulous, and even while he was listening reverently to these voices from Steadland, his cold cynic brain was revolving a scientific theory to account for the striking manifestations.

In the course of two or three seances, with lights turned low, but honesty burning high–for Lady Macbeth was guileless, and her Chaperon above suspicion,–various other “spirits” hastened to be interviewed. There was “Ma,” who afterwards turned out to be the Chaperon’s “Pa,” whose name–a queer French name–it gave in full. The Chaperon’s “Pa,” who was dead, announced he was no longer a widower, for his relief had just rejoined him on Wednesday–the 10th. This news of her mother’s death was unknown to the Chaperon. In truth, “Pa” is still a widower.

Another “spirit”–a woman (who refused to give her age)–predicted that the amount of money taken at the theatre the next night would be L44. The actual returns on the morrow were L44 0s. 6d. But when, elated by its success, it prophesied L43, the returns were only L34. But this same creature, that gave only an inverted truth–perhaps it was momentarily controlled by the spirit of Oscar Wilde–displayed remarkable knowledge in other directions. Asked if it knew what piece had been played the week before in the theatre–a question that none of the three could have answered–it replied, “‘The Road to —-‘” “Do you mean ‘The Road to Ruin’?” the Author interrupted eagerly, tired of its tedious letter-by-letter methods. “No,” it responded vehemently; and finished, “‘F-o-r-t-u-n-e.'” Lady Macbeth consulted the “Era,” and sure enough “The Road to Fortune” had preceded her own company. “Can you tell us the piece to follow?” the author asked; and the “spirit” responded readily “‘The Pro—-‘” “Do you mean ‘The Professor’s Love Story’?” the Author again interrupted. “No; ‘The Prodigal,'” answered the table. “Ah! ‘The Prodigal,'” echoed the Author, confounding it temporarily with “The Profligate”; but the spirit dissented, and added, “‘Daughter.'” There being no means of verifying this for the moment, the Author proceeded to inquire for the piece to follow that, and was unhesitatingly informed that it was “The Bauble Shop.” “Where is ‘The Bauble Shop’ now?” he inquired. The spirit amiably rapped out “Eastbourne.” This was correct according to the “Era.” Consulting the hoardings after leaving the house, the Author discovered that the other replies were quite exact, save for the fact that “The Bauble Shop” was to come first and “The Prodigal Daughter” second. Here was the paradoxical humour of this Oscar Wilde-ish “spirit” again.

Endless was the information vouchsafed by these disembodied intelligences, in any language one pleased; and, although they at times displayed remarkable obstinacy, refusing to answer, or breaking off abruptly in the middle of a most interesting communication, as though they had been betrayed into indiscretion: yet, to speak generally, there was scarcely any topic on which they were not ready to discourse–past, present, or to come–and their remarks, whether accurate or not, were invariably logical, bearing an intelligible relation to the question. Even sporting tips were obtainable without a fee, and Avington was given as the winner of the Liverpool Cup, though the Author had never heard of him, and the other two were not aware he was booked for the race, still less that he was the favourite. In the sequel he only came second. Real tips did the “spirits” give, tipping the table vehemently. They were also very obedient to commands, moving or lifting the table in whatsoever direction the Author ordered, much as though they were men from Maple’s; and when he willed them to raise it, the united forces of Lady Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s Chaperon could not easily depress its spirits. Nor did they contradict one another. There was a cheerful unanimity about the Author’s dying at fifty-seven. But this did not perturb the Author, whose questions were all cunningly contrived to test his theory of the “spiritual world.” For instance, he set them naming cards, placed on the table with faces downwards and unknown to anybody; arguing that with their bloated omniscience they could scarcely fail to name a card shoved under their very noses. Nor did they–altogether. Most began well, but were spoiled by success. However, here is the record performance–eight consecutive attempts of the table to give the “correct card” under the imposition of the hands of the Chaperon and the Author only, neither knowing the card till it was turned up to verify the table’s assertion:


1. Jack of Diamonds . . . Queen of Spades.

2. Jack of Diamonds . . . Jack of Diamonds.

3. Three of Clubs . . . Jack of Spades.

4. Jack of Diamonds . . . Jack of Diamonds.

5. Seven of Clubs . . . Five of Diamonds.

6. Three of Spades . . . Three of Spades.

7. Ten of Hearts . . . Ten of Hearts.

8. Nine of Clubs . . . Nine of Clubs.

Here are five bull’s-eyes out of eight shots! The name of the performer deserves record. It was the spirit of a German woman, named Gretehen, who died three years ago, but refused to say at what age. She was wrong sometimes, but then it may have been her feminine instinct for fibbing. “The spirits play tricks,” say the spiritualists. “Sometimes they are wicked spirits, who tell lies.” The Planchette also wrote out the names of unseen cards placed upon it face downwards. The artistic spirit of the Author now bids him pause: the narrative has now reached a point of interest at which recollections of “Tom Tiddler’s Schooldays” urge him to pen the breathless motto: “To be continued in our next.”