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Chapter 12 There are Heights and There are Depths

  • The Institut Métapsychique was an imposing stone building in the Avenue Wagra_ith a door like a baronial castle. Here it was that the three friend_resented themselves late in the evening. A footman showed them into _eception-room where they were presently welcomed by Dr. Maupuis in person.
  • The famous authority on psychic science was a short, broad man with a larg_ead, a clean-shaven face, and an expression in which worldly wisdom an_indly altruism were blended. His conversation was in French with Mailey an_oxton, who both spoke the language well, but he had to fall back upon broke_nglish with Malone, who could only utter still more broken French in reply.
  • He expressed his pleasure at their visit, as only a graceful Frenchman can, said a few words as to the wonderful qualities of Panbek, the Galician medium, and finally led the way downstairs to the room in which the experiments wer_o be conducted. His air of vivid intelligence and penetrating sagacity ha_lready shown the strangers how preposterous were those theories which trie_o explain away his wonderful results by the supposition that he was a man wh_as the easy victim of impostors.
  • Descending a winding stair they found themselves in a large chamber whic_ooked at first glance like a chemical laboratory, for shelves full o_ottles, retorts, test-tubes, scales and other apparatus lined the walls. I_as more elegantly furnished, however, than a mere workshop, and a larg_assive oak table occupied the centre of the room with a fringe of comfortabl_hairs. At one end of the room was a large portrait of Professor Crookes, which was flanked by a second of Lombroso, while between them was a remarkabl_icture of one of Eusapia Palladino's seances. Round the table there wa_athered a group of men who were talking in low tones, too much absorbed i_heir own conversation to take much notice of the newcomers.
  • "Three of these are distinguished visitors like yourselves," said Dr. Maupuis.
  • "Two others are my laboratory assistants, Dr. Sauvage and Dr. Buisson. Th_thers are Parisians of note. The Press is represented to-day by Mr. Forte, sub-editor of the Matin. The tall, dark man who looks like a retired genera_ou probably know… . Not? That is Professor Charles Richet, our honoure_oyen, who has shown great courage in this matter, though he has not quit_eached the same conclusions as you, Monsieur Mailey. But that also may come.
  • You must remember that we have to show policy, and that the less we mix thi_ith religion, the less trouble we shall have with the Church, which is stil_ery powerful in this country. The distinguished-looking man with the hig_orehead is the Count de Grammont. The gentleman with the head of a Jupite_nd the white beard is Flammarion, the astronomer. Now, gentlemen," he added, in a louder voice, "if you will take your places we shall get to work."
  • They sat at random round the long table, the three Britons keeping together.
  • At one end a large photographic camera was reared aloft. Two zinc buckets als_ccupied a prominent position upon a side table. The door was locked and th_ey given to Professor Richet. Dr. Maupuis sat at one end of the table with _mall middle-aged man, moustached, bald-headed and intelligent, upon hi_ight.
  • "Some of you have not met Monsieur Panbek," said the doctor. "Permit me t_resent him to you. Monsieur Panbek, gentlemen, has placed his remarkabl_owers at our disposal for scientific investigation, and we all owe him a deb_f gratitude. He is now in his forty-seventh year, a man of normal health, o_ neuro-arthritic disposition. Some hyper-excitability of his nervous syste_s indicated, and his reflexes arc exaggerated, but his blood-pressure i_ormal. The pulse is now at seventy-two, but rises to one hundred under tranc_onditions. There are zones of marked hyper-aesthesia on his limbs. His visua_ield and pupillary reaction is normal. I do not know that there is anythin_o add."
  • "I might say," remarked Professor Richet, "that the hyper-sensibility is mora_s well as physical. Panbek is impressionable and full of emotion, with th_emperament of the poet and all those little weaknesses, if we may call the_o, which the poet pays as a ransom for his gifts. A great medium is a grea_rtist and is to be judged by the same standards."
  • "He seems to me, gentlemen, to be preparing you for the worst," said th_edium with a charming smile, while the company laughed in sympathy.
  • "We are sitting in the hopes that some remarkable materializations which w_ave recently had may be renewed in such a form that we may get a permanen_ecord of them." Dr. Maupuis was talking in his dry, unemotional voice. "Thes_aterializations have taken very unexpected forms of late, and I would beg th_ompany to repress any feelings of fear, however strange these forms may be, as a calm and judicial atmosphere is most necessary. We shall now turn out th_hite light and begin with the lowest degree of red light until the condition_ill admit of further illumination."
  • The lamps were controlled from Dr. Maupuis' seat at the table. For a momen_hey were plunged in utter darkness. Then a dull red glow came in the corner, enough to show the dim outlines of the men round the table. There was no musi_nd no religious atmosphere of any sort. The company conversed in whispers.
  • "This is different to your English procedure," said Malone.
  • "Very," Mailey answered. "It seems to me that we are wide open to anythin_hich may come. It's all wrong. They don't realize the danger."
  • "What danger can there be?"
  • "Well, from my point of view, it is like sitting at the edge of a pond whic_ay have harmless frogs in it, or may have man-eating crocodiles. You can'_ell what may come."
  • Professor Richet, who spoke excellent English, overheard the words.
  • "I know your views, Mr. Mailey," said he. "Don't think that I treat the_ightly. Some things which I have seen make me appreciate your comparison o_he frog and the crocodile. In this very room I have been conscious of th_resence of creatures which could, if moved to anger, make our experiment_eem rather hazardous. I believe with you that evil people here might bring a_vil reflection into our circle."
  • "I am glad, sir, that you are moving in our direction," said Mailey, for lik_veryone else he regarded Richet as one of the world's great men.
  • "Moving, perhaps, and yet I cannot claim to be altogether with you yet. Th_atent powers of the human incarnate spirit may be so wonderful that they ma_xtend to regions which seem at present to be quite beyond their scope. As a_ld materialist, I fight every inch of the ground, though I admit that I hav_ost several lines of trenches. My illustrious friend Challenger still hold_is front intact, as I understand."
  • "Yes, sir" said Malone, "and yet I have some hopes — "
  • "Hush!" cried Maupuis in an eager voice. There was dead silence. Then ther_ame a sound of uneasy movement with a strange flapping vibration.
  • "The bird!" said an awestruck whisper.
  • There was silence and then once again came the sound of movement and a_mpatient flap.
  • "Have you all ready, Rene?" asked the doctor.
  • "All is ready."
  • "Then shoot!"
  • The flash of the luminant mixture filled the room, while the shutter of th_amera fell. In that sudden glare of light the visitors had a momentar_limpse of a marvellous sight. The medium lay with his head upon his hands i_pparent insensibility. Upon his rounded shoulders there was perched a hug_ird of prey — a large falcon or an eagle. For one instant the strange pictur_as stamped upon their retinas even as it was upon the photographic plate.
  • Then the darkness closed down again, save for the two red lamps, like the eye_f some baleful demon lurking in the corner.
  • "My word!" gasped Malone. "Did you see it?"
  • "A crocodile out of the pond," said Mailey.
  • "But harmless," added Professor Richet. "the bird has been with us severa_imes. He moves his wings, as you have heard, but otherwise is inert. We ma_ave another and a more dangerous visitor."
  • The flash of the light had, of course, dispelled all ectoplasm. It wa_ecessary to begin again The company may have sat for a quarter of an hou_hen Richet touched Mailey's arm.
  • "Do you smell anything, Monsieur Mailey?"
  • Mailey sniffed the air.
  • "Yes, surely, it reminds me of our London Zoo."
  • "There is another more ordinary analogy. Have you been in a warm room with _et dog?"
  • "Exactly," said Mailey. "That is a perfect description. But where is the dog?"
  • "It is not a dog. Wait a little! Wait!"
  • The animal smell became more pronounced. It was overpowering. Then suddenl_alone became conscious of something moving round the table. In the dim re_ight he was aware of a mis-shapen figure, crouching, ill-formed, with som_esemblance to man. He silhouetted it against the dull radiance. It was bulky, broad, with a bullet-head, a short neck, heavy, clumsy shoulders. It slouche_lowly round the circle. Then it stopped, and a cry of surprise, not unmixe_ith fear, came from one of the sitters.
  • "Do not be alarmed," said Dr. Maupuis' quiet voice. "It is th_ithecanthropus. He is harmless." Had it been a cat which had strayed into th_oom the scientist could not have discussed it more calmly.
  • "It has long claws. It laid them on my neck," cried a voice.
  • "Yes, yes. He means it as a caress."
  • "You may have my share of his caresses!" cried the sitter in a quaverin_oice.
  • "Do not repulse him. It might be serious. He is well disposed. But he has hi_eelings, no doubt, like the rest of us."
  • The creature had resumed its stealthy progress. Now it turned the end of th_able and stood behind the three friends. Its breath came in quick puffs a_he back of their necks. Suddenly Lord Roxton gave a loud exclamation o_isgust.
  • "Quiet! Quiet! " said Maupuis.
  • "It's licking my hand!" cried Roxton.
  • An instant later Malone was aware of a shaggy head extended between Lor_oxton and himself. With his left hand he could feel long, coarse hair. I_urned towards him, and it needed all his self-control to hold his hand stil_hen a long soft tongue caressed it. Then it was gone.
  • "In heaven's name, what is it?" he asked.
  • "We have been asked not to photograph it. Possibly the light would infuriat_t. The command through the medium was definite. We can only say that it i_ither an apelike man or a man-like ape. We have seen it more clearly than to- night. The face is Simian, but the brow is straight; the arms long, the hand_uge, the body covered with hair."
  • "Tom Linden gave us something better than that," whispered Mailey. He spok_ow but Richet caught the words.
  • "All Nature is the field of our study, Mr. Mailey. It is not for us to choose.
  • Shall we classify the flowers but neglect the fungi?"
  • "But you admit it is dangerous."
  • "The X-rays were dangerous. How many martyrs lost their arms, joint by joint, before those dangers were realized? And yet it was necessary. So it is wit_s. We do not know yet what it is that we are doing. But if we can indeed sho_he world that this Pithecanthropus can come to us from the Invisible, an_epart again as it came, then the knowledge is so tremendous that even if h_ore us to pieces with those formidable claws it would none the less be ou_uty to go forward with our experiments."
  • "Science can be heroic," said Mailey. "Who can deny it? And yet I have hear_hese very scientific men tell us that we imperil our reason when we try t_et in touch with spiritual forces. Gladly would we sacrifice our reason, o_ur lives, if we could help mankind. Should we not do as much for spiritua_dvance as they for material?"
  • The lights had been turned up and there was a pause for relaxation before th_reat experiment of the evening was attempted. The men broke into littl_roups, chatting in hushed tones over their recent experience. Looking roun_t the comfortable room with its up-to-date appliances, the strange bird an_he stealthy monster seemed like dreams. And yet they had been very real a_as shown presently by the photographer, who had been allowed to leave and no_ushed excitedly from the adjacent dark room waving the plate which he ha_ust developed and fixed. He held it up against the light, and there, sur_nough, was the bald head of the medium sunk between his hands, and crouchin_losely over his shoulders the outline of that ominous figure. Dr. Maupui_ubbed his little fat hands with glee. Like all pioneers he had endured muc_ersecution from the Parisian Press, and every fresh phenomenon was anothe_eapon for his own defence.
  • "Nous marchons! Hein! Nous Marchons!" he kept on repeating while Richet, los_n thought, answered mechanically:
  • "Oui, mon ami, vous marchez!"
  • The little Galician was sitting nibbling a biscuit with a glass of red win_efore him. Malone went round to him and found that he had been in America an_ould talk a little English.
  • "Are you tired? Does it exhaust you?"
  • "In moderation, no. Two sittings a week. Behold my allowance. The doctor wil_llow no more."
  • "Do you remember anything?"
  • "It comes to me like dreams. A little here — a little there."
  • "Has the power always been with you?"
  • "Yes, yes, ever since a child. And my father, and my uncle. Their talk was o_isions. For me, I would go and sit in the woods and strange animals woul_ome round me. It did me such a surprise when I found that the other childre_ould not see them "
  • "Est ce que vous êtes prêtes?" asked Dr. Maupuis.
  • "Parfaitment," answered the medium, brushing away the crumbs. The doctor lit _pirit-lamp under one of the zinc buckets.
  • "We are about to co-operate in an experiment, gentlemen, which should, onc_nd for all, convince the world as to the existence of these ectoplasmi_orms. Their nature may be disputed, but their objectivity will be beyon_oubt from now onwards unless my plans miscarry. I would first explain thes_wo buckets to you. This one, which I am warming, contains paraffin, which i_ow in process of liquefaction. This other contains water. Those who have no_een present before must understand that Panbek's phenomena occur usually i_he same order, and that at this stage of the evening we may expect th_pparition of the old man. To-night we lie in wait for the old man, and w_hall, I hope, immortalize him in the history of psychic research. I resume m_eat, and I switch on the red light, Number Three, which allows of greate_isibility."
  • The circle was now quite visible. The medium's head had fallen forward and hi_eep snoring showed that he was already in trance. Every face was turne_owards him, for the wonderful process of materialization was going on befor_heir very eyes. At first it was a swirl of light, steam-like vapour whic_ircled round his head. Then there was a waving, as of white diaphanou_rapery, behind him. It thickened. It coalesced. It hardened in outline an_ook definite shape. There was a head. There were shoulders. Arms grew ou_rom them. Yes, there could not be a doubt of it — there was a man, an ol_an, standing behind the chair. He moved his head slowly from side lo side. H_eemed to be peering in indecision towards the company. One could imagine tha_e was asking himself, "Where am I, and what am I here for?"
  • "He does not speak, but he hears and has intelligence," said Dr. Maupuis, glancing over his shoulder at the apparition. "We are here, sir, in the hop_hat you will aid us in a very important experiment. May we count upon you_o-operation?"
  • The figure bowed his head in assent.
  • "We thank you. When you have attained your full power you will, no doubt, mov_way from the medium." The figure again bowed, but remained motionless. I_eemed to Malone that it was growing denser every moment. He caught glimpse_f the face. It was certainly an old man, heavy-faced, long-nosed, with _uriously projecting lower lip. Suddenly with a brusque movement it stoo_lear from Panbeck and stepped out into the room.
  • "Now, sir," said Maupuis in his precise fashion. "You will perceive the zin_ucket upon the left. I would beg you to have the kindness to approach it an_o plunge your right hand into it."
  • The figure moved across. He seemed interested in the buckets, for he examine_hem with some attention. Then he dipped one of his hands into that which th_octor had indicated.
  • "Excellent!" cried Maupuis, his voice shrill with excitement. "Now, sir, migh_ ask you to have the kindness to dip the same hand into the cold water of th_ther bucket."
  • The form did so.
  • "Now, sir, you would bring our experiment to complete success if you would la_our hand upon the table, and while it is resting there you would yoursel_ematerialize and return into the medium."
  • The figure bowed its comprehension and assent. Then it slowly advanced toward_he table, stooped over it, extended its hand — and vanished. The heav_reathing of the medium ceased and he moved uneasily as if about to wake.
  • Maupuis turned on the white light, and threw up his hands with a loud cry o_onder and joy which was echoed by the company.
  • On the shining wooden surface of the table there lay a delicate yellow-pin_love of paraffin, broad at the knuckles, thin at the wrist, two of th_ingers bent down to the palm. Maupuis was beside himself with delight. H_roke off a small bit of the wax from the wrist and handed it to an assistant, who hurried from the room.
  • "It is final!" he cried. "What can they say now? Gentlemen, I appeal to you.
  • You have seen what occurred. Can any of you give any rational explanation o_hat paraffin mould, save that it was the result of dematerialization of th_and within it?"
  • "I can see no other solution," Richet answered. "But you have to do with ver_bstinate and very prejudiced people. If they cannot deny it, they wil_robably ignore it."
  • "The Press is here and the Press represents the public," said Maupuis. "Fo_he Press Engleesh, Monsieur Malone," he went on in his broken way. "Is i_hat you can see any answer?"
  • "I can see none," Malone answered.
  • "And you, monsieur?" addressing the representative of the Matin."
  • The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders.
  • "For us who had the privilege of being present it was indeed convincing," sai_e, "and yet you will certainly be met with objections. They will not realiz_ow fragile this thing is. They will say that the medium brought it on hi_erson and laid it upon the table."
  • Maupuis clapped his hands triumphantly. His assistant had just brought him _lip of paper from the next room.
  • "Your objection is already answered," he cried, waving the paper in the air.
  • "I had foreseen it and I had put some cholesterine among the paraffin in th_inc pail. You may have observed that I broke off a corner of the mould. I_as for purpose of chemical analysis. This has now been done. It is here an_holesterine has been detected."
  • "Excellent!" said the French journalist. "You have closed the last hole. Bu_hat next?"
  • "What we have done once we can do again," Maupuis answered. "I will prepare _umber of these moulds. In some cases I will have fists and hands. Then I wil_ave plaster casts made from them. I will run the plaster inside the mould. I_s delicate, but it can be done. I will have dozens of them so treated, and _ill send them broadcast to every capital in the world that people may se_ith their own eyes. Will that not at last convince them of the reality of ou_onclusions?"
  • "Do not hope for too much, my poor friend," said Richet, with his hand upo_he shoulder of the enthusiast. "You have not yet realized the enormous vi_nertioe of the world. But as you have said, 'Vous marchez — vous marche_oujours'."
  • "And our march is regulated," said Mailey. "There is a gradual release t_ccommodate it to the receptivity of mankind."
  • Richet smiled and shook his head.
  • "Always transcendental, Monsieur Mailey! Always seeing more than meets the ey_nd changing science into philosophy! I fear you are incorrigible. Is you_osition reasonable?"
  • "Professor Richet," said Mailey, very earnestly, "I would beg you to answe_he same question. I have a deep respect for your talents and complet_ympathy with your caution, but have you not come to the dividing of the ways?
  • You are now in the position that you admit — you must admit — that a_ntelligent apparition in human form, built up from the substance which yo_ave yourself named ectoplasm, can walk the room and carry out instruction_hile the medium lay senseless under our eyes, and yet you hesitate to asser_hat spirit has an independent existence. Is that reasonable?"
  • Richet smiled and shook his head. Without answering he turned and bid farewel_o Dr. Maupuis, and to offer him his congratulations. A few minutes later th_ompany had broken up and our friends were in a taxi speeding towards thei_otel.
  • Malone was deeply impressed with what he had seen, and he sat up half th_ight drawing up a full account of it for the Central News, with the names o_hose who had endorsed the result — honourable names which no one in the worl_ould associate with folly or deception.
  • "Surely, surely, this will be a turning point and an epoch." So ran his dream.
  • Two days later he opened the great London dailies one after the other. Column_bout football. Columns about golf. A full page as to the value of shares. _ong and earnest correspondence in The Times about the habits of the lapwing.
  • Not one word in any of them as to the wonders which he had seen and reported.
  • Mailey laughed at his dejected face.
  • "A mad world, my masters," said he. "A crazy world! But the end is not yet!"