Chapter 4 Which Describes Some Strange Doings in Hammersmith
The article by the Joint Commissioners (such was their glorious title) arouse_nterest and contention. It had been accompanied by a depreciating leaderett_rom the sub-editor which was meant to calm the susceptibilities of hi_rthodox readers, as who should say: "These things have to be noticed and see_o be true, but of course you and I recognize how pestilential it all is."
Malone found himself at once plunged into a huge correspondence, for an_gainst, which in itself was enough to show how vitally the question was i_he minds of men. All the previous articles had only elicited a growl here o_here from a hide-bound Catholic or from an iron-clad Evangelical, but now hi_ost-bag was full. Most of them were ridiculing the idea that psychic force_xisted and many were from writers who, whatever they might know of psychi_orces, had obviously not yet learned to spell. The Spiritualists were in man_ases not more pleased than the others, for Malone had — even while hi_ccount was true — exercised a journalist's privilege of laying an accent o_he more humorous sides of it.
One morning in the succeeding week Mr. Malone was aware of a large presence i_he small room wherein he did his work at the office. A page-boy, who precede_he stout visitor, had laid a card on the corner of the table which bore th_egend 'James Bolsover, Provision Merchant, High Street, Hammersmith.' It wa_one other than the genial president of last Sunday's congregation. He wagge_ paper accusingly at Malone, but his good-humoured face was wreathed i_miles.
"Well, well," said he. "I told you that the funny side would get you."
"Don't you think it a fair account?"
"Well, yes, Mr. Malone, I think you and the young woman have done your bes_or us. But, of course, you know nothing and it all seems queer to you. Com_o think of it, it would be a deal queerer if all the clever men who leav_his earth could not among them find some way of getting a word back to us."
"But it's such a stupid word sometimes."
"Well, there are a lot of stupid people leave the world. They don't change.
And then, you know, one never knows what sort of message is needed. We had _lergyman in to see Mrs. Debbs yesterday. He was broken-hearted because he ha_ost his daughter. Mrs. Debbs got several messages through that she was happ_nd that only his grief hurt her. 'That's no use', said he. 'Anyone could sa_hat. That's not my girl'. And then suddenly she said: 'But I wish to goodnes_ou would not wear a Roman collar with a coloured shirt'. That sounded _rivial message, but the man began to cry. 'That's her', he sobbed. 'She wa_lways chipping me about my collars'. It's the little things that count i_his life — just the homely, intimate things, Mr. Malone."
Malone shook his head.
"Anyone would remark on a coloured shirt and a clerical collar."
Mr. Bolsover laughed. "You're a hard proposition. So was I once, so I can'_lame you. But I called here with a purpose. I expect you are a busy man and _now that I am, so I'll get down to the brass tacks. First, I wanted to sa_hat all our people that have any sense are pleased with the article. Mr.
Algernon Mailey wrote me that it would do good, and if he is pleased we ar_ll pleased."
"Mailey the barrister?"
"Mailey, the religious reformer. That's how he will be known."
"Well, what else?"
"Only that we would help you if you and the young lady wanted to go further i_he matter. Not for publicity, mind you, but just for your own good — thoug_e don't shrink from publicity, either. I have psychical phenomena seances a_y own home without a professional medium, and if you would like… "
"There's nothing I would like so much."
"Then you shall come — both of you. I don't have many outsiders. I wouldn'_ave one of those psychic research people inside my doors. Why should I go ou_f my way to be insulted by all their suspicions and their traps? They seem t_hink that folk have no feelings. But you have some ordinary common sense.
That's all we ask."
"But I don't believe. Would that not stand in the way?"
"Not in the least. So long as you are fair-minded and don't disturb th_onditions, all is well. Spirits out of the body don't like disagreeabl_eople any more than spirits in the body do. Be gentle and civil, same as yo_ould to any other company."
"Well, I can promise that."
"They are funny sometimes," said Mr. Bolsover, in reminiscent vein. "It is a_ell to keep on the right side of them. They are not allowed to hurt humans, but we all do things we're not allowed to do, and they are very huma_hemselves. You remember how The Times correspondent got his head cut ope_ith the tambourine in one of the Davenport Brothers' seances. Very wrong, o_ourse, but it happened. No friend ever got his head cut open. There wa_nother case down Stepney way. A money lender went to a seance. Some victi_hat he had driven to suicide got into the medium. He got the moneylender b_he throat and it was a close thing for his life. But I'm off, Mr. Malone. W_it once a week and have done for four years without a break. Eight o'cloc_hursdays. Give us a day's notice and I'll get Mr. Mailey to meet you. He ca_nswer questions better than I. Next Thursday! Very good." And Mr. Bolsove_urched out of the room.
Both Malone and Enid Challenger had, perhaps, been more shaken by their shor_xperience than they had admitted, but both were sensible people who agree_hat every possible natural cause should be exhausted — and very thoroughl_xhausted — before the bounds of what is possible should be enlarged. Both o_hem had the utmost respect for the ponderous intellect of Challenger and wer_ffected by his strong views, though Malone was compelled to admit in th_requent arguments in which he was plunged that the opinion of a clever ma_ho has had no experience is really of less value than that of the man in th_treet who has actually been there.
These arguments, as often as not, were with Mervin, editor of the psychi_aper Dawn, which dealt with every phase of the occult, from the lore of th_osicrucians to the strange regions of the students of the Great Pyramid, o_f those who uphold the Jewish origin of our blonde Anglo-Saxons. Mervin was _mall, eager man with a brain of a high order, which might have carried him t_he most lucrative heights of his profession had he not determined t_acrifice worldly prospects in order to help what seemed to him to be a grea_ruth. As Malone was eager for knowledge and Mervin was equally keen to impar_t, the waiters at the Literary Club found it no easy matter to get them awa_rom the corner-table in the window at which they were wont to lunch. Lookin_own at the long, grey curve of the Embankment and the noble river with it_ista of bridges, the pair would linger over their coffee, smoking cigarette_nd discussing various sides of this most gigantic and absorbing subject, which seemed already to have disclosed new horizons to the mind of Malone.
There was one warning given by Mervin which aroused impatience amountin_lmost to anger in Malone's mind. He had the hereditary Irish objection t_oercion and it seemed to him to be appearing once more in an insidious an_articularly objectionable form.
"You are going to one of Bolsover's family seances," said Mervin. "They are, of course, well known among our people, though few have been actuall_dmitted, so you may consider yourself privileged. He has clearly taken _ancy to you."
"He thought I wrote fairly about them."
"Well, it wasn't much of an article, but still among the dreary, purblin_onsense that assails us it did show some traces of dignity and balance an_ense of proportion."
Malone waved a deprecating cigarette.
"Bolsover's seances and others like them are, or course, things of no momen_o the real psychic. They are like the rude foundations of a building whic_ertainly help to sustain the edifice, but are forgotten when once you come t_nhabit it. It is the higher superstructure with which we have to do. Yo_ould think that the physical phenomena were the whole subject — those and _ringe of ghosts and haunted houses — if you were to believe the cheap paper_ho cater for the sensationalist. Of course, these physical phenomena have _se of their own. They rivet the attention of the inquirer and encourage hi_o go further. Personally, having seen them all, I would not go across th_oad to see them again. But I would go across many roads to get high message_rom the beyond."
"Yes, I quite appreciate the distinction, looking at it from your point o_iew. Personally, of course, I am equally agnostic as to the messages and th_henomena."
"Quite so. St. Paul was a good psychic. He makes the point so neatly that eve_is ignorant translators were unable to disguise the real occult meanings a_hey have succeeded in doing in so many cases."
"Can you quote it?"
"I know my New Testament pretty well, but I am not letter-perfect. It is th_assage where he says that the gift of tongues, which was an obviou_ensational thing, was for the uninstructed, but that prophecies, that is rea_piritual messages, were for the elect. In other words that an experience_piritualist has no need of phenomena."
"I'll look that passage up."
"You will find it in Corinthians, I think. By the way, there must have been _retty high average of intelligence among those old congregations if Paul'_etters could have been read aloud to them and thoroughly comprehended."
"That is generally admitted, is it not?"
"Well, it is a concrete example of it. However, I am down a side-track. What _anted to say to you is that you must not take Bolsover's little spirit circu_oo seriously. It is honest as far as it goes, but it goes a mighty short way.
It's a disease, this phenomena hunting. I know some of our people, wome_ostly, who buzz around seance rooms continually, seeing the same thing ove_nd over, sometimes real, sometimes, I fear, imitation. What better are the_or that as souls or as citizens or in any other way? No, when your foot i_irm on the bottom rung don't mark time on it, but step up to the next run_nd get firm upon that."
"I quite get your point. But I'm still on the solid ground."
"Solid!" cried Mervin. "Good Lord! But the paper goes to press to-day and _ust get down to the printer. With a circulation of ten thousand or so we d_hings modestly, you know — not like you plutocrats of the daily press. I a_ractically the staff."
"You said you had a warning."
"Yes, yes, I wanted to give you a warning." Mervin's thin, eager face becam_ntensely serious. "If you have any ingrained religious or other prejudice_hich may cause you to turn down this subject after you have investigated it, then don't investigate at all — for it is dangerous."
"What do you mean — dangerous?"
"They don't mind honest doubt, or honest criticism, but if they are badl_reated they are dangerous."
"Who are 'they'?"
"Ah, who are they? I wonder. Guides, controls, psychic entities of some kind.
Who the agents of vengeance — or I should say justice — are, is really no_ssential. The point is that they exist."
"Oh, rot, Mervin!"
"Don't be too sure of that."
"Pernicious rot! These are the old theological bogies of the Middle Age_oming up again. I am surprised at a sensible man like you!"
Mervin smiled — he had a whimsical smile — but his eyes, looking out fro_nder bushy yellow brows, were as serious as ever.
"You may come to change your opinion. There are some queer sides to thi_uestion. As a friend I put you wise to this one."
"Well, put me wise, then."
Thus encouraged, Mervin went into the matter. He rapidly sketched the caree_nd fate of a number of men who had, in his opinion, played an unfair gam_ith these forces, become an obstruction, and suffered for it. He spoke o_udges who had given prejudiced decisions against the cause, of journalist_ho had worked up stunt cases for sensational purposes and to throw discredi_n the movement; of others who had interviewed mediums to make game of them, or who, having started to investigate, had drawn back alarmed, and given _egative decision when their inner soul knew that the facts were true. It wa_ formidable list, for it was long and precise, but Malone was not to b_riven.
"If you pick your cases I have no doubt one could make such a list about an_ubject. Mr. Jones said that Raphael was a bungler, and Mr. Jones died o_ngina pectoris. Therefore it is dangerous to criticize Raphael. That seems t_e the argument."
"Well, if you like to think so."
"Take the other side. Look at Morgate. He has always been an enemy, for he i_ convinced materialist. But he prospers — look at his professorship."
"Ah, an honest doubter. Certainly. Why not?"
"And Morgan who at one time exposed mediums."
"If they were really false he did good service."
"And Falconer who has written so bitterly about you?"
"Ah, Falconer! Do you know anything of Falconer's private life? No. Well, tak_t from me he has got his dues. He doesn't know why. Some day these gentleme_ill begin to compare notes and then it may dawn on them. But they get it."
He went on to tell a horrible story of one who had devoted his considerabl_alents to picking Spiritualism to pieces, though really convinced of it_ruth, because his worldly ends were served thereby. The end was ghastly — to_hastly for Malone.
"Oh, cut it out, Mervin!" he cried impatiently. "I'll say what I think, n_ore and no less, and I won't be cared by you or your spooks into altering m_pinions."
"I never asked you to."
"You got a bit near it. What you have said strikes me as pure superstition. I_hat you say is true you should have the police after you."
"Yes, if we did it. But it is out of our hands. However, Malone, for what it'_orth I have given you the warning and you can now go your way. Bye-bye! Yo_an always ring me up at the office of Dawn."
If you want to know if a man is of the true Irish blood there is on_nfallible test. Put him in front of a swing-door with "Push" or "Pull"
printed upon it. The Englishman will obey like a sensible man. The Irishman, with less sense but more individuality, will at once and with vehemence do th_pposite. So it was with Malone. Mervin's well-meant warning simply raised _ebellious spirit within him, and when he called for Enid to take her to th_olsover seance he had gone back several degrees in his dawning sympathy fo_he subject. Challenger bade them farewell with many gibes, his bear_rojecting forward and his eyes closed with upraised eyebrows, as was his won_hen inclined to be facetious.
"You have your powder-bag, my dear Enid. If you see a particularly goo_pecimen of ectoplasm in the course of the evening don't forget your father. _ave a microscope, chemical reagents and everything ready. Perhaps even _mall poltergeist might come your way. Any trifle would be welcome."
His bull's bellow of laughter followed them into the lift.
The provision merchant's establishment of Mr. Bolsover proved to be _uphemism for an old-fashioned grocer's shop in the most crowded part o_ammersmith. The neighbouring church was chiming out the three-quarters as th_axi drove up, and the shop was full of people. So Enid and Malone walked u_nd down outside. As they were so engaged another taxi drove up and a large, untidy-looking, ungainly bearded man in a suit of Harris tweed stepped out o_t. He glanced at his watch and then began to pace the pavement. Presently h_oted the others and came up to them.
"May I ask if you are the journalists who are going to attend the seance?… _hought so. Old Bolsover is terribly busy so you were wise to wait. Bless him, he is one of God's saints in his way."
"You are Mr. Algernon Mailey, I presume?"
"Yes. I am the gentleman whose credulity is giving rise to considerabl_nxiety upon the part of my friends, as one of the rags remarked the othe_ay." His laugh was so infectious that the others were-bound to laugh also.
Certainly, with his athletic proportions, which had run a little to seed bu_ere still notable, and with his virile voice and strong if homely face, h_ave no impression of instability.
"We are all labelled with some stigma by our opponents" said he. "I wonde_hat yours will be."
"We must not sail under false colours, Mr. Mailey," said Enid. "We are not ye_mong the believers."
"Quite right. You should take your time over it. It is infinitely the mos_mportant thing in the world, so it is worth taking time over. I took man_ears myself. Folk can be blamed for neglecting it, but no one can be blame_or being cautious in examination. Now I am all out for it, as you are aware, because I know it is true. There is such a difference between believing an_nowing. I lecture a good deal. But I never want to convert my audience. _on't believe in sudden conversions. They are shallow, superficial things. Al_ want is to put the thing before the people as clearly as I can. I just tel_hem the truth and why we know it is the truth. Then my job is done. They ca_ake it or leave it. If they are wise they will explore along the paths that _ndicate. If they are unwise they miss their chance. I don't want to pres_hem or to proselytize. It's their affair, not mine."
"Well, that seems a reasonable view," said Enid, who was attracted by th_rank manner of their new acquaintance. They were standing now in the ful_lood of light cast by Bolsover's big plate-glass window. She had a good loo_t him, his broad forehead, his curious grey eyes, thoughtful and yet eager, his straw-coloured beard which indicated the outline of an aggressive chin. H_as solidity personified — the very opposite of the fanatic whom she ha_magined. His name had been a good deal in the papers lately as a protagonis_n the long battle, and she remembered that it had never been mentione_ithout an answering snort from her father.
"I wonder," she said to Malone, "what would happen if Mr. Mailey were locke_p in a room with Dad!"
Malone laughed. "There used to be a schoolboy question as to what would occu_f an irresistible force were to strike an invincible obstacle."
"Oh, you are the daughter of Professor Challenger," said Mailey with interest.
"He is a big figure in the scientific world. What a grand world it would be i_t would only realize its own limitations."
"I don't quite follow you."
"It is this scientific world which is at the bottom of much of ou_aterialism. It has helped us in comfort — if comfort is any use to us.
Otherwise it has usually been a curse to us, for it has called itself progres_nd given us a false impression that we are making progress, whereas we ar_eally drifting very steadily backwards."
"Really, I can't quite agree with you there, Mr. Mailey," said Malone, who wa_etting restive under what seemed to him dogmatic assertion. "Look a_ireless. Look at the S.O.S. call at sea. Is that not a benefit to mankind?"
"Oh, it works out all right sometimes. I value my electric reading-lamp, an_hat is a product of science. It gives us, as I said before, comfort an_ccasionally safety."
"Why, then, do you depreciate it?"
"Because it obscures the vital thing — the object of life. We were not pu_nto this planet in order that we should go fifty miles an hour in a motor- car, or cross the Atlantic in an airship, or send messages either with o_ithout wires. These are the mere trimmings and fringes of life. But these me_f science have so riveted our attention on these fringes that we forget th_entral object."
"I don't follow you."
"It is not how fast you go that matters, it is the object of your journey. I_s not how you send a message, it is what the value of the message may be. A_very stage this so-called progress may be a curse, and yet as long as we us_he word we confuse it with real progress and imagine that we are doing tha_or which God sent us into the world."
"To prepare ourselves for the next phase of life. There is mental preparatio_nd spiritual preparation, and we are neglecting both. To be in an old ag_etter men and women, more unselfish, more broadminded, more genial an_olerant, that is what we are for. It is a soul factory, and it is turning ou_ bad article. But Hullo!" he burst into his infectious laugh. "Here I a_elivering my lecture in the street. Force of habit, you see. My son says tha_f you press the third button of my waistcoat I automatically deliver _ecture. But here is the good Bolsover to your rescue."
The worthy grocer had caught sight of them through the window and cam_ustling out, untying his white apron.
"Good evening, all! I won't have you waiting in the cold. Besides, there's th_lock, and time's up. It does not do to keep them waiting. Punctuality for al_hat's my motto and theirs. My lads will shut up the shop. This way, and min_he sugar-barrel."
They threaded their way amid boxes of dried fruits and piles of cheese, finally passing between two great casks which hardly left room for th_rocer's portly form. A narrow door beyond opened into the residential part o_he establishment. Ascending the narrow stair, Bolsover threw open a door an_he visitors found themselves in a considerable room in which a number o_eople were seated round a large table. There was Mrs. Bolsover herself, large, cheerful and buxom like her husband. Three daughters were all of th_ame pleasing type. There was an elderly woman who seemed to be some relation, and two other colourless females who were described as neighbours an_piritualists. The only other man was a little grey-headed fellow with _leasant face and quick, twinkling eyes, who sat at a harmonium in the corner.
"Mr. Smiley, our musician," said Bolsover. "I don't know what we could d_ithout Mr. Smiley. It's vibrations, you know. Mr. Mailey could tell you abou_hat. Ladies, you know Mr. Mailey, our very good friend. And these are the tw_nquirers — Miss Challenger and Mr. Malone." The Bolsover family all smile_enially, but the nondescript elderly person rose to her feet and surveye_hem with an austere face.
"You're very welcome here, you two strangers," she said. "But we would say t_ou that we want outward reverence. We respect the shining ones and we wil_ot have them insulted."
"I assure you we are very earnest and fairminded," said Malone.
"We've had our lesson. We haven't forgotten the Meadows' affair, Mr.
"No, no, Mrs. Seldon. That won't happen again. We were rather upset ove_hat," Bolsover added, turning to the visitors. "That man came here as ou_uest, and when the lights were out he poked the other sitters with his finge_o as to make them think it was a spirit hand. Then he wrote the whole thin_p as an exposure in the public Press, when the only fraudulent thing presen_ad been himself."
Malone was honestly shocked. "I can assure you we are incapable of suc_onduct."
The old lady sat down, but still regarded them with a suspicious eye. Bolsove_ustled about and got things ready.
"You sit here" Mr. Mailey. Mr. Malone, will you sit between my wife and m_aughter? Where would the young lady like to sit?""
Enid was feeling rather nervous. "I think," said she, "that I would like t_it next to Mr. Malone."
Bolsover chuckled and winked at his wife.
"Quite so. Most natural, I am sure." They all settled into their places. Mr.
Bolsover had switched off the electric light, but a candle burned in th_iddle of the table. Malone thought what a picture it would have made for _embrandt. Deep shadows draped it in, but the yellow light flickered upon th_ircle of faces — the strong, homely, heavy features of Bolsover, the soli_ine of his family circle, the sharp, austere countenance of Mrs. Seldon, th_arnest eyes and yellow beard of Mailey, the worn, tired faces of the tw_piritualist women, and finally the firm, noble profile of the girl who sa_eside him. The whole world had suddenly narrowed down to that one littl_roup, so intensely concentrated upon its own purpose.
On the table there was scattered a curious collection of objects, which ha_ll the same appearance of tools which had long been used. There was _attered brass speaking-trumpet, very discoloured, a tambourine, a musical- box, and a number of smaller objects. "We never know what they may want," sai_olsover, waving his hand over them. " If Wee One calls for a thing and i_sn't there she lets us know all about it — oh, yes, something shocking!"
"She has a temper of her own has Wee One," remarked Mrs. Bolsover.
"Why not, the pretty dear?" said the austere lady. "I expect she has enough t_ry it with researchers and what-not. I often wonder she troubles to come a_ll."
"Wee One is our little girl guide," said Bolsover. "You'll hear he_resently."
"I do hope she will come," said Enid.
"Well, she never failed us yet, except when that man Meadows clawed hold o_he trumpet and put it outside the circle."
"Who is the medium?" asked Malone.
"Well, we don't know ourselves. We all help, I think. Maybe, I give as much a_nyone. And mother, she is a help."
"Our family is a co-operative store," said his wife, and everyone laughed.
"I thought one medium was necessary."
"It is usual but not necessary," said Mailey in his deep, authoritative voice.
"Crawford showed that pretty clearly in the Gallagher seances when he proved, by weighing chairs, that everyone in the circle lost from half to two pound_t a sitting, though the medium, Miss Kathleen, lost as many as ten or twelve.
Here the long series of sittings — How long, Mr. Bolsover?"
"Four years unbroken."
"The long series has developed everyone to some extent, so that there is _igh average output from each, instead of an extraordinary amount from one."
"Output of what?"
"Animal magnetism, ectoplasm — in fact, power. That is the most comprehensiv_ord. The Christ used that word. 'Much power has gone out of me'. It is
'dunamis' in the Greek, but the translators missed the point and translated it
'virtue'. If a good Greek scholar who was also a profound occult student wa_o re-translate the New Testament we should get some eye-openers. Dear ol_llis Powell did a little in that direction. His death was a loss to th_orld."
"Aye, indeed," said Bolsover in a reverent voice. "But now, before we get t_ork, Mr. Malone, I want you just to note one or two things. You see the whit_pots on the trumpet and the tambourine? Those are luminous points so that w_an see where they are. The table is just our dining-table, good British oak.
You can examine it if you like. But you'll see things that won't depend upo_he table. Now, Mr. Smiley, out goes the light and we'll ask you for 'The Roc_f Ages'."
The harmonium droned in the darkness and the circle sang. They sang ver_unefully, too, for the girls had fresh voices and true ears. Low and vibrant, the solemn rhythm became most impressive when no sense but that of hearing wa_ree to act. Their hands, according to instructions, were laid lightly upo_he table, and they were warned not to cross their legs. Malone, with his han_ouching Enid's, could feel the little quiverings which showed that her nerve_ere highly strung. The homely, jovial voice of Bolsover relieved the tension.
"That should do it," he said. "I feel as if the conditions were good to-night.
Just a touch of frost in the air, too. I'll ask you now to join with me i_rayer."
It was effective, that simple, earnest prayer in the darkness — an ink_arkness which was only broken by the last red glow of a dying fire.
"Oh, great Father of us all," said the voice. "You who are beyond our thought_nd who yet pervade our lives, grant that all evil may be kept from us thi_ight and that we may be privileged to get in touch, if only for an hour, wit_hose who dwell upon a higher plane than ours. You are our Father as well a_heirs. Permit us, for a short space, to meet in brotherhood, that we may hav_n added knowledge of that eternal life which awaits us, and so be helpe_uring our years of waiting in this lower world." He ended with the "Ou_ather", in which we all joined. Then they all sat in expectant silenc_utside was the dull roar of traffic and the occasional ill-tempered squawk o_ passing car. Inside there was absolute stillness. Enid and Malone felt ever_ense upon the alert and every nerve on edge as they gazed out into the gloom.
"Nothing doing, mother," said Bolsover at last. "It's the strange company. Ne_ibrations. They have to tune them in to get harmony. Give us another tune, Mr. Smiley." Again the harmonium droned. It was still playing when a woman'_oice cried: "Stop! Stop! They are here!"
Again they waited without result.
"Yes! Yes! I heard Wee One. She is here, right enough. I'm sure of it."
Silence again, and then it came — such a marvel to the visitors, such a matte_f course to the circle.
"Gooda evenin'!" cried a voice.
There was a burst of greeting and of welcoming laughter from the circle. The_ere all speaking at once. "Good evening, Wee One!" "There you are, dear!" "_new you would come!" "Well done, little girl guide!"
"Gooda evenin', all!" replied the voice. "Wee One so glad see Daddy and Mumm_nd the rest. Oh, what big man with beard! Mailey, Mister Mailey, I meet hi_efore. He big Mailey, I little femaley. Glad to see you, Mr. Big Man."
Enid and Malone listened with amazement, but it was impossible to be nervou_n face of the perfectly natural way in which the company accepted it. Th_oice was very thin and high — more so than any artificial falsetto coul_roduce. It was the voice of a female child. That was certain. Also that ther_as no female child in the room unless one had been smuggled in after th_ight went out. That was possible. But the voice seemed to be in the middle o_he table. How could a child get there?
"Easy get there, Mr. Gentleman," said the voice, answering his unspoke_hought. "Daddy strong man. Daddy lift Wee One on to table. Now I show wha_addy not able to do."
"The trumpet's up!" cried Bolsover.
The little circle of luminous paint rose noiselessly into the air. Now it wa_waying above their heads.
"Go up and hit the ceiling!" cried Bolsover. Up it went and they heard th_etallic tapping above them. Then the high voice came from above:
"Clever Daddy! Daddy got fishing-rod and put trumpet up to ceiling. But ho_addy make the voice, eh? What you say, pretty English Missy? Here is _resent from Wee One."
Something soft dropped on Enid's lap. She put her hand down and felt it.
"It's a flower — a chrysanthemum. Thank you, Wee One!"
"An apport?" asked Mailey.
"No, no, Mr. Mailey," said Bolsover. "They were in the vase on the harmonium.
Speak to her, Miss Challenger. Keep the vibrations going."
"Who are you, Wee One?" asked Enid, looking up at the moving spot above her.
"I am little black girl. Eight-year-old little black girl."
"Oh, come, dear," said mother in her rich, coaxing voice. "You were eight whe_ou came to us first, and that was years ago."
"Years ago to you. All one time to me. I to do my job as eight-year child.
When job done then Wee One become Big One all in one day. No time here, sam_s you have. I always eight-year-old."
"In the ordinary way they grow up exactly as we do here," said Mailey. "But i_hey have a special bit of work for which a child is needed, then as a chil_hey remain It's a sort of arrested development."
"That's me. 'Rested envelopment'," said the voice proudly. "I learn goo_ngland when big man here."
They all laughed. It was the most genial, free-and-easy association possible.
Malone heard Enid's voice whispering in his ear.
"Pinch me from time to time, Edward — just to make me sure that I am not in _ream."
"I have to pinch myself, too."
"What about your song, Wee One?" asked Bolsover.
"Oh, yes, indeeda! Wee One sing to you." She began some simple song, but fade_way in a squeak, while the trumpet clattered on to the table.
"Ah, power run down!" said Mailey. "I think a little more music will set u_ight. 'Lead, Kindly Light'"
They sang the beautiful hymn together. As the verse closed an amazing thin_appened — amazing, at least, to the novices, though it called for no remar_rom the circle. The trumpet still shone upon the table, but two voices, thos_pparently of a man and a woman, broke out in the air above them and joine_ery tunefully in the singing. The hymn died away and all was silence an_ense expectancy once more.
It was broken by a deep male voice from the darkness. It was an educate_nglish voice, well modulated, a voice which spoke in a fashion to which th_ood Bolsover could never attain.
"Good evening, friends. The power seems good tonight."
"Good evening, Luke. Good evening!" cried everyone.
"It is our teaching guide," Bolsover explained. "He is a high spirit from th_ixth sphere who gives us instruction."
"I may seem high to you," said the voice. "But what am I to those in turn wh_nstruct me! It is not my wisdom. Give me no credit. I do but pass it on."
"Always like that," said Bolsover. "No swank. It's a sign of his height."
"I see you have two inquirers present. Good evening, young lady! You kno_othing of your own powers or destiny. You will find them out. Good evening, sir, you are on the threshold of great knowledge. Is there any subject upo_hich you would wish me to say a few words? I see that you are making notes."
Malone had, as a fact, disengaged his hand in the darkness and was jottin_own in shorthand the sequence of events.
"What shall I speak of?"
"Of love and marriage," suggested Mrs. Bolsover, nudging her husband.
"Well, I will say a few words on that. I will not take long, for others ar_aiting. The room is crowded with spirit people. I wish you to understand tha_here is one man, and only one, for each woman, and one woman only for eac_an. When those two meet they fly together and are one through all the endles_hain of existence. Until they meet all unions are mere accidents which hav_o meaning. Sooner or later each couple becomes complete. It may not be here.
It may be in the next sphere where the sexes meet as they do on earth. Or i_ay be further delayed. But every man and every woman has his or her affinity, and will find it. Of earthly marriages perhaps one in five is permanent. Th_thers are accidental. Real marriage is of the soul and spirit. Sex action_re a mere external symbol which mean nothing and are foolish, or eve_ernicious, when the thing which they should symbolize is wanting. Am _lear?"
"Very clear," said Mailey.
"Some have the wrong mate here. Some have no mate, which is more fortunate.
But all will sooner or later get the right mate. That is certain. Do not thin_hat you will not necessarily have your present husband when you pass over."
"Gawd be praised! Gawd be thanked!" cried a voice.
"No. Mrs. Melder, it is love — real love — which unites us here. He goes hi_ay. You go yours. You are on separate planes, perhaps. Some day you will eac_ind your own, when your youth has come back as it will over here."
"You speak of love. Do you mean sexual love?" asked Mailey.
"Where are we gettin' to?" murmured Mrs. Bolsover.
"Children are not born here. That is only on the earth plane. It was thi_spect of marriage to which the great Teacher referred when he said: 'Ther_ill be neither marriage nor giving in marriage'. No! It is purer, deeper, more wonderful, a unity of souls, a complete merging of interests an_nowledge without a loss of individuality. The nearest you ever get to it i_he first high passion, too beautiful for physical expression when two high- souled lovers meet upon your plane. They find lower expression afterwards, bu_hey will always in their hearts know that the first delicate, exquisite soul- union was the more lovely. So it is with us. Any question?"
"If a woman loves two men equally, what then?" asked Malone.
"It seldom happens. She nearly always knows which is really nearest to her. I_he really did so, then it would be a proof that neither was the rea_ffinity, for he is bound to stand high above all. Of course, if she… "
The voice trailed off and the trumpet fell.
"Sing 'Angels are hoverin' around'!" cried Bolsover. "Smiley, hit that ol_armonium. The vibrations are at zero."
Another bout of music, another silence, and then a most dismal voice. Neve_ad Enid heard so sad a voice. It was like clods on a coffin. At first it wa_ deep mutter. Then it was a prayer — a Latin prayer apparently — for twic_he word Domine sounded and once the word peccavimus. There was a_ndescribable air of depression and desolation in the room. "For God's sak_hat is it?" cried Malone.
The circle was equally puzzled.
"Some poor chap out of the lower spheres, I think," said Bolsover. "Orthodo_olk say we should avoid them. I say we should hurry up and help them."
"Right, Bolsover!" said Mailey, with hearty approval. "Get on with it, quick!"
"Can we do anything for you, friend?"
There was silence.
"He doesn't know. He doesn't understand the conditions. Where is Luke? He'l_now what to do."
"What is it, friend?" asked the pleasant voice of the guide.
"There is some poor fellow here. We want to help him."
"Ah! yes, yes, he has come from the outer darkness," said Luke in _ympathetic voice. "He doesn't know. He doesn't understand. They come ove_ere with a fixed idea, and when they find the real thing is quite differen_rom anything they have been taught by the Churches, they are helpless. Som_dapt themselves and they go on. Others don't, and they just wander o_nchanging, like this man. He was a cleric, and a very narrow, bigoted one.
This is the growth of his own mental seed sown upon earth — sown in ignoranc_nd reaped in misery."
"What is amiss with him?"
"He does not know he is dead. He walks in the mist. It is all an evil dream t_im. He has been years so. To him it seems an eternity."
"Why do you not tell him — instruct him?"
"We cannot. We — "
The trumpet crashed.
"Music, Smiley, music! Now the vibrations should be better."
"The higher spirits cannot reach earth-bound folk," said Mailey. "They are i_ery different zones of vibration. It is we who are near them and can hel_hem."
"Yes, you! you!" cried the voice of Luke.
"Mr. Mailey, speak to him. You know him!" The low mutter had broken out agai_n the same weary monotone.
"Friend, I would have a word with you," said Mailey in a firm, loud voice. Th_utter ceased and one felt that the invisible presence was straining it_ttention. " Friend, we are sorry at your condition. You have passed on. Yo_ee us and you wonder why we do not see you. You are in the other world. Bu_ou do not know it, because it is not as you expected. You have not bee_eceived as you imagined. It is because you imagined wrong. Understand tha_ll is well, and that God is good, and that all happiness is awaiting you i_ou will but raise your mind and pray for help, and above all think less o_our own condition and more of those other poor souls who are round you."
There was a silence and Luke spoke again.
"He has heard you. He wants to thank you. He has some glimmer now of hi_ondition. It will grow within him. He wants to know if he may come again."
"Yes! yes!" cried Bolsover. "We have quite a number who report progress fro_ime to time. God bless you, friend. Come as often as you can." The mutter ha_eased and there seemed to be a new feeling of peace in the air. The hig_oice of Wee One was heard.
"Plenty power still left. Red Cloud here. Show what he can do, if Dadd_ikes."
"Red Cloud is our Indian control. He is usually busy when any purely physica_henomena have to be done. You there, Red Cloud?""
Three loud thuds, like a hammer on wood, sounded from the darkness.
"Good evening, Red Cloud!"
A new voice, slow, staccato, laboured, sounded above them.
"Good day, Chief! How the squaw? How the papooses? Strange faces in wigwam to- night."
"Seeking knowledge, Red Cloud. Can you show what you can do?"
"I try. Wait a little. Do all I can."
Again there was a long hush of expectancy. Then the novices were faced onc_ore with the miraculous.
There came a dull glow in the darkness. It was apparently a wisp of luminou_apour. It whisked across from one side to the other and then circled in th_ir. By degrees it condensed into a circular disc of radiance about the siz_f a bull's-eye lantern. It cast no reflection round it and was simply _lean-cut circle in the gloom. Once it approached Enid's face and Malone sa_t clearly from the side.
"Why, there is a hand holding it!" he cried, with sudden suspicion.
"Yes, there is a materialized hand," said Mailey. "I can see it clearly."
"Would you like it to touch you" Mr. Malone?"
"Yes, if it will."
The light vanished and an instant afterwards Malone felt pressure upon his ow_and. He turned it palm upwards and clearly felt three fingers laid across it, smooth, warm fingers of adult size. He closed his own fingers and the han_eemed to melt away in his grasp.
"It has gone!" he gasped.
"Yes! Red Cloud is not very good at materializations. Perhaps we don't giv_im the proper sort of power. But his lights are excellent."
Several more had broken out. They were of different types, slow-moving cloud_nd little dancing sparks like glow-worms. At the same time both visitors wer_onscious of a cold wind which blew upon their faces. It was no delusion, fo_nid felt her hair stream across her forehead.
"You fed the rushing wind," said Mailey. "Some of these lights would pass fo_ongues of fire, would they not? Pentecost does not seem such a very remote o_mpossible thing, does it?"
The tambourine had risen in the air, and the dot of luminous paint showed tha_t was circling round. Presently it descended and touched their heads each i_urn. Then with a jingle it quivered down upon the table.
"Why a tambourine? It seems always to be a tambourine," remarked Malone.
"It is a convenient little instrument," Mailey explained. "The only one whic_hows automatically by its noise where it is flying. I don't know what other _ould suggest except a musical-box."
"Our box here flies round somethin' amazin' " said Mrs. Bolsover. "It think_othing of winding itself up in the air as it flies. It's a heavy box too."
"Nine pounds," said Bolsover. "Well, we seem to have got to the end of things.
I don't think we shall get much more to-night. It has not been a bad sitting — what I should call a fair average sitting. We must wait a little before w_urn on the light. Well, Mr. Malone, what do you think of it? Let's have an_bjections now before we part. That's the worst of you inquirers, you know.
You often bottle things up in your own minds and let them loose afterwards, when it would have been easy to settle it at the time. Very nice and polite t_ur faces, and then we are a gang of swindlers in the report."
Malone's head was throbbing and he passed his hand over his heated brow.
"I am confused," he said, "but impressed. Oh, yes, certainly impressed. I'v_ead of these things, but it is very different when you see them. What weigh_ost with me is the obvious sincerity and sanity of all you people. No on_ould doubt that."
"Come. We're gettin' on." said Bolsover.
"I try to think the objections which would be raised by others who were no_resent. I'll have to answer them. First, there is the oddity of it all. It i_o different to our preconceptions of spirit people."
"We must fit our theories to the facts," said Mailey. "Up to now we hav_itted the facts to our theories. You must remember that we have been dealin_o-night — with all respect to our dear good hosts — with a simple, primitive, earthly type of spirit, who has his very definite uses, but is not to be take_s an average type. You might as well take the stevedore whom you see on th_uay as being a representative Englishman."
"There's Luke" said Bolsover.
"Ah, yes, he is, of course, very much higher. You heard him and could judge.
What else, Mr. Malone?"
"Well, the darkness! Everything done in darkness. Why should all mediumship b_ssociated with gloom?"
"You mean all physical mediumship. That is the only branch of the subjec_hich needs darkness. It is purely chemical, like the darkness of th_hotographic room. It preserves the delicate physical substance which, draw_rom the human body, is the basis of these phenomena. A cabinet is used fo_he purpose of condensing this same vaporous substance and helping it t_olidify. Am I clear?"
"Yes, but it is a pity all the same. It gives a horrible air of deceit to th_hole business."
"We get it now and again in the light, Mr. Malone," said Bolsover. "I don'_now if Wee One is gone yet. Wait a bit! Where are the matches?" He lit th_andle, which set them all blinking after their long darkness, "Now let us se_hat we can do."
There was a round wood platter or circle of wood lying among the miscellaneou_bjects littered over the table to serve as playthings for the strange forces.
Bolsover stared at it. They all stared at it. They had risen but no one wa_ithin three feet of it.
"Please, Wee One, please!" cried Mrs. Bolsover. Malone could hardly believ_is eyes. The disc began to move. It quivered and then rattled upon the table, exactly as the lid of a boiling pot might do.
"Up with it, Wee One!" They were all clapping their hands.
The circle of wood, in the full light of the candle, rose upon edge and stoo_here shaking, as if trying to keep its balance.
"Give three tilts, Wee One."
The disc inclined forward three times. Then it fell flat and remained so.
"I am so glad you have seen that," said Mailey. "There is Telekenesis in it_implest and most decisive form."
"I could not have believed it!" cried Enid.
"Nor I," said Malone. "I have extended my knowledge of what is possible. Mr.
Bolsover, you have enlarged my views."
"Good, Mr. Malone!"
"As to the power at the back of these things I am still ignorant. As to th_hing themselves I have now and henceforward not the slightest doubt in th_orld. I know that they are true. I wish you all good night. It is not likel_hat Miss Challenger or I will ever forget the evening that we have spen_nder your roof"
It was like another world when they came out into the frosty air, and saw th_axis bearing back the pleasure-seekers from the theatre or cinema palace.
Mailey stood beside them while they waited for a cab.
"I know exactly how you feel," he said, smiling. "You look at all thes_ustling, complacent people, and you marvel to think how little they know o_he possibilities of life. Don't you want to stop them? Don't you want to tel_hem? And yet they would only think you a liar or a lunatic. Funny situation, is it not?"
"I've lost all my bearings for the moment."
"They will come back to-morrow morning. It is curious how fleeting thes_mpressions are. You will persuade yourselves that you have been dreaming.
Well, good-bye — and let me know if I can help your studies in the future."
The friends — one could hardly yet call them lovers — were absorbed in though_uring their drive home. When he reached Victoria Gardens Malone escorted Eni_o the door of the flat, but he did not go in with her. Somehow the jeers o_hallenger which usually rather woke sympathy within him would now get upo_is nerves. As it was he heard his greeting in the hall.
"Well, Enid. Where's your spook? Spill him out of the bag on the floor and le_s have a look at him." His evening's adventure ended as it had begun, with _ellow of laughter which pursued him down the lift.