Isabella Fyvie Mayo (7)

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CHAPTER X.

CRIMES, CRIMINALS, AND PRISONS.


ONLY the most discreet of newspapers ever crossed our threshold in my girlhood.  It seemed to me in my innocence that, though the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Commandments were probably broken—or they would not have been required—yet they were disobeyed only by a certain set of people quite outside my range of vision—people who might be almost supposed to carry some palpable mark of Cain.

    I was soon disillusioned!

    Everybody knows that the eastern end of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, where it opens upon the market, is full of associations with the Carlovingian and Georgian eras and their profligate nobles and literary men.  It was reserved for the beginning of the second half of the nineteenth century to crowd the same region—our immediate neighbourhood—with tragic and melancholy incidents.

    The superstitious "commonalty" always whispered that "it" began with sundry disturbances  Of the dead occurring during certain rearrangements of the churchyard of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, which occupies the space between the backs of the houses on the north of Henrietta Street and the south of King Street, and abounds in burial-places of wits, playwrights, and noble criminals of the Stuart days.

    At this length of time it is impossible for me to remember the exact order in which the events I have to recount happened, nor the precise number of weeks or months elapsing between each.  Nor can I easily help my memory by external aid, as only one of the tragedies ended on the gibbet, and that was in 1858.

    But I can remember that the first melancholy event was the instantaneous death of a young woman seated in apparently good health at a window of her father's house at the north-eastern corner of Henrietta Street.  This happened while the excavations were proceeding in the churchyard, and there was a rumour that she died of shock caused by seeing the labourers attack her mother's grave.

    There was an old man, a "Mr. Tooth," who gained a fairly comfortable living by doing odd jobs for a connection he had secured in our neighbourhood.  He worked for us for many years.  He had fixed days for most of his employers, and if any of them wanted him on other occasions, they sent to the house where he was likely to be at work, and left a message to summon him.

    Now, in one of the handsome residences on the south-eastern side of Henrietta Street lived a medical man, keeping an establishment of two or three maids and a liveried manservant.  "Mr. Tooth" worked for this household, and the footman was sent to our house several times to summon him.  Those who had taken the message had remarked what a hard, stern manner the man had; and one day my mother, seeing him, observed that his dark eyebrows met on the bridge of his nose, a physiognomic peculiarity which she said "she did not like."  (I must say that two or three of my girl school-fellows had the same feature, one very markedly so, but were perfectly harmless and good-natured!)

    On a certain day this footman asked the doctor for a holiday, and then went to his home on the other side of the Thames, and in the course of an hour or two killed his sweetheart, his mother, and two younger brothers.  I never heard any details of the trial, but he was found guilty and hanged, and we all felt a painful thrill of consciousness that a murderer had moved about freely in our neighbourhood, and had even crossed our own threshold.

    Shortly afterwards the son of a manufacturer living and working on premises quite close to the doctor's house decamped with a large sum of money.

    Then the son of a highly respected tradesman living just opposite on the north side went out one evening for a country walk with his sweetheart, and goaded, as it appeared, by her avowed inconstancy, struck her down, and fled, leaving her for dead.  However, she did not die, so his sentence was not a capital one, and much sympathy was felt for his family, who, I believe, had not even known of his entanglement.

    By-and-by London was horrified—on a Boxing Day—by the tidings that, somewhere in the City, a cab had been found to contain the dead bodies of a lady and two or three children.  On Christmas Day the cabman had taken them up, alive, and accompanied by a gentleman, who had presently stopped the vehicle, got out, and bidden the driver await his return.  As his absence was prolonged, the cabman descended from his box to inquire if his fares were chilly, and to offer them some additional comfort in the way of a rug.  When he saw the terrible thing that had happened he at once called the police.  Of course, the absentee "fare" did not return, and the dead were removed to the mortuary, there being nothing found on any of them to identify them.

    When the Christmas holidays were over, a leading seedsman of Covent Garden, occupying premises facing the north-east end of Henrietta Street, found that his manager did not come back to business.  Inquiries at this man's suburban home discovered it to be shut up and deserted, and almost simultaneously a lady came forward and claimed the dead bodies as those of her sister and nieces, the wife and children of the missing man.  His dead body was presently discovered—if memory serves me truly, it was drawn from the river.  At the inquest a terrible story came out.  In his office the dead man had seemed quite sane and normal, but in his little suburban home he had shown the traits and temper of a fiend.  The dead woman's letters to her sisters revealed the torments she had undergone, but evidently she had never even dreamed of any possible escape.

    Almost at the same time a man owning large business and residential premises at the same fateful corner, while surrounded by his work-people, suddenly became a violent maniac.  He never recovered reason, and I do not think he lived long.  We knew him well—by sight only—as he had attended St. Paul's Church.

    Finally, after the lapse of a rather longer interval, Southampton Street, opening into this same south-eastern end of Henrietta Street, figured as part of the scene of a particularly odious and mysterious criminal trial.

    It must be remembered that this was no slum or degraded neighbourhood.  It was high-class, in the old-fashioned sense of London streets, half commercial and half residential.  I was overawed by the horror of it all, but as I grew older I began to wonder whether there might not be some sort of reason for this apparently sporadic epidemic of crime and misery, and if so, what was it?  The marvel has often returned to my mind.  Within my own experience, I know of no case like it.  But then the general public did not know all that the neighbours did.  Still, they did know of murders, an attempted murder, and more murders and a suicide, all radiating from a small centre, and among people every one of whom had been held respectable and worthy.  The sudden death and the more awful sudden madness did not, of course, to any noticeable degree appear in the public press.  If there had been a corresponding outbreak of virulent physical disease—say cholera or typhus—what inquiries and investigations would have been made!

    I have since observed that when murders and suicides occur—especially if of great horror or pitifulness—it is often casually mentioned that they happened "not far from the scene" of some previous tragedy.

    I draw no deduction from what I have related whatever the curious influence was, it must be remembered that it did not affect everybody on the doomed spot.  Like disease, it seized only on one here and there, evidently prepared to receive it.  The neighbourhood from that day gradually ceased to be residential, but as it was eagerly taken up for business purposes, its value did not diminish.

    Many years afterwards I saw another murderer-that-was-to-be.  In that case I got far behind the facts known to the general public, and an infinitely pathetic story stood revealed.  I think I will tell it as it developed.

    Many years ago there was at Trinity College, Dublin, a certain poor student named Watson.  He belonged to an obscure family, and was uncouth, shy, and unattractive.  As a student he was invited to a certain house (I think it was one of his professor's houses) where there were two daughters.  The heart of the rough, silent youth was touched by one of these, a tall, willowy woman with some beauty of the aquiline kind.  But he worshipped afar off; he would never have dared to approach the lady in her elegant home.

    In time he was ordained, and took scholastic appointments and some clerical duty.  A change came to the house in Dublin, where his thoughts still haunted.  The parents died, and the daughters, past their first youth, were left to face the world with practically no provision.  Then the silent lover took courage and presented himself anew.  A friend of mine, a London vicar for whom this unhappy man had acted as curate, saw (after the final catastrophe) the letters with which he had gradually drawn near to the lady of his heart.  At first they began with "Madam" only, then with "Dear madam," "My dear madam," rising to "Dear Miss ," and then "My dear Miss Anne," ending only at "long last" in "My dearest Anne."  He laid his hand and his modest income at her feet.  She accepted both.  Her sister was an invalid, and though she was to remain in Dublin, the enraptured bridegroom arranged to provide her with an annuity of £75, which was apparently paid in a lump sum each year.

    The husband and wife took up their abode in a genteel London suburb, where he had the headmastership of a foundation school and also, for a while, a curacy.  His whole income could never have been large; he had not inherited a farthing; his sister-in-law's allowance was a perpetual drain.

    He never complained, but he cast about him for some way of adding to his resources, and hoped to do so by producing sundry little books of academic nature.  They were dry and unpopular, and probably proved a source of loss rather than gain.

    But here the tragedy became manifest.  The vicar's young daughters resented being sent with messages to the curate and his wife, saying that, while the former was always kind and patient, the latter was abominably disagreeable both to him and to his young visitors.  It appeared that she never allowed him a moment's solitude, even in his study.  When his books came out and brought adverse reviews, she read these aloud, with jeers not only to him, but to any casual guest.  She had read them to these girls.

    Small wonder that, in his school and in social life, his awkwardness and unattractiveness increased.  Yet he had reached late middle age before the trustees of the school finally resolved to ask for his resignation.

    He found himself, well over fifty, thrown out of his old groove, with two helpless elderly women on his hands, and nothing between the pitiful group and sheer starvation save his petty savings, rapidly dwindling in the upkeep of the decent house he must maintain if he was to have any hope of future work.

    It was about this time that I saw the couple.  It was just before my marriage, when my people had a temporary home in a suburban lane, abutting on another of much the same type.  This latter was where the old clerical schoolmaster lived, and he and his wife generally went for an afternoon walk at the same hour as did my sister and I, and we frequently saw them.  She, a gaunt woman rather oddly dressed, and carrying a parasol usually open, whether needed or not, invariably strode on a few paces ahead.  He, heavy and slow, plodded after her.  She never looked to the right or to the left.  But once or twice I met his eyes—those of a half-stunned and bewildered animal.  At that time we knew nothing of their history, but we formed the opinion that they were not a happy couple, and that "the old gentleman," as we recklessly called him, had much to endure.

    In those days—it afterwards appeared—he was making desperate efforts to get employment.  It was a hopeless quest.  Educational methods were rapidly changing.  Probably he had never been a born educationist.  Anyhow, he was utterly out-of-date.

    When he had little more than £200 in the world, he punctually despatched the whole of the annual £75 to the invalid sister-in-law, still living in Dublin all unconscious of the facts.

    In his hopelessness he was known to have applied even for resident usherships.  Old contemporaries to whom he presented himself knew that he was now "impossible" even for such humble posts as these.  But they feared to break his heart by telling him this plain truth, so they tried to soften it to him by saying with a smile: "Oh, Mr. Watson, that would never do!  What would Mrs. Watson say to your leaving her?"  It was remembered afterwards that he made a heavy pause, and then remarked: "I think that could be managed."  It was even thought that this might have suggested to his tottering mind the terrible deed he was soon to do.

    Into the details of the tragedy one need not go.  But on one quiet Sunday evening, when the pair were alone in the house, he slew this wife of his by a sudden mortal blow, concealed the body, and when their maid came home, accounted for a locked room and the mistress's absence by a naïve story which would have aroused suspicion in anybody but an easily-satisfied London girl.  Two or three terrible days passed by.  He made some futile effort to get the body disposed of, and occupied the intervals of his time by writing curious stilted eulogia as by a widower over an inestimable wife.  Discovery was inevitable.  He was formally accused, tried, and convicted but charity was allowed to intervene (some thought not legally) and consign him to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum rather than to the gallows.

    Old clerical friends were sometimes inclined to wonder which would have been the kinder fate.  Said one: "I often wake in the morning and marvel what must be poor Watson's feelings when he realizes himself in that awful place."  Said the other, that vicar who had known most of the miserable ménage: "He must feel that he has not been in such peace for many years."

    The poor, defeated old "criminal" long survived, but of course never left his confinement.

    I may be permitted to allude to two other well-known crime stories, because a grim but almost poetically suggestive accident attached itself to the one, while the other shows a mysterious turn of thought in the criminal.  Both incidents occurred in the sufficiently tragic vicinity of the Strand, and therefore not far from the home of my youth.

    What is known as the Waterloo Bridge Mystery happened in 1857.  All one need recount is that late one evening a person, apparently an elderly woman, passed the then existing toll-gate of Waterloo Bridge, carrying with her a heavy bag.  The toll-gate was at the Strand end of the bridge.  Next day the bag was seen resting on one o the abutments of the bridge, which had checked its downward plunge to the river.  On examination, it was found to contain the remains and clothing of a man.  His identity was never discovered, but there were signs that he had been a foreigner.  The mystery remained unsolved, though it was thought possible that the murdered man had been a spy who had incurred the vengeance of some of the conspirators against Napoleon III.  London was then swarming with them.

    Yet the tollman had been able to give a detailed description of the person carrying the bag.  His attention had been specially directed to her because, by the clumsy way she had dragged her heavy burden through the toll, his "marker" had recorded the passage of two people, and he had sworn at her for costing him a halfpenny!

    It was a materialistic and gruesome version of the poet's pathetic lines:


"Take, O boatman, thrice they fee;
 Spirits twain have crossed with me."


    The other story is rather more involved.  A solicitor on the shady side of middle age lured to his chambers in a street near Charing Cross an elderly military man, whom he straightway attacked with murderous missiles.  A violent combat ensued, ending in the death of the lawyer, while the officer himself had a narrow escape.  The bone of contention between these two well-placed elderly men was a woman, herself no longer young, whose whole life, as I heard many years after, had left a trail of misery behind.

    But the curious thing was that, an hour or two before the tragedy, and while the lawyer was planning it, he sent out his boy or his housekeeper to buy a little singing-bird!  The harmless mite was found dead in its shop-cage when the terrible mêlée was disentangled.  What conceivable idea had been in the man's mind when he did this?

    In a fishing village in a Northern district of Scotland, I heard from one who had known all the people concerned of a projected murder which did not come off, but which in time developed a psychological mystery.

    A young man and maiden had loved—not wisely.  Shame was staring them in the face; suspicions must be very soon aroused.  One night a party of youths of the neighbourhood, returning from late choir practice across a moor lying on their homeward way, came upon what was unmistakably an open grave, and to make this doubly sure, a spade lay beside the narrow pit.  The young men instantly realized that they had alighted on the scene of a crime, whether or not it was yet carried out.  They secreted themselves round about, and waited.  Presently they saw a girl timidly approach a neighbouring clump of trees.  Recognizing her, one of them made himself known to her, discovered whom she was there to meet, hastily showed her what she had to expect, and withdrew her also into hiding.  Almost on the instant the traitor lover hurried up, and, believing himself to be first on the scene, went straight to the grave and pottered about with the spade.  Straightway the young men pounced on him, and he, seeing how unmistakably his diabolic purpose stood revealed, neither fled nor offered any denials.  His neighbours, I think, promptly determined not to give him up to the law, but thrashed him soundly on the spot.  They took the girl safely to her home, leaving him to follow how he might.  It was said that on his recovery he offered to marry her, but she refused.  He did not leave the place, but lived on, pursuing sundry small vocations—a solitary, disowned man.

    Now comes an awful fact.  When this potential murderer had reached middle age, a murder—one of mere quarrel and violence—occurred in the district.  A capital sentence was passed.  The neighbouring population has a great objection to "executions," and it was thought a hangman would be hard to find.  The potential murderer offered his services, and they were accepted!

    It is the psychology of the criminal, and not the horrors of his crime, which interests thoughtful people.  It seems to me singular that there is no systematic inquiry into the genealogy, birth, breeding, environment, and early tendencies of all criminals.  Without that, executions and punishments are a mere cutting-off of the tops of the weeds, while society may be actually fostering the soil and the atmosphere in which they multiply.  Nor is it easy to join heartily in the popular cry that "education" (so-called) and good housing conditions will "put down" crime.  They may, at most, change its conditions.  For the vilest criminals seldom come from the poorest, the most uneducated, or the worst housed classes.  Cold and hunger are not usually incitements to horrible deeds.  Even the simple offence of drunkenness—the most likely to be affected by better surroundings—often exists where material environment at least is apparently of the best, as would be more manifest if drunkenness were not easily veiled where there are friend, and money.  The inebriate of the better class is put into a cab and taken home; the poverty-stricken drunkard is conveyed to the police-station.  If petty theft is generally—and naturally —confined to the needy, fraudulent speculations and financial malpractices flourish in a different class.  A police-officer said to me the other day: "Some of the poorest people are the most honest."

    In my later middle age I undertook for a while to hold a Sunday afternoon service for the women culprits in a provincial gaol.  It was the first time such a thing had been done in that place.  I also had leave to visit, when desirable, any prisoner in her cell.

    These women were almost all of the lowest class, but it was those slightly raised above it who seemed the most hopeless cases, while the most promising of any were the tramps—often cheerful, elderly dames, who bade one cordial farewell when their sentences expired, and volunteered that they were "gaein' up avant the hills, whaur there were no so mony 'hooses' [licensed], and then they would be a' richt."

    There was one girl who had killed her infant, and it was not the first time she had done this.  She was the daughter of a respectable widow with a small farm and well-doing younger children.  This girl was such a good "worker," and so generally quiet and reliable, that she was given the privilege of acting as the matron's servant.  I never saw her without an artificial smile on her face.  She never showed any slightest sign of emotion.

    There was another prisoner, a girl of respectable birth, and so well-bred and educated that one of the many charges against her was of successfully personating the daughter of a county gentleman for purposes of fraud.  Suddenly she professed a desire to turn over an entirely new leaf, and special opportunities were given her.  (I remember the sudden and peculiar change which passed over her face just before she announced this resolution.)  After her release and probation in a Rescue, I saw her several times in her father's comfortable home.  She remained there for some months, then "broke out" again, and after manifold chances and changes, but no more effort after reform, she got married rather suddenly to a man said to be respectable, who, anyhow at the time, knew nothing of her past history.  She was specious in speech and dramatic in manner.  From information given me by her relatives, I could readily deduce that from her cradle she had been "peculiar," degenerate, with criminal tendencies.  What horrified and startled me was that the secretary of a certain philanthropic society was willing to aid and abet her in entering domestic service without any forewarning to the luckless employers.  She did get a place as chambermaid at an hotel.

    A frequent "short-sentence" prisoner was an elderly, comfortable-looking matron, widow of a ship-captain.  She had an annuity of £52.  Most of this must have gone in drink, as she was freely supported in His Majesty's prisons for the greater part of her time.  Drunkenness was her sole offence.

    There were many women who were constantly " in and out." They all drank, but most were girls of the streets, who told me that their lives would be insupportable without drink. A few were married women, and some of these stole when drunk, but not otherwise. Others were by habit and repute thieves.

    One had a very sad story.  She was thief and drunkard, had been in prison unnumbered times, her sentences running from a few days or weeks to three or four months.  She had had two brothers, both idiots, and her own mental calibre was of the poorest.  Yet, despite her dissipated life, she needed only a few days' prison discipline to make her look like a rough but respectable country servant.  She had been so missionized "that whenever I suggested that my audience might choose a hymn for itself, she always spoke first, naming some of the hottest "revival" tendency.  In the end she landed in the lunatic asylum, where, I think, she should have been long before.

    There was another even sadder story of the same sort.  The central figure was the daughter of a respectable rural postmaster with other daughters of unblemished repute.  The hearts of this family were wellnigh broken.  They had repeatedly received the girl back to her home, only to find it impossible to retain her.  She, too, came in and out of prison.  She had had many children, whose, fatherhood she herself could not indicate.  To any ordinary observing eye she was half-witted—had become so, if she had not been so always.  The matrons said she was so.  But the doctors could not or would not "certify."

    A case which for a long time gave us some hope was a young girl, "the maid of an inn," who, infatuated by one of the waiters, had followed him to provincial cities, sacrificing honesty and character for her passion.  She was in gaol for robbing an employer of no very high character.  She, too, professed repentance.  We got her two years' probation and training in a Refuge, and then secured her a suitable and kindly situation where her history and difficulties were known.  She gave great satisfaction for more than a year, and then went off in a perfect cloud of lies and bewilderments—with a man!

    There was another story, too, with singular sidelights on social life.

    In one of the chief Scottish cities dwelt an old charwoman who, whatever else she might be, worked hard for her own bread and for that of a little girl who called her "grannie," and believed herself to be the child of the old woman's daughter, an actress in Cairo.  Presently the girl was old enough to be useful, and was very sharp and bright.  Then a well-dressed, well-appointed woman "made up to her," as she expressed it, and told her that she was her daughter—her illegitimate daughter—who had been given in infancy to the old charwoman with a premium.  The mother professed unbounded penitence for her sin and her desertion of her child, and told her that she was married to a respectable man who knew nothing of this episode in her past.  She gave the girl her address in a large house in a good-class street, and the proposal she made was that her alleged daughter should enter her service and enjoy most of the privileges of her home without any unseemly revelation to the deluded spouse.

    The girl laughed her to scorn.  It was plain that at first she had the darkest suspicions as to the stranger's object.  But she verified her story so far that she did live in a respectable house, and was the wife of a man in a good position.  This did not alter the girl's determination.  "I'll stick to her who has behaved to me as a mother and slaved for me," was her rejoinder.

    Then the mysterious "mother" did a very unaccountable thing.  She put herself into communication with the "ladies" of a great charitable organization, told them her story, and by her protestations of remorse, and her reiterated fears for the girl's future, completely won their sympathies.  An attempt was made to prove legally that the old charwoman was not a fit guardian for the girl, and the upshot was that the girl was officially relegated to a reformatory.

    But the "powers" had reckoned without their host.  Twice the daring maiden escaped, and twice was she re-consigned to durance, each time farther from her old home.  Then she was sent to a reformatory nearly one hundred and fifty miles away.  Again she escaped, and walked back!

    She told me the story of that walk—of the "lifts" she got, and the occasional bed at a cottage; how she spent one night in a field, sitting in its midst in the bright moonlight so that she could see if anybody approached.

    She made straight to her "grannie," and there, of course, she was promptly seized and officially "returned" by train.  Her final destination was to be the deserted reformatory, but first she was to have a few days in prison.

    As I entered the room where the prisoners were met, it struck me at once that there was nothing of the criminal in this latest arrival, only a blaze of defiance.  I sought her story from the matron; it was from her I got all its main lines.  The girl was to go back to the reformatory in a day or two, and there I followed her, and she herself filled in the details.

    I found the matron of the reformatory at her wits' end.  She was afraid to shut up her culprit, afraid to let her loose among the other girls.  The lass would not put on the reformatory clothes, and made no secret of her intentions.  She would escape again.  If they guarded her, she would wait till they were off their guard.  She would walk back; she had done it before, and could do it again; and this time she would take care not to be caught at her journey's end.

    She blazed away at me, jumping to the conclusion that I should espouse her mother's cause as everybody else had done.  "She is your mother, they say," she mocked.  "A pretty mother, to leave me all these years, and now to want to 'take in' her husband and have me sneaking about the house, a living lie!"

    As soon as I could make myself heard I told her that my sympathies were not instinctively with the mother that I quite agreed with herself that the mother's conduct had forfeited her maternal rights, and that the course of deception she had desired made her as unfit a guardian and friend as the old charwoman could possibly be.

    From that moment our way was clear.  She at once calmed down, discussed, reasoned, even admitted the reformatory matron to our conclave though all the while she did not abate one whit of her resolve "to take the road" as soon as possible.  It was touching to notice that she did not wish to believe it was her own mother who had deserted her to strangers.  She would not accept that "mother's" whole story, even though in part she could prove its truth.  "She'll deceive her husband, she'll deceive me !" she cried Shakespeareanly.  "Perhaps her own baby died," she hinted, "and she wants me instead."  She clung rather to the motherhood of the "actress in Cairo."  "She must ha' left me with her own mother, and she's always heard about me," she said.  Yet as she named her, her eyes blazed a warning that she dared say we would like to asperse that "actress in Cairo," and had better not, and we did not, as that dubious person was not in the question.  She was stout in her defence of "poor old grannie," even though she made the shrewd admission, "She can't be so very bad, or she would not have to go down on her old knees and scrub for her bread, now, would she?"

    We got to practical things.  She told us that there was a factory near "grannie's" home where she could earn quite enough to keep herself, and it was suggested that peace and security might be insured if she went to work there, and no longer lived under "grannie's" roof, however often she saw her.

    She considered the matter.  "Grannie's getting old," she said.  "She stuck to me when I was a baby, and I'm going to stick to her now.  But think I might manage it.  Only I shan't get there unless I run away, and I'll run as soon and as fast as I can."

    In the end officialdom yielded.  A ticket was given her to return to her native place, and the last we heard of her was that she was working in the factory, and had opened an account with the post-Office Savings Bank!

    Despite its tremendous interest, "prison work is a most heart-breaking and perplexing experience.  The gaol I knew was one in which the longest sentence was, I think, for one year.  The "crimes" were of a minor kind—socially, of course, troublesome and unwholesome enough.  But people doing deeds far more prejudicial to the community never got inside the prison, but were often feasted municipally and ecclesiastically belauded.  The greater number of the prisoners might have retained their freedom if they could have afforded to pay a fine.  Much of their mere ruffianism would have been condoned and smiled over by high authorities if they had chanced to be university students.  Most of them must have known that for one offence detected by the police ten quite as bad must have been committed with "better luck."

    Nearly every time I left the portal I said to the friend who generally accompanied me: "Would this city of ours be really any the worse if that gate were left open, and all those people regained their freedom at once, as they all will regain it individually in the course of a few months at most?"

    It was a question neither of us could answer.

    We know there are two aspects of punishment—one that it be reformatory, the other that it be strictly punitive, with a view to deterrence.  But I own I could not see that the prison system, as I beheld it, acted satisfactorily in either direction, possibly because it halts between the two aims.  I saw no movement either towards the reformation of the prisoner or the protection of the community.  To most of the prisoners there could have been nothing disagreeable in the rough but substantial prison cleanliness and food.  To many, prison was a place wherein to rest and recruit.  On the other hand, there was little or nothing to soften, to inspire, to uplift.  The best part of each degraded nature was as suppressed as its worst part.  Humanity was simply stultified.  The perpetually returning prisoners had actually that mysterious thing, the "institution-look."

    Those perpetual returns showed how little there was about prison that was "deterrent."  I know of one poor young ex-prisoner—a lad, the victim of his parents and the community which left him in their evil power—who, when a Salvation Army officer asked him how he had been able to endure his three months in that "dreadful place," promptly replied: "Dreidfu' place?  Na, na; I never was so comfortable, except years ago, when I was in the Sisters' Convalescent Home."

    The inefficacy of even the sternest punishment to awaken the moral sense, or even startle it, is well shown in an incident which occurred to an ancestor of friends of mine.  The good man, a farmer, had taken a sack of meal to dispose of in Aberdeen Castle market.  It was in the days when people were hanged for any petty theft, and an execution was in progress, the culprit being a sheep-stealer.  The worthy countryman stood aghast, when a stranger bustled up with the question: "What's a-do?"  "A hanging," said the other, awed, "for stealing a sheep."  "Eh, what won't folk risk for gear!" cried the stranger.  "Will ye just gie me a hand-up with this sack?"  The farmer promptly complied.  It was only afterwards that he discovered he had helped a thief to make off with the sack he had brought to sell!

    Somehow, when society is forced to defend itself, its action should be at once curative and preventive.  But how? That is not so easy to explain.  Only it will be certainly not attained by any uniform treatment.  Each individual case will have to be met on its own ground.  Is that too costly and troublesome?  Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well, and in the end it will be found most economical so to do it.


 
CHAPTER XI.

THE MYSTERIOUS BORDERLAND.


I SHALL begin this chapter by saying that I shall tell no story which I have not heard, either from the people chiefly concerned, or from some who had heard these narrate them.  I could supply the names of all my authorities, and I refrain simply because in some cases they have passed beyond according me their permission, and in others I know they would shrink from personal publicity.  If some of our deepest depths are ever to be opened, it must be nearly always under a veil of anonymity.  Indeed, some of the stories which reach us only as fiction have deepest roots in genuine experiences.

    There was a married couple whom we will call Mr. and Mrs. Three, who had a friend much younger than themselves, in whom they were greatly interested, but whom they did not see very often, as he lived far away.  Presently they heard of him as passing through much domestic sorrow and trial, and finally breaking down in health.  By-and-by he paid them a visit, and they were pained by the change in his appearance and by his visibly low spirits.  Owing to her husband's professional engagements, it fell to Mrs. Three to "speed the parting guest."  They were actually in the King's Cross Railway-station, walking up and down awaiting the train, when the invalid suddenly confided to his old friend that he had lost all faith; that, aware of standing on the edge of the grave, he could see no hope whatever beyond it.  This was a sad change in his views, and Mrs. Three tried to cheer him by suggesting that it was only the gloom attendant on his low physical condition.  Their parting was sorrowful, both realizing it was likely to be the last, and she returned home melancholy, and buried the pathetic confidence in her own heart.

    The young man shortly afterwards went abroad—to the other side of the world.  He wrote letters to the Threes, but never alluded to that parting conversation, though he made it clear that he still realized his end was drawing near.  On his way home he died almost suddenly, and this happened when Mrs. Three's husband was so dangerously ill that she could not tell him even of the death until some time afterwards.  His condition was still precarious when they went down into the country.  Mrs. Three was very sad.

    In the farm-house where the Threes lodged there was also staying a young artist.  He had his own apartments, and they were all in the house for two or three weeks before they ever came in contact.  Then the landlady asked, as a favour to herself, that the Threes would allow the young man to share their parlour for a day or two, as she was expecting a visit from some relations.  They consented.  The young man was introduced, and seemed a good-hearted, thoughtless sort of youth, inclined to shirk the more serious side of life.  In the course of conversation it was found that the artist came from the town where the Threes' dead friend had lived, and had been acquainted with him.  He deplored his death, and added that "he had been too religious."  Mrs. Three, with her doleful secret, said nothing.

    Next morning the party met again at breakfast.  The young man once or twice made as if he would say something he could not quite bring out.  At last he said, with some hesitation: "I have a message for you, Mrs. Three.  I suppose I ought to deliver it, only the worst of it is it is not true."  She listened, astonished.  "It is from our mutual friend who is dead," he said.  "I woke in the night—I don't know what I had been dreaming about—but I sat up wide awake, and said: 'I am to be sure and tell Mrs. Three that C. B. is not dead.  He says I am to tell her that was all a mistake.'"

    Mrs. Three says that the gloom lifted from her mind as a cloud rises from the landscape.  The secret between her and the dead made this a veritable message of reassurance.  With perhaps too much reticence, she made no explanation to the young artist.  Had she herself received this dream-message, she would have set it down as the working of her own mind.

    It was during that same country visit that Mrs. Three says she had an experience which had tremendous influence on herself, and yet was so subtle and elusive that it wellnigh vanishes from any attempt to tell it.  The Threes had a large bedroom, one end of which was filled by a wide east window looking straight into the heart of some fine old trees, through which poured the early morning sunshine.  For three or four nights in succession she had a series of dreams, which, when she awoke at dawn, she remembered clearly, but dared not rouse her convalescent husband to report them to him.  She went to sleep again, and on re-awakening the dreams were forgotten.  After this had happened more than once she tried hard to fix them in her mind as she lay, seeing the early sunlight among the leaves, but motionless, lest any movement should deprive the invalid of priceless repose.  It was no use.  In common daylight all had faded, save the recollection that in dream after dream she and her husband had been seated side by side watching dramas in which they themselves and their friends and the circumstances of their lives were pourtrayed.  Mysteries had been made plain.  Tangles had been smoothed out.  She could recall that in the dreams she and her husband constantly turned to each other, whispering: "Now we understand; now we see why such and such an event had to be.  And all is well."  That impression stayed, but the dramas were gone for ever, and could never be recaptured.

    Once Mrs. Three had a singular dream on a voyage to X., where neither she nor her husband had ever before been.  She was slightly seasick, and her husband made a couch for her on deck, where she fell asleep.  After a while she woke suddenly to find him bending over her with a cup of coffee, and she cried in much agitation: "How glad I am to see you!  I had dreamed that you were dead, and that I was travelling to X.  I was very sad, and I was accompanied by a youth."  Mr. Three was much interested, and asked if she could describe this companion.  "Was he Y. or W.?" naming relations and friends.  "No," she said: "it was nobody I have ever seen."

    After they had left X. and were returning homeward by land, they made acquaintance at a friend's house with a youth, also a stranger in the district.  Mrs. Three had thought no more of her dream, and did not recognize this young man as figuring in it.  But she did realize a singularly painful impression on meeting him—an impression so strong that he and others noticed it; an impression, too, which was justified by many after circumstances, though at the time it soon passed utterly away.

    After Mrs. Three's widowhood, events of a most unexpected nature directed the removal of her household to X., and she and this young man proved to be the forerunners of the family, though they did not travel together; nor did she recall her dream until she had been settled in X. for some time, when it returned on her mind in a vivid flash of memory.

    Most who have had experience of these


                 "Obstinate questionings,
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings,"


will agree that months and years may pass without any visitations of the sort, at least to be realized or remembered.

    In the next story Mrs. Three had reached later middle age.

    There was a lad—motherless—whom she had for years mothered, and for whom she had felt much of a mother's affection.  He had gone from her home into the world, had met with sundry disappointments and rebuffs, but on the whole had fared very well, and was welcomed in his holidays under her roof.  Such a visit she was expecting.  He had not been able to fix the precise date by letter, and she thought he might appear quite suddenly or with the brief forewarning of a telegram.

    At this juncture she had an invitation to spend a day or two in a mansion house not very far from her home.  As there was a special reason for the invitation, and as its duration was to be short, she accepted it, and left instructions that the visitor, if he arrived, should be welcomed in her house, or that if a telegram came, it should be at once forwarded to her.  She went off in high spirits, passed a pleasant evening with her hosts and their house-party, and retired to her room.

    It was a large, cheerful apartment, with splendid views, and provided with every appointment to meet any need of any guest.  She went straight to bed, but kept a light burning for a while, and from the bedside books selected nothing more emotional than a volume of Matthew Arnold's Poems.  As she soon grew drowsy, she extinguished her light and slept.

    When she awoke it was broad daylight, and every detail of the furniture was visible.  But between her in bed and the pedestal writing-table there hung something like a transparent scene.  At least, she could see everything through it, yet it too was quite distinct.  At its top and bottom it faded off into nothingness—as vignettes do—but in its middle stood something like a shelf.  On this lay a human form under a grey covering.  The countenance was turned from her; the whole had the curious, melancholy effect of the "face turned to the wall" in pain or sorrow.  But by the form of the head, with its thickly-curling brown hair, she recognized the young friend who was expected at her own home.  All was motionless, all swiftly faded, but she remained alarmed, uneasy.  She puzzled herself over the shelf-like construction.  What could it signify?  Suddenly she remembered the arrangements of a mortuary to which she had once gone to visit the remains of one who had died in exile.  It sprang into her mind that her young friend might have been travelling through the night, that there might have been a railway accident, and that he might be lying dead in some such place.

    Breakfast-time brought her no telegrams nor other tidings.  There was no account of any accident in the papers, but as she knew the lad would have been on some branch-lines, there might not have been time for such a report to travel.  After spending a day of miserable depression she was thankful when her visit came to an end that evening.

    She returned to her own house, to find all well, but no news of the expected guest, whose brother was also eagerly and cheerfully expecting him.

    Next morning the brother came to her, much agitated, with an open letter in his hand.  "My brother is not coming at all," he cried; and as she exclaimed in surprise, he went on: "He bids me break the news to you—he knows how you will feel it—he has started off for the other side of the world."

    The shock was overwhelming, for, without explanation or farewell, the young man had gone off to a deadly climate.  The night that Mrs. Three had spent in the country house had been his first night at sea, and the vision "shelf " had been clearly his berth.  It was not till long afterwards that Mrs. Three learned that there had been circumstances which had made his going away tragic and pitiful to the last degree, evidently filling him with a remorseful regret for those he left behind which had been strong enough to convey his image, condition, and environment to her mind.

    Many years afterwards, in connection with the same young friend, Mrs. Three had one of those most perplexing dreams which forecast a whole sequence of conditions not yet in existence.  She had never seen the young man since he went away; his letters had been few and brief, giving little indication of his present life or future plans.

    Mrs. Three was at that time living in a large house, her own property, which, for many reasons, it was then most unlikely she would ever leave.

    One April evening she went with a friend, Miss O., to look over a house Miss O. thought of renting.  It pleased them.  It was empty, and they did not linger there many minutes.  Miss O. decided to take it, but was not to enter into tenancy for some time.

    About a fortnight afterwards Mrs. Three dreamed vividly of her young friend abroad.  But she dreamed he had returned to the old country, and he was with her in a strange room furnished for habitation, which, she recorded in her diary next day, "looked like the drawing-room in Miss O.'s new house."  But in the dream this was apparently her own home.

    More than a year after, owing to many unexpected changes, illness, and difficulties with domestic service, Mrs. Three determined to sell her house, and as she knew that might mean a sudden departure, she arranged with Miss O. that she should take up her abode with her temporarily.  There were great difficulties in the arrangement, but it seemed the best thing to be done, and Miss O. kindly consented.  Mrs. Three's house was sold with unexpected quickness, and she had not been under Miss O.'s roof for more than a few weeks when most unexpectedly the young man wrote from abroad that he was coming back to this country.  And it was in the drawing-room of the dream that he paid her his first visit!

    These forecasting dreams are very strange.  A friend of mine told me that shortly after her mother's death she dreamed that they two were walking together across a bridge amid magnificent scenery quite new to my friend.  She spoke of this dream to her father next day.  Many years afterwards, through sudden changes, she went to a town in the South of France.  The moment she left the railway-station and looked around the strange place she recognized the landscape of her dream, even in some of its smaller details.  Eventually she settled there for some years.

    Another story told me by those chiefly concerned in it is as follows:

    A brother and sister were sitting together in an upper chamber adjoining that in which an aged grandmother was in bed and, as they believed, asleep.  Suddenly they saw her enter their room in a quiet, mysterious sort of way.  She turned to a table and fingered some Bibles and prayer-books lying thereon.  They watched her, astonished, as she had not left her bed for some time, and they did not speak to her because they thought she must be sleep-walking, and alarm might be dangerous.  She stayed only a minute or two, and as soon as she had gone out the sister crept after her to her bedroom.  But she found the door shut, and the old lady in bed, lying quietly, sound asleep, with no sign of recent movement.  It is many years since this story was told me by the young man, and I may have omitted or varied some details which I have no opportunity to revise.  But it is substantially correct.  The young people told their parents of the "apparition," and it was remarked that it probably bore a fatal significance.  The old lady died two days afterwards.

    I recall a "dream" incident told me by those to whom it occurred—a Scottish minister and his wife.  They had been in New Zealand, and just before they started for their return the wife dreamed that they were on their voyage, when their vessel was suddenly overshadowed and overpowered by some large white mass, which she could not define.  She told her dream to her husband, and after she was on shipboard she repeated it, until the captain requested her husband to ask her not to do so, lest it might make other passengers nervous.  One night they were all in the saloon amusing themselves, when they suddenly heard much trampling and urgent cries on deck.  The minister ran up the companion stairway to see what was happening.  He met one of the officers coming down, with a face deathly white.  "We have had the narrowest escape from collision," said he, "with a great liner coming at full speed, with all her sails set."  The minister went on deck, and saw the danger veering away, a vague mass of whiteness in the surrounding gloom.

    It is not many years since the country was startled by news of Cecil Rhodes' dangerous illness.  A friend of mine, a doctor, had cherished very bitter feelings against him as a politician—had regarded him in that light almost as a personification of evil, whose removal might be a national blessing.  One evening he remarked to his household: "Cecil Rhodes is not going to die yet; he is reported as better."  Next morning, as he came to the breakfast-table, he said, with a strangely changed manner: "Cecil Rhodes is dead.  I was at his death-bed last night.  He was so distressed at leaving all his work, and I tried to cheer him by saying who knew what he might be able to do yet?  One of his doctors, who should have been there, could not come, and I took his place."  He went on to describe the room—rather bare, and the death-bed as more like a couch than a bed.  I heard my friend relate this dream some hours before the report of Cecil Rhodes' death reached us.  I know, too, that my friend had not been outside his own house between the dream and his narrating it.  When details of the dying scene came, it was stated that one of the doctors who should have been present was unavoidably absent.  Also that Rhodes' last utterances were to the effect "that there was so little done, and so much to do."  I have never been able to discover if the description of the room was correct.

    Another significant dream was dreamed by a lady whom we will call Mrs. Four—a very quiet, sensible, matter-of-fact person, who, owing to her husband's avocations, spent much of her life in Australia, whence, however, she frequently returned to the old country.  On one of these occasions their homeward passage was taken, and all their luggage packed for their departure early next morning.  She had received her usual letters from her family in Britain, full of good news and prospective welcome.  But when she slept she dreamed that her father passed slowly by the foot of the bed.  The old gentleman had been twice married, and both his wives were dead.  In the vision the first wife walked before him, and the second followed after.  Mrs. Four woke her husband and told him, but he did not think much of it, and she fell asleep again, when the dream was repeated.  Again she roused her husband, and he was now interested, and made a note of the date and hour.  They went on shipboard, made the voyage in perfect comfort, but when the ship neared the docks, there stood Mrs. Four's maiden Sister, attired in deepest mourning.  The father had died—allowing for difference of latitude [ED.longitude?]—at the very time of his daughter's dream.  His death had been very sudden, preceded only by an hour or two of illness.

    Yet another dream story was told me by one of its principals, nearly thirty-five years ago, but my memory is quite clear as to the main points of the story.

    When my friend, whom I will call Mr. Five, told me the story, he was a man well over sixty, who had spent all his life in a Government office where the work demanded scrupulous exactitude.  He was a man of singularly sweet and transparent character.  His story was this:

    His wife had had a sister, to whom they had both been fondly attached, and who died in early womanhood.  Some time afterwards a friend of the husband's—I think he was a lieutenant in the navy—undertook an expedition to the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea—an exploration somewhat allied to Mr. Five's official work, and the lieutenant was well known in his office.

    The lieutenant and his journeyings had been heard of several times before a certain night, when my friend, at that time a young man, had a dream.  He dreamed that he walked beside an expanse of water, when suddenly he saw his dead sister-in-law walking in front of him, briskly and gaily, though he did not notice how quickly till he tried to overtake her, and found he could not do so.  Presently his friend, the young lieutenant, rose up out of the waters—but not at all as a dripping, disconsolate figure—and joined the young maiden in front, they linking their arms together.  The dreamer now made desperate effort to overtake them, when at a turn in the path they wholly disappeared, and in his surprise, he awoke!  In the morning he told his wife, and, on her advice, made a note of the date in his pocket-book.

    Some time passed.  In those days—the middle of last century—communication between Great Britain and remote districts of Palestine was both difficult and slow.  The dreamer and his wife had wellnigh forgotten the incident, when one morning, on entering his office, his chief said to him:

    "We have sad news of your friend, Lieutenant .  He is drowned—" (I think it was in the Dead Sea.)

    "Stop!" cried my friend.  "I will tell you the date of his death;" and, producing his notebook, he read out the date of the day immediately preceding the night of his dream.  The chief, astonished, at once showed him the letter which confirmed the fact.

    I know a lady—we will call her Mrs. Sixwho has been more than once guest in the mansion of a territorial magnate, who had succeeded to his estate only by the deaths of two brothers, both dying—at many years' interval—under singularly tragic and romantic circumstances.  Both their histories, which Mrs. Six had heard at the time, had deeply interested her—the one quite as much as the other.  On her first visit, as a perfect stranger, to their successor, she says she was always aware that he was accompanied by another figure, which entered and left the rooms as he did.  She was aware that this was one of the dead brothers, but had no impression as to which it was.  In speaking of the matter, she always used the word "aware," saying that she knows she saw nothing "with these eyes."  At the time she says she wondered which of the brothers it could be, and asked herself why, if it were "all her imagination," she was not aware of both, since her interest had been as much arrested by the one story as by the other.  The impression was not repeated at later visits.

    I will now pass on to one or two other stories, not told to me by the actual actors therein, but received from those in intimate relation with them, or who had learned them from public report at the time.

    In one of the Indian border wars there was engaged an officer of high repute, the member of an ancient county family.  One night the laird, its head, started from his sleep, exclaiming: "There's the shot that has killed my brother!"  His wife told him: "It was but a dream; he must have given an anxious thought to his brother before going to sleep."

    Next day the pair were in their garden, directing their gardeners, when the laird suddenly exclaimed: "Do you hear the bagpipes?"  "No," answered the lady.  "I can hear nothing.  I am sure there is no sound."

    "Strange!" said the laird, "for I can even hear what is played.  It is 'The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede away.'"

    A few hours later came the telegram reporting that the brother had been shot down by some border warrior, and over his lonely grave the men of his regiment had played the pathetic air whose mysterious echo seemed to have reached the laird.

    A very picturesque dream-story was told me by a young Indian Mohammedan who was at that time studying medicine in this country.  He was the younger member of a large family.  Their father had been long dead, but the widowed mother (though she had never seen the outside of her own house) remained the most important member of the family, whom all her grown-up children consulted on all matters connected with the management of the family estate.  Two of the elder sons had left home to fill important educational and legal posts.  Suddenly the mother was taken seriously ill.  The absent members of the family were at once recollected.  It was decided to send for one of them, as he was near enough to come quickly; but as the other was about two days' journey off, and as death was imminent, it was resolved not to send him any distressing news till it could be definite.  To the surprise of the household, this brother presently appeared at the gate, announcing: "I fear something is wrong with my mother, for the night before last I dreamed of my father, and he was measuring off a new grave in our burying-place."  I think it was added that the mother had not even been ill at that time.  In the result, while the brother who had received the mysterious message was in good time, he who had been summoned by telegram arrived too late!

    Another story, of quite different nature, is peculiar in this—that its whole significance lies in its two parts coming together only through both happening to reach the ears of a person wholly unconcerned in the matter.

    Many years ago there was a young minister in trouble with his sect concerning "heresy," which in his case at that time meant nothing more than unwillingness to teach the doctrine of eternal punishment in the fashion in which it was then inculcated.  We will identify him by the name Mr. Seven.

    He was an old friend of a family in London, whom we will know as the Eights, and at this time became a frequent guest in their house.  On one occasion he met there a young married lady, Mrs. Nine, a woman of great beauty, and with every manner of one used to "good society."  All he remembered about her afterwards was that he was told by one of the Eights that she was a member of the household of distinguished literary people, whose very name he forgot!

    Old Mr. Eight was much interested in spiritualistic phenomena, and was given to impose experiments with planchette on any of his guests who would yield to his wish.  He suggested an experiment to Mrs. Nine and Mr. Seven, and they both put their hands on the little instrument, and presently there came some sort of indefinite message, of which none of the party (all the Eights were present) seemed to retain any remembrance.  There was nothing more, and after some desultory conversation the visitor went away, and Mr. Seven and Mrs. Nine never met again.

    Mr. Seven presently went off to some temporary charge in a remote fishing town.  He kept up some correspondence with the Eights, and eventually wrote to them, asking if all was well with Mrs. Nine.  They answered in the affirmative, and he then wrote them the narrative of a singular experience.  On a certain evening (we will say the third Saturday in the month of November) he had returned weary from a round of pastoral visits, and was very glad to sit down beside the fire at his comfortable tea-table in his lamp-lit, curtained room.  His landlady brought in the meal, and left him alone.  Presently he "became conscious" of the presence of Mrs. Nine, who stood at the other side of his table, and "conveyed to his mind" that she was terribly miserable, and was passing through some great crisis.  He told me afterwards that he could not say he "saw" her, and he was sure he heard no sound.  It was only a strong "interior" impression.  Thereupon the Eights did what Mr. Seven had not asked them to do: they told the story to Mrs. Nine, and made direct inquiry if it had any basis.  She laughed it to scorn, declaring that she knew of nothing whatever to account for it.  Of this they informed Mr. Seven, who was vexed at their investigation, and altogether bewildered and "put about," feeling that he had been the befooled victim of misleading hallucination.

    Presently Mrs. Nine, who had never called on me before, though I saw her constantly at friends' houses, paid a visit to my house.  I was out, but she left a message entreating me to return her visit, and spend a long afternoon at her home.  I accepted the invitation a few days afterwards.  I found her alone.  After some casual talk, she alluded to the Eights' story, and laughed over it.  But by-and-by she changed her tone.  She said she wished to tell me something, though she had been determined not to gratify "the Eights' curiosity."  Thereupon she revealed a dreadful story, of which I need only say that she declared that throughout that month of November she had been under severe physical and moral strain, exposed to a deadly temptation, which culminated on (we will say) a certain Saturday night.  But though circumstances helped her memory as to the day of the week, her mental and emotional bewilderment had been so extreme that she could not recall the date, only she was sure it was not at the beginning nor at the end of the month.  She had not yielded in the evil hour, though from her own account this seemed mainly from weakness and irresolution.  She declared that from beginning to end of the trouble she had never given one thought to Mr. Seven, whose very personality she did not find it easy to recall!

    An Aberdeenshire medical man, working for some time among the remotest of the Shetland Islands, told me the following curious incident: Summoned one night to visit a patient on another island, he was rowed over by two boatmen.  When they were well out on the water, they heard what they thought to be the oft-repeated and pitiful cry of a lamb.  It seemed to come from a strip of sand at the foot of a cliff.  As this was inaccessible from land in any other way, the doctor thought the lamb must have fallen over, and, if not already injured, would certainly starve to death.  Therefore he exhorted his boatmen, on their return journey (he himself having to stay away all night), to put into that shore, and either take away the animal or end its sufferings.  When he came back during the next day, the men, awed, told him that they had carried out his wish.  But there was no lamb there.  There was the body of a drowned seaman.

    "Second sight" lingered in Shetland till very recently.  There were two people who had the "gift," and the man, at least, very much disliked to exercise it.  Once he was induced to do so by an aged Shetland lady who had been very kind to him.  The occasion was the loss—the absolute disappearance—of a Shetland boat, with all her crew.  It appears that when "Jamie" was, most reluctantly, thrown into "the trance," he straightway described a spot among the rocks of a certain island, adding the strange detail that "Jenny [the other seer] was sitting there."  I am told that it afterwards transpired that at that very time "Jenny" was also making a clairvoyant investigation, and had described the same scene.  In modern psychic phrase, it was her "astral body" which the other seer had beheld.  A few planks, believed to have belonged to the lost vessel, were afterwards found at the place indicated.

    Here I may permit myself to make one or two comments.  Many of the preceding incidents may be easily explained by some as "mere coincidences."  It may be replied that many "coincidences" occurring in particular directions may well point to an underlying law.  Then it is often said that unless the forecast or the coincidence "came out right" we should hear nothing of it—that we know of all the "hits," but not of the "misses."  To this one may rejoin that we do not know all of the "hits."  We have seen in the story of Mr. Seven and Mrs. Nine how untruthfulness may intervene.  And, again, I have known many stories which would have been excellent "hits" had they been laid before proper witnesses before the event, or had there been any written record as to dates, etc.  I have not told any incidents which I found vitiated in this way, for their sole value could be but as straws showing the way of the wind.

    Again, if a dream-warning is heeded, it can never be verified beyond a certain point—as, for instance, an old friend of ours, Miss Ten, was a devoted worker among the poor in Edinburgh, daring the worst slums in the course of her labours.  One night her brother-in-law, a minister working in a district quite apart from hers, dreamed of seeing her going her rounds.  He saw her pass from house to house, till she entered one with a peculiar archway cutting across its entry.  She went upstairs, and on the top flat met a hideous hunchback, who killed her with one blow.  Next day he told his wife, but they did not think much about it till the dream was repeated next night.  Then he called on his sister-in-law, and asked her whether she was working in Close.  She told him yes, but she had not been working there very long.  "Did she know a house with a curious arch in its entry?"  Yes, she had been in it; it had a bad reputation, but she had seen most of its tenants, and found them disposed to be friendly.  She wondered where her relative's questions were leading.  "What tenant had she not seen?"  "A deformed man who lived on the top flat, and who was said to be 'very queer.'"  The minister persuaded her to leave off visiting that house, and secured an arrangement by which a man-worker took her place.

    I have always felt much sympathy with Mr. Seven's painful perplexity, owing to a very slight experience of my own.  In the seventies "thought-reading" first came into notice.  On one occasion an acquaintance asked me if I could say what was in her mind—there was something very definite.  We had no "contact," but were seated in a room among other people.  I looked at her for a moment, and indicated in a whisper what I felt sure her "thought" was.  She laughed derisively, and told me I was absolutely and completely mistaken.  I never forgot my feeling of dismay, of being somehow "put wrong."  It followed me for weeks.  It was more than a year afterwards when she told me I had been quite right, but that at the time she was "not inclined to own it."

    I could give more of these stories, and some of those I withhold are of touching and poetic beauty, but they lie too near the sacred secrets of loving hearts to be laid open, even under the thickest and most guarded of disguises.

    I will now pass on to mysteries of a more public nature.

    When I was in Athens some years ago, a resident there told me that there had lately been a bad accident to a coach on the road to Phalerum Bay, a popular Athenian drive.  On its outward way the horses had, at a certain point, shown themselves very restless and unmanageable.  There was nothing to cause them to take fright—the road was straight and bare, and absolutely solitary.  The driver succeeded in controlling them.  On the return journey he was not so fortunate.  He saw a peasant woman in full local costume at the roadside, and at that instant the horses became absolutely wild, and overturned the coach.  Nearly everybody was more or less hurt.  A lady who had been seated on the box exclaimed: "Where is that country-woman, that we may send her forward to get help?"  No peasant woman was to be seen.  Yet the passengers had seen one so near at hand that it seemed she might be herself involved in the debris.  But she was never seen again, though there was no hiding-place into which she could have disappeared.  The Greek populace whispered the superstition that it was "a nereid" who had frightened the horses.

      When, in the early sixties, I first visited the Highland burgh of Tain, witches were still to be found there, mostly women, occasionally men, living alone in remote huts.  Wonderful stories were told of the cures they effected, even by what in the cant of to-day would be called "absent treatment," and that not only in the case of humans, but also of animals, whose "faith" could scarcely be a part of the remedial measures.

    My friends told me that at one part of the road as it approached the ancient "royal burgh" riding and driving accidents were of very frequent occurrence—indeed, that it might almost be said that these happened nowhere else.  There was nothing visible to account for this, but one of the two most famous Tain witches declared that when she passed the spot she always saw the figure of "a man in a bluidy sark" (shirt).  Strangely enough, when some digging was done in the course of renewing the dyke, the labourers came on the skeleton of a man, the skull clove in!  The witch's fame rose high among the uneducated people.  But my friends felt that this strange verification was rather discredited by the fantasticalness of other of the same woman's revelations—as, for example, when she declared that, coming from market in the company of the rival witch, this companion had suddenly dropped down "and run away in a hundred rabbits"!

    Yet some of us may think that this might be but a simple form of that allegorical speech by which seers strive to convey their deeper meanings.  Is not Professor Münsterberg of Harvard, in his work on "Psychology and Crime," driven to express himself in the phrase "the normal personality went to pieces"?  In one household that I wot of the phrase "dropped down and ran away in a hundred rabbits" has become a phrase in use when anybody's arguments suddenly fall and scatter themselves in weak and angry protests.

    To-day the names of certain great scientists give prestige to the investigation of what is called "occult phenomena."  But less than forty years ago so-called "investigators" were mostly divided into fanatical and unphilosophic devotees or bitter sceptics.  Therefore any sensible people who felt interested and inquiring were inclined to keep their researches as far as possible to themselves.  I was first drawn into such investigation through Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, who were both convinced believers, though he was by far the more enthusiastic, while she was so alive to the difficulties and even dangers of such investigation that she would not allow me to be present at any séance until I had written my first book, and so earned a right, as she put it, "to know what was going on in the world."  Even then she probed deeply into my faiths and feelings, and it was not till she satisfied herself that these were of a kind not likely to be shaken or unduly excited that she gave me an invitation to be present at a gathering in her own house, presided over by the famous Daniel D. Home.  The rest of the circle consisted of the Halls themselves; two young men of the highest rank, one since well known as a scientist and the other as a traveller; an elderly barrister from the Temple; another elderly man, a lecturer on social subjects; and a youth nearly related to the greatest British author then living.

    I need not detail what happened.  It was all novel then.  It is quite common and familiar now.  But as some misconceptions seem still to prevail among many, I should like to say that all the articles of furniture which became involved were the familiar objects of the Halls' own drawing-room, where we sat.  Also that the room was specially well-lighted, by an arrangement of wall illumination which did not leave a shadow lurking in any corner.  Further, the famous author's relation sat on the floor during the greater part of the séances to bear witness that Mr. Home's feet did not come into play.

    I remember Mrs. S. C. Hall saying to me, even after all her previous precautions, "that she hoped I would not be frightened," whereupon Mr. Hall asserted: "Pussy [their pet name for me] would not be frightened if she saw the mischief himself."  I must say that on this occasion, as on every other when I was present at séances—as I was several times during a few following years—I was always conscious of a curious sort of calm; I should have been astonished at nothing.  I was not so much fearless as oddly indifferent and "detached."  It was this that started me on the theory that some at least of the so-called "phenomena" were, after all, not "objective," but were rather produced on the minds of the sitters by some influence emanating, whether consciously or not, from the medium.  I always refused to say what I had "seen "at a séance; I said only what I "thought I had seen," adding, however, that it had seemed at the time as real as did the presence of those who were questioning me on the subject.

    I was confirmed in this by an incident which the Halls told me happened at a séance at which I was not present.  A "form" appeared, looking, they said, like a "sketch" on the atmosphere, but while those at the side saw a profile, those in front beheld a full face.  It stayed long enough for Mr. Hall and a scientific man who was present to discuss its nationality, etc.  There were ten or eleven people present, and they could all see it save one lady, a fanatical believer ready to accept everything without question. Yet she could not see this form, visible to all the others, some of them sceptical.

    Mr. Hall told me that in some of his earlier "sittings" with powerful "media" he had noticed that nothing whatever occurred while a certain young friend was in the room.  She was a mere girl, fair and gentle.  On one occasion of conspicuous failure it struck him that she must be the cause, and he asked her to go to his study and oblige him by doing some writing for him.  Directly she was gone the "phenomena" began and when questions were asked as to what had been the obstacle, the girl's name was at once spelled out, but no explanation was given.  Mr. Hall said he could never understand it, and he never did, for not till after his death did the lady herself say to me, without any leading question on my part: "Nothing ever happened when I was there; I did not want to see anything, and I willed with all my might and main that nothing should come."

    Everybody knows about the famous Home trial, which for the time covered so-called spiritualism with obloquy, about as logically as if Christianity were condemned because some of its ecclesiastics had been found guilty of simony.  Mr. Home had been consulted as a medium by a wealthy old widow, who through him received messages of a mundane nature reputed to be from her dead spouse—altogether the "under-side" of the whole matter.  Presently the dead man was supposed to bid her to adopt Daniel Home, and to secure him from any future caprice of hers by a deed of gift of £70,000—only a part of her fortune.  Daniel Home certainly did not at once rise to this offer.  It is but fair to say this, for I happened to be at the Halls' house on the very day when the matter was in the balance.  Daniel Home was running in and out, consulting my two old friends.  Mr. Hall was much excited, gleeful, and desirous that the old lady's offer should be accepted.  He said—what was quite true—that her wealth was immense, that she had no near relatives, and none friendly or helpful, and that she could not expect Daniel Home, a middle-aged stranger, to devote his life to her old age without some security against change or disputes over her will after her death.  Mrs. Hall, who was usually inclined to agree with her husband, strongly took the opposite view.  If "Daniel" would listen to her, she said he would have nothing to do with the affair.  She asked me what I thought.  I said I wholly agreed with her.  Mr. Hall admitted that "Daniel" was very doubtful of acceptance, and inclined to agree with us.  But in the end he took the fortune, and the result was misery, caprice, the interference of the distant relatives, and a trial which covered Home and his "spiritualism" with disgrace.

    It must be said that if the mere money had been all Home's thought, he could have saved it by going abroad and taking it with him, as I understand there are countries where no civil action could have followed him.  After the trial, when, according to the verdict, he had surrendered all, he looked much happier, and quite different from the miserable creature he had seemed during the few months while he was "a rich man."  He was a strange being, accomplished, a good reciter, and with other talents.  He had two wives in succession, both well-born Russians, but neither, so I understand, bringing him any appreciable fortune.  The Halls declared that he did not deteriorate under his "mediumship," as many media seem to do.  But he had no settled pursuit in life, and it was understood that any regular employment would have interfered with his "gift "—a theory which, to my mind, carried condemnation with it.

    It has often struck me that the temperament and history of ordinary "media" are not unlike those of what we call "genius" when not in its highest developments.  There is the same bewildering inconsistency between the "inspiration" and the character of the individual through whom it comes, and instead of the higher gradually raising the lower, as it should do, and can, there is generally the same downward tendency to the animal nature, the same facile submission to any dominant influence.  Finally, long before old age comes to the minor "genius," inspiration fails, the "poem" is palpably "pumped up," the whole tone is lowered.  This answers to that failure of the mediumistic "power" whereupon fraud is attempted and detected, and another miserable story is added to the many that have gone before!

    I have had one or two quaint experiences in so-called "clairvoyance."  My husband had a client whose wife claimed this gift.  She did not exercise it as a public medium, but was willing to be consulted privately, and, according to her husband detectives often sought her help, her one proviso before giving it being that she should never be asked to "see" anything which should unwittingly put her in contact with a dead body, she having, in trance, once come in connection with a drowned child, and had in consequence suffered severely in health.  Her husband, an artisan of high class, was anxious that my husband should see something of her gift.  That evening my husband and I discussed it with some friends who were supping with us, and who urged the experiment.  Both my husband and myself were averse to any investigation which should bring us into pretended knowledge of the future, or of anything concerning the absent, etc.  But I had lately lost a silk dress which had vanished mysteriously from my wardrobe, and I said I should be quite willing that the clairvoyants be asked what had become of it.

    Our servant was bringing in the dishes while we talked.  Next morning, immediately after breakfast, she made some false pretext for going out, and never came back again, but sent a messenger to fetch away her boxes.

    It was evident that she, at least, was a believer in clairvoyance!

    The question about the silk dress never got asked.  But some months afterwards I lost a Russian sable collarette.  I still had the appertaining muff.  I had been to church on the previous Sunday morning, and believed I had worn my collarette there, but fancied I was wearing it when I returned home, and the person who had accompanied me thought likewise.  Everybody knows how hard it is to have distinct memory of things or doings which fall within a mechanical routine.  Still, it had been such a stormy Sunday that it seemed natural to believe I should have missed the warmth of my wrap if I had not worn it during my homeward way.  Consequently, I made no inquiry at the church till we had rand-sacked every likely and unlikely drawer and cupboard in our own house.  When we did send to the church, we got no satisfaction.  No such article had been found, and if it had been left there we were told that it would certainly have been seen, for all such things were at once brought by the pew-openers to the vestry-keeper, and till they were claimed were kept by her in a certain cupboard which was opened to disclose to us its utter emptiness.  She made special inquiry of the pew-opener of the aisle where I had sat, and she, too, knew nothing of the collarette.

    It was then that my husband laughingly suggested that this time we should really try the clairvoyants.  He arranged the interview with his client, telling him it was only a matter of lost property.  The husband made but one suggestion, that if we had anything associated with the missing article (whatever that might be), it would be helpful if my husband brought it into the clairvoyante's presence, though keeping it invisible.

    We took this hint by locking my muff into a brief-bag, which my husband was determined should not leave his own hands.  He went alone, and was not long on his errand.

    He came back, shaking his head and saying things were not very satisfactory.  "Just as I expected," I put in.  Then he narrated that the clairvoyants went into her trance (I think her husband threw her into it).  She at once announced that there was a sable muff in the closed bag, and that the missing article was its fellow collarette.  She declared it had not been stolen (as we had been latterly inclined to suspect).  It had simply fallen out of my possession.  She said she could see it on the floor of a cupboard in a very old place which she could not define more clearly.  (We were then living in a Bishopsgate square, within five minutes' walk of the Bank.)  She added—and this seemed to us both ineffably ridiculous—that I should certainly regain my collarette, as the line of association between it and my muff had not been severed!

    This made me absolutely incredulous of the whole thing.  But her description of the cupboard sent us searching again through ours, and again fruitlessly.  My husband was rather more impressed with his interview than I was by his report, for he had seen the woman, and knew how carefully he, a lawyer, had conducted the inquiry.  But as day after day passed by and the collarette never appeared, he became as sceptical as myself.

    At last, weeks afterwards, I was summoned downstairs to see "a person."  And there stood the vestry-keeper with my collarette!  It had been brought to her only that morning, not by any pew-opener, but by a woman who had been helping to clean the church on the Monday after I had been there.  The pew-opener had not been to the fore at the moment, and the cleaner threw the article into the cupboard where she kept her brooms and pails, intending at first opportunity to hand it to the proper person, and then forgot all about it, and had never noticed it again till that very morning.

    So the comical "line of association" between my muff and my collarette had held, and one must suppose it still holds, as they repose together in honoured old age in my wardrobe to-day.

    On another occasion my husband planned what he thought a very severe test for another clairvoyante.  Without saying a word to anybody, he on the day before my birthday, went out and bought a little signet-ring to be gifted to me, and then went on to the "seer" without any forewarning.  He asked her, she being in trance or seeming trance: "Do you know anything about to-morrow in my house?"

    "Yes," she said, "it is your wife's birthday, and in your waistcoat-pocket you have a little ring with one stone, which you mean to give her."

    Telepathy had not been seriously worked at in those days.

    I had another experience of clairvoyance comparatively recently.  I was visiting in a great city where I was then almost a stranger.  My hostess had somehow got interested in this subject, and was very anxious to see a professional clairvoyante of whom she had heard many wonders.  I did my utmost to dissuade her, feeling that her interest was not scientific, but rather inquisitive and personal.  She insisted that I should accompany her, and it is not always easy to be ungraciously firm with a very kind hostess.  However, I told her that if I went I should take stringent precautions against any private prophecies or revelations, so far as I was concerned, and should confine myself to search for some elucidation of the subject of a letter I had lately received from a person whom I had never seen, and concerning facts in which I had no personal interest.

    The clairvoyante, a lady-like woman, would see us only one by one, which my friend had not reckoned on.  She went first, and did not stay very long.  I heard afterwards that all she got was correct information as to the number of her family, their present whereabouts and future prospects, coupled with sundry forecasts from which even the most foreboding mind would be happier and better to escape.

    When I was left alone with the clairvoyante I fully explained my position, telling her she must not go on personal ground at all, but that I wished to test her powers as to matters connected with a letter which I should put into her hands, after carefully folding it so that she could not see either the name or address of the writer, or any word bearing the least significance.  The clairvoyante said she had never done such a thing before, but she should really like to try.

    I may say that the letter was written to me by the mother of a man convicted, it was believed unjustly, of a series of most mysterious and motiveless crimes, and at that time serving in a convict prison.

    The clairvoyante did not go into trance.  She had scarcely touched the letter when she cried: "Oh, but the writer of this is a very good woman, simple-hearted and kind.  She is not writing about herself.  No; she is writing for somebody who is as unable as the dead to get a hearing."  All this she said without one prompting question—a thing I was watching for and against.

    Then she began to hesitate.  The person whom the letter concerned was "shut up," but she could not tell where.  For a long time she was not sure whether "it" was a man or a woman, but finally decided on the former.  He was falsely accused; there were great mysteries; a man and a woman had been concerned in injuring him; she thought the woman was dead.  (All this accorded with the knowledge and belief of the writer of the letter and of myself, and I naturally decided, "This is wonderful telepathy.")  "The said innocence," she went on, "would be made manifest, but not at once, and not quite satisfactorily."  (This, so far, has "come true," as children say.)  Then she came to a sudden pause, and gave a cry of horror.  I urged her to tell me whatever she "saw" or "felt," as the matter was wholly outside my personal feelings.  Thereupon she attributed to this series of strange crimes a most terrible and loathsome motive which had never entered into my mind, nor, as far as my cautious inquiries have since gone, into the mind of any other person connected with either the accusation or the defence.  She then said that the prisoner was naturally feeling very gloomy and despairing, and was only comforted and upheld by enjoying the beauty of the flowers in the garden.  Now, it so happened that the one or two prisons that I know about have no gardens, nor anything beyond most dreary "exercising yards."  I told her that here I thought she was distinctly wrong.  I expected her to waive the matter and "adapt" it, but she persisted in it, reiterating it again and again.  (Therefore, whatever this was, it was not telepathy.)  Further, she added: "There is some connection between these people and a certain foreign country," a connection long back (which she named).  She was right.  The convict's father was a native of that country, which he had left in his youth.  At parting I said to her: "You have been fairly right according to my present knowledge.  Your forecast remains to be proved.  But I feel quite sure you are wrong about the enjoyment of the flowers."

    What was my astonishment when I presently left the city I was visiting and returned to my own home, to receive there another letter from the convict's mother, in which she said she had just heard from her son, and he wrote that he thought he should be in despair but for the cheer he received from the beautiful spring blossoming in the prison garden !

    I must relate one very peculiar séance story which was told to me by its heroine, the wife of a well-known Nonconformist minister long since dead.  I will call the lady "Eleanor."

    In her girlhood's days a young man, Mr. C, a constant visitor at her home, showed her marked attention, thereby exciting the merry comments of her brothers.  But in the end he went to India without "speaking," and nothing more was heard of him, though I think there came a rumour of his marriage.  Years passed by.  Eleanor married the Nonconformist divine.  Then "spiritualism" came under consideration, and a family party sat down round a little table expectant of "taps."  One or two insignificant messages were received, and then suddenly the name of the old lover, followed by the words: "I ought to have married Eleanor."  The natural inference was that he was dead, and the "sitting" broke up in some agitation.

    Months afterwards Eleanor came in contact with a lady newly arrived from India, and little dreaming of any success in the inquiry, asked if she had ever met a Mr. C—.  "Oh yes," said the other; "he lived at our station.  Such a delightful man, but always so sad, and we were so sorry for him, for his wife was a terrible woman."  "But he is dead," said Eleanor.  "No," answered the other; "he was alive and well when I left India six weeks ago."

    Another curious story was told me by a minister of a "heretical" body, and himself one of the "hardest" men I ever met.  He tried an "experiment" (I think with planchette), expecting nothing whatever.  Almost at once came a woman's name quite unknown to him (let us call it Hannah Bewlay).  This was rapidly followed by furious objurgations against an uncle of the minister's, of whom "Hannah" spoke as having in his youth done her the deadliest of wrongs.  The minister was astounded and incredulous.  He knew of his uncle only as a grave and austere senior of the highest repute, living in a remote provincial town.  He had never had much correspondence with the old gentleman, but he ventured to write to him, saying simply "that, in consequence of certain inquiries, he wished to ask if his uncle had ever known one 'Hannah Belay.'"  He fully expected a denial of all knowledge of such a person.  Instead, by return of post, came me a brief, indignant note asking why he was turning up old stories, and meddling with other people's business with which he had no concern.

    I think I cannot do better than close this strange chapter by narrating an incident which has happened within a few months of my writing this.  The circumstances are of so simple and unemotional a nature that it is easy to admit that this experience was my own.

    On Monday, May 17, I was busily engaged in writing a particularly difficult paper, dealing with badly-set-forth details of scientific fact.  It had much occupied my mind for a day or two earlier, because it lay apart from my usual style of work, and, being a labour of love, I was very much afraid I should not do it justice.  However, I had applied myself to it, taking such precautions against interruption as in all my life I had never once before done.

    After about two hours' hard work, I felt suddenly strongly inclined to leave off and have a rest by reading my "day-books."  They lie on a bookshelf in my study.  I do not refer to them regularly, and, having been away from home, I had not even looked into them for about six weeks.

    They are three in number:
    1. "The Mary Lyon Year-book," a very simple little American manual of old-fashioned sort.
    2. "A Book of Thoughts," compiled by Mary B. Curry.  On its margins I have been in the habit of noting down dates of special joy or sorrow.
    3. "Being and Doing," an eclectic compilation made for the use of a guild.

    On turning up May 17 in the second of these books, I was suddenly reminded by figures on the margin that the date was a double anniversary of two shocks and sorrows associated with the same person, but separated from each other by several years.

    In the first instance the event was one which might have been a source of satisfaction and joy to everybody concerned, but, owing to a foolishly misplaced "secrecy" of thoughtlessly selfish origin, it had instead given much pain to many. I had borne my own share of this pain very unwisely.  Instead of considering circumstances tending to explain and excuse (though they could not justify) the blunder made, I had given free vent to my indignation—that "wrath of man which worketh not the righteousness of God," and which, however well founded it may be, never does anybody any good.

    I had repented myself quickly, had avowed my repentance, and all wounds received and given seemed thoroughly healed.  Then, oddly enough, years after, on the same date, a new wound of the same type had been given me by the same hands and under circumstances seemingly even more thoughtless and selfish.  In place of "secrecy" there had been a lie—one of that type, with its subtle transpositions of fact, which Tennyson so well describes when he says:


"That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies."


    This time I had not felt wrath nor wrong, but only unutterable sorrow that some do not seem able to value friends who, amid many vicissitudes of time and change, had been at least as delighted to praise as unsparing in blame, and who had never withheld the hand of active helpfulness.  I had thought sometimes that perhaps I had taken this last wound with but too little outcry, had been weak rather than meek, had perhaps lost spirit rather than gained "grace."  Or else that nerves had merely grown quieter as the strain of strenuous living had been relaxed.  Year after year I had remembered this sad date, trying to send kindly thoughts of peace to those who, I fancy, must sometimes remember us, and whom I should like to spare from undue suffering if the day should come when they shall "know what they did."  But this last May 17 all pain had so died down, and I had been so preoccupied, that I had actually forgotten the date till my marginal note recalled it. I was glad to be reminded.

    Then I turned to my "Being and Doing."  For the sake of the significance of my little narrative, it is necessary that I should transcribe what I read there.  The quotation is from St. Francis de Sales:


    "We ought to cherish the small virtues which grow at the foot of the Cross, for they are watered with the blood of the Son of God.  These virtues are humility, patience, sweet-temper, kindness, helpfulness to our neighbours, graciousness, good-will, heartiness, sympathy, readiness to forgive, simplicity, truthfulness, and others like them.  These virtues are like the violets which love the coolness of the shade, which are fed with dew, and which, though they have no brilliancy, cease not to shed fragrance around.  There are great virtues on the top of the Cross which have great splendour, especially when they are accompanied with love: such are wisdom, justice, zeal, liberality, and such like: and everyone wishes to have these virtues, because they are the most esteemed, and make us the most thought of.  But we should not judge of the greatness or littleness of a virtue by that which it appears to the outward eye, for a virtue that is very small in appearance may be practised with great love to God, while one that is more shining may go along with very little love.  Yet this is the measure of their true value before God.  I put more value on prayer, which is the torch of all the virtues: on devotion, which consecrates all our actions to the service of God: on humility, which makes us have a low esteem of ourselves and of our actions: on sweet-temper, which makes us kind to all the world: on patience, which makes us bear all things — than on heroism, magnanimity, liberality, virtues which do not cover so much ground, and are more seldom in use.  And these more splendid virtues are a little dangerous, their brilliancy gives more occasion for vain glory, which is the true poison of all the virtues."


    I closed the book, leaned back in my chair, and reflected.  I had in my hand a little ivory wand with which I am accustomed to steady the paper on which I write.  I drew this about dreamily on the cover of my book.  Presently I found that letters and words were being formed.  I gave them my close attention, as, of course, the ivory wand left no trace as a pen or pencil would. I could make out the words:

    "Go into the other room."

    I instantly thought of my bedroom, which is next my study, but the words which proceeded showed I was wrong.

    "Go to the bookcase with back to garden."

    This at once indicated the dining-room, which is downstairs, and contains three bookcases.

    "Go to third shelf.  Take book nearest fireplace."

    So far my mind had only followed the writing.  At this point it ran before it, for I received a "mental impression" of the next words before the wand formed them.

    "Look at page one hundred and thirty."

    Nothing more came.  Again I leaned back and tried to recall what books were in that bookcase at end "nearest fireplace."  I could only remember that Luther's "Table Talk" had once been in that compartment, and a volume of essays by Norris, author of "The Octopus," etc.  I could not in the least realize "the third shelf."

    I almost feared to investigate the matter lest I should be sharply pulled up by some mocking incongruity.  Then I thought this was cowardly, and went downstairs.

    In "the bookcase with back to garden" I found the fireplace end of the third row occupied by Shannon's works in four volumes.  I took out that nearest the fireplace, and turned up page 130.  This is what I read:


    "I fear that the importance of strength in the Christian character has been in some degree obscured by the habit of calling certain Christian graces of singular worth by the name of Passive virtues.  This name has been given to humility, patience, resignation: and I fear that the phrase has led some to regard these noble qualities as allied to inaction, as wanting energy and determination.  Now the truth is, that the mind never puts forth greater power over itself than when, in great trials, it yields up calmly its desires, affections, interests to God.  There are seasons when to be still demands immeasurably more power than to act. Composure is often the highest result of power.  Think you it demands no power to calm the stormy elements of passion, to moderate the vehemence of desire, to throw off the load of dejection, to suppress every repining thought, when the dearest hopes are withered, and to turn the wounded spirit from dangerous reveries and wasting grief, to the quiet discharge of ordinary duties?  Is there no power put forth, when a man, stripped of his property, of the fruits of a life's labour, quells discontent and gloomy forebodings, and serenely and patiently returns to the tasks which Providence assigns?  I doubt not that the all-seeing eye of God sometimes discerns the sublimest human energy under a form and countenance, which by their composure and tranquillity indicate to the human spectator only the passive virtues."


    The passage occurs in Charming's discourse on "Self-Denial."  Its strict relevance to what one may call the matter in hand is most striking, especially its reassurance as to my own self-questionings.  The Unitarian minister expands the thesis of the great Catholic saint.

    I carefully examined the volume, one of a set published nearly seventy years back, bound in dark cloth on which the gilt-lettering has faded.  I found I was reading from Vol. IV., the set, probably during house-cleaning, having got transposed, going from left to right instead of from right to left, and Vol. IV. standing, therefore, where Vol. I. should have been.  Yet this had not interfered with the precision of the directions.  I may add that I had not looked into Canning for many years—I should say for nearly thirty—indeed, that I had never studied him in this edition, having in my younger days known something of his work in a tiny volume which comprised only his great essays on War, Slavery, etc.  I had been quite unaware of the transposition of the volumes, or it would have been at once altered, for it is a point on which I am very particular.

    I offer no comment, nor do I imagine I can make the matter so arresting to others as it was to myself.

    All explanation of the mysterious borderland is in its rudimentary stage; yet whatever may be true in it has been always at work in the world, even as was electricity in the days when its very name was not known, or when, later—within the memory of people not long dead—it seemed little more than a toy wherewith to enliven dull lectures.

    "Experiments" of this nature often differ greatly in character from those that one hears most about.  I have known a series of "experiments" carefully carried on at intervals for many months (1875-1877) without the intervention of any professional "medium," in which neither "Queen Mary," nor Napoleon, nor Joan d'Arc, nor any great statesman, warrior, or pirate, or other of the stock "personalities" of public séances, put in a single appearance, where no compliments were paid, no promises made, where but few proper names were ever used—scarcely any, indeed, save the unrecognized one of an "influence" who professed to be helping in a scientific investigation made from "the other end," and that of a certain great German mystic of the Middle Ages, whose very name had never before been heard by any of the three sitters, who required to look it up in an encyclopædia.  The "messages" were simply like sentences taken from the conversation of thoughtful and occasionally witty people.  They sometimes bore rather severely on the failings or prejudices of the sitters.   Warning, too, was given that, in most cases, the appearance of a proper name should be a signal to cease the experiment.   This advice, accepted as probably having some good ground, caused an experiment to be stopped on a certain occasion when, after two or three utterly unknown names had been swiftly and unmeaningly given, there appeared one with which the sitters were familiar, though they did not know its bearer in his own person.  He was a young naval officer whom they believed to have been ill on remote foreign service, and to be arranging his return home.  The "name" however, was followed by an announcement that its bearer was dead, and then came a remark concerning conduct and circumstances immediately previous to the asserted death.  At this juncture one of the sitters resolutely refused to proceed.  On inquiry, it was learned that the young man was almost daily expected at home, and that the last news of his health had been of restoration.  To one of his personal connections, not likely to be emotionally affected by the news, the experimenters confided the message they had received.  Yet so little importance did any of them attach to it that the very sitter who had "stopped" further revelation gave a promise to the young man's betrothed to accompany her to Southampton or Plymouth whenever the officer's arrival at either port should be announced.  The mysterious "message" had been received early in October, and from that time no news of the absentee reached Britain until early in December, when a letter from strangers abroad announced that the officer had died in August.  His death remained surrounded by mystery, which was never penetrated, and the "sitters" were thankful that they had refused an unverifiable confidence which could only have inflicted more misery and pain on innocent mourners.

    But dangers lurk about the handling of any unknown force, and though it is not therefore to be avoided, those weakened by any moral or emotional crisis are not suitable investigators, nor should any personal element be admitted except under strongest guard and restraint.  As one who knows at least this much, I declare that to do otherwise is, in my opinion, as risky as it would be to send the hungry and thirsty to satisfy their needs in a room where food and refreshments were mixed with deadly poisons.

    I regard the "investigation" of this phenomena as so delicate and dangerous that I would not have even mentioned it but that the subject is now fairly in the open air, and cannot be hidden under a bushel.  All unprepared and unwarned, people rush in—the unfit the most greedily—and the specially incredulous are sometimes the most easily victimized.

    A "professional medium"—an unfortunate lady who had started with some genuine clairvoyant power, which got mixed up with a great deal of humbug—once told us that she was sitting in the firelight with a party of investigators, when a little dog belonging to the house entered unseen by anybody but herself, and passing behind the visitors, accidentally touched the foot of a widower who was foolishly looking for consolation in these uncanny scenes.  The poor gentleman exclaimed: "That is my dear wife!  How well I know her touch!"

    Careful observation of facts happening spontaneously in one's own life or in the lives of others is quite a different matter from voluntary "experimentation"—as different as loving observation of health and happiness is from the dissection of corpses. Such " experimentation " should be left to the direction of disciplined and disinterested minds. To draw into it the young, the ignorant, the excitable, or the sorrowing, is, in the present position of things, to court dire disaster of some kind.

    To sit at a séance is, usually, but to prove to oneself the incredible puerility and genuine materialism with which most "sitters"—sceptics or believers—approach the subject.  The minority, those with the purest and highest expectations and hopes, should ever keep in view that, even should we gain knowledge of some of the secrets of the modus operandi of intuition and inspiration, we do not thereby necessarily augment their spiritual value, even as the wonders of the world-wide postal system and the worth of the letters it carries are two very different matters, never to be confused.  Each individual's own soul lies open to the highest influence it is able at the time to perceive.  To follow that highest guidance of to-day into a higher for to-morrow and a higher for the day after, can never lead to evil, and is the only path of true spiritual progress.  All the rest is mere "science so-called," which, as we see in physical matters, and above all in medicine, may assert to-day what to-morrow it will flatly contradict.  The wisest are those who study how to guard their own health, to keep their own consciences, and to follow the Divine Light which lights every soul that comes into the world.

    I think whoever has ventured even one step upon this borderland is more than ever convinced of the profound wisdom which declared: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets [the garnered wisdom of all humanity, increase of which should be growing in their own hand], neither will they give heed [to spiritual wisdom] though one rose from the dead."


 
CHAPTER XII.

THE END OF THE DAY.


NOW I must say good-bye to my patient readers.  How little have I said, after all!  How many regions of deepest feeling and most suggestive fact must I leave wholly untouched!

    I have tried not to moralize as I wrote—perhaps I have not always perfectly succeeded.  Yet when one knows one is old, because one feels a smiling pity for the middle-aged, who are still under the burden and heat of noon, one longs to say something helpful, to give a hint at the end of the day as to what one sees has been useful—or might have been useful—throughout its journey.  For one realizes the truth of the message which Leo Tolstoy has just written to me:

    "We can imagine nothing better than life if only in it we fulfil what God desires of us."

    And if, even in the smallest degree, one can help others to cling to this ideal, where one is conscious that oneself lost hold of it, this is the greatest blessing left to one—the sum total of one's life, and makes one's last days one's best.

    A centenarian I once met—an aged Lincolnshire peasant woman—when I asked how she had managed to live so long and so cheerily, straightway replied: "By not worrying, and, whenever I felt a limb growing stiff, shaking it—so," and she nimbly suited the action to the word.  I, too, would fain say something practical.  Counsel on practical lines is most likely to be followed.  It is easier to shake a limb than to leave off worrying!  Where the deeper matters of life come in we must all be left mainly to the Divine and to ourselves—i.e., to the two sides of our own natures.  Over and over again have I proved the truth of the poet's yearning consciousness:


"My right would show like left,
 My raising would depress thee:
 My choice of light would blind thee:
 Of end—would leave bereft—
 My good reverts to ill:
 My calmnesses would move thee:
 My softnesses would prick thee:
 My bindings up would break thee:
 My crowning curse and kill!"


    Still, there remain some practical suggestions which, like that hint about shaking a stiffening limb, can scarcely go amiss.

    First of all, then, if we don't like to hear "must" said to us by others, let us be ever ready to say "must" to ourselves.

    Let us never imagine that people are candid and trustworthy because they are rude.  Rudeness is often the mark of very subtle roguery.

    Let us keep exact accounts.  Let us begin as early as possible, though it is never too late to mend.  By exact accounts I do not mean such memoranda as a bewildered youth once offered for my elucidation.

 

s.

d.

Tramcars

 

2    

Postage

 

1½

Sundries

15

0


    In exact accounts lie clear-mindedness, determination, and the possibilities of enterprise and generosity.  If regularly discharged, the task is easy, and tends to economy, especially economy of time and temper.  Why is economy so often taught as mere saving?  Certainly it does save, but only for the sake of wisely spending.

    Then I strongly advise everybody to keep a diary—not a large one, and certainly not a record—save in rarest cases—of moods or feelings.  Let it keep to briefest record of facts.  At first it will be hard to write it regularly.  There will perhaps be long alternation of failure and success, but if success has the last word it will mean the evolution of qualities which will make life better worth living.  It is soul-sickening to think of the many diaries which are bought every January, kept up for a week or two, then left blank, and finally torn up for scribbling-paper.  It means wastage of something beside the diary.

    It is impossible to enumerate the practical uses of a diary.  It keeps memory in good order; it strengthens it, it gives it definite lines to run on when one turns to the past.  The driest record of facts holds up our former self before us as nothing else can.  What a revelation lies in the contrast between the facts we have chosen to record thirty years ago and the facts we should choose to-day!  A diary helps us to count our blessings.  Apart from this, it may at any time do some substantial human service, as did a diary—kept by one of the very few who have heeded my representations on this matter—which, in a far-off land, by proving an irrefutable alibi, saved the life of an innocent man, falsely but speciously suspected and accused of murder.

    Then, again, it is well for us to learn every little art we can.  One never knows when such may come in usefully and pleasantly.  Whoever has no hobby is an ill-provided person, whether he be a millionaire or a pauper.

    Again, let us look carefully into what we call "duty."  Neither pain nor pleasure are trustworthy finger-posts as to where it lies.  The nobler natures need to be reminded that everything we do not like doing is not therefore our duty.  What is very pleasant to do may yet occasionally be our duty!  Let us do our real duty, however painful it be; but, apart from duty, let us notice what we truly enjoy, and not "indulge ourselves" in "pleasures" which bore and weary us.  Why are intolerable pleasures tolerated?  Under what compulsion do we practise them?

    Let us cultivate wide horizons for the mind.  They say that children reared in narrow streets tend to become short-sighted.  So minds bound up in a few petty personal pursuits lose elasticity.  There is a genuine public spirit apart from the taking of chairs or the attending of committees.  Let us take an interest in everything near and far.  So shall we ourselves become interesting.

    Then let us try—whether we be tempted by wealth or by poverty—never to forget the limitations of money.  We have to earn some that we may pay the grocer's bill.  But there are many other "bills" which money cannot pay.  Rich people are often dumbfounded when they find that gold cannot buy honest service, nor faithful friendship, nor tender affection—that, indeed, unless it be delicately guided, it is far more apt to alienate all of these.

    Let us always remember the power and worth of the seemingly weak and small.  Everything has within it possibilities of importance.  Many mountains are made of little broken shells.  The poisonous sting of an insect may kill a genius.  These be "truisms"—possibly worthy of Martin Tupper!—but one may scarcely leave off repeating them until we are all acting upon them.  I have often noted that it is those who least act on them who are most impatient of them.

    Let us study, too, what are the things essential to us, that we be not like the poor woman who kept her children in a sunless room because her best carpet was in the sunny one—with the blinds drawn down.  Then she broke her heart when the children died.

    Also, do not let us aspire to incompatibles—as when we think to keep our highest ideals and yet to make a fortune—and then cry out when we fail at one end, or, more likely, at both.  All life is an act of choice.  For everything gained something must be let go.

    Above all, let us all be careful humbly to realize that we have not reached the end of true progress.  You, the saint of to-day, are undoubtedly doing, with quite an easy conscience, something which the veriest sinner of a few centuries hence will pronounce to be abominable and a perfect disgrace to humanity.  Reference to history proves this as a commonplace, but only the very thoughtful realize it and go softly.

    I linger as I part from you, my reader, for whom I have turned out my old stories and fought my battles over again, and have even re-shed some of the old tears, and felt once more the beating of the timorous heart.

    When one reaches the days when one's own chief events are dawns and sunsets, new shrubs in the garden, the pleasure of one's pets, or the joy of a quiet talk with a cherished friend, one wonders why one was ever "care-full," or disappointed, or angry, as one knows one often was.  Was it worth while?  Yes, to convince us that it is not worth while. It may seem a pity that one did not understand it a little sooner.  But possibly that would have been as unwholesome and savourless as forced fruit in springtime.  Everything in its season.

    And at the end of the day—leaving a window uncurtained to the lights of the evening skies—there can be no greater pleasure than to sit by one's cheerful household hearth, and turn over the pictured pages of a strenuous past.

 


 

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