The Land of Mist, by Arthur Conan Doyle

5. Where Our Commissioners Have a Remarkable Experience

MALONE sat at the side table of the smoking-room of the Literary Club. He had Enid’s impressions of the seance before him — very subtle and observant they were — and he was endeavouring to merge them in his own experience. A group of men were smoking and chatting round the fire. This did not disturb the journalist, who found, as many do, that his brain and his pen worked best sometimes when they were stimulated by the knowledge that he was part of a busy world. Presently, however, somebody who observed his presence brought the talk round to psychic subjects, and then it was more difficult for him to remain aloof. He leaned back in his chair and listened.

Polter, the famous novelist, was there, a brilliant man with a subtle mind, which he used too often to avoid obvious truth and to defend some impossible position for the sake of the empty dialectic exercise. He was holding forth now to an admiring, but not entirely a subservient audience.

“Science,” said he, “is gradually sweeping the world clear of all these old cobwebs of superstition. The world was like some old, dusty attic, and the sun of science is bursting in, flooding it with light, while the dust settles gradually to the floor.”

“By science,” said someone maliciously, “you mean, of course, men like Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Barrett, Lombroso, Richet, and so forth.”

Polter was not accustomed to be countered, and usually became rude.

“No, sir, I mean nothing so preposterous,” he answered, with a glare. “No name, however eminent, can claim to stand for science so long as he is a member of an insignificant minority of scientific men.”

“He is, then, a crank,” said Pollifex, the artist, who usually played jackal to Polter.

The objector, one Millworthy, a free-lance of journalism, was not to be so easily silenced.

“Then Galileo was a crank in his day,” said he. “And Harvey was a crank when he was laughed at over the circulation of the blood.”

“It’s the circulation of the Daily Gazette which is at stake,” said Marrible, the humorist of the club. “If they get off their stunt I don’t suppose they care a tinker’s curse what is truth or what is not.”

“Why such things should be examined at all, except in a police court, I can’t imagine,” said Polter. “It is a dispersal of energy, a misdirection of human thought into channels which lead nowhere. We have plenty of obvious, material things to examine. Let us get on with our job.”

Atkinson, the surgeon, was one of the circle, and had sat silently listening. Now he spoke.

“I think the learned bodies should find more time for the consideration of psychic matters.”

“Less,” said Polter.

“You can’t have less than nothing. They ignore them altogether. Some time ago I had a series of cases of telepathic rapport which I wished to lay before the Royal Society. My colleague Wilson, the zoologist, also had a paper which he proposed to read. They went in together. His was accepted and mine rejected. The title of his paper was ‘The Reproductive System of the Dung-Beetle’.”

There was a general laugh.

“Quite right, too,” said Polter. “The humble dung-beetle was at least a fact. All this psychic stuff is not.”

“No doubt you have good grounds for your views,” chirped the mischievous Millworthy, a mild youth with a velvety manner. “I have little time for solid reading, so I should like to ask you which of Dr. Crawford’s three books you consider the best?”

“I never heard of the fellow.”

Millworthy simulated intense surprise.

“Good Heavens, man! Why, he is the authority. If you want pure laboratory experiments those are the books. You might as well lay down the law about zoology and confess that you had never heard of Darwin.”

“This is not science,” said Polter, emphatically.

“What is really not science,” said Atkinson, with some heat, “is the laying down of the law on matters which you have not studied. It is talk of that sort which has brought me to the edge of Spiritualism, when I compare this dogmatic ignorance with the earnest search for truth conducted by the great Spiritualists. Many of them took twenty years of work before they formed their conclusions.”

“But their conclusions are worthless because they are upholding a formed opinion.”

“But each of them fought a long fight before he formed that opinion. I know a few of them, and there is not one who did not take a lot of convincing.” Polter shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, they can have their spooks if it makes them happier so long as they let me keep my feet firm on the ground.”

“Or stuck in the mud,” said Atkinson.

“I would rather be in the mud with sane people thin in the air with lunatics,” said Polter. “I know some of these Spiritualists people and I believe that you can divide them equally into fools and rogues.”

Malone had listened with interest and then with a growing indignation. Now he suddenly took fire.

“Look here, Polter,” he said, turning his chair towards the company, “it is fools and dolts like you which are holding back the world’s progress. You admit that you have read nothing of this, and I’ll swear you have seen nothing. Yet you use the position and the name which you have won in other matters in order to discredit a number of people who, whatever they may be, are certainly very earnest and very thoughtful.”

“Oh,” said Polter, “I had no idea you had got so far. You don’t dare to say so in your articles. You are a Spiritualist then. That rather discounts your views, does it not?”

“I am not a Spiritualist, but I am an honest inquirer, and that is more than you have ever been. You call them rogues and fools, but, little as I know, I am sure that some of them are men and women whose boots you are not worthy to clean.”

“Oh, come, Malone!” cried one or two voices, but the insulted Polter was on his feet. “It’s men like you who empty this club,” he cried, as he swept out. “I shall certainly never come here again to be insulted.”

“I say, you’ve done it, Malone!”

“I felt inclined to help him out with a kick. Why should he ride roughshod over other people’s feelings and beliefs? He has got on and most of us haven’t, so he thinks it’s a condescension to come among us.”

“Dear old Irishman!” said Atkinson, patting his shoulder. “Rest, perturbed spirit, rest! But I wanted to have a word with you. Indeed, I was waiting here because I did not want to interrupt you.”

“I’ve had interruptions enough!” cried Malone. “How could I work with that damned donkey braying in my ear?”

“Well, I’ve only a word to say. I’ve got a sitting with Linden, the famous medium of whom I spoke to you, at the Psychic College to-night. I have an extra ticket. Would you care to come?”

“Come? I should think so!”

“I have another ticket. I should have asked Polter if he had not been so offensive. Linden does not mind sceptics, but objects to scoffers. Who should I ask?”

“Let Miss Enid Challenger come. We work together, you know.”

“Why, of course I will. Will you let her know?”

“Certainly.”

“It’s at seven o’clock to-night. The Psychic College. You know the place down at Holland Park.”

“Yes, I have the address. Very well, Miss Challenger and I will certainly be there.”

Behold the pair, then, upon a fresh psychic adventure. They picked Atkinson up at Wimpole Street, and then traversed that long, roaring rushing, driving belt of the great city which extends through Oxford Street and Bayswater to Notting Hill and the stately Victorian houses of Holland Park. It was at one of these that the taxi drew up, a large, imposing building, standing back a little from the road. A smart maid admitted them, and the subdued light of the tinted hall-lamp fell upon shining linoleum and polished woodwork with the gleam of white marble statuary in the corner. Enid’s female perceptions told her of a well-run, well-appointed establishment, with a capable direction at the head. This direction took the shape of a kindly Scottish lady who met them in the hall and greeted Mr. Atkinson as an old friend. She was, in turn, introduced to the journalists as Mrs. Ogilvy. Malone had already heard how her husband and she had founded and run this remarkable institute, which is the centre of psychic experiment in London, at a very great cost, both in labour and in money, to themselves.

“Linden and his wife have gone up,” said Mrs. Ogilvy. “He seems to think that the conditions are favourable. The rest are in the drawing-room. Won’t you join them for a few minutes?”

Quite a number of people had gathered for the seance, some of them old psychic students who were mildly interested, others, beginners who looked about them with rather startled eyes, wondering what was going to happen next. A tall man was standing near the door who turned and disclosed the tawny beard and open face of Algernon Mailey. He shook hands with the newcomers.

“Another experience, Mr. Malone? Well, I thought you gave a very fair account of the last. You are still a neophyte, but you are well within the gates of the temple. Are you alarmed, Miss Challenger?”

“I don’t think I could be while you were around,” she answered.

He laughed.

“Of course, a materialization seance is a little different to any other — more impressive, in a way. You’ll find it very instructive, Malone, as bearing upon psychic photography and other matters. By the way, you should try for a psychic picture. The famous Hope works upstairs.”

“I always thought that that at least was fraud.”

“On the contrary, I should say it was the best established of all phenomena, the one which leaves the most permanent proof. I’ve been a dozen times under every possible test conditions. The real trouble is, not that it lends itself to fraud, but that it lends itself to exploitation by that villainous journalism which cares only for a sensation. Do you know anyone here?”

“No, we don’t.”

“The tall, handsome lady is the Duchess of Rossland. Then, there are Lord and Lady Montnoir, the middle-aged couple near the fire. Real, good folk and among the very few of the aristocracy who have shown earnestness and moral courage in this matter. The talkative lady is Miss Badley, who lives for seances, a jaded Society woman in search of new sensations — always visible, always audible, and always empty. I don’t know the two men. I heard someone say they were researchers from the university. The stout man with the lady in black is Sir James Smith — they lost two boys in the war. The tall, dark person, is a weird man named Barclay, who lives, I understand, in one room and seldom comes out save for a seance.”

“And the man with the horn glasses?”

“That is a pompous ass named Weatherby. He is one of those who wander about on the obscure edges of Masonry, talking with whispers and reverence of mysteries where no mystery is. Spiritualism, with its very real and awful mysteries, is, to him, a vulgar thing because it brought consolation to common folk, but he loves to read papers on the Palladian Cultus, ancient and accepted Scottish rites, and Baphometic figures. Eliphas Levi is his prophet.”

“It sounds very learned.” said Enid.

“Or very absurd. But, hullo! Here are mutual friends.” The two Bolsovers had arrived, very hot and frowsy and genial. There is no such leveller of classes as Spiritualism, and the charwoman with psychic force is the superior of the millionaire who lacks it. The Bolsovers and the aristocrats fraternized instantly. The Duchess was just asking for admission to the grocer’s circle, when Mrs. Ogilvy bustled in.

“I think everyone is here now,” she said. “It is time to go upstairs.”

The seance room was a large, comfortable chamber on the first floor, with a circle of easy chairs, and a curtain-hung divan which served as a cabinet. The medium and his wife were waiting there. Mr. Linden was a gentle, large-featured man, stoutish in build, deep-chested, clean-shaven, with dreamy, blue eyes and flaxen, curly hair which rose in a pyramid at the apex of his head. He was of middle age. His wife was rather younger, with the sharp, querulous expression of the tired housekeeper, and quick, critical eyes, which softened into something like adoration when she looked at her husband. Her role was to explain matters, and to guard his interests while he was unconscious.

“The sitters had better just take their own places,” said the medium. “If you can alternate the sexes it is as well. Don’t cross your knees, it breaks the current. If we have a materialization, don’t grab at it. If you do, you are liable to injure me.”

The two sleuths of the Research Society looked at each other knowingly. Mailey observed it.

“Quite right,” he said. “I have seen two cases of dangerous haemorrhage in the medium brought on by that very cause.”

“Why?” asked Malone.

“Because the ectoplasm used is drawn from the medium. It recoils upon him like a snapped elastic band. Where it comes through the skin you get a bruise. Where it comes from mucous membrane you get bleeding.”

“And when it comes from nothing, you get nothing,” said the researcher with a grin.

“I will explain the procedure in a few words,” said Mrs. Ogilvy, when everyone was seated. “Mr. Linden does not enter the cabinet at all. He sits outside it, and as he tolerates red light you will be able to satisfy yourselves that he does not leave his seat. Mrs. Linden sits on the other side. She is there to regulate and explain. In the first place we would wish you to examine the cabinet. One of you will also please lock the door on the inside and be responsible for the key.”

The cabinet proved to be a mere tent of hangings, detached from the wall and standing on a solid platform. The researchers ferreted about inside it and stamped on the boards. All seemed solid.

“What is the use of it?” Malone whispered to Mailey.

“It serves as a reservoir and condensing place for the ectoplasmic vapour from the medium, which would otherwise diffuse over the room.”

“It has been known to serve other purposes also,” remarked one of the researchers, who overheard the conversation.

“That’s true enough,” said Mailey philosophically. “I am all in favour of caution and supervision.”

“Well, it seems fraud-proof on this occasion, if the medium sits outside.” The two researchers were agreed on this.

The medium was seated on one side of the little tent, his wife on the other. The light was out, and a small red lamp near the ceiling was just sufficient to enable outlines to be clearly seen. As the eyes became accustomed to it some detail could also be observed.

“Mr. Linden will begin by some clairvoyant readings” said Mrs. Linden. Her whole attitude, seated beside the cabinet with her hands on her lap and the air of a proprietor, made Enid smile, for she thought of Mrs. Jarley and her waxworks.

Linden, who was not in a trance, began to give clairvoyance. It was not very good. Possibly the mixed influence of so many sitters of various types at close quarters was too disturbing. That was the excuse which he gave himself when several of his descriptions were unrecognized. But Malone was more shocked by those which were recognized, since it was so clear that the word was put into the medium’s mouth. It was the folly of the sitter rather than the fault of the medium, but it was disconcerting all the same.

“I see a young man with brown eyes and a rather drooping moustache.”

“Oh, darling, darling, have you then come back!” cried Miss Badley. “Oh, has he a message?”

“He sends his love and does not forget.”

“Oh, how evidential! It is so exactly what the dear boy would have said! My first lover, you know,” she added, in a simpering voice to the company. “He never fails to come. Mr. Linden has brought him again and again.”

“There is a young fellow in khaki building up on the left. I see a symbol over his head. It might be a Greek cross.”

“Jim — it is surely Jim!” cried Lady Smith.

“Yes. He nods his head.”

“And the Greek cross is probably a propeller,” said Sir James. “He was in the Air Service, you know.” Malone and Enid were both rather shocked. Mailey was also uneasy.

“This is not good,” he whispered to Enid. “Wait a bit! You will get something better.”

There were several good recognitions, and then someone resembling Summerlee was described for Malone. This was wisely discounted by him, since Linden might have been in the audience on the former occasion. Mrs. Debbs’ exhibition seemed to him far more convincing than that of Linden.

“Wait a bit!” Mailey repeated.

“The medium will now try for materializations,” said Mrs. Linden. “If the figures appear I would ask you not to touch them, save by request. Victor will tell you if you may do so. Victor is the medium’s control.”

The medium had settled down in his chair and he now began to draw long, whistling breaths with deep intakes, puffing the air out between his lips. Finally he steadied down and seemed to sink into a deep coma, his chin upon his breast. Suddenly he spoke, but it seemed that his voice was better modulated and more cultivated than before.

“Good evening, all!” said the voice.

There was a general murmur of “Good evening, Victor.”

“I am afraid that the vibrations are not very harmonious. The sceptical element is present, but not, I think, predominant, so that we may hope for results. Martin Lightfoot is doing what he can.”

“That is the Indian control” Mailey whispered.

“I think that if you would start the gramophone it would be helpful. A hymn is always best, though there is no real objection to secular music. Give us what you think best, Mrs. Ogilvy.”

There was the rasping of a needle which had not yet found its grooves. Then “Lead, Kindly Light” was churned out. The audience joined in in a subdued fashion. Mrs. Ogilvy then changed it to “O, God, our help in ages past”.

“They often change the records themselves,” said Mrs. Ogilvy, “but to-night there is not enough power.”

“Oh, yes,” said the voice. “There is enough power, Mrs. Ogilvy, but we are anxious to conserve it all for the materializations. Martin says they are building up very well.”

At this moment the curtain in front of the cabinet began to sway. It bellied out as if a strong wind were behind it. At the same time a breeze was felt by all who were in the circle, together with a sensation of cold.

“It is quite chilly,” whispered Enid, with a shiver.

“It is not a subjective feeling,” Mailey answered. “Mr. Harry Price has tested it with thermometric readings. So did Professor Crawford.”

“My God!” cried a startled voice. It belonged to the pompous dabbler in mysteries, who was suddenly faced with a real mystery. The curtains of the cabinet had parted and a human figure had stolen noiselessly out. There was the medium clearly outlined on one side. There was Mrs. Linden, who had sprung to her feet, on the other. And, between them, the little black, hesitating figure, which seemed to be terrified at its own position. Mrs. Linden soothed and encouraged it.

“Don’t be alarmed, dear. It is all quite right. No one will hurt you.”

“It is someone who has never been through before,” she explained to the company. “Naturally it seems very strange to her. Just as strange as if we broke into their world. That’s right, dear. You are gaining strength, I can see. Well done!”

The figure was moving forward. Everyone sat spellbound, with staring eyes. Miss Badley began to giggle hysterically. Weatherby lay back in his chair, gasping with horror. Neither Malone nor Enid felt any fear, but were consumed with curiosity. How marvellous to hear the humdrum flow of life in the street outside and to be face to face with such a sight as that.

Slowly the figure moved round. Now it was close to Enid and between her and the red light. Stooping, she could get the silhouette sharply outlined. It was that of a little, elderly woman, with sharp, clear-cut features.

“It’s Susan!” cried Mrs. Bolsover. “Oh, Susan, don’t you know me?”

The figure turned and nodded her head.

“Yes, yes, dear, it is your sister Susie,” cried her husband. “I never saw her in anything but black. Susan, speak to us!”

The head was shaken.

“They seldom speak the first time they come,” said Mrs. Linden, whose rather blase, business-like air was in contrast to the intense emotion of the company. “I’m afraid she can’t hold together long. Ah, there! She has gone!”

The figure had disappeared. There had been some backward movement towards the cabinet, but it seemed to the observers that she sank into the ground before she reached it. At any rate, she was gone.

“Gramophone, please!” said Mrs. Linden. Everyone relaxed and sat back with a sigh. The gramophone struck up a lively air. Suddenly the curtains parted, and a second figure appeared.

It was a young girl, with flowing hair down her back. She came forward swiftly and with perfect assurance to the centre of the circle.

Mrs. Linden laughed in a satisfied way.

“Now you will get something good,” she said. “Here is Lucille.”

“Good evening, Lucille!” cried the Duchess. “I met you last month, you will remember, when your medium came to Maltraver Towers.”

“Yes, yes, lady, I remember you. You have a little boy, Tommy, on our side of life. No, no, not dead, lady! We are far more alive than you are. All the fun and frolic are with us!” She spoke in a high clear voice and perfect English.

“Shall I show you what we do over here?” She began a graceful, gliding dance, while she whistled as melodiously as a bird. “Poor Susan could not do that. Susan has had no practice. Lucille knows how to use a built-up body.”

“Do you remember me, Lucille?” asked Mailey.

“I remember you, Mr. Mailey. Big man with yellow beard.”

For the second time in her life Enid had to pinch herself hard to satisfy herself that she was not dreaming. Was this graceful creature, who had now sat down in the centre of the circle, a real materialization of ectoplasm, used for the moment as a machine for expression by a soul that had passed, or was it an illusion of the senses, or was it a fraud? There were the three possibilities. An illusion was absurd when all had the same impression. Was it a fraud? But this was certainly not the little old woman. She was inches taller and fair, not dark. And the cabinet was fraud-proof. It had been meticulously examined. Then it was true. But if it were true, what a vista of possibilities opened out. Was it not far the greatest matter which could claim the attention of the world!

Meanwhile, Lucille had been so natural and the situation was so normal that even the most nervous had relaxed. The girl answered most cheerfully to every question, and they rained upon her from every side.

“Where did you live, Lucille?”

“Perhaps I had better answer that,” interposed Mrs. Linden. “It will save the power. Lucille was bred in South Dakota in the United States, and passed over at the age of fourteen. We have verified some of her statements.”

“Are you glad you died, Lucille?”

“Glad for my own sake. Sorry for mother.”

“Has your mother seen you since?”

“Poor mother is a shut box. Lucille cannot open the lid.”

“Are you happy?”

“Oh, yes, so gloriously happy.”

“Is it right that you can come back?”

“Would God allow it if it were not right? What a wicked man you must be to ask!”

“What religion were you?”

“We were Roman Catholics.”

“Is that the right religion?”

“All religions are right if they make you better.”

“Then it does not matter.”

“It is what people do in daily life, not what they believe.”

“Tell us more, Lucille.”

“Lucille has little time. There are others who wish to come. If Lucille uses too much power, the others have less. Oh, God is very good and kind! You poor people on earth do not know how good and kind He is because it is grey down there. But it is grey for your own good. It is to give you your chance to earn all the lovely things which wait for you. But you can only tell how wonderful He is when you get over here.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Seen Him! How could you see God? No, no, He is all round us and in us and in everything, but we do not see Him. But I have seen the Christ. Oh, He was glorious, glorious! Now, good-bye — good-bye!” She backed towards the cabinet and sank into the shadows.

Now came a tremendous experience for Malone. A small, dark, rather broad figure of a woman appeared slowly from the cabinet. Mrs. Linden encouraged her, and then came across to the journalist.

“It is for you. You can break the circle. Come up to her.”

Malone advanced and peered, awestruck, into the face of the apparition. There was not a foot between them. Surely that large head, that solid, square outline was familiar! He put his face still nearer — it was almost touching. He strained his eyes. It seemed to him that the features were semi-fluid, moulding themselves into a shape, as if some unseen hand was modelling them in putty. “Mother!” he cried. “Mother!”

Instantly the figure threw up both her hands in a wild gesture of joy. The motion seemed to destroy her equilibrium and she vanished.

“She had not been through before. She could not speak,” said Mrs. Linden, in her business-like way. “It was your mother.”

Malone went back half-stunned to his seat. It is only when these things come to one’s own address that one understands their full force. His mother! Ten years in her grave and yet standing before him. Could he swear it was his mother? No, he could not. Was he morally certain that it was his mother? Yes, he was morally certain. He was shaken to the core.

But other wonders diverted his thoughts. A young man had emerged briskly from the cabinet and had advanced to the front of Mailey, where he had halted.

“Hullo, Jock! Dear old Jock!” said Mailey. “My nephew,” he explained to the company. “He always comes when I am with Linden.”

“The power is sinking,” said the lad, in a clear voice. “I can’t stay very long. I am so glad to see you, Uncle. You know, we can see quite clearly in this light, even if you can’t.”

“Yes, I know you can. I say, Jock. I wanted to tell you that I told your mother I had seen you. She said her Church taught her it was wrong.”

“I know. And that I was a demon. Oh, it is rotten, rotten, rotten, and rotten things will fall!” His voice broke in a sob.

“Don’t blame her Jock, she believes this.”

“No, no, I don’t blame her! She will know better some day. The day is coming soon when all truth will be manifest and all these corrupt Churches will be swept off the earth with their cruel doctrines and their caricatures of God.”

“Why, Jock, you are becoming quite a heretic!”

“Love, Uncle! Love! That is all that counts. What matter what you believe if you are sweet and kind and unselfish as the Christ was of old?”

“Have you seen Christ?” asked someone.

“Not yet. Perhaps the time may come.”

“Is he not in Heaven, then?”

“There are many heavens. I am in a very humble one. But it is glorious all the same.”

Enid had thrust her head forward during this dialogue. Her eyes had got used to the light and she could see more clearly than before. The man who stood within a few feet of her was not human. Of that she had no doubt whatever, and yet the points were very subtle. Something in his strange, yellow-white colouring as contrasted with the faces of her neighbours. Something, also, in the curious stiffness of his carriage, as of a man in very rigid stays.

“Now, Jock,” said Mailey, “give an address to the company. Tell them a few words about your life.”

The figure hung his head, exactly as a shy youth would do in life.

“Oh, Uncle, I can’t.”

“Come, Jock, we love to listen to you.”

“Teach the folk what death is,” the figure began. “God wants them to know. That is why He lets us come back. It is nothing. You are no more changed than if you went into the next room. You can’t believe you are dead. I didn’t. It was only when I saw old Sam that I knew, for I was certain that he was dead, anyhow. Then I came back to mother. And” — his voice broke —“she would not receive me.”

“Never mind, dear old Jock,” said Mailey. “She will learn wisdom.”

“Teach them the truth! Teach it to them! Oh, it u so much more important than all the things men talk about. If papers for one week gave as much attention to psychic things as they do to football, it would be known to all. It is ignorance which stands —”

The observers were conscious of a sort of flash towards the cabinet, but the youth had disappeared.

“Power run down,” said Mailey. “Poor lad, he held on to the last. He always did. That was how he died.”

There was a long pause. The gramophone started again. Then there was a movement of the curtains. Something was emerging. Mrs. Linden sprang up and waved the figure back. The medium for the first time stirred in his chair and groaned.

“What is the matter, Mrs. Linden?”

“Only half-formed,” she answered. “The lower face had not materialized. Some of you would have been alarmed. I think that we shall have no more to-night The power has sunk very low.”

So it proved. The lights were gradually turned on. The medium lay with a white face and a clammy brow in his chair, while his wife sedulously watched over him, unbuttoning his collar and bathing his face from a water-glass. The company broke into little groups, discussing what they had seen.

“Oh, wasn’t it thrilling?” cried Miss Badley. “It really was most exciting. But what a pity we could not see the one with the semi-materialized face.”

“Thanks, I have seen quite enough,” said the pompous mystic, all the pomposity shaken out of him. “I confess that it has been rather too much for my nerves.”

Mr. Atkinson found himself near the psychic researchers.

“Well, what do you make of it?” he asked.

“I have seen it better done at Maskelyne’s Hall,” said one.

“Oh, come, Scott!” said the other. “You’ve no right to say that. You admitted that the cabinet was fraud-proof.”

“Well, so do the committees who go on the stage at Maskelyne’s.”

“Yes, but it is Maskelyne’s own stage. This is not Linden’s own stage. He has no machinery.”

“Populus vult decepi,” the other answered, shrugging his shoulders. “I should certainly reserve judgment.” He moved away with the dignity of one who cannot be deceived, while his more rational companion still argued with him as they went.

“Did you hear that?” said Atkinson. “There is a certain class of psychic researcher who is absolutely incapable of receiving evidence. They misuse their brains by straining them to find a way round when the road is quite clear before them. When the human race advances into its new kingdom, these intellectual men will form the absolute rear.”

“No, no,” said Mailey, laughing. “The bishops are predestined to be the rearguard. I see them all marching in step, a solid body, with their gaiters and cassocks — the last in the whole world to reach spiritual truth.”

“Oh, come,” said Enid, “that is too severe. They are all good men.”

“Of course they are. It’s quite physiological. They are are a body of elderly men, and the elderly brain is sclerosed and cannot record new impressions. It’s not their fault, but the fact remains. You are very silent, Malone.” But Malone was thinking of a little, squat, dark figure which waved its hands in joy when he spoke to it. It was with that image in his mind that he turned from this room of wonders and passed down into the street.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/doyle/arthur_conan/mist/chapter5.html

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:33