Книга The Land Of Mist. Содержание - 5. Where Our Commissioners Have a Remarkable Experience

«Nine pounds,» said Bolsover. «Well, we seem to have got to the end of things. I don't think we shall get much more to-night. It has not been a bad sitting – what I should call a fair average sitting. We must wait a little before we turn on the light. Well, Mr. Malone, what do you think of it? Let's have any objections now before we part. That's the worst of you inquirers, you know. You often bottle things up in your own minds and let them loose afterwards, when it would have been easy to settle it at the time. Very nice and polite to our faces, and then we are a gang of swindlers in the report.»

Malone's head was throbbing and he passed his hand over his heated brow.

«I am confused,» he said, «but impressed. Oh, yes, certainly impressed. I've read of these things, but it is very different when you see them. What weighs most with me is the obvious sincerity and sanity of all you people. No one could doubt that.»

«Come. We're gettin' on.» said Bolsover.

«I try to think the objections which would be raised by others who were not present. I'll have to answer them. First, there is the oddity of it all. It is so different to our preconceptions of spirit people.»

«We must fit our theories to the facts,» said Mailey. «Up to now we have fitted the facts to our theories. You must remember that we have been dealing to-night – with all respect to our dear good hosts – with a simple, primitive, earthly type of spirit, who has his very definite uses, but is not to be taken as an average type. You might as well take the stevedore whom you see on the quay as being a representative Englishman.»

«There's Luke» said Bolsover.

«Ah, yes, he is, of course, very much higher. You heard him and could judge. What else, Mr. Malone?»

«Well, the darkness! Everything done in darkness. Why should all mediumship be associated with gloom?»

«You mean all physical mediumship. That is the only branch of the subject which needs darkness. It is purely chemical, like the darkness of the photographic room. It preserves the delicate physical substance which, drawn from the human body, is the basis of these phenomena. A cabinet is used for the purpose of condensing this same vaporous substance and helping it to solidify. Am I clear?»

«Yes, but it is a pity all the same. It gives a horrible air of deceit to the whole business.»

«We get it now and again in the light, Mr. Malone,» said Bolsover. «I don't know if Wee One is gone yet. Wait a bit! Where are the matches?» He lit the candle, which set them all blinking after their long darkness, «Now let us see what we can do.»

There was a round wood platter or circle of wood lying among the miscellaneous objects littered over the table to serve as playthings for the strange forces. Bolsover stared at it. They all stared at it. They had risen but no one was within three feet of it.

«Please, Wee One, please!» cried Mrs. Bolsover. Malone could hardly believe his eyes. The disc began to move. It quivered and then rattled upon the table, exactly as the lid of a boiling pot might do.

«Up with it, Wee One!» They were all clapping their hands.

The circle of wood, in the full light of the candle, rose upon edge and stood there shaking, as if trying to keep its balance.

«Give three tilts, Wee One.»

The disc inclined forward three times. Then it fell flat and remained so.

«I am so glad you have seen that,» said Mailey. «There is Telekenesis in its simplest and most decisive form.»

«I could not have believed it!» cried Enid.

«Nor I,» said Malone. «I have extended my knowledge of what is possible. Mr. Bolsover, you have enlarged my views.»

«Good, Mr. Malone!»

«As to the power at the back of these things I am still ignorant. As to the thing themselves I have now and henceforward not the slightest doubt in the world. I know that they are true. I wish you all good night. It is not likely that Miss Challenger or I will ever forget the evening that we have spent under your roof»

It was like another world when they came out into the frosty air, and saw the taxis bearing back the pleasure-seekers from the theatre or cinema palace. Mailey stood beside them while they waited for a cab.

«I know exactly how you feel,» he said, smiling. «You look at all these bustling, complacent people, and you marvel to think how little they know of the possibilities of life. Don't you want to stop them? Don't you want to tell them? And yet they would only think you a liar or a lunatic. Funny situation, is it not?»

«I've lost all my bearings for the moment.»

«They will come back to-morrow morning. It is curious how fleeting these impressions are. You will persuade yourselves that you have been dreaming. Well, good-bye – and let me know if I can help your studies in the future.» The friends – one could hardly yet call them lovers

– were absorbed in thought during their drive home. When he reached Victoria Gardens Malone escorted Enid to the door of the flat, but he did not go in with her. Somehow the jeers of Challenger which usually rather woke sympathy within him would now get upon his nerves. As it was he heard his greeting in the hall.

«Well, Enid. Where's your spook? Spill him out of the bag on the floor and let us have a look at him.» His evening's adventure ended as it had begun, with a bellow of laughter which pursued him down the lift.

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.»

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