Mr. Tilly's Seance
by E. F. Benson
Mr. Tilly had only the briefest moment for reflection, when, as he slipped and fell on the greasy
wood pavement at Hyde Park Corner, which he was crossing at a smart trot, he saw the huge
traction-engine with its grooved ponderous wheels towering high above him.
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" he said petulantly, "it will certainly crush me quite flat, and I shan't be
able to be at Mrs. Cumberbatch's sťance! Most provoking! A-ow!"
The words were hardly out of his mouth, when the first half of his horrid anticipations was
thoroughly fulfilled. The heavy wheels passed over him from head to foot and flattened him
completely out. Then the driver (too late) reversed his engine and passed over him again, and
finally lost his head, whistled loudly and stopped. The policeman on duty at the corner turned
quite faint at the sight of the catastrophe, but presently recovered sufficiently to hold up the
traffic, and ran to see what on earth could be done. It was all so much "up" with Mr. Tilly that
the only thing possible was to get the hysterical engine-driver to move clear. Then the ambulance
from the hospital was sent for, and Mr. Tilly's remains, detached with great difficulty from the
road (so firmly had they been pressed into it), were reverently carried away into the mortuary
Mr. Tilly during this had experienced one moment's excruciating pain, resembling the
severest neuralgia as his head was ground beneath the wheel, but almost before he realised it, the
pain was past, and he found himself, still rather dazed, floating or standing (he did no know
which) in the middle of the road. There had been no break in his consciousness; he perfectly
recollected slipping, and wondered how he had managed to save himself. He saw the arrested
traffic, the policeman with white wan face making suggestions to the gibbering engine-driver,
and he received the very puzzling impression that the traction engine was all mixed up with him.
He had a sensation of red-hot coals and boiling water and rivets all around him, but yet no
feeling of scalding or burning or confinement. He was, on the contrary, extremely comfortable,
and had the most pleasant consciousness of buoyancy and freedom. Then the engine puffed and
the wheels went round, and immediately, to his immense surprise, he perceived his own crushed
remains, flat as a biscuit, lying on the roadway. He identified them for certain by his clothes,
which he had put on for the first time that morning, and one patent leather boot which had
"But what on earth has happened?" he said. "Here am I, and yet that poor pressed flower of
arms and legs is me -- or rather I -- also. And how terribly upset the driver looks. Why, I do
believe that I've been run over! It did hurt for a moment, now I come to think of it ... My good
man, where are you shoving to? Don't you see me?"
He addressed these two questions to the policeman, who appeared to walk right through him.
But the man took no notice, and calmly came out on the other side: it was quite evident that he
did not see him, or apprehend him in any way.
Mr. Tilly was still feeling rather at sea amid these unusual occurrences, and there began to
steal into his mind a glimpse of the fact which was so obvious to the crowd which formed an
interested but respectful ring round his body. Men stood with bared heads; women screamed and
looked away and looked back again.
"I really believe I'm dead," said he. "That's the only hypothesis which will cover the facts.
But I must feel more certain of it before I do anything. Ah! Here they come with the ambulance.to look at me. I must be terribly hurt, and yet I don't feel hurt. I should feel hurt surely if I was
hurt. I must be dead."
Certainly it seemed the only thing for him to be, but he was far from realising it yet. A lane
had been made through the crowd for the stretcher-bearers, and he found himself wincing when
they began to detach him from the road.
"Oh, do take care!" he said. "That's the sciatic nerve protruding there surely, isn't it? A-ow!
No, it didn't hurt after all. My new clothes, too: I put them on to-day for the first time. What bad
luck! Now you're holding my leg upside down. Of course all my money comes out of my trouser
pocket. And there's my ticket for the sťance; I must have that: I may use it after all."
He tweaked it out of the fingers of the man who had picked it up, and laughed to see the
expression of amazement on his face as the card suddenly vanished. That gave him something
fresh to think about, and he pondered for a moment over some touch of association set up by it.
"I have it," he thought. "It is clear that the moment I came into connection with that card, it
became invisible. I'm invisible myself (of course to the grosser sense), and everything I hold
becomes invisible. Most interesting! That accounts for the sudden appearances of small objects
at a sťance. The spirit has been holding them, and as long as he holds them they are invisible.
Then he lets go, and there's the flower or the spirit-photograph on the table. It accounts, too, for
the sudden disappearances of such objects. The spirit has taken them, though the scoffers say that
the medium has secreted them about his person. It is true that when searched he sometimes
appears to have done so; but, after all, that may be a joke on the part of the spirit. Now, what am
I to do with myself. Let me see, there's the clock. It's just half-past ten. All this has happened in
a few minutes, for it was a quarter past when I left my house. Half-past ten now: what does that
mean exactly? I used to know what it meant, but now it seems nonsense. Ten what? Hours, is it? What's an hour?"
This was very puzzling. He felt that he used to know what an hour and a minute meant, but
the perception of that, naturally enough, had ceased with his emergence from time and space into
eternity. The conception of time was like some memory which, refusing to record itself on the
consciousness, lies perdu in some dark corner of the brain, laughing at the efforts of the owner to
ferret it out. While he still interrogated his mind over this lapsed perception, he found that space
as well as time, had similarly grown obsolete for him, for he caught sight of his friend Miss Ida
Soulsby, who he knew was to be present at the sťance for which he was bound, hurrying with
bird-like steps down the pavement opposite. Forgetting for the moment that he was a
disembodied spirit, he made the effort of will which in his past human existence would have set
his legs in pursuit of her, and found that the effort of will alone was enough to place him at her
"My dear Miss Soulsby," he said, "I was on my way to Mrs. Cumberbatch's house when I
was knocked down and killed. It was far from unpleasant, a moment's headache--"
So far his natural volubility had carried him before he recollected that he was invisible and
inaudible to those still closed in by the muddy vesture of decay, and stopped short. But though it
was clear that what he said was inaudible to Miss Soulsby's rather large intelligent-looking ears,
it seemed that some consciousness of his presence was conveyed to her finer sense, for she
looked suddenly startled, a flush rose to her face, and he heard her murmur, "Very odd. I wonder
why I received so vivid an impression of dear Teddy."
That gave Mr. Tilly a pleasant shock. He had long admired the lady, and here she was
alluding to him in her supposed privacy as "dear Teddy." That was followed by a momentary
regret that he had been killed: he would have liked to have been possessed of this information.before, and have pursued the primrose path of dalliance down which it seemed to lead. (His
intentions, of course, would, as always, have been strictly honourable: the path of dalliance
would have conducted them both, if she consented, to the altar, where the primroses would have
been exchanged for orange blossom.) But his regret was quite short-lived; though tbe altar
seemed inaccessible, the primrose path might still be open, for many of the spiritualistic circle in
which he lived were on most affectionate terms with their spiritual guides and friends who, like
himself, had passed over. From a human point of view these innocent and even elevating
flirtations had always seemed to him rather bloodless; but now, looking on them from the far
side, he saw how charming they were, for they gave him the sense of still having a place and an
identity in the world he had just quitted. He pressed Miss Ida's hand (or rather put himself into
the spiritual condition of so doing), and could vaguely feel that it had some hint of warmth and
solidity about it. This was gratifying, for it showed that though he had passed out of the material
plane, he could still be in touch with it. Still more gratifying was it to observe that a pleased and
secret smile overspread Miss Ida's fine features as he gave this token of his presence: perhaps
she only smiled at her own thoughts, but in any case it was he who had inspired them.
Encouraged by this, he indulged in a slightly more intimate token of affection, and permitted
himself a respectful salute, and saw that he had gone too far, for she said to herself, "Hush,
hush!" and quickened her pace, as if to leave these amorous thoughts behind.
He felt that he was beginning to adjust himself to the new conditions in which he would now
live or, at any rate, was getting some sort of inkling as to what they were. Time existed no more
for him, nor yet did space, since the wish to be at Miss Ida's side had instantly transported him
there, and with a view to testing this further he wished himself back in his flat. As swiftly as the
change of scene in a cinematograph show he found himself there, and perceived that the news of
his death must have reached his servants, for his cook and parlour-maid with excited faces, were
talking over the event.
"Poor little gentleman," said his cook. "It seems a shame it does. He never hurt a fly, and to
think of one of those great engines laying him out flat. I hope they'll take him to the cemetery
from the hospital: I never could bear a corpse in the house."
The great strapping parlour-maid tossed her head.
"Well, I'm not sure that it doesn't serve him right," she observed. "Always messing about
with spirits he was, and the knockings and concertinas was awful sometimes when I've been
laying out supper in the dining-room. Now perhaps he'll come himself and visit the rest of the
loonies. But I'm sorry all the same. A less troublesome little gentleman never stepped. Always
pleasant, too, and wages paid to the day."
These regretful comments and encomiums were something of a shock to Mr. Tilly. He had
imagined that his excellent servants regarded him with a respectful affection, as befitted some
sort of demigod, and the r6le of the poor little gentleman was not at all to his mind. This
revelation of their true estimate of him, although what they thought of him could no longer have
the smallest significance irritated him profoundly.
"I never heard such impertinence," he said (so he thought) quite out loud, and still intensely
earth-bound, was astonished to see that they had no perception whatever of his presence. He
raised his voice, replete with extreme irony, and addressed his cook.
"You may reserve your criticism on my character for your saucepans," he said. "They will no
doubt appreciate them. As regards the arrangements for my funeral, I have already provided for
them in my will, and do not propose to consult your convenience. At present--"
"Lor'!" said Mrs. Inglis, "I declare I can almost hear his voice, poor little fellow. Husky it.was, as if he would do better by clearing his throat. I suppose I'd best be making a black bow to
my cap. His lawyers and what not will be here presently."
Mr. Tilly had no sympathy with this suggestion. He was immensely conscious of being quite
alive, and the idea of his servants behaving as if he were dead, especially after the way in which
they had spoken about him, was very vexing. He wanted to give them some striking evidence of
his presence and his activity, and he banged his hand angrily on the dining-room table, from
which the breakfast equipage had not yet been cleared. Three tremendous blows he gave it, and
was rejoiced to see that his parlour-maid looked startled. Mrs. Inglis's face remained perfectly
"Why, if I didn't hear a sort of rapping sound," said Miss Talton. "Where did it come from?"
"Nonsense! You've the jumps, dear," said Mrs. Inglis, picking up a remaining rasher of
bacon on a fork, and putting it into her capacious mouth.
Mr. Tilly was delighted at making any impression at all on either of these impercipient
"Talton!" he called at the top of his voice.
"Why, what's that?" said Talton. "Almost hear his voice, do you say, Mrs. Inglis? I declare I
did hear his voice then."
"A pack o' nonsense, dear," said Mrs. Inglis placidly. "That's a prime bit of bacon, and
there's a good cut of it left. Why, you're all of a tremble! It's your imagination."
Suddenly it struck Mr. Tilly that he might be employing himself much better than, with such
extreme exertion, managing to convey so slight a hint of his presence to his parlour-maid, and
that the sťance at the house of the medium, Mrs. Cumberbatch, would afford him much easier
opportunities of getting through to the earth-plane again. He gave a couple more thumps to the
table and, wishing himself at Mrs. Cumberlatch's nearly a mile away, scarcely heard the faint
scream of Talton at the sound of his blows before he found himself in West Norfolk Street.
He knew the house well, and went straight to the drawing-room, which was the scene of the
sťances he had so often and so eagerly attended. Mrs. Cumberbatch who had a long spoon-shaped
face, had already pulled down the blinds, leaving the room in total darkness except for
the glimmer of tie night-light which, under a shade of ruby-glass, stood on the chimneypiece in
front of the coloured photograph of Cardinal Newman. Round the table were seated Miss Ida
Soulsby, Mr. and Mr;. Meriott (who paid their guineas at least twice a week in order to consult
their spiritual guide Abibel and received mysterious advice about their indigestion and
investments), and Sir John Plaice, 'who was much interested in learning the details of his
previous incarnation as a Chaldean priest, completed the circle. His guide, who resealed to him
his sacerdotal career, was playfully called Mespot. Naturally many other spirits visited them, for
Miss Soulsby had no less than three guides in her spiritual household, Sapphire, Semiramis, and
Sweet William, while Napoleon and Plato were not infrequent guests. Cardinal Newman, too,
was a great favourite, and they encouraged his presence by the singing in unison of "Lead, kindly
Light": he could hardly ever resist that...
Mr. Tilly observed with pleasure that there was a vacant seat by the table which no doubt had
been pliced there for him. As he entered, Mrs. Cumberbatch peered at her watch.
"Eleven o'clock already," she said, "and Mr. Tilly is not here yet. I wonder what can have
kept him. What shall we do, dear friends? Abibel gets very impatient sometimes if we keep him
Mr. and Mrs. Meriott were getting impatient too, for he terribly wanted to ask about Mexican
oils, and she had a very vexing heartburn.
"And Mespot doesn't like waiting either," said Sir John, jealous for the prestige of his
protector, "not to mention Sweet William."
Miss Soulsby gave a little silvery laugh.
"Oh, but my Sweet William's so good and kind," she said; "besides, I have a feeling, quite a
psychic feeling, Mrs. Cumberbatch, that Mr. Tilly is very close."
"So I am," said Mr. Tilly.
"Indeed, as I walked here," continued Miss Soulsby, "I felt that Mr. Tilly was somewhere
quite close to me. Dear me, what's that?"
Mr. Tilly was so delighted at being sensed, that he could not resist giving a tremendous rap
on the table, in a sort of pleased applause. Mrs. Cumberbatch heard it too.
"I'm sure that's Abibel come to tell us that he is ready," she said. "I know Abibel's knock. A
little patience, Abibel. Let's give Mr. Tilly three minutes more and then begin. Perhaps, if we put
up the blinds, Abibel will understand we haven't begun."
This was done, and Miss Soulsby glided to the window, in order to make known Mr. Tilly's
approach, for he always came along the opposite pavement and crossed over by the little island
in the river of traffic. There was evidently some lately published news, for the readers of early
editions were busy, and she caught sight of one of the advertisement boards bearing in large
letters the announcement of a terrible accident at Hyde Park Corner. She drew in her breath with
a hissing sound and turned away, unwilling to have her psychic tranquillity upset by the intrusion
of painful incidents. But Mr. Tilly, who had followed her to the window and saw what she had
seen, could hardly restrain a spiritual whoop of exultation.
"Why, it's all about me!" he said. "Such large letters, too. Very gratifying. Subsequent
editions will no doubt contain my name."
He gave another loud rap to call attention to himself, and Mrs. Cumberbatch, sitting down in
her antique chair which had once belonged to Madame Blavatsky, again heard.
"Well, if that isn't Abibel again," she said. "Be quiet, naughty. Perhaps we had better begin."
She recited the usual invocation to guides and angels, and leaned back in her chair. Presently
she began to twitch and mutter, and shortly afterwards with several loud snorts, relapsed into
cataleptic immobility. There she lay, stiff as a poker, a port of call, so to speak, for any voyaging
intelligence. With pleased anticipation Mr. Tilly awaited their coming. How gratifying if
Napoleon, with whom he had so often talked, recognised him and said, "Pleased to see you, Mr.
Tilly. I perceive you have joined us ..." The room was dark except for the ruby-shaded lamp in
front of Cardinal Newman, but to Mr. Tilly's emancipated perceptions the withdrawal of mere
material light made no difference, and he idly wondered why it was generally supposed that
disembodied spirits like himself produced their most powerful effects in the dark. He could not
imagine the reason for that, and, what puzzled him still more, there was not to his spiritual
perception any sign of those colleagues of his (for so he might now call them) who usually
attended Mrs. Cumberbatch's sťances in such gratifying numbers. Though she had been moaning
and muttering a long time now, Mr. Tilly was in no way conscious of the presence of Abibel and
Sweet William and Sapphire and Napoleon: "They ought to be here by now," he said to himself.
But while he still wondered at their absence, he saw to his amazed disgust that the medium's
hand, now covered with a black glove, and thus invisible to ordinary human vision in the
darkness, was groping about the table and clearly searching for the megaphone-trumpet which
lay there. He found that he could read her mind with the same ease, though far less satisfaction,
as he had read Miss Ida's half an hour ago, and knew that she was intending to apply the trumpet
to her own mouth and pretend to be Abibel or Semirantis or somebody, whereas she affirmed.that she never touched the trumpet herself. Much shocked at this, he snatched up the trumpet
himself, and observed that she was not in trance at all, for she opened her sharp black eyes,
which always reminded him of buttons covered with American cloth, and gave a great gasp.
"Why, Mr. Tilly!" she said. "On the spiritual plane too!"
The rest of the circle was now singing "Lead, kindly Light" in order to encourage Cardinal
Newman, and this conversation was conducted under cover of the hoarse crooning voices. But
Mr. Tilly had the feeling that though Mrs. Cumberbatch saw and heard him as clearly as he saw
her, he was quite imperceptible to the others.
"Yes, I've been killed," he said, "and I want to get into touch with the material world. That's
why I came here. But I want to get into touch with other spirits too, and surely Abibel or Mespot
ought to be here by this time."
He received no answer, and her eyes fell before his like those of a detected charlatan. A
terrible suspicion invaded his mind.
"What? Are you a fraud, Mrs. Cumberbatch?" he asked. "Oh, for shame! Think of all the
guineas I have paid you."
"You shall have them all back," said Mrs. Cumberbatch. "But don't tell of me."
She began to whimper, and he remembered that she often made that sort of sniffling noise
when Abibel was taking possession of her.
"That usually means that Abibel is coming," he said, with withering sarcasm. "Come along,
Abibel: we're waiting."
"Give me the trumpet," whispered the miserable medium. "Oh, please give me the trumpet!"
"I shall do nothing of the kind," said Mr. Tilly indignantly. "I would sooner use it myself."
She gave a sob of relief.
"Oh do, Mr. Tilly!" she said. "What a wonderful idea! It will be most interesting to
everybody to hear you talk just after you've been killed and before they know. It would be the
making of me! And I'm not a fraud, at least not altogether. I do have spiritual perceptions
sometimes; spirits do communicate through me. And when they won't come through it's a
dreadful temptation to a poor woman to -- to supplement them by human agency. And how
could I be seeing and hearing you now, and be able to talk to you -- so pleasantly, I'm sure -- if
I hadn't super-normal powers? You've been killed, so you assure me, and yet I can see and hear
you quite plainly. Where did it happen, may I ask, if it's not a painful subject?"
"Hyde Park Corner, half an hour ago," said Mr. Tilly. "No, it only hurt for a moment, thanks.
But about your other suggestion--"
While the third verse of "Lead, kindly Light" was going on, Mr. Tilly applied his mind to this
difficult situation. It was quite true that if Mrs. Cumberbatch had no power of communication
with the unseen she could not possibly have seen him. But she evidently had, and had heard him
too, for their conversation had certainly been conducted on the spirit-plane, with perfect lucidity.
Naturally, now that he was a genuine spirit, he did not want to be mixed up in fraudulent
mediumship, for he felt that such a thing would seriously compromise him on the other side,
where, probably, it was widely known that Mrs. Cumberbatch was a person to be avoided. But,
on the other hand, having so soon found a medium through whom he could communicate with
his friends, it was hard to take a high moral view, and say that he would have nothing whatever
to do with her.
"I don't know if I trust you," he said. "I shouldn't have a moment's peace if I thought that
you would be sending all sorts of bogus messages from me to the circle, which I wasn't
responsible for at all. You've done it with Abibel and Mespot. How can I know that when I don't.choose to communicate through you, you won't make up all sorts of piffle on your own
She positively squirmed in her chair.
"Oh, I'll turn over a new leaf," she said. "I will leave all that sort of thing behind me. And I
am a medium. Look at me! Aren't I more real to you than any of the others? Don't I belong to
your plane in a way that none of the others do? I may be occasionally fraudulent, and I can no
more get Napoleon here than I can fly, but I'm genuine as well. Oh, Mr. Tilly, be indulgent to us
poor human creatures! It isn't so long since you were one of us yourself."
The mention of Napoleon, with the information that Mrs. Cumberbatch had never been
controlled by that great creature, wounded Mr. Tilly again. Often in this darkened room he had
held long colloquies with him, and Napoleon had given him most interesting details of his life on
St. Helena, which, so Mr. Tilly had found, were often borne out by Lord Rosebery's pleasant
volume The Last Phase. But now the whole thing wore a more sinister aspect, and suspicion as
solid as certainty bumped against his mind.
"Confess!" he said. "Where did you get all that Napoleon talk from? You told us you had
never read Lord Rosebery's book, and allowed us to look through your library to see that it
wasn't there. Be honest for once, Mrs. Cumberbatch."
She suppressed a sob.
"I will," she said. "The book was there all the time. I put it into an old cover called 'Elegant
Extracts ...' But I'm not wholly a fraud. We're talking together, you a spirit and I a mortal
female. They can't hear us talk. But only look at me, and you'll see ... You can talk to them
through me, if you'll only be so kind. I don't often get in touch with a genuine spirit like
Mr. Tilly glanced at the other sitters and then back to the medium, who, to keep the others
interested, was making weird gurgling noises like an undervitalised siphon. Certainly she was far
clearer to him than were the others, and her argument that she was able to see and hear him had
great weight. And then a new and curious perception came to him. Her mind seemed spread out
before him like a pool of slightly muddy water, and he figured himself as standing on a header-board
above it, perfectly able, if he chose, to immerse himself in it. The objection to so doing
was its muddiness, its materiality; the reason for so doing was that he felt that then he would be
able to be heard by the others, possibly to be seen by them, certainly to come into touch with
them. As it was, the loudest bangs on the table were only faintly perceptible.
"I'm beginning to understand," he said.
"Oh, Mr. Tilly! Just jump in like a kind good spirit," she said. "Make your own test-conditions.
Put your hand over my mouth to make sure that I'm not speaking, and keep hold of
"And you'll promise not to cheat any more?" he asked.
He made up his mind.
"All right then," he said, and, so to speak, dived into her mind.
He experienced the oddest sensation. It was like passing out of some fine, sunny air into the
stuffiest of unventilated rooms. Space and time closed over him again: his head swam, his eyes
were heavy. Then, with the trumpet in one hand, he laid the other firmly over her mouth.
Looking round, he saw that the room seemed almost completely dark, but that the outline of the
figures sitting round the table had vastly gained in solidity.
"Here I am!" he said briskly.
Miss Soulsby gave a startled exclamation.
"That's Mr. Tilly's voice!" she whispered.
"Why, of course it is," said Mr. Tillv. "I've just passed over at Hyde Park Corner under a
traction engine ...
He felt the dead weight of the medium's mind, her conventional conceptions, her mild,
unreal piety pressing in on him from all sides, stifling and confusing him. Whatever he said had
to pass through muddy water ...
"There's a wonderful feeling of joy and lightness," he said. "I can't tell you of the sunshine
and happiness. We're all very busy and active, helping others. And it's such a pleasure, dear
friends, to be able to get into touch with you all again. Death is not death: it is the gate of life ..."
He broke off suddenly.
"Oh, I can't stand this," he said to the medium. "You make me talk such twaddle. Do get
your stupid mind out of the way. Can't we do anything in which you won't interfere with me so
"Can you give us some spirit lights round the room?" suggested Mrs., Cumberbatch in a
sleepy voice. "You have come through beautifully, Mr. Tilly. It's too dear of you!"
"You're sure you haven't arranged some phosphorescent patches already?" asked Mr. Tilly
"Yes, there are one or two near the chimney-piece," said Mrs. Cumberbatch, "but none
anywhere else. Dear Mr. Tilly, I swear there are not. Just give us a nice star with long rays on the
Mr. Tilly was the most good-natured of men, always willing to help an unattractive female in
distress, and whispering to her, "I shall require the phosphorescent patches to be given into my
hands after the sťance," he proceeded, by the mere effort of his imagination, to light a beautiful
big star with red and violet rays on the ceiling. Of course it was not nearly as brilliant as his own
conception of it, for its light had to pass through the opacity of the medium's mind, but it was
still a most striking object, and elicited gasps of applause from the company. To enhance the
effect of it he intoned a few very pretty lines about a star by Adelaide Anne Procter, whose
poems had always seemed to him to emanate from the topmost peak of Parnassus.
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Tilly!" whispered the medium. "It was lovely! Would a photograph of it
be permitted on some future occasion, if you would be so kind as to reproduce it again?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Mr. Tilly irritably. "I want to get out. I'm very hot and
uncomfortable. And it's all so cheap."
"Cheap?" ejaculated Mrs. Cumberbatch. "Why, there's not a medium in London whose
future wouldn't be made by a real genuine star like that, say, twice a week."
"But I wasn't run over in order that I might make the fortune of mediums," said Mr. Tilly. "I
want to go: it's all rather degrading. And I want to see something of my new world. I don't know
what it's like yet."
"Oh, but, Mr. Tilly," said she. "You told us lovely things about it, how busy and happy you
"No, I didn't. It was you who said that, at least it was you who put it into my head."
Even as he wished, he found himself emerging from the dull waters of Mrs. Cumberbatch's
"There's the whole new world waiting for me," he said. "I must go and see it. I'll come back
and tell you, for it must be full of marvellous revelations..."
Suddenly he felt the hopelessness of it. There was that thick fluid of materiality to pierce,.and, as it dripped off him again, he began to see that nothing of that fine rare quality of life
which he had just begun to experience, could penetrate these opacities. That was why, perhaps,
all that thus came across from the spirit-world, was so stupid, so banal. They, of whom he now
was one, could tap on furniture, could light stars, could abound with commonplace, could read as
in a book the mind of medium or sitters, but nothing more. They had to pass into the region of
gross perceptions, in order to be seen of blind eyes and be heard of deaf ears.
Mrs. Cumberbatch stirred.
"The power is failing," she said, in a deep voice, which Mr. Tilly felt was meant to imitate
his own. "I must leave you now, dear friends--"
He felt much exasperated.
"The power isn't failing," he shouted. "It wasn't I who said that."
Besides, I have got to see if it's true. Good-bye: don't cheat any more.
He dropped his card of admittance to the seance on the table and heard murmurs of
excitement as he floated off.
The news of the wonderful star, and the presence of Mr. Tilly at the sťance within half an hour of
his death, which at the time was unknown to any of the sitters, spread swiftly through
spiritualistic circles. The Psychical Research Society sent investigators to take independent
evidence from all those present, but were inclined to attribute the occurrence to a subtle mixture
of thought-transference and unconscious visual impression, when they heard that Miss Soulsby
had, a few minutes previously, seen a news-board in the street outside recording the accident at
Hyde Park Corner. This explanation was rather elaborate, for it postulated that Miss Soulsby,
thinking of Mr. Tilly 's non-arrival, had combined that with the accident at Hyde Park Corner,
and had probably (though unconsciously) seen the name of the victim on another news-board and
had transferred the whole by telepathy to the mind of the medium. As for the star on the ceiling,
though they could not account for it, they certainly found remains of phosphorescent paint on the
panels of the wall above the chimney-piece, and came to the conclusion that the star had been
produced by some similar contrivance. So they rejected the whole thing, which was a pity, since,
for once, the phenomena were absolutely genuine.
Miss Soulsby continued to be a constant attendant at Mrs. Cumberbatch's sťances, but never
experienced the presence of Mr. Tilly again. On that the reader may put any interpretation he
pleases. It looks to me somewhat as if he had found something else to do.
But he had emerged too far, and perceived that nobody except the medium heard him.
"Oh, don't be vexed, Mr. Tilly," she said. "That's only a formula. But you're leaving us very
soon. Not time for just one materialisation? They are more convincing than anything to most
"Not one," said he. "You don't understand how stifling it is even to speak through you and
make stars. But I'll come back as soon as I find there's anything new that I can get through to
you. What's the use of my repeating all that stale stuff about being busy and happy? They've
been told that often enough already.