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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33


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"Better hadst thou stay thy curiosity," said the Influence, "unless thou wilt use, for thy salvation, the secret that accident has enabled thee to explore. Consider, then, ere thou desirest to know how the present has come to pass."

For some minutes I pondered in silence over these strange words. I had been given to understand by those versed in the medley, muggy craft, that spirits never came to man in any form but for his destruction. I reckoned somewhat like Cæsar on the banks of the Rubicon, and then replied—"I am resolved. Let me know all. Be my unriddler, guide, saviour,—what thou wilt."

"Gladly," answered the Mystic Voice, in a louder and more musical note; "for the greatest happiness a spirit can attain, after its departure from the earthly body, is to serve those it has injured on earth. It has been the lot of my predecessors, in past ages, to effect this service only by faint communications,—which were, indeed, but hints and intimations, abrupt and inconsequential,—that bewildered mortals instead of enlightening them, inasmuch as they all have been un-equal to the task of avoiding the dangers so vaguely indicated. Thou,—fortunate man!—hast unravelled a mystery, of which neither the subtleties of art or page 19 science could unweave the first threads. There have been great pretensions of the power of will over will, aided by certain formal passes of the limbs. These, though touching on the truth, have been only blind guesses in the dark; but thou, by virtue of the great moving power of the age, which, in trivial matters, men call Chance; by the intuitions of thy unrecognised thought, concentrated upon me in mortality's last hour; conjoined with the electric forces of thy body, hast withdrawn my soul from its fleshly tabernacle, ere the messengers from the spiritual world came for its removal, and taken it under the care and potency of thy will, in whose custody it now is."

"Under the pain of a heavier penalty in eternity," continued the Vocal Phantasm, "that I may atone for the wrongs I have done thee on earth, I say to thee, that, through me, thou canst compel my mighty Master and Tormentor to serve thee in unveiling the rank imperfections and scanty excellencies of mankind. He will have no dominion over thee, unless, in some compliant and unhappy moment, thou voluntarily resignest thyself over to him. Therefore, if thou wilt have him as thy servant, to open the minds of men to thine eye, and show thee how bootless a task it is for thee to place thyself under their command for hire or buffetings,—speak, and it shall be done.

I reviewed my position, and was in deep thought for ten minutes. I had now been in this City of the Waste for some months : the money I had brought to invest was nearly all squandered: I had never yet had an opportunity of engaging my abilities for the advantage of another man, as I intended honestly, and, as I page 20 hoped, with some profit to myself. "If all avocations," I reasoned, "should bear in them a tinge of that viciousness which those have that my Friend, in his life, introduced me to, the end may be that in a few months, after severe labour, I shall find myself utterly penniless, and still more unhappy. If, instead, I accept of the Spirit's offer, I shall know where honesty dwells, and there bestow myself: or, if it should not have a local habitation, as well as a name, as his words malevolently insinuate, I will better know what to do."

I said resolutely to the Inapparent Presence, "Thy kindness has possessed me; send thy master."

There was a rustling in the air for the space of half a minute: a faint sound followed as of one tortured, which died away; then a harsh voice cried—"What is thy will?"

"Who art thou?" I demanded.

"Archimago,—the Lord and Ruler of the chief horde of Spirits in the earth and out of it," replied the Stern Utterance.

"I wish—nay, I command thee, to reveal to me thy manifold workings amidst the people of my nation."

"I obey. There is but one condition"—

"I agree to no condition."

"Yet it still exists, and will enforce itself," bitterly answered the Arch Spirit.

"Name it, then."

"I come," said It, "at all times when thou commandest; also, whether thou desirest me or not; but, should I call to thee three times, and thou dost not answer, thy power over me will depart for ever; or, page 21 shouldst thou answer any voice as mine but my own, thou destroyest thine own charm."

"I am content," I replied; "attend me as I leave this house to-morrow morning."

There came no response; and, persuaded that the Imperial Spectre had departed, I rung the bell, took my supper, went to bed and slept soundly.