distinguished Mediums' from a '
circle' somewhere in New England, who had persuaded poor Skipwick to `import'
them for the purpose of assisting him in his ' spiritual' experiments.
$4 It was all over with him, I
feared. He was in the bands of the Philistines, and he was no Samson with shorn
locks that would grow again.
"Finding it worse than useless to
attempt dissuasion or argument with him, I contented myself with some business
advice as to his retaining the ownership of house and furniture, sold his stock,
and paid him the money ten thousand dollars. Once more he vanished into the fog,
riding recklessly sea-ward."
"His family ought to have placed
him in an asylum!" exclaimed Green, as Jenkins paused for a moment.
" He had no family nearer than
" His Mends, then."
" Humph ! He was over forty, and
worth a quarter of a million. But we live in America, not England. Besides,
spiritualism' has not yet been decided to furnish ground for personal restraint,
the more's the pity ' Let me go on :
" One day I took an odd fancy to
have a look at, and a word with, the two ' distinguished mediums' who were
furnishing Skipwick with shadows in return for his ' substance.' So I rang the
bell of a small, neat brick house in a quiet street, with' CHEETHAM' on the door
plate. A thin, freckled-faced woman with a remarkably sharp eye, and hair that
looked as if a clip of the barber's shears would be sure to make it bleed opened
the door. "'Is Mr. Cheetham at home?
"'He is ;' curtly, and holding
the door ajar.
"' Can I see him for a moment?'
"' I'll see. Who shall I say,
"'He does not know my name. Say a
friend of Mr. Skipwick's.'
"' Oh ! step into the parlor. I
will communicate with my husband."
"The lady with the sanguinary
tresses was Mrs. Cheetham. She would `communicate' with Mr. C. I fancied that
perhaps she was about to advise him ' spiritually' of my presence by rapping on
the ceiling, or ordering some of the furniture to give him notice to that
effect. But no ; she simply went up stairs like a mere human being to tell him,
and he presently made his appearance. His manner and matter of greeting, as well
as the man himself, instantly brought his prototype before my mental eye as a
great Master had portrayed him. ' Ecce Chadband !' said I to myself.
"He was oily, bland. ponderous,
and rolled his r's as though he delivered them off a spindle. Before I had
listened five minutes to him I felt that he was a knave. I needn't try to repeat
what he said. You've read plenty of that sort of stuff in the newspapers. He
ended by offering his services to ' communicate' with any deceased friend or
relative I might wish to hear from, and said that Mr. Skipwick was unfortunately
too exacting and imperative; so that the 'manifestations' had not been, of late,
as satisfactory as either he or Mr. S. could wish.
" The house, what I saw of it,
was comfortably, even luxuriously, furnished ; and I discovered, through a mild
complaint of Skipwick's ' closeness' by Mr. Cheetham, that he and Mrs. C.
received a regular 'salary' of two hundred dollars a month from Mr. S., besides
incidental sums for 'spiritual' extras. " In a word, Skipwick was fleeced by
this precious pair to the tune of over three thousand dollars a year, exclusive
of the house rent, while they succeeded in ' fooling him to the top of his
bent,' whatever that may be. It was a very tall ' bent' at all events ! "Not
very long afterward Skipwick, coming to me on business as usual, in answer to my
questions, told me he had found the Cheetham pair to be impostors, and had
dismissed them. "I congratulated him, and hoped his eyes were now opened.
"But they were not. He had only
changed guides to his blindness. He had another medium in his house. This, one
indubitably honest, and of high spirit compelling power, but dear in proportion.
He the new Light' was not married, but lived with his sister, a 'trance medium'
to whom Swedenborg was a mere ' dreamer of dreams.'
"Well, this was two years ago.
Since then Skipwick has changed his ' spiritual relations' many times ; but with
every new ' blind garde' he has ridden deeper into the fog, nearer and nearer to
the cliff, beneath which roars the wreck-strewn ocean of Madness! The last I
heard of his ' hobby' he was trotting it alongside of the ' Davenport Boys' with
their ' magic cabinet' on his back.
" He comes regularly to see me on
business, about which he talks as indeed he does about every thing save one
shrewdly and consistently. I see him often in the street, walking, with his head
down, rapidly, and his lips in constant motion, as if holding communication with
the 'unseen world.' He even occasionally drops in here of an evening when his
talk is chiefly of the rebellion, which, he says, on the authority of the
'spirits,' is ' all right' and ' part of the great plan.' What the great plan'
is, however, the ' spirits' have not as yet vouchsafed to inform him. " He has
not fortunately much diminished his estate to feed his folly, but devotes at
least two thirds of his income to the ' Cause of Spiritualism.' He is a perfect
Providence to many circles' both here and in other cities; and no amount of
disappointment. detection of fraud, or falsehood seems to shake his faith in the
abstract truth of the spiritual doctrines."
"He will surely end in the asylum
!" said Mr. White. " There are no undertakers out there, at any rate !" added
he, grimly. "You're mistaken," retorted Green. " There are two as patients." "
Glad of it ! Serves 'em right !'' growled the old bachelor. "Well, Jenkins,"
said Black, thoughtfully, "it's a great pity, certainly, about your poor friend
Skipwick ; but what inference do you draw from his case? Do you mean to say that
he proves your assertion that all of us are ' mild monomaniacs ?"'
Just as Jenkins was about to
answer a step came rapidly up the brick walk toward the porch, and a voice said,
" Good evening, Theodore ! Ah ! I thought you were alone." " Only old friends.
Walk up, Skipwick." The new comer came up the steps and was briefly introduced.
He was a middle sized man, with a pale face and deep sunk yes, and his lips had
a tremulous motion in them, even when his countenance was in repose. Otherwise a
gentlemanly, quiet locking person, in grave attire.
This night he seemed in unusually
good spirits, and talked with a nervous flow of words, like a man who has a
secret he itches to tell, yet can not find nor make a fitting opportunity. After
sitting some thirty minutes, however, during which he had made no allusion,
direct or indirect, to his "mania," but had listened with interest, trough
impatiently, to Jenkins's account of their visit to the Asylum, he suddenly rose
and said, " I did not know you had company, Theodore ; I only stopped to tell
you the glorious news. These gentlemen will no doubt be glad. to hear it also."
Ile paused, and seemed to hesitate.
" Certainly ; good news is always
welcome !" exclaimed all of tthem. Skipwick walked rapidly up and down the top
step of the piazza as he continued, " It was very hard to obtain a decided
manifestation, but we got it at last, and I am able to assure you that PEACE
WILL BE PROCLAIMED ON THE 4TH DAY OF MARCH, 1865."
Having deliverer' this strangely
positive prediction in a loud voice and with a violent gesture, he said "
Good-night!" almost in a whisper, and was gone. "As mad as a March hare !" cried
Mr. White. And the others responded, "Amen!"