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“I won't say that that same is be- become a criminal, and perhaps yond the horizon of possibility,” re- doomed to undergo a felon's shame plied Mr Ewins. “ Few things there and punishment. And this was to are that one can't buy for hard cash, be the fate of the innocent lad I had specially from lads who find it diffi- known in Edinburgh-the darling of cult enough to keep decent clothes his fond old mother! God forgive on their backs, and fill their bellies. those, thought I, who sent out so Money is an awful temptation to a silly a sheep into the wilderness, young man in a place like this, where where the wolf was certain to devour there is no end of theatres, and gar- him ! dens, and cider-cellars, and casinos And what think you, Squire, of filled with bouncing young sluts, all this neat little project of Speedsweet sap, and as pert as rice-bunt. well's ?” said Mr Ewins. “It ain't ings in May. Many a chap can no ill devised, I reckon, though it looks more steer clear of them, than a moth rayther ugly. When I hinted to him can keep away from a candle.” that the commissioners might take
"And I tell you, most confidently, the liberty of locking their desks, from what I know of men in such he spiggered, and said something situations, that if you were to offer about double keys, which don't mend them money to divulge a secret, they the matter nohow, in my apprehenwould dash it in your face with sion.” scorn.'
“My opinion, Mr Ewins, can be “I ain't going to try the experi- very shortly expressed. A more nement, Squire, so you needn't fly off farious proposal was never made by the handle. Mind you, I am only one man to another ; and I am only putting a case in which I have no surprised that you did not knock the consarn; and it's time enough for you scoundrel down !" to look rumbustious when I ask you “Why, Squire ; you see it was to put a finger in the pie.”
not altogether a proposal, but jest a I deemed it the correct thing to kind of feeler like. Speedwell ain't make apology for my warmth. the man to commit himself outright,
"Oh, darn apologies !” said the though he did show a foot as cloven Yankee. “They're as useless as rice- as a moose's. As to knockin' down, paper bank-notes. I respect you, that's not my way. It's trying to Squire Sinclair, I do, because you the temper, and bad for the knuckles; stick up for your countrymen ; and I and I somehow think that it's better believe you are partly right, though to hear a chap out and say nothing, it's a grand tree on which there is no than to flare up as savage as a meat rotten fruit. But it's not a ques- I've contrived, don't you see, tion of bribing. It would seem to make him show me his hand, that this gallows-bird Speedwell has which I calculate he wouldn't have got the heads of one or two young done had I begun to holler like a fellows connected with the public bull-bat." offices under his arm. They've been “Well, Mr Ewins; it is a happy borrowing money from him, and he thing to be able to control your temholds their bills; and from what I per. I presuine, after this, you will could gather-for he's clean too wide- give Mr Speedwell a wide berth ?”. awake to speak out—he can do with Quite the other way,” said the them exactly what he pleases. One Yankee; “I'll stick to him close, of these chaps is in the Board of and ride him savagely whenever I Trade, where this investigation is He does understand the marlikely to take place; and as he is a ket right well, that's a fact ; and weak goney, Speedwell thinks he can now that he has given me a kind of make him scout after everything that hank over him, I'm not soft enough is going on.
to let him go. I guess he'd be but I saw at once how the land lay. too glad if I allowed him to slope. Poor wretched Littlewoo was now I've a kinder notion he was like to fairly in the fangs of this detestable bite his tongue off when he thought Jewish miscreant. Already beggared over our talk; but I led him on the in purse, he was to be stripped of the ice so cleverly, that he did not know last rag of character, compelled to were he was till he heerd it crack
under him. I've got my lasso over or India, of my progress in life, my that mustang, and it's a pity if I hopes, joys, cares, and sorrows, with don't make him snort before I slip all the unrestricted freedom of former the leather!”
intercourse. That is, in some meaSo saying, the virtuous specula- sure, a renewal of the old pledge tor finished his tumbler, and took of friendship and of love ; a token his leave.
that the silver cord is yet unloosed, I own that I was less astonished and the golden bowl unbroken. at the villany which the American's It was with such a feeling as that, narrative disclosed, than concerned that I began to write to Mr Shearfor the fate of that unhappy Little- away; for after having said all that
It was quite evident that he was needful regarding the main subhad not found courage to write to ject of my letter, I gave my old friend Mr Shearaway with a full confession and master a full account- I suspect, of his folly, as I suggested, and as he at unmerciful length-of what I had had promised to do. He was still in seen and done, and of my present the hands of the Jew, probably more prospects. I certainly had no expecdeeply implicated than before ; and, tation of receiving a reply in a corknowing as I did the extreme weak- responding strain ; for a Writer to ness of his character, I saw how the Signet in large practice has daily easily he might be led, under the to indite so many epistles for the threat of ruin and exposure, to be- modest remuneration of three-andcome an active accomplice of the fourpence and six - and - eightpence villain by whom he was entangled. each, that he may well stand excused The danger appeared to me so immi- if he declines to imitate the example nent that I determined at once to sit of Horace Walpole, and waives the down, and explain to Mr Shearaway chance of posthumous fame accruwbat I knew of Littlewoo's embar- ing from the smartpess of his letters. rassments, making no allusion, of However, I was wrong. Mr Shearcourse, to anything beyond the pecu- away, who, as I have stated throughniary difficulty.
out, was a first-rate fellow-as kind I was the more moved to this a soul indeed as ever graced an honstep, because my conscience smote ourable profession-seemed for once me for having so long neglected the to have pitched aside his papers, and friends of my youth. I cannot re- covered more than four sides of creamproach myself with any real lack of laid quarto with the well-known warmth of feelings, and can truly characters which, many a time, I had say that the lapse of years makes no transcribed into the letter-book. It change in my affection towards those is strange how old associations confrom whom I have long been separat- tinue to affect us. The time bad ed; but I never was, and I fear I been when a letter addressed by Mr never shall be, a regular or diligent Shearaway to myself would have correspondent. I suspect that is been opened with some awe and the way with most men who write solicitude ; and when I found upon much professionally. Correspondence my table a letter with the well-reoften bores them, or interferes with membered superscription, something more serious labour; and being in of the same feeling came over me, the habit of addressing themselves to notwithstanding the change in our the public, they reserve little for pri- relationship. But as Mr Shearaway's vate confidants. At times, however, communication had an important I have felt an irrepressible yearning effect upon my fortunes, I must take to take up the pen, and tell some the liberty of postponing it for the early friend, perhaps in New Zealand initiative of another chapter.
Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh,
THERE is no popular adage less operation in the formation of opinunderstood than this. With an ill- ions, and especially in the acceptsuppressed irritation at any expres- ance of that ignoble and debasing sion of scepticism respecting things superstition which, under the names said to have been seen, a narrator of" Spiritualism," "Spirit-Rapping," asks whether or not he may believe and “Table-Turning," disgraces Euthe evidence of his own serses? rope of the present day. That argument seems to him final; In vain have charlatans been exand it often happens that his oppo- posed, and dupes ridiculed; in vain nent, evading, instead of meeting it, have science and common retorts : “No; the evidence of the argued against a credulity pardonsenses is not to be trusted, when able only in a savage-deplorable in they report anything so absurd as a cultivated intellect. So strong is that. I would not believe such a the fascination, and so delusive the thing if I were to see it—the absurd- fallacy, that scheming Americans and ity is too glaring.”
cunning girls are able to find fresh Both are wrong. Seeing is be. converts every day. Argument and lieving; and he that distrusts the ridicule never reach these converts. eridence of his own sight, will They are prepared for both. They find a difficulty in bringing for- know their statements are strange ward evidence more convincing. --stranger than fiction; but they also The fallacy lies in confounding know their own sincerity, and revision with inference,-in supposing member that they too were once inthat facts are seen which are only credulous. The fallibility of the inferred. There can be no mistake human intellect is so notorious, that in trusting to the evidence of sense, they may be excused if they decline as far as that goes. The mistake is to accept its verdict against the eviin supposing it to go much further dence of their own senees. They than it does. It is one thing to be are certain that they have seen what lieve what you have seen, and an- they relate; and no argument can other to believe that you have seen make them swerve from their posiall there was to be seen.
tion. If argument prove the phenoThe fallacy is widely spread and menon to be “impossible,” then they very injurious-so injurious and so hare seen the impossible. They unsuspected by the mass of mankind, prefer their senses to your arguthat we are tempted to consider its ments.
VOL. LXXXVIII.-NO. DXL.
Here, then, is the stronghold of nevertheless be wholly erroneous, no honest conviction. Setting aside such intention having existed in the many of the concurrent causes which defendant's mind. help to spread the belief in Spiritual- In like manner, when a man avers ism, such as painful feebleness of that he has "seen a ghost,” he is mind, a timorous curiosity about the passing far beyond the limits of unseen, and a delight in the marvel- visible fact, into that of inference. lous, we will consider the one cause He saw something which he supposed which most decisively operates with to be a ghost. But we have a right candid minds--namely, the irresist- to ask him if he knows what a ghost ible evidence of the senses.
is, that he can thus readily recognise It was a pleasant artifice of the one ?- and what proof does he offer poet, when he exclaimed :
that what he saw was not something
else ? If he were to assert that he “ Se tu se 'or, lettore, a creder lento, Cid ch' io dirò, non sarà maraviglia,
had seen an aërolite, we should ask Che io, che 'lvidi, appena il mi consento." him for all the details of the thing
seen, and why from these he inferred But when Treviranus said the same it to be an aërolite. We cannot be to Coleridge (“ I have seen what I less circumspect when he pretends to would not have believed on your have seen a ghost. testimony, and what I cannot there- The facts seen iu table-turning are fore expect you to believe upon credible enough. It is a mistake to mine"), not as a pleasant turn, but as suppose that our doubts fall on them; a trial of credulity, Coleridge should our doubts fall on the facts not seen, have answered : And
pray, sir, but inferred; because it is these, and what did you see? Let me hear all these alone, which make spirit-rapthe facts which came under your ping and table-turning mysterious. immediate observation, and I shall What an honest man tells me he saw, throw no doubt on them ; but if you I will believe he saw, if it comes mingle inferences respecting facts within the possibilities of vision; not directly observed, you must allow my scepticism begins when he ceases me to exercise due caution before to narrate what he actually saw, and admitting them. I am not in the substitutes his interpretation of it. least disposed to doubt what you Thus the table moves, and raps are saw; but only to doubt your inter- heard, without any agency visible pretation of what you saw."
to the spectator. This fact is by no It is one of the commonest mis- means incredible. There are many takes to suppose, and assert, that phenomena witnessed, of which the some fact has been seen, which was causes are completely hidden from not seen at all, and often could not us; and little as we may be able to have been seen; the fact being sim- explain how a table can rock, or run ply inferred. This is the meaning of about the room, when we cannot deCullen's epigram : “ There are more
tect the agency by which it is moved, false facts than false theories cur- this is no ground for denying the rent.”. A witness may swear that he fact. But spiritualists make an saw defendant knock the plaintiff enormous mistake : they suppose down ; it is a fact which admits of that because they can detect no perbeing seen, and may be testified to son present moving the table, or procompletely: But should the fact, ducing the raps, it is thereby proved sworn to be only a little more com- that no person did these things; beplicated, and some of its constituent cause they are wholly unable to exelements lie beyond the field of plain how the things were produced, vision, the testimony becomes pro- “it is evident that no physical causes portionately fallible. For example, could have produced them.” This we cannot accept the evidence that childish logic is paraded by men of witness saw defendant going to talent and culture, who appeal to knock the plaintiff down; that is the respectability of the witnesses pure inference ; it may be the na- they call to testify to the facts ! tural interpretation every man would They do not understand that the put upon what was seen, but it may facts which they have witnessed are
very simple, very credible, and would vellous air. They would narrate be intelligible to a child, if other truly all that they saw; but they facts which are now concealed were would not truly narrate all that was once made visible. Nothing is more
to be seen. inexplicable than a good conjuring We may thus understand how an trick; nothing is more intelligible honest witness may narrate truly all when the trick is explained. There the facts which came under his obis some one detail which we do not servation in a spiritual séance, and observe, either because the conjuror may omit other facts, which, had he has successfully diverted our atten- observed them, would explain the tion, or because he has been quick whole mystery. When we hear enough to baffle us; and this one de- marvels narrated which contradict tail makes the whole mysterious. If universal experience and physical we are to accept the narratives of laws, we may be certain that the respectable witnesses as guarantees narrator oinits something which of the truth of Spiritualism, or if would remove the contradiction. His we are to trust the evidence of our mistake lies in supposing that beown senses as irresistible proofs of cause he could see no more than he the truth of any inferences we may relates, there was no more to be seen. make respecting them, there will be Every séance at a juggler's should no limit to credulity : Robert Hou- warn him against such a mistake. din and Bosco will be high priests, There is probably not a single conwith supernatural powers.
vert who does not assure his listeners Not long ago the following mar- that he began by being incredulous vellous phenomena were witnessed of the facts narrated by spiritualists. by hundreds of respectable people. Like other people he thought “the In the centre of a public garden there whole thing a transparent humbug." was a large boat with globular silken He derided the credulity of believers; sails. Into this boat four persons but, sceptical though he was, he had were invited. At a given signal this enough candour to admit the facts boat, with the four sitters, rose from if they could be proved. He went as the ground, nobody hoisting it, nobody a scoffer, and returned a convert : touching it; upwards it rose, above facts vanquished him : he could the house - tops, and finally sailed not distrust the evidence of his through the air towards the coast of senses. This is what we read in every France. Beside this, the narratives book, pamphlet, and article ; and, of rocking tables are trifles. Yet reading it, we are forced to infer this was seen in open daylight by that the scepticism was as childish hundreds of spectators. If the spi- and irrational as the credulity, since ritualist logic is to be followed, we the scepticism and the credulity may prove that this boat was raised both confounded visible fact with in the air by spiritual agency, be- what was mere inference. This is cause“ no physical means could have the weak point of the cuirass. A raised it, no one touched the boat, man is asked to witness facts," no one could have touched it;" long which he already classes in his mind after the boat was beyond human as “fictions.” He joins an assembly reach, it continued to rise higher and of friends and respectable people, and higher. To those who are acquainted finds them all grave and calmly conwith balloons, this phenomenon is no vinced. The tone of conversation is marvel ; to those who understand so serious, that he has miagivings why the lighter gas, contained with- respecting his original hypothesis of in the silken sails, must be pushed the "whole thing being humbug." upwards by the heavier air, and in He hears marvels related with inpushing upwards must drag the boat tense sincerity. He is induced to after it, the phenomenon is intelligi- join the circle. All seems fair and ble. But supposing the spectators unsuspicious (it would be an absurd all ignorant of these things, they trick which looked suspicious), and would of course omit all mention of even the darkness of the room (when them in their narrative, and thereby darkness is needed) is so plausibly the narrative would assume a mar- accounted for, that misgivings dis