"Much to do to-day. Crowd waiting. Some new, some old. I gather strange folk in my net. Now I go." He sank back among the cushions. A minute elapsed, then he suddenly sat up.
"I want to thank you," he said, speaking perfect English. "I came two weeks ago. I have thought over all you said. The path is lighter."
"Were you the spirit who did not believe in God?"
"Yes, yes! I said so in my anger. I was so weary -- so weary. Oh, the time, the endless time, the grey mist, the heavy weight of remorse! Hopeless! Hopeless! And you brought me comfort, you and this great Chinese spirit. You gave me the first kind words I have had since I died."
"When was it that you died?"
"Oh! It seems an eternity. We do not measure as you do. It is a long, horrible dream without change or break."
"Who was king in England?"
"Victoria was queen. I had attuned my mind to matter and so it clung to matter. I did not believe in a future life. Now I know that I was all wrong, but I could not adapt my mind to new conditions."
"Is it bad where you are?"
"It is all -- all grey. That is the awful part of it. One's surroundings are so horrible."
"But there are many more. You are not alone."
"No, but they know no more than I. They, too, scoff and doubt and are miserable."
"You will soon get out."
"For God's sake, help me to do so!"
"Poor soul!" said Mrs. Mailey in her sweet, caressing voice, a voice which could bring every animal to her side. "You have suffered much. But do not think of yourself. Think of these others. Try to bring one of them up and so you will best kelp yourself."
"Thank you, lady, I will. There is one here whom I brought. He has heard you. We will go on together. Perhaps some day we may find the light."
"Do you like to be prayed for?"
"Yes, yes, indeed I do!"
"I will pray for you," said Mason. "Could you say the 'Our Father' now?" He uttered the old universal prayer, but before he had finished Terbane had collapsed again among the cushions. He sat up again as Chang.
"He come on well," said the control. "He give up time for others who wait. That is good. Now I have hard case. Ow!"
He gave a comical cry of disapprobation and sank back. Next moment he was up, his face long and solemn, his hands palm to palm.
"What is this?" he asked in a precise and affected voice. "I am at a loss to know what right this Chinese person has to summon me here. Perhaps you can enlighten me."
"It is that we may perhaps help you."
"When I desire help, sir, I ask for it. At present I do not desire it. The whole proceeding seems to me to be a very great liberty. So far as this Chinaman can explain it, I gather that I am the involuntary spectator of some sort of religious service."
"We are a spiritualistic circle."
"A most pernicious sect. A most blasphemous proceeding. As a humble parish priest I protest against such desecrations."
"You are held back, friend, by those narrow views. It is you who suffer. We want to relieve you."
"Suffer? What do you mean, sir?"
"You realize that you have passed over?"
"You are talking nonsense!"
"Do you realize that you are dead?"
"How can I be dead when I am talking to you?"
"Because you are using this man's body."
"I have certainly wandered into an asylum."
"Yes, an asylum for bad cases. I fear you are one of them. Are you happy where you are?"
"Happy? No, sir. My present surroundings are perfectly inexplicable to me."
"Have you any recollection of being ill?"
"I was very ill indeed."
"So ill that you died."
"You are certainly out of your senses."
"How do you know you are not dead?"
"Sir, I must give you some religious instruction. When one dies and has led an honourable life, one assumes a glorified body and one associates with the angels. I am now in exactly the same body as in life, and I am in a very dull, drab place. Such companions as I have are not such as I have been accustomed to associate with in life, and certainly no one could describe them as angels. Therefore your absurd conjecture may be dismissed."
"Do not continue to deceive yourself.