Dr. Maupuis rubbed his little fat hands with glee. Like all pioneers he had endured much persecution from the Parisian Press, and every fresh phenomenon was another weapon for his own defence.
"Nous marchons! Hein! Nous Marchons!" he kept on repeating while Richet, lost in thought, answered mechanically:
"Oui, mon ami, vous marchez!"
The little Galician was sitting nibbling a biscuit with a glass of red wine before him. Malone went round to him and found that he had been in America and could talk a little English.
"Are you tired? Does it exhaust you?"
"In moderation, no. Two sittings a week. Behold my allowance. The doctor will allow no more."
"Do you remember anything?"
"It comes to me like dreams. A little here -- a little there."
"Has the power always been with you?"
"Yes, yes, ever since a child. And my father, and my uncle. Their talk was of visions. For me, I would go and sit in the woods and strange animals would come round me. It did me such a surprise when I found that the other children could not see them "
"Est ce que vous Ítes prÍtes?" asked Dr. Maupuis.
"Parfaitment," answered the medium, brushing away the crumbs. The doctor lit a spirit-lamp under one of the zinc buckets.
"We are about to co-operate in an experiment, gentlemen, which should, once and for all, convince the world as to the existence of these ectoplasmic forms. Their nature may be disputed, but their objectivity will be beyond doubt from now onwards unless my plans miscarry. I would first explain these two buckets to you. This one, which I am warming, contains paraffin, which is now in process of liquefaction. This other contains water. Those who have not been present before must understand that Panbek's phenomena occur usually in the same order, and that at this stage of the evening we may expect the apparition of the old man. To-night we lie in wait for the old man, and we shall, I hope, immortalize him in the history of psychic research. I resume my seat, and I switch on the red light, Number Three, which allows of greater visibility."
The circle was now quite visible. The medium's head had fallen forward and his deep snoring showed that he was already in trance. Every face was turned towards him, for the wonderful process of materialization was going on before their very eyes. At first it was a swirl of light, steam-like vapour which circled round his head. Then there was a waving, as of white diaphanous drapery, behind him. It thickened. It coalesced. It hardened in outline and took definite shape. There was a head. There were shoulders. Arms grew out from them. Yes, there could not be a doubt of it -- there was a man, an old man, standing behind the chair. He moved his head slowly from side lo side. He seemed to be peering in indecision towards the company. One could imagine that he was asking himself, "Where am I, and what am I here for?"
"He does not speak, but he hears and has intelligence," said Dr. Maupuis, glancing over his shoulder at the apparition. "We are here, sir, in the hope that you will aid us in a very important experiment. May we count upon your co-operation?"
The figure bowed his head in assent.
"We thank you. When you have attained your full power you will, no doubt, move away from the medium." The figure again bowed, but remained motionless. It seemed to Malone that it was growing denser every moment. He caught glimpses of the face. It was certainly an old man, heavy-faced, long-nosed, with a curiously projecting lower lip. Suddenly with a brusque movement it stood clear from Panbeck and stepped out into the room.
"Now, sir," said Maupuis in his precise fashion. "You will perceive the zinc bucket upon the left. I would beg you to have the kindness to approach it and to plunge your right hand into it."
The figure moved across. He seemed interested in the buckets, for he examined them with some attention. Then he dipped one of his hands into that which the doctor had indicated.
"Excellent!" cried Maupuis, his voice shrill with excitement. "Now, sir, might I ask you to have the kindness to dip the same hand into the cold water of the other bucket."
The form did so.