THE CASE OF FRANK HAMPDEN

There was a light visible from the chinks and crevices of drawn curtains
in the window of Dr. Roupert’s study as I passed it on my way back from
dinner one night. He lived some six doors farther up the same street as
I, and since it had long been a frequent custom for us to smoke the
“go-to-bed” cigarette together, I rang and asked if he was at leisure.
His servant told me that he had already sent a message across to my
house, asking me to look in on him if I got home while the evening was
not too far advanced for a casual conversational quarter of an hour; and
accordingly I took off my coat, and went straight into the pleasant
little front room, about which hung the studious fragrance of the books
that lined it from floor to ceiling.

Arthur Roupert was not alone this evening; there was sitting on the near
side of the fire, which sparkled prosperously in this clear night of
early December frost, a young man whom I was sure I had never seen
before. As I entered, he stopped in the middle of a sentence, turning
towards the door, and I looked on the most handsome and diabolical face
that I had ever beheld.

Simultaneously Roupert got up.

“I hoped you would look in,” he said. “Let me introduce to you my
cousin, Mr. Hampden, who is spending a day or two with me. This is Mr.
Archdale, Frank, of whom I was speaking just now.”

As the other rose, I saw that Roupert’s almost foolishly amiable
fox-terrier shrank away from where she had been sitting by her master’s
chair, instead of giving me her accustomed and effusive greeting, and
retreated into a far corner of the room, where she sat quivering with
raised hackles, and with vigilant eyes full of hate and terror fixed on
young Hampden. His right arm was in a sling, and he held out his left
hand to me.

“You must excuse me,” he said, “but I am only just recovering from a
broken arm. My cousin’s dog doesn’t approve of it; she would like to get
her teeth into it.”

“The oddest thing I ever saw, Archdale,” said Roupert. “You know Fifi’s
usual amiability. Call her, Frank.”

Frank Hampden whistled, and clicked his fingers together in an
encouraging manner.

“Fifi–come here, Fifi!” he said.

For a moment I thought that this most confiding of ladies was going to
fly at him. But apparently she could not find the courage for an attack,
and, snapping and growling, retreated behind the window curtains.

“And that to me,” said Hampden, licking his lips as he spoke. “Me, who
adore dogs. Don’t you, Mr. Archdale?”

As he said that I knew that he lied; that Fifi’s detestation of him was
met with a hatred quite as vivid but more controlled. I can no more
account for that conviction than for the sense of hellish evil that my
first glance at him had conveyed to me. He was quite young, twenty-two
or twenty-three for a guess, and yet from behind the mask of that soft
boyish face there looked out a spirit hard and malignant and mature, an
adept in terrible paths. The impression was quite inexplicable but
perfectly clear. Then, looking across to Roupert, I saw he was watching
his cousin with eager intentness.

I had to answer the direct question he had put to me, but it required an
effort to speak to him or to look at him.

“No; personally I don’t care about dogs,” I said. “I rather dislike
them, and so enjoy a most unwelcome popularity among them. Fifi, for
instance: your cousin will tell you how blind is her adoration for me!”

“See if Fifi will come to you if I stand by you,” said Hampden. Fifi had
half-emerged from her ambush behind the curtains, and I called to her.
But she would not leave the retreat where her rage and terror had driven
her. She gave a little apologetic whine, as if to signify that I was
asking an impossible thing, and beat with her stumpy tail on the
carpet.

“Now go back to your chair again, Frank,” said Roupert.

Fifi needed no further invitation when he had left my neighbourhood. She
bundled herself across the room to me, her thin white body curled like a
comma, wriggling with delight and making incomprehensible little
explanations of her previous conduct. But the moment that Hampden moved
in his chair, she bolted away from me again.

He laughed and got up.

“Well, I think I shall go to bed now that you have come to keep Arthur
company,” he said. “By the way, where’s your cat, Arthur? I haven’t seen
her about all day.”

He was facing sideways to Roupert as he spoke, and I noticed that he did
not turn his head towards him. This gave a certain casual cursory tone
to his question, making it appear a mere careless inquiry.

“I haven’t seen her either,” said Roupert. “Perhaps, after taking
counsel with Fifi, she has thought it prudent to fly from your baleful
presence. Good night, Frank. Can you manage for yourself with your
bandaged arm, or shall I come and help you?”

“Oh, I’m all right, thanks,” he said; “good night. A kind good night,
Fifi. We shall be good friends before long.”

* * * * *

Arthur Roupert had retired some two years before from regular medical
practice, in which, as all the world knows, he was undoubtedly the
first authority on disease and aberrations of the brain and nervous
system, devoting his attention more particularly to those riddles of
obscure and baffling disorders to which he so often supplied strange and
correct answers. He was possessed of an ample competence, and so,
finding that his large professional practice did not permit him the
leisure which was necessary for these exploratory studies, he had,
though always willing to be consulted by his colleagues, thrown up an
active career for one of research. He wanted to learn rather than to
practise, and without precisely mistrusting the methods which had earned
him so brilliant a success, had inferred the presence of huge fields of
the unknown, huge expanses of further possibilities which would perhaps
put utterly out of date the most advanced of theories and treatments
hitherto recognized in his profession. At the time of his retirement he
had once talked to me about the uncharted seas on to which he proposed
to push forth.

“The most advanced of actual practitioners,” he said, “are but groping
in the dark on the threshold of real knowledge, feeling for the handle,
fumbling for the bell. At the most, that is to say, in cases of brain
disease and nerve disorder we try to get at the mind of the patient, and
influence that, so that it, not we, may exert its healing power, and
cure the imperfect functioning of the material part. Of course that is
a tremendous step forward when we look at what medical science was
twenty years ago, when doctors prescribed tonics, tonics to heal the
physical damage caused by a disordered mind. But mind itself is but a
very subordinate denizen in that house of mystery which we call man.

“Mind is no more than the servant who comes to the door, and takes your
hat and coat, and tells you in a word or two how the patient has been.
Mind is not the master of the house, whom you have really come to see,
and who sits there alone, mortally sick, perhaps, and in terror and
darkness for the master of the house is the spirit. We have got to
examine him before we can touch the source of these diseases. For the
farther that science advances, the more certain it is that there is a
master sitting within to whom the mind is only the servant. As for the
body, the tissues, the nerves, the grey matter, what shall we say that
is? Why, it’s no more than the servant’s clothes, his jacket, or his
boots. I’m not going to stay talking in the hall to ‘mind,’ the servant,
any longer. I shall leave him there, and go straight up to the
sick-chamber. I shall be called all sorts of names–charlatan,
spiritualist, what you will–but I don’t care two straws about that.
Besides, I know quite well that my colleagues will still be glad to call
me in when they are puzzled, and I hope to be better equipped to help
them…. I won’t reject any jungle-path without exploring it, not
witchcraft, nor demoniacal possession, nor all the myths which science
thinks she has exploded. In its first origin everything must be
spiritual, be it comet or toothache or genius. Just as mental suggestion
has taken the place of tonics, so must spiritual healing take the place
of mental suggestion. The spirit is the original manifestation of God in
man, and it is on prayer and on faith that the whole science of healing
will some day rest. But first we have to investigate the conditions, the
environment, the life….”

For these two years, then, which had followed his retirement, Roupert
had given himself to these studies of occult and spiritual influences,
learning about the healing powers contained in mental suggestion, and
trying to get behind that into the more elemental and essential
mysteries of man; leaving the servant, as he had said, in the hall of
the house, while he went further into the presence of the master of the
house. Often, during these “go-to-bed” cigarettes that multiplied
themselves into the night, he told me tales that did not make going to
sleep any easier. Nothing was too extravagant for his investigations;
witchcraft, spiritualism, Satanism, the healing touch, and, above all,
demoniacal possession were the subjects of this study that went deeper
into the human organism than mind. There was no myth or exploded
superstition that he did not examine, to see whether the explosion had
been complete and shattering, or whether among the débris there did not
remain some grains of solid stuff that were still solid, though science
had affirmed that a puff of scattered smoke was all that was extant….
Consequently this evening, when Frank Hampden had gone to bed, I was
quite prepared to find that Roupert had something to tell, some guess to
hazard that had illumined his inquiries, the more so indeed because I
had not seen him for some dozen nights.

“Did you receive the message I left at your house?” he asked abruptly as
the door closed behind his cousin.

“No; I haven’t been home. But your servant told me you had asked me to
come in,” said I.

“Yes, I did. You have done just what I wanted. In my note I asked you to
come in and observe my cousin, and tell me your impression. I saw you
couldn’t help observing him, so now let us have the impression.”

“Quite frankly? All?” I said.

“Of course.”

“I never saw anyone so utterly terrible,” I said.

“Terrible? Exactly how?” he asked.

The very intensity of my feeling about Hampden blurred the outline of
it, and I paused trying to put a definite shape to it.

“Incomparably terrible,” I said. “Murderous, I think: murderous for the
fun of it. I felt like Fifi.”

“I saw you did,” he said; “and I suspect you are right, you and
Fifi….”

He walked up and down the room once or twice, then sat down with the air
of settling himself.

“Did you hear him ask about my cat?” he said. “He killed her last night;
he buried her in the garden.”

There was a grotesqueness, a ludicrousness even in this after the talk
of murder, but that only added horror to it.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Precisely what I say. It so happened that I slept very badly last
night, because, as a matter of fact, I was thinking about Frank, and
wondering if I was on the horrible track which would show me what ailed
him. About three in the morning I heard the door into the garden being
opened: the window of my bedroom, which was open, is just above it. The
idea of burglars occurred to me, and, without turning on my light, I
went and looked out. There was bright clear starlight, and I saw Frank
come out of the house carrying something white in his arm. He put it
down to fetch a spade from the tool-house, and I saw what it was. He dug
up a couple of plants with lumps of soil round their roots, working
slowly, for he could only use one arm. He buried the cat in the
excavation, and very carefully replanted the Michaelmas daisies over it.
Then, more terribly yet, he knelt down by the grave, and I could hear
him sobbing.”

“Sobbing?” I asked.

“Yes. What he said to-night is, or was, perfectly true. He used to be
devoted to dogs and, indeed, all animals, especially cats…. Now last
night, out in the garden, he was in his dressing-gown. Well, when he
came down to breakfast this morning he said his nose had been bleeding
rather severely. He was uneasy about it, and I went up to his bedroom
and found a good deal of blood in his slop-pail. His dressing-gown was
lying on his bed, and there, too, was more blood and a quantity of cat’s
hairs. I told him not to think about it any more; there was nothing in
the least alarming, and when he had gone out, in order to make quite
sure, I dug up the Michaelmas daisies for the second time. Below, I
found the body of my poor cat. He had cut its throat…. He would kill
Fifi if he could; he is longing to.”

“But the fellow is a fiend!” said I.

“For the present he is a fiend, or something very like it. He used not
to be until the day on which he broke his arm. Pray God he will cease
being what he is.”

“Till the day he broke his arm?” I asked.

“Yes. Now do you want to hear the wildest and most extravagant tale,
which I believe to be literally and awfully true?”

“Concerning this?” I asked.

“Of course. Also, are you disposed to sit up late to-night? There may be
some confirmatory evidence about my story. I expect Reid, the medium,
here at twelve. There is time for me to give you my theory before he
comes.”

“Till any hour,” said I.

“Good. Then listen.”

He spoke slowly, putting his hands over his eyes, as he so often does
when he wants to shut out all external disturbances and concentrate
himself on the history of a case.

“Two months ago,” he said, “as you may possibly remember, a man called
James Rolls was hanged at Beltonborough for the most atrocious murder of
his wife. The deed apparently was quite objectless; there had been no
quarrel, and after it was done he seemed sometimes to be distressed at
the crime, sobbing and crying, sometimes to gloat over it, recounting it
with gusto. There was no question whatever about his guilt, only about
his sanity, and with regard to that these fits of remorse and enjoyment
might be assumed in order to produce the impression that he was not
accountable for his actions. He was examined by a Government expert, who
asked me to come down with him and form my conclusion. We could neither
of us find any other symptom of insanity about him. But there was a
certain conjecture in my head about what we call the history of the
case, and I stopped down at Beltonborough for a day or two in order to
make further observations.

“As I was having an interview with him, I suddenly asked him this
question, ‘Did you begin by killing flies?’ Usually he was rather sullen
and silent, and often would not answer; but when I asked him this, his
eye brightened, and he said, ‘Yes, flies first, and then cats and dogs.’
After that I could get nothing further out of him, but I had got what I
expected to get. In all other respects he was, as far as I could judge,
perfectly sane, and it was scarcely possible to call him a homicidal
maniac, for he had never before shown signs of wanting to take human
life. As it was, he had committed an atrocious murder, and had he been
shut up as a homicidal maniac, I do not think there is any doubt that by
this time he would have killed a warder.

“Now no man in a fit of rage is altogether sane, and yet we do not
commute the sentence of those who have killed another when beside
themselves with passion, and James Rolls had not even that extenuation.
He was hanged…. But I feel convinced that Frank is suffering from an
early stage of James Rolls’s malady; I feel convinced also that the
hanging of James Rolls infected him with it.”

“The hanging of James Rolls caused it?” I asked.

“I do not doubt it, as you will see when I state my theory. But I hope
to prove that my theory is correct, and I hope to cure my cousin.”

Roupert sat up and looked at me while he said this; then he sank back in
his chair again, and, as before, covered his eyes with his hands.

“Now for the theory,” he said. “There is a very steep hill in
Beltonborough with a sharp, dangerous corner just outside the prison
gate. Practically at the moment when James Rolls was being taken to the
scaffold, Frank came tearing down this hill on his bicycle to catch an
early train to town. He skidded and fell just outside the prison, and
sustained compound fracture of his right arm. It was important that he
should be moved as little as possible, and they carried him straight
into the prison infirmary, where chloroform was administered and the
prison surgeon set his arm. It was a very bad fracture, and he was under
the anæsthetic for a considerable time. And when he came round, he was
changed…. It seemed as if another spirit had taken possession of his
body. He was not the same person: from being a charming boy, he had
become something hellish.”

Roupert sat up again and looked at me.

“There is a theory,” he said, “that in certain conditions, such as deep
mesmeric trance, or under the stupefaction of some complete anæsthetic,
the bonds that seem so indissolubly to unite a man’s spirit to his mind
and his body are strangely loosened. The condition approaches to that of
temporary death: often under an anæsthetic the beat of the heart is
nearly suspended, often the breathing is nearly suspended, and this
happened to Frank under chloroform that morning. The connexion between
his spirit and his body was loosened….

“There is another theory which you must consider also. It is proved, I
think, beyond all doubt, that at the moment of death, particularly of
sudden and violent death, the spirit, though severed from the body which
it has inhabited, does not at once leave its vicinity, but remains
hovering near to its discarded tenement, from which it has been
expelled. Well, at that hour when Frank’s spirit was maintaining but a
relaxed hold on his body, another spirit, violent and strong, was close
at hand–a spirit that had just been disembodied…. And I believe the
spirit of James Rolls entered and took possession.”

I felt then what I have felt before and since, namely, some stir of
horror in my head that made my hair move. You can often see it in dogs
(I had seen it to-night in Fifi) when terror or rage erects their
hackles. But the experience was only momentary, and the flame of this
thing, its awful and burning quality, licked hotly round me….

“And how is Reid to help?” I asked.

“He may be able to test for us part, at any rate, of my theory,” said
Roupert. “He is an extraordinarily powerful medium in the way of
producing materialized forms of spirits, and I believe him to be honest
and high-minded. Now if Frank’s body is possessed by this murderous
spirit, it is at least possible that Frank’s own spirit, now unhoused
and evicted, will be hovering near its rightful habitation. We will ask
if the spirit of Frank Hampden is here. We will ask if it can assume
material form. If Reid can produce this materialization, it will
doubtless wear the appearance of Frank. We will try, anyhow…. Ah, no
doubt that is Reid….”

A very gentle tapping sounded on the front door just outside the room,
and Roupert got up.

“I told Reid not to ring,” he said, “for fear that Frank should hear. I
will let him in.”

He left the room, and in another moment came back with the medium, a
small, perfectly commonplace looking man, smug and prosperous. Then I
met his eyes and thought him commonplace no longer. They seemed to look
out and through and beyond.

In a few minutes Roupert, who had often sat with Reid before, explained
what was wanted. He told him that we wished to know if the spirit of
Frank Hampden was about, and, if so, whether we could communicate with
it, or see it. That was all.

Reid asked only one question.

“Has Frank Hampden’s spirit been long out of his body?” he said.

Roupert hesitated for a moment.

“I believe it to have been out of his body for about two months,” he
answered.

The electric light was put out, but the glow from the fire was bright
enough to make a red twilight in the room. I could clearly see the
profile of the medium, black against that illumination, the back of the
chair in which he sat, the full face of Roupert, glints of reflected
light on the glass of pictures, and, with perfect distinctness, Fifi,
who had curled herself up on the hearthrug. Almost immediately the
medium went into trance, and I saw his head bowed over his chest, and
heard his breathing, which had been short and panting, as he passed into
unconsciousness, grow quiet again. How long we sat there in silence,
without anything supernormal occurring, I do not know, but it appeared
to me not to be many minutes before a very loud rap sounded from the
table, which began to quiver under our hands. Then Roupert asked:

“Is the spirit of Frank Hampden here?”

There was the assent of three raps.

“Shall we be able to see you?” he asked.

There were two raps, and, after a pause, a third.

Again we sat in silence, this time for a much longer period, and I think
the clock on the mantelpiece twice chimed the quarter-hour. Then from
the direction of the door there blew across the room a very cold current
of air, and the curtains in the window stirred with it. Fifi, I imagine,
felt it too, for she sat up, sneezed, and drew herself a little nearer
to the fire. Simultaneously I was inwardly aware that there was
something, somebody in the room which had not been there before. It had
not entered through the door, for when the current of air began to blow
I looked at it, and certainly it had not opened.

Then Roupert whispered.

“Look; it is coming.”

The medium’s head had fallen back, and over his chest, in the region of
the heart, there appeared a faint, luminous area, inside which there was
going on some energy, some activity. Whorls and spirals of grey, curling
and intertwining and growing thicker and extending, began building
themselves up in the air. For some little while I could not make out
what it was that was thus taking shape in the red twilight; then as the
materialization progressed, it defined itself into a human form swathed
in some misty and opaque vesture. At the top, above shoulders now quite
formed, there rose the outline of a head; features growing every moment
more distinct fashioned the face of it, and, pallid and silent, fading
into darkness below, stood the head and torso of a human being.

The face was clearly recognizable; it was scarce an hour since I had
looked on those features, but it wore so heart-broken an anguish in the
curves of that beautiful mouth and in the tortured eyes, that my throat
worked for very pity and compassion.

Then Roupert spoke.

“Frank,” he said.

The head bowed, the lips moved, but I heard nothing.

“Why are you not in your body?” he asked.

This time there came a whisper just audible.

“I can’t, I can’t,” he said. “Someone is there; someone terrible. For
God’s sake, help me!”

The white agonized face grew more convulsed.

“I can’t bear it,” it said…. “For God’s sake, for God’s sake!…”

I looked away from that face for a moment to the hearthrug where a
sudden noise attracted my attention. Fifi was sitting bolt upright
looking eagerly upwards, and the noise I heard was the pleased thumping
of her tail.

Then she came cautiously forward, still gazing at the image which an
hour before had driven her frenzied with rage and terror, uttering
little anxious whinings, seeking attention. Finally she held out a paw,
and gave the short whisper of a bark with which she demands the notice
of her favourites…. And if I had been inclined to doubt before, I
think that I would now have been convinced that here in some inscrutable
manifestation was the true Frank Hampden.

Once more Roupert spoke.

“I will do all that man can do, Frank,” he said, “and by God’s grace we
will restore you.”

The figure slowly faded; some of it seemed withdrawn back into the
medium, some to be dispersed in the dusk. Before long Reid’s breath
again grew quick and laboured, as he passed out of trance, and then
drenched with sweat he came to himself.

Roupert told him that the séance had been successful, and then, turning
on the light again, we all sat still while the medium recovered from
his exhaustion. Before he left, Roupert engaged him to hold himself in
readiness for a further séance next day, in case he was telephoned for;
and when he had gone, we drew up our chairs to the fire, while Fifi went
nosing about the room as if searching for traces of a friend. For a long
time Roupert sat in silence, frowning heavily at the fire, asking me
some question from time to time, to satisfy himself that our impressions
had been identical. Then he appeared to make up his mind.

“I shall do it,” he said; “at least, I shall make the attempt. That was
Frank whom we saw just now; up to that point my theory is confirmed. Of
course, there’s a risk–there’s an awful risk. But, Archdale, wouldn’t
anybody take any risk to cure the anguish we looked upon? That was a
human spirit, man, disembodied but not dead, and it knows that its
earthly habitation is being defiled and profaned by that murderous
occupant. It sees the horrors that its own hands work; the brain that
was its pleasant servant is planning worse things yet. I can’t doubt
that this is so. No reasonable man can doubt so incredible and so
damnable a thing. But if the struggle that there must be is too much for
the body that we seek to free, good Lord, what a tale for a coroner’s
inquest!”

“You mean that you risk your cousin’s death?” I asked.

“Necessarily; who can tell what will happen? But that is not all. For of
what nature is the spirit which we hope to expel from that poor lad’s
body? A strong and a desperate one, or it could never have taken
possession of it. It will cling with all its force to the tenement which
it has usurped, and if we drive it out, if God helps us to do that, what
awful and evil power will once more be abroad! But we can’t help that.
There is holy justice and reparation to be done, and we can’t count the
cost. Now, let me think again!”

He got up and began pacing up and down the room, now muttering to
himself, now speaking aloud as if in argument with me.

“It’s a terrible risk for Reid, too,” he said, “for Reid most of all,
for he will be in deep trance; such power of faith as we can exert must
defend him first of all…. Yet, we can’t get at Rolls, I tell you,
without the medium…. I must, of course, tell Reid everything, and ask
him if he will take the risk…. He may refuse, though I don’t think he
will, for there’s the courage of a saint in that man…. Then there’s
Frank, Frank’s body, I mean. That must be absolutely unconscious when
the operation takes place; no human nerves could stand it, nor with that
fiend in possession would he consent to it…. Deep, the deepest
possible unconsciousness…. By Jove, there’s that new German drug,
which appears safe enough, and it certainly produces a sleep that comes
nearest of all to death; it seems to stupefy the very spirit itself….
Hyocampine, of course; don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it….
Tasteless too; it’s a good thing that the criminal classes can’t get
hold of it…. Well, there we are…. Prayer and faith in an Almighty
power…. Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord…. He does too,
if our motives are right; that’s one of the few facts we can be quite
sure about…. You can run a lot of risks if you utterly believe that.”

Suddenly the whole burden of perplexity and anxious thought seemed
lifted off his mind.

“I’ll go and see Reid to-morrow morning,” he said. “I believe he will
consent when he knows all. And you? Do you want to see the end of it?
And look on the glory of God? Come if you like, but if you come, you
must be strung up to the highest pitch of trust and serenity that you
are capable of. Yes, do be here. You believe that all evil, however
deadly and powerful, is altogether inferior in calibre and fighting
power to good. Also I shall like a friend at my elbow. Perhaps I
oughtn’t to urge that as a reason, for I don’t want any personal feeling
to influence you. Only come if you want to witness the power of God, not
Reid’s, not mine; we are nothing at all except mere mossy channels.”

For one moment he paused, and I knew that he was wavering himself, in
the weakness of the flesh; but instantly he got hold of himself again.

“There’s only one power that _can’t_ fail,” he said. “Hell crashes into
fragments against it.”

* * * * *

Next morning I got a note from Roupert, saying that Reid consented, and
asking me to come in to his house punctually at half-past two, if I had
decided to be with him. When I arrived I found Roupert and Frank Hampden
sitting over their coffee in the study. Hampden had just drunk his.

“Isn’t there a home for cats somewhere in Battersea?” he was asking.
“I’ll go and find a new one for you, as yours appears to have vanished
entirely.”

He yawned.

“It’s a feeble habit to go to sleep after lunch,” he said, “but I really
think I shall have a nap. I’ve got an astonishing inclination that way.
Give me half an hour, will you, and then we’ll go down to the cats’
home, and get a large fat cat.”

I guessed that Roupert had already given his cousin the dose of
hyocampine, but just as the latter was pulling a chair round so that he
need not face the light, he spoke.

“Make a proper job of it, Frank,” he said, “and lie on the sofa. One
always wakes feeling cramped if one goes to sleep in a chair.”

Hampden’s eyelids were already drooping, but he shuffled heavily across
to the sofa.

“All right,” he mumbled, “sorry for being so rude, Mr.–Mr. Archdale,
but I must have just forty–I wonder why forty—-”

And immediately he went to sleep.

Roupert waited a moment, but Hampden did not stir again. Then he went
out, and returned with Reid, who had been waiting in his bedroom. All
explanations had already been made, and in silence we darkened the room
by drawing the thick curtains across the window. Only a little light
came in from their edges, but, as last night, the firelight flickered on
the walls. Then Roupert locked the door, and we took our places round
the table.

“Into Thy hands, O Lord, we commend our spirits,” he said.

Before many minutes were over the medium’s head dropped forward, and
after a little struggle he went into trance.

“The spirit of James Rolls,” said Roupert.

In the silence that followed I could hear the slow breathing of Hampden
as he slept in that remote unconsciousness. A chink of light from the
window fell full on his face, and I could see it very distinctly. Then,
I heard him breathing quicker, and a shudder passed through him, shaking
the sofa where he lay. His face, hitherto serene and quiescent, began to
twitch.

“He can’t wake,” whispered Roupert. “I gave him the full dose.”

Then, not from the door at all, but from the direction of the sofa there
came an icy blast of wind, and simultaneously a shattering rap from the
table.

“Is that James Rolls?” asked Roupert.

Three raps answered him.

“Then in the name of God,” said Roupert, in a loud, steady voice, “come
from where you are, and be made manifest.”

Suddenly Hampden began to groan. His mouth worked, and he ground his
teeth together. A horrible convulsion seized his face, a distortion of
rending agony, like that which sometimes seizes on a dying man whose
body clings desperately to the spirit that is emerging from it. A rattle
and a strangled gulping came from his throat, and the foam gathered on
his lips.

“It is there that you are, James Rolls,” said Roupert in a loud voice of
exultation. “In the name of God, come out!”

The convulsions redoubled themselves; the body writhed and bent like
that of a poisoned man. Then round the face, brightest about the mouth,
there formed a pale greenish light, corrupt and awful. It began to
wreathe itself into lines and curves, weaving and intertwining; it grew
in height, like a luminous column built without hands, in the darkness;
it defined itself into human form, until in the air just above the
recumbent body it stood complete. With its emergence the convulsions and
the groanings subsided, and at the end, when this wraith in semblance of
a swathed man, with face of such murderous cruelty that I shuddered as I
looked at it, stood fully fashioned and finished, the body of Frank
Hampden lay quite still, in that sleep which was nearest of all to
death.

Then Roupert’s voice spoke again, clear and peremptory and triumphant.

“Begone, James Rolls!” he cried.

Very slowly the materialized spirit began to move, floating like a
balloon in an almost windless air. Slowly it drifted towards us, with
its eyes fixed on the unconscious medium and alight with awful purpose,
its mouth curled into some sort of hellish smile. It came quite close to
him, as if sucked there, and the edge of its outline began to extend
towards him a feeler, as of a little whirlpool of water drawn down into
a sink, till the end of it just touched him….

“In the name of the Holiest, and by the power of the Highest,” shouted
Roupert, “I bid you go to the place that He has appointed for you.”

Then … I can only describe what happened by saying that some shock,
blinding, deafening, overwhelming every sense, shook the room. It leaped
into a blaze of light, a thunder of sound rent the air, and yet I knew
that all this came from within, was the echo of the spiritual crisis
that raged round us made manifest to the bodily sense. And silence as of
the frozen Polar night succeeded….

Then once again a light began to be built up over Hampden’s body that
lay utterly still beside the curtains. It fashioned itself, but only
very faintly, into the outline of a man, and this seemed to be drawn
inwards and absorbed by that motionless figure. We waited till it had
disappeared altogether.

The medium stirred and struggled.

“It is over,” he said, and laid his head on his arms.

Roupert got up and drew back the curtains. From outside the door came
scratchings and whinings, and presently he unlocked it, and let Fifi in.
She saluted everybody in her exuberant fashion; then came to the sofa,
sniffed and jumped up on it, wagging her tail.

* * * * *

It was not till late in the afternoon that Frank Hampden came to
himself. A beautiful spirit looked out of those jolly boyish eyes.

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