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REMARKS ON THE FOREGOING.
an absolute certainty, that the girl to whom she had spoken on the matter had not mentioned to any one her wish to have a dog, and, indeed, that the casual remark had passed from the girl's mind and she had never thought of it again. A few hours only, it will be observed, intervened between the expression of the wish and the offer of the animal.
Those who are as well acquainted with Mrs. W. as I am know that uprightness and conscientiousness are. marked traits in her character, and that the above incidents may be confidently relied on as the exact truth. I had them direct from Mrs. W. herself, a few days after they occurred; and that lady kindly ceded to me the original manuscript of the two communications.
The circumstances, taken in connection, are, of their kind, among the most extraordinary with which I am acquainted. And to the candid reader it will not be matter of surprise to learn that Mrs. W., until then a skeptic in the reality of any direct agencies from another world, should have confessed to me that her doubts were removed, that she felt comforted and tranquilized, and that she accepted the indications thus vouchsafed to her, unsought, unlooked for, as sufficient assurance that she was, in a measure, under spiritual protection,-thought of, cared for, even from beyond the tomb.
Before we decide that a faith so consolatory is unfounded, we shall do well to review the facts of this case.
Whence the sudden impulse in the garden? People are not in the habit of imagining that they desire to write, unless they have something to say. Mrs. W. was not a Spiritualist, nor residing among Spiritualists: so that no epidemic agency can be urged in explanation, even if such a suggestion have weight. The phenomenon which presented itself was strictly spontaneous.
WHAT INTELLIGENCE WAS IT? 1
Whence, again, the writing backward? In that the will had no agency. As little had expectation. Mrs. W., in her normal state, had not the power so to write. By diligent practice she might, doubtless, have acquired it. But she had no such practice. She had not acquired it. And, not having acquired it, it was as much a physical impossibility for her, of herself, so to write, as for a man, picking up a violin for the first time, to execute thereon, at sight, some elaborate passage from Handel or Beethoven.
Again, whence the intention to write after so unexampled and impracticable a manner? Where there is an intention there must be an intelligence. It was not Mrs. W. who intended; for the result struck her with awe,-almost with consternation. It was not her intelligence, therefore, that acted. What intelligence was it? Nor can we reasonably doubt what the intention was. Had Mrs. W.'s hand written forward, she would, in all probability, have remained in uncertainty whether, half unconsciously perhaps, the words were not of her own dictation. The expedient of the backward writing precluded any such supposition; for she could not of herself do unconsciously a thing which she could not do at all. And this expedient seems to have been ingeniously devised to cut off any supposition of the kind. Then here we have the invention of an expedient, the display of ingenuity. But who is the inventor? Who displays the ingenuity? I confess my inability to answer these questions.
The incident of the dog, if it stood alone, would be less remarkable. A thing may happen when there are ten thousand chances to one against it. A lady might to-day express a wish for a Newfoundland dog, and a perfect stranger, who knew nothing of that wish, might to-morrow offer her one. And all this might occur, as
we usually say, by chance.
But in the case before us
A QUESTION TO BE MET.
there are the attendant circumstances to be taken into account. R. G. D. had, in former days, given Mrs. W. just such a dog. She had been thinking of him and of his gift. She had been told, ten days before, through some agency which she had found it impossible to interpret as mundane, that he was thinking and working for her. Was she superstitious when she said to me, as she did, that "nothing could convince her that a spirit did not influence the owner of the dog to bring it to her"?
I think her conclusion, under the circumstances, was a natural one. I believe that few having the same personal experience as had Mrs. W. would have resisted it. Was it reasonable, as well as natural? It is difficult to say why it was not, unless we assume it beyond question as a thing impossible that a departed spirit should communicate with a living person, should read a living person's thoughts, should influence a living person's actions. But it is clearly a waste of time to examine a question at all which we have resolved in advance to decide in the negative.
And, if we have not so resolved, shall we not do well fairly to meet the questions which this and the preceding narratives suggest? If outside of this material existence there be occasionally exercised a guardian thought for the welfare of men; if, sometimes, comfort may reach us, and agencies may work for us, coming over from that world to which we are all fast hastening; if there be an earthly love that is stronger than death; are these influences, if actual influences they be, so undesirable in themselves, fraught with so little of consolation, so incapable of cheering a drooping soul, so powerless to sustain a sinking spirit, so impotent to vivify the faith in a Hereafter, that we may properly repulse them, at the threshold, as graceless aberrations, or put them aside, unscrutinized, as unholy or incredible?
THE SUGGESTED RESULTS.
THE CHANGE AT DEATH.
"Natura non fecit saltum."-LINNEUS.
IT suffices not that a theory be supported by a strong array of proofs. To merit grave notice or challenge rational belief, it must not involve results in themselves absurd.
But how stands the case in regard to the theory for which, in the preceding pages, I have been adducing evidence?—the hypothesis, namely, that when the spirit of man, disengaged from the body, passes to another state of existence, its thoughts and affections may still revert to earth; and that, in point of fact, it does occasionally make itself perceptible to the living, whether in dream or in the light of day,-sometimes to the sense of sight, sometimes to that of hearing or of touch, sometimes by an impression which we detect in its effect but cannot trace to its origin; these various spiritual agencies wearing in this instance a frivolous, in that a solemn, aspect, now assuming the form of petty annoyance, now of grave retribution, but more frequently brightening into indications of gentle ministry and loving guardianship.
If these things cannot be admitted without giving entrance in their train to inferences clearly absurd, it
WHENCE CAN THE DEAD RETURN?
avails little how great a weight of evidence may have been brought to bear in their favor: the decision must be against them at last.
So thought De Foe.* A disciple of Luther, and sharing his aversions, he rejected, with that sturdy reformer, not only the Purgatory of Romish theology, but the idea of any future state mediate between heaven and hell. Therefore, he argued, the dead cannot return. From heaven they cannot: who can imagine the beatitude of the eternally blessed rudely violated for purpose so trivial? And for the damned in hell, how shall we suppose for them leisure or permission to leave, on earthly errand, a prison-house of which the gates are closed on them forever?
The premises conceded, these conclusions fairly follow. The dead cannot reasonably be imagined to return either from heaven or from hell. Then, if there be no mediate state after death, the theory of spiritual appearance or agency upon earth, by those who have gone before us, is inadmissible.
This must be conceded the rather because the occasions of alleged return are sometimes of very slight moment. A servant-girl is attracted to earth by the letters and the portrait of her lover. The proprietors of an old house return to lament over its decay and grieve for its change of ownership. A father appears to his son to prevent him from unnecessarily disbursing a few pounds. A poor-camp follower, at death, has left unsatisfied a debt scantly reaching a dollar, and to effect the repayment of that pittance her spirit forsakes, night after night, its eternal abode !
Here we come upon another necessary inference. If these stories be true, the recently-departed spirit must retain, for a longer or shorter period, not only
* See page 430.