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Part II.—Between Two Worlds.

My mind was as yet too cloudy to realise other than something extraordinary had happened. I was certainly awake, and yet seemed plunged in an awful hush and crushing stagnation. Gradually the oppression lifted a little, and a far-off roar, as of billows breaking at intervals, entered into my consciousness. A blaze of light smote on my eyelids, and with a violent effort I unclosed them. The relief at seeing my bedroom's familiar ceiling and the sunshine streaming across my face was speedily removed by an anxiety to know what had happened. I was not in bed, and yet—it was with a shock of alarm I found myself unable to move a muscle of my body. I frantically endeavoured to lift my hand. I might as well have tried to move a huge rock. My physical functioning had suddenly ceased. My faculties, now thoroughly aroused, quivered with a


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multitude of impressions, of which the most poignant was an apprehension of my impotent condition, and a terrible desire to know where I was, since not in bed. My fierce mental struggles had no effect on my body, not even to a corresponding tremor of a nerve. My eyelids had also become fixed. The loss of this last vestige of physical control filled me with grief. I knew I was weeping, yet no tears evidenced it. And yet, strange to say, my senses had become peculiarly acute. The buzz and beat of an imprisoned bee against the window-pane sounded with loud insistence. The sound somehow reminded me of the billow roar I had at first heard. The knowledge of the truth burst on me all at once. My senses must have individually been gathering in impressions unnoticed by me through my agitation, and the sum total flared into a hideous fact. The white garment, the odour of lavender water, the narrow receptacle in which I lay: all gave evidence. I was in a coffin! Ere I had hardly grasped this terrible fact, my mind with one leap had seized another: I was in a trance. All else was blank. A peculiar mental change immediately occurred. My anxiety vanished now the mystery was solved. I became cool and collected, even expectant. My condition would be at once detected when the undertaker came to adjust the coffin lid. I crushed back a horrible thought that perhaps—I dared not think of that, although stories I had heard and


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read of people buried alive were working on me against my will. Impossible! Why, he will feel my heart beating. Why frighten myself? He will soon be here. No need to imagine such an appalling contingency. People are never—I would not permit my mind to finish the sentence. The thought came with a rush and nearly tore away my mental fastenings: the doctor must have already examined me, and given a certificate of death. Yes! But why think of this? The undertaker will know. He is accustomed to such cases. When he comes—if ever a man was mentally staggered by the unexpected I was when she gazed down on me. The stern old soul was weeping. “Mrs. James!” I shouted, as I thought, yet my tongue never so much as stirred. I listened eagerly as her head bowed nearer. “Poor fellow!” she murmured.

At that moment I believe I felt a kinder feeling towards that stern, grey-headed woman than I had felt towards any living creature for years. How I had misjudged her. Behind her rough manner, behind her bitter remarks, behind her peevish annoyances that had made me curse and determine not to stay in her boarding-house another day; behind these repellant appearances had been a womanly heart and sympathising soul. I felt ashamed, and yet, somehow, less selfish when she moved away. Then I wondered why she had not perceived my condition. Surely she must


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have noticed my eyes were open. How strange. However, the incident tended to foster my hopes and remove the mass of horror ready to fall and crush me. In order to occupy my attention till the undertaker came (and here I lay stress on the peculiar impression that the undertaker was the one person presented to my mind who would at once perceive my condition and liberate me) I began scrutinising the cracks in the ceiling, and then counting them. Once the bee that had for some time been silent buzzed across my line of vision, and I watched it circle, noting how the beam of sunlight through which it wheeled displayed the glitter of its quivering wings. It alighted somewhere out of view, and I again concentrated my attention on the ceiling.

I must have fallen into a reverie, since I remember nothing till a heavy footstep aroused me into the keenest sensibility. At last he had come—had come. I fought desperately to shout, move, under the leaning forward of that black-bearded countenance, of which every line and wrinkle is stamped indelibly on my memory. It was as night rushing on day. An immense darkness, sudden, indescribable; a tangible silence. Thought ceased, every impression was blotted out. My mind sank into merciful oblivion. Yet so subtle is the working of the inner self that I absolutely knew when my consciousness returned that I had been carried


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out, and was in the hearse. The strong smell of the fresh-planed coffin planks bit on my sense with pungent vitality. All sense of space and time was extinguished. My inner self was shot to the surface. Years of accumulated superficialities fell away. Memory emptied itself—a great self-pity burst on me, and yet, strive as I did to shirk it, an awful self-condemnation. I seemed to be gazing on a panorama of which I was the main actor. Could it be possible my life had contained so much. Was I, in truth, the wretch that could act thus, and thus. Is there no end to the crowded procession of despicable tableaus. Yes; I wronged her, and her. But the provocation, the temptation; there is no heed taken. The scenes swept past and others streamed before me. Faces hardly recognisable, and faces familiar—some sad, some in tears, some even in laughter, but all accusing me with eyes that burned with indignation, flashed and faded. A face I had seen so often wet with tears for me suddenly was thrust forward with eyes of pity. She did not accuse, condemn, but smiled with moving lips. I quaked more in her presence than before my accusers. I yearned, but she drifted past, still gazing sadly with a smile on her lips and pity in her eyes. Heavens! What a miserably mean life mine had been. I had been vain of tinsel and toys, had sacrificed my friends for the flattery of poor human mites like myself. And who heeds me


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now? Who has as much as even turned his head at my leisurely-moving hearse? Perhaps a friend is now passing me, and learns whose funeral it is. He will remember my good acts. Self-flatterer! Good acts—my inner self shudders at the motive of them. I am alone with the reality of things. I cannot shirk it now. The arguments, the doubts with which I had bolstered up my trivial egotism before the applauding world have no power here. Oh! that I could have felt, could have known, the realities before. I would have eagerly sought to redress those I had wronged. The sudden tilting of the coffin startled me. I became aware of an oppressive heat. The darkness was scintillating with myriads of sparks. Thump! Thud! God! They are burying me. The clods are tumbling on the coffin-lid. Globes of red fire are rolling, swinging, dancing about me. A hush, a solemnity, then a faint, subdued hiss in my ears. A buoyancy and moving through water. And then ——

“The power of the ego to attribute to a person expressions of feelings at variance with observation, as instanced in your little interview with Mrs. James, is very remarkable. I can only account for it by the theory that in some subtle, indefinable manner our subself can perceive, or rather become en rapport with characteristics of persons with whom we are in close relationship


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without the register of consciousness. A severe shock, or, as in your case, a combination of alarming circumstances, may spring these secret subsidiary inreapings (if I may so introduce the word) into definite images. Or, it may arise—is your head no better?”

I again swallowed a mouthful of the fluid handed me in the goblet. Slowly but surely the familiar objects were fastening on my mind with realistic vividness, and my recent mental illusions receding into dreamlike aloofness. Dr. Graham's tall black-robed figure at the table, with his keen, grey eyes, his long white beard, his silver locks topped with a velvet skull cap, fascinated my gaze. His cool, deliberate tones almost repelled me.

“I wouldn't go through it again, doctor, for a fortune. It was frightful, and will affect my life. We are immortal, doctor.”

“Perhaps so, my good friend—perhaps so. But when we determined to make this experiment with the view of increasing our data regarding the complexity of the mind under hypnotic suggestion you were an ardent materialist, you know. However, you've given me the main facts, I fancy, though incoherently, as could scarce be avoided in your present condition. I should have very much liked to have extended the experiment had not your pulse and certain unmistakable


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symptoms of syncope warned me to resuscitate you at once. Why do you gaze at me so fixedly?”

“I wonder what your experiences would be, doctor?” I replied, slowly. The doctor laughed softly.

“Not much different from yours, my friend, I'm afraid. Curious, though, about the water. Pity the experiment hadn't been prolonged a little. How long do you think it lasted?”

“It seemed hours on hours.”

“My watch-hands pointed at eight exactly when I transmitted to you the suggestion you were in a coffin in your bedroom, and in a trance. It is eight-twenty, and you have been resuscitated ten minutes. So you have had an eternity crowded into a few minutes. Your mind has been galloping through some interesting phenomena. Do you feel better now? You appear normal.”

I glanced curiously round the doctor's private study. The loaded bookshelves, the curious instruments on the side-board, the skeleton behind its half-drawn maroon curtain in the corner, the bare workman's table with its half-open book and bottle of water and tumbler, the fire blazing merrily in the grate, the straps behind me on the couch with which my limbs had been secured; each and all were distinctly observed and impressed on my memory. Nevertheless, those fearful imaginary scenes hung like gigantic cloud-shapes on the background


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of my inner self. I shuddered with a sudden thought.

“That experience, doctor, won't haunt me?”

“No, no! Don't fancy such nonsense. Remember, it's only as a night-mare, and, like such, will fade. Indeed, it's a great provision of Nature that abnormal incidents of life become faint in the memory with time, whilst every-day scenes often retain their freshness. In a few days you will be able to describe minutely without a tremor the very details of which I've had difficulty to elict a hint. Now try a cigar.”

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