PROFESSOR VANGO

“Yer was mixed up in a narsty piece o’ business,” said Coffee John,
after the Freshman had concluded his tale, “an’ it strikes me as yer
gort wot yer bloomin’ well desarved. I don’t rightly know w’ether yer
expect us to larff or to cry, but I’m inclined to fyver a grin w’erever
possible, as ’elpin’ the appetite an’ thereby bringin’ in tryde. So I
move we accept the kid’s apology for bein’ farnd in me shop, an’ perceed
with the festivities o’ the evenink. I see our friend ’ere with the long
finger-nails is itchin’ to enliven the debyte, an’ I’m afryde if we
don’t let ’im ’ave ’is sye art, ’e’ll bloomin’ well bust with it.”

He looked the thin, black-eyed stranger over calmly and judicially.
“You’ll be one as lives by ’is wits, an’ yet more from the lack of ’em
in other people, especially femyles,” the proprietor declared. “Yer one
o’ ten tharsand in this tarn as picks up easy money, if so be they’s no
questions arsked. But if I ain’t mistook, yer’ve come a cropper, an’ yer
ain’t much used to sweatin’ for yer salary. But that don’t explyne w’y
yer ’ad to tumble into this plyce like the devil was drivin’ yer, an’
put darn a swig o’ ’ot coffee to drarn yer conscience, like. Clay Street
wa’n’t afire, nor yet in no dynger o’ bein’ flooded, so I’m switched if
I twig yer gyme!”

“Well, I _have_ got a conscience,” began the stranger, “though I’m no
worse than many what make simulations to be better, and I never give
nobody nothin’ they didn’t want, and wasn’t willin’ to pay for, and why
shouldn’t I get it as well as any other party? Seein’ you don’t know any
of the parties, and with the understandin’ that all I say is in
confidence between friends, professional like, I’ll tell you the
misfortunes that have overcame me.” So he began

THE STORY OF THE EX-MEDIUM

I am Professor Vango, trance, test, business, materialisin’,
sympathetic, harmonic, inspirational, and developin’ medium, and
independent slate-writer. Before I withdrew from the profession, them as
I had comforted and reunited said that I was by far the best in
existence. My tests was of the sort that gives satisfaction and
convinces even the most sceptical. My front parlor was thronged every
Sunday and Tuesday evenin’ with ladies, the most genteel and elegant,
and gentlemen.

When I really learned my powers, I was a palm and card reader. Madame
August, the psychic card-reader and Reno Seeress, give me the advice
that put me in communication. She done it after a joint readin’ we give
for the benefit of the Astral Seers’ Protective Union.

“Vango,” she says—I was usin’ the name “Vango” already; it struck me as
real tasty—“Vango,” she says, “you’re wastin’ your talents. These is the
days when men speak by inspiration. You got genius; but you ain’t no
palmist.”

“Why ain’t I?” I says, knowin’ all the time that they was somethin’
wrong; “don’t I talk as good as any?”

“You’re a genius,” says she, “and you lead where others follow; your
idea of tellin’ every woman that she can write stories if she tries is
one of the best ever conceived, but if you don’t mind me sayin’ it, as
one professional to another, it’s your face that’s wrong.”

“My face?” says I.

“Your face and your hands and your shape and the balance of your
physicality,” says she. “They want big eyes—brown is best, but blue will
do—and lots of looks and easy love-makin’ ways that you can hang a past
to, and I’m frank to say that you ain’t got ’em. You _have_ got platform
talents, and you’ll be a phenomena where you can’t get near enough to
’em to hold hands. Test seances is the future of this business. Take a
few developin’ sittin’s and you’ll see.”

For the time, disappointment and chagrin overcome me. Often and often
since, I have said that sorrow is a means of development for a party.
That’s where I learnt it. Next year I was holdin’ test seances in my own
room and makin’ spirit photographs with my pardner for ample
renumeration. Of course, I made my mistakes, but I can assert without
fear of successful contradiction that I brought true communication as
often as any of ’em.

Once I sized up a woman that wore black before I had asked the usual
questions—which is a risky thing to do, and no medium that values a
reputation will attempt it—and told her about her husband that had
passed out and give a message, and she led me on and wrote me up for
them very papers that I was advertisin’ in and almost ruined my
prospecks. You get such scoffers all the time, only later on you learn
to look out and give ’em rebukes from the spirits. It ain’t no use
tryin’ to get ahead of us, as I used to tell the people at my seances
that thought I was a collusion, because they’ve only got theirselves;
but we’ve got ourselves and the spirits besides.

It wasn’t long in the course of eventualities before I was ordained by
the Spirit Psychic Truth Society, and elected secretary of the union,
and gettin’ my percentages from test and trance meetin’s at Pythian
Hall. I was popular with the professionals, which pays, because mediums
as a class is a little nervous, and—not to speak slanderous of a
profession that contains some of the most gifted scientists—a set of
knockers.

Only I wasn’t satisfied. I was ambitious in them days, and I wanted to
make my debut in materialisin’, which takes a hall of your own and a
apparatus and a special circle for the front row, but pays heavy on the
investment. Try every way I could, with developin’ circles and private
readin’s and palms extra, I could never amass the funds for one
first-class spirit and a cabinet, which ought to be enough to start on.
Then one night—it was a grand psychic reunion and reception to our
visitin’ brothers from Portland—_She_ come to the circle.

Our publication—I united with my other functionaries that of assistant
editor of _Unseen Hands_—stigmatised it afterward as the grandest
demonstration of hidden forces ever seen on this hemisphere. It was the
climax to my career. I was communicatin’ beautiful, and fortune favoured
my endeavours. When I pumped ’em, they let me see that which they had
concealed, and when I guessed I guessed with amazin’ accuracy. I told a
Swede all about his sweetheart on the other plane, and the colour of her
hair, and how happy she was, and how it was comin’ out all right, and
hazarded that her name was Tina, and guessed right the first trial. I
recollect I was tellin’ him he was a physie, and didn’t he sometimes
feel a influence he couldn’t account for, and hadn’t he ever tried to
establish communication with them on the spirit plane, and all he needed
was a few developin’ sittin’s—doin’ it neat an’ professional, you know,
and all of the other mediums on the platform acquiescin’—when a woman
spoke up from the back of the room. That was the first time that ever I
seen her.

She was a middle-sized, fairish sort of a woman, in mournin’, which I
hadn’t comprehended, or I’d ’a’ found the article that she sent up for
me to test her influence, long before. As soon as she spoke, I knew
she’d come to be comforted. She was a tidy sort of a woman, and her eyes
was dark, sort of between a brown and a black. Her shape was nice and
neat, and she had a straightish sort of a nose, with a curve into it.
She was dead easy. I seen that she had rings on her fingers and was
dressed real tasty, and right there it come to me, just like my control
sent it, that a way was openin’ for me to get my cabinet and a stock of
spirits.

“Will you please read my article?” she says. Bein’ against the æsthetics
of the profession to let a party guide you like that, Mrs. Schreiber,
the Egyptian astral medium, was for rebukin’ her. I superposed, because
I seen my cabinet growin’.

“I was strongly drawed to the token in question,” I says, and then Mrs.
Schreiber, who was there to watch who sent up what, motioned me to a
locket on the table.

“When I come into the room, I seen this party with a sweet influence
hoverin’ over her. Ain’t it a little child?” Because by that time I had
her sized up.

I seen her eyes jump the way they always do when you’re guided right,
and I knowed I’d touched the achin’ spot. While I was tellin’ her about
my control and the beautiful light that was hoverin’ over her, I palmed
and opened the locket. I got the picture out—they’re all alike, them
lockets—and behind it was a curl of gold hair and the name “Lillian.” I
got the locket back on the table, and the spirits guided me to it for
her test. When I told her that the spirit callin’ for her was happy in
that brighter sphere and sent her a kiss, and had golden hair, and was
called “Lillian” in the flesh plane, she was more overcame than I ever
seen a party at a seance. I told her she was a medium. I could tell it
by the beautiful dreams she had sometimes.

Right here, Mrs. Schreiber shook her head, indicatin’ that I was
travellin’ in a dangerous direction. Developin’ sittin’s is saved for
parties when you can’t approach ’em on the departed dear ones. In cases
like the one under consideration, the most logical course, you
comprehend, is to give private test sittin’s. But I knowed what I was
doin’. I told her I could feel a marvellous power radiate from her, and
her beautiful dreams was convincin’ proof. She expressed a partiality to
be developed.

When I got her alone in the sittin’, holdin’ her hand and gettin’ her to
concentrate on my eyes, she made manifest her inmost thoughts. She was a
widow runnin’ a lodgin’-house. Makin’ a inference from her remarks, I
seen that she hadn’t no money laid by, but only what she earned from her
boarders. The instalment plan was better than nothin’. She seized on the
idea that I could bring Lillian back if I had proper conditions to work
with. In four busy weeks, I was enabled by her magnanimity to open a
materialisin’ circle of my own, with a cabinet and a self-playin’ guitar
and four good spirit forms. I procured the cabinet second-hand, which
was better, because the joints worked easier, and I sent for the spirits
all the way to a Chicago dealer to get the best. They had luminous forms
and non-duplicated faces, that convinced even the most sceptical. The
firm very liberally throwed in a slate trick for dark cabinets and the
Fox Sisters’ rappin’ table.

I took one of them luminous forms, the littlest one, and fixed it with
golden curls painted phosphorescent. Mrs. Schreiber and the rest, all
glad to be partakers in my good fortune, was hired to come on the front
seats and join hands with each other across the aisle whenever one of
the spirits materialised too far forward toward the audience. We
advertised heavy, and the followin’ Sunday evenin’ had the gratification
to greet a numerous and cultured assemblage. I was proud and happy,
because steppin’ from plain test control to materialisin’ is a great
rise for any medium.




Mrs. Higgins—that was her name, Mrs. Clarissa Higgins—come early all
alone. I might ’a’ brought Lillian right away, only that would be
inelegant. First we sang, “Show Your Faces,” to get the proper psychie
current of mutuality. Etherealisin’ and a few tunes on a floatin’ guitar
was next. When my control reassured itself, I knowed that the time had
came, and let out the first spirit. A member of the Spirit Truth Society
on the front seat recognised it for a dear one, and carried on real
realistic and natural. I let it vanish. The next one was Little Hookah,
the spirit of the Egyptian dancer, that used to regale the Pharaohs in
the depths of the Ghizeh pyramid. I touched off a music-box to accompany
her for a skirt-dance with her robes. I done that all myself; it was a
little invention of my own, and was recognised with universal
approbation.

That was the time for Lillian to manifest herself, and I done it
artistic. First she rapped and conversed with me in the spirit whisper
back of the curtains. You could hear Mrs. Higgins in the audience
drawin’ in her breath sort of awesome.

I says for the spirit, in a little pipin’ voice, “Tell mamma not to
mourn, because her lamentations hinders my materialisation. The birds is
singin’, and it is, oh, so beautiful on this shore.”

Then commandin’ the believers on the front seats to join hands in a
circle of mutuality, in order to assist the sister on the other shore to
put on the astral symbols of the flesh, I materialised her nice and easy
and gradual.

We was prepared for demonstrations on the part of Mrs. Higgins, so when
she advanced I began to let it vanish, and the psychie circle of clasped
hands stopped her while I done the job up good and complete. She lost
conscientiousness on the shoulder of Mrs. Schreiber.

Not borin’ you, gentlemen, with the details of my career, my business
and religious relations with Mrs. Higgins was the beginnin’ of my
success. Myself and the little circle of believers—that guarded the
front seats from the protrusions of sceptical parties that come to
scoff, and not infrequent come up as earnest inquirers after my control
had passed—we lived easy on the proceeds.

Mrs. Higgins would bring tears to your eyes, she was that grateful. She
repaired the place for me so it was the envy of the unsuccessful in the
profession. She had it fixed with stucco like a grotto, and wax calla
lilies and mottoes and beautiful spirit paintin’s (Mrs. Schreiber done
them out of the air while she was under control—a hundred dollars apiece
she charged), and nice curtains over the cabinet, embroidered in snakes’
eyes inside of triangles and discobuluses. Mrs. Higgins capitalised the
expense. Whenever we done poor business, we originated some new
manifestations for Mrs. Higgins. She received ample renumeration. She
seen Lillian every Tuesday and Sunday. Very semi-occasionally, when the
planetary conditions favoured complete manifestation, I used to let her
hug Lillian and talk to her. That was a tremendous strain, involvin’ the
use of ice to produce the proper degree of grave cold, and my blood
nearly conglomerated whenever circumstances rendered it advisable.

All human relationships draws to a close in time. After seven years of
the most ideal communications between myself and Mrs. Higgins and the
rest of the Psychic Truth Society, they came a time one evenin’ when I
seen she was missin’. Next day, we received a message that she was
undisposed. We sent Madam La Farge, the medical clairvoyant, to give her
treatment, and word come back that them designin’ relatives, that always
haunt the last hours of the passin’ spirit with mercenary entreaties,
had complete domination over her person. I visited to console her
myself, and was rebuked with insinuations that was a insult to my
callin’. The next day we learned that she had passed out. We was not
even admitted to participate in the funeral obsequies.

The first Sunday that she was in the spirit Mrs. Schreiber was all for
materialisin’ her. I favoured omittin’ her, thinkin’ it would be more
fittin’, you understand, and more genteel. But we had some very wealthy
sceptics in the circle we was tryin’ to convince, and Mrs. Schreiber
said they’d expect it. Against my better counsels, seein’ that Mrs.
Higgins was a mighty fine woman and give me my start, and I got a
partiality for her, I took down my best spirit form and broadened it
some, because Mrs. Higgins had got fleshy before she passed out.

After Little Hookah done her regular dance that Sunday night, I got the
hymn started, and announcin’ that the spirit that rapped was a dear one
known to ’em all, I pulled out the new form that I had just fixed, and
waited for the tap on the cabinet to show that all was ready. I didn’t
like to do it. I felt funny, like something would go wrong. But I pulled
the string, and then—O God!—there—in the other corner of the cabinet—was
Mrs. Higgins—Mrs. Higgins holdin’ her arm across the curtains and just
lookin’ at me like her eyes was tearin’ through me!

They seen somethin’ was wrong, and Mrs. Schreiber got the robe away
before they found me—they said my control was too strong—and some said I
was drunk. I did get drunk, too, crazy drunk, next day—and when I come
round Mrs. Schreiber tried to do cabinet work with me on the front
seat—and there I seen _her_—in her corner—just like she used to sit—and
I never went back.

But a man has got to eat, and when my money was gone, and I wasn’t so
scared as I was at first, I tried to do test seances, sayin’ to myself
maybe she wouldn’t mind that—and the first article I took up, there she
was in the second row, holdin’—oh, I couldn’t get away of it—holdin’ a
locket just like she done the first night I seen her.

Then I knew I’d have to quit, and I hid from the circle—they wanted me
because Mrs. Schreiber couldn’t make it go. I slept in the Salvation
Army shelter, so as not to be alone, and she let me be for a while.

But to-day I seen a party in the street that I used to give tests to,
and he said he’d give me two bits to tell him about his mine—and I was
so broke and hungry, I give it a trial and—there _She_ was—in the shadow
by the bootblack awnin’—just lookin’ and lookin’!

* * * * *

The little medium broke off with a tremor that made the glasses shake.

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