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We enjoyed our voyage exceedingly. In Egypt, a land I was glad to revisit, we only stopped a week while the Star of the South, which we rejoined at Suez, coaled and went through the Canal. This, however, gave us time to spend a few days in Cairo, visit the Pyramids and Sakkara which Bastin and Bickley had never seen before, and inspect the great Museum. The journey up the Nile was postponed until our return. It was a pleasant break and gave Bickley, a most omnivorous reader who was well acquainted with Egyptian history and theology, the opportunity of trying to prove to Bastin that Christianity was a mere development of the ancient Egyptian faith. The arguments that ensued may be imagined. It never seemed to occur to either of them that all faiths may be and indeed probably are progressive; in short, different rays of light thrown from the various facets of the same crystal, as in turn these are shone upon by the sun of Truth.
Our passage down the Red Sea was cool and agreeable. Thence we shaped our course for Ceylon. Here again we stopped a little while to run up to Kandy and to visit the ruined city of Anarajapura with its great Buddhist topes that once again gave rise to religious argument between my two friends. Leaving Ceylon we struck across the Indian Ocean for Perth in Western Australia.
It was a long voyage, since to save our coal we made most of it under canvas. However, we were not dull as Captain Astley was a good companion, and even out of the melancholy Dane, Jacobsen, we had entertainment. He insisted on holding seances in the cabin, at which the usual phenomena occurred. The table twisted about, voices were heard and Jacobsen's accordion wailed out tunes above our heads. These happenings drove Bickley to a kind of madness, for here were events which he could not explain. He was convinced that someone was playing tricks upon him, and devised the most elaborate snares to detect the rogue, entirely without result.
First he accused Jacobsen, who was very indignant, and then me, who laughed. In the end Jacobsen and I left the "circle" and the cabin, which was locked behind us; only Bastin and Bickley remaining there in the dark. Presently we heard sounds of altercation, and Bickley emerged looking very red in the face, followed by Bastin, who was saying:
"Can I help it if something pulled your nose and snatched off your eyeglasses, which anyhow are quite useless to you when there is no light? Again, is it possible for me, sitting on the other side of that table, to have placed the concertina on your head and made it play the National Anthem, a thing that I have not the slightest idea how to do?"
"Please do not try to explain," snapped Bickley. "I am perfectly aware that you deceived me somehow, which no doubt you think a good joke."
"My dear fellow," I interrupted, "is it possible to imagine old Basil deceiving anyone?"
"Why not," snorted Bickley, "seeing that he deceives himself from one year's end to the other?"
"I think," said Bastin, "that this is an unholy business and that we are both deceived by the devil. I will have no more to do with it," and he departed to his cabin, probably to say some appropriate prayers.
After this the seances were given up but Jacobsen produced an instrument called a planchette and with difficulty persuaded Bickley to try it, which he did after many precautions. The thing, a heart-shaped piece of wood mounted on wheels and with a pencil stuck at its narrow end, cantered about the sheet of paper on which it was placed, Bickley, whose hands rested upon it, staring at the roof of the cabin. Then it began to scribble and after a while stopped still.
"Will the Doctor look?" said Jacobsen. "Perhaps the spirits have told him something."
"Oh! curse all this silly talk about spirits," exclaimed Bickley, as he arranged his eyeglasses and held up the paper to the light, for it was after dinner.
He stared, then with an exclamation which I will not repeat, and a glance of savage suspicion at the poor Dane and the rest of us, threw it down and left the cabin. I picked it up and next moment was screaming with laughter. There on the top of the sheet was a rough but entirely recognizable portrait of Bickley with the accordion on his head, and underneath, written in a delicate, Italian female hand, absolutely different from his own, were these words taken from one of St. Paul's Epistles--"Oppositions of science falsely so called." Underneath them again in a scrawling, schoolboy fist, very like Bastin's, was inscribed, "Tell us how this is done, you silly doctor, who think yourself so clever."
"It seems that the devil really can quote Scripture," was Bastin's only comment, while Jacobsen stared before him and smiled.
Bickley never alluded to the matter, but for days afterwards I saw him experimenting with paper and chemicals, evidently trying to discover a form of invisible ink which would appear upon the application of the hand. As he never said anything about it, I fear that he failed.
This planchette business had a somewhat curious ending. A few nights later Jacobsen was working it and asked me to put a question. To oblige him I inquired on what day we should reach Fremantle, the port of Perth. It wrote an answer which, I may remark, subsequently proved to be quite correct.
"That is not a good question," said Jacobsen, "since as a sailor I might guess the reply. Try again, Mr. Arbuthnot."
"Will anything remarkable happen on our voyage to the South Seas?" I inquired casually.
The planchette hesitated a while then wrote rapidly and stopped. Jacobsen took up the paper and began to read the answer aloud--"To A, B the D, and B the C, the most remarkable things will happen that have happened to men living in the world."
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider HaggardBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.