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The Last Tenant By B. L. Farjeon Characters: 8807

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Something more singular than this next attracted my attention. Ronald Elsdale, blind as he was, inclined his head to the ground and seemed to be returning the gaze of the cat. "Can it be possible," I thought, "that this man, physically blind, and this cat, invisible to all eyes but mine, are conscious of each other's presence?" I put this to the test.

"You appear to be listening for something," I said.

"Did you bring a dog with you?" he asked. "My uncle, I know, keeps neither cat nor dog."

"No," I replied, "I brought no dog."

"Then I must be mistaken," he said, and he felt his way to the seat he was in the habit of occupying in Bob's room. The cat lay at his feet.

I was prepossessed in the young man's favor the moment I set eyes upon him. He was tall and fair, a true Saxon in feature and complexion. There was an engaging frankness in his manner, and his bearing was that of a gentleman. He aroused my curiosity by a habit he had of closing his eyes when any earnest subject occupied his mind. He closed them now as he sat upon his chair, and when he opened them he said, in a singularly gentle voice, "My uncle has told you I am blind, Mr. Emery?"

"Yes," I replied; "I sincerely sympathize with you.

"Thank you. It is a great misfortune; but there are compensations. There are always compensations, Mr. Emery, even for the worst that can happen to a man."

"It is good if one can think so," I remarked. "As a rule men are not patient when things are not as they wish."

"It is not only useless to repine," was his reply, "it is foolish, and morally weak. For, admitting that there is such a principle as divine justice, we must also admit a divine interposition even in the small matters of human life. I should not speak so freely if my uncle had not told me of his early association with you, and of the friendly and affectionate greeting he received from you after a separation of nearly forty years. I look upon you already as a friend."

"I am glad to hear you say so; we will seal the compact."

I pressed his hand once more, and he responded as I would have wished him to respond.

"I knew you would like each other," said Bob.

"When I closed my eyes just now," resumed Ronald Elsdale, "it was because of the impression I had that there was some other living creature in the room beside ourselves."

Bob and I exchanged glances, and Bob said:

"We three are the only living creatures within these four walls of mine."

"Of course, of course. Mr. Emery said so, and it is not likely he would deceive me. Blind people, Mr. Emery, are generally very suspicious; it follows naturally upon their affliction. Seeing nothing, they doubt much, and are ever in fear that they are being imposed upon and deceived. I am happy to say this is not the case with me; where I have not a fixed opinion I generally believe what is told me."

A pang of self-reproach shot through me as he spoke. Here was I, in my very first interview with this frank and ingenuous young gentleman, deliberately deceiving him. Bob, also, did not seem quite at his ease. He was playing with his lower lip, always an indication in him of mental disturbance.

"You said something just now," I observed, with a wish to change the subject, "about compensations for misfortune, and I infer that you have compensations for yours. But it must cause you regret?"

"It does, but I do not fret, I do not take it to heart; I accept the inevitable. The proper use of the higher intelligence with which we are gifted is to reason calmly upon all human and worldly matters which touch us nearly. Those who can thus reason have cause for gratitude; and I have cause. Compensations? Yes, I have them. Difficult to describe, perhaps, because they are spiritual; inspired by faith or self-delusion, which stern materialists declare are one and the same thing."

"Your uncle and I," I said, "were having a discussion upon delusions when you entered."

"In continuation"--he turned to Bob; he seemed to know always where the person he was addressing was standing or sitting--"in continuation of the discussion we were having this afternoon?"

"Yes," said Bob, "and we do not quite agree."

"My uncle is a skeptic," said Ronald, "he does not believe in miracles."

"You do?" I inquired.

"Undoubtedly. It will be a fatal day for the world when faith in miracles is dead. Do not do my u

ncle an injustice, Mr. Emery; I never heard him speak as he spoke this afternoon when we were discussing this subject, and it almost seemed to me as if he were desirous of arguing against himself. Do you require absolute visible proof before you believe?"

"Not always," I replied, with my eyes on the spectral cat. "I am forced to believe in some things which are not visible to other eyes than mine."

"I do not quite understand you," said Ronald thoughtfully. "It is, at the best, but a half-hearted admission, and, regarding you in the light of a friend, as I do Uncle Bob, I would like to break down the barrier."

"Try," I said anxiously.

He was silent for a moment or two, considering.

"My uncle, this afternoon, in the attempt to support his argument, brought forward some instances of spectral illusions such as that of a man who was in the habit of seeing in his drawing room a band of figures, dressed in green, who entertained him with singular dances; and he instanced other illusions of a like nature. These are waking fancies, produced either by a disordered mind or a disordered body; they are of the same order as dreams.

At dead of night imperial Reason sleeps,

And Fancy, with her train, her revel keeps.

So by day, when the mind is disturbed by such fancies, does imperial reason sleep. For my own part I make no attempt to dispute the facts of these cases. They have been brought forward by physicians in proof of certain functional and scientific facts, and by wise treatment suffering mortals have been won from madness. In this respect they have served a good purpose; but materialists, and persons who now fashionably call themselves agnostics, seize upon these illustrations in proof that mortal life is of no more value, and means no more, than the life of a flower or the growth of a stone, and that when we die we are blotted out spiritually and materially forever. In their eyes we are so many pounds of flesh and blood; there is nothing divine, nothing spiritual in us; we are surrounded by no mystery. 'Miracles!' they cry. 'Stories for children; fables to tickle, amuse, and delude!' What we see and feel is, what we do not see and feel is not and cannot be. If this view were universal what would become of religion? The high priests of God, under whichever banner they preach, insist upon our accepting miracles, and they are right in thus insisting. You laugh at faith and destroy it, and in its destruction you destroy comfort and consolation; you destroy salvation. God is a miracle. Because we do not see him are we not to believe in him? Are we not to believe in the resurrection? Then farewell to the sublime solace that lies in the immortality of the soul. There is a road to Calvary called the Via Dolorosa, and there pilgrims kneel and see a miracle in every stone; there, hearts that are crushed with sorrow tarry, and go away blessed and comforted for the struggle of years that yet lies before them."

His voice was deep and earnest, his handsome face glowed with enthusiasm. I touched his hand, and a sweet, pathetic smile came to his lips.

"Mr. Elsdale," I said, "I thank you from my heart. May I venture to ask if you believe in spiritual visitations?"

"Believing what I believe," he replied, "I must believe in them."

"You have spoken," I continued, "of receiving comfort and consolation from such belief. Do you think that a man who is not, to his own knowledge, interested or involved in something which, for the sake of argument, I will call a crime, may receive a spiritual visitation which compels him to take an active part in it?"

"Not in the crime," asked Ronald, "in the discovery of it, I suppose you mean?"

"Yes. In the discovery of it."

"I think," said Ronald, "that a man who is not in any way connected with it may be made an agent in its discovery."

We had some further conversation on the subject, and at the expiration of an hour or so Ronald Elsdale took his departure, and expressed the hope that we should meet again, to which hope I cordially responded.

As he stood with his hand on the handle of the door, the cat, which had risen when he rose, stood at his feet.

"Are you going with him?" I mentally asked. "You are quite welcome."

A troubled expression crossed Ronald's face, and he made a motion with his hand as if to dispel it. Then he left the room, but the cat remained.

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