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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XVIII - SPIRITS FROM FAR CATHAY

AMONG the spirits who frequent the Eddy home- stead none is more remarkable than an aged woman who chooses to call herself "The Witch of the Mountain." In her personal appearance she bears a marked resemblance to that massive, artistic figure of the drama, the Meg Merrilles of Charlotte Cushman. The face is one not easily forgotten. Old, wrinkled, and decrepit as she is--the latter so much that she usually has to sit in a chair while discoursing to us-her black eye gleams with intelligence and a fiery resolution, and her voice, although pitched in a high falsetto, has the ring of command in its penetrating tones. No thick layer of fat covers her attenuated frame, her arms are almost as thin as a skeleton's, her cheeks hollow, her skin dark brown and seemingly dry as parchment, and her elfish locks of gray hang beside a face that would be marked among ten thousand. On the 31st of last August, I saw William Eddy throw a dipperful of spring water, taken in my presence from the horse-trough, upon a chip fire out of doors, and it flashed up instantaneously, as though

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the embers had been fed with oil or alcohol. It was this spirit who, as alleged, did the trick, using the medium as her intermediary.

One day, late in October, the same experiment was successfully repeated in the presence of several witnesses. I am told that one evening last winter, in the presence of a small circle, among whom was an Albany lawyer named E. D. Stronk, she called for a jar of spring water, and a few pieces of charcoal from the wood-stove, and transmuted the latter into stones, after stirring them about in the jar with her fingers, and making the vessel appear filled with liquid fire. The witnesses and pebbles I have seen, but not the experiment; so I set that aside. On the evening of the same August 31st, however, I saw the spirit seat herself in a chair on the platform, saw her give her silky hair into the hands of judge Bacon, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., Mr. Stronk, and another, to feel; saw her allow judge Bacon to pull out a lock as a keepsake; saw the hair in his possession after the circle and on the next day; and heard her speak to us concerning the affairs of the next world, for the space of perhaps five minutes. She has not been a frequent visitor of late, but about the 23d of October it was announced that she would appear immediately after the 15th of November, to take charge of the circle during the winter, and that she would perform a number of startling chemical experiments.

The 15th fell on Sunday, and of course there was no circle. The next evening, I made an engagement with a hard-headed Rutland skeptic to drive up there, but he failed me at the very last moment, and I could not reach

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Chittenden in time. The Witch came out, however, according to announcement, and sat and discoursed much as she did on the occasion previously noticed. Her experiment of the evening consisted in the manufacture of a number of bright masses that seemed like large crystals, but which shone with great brilliancy. Mr. Stronk, the Albany counselor, happening there on a second visit, has given me the following memorandum

CHITTENDEN, November 19th, 1874 This is to certify that I attended the seance at the house of the Eddy brothers, on the evening of the 17th, when " The Witch of the Mountain" appeared, and conversed for some minutes. She permitted me, with two others, to go up to her and look at three substances that may be called spirit jewels, which she drew from her bosom and showed to me. They were unlike anything I ever beheld, and indescribably beautiful. One was about as large as the bottom of a tea-saucer, luminous, plano or concavo-convex, and the surface divided into squares, or perhaps bosses, each of which seemed to sparkle with a different color. Some were like the light of a diamond, some rosy, some golden. If I had been allowed to handle them, I might give a more accurate description.

E. D. STRONK, 83 Lancaster Street, Albany, N. Y.

The last time I saw the "Witch " was on the evening of the 7th of October, when she was the first spirit to emerge from the cabinet. She stepped out at the left of the curtain, and made some pretty severe strictures upon a card signed " Skeptic," professing to be written by a neighbor of the Eddys (which, in fact, it was not), and containing many falsehoods about them and their doings. She then said she had a few words for me, and, passing into the cabinet for a moment, reappeared at the left of the curtain, which brought her directly in front of my position. She said that she hoped that conditions would soon be such that they (the spirits) would be able

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to satisfy me as to experiments; that I must be patient and restrain my natural eagerness to probe things to the bottom-for I rendered myself so intensely positive as to throw the atmosphere of the circle into violent pertubation. I could not help recalling the letter of Professor Tyndall in reply to the invitation of the Dialectical Society's Committee to investigate the phenomena of Spiritualism. He said :

" More than a year ago, Mr. Cromwell Varley, who is, I believe, one of the greatest modern Spiritualists, did me the favor to pay me a visit, and he then employed a comparison which, though flattering to my spiritual strength, seems to mark me out as unfit for spiritual investigation. He said that my presence at a seance resembled that of a great magnet among a number of small ones. I throw all into confusion."

The Professor evidently regarded the thing as a joke, but I do not, for I think that if any one thing is self- evident, it is that some persons have greater power than others to affect the mental, moral, and nervous conditions of those with whom they come in contact. If this were not a fact, how could we explain the "personal magnetism" of actors, orators, lawyers, clergymen, physicians, military and naval captains, and other men whose names will recur to every one who reads these lines.

What is this insensible something that envelops us like an inner atmosphere, and saturates all whom we meet? What subtle power made the mere touch of an Apostle's robe efficacious to cure disease, and the laying on of a royal hand effect the same result? What human lightning darting from Napoleon's eye converted every soldier into a hero as it fell upon him? What magic force turned the rout of our own Shenandoah

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army into a crushing, victory, as the fiery little captain galloped along the line and swept the field with a glance? What potent spell lurked in the presence of Florence Nightingale, and made the wounded men at Scutari better, if they could barely kiss her shadow as it flitted across their beds? And what but this unseen but all-potent personal magnetism, enables some fiends in human shape to draw maidens, wives, and widows, alike, from the path of virtue, to minister to their awful appetites against their own reason, moral training, and the natural promptings of a pure mind and a previously unsullied heart?

But I will not dwell upon a subject on which, in wider limits for discussion than are now at my command, I would be only too happy to expand. Suffice it to say that, after a good deal of observation among the phenomena of animal magnetism, odic force and Spiritualism, I have come to the conclusion that the mere exclusion of a person from a circle, or his location in any given place in the same, is neither prima facie evidence of intended trickery, nor that the superior acumen of the individual as an investigator is dreaded.

The arrival of a Russian lady of distinguished birth and rare educational and natural endowments, on the 14th of October (the very day after a certain pseudo- investigator, who has since made his "statement," left,) was an important event in the history of the Chittenden manifestations. This lady--Madame Helen P. de Blavatsky--has  led a very eventful life, traveling in most of the lands of the Orient, searching for antiquities at the base of the Pyramids, witnessing the mysteries of

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Hindoo temples, and pushing with an armed escort far into the interior of Africa. The adventures she has encountered, the strange people she has seen, the perils by sea and land she has passed through, would make one of the most romantic stories ever told by a biographer. In the whole course of my experience, I never met so interesting and, if I may say it without offence, eccentric a character.

As I am about to describe some of the spirit-forms that appeared to her at the Eddy homestead, and am dependent upon her for a translation of most of the language they spoke, it is important that I should say a few words concerning her social position, by way of preface. The lady has been so obliging as to comply with my request to be furnished with some account of herself, and cheerfully submitted to my inspection documentary proofs of her identity. Among others of the latter, I have seen familiar letters from Prince Ferdinand W-, a relative of the Czar, Baron M , and other noblemen, a certified copy of her father's will, and her passports, which, as well as the last named document, fully attest her rank. She is the grand- daughter, on the mother's side, of the great General Fadeef and the Princess Helen Dolgoroukoff; grand- daughter of the Prince Iakoff Dolgorouky, the best friend and counselor of Peter the Great. Her grand- aunt was Natalia Kirilowna, Princess Dolgorouky, who was the betrothed of Peter II., and would have been Empress, had not that unfortunate Prince died on the eve of their intended marriage. On the father's side she is related to the powerful Kourland family of

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the Hahn-Hahns, who trace their line in unbroken descent, back to the first Crusades. Her father's father was Lieutenant-General of Kourland, and his mother found a second husband in the Prince Nicholas Vasiltchikof. Her father was a General on the retired list, and died at an advanced age, after some sixty years of service in the army and civil department. His high rank is proven by the fact of his being in the " Corps des Pages," to which none but the sons of the highest families are admitted. Mme. de Blavatsky herself was married to General de Blavatsky, Governor of Erivan, in the Caucasus.*

It will be seen, therefore, from the above recital, that here we have a lady of such social position, as to be incapable of entering into a vulgar conspiracy with any pair of tricksters, to deceive the public, while her education and travels have necessarily made her acquainted with many different languages. This is my witness; and now to my story.

On the 14th of October Mme. de Blavatsky reached Chittenden, and attended the seance that evening. Honto, as if to give the amplest opportunity for the artist and myself to test the correctness of the theory of "personation," that the "investigator" previously

* " Caucasus " is the general name given to the region and the chain of mountains which stretch between the Black and Caspian seas, the mountains forming the boundary between Asia and Europe. The country is divided into the governments of Kuban, Stawropol, Terek, Daghestan, Zakatol, Tiflis, Koutais, Sukum, Tchernomore (Black Sea), Elizabethpol, Balsa, and Eriwan. The first five lie on the European side of the mountains ; and the last seven in Asia, and include Circassia, Abkasia, Mingrelia, Imerethia, Georgia, Russian Armenia, and Shirvan.

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alluded to had expounded to us, stood at the right of the cabinet, motioning us to observe her height, her feet, the bead trimming on her dress, and then unplatted her hair and shook it out over her shoulders. Santum came, too, and "Wando" and "Wasso;" and then the first of the Russian lady's spirit-visitors made his appearance.

He was a person of middle height, well shaped, dressed in a Georgian (Caucasian) jacket, with loose sleeves and long pointed oversleeves, an outer long coat, baggy trousers, leggings of yellow leather, and white skull-cap, or fez, with tassel. She recognized him at once as Michalko Guegidze, late of Kutais, Georgia, a servant of Madame Witte, a relative, and who waited upon Mme. de B in Kutais.

He was followed by the spirit of Abraham Alsbach, who spoke some sentences in German to his sister; and he, in turn, by M. Zephirin Boudreau, late of Canada, the father of a lady who accompanied Mme. de Blavatsky to Chittenden, and who, of course, was attending her first seance. She addressed her questions to him in French, he responding by rapping with his hand against the door-frame, except in one instance, when he uttered the word " Oui." This gentleman stood so that I saw him in profile against the white wall. He had an aquiline nose, rather hollow cheeks, prominent cheek-bones, and an iron-gray beard upon his chin. It was a marked face, in short, of the pure Gallic type, one of the kind that Vergne calls " numis- matic faces," for they seem as if made expressly for reproduction upon coins and medals. In stature he

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was tall, and in figure slim, and altogether had the air of a gentleman.

A little girl spirit came after him, and conversed by raps with her mother, who spoke in the German language; and this brought. William's circle to a close.

After that we had a light circle-one of the kind in which, as the reader will remember, certain persons assert that the phenomena are all done by the hand of the medium. Among other things that occurred was, the writing of Mme. de Blavatsky's name upon a card, by a spirit-hand, in Russian script, which it will scarcely be said that Horatio could write, with both hands free. Various detached hands were shown through the aperture in the shawls, and among the number that of the boy Michalko himself, which the lady recognized by some peculiarity, as well as by a string of amber beads wound around the wrist. Recollect that she had only arrived that afternoon, had barely become acquainted with the medium, had had no conversation whatever with anybody about her former life, and then say how this Vermont farmer could have known

(1) Of the existence of Michalko Guegidze; (2) that he had any relations of any kind with his visitor; (3) that it is a custom among the Georgian peasants to wear a string of amber beads upon their arms; and then the skeptic will have to account for the possession of so unusual a thing as this kind of a rosary, by a family working a Green Mountain farm.

It instantly occurred to me that if this hand belonged to the spirit I had seen in William's circle, the spirit must be attached to it behind the curtain; and that he

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must be able to prove his identity by playing some familiar air; so I whispered to Mme. de B., in French, to ask him in his own language to play such an air upon the strings of the guitar that lay upon the table behind there. She first asked him, in Georgian and Russian, if he were really Michalko, and certain other questions; to which he responded by sweeping the guitar strings once, or thrice, as he wished to indicate "Yes or  No."

Among other things she said: "IIaparakey sheni tscheerimy" (Georgian)-"Speak to me, my good fellow." No response. "KoIi to to postoutschi piatraz (Russian)-" If it is you, knock five times or five sweeps of the guitar. Then she said: "Poegrai "Lezguinka.";"Play the 'Lezguinka'--a famous but far from melodious national air. He then played the air as it is found printed in this chapter; Mme. de B. having been so kind as, with the assistance of Mr. Lenzberg, the Hartford music professor, to transcribe it for me.

This song being finished, after repetition upon repetition, she asked the spirit to play another Caucasian song and dance known as: "Tiris ! Tiris ! Barbare." She said: " Sigrai  Gourinkou "'-" Play the Gouriel dance"-and straightway it was played by the invisible performer with great animation. My fellow-spectators sat listening to the strange sentences of the Russian lady, without understanding either what she said, the nationality of the music that was being played, or, until it was all over, the nature of the important test that was being given; for I believe I was the only

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person present who spoke French, and our conversation was confined to that language.

The instruments upon which the Georgian musicians play the two airs in question, are the zourna, a curious sort of bagpipe, and the tchicharda, or tschunggourou, a four-stringed wooden instrument, something like an ancient mandolin, if I am not mistaken-which, in the matter of music and musical instruments, is the most likely thing in the world.

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In the Lezguinka dance the movement is at first slow and measured, but, little by little, the time quickens, until finally, as the dancers warm to their work, they abandon themselves to the excitement of the moment with mad enthusiasm. The effect upon the spectator, of this monotonous repetition of the slight melody there is in the air, must be the reverse of agreeable.

I am fortunately, in the most unexpected manner, put in possession of a conclusive bit of evidence in corrob- oration of Madame de Blavatsky's story of Michalko's identity as a Georgian, in two letters from a merchant in Philadelphia, which, in view of their public importance, I have obtained his permission to publish verbatim:

The first introduces the writer to me in the following terms :

PHILADELPHIA, 430 Walnut St., October 29th, 1874. Henry S. Olcott, Chittenden, Vt., Eddy's Homestead.

DEAR SIR: Though I have not the pleasure of your personal acquaintance, I take the liberty of addressing to you a few words, knowing your name from the Daily Graphic correspondence on Eddy's manifestations, which I read with greatest interest.

I learn from today's Sun that at Eddy's, in presence of Mme. Blowtskey, Russian lady, a spirit of Michalko Guegidse (very familiar name to me) has materialized in Georgian dress, has spoken Georgian language, danced Lezguinka, and sung Georgian National Air.

Being myself a native of Georgia, Caucasus, I read these news with greatest astonishment and surprise, and being not a believer in spiritualism, I do not know what to think of these manifestations.

I address today a letter to Mrs. Blowtskey, asking some questions about materialized Georgian, and if she left Eddy's please forward it to her, if you know her address.

I also earnestly request your corroboration of this astonishing fact, materialized Georgian, if he really came out from the cabinet in Georgian dress, and in your presence. If that occurred in fact, and if anybody will regard it, as usually, trickery and humbug, then I will state to you this: There are in the United States no other Georgians but three, of whom I am the one and came first to this country three years ago. Two others whom I know, came over last year. I  

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know they are not in Vermont now and never been there before ; and I know they do not speak English at all. Besides us three, no other man speaks Georgian language in this country, and when I say this, I mean it to be true fact. Hoping you will answer this letter, I remain, yours respectfully, M. C. BETANELLY.

Upon receipt of this, I wrote to Mr. Betanelly, answer- ing his questions, giving the names of other spirits that appeared to Madame de Blavatsky, and suggesting that it would interest the public, if he and his two friends would unite in a certificate that they knew the persons in life. Here is his reply : PHILADELPHIA, November 18th, 1874. Colonel H. S. 0lcott, Rutland. Vt.

DEAR SIR: I am perfectly willing to give you all information and certificates concerning materialized Georgian spirits at Eddy's. Unfortunately I kept no correspondence lately with my Georgian friends, but I think they are somewhere in New York or out West, but I know they had no personal acquaintance of persons in Georgia that materialized at Eddy's.

I knew Michalko when alive in Kiitais, and think could recollect his face at Eddy's if I was there at that night. He was late serf of Alex. Guegidse, a Georgian nobleman, and employed servant in Col. A. F. Witte's family. Mr. Witte still lives in Kiitais, and occupies a position of an engineer under Russian Government.

I also knew personally late General Faddeyeff, a tall and old Gen- tleman in Tiflis, who died several years ago. He occupied one of the highest rank in Tiflis under Government, and possessed the Cross of St. Ann, and other merits of honor for his military and civil services.

The names of Hasan-Agha and Safas-Ali-Bek are also very familiar to me.

" Lezguinka " is real National Georgian play and dance. " Tiris, tiris, Barbare," is Georgian air, commonly song by lower classes and paysantry. " Tiris " in English means " crys," " to cry." " Bar- bare is Georgian feminine name." Whole verse means : Crys, crys Barbare, &c. : this is one verse of the whole and long song, which it is not, I think, necessary for you to describe or translate.

I send you for curiosity, a Georgian weekly newspaper, " The Times" (Droeda), published in Tiflis, Caucasus.*

Your obedient servant, M.C. BETANELLY, *See PAGE, 474

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Of course I never heard either of the Georgian airs before, and so leave to Mr. Betanelly and his compatriots in this country to speak for themselves. I can only say that the music printed in this chapter, is the music I heard played behind the curtain in Horatio G. Eddy's light- circle on the evening of October 14th, 1874; and now pass on to my next point. After stating that having since made the acquaintance of Mr. Betanelly, he corroborates all that he says in his two letters, and, since they were written, has actually seen the face of a Georgian spirit-friend at the cabinet window of a certain medium.

Among the evidences of the genuineness of the phenomena furnished us on this evening, were : The playing on the guitar and tambourine, and the ringing of two bells, all at once ; the playing of the guitar by Michalko, with the instrument held flat against the south wall, farthest away from Horatio ; the simultaneous playing of the guitar, at the extreme left, beyond Horatio, with its end resting upon a chair in sight of the audience, and the patting of the lady-sitter's head and shoulders by two unseen hands ; and finally, the simultaneous pressure of three hands upon the backs of Mr. J. M. Peebles and Mrs. E. D. Stronk, the gentleman and lady who sat with the medium in front of the curtain. Following, as this seance did, immediately upon the pretended " exposure " of the fraud of Horatio, I determined, that no chance to discover trickery upon this particular evening, should be neglected; so I took Mr. Peebles into my confidence, and instructed him to move his arm frequently, and turn it so as to present new nerve surfaces to the pressure of

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the medium's fingers. That he followed the suggestion, may be seen from the following certificate

Colonel Olcott :

MY DEAR SIR: Granted the privilege of sitting in the light seance of Horatio Eddy, to witness what are demonstrated spiritual manifestations, I beg to make the following statement :

Taking a seat forward of the cabinet to the right of Mr. Eddy, he tightly clasped with both his hands my bare arm. This done, music was heard immediately, and simultaneously upon three different instruments.

This was followed by hands tapping me on the back-on the right shoulder; and then they were projected from behind the curtain, patting my face and pulling the beard. The hand which I both saw and felt distinctly, was cold, white, and delicate, utterly unlike in shape and appearance, that of Mr. Eddy's. And what is more, during this and other manifestations, I purposely moved my arms in different directions, to be certain that both of Mr. Eddy's hands were still clasping mine.

This hand and arm appearing the second time, there was upon the wrist amber-colored beads. These I not only saw, but I felt and heard them jingle. Instruments of music were played upon at a distance beyond the medium's reach, even if his hands had been at liberty. And yet, during all of these marvels, if I can trust my senses in connection with reason and consciousness, his hands were not for a moment unclasped from mine-neither were the nerves of sensation so benumbed as to prevent, in the slightest, the usual acuteness of feeling.

This materialized hand also smoothed my hair, rung bells, and wrote upon cards before the eyes of both the circle and myself. And I am as certain it was not Horatio Eddy's hand, as I am it was not mine.

J. M. PEEBLES. Mr. Pebbles is well known as an eloquent speaker and scholarly writer upon Spiritualism, but that does not imply that he is either a fool or a knave. He was recently United States Consul at Trebizond, and is an Orientalist, a Fellow of the Anthropological Society of London, and Corresponding Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of India. In Part II of this work, will be found an

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interesting paper by him, describing some remarkable magical performances he witnessed in the East.

It was upon the following evening that I saw Honto suddenly sink away up to her waist, just as she was about to pass into the cabinet. Three persons-two gentlemen of Philadelphia, Mr. E and Mr. M-, and one lady, Miss E. S of Albany--have written to me concerning a similar phenomenon which happened in their presence, upon one evening, before my visit, and subsequently to the occurrences certified to in a former chapter. I was in hopes that they would have consented to unite in a certificate to the fact, but all manifest great reluctance to having their names associated with Spiritualism in a public manner. I content myself, therefore, with saying that they are each of excellent character.

It is a curious affair, this progressive disintegration of the" materialized" spirit-body! If we can conceive of the body being made, by a supreme effort of the spirit's will, from the invisible atoms of the atmosphere, there is nothing difficult in the theory that, by a like effort, it could be destroyed. In fact, it is to be noticed that most ghost-stories relate how the apparition suddenly evaporates, or dissolves back into its original unsubstantial elements. Thus the Phantom Carriage, of Chapter Vth, was seen to fade away in the moonlight, and so faded the White Lady of Avenel before the eyes of the affrighted sacristan. But here we have Honto sinking suddenly into the solid floor, waist-deep; and then, with what might be called the stump of a body, sliding behind the cabinet curtain. The same thing happened to Katie King in the course of Mr. Crookes' experiments. He

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mentions having seen her sink away until nothing remained but her head, which appeared to rest upon the carpet of the room.

Mrs. Bolles' mother fell to pieces, as though every atom of her form had suddenly lost its coherence with every other atom. Why is this ? How can the discrepancy be explained ? Has one spirit so superior a power over its materialized body that it can only be dissolved in progressive ascension, from heels to head, while another falls into fragments, at the instant it loses its hold on a single one of the molecules of which its evanescent shape is composed? Ali ! that is one of the problems that await the philosophical chemist.

The next evening, a new spirit, "Hassan Agha," came to Madame de Blavatsky. He was a wealthy merchant of Tiflis whom she knew well. He had a sneaking fancy for the Black Art, as well as our own mediums, and sometimes obliged his acquaintance by divining for them with a set of conjuring stones, procured from Arabia at a great price. His method was to throw them upon the floor, beside his mat, and then, by the way they fell into groups, prophesy the future and read the past for his wondering visitors. He claimed that the stones possessed some magic property by which and the muttering of certain Arabic sentences, the inner sight of the conjuror was opened, and all things hidden became clear. Hassan's dress, was a long yellowish coat, Turkish trousers, a bishmet, or vest and a black Astrachan cap, pappaha, covered with the national bashlik, or hood, with its long tasseled ends thrown over each shoulder.

Another of her visitors was an old woman dressed in

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the costume of the Russian peasant-women, of whom the artist has given a sketch. She was an old nurse in the family, and took charge of both Madame de B. and her sister in early childhood. She advanced towards the lady, and, after making a respectful salutation, said some- thing to her in her native tongue, of which I could distinguish the words " Michalko " and "Barishnia," which latter means "Miss."

Hassan Agha returned the next evening, and not only staid out longer than before, but, after retiring, reappeared at our side of the curtain so as to give the artist a good look at him. He spoke to Madame de B. this evening, and, listening with close attention, I heard the words Peshkesh, Bolshoi djelha, and Backsheesh, for the spelling and translation of which I am indebted to the lady. The first means" a present," the second and third " a big fortune," and the last, which is only too familiar to every traveler in the East, " Money." " Is it for me? " asked Madame de B. "Abou " (for you) answered the old man, with a gracious salaam.

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CHAPTER XIX - GERMANS, KHOURDS, AND HUNGARIANS