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Fifty Years A Medium by Estelle Roberts

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

MURDER AND SUICIDE

 

When I had a telephone call from Douglas Sladen, an old friend whose books I enjoy, I guessed from his tone that he was diffident about coming to the point. After some humming and hawing he said: “Look Estelle, I have just been talking to an editor. He asked if I thought you could do anything to help find this child.”

 

I knew at once whom he meant by “this child.” It was 1937, when the disappearance of ten-year–old Mona Tinsley had been making headline news for several days. The child had vanished from her home in Newark and the efforts of police throughout the country had failed to produce any trace of her.

 

I’m sorry, Douglas,” I replied, “but you know my views. I’ll do anything to help, but I can’t be associated with something which might be condemned as a stunt as soon as the other papers get to hear of it.”

 

“I was afraid you’d say that, and you’re right, of course. But there’s another side to it besides sensationalism. Think of the child’s parents, how they must feel, waiting, wondering, not knowing whether the child is alive or dead. You could help them Estelle, if only to end the dreadful uncertainty.”

 

Douglas had always known how to play on my emotions and he was not hesitating to do so now. He knew perfectly well that I could not stand up to argument of the kind.

 

“All right,” I agreed at last. “I’ll do what I can, but don’t let them turn it into headlines news.”

 

“You can rely on me,” he said and rang off.


 

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I had received many tempting offers to utilize my powers of clairvoyance for material purposes but had invariably turned them down. To have accepted would have been to lay myself open to charges of sensationalism and of cheapening Spiritualism and all that it stands for. But the present instance was somewhat different. In the case of Mona Tinsley, there were the parents to consider and the agony of mind through which they were passing. If I could help them in their hour of trial, I felt I must do so, even at the sacrifice of my principles.

 

I wrote to the Chief Constable at Newark-on-Trent, and told him that I believed I might be able to bring some comfort to the unhappy parents if he would send me some garment belonging to the missing girl. I received a reply in which the Chief Constable, Mr. Barnes, said: “This is forwarded at the request of the parents of Mona Tinsley and I shall be glad if you will refrain from giving my action any official interpretation.” As this was in accordance with my desire for no publicity, we were both satisfied.

 

In the parcel which reached me the next day was a pink silk dress belonging to Mona. As I took it from its wrapping and held the soft material in my hands, I knew at once that Mona was dead. Just then, my old dog, who had been sleeping quietly on a rug, suddenly leaped to his feet and began to career madly around the room. It is no uncommon thing for cats and dogs to react strangely in the presence of strong psychic phenomena, but this was the first time I had seen it occur with my own pet. Puck, normally the quietest and gentlest of creatures, now behaved like a thing possessed and finally had to be shut in another room before he quieted down.

 

Then, with Red Cloud’s help, Mona spoke to me, saying she had been taken to a small house where she had been strangled. She gave me a picture of a house, with a water filled ditch on one side, a field at its back, a churchyard close by, and an inn within sight. In my vision I was taken to a graveyard, over a bridge, and across some fields to a river beyond. There I stopped, unable to go further.

 

The picture projected to me was so clear that my secretary telephoned the Newark police to check its details with them. Evidently my description coincided close with the location of the child’s disappearance because before they rang off they invited me to visit the site. If I would go to Newark, I was told, they would


 

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send a car to meet me at the railway station. Despite earlier misgivings, I was now deeply interested, and readily agreed to go.

 

At Newark railway station, I found the car awaiting me and, without any preliminaries, we drove off. Soon we came to a small house, which I recognized from my vision though I had never seen it with my physical sight. Two policemen accompanied me up the path towards the front door. Before we reached it, however, without knowing why I did so, I turned from the path and walked to the side of the house where I found another door. It was unlocked and I went in.

 

Inside, the house was bare from top to bottom; every stick of furniture had gone. Left to roam as I pleased, I went first to the staircase and climbed to the two rooms above. I received no psychic impressions in the first room I entered, but in the second, at the back of the house, particularly near the water tank, I could feel the presence of Mona. I went downstairs again and walked around the two lower rooms. It was in the front one that Mona had spent her time – of this I was certain because the child told me so clairaudiently.

 

When I rejoined the policemen outside they quizzed on my findings. I told them the girl had occupied the upstairs back room, and they said it was the bedroom in which some furniture had been found. The front bedroom had been quite bare. They nodded when I mentioned the water tank and said they had found a handkerchief there. This was later produced in evidence at the trial. Downstairs I told them, she had spent most of her time in the front room. This Mona had told me, adding that she had amused herself in copying something out of a book. This was also borne out later in the trial.

 

I said: “I knew before I came here that the child was dead. I can now tell you she was killed in that back bedroom.”

 

“The child’s death has yet to be established,” came the guarded reply. “We have found no body. But, assuming you’re right, can you tell us how the crime took place?”

 

“Death was by strangulation. The murderer then put the body in a sack and left the house by the side door.”

 

“Why not by the front door?”

 

“I don’t know. All I can say is that it was the side door he used.”


 

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“Actually,” one of the policemen admitted, “the front door won’t open. Nodder screwed it up so that it is permanently closed.”

 

“This is Nodder’s house?” I asked. “Yes.”

 

“I thought it might be.”

 

 

Frederick Nodder's name had been very much in the news. It was clear to readers of the newspapers that the police were very interested in Nodder’s movements at the time of the crime and just before it, but interest and suspicion are not enough to substantiate a charge at law. The police needed proof and they had not been able to get it. Neither had they been able to find Mona Tinsley, dead or alive.

 

“Assuming the child has been killed, where would you say the murderer hid the body?” I was asked.

 

“Some distance from here,” I said. “I can’t say precisely where, but if you would care to walk with me, I’ll do my best to help you.”

 

Together we walked past the churchyard, where I saw that some of the graves had been opened – doubtless by the police, who had been leaving nothing to chance. We crossed the bridge and came to the fields, exactly as I had foreseen.

 

“Beyond these fields there is a river,” I said. “There is.”

 

“The river holds the secret of the child’s whereabouts. If you’ve dragged it already and found nothing, you must drag it again.”

 

I could tell them no more and, shortly after, they drove me back to the station.

 

Some days after my visit to Newark, the police charged Nodder with the abduction of Mona Tinsley. He was found guilty and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. But the hunt for the child was never relaxed. Many weeks later her body was found still inside its sack in the River Idle beyond the fields. It had


 

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become jammed in the mouth of a drain, which explained why previous searches had failed to bring it to light.

 

Nodder was brought from prison to stand trial for murder. He was convicted and duly executed.

 

I have never enjoyed dealing with murder cases because it is a harassing experience for the medium to relive the impressions of the victim's last moments on earth. It has happened several times that I have embarked unknowingly on a case in which murder was involved, but it has required only a few seconds of spirit communication before I was aware that the victim died by violence. One such instance was when the Sunday Pictorial asked if I would try to help two bereaved mothers without disclosing their names or the reason for their mourning. There could be only one answer to such a request and in due course a newspaperman arrived at my door bringing the two ladies with him. The reporter, whose name was John Ridley, wrote an account of our séance that afternoon, and it was published in a subsequent issue of the newspaper. I am indebted to the Editor of the Sunday Pictorial for permission to reprint this article exactly as it appeared in the newspaper. Mr. Ridley wrote:

 

"Here and now I must admit that I am completely staggered and bewildered. The picture of the little girl you see on this page is that of Sheila Wilson. You may remember her, for three months ago Sheila, eleven years of age, was brutally murdered in a London house.

 

I did not know Sheila. Until three days ago I had never seen her parents. But it happens that Mrs. Wilson read in the Sunday Pictorial that I was investigating claims of Spiritualists to be able to communicate with children in the spirit world.

 

So Mrs. Wilson wrote me this letter:

 

`Dear Sir, - I have just read with interest your article in the Sunday Pictorial. If it is possible that you can speak with your loved one who has gone, will you please inform me where to go, as my poor little darling Sheila was murdered three months ago. I cannot believe it is possible to speak to her again. I remain, yours sincerely, Edith Wilson.'

 

I told you that I would be taking three bereaved mothers to séances, without revealing their names or anything about them


 

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beforehand to the mediums. After receiving Mrs. Wilson's letter I decided to take her along to see Estelle Roberts.

 

I chose Mrs. Roberts for this supreme test because, in Spiritualist circles, she is acknowledged as the outstanding medium.

 

Let me add that until three days ago I had never met Mrs. Roberts, but here and now let me say that I am prepared to swear in any court of law that the following account of what happened at our sitting with the mother of little murdered Sheila Wilson is true.

 

We sat a round in a circle in broad daylight in an ordinary room. Not at all a room in which you would expect uncanny things to happen to you. There beside me was Sheila's mother and four feet away was Mrs. Estelle Roberts. Beside us was the other bereaved mother, Mrs. Pugh, of Broad Lane, Birmingham, who had contacted me in exactly the same way.

 

Almost at once, Mrs. Roberts began rubbing her throat. There was no question of her being ‘in a trance'. She seemed perfectly normal. Then she spoke - to Sheila's mother.

 

‘Your little girl', she said, 'passed into the spirit world with a terrific shock. I have a feeling of constriction round the throat - of choking. Your little girl was strangled.'

 

Now do you remember the case of Sheila Wilson? She was, in fact, strangled by a man who has since been executed for his crime.

 

‘This spirit,' Mrs. Roberts went on, 'passed over only a short time ago. She has been dead less than six months. It is difficult for her to communicate . . . she has not yet adjusted herself to her new life.'

 

`After her death, you went to see your little daughter - but you only saw her through glass.'

 

Mrs. Wilson nodded. It was true - all true.

 

Mrs. Roberts appeared to be seeing and talking to people all this time; to people who were not visible or audible to me or to anyone else in the room. Then the medium spoke again:


 

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`Your daughter is asking what you have done with her little colored shoes. You took them out of the cupboard downstairs.'

 

Mrs. Wilson, fascinated now, agreed. She said she had taken them out, a pair of her child's red dancing shoes, and given them away.

 

‘Your little girl sends you all her love,' Mrs. Roberts went on, 'also her love to Baby, Rosie, Jim, Peter, John, May, Nelly, Margery, Vi, Ruby, Doreen and to the Three.'

 

All of these names were instantly recognized by Mrs. Wilson as being of Sheila's relations and little friends.

 

'Kiss Peter for me, she says,' went on Mrs. Roberts. Peter is Sheila's little brother.

 

There was another pause, then the medium went on `Listen! The child is telling me that you keep holding in your mind a picture of her as having suffered a great deal. But you are wrong. She did not suffer. She was very peaceful before she passed.

 

Mrs. Wilson sat wide-eyed with wonder. Her whirling mind tried to grasp the immensity of the revelation.

 

Mrs. Roberts turned to Mrs. Pugh. After a while she said:

 

'Your little boy is a dear kiddie, with brown curly hair. He is standing just beside you now.'

 

Mrs. Pugh gave Mrs. Roberts a toy which had belonged to her child. But the medium was not satisfied. She asked: `He says he wants to have the other toy you have brought with you in your bag.'

 

Mrs. Pugh opened her handbag and produced a very small woolly doll. No one but herself could have known it was there.

 

Mrs. Roberts told Mrs. Pugh that her little boy was being cared for by a tall old lady called Emily. She described in detail this old lady. But the description conveyed nothing to Mrs. Pugh. Nothing - until Mrs. Roberts said that this lady was the mother of Mary, the little boy's granny.


 

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Then she remembered that again the medium had discovered a fact that she herself was hardly aware of. For she recalled that Emily was in fact the name of the little boy's great-grandmother.

 

As she was still sitting almost transfixed by this revelation Mrs. Roberts in the same conversational tone continued:

 

'Yesterday you went up to your little boy's grave and put some flowers there. He thanks you for them. There were also some chrysanthemums that were sent - but they are not on his grave.'

 

Mrs. Pugh admitted that she visited the child's grave on the previous day with some flowers, but that she had left at home some chrysanthemums sent by her sister.

 

The séance ended. For a while the mothers were too overwhelmed to speak. But gradually their minds adjusted themselves to this amazing experience and when we parted they were happy. I say deliberately - they were happier than they have ever been since they were parted from their loved ones.

 

That was not my only experience in last week's investigations, although after that almost incredible sitting with Mrs. Roberts, the others pale away in my memory . . .

 

I had a séance with another medium, Lilian Bailey. To her I took another bereaved mother from Birmingham, Mrs. Ethel Wright.

 

Mrs. Wright lost her five-year-old daughter nine months ago - and the medium told her that the child died ten months ago.

 

Mrs. Bailey also described the child quite fairly and added: 'She wants you to give her love to her daddy and to tell him that she is still his "little sweetheart".'

 

It was true that the child's father often used this phrase to the little girl.

 

I began this investigation a complete skeptic. Until last week I saw nothing to make me change my mind.

 

After last week's tests I am no longer a skeptic. I am completely mystified, simply because I cannot hope to explain how this had happened to me and to those mothers.


 

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The question is whether grief-stricken parents can find in Spiritualist experience comfort and solace after the death of their beloved children.

 

Before they went to the séances, Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Pugh and Mrs. Wright, were three bereaved mothers, living in the shadow of their sorrow.

 

But afterwards their whole aspect changed, as if by magic. Gone was the strain and the tension. They chatted brightly to each other, exchanging anecdotes about their children, their minds at rest.

 

Not all Spiritualists have the power of Mrs. Estelle Roberts and Mrs. Bailey. There are, I am sure, racketeers and charlatans who will try to take your money and give you nothing but a conjuring show.

 

Yet, if you will bare this warning in mind, then I shall not hold you back from seeking comfort in Spiritualism

 

And I say even though I cannot even yet regard their case as proved, the experience that happened to the mother of that murdered child in my presence last week has made it possible for me to say any longer: 'I do not believe.' For it was something I shall never forget."

 

 

Suicide is no less an offense against the spiritual laws than it is against the laws of man-made civilization. And, as in the one so in the other, there are degrees of transgression. Both laws recognize there is no fault attaching to the unfortunate person whose mind is so unhinged that he is not aware of the sins he is committing. In such sad cases there can be no penalty, only love and sympathy. Both laws equally condemn suicide in those who are responsible for their actions, the spiritual law being meticulously just, as Red Cloud has made clear on many occasions.

 

Everyone is given freedom of action to do as he will, says Red Cloud. It is for him to choose, but in choosing he must also accept the consequences of his choice. He may destroy his earth-body, but because he has been granted eternal life the spirit is indestructible. In passing into the next plane of life it suffers no change except that the imperfect earth-body is no more. The individual continues to exist, expressing himself through the spirit­body, which is the replica of the earth-body except for its


 

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imperfections. He who was blind can again see; he who was maimed is whole. Individuality and character remain unchanged, for the soul starts after death from the same stage of evolution that had been attained. The problems from which the suicide hoped to escape remain with him, as does the realization that death has solved nothing.

 

By the act of suicide, man undergoes premature birth into the spirit world. He cannot immediately reach the plane of consciousness to which his evolution would entitle him had he fulfilled his allotted span on earth. Instead he remains suspended between the earth and the astral plane, which is the first stage beyond earth. In this state he is deprived, for the time being, of the company of his loved ones in the spirit world, unable to cross the barrier raised by his premature birth. Only when he has advanced in his evolution to the required degree can he rejoin those he knew and loved.

 

How futile then are the efforts of those who commit suicide in order to rejoin more quickly those loved ones who have preceded them! How futile to try by this means to end earthly sufferings! Only if life on earth is endured to its end can the spirit progress in its evolution.

 

Some years ago The People published a series of articles on Spiritualism. Written by Maurice Barbanell, the series aroused so much interest and correspondence that the Editor invited readers who were bereaved and who had never attended a séance to send him their stories. From those submitted, the Editor undertook to select a few readers to have sittings under rigid test conditions. Maurice Barbanell had no hand in choosing the readers whose stories suggested they were most in need of psychic help; and neither, of course, had I.

 

With one of these readers, the story that unfolded was profoundly moving. He was a man named Proctor, brought to my house by a reporter from the The People. His name and all the circumstances surrounding him were deliberately kept from me. The preamble to our séance was no more than a polite comment on the weather. As soon as the sitting began I became aware of a women about thirty-five years old who had clearly passed over not long before. She was very distraught and I knew her death had been a tragic one. She almost pounced on me in her urgency to speak to my visitor who, she said, was her husband, she said:


 

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"Darling, I didn't want to leave you. I can't remember the end; it was so quick. Have nothing on your conscience, darling; it was not your fault. I was choking and then I just slept and slept and slept. The babies are with me still. The three of us will always be near you, waiting for you. I have wanted so much to tell you these things, to tell you there is no death, but I've never been able to reach you. Now that I have done so, I am happy, so happy."

 

From the husband I later learned the full details of what had happened. Some eight months before he had returned home to find his wife dead on the floor from an overdose of sleeping tablets. She had first tried to gas herself, but the gas had run out, and so she had resorted to the pills. (The choking sensation to which she had referred in her message must have been the effect of the gas.) Beside her lay the bodies of their two children; one aged four, the other five months. The poor women had been in a bad state of nerves since the birth of the baby, and though she seemed to be getting better, had suddenly suffered a relapse which ended with this brainstorm. From the way she had almost hurled herself at me in her anxiety to assure her husband that she still lived, there could be no doubt that the sending of this message was as important to her as receiving it was to him.

 

My visitor was much impressed by the events of our sitting; no less it seems by my involuntary hand gestures than by the message I had given him. He remarked to the newspaperman who accompanied him that while I was in communication with his wife, I kept clasping my hands in front of my face. I was unaware of having done this, nor could I later recall having done so. However, the significance of it was not lost on him. He explained that the movements of my hands had been a faithful reproduction of a characteristic gesture of his wife's. Many times he had seen her hands make the same nervous movements that mine had done, especially in the mornings when he had had to leave to go to his business.

 

An account of Mr. Proctor's visit was published in The People the following Sunday. It was a full description, much more detailed that the brief resume I have just given. Towards the end of the article the reporter, Alan Bestic, wrote:

 

"There is, of course, another possible interpretation of what happened. Mrs. Roberts has a keen, sensitive mind. Mr. Proctor came to her with an appalling problem dominating his thoughts.


 

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Perhaps that sensitive mind reached out and picked up those thoughts as a delicate radio receiver picks up faint, persistent signals. It could have been telepathy.

 

But that theory does not hold good for another test which Mrs. Roberts conducted in my presence that day. This time the subjects were Mrs. P. and her daughter, who, for family reasons, wish to remain anonymous.

 

Neither had seen Mrs. Roberts before. She knew nothing of them.

 

Mrs. P. wanted information about her son, Will, who was reported killed, on a bomber raid over Germany 15 years ago.

 

Both she and her daughter had been told by several mediums that he was still alive, wandering in France, suffering from loss of memory.

 

Mrs. Roberts told them she was in contact with a man, Mrs. P's husband. She described accurately how he had died of cancer and how his mind had been unsettled for a few days before his death.

 

But, of Will she could tell no more than other mediums. His father, she said, told her he was looking after the boy, who was still alive on earth.

 

But, because Will was suffering from amnesia, it was difficult for them to influence his mind. She felt he had into Germany, perhaps into the Russian zone. She could not pinpoint his exact position.

 

Naturally, Mrs. P. and her daughter were disappointed. But the experiment was by no means a failure.

 

Mrs. Roberts gave them information which they could not possibly have had in their minds when they came to see her.

 

She said: 'He is trembling with excitement. He is talking of a woman called Lizzie. Who is Lizzie?'

 

Neither of them knew. 'Yes you do,' said Mrs. Roberts. She is connected with his father.'


 

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'That's right,' beamed Mrs. P. 'My husband had an aunt called Lizzie - his father's sister. I never met her.'

 

Mrs. Roberts: 'He is talking about Jim. No . . . it's Jenny. Who is Jenny?'

 

Both Mrs. P. and her daughter looked blank. 'Her name was Jane,' said the medium. `They're together now. Everyone called her Polly.'

 

Mother and daughter burst into laughing. `Aunt Polly!' they shouted together.

 

I am convinced that Mrs. P. and her daughter had not thought of some of these folk for years. And some they barely knew."

 

 

There have been many cases in which my mediumistic powers prevented tragedies. One I recall concerned a girl-wife who had lost her husband and was inconsolable. Her father and mother brought her to me, volunteering no information other than that she needed my help. The girl and I went alone to my little séance room. Her husband speedily communicated, giving irrefutable proof that he had survived the grave. He referred to little incidents, domestic happenings that had occurred quite recently, thus showing that he was still with her. The loneliness of bereavement she had been suffering was now over. In her joy at this reunion, she ran quickly to the car outside, without stopping to rejoin her parents who were waiting in another room. Understanding her action, I went to them to tell them of her new­found happiness.

 

As I went into the room the mother sprang to her feet, anxious to know the result of the sitting. I assured her that the girl's husband had returned and proved his survival. Tears were in the mother's eyes as she clasped my hands, saying: "Mrs. Roberts, you have saved her life. Had he not come, I don't know what she would have done. Several times the poor child has talked resolutely of taking her own life."

 

In that moment the full measure of the responsibility of my work dawned upon me. I offered a silent prayer that I should never be found wanting.


 

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A more dramatic case of forestalling tragedy occurred at the Queen's Hall in London. I had been giving a demonstration of clairvoyance when, in obedience to Red Cloud's prompting, I pointed to the back of the packed balcony. There, I addressed a man, begging him to see me before he left the hall. When the meeting was over a steward came to say the man was asking to see me.

 

"Please bring him here," I said, and turning to Mr. Hannen Swafer, who had been talking to me, I told him I should be glad to have him witness what I proposed to do.

 

The man came in a minute later, poorly dressed, dejected looking, one who had clearly known better days. He said politely, "You asked to see me, Mrs. Roberts?"

 

"Yes," I told him. "You have a bottle of poison in your pocket, and I don't think it should be there. Will you give it to me?"

 

At once he began to bluster. "Poison," he said. "I've got no poison."

 

"Yes, you have. And for no good purpose." I held out my hand for it.

 

He looked at me steadily for several seconds and then shrugged his shoulders.

"Since you know so much about it, you'd better have the razor, too."

 

He handed over a small bottle of prussic acid and a rusty razor.

 

"Would you like to tell us what it is all about?" I asked. Again he shrugged his shoulders, as though it did not matter whether he told us or not.

 

"It's the usual story," he said, at last. "Out of work, down and out, broke! It wasn't too bad while the wife was alive; when there's two of you, you seem to make out better. But she died a couple of months ago, and somehow it took all the heart out of me. I've been trying for the last couple of weeks to pluck up courage to do myself in. But it isn’t so easy when you come down to it. I thought at first I'd use my old razor. Then one day I spotted this bottle of poison, all nice and handy, so I slipped it in my pocket. It seemed cleaner than a razor, somehow." He paused, reflecting on the rival merits of acid and steel. The he went on:


 

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"Well, this afternoon while I was on a bench in the park, I decided to use the poison. I was sitting there, thinking out when and where to do it when a newspaper blew across the grass and wrapped itself around my legs. And there across the top of the page were the words, "You Can Talk With Your Dead.’”

 

"It was by Mrs. Shaw Desmond,” I told him.

 

"Maybe, I don't know who wrote it, but it said to come here. There wasn't any charge to come in, it said, so I thought I'd come. I'd nothing to lose, and it'd be warmer inside than sitting around in the park till it got dark enough to drink the poison without some busybody spotting what I was up to. I reckoned, too, that if I could talk to my wife I could find out if she's better off up there than I am down here. So there you are. That's why I am here, and what I've told you is God's truth."

 

Neither of us who listened to this sad little story had the least doubt of its truth. Swaffer picked up a hat and began a collection on the spot. Later he took the man under his wing and, with characteristic kindness, continued to help him until he was finally established in a job and firmly on his feet again.

 

Many times I reflected what forces combined to lead that man to the Queen's Hall that eventful evening. Perhaps it was simply his wife, watching over him faithfully, as she had always done in the past.

 

Clairvoyance : Public and Private