'Oh, as to ghosts, that is quite another thing. I did not know you were talking with reference to them. It is no wonder if one can get nothing sensible out of you, Janet, when your discrimination is no greater than to lump everything marvellous, kelpies, ghosts, vampires, doubles, witches, fairies, nightmares, and I don't know what all, under the one head of ghosts; and we haven't been saying a word about them. If one were to disprove to you the existence of the afreets of Eastern tales, you would consider the whole argument concerning the reappearance of the departed upset. I congratulate you on your powers of analysis and induction, Miss Janet. But it matters very little whether we believe in ghosts, as you say, or not, provided we believe that we are ghosts -- that within this body, which so many people are ready to consider their own very selves, their lies a ghostly embryo, at least, which has an inner side to it God only can see, which says I concerning itself, and which will soon have to know whether or not it can appear to those whom it has left behind, and thus solve the question of ghosts for itself, at least.'
'Then you do believe in ghosts, uncle?' said Janet, in a tone that certainly was not respectful.
'Surely I said nothing of the sort, Janet. The man most convinced that he had himself had such an interview as you hint at, would find -- ought to find it impossible to convince any one else of it.'
'You are quite out of my depth, uncle,' said Harry. 'Surely any honest man ought to be believed?'
'Honesty is not all, by any means, that is necessary to being believed. It is impossible to convey a conviction of anything. All you can do is to convey a conviction that you are convinced. Of course, what satisfied you might satisfy another; but, till you can present him with the sources of your conviction, you cannot present him with the conviction -- and perhaps not even then.'
'You can tell him all about, it, can't you?'
'Is telling a man about a ghost, affording him the source of your conviction? Is it the same as a ghost appearing to him? Really, Harry! -- You cannot even convey the impression a dream has made upon you.'
'But isn't that just because it is only a dream?'
'Not at all. The impression may be deeper and clearer on your mind than any fact of the next morning will make. You will forget the next day altogether, but the impression of the dream will remain through all the following whirl and storm of what you call facts. Now a conviction may be likened to a deep impression on the judgment or the reason, or both. No one can feel it but the person who is convinced. It cannot be conveyed.'
'I fancy that is just what those who believe in spirit-rapping would say.'
'There are the true and false of convictions, as of everything else. I mean that a man may take that for a conviction in his own mind which is not a conviction, but only resembles one. But those to whom you refer profess to appeal to facts. It is on the ground of those facts, and with the more earnestness the more reason they can give for receiving them as facts, that I refuse all their deductions with abhorrence. I mean that, if what they say is true, the thinker must reject with contempt the claim to anything like revelation therein.'
'Then you do not believe in ghosts, after all?' said Kate, in a tone of surprise.
'I did not say so, my dear. Will you be reasonable, or will you not?'
'Dear uncle, do tell us what you really think.'
'I have been telling you what I think ever since I came, Katey; and you won't take in a word I say.'
'I have been taking in every word, uncle, and trying hard to understand it as well. -- Did you ever see a ghost, uncle?'
Cornelius Heywood was silent. He shut his lips and opened his jaws till his cheeks almost met in the vacuum. A strange expression crossed the strange countenance, and the great eyes of his spectacles looked as if, at the very moment, they were seeing something no other spectacles could see. Then his jaws closed with a snap, his countenance brightened, a flash of humour came through the goggle eyes of pebble, and, at length, he actually smiled as he said -- 'Really, Katey, you must take me for a simpleton!'
'To think, if I had ever seen a ghost, I would confess the fact before a set of creatures like you -- all spinning your webs like so many spiders to catch and devour old Daddy Longlegs.'
By this time Harry had grown quite grave. 'Indeed, I am very sorry, uncle,' he said, 'if I have deserved such a rebuke.'
'No, no, my boy,' said Cornelius; 'I did not mean it more than half. If I had meant it, I would not have said it. If you really would like --' Here he paused.
'Indeed we should, uncle,' said Kate, earnestly. 'You should have heard what we were saying just before you came in.'
'All you were saying, Katey?'