The true account of Allen’s appearance, or apparition, at Blocksby’s, when I and Tarras, Wentworth and the attendant recognised him, and Miss Breton did not, is thus part of the History of the Unexplained. Allen might have appealed to precedents in the annals of the Psychical Society, where they exist in scores, and are technically styled “collective hallucinations.” But neither a jury, nor a judge, perhaps, would accept the testimony of experts in Psychical Research if offered in a criminal trial, nor acquit a wraith.
Possibly this scepticism has never yet injured the cause of an innocent man. Yet I know, in my own personal experience, and have heard from others, from men of age, sagacity, and acquaintance with the greatest affairs, instances in which people have been distinctly seen by sane, healthy, and honourable witnesses, in places and circumstances where it was (as we say) “physically impossible” that they should have been, and where they certainly were not themselves aware of having been. That is why human testimony seems to me to establish no more, in certain circumstances, than a highly probable working hypothesis—a hypothesis on which, of course, we are bound to act.
There is little more to tell. By dint of careful nursing, poor Allen was enabled to travel; he reached Mentone, and there the mistral ended him. He was a lonely man, with no kinsfolk; his character was cleared among the people who knew him best; the others have forgotten him. Nobody can be injured by this explanation of his silence when called on to prove his innocence, and of his unusually successful vanishing from a society which had never tried very hard to discover him in his retreat. He has lived and suffered and died, and left behind him little but an incident in the History of the Unexplained.
THE COMPLETE BUNGLER
PISCATOR ANGLUS. PISCATOR SCOTUS
Scotus.—Well, now let’s go to your sport of angling. Where, Master, is your river?
Anglus.—Marry, ’tis here; mark you, this is the famous Test.
Scotus.—What, Master, this dry ditch? There be scarce three inches of water in it.
Anglus.—Patience, Scholar, the water is in the meadows, or Master Oakley, the miller, is holding it up. Nay, let us wait here some hour or so till the water is turned on. Or perchance, Scholar, for the matter of five shillings, Master Oakley will even raise his hatches, an you have a crown about you.
Scotus.—I like not to part with my substance, but, as needs must, here, Master, is the coin.
[Exit ANGLUS to the Mill. He returns.
Anglus.—Now, Scholar, said I not so? The water is turned on again, and, lo you, at the tail of yonder stream, a fair trout is rising. You shall see a touch of our craft.