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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


The following case is a much harder exercise in belief. It is narrated by the Duc de Saint Simon. {62} The events were described to Saint Simon on the day after their occurrence by the Duc d'Orleans, then starting for Italy, in May, 1706. Saint Simon was very intimate with the duke, and they corresponded by private cypher without secretaries. Owing to the death of the king's son and grandson (not seen in the vision), Orleans became Regent when Louis XIV. died in 1714. Saint Simon is a reluctant witness, and therefore all the better.


"Here is a strange story that the Duc d'Orleans told me one day in a tete-a-tete at Marly, he having just run down from Paris before he started for Italy; and it may be observed that all the events predicted came to pass, though none of them could have been foreseen at the time. His interest in every kind of art and science was very great, and in spite of his keen intellect, he was all his life subject to a weakness which had been introduced (with other things) from Italy by Catherine de Medici, and had reigned supreme over the courts of her children. He had exercised every known method of inducing the devil to appear to him in person, though, as he has himself told me, without the smallest success. He had spent much time in investigating matters that touched on the supernatural, and dealt with the future.

"Now La Sery (his mistress) had in her house a little girl of eight or nine years of age, who had never resided elsewhere since her birth. She was to all appearance a very ordinary child, and from the way in which she had been brought up, was more than commonly ignorant and simple. One day, during the visit of M. d'Orleans, La Sery produced for his edification one of the charlatans with whom the duke had long been familiar, who pretended that by means of a glass of water he could see the answer to any question that might be put. For this purpose it was necessary to have as a go-between some one both young and innocent, to gaze into the water, and this little girl was at once sent for. They amused themselves by asking what was happening in certain distant places; and after the man had murmured some words over the water, the child looked in and always managed to see the vision required of her.

"M. le duc d'Orleans had so often been duped in matters of this kind that he determined to put the water-gazer to a severe test. He whispered to one of his attendants to go round to Madame de Nancre's, who lived close by, and ascertain who was there, what they were all doing, the position of the room and the way it was furnished, and then, without exchanging a word with any one, to return and let him know the result. This was done speedily and without the slightest suspicion on the part of any person, the child remaining in the room all the time. When M. le duc d'Orleans had learned all he wanted to know, he bade the child look in the water and tell him who was at Madame de Nancre's and what they were all doing. She repeated word for word the story that had been told by the duke's messenger; described minutely the faces, dresses and positions of the assembled company, those that were playing cards at the various tables, those that were sitting, those that were standing, even the very furniture! But to leave nothing in doubt, the Duke of Orleans despatched Nancre back to the house to verify a second time the child's account, and like the valet, he found she had been right in every particular.