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however absurd they may be made, are not altogether without foundation; but the real facts are completely perverted by superstition. It is believed that the devil appears in a variety of forms, and plays his pranks on both men and
At times he assumes the form of some animal of the chase, and leads the hunter, flattered with the hope of an easy conquest, from place to place in pursuit, until at last he becomes entangled and bewildered in the forest. In such cases, the sign of the cross and prayer dispel the hellish illusion, and extricate the betrayed hunter from the difficulties of his situation. Such incidents are multiplied, and repeated with yarious embellishments, by those who relate these stories, without exciting the least surprise in the hearers, or awakening the smallest scepticism. It is even believed that in the interval between Christmas and Epiphany a person may discern in mirrors, arranged in a certain manner, any one they may think of and wish to see, though he may be at any distance from the place. New Year's Eve in particular is considered peculiarly favourable to this species of magic, and the belief in the appearance of the apparitions is so strong, that it is only a fear
of coming in contact with evil spirits, or of want of nerve to face the apparition invoked, that prevents the universal practice of the spell
. Having heard so much of such things, I became curious to know how the people could have been brought to believe them, and on the eve of the New Year, I requested that mirrors should be arranged in the manner prescribed, that I might test the efficacy of the charm. My request was carried out with the strictest observance of all the conditions appertaining to the magic art. Shortly before midnight, a mirror was placed obliquely on the table, with its top leaning towards the wall and having in front of it two lighted candles. Another mirror of smaller dimensions than that was put in my hands, with the glass turned from me, and held in such a way that I could only see over the upper part of the frame into the mirror before me. All being arranged, I was left alone in the room, and the doors carefully shut, which is considered an indispensable condition.
On casting my first look on the enchanted mirror, I saw two . long rows of burning candles disappearing in a distant vista before me; and between them a darkened corridor
of immense length terminating in impenetrable darkness. The fantastic play of lights reflected from the darkened ground, and which were very trying to the sight, did indeed, represent to my imagination some undefined phantasmagoria ; yet none of them could by any stretch of fancy be taken for distinct figures, and still less be recognized as those of friends.
After half-an-hour of experimentalizing, I gave up in despair. My failure excited surprise, and was attributed to my want of belief.
On my return home--the experiment having been tried at a friend's house-I related what had occurred to my landlady and her daughter, who were both strong believers in the spell. They would indeed scarcely admit the truth of my statement, and protested that if I had not succeeded, it was owing solely to a wrong arrangement of the mirrors. They urged me therefore, to make another trial, and I willingly agreed, but more with the view of convincing them of superstition than a hope of making any new discovery. Everything was arranged as previously, all went out, and left me by myself.
Seated before the mirror, I saw for a considerable time only the same appearance as before,
two rows of candles, and a long corridor between, and becoming weary, I was on the point of rising from the table, when a tiny little figure, with most distinctly defined human features, sprang from behind one of the rows of lights, and glided into the middle of the corridor. This sudden apparition arrested me. I resumed my seat, and began to look intently at the mirror. The figure was of very diminutive dimensions. Apart from its features, which were quite distinct, it appeared to be diffused on the darkened background of the corridor, so as to leave its shape and dress hardly discernable.
A few moments afterwards the figure suddenly vanished, and the whole space of the illumined vista of the corridor became quite vacant. But this time I did not lose my patience as before, but kept my eyes fixed steadfastly on the mirror. While thus gazing, I saw another figure in the vista, which, after remaining a few moments, vanished like the first, but was speedily followed by a succession of fresh phantoms, who came and went in the
This testimony of my own senses tended in a great degree to sharpen my curiosity; still, I must confess, it did not in the least excite my imagination. Accustomed as I have ever been to subject everything to the scrutiny of reason, I coolly considered what all this might mean, and not arriving at any satisfactory solution, I went on with my experiments. What, however, struck me most was, that none of the faces, which I had hitherto observed, perfectly resembled each other. Some were long, others short, some broad, others oval or round. Still they appeared all to preserve the same attitude and colours, and the same braiding of the hair on their heads.
This accidental observation suggested to me the question, whether the figures seen in the mirror were not reflections of myself, caused by a process of manifold refraction, from one mirror to the other, and modified by the inclination of rays in such a manner as to appear to my eyes with the characteristic features I have described.
With a view of convincing myself how far this supposition might be true, I placed my