The Phantom Coach

Part Two

Master
Mr. Murray, you are welcome here. But please excuse me, as I must resume my studies.
Me
Thanks!
Master
We can chat over dinner.
Me
I look forward to it!

* * * * * * * *

Master
I have but the homeliest farmhouse fare to offer you, sir. Your appetite, I trust, will make up for the deficiencies of our larder.
Me
Ham and eggs! I have never eaten anything so delicious.
Master
I think it’s time I join you, if you don’t mind.
Me
Please don’t be so formal at your own table. I am anxious to chat about your philosophical thoughts and devices. I trust you don’t mind trading information.
Master
Not at all! I have lived thus in strict retirement for three-and-twenty years. I have not seen many strange faces here, and I have not read a single newspaper. You are the first stranger who has crossed my threshold for more than four years. 
Me
I will happily favour you with a few words of information respecting that outer world from which you have parted! Pray interrogate me on it later, for I am heartily at your service, but I asked for your opinions first.
Master
I shall start with that field which lies beyond the boundary line of even conjectural philosophy, and reaches no man knows whither. Pray heed the voice of personal experience, as I talk of ghosts and the supernatural.
Me
You amaze me, sir!
Master
The world grows hourly more and more sceptical of all that lies beyond its own narrow radius; and our men of science foster the fatal tendency. They condemn as fable all that resists experiment.
Me
But so much falsehood is spread through the untested beliefs of the superstitious.
Master
Against what superstition have they waged so long and obstinate a war, as against the belief in apparitions? And yet what superstition has maintained its hold upon the minds of men so long and so firmly? 
Me
I know, but surely…
Master
Show me any fact in physics, in history, in archæology, which is supported by testimony so wide and so various. Attested by all races of men, in all ages, and in all climates, by the soberest sages of antiquity, by the rudest savage of today, by the Christian, the Pagan, the Pantheist, the Materialist, this phenomenon is treated as a nursery tale by the philosophers of our day. 
Me
What evidence is there in favor though, really?
Master
Much. Circumstantial evidence, however, which weighs as a feather in the balance with them. The evidence of competent witnesses is dismissed. He who believes is called a dreamer or a fool.
Me
I keep an open mind, so no need to extend your argument. Were you a victim of the intolerance you are hinting at?
Master
I spoke just now with the bitterness of first-hand experience. For I, sir, investigated, believed, and was not ashamed to state my convictions to the world. I, too, was branded as a visionary, held up to ridicule by my contemporaries, and hooted from the field of science in which I had laboured with honour during all the best years of my life.
Me
I am truly sorry, sir. But these things inevitably happen to the fearless iconoclasts who are the pioneers and visionaries. You must have known that sad reality back then?
Master
I took my fellow scientists at their open-minded word. I expected integrity from them! These things happened just three-and-twenty years ago, and the wounds remain fresh.

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