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INTERVIEWING AN ASTROLOGER.
FOR several years - in fact ever since my first acquaintance
with these "occult" matters whereinto I
am now such a veteran investigator - my great wish
has been to become practically acquainted with some
Professor of Astral Science. One friend, indeed, I
had who had devoted a long lifetime to this and kindred
subjects, and of whom I shall have to speak
anon ; but he had never utilized his knowledge so as
to become the guide, philosopher, and friend of
amorous housemaids on the subject of their matrimonial
alliances, or set himself to discover petty larcenies
for a fee of half-a-crown. He assured me,
however, that the practice of astrology was as rife as
ever in London at this moment, and that businesses
in that line were bought and sold for sterling coin of
the realm, just as though they had been "corner"
publics, or "snug concerns" in the cheesemongery
line. All this whetted my appetite for inquiry, and
seeing one Professor Wilson advertise persistently in
the Medium to the effect that "the celebrated Astrologer
may be consulted on the events of life" from two
to nine P.M., I wrote to Professor Wilson asking for
[-205-] an interview ; but the celebrated astrologer did not
favour me with a reply.
Foiled in my first attempt I waited patiently for about a year, and then broke ground again - I will not say whether with Professor Wilson, or some other practitioner of astral science. I will call my Archimago Professor Smith, of Newington Causeway, principally for the reason that this is neither the real name nor the correct address. I have no wish to advertise any wizard gratuitously; nor would it be fair to him, since, as will be seen from the sequel, his reception of me was such as to make it probable that he would have an inconvenient number of applicants on the conditions observed at my visit.
Availing myself, then, of the services of my friend above-mentioned, I arranged that we should together pay a visit to Professor Smith, of Newington Causeway, quite "permiscuous," as Mrs. Gamp would say. My companion would go with his own horoscope already constructed, at: he happened to know the exact hour and minute of his birth - particulars as to which I only possessed the vaguest information, which is all I fancy most of us have; though there was one circumstance connected with my own natal day which went a long way towards "fixing" it.
It was on a Monday evening that I visited this modern Delphic oracle ; and, strangely enough, as is often the case, other events seemed to lead up to this one. The very lesson on Sunday evening was full of [-206-] astrology. It was, I may mention, the story of the handwriting on the wall and the triumph of Daniel over the magicians. Then I took up my Chaucer on Monday morning; and instead of the "Canterbury Tales," opened it at the " Treatise on the Astrolabe," which I had never read before, but devoured then as greedily as no doubt did "Little Lowis," to whom it is addressed. All this tended to put me in a proper frame of mind for my visit to Newington ; so, after an early tea, we took my friend's figure of his nativity with us, and went.
Professor Smith, we found, lived in a cosy house in the main road, the parlours whereof he devoted to the purposes of a medical magnetist, which was his calling, as inscribed upon the wire blinds of the ground floor front. We were ushered at once into the professor's presence by a woman who, I presume, was his wife-a quiet respectable body with nothing uncanny about her. The front parlour was comfortably furnished and scrupulously clean, and the celebrated Professor himself, a pleasant elderly gentleman, was sitting over a manuscript which he read by the light of a Queen's reading lamp. There was not, on the one hand, any charlatan assumption in his get-up, nor, on the other, was there that squalor and neglect of the decencies of life which I have heard sometimes attaches to the practitioners in occult science. Clad in a light over-coat, with spectacles on nose, and bending over his MS., [-207-] Professor Smith might have been a dissenting parson en deshabille "getting off" his Sunday discourse, or a village schoolmaster correcting the "themes" of his pupils. He was neither; he was a nineteenth century astrologer, calculating the probabilities of success for a commercial scheme, the draft prospectus of which was the document over which he pored. As he rose to receive us I was almost disappointed to and that he held no wand, wore no robe, and had no volume of mystic lore by his side. The very cat that emerged from underneath his table and rubbed itself against my legs was not of the orthodox sable hue, but simple tabby and white.
My friend opened the proceedings by producing the figure of his nativity, and saying he had come to ask a question in horary astrology relative to a certain scheme about which he was anxious, such anxiety constituting what he termed a "birth of the mind." Of course this was Dutch to me, and I watched to see whether the Professor would be taken off his guard by finding he was in presence of one thoroughly posted up in astral science. Not in the least; he greeted him as a brother chip, and straightway the two fell to discussing the figure. The Professor worked a new one, which he found to differ in some slight particulars from the one my friend had brought. Each, however, had worked it by logarithms, and there was much talk of "trines" and "squares" and "houses," which I could not understand; but even-[-208-]tually the coveted advice was given by the Professor and accepted by my friend as devoutly as though it had been a response of the Delphic oracle itself. The business would succeed, but not without trouble, and possibly litigation on my friend's part. He was to make a call on a certain day and "push the matter" a month afterwards; all of which he booked in a business-like manner. This took a long time, for the Professor was perpetually making pencil signs on the figure he had constructed, and the two also discussed Zadkiel, Raphael, and other astrologers they had mutually known. Continual reference had to be made to the "Nautical Almanack;" but by-and-by my friend's innings was over and mine commenced. I have said that I did not know the exact hour and minute of my birth, and when, with appropriate hesitation, I named the 1st of April as the eventful day, the Professor looked at me for a moment with a roguish twinkle of the eye as though to ascertain that I was not poking fun at him. I assured him, however, that such was the inauspicious era of my nativity, and moreover that I was born so closely on the confines of March 31 - I do not feel it necessary to specify the year - as to make it almost dubious whether I could claim the honours of April-Fooldom. This seemed enough for him - though he warned me that the absence of the exact time might lead to some vagueness in his communications - and he proceeded forthwith to erect my figure; which, by [-209-] the way, looked to me very much like making a "figure" in Euclid ; and I peered anxiously to see whether mine bore any resemblance to the Pons Asinorum!
I feared I had led my philosopher astray altogether when the first item of information he gave me was that, at about the age of twenty-one, I had met with some accident to my arm, a circumstance which I could not recall to memory. Several years later I broke my leg, but I did not tell him that. Going further back, he informed me that about the age of fourteen, if I happened to be apprenticed, or in any way placed under authority, I kicked violently over the traces, which was quite true, inasmuch as I ran away from school twice at that precise age, so that my astrologer scored one. At twenty-eight I married (true), and at thirty-two things were particularly prosperous with me - a fact which I was also constrained to acknowledge correct. Then came a dreadful mistake. If ever I had anything to do with building or minerals, I should be very successful. I never had to do with building save once in my life, and then Mr. Briggs's loose tile was nothing to the difficulties in which I became involved. Minerals I had never dabbled in beyond the necessary consumption of coals for domestic purposes. I had an uncle who interested himself in my welfare some years ago - this was correct - and something was going to happen to my father's sister at Midsummer, 1876. [-210-] This, of course, I cannot check; but I trust, for the sake of my venerable relation, it may be nothing prejudicial. I was also to suffer from a slight cold about the period of my birthday in that same year, and was especially to beware of damp feet. My eldest brother, if I had one, he said, had probably died, which was again correct ; and if my wife caught cold she suffered in her throat, which piece of information, if not very startling, I am also constrained to confess is quite true. Then followed a most delicate piece of information which I blush as I commit to paper. I wished to marry when I was twenty-one, but circumstances prevented. Then it was that memories of a certain golden-haired first love came back through the vista of memory. I was then a Fellow of my College, impecunious except as regarded my academical stipend, so the young lady took advice and paired off with a well-to-do cousin. Sic transit gloria mundi ! We are each of us stout, unromantic family people now; but the reminiscence made me feel quite romantic for the moment in that ground floor front in Newington Causeway; and I was inclined to say, "A Daniel come to judgment !" but I checked myself and remarked, sotto voce, in the vernacular, " Right again, Mr. Smith !"
Before passing on to analyse me personally he remarked that my wife's sister and myself were not on the best of terms. I owned that words had passed between us ; and then he told me that in my cerebral [-211-] development there was a satisfactory fusion of caution and combativeness. I was not easily knocked over, or, if so, had energy to get up again. This energy was to tell in the future. This, I believe, is a very usual feature of horoscopic revelation. Next year was to be particularly prosperous. I should travel a good deal - had travelled somewhat this year, and was just now going to take a short journey ; but I should travel a great deal more next year. I own to asking myself whether this could bear any reference to the Pontigny Pilgrimage in which I shared this year, and the possible pilgrimage to Rome next summer, and also a projected journey to Scotland by the Limited Mail next Tuesday evening ! On the whole, my astrologer had scored a good many points. The most marvellous revelation of all yet remains to be made, however. When we rose to go we each of us endeavoured to force a fee on Professor Smith, but nothing would induce him to receive a farthing! I had got all my revelations, my "golden" memories of the past, my bright promises of the future free, gratis, for nothing ! It will be evident, then, why I do not give this good wizard's address lest I inundate him with gratuitous applicants, and why I therefore veil his personality under the misleading title of Professor Smith of Newington Causeway.