The Princess of Rebinine
From the Courrier de Paris, May... 185912
“Do you know that every somnambulist, all turning tables,
all magnetized birds, every sympathetic pencil and fortunetell-
ers have predicted the war long ago? Many prophecies have been
made about it to several important people who pretending not to
have taken such revelations into account, were not less evidently
worried about them. As from our side, not resolving the issue in
one direction or the other, and even thinking in what François
Arago had doubts about, at least we are allowed not to mention
them, limiting ourselves to the report of some facts which we
witnessed, with no comments added.
“Eight days ago we were invited to a spiritist gathering in the
residence of Baron G... All twelve guests were sitting around the
table at precisely the scheduled time; ... a simple, miraculous ma-
hogany table, where the tea and sandwiches were initially served.
It is necessary to say that from those guests there was none who
could for any reason be called charlatan. The owner of the house
is a close relative of several ministers, belonging to an impor-
tant foreign family. Two very distinct English officers, a French
mariner, a well-known Russian prince, a renowned physician,
a millionaire, a secretary of embassy and another two or three
important people from the Saint-German area formed the faith-
ful group. We were the only profane ones among the illustrious
spiritists, but in the condition of a skeptical Parisian journalist by
duty we could not be accused of an exaggerated credulity.
The meeting then could not be under the suspicion of repre-
senting a comedy. And what a comedy! Would that be a useless and
ridiculous comedy in which each person would have voluntarily
played the role of mystifier and mystified? That is not acceptable.
Besides, what would be the intention? What would be the interest?
Wouldn’t that be the case to ask: “Who is being deceived here?”
No, there was no ill intention or madness there. If you wish
we could agree that there was chance... It is all that our con-
science may concede.
Here is what happened:
After the spirit was questioned about a number of things, he was
asked if the hopes for peace – that seemed significant – were founded.
No, responded the spirit on two different occasions.
We will then have the war?
In eight days.
However, the Congress will meet next month... this strongly indicates that hostilities will not start, eventually.
There will be no Congress!
Austria will refuse.
And what will be the winning cause?
Justice and righteousness... that of France.
And how will this war be?
Short and glorious.
That brings to memory another event of the same kind that also
happened before our eyes some years ago.
Everyone remembers that during the Crimean war the
Emperor Nicholas recalled all vassals that lived in France back to
Russia, or otherwise in case of disobedience face confiscation of
all their properties.
We were then in Leipzig, Saxony, where like everywhere else
there was a vivid interest in all those events. One day the follow-
ing message got into our hands:
“I am here for a few hours only. Come to see me at the Poland
Hotel, # 13. Princess de Rebinine.”
Princess Sophie of Rebinine was a close acquaintance of
ours, a charming and distinct lady, whose history is a whole
romance (which we will write one day) who honored us by
calling us a friend. We promptly attended her kind invitation
since we were as pleasantly surprised as happy for her passage
It was Sunday the 13th, and the weather was naturally grey
and gloomy, as usual over that part of Saxony. We found the
Princess in her quarters, more gracious and witty than never;
just a bit pale and melancholic. We made that observation to
To begin with, she said, I left like a bomb. It had to be that
way, since we are at war and I feel a little fatigued by the journey.
Then, although we are enemies now, I don’t hide from you that I
regret leaving Paris. It is some time now that I considered myself
almost French and the Emperor’s orders made me break up with
sweet and old habits.
Why haven’t you just stayed in your beautiful apartment of Rue
Because my budget would have been cut!
However, don’t you count on so many and good friends among us?
Yes... at least I believe so. But in my age a woman doesn’t like to mortgage herself... the interest sometimes is higher than the
capital! Ah! If I were an old lady it would be different. But then
nobody would give me a loan.
Then the Princess changed the subject.
You know I have a very demanding character... I know nobody
here... Can I count on your company for the whole day?
Easy to guess our answer.
At one o’clock we heard the bells in the patio and went down-
stairs for lunch. At that point everybody was talking about the
war and the turning tables.
As for the war, the Princess was certain that the Anglo-
French fleet would be destroyed in the Black Sea and she would
courageously have set them on fire, if the Emperor Nicholas had
assigned her with that delicate and dangerous mission. Regarding
the turning tables, her faith was less solid, but she proposed to
carry out some experiments with another friend that we introduced to her when we were having dessert.
We returned upstairs to her room. We had coffee served.
Since it was raining, we spent the afternoon interrogating a trilegged table, like those that we still see around.
How about me, the Princess suddenly asked; you don’t have any-
thing to say?
The little table knocked thirteen times. Well, we must re-
member that it was the 13th and that the Princess’s apartment
number was also number.
Does it mean that the number 13 is fatal to me?
Yes! The table knocked.
Never mind! I am a female Bayard. You may speak freely, whatever you have to announce to me.
We interrogated the table that persisted, at first, in its prudent
reservation. Finally, we were then able to get the following words:
... eight days...Paris, violent death!
The Princess was then very well. She had just left Paris and
did not expect to return to France so soon... The table’s prophecy
was at least absurd regarding the three initial points... As for the
last one, it is unnecessary to say that we gave no attention to that.
The Princess was supposed to leave at 8 pm, taking the train
from Dresden, in order to get to Warsaw two days later in the
morning. She missed the train, though.
In reality, she said, I will leave my luggage here and will take the
4 am train.
You will then sleep over at the hotel?
I will go back to the hotel but will not sleep over. I will watch today’s ball from the foreigners’ balcony. Would you like to join me?
The Poland Hotel, whose magnificent and large ballrooms
accommodate at least two thousand people, holds a great ball almost daily, in the summer as in the winter, organized by some
society of town; the assistance from upstairs in a private gallery
is reserved to the travelers who can appreciate the spectacle and
listen to an excellent orchestra.
Major Georges Sydenham
As a matter of fact, the foreigners are never forgotten in
Germany, finding reserved balconies all over the place, explaining why the Germans on coming to Paris for the first time always
ask for the foreigners’ balconies in theaters and concerts.
That evening’s ball was really brilliant and the Princess, de-
spite being a simple observer, really enjoyed watching it. She had
then forgotten the tri-legged table and its ominous prediction
when a hotel waiter brought her a telegram which had just ar-
rived. The message read:
“- To Madam Rebinine, Poland Hotel, Leipzig – Indispensable
presence Paris – Serious interests – followed by the signature of
the Princess’ attorney. A few hours later she took the route to Paris
instead of Dresden. Eight days later we learned of her death!
We found the following report in a remarkable collection of authentic stories of apparitions and other spiritist phenomena, published
in 1682, in London by Reverend J. Granville and by Dr. H. More. The
title reads: “Apparition of Major Georges Sydenham’s Spirit to Captain V.
Dyke”, extracted from a letter by Mr. Jacques Douche, from Monkton, to
Mr. J. Granville.
“... soon after the death of major Georges, Dr. Th. Dyke who was a
close relative to the captain, he was called to treat a sick child. The doctor
and the captain lay down on the same bed. After a brief nap the captain
asked the maid to bring him two lit candles, the biggest and thickest that
could be found. The doctor asked him about the meaning of all that. The
“You know about my discussions with the major, relatively to the ex-
istence of God and the immortality of the soul. It was not possible for us
to elucidate those points, although it has always been our wishes.”
“We agreed that the first to die would come back on the third evening
after the funerals, between midnight and 1 am, to the gardens of this
small house, clarifying the one that outlived about the subject.”
“Today is the very day when the captain should keep his promise.”
“Therefore he set the alarm clock by his bed and woke up at 11:30
pm; he then took a candle in each hand and left through the back door,
spending the next two and a half hours in the garden. When he came back he declared to the doctor that he had not seen nor heard anything
that was not very natural. However, he added, I know that the major
would have come if he could.”
“Six weeks later the captain went to Eaton to take his son to college,
and the doctor accompanied him again. They stayed for about two or
three days in a lodge called San Christopher, but did not sleep together
like in Dulverton. They occupied two different rooms.”
“One morning the captain remained in his room longer than usual,
before calling the doctor. At last he came to the doctor’s room showing
altered faces, bristly hair, eyes popped and his body shaken.”
“What happened, cousin captain? The doctor asked.”
“-I saw the major, responded the captain.”
“The doctor seemed to smile.”
“I am positive that I saw him today or I have never seen him in all
“He then told me the following story:”
“At day break this morning someone came by my bed, removed the
sheets and screamed: Cap!”
“Cap was the word that the major normally used to call the captain.”
“I responded: - Hi there, my major!”
“He continued: - I could not come the other day. Now however, I am
here and will tell you this: There is a very just and terrible God! If you
don’t change your skin you will see it when you arrive here.”
“A sword that the major had given me was resting on the table. He
walked around the room a couple of times then he took the sword from
the scabbard; since he did not find it as polished as it should be he said: -
Cap, cap, when this sword was mine it was better conserved.”
“He then suddenly disappear ed after those words.”
The captain was not only persuaded about the reality of what he had
seen and heard but since then he had become much more serious. His
character, jovial and lighthearted, was remarkably modified. When he
had his friends over, he treated them prodigally but always controlled.
Those who knew him ensured that he believed to have heard the major’s
words several times in his ears, during the two years that he outlived that