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 by Leipzig.
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 her.
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 Rumfort?
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.
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!