Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
The Fakir's third visit was short, as he was to pass the night in prayer upon the banks of the sacred river, upon the occasion of a religions festival, and he had been invited to a funeral sraddha, which was to take place on the following day.
He came merely to inform me that he would be obliged to attend them, and was preparing to return to the small hut that the Peishwa had given him the use of, when, at my request, he consented to perform a phenomenon of elevation, which I had already seen other performers successfully accomplish, without, however, taking any particular notice of how they did it.
Taking an ironwood cane which I had brought from Ceylon, he leaned heavily upon it, resting his right hand upon the handle, with his eyes fixed upon the ground. He then proceeded to utter the appropriate incantations, which he had forgotten to favor me with the day previous.
From the elaborate preparation he made in my presence, I formed the opinion that this was to be only another instance of what I had always regarded as an acrobatic trick.
My judgment refuses, in fact, to attach any other name to such phenomena as this:
Leaning upon the cane with one hand, the Fakir rose gradually about two feet from the ground. His legs were crossed beneath him, and he made no change in his position, which was very like that of those bronze statues of
Buddha that all tourists bring from the far East, without a suspicion that most of them come originally from English foundries.
For more than twenty minutes I tried to see how Covindasamy could thus fly in the face and eyes of all the known laws of gravity; it was entirely beyond my comprehension; the stick gave him no visible support, and there was no apparent contact between that and his body, except through his right hand.
When I dismissed him he informed me, upon leaving, that when the sacred elephants should strike the hour of midnight upon the copper gong in the pagoda of Siva, he would evoke the familiar spirits that protect the Franguys (or French), who would then manifest their presence in some manner in my bedroom.
The Hindus have a perfect understanding among themselves. In order to prevent any too obvious fraud, I sent my two servants to pass the night upon the dingui with the cercar and boatmen. The idea of the supernatural was naturally repugnant to my mind. My leanings were all the other way, but if the fact should occur as he predicted, I did not want to be too easily duped. For that reason I prepared to throw every obstacle in the Fakir's way.
The Peishwa's house was singularly constructed; all the windows overlooked the Ganges, and it contained seven large apartments, one above the other. All the rooms in each apartment opened upon covered galleries or terraces projecting over the quay. The mode of communication from one story to another was very curious. There was a single flight of steps which led from the bottom apartment to that immediately above. Upon crossing this second apartment, in the last room was a second flight of stairs which had no communication with the former, and which led to the story above, and so on up to the seventh story, which was reached by means of a movable stairway which could be raised by chains like a drawbridge.
It was this seventh story, which was furnished in a style partly Oriental and partly European, which commanded a most splendid view and where the air was the coolest, that the Peishwa had set apart for his foreign guests.
As soon as it was dark, I examined all the different rooms in the apartment, in the most careful manner, and made sure that nobody was concealed in them. I then raised the drawbridge, and thus cut off all communication from the outside.
At the hour named I thought I heard two blows distinctly struck against the wall of my room. I walked toward the spot from which the sound seemed to come, when my steps were suddenly arrested by a sharp blow, which appeared to proceed from the glass shade that protected the hanging lamp against gnats and night butterflies. A few more sounds were heard at unequal intervals in the cedar rafters of the ceiling, and that was all. I walked toward the end of the terrace. It was one of those silvery nights, unknown in our more foggy lands. The vast flood of the sacred river rolled silently along at the foot of the sleeping city, upon one of whose steps the outlines of a human form were dimly profiled. It was the Fakir of Trivanderam, praying for the repose of his dead.