In the days when the Café del Siglo occupied two floors and half the block, and was furnished with velvet divans and gaming tables where men in fine suits wagered their escudos, and later their pesetas, beneath imported crystal chandeliers, a party of friends sits at a corner table, discussing Spiritism. Three of them are spiritists; the other two are not.
The non-spiritist, an engineer by profession, recounts how that very same afternoon, a young colleague of his told him that he was on his way to Rome because a spirit had instructed him to pay penance for his sins. The engineer knows the boy is no fool and yet he would not stop talking about communications with spirits. Perhaps he is mad, or possessed.
Doctor Aguilar responds that according to Allan Kardec, this sort of subjugation by a spirit can only happen when the person participates, either out of weakness or out of desire. There is no such thing as total possession by a spirit; that is a vulgar concept.
The engineer laughs, and refuses to believe that a sensible man like Aguilar could ever put stock in Kardec’s nonsense.
Then Brigadier Montero, normally a man of few words, interjects. He is most distressed to see an intelligent man like the engineer so quick to dismiss something that he knows nothing at all about. With our eyes, says the Brigadier, we see six thousand stars in the sky, but with a telescope one can behold forty million, and even then countless more escape the view. You cannot see them, but still they are there. So too are the spirits.
Amalia, as always the only woman of the group, agrees, relates an experience she had with a couple she met earlier that summer at the sea baths of Deva.
They were always together, talking and laughing; she had never before seen such happy people. The woman was forty-five years old, while the man could not have been more than twenty-five. One day, happening to have an opportunity to speak with the woman in private, Amalia asked how she had met her husband, and how they were so happy. The woman, whose name was Ana, smiled and said and that their marital bliss could only be explained by Spiritism, that is, the Philosophical School which explains how it is that souls of the departed return to Earth.
“My father administered the magnificent estate of a wealthy banker. One summer, the banker’s wife arrived, with her son Rafael, who was about twelve years old, and an invalid. His mother asked my father if I might stay with them, in order to entertain Rafael and distract him from his illness.
“From the very beginning I spent the whole day with Rafael, and his mother was most delighted with me upon seeing how her son’s health improved. The next summer, however, the poor little boy suffered a relapse, and could not leave his bed. His parents and I never left his side.
“He was a very formal child, and we talked like two little grown-ups. One afternoon, shortly before he died, Rafael told his mother that, if he were to have lived, he would have married me, and then looking at me, said, ‘And you, wait for me, I will come back for you!’ For the next ten days, which were the last days of his life, he would keep repeating ‘Don’t ever get married, wait for me, I will come for you, promise me you will never marry.’ And I promised him.
“When I was fifteen, I began to have suitors. Rafael’s mother Doña Magdalena encouraged me to wed, but I still dreamt, from time to time, of Rafael, and of him telling me to wait for him. ‘And what if Rafael comes back?’ I asked Doña Magdalena, whereupon she would tell me not to be silly, and that she loved me like a daughter and the only thing she wanted for me was that I marry a good man and be happy.
“Then one day, a few years later, Doña Magdalena’s brother came to visit us from Cuba, together with his wife, who shortly after died giving birth to a son. ‘How that child reminds me of my son Rafael!’, cried Doña Magdalena when she saw the baby. ‘We will raise him,’ I said, ‘and we will give this baby the same name.’
“His very first word was my name: Ana.
“The years passed, and we grew ever more fond of one another. I had many opportunities to marry, and well, but all my love was for little Rafael. The day he turned twenty, he asked for my hand in marriage. I pointed out our difference in age, for I was eighteen years his senior, but in vain. We married six years ago and we have lived every one of them as if it were paradise.”
“And so your husband is the spirit of Rafael come back to earth?” Amalia asked her, when Ana fell silent.
“I will tell you,” replied Ana. “As a child my husband was a sleepwalker, and he used to get up in the middle of the night, walk to my bedroom, and cry ‘Anita! Anita! I’m here!’ Then for a long time he stopped. But one night, shortly after we were married, I felt him touch my shoulder, and though he was still sleeping, he spoke. He said: ‘Anita! I’ve come back for you! I have loved you for centuries!’”