“A DREADFUL GOSSIP”

Telepathy generated a lot of quarrels within the Society for Psychological Research. And not because their members did not agree on their existence: they were all convinced of it. Everything was the fault of a dreadful gossip with extraordinary telepathic gifts. The SPR, which had informants all over England, was informed of the existence of a certain Leonard Onion who guessed the thoughts of the people around him. Before inviting him to spend a week in the SPR’s headquarters, Sir Oliver Lodge should have noticed that Mr. Onion never had people around him. People fled from him like from the plague!

The fact is that, as soon as Mr. Onion was surrounded by the respectable members of the SPR, his mind began to capture the most intimate thoughts of each one of them. Through this unique medium he learned of the true opinion that each member had of his colleagues, and ignoring the favorable opinions, he dedicated himself to place moles among the members. Henry Sidgwick took offence at Charles Richet’s opinion that his beard looked like the brush of straw of a broom. Sir William Crookes construed the wrong way the Gerald Balfour’opinion that Crookes had the mental capacity of a flea. For his part, Balfour was jealous of Edmund Gurney because he never chose him as his couple to play whist. William Barret could not stand the way William James blew his nose, and also discovered that it was Frederic Myers who put little stones in his shoes, which almost caused a duel to head butts.

In short, the quarrels were spread by the SPR as a powder trail, until Mrs Eleanor Sidgwick had to intervene in the matter. With the pretext of inviting him to a love appointment, he led Mr. Onion to a transatlantic with destination New York and locked him in the cabin. Over time, this caused a serious conflict between the United States and Great Britain which, by advice of the SPR, refused to allow the return of the telepath although this refusal could lead to an armed confrontation.

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