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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/728

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

an indecisive and utterly nugatory report, to the effect that "no thoroughly convincing evidence had been furnished for or against the existence and conversion of Diana Vaughan and the authenticity of the writings attributed to her." This evasion of the issue, however, did not shake the confidence of the ultramontane press, nor prevent its positive affirmation of the points which the commission had discreetly left in doubt. As a reward for this fanatical zeal and steadfast credulity, the editor of The Pelican received a special apostolical benediction, and was thus encouraged to "resist the raging of Satan." "Stand firm!" he exclaimed. "The Holy Father is with us, and who is over him?"

With the Congress of Trent the mystification which Taxil had been playing off on papacy for so many years had reached the acme of success, and nothing now remained but to wind up the plot with a drastic denouement. Accordingly, Diana Vaughan issued an invitation to a conference to be held on April 19, 1897, in the great hall of the Geographical Society of Paris. It was also stated that other conferences would be held in the principal cities of France, Italy, England, and the United States. The programme for the evening was quite elaborate, beginning with a lottery for an American typewriter and ending with a series of fifty-four stereopticon pictures representing, among other fantastic scenes, Sophia Walder and her serpents, events in the life of Diana Vaughan, the apparition of the devil Bitru in Rome, Eden and Eve with the fatal apple, sacrilegious stabbing of the host on a Satanic altar in a Masonic lodge at Berlin, and finally Leo XIII with the encyclical letter Humanum genus as a flaming sword in his hand, the archangel Michael on his right and the apocalyptic St. John on his left treading the triple-headed dragon of Freemasonry under foot. The audience consisted chiefly of priests, with a few Protestant clergymen and Freemasons, and an unusually large number of newspaper reporters. The typewriter was won by Ali Kemal, correspondent of the Constantinople journal Ikdam, who only regretted that it did not write Turkish. Taxil then appeared on the platform, and began his address with the words: "Reverend sirs, ladies, and gentlemen! You wish to see Diana Vaughan. Look at me! I myself am that lady!" After this startling exordium, he proceeded to relate how from his youth up he had always had an irresistible inclination to play practical jokes. Once he frightened the inhabitants of Marseilles by discovering a shoal of sharks in the harbor, and again he set the arch├Žologists all agog by announcing the existence of a city, built on piles, at the bottom of Lake Leman. But these were "childish things" compared with the manner in which he had humbugged the Catholic clergy for nearly a dozen