pERHAPS it is only that the wave of brick and mortar has rolled back the wilder life of the country into far and out-of-the-way corners, or perhaps the gypsies are really getting scarcer. They are not, at all events, to be seen so often by the wayfarer along the open road. There was a time when it would be difficult to take a walk, as "Eyes and No Eyes" took it, without meeting a caravan of queer, top-heavy wooden houses on wheels, hung over with withy-baskets and brooms, or without seeing somewhere on the broad green road-border the circle of ashes where the soup-kettle hung on the tripod over night. It was in those days that gypsies were the inevitable accompaniment of a picnic. You took your basket of sandwiches and chicken and flasks of claret and sherry, and after lunch the gypsy-woman came round and you crossed her hand with silver, and after that she told the "pretty lady" that there was a fair man whom she would marry and a dark man of whom she must beware, or she flattered the "pretty gentleman," who very likely was a noodle, by telling him that he had been a sad dog in his time. To-day the gypsies have gone further afield. Here and there, no doubt, in deep country lanes and on secluded commons, the bronze-limbed children wander bare-headed, and the old crones mutter over the tripod, and the rakish chimneys of the caravan stand out black against the hedge and the sky. But that is becoming a rarer picture. It is getting more and more difficult to find a gypsy to tell your fortune.
But if gypsies are becoming scIrcer, it is at least easy enough to get your fortune told by other people. If you know how to set about it, and if the measure of intellect with which you are endowed allows you to spend your time in such occupations, you can still find authorities who will forecast the future for you by cards, and gazing into crystals, and probably, for that matter, by staring into pools of ink poured into the palms of persons of a particular size and disposition. Palmistry, of course, is a well- established business ; indeed, almost half the people you meet know something about it, and can tell you which is the line of heart and the line of life, and the way in which certain marks show that when a child you had some illness like measles or whooping-cough, and how at intervals you go on a journey, and how a special sort of mark on one hand may be totally contradicted by another sort on the other hand, so that often you can hardly tell for certain whether a thing is true or not. All that is plain and straightforward enough, and as there must be dozens of books written on the subject, anybody who wants to know chiromancy, and so be able to foretell the future, has only got to buy one. But there is another method of fortune-telling which is not so commonly understood as chiromancy, and is, indeed, probably a good deal more difficult. That is astrology.. Many people, perhaps, have thought up till now that the science of astrology, or telling the course of past and future events by the movements of the stars, was a science which perished in the Middle Ages. But that is really not so. The astrologers are as alive to-day as ever, and have even started a magazine, of which the first number, the Fore- cast, has just been published. Nothing could very well be more instructive than a careful study of its contents. You turn over the first page of the advertisements, for instance, and immediately feel that you are getting a glimpse into a world of which before you were benightedly ignorant. The list of eontents of a kindred publication, a Review of Occult- ism, strikes the eye. The first article in the list is described as "Strange Stories of Mid-Ocean Visits." The idea Of paying afternoon calls at the Azores, or of leaving a card on a passing liner in case some of your friends should happen to be on board, sounds novel and, on the whole, attractive.
Nothing, however, is mysterious when it comes to dealing with real live.people and actual hard matters of fact It is all quite plain and above board. Take, for instance, the "forecast" of the fortunes of the new Government. You only want a smattering of a knowledge of astrological terms to understand it all; probably Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley learnt something about it when Miss Pinkerton taught them "the Use of the Globes" in Chiswick Mall. The fore- cast of the future of the new Government was, it appears, made before the King actually opened Parliament, so that it was impossible for the astrologer to be certain about the exact hour of the birth of the Session. However, you can get near enough to the main facts. You are told that on the day of the opening of Parliament "the Sun will be on nearly the same meridian as Mercury and Venus, in quadrature to Jupiter at the end of the sign Taurus, and closely approach- ing Saturn's conjunction. The Moon in Capricornus will be in opposition to Neptune and in square aspect to Mars, and in conjunction with Uranus. The only pacific indication is that from Venus in conjunction with Mercury and the Sun. All else is strife and chaos. Evidently the new Government - has a feverish time before it." How, indeed, could it be other- wise with the Moon in opposition, presumably at the head of a compact party of lunatics? But that is not all. The Moon itself is evidently in arry awkward position. It appears to be liable to "affliction bythe planets Mars, Neptune, and Uranus, Mercury, Venus, and the Sun." What all that means the Forecast does not elucidate, but it is really as plain as a pike- staff. Mars is clearly the War Office,' and Neptune the Board 'of Admiralty, and Mercury the Post Office. The affliction by Venus obviously refers to the contemplated removal of the grille; Uranus is the Celestial, which accounts for the Chinese question ; the Sun is a little more difficult to understand, but probably has something to do with the Home Secretary. This extremely ominous prophecy, however, does not exhaust 'the limits of political vaticination. When once you understand even vaguely where the stars were, and what they were doing, on the occasion of the birth of Sir Henry Campbell-Banner- man, it is pretty clear that a public man ought to be as careful as possible in what he does and says. The Prime Minister, it appears, "was born when the Sun held the 15th degree of the 'sign Virgo, the Moon and Jupiter being together in the regal sign Leo." If this is really the fact, and if, as seems possible, the last-named sign is an occult allusion to the editor of the National Review, it only shows what an extraordinary thing astrology is, for you read on and are told that "to this latter position"—that is, Leo and the Moon acting together—" he owes much of his good fortune, the opportunity to apply his talents in a conspicuous manner, and a joviality of disposition which would attract friends 'and adherents." After this it seems quite plain sailing to be infoemed that other combina- tions of the horoscope were that "Mars held the sign Cancer in sextile aspect," and that "Saturn in Scorpio forms a square aspect to the Moon, giving at times some lack of self-con- fidence and disposing to cautious hesitation." It does not always do, apparently, to present a square front to the Opposition. Perhaps Ministers who could present a more rounded appearance would be more successful.
Political horoscopes, llowever, are no more easy to cast than
• plenty of others. You can get a horoscope of shares on the Stock Exchange, or of the Meat Market, pr of the cotton crop. or the wheat harvest, or practically anything. Big movements that make for big "bears" and " bulls " are just as easily prophesied by the astrologer as events in the lives of people. Only recently "the Russian defeat in Korea and Manchuria, and the Revolution, were predicted with perfect precision, and the fall of Russian Stocks was foreseen as a consequence." A financier would give a good deal to be able to foresee a con- sequence like that. Probably, if you looked into the thing, you would find that Ursa Major, the Big Bear, was in opposition to Taurus at the time, or was being afflicted by it, or some- 'thing of the kind: As for the weather, 'we learn that the stars say that from March 26th to March 30th there will be "high gales and cyclones." Astrology is pretty well on the 'spot there, for if you turn up the ordinary calendar you will find that the equinoctial gales usually come somewhere near the equinox, which is on March 21st. So that the prophecy trims out to be correct. Then, again, on May 6th and 7th there will be "storms," and on the 18th to the 20th " thunder- storms!' But here the sceptic ison dangerous ground. The extraordinary thing about weather calendars is that, no matter what they say, it in generally right. If you take up a
weather calendar, and try to argue with one of your friends that it is really impossible to prophesy what the weather will be so many months hence, and that it is ridiculous to say that you can, and if, then, you pick out a particular week to prove your point, if is almost a dead certainty that the wretched thing will be right in every instance. And the astrological calendar will probably be quite as successful. You will argue that it is impossible for this or that event to be predicted, and will stake your reputation on your argument. Then, when the time comes; just to make everything ridiculous, it will, by the merest chance, really happen, Or, rather, it will not "happen." In the language of the calendars, the event will " trans pire."