What is the meaning of "just so often" in this context?

Mr. Mompesson, in bed with his little daughter (about Kate's age) whom the sound seemed chiefly to follow, "observed that it would exactly answer, in drumming, anything that was beaten or called for." But his curiosity led him no further. Not so Kate Fox. She tried, by silently bringing together her thumb and forefinger, whether she could still obtain a response. Yes! It could see, then, as well as hear! She called her mother. "Only look, mother!" she said, bringing together her finger and thumb as before. And as often as she repeated the noiseless motion, just so often responded the raps.

from http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301051h.html

  • 1
    You've asked several questions regarding "unusual" phrasing from Conan Doyle. I do hope you realise that whereas we can help you understand the specific meanings, that kind of text isn't much use for learning current English . And it may actually be counter-productive if you end up copying the various dated / stylised / literary constructions you find there. Mar 5, 2020 at 17:06
  • (For example, it might have been acceptable to CD and at least some of his contemporary readership, but native speakers today don't try whether/if they can do something - they see whether they can.) Mar 5, 2020 at 17:09
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica You are not wrong. On the other hand, depending on the level of the student, Conan Doyle is an easy intro to the time-change of English. The next level might be Shakespeare. And when you are really feeling accomplished, Chaucer.
    – puppetsock
    Mar 10, 2020 at 13:35
  • @FumbleFingers I don't think that one should tell learners a text is counterproductive. All texts can help in one way or another. We were reading La Chanson de Roland in third year French in high school...
    – Lambie
    May 4, 2023 at 14:14

1 Answer 1


Whoa! Classic book there. Thumbs up for reading Conan Doyle.

The just so often refers to the as often at the start of the sentence. The idea is that each time Kate Fox makes this motion with her hand there is a rap noise heard.

So hand motion one two three times. Then rapping noise one two three times.
Hand motion once. Then rapping noise once.

And so on.

The notion of a seance may not be familiar. When the cited book was published, there was a fashion for a particular kind of gathering. The usual pattern was for a group of people to sit at a table and join hands. Then the leader of the seance, often called a medium, would perform some sort of ritual intended to indicate summoning spirits. Then there would be a series of demonstrations that the spirits had been summoned.

Part of that demonstration was often the answering of questions that supposedly could only be answered by the spirit of the dead relative. This would often involve a series of methods such as cold reading. And the answers would often be given through rapping sounds.

The usual pattern was that the medium had one or more assistants hiding nearby, and they would provide the rapping noises. Or that the seance leader had a variety of devices concealed under the table and so on. Then during the seance the medium would pull levers or strings etc., and thus make the rapping noises.

In some cases these were harmless entertainment. However, in other cases they were cold blooded scams. The notion was that the spirit of the dead relatives of the people at the seance would come and give them instructions. Take money out of the bank and await instructions. That sort of thing. Then the medium and his accomplices would scam the victims out of their money.

  • i agree with you, but what about the evidences that conan doyle mentioned in this book. i do not think that he was a fool. i think there were many scammers in this movement, but i believe that spiritualism is real. conan doyle wrote this book to show that human survival after death is real. he wanted to fight against poelpe like mr. frank podmore or the other materialists. he shows that the idea of cracking toes is absolutely wrong.
    – user109737
    Mar 5, 2020 at 17:43
  • thanks for your answer. but i am not a unfamiliar person with these issues. please read the whole book and consider the whole facts involced and then make a decision.
    – user109737
    Mar 5, 2020 at 17:45
  • @living-spirit Yes, the evidences. Then you read something by Houdini, and the evidences become evidences in the other direction. After you try fifty or sixty different mediums, and they all have strings under the table and accomplices dressed in black hiding behind curtains, it becomes kind of drab.
    – puppetsock
    Mar 10, 2020 at 13:37
  • maybe i would be a credulous but you are turning everything to a fraud. be careful.
    – user109737
    Mar 10, 2020 at 14:33

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