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   Chapter 4 I No.4

The Necromancers By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 33479

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


It was a mellow October afternoon, glowing towards sunset, as Laurie came across the south end of the park to his appointment next day; and the effect of it upon his mind was singularly unsuggestive of supernatural mystery. Instead, the warm sky, the lights beginning to peep here and there, though an hour before sunset, turned him rather in the direction of the natural and the domestic.

He wondered what his mother and Maggie would say if they knew his errand, for he had sufficient self-control not to have told them of his intentions. As regards his mother he did not care very much. Of course she would deprecate it and feebly dissuade; but he recognized that there was no particular principle behind, beyond a sense of discomfort at the unknown. But it was necessary for him to argue with himself about Maggie. The angry kind of contempt that he knew she would feel needed an answer; and he gave it by reminding himself that she had been brought up in a convent-school, that she knew nothing of the world, and that, lastly, he himself did not take the matter seriously. He was aware, too, that the instinctive repulsion that she felt so keenly found a certain echo in his own feelings; but he explained this by the novelty of the thing.

In fact, the attitude of mind in which he more or less succeeded in arraying himself was that of one who goes to see a serious conjurer. It would be rather fun, he thought, to see a table dancing. But there was not wholly wanting that inexplicable tendency of some natures deliberately to deceive themselves on what lies nearest to their hearts.

Mr. Vincent had not yet arrived when he was shown upstairs, even though Laurie himself was late. (This was partly deliberate. He thought it best to show a little nonchalance.) There was only a young clergyman in the room with the ladies; and the two were introduced.

"Mr. Baxter-Mr. Jamieson."

He seemed a harmless young man, thought Laurie, and plainly a little nervous at the situation in which he found himself, as might a greyhound carry himself in a kennel of well-bred foxhounds. He was very correctly dressed, with Roman collar and stock, and obviously had not long left a theological college. He had an engaging kind of courtesy, ecclesiastically cut features, and curly black hair. He sat balancing a delicate cup adroitly on his knee.

"Mr. Jamieson is so anxious to know all that is going on," explained Lady Laura, with a voluble frankness. "He thinks it so necessary to be abreast of the times, as he said to me the other day."

Laurie assented, grimly pitying the young man for his indiscreet confidences. The clergyman looked priggish in his efforts not to do so.

"He has a class of young men on Sundays," continued the hostess-"(Another biscuit, Maud darling?)-whom he tries to interest in all modern movements. He thinks it so important."

Mr. Jamieson cleared his throat in a virile manner.

"Just so," he said; "exactly so."

"And so I told him he must really come and meet Mr. Vincent.... I can't think why he is so late; but he has so many calls upon his time, that I am sure I wonder-"

"Mr. Vincent," announced the footman.

A rather fine figure of a man came forward into the room, dressed in much better taste than Laurie somehow had expected, and not at all like the type of an insane dissenting minister in broadcloth which he had feared. Instead, it was a big man that he saw, stooping a little, inclined to stoutness, with a full curly beard tinged with grey, rather overhung brows, and a high forehead, from which the same kind of curly greyish hair was beginning to retreat. He was in a well-cut frock-coat and dark trousers, with the collar of the period and a dark tie.

Lady Laura was in a flutter of welcome, pouring out little sentences, leading him to a seat, introducing him, and finally pressing refreshments into his hands.

"It is too good of you," she said; "too good of you, with all your engagements.... These gentlemen are most anxious.... Mrs. Stapleton of course you know.... And you will just sit and talk to us ... like friends ... won't you.... No, no! no formal speech at all ... just a few words ... and you will allow us to ask you questions...."

And so on.

Meanwhile Laurie observed the high-priest carefully and narrowly, and was quite unable to see any of the unpleasant qualities he had expected. He sat easily, without self-consciousness or arrogance or unpleasant humility. He had a pair of pleasant, shrewd, and rather kind eyes; and his voice, when he said a word or two in answer to Lady Laura's volubility, was of that resonant softness that is always a delight to hear. In fact, his whole bearing and personality was that of a rather exceptional average man-a publisher, it might be, or a retired lawyer-a family man with a sober round of life and ordinary duties, who brought to their fulfillment a wholesome, kindly, but distinctly strong character of his own. Laurie hardly knew whether he was pleased or disappointed. He would almost have preferred a wild creature with rolling eyes, in a cloak; yet he would have been secretly amused and contemptuous at such a man.

"The sitting is off for Sunday, by the way, Lady Laura," said the new-comer.

"Indeed! How is that?"

"Oh! there was some mistake about the rooms; it's the secretary's fault; you mustn't blame me."

Lady Laura cried out her dismay and disappointment, and Mrs. Stapleton played chorus. It was too tiresome, they said, too provoking, particularly just now, when "Annie" was so complacent. (Mrs. Stapleton explained kindly to the two young gentlemen that "Annie" was a spirit who had lately made various very interesting revelations.) What was to be done? Were there no other rooms?

Mr. Vincent shook his head. It was too late, he said, to make arrangements now.

While the ladies continued to buzz, and Mr. Jamieson to listen from the extreme edge of his chair, Laurie continued to make mental comments. He felt distinctly puzzled by the marked difference between the prophet and his disciples. These were so shallow; this so impressive by the most ordinary of all methods, and the most difficult of imitation, that is, by sheer human personality. He could not grasp the least common multiple of the two sides. Yet this man tolerated these women, and, indeed, seemed very kind and friendly towards them. He seemed to possess that sort of competence which rises from the fact of having well-arranged ideas and complete certitude about them.

And at last a pause came. Mr. Vincent set down his cup for the second time, refused buttered bun, and waited.

"Yes, do smoke, Mr. Vincent."

The man drew out his cigarette-case, smiling, offering it to the two men. Laurie took one; the clergyman refused.

"And now, Mr. Vincent."

Again he smiled, in a half-embarrassed way.

"But no speeches, I think you said," he remarked.

"Oh! well, you know what I mean; just like friends, you know. Treat us all like that."

Mrs. Stapleton rose, came nearer the circle, rustled down again, and sank into an elaborate silence.

"Well, what is it these gentlemen wish to hear?"

"Everything-everything," cried Lady Laura. "They claim to know nothing at all."

Laurie thought it time to explain himself a little. He felt he would not like to take this man at an unfair advantage.

"I should just like to say this," he said. "I have told Mrs. Stapleton already. It is this. I must confess that so far as I am concerned I am not a believer. But neither am I a skeptic. I am just a real agnostic in this matter. I have read several books; and I have been impressed. But there's a great deal in them that seems to me nonsense; perhaps I had better say which I don't understand. This materializing business, for instance.... I can understand that the minds of the dead can affect ours; but I don't see how they can affect matter-in table-rapping, for instance, and still more in appearing, and our being able to touch and see them.... I think that's my position," he ended rather lamely.

The fact was that he was a little disconcerted by the other's eyes. They were, as I have said, kind and shrewd eyes, but they had a good deal of power as well. Mr. Vincent sat motionless during this little speech, just looking at him, not at all offensively, yet with the effect of making the young man feel rather like a defiant and naughty little boy who is trying to explain.

Laurie sat back and drew on his cigarette rather hard.

"I understand perfectly," said the steady voice. "You are in a very reasonable position. I wish all were as open-minded. May I say a word or two?"

"Please."

"Well, it is materialization that puzzles you, is it?"

"Exactly," said Laurie. "Our theologians tell us-by the way, I am a Catholic." (The other bowed a little.) "Our theologians, I believe, tell us that such a thing cannot be, except under peculiar circumstances, as in the lives of the saints, and so on."

"Are you bound to believe all that your theologians say?" asked the other quietly.

"Well, it would be very rash indeed-" began Laurie.

"Exactly, I see. But what if you approach it from the other side, and try to find out instead whether these things actually do happen. I do not wish to be rude, Mr. Baxter; but you remember that your theologians-I am not so foolish as to say the Church, for I know that that was not so-but your theologians, you know, made a mistake about Galileo."

Laurie winced a little. Mr. Jamieson cleared his throat in gentle approval.

"Now I don't ask you to accept anything contrary to your faith," went on the other gently; "but if you really wish to look into this matter, you must set aside for the present all other presuppositions. You must not begin by assuming that the theologians are always right, nor even in asking how or why these things should happen. The one point is, Do they happen?"

His last words had a curious little effect as of a sudden flame. He had spoken smoothly and quietly; then he had suddenly put an unexpected emphasis into the little sentence at the end. Laurie jumped, internally. Yes, that was the point, he assented internally.

"Now," went on the other, again in that slow, reassuring voice, flicking off the ash of his cigarette, "is it possible for you to doubt that these things happen? May I ask you what books you have read?"

Laurie named three or four.

"And they have not convinced you?"

"Not altogether."

"Yet you accept human evidence for a great many much more remarkable things than these-as a Catholic."

"That is Divine Revelation," said Laurie, sure of his ground.

"Pardon me," said the other. "I do not in the least say it is not Divine Revelation-that is another question-but you receive the statement that it is so, on the word of man. Is that not true?"

Laurie was silent. He did not quite know what to say; and he almost feared the next words. But he was astonished that the other did not press home the point.

"Think over that, Mr. Baxter. That is all I ask. And now for the real thing. You sincerely wish to be convinced?"

"I am ready to be convinced."

The medium paused an instant, looking intently at the fire. Then he tossed the stump of his cigarette away and lighted another. The two ladies sat motionless.

"You seem fond of a priori arguments, Mr. Baxter," he began, with a kindly smile. "Let us have one or two, then.

"Consider first the relation of your soul to your body. That is infinitely mysterious, is it not? An emotion rises in your soul, and a flush of blood marks it. That is the subconscious mechanism of your body. But to say that, does not explain it. It is only a label. You follow me? Yes? Or still more mysterious is your conscious power. You will to raise your hand, and it obeys. Muscular action? Oh yes; but that is but another label." He turned his eyes, suddenly somber, upon the staring, listening young man, and his voice rose a little. "Go right behind all that, Mr. Baxter, down to the mysteries. What is that link between soul and body? You do not know! Nor does the wisest scientist in the world. Nor ever will. Yet there the link is!"

Again he paused.

Laurie was aware of a rising half-excited interest far beyond the power of the words he heard. Yet the manner of these too was striking. It was not the sham mysticism he had expected. There was a certain reverence in them, an admitting of mysteries, that seemed hard to reconcile with the ideas he had formed of the dogmatism of these folk.

"Now begin again," continued the quiet, virile voice. "You believe, as a Christian, in the immortality of the soul, in the survival of personality after death. Thank God for that! All do not, in these days. Then I need not labor at that.

"Now, Mr. Baxter, imagine to yourself some soul that you have loved passionately, who has crossed over to the other side." Laurie drew a long, noiseless breath, steadying himself with clenched hands. "She has come to the unimaginable glories, according to her measure; she is at an end of doubts and fears and suspicions. She knows because she sees.... But do you think that she is absorbed in these things? You know nothing of human love, Mr. Baxter" (the voice trembled with genuine emotion) ... "if you can think that...! If you can think that her thought turns only to herself and her joys. Why, her life has been lived in your love by our hypothesis-you were at her bedside when she died, perhaps; and she clung to you as to God Himself, when the shadow deepened. Do you think that her first thought, or at least her second, will not be of you...? In all that she sees, she will desire you to see it also. She will strive, crave, hunger for you-not that she may possess you, but that you may be one with her in her own possession; she will send out vibration after vibration of sympathy and longing; and you, on this side, will be tuned to her as none other can be-you, on this side, will be empty for her love, for the sight and sound of her.... Is death then so strong?-stronger than love? Can a Christian believe that?"

The change in the man was extraordinary. His heavy beard and brows hid half his face, but his whole being glowed passionately in his voice, even in his little trembling gestures, and Laurie sat astonished. Every word uttered seemed to fit his own case, to express by an almost perfect vehicle the vague thoughts that had struggled in his own heart during this last week. It was Amy of whom the man spoke, Amy with her eyes and hair, peering from the glorious gloom to catch some glimpse of her lover in his meaningless light of earthly day.

Mr. Vincent cleared his throat a little, and at the sound the two motionless women stirred and rustled a little. The sound of a hansom, the spanking trot and wintry jingle of bells swelled out of the distance, passed, and went into silence before he spoke again. Then it was in his usual slow voice that he continued.

"Conceive such a soul as that, Mr. Baxter. She desires to communicate with one she loves on earth, with you or me, and it is a human and innocent desire. Yet she has lost that connection, that machinery of which we have spoken-that connection of which we know nothing, between matter and spirit, except that it exists. What is she to do? Well, at least she will do this, she will bend every power that she possesses upon that medium-I mean matter-through which alone the communication can be made; as a man on an island, beyond the power of a human voice, will use any instrument, however grotesque, to signal to a passing ship. Would any decent man, Mr. Baxter, mock at the pathos and effort of that, even if it were some grotesque thing, like a flannel shirt on the end of an oar? Yet men mock at the tapping of a table...!

"Well, then, this longing soul uses every means at her disposal, concentrates every power she possesses. Is it so very unreasonable, so very unchristian, so very dishonoring to the love of God, to think that she sometimes succeeds...? that she is able, under comparatively exceptional circumstances, to re-establish that connection with material things, that was perfectly normal and natural to her during her earthly life.... Tell me, Mr. Baxter."

Laurie shifted a little in his chair.

"I cannot say that it is," he said, in a voice that seemed strange in his own ears. The medium smiled a little.

"So much for a priori reasoning," he said. "There remains only the fact whether such things do happen or not. There I must leave you to yourself, Mr. Baxter."

Laurie sat forward suddenly.

"But that is exactly where I need your help, sir," he said.

A murmur broke from the ladies' lips simultaneously, r

esembling applause. Mr. Jamieson sat back and swallowed perceptibly in his throat.

"You have said so much, sir," went on Laurie deliberately, "that you have, so to speak, put yourself in my debt. I must ask you to take me further."

Mr. Vincent smiled full at him.

"You must take your place with others," he said. "These ladies-"

"Mr. Vincent, Mr. Vincent," cried Lady Laura. "He is quite right, you must help him. You must help us all."

"Well, Sunday week," he began deprecatingly.

Mrs. Stapleton broke in.

"No, no; now, Mr. Vincent, now. Do something now. Surely the circumstances are favorable."

"I must be gone again at six-thirty," said the man hesitatingly.

Laurie broke in. He felt desperate.

"If you can show me anything of this, sir, you can surely show it now. If you do not show it now-"

"Well, Mr. Baxter?" put in the voice, sharp and incisive, as if expecting an insult and challenging it.

Laurie broke down.

"I can only say," he cried, "that I beg and entreat of you to do what you can-now and here."

There was a silence.

"And you, Mr. Jamieson?"

The young clergyman started, as if from a daze. Then he rose abruptly.

"I-I must be going, Lady Laura," he said. "I had no idea it was so late. I-I have a confirmation class."

An instant later he was gone.

"That is as well," observed the medium. "And you are sure, Mr. Baxter, that you wish me to try? You must remember that I promise nothing."

"I wish you to try."

"And if nothing happens?"

"If nothing happens, I will promise to-to continue my search. I shall know then that-that it is at least sincere."

Mr. Vincent rose to his feet.

"A little table just here, Lady Laura, if you please, and a pencil and paper.... Will you kindly take your seats...? Yes, Mr. Baxter, draw up your chair ... here. Now, please, we must have complete silence, and, so far as possible, silence of thought."

II

The table, a small, round rosewood one, stood, bare of any cloth, upon the hearthrug. The two ladies sat, motionless statues once more, upon the side furthest from the fire, with their hands resting lightly upon the surface. Laurie sat on one side and the medium on the other. Mr. Vincent had received his paper and pencil almost immediately, and now sat resting his right hand with the pencil upon the paper as if to write, his left hand upon his knee as he sat, turned away slightly from the center.

Laurie looked at him closely....

And now he began to be aware of a certain quite indefinable change in the face at which he looked. The eyes were open-no, it was not in them that the change lay, nor in the lines about the mouth, so far as he could see them, nor in any detail, anywhere. Neither was it the face of a dreamer or a sleepwalker, or of the dead, when the lines disappear and life retires. It was a living, conscious face, yet it was changed. The lips were slightly parted, and the breath came evenly between them. It was more like the face of one lost in deep, absorbed, introspective thought. Laurie decided that this was the explanation.

He looked at the hand on the paper-well shaped, brownish, capable-perfectly motionless, the pencil held lightly between the finger and thumb.

Then he glanced up at the two ladies.

They too were perfectly motionless, but there was no change in them. The eyes of both were downcast, fixed steadily upon the paper. And as he looked he saw Lady Laura begin to lift her lids slowly as if to glance at him. He looked himself upon the paper and the motionless fingers.

He was astonished at the speed with which the situation had developed. Five minutes ago he had been listening to talk, and joining in it. The clergyman had been here; he himself had been sitting a yard further back. Now they sat here as if they had sat for an hour. It seemed that the progress of events had stopped....

Then he began to listen for the sounds of the world outside, for within here it seemed as if a silence of a very strange quality had suddenly descended and enveloped them. It was as if a section-that place in which he sat-had been cut out of time and space. It was apart here, it was different altogether....

He began to be intensely and minutely conscious of the world outside-so entirely conscious that he lost all perception of that at which he stared; whether it was the paper, or the strong, motionless hand, or the introspective face, he was afterwards unaware. But he heard all the quiet roar of the London evening, and was able to distinguish even the note of each instrument that helped to make up that untiring, inconclusive orchestra. Far away to the northwards sounded a great thoroughfare, the rolling of wheels, a myriad hoofs, the pulse of motor vehicles, and the cries of street boys; upon all these his attention dwelt as they came up through the outward windows into that dead silent, lamp-lit room of which he had lost consciousness. Again a hansom came up the street, with the rap of hoofs, the swish of a whip, the wintry jingle of bells....

He began gently to consider these things, to perceive, rather than to form, little inward pictures of what they signified; he saw the lighted omnibus, the little swirl of faces round a news-board.

Then he began to consider what had brought him here; it seemed that he saw himself, coming in his dark suit across the park, turning into the thoroughfare and across it. He began to consider Amy; and it seemed to him that in this intense and living silence he was conscious of her for the first time without sorrow since ten days ago. He began to consider.

* * *

Something brought him back in an instant to the room and his perception of it, but he had not an idea what this was, whether a movement or a sound. But on considering it afterwards he remembered that it was as that sound is that wakes a man at the very instant of his falling asleep, a sharp momentary tick, as of a clock. Yet he had not been in the least sleepy.

On the contrary, he perceived now with an extreme and alert attention the hand on the paper; he even turned his head slightly to see if the pencil had moved. It was as motionless as at the beginning. He glanced up, with a touch of surprise, at his hostess's face, and caught her in the very act of turning her eyes from his. There was no impatience in her movement: rather her face was of one absorbed, listening intently, not like the bearded face opposite, introspective and intuitive, but eagerly, though motionlessly, observant of the objective world. He looked at Mrs. Stapleton. She too bore the same expression of intent regarding thought on her usually rather tiresome face.

Then once again the silence began to come down, like a long, noiseless hush.

This time, however, his progress was swifter and more sure. He passed with the speed of thought through those processes that had been measurable before, faintly conscious of the words spoken before the sitting began-

"... If possible, the silence of thought."

He thought he understood now what this signified, and that he was experiencing it. No longer did he dwell upon, or consider, with any voluntary activity, the images that passed before him. Rather they moved past him while he simply regarded them without understanding. His perception ran swiftly outwards, as through concentric circles, yet he was not sure whether it were outwards or inwards that he went. The roar of London, with its flight of ocular visions, sank behind him, and without any further sense of mental travel, he found himself perceiving his own home, whether in memory, imagination, or fact he did not know. But he perceived his mother, in the familiar lamp-lit room, over her needlework, and Maggie-Maggie looking at him with a strange, almost terrified expression in her great eyes. Then these too were gone; and he was out in some warm silence, filled with a single presence-that which he desired; and there he stopped.

* * *

He was not in the least aware of how long this lasted. But he found himself at a certain moment in time, looking steadily at the white paper on the table, from which the hand had gone, again conscious of the sudden passing of some clear sound that left no echo-as sharp as the crack of a whip. Oh! the paper-that was the important point! He bent a little closer, and was aware of a sharp disappointment as he saw it was stainless of writing. Then he was astonished that the hand and pencil had gone from it, and looked up quickly.

Mr. Vincent was looking at him with a strange expression.

At first he thought he might have interrupted, and wondered with dismay whether this were so. But there was no sign of anger in those eyes-nothing but a curious and kindly interest.

"Nothing happened?" he exclaimed hastily. "You have written nothing?"

He looked at the ladies.

Lady Laura too was looking at him with the same strange interest as the medium. Mrs. Stapleton, he noticed, was just folding up, in an unobtrusive manner, several sheets of paper that he had not noticed before.

He felt a little stiff, and moved as if to stand up but, to his astonishment, the big man was up in an instant, laying his hands on his shoulders.

"Just sit still quietly for a few minutes," said the kindly voice. "Just sit still."

"Why-why-" began Laurie, bewildered.

"Yes, just sit still quietly," went on the voice; "you feel a little tired."

"Just a little," said Laurie. "But-"

"Yes, yes; just sit still. No; don't speak."

Then a silence fell again.

Laurie began to wonder what this was all about. Certainly he felt tired, yet strangely elated. But he felt no inclination to move; and sat back, passive, looking at his own hands on his knees. But he was disappointed that nothing had happened.

Then the thought of time came into his mind. He supposed that it would be about ten minutes past six. The sitting had begun a little before six. He glanced up at the clock on the mantelpiece; but it was one of those bulgy-faced Empire gilt affairs that display everything except the hour. He still waited a moment, feeling all this to be very unusual and unconventional. Why should he sit here like an invalid, and why should these three sit here and watch him so closely?

He shifted a little in his chair, feeling that an effort was due from him. The question of the time of day struck him as a suitably conventional remark with which to break the embarrassing silence.

"What is the time?" he said. "I am afraid I ought to be-"

"There is plenty of time," said the grave voice across the table.

With a sudden movement Laurie was on his feet, peering at the clock, knowing that something was wrong somewhere. Then he turned to the company bewildered and suspicious.

"Why, it is nearly eight," he cried.

Mr. Vincent smiled reassuringly.

"It is about that," he said. "Please sit down again, Mr. Baxter."

"But-but-" began Laurie.

"Please sit down again, Mr. Baxter," repeated the voice, with a touch of imperiousness that there was no resisting.

Laurie sat down again; but he was alert, suspicious, and intensely puzzled.

"Will you kindly tell me what has happened?" he asked sharply.

"You feel tired?"

"No; I am all right. Kindly tell me what has happened."

He saw Lady Laura whisper something in an undertone he could not hear. Mr. Vincent stood up with a nod and leaned himself against the mantelpiece, looking down at the rather indignant young man.

"Certainly," he said. "You are sure you are not exhausted, Mr. Baxter?"

"Not in the least," said Laurie.

"Well, then, you passed into trance about five minutes-"

"What?"

"You passed into trance about five minutes past six; you came out of it five minutes ago."

"Trance?" gasped Laurie.

"Certainly. A very deep and satisfactory trance. There is nothing to be frightened of, Mr. Baxter. It is an unusual gift, that is all. I have seldom seen a more satisfactory instance. May I ask you a question or two, sir?"

Laurie nodded vaguely. He was still trying hopelessly to take in what had been said.

"You nearly passed into trance a little earlier. May I ask whether you heard or saw anything that recalled you?"

Laurie shut his eyes tight in an effort to think. He felt dimly rather proud of himself.

"It was quite short. Then you came back and looked at Lady Laura. Try to remember."

"I remember thinking I had heard a sound."

The medium nodded.

"Just so," he said.

"That would be the third," said Lady Laura, nodding sagely.

"Third what?" said Laurie rather rudely.

No one paid any attention to him.

"Now can you give any account of the last hour and a half?" continued the medium tranquilly.

Laurie considered again. He was still a little confused.

"I remember thinking about the streets," he said, "and then of my own home, and then..." He stopped.

"Yes; and then?"

"Then of a certain private matter."

"Ah! We must not pry then. But can you answer one question more? Was it connected with any person who has crossed over?"

"It was," said Laurie shortly.

"Just so," said the medium.

Laurie felt suspicious.

"Why do you ask that?" he said.

Mr. Vincent looked at him steadily.

"I think I had better tell you, Mr. Baxter; it is more straightforward, though you will not like it. You will be surprised to hear that you talked very considerably during this hour and a half; and from all that you said I should suppose you were controlled by a spirit recently crossed over-a young girl who on being questioned gave the name of Amy Nugent-"

Laurie sprang to his feet, furious.

"You have been spying, sir. How dare you-"

"Sit down, Mr. Baxter, or you shall not hear a word more," rang out the imperious, unruffled voice. "Sit down this instant."

Laurie shot a look at the two ladies. Then he remembered himself. He sat down.

"I am not at all angry, Mr. Baxter," came the voice, suave and kindly again. "Your thought was very natural. But I think I can prove to you that you are mistaken."

Mr. Vincent glanced at Mrs. Stapleton with an almost imperceptible frown, then back at Laurie.

"Let me see, Mr. Baxter.... Is there anyone on earth besides yourself who knew that you had sat out, about ten days ago or so, under some yew trees in your garden at home, and thought of this young girl-that you-"

Laurie looked at him in dumb dismay; some little sound broke from his mouth.

"Well, is that enough, Mr. Baxter?"

Lady Laura slid in a sentence here.

"Dear Mr. Baxter, you need not be in the least alarmed. All that has passed here is, of course, as sacred as in the confessional. We should not dream, without your leave-"

"One moment," gasped the boy.

He drove his face into his hands and sat overwhelmed.

Presently he looked up.

"But I knew it," he said. "I knew it. It was just my own self which spoke."

The medium smiled.

"Yes," he said, "of course that is the first answer." He placed one hand on the table, leaning forward, and began to play his fingers as if on a piano. Laurie watched the movement, which seemed vaguely familiar.

"Can you account for that, Mr. Baxter? You did that several times. It seemed uncharacteristic of you, somehow."

Laurie looked at him, mute. He remembered now. He half raised a hand in protest.

"And ... and do you ever stammer?" went on the man.

Still Laurie was silent. It was beyond belief or imagination.

"Now if those things were characteristic-"

"Stop, sir," cried the boy; and then, "But those too might be unconscious imitation."

"They might," said the other. "But then we had the advantage of watching you. And there were other things."

"I beg your pardon?"

"There was the loud continuous rapping, at the beginning and the end. You were awakened twice by these."

Laurie remained perfectly motionless without a word. He was still striving to marshal this flood of mad ideas. It was incredible, amazing.

Then he stood up.

"I must go away," he said. "I-I don't know what to think."

"You had better stay a little longer and rest," said the medium kindly.

The boy shook his head.

"I must go at once," he said. "I cannot trust myself."

He went out without a word, followed by the medium. The two ladies sat eyeing one another.

"It has been astonishing ... astonishing," sighed Mrs. Stapleton. "What a find!"

There was no more said. Lady Laura sat as one in trance herself.

Then Mr. Vincent returned.

"You must not lose sight of that young man," he said abruptly. "It is an extraordinary case."

"I have all the notes here," remarked Mrs. Stapleton.

"Yes; you had better keep them. He must not see them at present."

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