“I used to know Mr. Vincent,” he said shortly.
“You have the advantage of me,” smiled the medium, coming forward to the fire.
“My name is Cathcart, sir.”
The other started, almost imperceptibly.
“Ah! yes,” he said quietly. “We did meet a few times, I remember.”
Lady Laura was conscious of distinct relief at the interruption: it seemed to her a providential escape from a troublesome decision.
“I think there is nothing more to be said, Mr. Cathcart.... No, don’t go, Mr. Vincent. We had finished our talk.”
“Lady Laura,” said the old gentleman with a rather determined air, “I beg of you to give me ten minutes more private conversation.”
She hesitated, clearly foreseeing trouble either way. Then she decided.
“There is no necessity today,” she said. “If you care to make an appointment for one day next week, Mr. Cathcart—”
“I am to understand that you refuse me a few minutes now?”
“There is no necessity that I can see—”
“Then I must say what I have to say before Mr. Vincent—”
“One moment, sir,” put in the medium, with that sudden slight air of imperiousness that Lady Laura knew very well by now. “If Lady Laura consents to hear you, I must take it on myself to see that nothing offensive is said.” He glanced as if for leave towards the woman.
She made an effort.
“If you will say it quickly,” she began. “Otherwise—”
The old gentleman drew a breath as if to steady himself. It was plain that he was very strongly moved beneath his self-command: his air of cheerful geniality was gone.
“I will say it in one sentence,” he said. “It is this: You are ruining that boy between you, body and soul; and you are responsible before his Maker and yours. And if—”
“Lady Laura,” said the medium, “do you wish to hear any more?”
She made a doubtful little gesture of assent.
“And if you wish to know my reasons for saying this,” went on Mr. Cathcart, “you have only to ask for them from Mr. Vincent. He knows well enough why I left spiritualism—if he dares to tell you.”
Lady Laura glanced at the medium. He was perfectly still and quiet—looking, watching the old man curiously and half humorously under his heavy eyebrows.
“And I understand,” went on the other, “that tonight you are to make an attempt at complete materialization. Very good; then after tonight it may be too late. I have tried to appeal to the boy: he will not hear me. And you too have refused to hear me out. I could give you evidence, if you wished. Ask this gentleman how many cases he has known in the last five years, where complete ruin, body and soul—”
The medium turned a little to the fire, sighing as if for weariness: and at the sound the old man stopped, trembling. It was more obvious than ever that he only held himself in restraint by a very violent effort: it was as if the presence of the medium affected him in an extraordinary degree.