There was a violent movement on Lady Laura’s left hand, a chair shot back and fell, and with a horrible tearing cry from the throat, the boy dashed himself face forwards across the table, snatched at and for an instant seized something real and concrete that stood there; and as the two women sprang up, losing sight for an instant of the figure that had been there a moment ago, the boy sank forward, moaning and sobbing, and a crash as of a heavy body falling sounded from the cabinet.
For a space of reckonable time there was complete silence. Then once more a blast of wind tore up from the south-west, rain shattered against the window, and the house vibrated to the shock.
As the date approached Maggie felt her anxieties settle down, like a fire, from turbulence to steady flame. On the Sunday she had with real difficulty kept it to herself, and the fringe of the storm of wind and rain that broke over Herefordshire in the evening had not been reassuring. Yet on one thing her will kept steady hold, and that was that Mrs. Baxter must not be consulted. No conceivable good could result, and there might even be harm: either the old lady would be too much or not enough concerned: she might insist on Laurie’s return to Stantons, or might write him a cheering letter encouraging him to amuse himself in any direction that he pleased. So Maggie passed the evening in fits of alternate silence and small conversation, and succeeded in making Mrs. Baxter recommend a good long night.
Monday morning, however, broke with a cloudless sky, an air like wine, and the chatter of birds; and by the time that Maggie went to look at the crocuses immediately before breakfast, she was all but at her ease again. Enough, however, of anxiety remained to make her hurry out to the stable-yard when she heard the postman on his way to the back door.
There was one letter for her, in Mr. Cathcart’s handwriting; and she opened it rather hastily as she turned in again to the garden.
It was reassuring. It stated that the writer had approached—that was the word—Mr. Baxter, though unfortunately with ill-success, and that he proposed on the following day—the letter was dated on Saturday evening—also to approach Lady Laura Bethell. He felt fairly confident, he said, that his efforts would succeed in postponing, at any rate, Mr. Baxter’s visit to Lady Laura; and in that case he would write further as to what was best to be done. In the meanwhile Miss Deronnais was not to be in the least anxious. Whatever happened, it was extremely improbable that one visit more or less to a seance would carry any great harm: it was the habit, rather than the act, that was usually harmful to the nervous system. And the writer begged to remain her obedient servant.
Maggie’s spirits rose with a bound. How extraordinarily foolish she had been, she told herself, to have been filled with such forebodings last night! It was more than likely that the seance had taken place without Laurie; and, even at the worst, as Mr. Cathcart said, he was probably only a little more excited than usual this morning.