“I found exactly what I had feared, and expected.”
“Oh! tell me quickly,” she cried, wheeling on him in anger.
He looked at her as if critically for a moment. Then he went on abruptly.
“I found Mr. Baxter in bed. I made no apology at all. I said simply that I had come to see how he was after the seance.”
“It took place, then—”
“Oh! yes.... I forgot to mention that Lady Laura would pay no attention to me yesterday.... Yes, it took place.... Well, Mr. Baxter did not seem surprised to see me. He told me he felt tired. He said that the seance had been a success. And while he talked I watched him. Then I came away and caught the ten-fifty.”
“I don’t understand in the least,” said Maggie.
“So I suppose,” said the other dryly. “I imagine you do not believe in spiritualism at all—I mean that you think that the whole thing is fraud or hysteria?”
“Yes, I do,” said Maggie bravely.
He nodded once or twice.
“So do most sensible people. Well, Miss Deronnais, I have come to warn you. I did not write, because it was impossible to know what to say until I had seen you and heard your answer to that question. At the same time, I wanted to lose no time. Anything may happen now at any moment.... I wanted to tell you this: that I am at your service now altogether. When—” he stopped; then he began again, “If you hear no further news for the present, may I ask when you expect to see Mr. Baxter again?”
“In Easter week.”
“That is a fortnight off.... Do you think you could persuade him to come down here next week instead? I should like you to see him for yourself: or even sooner.”
She was still hopelessly confused with these apparent alternations. She still wondered whether Mr. Cathcart were as mad as he seemed. They turned, as the village came in sight ahead, up the hill.
“Next week? I could try,” she said mechanically. “But I don’t understand—”
He held up a gloved hand.
“Wait till you have seen him,” he said. “For myself, I shall make a point of seeing Mr. Morton every day to hear the news.... Miss Deronnais, I tell you plainly that you alone will have to bear the weight of all this, unless Mrs. Baxter—”
“Oh, do explain,” she said almost irritably.
He looked at her with those irresistibly twinkling eyes, but she perceived a very steady will behind them.
“I will explain nothing at all,” he said, “now that I have seen you, and heard what you think, except this single point. What you have to be prepared for is the news that Mr. Baxter has suddenly gone out of his mind.”
It was said in exactly the same tone as his previous sentences, and for a moment she did not catch the full weight of its meaning. She stopped and looked at him, paling gradually.