She looked again at the door.
Laurie was there, she said. Then she questioned herself. Was it Laurie...?
“He is there, underneath,” she whispered to herself softly; “he is waiting for me to help him.” She remembered that she must make that act of faith. Yet was it Laurie who had looked in at his mother’s door...? Well, the door was locked now. But that secretive visit seemed to her terrible.
What, then, did she believe?
She had put that question to herself fifty times, and found no answer. The old man’s solution was clear enough now: he believed no less than that out of that infinitely mysterious void that lies beyond the veils of sense there had come a Personality, strong, malignant, degraded, and seeking to degrade, seizing upon this lad’s soul, in the disguise of a dead girl, and desiring to possess it. How fantastic that sounded! Did she believe it? She did not know. Then there was the solution of a nervous strain, rising to a climax of insanity. This was the answer of the average doctor. Did she believe that? Was that enough to account for the look in the boy’s eyes? She did not know.
She understood perfectly that the fact of herself living under conditions of matter made the second solution the more natural; yet that did not content her. For her religion informed her emphatically that discarnate Personalities existed which desired the ruin of human souls, and, indeed, forbade the practices of spiritualism for this very reason. Yet there was hardly a Catholic she knew who regarded the possibility in these days as more than a theoretical one. So she hesitated, holding her judgment in suspense. One thing only she saw clearly, and that was that she must act as if she believed the former solution: she must treat the boy as one obsessed, whether indeed he were so or not. There was no other manner in which she could concentrate her force upon the heart of the struggle. If there were no evil Personality in the affair, it was necessary to assume one.
And still she waited.
There came back to her an old childish memory.
Once, as a child of ten, she had had to undergo a small operation. One of the nuns had taken her to the doctor’s house. When she had understood that she must come into the next room and have it done, she had stopped dead. The nun had encouraged her.
“Leave me quite alone, please, Mother, just for one minute. Please don’t speak. I’ll come in a minute.”
After a minute’s waiting, while they looked at her, she had gone forward, sat down in the chair and behaved quite perfectly. Yes; she understood that now. It was necessary first to collect forces, to concentrate energies, to subdue the imagination: after that almost anything could be borne.
So she stood here now, without even the thought of flight, not arguing, not reassuring herself, not analyzing anything; but just gathering strength, screwing the will tight, facing things.