With one motion, swift and impetuous, she had thrown herself forward on to her knees, and clasped at the hanging hands.
“Laurie! Laurie!” she cried. “You haven’t prayed ... you’ve been playing, and the machinery has caught you. But it isn’t too late! Oh, God! it’s not too late. Pray with me! Say the Our Father....”
Again slowly the eyes moved round. He had started ever so little at her rush, and the seizing of his hands; and now she felt those hands moving weakly in her own, as of a sleeping child who tries to detach himself from his mother’s arms.
“I ... I ... I’m all—”
She grasped his hands more fiercely, staring straight up into those strange piteous eyes that revealed so little, except formless commotion and uneasiness.
“Say the Our Father with me. ‘Our Father—’”
Then his hands tore back, with a movement as fierce as her own, and the eyes blazed with an unreal light. She still clung to his wrists, looking up, struck with a paralysis of fear at the change, and the furious hostility that flamed up in the face. The lips writhed back, half snarling, half smiling....
“Let go! let go!” he hissed at her. “What are you—”
“The Our Father, Laurie ... the Our—”
He wrenched himself backwards, striking her under the chin with his knee. The couch slid backwards a foot against the wall, and he was on his feet. She remained terror-stricken, shocked, looking up at the dully flushed face that glared down on her.
“Laurie! Laurie...! Don’t you understand? Say one prayer—”
“How dare you?” he whispered; “how dare you—”
She stood up suddenly—wrenching her will back to self-command. Her breath still came quick and panting; and she waited until once more she breathed naturally. And all the while he stood looking down at her with eyes of extraordinary malevolence.
“Well, will you sit quietly and listen?” she said. “Will you do that?”
Still he stared at her, with lips closed, breathing rapidly through his nostrils. With a sudden movement she turned and went to her chair, sat down and waited.
He still watched her; then, with his eyes on her, with movements as of a man in the act of self-defense, wheeled out the sofa to its place, and sat down. She waited till the tension of his figure seemed to relax again, till the quick glances at her from beneath drooping eyelids ceased, and once more he settled down with dangling hands to look at the fire. Then she began again, quietly and decisively.
“Your mother isn’t well,” she said. “No ... just listen quietly. What is going to happen tomorrow? I’m speaking to you, Laurie to you. Do you understand?”
“I’m all right,” he said dully.
She disregarded it.
“I want to help you, Laurie. You know that, don’t you? I’m Maggie Deronnais. You remember?”
“Yes—Maggie Deronnais,” said the boy, staring at the fire.