There was a pregnant silence. Mrs. Baxter’s fork sank to her plate.
“I don’t understand,” she said faintly. “Cardinal Newman—surely—”
“Why yes,” said the other gently. “I know it sounds very startling to orthodox ears; but to us of the Higher Thought all these things are quite familiar. Of course, I need hardly say that Cardinal Newman is no longer—but perhaps I had better not go on.”
She glanced archly at Maggie.
“Oh, please go on,” said Maggie genially. “You were saying that Cardinal Newman—”
“Dear Miss Deronnais, are you sure you will not be offended?”
“I am always glad to receive new light,” said Maggie solemnly.
The other looked at her doubtfully; but there was no hint of irony in the girl’s face.
“Well,” she began, “of course on the Other Side they see things very differently. I don’t mean at all that any religion is exactly untrue. Oh no; they tell us that if we cannot welcome the New Light, then the old lights will do very well for the present. Indeed, when there are Catholics present Cardinal Newman does not scruple to give them a Latin blessing—”
“Is it true that he speaks with an American accent?” asked Maggie gravely. The other laughed with a somewhat shrill geniality.
“That is too bad, Miss Deronnais. Well, of course, the personality of the medium affects the vehicle through which the communications come. That is no difficulty at all when once you understand the principle—”
Mrs. Baxter interrupted. She could bear it no longer.
“Mrs. Stapleton. Do you mean that Cardinal Newman really speaks to you?”
“Why yes,” said the other, with a patient indulgence. “That is a very usual experience, but Mr. Vincent does much more than that. It is quite a common experience not only to hear him, but to see him. I have shaken hands with him more than once ... and I have seen a Catholic kiss his ring.”
Mrs. Baxter looked helplessly at the girl; and Maggie came to the rescue once more. “This sounds rather advanced to us,” she said. “Won’t you explain the principles first?”
Mrs. Stapleton laid her knife and fork down, leaned back, and began to discourse. When a little later her plate was removed, she refused sweets with a gesture, and continued.
Altogether she spoke for about ten minutes, uninterrupted, enjoying herself enormously. The others ate food or refused it in attentive silence. Then at last she ended.
“... I know all this must sound quite mad and fanatical to those who have not experienced it; and yet to us who have been disciples it is as natural to meet our friends who have crossed over as to meet those who have not.... Dear Mrs. Baxter, think how all this enlarges life. There is no longer any death to those who understand. All those limitations are removed; it is no more than going into another room. All are together in the Hands of the All-Father”—Maggie recognized the jetsam of Christian Science. “‘O death!’ as Paul says, ‘where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’”