Mrs. Stapleton flashed a radiant look of helpfulness round the faces, lingering for an instant on Laurie’s, and leaned back.
There followed a silence.
“Shall we go into the drawing-room?” suggested Mrs. Baxter, feebly rising. The guest rose too, again with a brilliant patient smile, and swept out. Maggie crossed herself and looked at Laurie. The boy had an expression, half of disgust, half of interest, and his eyelids sank a little and rose again. Then Maggie went out after the others.
“A dreadful woman,” observed Mrs. Baxter half an hour later, as the two strolled back up the garden path, after seeing Mrs. Stapleton wave a delicately gloved hand encouragingly to them over the back of the throbbing motor.
“I suppose she thinks she believes it all,” said Maggie.
“My dear, that woman would believe anything. I hope poor Laurie was not too much distressed.”
“Oh! I think Laurie took it all right.”
“It was most unfortunate, all that about death and the rest.... Why, here comes Laurie; I thought he would be gone out by now!”
The boy strolled towards them round the corner of the house, tossing away the fragment of his cigarette. He was still in his dark suit, bareheaded, with no signs of riding about him.
“So you’ve not gone out yet, dear boy?” remarked his mother.
“Not yet,” he said, and hesitated as they went on.
Mrs. Baxter noticed it.
“I’ll go and get ready,” she said. “The carriage will be round at three, Maggie.”
When she was gone the two moved out together on to the lawn.
“What did you think of that woman?” demanded Laurie with a detached air.
Maggie glanced at him. His tone was a little too much detached.
“I thought her quite dreadful,” she said frankly. “Didn’t you?” she added.
“Oh yes, I suppose so,” said Laurie. He drew out a cigarette and lighted it. “You know a lot of people think there’s something in it,” he said.
“I daresay,” said Maggie.
She perceived out of the corner of her eye that Laurie looked at her suddenly and sharply. For herself, she loathed what little she knew of the subject, so cordially and completely, that she could hardly have put it into words. Nine-tenths of it she believed to be fraud—a matter of wigs and Indian muslin and cross-lights—and the other tenth, by the most generous estimate, an affair of the dingiest and foulest of all the backstairs of life. The prophetic outpourings of Mrs. Stapleton had not altered her opinion.
“Oh! if you feel like that—” went on Laurie.
She turned on him.
“Laurie,” she said, “I think it perfectly detestable. I acknowledge I don’t know much about it; but what little I do know is enough, thank you.”