“But what’s the good of it all?”
“Well, you see, Mrs. Stapleton thinks that they really are souls from the other world, and that they can tell us all kinds of things about it all, and what’s true, and so on.”
“But you don’t believe that?”
Maggie turned her large eyes on the old lady; and a spark of humor rose and glimmered in them.
“Of course I don’t,” she said.
“Then how do you explain it?”
“I think it’s probably all a fraud. But I really don’t know. It doesn’t seem to me to matter much—”
“But if it should be true?”
Maggie raised her eyebrows, smiling.
“Dear auntie, do put it out of your head. How can it possibly be true?”
Mrs. Baxter set her lips in as much severity as she could.
“I shall ask the Vicar,” she said. “We might stop at the Vicarage on the way back.”
Mrs. Baxter did not often stop at the Vicarage; as she did not altogether approve of the Vicar’s wife. There was a good deal of pride in the old lady, and it seemed to her occasionally as if Mrs. Rymer did not understand the difference between the Hall and the Parsonage. She envied sometimes, secretly, the Romanist idea of celibacy: it was so much easier to get on with your spiritual adviser if you did not have to consider his wife. But here, was a matter which a clergyman must settle for her once and for all; so she put on a slight air of dignity which became her very well, and a little after four o’clock the Victoria turned up the steep little drive that led to the Vicarage.
Thee dusk was already fallen before Laurie, strolling vaguely in the garden, heard the carriage wheels draw up at the gate outside.
He had ridden again alone, and his mind had run, to a certain extent, as might be expected, upon the recent guest and her very startling conversation. He was an intelligent young man, and he had not been in the least taken in by her pseudo-mystical remarks. Yet there had been something in her extreme assurance that had affected him, as a man may smile sourly at a good story in bad taste. His attitude, in fact, was that of most Christians under the circumstances. He did not, for an instant, believe that such things really and literally happened, and yet it was difficult to advance any absolutely conclusive argument against them. Merely, they had not come his way; they appeared to conflict with experience, and they usually found as their advocates such persons as Mrs. Stapleton.
Two things, however, prevailed to keep the matter before his mind. The first was his own sense of loss, his own experience, sore and hot within him, of the unapproachable emptiness of death; the second, Maggie’s attitude. When a plainly sensible and controlled young woman takes up a position of superiority, she is apt, unless the young man in her company happens to be in love with her—and sometimes even when he is—to provoke and irritate him into a camp of opposition. She is still more apt to do so if her relations to him have once been in the line of even greater tenderness.