Laurie then was not in the most favorable of moods to receive the dicta of the Vicar.
They were announced to him immediately after Mrs. Baxter had received from Maggie’s hands her first cup of tea.
“Mr. Rymer tells me it’s all nonsense,” she said.
Laurie looked up.
“What?” he said.
“Mr. Rymer tells me Spiritualism is all nonsense. He told me about someone called Eglingham, who kept a beard in his portmanteau.”
“Eglinton, I think, auntie,” put in Maggie.
“I daresay, my dear. Anyhow, it’s all the same. I felt sure it must be so.” Laurie took a bun, with a thoughtful air.
“Does Mr. Rymer know very much about it, do you think, mother?”
“Dear boy, I think he knows all that anyone need know. Besides, if you come to think of it, how could Cardinal Newman possibly appear in a drawing-room? Particularly when Mrs. Stapleton says he isn’t a Christian any longer.”
This had a possible and rather pleasing double interpretation; but Laurie decided it was not worth while to be humorous.
“What about the Witch of Endor?” he asked innocently, instead.
“That was in the Old Testament,” answered his mother rapidly. “Mr. Rymer said something about that too.”
“Oh! wasn’t it really Samuel who appeared?”
“Mr. Rymer thinks that things were permitted then that are not permitted now.”
Laurie drank up his cup of tea. It is a humiliating fact that extreme grief often renders the mourner rather cross. There was a distinct air of crossness about Laurie at this moment. His nerves were very near the top.
“Well, that’s very convenient,” he said. “Maggie, do you know if there’s any book on Spiritualism in the house?”
The girl glanced uneasily near the fire-place.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Yes; I think there’s something up there. I believe I saw it the other day.”
Laurie rose and stood opposite the shelves.
“What color is it? (No, no more tea, thanks.)”
“Er ... black and red, I think,” said the girl. “I forget.”
She looked up at him, faintly uneasy, as he very deliberately drew down a book from the shelf and turned the pages.
“Yes ... this is it,” he said. “Thanks very much.... No, really no more tea, thanks, mother.”
Then he went to the door, with his easy, rather long steps, and disappeared. They heard his steps in the inner hall. Then a door closed overhead.
Mrs. Baxter contentedly poured herself out another cup of tea.
“Poor boy,” she said. “He’s thinking of that girl still. I’m glad he’s got something to occupy his mind.”
The end room, on the first floor, was Laurie’s possession. It was a big place, with two windows, and a large open fire, and he had skillfully masked the fact that it was a bedroom by disposing his furniture, with the help of a screen, in such a manner as completely to hide the bed and the washing arrangements.