“You really believe that Cardinal Newman comes to Mr. Vincent’s drawing room and raps on tables?”
“I really believe that it is possible to get into touch with those whom we call dead. Each instance, of course, depends on its own evidence.”
“And Cardinal Newman?”
“I have not studied the evidence for Cardinal Newman,” remarked Laurie in a head-voice.
“Let’s have a look at that book,” said Maggie impulsively.
He handed it to her; and she began to turn the pages, pausing now and again to read a particular paragraph, and once for nearly a minute while she examined an illustration. Certainly the book seemed interestingly written, and she read an argument or two that appeared reasonably presented. Yet she was extraordinarily repelled even by the dead paper and ink she had in her hands. It was as if it was something obscene. Finally she tossed it back on to the couch.
Laurie waited; but she said nothing.
“Well?” he asked at last, still refraining from looking at her.
“I think it’s horrible,” she said.
Laurie delicately adjusted a little tobacco protruding from his cigarette.
“Isn’t that a little unreasonable?” he asked. “You’ve hardly looked at it yet.”
Maggie knew this mood of his only too well. He reserved it for occasions when he was determined to fight. Argument was a useless weapon against it.
“My dear boy,” she said with an effort, “I’m sorry. I daresay it is unreasonable. But that kind of thing does seem to me so disgusting. That’s all.... I didn’t come to talk about that.... Tell me—”
“Didn’t you?” said Laurie.
Maggie was silent.
“Well—yes I did. But I don’t want to any more.”
Laurie smiled so that it might be seen.
“Well, what else did you want to say?” He glanced purposely at the book. Maggie ignored his glance.
“I just came to see how you were getting on.”
“How do you mean? With the book?”
“No; in every way.”
He looked up at her swiftly and suddenly, and she saw that his agony of sorrow was acute beneath all his attempts at superiority, his courteous fractiousness, and his set face. She was filled suddenly with an enormous pity.
“Oh! Laurie, I’m so sorry,” she cried out. “Can’t I do anything?”
“Nothing, thanks; nothing at all,” he said quietly.
Again pity and misery surged up within her, and she cast all prudence to the winds. She had not realized how fond she was of this boy till she saw once more that look in his eyes.
“Oh! Laurie, you know I didn’t like it; but—but I don’t know what to do, I’m so sorry. But don’t spoil it all,” she said wildly, hardly knowing what she feared.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You know what I mean. Don’t spoil it, by—by fancying things.”
“Maggie,” said the boy quietly, “you must let me alone. You can’t help.”