“It has been astonishing ... astonishing,” sighed Mrs. Stapleton. “What a find!”
There was no more said. Lady Laura sat as one in trance herself.
Then Mr. Vincent returned.
“You must not lose sight of that young man,” he said abruptly. “It is an extraordinary case.”
“I have all the notes here,” remarked Mrs. Stapleton.
“Yes; you had better keep them. He must not see them at present.”
As the weeks went by Maggie’s faint uneasiness disappeared. She was one of those fortunate persons who, possessing what are known as nerves, are aware of the possession, and discount their effects accordingly.
That uneasiness had culminated a few days after Laurie’s departure one evening as she sat with the old lady after tea—in a sudden touch of terror at she knew not what.
“What is the matter, my dear?” the old lady had said without warning.
Maggie was reading, but it appeared that Mrs. Baxter had noticed her lower her book suddenly, with an odd expression.
Maggie had blinked a moment.
“Nothing,” she said. “I was just thinking of Laurie; I don’t know why.”
But since then she had been able to reassure herself. Her fancies were but fancies, she told herself; and they had ceased to trouble her. The boy’s letters to his mother were ordinary and natural: he was reading fairly hard; his coach was as pleasant a person as he had seemed; he hoped to run down to Stantons for a few days at Christmas. There was nothing whatever to alarm anyone; plainly his ridiculous attitude about Spiritualism had been laid by; and, better still, he was beginning to recover himself after his sorrow in September.
It was an extraordinarily peaceful and uneventful life that the two led together—the kind of life that strengthens previous proclivities and adds no new ones; that brings out the framework of character and motive as dropping water clears the buried roots of a tree. This was all very well for Mrs. Baxter, whose character was already fully formed, it may be hoped; but not so utterly satisfactory for the girl, though the process was pleasant enough.
After Mass and breakfast she spent the morning as she wished, overseeing little extra details of the house—gardening plans, the poultry, and so forth—and reading what she cared to. The afternoon was devoted to the old lady’s airing; the evening till dinner to anything she wished; and after dinner again to gentle conversation. Very little happened. The Vicar and his wife dined there occasionally, and still more occasionally Father Mahon. Now and then there were vague entertainments to be patronized in the village schoolroom, in an atmosphere of ink and hair-oil, and a mild amount of rather dreary and stately gaiety connected with the big houses round. Mrs. Baxter occasionally put in appearances, a dignified and aristocratic old figure with her gentle eyes and black lace veil; and Maggie went with her.