Laurie was sitting in his room after breakfast, filling his briar pipe thoughtfully, and contemplating his journey to Stantons.
It was more than six weeks now since his experience in Queen’s Gate, and he had gone through a variety of emotions. Bewildered terror was the first, a nervous interest the next, a truculent skepticism the third; and lately, to his astonishment, the nervous interest had begun to revive.
At first he had been filled with unreasoning fear. He had walked back as far as the gate of the park, hardly knowing where he went, conscious only that he must be in the company of his fellows; upon finding himself on the south side of Hyde Park Corner, where travelers were few, he had crossed over in nervous haste to where he might jostle human beings. Then he had dined in a restaurant, knowing that a band would be playing there, and had drunk a bottle of champagne; he had gone to his rooms, cheered and excited, and had leapt instantly into bed for fear that his courage should evaporate. For he was perfectly aware that fear, and a sickening kind of repulsion, formed a very large element in his emotions. For nearly two hours, unless three persons had lied consummately, he—his essential being, that sleepless self that underlies all—had been in strange company, had become identified in some horrible manner with the soul of a dead person. It was as if he had been informed some morning that he had slept all night with a corpse under his bed. He woke half a dozen times that night in the pleasant curtained bedroom, and each time with the terror upon him. What if stories were true, and this Thing still haunted the air? It was remarkable, he considered afterwards, how the sign which he had demanded had not had the effect for which he had hoped. He was not at all reassured by it.
Then as the days went by, and he was left in peace, his horror began to pass. He turned the thing over in his mind a dozen times a day, and found it absorbing. But he began to reflect that, after all, he had nothing more than he had had before in the way of evidence. An hypnotic sleep might explain the whole thing. That little revelation he had made in his unconsciousness, of his sitting beneath the yews, might easily be accounted for by the fact that he himself knew it, that it had been a deeper element in his experience than he had known, and that he had told it aloud. It was no proof of anything more. There remained the rapping and what the medium had called his “appearance” during the sleep; but of all this he had read before in books. Why should he be convinced any more now than he had been previously? Besides, it was surely doubtful, was it not, whether the rapping, if it had really taken place, might not be the normal cracks and sounds of woodwork, intensified in the attention of the listeners? or if it was more than this, was there any proof that it might not be produced in some way by the intense will-power of some living person present? This was surely conceivable—more conceivable, that is, than any other hypothesis.... Besides, what had it all got to do with Amy?