Within a week of his original experience, skepticism was dominant. These lines of thought did their work by incessant repetition. The normal life he lived, the large, businesslike face of the lawyer whom he faced day by day, a theatre or two, a couple of dinners—even the noise of London streets and the appearance of workaday persons—all these gradually reassured him.
When therefore he received a nervous little note from Lady Laura, reminding him of the seance to be held in Baker Street, and begging his attendance, he wrote a most proper letter back again, thanking her for her kindness, but saying that he had come to the conclusion that this kind of thing was not good for him or his work, and begging her to make his excuses to Mr. Vincent.
A week or two passed, and nothing whatever happened. Then he heard again from Lady Laura, and again he answered by a polite refusal, adding a little more as to his own state of mind; and again silence fell.
Then at last Mr. Vincent called on him in person one evening after dinner.
* * * * *
Laurie’s rooms were in Mitre Court, very convenient to the Temple—two rooms opening into one another, and communicating with the staircase.
He had played a little on his grand piano, that occupied a third of his sitting-room, and had then dropped off to sleep before his fire. He awakened suddenly to see the big man standing almost over him, and sat up confusedly.
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Baxter; the porter’s boy told me to come straight up. I found your outer door open.”
Laurie hastened to welcome him, to set him down in a deep chair, to offer whisky and to supply tobacco. There was something about this man that commanded deference.
“You know why I have come, I expect,” said the medium, smiling.
Laurie smiled back, a little nervously.
“I have come to see whether you will not reconsider your decision.”
The boy shook his head.
“I think not,” he said.
“You found no ill effects, I hope, from what happened at Lady Laura’s?”
“Not at all, after the first shock.”
“Doesn’t that reassure you at all, Mr. Baxter?”
“It’s like this,” he said; “I’m not really convinced. I don’t see anything final in what happened.”
“Will you explain, please?”
Laurie set the results of his meditations forth at length. There was nothing, he said, that could not be accounted for by a very abnormal state of subjectivity. The fact that this ... this young person’s name was in his mind ... and so forth....
“... And I find it rather distracting to my work,” he ended. “Please don’t think me rude or ungrateful, Mr. Vincent.”
He thought he was being very strong and sensible.
The medium was silent for a moment.
“Doesn’t it strike you as odd that I myself was able to get no results that night?” he said presently.