“I’m afraid the monument’s rather ... rather awful.... Do you like the flowers, Laurie?”
She was noticing that the chrysanthemums were a little blackened by the frost; and hardly attended to the fact that he did not answer.
“Do you like the flowers?” she said again presently.
He started from his prolonged stare downwards.
“Oh yes, yes,” he said; “they’re ... they’re lovely.... Maggie, the grave’s all right, isn’t it: the mound, I mean?”
At first she hardly understood.
“Oh yes ... what do you mean?”
He sighed, whether in relief or not she did not know.
“Only ... only I have heard of mounds sinking sometimes, or cracking at the sides. But this one—”
“Oh yes,” interrupted the girl. “But this was very bad yesterday.... What’s the matter, Laurie?”
He had turned his face with some suddenness, and there was in it a look of such terror that she herself was frightened.
“What were you saying, Maggie?”
“It was nothing of any importance,” said the girl hurriedly. “It wasn’t in the least disfigured, if that—”
“Maggie, will you please tell me exactly in what condition this grave was yesterday? When was it put right?”
“I ... I noticed it when I brought the chrysanthemums up yesterday morning. The ground was sunk a little, and cracks were showing at the sides. I told the sexton to put it right. He seems to have done it.... Laurie, why do you look like that?”
He was staring at her with an expression that might have meant anything. She would not have been surprised if he had burst into a fit of laughter. It was horrible and unnatural.
“Laurie! Laurie! Don’t look like that!”
He turned suddenly away and left her. She hurried after him.
On the way to the house he told her the whole story from beginning to end.
The two were sitting together in the little smoking-room at the back of the house on the last night of Laurie’s holidays. He was to go back to town next morning.
Maggie had passed a thoroughly miserable week. She had had to keep her promise not to tell Mrs. Baxter—not that that lady would have been of much service, but the very telling would be a relief—and things really were not serious enough to justify her telling Father Mahon.
To her the misery lay, not in any belief she had that the spiritualistic claim was true, but that the boy could be so horribly excited by it. She had gone over the arguments again and again with him, approving heartily of his suggestions as to the earlier part of the story, and suggesting herself what seemed to her the most sensible explanation of the final detail. Graves did sink, she said, in two cases out of three, and Laurie was as aware of that as herself. Why in the world should not this then be attributed to the same subconscious mind as that which, in the hypnotic sleep—or whatever it was—had given voice to the rest of his imaginations? Laurie had shaken his head. Now they were at it once more. Mrs. Baxter had gone to bed half an hour before.