“Oh, I daresay. But wouldn’t you ask yet another after that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Or wouldn’t you think you’d been hypnotized?”
Laurie shook his head.
“I’m not a fool,” he said.
“Then give me that pencil,” said the medium, suddenly extending his hand.
Laurie stared a moment. Then he handed over the pencil.
On the little table by the arm-chair, a couple of feet from Laurie, stood the whisky apparatus and a box of cigarettes. These the medium, without moving from his chair, lifted off and set on the floor beside him, leaving the woven-grass surface of the table entirely bare. He then laid the pencil gently in the center—all without a word. Laurie watched him carefully.
“Now kindly do not speak one word or make one movement,” said the man peremptorily. “Wait! You’re perfectly sure you’re not hypnotized, or any other nonsense?”
“Just go round the room, look out of the window, poke the fire—anything you like.”
“I’m satisfied,” said the boy.
“Very good. Then kindly watch that pencil.”
The medium leaned a little forward in his chair, bending his eyes steadily upon the little wooden cylinder lying, like any other pencil, on the top of the table. Laurie glanced once at him, then back again. There it lay, common and ordinary.
For at least a minute nothing happened at all, except that from the intentness of the elder man there seemed once more to radiate out that curious air of silence that Laurie was beginning to know so well—that silence that seemed impenetrable to the common sounds of the world and to exist altogether independent of them. Once and again he glanced round at the ordinary-looking room, the curtained windows, the dull furniture; and the second time he looked back at the pencil he was almost certain that some movement had just taken place with it. He resolutely fixed his eyes upon it, bending every faculty he possessed into one tense attitude of attention. And a moment later he could not resist a sudden movement and a swift indrawing of breath; for there, before his very eyes, the pencil tilted, very hesitatingly and quiveringly, as if pulled by a spider’s thread. He heard, too, the tiny tap of its fall.
He glanced at the medium, who jerked his head impatiently, as if for silence. Then once more the silence came down.
A minute later there was no longer the possibility of a doubt.
There before the boy’s eyes, as he stared, white-faced, with parted lips, the pencil rose, hesitated, quivered; but, instead of falling back again, hung so for a moment on its point, forming with itself an acute angle with the plane of the table in an entirely impossible position; then, once more rising higher, swung on its point in a quarter circle, and after one more pause and quiver, rose to its full height, remained poised one instant, then fell with a sudden movement, rolled across the table and dropped on the carpet.