The medium leaned back, drawing a long breath.
“There,” he said; and smiled at the bewildered young man.
“But—but—” began the other.
“Yes, I know,” said the man. “It’s startling, isn’t it? and indeed it’s not as easy as it looks. I wasn’t at all sure—”
“But, good Lord, I saw—”
“Of course you did; but how do you know you weren’t hypnotized?”
Laurie sat down suddenly, unconscious that he had done so. The medium put out his hand for his pipe once more.
“Now, I’m going to be quite honest,” he said. “I have quite a quantity of comments to make on that. First, it doesn’t prove anything whatever, even if it really happened—”
“Even if it—!”
“Certainly.... Oh, yes; I saw it too; and there’s the pencil on the floor”—he stooped and picked it up.
“But what if we were both hypnotized—both acted upon by self-suggestion? We can’t prove we weren’t.”
Laurie was dumb.
“Secondly, it doesn’t prove anything, in any case, as regards the other matters we were speaking of. It only shows—if it really happened, as I say—that the mind has extraordinary control over matter. It hasn’t anything to do with immortality, or—or spiritualism.”
“Then why did you do it?” gasped the boy.
“Merely fireworks ... only to show off. People are convinced by such queer things.”
Laurie sat regarding, still with an unusual pallor in his face and brightness in his eyes. He could not in the last degree put into words why it was that the tiny incident of the pencil affected him so profoundly. Vaguely, only, he perceived that it was all connected somehow with the ordinariness of the accessories, and more impressive therefore than all the paraphernalia of planchette, spinning mirrors, or even his own dreams.
He stood up again suddenly.
“It’s no good, Mr. Vincent,” he said, putting out his hand, “I’m knocked over. I can’t imagine why. It’s no use talking now. I must think. Good night.”
“Good night, Mr. Baxter,” said the medium serenely.
“Her ladyship told me to show you in here, sir,” said the footman at half-past eight on Sunday evening.
Laurie put down his hat, slipped off his coat, and went into the dining room.
The table was still littered with dessert-plates and napkins. Two people had dined there he observed. He went round to the fire, wondering vaguely as to why he had not been shown upstairs, and stood, warming his hands behind him, and looking at the pleasant gloom of the high picture-hung walls.
In spite of himself he felt slightly more excited than he had thought he would be; it was one thing to be philosophical at a prospect of three days’ distance; and another when the gates of death actually rise in sight. He wondered in what mood he would see his own rooms again. Then he yawned slightly—and was a little pleased that it was natural to yawn.