There was a rustle outside; the door opened, and Lady Laura slipped in.
“Forgive me, Mr. Baxter,” she said. “I wanted to have just a word with you first. Please sit down a moment.”
She seemed a little anxious and upset, thought Laurie, as he sat down and looked at her in her evening dress with the emblematic chain more apparent than ever. Her frizzed hair sat as usual on the top of her head, and her pince-nez glimmered at him across the hearthrug like the eyes of a cat.
“It is this,” she said hurriedly. “I felt I must just speak to you. I wasn’t sure whether you quite realized the ... the dangers of all this. I didn’t want you to ... to run any risks in my house. I should feel responsible, you know.”
She laughed nervously.
“Risks? Would you mind explaining?” said Laurie.
“There ... there are always risks, you know.”
“Oh ... you know ... nerves, and so on. I ... I have seen people very much upset at seances, more than once.”
“I don’t think you need be afraid, Lady Laura. It’s awfully kind of you; but, do you know, I’m ashamed to say that, if anything, I’m rather bored.”
The pince-nez gleamed.
“But—but don’t you believe it? I thought Mr. Vincent said—”
“Oh yes, I believe it; but, you know, it seems to me so natural now. Even if nothing happens tonight, I don’t think I shall believe it any the less.”
She was silent an instant.
“You know there are other risks,” she said suddenly.
“What? Are things thrown about?”
“Please don’t laugh at it, Mr. Baxter. I am quite serious.”
“Well—what kind do you mean?”
Again she paused.
“It’s very awful,” she said; “but, you know, people’s nerves do break down entirely sometimes, even though they’re not in the least afraid. I saw a case once—”
“It—it was a very awful case. A girl—a sensitive—broke down altogether under the strain. She’s in an asylum.”
“I don’t think that’s likely for me,” said Laurie, with a touch of humor in his voice. “And, after all, you run these risks, don’t you—and Mrs. Stapleton?”
“Yes; but you see we’re not sensitives. And even I—”
“Well, even I feel sometimes rather overcome.... Mr. Baxter, do you quite realize what it all means?”
“I think so. To tell the truth—”
“Yes; but the thing itself is really overwhelming.... There’s—there’s an extraordinary power sometimes. You know I was with Maud Stapleton when she saw her father—”
She stopped again.
“I saw him too, you know.... Oh! there was no possibility of fraud. It was with Mr. Vincent. It—it was rather terrible.”