Laurie rolled over on to his back. The thought was violently overwhelming; there was a furious, absorbing fascination in it. The gulf had been bridged; it could be bridged again. Even if tales were true, it could be bridged far more securely yet. It was possible that the phantom he had seen could be brought yet more forward into the world of sense, that he could touch again with his very hand a tabernacle enclosing her soul. So far spiritualism had not failed him; why should he suspect it of failure in the future? It had been done before; it could, and should, be done again. Besides, there was the pencil incident....
He threw off the clothes and sprang out of bed. It was time to get up; time to begin again this fascinating, absorbingly interesting earthly life, which now had such enormous possibilities.
The rooms of Mr. James Morton were conveniently situated up four flights of stairs in one of those blocks of buildings, so mysterious to the layman, that lie not a very long way from Charing Cross. There is a silence always here as of college life, and the place is frequented by the same curious selections from the human race as haunt University courts. Here are to be seen cooks, aged and dignified men, errand-boys, and rather shabby old women.
The interior of the rooms, too, is not unlike that of an ordinary rather second-rate college; and Mr. James Morton’s taste did not redeem the chambers in which he sat. From roof to floor the particular apartment in which he sat was lined with bookshelves filled with unprepossessing volumes and large black tin boxes. A large table stood in the middle of the room, littered with papers, with bulwarks of the same kind of tin boxes rising at either end.
Mr. Morton himself was a square-built man of some forty years, clean-shaven, and rather pale and stout, with strongly marked features, a good loud voice, and the pleasant, brusque manners that befit a University and public school man who has taken seriously to business.
Laurie and he got on excellently together. The younger man had an admiration for the older, whose reputation as a rather distinguished barrister certainly deserved it, and was sufficiently in awe of him to pay attention to his directions in all matters connected with law. But they did not meet much on other planes. Laurie had asked the other down to Stantons once, and had dined with him three or four times in return. And there their acquaintance found its limitations.
This morning, however, the boy’s interested air, with its hints of suppressed excitement and his marked inattention to the books and papers which were his business, at last caused the older man to make a remark. It was in his best manner.
“What’s the matter, eh?” he suddenly shot at him, without prelude of any kind.
Laurie’s attention came back with a jump, and he flushed a little.