“Oh!—er—nothing particular,” he murmured. And he set himself down to his books again in silence, conscious of the watchful roving eye on the other side of the table.
About half-past twelve Mr. Morton shut his own book with a slap, leaned back, and began to fill his pipe.
“Nothing seems very important,” he said.
As the last uttered word had been spoken an hour previously, Laurie was bewildered, and looked it.
“It won’t do, Baxter,” went on the other. “You haven’t turned a page an hour this morning.”
Laurie smiled doubtfully, and leaned back too. Then he had a spasm of confidence.
“Yes. I’m rather upset this morning,” he said. “The fact is, last night...”
Mr. Morton waited.
“Well?” he said. “Oh! don’t tell if me you don’t want to.”
Laurie looked at him.
“I wonder what you’d say,” he said at last.
The other got up with an abrupt movement, pushed his books together, selected a hat, and put it on.
“I’m going to lunch,” he said. “Got to be in the Courts at two; and....”
“Oh! wait a minute,” said Laurie. “I think I want to tell you.”
“Well, make haste.” He stood, in attitude to go.
“What do you think of spiritualism?”
“Blasted rot,” said Mr. Morton. “Anything more I can do for you?”
“Do you know anything about it?”
“No. Don’t want to. Is that all?”
“Well, look here;” said Laurie.... “Oh! sit down for two minutes.”
* * * * *
Then he began. He described carefully his experiences of the night before, explaining so much as was necessary of antecedent events. The other during the course of it tilted his hat back, and half leaned, half sat against a side-table, watching the boy at first with a genial contempt, and finally with the same curious interest that one gives to a man with a new disease.
“Now, what d’you make of that?” ended Laurie, flushed and superb.
“D’you want to know?” came after a short silence.
“What I said at the beginning, then.”
“Blasted rot,” said Mr. Morton again.
Laurie frowned sharply, and affected to put his books together.
“Of course, if you take it like that,” he said. “But I don’t know what respect you can possibly have for any evidence, if....”
“My dear chap, that isn’t evidence. No evidence in the world could make me believe that the earth was upside down. These things don’t happen.”
“Then how do you explain...?”
“I don’t explain,” said Mr. Morton. “The thing’s simply not worth looking into. If you really saw that, you’re either mad or else there was a trick.... Now come along to lunch.”
“But I’m not the only one,” cried Laurie hotly.
“No, indeed you’re not.... Look here, Baxter, that sort of thing plays the devil with nerves. Just drop it once and for all. I knew a chap once who went in for all that. Well, the end was what everybody knew would happen....”