Laurie sneered audibly.
“Got frightened, I suppose,” he said. “Of course, I know well enough that it’s rather startling—”
“My dear man, he was in the thick of it for ten years. I’ll acknowledge his stories are hair-raising, if one believed them; but then, you see—”
“What’s his address?”
Morton jerked his head towards the directories in the bookshelf.
“Find him there,” he said. “I’ll give you an introduction if you want it. Though, mind you, I think he talks as much rot as anyone—”
“What does he say?”
“Lord!—I don’t know. Some theory or other. But, at any rate, he’s given it up.”
Laurie pursed his lips.
“I daresay I’ll ask you some time,” he said. “Meanwhile—”
“Meanwhile, for the Lord’s sake, get on with that business you’ve got there.”
* * * * *
Mr. Morton was indeed, as Laurie had reflected, extraordinarily uninterested in things outside his beat; and his beat was not a very extended one. He was a quite admirable barrister, competent, alert, merciless and kindly at the proper times, and, while at his business, thought of hardly anything else at all. And when he was not at his business, he threw himself with equal zest into two or three other occupations—golf, dining out, and the collection of a particular kind of chairs. Beyond these things there was for him really nothing of value.
But, owing to circumstances, his beat had been further extended to include Laurie Baxter, whom he was beginning to like extremely. There was an air of romance about Laurie, a pleasant enthusiasm, excellent manners, and a rather delightful faculty of hero-worship. Mr. Morton himself, too, while possessing nothing even resembling a religion, was, like many other people, not altogether unattracted towards those who had, though he thought religiousness to be a sign of a slightly incompetent character; and he rather liked Laurie’s Catholicism, such as it was. It must be rather pleasant, he considered (when he considered it at all), to believe “all that,” as he would have said.
So this new phase of Laurie’s interested him far more than he would have allowed, so soon as he became aware that it was not merely superficial; and, indeed, Laurie’s constant return to the subject, as well as his air of enthusiastic conviction, soon convinced him that this was so.
Further, after a week or two, he became aware that the young man’s work was suffering; and he heard from his lips the expression of certain views that seemed to the elder man extremely unhealthy.
For example, on a Friday evening, not much afterwards, as Laurie was putting his books together, Mr. Morton asked him where he was going to spend the week-end.
“Stopping in town,” said the boy briefly.
“Oh! I’m going to my brother’s cottage. Care to come? Afraid there’s no Catholic church near.”