“He seems a sensible fellow,” he said.
“Ah! that’s what I wanted to ask you, father. I don’t know anything at all about spiritualism. Is it—is it really all nonsense? Is there nothing in it at all?”
He laughed aloud.
“I don’t think you need be afraid,” he said. “Of course we know that souls don’t come back like that. They’re somewhere else.”
“Then it’s all fraud?”
“It’s practically all fraud,” he said, “but it’s very superstitious, and is forbidden by the Church.”
This was straight enough. It was at least a clear issue to begin to attack Laurie upon.
“Then—then that’s the evil of it?” she said. “There’s no real power underneath? That’s what Mr. Rymer said to Mrs. Baxter; and it’s what I’ve always thought myself.”
The priest’s face became theological.
“Let’s see what Sabetti says,” he said. “I fancy—”
He turned in his chair and fetched out a volume behind him.
“Here we are....”
He ran his finger down the heavy paragraphs, turned a page or two, and began a running comment and translation: “’Necromantia ex’.... ’Necromancy arising from invocation of the dead’.... Let’s see ... yes, ’Spiritism, or the consulting of spirits in order to know hidden things, especially that pertain to the future life, certainly is divination properly so called, and is ... is full of even more impiety than is magnetism, or the use of turning tables. The reason is, as the Baltimore fathers testify, that such knowledge must necessarily be ascribed to Satanic intervention, since in no other manner can it be explained.’”
“Then—” began Maggie.
“One moment, my child.... Yes ... just so. ’Express divination’.... No, no. Ah! here we are, ’Tacit divination, ... even if it is openly protested that no commerce with the Demon is intended, is per se grave sin; but it can sometimes be excused from mortal sin, on account of simplicity or ignorance or a lack of certain faith.’ You see, my child—” he set the book back in its place “—so far as it’s not fraud it’s diabolical. And that’s an end of it.”
“But do you think it’s not all fraud, then?” asked the girl, paling a little.
He laughed again, with a resonance that warmed her heart.
“I should pay just no attention to it all. Tell him, if you like, what I’ve said, and that it’s grave sin for him to play with it; but don’t get thinking that the devil’s in everything.”
Maggie was puzzled.
“Then it’s not the devil?” she asked—“at least not in this case, you think?”
He smiled again reassuringly.
“I should suspect it was a clever trick,” he said. “I don’t think Master Laurie’s likely to get mixed up with the devil in that way. There’s plenty of easier ways than that.”
“Do you think I should write to Mr. Cathcart?”
“Just as you like. He’s a convert, isn’t he? I believe I’ve heard his name.”