“I think so.”
“Well, it wouldn’t do any harm; though I should suspect not much good.”
Maggie was silent.
“Just tell Master Laurie not to play tricks,” said the priest. “He’s got a good, sensible friend in Mr. Morton. I can see that. And don’t trouble your head too much about it, my child.”
* * * * *
When Maggie was gone, he went out to finish his cigar, and found to his pleasure that it was still alight, and after a puff or two it went very well.
He thought about his interview for a few minutes as he walked up and down, taking the bright winter air. It explained a good deal. He had begun to be a little anxious about this boy. It was not that Laurie had actually neglected his religion while at Stantons; he was always in his place at mass on Sundays, and even, very occasionally, on weekdays as well. And he had had a mass said for Amy Nugent. But even as far back as the beginning of the previous year, there had been an air about him not altogether reassuring.
Well, this at any rate was a small commentary on the present situation.... (The priest stopped to look at some bulbs that were coming up in the bed beside him, and stooped, breathing heavily, to smooth the earth round one of them with a large finger.)... And as for this Spiritualistic nonsense—of course the whole thing was a trick. Things did not happen like that. Of course the devil could do extraordinary things: or at any rate had been able to do them in the past; but as for Master Laurie Baxter—whose home was down there in the hamlet, and who had been at Oxford and was now reading law—as for the thought that this rather superior Saxon young man was in direct communication with Satan at the present time—well, that needed no comment but loud laughter.
Yet it was very unwholesome and unhealthy. That was the worst of these converts; they could not be content with the sober workaday facts of the Catholic creed. They must be always running after some novelty or other.... And it was mortal sin anyhow, if the sinner had the faintest idea—
A large dinner-bell pealed from the back door; and the priest went in to roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, apple dumplings, and a single glass of port-wine to end up with.
It was strange how Maggie felt steadied and encouraged in the presence of something at least resembling danger. So long as Laurie was merely tiresome and foolish, she distrusted herself, she made little rules and resolutions, and deliberately kept herself interiorly detached from him. But now that there was something definite to look to, her sensitiveness vanished.
As to what that something was, she did not trust herself to decide. Father Mahon had given her a point to work at—the fact that the thing, as a serious pursuit, was forbidden; as to what the reality behind was, whether indeed there were any reality at all, she did not allow herself to consider. Laurie was in a state of nerves sufficiently troublesome to bring a letter from his friend and guide; and he was in that state through playing tricks on forbidden ground; that was enough.