“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it work,” said the painter.
“Well, sometimes it won’t work,” she returned, altogether mockingly now, and sat holding her shapely hands, which were neither so large nor so rough as they might have been, across her middle and watching her son while the machine pushed about under his palm, and he bent his wan eyes upon one of the oval-framed photographs on the wall, as if rapt in a supernal vision. The boy stared drowsily at the planchette, jerking this way and that, and making abrupt starts and stops. At last the young man lifted his palm from it, and put it aside to study the hieroglyphics it had left on the paper.
“What’s it say?” asked his mother.
The young man whispered: “I can’t seem to make out very clear. I guess I got to take a little time to it,” he added, leaning back wearily in his chair. “Ever seen much of the manifestations?” he gasped at Westover.
“Never any, before,” said the painter, with a leniency for the invalid which he did not feel for his belief.
The young man tried for his voice, and found enough of it to say: “There’s a trance medium over at the Huddle. Her control says ’t I can develop into a writin’ medium.” He seemed to refer the fact as a sort of question to Westover, who could think of nothing to say but that it must be very interesting to feel that one had such a power.
“I guess he don’t know he’s got it yet,” his mother interposed. “And planchette don’t seem to know, either.”
“We ha’n’t given it a fair trial yet,” said the young man, impartially, almost impassively.
“Wouldn’t you like to see it do some of your sums, Jeff ?” said the mother to the drowsy boy, blinking in a corner. “You better go to bed.”
The elder brother rose. “I guess I’ll go, too.”
The father had not joined their circle in the parlor, now breaking up by common consent.
Mrs. Durgin took up her lamp again and looked round on the appointments of the room, as if she wished Westover to note them, too: the drab wallpaper, the stiff chairs, the long, hard sofa in haircloth, the high bureau of mahogany veneer.
“You can come in here and set or lay down whenever you feel like it,” she said. “We use it more than folks generally, I presume; we got in the habit, havin’ it open for funerals.”
Four or five days of perfect weather followed one another, and Westover worked hard at his picture in the late afternoon light he had chosen for it. In the morning he tramped through the woods and climbed the hills with Jeff Durgin, who seemed never to do anything about the farm, and had a leisure unbroken by anything except a rare call from his mother to help her in the house. He built the kitchen fire, and got the wood for it; he picked the belated pease and the early beans in the garden, and shelled them;