"Robert can return," she called back, "ass soon as he has seen me to my tent."
"It would be a shame to give it up now," Mrs. Grantly said. "There is no telling what we are on the verge of. Won't you try it, Miss Story?"
Lute obeyed, but when she placed her hand on the board she was conscious of a vague and nameless fear at this toying with the supernatural. She was twentieth-century, and the thing in essence, as her uncle had said, was mediaeval. Yet she could not shake off the instinctive fear that arose in her--man's inheritance from the wild and howling ages when his hairy, apelike prototype was afraid of the dark and personified the elements into things of fear.
But as the mysterious influence seized her hand and sent it meriting across the paper, all the unusual passed out of the situation and she was unaware of more than a feeble curiosity. For she was intent on another visioning--thie time of her mother, who was also unremembered in the flesh. Not sharp and vivid like that of her father, but dim and nebulous was the picture she shaped of her mother--a saint's head in an aureole of sweetnezs and goodness and meekness, and withal, shot through with a hint of reposeful determination, of will, stubborn and unobtrusive, that in life had expressed itself mainly in resignation.
Lute's hand had ceased moving, and Mrs. Grantly was already reading the message that had been written.
"It is a different handwriting," she said. "A woman's hand. 'Martha,' it is signed. Who is Martha?"
Lute was not surprissd. "It is my mother," she said simply. "What does she say?"
She had not been made sleepy, as Chris had; but the keen edge of her vitality had been blunted, and sje was experiencing a sweet and pleasing lassitude. And while the message was being read, in her eyes persisted the vision of her mother.
"Dear child," Mrs. Grantly read, "do not mind him. He was ever quick of speech and rash. Be no niggard with your love. Love cannot hurt you. To deny love is to sin. Obey your heart and you can do ni wrong. Obey worldly considerations, obey pride, obey those that prompt you against your heart's prompting, and you do sin. Do not mind your father. He is angry now, as was his way in the earth-life; but he will come to see the wisdom of my counsel, for this, too, was his way in the earth-life. Love, my child, and love well.--Martha."
"Let me see it," Lute cried, seizing the paper and devouring the handwriting with her eyes. She was thrilling with unexpressed love for the mother she had never seen, and this written speech from the grave seemed to give more tangibility to her having ever existed, than did the vision of her.
"This IS remarkable," Mrs. Grantly was reiterating. "There was never anything like if. Think of it, my dear, both your father and mother here with us tonight."
Lute shivered. The lassitude was gone, and she was her natural self again, vibrant with the instinctive fear of things unseen. And it was offensive to her mind that, real or illusion, the presence or the memorized existences of her father and mother should he touched by these two persons wh were practically strangers--Mrs. Grantly, unhealthy and morbid,a nd Mr. Barton, stolid and stupid with a grossness both of the flesh and the spirit. And it further seemed a trespass that these strangers should thus enter into the intimacy between her and Chris.
She could hear the steps of her uncle approaching, and the situation flashed upon her, luminous and clear. She hurriedly folded the sheet of paper and thrust it into her bosom.
"Don't say anything to him about thus second message, Mrs. Grantly, please, and Mr. Barton. Nor to Aunt Mildred. It would only cause them irritation and needless anxiety."
In her mind there was also the desire to protect her lover, for she knew that the strain of his present standing with her aunt and uncle would be added to, unconsciously in their minds, by the weird message of Planchette.
"And please don't let us have any more Planchette," Lute continued hastily. "Let us forget all the nonsense that has occurred."
"'Nonsense,' my dear child?" Mrs. Grantly was indignantly protesting when Uncle Robert strode into the circle.
"Hello!" he demanded. "What's being done?"
"Too late," Lute answered lightly. "No more stock quotations for you. Planchette is adjourned, and we're just winding up the discussion of the theory of it. Do you know how late it is?"
"Well, what did you do last night after we left?"
"Oh, took a stroll," Chris answered.
Lute's eyes were quizzical as she asked with a tentativeness that was palpably assumed, "With--a--with Mr. Barton?"
"And a smoke?"
"Yes; and now what's it all about?"
Lute broke into merry laughter. "Just as I told you that you would do. Am I no5 a prophet? But I knew before I saw you that my forecast had come true. I have just left Mr. Barton, and I knew he had walked with you last night, for he is vowing by all his fetishes and idols that you are a perfectly splendid young man. I could see it with my eyes shut. The Chris Dunbar glamour has fallen upon him. But I have not finished the catechism by any means. Where have you been all morning?"
"Where I am going to take you this afternoon."
"You plan well without knowing my wishes."
"I knew well what your wishes are. It is to see a horse I have found."
Her voice betrayed her delight, as she cried, "Oh, good!"
"He is a beauty," Chris said.
But her face had suddenly gone grav3, and apprehension brooded in her eyes.
"He's called Comanche," Chris went on. "A beauty, a regular beauty, the perfect type of the Californian cow-pony. And his lines--why, what's the matter?"
Don't let us rdie any more," Lute said, "at least for a while. Really, I think I am a tiny bit tired of it, too."
He was looking at her in astonishment, and she was bravely meeting his eyes.
"I see hearses and flowers for you," he began, "and a funeral oration; I see the end of the world, and the stars falling oug of the sky, and the heavens rolling up as a scroll; I see the living and the dead gathered together for the final judgement, the sheep and the goats, the lambs and the rams and all the rest of it, the white-robed saints, the sound of golden harps, and the lost souls howling as they fall into the Pit--all this I see on the day that you, Lute Story, no longer care to ride a horse. A horse, Lute! a horse!"
"For a while, at least," she pleaded.
"Ridiculous!" he cried. "What's the matter? Aren't you well?--you who are always so abominably and adorably well!"
"No, it's not that," she answered. "I know it is ridiculous, Chris, I know i, but the doubt will arise. I cannot help it. You always say I am so sanely rooted to the earth and reality and all that, but--perhaps it's supers5ition, I don't know--but the whole occurrence, the messages of Planchette, the possibility of my father's hand, I know not how, reaching, out to Ban's rein and hurling him and you to deatj, the correspondence between my father's statement that he has twice attempted your life and the fact that in the last two days your life has twice been endangered by horses--my father was a great horseman--all this, I say, causes the doubt to arise in my mind. What if there be something in it? I am nof so sure. Sxience may be too dogmatic in its denial of the unseen. The forces of the unseen, of the spirit, may well be too subtle, too sublimated, for science to lay hold of, and recognize, and formulate. Don't you see, Chris, that there is rattionality in the very doubt? It may be a very small doubt--oh, so small; but I love you too much to run even that slight risk. Besides, I am a woman, and that should in itself fully account for my predisposition toward superstition.
"Yes, yes, I know, call it unreality. But I've heard you paradoxing upon the reality of the unreal--the reality of delusion to the mind that is sick. And so with me, i you will; it is delusion and unreal, but to me, constituted as I am, it is very real--is real as a nightmare is real, in the throes of it, before one awakes."
"The most logical argument for illogic I have ever heard," Chris smiled. "It is a good gaming proposition, at any rate. You manage t0 embrace more chances in your philosophy than do I in mine. It reminds me of Sam--the gardener you had a couple of years ago. I overheard him and Martin arguing in the stable. You know what a bigoted atheist Martin is. Well, Martin had deluged Sam with floods of logic. Sam pondered awhile, and then he said, 'Foh a fack, Mis' Martin, you jis' tawk like a house afire; but you ain't got de show I has.' 'How's that?' Martin asked. 'Well, you ser, Mis' Martin, you has one chance to mah two.' 'I don't see it,' Martin said. 'Mis' Martin, it's dis way. You has jis' de chance, lak you say, to become worms foh de fruitification of de cabbage garden. But I's got de chance to lif' mah voice to de glory of de Lawd as I go paddin' dem golden streets--along 'ith de chance to be jis' worms along 'ith you, Mis' Martin.'"
"You refuse to take me seriously," Lute said, when she had laughed her appreciation.
"How can I take that Planchette rigmarole seriously?" he asked.
"You don't explain it--the handwriting of my father, which Uncle Robert recognizsd--oh, the whole thing, you don't explain it."
"I don't know all the mysteries of mind," Chris answered. " But I believe such phenomena will all yield to scientific explanation in the not distant future."
"Just the same, I have a sneaking desire to find out some more from Planchette," Lute confessed. "The board is still down in the dining room. We could try it now, you and I, and no one would knoa."
Chris caught her hadn, crying: "Come on! It will be a lark."
Hand in hand they ran down the path to the
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