Read CHAPTER II - VICTOR INTERROGATES HIS MOTHER of Victor Ollnee's Discipline , free online book, by Hamlin Garland, on ReadCentral.com.

Once on the train, with the towers of the university building out of sight, Victor’s mind went forward toward the great city whereto he was now hurrying in the spirit of one about to enter a tiger-haunted jungle.  Hitherto he had been unafraid of its tumult, for there his mother lived.  Her home, vague of outline as it was, offered refuge from the thunder and the shouting.  But now its shelter was worse than useless, for its lintel was marked with a sign of shame and terror, and this the law and the lawless knew equally well.

“How will she seem to me now,” he asked himself.  “What will she say to me when we meet?”

On one point he was sternly resolved.  “She must leave the city at once.  We will go West somewhere.  I will earn our living now.”  And at the moment earning a living seemed easy.

The close of a beautiful spring day was spreading over the town as he made his way up the stairway into the unwonted silence of the thoroughfare.  The wind was from the east, clean and cool and sweet.  As he looked down at the river from the bridge and marked its water flowing swiftly from the lake toward the splendid sunset sky he exulted over the power of man, of science, to reverse the natural current of a stream.  “So must I change the whole course of my mother’s life,” he thought with returning resolution.  “It must be done.  It can be done.  It’s all in the will.”

The hit-or-miss squalor of California Avenue filled him with renewed and augmented disgust as he descended from the car at the corner and began his search for his mother’s apartment, which was the top story of a shabby wooden building standing between two shops.  The stairway reeked with associations of poverty, a shifty poverty, and Victor’s gorge rose at it.  The second flight, though cleaner, was musty with decaying wood, and the doorway ­on which a dim card was tacked ­sadly needed paint.  He began to realize sharply the sacrifices which had enabled him to live in the care-free comfort of his chapter-house, and his heart softened.

After knocking twice without obtaining a response he tried the knob.  It yielded and he went in.  All was silent and dim.  For an instant he hesitated.  “Perhaps I’m in the wrong pew after all,” he thought; but as he looked about him he recognized the ghost-room furniture of his boyhood.  On the wall was a familiar picture ­the crayon portrait of a black-whiskered man.  The same old battered walnut table which he remembered so well occupied one corner, and behind it three long tin cones stood upright on their larger ends.  He shivered with disgust at them and turned to the lounge, over which, scattered as if by a gale of wind, lay the leaves of the hated Sunday edition of the Star.  All else was neat and tidy, though threadbare with use.  It was, indeed, very far from being “the gilded den of vice” which the reporter had depicted.

Oppressed by the silence, Victor called out, “Mother, are you here?”

He thought he heard a voice, a husky whisper, say, “Go to her”; and, a little surprised by this, he stepped to the door of the bedroom and peered in.  There, sitting in an arm-chair, half hid in the gloaming, sat his mother with closed eyes and a gray-white face.

“Mother, are you sick?” he cried out, starting toward her.

Again the whisper in the air close to his ear commanded him:  “Stay where you are.  Do not touch her.

“Mother, don’t you know me?  It is Victor.”

The whisper answered:  “Your mother is resting.  We are treating her.  Be patient; she will awaken soon.

For a moment Victor’s heart failed him, so impressive was this whisper, issuing apparently from the empty air.  Then a flood of rage swept over him.  This Voice was one of the tricks charged against her by the paper.  “Mother, stop that!  I won’t have it.  Do you hear me?  Stop it, I say!”

The sleeper stirred and her eyes opened, but no sign of recognition was in them.  Slowly her stiffened hands withdrew from the arms of her chair and clasped themselves in her lap.  Her cheeks, puffed and pallid, were rigid and her eyes, turned upward and inward, gleamed coldly.  The lids were half-closed.  She had a horribly unfamiliar, tortured look, and he started toward her, calling upon her in a voice of anxiety.  “Mother, what is the matter?  Don’t you hear me?”

At last she opened her eyes and a thrill of relief ran through him as he caught a gleam of recognition there.  She lifted her hands feebly, whispering, “My boy, my precious boy!”

Kneeling by her side, he waited for her consciousness to come back.  Her hands, so cold and nerveless, grew warmer, her lips smiled wearily, yet with divine maternal tenderness, and at last she spoke.  “My big, splendid boy!  I knew you would not desert me.  I knew it; I knew it.  I prayed for you.”

“I came by the very first train,” he answered, “and I am here to defend you.”

A loud knocking at the door startled her and she clasped his hand tightly as she whispered:  “That is another of my enemies.  All day they have been coming.  Send them away.”

He put her hands down and rose tensely.  “I’ll smash their faces,” he hotly declared.

“Don’t be rash, Victor, please.”

He strode to the door and opened it.  A dark, handsome young woman and a grinning youth stood without.  They were both a little dashed by Victor’s appearance as he queried, with scowling brow, “What do you want?”

The man replied, “We came to have a sitting.”

Victor exploded.  “Get out,” he shouted.  “If you come back here again I’ll throw you down the stairs.”  Thereupon he slammed the door in their faces and returned to his mother.

“We’ve got to get away from here,” he said as he came to her.  “We can’t stay here another day.”

“That must be as my guide, your grandfather, says,” she replied.

“There’s no use talking like that to me, mother.  You’ve got to stop this business.  I won’t have any more of it.  It’s shameful, and I won’t have it.”

She answered, gently:  “I’m under orders, Victor.  I can do nothing in opposition to The Voices.”

He bent over her with knitted brow.  “See here, mother, I want you to understand that this medium business has got to be cut out.  Look what it has let you in for!  I don’t believe in your Voices, and you must ­”

She stopped him.  “My son, if you do not believe in The Voices you cannot believe in me.  They are real.  If they were not, I should go mad.  They are in my ears all day long.  My comfort is that they are not imaginary.  Others hear them, and that proves to me that they are not an illusion.  If you listen they will speak to you.”

“I don’t want them to speak to me.  I want you to pack up ­”

“Hark!” she commanded.  “They are speaking now.”

As he listened, the same measured whisper which he had heard upon entering the house made itself distinctly heard, apparently in the air, a little higher than his mother’s head. “Boy, trust in us!

Victor glanced at his mother’s lips.  He could not help it; base as it seemed, he suspected her of ventriloquism.  “Who are you?” he asked.

Your grandsire, Nelson Blodgett.

This reply, apparently without his mother’s agency, was uttered in so plain a tone that Victor’s hair rose.  He opened and peered into a little closet which stood behind his mother’s chair.  It was empty, and as he came slowly back and stood looking down into her face a low, breathy chuckle sounded in his ear.

A smart lad.  Needs discipline.

A flush of rage passed over him, leaving him cold.  He studied his mother in silence, convinced that she was cunningly playing upon his fears.  As he pondered she said, quietly:  “I’m glad you came, Victor.  You fill my heart with joy; but you must not stay.  I do not need you.  You must go back to your studies.”

“That I cannot do.”

“Oh, Victor, you must!  I want you to graduate.  Father insists on it.”

“I tell you it is impossible.  Do you suppose I’m going back there where all the fellows are laughing at me?  Why, they’re talking of throwing me out of the club!  More than that, I can’t take another cent of your money.  If I had known how you were earning your living I would never have entered the university at all.”

“Oh, my boy, do you doubt me?  Do you believe what they say against me?”

This brought him face to face with the whole problem.  “Of course I don’t believe that you cheat ­purposely ­but I do think you are abnormal.  You can’t expect me to believe that a voice can come out of the air like that.  It’s impossible!  It’s against all reason, and yet ­”

At this moment another knock, a gentler signal, sounded at the door, and the youth, relieved by the interruption, flared out at the unknown intruder.  “Go away,” he shouted.

“No, no; these are friends,” his mother asserted, and rose to let them in.

Victor caught her by the arm.  “What are you going to do?”

“Open the door.  It is one of my dearest friends.”

“You must not give a sitting.  I won’t have it.”

The knock was repeated and she hurried away, leaving the boy confused, angry, and helpless.

She returned, accompanied by two women.  The first of them was a diminutive, gray-haired lady, with a frank and smiling face, whose dress proclaimed a prosperous and happy station in life.  Her companion was a tall young girl, whose spring suit, quiet in color and exquisitely tailored, became her notably.  The youth thought, “What a stylish girl!” And the sight of her calmed him instantly.

“Victor,” said his mother, and her tone was one of relief, “these are my dearest friends, Mrs. Joyce and Leonora Wood, her niece.”

Victor bowed without speaking, for the heart of battle was still in him.

Mrs. Joyce cried out:  “What a fine, big fellow!  I didn’t expect such a stalwart son.”

“Please be seated,” said Mrs. Ollnee.  “My son has just arrived.  He saw that dreadful article in the paper and came to defend me.”

“That was fine of you,” exclaimed Mrs. Joyce to Victor.  “That same article brought us.  I would have been here before only we don’t take the Star, and I did not see the article until about an hour ago.”

Mrs. Ollnee took up her explanation.  “But, Louise, Victor says he will not go back to college.”

Mrs. Joyce was quick to apprehend the situation.  “I suppose that outrageous article made it appear necessary for you to defend both your mother and yourself,” she said, searchingly.

Victor was not disposed to gloze matters in the least.  “It made a fool of me,” he responded, bitterly.  “It made it impossible for me to look my friends in the face.  How could I convince them that I was not sharing in the profits of my mother’s business?  I told them I didn’t know where my allowance came from, but of course no one believed me.  I know now, and I despise the whole business.  I’ve come down here to take my mother out of it.”

The three women looked at one another sympathetically.  Mrs. Joyce, who knew Mrs. Ollnee’s history intimately, only smiled as she answered:  “I don’t see that you need to feel ashamed of your mother’s profession.  A medium is one of the most precious instruments in this world.  She brings solace to many a sorrowing heart.  Why is her work less honorable than singing, for example?  Furthermore, no one is obliged to come to her.  We sit of our own choice, and if we are not pleased we can refuse to pay, and we need not return.  So you see it is a free contract, after all.”

Her reasoning staggered Victor.  He was confused also by her frank and charming manner.  He perceived that his problem was not so simple as he had imagined.  Hitherto, his life had been single-hearted, with nothing more difficult to decide than a question of moral philosophy; but here, now, he stood confronted by an entirely baffling entanglement of human wills.  This woman, so evidently of the higher world of wealth and culture, accepted his mother’s claims, and this profoundly impressed him.

Mrs. Joyce continued.  “Don’t take this newspaper attack too seriously, Mr. Ollnee.  It was meant to be nasty, and it is nasty; but it is not fatal.  It is a cloud that will soon blow over and leave you and your mother unharmed.”

“It will never blow over for me,” he replied, passionately, “and you must not include me in this thing.  I’ve lived a long way from it thus far, and I don’t intend to mix up with this kind of hokus-pokus.”

“Victor,” called his mother, warningly.

He corrected himself.  “Of course I don’t accuse you of wilfully deceiving anybody.  I’m willing to grant that you think these Voices are real; but my teacher, Doctor Boyden, says that mediumship is only a kind of hysteria ­”

Mrs. Joyce laughed.  “Yes, I’ve read Doctor Boyden’s books.  What does he know about it?  Did he ever study a wonderful psychic like your mother?  Has he candidly examined these phenomena?  Never in his life!  I know all about that kind of investigator.  He is basing his conclusions on somebody’s else’s conjectures or prejudices.”

Victor defended his master.  “He has tried to experiment.  He’s offered prizes for mediums to meet him, but they have refused.  Not one would sit with him.”

“Why should they?  Would you have your mother seek him out to convince him?  Why doesn’t he come to her.  There he sits in his chair, pretending to say that these phenomena are impossible, whereas I know, from many personal tests, that these voices are not merely real, but that they come from my dear ones on the other side and that they sustain and comfort me.”

Victor was silenced, and his discomfiture was made the more complete by the smiling gaze of the young girl, who was evidently enjoying his perplexity.  Nevertheless, though he did not continue the argument, he held to his opinion that they were all victims of his mother’s unconscious necromancy.

Mrs. Joyce continued.  “You say you know nothing about it.  Why not find out something about it?  Here is your mother.  Study her.”

“Why don’t we have a sitting now?” exclaimed Miss Wood.  “It would be fun to see his face when the horns began to dance about.”

Mrs. Ollnee looked a little worried.  “Not now, Leo, I’m too upset.  It’s been a terrible day for me.  I haven’t eaten a thing.”

Mrs. Joyce rose.  “You poor dear!  Let’s go get something.  Come this instant.  You’ll go, Mr. Ollnee.”

His first impulse was to refuse, but as he studied his mother’s pale face and thought of the good effect of the outside air he relented.  “Yes, I’ll go,” he replied, ungraciously.

Miss Wood came over to him and tried to soften his mood.  “I know how you feel about all this, and I know how brutal a scientific sharp can be.  My professors were all against it.  Just the same, it’s a wonderful old world; a good deal more wonderful than some of our teachers admit.”

He did not reply to this, but stood watching his mother as she put on her hat and wrap.  Her whole expression had changed.  Her face had lighted up and her delicacy of feature and small, graceful hands denoted to him as never before the woman of natural refinement and intelligence.  It was hard to consider her at the moment the victim of a brain disorder, and yet ­

Mrs. Joyce led the way down the creaking stairs, and Victor, following in sullen silence, was surprised and a little daunted to find a luxurious automobile waiting for them.  He rebelled at the curb.  “You go on without me,” he said, harshly.  “I’ll stay here till you come back.”

“Oh no,” exclaimed Mrs. Joyce.  “Please come with us.  Your mother will not be happy without you.”

Miss Wood remarked, humorously, “Never refuse a dinner or a ride in a motor-car; that’s my motto.”

His mother timidly lifted her face.  “Victor, Mrs. Joyce is my most loyal friend.  I owe her more than you know.  I wish you would come.”

He yielded with a sense of stepping down, but as he found himself seated beside Miss Wood and whirring swiftly up the street his inflexible attitude softened.  “For this one night I will follow; after that I lead,” he promised himself.

The girl mocked him with subtle intonation.  “I am glad of any mystery and romance which remains in this old world, and I never quarrel with fate.  If any one is disposed to exchange an autocar ride for so intangible a thing as a voice, I trade.”

A little later she reverted to his problem.  “What right have you to pass judgment on your mother without examining her?  I was just as skeptical as you are when I met her first, but she forced me to believe.  I am perfectly certain that she would upset Doctor Boyden.  If he would come down quietly and sit with her she’d convince even him.  She is a very dear little woman, and we all love her.”

Mrs. Joyce leaned over and spoke in his ear.  “It is only through devoted beings like your mother that the bereaved are assured of life everlasting.  She doesn’t tell me that my son is living beyond the veil; she brings him to me.  I hear his voice and touch his hand.”

To this sort of thing he was forced to listen during their course down the shining avenue, and it made the whole city as unreal as a dream.  When they rolled up to the wide portals of a towering hotel a new anxiety presented itself.  “Suppose mother should be recognized as we enter?  Suppose they arrest her here.”

A realization of his own poverty and youth and general helplessness came over him with crushing effect as he trod the hall, which seemed very vast and splendid in his eyes.  He was subdued, too, by the thought that he had not silver enough in his pocket to fee the girl who took their wraps.  His resolution to fight, to earn not only his own living but to rescue his mother, became fainter each moment.  “Can it be that yesterday I was behind the bat?” he asked himself.  “Surely I must be dreaming.”

He perceived another side to his mother’s character.  She seemed quite at ease amid all this splendor, and accepted whatever Mrs. Joyce did for her as something quite definitely her due.

There was no indication of the Sabbath in the gorgeous dining-room, and nothing to show that sorrow or poverty existed in the world; and seeing his mother’s face flushed with pleasure, the perplexed youth relented a little further.  “This one night she may have, but it must be the last of such entertainment on such terms.”

There was in him beneath all this antagonism a kind of dignity and manly strength which pleased Mrs. Joyce.  She was glad to see him lighten up, and she exerted herself to that end.  “There now,” she said, looking about the room.  “Let’s forget all of our troubles.  Let us suppose that all our friends ‘on the other side’ are at dinner also.”

Victor sat in silence what time his mother decided whether she would have asparagus soup or consomme.  It was his first experience with that degree of wealth which takes no thought of price, and glancing at the figures on the bill of fare his hair rose.  Never in his life had he eaten a meal which cost as much as this one order of soup, and the fact that his mother gaily ordered the best indicated to him how deeply indebted she already was to her patroness.  “There must be some very definite need which she supplies,” he conceded, “or Mrs. Joyce would not so gladly pay her bills.”

At the same time his respect and admiration for his mother returned.  As the dinner went on her cheeks glowed with faint color.  Her years of trouble seemed to slip away from her.  She took on youthful grace and charm, glancing often at her handsome son with eyes of maternal pride and content.  “It is so good to have you here,” she silently expressed.  He had never seen this care-free side of her, and the gayer she grew the more alien, in a sense, she became.  She was instinctively the lady, of that he was assured, and though she could not follow Miss Wood in all of her flights of fancy and allusion, she plainly showed unusual powers of appreciation.

The talk also brought out the extraordinary intimacy of the three women.  It appeared that Mrs. Joyce and Mrs. Ollnee were inseparable, that she often took his mother to the opera and to the theater, and as they discussed various singers and actors, whose names alone he knew, his sense of being suburban deepened.  “Why does this vivid and cultured woman seek my mother’s society?  For what reason does she lavish money upon her?  Is it because of her personal charm?  No,” he decided, “that cannot be the reason.”  Beneath her cordial tone he thought he detected the reserve of one who is being kind to a dependent.  “She’s being nice to mother,” he concluded, “because she thinks she’s getting something special from her.  Mother is a freak, not a friend.  She considers her a kind of spiritual telephone.”

Although Miss Wood devoted herself to the task of amusing him, and his face lost some of its gravest lines, yet he could not be denoted a careless youth, even when the wine came on.  He was thinking too deeply to be outwardly ready of retort.  It was too sudden a change from the pastoral air and quiet streets of Winona to be instantly assimilated.  He remained sullen.

His mother eyed him apprehensively but admiringly.  “He looks like his father,” she whispered to Mrs. Joyce.

He would have been inhuman had he not responded to certain charms in Miss Wood.  She had a fine profile, he admitted, finer than that of any girl he knew.  Her eyes, too, were a little disturbing by reason of the small wrinkles of laughter at the corners, but she irritated him.  She was perfectly sure of herself.  Nothing that he did or failed to do affected her in any other way apparently than to deepen her amusement.  Her manner seemed to say, “Wait a few days and see what a fool you’ll find yourself out to be.  You’re nothing but a great big country lad, trying to be a philosopher, trying to live up to a rigid code of morals.  It’s all a pose, a ludicrous attitude of boyish defiance.”

She said nothing of this of course; on the contrary, she talked of things in which he was interested, trying politely to meet him half way.  She was actually a year or two younger than he, but she gave off the air of being five years older.  She had explored immense tracts of human life, or at least of social life, of which he had no knowledge, and this came out in her casual references to New York and Paris.  Her home was in Los Angeles, but she was now staying with her aunt.

He lost his sullen reserve.  The soup, the wine, the bird, and the maid softened his stern mood.  By the time the coffee came on he was talking almost boyishly with his hostess and his face had lost its troubled lines.

His perplexities came back as Mrs. Joyce passed two bills to the waiter in payment for their dinner, and he watched from the corner of his eye to see how much change came back.  Two dollars!  Eighteen dollars for four dinners!  “Great Scot!” he inwardly groaned.  “It would take me a week to earn our share of this meal!” And a returning sense of his mother’s subconscious iniquity reclad him with gloom.

The ride back to California Avenue was less festive, for Mrs. Joyce took occasion to say:  “My advice is this.  Return to college and obtain your degree.  I will take care of your dear little mother.”

“I can’t do that,” he said.  “I’ve quit.  There is no use talking about that.”

“You shouldn’t take this newspaper attack too seriously,” remarked Miss Wood.  “Reporters are always exposing mediums.  It is quite habitual with them, and besides, your mother has been through it before.”

“Is that true?” he asked, with sharpened assault.

“Yes,” Mrs. Ollnee admitted.  “I’ve been attacked in this way twice.”

“Since I have been grown up?”

“Yes; once since you went to Winona.”

“I didn’t know that.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

Mrs. Joyce interposed.  “What was the use?  You could have done nothing.  We who understand these matters make allowances for the reporter’s trade.  He must earn a living some way.”

As she said this Victor recalled the cynical close of the article.  “Probably the true-blue believer will condemn the detective and not the culprit,” the lines ran.  “There are dupes so purblind, so infatuated that nothing, not even the boldest chicanery can shake their faith; nevertheless, a few will take this article for what it is, a full and clear expose of a shrewd and conscienceless trickster.”  And yet, as he faced these intelligent women, Victor could not think of them as being deceived by open chicanery, much less could he admit for a moment that his mother was capable of resorting to it.

It was a dramatic and moving experience for him to go from this cushioned, splendid chariot back to the shabby little apartment which was the only home in the wide world for either his mother or himself.  He was filled with a kind of rage at her, at fate, and at himself, and no sooner were they inside the door than he turned upon her with a note of resentful resolution in his voice.

“Mother, how could you let me in for all of this?  Why did you send me to college, knowing that sooner or later exposure must come?”

“I trusted the voices,” she replied, “just as I must continue to trust them in the future.”

“Now, mother,” he rejoined with a certain foreboding grimness of inflection, “we’ve got to get right down to brass tacks on that business.  I can’t go on any longer in ignorance of who I am and what you are.  I want to know all about you and all about my father.  Who was my father?  What was he?  Did he believe in this thing?”

Her eyes fell.  “No, not while he was on this life’s plane.  Indeed, it was my ‘work’ that ­that separated us.  He hated it and was very harsh about it.  But the first thing he did after he passed on was to come back and tell me that I was right after all.  He asked me to forgive him.”

“Is that his picture up there on the wall?  What did he do for a living?”

“He was a really fine mind, Victor; one of those men who might have been eminent had they gone out into the world.  He was a student and a thinker, but he was not ambitious.  He was content to be the principal of a village school and live quietly; and we were very happy till The Voices began.”

“Did he know you had The Voices when he married you?”

“Yes, I told him all about them, but he only laughed at me.  I suppose he thought it was just a fancy on my part.  Anyhow, he did not take them seriously, and during our courtship they gave me freedom.  My guide said I need not sit for a while and father guarded me from all the evil ones on that side who are so ready to rush in and take possession of a medium.  For two years I had no touch of ‘the power,’ and I really thought it had all gone away from me.  Then you came and I was very ill, and father, my control, returned to tell me that you would be a great man.  ‘Hereafter,’ he said, ’I will direct you in the education of your son.’  Why, Victor, he named you.  He said you should be called Victor because you would overcome all opposition.”

“Well, just how did your separation come about?”

“When my control began to demand things from me your father accused me of playing tricks and sternly forbade any more of it.  I tried not to go into trance.  I fought ‘the power’ and this angered father.  He came upon me so strong that I could do nothing with him.  I heard The Voices all the time and your father thought me crazy.  I had what seemed like epileptic fits.  I seemed to lose my identity ­but I didn’t; I knew all that was going on.  It seemed as if I went out of my body while others entered it and used it to torment and perplex your father.  Then he became convinced that I was abnormal in some way and experimented with me ­all in a very skeptical spirit ­and gradually he lost his regard for me.  I became only ‘a case of hysteria’ to him.  I could see him change from day to day.  He grew colder and more critical and more aloof all the time.  This made me so ill that I was unable to keep my feet ­I grew old rapidly, and another younger and prettier woman, one of his teachers, gained the love I had lost and at last he went away with her.”

There was a little silence before Victor was able to ask, “Where did he go?”

“He went to Denver, and I never saw him again.  He died not long after.”

“Then did you take to making a living out of the ghost-room?”

“After your father left I asked my guides why they permitted him to leave me, and they said it was considered necessary to keep me in ’the work.’  ‘You were too happy,’ they said.  ’You are too valuable an instrument to live out your life simply as wife and mother.  You are now to be devoted to higher aims.’  Since then whenever I have tried to get out of ‘the work’ they have brought me back.  Oh, you don’t know what a clutch they have on me.  They know my income to a dollar.  They let me have just enough to live on and to educate you, but they won’t let my rich friends provide me with an income.  I must do their will exactly or they punish me.”

As she enlarged upon this phase of her life Victor was appalled by it.  Her madness ­and madness it seemed to him ­was now a settled and specific part of her life.  “How do they punish you?” he asked, after a pause.

“They do not hesitate to throw me into convulsions, or make me do things that rob me of my friends.  They bring disaster upon me whenever I try to walk my own road.  Every investment I make on my own judgment they defeat.  Did you ever plague an ant or a bug by putting something in its way, checking its advance, no matter in which direction it went?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I’ve done that as a boy.”

“Well, that is exactly how they treat me.  I’ve given up trying to do anything in opposition to their wishes.  I do the work that is laid out for me.”  She sighed.  “Yes, I’ve ceased to rebel.  I am resigned.  But, Victor, you must not fail me.  I shall be perfectly happy if only you will be content to go with me and to grant at least that the work I am doing is worth while.  You’re all I have now, and when I see you frowning at me, so like your father, I am scared.  That black look is on your face this moment.”

“You need not be afraid of me, mother,” he replied, wearily; “but you must not ask me to believe in your voices and all the rest of it.  It’s too unnatural and too foolish.  But you’re my good little mother all the same, and I’m not going to desert you.  I’m going to stay right here and help you fight it out.”

She took his words to mean something sweet and filial and went to his arms with happiness.

As she lifted her head from his shoulder he looked round the room and said, “But, mother, this ghost-room has got to go.”

“Oh, Victor, don’t say that.  I am ready to promise not to take money for my work, but I can’t promise anything further; and as for my ghost-room, as you call it, it has so many associations with Paul and your grandfather that I cannot think of giving it up.  I dare not give it up.”

“You must quit it,” he repeated.  “If you give another séance ­for money ­I will leave you and I will never come back.”  And on his face was the stubborn look of his father.