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Chapter 7

VII.

Wanhope desisted with a provisional air, and Rulledge went and got
Himself a sandwich from the lunch-table.

"Well, upon my word!" said Minver. "I thought you had dined, Rulledge."

Rulledge came back munching, and said to Wanhope, as he settled himself in his chair again: "Well, go on."

"Why, that's all."

The psychologist was silent, with Rulledge staring indignantly at him.

"I suppose Mrs. Ormond had her theory?" I ventured.

"Oh, yes—such as it was," said Wanhope. "It was her belief—her religion—that Ormond had seen Death, in person or personified, or the angel of it; and that the sight was something beautiful, and not terrible. She thought that she should see Death, too in the same way, as a messenger. I don't know that it was such a bad theory," he added impartially.

"Not," said Minver, "if you suppose that Ormond was off his nut. But, in regard to the whole matter, there is always a question of how much truth there was in what she said about it."

"Of course," the psychologist admitted, "that is a question which must be considered. The question of testimony in such matters is the difficult thing. You might often believe in supernatural occurrences if it were not for the witnesses. It is very interesting," he pursued, with his scientific smile, "to note how corrupting anything supernatural or mystical is. Such things seem mostly to happen either in the privity of people who are born liars, or else they deprave the spectator so, through his spiritual vanity or his love of the marvelous, that you can't believe a word he says.

"They are as bad as horses on human morals," said Minver. "Not that I think it ever needed the coming of a ghost to invalidate any statement of Mrs. Ormond's." Rulledge rose and went away growling something, partially audible, to the disadvantage of Minver's wit, and the painter laughed after him: "He really believes it."

Wanhope's mind seemed to be shifted from Mrs. Ormond to her convert, whom he followed with his tolerant eyes. "Nothing in all this sort of inquiry is so impossible to predicate as the effect of any given instance upon a given mind. It would be very interesting—"

"Excuse me!" said Minver. "There's Whitley. I must speak to him."

He went away, leaving me alone with the psychologist.

"And what is your own conclusion in this instance?" I asked.

"Why, I haven't formulated it yet."

* * * * *

William Dean Howells

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