The cab pulled up and the man opened the door.
"This is the Spiritualist Church, sir," said he. Then, as he saluted to acknowledge his tip, he added in the wheezy voice of the man of all weathers: "Tommy-rot, I call it, sir." Having eased his conscience thus, he climbed into his seat and a moment later his red rear-lamp was a waning circle in the gloom. Malone laughed.
"Vox populi, Enid. That is as far as the public has got at present."
"Well, it is as far as we have got, for that matter."
"Yes, but we are prepared to give them a show. I don't suppose Cabby is. By Jove, it will be hard luck if we can't get in!"
There was a crowd at the door and a man was facing them from the top of the step, waving his arms to keep them back.
"It's no good, friends. I am very sorry, but we can't help it. We've been threatened twice with prosecution for over-crowding." He turned facetious. "Never heard of an Orthodox Church getting into trouble for that. No, sir, no."
"I've come all the way from 'Ammersmith," wailed a voice. The light beat upon the eager, anxious face of the speaker, a little woman in black with a baby in her arms.
"You've come for clairvoyance, Mam," said the usher, with intelligence. "See here, give me the name and address and I will write you, and Mrs. Debbs will give you a sitting gratis. That's better than taking your chance in the crowd when, with all the will in the world, you can't all get a turn. You'll have her to yourself. No, sir, there's no use shovin' . . . What's that? . . . Press?"
He had caught Malone by the elbow.
"Did you say Press? The Press boycott us, sir. Look at the weekly list of services in a Saturday's Times if you doubt it. You wouldn't know there was such a thing as Spiritualism.... What paper, sir? ... 'The Daily Gazette.' Well, well, we are getting on. And the lady, too? . . . Special article -- my word! Stick to me, sir, and I'll see what I can do. Shut the doors, Joe. No use, friends. When the building fund gets on a bit we'll have more room for you. Now, Miss, this way, if you please."
This way proved to be down the street and round a side-alley which brought them to a small door with a red lamp shining above it.
"I'll have to put you on the platform -- there's no standing room in the body of the hall."
"Good gracious!" cried Enid.
"You'll have a fine view, Miss, and maybe get a readin' for yourself if your lucky. It often happens that those nearest the medium get the best chance. Now, sir, in here!"
Here was a frowsy little room with some hats and top-coats draping the dirty, white-washed walls. A thin, austere woman, with eyes which gleamed from behind her glasses, was warming her gaunt hands over a small fire. With his back to the fire in the traditional British attitude was a large, fat man with a bloodless face, a ginger moustache and curious, light-blue eyes -- the eyes of a deep-sea mariner. A little bald-headed man with huge horn-rimmed spectacles, and a very handsome and athletic youth in a blue lounge-suit completed the group.
"The others have gone on the platform, Mr. Peeble. There's only five seats left for ourselves." It was the fat man talking.
"I know, I know," said the man who had been addressed as Peeble, a nervous, stringy, dried-up person as he now appeared in the light. " But this is the Press, Mr. Bolsover. Daily Gazette special article.... Malone, the name, and Challenger. This is Mr. Bolsover, our President. This is Mrs. Debbs of Liverpool, the famous clairvoyante. Here is Mr. James, and this tall young gentleman is Mr. Hardy Williams, our energetic secretary. Mr. Williams is a nailer for the buildin' fund. Keep your eye on your pockets if Mr. Williams is around."
They all laughed.
"Collection comes later," said Mr. Williams, smiling.
"A good, rousing article is our best collection," said the stout president. "Ever been to a meeting before, sir?"
"No," said Malone.
"Don't know much about it, I expect."
"No, I don't."
"Well, well, we must expect a slating. They get it from the humorous angle at first.