We'll have you writing a very comic account. I never could see anything very funny in the spirit of one's dead wife, but it's a matter of taste and of knowledge also. If they don't know, how can they take it seriously? I don't blame them. We were mostly like that ourselves once. I was one of Bradlaugh's men, and sat under Joseph MacCabe until my old Dad came and pulled me out."
"Good for him!" said the Liverpool medium.
"It was the first time I found I had powers of my own. I saw him like I see you now."
"Was he one of us in the body?"
"Knew no more than I did. But they come on amazin' at the other side if the right folk get hold of them."
"Time's up!" said Mr. Peeble, snapping his watch. "You are on the right of the chair, Mrs. Debbs. Will you go first? Then you, Mr. Chairman. Then you two and myself. Get on the left, Mr. Hardy Williams, and lead the singin'. They want warmin' up and you can do it. Now then, if you please!"
The platform was already crowded, but the newcomers threaded their way to the front amid a decorous murmur of welcome. Mr. Peeble shoved and exhorted and two end seats emerged upon which Enid and Malone perched themselves. The arrangement suited them well, for they could use their notebooks freely behind the shelter of the folk in front.
"What is your reaction?" whispered Enid.
"Not impressed as yet."
"No, nor I," said Enid, "but it's very interesting all the same."
People who are in earnest are always interesting, whether you agree with them or not, and it was impossible to doubt that these people were extremely earnest. The hall was crammed, and as one looked down one saw line after line of upturned faces, curiously alike in type, women predominating, but men running them close. That type was not distinguished nor intellectual, but it was undeniably healthy, honest and sane. Small trades-folk, male and female shopwalkers, better class artisans, lower middle-class women worn with household cares, occasional young folk in search of a sensation -- these were the impressions which the audience conveyed to the trained observation of Malone.
The fat president rose and raised his hand.
"My friends," said he, "we have had once more to exclude a great number of people who desired to be with us to-night. It's all a question of the building fund, and Mr. Williams on my left will be glad to hear from any of you I was in a hotel last week and they had a notice hung up in the reception bureau: 'No cheques accepted'. That's not the way Brother Williams talks. You just try him."
The audience laughed. The atmosphere was clearly that of the lecture-hall rather than of the Church.
"There's just one more thing I want to say before I sit down. I'm not here to talk. I'm here to hold this chair down and I mean to do it. It's a hard thing I ask. I want Spiritualists to keep away on Sunday nights. They take up the room that inquirers should have. You can have the morning service. But its better for the cause that there should be room for the stranger. You've had it. Thank God for it. Give the other man a chance." The president plumped back into his chair.
Mr. Peeble sprang to his feet. He was clearly the general utility man who emerges in every society and probably becomes its autocrat. With his thin, eager face and darting hands he was more than a live wire -- he was a whole bundle of live wires. Electricity seemed to crackle from his fingertips.
"Hymn One!" he shrieked.
A harmonium droned and the audience rose. It was a fine hymn and lustily sung:
"The world hath felt a quickening breath From Heaven's eternal shore, And souls triumphant over death Return to earth once more."
There was a ring of exultation in the voices as the refrain rolled out:
"For this we hold our Jubilee For this with joy we sing, Oh Grave, where is thy victory Oh Death, where is thy sting?"
Yes, they were in earnest, these people. And they did not appear to be mentally weaker than their fellows. And yet both Enid and Malone felt a sensation of great pity as they looked at them.