"I daresay they all take the line of least resistance. I can only say that I have never detected him in fraud. You must judge for yourself."
"I will," said Malone. "I am getting hot on this trail. And there is copy in it, too. When things are more easy I'll write to you, Atkinson, and we can go more deeply into the matter."
4. Which Describes Some Strange Doings In Hammersmith
THE article by the Joint Commissioners (such was their glorious title) aroused interest and contention. It had been accompanied by a depreciating leaderette from the sub-editor which was meant to calm the susceptibilities of his orthodox readers, as who should say: "These things have to be noticed and seem to be true, but of course you and I recognize how pestilential it all is." Malone found himself at once plunged into a huge correspondence, for and against, which in itself was enough to show how vitally the question was in the minds of men. All the previous articles had only elicited a growl here or there from a hide-bound Catholic or from an iron-clad Evangelical, but now his post-bag was full. Most of them were ridiculing the idea that psychic forces existed and many were from writers who, whatever they might know of psychic forces, had obviously not yet learned to spell. The Spiritualists were in many cases not more pleased than the others, for Malone had -- even while his account was true -- exercised a journalist's privilege of laying an accent on the more humorous sides of it.
One morning in the succeeding week Mr. Malone was aware of a large presence in the small room wherein he did his work at the office. A page-boy, who preceded the stout visitor, had laid a card on the corner of the table which bore the legend 'James Bolsover, Provision Merchant, High Street, Hammersmith.' It was none other than the genial president of last Sunday's congregation. He wagged a paper accusingly at Malone, but his good-humoured face was wreathed in smiles.
"Well, well," said he. "I told you that the funny side would get you."
"Don't you think it a fair account?"
" Well, yes, Mr. Malone, I think you and the young woman have done your best for us. But, of course, you know nothing and it all seems queer to you. Come to think of it, it would be a deal queerer if all the clever men who leave this earth could not among them find some way of getting a word back to us."
"But it's such a stupid word sometimes."
"Well, there are a lot of stupid people leave the world. They don't change. And then, you know, one never knows what sort of message is needed. We had a clergyman in to see Mrs. Debbs yesterday. He was broken-hearted because he had lost his daughter. Mrs. Debbs got several messages through that she was happy and that only his grief hurt her. 'That's no use', said he. 'Anyone could say that. That's not my girl'. And then suddenly she said: 'But I wish to goodness you would not wear a Roman collar with a coloured shirt'. That sounded a trivial message, but the man began to cry. 'That's her', he sobbed. 'She was always chipping me about my collars'. It's the little things that count in this life -- just the homely, intimate things, Mr. Malone."
Malone shook his head.
"Anyone would remark on a coloured shirt and a clerical collar."
Mr. Bolsover laughed. "You're a hard proposition. So was I once, so I can't blame you. But I called here with a purpose. I expect you are a busy man and I know that I am, so I'll get down to the brass tacks. First, I wanted to say that all our people that have any sense are pleased with the article. Mr. Algernon Mailey wrote me that it would do good, and if he is pleased we are all pleased."
"Mailey the barrister?"
"Mailey, the religious reformer. That's how he will be known."
"Well, what else?"
"Only that we would help you if you and the young lady wanted to go further in the matter. Not for publicity, mind you, but just for your own good -- though we don't shrink from publicity, either. I have psychical phenomena seances at my own home without a professional medium, and if you would like .