"I know some of these Spiritualists people and I believe that you can divide them equally into fools and rogues."
Malone had listened with interest and then with a growing indignation. Now he suddenly took fire.
"Look here, Polter," he said, turning his chair towards the company, "it is fools and dolts like you which are holding back the world's progress. You admit that you have read nothing of this, and I'll swear you have seen nothing. Yet you use the position and the name which you have won in other matters in order to discredit a number of people who, whatever they may be, are certainly very earnest and very thoughtful."
"Oh," said Polter, "I had no idea you had got so far. You don't dare to say so in your articles. You are a Spiritualist then. That rather discounts your views, does it not?"
"I am not a Spiritualist, but I am an honest inquirer, and that is more than you have ever been. You call them rogues and fools, but, little as I know, I am sure that some of them are men and women whose boots you are not worthy to clean."
"Oh, come, Malone!" cried one or two voices, but the insulted Polter was on his feet. "It's men like you who empty this club," he cried, as he swept out. "I shall certainly never come here again to be insulted."
"I say, you've done it, Malone!"
"I felt inclined to help him out with a kick. Why should he ride roughshod over other people's feelings and beliefs? He has got on and most of us haven't, so he thinks it's a condescension to come among us."
"Dear old Irishman!" said Atkinson, patting his shoulder. "Rest, perturbed spirit, rest! But I wanted to have a word with you. Indeed, I was waiting here because I did not want to interrupt you."
"I've had interruptions enough!" cried Malone. "How could I work with that damned donkey braying in my ear?"
"Well, I've only a word to say. I've got a sitting with Linden, the famous medium of whom I spoke to you, at the Psychic College to-night. I have an extra ticket. Would you care to come?"
"Come? I should think so!"
"I have another ticket. I should have asked Polter if he had not been so offensive. Linden does not mind sceptics, but objects to scoffers. Who should I ask?"
"Let Miss Enid Challenger come. We work together, you know."
"Why, of course I will. Will you let her know?"
"It's at seven o'clock to-night. The Psychic College. You know the place down at Holland Park."
"Yes, I have the address. Very well, Miss Challenger and I will certainly be there."
Behold the pair, then, upon a fresh psychic adventure. They picked Atkinson up at Wimpole Street, and then traversed that long, roaring rushing, driving belt of the great city which extends through Oxford Street and Bayswater to Notting Hill and the stately Victorian houses of Holland Park. It was at one of these that the taxi drew up, a large, imposing building, standing back a little from the road. A smart maid admitted them, and the subdued light of the tinted hall-lamp fell upon shining linoleum and polished woodwork with the gleam of white marble statuary in the corner. Enid's female perceptions told her of a well-run, well-appointed establishment, with a capable direction at the head. This direction took the shape of a kindly Scottish lady who met them in the hall and greeted Mr. Atkinson as an old friend. She was, in turn, introduced to the journalists as Mrs. Ogilvy. Malone had already heard how her husband and she had founded and run this remarkable institute, which is the centre of psychic experiment in London, at a very great cost, both in labour and in money, to themselves.
"Linden and his wife have gone up," said Mrs. Ogilvy. "He seems to think that the conditions are favourable. The rest are in the drawing-room. Won't you join them for a few minutes?"
Quite a number of people had gathered for the seance, some of them old psychic students who were mildly interested, others, beginners who looked about them with rather startled eyes, wondering what was going to happen next. A tall man was standing near the door who turned and disclosed the tawny beard and open face of Algernon Mailey.