He shook hands with the newcomers.
"Another experience, Mr. Malone? Well, I thought you gave a very fair account of the last. You are still a neophyte, but you are well within the gates of the temple. Are you alarmed, Miss Challenger?"
"I don't think I could be while you were around," she answered.
"Of course, a materialization seance is a little different to any other -- more impressive, in a way. You'll find it very instructive, Malone, as bearing upon psychic photography and other matters. By the way, you should try for a psychic picture. The famous Hope works upstairs."
"I always thought that that at least was fraud."
"On the contrary, I should say it was the best established of all phenomena, the one which leaves the most permanent proof. I've been a dozen times under every possible test conditions. The real trouble is, not that it lends itself to fraud, but that it lends itself to exploitation by that villainous journalism which cares only for a sensation. Do you know anyone here?"
"No, we don't."
"The tall, handsome lady is the Duchess of Rossland. Then, there are Lord and Lady Montnoir, the middle-aged couple near the fire. Real, good folk and among the very few of the aristocracy who have shown earnestness and moral courage in this matter. The talkative lady is Miss Badley, who lives for seances, a jaded Society woman in search of new sensations -- always visible, always audible, and always empty. I don't know the two men. I heard someone say they were researchers from the university. The stout man with the lady in black is Sir James Smith -- they lost two boys in the war. The tall, dark person, is a weird man named Barclay, who lives, I understand, in one room and seldom comes out save for a seance."
"And the man with the horn glasses?"
"That is a pompous ass named Weatherby. He is one of those who wander about on the obscure edges of Masonry, talking with whispers and reverence of mysteries where no mystery is. Spiritualism, with its very real and awful mysteries, is, to him, a vulgar thing because it brought consolation to common folk, but he loves to read papers on the Palladian Cultus, ancient and accepted Scottish rites, and Baphometic figures. Eliphas Levi is his prophet."
"It sounds very learned." said Enid.
"Or very absurd. But, hullo! Here are mutual friends." The two Bolsovers had arrived, very hot and frowsy and genial. There is no such leveller of classes as Spiritualism, and the charwoman with psychic force is the superior of the millionaire who lacks it. The Bolsovers and the aristocrats fraternized instantly. The Duchess was just asking for admission to the grocer's circle, when Mrs. Ogilvy bustled in.
"I think everyone is here now," she said. "It is time to go upstairs."
The seance room was a large, comfortable chamber on the first floor, with a circle of easy chairs, and a curtain-hung divan which served as a cabinet. The medium and his wife were waiting there. Mr. Linden was a gentle, large-featured man, stoutish in build, deep-chested, clean-shaven, with dreamy, blue eyes and flaxen, curly hair which rose in a pyramid at the apex of his head. He was of middle age. His wife was rather younger, with the sharp, querulous expression of the tired housekeeper, and quick, critical eyes, which softened into something like adoration when she looked at her husband. Her role was to explain matters, and to guard his interests while he was unconscious.
"The sitters had better just take their own places," said the medium. "If you can alternate the sexes it is as well. Don't cross your knees, it breaks the current. If we have a materialization, don't grab at it. If you do, you are liable to injure me."
The two sleuths of the Research Society looked at each other knowingly. Mailey observed it.
"Quite right," he said. "I have seen two cases of dangerous haemorrhage in the medium brought on by that very cause."
"Why?" asked Malone.
"Because the ectoplasm used is drawn from the medium. It recoils upon him like a snapped elastic band.