He will see no one this morning."
But Linden had recognized his visitor.
"This is Mr. Malone, my dear, of the Daily Gazette. He was with us last night. We had a good sitting, had we not, sir?"
"Marvellous!" said Malone. "But what is amiss?"
Both husband and wife poured out their sorrows.
"What a dirty business!" cried Malone, with disgust.
"I am sure the public does not realize how this law is enforced, or there would be a row. This agent-provocateur business is quite foreign to British justice. But in any case, Linden, you are a real medium. The law was made to suppress false ones."
"There are no real mediums in British law," said Linden, ruefully. "I expect the more real you are the greater the offence. If you are a medium at all and take money you are liable. But how can a medium live if he does not take money? It's a man's whole work and needs all his strength. You can't be a carpenter all day and a first-class medium in the evening."
"What a wicked law! It seems to be deliberately stifling all physical proofs of spiritual power."
"Yes, that is just what it is. If the Devil passed a law it would be just that. It is supposed to be for the protection of the public and yet no member of the public has ever been known to complain. Every case is a police trap. And yet the police know as well as you or I that every Church charity garden-party has got its clairvoyante or its fortune-teller."
"It does seem monstrous. What will happen now?"
"Well, I expect a summons will come along. Then a police court case. Then fine or imprisonment. It's the second time, you see."
"Well, your friends will give evidence for you and we will have a good man to defend you."
Linden shrugged his shoulders.
"You never know who are your friends. They slip away like water when it comes to the pinch."
"Well, I won't, for one," said Malone, heartily. "Keep me in touch with what is going on. But I called because I had something to ask you."
"I am sorry, but I am really not fit." Linden held out a quivering hand.
"No, no, nothing psychic. I simply wanted to ask you whether the presence of a strong sceptic would stop all your phenomena?"
"Not necessarily. But, of course, it makes everything more difficult. If they will be quiet and reasonable we can get results. But they know nothing, break every law, and ruin their own sittings. There was old Sherbank, the doctor, the other day. When the raps came on the table he jumped up, put his hand on the wall, and cried, 'Now then, put a rap on the palm of my hand within five seconds'. Because he did not get it he declared it was all humbug and stamped out of the room. They will not admit that there are fixed laws in this as in everything else."
"Well, I must confess that the man I am thinking of might be quite as unreasonable. It is the great Professor Challenger."
"Oh, yes, I've heard he is a hard case."
"Would you give him a sitting?"
"Yes, if you desired it."
"He won't come to you or to any place you name. He imagines all sorts of wires and contrivances. You might have to come down to his country house."
"I would not refuse if it might convert him."
"I can do nothing until this horrible affair is over. It will take a month or two."
"Well, I will keep in touch with you till then. When all is well again we shall make our plans and see if we can bring these facts before him, as they have been brought before me. Meanwhile, let me say how much I sympathize. We will form a committee of your friends and all that can will surely be done."
7. In Which The Notorious Criminal Gets What The British Law Considers To Be His Deserts
BEFORE we pursue further the psychic adventures of our hero and heroine, it would be well to see how the British law dealt with that wicked man, Mr. Tom Linden.
The two policewomen returned in triumph to Bardley Square Station where Inspector Murphy, who had sent them, was waiting for their report. Murphy was a jolly-looking, red-faced, black-moustached man who had a cheerful, fatherly way with women which was by no means justified by his age or virility.