He arched his eyebrows over the summons.
"The poor devil has not an earthly!" said he. "He's lucky to have a summons. Usually they act on a warrant. Then the man is carted right off, kept in the cells all night, and tried next morning with no one to defend him. The police are cute enough, of course, to choose either a Roman Catholic or a materialist as the magistrate. Then, by the beautiful judgment of Chief Justice Lawrence -- the first judgment, I believe, that he delivered in that high capacity -- the profession of mediumship or wonder-working is in itself a legal crime, whether it be genuine or no, so that no defence founded upon good results has a look in. It's a mixture of religious persecution and police blackmail. As to the public, they don't care a damn! Why should they? If they don't want their fortune told, they don't go. The whole thing is the most absolute bilge and a disgrace to our legislature."
"I'll write it up," said Malone, glowing with Celtic fire.
"What do you call the Act?"
"Well, there are two Acts, each more putrid than the other, and both passed long before Spiritualism was ever heard of. There is the Witchcraft Act dating from George the Second. That has become too absurd, so they only use it as a second string. Then there is the Vagrancy Act of 1824. It was passed to control the wandering gipsy folk on the roadside, and was never intended, of course, to be used like this." He hunted among his papers. "Here is the beastly thing. 'Every person professing to tell fortunes or using any subtle craft, means or device to deceive and impose on any of His Majesty's subjects shall be deemed a rogue and a vagabond', and so on and so forth. The two Acts together would have roped in the whole Early Christian movement just as surely as the Roman persecution did."
"Lucky there are no lions now," said Malone.
"Jackasses!" said Mailey. "That's the modern substitute. But what are we to do?"
"I'm damned if I know!" said the solicitor, scratching his head. "It's perfectly hopeless!"
"Oh, dash it all!" cried Malone, "we can't give it up so easily. We know the man is an honest man."
Mailey turned and grasped Malone's hand.
"I don't know if you call yourself a Spiritualist yet," he said, "but you are the kind of chap we want. There are too many white-livered folk in our movement who fawn on a medium when all is well, and desert him at the first breath of an accusation But, thank God! there are a few stalwarts. There is Brookes and Rodwin and Sir James Smith. We can put up a hundred or two among us."
"Right-o!" said the solicitor, cheerily. "If you feel like that we will give you a run for your money."
"How about a K.C.?"
"Well, they don't plead in police courts. If you'll leave it in my hands I fancy I can do as well as anyone, for I've had a lot of these cases. It will keep the costs down, too."
"Well, we are with you. And we will have a few good men at our back."
"If we do nothing else we shall ventilate it," said Malone.
"I believe in the good old British public. Slow and stupid, but sound at the core. They will not stand for injustice if you can get the truth into their heads."
"They damned well need trepanning before you can get it there," said the solicitor. "Well, you do your bit and I'll do mine and we will see what comes of it."
The fateful morning arrived and Linden found himself in the dock facing a spruce, middle-aged man with rat-trap jaws, Mr. Melrose, the redoubtable police magistrate. Mr. Melrose had a reputation for severity with fortune-tellers and all who foretold the future, though he spent the intervals in his court by reading up the sporting prophets, for he was an ardent follower of the Turf, and his trim, fawn-coloured coat and rakish hat were familiar objects at every race meeting which was within his reach. He was in no particularly good humour this morning as he glanced at the charge-sheet and then surveyed the prisoner. Mrs. Linden had secured a position below the dock, and occasionally extended her hand to pat that of the prisoner which rested on the edge.