Книга The Land Of Mist. Содержание - 7. In Which the Notorious Criminal gets what the British Law Considers to be His Deserts
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. He sat behind his official table, his papers strewn in front of him.
«Well, girls,» he said as the two women entered, «what luck?»
«I think it's a go, Mr. Murphy,» said the elder policewoman. «We have the evidence you want.»
The Inspector took up a written list of questions from his desk.
«You ran it on the general lines that I suggested?» he asked.
«Yes. I said my husband was killed at Ypres.»
«What did he do?»
«Well, he seemed sorry for me.»
«That, of course, is part of the game. He'll be sorry for himself before he is through with it. He didn't say, 'You are a single woman and never had a husband?'»
«Well, that's one up against his spirits, is it not? That should impress the Court. What more?»
«He felt round for names. They were all wrong.»
«He believed me when I said that Miss Bellinger here was my daughter.»
«Good again! Did you try the Pedro stunt?»
«Yes, he considered the name, but I got nothing.»
«Ah, that's a pity. But, anyhow, he did not know that Pedro was your Alsatian dog. He considered the name. That's good enough. Make the jury laugh and you have your verdict. Now about fortune-telling? Did you do what I suggested?»
«Yes, I asked about Amy's young man. He did not give much that was definite.»
«Cunning devil! He knows his business.»
«But he did say that she would be unhappy if she married him.»
«Oh, he did, did he? Well, if we spread that a little we have got all we want. Now sit down and dictate your report while you have it fresh. Then we can go over it together and see how we can put it best. Amy must write one, also.»
«Very good, Mr. Murphy.»
«Then we shall apply for the warrant. You see, it all depends upon which magistrate it comes before. There was Mr. Dalleret who let a medium off last month. He is no we to us. And Mr. Lancing has been mixed up with these people. Mr. Melrose is a stiff materialist. We could depend on him, and have timed the arrest accordingly. It would never do to fail to get our conviction.»
«Couldn't you get some of the public to corroborate?» The inspector laughed.
«We are supposed to be protecting the public, but between you and me none of the public have ever yet asked to be protected. There are no complaints. Therefore it is left to us to uphold the law as best we can. As long as it is there we have got to enforce it. Well, good-bye, girls! Let me have the report by four o'clock.»
«Nothing for it, I suppose?» said the elder woman, with a smile.
«You wait, my dear. If we get twenty-five pounds fine it has got to go somewhere – Police Fund, of course, but there may be something over. Anyhow, you go and cough it up and then we shall see.»
Next morning a scared maid broke into Linden's modest study. «Please sir, it's an officer.»
The man in blue followed hard at her heels.
«Name of Linden?» said he, and handing a folded sheet of foolscap he departed.
The stricken couple who spent their lives in bringing comfort to others were sadly in need of comfort themselves. She put her arm round his neck while they read the cheerless document:
To THOMAS LINDEN of 40, Tullis Street, N.W.
Information has been laid this day by Patrick Murphy, Inspector Of Police, that you the said Thomas Linden on the 10th day of November at the above dwelling did profess to Henrietta Dresser and to Amy Bellinger to tell fortunes to deceive and impose on certain of His Majesty's subjects, to wit those above mentioned. You are therefore summoned to appear before the Magistrate of the Police Court in Bardsley Square on Wednesday next, the 17th, at the hour of 11 in the forenoon to answer to the said information.
Dated the 10th day of November.
On the same afternoon Mailey called upon Malone and they sat in consultation over this document. Then they went together to see Summerway Jones, an acute solicitor and an earnest student of psychic affairs. Incidentally, he was a hard rider to hounds, a good boxer, and a man who carried a fresh-air flavour into the mustiest law chambers. 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.»