Книга The Land Of Mist. Содержание - 8. In Which Three Investigators Come Upon a Dark Soul
Mr. Summerway Jones replied as best he might. He began by pointing out that the Acts were being used for a purpose for which they were never intended. («That point has already been considered!» snapped the magistrate.) The whole position was open to criticism. The convictions were secured by evidence from agents-provocateurs, who, if any crime had been committed, were obviously inciters to it and also participants. The fines obtained were often deflected for purposes in which the police had a direct interest.
«Surely, Mr. Jones, you do not mean to cast a reflection upon the honesty of the police!»
The police were human, and were naturally inclined to stretch a point where there own interests were affected. All these cases were artificial. There was no record at any time of any real complaint from the public or any demand for protection. There were frauds in every profession, and if a man deliberately invested and lost a guinea in a false medium he had no more right to protection than the man who invested his money in a bad company on the stock market. Whilst the police were wasting time upon such cases, and their agents were weeping crocodile tears in the character of forlorn mourners, many of her branches of real crime received far less attention than they deserved. The law was quite arbitrary in its action. Every big garden-party, even, as he had been informed, every police fete was incomplete without its fortune-teller or palmist.
Some years ago the Daily Mail had raised an outcry against fortune-tellers. That great man, the late Lord Northcliffe, had been put in the box by the defence, and it had been shown that one of his other papers was running a palmistry column, and that the fees received were divided equally between the palmist and the proprietors. He mentioned this in no spirit which was derogatory to the memory of this great mall, but merely as an example of the absurdity of the law as it was now administered. Whatever might be the individual opinion of members of that court, it was incontrovertible that a large number of intelligent and useful citizens regarded this power of mediumship as a remarkable manifestation of the power of spirit, making for the great improvement of the race. Was it not a most fatal policy in these days of materialism to crush down by law that which in its higher manifestation might work for the regeneration of mankind? As to the undoubted fact that information received by the policewomen was incorrect and that their lying statements were not detected by the medium, it was a psychic law that harmonious conditions were essential for true results, and that deceit on one side produced confusion on the other. If the court would for a moment adopt the Spiritualistic hypothesis, they would realize how absurd it would be to expect that angelic hosts would descend in order to answer the questions of two mercenary and hypocritical inquirers.
Such, in a short synopsis, was the general line of Mr. Summerway Jones's defence which reduced Mrs. Linden to tears and threw the magistrate's clerk into a deep slumber. The magistrate himself rapidly brought the matter to a conclusion.
«Your quarrel, Mr. Jones, seems to be with the law, and that is outside my competence. I administer it as I find it, though I may remark that I am entirely in agreement with it. Such men as the defendant are the noxious fungi which collect on a corrupt society, and the attempt to compare their vulgarities with the holy men of old, or to claim similar gifts, must be reprobated by all right-thinking men.
«As to you, Linden,» he added, fixing his stern eyes upon the prisoner, «I fear that you are a hardened offender since a previous conviction has not altered your ways. I sentence you, therefore, to two months' hard labour without the option of a fine.»
There was a scream from Mrs. Linden.
«Good-bye, dear, don't fret,» said the medium, glancing over the side of the dock. An instant later he had been hurried down to the cell.
Summerway Jones, Mailey and Malone met in the hall, and Mailey volunteered to escort the poor stricken woman home.
«What had he ever done but bring comfort to all?» she moaned. «Is there a better man living in the whole great City of London?»
«I don't think there is a more useful one,» said Mailey. «I'll venture to say that the whole of Crockford's Directory with the Archbishops at their head could not prove the things of religion as I have seen Tom Linden prove them, or convert an atheist as I have seen Linden convert him.»
«It's a shame! A damned shame!» said Malone, hotly.
«The touch about vulgarity was funny,» said Jones. «I wonder if he thinks the Apostles were very cultivated people. Well, I did my best. I had no hopes, and it has worked out as I thought. It is a pure waste of time.»
«Not at all,» Malone answered. «It has ventilated an evil. There were reporters in court. Surely some of them have some sense. They will note the injustice.»
«Not they,» said Mailey. «The Press is hopeless. My God, what a responsibility these people take on themselves, and how little they guess the price that each will pay! I know. I have spoken with them while they were paying it.»
«Well, I for one will speak out,» said Malone, «and I believe others will also. The Press is more independent and intelligent than you seem to think.»
But Mailey was right, after all. When he had left Mrs. Linden in her lonely home and had reached Fleet Street once more, Malone bought a Planet. As he opened it a scare head-line met his eye:
IMPOSTOR IN THE POLICE COURT.
– Dog Mistaken for Man.
WHO WAS PEDRO?
He crumpled the paper up in his hand.
«No wonder these Spiritualists feel bitterly,» he thought «They have good cause.»
Yes, poor Tom Linden had a bad Press. He went down into his miserable cell amid universal objurgation. The Planet, an evening paper which depended for its circulation upon the sporting forecasts of Captain Touch-and-go, remarked upon the absurdity of forecasting the future. Honest John, a weekly journal which had been mixed up with some of the greatest frauds of the century, was of the opinion that the dishonesty of Linden was a public scandal. A rich country rector wrote to The Times to express his indignation that anyone should profess to sell the gifts of the spirit. The Churchman remarked that such incidents arose from the growing infidelity, while the Freethinker saw in them a reversion to superstition. Finally Mr. Maskelyne showed the public, to the great advantage of his box office, exactly how the swindle was perpetrated. So for a few days Tom Linden was what the French call a «succes d'execration.» Then the world moved on and he was left to his fate.
8. In Which Three Investigators Come Upon a Dark Soul
LORD ROXTON had returned from a Central American heavy game shooting, and had at once carried out a series of Alpine ascents which had satisfied and surprised everyone except himself.
«Top of the Alps is becomin' a perfect bear-garden,» said he. «Short of Everest there don't seem to be any decent privacy left.»
His advent into London was acclaimed by a dinner given in his honour at the 'Travellers' by the Heavy Game Society. The occasion was private and there were no reporters, but Lord Roxton's speech was fixed verbatim in the minds of all his audience and has been imperishably preserved. He writhed for twenty minutes under the flowery and eulogistic periods of the president, and rose himself in the state of confused indignation which the Briton feels when he is publicly approved. «Oh, I say! By Jove! What!» was his oration, after which he resumed his seat and perspired profusely.
Malone was first aware of Lord Roxton's return through McArdle, the crabbed old red-headed news editor, whose bald dome projected further and further from its ruddy fringe as the years still found him slaving at the most grinding of tasks. He retained his keen scent of what was good copy, and it was this sense of his which caused him one winter morning to summon Malone to his presence. He removed the long glass tube which he used as a cigarette-holder from his lips, and he blinked through his big round glasses at his subordinate.