The next instant Linden was upon them, his fists flashing out with terrific force. Mailey, who had boxed in his youth, stopped one blow, but the next beat in his guard and he fell with a crash against the door. Lord Roxton was hurled to one side, but Malone, with a footballer's instinct, ducked his head and caught the prize-fighter round the knees. If a man is too good for you on his feet, then put him on his back, for he cannot be scientific there. Over went Linden, crashing through an armchair before he reached the ground. He staggered to one knee and got in a short jolt to the chin, but Malone had him down again and Roxton's bony hand had closed upon his throat. Silas Linden had a yellow streak in him and he was cowed.
"Let up!" he cried. " That's enough!"
He lay now spreadeagled upon his back. Malone and Roxton were bending over him. Mailey had gathered himself together, pale and shaken after his fall.
"I'm all right!" he cried, in answer to a feminine voice at the other side of the door. " No, not yet, dear, but we shall soon be ready for you. Now, Linden, there's no need for you to get up, for you can talk very nicely where you are. You've got to sign this paper before you leave the room."
"What is the paper?" croaked Linden, as Roxton's grip upon his throat relaxed.
"I'll read it to you."
Mailey took it from the desk and read aloud.
"I, Silas Linden, hereby admit that I have acted as a rogue and a scoundrel by simulating to be a spirit, and I swear that I will never again in my life pretend to be a medium. Should I break this oath, then this signed confession may be used for my conviction in the police court." "Will you sign that?"
"No, I am damned if I will!"
"Shall I give him another squeeze?" asked Lord Roxton. " Perhaps I could choke some sense into him -- what!"
" Not at all," said Mailey. " I think that his case now would do good in the police court, for it would show the public that we are determined to keep our house clean. I'll give you one minute for consideration, Linden, and then I ring up the police."
But it did not take a minute for the impostor to make up his mind.
"All right," said he in a sulky voice, "I'll sign." He was allowed to rise with a warning that if he played any tricks he would not get off so lightly the second time. But there was no kick left in him and he scrawled a big, coarse " Silas Linden " at the bottom of the paper without a word. The three men signed as witnesses.
"Now, get out!" said Mailey, sharply. "Find some honest trade in future and leave sacred things alone!"
"Keep your damned cant to yourself!" Linden answered, and so departed, grumbling and swearing, into the outer darkness from which he had come. He had hardly passed before Mrs. Mailey had rushed into the room to reassure herself as to her husband. Once satisfied as to this she mourned over her broken chair, for like all good women she took a personal pride and joy in every detail of her little menage.
"Never mind, dear. It's a cheap price to pay in order to get that blackguard out of the movement. Don't go away, you fellows. I want to talk to you."
"And tea is just coming in."
"Perhaps something stronger would be better," said Mailey, and indeed, all three were rather exhausted, for it was sharp while it lasted. Roxton, who had enjoyed the whole thing immensely, was full of vitality, but Malone was shaken and Mailey had narrowly escaped serious injury from that ponderous blow.
"I have heard," said Mailey, as they all settled down round the fire, " that this blackguard has sweated money out of poor Tom Linden for years. It was a form of blackmail, for he was quite capable of denouncing him. By Jove!" he cried, with sudden inspiration, "that would account for the police raid. Why should they pick Linden out of all the mediums in London? I remember now that Tom told me the fellow had asked to be taught to be a medium, and that he had refused to teach him."
"Could he teach him?" asked Malone. Mailey was thoughtful over this question. " Well, perhaps he could," he said at last.