London is home to many bachelors, including Ronald Bridges, a thirty-seven-year-old epileptic who works as an assistant curator at a small handwriting museum. One Saturday morning, he meets his friend Martin Bowles, a thirty-five-year-old lawyer. After completing some shopping, they stop at a coffeehouse, where they spot a thin, anxious-looking man of about fifty-five talking with a young girl. Martin tells Ronald not to stare at the couple because next week he will be prosecuting the man, whose name is Patrick Seton. Patrick, a spiritualistic medium, is charged with fraudulent conversion and forgery and is under orders to report to the police daily. Ronald looks slightly ill and says that he wants to search for his newspaper, so Martin leaves. Actually, Ronald thinks he recognizes Patrick from somewhere and is trying to assure himself that his epilepsy is not causing him to lose his memory. Experimental treatment in America was not successful, but he learned to control his attacks, even to the point of being able to order a beer when his bachelor friends Walter Prett, Matthew Finch, and Ewart Thornton gather at a pub.
In addition to the legal charges, Patrick has personal problems. Alice, his girlfriend, is pregnant. Despite her friend Elsie’s admonishments, she steadfastly defends Patrick and wants him to divorce his wife and marry her before the baby is born. Alice is a dependent person and believes that Patrick, by taking charge of her insulin injections, has only her best interests in mind.
The next evening, at a meeting of the spiritualist group where he is holding a séance, Patrick encounters more difficulties. Freda Flower, the wealthy widow who charged him with bilking her out of a sum of money by forging a letter, appears for the séance. Tossing his body about and groaning, Patrick works himself into a heavy trance and succeeds in contacting the spirit of Freda’s husband despite the presence of another spiritual medium, Dr. Mike Garland, who tries to interrupt. It is a tricky situation, but with clever manipulations Patrick manages to get through the séance unscathed.
The competition between the two mediums polarizes the group members and causes quite a stir among them. Several meet over lunch to discuss the matter. Some plan to create an Inner Spiral of the most faithful members while others pursue less spiritual interests. After talking with Elsie about the beautiful Alice and her attachment to Patrick, Matthew spends the night with her. In his own rooms, Patrick thinks over his statement to the police and his plan to get rid of Alice if he is acquitted. His discussion with Ferguson, the policeman, did not reassure him. To set up a potential alibi for himself, he goes to see Dr. Lyte to get advice about giving insulin to Alice. At Alice’s apartment, he convinces her of his solicitous nature.
To solidify the prosecution’s case against Patrick, Martin elicits Ronald’s handwriting expertise on the allegedly forged letter. He gives the letter to Ronald, who hides it in his apartment. In the coffeehouse later, Ronald and Matthew discuss the evidence with Alice, but she continues to believe Patrick innocent of everything, despite some suspicious information on his background. Matthew, who loves Alice, is ready to sacrifice his longtime bachelor status to marry her. Ronald promises to get more information on the case to relieve her worries. All the talk about marriage appears to trigger an epileptic fit. Luckily, Ronald has his medication with him and quickly recovers.
While these various people discuss his case, Patrick is not idle. He returns to Dr. Lyte’s office and reminds the doctor about a forgotten incident involving spiritualism and séances. He then demands that the doctor lend him his chalet in the Alps so that he and Alice can go there for a secluded honeymoon. That is where he plans to implement his plan for Alice’s demise. The doctor agrees and, feeling secure in his escape plans, Patrick...
(The entire section is 1,158 words.)