By the time he reached the exit into the street, the impression that he had had a hand in the business had, in some mysterious way, communicated itself to the mob outside, many a member of which had some old grudge to settle with “Lawyer Bellamy,” if only chance put an opportunity in their way. As he stepped through the door, utterly ignorant of the greeting which awaited him, his ears were assailed by an awful yell, followed by a storm of hoots and hisses.
Sir John turned pale, and looked for a means of escape; but the policeman who had let him out had locked the door behind him, and all round him was the angry mob.
“Here comes the —— that started the swim,” roared a voice, as soon as there was a momentary lull.
“Gentlemen——” piped Sir John, with all the pippin hue gone from his cheeks, and rubbing his white hands together nervously.
“Yah! he poisoned his own poor wife!” shouted a woman with a baby.
“Ladies——” went on Sir John, in agonized tones.
“Pelt him!” yelled a sweet little boy of ten or so, suiting the action to the word, and planting a rotten egg full upon Sir John’s imposing brow.
“No, no,” said the woman who had nicknamed Philip “Judas.” “Why don’t you drop him in the pond? There’s only two feet of water, and it’s soft falling on the mud. You can pelt him afterwards.”
The idea was received with acclamation, and notwithstanding his own efforts to the contrary, backed as they were by those of the five policemen, before he knew where he was, Sir John found himself being hustled by a lot of sturdy fellows towards the filthy duck-pond, like an aristocrat to the guillotine. They soon arrived, and then followed the most painful experience of all his life, one of which the very thought would ever afterwards move him most profoundly. Two strong men, utterly heedless of his yells and lamentations, took him by the heels, and two yet stronger than they caught him by his plump and tender wrists, and then, under the directions of the woman with the squint, they began to swing him from side to side. As soon as the lady directress considered that the impetus was sufficient, she said, “Now!” and away he went like a swallow, only to land, when his flying powers were exhausted, plump in the middle of the duck-pond.
Some ten seconds afterwards, a pillar of slimy mud arose and staggered towards the bank, where a crowd of little boys, each holding something offensive in his right hand, were eagerly awaiting its arrival. The squint-eyed woman contemplated the figure with the most intense satisfaction.
“He sold me up once,” she murmured; “but we’re quits now. That’s it, lads, let him have it.”
But we will drop a veil over this too painful scene. Sir John Bellamy was unwell for some days afterwards; when he recovered he shook the dust of Roxham off his shoes for ever.