“What?” said he.
“I’ve just been down home, and they’re—they’re pulling the house down. All the furniture’s out, and they’ve got all the tiles off the roof, and the windows out. And there’s a regular crowd watching.”
Denry sat up.
“And I can tell you another piece of news,” said he. “Mr Cecil Wilbraham is dead.”
“Dead!” she breathed.
“Yes,” said Denry. “I think he’s served his purpose. As we’re here, we’ll stop here. Don’t forget it’s the most sensible kind of a house you’ve ever seen. Don’t forget that Mrs Cotterill could run it without a servant and have herself tidy by ten o’clock in a morning.”
Mrs Machin perceived then, in a flash of terrible illumination, that there never had been any Cecil Wilbraham; that Denry had merely invented him and his long moustaches and his wall eye for the purpose of getting the better of his mother. The whole affair was an immense swindle upon her. Not a Mr Cecil Wilbraham, but her own son had bought her cottage over her head and jockeyed her out of it beyond any chance of getting into it again. And to defeat his mother the rascal had not simply perverted the innocent Nellie Cotterill to some co-operation in his scheme, but he had actually bought four other cottages, because the landlord would not sell one alone, and he was actually demolishing property to the sole end of stopping her from re-entering it!
Of course, the entire town soon knew of the upshot of the battle, of the year-long battle, between Denry and his mother, and the means adopted by Denry to win. The town also had been hoodwinked, but it did not mind that. It loved its Denry the more, and seeing that he was now properly established in the most remarkable house in the district, it soon afterwards made him a Town Councillor as some reward for his talent in amusing it.
And Denry would say to himself:
“Everything went like clockwork, except the mustard and water. I didn’t bargain for the mustard and water. And yet, if I was clever enough to think of putting a label on the bottle and to have the beds prepared, I ought to have been clever enough to keep mustard out of the house.” It would be wrong to mince the unpleasant fact that the sham poisoning which he had arranged to the end that he and his mother should pass the night in the house had finished in a manner much too realistic for Denry’s pleasure. Mustard and water, particularly when mixed by Mrs Machin, is mustard and water. She had that consolation.
THE GREAT NEWSPAPER WAR
When Denry and his mother had been established a year and a month in the new house at Bleakridge, Denry received a visit one evening which perhaps flattered him more than anything had ever flattered him. The visitor was Mr Myson. Now Mr Myson was the founder, proprietor and editor of the Five Towns Weekly, a new organ of public opinion which had been in existence about a year; and Denry thought that Mr Myson had popped in to see him in pursuit of an advertisement of the Thrift Club, and at first he was not at all flattered.