“Ah, I don’t see how the Useful does come in, now,” said Peter, thoughtfully. “But I didn’t think of that at the time.”
He swallowed his water quickly, and it went the wrong way and added to his confusion. It also began to dawn upon him that he might be called to account. Let it be said at once that he wasn’t. He had taken too prominent a part.
Meantime, Mrs. Wimp was bathing Mr. Wimp’s eye, and rubbing him generally with arnica. Wimp’s melodrama had been, indeed, a sight for the gods. Only virtue was vanquished and vice triumphant. The villain had escaped, and without striking a blow.
There was matter and to spare for the papers the next day. The striking ceremony—Mr. Gladstone’s speech—the sensational arrest—these would of themselves have made excellent themes for reports and leaders. But the personality of the man arrested, and the Big Bow Mystery Battle—as it came to be called—gave additional piquancy to the paragraphs and the posters. The behaviour of Mortlake put the last touch to the picturesqueness of the position. He left the hall when the lights went out, and walked unnoticed and unmolested through pleiads of policemen to the nearest police station, where the superintendent was almost too excited to take any notice of his demand to be arrested. But to do him justice, the official yielded as soon as he understood the situation. It seems inconceivable that he did not violate some red-tape regulation in so doing. To some this self-surrender was limpid proof of innocence; to others it was the damning token of despairing guilt.
The morning papers were pleasant reading for Grodman, who chuckled as continuously over his morning egg, as if he had laid it. Jane was alarmed for the sanity of her saturnine master. As her husband would have said, Grodman’s grins were not Beautiful. But he made no effort to suppress them. Not only had Wimp perpetrated a grotesque blunder, but the journalists to a man were down on his great sensation tableau, though their denunciations did not appear in the dramatic columns. The Liberal papers said that he had endangered Mr. Gladstone’s life; the Conservative that he had unloosed the raging elements of Bow blackguardism, and set in motion forces which might have easily swelled to a riot, involving severe destruction of property. But “Tom Mortlake” was, after all, the thought swamping every other. It was, in a sense, a triumph for the man.
But Wimp’s turn came when Mortlake, who reserved his defence, was brought up before a magistrate, and by force of the new evidence, fully committed for trial on the charge of murdering Arthur Constant. Then men’s thoughts centred again on the Mystery, and the solution of the inexplicable problem agitated mankind from China to Peru.