The minutes ran into hours, but the jury did not return. The shadows of night fell across the reeking, fevered court before they announced their verdict—
The judge put on his black cap.
The great reception arranged outside was a fiasco; the evening banquet was indefinitely postponed. Wimp had won; Grodman felt like a whipped cur.
“So you were right,” Denzil could not help saying as he greeted Grodman a week afterwards. “I shall not live to tell the story of how you discovered the Bow murderer.”
“Sit down,” growled Grodman; “perhaps you will after all.” There was a dangerous gleam in his eyes. Denzil was sorry he had spoken.
“I sent for you,” Grodman said, “to tell you that on the night Wimp arrested Mortlake I had made preparations for your arrest.”
Denzil gasped, “What for?”
“My dear Denzil, there is a little law in this country invented for the confusion of the poetic. The greatest exponent of the Beautiful is only allowed the same number of wives as the greengrocer. I do not blame you for not being satisfied with Jane—she is a good servant but a bad mistress—but it was cruel to Kitty not to inform her that Jane had a prior right in you, and unjust to Jane not to let her know of the contract with Kitty.”
“They both know it now well enough, curse ’em,” said the poet.
“Yes; your secrets are like your situations—you can’t keep ’em long. My poor poet, I pity you—betwixt the devil and the deep sea.”
“They’re a pair of harpies, each holding over me the Damocles sword of an arrest for bigamy. Neither loves me.”
“I should think they would come in very useful to you. You plant one in my house to tell my secrets to Wimp, and you plant one in Wimp’s house to tell Wimp’s secrets to me, I suppose. Out with some, then.”
“Upon my honour, you wrong me. Jane brought me here, not I Jane. As for Kitty, I never had such a shock in my life as at finding her installed in Wimp’s house.”
“She thought it safer to have the law handy for your arrest. Besides, she probably desired to occupy a parallel position to Jane’s. She must do something for a living; you wouldn’t do anything for hers. And so you couldn’t go anywhere without meeting a wife! Ha! ha! ha! Serve you right, my polygamous poet.”
“But why should you arrest me?”
“Revenge, Denzil. I have been the best friend you ever had in this cold, prosaic world. You have eaten my bread, drunk my claret, written my book, smoked my cigars, and pocketed my money. And yet, when you have an important piece of information bearing on a mystery about which I am thinking day and night, you calmly go and sell it to Wimp.”
“I did-didn’t,” stammered Denzil.