“Templeton, have you got down every word of Mr. Grodman’s confession?”
“Every word, sir.”
“Then bring in the cable you received just as Mr. Grodman entered the house.”
Templeton went back into the outer room and brought back the cablegram that had been lying on the Minister’s writing-table when Grodman came in. The Home Secretary silently handed it to his visitor. It was from the Chief of Police of Melbourne, announcing that Jessie Dymond had just arrived in that city in a sailing vessel, ignorant of all that had occurred, and had been immediately despatched back to England, having made a statement entirely corroborating the theory of the defence.
“Pending further inquiries into this,” said the Home Secretary, not without appreciation of the grim humour of the situation as he glanced at Grodman’s ashen cheeks, “I have reprieved the prisoner. Mr. Templeton was about to despatch the messenger to the governor of Newgate as you entered this room. Mr. Wimp’s card-castle would have tumbled to pieces without your assistance. Your still undiscoverable crime would have shaken his reputation as you intended.”
A sudden explosion shook the room and blent with the cheers of the populace. Grodman had shot himself—very scientifically—in the heart. He fell at the Home Secretary’s feet, stone dead.
Some of the working men who had been standing waiting by the shafts of the hansom helped to bear the stretcher.
* * * * *
Sometimes Lancelot’s bell rang up Mrs. Leadbatter herself, but far more often merely Mary Ann.
The first time Lancelot saw Mary Ann she was cleaning the steps. He avoided treading upon her, being kind to animals. For the moment she was merely a quadruped, whose head was never lifted to the stars. Her faded print dress showed like the quivering hide of some crouching animal. There were strange irregular splashes of pink in the hide, standing out in bright contrast with the neutral background. These were scraps of the original material neatly patched in.
The cold, damp steps gave Lancelot a shudder, for the air was raw. He passed by the prostrate figure as quickly as he could, and hastened to throw himself into the easy chair before the red fire.
There was a lamp-post before the door, so he knew the house from its neighbours. Baker’s Terrace as a whole was a defeated aspiration after gentility. The more auspicious houses were marked by white stones, the steps being scrubbed and hearth-stoned almost daily; the gloomier doorsteps were black, except on Sundays. Thus variety was achieved by houses otherwise as monotonous and prosaic as a batch of fourpenny loaves. This was not the reason why the little South London side-street was called Baker’s Terrace, though it might well seem so; for Baker was the name of the builder, a worthy gentleman whose years and virtues may still be deciphered on a doddering, round-shouldered stone in a deceased cemetery not far from the scene of his triumphs.