“Ay, knock your loudest,” whispered the pale-faced woman. “You’ll not wake him now.”
The grey mist had followed them through the street door, and hovered about the staircase, charging the air with a moist sepulchral odour.
“Locked and bolted,” muttered Grodman, shaking the door afresh.
“Burst it open,” breathed the woman, trembling violently all over, and holding her hands before her as if to ward off the dreadful vision. Without another word, Grodman applied his shoulder to the door, and made a violent muscular effort. He had been an athlete in his time, and the sap was yet in him. The door creaked, little by little it began to give, the woodwork enclosing the bolt of the lock splintered, the panels bent inwards, the large upper bolt tore off its iron staple; the door flew back with a crash. Grodman rushed in.
“My God!” he cried. The woman shrieked. The sight was too terrible.
* * * * *
Within a few hours the jubilant newsboys were shrieking “Horrible Suicide in Bow,” and The Moon poster added, for the satisfaction of those too poor to purchase, “A Philanthropist Cuts His Throat.”
But the newspapers were premature. Scotland Yard refused to prejudice the case despite the penny-a-liners. Several arrests were made, so that the later editions were compelled to soften “Suicide” into “Mystery.” The people arrested were a nondescript collection of tramps. Most of them had committed other offences for which the police had not arrested them. One bewildered-looking gentleman gave himself up (as if he were a riddle), but the police would have none of him, and restored him forthwith to his friends and keepers. The number of candidates for each new opening in Newgate is astonishing.
The full significance of this tragedy of a noble young life cut short had hardly time to filter into the public mind, when a fresh sensation absorbed it. Tom Mortlake had been arrested the same day at Liverpool on suspicion of being concerned in the death of his fellow-lodger. The news fell like a bombshell upon a land in which Tom Mortlake’s name was a household word. That the gifted artisan orator,