“I began making speeches when I was a boy. People laughed at me, but I’ve set many a one a-thinking. I’m no anarchist, although people call me one. I’ll admit that I admire the men who set the French Revolution going. If such a thing happened in this country I’d be one of the first to join in. But I’ve never had a taste for bloodshed. I’d rather the thing had been done without. From the first you seemed to be the man who might have brought it about. We listened to you, we watched your career, and we began to have hopes. Mr. Brott, the bodies and souls of millions of your fellow-creatures were in the hollow of your hand. It was you who might have set them free. It was you who might have made this the greatest, the freest, the happiest country in the world. Not so much for us perhaps as for our children, and our children’s children. We didn’t expect a huge social upheaval in a week, or even a decade of years. But we did expect to see the first blow struck. Oh, yes, we expected that.”
“I have disappointed you, I know, you and many others,” Brott said bitterly. “I wish I could explain. But I can’t!”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” the man answered. “You have broken the hearts of thousands of suffering men and women—you who might have led them into the light, have forged another bolt in the bars which stand between them and liberty. So they must live on in the darkness, dull, dumb creatures with just spirit enough to spit and curse at the sound of your name. It was the greatest trust God ever placed in one man’s hand—and you—you abused it. They were afraid of you—the aristocrats, and they bought you. Oh, we are not blind up there—there are newspapers in our public houses, and now and then one can afford a half-penny. We have read of you at their parties and their dances. Quite one of them you have become, haven’t you? But, Mr. Brott, have you never been afraid? Have you never said to yourself, there is justice in the earth? Suppose it finds me out?”
“Hedley, you are talking rubbish,” Brott said. “Up here you would see things with different eyes. Letheringham is pledged.”
“If any man ever earned hell,” Hedley continued, “it is you, Brott, you who came to us a deliverer, and turned out to be a lying prophet. ‘Hell,’” he repeated fiercely, “and may you find it swiftly.”
The man’s right hand came out of his long pocket. They were in the thick of Piccadilly, but his action was too swift for any interference. Four reports rang suddenly out, and the muzzle of the revolver was held deliberately within an inch or so of Brett’s heart. And before even the nearest of the bystanders could realise what had happened Brott lay across the pavement a dead man, and Hedley was calmly handing over the revolver to a policeman who had sprang across the street.
“Be careful, officer,” he said, “there are still two chambers loaded. I will come with you quite quietly. That is Mr. Reginald Brott, the Cabinet Minister, and I have killed him.”