The thought would not go away. While supposedly willing to defend anyone’s right to fair treatment until proven guilty, Dee had all but condemned Nymlet and Underby without any hesitation, without the calm indemnity of reason. Her outburst on the street had been just short of an inquisition, tactfully yet mercilessly attacking Nymlet; trying to force her into some slipup, admission, confession of involvement and ultimately implication of Mr Underby.
But the heat of her fury had eased. A night’s sleep had taken the edge off the shock and horror. Knowing as little as she did about what had really happened, and seeing no motivation for reasonable people to be willing to risk everything to harm someone else, all her suspicions began to add up to little more than that: unfounded distrust. She wondered if she could wander those streets again in her embarrassment. It simply wasn’t like her to attack someone like that, or to presume someone’s guilt so easily.
In the cold light of morning, even the concept of the Mayor being under threat seemed at worst just intuition, possibly even blind panic. It would hardly be the first time, whether in New Babbage or in her birthplace, that coincidence and misunderstanding had conspired to hide the truth, to the cost of all and the extinction of any trace of innocence. Logic returning, the natural course became clear: stick to the facts, and keep emotion out of the way.
What was really known? She had surely seen the bomb emerge from the Tram shed, travel over to the platform and detonate before anyone could react to her shouted warnings. The victims—Miss Psaltery, Avariel and Mr Penrose—were flung off their feet but mostly unharmed. While rushing to help them, Dee had clearly seen a certain Hussar-uniformed woman flee the Tram shed heading South.
Not seeing Nymlet actually touching the nasty device, Dee had only assumed it was hers, based on Nymlet’s renowned ‘expertise’ with such instruments. Confronting Nymlet later about her connection to Mr Underby and her involvement in the bombing, Dee had skipped her usual calm insistence on confining her arguments to facts. It was as though she decided ahead of things that Nymlet was guilty. The realization made her feel almost medieval, primitive; if anything just as guilty as she assumed someone else was.
The thought occurred to her that she had heard from Jimmy moments after the platform bombing that there had been an awful tragedy in Wheatstone, that many had apparently been killed and that Arnold was among the injured—and seriously. All of this had added to the shock, the confusion, the desperation to know enough about what had happened to take some kind of frantic, likely misguided action. Seeing her friend Miss Psaltery hurt—bewildered, with a head injury—had certainly taken her breath away and made her see red. In calm reflection it could be seen that this had likely poisoned her prudence and devastated her composure when it was needed most.
Had emotion robbed her of crucial clarity in this time of crisis? Without better information, it was as likely true as not. Yet she felt it vital that she stand up for and defend any Babbager in need of assistance, whether her friends or the Mayor or anyone else—even from other Babbagers. Such assistance would only be possible if she directed it where it belonged. Whatever truth could be found in this mess was needed now. But only truth; not conjecture, not terror, not a witchhunt.
Dee took a sip of tea, so distant that she wasn’t even aware of the taste as she made herself say out loud, “I shall not allow desperation to force me to act without a solid footing of fact. Scientific fact.”
Resisting the notion that she may be fooling herself into believing that Mr Tenk was not threatened only because the thought was too frightening, she took a deep breath and accepted that only raw truth and reliable facts could be used to proceed.
She had given the Commodore a deposition once she had calmed after the shock of the days explosive crises, both of them surveying the results of the failed trestle in the Fells. She recalled what was said, and felt confident that she had shared little of her own opinion, and mostly the basic facts; at least what was observed by her. While remarking about the oddity of the timing of the new relationship between Mr Underby and Nymlet—something obvious to all—she hadn’t even mentioned her hunch that there was a clear connection between the platform blast and the severed rail line. Science is not founded on hunches, but only on proven facts.
Reciting the words ‘Scientific fact’ she gathered her camera and hastened to the platform to make images of the scene, both for her own analysis and to be shared—if desired—with either the urchins or the Militia. It was clear that in a matter of such consequence as many reliable hands pulling the cart as possible were surely needed. Her worries about the serving Mayor made it seem sensible to exclude him and anyone close to him, but she accepted that at this stage it would be irresponsible to impugn even the man himself.
Arriving at the scene of the blast, she took a deep breath and set about methodically recording images of the platform, the tram shed, and grimly the obvious dark shadow of that potentially fatal blast. Mumbling to herself throughout, she struggled to reassure herself that whatever she thought, she must keep her mouth shut from now on.
Sometimes, of course, gut instinct is the surest guide. Be careful, Miss Wells.