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The Paradise Mystery
J S Fletcher



CHAPTER I - ONLY THE GUARDIAN


American tourists, sure appreciators of all that is ancient
and picturesque in England, invariably come to a halt, holding
their breath in a sudden catch of wonder, as they pass through
the half-ruinous gateway which admits to the Close of
Wrychester.  Nowhere else in England is there a fairer
prospect of old-world peace.  There before their eyes, set in
the centre of a great green sward, fringed by tall elms and
giant beeches, rises the vast fabric of the thirteenth-century
Cathedral, its high spire piercing the skies in which rooks
are for ever circling and calling.  The time-worn stone, at a
little distance delicate as lacework, is transformed at
different hours of the day into shifting shades of colour,
varying from grey to purple: the massiveness of the great nave
and transepts contrasts impressively with the gradual tapering
of the spire, rising so high above turret and clerestory that
it at last becomes a mere line against the ether.  In morning,
as in afternoon, or in evening, here is a perpetual atmosphere
of rest; and not around the great church alone, but in the
quaint and ancient houses which fence in the Close.  Little
less old than the mighty mass of stone on which their
ivy-framed windows look, these houses make the casual observer
feel that here, if anywhere in the world, life must needs run
smoothly.  Under those high gables, behind those mullioned
windows, in the beautiful old gardens lying between the stone
porches and the elm-shadowed lawn, nothing, one would think,
could possibly exist but leisured and pleasant existence: even
the busy streets of the old city, outside the crumbling
gateway, seem, for the moment, far off.

In one of the oldest of these houses, half hidden behind trees
and shrubs in a corner of the Close, three people sat at
breakfast one fine May morning.  The room in which they sat
was in keeping with the old house and its surroundings--a
long, low-ceilinged room, with oak panelling around its walls,
and oak beams across its roof--a room of old furniture, and,
old pictures, and old books, its antique atmosphere relieved
by great masses of flowers, set here and there in old china
bowls: through its wide windows, the casements of which
were thrown wide open, there was an inviting prospect of a
high-edged flower garden, and, seen in vistas through the
trees and shrubberies, of patches of the west front of the
Cathedral, now sombre and grey in shadow.  But on the garden
and into this flower-scented room the sun was shining gaily
through the trees, and making gleams of light on the silver
and china on the table and on the faces of the three people
who sat around it.

Of these three, two were young, and the third was one of those
men whose age it is never easy to guess--a tall, clean-shaven,
bright-eyed, alert-looking man, good-looking in a clever,
professional sort of way, a man whom no one could have taken
for anything but a member of one of the learned callings.  In
some lights he looked no more than forty: a strong light
betrayed the fact that his dark hair had a streak of
grey in it, and was showing a tendency to whiten about the
temples.  A strong, intellectually superior man, this,
scrupulously groomed and well-dressed, as befitted what he
really was--a medical practitioner with an excellent
connection amongst the exclusive society of a cathedral town.
Around him hung an undeniable air of content and prosperity
--as he turned over a pile of letters which stood by his
plate, or glanced at the morning newspaper which lay at his
elbow, it was easy to see that he had no cares beyond those of
the day, and that they--so far as he knew then--were not
likely to affect him greatly.  Seeing him in these pleasant
domestic circumstances, at the head of his table, with
abundant evidences of comfort and refinement and modest luxury
about him, any one would have said, without hesitation, that
Dr. Mark Ransford was undeniably one of the fortunate folk of
this world.

The second person of the three was a boy of apparently
seventeen--a well-built, handsome lad of the senior schoolboy
type, who was devoting himself in business-like fashion to
two widely-differing pursuits--one, the consumption of eggs
and bacon and dry toast; the other, the study of a Latin
textbook, which he had propped up in front of him against
the old-fashioned silver cruet.  His quick eyes wandered
alternately between his book and his plate; now and then he
muttered a line or two to himself.  His companions took no
notice of these combinations of eating and learning: they
knew from experience that it was his way to make up at
breakfast-time for the moments he had stolen from his studies
the night before.

It was not difficult to see that the third member of the
party, a girl of nineteen or twenty, was the boy's sister.
Each had a wealth of brown hair, inclining, in the girl's case
to a shade that had tints of gold in it; each had grey eyes,
in which there was a mixture of blue; each had a bright, vivid
colour; each was undeniably good-looking and eminently
healthy.  No one would have doubted that both had lived a good
deal of an open-air existence: the boy was already muscular
and sinewy: the girl looked as if she was well acquainted with
the tennis racket and the golf-stick.  Nor would any one have
made the mistake of thinking that these two were blood
relations of the man at the head of the table--between them
and him there was not the least resemblance of feature, of
colour, or of manner.

While the boy learnt the last lines of his Latin, and the
doctor turned over the newspaper, the girl read a letter
--evidently, from the large sprawling handwriting, the missive
of some girlish correspondent.  She was deep in it when, from
one of the turrets of the Cathedral, a bell began to ring.  At
that, she glanced at her brother.

"There's Martin, Dick!" she said.  "You'll have to hurry."

Many a long year before that, in one of the bygone centuries,
a worthy citizen of Wrychester, Martin by name, had left a sum
of money to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral on condition
that as long as ever the Cathedral stood, they should cause to
be rung a bell from its smaller bell-tower for three minutes
before nine o'clock every morning, all the year round.  What
Martin's object had been no one now knew--but this bell served
to remind young gentlemen going to offices, and boys going to
school, that the hour of their servitude was near.  And Dick
Bewery, without a word, bolted half his coffee, snatched up
his book, grabbed at a cap which lay with more books on a
chair close by, and vanished through the open window.  The
doctor laughed, laid aside his newspaper, and handed his cup
across the table.

"I don't think you need bother yourself about Dick's ever
being late, Mary," he said.  "You are not quite aware of the
power of legs that are only seventeen years old.  Dick could
get to any given point in just about one-fourth of the time
that I could, for instance--moreover, he has a cunning
knowledge of every short cut in the city."

Mary Bewery took the empty cup and began to refill it.

"I don't like him to be late," she remarked.  "It's the
beginning of bad habits."

"Oh, well!" said Ransford indulgently.  "He's pretty free from
anything of that sort, you know.  I haven't even suspected him
of smoking, yet."

"That's because he thinks smoking would stop his growth and
interfere with his cricket," answered Mary.  "He would smoke
if it weren't for that."

"That's giving him high praise, then," said Ransford.  "You
couldn't give him higher!  Know how to repress his
inclinations.  An excellent thing--and most unusual, I fancy.
Most people--don't!"

He took his refilled cup, rose from the table, and opened a
box of cigarettes which stood on the mantelpiece.  And the
girl, instead of picking up her letter again, glanced at him a
little doubtfully.

"That reminds me of--of something I wanted to say to you," she
said.  "You're quite right about people not repressing their
inclinations.  I--I wish some people would!"

Ransford turned quickly from the hearth and gave her a sharp
look, beneath which her colour heightened.  Her eyes shifted
their gaze away to her letter, and she picked it up and began
to fold it nervously.  And at that Ransford rapped out a name,
putting a quick suggestion of meaning inquiry into his voice.

"Bryce?" he asked.

The girl nodded her face showing distinct annoyance and
dislike.  Before saying more, Ransford lighted a cigarette.

"Been at it again?" he said at last.  "Since last time?"

"Twice," she answered.  "I didn't like to tell you--I've hated
to bother you about it.  But--what am I to do?  I dislike him
intensely--I can't tell why, but it's there, and nothing could
ever alter the feeling.  And though I told him--before--that
it was useless--he mentioned it again--yesterday--at Mrs.
Folliot's garden-party."

"Confound his impudence!" growled Ransford.  "Oh, well!--I'll
have to settle with him myself.  It's useless trifling with
anything like that.  I gave him a quiet hint before.  And
since he won't take it--all right!"

"But--what shall you do?" she asked anxiously.  "Not--send him
away?"

"If he's any decency about him, he'll go--after what I say to
him," answered Ransford.  "Don't you trouble yourself about
it--I'm not at all keen about him.  He's a clever enough
fellow, and a good assistant, but I don't like him,
personally--never did."

"I don't want to think that anything that I say should lose
him his situation--or whatever you call it," she remarked
slowly.  "That would seem--"

"No need to bother," interrupted Ransford.  "He'll get another
in two minutes--so to speak.  Anyway, we can't have this going
on.  The fellow must be an ass!  When I was young--"

He stopped short at that, and turning away, looked out across
the garden as if some recollection had suddenly struck him.

"When you were young--which is, of course, such an awfully
long time since!" said the girl, a little teasingly.  "What?"

"Only that if a woman said No--unmistakably--once, a man took
it as final," replied Ransford.  "At least--so I was always
given to believe.  Nowadays--"

"You forget that Mr. Pemberton Bryce is what most people would
call a very pushing young man," said Mary.  "If he doesn't get
what he wants in this world, it won't be for not asking for
it.  But--if you must speak to him--and I really think you
must!--will you tell him that he is not going to get--me?
Perhaps he'll take it finally from you--as my guardian."

"I don't know if parents and guardians count for much in these
degenerate days," said Ransford.  "But--I won't have him
annoying you.  And--I suppose it has come to annoyance?"

"It's very annoying to be asked three times by a man whom
you've told flatly, once for all, that you don't want him, at
any time, ever!" she answered.  "It's--irritating!"

"All right," said Ransford quietly.  "I'll speak to him.
There's going to be no annoyance for you under this roof."

The girl gave him a quick glance, and Ransford turned away
from her and picked up his letters.

"Thank you," she said.  "But--there's no need to tell me that,
because I know it already.  Now I wonder if you'll tell me
something more?"

Ransford turned back with a sudden apprehension.

"Well?" he asked brusquely.  "What?"

"When are you going to tell me all about--Dick and myself?"
she asked.  "You promised that you would, you know, some day.
And--a whole year's gone by since then.  And--Dick's
seventeen!  He won't be satisfied always--just to know no more
than that our father and mother died when we were very little,
and that you've been guardian--and all that you have been!--to
us.  Will he, now?"

Ransford laid down his letters again, and thrusting his hands
in his pockets, squared his shoulders against the mantelpiece.
"Don't you think you might wait until you're twenty-one?" he
asked.

"Why?" she said, with a laugh.  "I'm just twenty--do you
really think I shall be any wiser in twelve months?  Of course
I shan't!"

"You don't know that," he replied.  "You may be--a great deal
wiser."

"But what has that got to do with it?" she persisted.  "Is
there any reason why I shouldn't be told--everything?"

She was looking at him with a certain amount of demand--and
Ransford, who had always known that some moment of this sort
must inevitably come, felt that she was not going to be put
off with ordinary excuses.  He hesitated--and she went on
speaking.

"You know," she continued, almost pleadingly.  "We don't know
anything--at all.  I never have known, and until lately Dick
has been too young to care--"

"Has he begun asking questions?" demanded Ransford hastily.

"Once or twice, lately--yes," replied Mary.  "It's only
natural."  She laughed a little--a forced laugh.  "They say,"
she went on, "that it doesn't matter, nowadays, if you can't
tell who your grandfather was--but, just think, we don't know
who our father was--except that his name was John Bewery.
That doesn't convey much."

"You know more," said Ransford.  "I told you--always have told
you--that he was an early friend of mine, a man of business,
who, with your mother, died young, and I, as their friend,
became guardian to you and Dick.  Is--is there anything much
more that I could tell?"

"There's something I should very much like to know
--personally," she answered, after a pause which lasted so
long that Ransford began to feel uncomfortable under it.
"Don't be angry--or hurt--if I tell you plainly what it is.
I'm quite sure it's never even occurred to Dick--but I'm three
years ahead of him.  It's this--have we been dependent on
you?"

Ransford's face flushed and he turned deliberately to the
window, and for a moment stood staring out on his garden and
the glimpses of the Cathedral.  And just as deliberately as he
had turned away, he turned back.

"No!" he said.  "Since you ask me, I'll tell you that.  You've
both got money--due to you when you're of age.  It--it's in my
hands.  Not a great lot--but sufficient to--to cover all your
expenses.  Education--everything.  When you're twenty-one,
I'll hand over yours--when Dick's twenty-one, his.  Perhaps I
ought to have told you all that before, but--I didn't think it
necessary.  I--I dare say I've a tendency to let things
slide."

"You've never let things slide about us," she replied quickly,
with a sudden glance which made him turn away again.  "And I
only wanted to know--because I'd got an idea that--well, that
we were owing everything to you."

"Not from me!" he exclaimed.

"No--that would never be!" she said.  "But--don't you
understand? I--wanted to know--something.  Thank you.  I won't
ask more now."

"I've always meant to tell you--a good deal," remarked
Ransford, after another pause.  "You see, I can scarcely--yet
--realize that you're both growing up!  You were at school a
year ago.  And Dick is still very young.  Are--are you more
satisfied now?" he went on anxiously.  "If not--"

"I'm quite satisfied," she answered.  "Perhaps--some day
--you'll tell me more about our father and mother?--but never
mind even that now.  You're sure you haven't minded my asking
--what I have asked?"

"Of course not--of course not!" he said hastily.  "I ought to
have remembered.  And--but we'll talk again.  I must get into
the surgery--and have a word with Bryce, too."

"If you could only make him see reason and promise not to
offend again," she said.  "Wouldn't that solve the
difficulty?"

Ransford shook his head and made no answer.  He picked up his
letters again and went out, and down a long stone-walled
passage which led to his surgery at the side of the house.  He
was alone there when he had shut the door--and he relieved his
feelings with a deep groan.

"Heaven help me if the lad ever insists on the real truth and
on having proofs and facts given to him!" he muttered.  "I
shouldn't mind telling her, when she's a bit older--but he
wouldn't understand as she would.  Anyway, thank God I can
keep up the pleasant fiction about the money without her
ever knowing that I told her a deliberate lie just now.  But
--what's in the future?  Here's one man to be dismissed
already, and there'll be others, and one of them will be the
favoured man.  That man will have to be told!  And--so will
she, then.  And--my God!  she doesn't see, and mustn't see,
that I'm madly in love with her myself!  She's no idea of it
--and she shan't have; I must--must continue to be--only the
guardian!"

He laughed a little cynically as he laid his letters down on
his desk and proceeded to open them--in which occupation he
was presently interrupted by the opening of the side-door and
the entrance of Mr. Pemberton Bryce.




CHAPTER II - MAKING AN ENEMY


It was characteristic of Pemberton Bryce that he always walked
into a room as if its occupant were asleep and he was afraid
of waking him.  He had a gentle step which was soft without
being stealthy, and quiet movements which brought him suddenly
to anybody's side before his presence was noticed.  He was by
Ransford's desk ere Ransford knew he was in the surgery--and
Ransford's sudden realization of his presence roused a certain
feeling of irritation in his mind, which he instantly
endeavoured to suppress--it was no use getting cross with a
man of whom you were about to rid yourself, he said to
himself.  And for the moment, after replying to his
assistant's greeting--a greeting as quiet as his entrance--he
went on reading his letters, and Bryce turned off to that part
of the surgery in which the drugs were kept, and busied
himself in making up some prescription.  Ten minutes went by
in silence; then Ransford pushed his correspondence aside,
laid a paper-weight on it, and twisting his chair round,
looked at the man to whom he was going to say some unpleasant
things.  Within himself he was revolving a question--how would
Bryce take it?

He had never liked this assistant of his, although he had then
had him in employment for nearly two years.  There was
something about Pemberton Bryce which he did not understand
and could not fathom.  He had come to him with excellent
testimonials and good recommendations; he was well up to his
work, successful with patients, thoroughly capable as a
general practitioner--there was no fault to be found with him
on any professional grounds.  But to Ransford his personality
was objectionable--why, he was not quite sure.  Outwardly,
Bryce was rather more than presentable--a tall, good-looking
man of twenty-eight or thirty, whom some people--women
especially--would call handsome; he was the sort of young man
who knows the value of good clothes and a smart appearance,
and his professional manner was all that could be desired.
But Ransford could not help distinguishing between Bryce the
doctor and Bryce the man--and Bryce the man he did not like.
Outside the professional part of him, Bryce seemed to him to
be undoubtedly deep, sly, cunning--he conveyed the impression
of being one of those men whose ears are always on the
stretch, who take everything in and give little out.  There
was a curious air of watchfulness and of secrecy about him in
private matters which was as repellent--to Ransford's
thinking--as it was hard to explain.  Anyway, in private
affairs, he did not like his assistant, and he liked him less
than ever as he glanced at him on this particular occasion.

"I want a word with you," he said curtly.  "I'd better say it
now."

Bryce, who was slowly pouring some liquid from one bottle into
another, looked quietly across the room and did not interrupt
himself in his work.  Ransford knew that he must have
recognized a certain significance in the words just addressed
to him--but he showed no outward sign of it, and the liquid
went on trickling from one bottle to the other with the same
uniform steadiness.

"Yes?" said Bryce inquiringly.  "One moment."

He finished his task calmly, put the corks in the bottles,
labelled one, restored the other to a shelf, and turned round.
Not a man to be easily startled--not easily turned from a
purpose, this, thought Ransford as he glanced at Bryce's eyes,
which had a trick of fastening their gaze on people with an
odd, disconcerting persistency.

"I'm sorry to say what I must say," he began.  "But--you've
brought it on yourself.  I gave you a hint some time ago that
your attentions were not welcome to Miss Bewery."

Bryce made no immediate response.  Instead, leaning almost
carelessly and indifferently against the table at which he had
been busy with drugs and bottles, he took a small file from
his waistcoat pocket and began to polish his carefully cut
nails.

"Yes?" he said, after a pause.  "Well?"

"In spite of it," continued Ransford, "you've since addressed
her again on the matter--not merely once, but twice."

Bryce put his file away, and thrusting his hands in his
pockets, crossed his feet as he leaned back against the table
--his whole attitude suggesting, whether meaningly or not, that
he was very much at his ease.

"There's a great deal to be said on a point like this," he
observed.  "If a man wishes a certain young woman to become
his wife, what right has any other man--or the young woman
herself, for that matter to say that he mustn't express his
desires to her?"

"None," said Ransford, "provided he only does it once--and
takes the answer he gets as final."

"I disagree with you entirely," retorted Bryce.  "On the last
particular, at any rate.  A man who considers any word of a
woman's as being final is a fool.  What a woman thinks on
Monday she's almost dead certain not to think on Tuesday.  The
whole history of human relationship is on my side there.  It's
no opinion--it's a fact."

Ransford stared at this frank remark, and Bryce went on,
coolly and imperturbably, as if he had been discussing a
medical problem.

"A man who takes a woman's first answer as final," he
continued, "is, I repeat, a fool.  There are lots of reasons
why a woman shouldn't know her own mind at the first time of
asking.  She may be too surprised.  She mayn't be quite
decided.  She may say one thing when she really means another.
That often happens.  She isn't much better equipped at the
second time of asking.  And there are women--young ones--who
aren't really certain of themselves at the third time.  All
that's common sense."

"I'll tell you what it is!" suddenly exclaimed Ransford, after
remaining silent for a moment under this flow of philosophy.
"I'm not going to discuss theories and ideas.  I know one
young woman, at any rate, who is certain of herself.  Miss
Bewery does not feel any inclination to you--now, nor at any
time to be!  She's told you so three times.  And--you should
take her answer and behave yourself accordingly!"

Bryce favoured his senior with a searching look.

"How does Miss Bewery know that she mayn't be inclined to--in
the future?" he asked.  "She may come to regard me with
favour."

"No, she won't!" declared Ransford.  "Better hear the truth,
and be done with it.  She doesn't like you--and she doesn't
want to, either.  Why can't you take your answer like a man?"

"What's your conception of a man?" asked Bryce.

"That!--and a good one," exclaimed Ransford.

"May satisfy you--but not me," said Bryce.  "Mine's different.
My conception of a man is of a being who's got some
perseverance.  You can get anything in this world--anything!
--by pegging away for it."

"You're not going to get my ward," suddenly said Ransford.
"That's flat!  She doesn't want you--and she's now said so
three times.  And--I support her."

"What have you against me?" asked Bryce calmly.  "If, as you
say, you support her in her resolution not to listen to my
proposals, you must have something against me.  What is it?"

"That's a question you've no right to put," replied Ransford,
"for it's utterly unnecessary.  So I'm not going to answer it.
I've nothing against you as regards your work--nothing!  I'm
willing to give you an excellent testimonial."

"Oh!" remarked Bryce quietly.  "That means--you wish me to go
away?"

"I certainly think it would be best," said Ransford.

"In that case," continued Bryce, more coolly than ever, "I
shall certainly want to know what you have against me--or what
Miss Bewery has against me.  Why am I objected to as a suitor?
You, at any rate, know who I am--you know that my father is of
our own profession, and a man of reputation and standing, and
that I myself came to you on high recommendation.  Looked at
from my standpoint, I'm a thoroughly eligible young man.  And
there's a point you forget--there's no mystery about me!"

Ransford turned sharply in his chair as he noticed the
emphasis which Bryce put on his last word.

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"What I've just said," replied Bryce.  "There's no mystery
attaching to me.  Any question about me can be answered.  Now,
you can't say that as regards your ward.  That's a fact, Dr.
Ransford."

Ransford, in years gone by, had practised himself in the art
of restraining his temper--naturally a somewhat quick one.
And he made a strong effort in that direction now, recognizing
that there was something behind his assistant's last remark,
and that Bryce meant him to know it was there.

"I'll repeat what I've just said," he answered.  "What do you
mean by that?"

"I hear things," said Bryce.  "People will talk--even a doctor
can't refuse to hear what gossiping and garrulous patients
say.  Since she came to you from school, a year ago,
Wrychester people have been much interested in Miss Bewery,
and in her brother, too.  And there are a good many residents
of the Close--you know their nice, inquisitive ways!--who want
to know who the sister and brother really are--and what your
relationship is to them!"

"Confound their impudence!" growled Ransford.

"By all means," agreed Bryce.  "And--for all I care--let them
be confounded, too.  But if you imagine that the choice and
select coteries of a cathedral town, consisting mainly of the
relicts of deceased deans, canons, prebendaries and the like,
and of maiden aunts, elderly spinsters, and tea-table-haunting
curates, are free from gossip--why, you're a singularly
innocent person!"

"They'd better not begin gossiping about my affairs," said
Ransford.  "Otherwise--"

"You can't stop them from gossiping about your affairs,"
interrupted Bryce cheerfully.  "Of course they gossip about
your affairs; have gossiped about them; will continue to
gossip about them.  It's human nature!"

"You've heard them?" asked Ransford, who was too vexed to keep
back his curiosity.  "You yourself?"

"As you are aware, I am often asked out to tea," replied
Bryce, "and to garden-parties, and tennis-parties, and choice
and cosy functions patronized by curates and associated with
crumpets.  I have heard--with these ears.  I can even repeat
the sort of thing I have heard.  'That dear, delightful Miss
Bewery--what a charming girl!  And that good-looking boy, her
brother--quite a dear!  Now I wonder who they really are?
Wards of Dr. Ransford, of course!  Really, how very romantic!
--and just a little--eh?--unusual?  Such a comparatively young
man to have such a really charming girl as his ward!  Can't be
more than forty-five himself, and she's twenty--how very, very
romantic!  Really, one would think there ought to be a
chaperon!'"

"Damn!" said Ransford under his breath.

"Just so," agreed Bryce.  "But--that's the sort of thing.  Do
you want more?  I can supply an unlimited quantity in the
piece if you like.  But it's all according to sample."

"So--in addition to your other qualities," remarked Ransford,
"you're a gossiper?"

Bryce smiled slowly and shook his head.

"No," he replied.  "I'm a listener.  A good one, too.  But do
you see my point?  I say--there's no mystery about me.  If
Miss Bewery will honour me with her hand, she'll get a man
whose antecedents will bear the strictest investigation."

"Are you inferring that hers won't?" demanded Ransford.

"I'm not inferring anything," said Bryce.  "I am speaking for
myself, of myself.  Pressing my own claim, if you like, on
you, the guardian.  You might do much worse than support my
claims, Dr. Ransford."

"Claims, man!" retorted Ransford.  "You've got no claims!
What are you talking about? Claims!"

"My  pretensions, then," answered Bryce.  "If there is a
mystery--as Wrychester people say there is--about Miss Bewery,
it would be safe with me.  Whatever you may think, I'm a
thoroughly dependable man--when it's in my own interest."

"And--when it isn't?" asked Ransford.  "What are you then?--as
you're so candid."

"I could be a very bad enemy," replied Bryce.

There was a moment's silence, during which the two men looked
attentively at each other.

"I've told you the truth," said Ransford at last.  "Miss
Bewery flatly refuses to entertain any idea whatever of ever
marrying you.  She earnestly hopes that that eventuality may
never be mentioned to her again.  Will you give me your word
of honour to respect her wishes?"

"No!" answered Bryce.  "I won't!"

"Why not?" asked Ransford, with a faint show of anger.  "A
woman's wishes!"

"Because I may consider that I see signs of a changed mind in
her," said Bryce.  "That's why."

"You'll never see any change of mind," declared Ransford.
"That's certain.  Is that your fixed determination?"

"It is," answered Bryce.  "I'm not the sort of man who is
easily repelled."

"Then, in that case," said Ransford, "we had better part
company."  He rose from his desk, and going over to a safe
which stood in a corner, unlocked it and took some papers from
an inside drawer.  He consulted one of these and turned to
Bryce.  "You remember our agreement?" he continued.  "Your
engagement was to be determined by a three months' notice on
either side, or, at my will, at any time by payment of three
months' salary?"

"Quite right," agreed Bryce.  "I remember, of course."

"Then I'll give you a cheque for three months' salary--now,"
said Ransford, and sat down again at his desk.  "That will
settle matters definitely--and, I hope, agreeably."

Bryce made no reply.  He remained leaning against the table,
watching Ransford write the cheque.  And when Ransford laid
the cheque down at the edge of the desk he made no movement
towards it.

"You must see," remarked Ransford, half apologetically, "that
it's the only thing I can do.  I can't have any man who's not
--not welcome to her, to put it plainly--causing any annoyance
to my ward.  I repeat, Bryce--you must see it!"

"I have nothing to do with what you see," answered Bryce.
"Your opinions are not mine, and mine aren't yours.  You're
really turning me away--as if I were a dishonest foreman!
--because in my opinion it would be a very excellent thing for
her and for myself if Miss Bewery would consent to marry me.
That's the plain truth."

Ransford allowed himself to take a long and steady look at
Bryce.  The thing was done now, and his dismissed assistant
seemed to be taking it quietly--and Ransford's curiosity was
aroused.

"I can't make you out!" he exclaimed.  "I don't know whether
you're the most cynical young man I ever met, or whether
you're the most obtuse--"

"Not the last, anyway," interrupted Bryce.  "I assure you of
that!"

"Can't you see for yourself, then, man, that the girl doesn't
want you!" said Ransford.  "Hang it!--for anything you know to
the contrary, she may have--might have--other ideas!"

Bryce, who had been staring out of a side window for the last
minute or two, suddenly laughed, and, lifting a hand, pointed
into the garden.  And Ransford turned--and saw Mary Bewery
walking there with a tall lad, whom he recognized as one
Sackville Bonham, stepson of Mr. Folliot, a wealthy resident
of the Close.  The two young people were laughing and chatting
together with evident great friendliness.

"Perhaps," remarked Bryce quietly, "her ideas run in--that
direction?  In which case, Dr. Ransford, you'll have trouble.
For Mrs. Folliot, mother of yonder callow youth, who's the
apple of her eye, is one of the inquisitive ladies of whom
I've just told you, and if her son unites himself with
anybody, she'll want to know exactly who that anybody is.
You'd far better have supported me as an aspirant!  However
--I suppose there's no more to say."

"Nothing!" answered Ransford.  "Except to say good-day--and
good-bye to you.  You needn't remain--I'll see to everything.
And I'm going out now.  I think you'd better not exchange any
farewells with any one."

Bryce nodded silently, and Ransford, picking up his hat and
gloves, left the surgery by the side door.  A moment later,
Bryce saw him crossing the Close.




CHAPTER III - ST. WRYTHA'S STAIR


The summarily dismissed assistant, thus left alone, stood
for a moment in evident deep thought before he moved
towards Ransford's desk and picked up the cheque.  He
looked at it carefully, folded it neatly, and put it away
in his pocket-book; after that he proceeded to collect a
few possessions of his own, instruments, books from various
drawers and shelves.  He was placing these things in a small
hand-bag when a gentle tap sounded on the door by which
patients approached the surgery.

"Come in!" he called.

There was no response, although the door was slightly ajar;
instead, the knock was repeated, and at that Bryce crossed the
room and flung the door open.

A man stood outside--an elderly, slight-figured, quiet-looking
man, who looked at Bryce with a half-deprecating, half-nervous
air; the air of a man who was shy in manner and evidently
fearful of seeming to intrude.  Bryce's quick, observant eyes
took him in at a glance, noting a much worn and lined face,
thin grey hair and tired eyes; this was a man, he said to
himself, who had seen trouble.  Nevertheless, not a poor man,
if his general appearance was anything to go by--he was well
and even expensively dressed, in the style generally affected
by well-to-do merchants and city men; his clothes were
fashionably cut, his silk hat was new, his linen and boots
irreproachable; a fine diamond pin gleamed in his carefully
arranged cravat.  Why, then, this unmistakably furtive and
half-frightened manner--which seemed to be somewhat relieved
at the sight of Bryce?

"Is this--is Dr. Ransford within?" asked the stranger.  "I was
told this is his house."

"Dr. Ransford is out," replied Bryce.  "Just gone out--not
five minutes ago.  This is his surgery.  Can I be of use?"

The man hesitated, looking beyond Bryce into the room.

"No, thank you," he said at last.  "I--no, I don't want
professional services--I just called to see Dr. Ransford--I
--the fact is, I once knew some one of that name.  It's no
matter--at present."

Bryce stepped outside and pointed across the Close.

"Dr. Ransford," he said, "went over there--I rather fancy he's
gone to the Deanery--he has a case there.  If you went through
Paradise, you'd very likely meet him coming back--the Deanery
is the big house in the far corner yonder."

The stranger followed Bryce's outstretched finger.

"Paradise?" he said, wonderingly.  "What's that?"

Bryce pointed to a long stretch of grey wall which projected
from the south wall of the Cathedral into the Close.

"It's an enclosure--between the south porch and the transept,"
he said.  "Full of old tombs and trees--a sort of wilderness
--why called Paradise I don't know.  There's a short cut
across it to the Deanery and that part of the Close--through
that archway you see over there.  If you go across, you're
almost sure to meet Dr. Ransford."

"I'm much obliged to you," said the stranger.  "Thank you."

He turned away in the direction which Bryce had indicated, and
Bryce went back--only to go out again and call after him.

"If you don't meet him, shall I say you'll call again?" he
asked.  "And--what name?"

The stranger shook his head.

"It's immaterial," he answered.  "I'll see him--somewhere--or
later.  Many thanks."

He went on his way towards Paradise, and Bryce returned to the
surgery and completed his preparations for departure.  And in
the course of things, he more than once looked through the
window into the garden and saw Mary Bewery still walking and
talking with young Sackville Bonham.

"No," he muttered to himself.  "I won't trouble to exchange
any farewells--not because of Ransford's hint, but because
there's no need.  If Ransford thinks he's going to drive me
out of Wrychester before I choose to go he's badly mistaken
--it'll be time enough to say farewell when I take my
departure--and that won't be just yet.  Now I wonder who that
old chap was?  Knew some one of Ransford's name once, did he?
Probably Ransford himself--in which case he knows more of
Ransford than anybody in Wrychester knows--for nobody in
Wrychester knows anything beyond a few years back.  No, Dr.
Ransford!--no farewells--to anybody!  A mere departure--till I
turn up again."

But Bryce was not to get away from the old house without
something in the nature of a farewell.  As he walked out of
the surgery by the side entrance, Mary Bewery, who had just
parted from young Bonham in the garden and was about to visit
her dogs in the stable yard, came along: she and Bryce met,
face to face.  The girl flushed, not so much from
embarrassment as from vexation; Bryce, cool as ever, showed no
sign of any embarrassment.  Instead, he laughed, tapping the
hand-bag which he carried under one arm.

"Summarily turned out--as if I had been stealing the spoons,"
he remarked.  "I go--with my small belongings.  This is my
first reward--for devotion."

"I have nothing to say to you," answered Mary, sweeping by him
with a highly displeased lance.  "Except that you have brought
it on yourself."

"A very feminine retort!" observed Bryce.  "But--there is no
malice in it?  Your anger won't last more than--shall we say a
day?"

"You may say what you like," she replied.  "As I just said, I
have nothing to say--now or at any time."

"That remains to be proved," remarked Bryce.  "The phrase is
one of much elasticity.  But for the present--I go!"

He walked out into the Close, and without as much as a
backward look struck off across the sward in the direction in
which, ten minutes before, he had sent the strange man.  He
had rooms in a quiet lane on the farther side of the Cathedral
precinct, and his present intention was to go to them to leave
his bag and make some further arrangements.  He had no idea of
leaving Wrychester--he knew of another doctor in the city who
was badly in need of help: he would go to him--would tell him,
if need be, why he had left Ransford.  He had a multiplicity
of schemes and ideas in his head, and he began to consider
some of them as he stepped out of the Close into the ancient
enclosure which all Wrychester folk knew by its time-honoured
name of Paradise.  This was really an outer court of the old
cloisters; its high walls, half-ruinous, almost wholly covered
with ivy, shut in an expanse of turf, literally furnished with
yew and cypress and studded with tombs and gravestones.  In
one corner rose a gigantic elm; in another a broken stairway
of stone led to a doorway set high in the walls of the nave;
across the enclosure itself was a pathway which led towards
the houses in the south-east corner of the Close.  It was a
curious, gloomy spot, little frequented save by people who
went across it rather than follow the gravelled paths outside,
and it was untenanted when Bryce stepped into it.  But just as
he walked through the archway he saw Ransford.  Ransford was
emerging hastily from a postern door in the west porch--so
hastily that Bryce checked himself to look at him.  And though
they were twenty yards apart, Bryce saw that Ransford's face
was very pale, almost to whiteness, and that he was
unmistakably agitated.  Instantly he connected that agitation
with the man who had come to the surgery door.

"They've met!" mused Bryce, and stopped, staring after
Ransford's retreating figure.  "Now what is it in that man's
mere presence that's upset Ransford?  He looks like a man
who's had a nasty, unexpected shock--a bad 'un!"

He remained standing in the archway, gazing after the
retreating figure, until Ransford had disappeared within his
own garden; still wondering and speculating, but not about
his own affairs, he turned across Paradise at last and made
his way towards the farther corner.  There was a little
wicket-gate there, set in the ivied wall; as Bryce opened it,
a man in the working dress of a stone-mason, whom he
recognized as being one of the master-mason's staff, came
running out of the bushes.  His face, too, was white, and his
eyes were big with excitement.  And recognizing Bryce, he
halted, panting.

"What is it, Varner?" asked Bryce calmly.  "Something
happened?"

The man swept his hand across his forehead as if he were
dazed, and then jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

"A man!" he gasped.  "Foot of St. Wrytha's Stair there,
doctor.  Dead--or if not dead, near it.  I saw it!"

Bryce seized Varner's arm and gave it a shake.

"You saw--what?" he demanded.

"Saw him--fall.  Or rather--flung!" panted Varner.
"Somebody--couldn't see who, nohow--flung him right through
yon doorway, up there.  He fell right over the steps--crash!"
Bryce looked over the tops of the yews and cypresses at the
doorway in the clerestory to which Varner pointed--a low, open
archway gained by the half-ruinous stair.  It was forty feet
at least from the ground.

"You saw him--thrown!" he exclaimed.  "Thrown--down there?
Impossible, man!"

"Tell you I saw it!" asserted Varner doggedly.  "I was looking
at one of those old tombs yonder--somebody wants some repairs
doing--and the jackdaws were making such a to-do up there by
the roof I glanced up at them.  And I saw this man thrown
through that door--fairly flung through it!  God!--do you
think I could mistake my own eyes?"

"Did you see who flung him?" asked Bryce.

"No; I saw a hand--just for one second, as it might be--by the
edge of the doorway," answered Varner.  "I was more for
watching him!  He sort of tottered for a second on the step
outside the door, turned over and screamed--I can hear it
now!--and crashed down on the flags beneath."

"How long since?" demanded Bryce.

"Five or six minutes," said Varner.  "I rushed to him--I've
been doing what I could.  But I saw it was no good, so I was
running for help--"

Bryce pushed him towards the bushes by which they were
standing.

"Take me to him," he said.  "Come on!"

Varner turned back, making a way through the cypresses.  He
led Bryce to the foot of the great wall of the nave.  There in
the corner formed by the angle of nave and transept, on a
broad pavement of flagstones, lay the body of a man crumpled
up in a curiously twisted position.  And with one glance, even
before he reached it, Bryce knew what body it was--that of the
man who had come, shyly and furtively, to Ransford's door.

"Look!" exclaimed Varner, suddenly pointing.  "He's stirring!"

Bryce, whose gaze was fastened on the twisted figure, saw a
slight movement which relaxed as suddenly as it had occurred.
Then came stillness.  "That's the end!" he muttered.  "The
man's dead!  I'll guarantee that before I put a hand on him.
Dead enough!" he went on, as he reached the body and dropped
on one knee by it.  "His neck's broken."

The mason bent down and looked, half-curiously,
half-fearfully, at the dead man.  Then he glanced upward--at
the open door high above them in the walls.

"It's a fearful drop, that, sir," he said.  "And he came down
with such violence.  You're sure it's over with him?"

"He died just as we came up," answered Bryce.  "That movement
we saw was the last effort--involuntary, of course.  Look
here, Varner!--you'll have to get help.  You'd better fetch
some of the cathedral people--some of the vergers.  No!" he
broke off suddenly, as the low strains of an organ came from
within the great building.  "They're just beginning the
morning service--of course, it's ten o'clock.  Never mind
them--go straight to the police.  Bring them back--I'll stay
here."

The mason turned off towards the gateway of the Close, and
while the strains of the organ grew louder, Bryce bent over
the dead man, wondering what had really happened.  Thrown from
an open doorway in the clerestory over St. Wrytha's Stair?--it
seemed almost impossible!  But a sudden thought struck him:
supposing two men, wishing to talk in privacy unobserved, had
gone up into the clerestory of the Cathedral--as they easily
could, by more than one door, by more than one stair--and
supposing they had quarrelled, and one of them had flung or
pushed the other through the door above--what then?  And on
the heels of that thought hurried another--this man, now lying
dead, had come to the surgery, seeking Ransford, and had
subsequently gone away, presumably in search of him, and Bryce
himself had just seen Ransford, obviously agitated and pale of
cheek, leaving the west porch; what did it all mean? what was
the apparently obvious inference to be drawn?  Here was the
stranger dead--and Varner was ready to swear that he had seen
him thrown, flung violently, through the door forty feet
above.  That was--murder!  Then--who was the murderer?

Bryce looked carefully and narrowly around him.  Now that
Varner had gone away, there was not a human being in sight,
nor anywhere near, so far as he knew.  On one side of him and
the dead man rose the grey walls of nave and transept; on the
other, the cypresses and yews rising amongst the old tombs and
monuments.  Assuring himself that no one was near, no eye
watching, he slipped his hand into the inner breast pocket of
the dead man's smart morning coat.  Such a man must carry
papers--papers would reveal something.  And Bryce wanted to
know anything--anything that would give information and let
him into whatever secret there might be between this unlucky
stranger and Ransford.

But the breast pocket was empty; there was no pocket-book
there; there were no papers there.  Nor were there any papers
elsewhere in the other pockets which he hastily searched:
there was not even a card with a name on it.  But he found a
purse, full of money--banknotes, gold, silver--and in one of
its compartments a scrap of paper folded curiously, after
the fashion of the cocked-hat missives of another age in which
envelopes had not been invented.  Bryce hurriedly unfolded
this, and after one glance at its contents, made haste to
secrete it in his own pocket.  He had only just done this and
put back the purse when he heard Varner's voice, and a second
later the voice of Inspector Mitchington, a well-known police
official.  And at that Bryce sprang to his feet, and when the
mason and his companions emerged from the bushes was standing
looking thoughtfully at the dead man.  He turned to
Mitchington with a shake of the head.

"Dead!" he said in a hushed voice.  "Died as we got to him.
Broken--all to pieces, I should say--neck and spine certainly.
I suppose Varner's told you what he saw."

Mitchington, a sharp-eyed, dark-complexioned man, quick of
movement, nodded, and after one glance at the body, looked up
at the open doorway high above them.

"That the door?" he asked, turning to Varner.  "And--it was
open?"

"It's always open," answered Varner.  "Least-ways, it's been
open, like that, all this spring, to my knowledge."

"What is there behind it?" inquired Mitchington.

"Sort of gallery, that runs all round the nave," replied
Varner.  "Clerestory gallery--that's what it is.  People can go
up there and walk around--lots of 'em do--tourists, you know.
There's two or three ways up to it--staircases in the
turrets."

Mitchington turned to one of the two constables who had
followed him.

"Let Varner show you the way up there," he said.  "Go quietly
--don't make any fuss--the morning service is just beginning.
Say nothing to anybody--just take a quiet look around, along
that gallery, especially near the door there--and come back
here."  He looked down at the dead man again as the mason and
the constable went away.  "A stranger, I should think, doctor
--tourist, most likely.  But--thrown down!  That man Varner is
positive.  That looks like foul play."

"Oh, there's no doubt of that!" asserted Bryce.  "You'll have
to go into that pretty deeply.  But the inside of the
Cathedral's like a rabbit-warren, and whoever threw the man
through that doorway no doubt knew how to slip away
unobserved.  Now, you'll have to remove the body to the
mortuary, of course--but just let me fetch Dr. Ransford first.
I'd like some other medical man than myself to see him before
he's moved--I'll have him here in five minutes."

He turned away through the bushes and emerging upon the Close
ran across the lawns in the direction of the house which he
had left not twenty minutes before.  He had but one idea as he
ran--he wanted to see Ransford face to face with the dead man
--wanted to watch him, to observe him, to see how he looked,
how he behaved.  Then he, Bryce, would know--something.

But he was to know something before that.  He opened the door
of the surgery suddenly, but with his usual quietness of
touch.  And on the threshold he paused.  Ransford, the very
picture of despair, stood just within, his face convulsed,
beating one hand upon the other.




CHAPTER IV - THE ROOM AT THE MITRE


In the few seconds which elapsed before Ransford recognized
Bryce's presence, Bryce took a careful, if swift, observation
of his late employer.  That Ransford was visibly upset by
something was plain enough to see; his face was still pale, he
was muttering to himself, one clenched fist was pounding the
open palm of the other hand--altogether, he looked like a man
who is suddenly confronted with some fearful difficulty.  And
when Bryce, having looked long enough to satisfy his wishes,
coughed gently, he started in such a fashion as to suggest
that his nerves had become unstrung.

"What is it?--what are you doing there?" he demanded almost
fiercely.  "What do you mean by coming in like that?"

Bryce affected to have seen nothing.

"I came to fetch you," he answered.  "There's been an accident
in Paradise--man fallen from that door at the head of St.
Wrytha's Stair.  I wish you'd come--but I may as well tell you
that he's past help--dead!"

"Dead!  A man?" exclaimed Ransford.  "What man?  A workman?"

Bryce had already made up his mind about telling Ransford of
the stranger's call at the surgery.  He would say nothing--at
that time at any rate.  It was improbable that any one but
himself knew of the call; the side entrance to the surgery was
screened from the Close by a shrubbery; it was very unlikely
that any passer-by had seen the man call or go away.  No--he
would keep his knowledge secret until it could be made better
use of.

"Not a workman--not a townsman--a stranger," he answered.
"Looks like a well-to-do tourist.  A slightly-built, elderly
man--grey-haired."

Ransford, who had turned to his desk to master himself, looked
round with a sudden sharp glance--and for the moment Bryce was
taken aback.  For he had condemned Ransford--and yet that
glance was one of apparently genuine surprise, a glance which
almost convinced him, against his will, against only too
evident facts, that Ransford was hearing of the Paradise
affair for the first time.

"An elderly man--grey-haired--slightly built?" said Ransford.
"Dark clothes--silk hat?"

"Precisely," replied Bryce, who was now considerably
astonished.  "Do you know him?"

"I saw such a man entering the Cathedral, a while ago,"
answered Ransford.  "A stranger, certainly.  Come along,
then."

He had fully recovered his self-possession by that time, and
he led the way from the surgery and across the Close as if he
were going on an ordinary professional visit.  He kept silence
as they walked rapidly towards Paradise, and Bryce was silent,
too.  He had studied Ransford a good deal during their two
years' acquaintanceship, and he knew Ransford's power of
repressing and commanding his feelings and concealing his
thoughts.  And now he decided that the look and start which he
had at first taken to be of the nature of genuine astonishment
were cunningly assumed, and he was not surprised when, having
reached the group of men gathered around the body, Ransford
showed nothing but professional interest.

"Have you done anything towards finding out who this
unfortunate man is?" asked Ransford, after a brief
examination, as he turned to Mitchington.  "Evidently a
stranger--but he probably has papers on him."

"There's nothing on him--except a purse, with plenty of money
in it," answered Mitchington.  "I've been through his pockets
myself: there isn't a scrap of paper--not even as much as an
old letter.  But he's evidently a tourist, or something of the
sort, and so he'll probably have stayed in the city all night,
and I'm going to inquire at the hotels."

"There'll be an inquest, of course," remarked Ransford
mechanically.  "Well--we can do nothing, Mitchington.  You'd
better have the body removed to the mortuary."  He turned and
looked up the broken stairway at the foot of which they were
standing.  "You say he fell down that?" he asked.  "Whatever
was he doing up there?"

Mitchington looked at Bryce.

"Haven't you told Dr. Ransford how it was?" he asked.

"No," answered Bryce.  He glanced at Ransford, indicating
Varner, who had come back with the constable and was standing
by.  "He didn't fall," he went on, watching Ransford narrowly.
"He was violently flung out of that doorway.  Varner here saw
it."

Ransford's cheek flushed, and he was unable to repress a
slight start.  He looked at the mason.

"You actually saw it!" he exclaimed.  "Why, what did you see?"

"Him!" answered Varner, nodding at the dead man.  "Flung,
head and heels, clean through that doorway up there.  Hadn't
a chance to save himself, he hadn't!  Just grabbed at
--nothing!--and came down.  Give a year's wages if I hadn't
seen it--and heard him scream."

Ransford was watching Varner with a set, concentrated look.

"Who--flung him?" he asked suddenly.  "You say you saw!"

"Aye, sir, but not as much as all that!" replied the mason.
"I just saw a hand--and that was all.  But," he added, turning
to the police with a knowing look, "there's one thing I can
swear to--it was a gentleman's hand!  I saw the white shirt
cuff and a bit of a black sleeve!"

Ransford turned away.  But he just as suddenly turned back to
the inspector.

"You'll have to let the Cathedral authorities know,
Mitchington," he said.  "Better get the body removed, though,
first--do it now before the morning service is over.  And--let
me hear what you find out about his identity, if you can
discover anything in the city."

He went away then, without another word or a further glance at
the dead man.  But Bryce had already assured himself of what
he was certain was a fact--that a look of unmistakable relief
had swept across Ransford's face for the fraction of a second
when he knew that there were no papers on the dead man.  He
himself waited after Ransford had gone; waited until the
police had fetched a stretcher, when he personally
superintended the removal of the body to the mortuary outside
the Close.  And there a constable who had come over from the
police-station gave a faint hint as to further investigation.

"I saw that poor gentleman last night, sir," he said to the
inspector.  "He was standing at the door of the Mitre, talking
to another gentleman--a tallish man."

"Then I'll go across there," said Mitchington.  "Come with me,
if you like, Dr. Bryce."

This was precisely what Bryce desired--he was already anxious
to acquire all the information he could get.  And he walked
over the way with the inspector, to the quaint old-world inn
which filled almost one side of the little square known as
Monday Market, and in at the courtyard, where, looking out of
the bow window which had served as an outer bar in the
coaching days, they found the landlady of the Mitre, Mrs.
Partingley.  Bryce saw at once that she had heard the news.

"What's this, Mr. Mitchington?" she demanded as they drew near
across the cobble-paved yard.  "Somebody's been in to say
there's been an accident to a gentleman, a stranger--I hope it
isn't one of the two we've got in the house?"

"I should say it is, ma'am," answered the inspector.  "He was
seen outside here last night by one of our men, anyway."

The landlady uttered an expression of distress, and opening a
side-door, motioned them to step into her parlour.

"Which of them is it?" she asked anxiously.  "There's two
--came together last night, they did--a tall one and a short
one.  Dear, dear me!--is it a bad accident, now, inspector?"

"The man's dead, ma'am," replied Mitchington grimly.  "And we
want to know who he is.  Have you got his name--and the other
gentleman's?"

Mrs. Partingley uttered another exclamation of distress and
astonishment, lifting her plump hands in horror.  But her
business faculties remained alive, and she made haste to
produce a big visitors' book and to spread it open before her
callers.

"There it is!" she said, pointing to the two last entries.
"That's the short gentleman's name--Mr. John Braden, London.
And that's the tall one's--Mr. Christopher Dellingham--also
London.  Tourists, of course--we've never seen either of them
before."

"Came together, you say, Mrs. Partingley?" asked Mitchington.
"When was that, now?"

"Just before dinner, last night," answered the landlady.
"They'd evidently come in by the London train--that gets in at
six-forty, as you know.  They came here together, and they'd
dinner together, and spent the evening together.  Of course,
we took them for friends.  But they didn't go out together
this morning, though they'd breakfast together.  After
breakfast, Mr. Dellingham asked me the way to the old Manor
Mill, and he went off there, so I concluded.  Mr. Braden, he
hung about a bit, studying a local directory I'd lent him,
and after a while he asked me if he could hire a trap to take
him out to Saxonsteade this afternoon.  Of course, I said he
could, and he arranged for it to be ready at two-thirty.  Then
he went out, and across the market towards the Cathedral.  And
that," concluded Mrs. Partingley, "is about all I know,
gentlemen."

"Saxonsteade, eh?" remarked Mitchington.  "Did he say anything
about his reasons for going there?"

"Well, yes, he did," replied the landlady.  "For he asked me
if I thought he'd be likely to find the Duke at home at that
time of day.  I said I knew his Grace was at Saxonsteade just
now, and that I should think the middle of the afternoon would
be a good time."

"He didn't tell you his business with the Duke?" asked
Mitchington.

"Not a word!" said the landlady.  "Oh, no!--just that, and no
more.  But--here's Mr. Dellingham."

Bryce turned to see a tall, broad-shouldered, bearded man pass
the window--the door opened and he walked in, to glance
inquisitively at the inspector.  He turned at once to Mrs.
Partingley.

"I hear there's been an accident to that gentleman I came in
with last night?" he said.  "Is it anything serious?  Your
ostler says--"

"These gentlemen have just come about it, sir," answered
the landlady.  She glanced at Mitchington.  "Perhaps you'll
tell--" she began.

"Was he a friend of yours, sir?" asked Mitchington.  "A
personal friend?"

"Never saw him in my life before last night!" replied the tall
man.  "We just chanced to meet in the train coming down from
London, got talking, and discovered we were both coming to the
same place--Wrychester.  So--we came to this house together.
No--no friend of mine--not even an acquaintance--previous, of
course, to last night.  Is--is it anything serious?"

"He's dead, sir," replied Mitchington.  "And now we want to
know who he is."

"God bless my soul!  Dead?  You don't say so!" exclaimed Mr.
Dellingham.  "Dear, dear!  Well, I can't help you--don't know
him from Adam.  Pleasant, well-informed man--seemed to have
travelled a great deal in foreign countries.  I can tell you
this much, though," he went on, as if a sudden recollection
had come to him; "I gathered that he'd only just arrived in
England--in fact, now I come to think of it, he said as much.
Made some remark in the train about the pleasantness of the
English landscape, don't you know?--I got an idea that he'd
recently come from some country where trees and hedges and
green fields aren't much in evidence.  But--if you want to
know who he is, officer, why don't you search him?  He's sure
to have papers, cards, and so on about him."

"We have searched him," answered Mitchington.  "There isn't a
paper, a letter, or even a visiting card on him."

Mr. Dellingham looked at the landlady.

"Bless me!" he said.  "Remarkable!  But he'd a suit-case, or
something of the sort--something light--which he carried up
from the railway station himself.  Perhaps in that--"

"I should like to see whatever he had," said Mitchington.
"We'd better examine his room, Mrs. Partingley."

Bryce presently followed the landlady and the inspector
upstairs--Mr. Dellingham followed him.  All four went into a
bedroom which looked out on Monday Market.  And there, on a
side-table, lay a small leather suit-case, one which could
easily be carried, with its upper half thrown open and back
against the wall behind.

The landlady, Mr. Dellingham and Bryce stood silently by while
the inspector examined the contents of this the only piece of
luggage in the room.  There was very little to see--what
toilet articles the visitor brought were spread out on the
dressing-table--brushes, combs, a case of razors, and the
like.  And Mitchington nodded side-wise at them as he began to
take the articles out of the suit-case.

"There's one thing strikes me at once," he said.  "I dare say
you gentlemen notice it.  All these things are new!  This
suit-case hasn't been in use very long--see, the leather's
almost unworn--and those things on the dressing-table are new.
And what there is here looks new, too.  There's not much, you
see--he evidently had no intention of a long stop.  An extra
pair of trousers--some shirts--socks--collars--neckties
--slippers--handkerchiefs--that's about all.  And the first
thing to do is to see if the linen's marked with name or
initials."

He deftly examined the various articles as he took them out,
and in the end shook his head.

"No name--no initials," he said.  "But look here--do you see,
gentlemen, where these collars were bought?  Half a dozen of
them, in a box.  Paris!  There you are--the seller's name,
inside the collar, just as in England.  Aristide Pujol, 82,
Rue des Capucines.  And--judging by the look of 'em--I should
say these shirts were bought there, too--and the handkerchiefs
--and the neckwear--they all have a foreign look.  There may
be a clue in that--we might trace him in France if we can't in
England.  Perhaps he is a Frenchman."

"I'll take my oath he isn't!" exclaimed Mr. Dellingham.
"However long he'd been out of England he hadn't lost a
North-Country accent!  He was some sort of a North-Countryman
--Yorkshire or Lancashire, I'll go bail.  No Frenchman,
officer--not he!"

"Well, there's no papers here, anyway," said Mitchington, who
had now emptied the suit-case.  "Nothing to show who he was.
Nothing here, you see, in the way of paper but this old
book--what is it--History of Barthorpe."

"He showed me that in the train," remarked Mr. Dellingham.
"I'm interested in antiquities and archaeology, and anybody
who's long in my society finds it out.  We got talking of such
things, and he pulled out that book, and told me with great
pride, that he'd picked it up from a book-barrow in the
street, somewhere in London, for one-and-six.  I think," he
added musingly, "that what attracted him in it was the old
calf binding and the steel frontispiece--I'm sure he'd no
great knowledge of antiquities."

Mitchington laid the book down, and Bryce picked it up,
examined the title-page, and made a mental note of the fact
that Barthorpe was a market-town in the Midlands.  And it was
on the tip of his tongue to say that if the dead man had no
particular interest in antiquities and archaeology, it was
somewhat strange that he should have bought a book which was
mainly antiquarian, and that it might be that he had so bought
it because of a connection between Barthorpe and himself.  But
he remembered that it was his own policy to keep pertinent
facts for his own private consideration, so he said nothing.
And Mitchington presently remarking that there was no more to
be done there, and ascertaining from Mr. Dellingham that it
was his intention to remain in Wrychester for at any rate a
few days, they went downstairs again, and Bryce and the
inspector crossed over to the police-station.

The news had spread through the heart of the city, and at the
police-station doors a crowd had gathered.  Just inside two
or three principal citizens were talking to the Superintendent
--amongst them was Mr. Stephen Folliot, the stepfather of
young Bonham--a big, heavy-faced man who had been a resident
in the Close for some years, was known to be of great wealth,
and had a reputation as a grower of rare roses.  He was
telling the Superintendent something--and the Superintendent
beckoned to Mitchington.

"Mr. Folliot says he saw this gentleman in the Cathedral," he
said.  "Can't have been so very long before the accident
happened, Mr. Folliot, from what you say."

"As near as I can reckon, it would be five minutes to ten,"
answered Mr. Folliot.  "I put it at that because I'd gone in
for the morning service, which is at ten.  I saw him go up the
inside stair to the clerestory gallery--he was looking about
him.  Five minutes to ten--and it must have happened
immediately afterwards."

Bryce heard this and turned away, making a calculation for
himself.  It had been on the stroke of ten when he saw
Ransford hurrying out of the west porch.  There was a stairway
from the gallery down to that west porch.  What, then, was the
inference?  But for the moment he drew none--instead, he went
home to his rooms in Friary Lane, and shutting himself up,
drew from his pocket the scrap of paper he had taken from the
dead man.




CHAPTER V - THE SCRAP OF PAPER


When Bryce, in his locked room, drew that bit of paper from
his pocket, it was with the conviction that in it he held a
clue to the secret of the morning's adventure.  He had only
taken a mere glance at it as he withdrew it from the dead
man's purse, but he had seen enough of what was written on it
to make him certain that it was a document--if such a mere
fragment could be called a document--of no ordinary
importance.  And now he unfolded and laid it flat on his table
and looked at it carefully, asking himself what was the real
meaning of what he saw.

There was not much to see.  The scrap of paper itself was
evidently a quarter of a leaf of old-fashioned, stoutish
notepaper, somewhat yellow with age, and bearing evidence of
having been folded and kept flat in the dead man's purse for
some time--the creases were well-defined, the edges were worn
and slightly stained by long rubbing against the leather.  And
in its centre were a few words, or, rather abbreviations of
words, in Latin, and some figures:

          In Para.  Wrycestr.  juxt.  tumb.
          Ric. Jenk. ex cap.  xxiii. xv.

Bryce at first sight took them to be a copy of some
inscription but his knowledge of Latin told him, a moment
later, that instead of being an inscription, it was a
direction.  And a very plain direction, too!--he read it
easily.  In Paradise, at Wrychester, next to, or near, the
tomb of Richard Jenkins, or, possibly, Jenkinson, from, or
behind, the head, twenty-three, fifteen--inches, most likely.
There was no doubt that there was the meaning of the words.
What, now, was it that lay behind the tomb of Richard Jenkins,
or Jenkinson, in Wrychester Paradise?--in all probability
twenty-three inches from the head-stone, and fifteen inches
beneath the surface.  That was a question which Bryce
immediately resolved to find a satisfactory answer to; in the
meantime there were other questions which he set down in order
on his mental tablets.  They were these:

 1.  Who, really, was the man who had registered at the
     Mitre under the name of John Braden?

 2.  Why did he wish to make a personal call on the
     Duke of Saxonsteade?

 3.  Was he some man who had known Ransford in time
     past--and whom Ransford had no desire to meet again?

 4.  Did Ransford meet him--in the Cathedral?

 5.  Was it Ransford who flung him to his death down
     St. Wrytha's Stair?

 6.  Was that the real reason of the agitation in which
     he, Bryce, had found Ransford a few moments after
     the discovery of the body?

There was plenty of time before him for the due solution of
these mysteries, reflected Bryce--and for solving another
problem which might possibly have some relationship to them
--that of the exact connection between Ransford and his two
wards.  Bryce, in telling Ransford that morning of what was
being said amongst the tea-table circles of the old cathedral
city, had purposely only told him half a tale.  He knew, and
had known for months, that the society of the Close was
greatly exercised over the position of the Ransford menage.
Ransford, a bachelor, a well-preserved, active, alert man who
was certainly of no more than middle age and did not look his
years, had come to Wrychester only a few years previously, and
had never shown any signs of forsaking his single state.  No
one had ever heard him mention his family or relations; then,
suddenly, without warning, he had brought into his house Mary
Bewery, a handsome young woman of nineteen, who was said to
have only just left school, and her brother Richard, then a
boy of sixteen, who had certainly been at a public school of
repute and was entered at the famous Dean's School of
Wrychester as soon as he came to his new home.  Dr. Ransford
spoke of these two as his wards, without further explanation;
the society of the Close was beginning to want much more
explanation.  Who were they--these two young people?  Was Dr.
Ransford their uncle, their cousin--what was he to them?  In
any case, in the opinion of the elderly ladies who set the
tone of society in Wrychester, Miss Bewery was much too
young, and far too pretty, to be left without a chaperon.
But, up to then, no one had dared to say as much to Dr.
Ransford--instead, everybody said it freely behind his back.

Bryce had used eyes and ears in relation to the two young
people.  He had been with Ransford a year when they arrived;
admitted freely to their company, he had soon discovered that
whatever relationship existed between them and Ransford, they
had none with anybody else--that they knew of.  No letters
came for them from uncles, aunts, cousins, grandfathers,
grandmothers.  They appeared to have no memories or
reminiscences of relatives, nor of father or mother; there was
a curious atmosphere of isolation about them.  They had plenty
of talk about what might be called their present--their recent
schooldays, their youthful experiences, games, pursuits--but
none of what, under any circumstances, could have been a very
far-distant past.  Bryce's quick and attentive ears discovered
things--for instance that for many years past Ransford had
been in the habit of spending his annual two months' holiday
with these two.  Year after year--at any rate since the boy's
tenth year--he had taken them travelling; Bryce heard scraps
of reminiscences of tours in France, and in Switzerland, and
in Ireland, and in Scotland--even as far afield as the far
north of Norway.  It was easy to see that both boy and girl
had a mighty veneration for Ransford; just as easy to see that
Ransford took infinite pains to make life something more than
happy and comfortable for both.  And Bryce, who was one of
those men who firmly believe that no man ever does anything
for nothing and that self-interest is the mainspring of Life,
asked himself over and over again the question which agitated
the ladies of the Close: Who are these two, and what is the
bond between them and this sort of fairy-godfather-guardian?

And now, as he put away the scrap of paper in a safely-locked
desk, Bryce asked himself another question: Had the events of
that morning anything to do with the mystery which hung around
Dr. Ransford's wards?  If it had, then all the more reason why
he should solve it.  For Bryce had made up his mind that, by
hook or by crook, he would marry Mary Bewery, and he was only
too eager to lay hands on anything that would help him to
achieve that ambition.  If he could only get Ransford into
his power--if he could get Mary Bewery herself into his
power--well and good.  Once he had got her, he would be good
enough to her--in his way.

Having nothing to do, Bryce went out after a while and
strolled round to the Wrychester Club--an exclusive
institution, the members of which were drawn from the
leisured, the professional, the clerical, and the military
circles of the old city.  And there, as he expected, he found
small groups discussing the morning's tragedy, and he joined
one of them, in which was Sackville Bonham, his presumptive
rival, who was busily telling three or four other young men
what his stepfather, Mr. Folliot, had to say about the event.

"My stepfather says--and I tell you he saw the man," said
Sackville, who was noted in Wrychester circles as a loquacious
and forward youth; "he says that whatever happened must have
happened as soon as ever the old chap got up into that
clerestory gallery.  Look here!--it's like this.  My
stepfather had gone in there for the morning service--strict
old church-goer he is, you know--and he saw this stranger
going up the stairway.  He's positive, Mr. Folliot, that it
was then five minutes to ten.  Now, then, I ask you--isn't he
right, my stepfather, when he says that it must have happened
at once--immediately? 

"Because that man, Varner, the mason, says he saw the man fall
before ten.  What?"

One of the group nodded at Bryce.

"I should think Bryce knows what time it happened as well as
anybody," he said.  "You were first on the spot, Bryce,
weren't you?"

"After Varner," answered Bryce laconically.  "As to the time
--I could fix it in this way--the organist was just beginning
a voluntary or something of the sort."

"That means ten o'clock--to the minute--when he was found!"
exclaimed Sackville triumphantly.  "Of course, he'd fallen a
minute or two before that--which proves Mr. Folliot to be
right.  Now what does that prove?  Why, that the old chap's
assailant, whoever he was, dogged him along that gallery as
soon as he entered, seized him when he got to the open
doorway, and flung him through!  Clear as--as noonday!"

One of the group, a rather older man than the rest, who was
leaning back in a tilted chair, hands in pockets, watching
Sackville Bonham smilingly, shook his head and laughed a
little.

"You're taking something for granted, Sackie, my son!" he
said.  "You're adopting the mason's tale as true.  But I don't
believe the poor man was thrown through that doorway at all
--not I!"

Bryce turned sharply on this speaker--young Archdale, a member
of a well-known firm of architects.

"You don't?" he exclaimed.  "But Varner says he saw him
thrown!"

"Very likely," answered Archdale.  "But it would all happen
so quickly that Varner might easily be mistaken.  I'm
speaking of something I know.  I know every inch of the
Cathedral fabric--ought to, as we're always going over it,
professionally.  Just at that doorway, at the head of St.
Wrytha's Stair, the flooring of the clerestory gallery is worn
so smooth that it's like a piece of glass--and it slopes!
Slopes at a very steep angle, too, to the doorway itself.  A
stranger walking along there might easily slip, and if the
door was open, as it was, he'd be shot out and into space
before he knew what was happening."

This theory produced a moment's silence--broken at last by
Sackville Bonham.

"Varner says he saw--saw!--a man's hand, a gentleman's hand,"
insisted Sackville.  "He saw a white shirt cuff, a bit of the
sleeve of a coat.  You're not going to get over that, you
know.  He's certain of it!"

"Varner may be as certain of it as he likes," answered
Archdale, almost indifferently, "and still he may be mistaken.
The probability is that Varner was confused by what he saw.
He may have had a white shirt cuff and the sleeve of a black
coat impressed upon him, as in a flash--and they were probably
those of the man who was killed.  If, as I suggest, the man
slipped, and was shot out of that open doorway, he would
execute some violent and curious movements in the effort to
save himself in which his arms would play an important part.
For one thing, he would certainly throw out an arm--to clutch
at anything.  That's what Varner most probably saw.  There's
no evidence whatever that the man was flung down."

Bryce turned away from the group of talkers to think over
Archdale's suggestion.  If that suggestion had a basis of
fact, it destroyed his own theory that Ransford was
responsible for the stranger's death.  In that case, what was
the reason of Ransford's unmistakable agitation on leaving the
west porch, and of his attack--equally unmistakable--of nerves
in the surgery?  But what Archdale had said made him
inquisitive, and after he had treated himself--in celebration
of his freedom--to an unusually good lunch at the Club, he
went round to the Cathedral to make a personal inspection of
the gallery in the clerestory.

There was a stairway to that gallery in the corner of the
south transept, and Bryce made straight for it--only to find a
policeman there, who pointed to a placard on the turret door.
"Closed, doctor--by order of the Dean and Chapter," he
announced.  "Till further orders.  The fact was, sir," he went
on confidentially, "after the news got out, so many people
came crowding in here and up to that gallery that the Dean
ordered all the entrances to be shut up at once--nobody's been
allowed up since noon."

"I suppose you haven't heard anything of any strange person
being seen lurking about up there this morning?" asked Bryce.

"No, sir.  But I've had a bit of a talk with some of the
vergers," replied the policeman, "and they say it's a most
extraordinary thing that none of them ever saw this strange
gentleman go up there, nor even heard any scuffle.  They
say--the vergers--that they were all about at the time,
getting ready for the morning service, and they neither saw
nor heard.  Odd, sir, ain't it?"

"The whole thing's odd," agreed Bryce, and left the Cathedral.
He walked round to the wicket gate which admitted to that side
of Paradise--to find another policeman posted there.  "What!
--is this closed, too?" he asked.

"And time, sir," said the man.  "They'd ha' broken down all
the shrubs in the place if orders hadn't been given!  They
were mad to see where the gentleman fell--came in crowds at
dinnertime."

Bryce nodded, and was turning away, when Dick Bewery came
round a corner from the Deanery Walk, evidently keenly
excited.  With him was a girl of about his own age--a certain
characterful young lady whom Bryce knew as Betty Campany,
daughter of the librarian to the Dean and Chapter and
therefore custodian of one of the most famous cathedral
libraries in the country.  She, too, was apparently brimming
with excitement, and her pretty and vivacious face puckered
itself into a frown as the policeman smiled and shook his
head.

"Oh, I say, what's that for?" exclaimed Dick Bewery.  "Shut
up?--what a lot of rot!  I say!--can't you let us go in--just
for a minute?"

"Not for a pension, sir!" answered the policeman
good-naturedly.  "Don't you see the notice?  The Dean 'ud
have me out of the force by tomorrow if I disobeyed orders.
No admittance, nowhere, nohow!  But lor' bless yer!" he
added, glancing at the two young people.  "There's nothing to
see--nothing!--as Dr. Bryce there can tell you."

Dick, who knew nothing of the recent passages between his
guardian and the dismissed assistant, glanced at Bryce with
interest.

"You were on the spot first, weren't you?" he asked: "Do you
think it really was murder?"

"I don't know what it was," answered Bryce.  "And I wasn't
first on the spot.  That was Varner, the mason--he called me."
He turned from the lad to glance at the girl, who was peeping
curiously over the gate into the yews and cypresses.  "Do you
think your father's at the Library just now?" he asked.
"Shall I find him there?"

"I should think he is," answered Betty Campany.  "He generally
goes down about this time."  She turned and pulled Dick
Bewery's sleeve.  "Let's go up in the clerestory," she said.
"We can see that, anyway."

"Also closed, miss," said the policeman, shaking his head.
"No admittance there, neither.  The public firmly warned
off--so to speak.  'I won't have the Cathedral turned into a
peepshow!' that's precisely what I heard the Dean say with my
own ears.  So--closed!"

The boy and the girl turned away and went off across the
Close, and the policeman looked after them and laughed.

"Lively young couple, that, sir!" he said.  "What they call
healthy curiosity, I suppose?  Plenty o' that knocking around
in the city today."

Bryce, who had half-turned in the direction of the Library, at
the other side of the Close, turned round again.

"Do you know if your people are doing anything about
identifying the dead man?" he asked.  "Did you hear anything
at noon?"

"Nothing but that there'll be inquiries through the
newspapers, sir," replied the policeman.  "That's the surest
way of finding something out.  And I did hear Inspector
Mitchington say that they'd have to ask the Duke if he knew
anything about the poor man--I suppose he'd let fall something
about wanting to go over to Saxonsteade."

Bryce went off in the direction of the Library thinking.  The
newspapers?--yes, no better channel for spreading the news.
If Mr. John Braden had relations and friends, they would learn
of his sad death through the newspapers, and would come
forward.  And in that case--

"But it wouldn't surprise me," mused Bryce, "if the name given
at the Mitre is an assumed name.  I wonder if that theory of
Archdale's is a correct one?--however, there'll be more of
that at the inquest tomorrow.  And in the meantime--let me
find out something about the tomb of Richard Jenkins, or
Jenkinson--whoever he was."

The famous Library of the Dean and Chapter of Wrychester was
housed in an ancient picturesque building in one corner of the
Close, wherein, day in and day out, amidst priceless volumes
and manuscripts, huge folios and weighty quartos, old prints,
and relics of the mediaeval ages, Ambrose Campany, the
librarian, was pretty nearly always to be found, ready to
show his treasures to the visitors and tourists who came
from all parts of the world to see a collection well known
to bibliophiles.  And Ambrose Campany, a cheery-faced,
middle-aged man, with booklover and antiquary written all over
him, shockheaded, blue-spectacled, was there now, talking to
an old man whom Bryce knew as a neighbour of his in Friary
Lane--one Simpson Barker, a quiet, meditative old fellow,
believed to be a retired tradesman who spent his time in
gentle pottering about the city.  Bryce, as he entered, caught
what Campany was just then saying.

"The most important thing I've heard about it," said Campany,
"is--that book they found in the man's suit-case at the Mitre.
I'm not a detective--but there's a clue!"




CHAPTER VI - BY MISADVENTURE


Old Simpson Harker, who sat near the librarian's table, his
hands folded on the crook of his stout walking stick, glanced
out of a pair of unusually shrewd and bright eyes at Bryce as
he crossed the room and approached the pair of gossipers.

"I think the doctor was there when that book you're speaking
of was found," he remarked.  "So I understood from
Mitchington."

"Yes, I was there," said Bryce, who was not unwilling to join
in the talk.  He turned to Campany.  "What makes you think
there's a clue--in that?" he asked.

"Why this," answered the librarian.  "Here's a man in
possession of an old history of Barthorpe.  Barthorpe is a
small market-town in the Midlands--Leicestershire, I believe,
of no particular importance that I know of, but doubtless with
a story of its own.  Why should any one but a Barthorpe man,
past or present, be interested in that story so far as to
carry an old account of it with him?  Therefore, I conclude
this stranger was a Barthorpe man.  And it's at Barthorpe that
I should make inquiries about him."

Simpson Harker made no remark, and Bryce remembered what Mr.
Dellingham had said when the book was found.

"Oh, I don't know!" he replied carelessly.  "I don't see that
that follows.  I saw the book--a curious old binding and queer
old copper-plates.  The man may have picked it up for that
reason--I've bought old books myself for less."

"All the same," retorted Campany, "I should make inquiry at
Barthorpe.  You've got to go on probabilities.  The
probabilities in this case are that the man was interested in
the book because it dealt with his own town."

Bryce turned away towards a wall on which hung a number of
charts and plans of Wrychester Cathedral and its precincts
--it was to inspect one of these that he had come to the
Library.  But suddenly remembering that there was a question
which he could ask without exciting any suspicion or surmise,
he faced round again on the librarian.

"Isn't there a register of burials within the Cathedral?" he
inquired.  "Some book in which they're put down? I was looking
in the Memorials of Wrychester the other day, and I saw some
names I want to trace."

Campany lifted his quill pen and pointed to a case of big
leather-bound volumes in a far corner of the room.

"Third shelf from the bottom, doctor," he replied.  "You'll
see two books there--one's the register of all burials within
the Cathedral itself up to date: the other's the register of
those in Paradise and the cloisters.  What names are you
wanting to trace?"

But Bryce affected not to hear the last question; he walked
over to the place which Campany had indicated, and taking down
the second book carried it to an adjacent table.  Campany
called across the room to him.

"You'll find useful indexes at the end," he said.  "They're
all brought up to the present time--from four hundred years
ago, nearly."

Bryce turned to the index at the end of his book--an index
written out in various styles of handwriting.  And within a
minute he found the name he wanted--there it was plainly
before him--Richard Jenkins, died March 8th, 1715: buried, in
Paradise, March 10th.  He nearly laughed aloud at the ease
with which he was tracing out what at first had seemed a
difficult matter to investigate.  But lest his task should
seem too easy, he continued to turn over the leaves of the big
folio, and in order to have an excuse if the librarian should
ask him any further questions, he memorized some of the names
which he saw.  And after a while he took the book back to its
shelf, and turned to the wall on which the charts and maps
were hung.  There was one there of Paradise, whereon was
marked the site and names of all the tombs and graves in that
ancient enclosure; from it he hoped to ascertain the exact
position and whereabouts of Richard Jenkins's grave.

But here Bryce met his first check.  Down each side of the old
chart--dated 1850--there was a tabulated list of the tombs in
Paradise.  The names of families and persons were given in
this list--against each name was a number corresponding with
the same number, marked on the various divisions of the chart.
And there was no Richard Jenkins on that list--he went over it
carefully twice, thrice.  It was not there.  Obviously, if the
tomb of Richard Jenkins, who was buried in Paradise in 1715,
was still there, amongst the cypresses and yew trees, the name
and inscription on it had vanished, worn away by time and
weather, when that chart had been made, a hundred and
thirty-five years later.  And in that case, what did the
memorandum mean which Bryce had found in the dead man's purse?

He turned away at last from the chart, at a loss--and Campany
glanced at him.

"Found what you wanted?" he asked.

"Oh, yes!" replied Bryce, primed with a ready answer.  "I just
wanted to see where the Spelbanks were buried--quite a lot of
them, I see."

"Southeast corner of Paradise," said Campany.  "Several tombs.
I could have spared you the trouble of looking."

"You're a regular encyclopaedia about the place," laughed
Bryce.  "I suppose you know every spout and gargoyle!"

"Ought to," answered the librarian.  "I've been fed on it, man
and boy, for five-and-forty years."

Bryce made some fitting remark and went out and home to his
rooms--there to spend most of the ensuing evening in trying to
puzzle out the various mysteries of the day.  He got no more
light on them then, and he was still exercising his brains on
them when he went to the inquest next morning--to find the
Coroner's court packed to the doors with an assemblage of
townsfolk just as curious as he was.  And as he sat there,
listening to the preliminaries, and to the evidence of the
first witnesses, his active and scheming mind figured to
itself, not without much cynical amusement, how a word or two
from his lips would go far to solve matters.  He thought of
what he might tell--if he told all the truth.  He thought of
what he might get out of Ransford if he, Bryce, were Coroner,
or solicitor, and had Ransford in that witness-box.  He would
ask him on his oath if he knew that dead man--if he had had
dealings with him in times past--if he had met and spoken to
him on that eventful morning--he would ask him, point-blank, if
it was not his hand that had thrown him to his death.  But
Bryce had no intention of making any revelations just then--as
for himself he was going to tell just as much as he pleased
and no more.  And so he sat and heard--and knew from what he
heard that everybody there was in a hopeless fog, and that
in all that crowd there was but one man who had any real
suspicion of the truth, and that that man was himself.

The evidence given in the first stages of the inquiry was all
known to Bryce, and to most people in the court, already.  Mr.
Dellingham told how he had met the dead man in the train,
journeying from London to Wrychester.  Mrs. Partingley told
how he had arrived at the Mitre, registered in her book as Mr.
John Braden, and had next morning asked if he could get a
conveyance for Saxonsteade in the afternoon, as he wished to
see the Duke.  Mr. Folliot testified to having seen him in the
Cathedral, going towards one of the stairways leading to the
gallery.  Varner--most important witness of all up to that
point--told of what he had seen.  Bryce himself, followed by
Ransford, gave medical evidence; Mitchington told of his
examination of the dead man's clothing and effects in his room
at the Mitre.  And Mitchington added the first information
which was new to Bryce.

"In consequence of finding the book about Barthorpe in the
suit-case," said Mitchington, "we sent a long telegram
yesterday to the police there, telling them what had happened,
and asking them to make the most careful inquiries at once
about any townsman of theirs of the name of John Braden, and
to wire us the result of such inquiries this morning.  This is
their reply, received by us an hour ago.  Nothing whatever is
known at Barthorpe--which is a very small town--of any person
of that name."

So much for that, thought Bryce.  He turned with more interest
to the next witness--the Duke of Saxonsteade, the great local
magnate, a big, bluff man who had been present in court since
the beginning of the proceedings, in which he was manifestly
highly interested.  It was possible that he might be able to
tell something of moment--he might, after all, know something
of this apparently mysterious stranger, who, for anything that
Mrs. Partingley or anybody else could say to the contrary,
might have had an appointment and business with him.

But his Grace knew nothing.  He had never heard the name of
John Braden in his life--so far as he remembered.  He had just
seen the body of the unfortunate man and had looked carefully
at the features.  He was not a man of whom he had any
knowledge whatever--he could not recollect ever having seen
him anywhere at any time.  He knew literally nothing of him
--could not think of any reason at all why this Mr. John
Braden should wish to see him.

"Your Grace has, no doubt, had business dealings with a good
many people at one time or another," suggested the Coroner.
"Some of them, perhaps, with men whom your Grace only saw for
a brief space of time--a few minutes, possibly.  You don't
remember ever seeing this man in that way?"

"I'm credited with having an unusually good memory for faces,"
answered the Duke.  "And--if I may say so--rightly.  But I
don't remember this man at all--in fact, I'd go as far as to
say that I'm positive I've never--knowingly--set eyes on him
in my life."

"Can your Grace suggest any reason at all why he should wish
to call on you?" asked the Coroner.

"None!  But then," replied the Duke, "there might be many
reasons--unknown to me, but at which I can make a guess.  If
he was an antiquary, there are lots of old things at
Saxonsteade which he might wish to see.  Or he might be a
lover of pictures--our collection is a bit famous, you know.
Perhaps he was a bookman--we have some rare editions.  I could
go on multiplying reasons--but to what purpose?"

"The fact is, your Grace doesn't know him and knows nothing
about him," observed the Coroner.

"Just no--nothing!" agreed the Duke and stepped down again.

It was at this stage that the Coroner sent the jurymen away in
charge of his officer to make a careful personal inspection of
the gallery in the clerestory.  And while they were gone there
was some commotion caused in the court by the entrance of a
police official who conducted to the Coroner a middle-aged,
well-dressed man whom Bryce at once set down as a London
commercial magnate of some quality.  Between the new arrival
and the Coroner an interchange of remarks was at once made,
shared in presently by some of the officials at the table.
And when the jury came back the stranger was at once ushered
into the witness-box, and the Coroner turned to the jury and
the court.

"We are unexpectedly able to get some evidence of identity,
gentlemen," he observed.  "The gentleman who has just stepped
into the witness-box is Mr. Alexander Chilstone, manager of
the London & Colonies Bank, in Threadneedle Street.  Mr.
Chilstone saw particulars of this matter in the newspapers
this morning, and he at once set off to Wrychester to tell us
what he knows of the dead man.  We are very much obliged to
Mr. Chilstone--and when he has been sworn he will perhaps
kindly tell us what he can."

In the midst of the murmur of sensation which ran round the
court, Bryce indulged himself with a covert look at Ransford
who was sitting opposite to him, beyond the table in the
centre of the room.  He saw at once that Ransford, however
strenuously he might be fighting to keep his face under
control, was most certainly agitated by the Coroner's
announcement.  His cheeks had paled, his eyes were a little
dilated, his lips parted as he stared at the bank-manager
--altogether, it was more than mere curiosity that was
indicated on his features.  And Bryce, satisfied and secretly
elated, turned to hear what Mr. Alexander Chilstone had to
tell.

That was not much--but it was of considerable importance.
Only two days before, said Mr. Chilstone--that was, on the day
previous to his death--Mr. John Braden had called at the
London & Colonies Bank, of which he, Mr. Chilstone, was
manager, and introducing himself as having just arrived in
England from Australia, where, he said, he had been living
for some years, had asked to be allowed to open an account.
He produced some references from agents of the London &
Colonies Bank, in Melbourne, which were highly satisfactory;
the account being opened, he paid into it a sum of ten
thousand pounds in a draft at sight drawn by one of those
agents.  He drew nothing against this, remarking casually that
he had plenty of money in his pocket for the present: he did
not even take the cheque-book which was offered him, saying
that he would call for it later.

"He did not give us any address in London, nor in England,"
continued the witness.  "He told me that he had only arrived
at Charing Cross that very morning, having travelled from
Paris during the night.  He said that he should settle down
for a time at some residential hotel in London, and in the
meantime he had one or two calls, or visits, to make in the
country: when he returned from them, he said, he would call on
me again.  He gave me very little information about himself:
it was not necessary, for his references from our agents in
Australia were quite satisfactory.  But he did mention that he
had been out there for some years, and had speculated in
landed property--he also said that he was now going to settle
in England for good.  That," concluded Mr. Chilstone, "is all
I can tell of my own knowledge.  But," he added, drawing a
newspaper from his pocket, "here is an advertisement which I
noticed in this morning's Times as I came down.  You will
observe," he said, as he passed it to the Coroner, "that it
has certainly been inserted by our unfortunate customer."

The Coroner glanced at a marked passage in the personal column
of the Times, and read it aloud:

"The advertisement is as follows," he announced.  "'If this
meets the eye of old friend Marco, he will learn that Sticker
wishes to see him again.  Write J. Braden, a/o London &
Colonies Bank, Threadneedle Street, London.'"

Bryce was keeping a quiet eye on Ransford.  Was he mistaken in
believing that he saw him start; that he saw his cheek flush
as he heard the advertisement read out?  He believed he was
not mistaken--but if he was right, Ransford the next instant
regained full control of himself and made no sign.  And Bryce
turned again to Coroner and witness.

But the witness had no more to say--except to suggest that the
bank's Melbourne agents should be cabled to for information,
since it was unlikely that much more could be got in England.
And with that the middle stage of the proceedings ended--and
the last one came, watched by Bryce with increasing anxiety.
For it was soon evident, from certain remarks made by the
Coroner, that the theory which Archdale had put forward at the
club in Bryce's hearing the previous day had gained favour
with the authorities, and that the visit of the jurymen to the
scene of the disaster had been intended by the Coroner to
predispose them in behalf of it.  And now Archdale himself, as
representing the architects who held a retaining fee in
connection with the Cathedral, was called to give his opinion
--and he gave it in almost the same words which Bryce had heard
him use twenty-four hours previously.  After him came the
master-mason, expressing the same decided conviction--that the
real truth was that the pavement of the gallery had at that
particular place become so smooth, and was inclined towards
the open doorway at such a sharp angle, that the unfortunate
man had lost his footing on it, and before he could recover it
had been shot out of the arch and over the broken head of St.
Wrytha's Stair.  And though, at a juryman's wish, Varner was
recalled, and stuck stoutly to his original story of having
seen a hand which, he protested, was certainly not that of the
dead man, it soon became plain that the jury shared the
Coroner's belief that Varner in his fright and excitement had
been mistaken, and no one was surprised when the foreman,
after a very brief consultation with his fellows, announced a
verdict of death by misadventure.

"So the city's cleared of the stain of murder!" said a man who
sat next to Bryce.  "That's a good job, anyway!  Nasty thing,
doctor, to think of a murder being committed in a cathedral.
There'd be a question of sacrilege, of course--and all sorts
of complications."

Bryce made no answer.  He was watching Ransford, who was
talking to the Coroner.  And he was not mistaken now
--Ransford's face bore all the signs of infinite relief.
From--what?  Bryce turned, to leave the stuffy,
rapidly-emptying court.  And as he passed the centre table
he saw old Simpson Harker, who, after sitting in attentive
silence for three hours had come up to it, picked up the
"History of Barthorpe" which had been found in Braden's
suit-case and was inquisitively peering at its title-page.




CHAPTER VII - THE DOUBLE TRAIL


Pemberton Bryce was not the only person in Wrychester who was
watching Ransford with keen attention during these events.
Mary Bewery, a young woman of more than usual powers of
observation and penetration, had been quick to see that her
guardian's distress over the affair in Paradise was something
out of the common.  She knew Ransford for an exceedingly
tender-hearted man, with a considerable spice of sentiment in
his composition: he was noted for his more than professional
interest in the poorer sort of his patients and had gained a
deserved reputation in the town for his care of them.  But it
was somewhat surprising, even to Mary, that he should be so
much upset by the death of a total stranger as to lose his
appetite, and, for at any rate a couple of days, be so
restless that his conduct could not fail to be noticed by
herself and her brother.  His remarks on the tragedy were
conventional enough--a most distressing affair--a sad fate
for the poor fellow--most unexplainable and mysterious, and
so on--but his concern obviously went beyond that.  He was
ill at ease when she questioned him about the facts; almost
irritable when Dick Bewery, schoolboy-like, asked him
concerning professional details; she was sure, from the lines
about his eyes and a worn look on his face, that he had passed
a restless night when he came down to breakfast on the morning
of the inquest.  But when he returned from the inquest she
noticed a change--it was evident, to her ready wits, that
Ransford had experienced a great relief.  He spoke of relief,
indeed, that night at dinner, observing that the verdict which
the jury had returned had cleared the air of a foul suspicion;
it would have been no pleasant matter, he said, if Wrychester
Cathedral had gained an unenviable notoriety as the scene of a
murder.

"All the same," remarked Dick, who knew all the talk of the
town, "Varner persists in sticking to what he's said all
along.  Varner says--said this afternoon, after the inquest
was over--that he's absolutely certain of what he saw, and
that he not only saw a hand in a white cuff and black coat
sleeve, but that he saw the sun gleam for a second on the
links in the cuff, as if they were gold or diamonds.  Pretty
stiff evidence that, sir, isn't it?"

"In the state of mind in which Varner was at that moment,"
replied Ransford, "he wouldn't be very well able to decide
definitely on what he really did see.  His vision would retain
confused images.  Probably he saw the dead man's hand--he was
wearing a black coat and white linen.  The verdict was a most
sensible one."

No more was said after that, and that evening Ransford was
almost himself again.  But not quite himself.  Mary caught him
looking very grave, in evident abstraction, more than once;
more than once she heard him sigh heavily.  But he said no
more of the matter until two days later, when, at breakfast,
he announced his intention of attending John Braden's funeral,
which was to take place that morning.

"I've ordered the brougham for eleven," he said, "and I've
arranged with Dr. Nicholson to attend to any urgent call that
comes in between that and noon--so, if there is any such call,
you can telephone to him.  A few of us are going to attend
this poor man's funeral--it would be too bad to allow a
stranger to go to his grave unattended, especially after such
a fate.  There'll be somebody representing the Dean and
Chapter, and three or four principal townsmen, so he'll not be
quite neglected.  And"--here he hesitated and looked a little
nervously at Mary, to whom he was telling all this, Dick
having departed for school--"there's a little matter I wish
you'd attend to--you'll do it better than I should.  The man
seems to have been friendless; here, at any rate--no relations
have come forward, in spite of the publicity--so--don't you
think it would be rather--considerate, eh?--to put a wreath,
or a cross, or something of that sort on his grave--just to
show--you know?"

"Very kind of you to think of it," said Mary.  "What do you
wish me to do?"

"If you'd go to Gardales', the florists, and order--something
fitting, you know," replied Ransford, "and afterwards--later
in the day--take it to St. Wigbert's Churchyard--he's to be
buried there--take it--if you don't mind--yourself, you know."

"Certainly," answered Mary.  "I'll see that it's done."

She would do anything that seemed good to Ransford--but all
the same she wondered at this somewhat unusual show of
interest in a total stranger.  She put it down at last to
Ransford's undoubted sentimentality--the man's sad fate had
impressed him.  And that afternoon the sexton at St. Wigbert's
pointed out the new grave to Miss Bewery and Mr. Sackville
Bonham, one carrying a wreath and the other a large bunch of
lilies.  Sackville, chancing to encounter Mary at the
florist's, whither he had repaired to execute a commission for
his mother, had heard her business, and had been so struck by
the notion--or by a desire to ingratiate himself with Miss
Bewery--that he had immediately bought flowers himself--to be
put down to her account--and insisted on accompanying Mary to
the churchyard.

Bryce heard of this tribute to John Braden next day--from Mrs.
Folliot, Sackville Bonham's mother, a large lady who dominated
certain circles of Wrychester society in several senses.  Mrs.
Folliot was one of those women who have been gifted by nature
with capacity--she was conspicuous in many ways.  Her voice
was masculine; she stood nearly six feet in her stoutly-soled
shoes; her breadth corresponded to her height; her eyes were
piercing, her nose Roman; there was not a curate in Wrychester
who was not under her thumb, and if the Dean himself saw her
coming, he turned hastily into the nearest shop, sweating with
fear lest she should follow him.  Endued with riches and
fortified by assurance, Mrs. Folliot was the presiding spirit
in many movements of charity and benevolence; there were people
in Wrychester who were unkind enough to say--behind her back
--that she was as meddlesome as she was most undoubtedly
autocratic, but, as one of her staunchest clerical defenders
once pointed out, these grumblers were what might be
contemptuously dismissed as five-shilling subscribers.  Mrs.
Folliot, in her way, was undoubtedly a power--and for reasons
of his own Pemberton Bryce, whenever he met her--which was
fairly often--was invariably suave and polite.

"Most mysterious thing, this, Dr. Bryce," remarked Mrs.
Folliot in her deepest tones, encountering Bryce, the day
after the funeral, at the corner of a back street down which
she was about to sail on one of her charitable missions, to
the terror of any of the women who happened to be caught
gossiping.  "What, now, should make Dr. Ransford cause flowers
to be laid on the grave of a total stranger?  A sentimental
feeling?  Fiddle-de-dee!  There must be some reason."

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, Mrs.
Folliot," answered Bryce, whose ears had already lengthened.
"Has Dr. Ransford been laying flowers on a grave?--I didn't
know of it.  My engagement with Dr. Ransford terminated two
days ago--so I've seen nothing of him."

"My son, Mr. Sackville Bonham," said Mrs. Folliot, "tells me
that yesterday Miss Bewery came into Gardales' and spent a
sovereign--actually a sovereign!--on a wreath, which, she told
Sackville, she was about to carry, at her guardian's desire,
to this strange man's grave.  Sackville, who is a warm-hearted
boy, was touched--he, too, bought flowers and accompanied Miss
Bewery.  Most extraordinary!  A perfect stranger!  Dear me
--why, nobody knows who the man was!"

"Except his bank-manager," remarked Bryce, "who says he's
holding ten thousand pounds of his."

"That," admitted Mrs. Folliot gravely, "is certainly a
consideration.  But then, who knows?--the money may have been
stolen.  Now, really, did you ever hear of a quite respectable
man who hadn't even a visiting-card or a letter upon him?  And
from Australia, too!--where all the people that are wanted run
away to!  I have actually been tempted to wonder, Dr. Bryce,
if Dr. Ransford knew this man--in years gone by?  He might
have, you know, he might have--certainly!  And that, of
course, would explain the flowers."

"There is a great deal in the matter that requires
explanation, Mrs. Folliot," said Bryce.  He was wondering if
it would be wise to instil some minute drop of poison into the
lady's mind, there to increase in potency and in due course to
spread.  "I--of course, I may have been mistaken--I certainly
thought Dr. Ransford seemed unusually agitated by this affair
--it appeared to upset him greatly."

"So I have heard--from others who were at the inquest,"
responded Mrs. Folliot.  "In my opinion our Coroner--a worthy
man otherwise--is not sufficiently particular.  I said to Mr.
Folliot this morning, on reading the newspaper, that in my
view that inquest should have been adjourned for further
particulars.  Now I know of one particular that was never
mentioned at the inquest!"

"Oh?" said Bryce.  "And what?"

"Mrs. Deramore, who lives, as you know, next to Dr. Ransford,"
replied Mrs. Folliot, "told me this morning that on the
morning of the accident, happening to look out of one of her
upper windows, she saw a man whom, from the description given
in the newspapers, was, Mrs. Deramore feels assured, was the
mysterious stranger, crossing the Close towards the Cathedral
in, Mrs. Deramore is positive, a dead straight line from Dr.
Ransford's garden--as if he had been there.  Dr. Bryce!--a
direct question should have been asked of Dr. Ransford--had he
ever seen that man before?"

"Ah, but you see, Mrs. Folliot, the Coroner didn't know what
Mrs. Deramore saw, so he couldn't ask such a question, nor
could any one else," remarked Bryce, who was wondering how
long Mrs. Deramore remained at her upper window and if she saw
him follow Braden.  "But there are circumstances, no doubt,
which ought to be inquired into.  And it's certainly very
curious that Dr. Ransford should send a wreath to the grave
of--a stranger."

He went away convinced that Mrs. Folliot's inquisitiveness had
been aroused, and that her tongue would not be idle: Mrs.
Folliot, left to herself, had the gift of creating an
atmosphere, and if she once got it into her head that there
was some mysterious connection between Dr. Ransford and the
dead man, she would never rest until she had spread her
suspicions.  But as for Bryce himself, he wanted more than
suspicions--he wanted facts, particulars, data.  And once more
he began to go over the sum of evidence which had accrued.

The question of the scrap of paper found in Braden's purse,
and of the exact whereabouts of Richard Jenkins's grave in
Paradise, he left for the time being.  What was now
interesting him chiefly was the advertisement in the Times to
which the bank-manager from London had drawn attention.  He
had made haste to buy a copy of the Times and to cut out the
advertisement.  There it was--old friend Marco was wanted by
(presumably old friend) Sticker, and whoever Sticker might be
he could certainly be found under care of J. Braden.  It had
never been in doubt a moment, in Bryce's mind, that Sticker
was J. Braden himself.  Who, now, was Marco?  Who--a million
to one on it!--but Ransford, whose Christian name was Mark?

He reckoned up his chances of getting at the truth of the
affair anew that night.  As things were, it seemed unlikely
that any relations of Braden would now turn up.  The
Wrychester Paradise case, as the reporters had aptly named it,
had figured largely in the newspapers, London and provincial;
it could scarcely have had more publicity--yet no one, save
this bank-manager, had come forward.  If there had been any
one to come forward the bank-manager's evidence would surely
have proved an incentive to speed--for there was a sum of ten
thousand pounds awaiting John Braden's next-of-kin.  In
Bryce's opinion the chance of putting in a claim to ten
thousand pounds is not left waiting forty-eight hours--whoever
saw such a chance would make instant use of telegraph or
telephone.  But no message from anybody professing
relationship with the dead man had so far reached the
Wrychester police.

When everything had been taken into account, Bryce saw no
better clue for the moment than that suggested by Ambrose
Campany--Barthorpe.  Ambrose Campany, bookworm though he was,
was a shrewd, sharp fellow, said Bryce--a man of ideas.  There
was certainly much in his suggestion that a man wasn't likely
to buy an old book about a little insignificant town like
Barthorpe unless he had some interest in it--Barthorpe, if
Campany's theory were true, was probably the place of John
Braden's origin.

Therefore, information about Braden, leading to knowledge of
his association or connection with Ransford, might be found at
Barthorpe.  True, the Barthorpe police had already reported
that they could tell nothing about any Braden, but that, in
Bryce's opinion, was neither here nor there--he had already
come to the conclusion that Braden was an assumed name.  And
if he went to Barthorpe, he was not going to trouble the
police--he knew better methods than that of finding things
out.  Was he going?--was it worth his while?  A moment's
reflection decided that matter--anything was worth his while
which would help him to get a strong hold on Mark Ransford.
And always practical in his doings, he walked round to the
Free Library, obtained a gazeteer, and looked up particulars
of Barthorpe.  There he learnt that Barthorpe was an ancient
market-town of two thousand inhabitants in the north of
Leicestershire, famous for nothing except that it had been the
scene of a battle at the time of the Wars of the Roses, and
that its trade was mainly in agriculture and stocking-making
--evidently a slow, sleepy old place.

That night Bryce packed a hand-bag with small necessaries for
a few days' excursion, and next morning he took an early train
to London; the end of that afternoon found him in a Midland
northern-bound express, looking out on the undulating, green
acres of Leicestershire.  And while his train was making a
three minutes' stop at Leicester itself, the purpose of his
journey was suddenly recalled to him by hearing the strident
voices of the porters on the platform.

"Barthorpe next stop!--next stop Barthorpe!"

One of two other men who shared a smoking compartment with
Bryce turned to his companion as the train moved off again.

"Barthorpe?" he remarked.  "That's the place that was
mentioned in connection with that very queer affair at
Wrychester, that's been reported in the papers so much these
last few days.  The mysterious stranger who kept ten thousand
in a London bank, and of whom nobody seems to know anything,
had nothing on him but a history of Barthorpe.  Odd!  And yet,
though you'd think he'd some connection with the place, or had
known it, they say nobody at Barthorpe knows anything about
anybody of his name."

"Well, I don't know that there is anything so very odd about
it, after all," replied the other man.  "He may have picked up
that old book for one of many reasons that could be suggested.
No--I read all that case in the papers, and I wasn't so much
impressed by the old book feature of it.  But I'll tell you
what--there was a thing struck me.  I know this Barthorpe
district--we shall be in it in a few minutes--I've been a good
deal over it.  This strange man's name was given in the papers
as John Braden.  Now close to Barthorpe--a mile or two outside
it, there's a village of that name--Braden Medworth.  That's a
curious coincidence--and taken in conjunction with the man's
possession of an old book about Barthorpe--why, perhaps
there's something in it--possibly more than I thought for at
first."

"Well--it's an odd case--a very odd case," said the first
speaker.  "And--as there's ten thousand pounds in question,
more will be heard of it.  Somebody'll be after that, you may
be sure!"

Bryce left the train at Barthorpe thanking his good luck--the
man in the far corner had unwittingly given him a hint.  He
would pay a visit to Braden Medworth--the coincidence was too
striking to be neglected.  But first Barthorpe itself--a
quaint old-world little market-town, in which some of even the
principal houses still wore roofs of thatch, and wherein the
old custom of ringing the curfew bell was kept up.  He found
an old-fashioned hotel in the marketplace, under the shadow of
the parish church, and in its oak-panelled dining-room, hung
about with portraits of masters of foxhounds and queer old
prints of sporting and coaching days, he dined comfortably and
well.

It was too late to attempt any investigations that evening,
and when Bryce had finished his leisurely dinner he strolled
into the smoking-room--an even older and quainter apartment
than that which he had just left.  It was one of those rooms
only found in very old houses--a room of nooks and corners,
with a great open fireplace, and old furniture and old
pictures and curiosities--the sort of place to which the
old-fashioned tradesmen of the small provincial towns still
resort of an evening rather than patronize the modern
political clubs.  There were several men of this sort in the
room when Bryce entered, talking local politics amongst
themselves, and he found a quiet corner and sat down in it to
smoke, promising himself some amusement from the conversation
around him; it was his way to find interest and amusement in
anything that offered.  But he had scarcely settled down in a
comfortably cushioned elbow chair when the door opened again
and into the room walked old Simpson Harker.




CHAPTER VIII - THE BEST MAN


Old Harker's shrewd eyes, travelling round the room as if to
inspect the company in which he found himself, fell almost
immediately on Bryce--but not before Bryce had had time to
assume an air and look of innocent and genuine surprise.
Harker affected no surprise at all--he looked the astonishment
he felt as the younger man rose and motioned him to the
comfortable easy-chair which he himself had just previously
taken.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed, nodding his thanks.  "I'd no idea
that I should meet you in these far-off parts, Dr. Bryce!
This is a long way from Wrychester, sir, for Wrychester folk
to meet in."

"I'd no idea of meeting you, Mr. Harker," responded Bryce.
"But it's a small world, you know, and there are a good many
coincidences in it.  There's nothing very wonderful in my
presence here, though--I ran down to see after a country
practice--I've left Dr. Ransford."

He had the lie ready as soon as he set eyes on Harker, and
whether the old man believed it or not, he showed no sign of
either belief or disbelief.  He took the chair which Bryce
drew forward and pulled out an old-fashioned cigar-case,
offering it to his companion.

"Will you try one, doctor?" he asked.  "Genuine stuff that,
sir--I've a friend in Cuba who remembers me now and then.
No," he went on, as Bryce thanked him and took a cigar, "I
didn't know you'd finished with the doctor.  Quietish place
this to practise in, I should think--much quieter even than
our sleepy old city."

"You know it?" inquired Bryce.

"I've a friend lives here--old friend of mine," answered
Harker.  "I come down to see him now and then--I've been here
since yesterday.  He does a bit of business for me.  Stopping
long, doctor?"

"Only just to look round," answered Bryce.

"I'm off tomorrow morning--eleven o'clock," said Harker.
"It's a longish journey to Wrychester--for old bones like
mine."

"Oh, you're all right!--worth half a dozen younger men,"
responded Bryce.  "You'll see a lot of your contemporaries
out, Mr. Harker.  Well--as you've treated me to a very fine
cigar, now you'll let me treat you to a drop of whisky?--they
generally have something of pretty good quality in these
old-fashioned establishments, I believe."

The two travellers sat talking until bedtime--but neither made
any mention of the affair which had recently set all
Wrychester agog with excitement.  But Bryce was wondering all
the time if his companion's story of having a friend at
Barthorpe was no more than an excuse, and when he was alone in
his own bedroom and reflecting more seriously he came to the
conclusion that old Harker was up to some game of his own in
connection with the Paradise mystery.

"The old chap was in the Library when Ambrose Campany said
that there was a clue in that Barthorpe history," he mused.
"I saw him myself examining the book after the inquest.  No,
no, Mr. Harker!--the facts are too plain--the evidences too
obvious.  And yet--what interest has a retired old tradesman
of Wrychester got in this affair?  I'd give a good deal to
know what Harker really is doing here--and who his Barthorpe
friend is."

If Bryce had risen earlier next morning, and had taken the
trouble to track old Harker's movements, he would have learnt
something that would have made him still more suspicious.  But
Bryce, seeing no reason for hurry, lay in bed till well past
nine o'clock, and did not present himself in the coffee-room
until nearly half-past ten.  And at that hour Simpson Harker,
who had breakfasted before nine, was in close consultation
with his friend--that friend being none other than the local
superintendent of police, who was confidentially closeted with
the old man in his private house, whither Harker, by previous
arrangement, had repaired as soon as his breakfast was over.
Had Bryce been able to see through walls or hear through
windows, he would have been surprised to find that the Harker
of this consultation was not the quiet, easy-going, gossipy old
gentleman of Wrychester, but an eminently practical and
business-like man of affairs.

"And now as regards this young fellow who's staying across
there at the Peacock," he was saying in conclusion, at the
very time that Bryce was leisurely munching his second mutton
chop in the Peacock coffee-room, "he's after something or
other--his talk about coming here to see after a practice is
all lies!--and you'll keep an eye on him while he's in your
neighbourhood.  Put your best plainclothes man on to him at
once--he'll easily know him from the description I gave you
--and let him shadow him wherever he goes.  And then let me
know of his movement--he's certainly on the track of
something, and what he does may be useful to me--I can link it
up with my own work.  And as regards the other matter--keep me
informed if you come on anything further.  Now I'll go out by
your garden and down the back of the town to the station.  Let
me know, by the by, when this young man at the Peacock leaves
here, and, if possible--and you can find out--for where."

Bryce was all unconscious that any one was interested in his
movements when he strolled out into Barthorpe market-place
just after eleven.  He had asked a casual question of the
waiter and found that the old gentleman had departed--he
accordingly believed himself free from observation.  And
forthwith he set about his work of inquiry in his own fashion.
He was not going to draw any attention to himself by asking
questions of present-day inhabitants, whose curiosity might
then be aroused; he knew better methods than that.  Every
town, said Bryce to himself, possesses public records--parish
registers, burgess rolls, lists of voters; even small towns
have directories which are more or less complete--he could
search these for any mention or record of anybody or any
family of the name of Braden.  And he spent all that day in
that search, inspecting numerous documents and registers and
books, and when evening came he had a very complete
acquaintance with the family nomenclature of Barthorpe, and he
was prepared to bet odds against any one of the name of Braden
having lived there during the past half-century.  In all his
searching he had not once come across the name.

The man who had spent a very lazy day in keeping an eye on
Bryce, as he visited the various public places whereat he made
his researches, was also keeping an eye upon him next morning,
when Bryce, breakfasting earlier than usual, prepared for a
second day's labours.  He followed his quarry away from the
little town: Bryce was walking out to Braden Medworth.  In
Bryce's opinion, it was something of a wild-goose chase to go
there, but the similarity in the name of the village and of
the dead man at Wrychester might have its significance, and it
was but a two miles' stroll from Barthorpe.  He found Braden
Medworth a very small, quiet, and picturesque place, with an
old church on the banks of a river which promised good sport
to anglers.  And there he pursued his tactics of the day
before and went straight to the vicarage and its vicar, with a
request to be allowed to inspect the parish registers.  The
vicar, having no objection to earning the resultant fees,
hastened to comply with Bryce's request, and inquired how far
back he wanted to search and for what particular entry.

"No particular entry," answered Bryce, "and as to period
--fairly recent.  The fact is, I am interested in names.
I am thinking"--here he used one more of his easily found
inventions--"of writing a book on English surnames, and am
just now inspecting parish registers in the Midlands for that
purpose."

"Then I can considerably simplify your labours," said the
vicar, taking down a book from one of his shelves.  "Our
parish registers have been copied and printed, and here is the
volume--everything is in there from 1570 to ten years ago, and
there is a very full index.  Are you staying in the
neighbourhood--or the village?"

"In the neighbourhood, yes; in the village, no longer than the
time I shall spend in getting some lunch at the inn yonder,"
answered Bryce, nodding through an open window at an ancient
tavern which stood in the valley beneath, close to an old
stone bridge.  "Perhaps you will kindly lend me this book for
an hour?--then, if I see anything very noteworthy in the
index, I can look at the actual registers when I bring it
back."

The vicar replied that that was precisely what he had been
about to suggest, and Bryce carried the book away.  And while
he sat in the inn parlour awaiting his lunch, he turned to the
carefully-compiled index, glancing it through rapidly.  On the
third page he saw the name Bewery.

If the man who had followed Bryce from Barthorpe to Braden
Medworth had been with him in the quiet inn parlour he would
have seen his quarry start, and heard him let a stifled
exclamation escape his lips.  But the follower, knowing his
man was safe for an hour, was in the bar outside eating bread
and cheese and drinking ale, and Bryce's surprise was
witnessed by no one.  Yet he had been so much surprised that
if all Wrychester had been there he could not, despite his
self-training in watchfulness, have kept back either start or
exclamation.

Bewery!  A name so uncommon that here--here, in this
out-of-the-way Midland village!--there must be some connection
with the object of his search.  There the name stood out
before him, to the exclusion of all others--Bewery--with just
one entry of figures against it.  He turned to page 387 with a
sense of sure discovery.

And there an entry caught his eye at once--and he knew that he
had discovered more than he had ever hoped for.  He read it
again and again, gloating over his wonderful luck.

June 19th, 1891.  John Brake, bachelor, of the parish of St.
Pancras, London, to Mary Bewery, spinster, of this parish, by
the Vicar.  Witnesses, Charles Claybourne, Selina Womersley,
Mark Ransford.

Twenty-two years ago!  The Mary Bewery whom Bryce knew in
Wrychester was just about twenty--this Mary Bewery, spinster,
of Braden Medworth, was, then, in all probability, her mother.
But John Brake who married that Mary Bewery--who was he?  Who
indeed, laughed Bryce, but John Braden, who had just come by
his death in Wrychester Paradise?  And there was the name of
Mark Ransford as witness.  What was the further probability?
That Mark Ransford had been John Brake's best man; that he was
the Marco of the recent Times advertisement; that John Braden,
or Brake, was the Sticker of the same advertisement.  Clear!
--clear as noonday!  And--what did it all mean, and imply, and
what bearing had it on Braden or Brake's death?

Before he ate his cold beef, Bryce had copied the entry from
the reprinted register, and had satisfied himself that
Ransford was not a name known to that village--Mark Ransford
was the only person of the name mentioned in the register.
And his lunch done, he set off for the vicarage again, intent
on getting further information, and before he reached the
vicarage gates noticed, by accident, a place whereat he was
more likely to get it than from the vicar--who was a youngish
man.  At the end of the few houses between the inn and the
bridge he saw a little shop with the name Charles Claybourne
painted roughly above its open window.  In that open window
sat an old, cheery-faced man, mending shoes, who blinked at
the stranger through his big spectacles.

Bryce saw his chance and turned in--to open the book and point
out the marriage entry.

"Are you the Charles Claybourne mentioned there?" he asked,
without ceremony.

"That's me, sir!" replied the old shoemaker briskly, after a
glance.  "Yes--right enough!"

"How came you to witness that marriage?" inquired Bryce.

The old man nodded at the church across the way.

"I've been sexton and parish clerk two-and-thirty years, sir,"
he said.  "And I took it on from my father--and he had the job
from his father."

"Do you remember this marriage?" asked Bryce, perching himself
on the bench at which the shoemaker was working.  "Twenty-two
years since, I see."

"Aye, as if it was yesterday!" answered the old man with a
smile.  "Miss Bewery's marriage?--why, of course!"

"Who was she?" demanded Bryce.

"Governess at the vicarage," replied Claybourne.  "Nice, sweet
young lady."

"And the man she married?--Mr. Brake," continued Bryce.  "Who
was he?"

"A young gentleman that used to come here for the fishing, now
and then," answered Claybourne, pointing at the river.
"Famous for our trout we are here, you know, sir.  And Brake
had come here for three years before they were married--him
and his friend Mr. Ransford."

"You remember him, too?" asked Bryce.

"Remember both of 'em very well indeed," said Claybourne,
"though I never set eyes on either after Miss Mary was wed to
Mr. Brake.  But I saw plenty of 'em both before that.  They
used to put up at the inn there--that I saw you come out of
just now.  They came two or three times a year--and they were
a bit thick with our parson of that time--not this one: his
predecessor--and they used to go up to the vicarage and smoke
their pipes and cigars with him--and of course, Mr. Brake and
the governess fixed it up.  Though, you know, at one time it
was considered it was going to be her and the other young
gentleman, Mr. Ransford--yes!  But, in the end, it was Brake
--and Ransford stood best man for him."

Bruce assimilated all this information greedily--and asked for
more.

"I'm interested in that entry," he said, tapping the open
book.  "I know some people of the name of Bewery--they may be
relatives."

The shoemaker shook his head as if doubtful.

"I remember hearing it said," he remarked, "that Miss Mary had
no relations.  She'd been with the old vicar some time, and I
don't remember any relations ever coming to see her, nor her
going away to see any."

"Do you know what Brake was?" asked Bryce.  "As you say he
came here for a good many times before the marriage, I suppose
you'd hear something about his profession, or trade, or
whatever it was?"

"He was a banker, that one," replied Claybourne.  "A banker
--that was his trade, sir.  T'other gentleman, Mr. Ransford,
he was a doctor--I mind that well enough, because once when
him and Mr. Brake were fishing here, Thomas Joynt's wife fell
downstairs and broke her leg, and they fetched him to her
--he'd got it set before they'd got the reg'lar doctor out
from Barthorpe yonder."

Bryce had now got all the information he wanted, and he made
the old parish clerk a small present and turned to go.  But
another question presented itself to his mind and he reentered
the little shop.

"Your late vicar?" he said.  "The one in whose family Miss
Bewery was governess--where is he now? Dead?"

"Can't say whether he's dead or alive, sir," replied
Claybourne.  "He left this parish for another--a living in a
different part of England--some years since, and I haven't
heard much of him from that time to this--he never came back
here once, not even to pay us a friendly visit--he was a
queerish sort.  But I'll tell you what, sir," he added,
evidently anxious to give his visitor good value for his
half-crown, "our present vicar has one of those books with the
names of all the clergymen in 'em, and he'd tell you where his
predecessor is now, if he's alive--name of Reverend Thomas
Gilwaters, M.A.--an Oxford college man he was, and very high
learned."

Bryce went back to the vicarage, returned the borrowed book,
and asked to look at the registers for the year 1891.  He
verified his copy and turned to the vicar.

"I accidentally came across the record of a marriage there in
which I'm interested," he said as he paid the search fees.
"Celebrated by your predecessor, Mr. Gilwaters.  I should be
glad to know where Mr. Gilwaters is to be found.  Do you
happen to possess a clerical directory?"

The vicar produced a "Crockford", and Bryce turned over its
pages.  Mr. Gilwaters, who from the account there given
appeared to be an elderly man who had now retired, lived in
London, in Bayswater, and Bryce made a note of his address and
prepared to depart.

"Find any names that interested you?" asked the vicar as his
caller left.  "Anything noteworthy?"

"I found two or three names which interested me immensely,"
answered Bryce from the foot of the vicarage steps.  "They
were well worth searching for."

And without further explanation he marched off to Barthorpe
duly followed by his shadow, who saw him safely into the
Peacock an hour later--and, an hour after that, went to the
police superintendent with his report.

"Gone, sir," he said.  "Left by the five-thirty express for
London."




CHAPTER IX - THE HOUSE OF HIS FRIEND


Bryce found himself at eleven o'clock next morning in a small
book-lined parlour in a little house which stood in a quiet
street in the neighbourhood of Westbourne Grove.  Over the
mantelpiece, amongst other odds and ends of pictures and
photographs, hung a water-colour drawing of Braden Medworth
--and to him presently entered an old, silver-haired clergyman
whom he at once took to be Braden Medworth's former vicar, and
who glanced inquisitively at his visitor and then at the card
which Bryce had sent in with a request for an interview.

"Dr. Bryce?" he said inquiringly.  "Dr. Pemberton Bryce?"

Bryce made his best bow and assumed his suavest and most
ingratiating manner.

"I hope I am not intruding on your time, Mr. Gilwaters?" he
said.  "The fact is, I was referred to you, yesterday, by the
present vicar of Braden Medworth--both he, and the sexton
there, Claybourne, whom you, of course, remember, thought you
would be able to give me some information on a subject which
is of great importance--to me."

"I don't know the present vicar," remarked Mr. Gilwaters,
motioning Bryce to a chair, and taking another close by.
"Clayborne, of course, I remember very well indeed--he must be
getting an old man now--like myself!  What is it you want to
know, now?"

"I shall have to take you into my confidence," replied Bryce,
who had carefully laid his plans and prepared his story, "and
you, I am sure, Mr. Gilwaters, will respect mine.  I have for
two years been in practice at Wrychester, and have there
made the acquaintance of a young lady whom I earnestly desire
to marry.  She is the ward of the man to whom I have been
assistant.  And I think you will begin to see why I have come
to you when I say that this young lady's name is--Mary
Bewery."

The old clergyman started, and looked at his visitor with
unusual interest.  He grasped the arm of his elbow chair and
leaned forward.

"Mary Bewery!" he said in a low whisper.  "What--what is the
name of the man who is her--guardian?"

"Dr. Mark Ransford," answered Bryce promptly.

The old man sat upright again, with a little toss of his head.

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed.  "Mark Ransford!  Then--it must
have been as I feared--and suspected!"

Bryce made no remark.  He knew at once that he had struck on
something, and it was his method to let people take their own
time.  Mr. Gilwaters had already fallen into something closely
resembling a reverie: Bryce sat silently waiting and
expectant.  And at last the old man leaned forward again,
almost eagerly.

"What is it you want to know?" he asked, repeating his first
question.  "Is--is there some--some mystery?"

"Yes!" replied Bryce.  "A mystery that I want to solve, sir.
And I dare say that you can help me, if you'll be so good.  I
am convinced--in fact, I know!--that this young lady is in
ignorance of her parentage, that Ransford is keeping some
fact, some truth back from her--and I want to find things out.
By the merest chance--accident, in fact--I discovered
yesterday at Braden Medworth that some twenty-two years ago
you married one Mary Bewery, who, I learnt there, was your
governess, to a John Brake, and that Mark Ransford was John
Brake's best man and a witness of the marriage.  Now, Mr.
Gilwaters, the similarity in names is too striking to be
devoid of significance.  So--it's of the utmost importance to
me!--can or will you tell me--who was the Mary Bewery you
married to John Brake?  Who was John Brake?  And what was Mark
Ransford to either, or to both?"

He was wondering, all the time during which he reeled off
these questions, if Mr. Gilwaters was wholly ignorant of the
recent affair at Wrychester.  He might be--a glance round his
book-filled room had suggested to Bryce that he was much more
likely to be a bookworm than a newspaper reader, and it was
quite possible that the events of the day had small interest
for him.  And his first words in reply to Bryce's questions
convinced Bryce that his surmise was correct and that the old
man had read nothing of the Wrychester Paradise mystery, in
which Ransford's name had, of course, figured as a witness at
the inquest.

"It is nearly twenty years since I heard any of their names,"
remarked Mr. Gilwaters.  "Nearly twenty years--a long time!
But, of course, I can answer you.  Mary Bewery was our
governess at Braden Medworth.  She came to us when she was
nineteen--she was married four years later.  She was a girl
who had no friends or relatives--she had been educated at a
school in the North--I engaged her from that school, where, I
understood, she had lived since infancy.  Now then, as to
Brake and Ransford.  They were two young men from London, who
used to come fishing in Leicestershire.  Ransford was a few
years the younger--he was either a medical student in his last
year, or he was an assistant somewhere in London.  Brake--was
a bank manager in London--of a branch of one of the big banks.
They were pleasant young fellows, and I used to ask them to
the vicarage.  Eventually, Mary Bewery and John Brake became
engaged to be married.  My wife and I were a good deal
surprised--we had believed, somehow, that the favoured man
would be Ransford.  However, it was Brake--and Brake she
married, and, as you say, Ransford was best man.  Of course,
Brake took his wife off to London--and from the day of her
wedding, I never saw her again."

"Did you ever see Brake again?" asked Bryce.  The old
clergyman shook his head.

"Yes!" he said sadly.  "I did see Brake again--under grievous,
grievous circumstances!"

"You won't mind telling me what circumstances?" suggested
Bryce.  "I will keep your confidence, Mr. Gilwaters."

"There is really no secret in it--if it comes to that,"
answered the old man.  "I saw John Brake again just once.  In
a prison cell!"

"A prison cell!" exclaimed Bryce.  "And he--a prisoner?"

"He had just been sentenced to ten years' penal servitude,"
replied Mr. Gilwaters.  "I had heard the sentence--I was
present.  I got leave to see him.  Ten years' penal servitude!
--a terrible punishment.  He must have been released long ago
--but I never heard more."

Bryce reflected in silence for a moment--reckoning and
calculating.

"When was this--the trial?" he asked.

"It was five years after the marriage--seventeen years ago,"
replied Mr. Gilwaters.

"And--what had he been doing?" inquired Bryce.

"Stealing the bank's money," answered the old man.  "I forget
what the technical offence was--embezzlement, or something of
that sort.  There was not much evidence came out, for it was
impossible to offer any defence, and he pleaded guilty.  But I
gathered from what I heard that something of this sort
occurred.  Brake was a branch manager.  He was, as it were,
pounced upon one morning by an inspector, who found that his
cash was short by two or three thousand pounds.  The bank
people seemed to have been unusually strict and even severe
--Brake, it was said, had some explanation, but it was swept
aside and he was given in charge.  And the sentence was as I
said just now--a very savage one, I thought.  But there had
recently been some bad cases of that sort in the banking
world, and I suppose the judge felt that he must make an
example.  Yes--a most trying affair!--I have a report of the
case somewhere, which I cut out of a London newspaper at the
time."

Mr. Gilwaters rose and turned to an old desk in the corner of
his room, and after some rummaging of papers in a drawer,
produced a newspaper-cutting book and traced an insertion in
its pages.  He handed the book to his visitor.

"There is the account," he said.  "You can read it for
yourself.  You will notice that in what Brake's counsel said
on his behalf there are one or two curious and mysterious
hints as to what might have been said if it had been of any
use or advantage to say it.  A strange case!"

Bryce turned eagerly to the faded scrap of newspaper.


              BANK MANAGER'S DEFALCATION.

  At the Central Criminal Court yesterday, John Brake,
  thirty-three, formerly manager of the Upper Tooting
  branch of the London & Home Counties Bank, Ltd.,
  pleaded guilty to embezzling certain sums, the
  property of his employers.

  Mr. Walkinshaw, Q.C., addressing the court on behalf
  of the prisoner, said that while it was impossible
  for his client to offer any defence, there were
  circumstances in the case which, if it had been worth
  while to put them in evidence, would have shown that
  the prisoner was a wronged and deceived man.  To use
  a Scriptural phrase, Brake had been wounded in the
  house of his friend.  The man who was really guilty
  in this affair had cleverly escaped all consequences,
  nor would it be of the least use to enter into any
  details respecting him.  Not one penny of the money
  in question had been used by the prisoner for his own
  purposes.  It was doubtless a wrong and improper thing
  that his client had done, and he had pleaded guilty and
  would submit to the consequences.  But if everything in
  connection with the case could have been told, if it
  would have served any useful purpose to tell it, it
  would have been seen that what the prisoner really was
  guilty of was a foolish and serious error of judgment.
  He himself, concluded the learned counsel, would go so
  far as to say that, knowing what he did, knowing what
  had been told him by his client in strict confidence,
  the prisoner, though technically guilty, was morally
  innocent.

  His Lordship, merely remarking that no excuse of any
  sort could be offered in a case of this sort, sentenced
  the prisoner to ten years' penal servitude.

Bryce read this over twice before handing back the book.

"Very strange and mysterious, Mr. Gilwaters," he remarked.
"You say that you saw Brake after the case was over.  Did you
learn anything?"

"Nothing whatever!" answered the old clergyman.  "I got
permission to see him before he was taken away.  He did not
seem particularly pleased or disposed to see me.  I begged him
to tell me what the real truth was.  He was, I think, somewhat
dazed by the sentence--but he was also sullen and morose.  I
asked him where his wife and two children--one, a mere infant
--were.  For I had already been to his private address and had
found that Mrs. Brake had sold all the furniture and
disappeared--completely.  No one--thereabouts, at any rate
--knew where she was, or would tell me anything.  On my asking
this, he refused to answer.  I pressed him--he said finally
that he was only speaking the truth when he replied that he
did not know where his wife was.  I said I must find her.  He
forbade me to make any attempt.  Then I begged him to tell me
if she was with friends.  I remember very well what he
replied.--'I'm not going to say one word more to any man
living, Mr. Gilwaters,' he answered determinedly.  'I shall be
dead to the world--only because I've been a trusting fool!
--for ten years or thereabouts, but, when I come back to it,
I'll let the world see what revenge means!  Go away!' he
concluded.  'I won't say one word more.'  And--I left him."

"And--you made no more inquiries?--about the wife?" asked
Bryce.

"I did what I could," replied Mr. Gilwaters.  "I made some
inquiry in the neighbourhood in which they had lived.  All I
could discover was that Mrs. Brake had disappeared under
extraordinarily mysterious circumstances.  There was no trace
whatever of her.  And I speedily found that things were being
said--the usual cruel suspicions, you know."

"Such as--what?" asked Bryce.

"That the amount of the defalcations was much larger than had
been allowed to appear," replied Mr. Gilwaters.  "That Brake
was a very clever rogue who had got the money safely planted
somewhere abroad, and that his wife had gone off somewhere
--Australia, or Canada, or some other far-off region--to await
his release.  Of course, I didn't believe one word of all
that.  But there was the fact--she had vanished!  And
eventually, I thought of Ransford, as having been Brake's
great friend, so I tried to find him.  And then I found that
he, too, who up to that time had been practising in a London
suburb--Streatham--had also disappeared.  Just after Brake's
arrest, Ransford had suddenly sold his practice and gone--no
one knew where, but it was believed--abroad.  I couldn't trace
him, anyway.  And soon after that I had a long illness, and
for two or three years was an invalid, and--well, the thing
was over and done with, and, as I said just now, I have never
heard anything of any of them for all these years.  And now!
--now you tell me that there is a Mary Bewery who is a ward of
a Dr. Mark Ransford at--where did you say?"

"At Wrychester," answered Bryce.  "She is a young woman of
twenty, and she has a brother, Richard, who is between
seventeen and eighteen."

"Without a doubt those are Brake's children!" exclaimed the
old man.  "The infant I spoke of was a boy.  Bless me!--how
extraordinary.  How long have they been at Wrychester?"

"Ransford has been in practice there some years--a few years,"
replied Bryce.  "These two young people joined him there
definitely two years ago.  But from what I have learnt, he has
acted as their guardian ever since they were mere children."

"And--their mother?" asked Mr. Gilwaters.

"Said to be dead--long since," answered Bryce.  "And their
father, too.  They know nothing.  Ransford won't tell them
anything.  But, as you say--I've no doubt of it myself now
--they must be the children of John Brake."

"And have taken the name of their mother!" remarked the old
man.

"Had it given to them," said Bryce.  "They don't know that it
isn't their real name.  Of course, Ransford has given it to
them!  But now--the mother?"

"Ah, yes, the mother!" said Mr. Gilwaters.  "Our old
governess!  Dear me!"

"I'm going to put a question to you," continued Bryce, leaning
nearer and speaking in a low, confidential tone.  "You must
have seen much of the world, Mr. Gilwaters--men of your
profession know the world, and human nature, too.  Call to
mind all the mysterious circumstances, the veiled hints, of
that trial.  Do you think--have you ever thought--that the
false friend whom the counsel referred to was--Ransford?
Come, now!"

The old clergyman lifted his hands and let them fall on his
knees.

"I do not know what to say!" he exclaimed.  "To tell you the
truth, I have often wondered if--if that was what really did
happen.  There is the fact that Brake's wife disappeared
mysteriously--that Ransford made a similar mysterious
disappearance about the same time--that Brake was obviously
suffering from intense and bitter hatred when I saw him after
the trial--hatred of some person on whom he meant to be
revenged--and that his counsel hinted that he had been
deceived and betrayed by a friend.  Now, to my knowledge, he
and Ransford were the closest of friends--in the old days,
before Brake married our governess.  And I suppose the
friendship continued--certainly Ransford acted as best man at
the wedding!  But how account for that strange double
disappearance?"

Bryce had already accounted for that, in his own secret mind.
And now, having got all that he wanted out of the old
clergyman, he rose to take his leave.

"You will regard this interview as having been of a strictly
private nature, Mr. Gilwaters?" he said.

"Certainly!" responded the old man.  "But--you mentioned that
you wished to marry the daughter?  Now that you know about her
father's past--for I am sure she must be John Brake's child
--you won't allow that to--eh?"

"Not for a moment!" answered Bryce, with a fair show of
magnanimity.  "I am not a man of that complexion, sir.  No!--I
only wished to clear up certain things, you understand."

"And--since she is apparently--from what you say--in ignorance
of her real father's past--what then?" asked Mr. Gilwaters
anxiously.  "Shall you--"

"I shall do nothing whatever in any haste," replied Bryce.
"Rely upon me to consider her feelings in everything.  As you
have been so kind, I will let you know, later, how matters
go."

This was one of Pemberton Bryce's ready inventions.  He had
not the least intention of ever seeing or communicating with
the late vicar of Braden Medworth again; Mr. Gilwaters had
served his purpose for the time being.  He went away from
Bayswater, and, an hour later, from London, highly satisfied.
In his opinion, Mark Ransford, seventeen years before, had
taken advantage of his friend's misfortunes to run away with
his wife, and when Brake, alias Braden, had unexpectedly
turned up at Wrychester, he had added to his former wrong by
the commission of a far greater one.




CHAPTER X - DIPLOMACY


Bryce went back to Wrychester firmly convinced that Mark
Ransford had killed John Braden.  He reckoned things up in his
own fashion.  Some years must have elapsed since Braden, or
rather Brake's release.  He had probably heard, on his
release, that Ransford and his, Brake's, wife had gone abroad
--in that case he would certainly follow them.  He might have
lost all trace of them; he might have lost his original
interest in his first schemes of revenge; he might have begun
a new life for himself in Australia, whence he had undoubtedly
come to England recently.  But he had come, at last, and he
had evidently tracked Ransford to Wrychester--why, otherwise,
had he presented himself at Ransford's door on that eventful
morning which was to witness his death?  Nothing, in Bryce's
opinion, could be clearer.  Brake had turned up.  He and
Ransford had met--most likely in the precincts of the
Cathedral.  Ransford, who knew all the quiet corners of the
old place, had in all probability induced Brake to walk up
into the gallery with him, had noticed the open doorway, had
thrown Brake through it.  All the facts pointed to that
conclusion--it was a theory which, so far as Bryce could see,
was perfect.  It ought to be enough--proved--to put Ransford
in a criminal dock.  Bryce resolved it in his own mind over
and over again as he sped home to Wrychester--he pictured the
police listening greedily to all that he could tell them if he
liked.  There was only one factor in the whole sum of the
affair which seemed against him--the advertisement in the
Times.  If Brake desired to find Ransford in order to be
revenged on him, why did he insert that advertisement, as if
he were longing to meet a cherished friend again?  But Bryce
gaily surmounted that obstacle--full of shifts and subtleties
himself, he was ever ready to credit others with trading in
them, and he put the advertisement down as a clever ruse to
attract, not Ransford, but some person who could give
information about Ransford.  Whatever its exact meaning might
have been, its existence made no difference to Bryce's firm
opinion that it was Mark Ransford who flung John Brake down
St. Wrytha's Stair and killed him.  He was as sure of that as
he was certain that Braden was Brake.  And he was not going to
tell the police of his discoveries--he was not going to tell
anybody.  The one thing that concerned him was--how best to
make use of his knowledge with a view to bringing about a
marriage between himself and Mark Ransford's ward.  He had set
his mind on that for twelve months past, and he was not a man
to be baulked of his purpose.  By fair means, or foul--he
himself ignored the last word and would have substituted the
term skilful for it--Pemberton Bryce meant to have Mary
Bewery.

Mary Bewery herself had no thought of Bryce in her head when,
the morning after that worthy's return to Wrychester, she set
out, alone, for the Wrychester Golf Club.  It was her habit to
go there almost every day, and Bryce was well acquainted with
her movements and knew precisely where to waylay her.  And
empty of Bryce though her mind was, she was not surprised
when, at a lonely place on Wrychester Common, Bryce turned the
corner of a spinny and met her face to face.

Mary would have passed on with no more than a silent
recognition--she had made up her mind to have no further
speech with her guardian's dismissed assistant.  But she had
to pass through a wicket gate at that point, and Bryce barred
the way, with unmistakable purpose.  It was plain to the girl
that he had laid in wait for her.  She was not without a
temper of her own, and she suddenly let it out on the
offender.

"Do you call this manly conduct, Dr. Bryce?" she demanded,
turning an indignant and flushed face on him.  "To waylay me
here, when you know that I don't want to have anything more to
do with you.  Let me through, please--and go away!"

But Bryce kept a hand on the little gate, and when he spoke
there was that in his voice which made the girl listen in
spite of herself.

"I'm not here on my own behalf," he said quickly.  "I give you
my word I won't say a thing that need offend you.  It's true I
waited here for you--it's the only place in which I thought I
could meet you, alone.  I want to speak to you.  It's this--do
you know your guardian is in danger?"

Bryce had the gift of plausibility--he could convince people,
against their instincts, even against their wills, that he was
telling the truth.  And Mary, after a swift glance, believed
him.

"What danger?" she asked.  "And if he is, and if you know he
is--why don't you go direct to him?"

"The most fatal thing in the world to do!" exclaimed Bryce.
"You know him--he can be nasty.  That would bring matters to a
crisis.  And that, in his interest, is just what mustn't
happen."

"I don't understand you," said Mary.

Bryce leaned nearer to her--across the gate.

"You know what happened last week," he said in a low voice.
"The strange death of that man--Braden."

"Well?" she asked, with a sudden look of uneasiness.  "What of
it?"

"It's being rumoured--whispered--in the town that Dr. Ransford
had something to do with that affair," answered Bryce.
"Unpleasant--unfortunate--but it's a fact."

"Impossible!" exclaimed Mary with a heightening colour.  "What
could he have to do with it?  What could give rise to such
foolish--wicked--rumours?"

"You know as well as I do how people talk, how they will
talk," said Bryce.  "You can't stop them, in a place like
Wrychester, where everybody knows everybody.  There's a
mystery around Braden's death--it's no use denying it.  Nobody
knows who he was, where he came from, why he came.  And it's
being hinted--I'm only telling you what I've gathered--that
Dr. Ransford knows more than he's ever told.  There are, I'm
afraid, grounds."

"What grounds?" demanded Mary.  While Bryce had been speaking,
in his usual slow, careful fashion, she had been reflecting
--and remembering Ransford's evident agitation at the time of
the Paradise affair--and his relief when the inquest was over
--and his sending her with flowers to the dead man's grave
and she began to experience a sense of uneasiness and even of
fear.  "What grounds can there be?" she added.  "Dr. Ransford
didn't know that man--had never seen him!"

"That's not certain," replied Bryce.  "It's said--remember,
I'm only repeating things--it's said that just before the
body was discovered, Dr. Ransford was seen--seen, mind you!
--leaving the west porch of the Cathedral, looking as if he
had just been very, much upset.  Two persons saw this."

"Who are they?" asked Mary.

"That I'm not allowed to tell you," said Bryce, who had no
intention of informing her that one person was himself and
the other imaginary.  "But I can assure you that I am certain
--absolutely certain!--that their story is true.  The fact is
--I can corroborate it."

"You!" she exclaimed.

"I!" replied Bryce.  "I will tell you something that I have
never told anybody--up to now.  I shan't ask you to respect my
confidence--I've sufficient trust in you to know that you
will, without any asking.  Listen!--on that morning, Dr.
Ransford went out of the surgery in the direction of the
Deanery, leaving me alone there.  A few minutes later, a tap
came at the door.  I opened it--and found--a man standing
outside!"

"Not--that man?" asked Mary fearfully.

"That man--Braden," replied Bryce.  "He asked for Dr.
Ransford.  I said he was out--would the caller leave his name?
He said no--he had called because he had once known a Dr.
Ransford, years before.  He added something about calling
again, and he went away--across the Close towards the
Cathedral.  I saw him again--not very long afterwards--lying
in the corner of Paradise--dead!"

Mary Bewery was by this time pale and trembling--and Bryce
continued to watch her steadily.  She stole a furtive look at
him.

"Why didn't you tell all this at the inquest?" she asked in a
whisper.

"Because I knew how damning it would be to--Ransford," replied
Bryce promptly.  "It would have excited suspicion.  I was
certain that no one but myself knew that Braden had been to
the surgery door--therefore, I thought that if I kept silence,
his calling there would never be known.  But--I have since
found that I was mistaken.  Braden was seen--going away from
Dr. Ransford's."

"By--whom?" asked Mary.

"Mrs. Deramore--at the next house," answered Bryce.  "She
happened to be looking out of an upstairs window.  She saw him
go away and cross the Close."

"Did she tell you that?" demanded Mary, who knew Mrs. Deramore
for a gossip.

"Between ourselves," said Bryce, "she did not!  She told Mrs.
Folliot--Mrs. Folliot told me."

"So--it is talked about!" exclaimed Mary.

"I said so," assented Bryce.  "You know what Mrs. Folliot's
tongue is."

"Then Dr. Ransford will get to hear of it," said Mary.

"He will be the last person to get to hear of it," affirmed
Bryce.  "These things are talked of, hole-and-corner fashion,
a long time before they reach the ears of the person chiefly
concerned."

Mary hesitated a moment before she asked her next question.

"Why have you told me all this?" she demanded at last.

"Because I didn't want you to be suddenly surprised," answered
Bryce.  "This--whatever it is--may come to a sudden head--of
an unpleasant sort.  These rumours spread--and the police are
still keen about finding out things concerning this dead man.
If they once get it into their heads that Dr. Ransford knew
him--"

Mary laid her hand on the gate between them--and Bryce, who
had done all he wished to do at that time, instantly opened
it, and she passed through.

"I am much obliged to you," she said.  "I don't know what it
all means--but it is Dr. Ransford's affair--if there is any
affair, which I doubt.  Will you let me go now, please?"

Bryce stood aside and lifted his hat, and Mary, with no more
than a nod, walked on towards the golf club-house across the
Common, while Bryce turned off to the town, highly elated with
his morning's work.  He had sown the seeds of uneasiness and
suspicion broadcast--some of them, he knew, would mature.

Mary Bewery played no golf that morning.  In fact, she only
went on to the club-house to rid herself of Bryce, and
presently she returned home, thinking.  And indeed, she said
to herself, she had abundant food for thought.  Naturally
candid and honest, she did not at that moment doubt Bryce's
good faith; much as she disliked him in most ways she knew
that he had certain commendable qualities, and she was
inclined to believe him when he said that he had kept silence
in order to ward off consequences which might indirectly be
unpleasant for her.  But of him and his news she thought
little--what occupied her mind was the possible connection
between the stranger who had come so suddenly and disappeared
so suddenly--and for ever!--and Mark Ransford.  Was it
possible--really possible--that there had been some meeting
between them in or about the Cathedral precincts that morning?
She knew, after a moment's reflection, that it was very
possible--why not?  And from that her thoughts followed a
natural trend--was the mystery surrounding this man connected
in any way with the mystery about herself and her brother?
--that mystery of which (as it seemed to her) Ransford was so
shy of speaking.  And again--and for the hundredth time--she
asked herself why he was so reticent, so evidently full of
dislike of the subject, why he could not tell her and Dick
whatever there was to tell, once for all?

She had to pass the Folliots' house in the far corner of the
Close on her way home--a fine old mansion set in well-wooded
grounds, enclosed by a high wall of old red brick.  A door in
that wall stood open, and inside it, talking to one of his
gardeners, was Mr. Folliot--the vistas behind him were gay
with flowers and rich with the roses which he passed all his
days in cultivating.  He caught sight of Mary as she passed
the open doorway and called her back.

"Come in and have a look at some new roses I've got," he said.
"Beauties!  I'll give you a handful to carry home."

Mary rather liked Mr. Folliot.  He was a big, half-asleep sort
of man, who had few words and could talk about little else
than his hobby.  But he was a passionate lover of flowers and
plants, and had a positive genius for rose-culture, and was at
all times highly delighted to take flower-lovers round his
garden.  She turned at once and walked in, and Folliot led her
away down the scented paths.

"It's an experiment I've been trying," he said, leading her up
to a cluster of blooms of a colour and size which she had
never seen before.  "What do you think of the results?"

"Magnificent!" exclaimed Mary.  "I never saw anything so
fine!"

"No!" agreed Folliot, with a quiet chuckle.  "Nor anybody
else--because there's no such rose in England.  I shall have
to go to some of these learned parsons in the Close to invent
me a Latin name for this--it's the result of careful
experiments in grafting--took me three years to get at it.
And see how it blooms,--scores on one standard."

He pulled out a knife and began to select a handful of the
finest blooms, which he presently pressed into Mary's hand.

"By the by," he remarked as she thanked him and they turned
away along the path, "I wanted to have a word with you--or
with Ransford.  Do you know--does he know--that that
confounded silly woman who lives near to your house--Mrs.
Deramore--has been saying some things--or a thing--which--to
put it plainly--might make some unpleasantness for him?"

Mary kept a firm hand on her wits--and gave him an answer
which was true enough, so far as she was aware.

"I'm sure he knows nothing," she said.  "What is it, Mr.
Folliot?"

"Why, you know what happened last week," continued Folliot,
glancing knowingly at her.  "The accident to that stranger.
This Mrs. Deramore, who's nothing but an old chatterer, has
been saying, here and there, that it's a very queer thing Dr.
Ransford doesn't know anything about him, and can't say
anything, for she herself, she says, saw the very man going
away from Dr. Ransford's house not so long before the
accident."

"I am not aware that he ever called at Dr. Ransford's," said
Mary.  "I never saw him--and I was in the garden, about that
very time, with your stepson, Mr. Folliot."

"So Sackville told me," remarked Folliot.  "He was present
--and so was I--when Mrs. Deramore was tattling about it in
our house yesterday.  He said, then, that he'd never seen the
man go to your house.  You never heard your servants make any
remark about it?"

"Never!" answered Mary.

"I told Mrs. Deramore she'd far better hold her tongue,"
continued Folliot.  "Tittle-tattle of that sort is apt to lead
to unpleasantness.  And when it came to it, it turned out that
all she had seen was this stranger strolling across the Close
as if he'd just left your house.  If--there's always some if!
But I'll tell you why I mentioned it to you," he continued,
nudging Mary's elbow and glancing covertly first at her and
then at his house on the far side of the garden.  "Ladies that
are--getting on a bit in years, you know--like my wife, are
apt to let their tongues wag, and between you and me, I
shouldn't wonder if Mrs. Folliot has repeated what Mrs.
Deramore said--eh?  And I don't want the doctor to think that
--if he hears anything, you know, which he may, and, again,
he might--to think that it originated here.  So, if he
should ever mention it to you, you can say it sprang from his
next-door neighbour.  Bah!--they're a lot of old gossips,
these Close ladies!"

"Thank you," said Mary.  "But--supposing this man had been to
our house--what difference would that make?  He might have
been for half a dozen reasons."

Folliot looked at her out of his half-shut eyes.

"Some people would want to know why Ransford didn't tell that
--at the inquest," he answered.  "That's all.  When there's a
bit of mystery, you know--eh?"

He nodded--as if reassuringly--and went off to rejoin his
gardener, and Mary walked home with her roses, more thoughtful
than ever.  Mystery?--a bit of mystery?  There was a vast and
heavy cloud of mystery, and she knew she could have no peace
until it was lifted.




CHAPTER XI - THE BACK ROOM


In the midst of all her perplexity at that moment, Mary Bewery
was certain of one fact about which she had no perplexity nor
any doubt--it would not be long before the rumours of which
Bryce and Mr. Folliot had spoken.  Although she had only lived
in Wrychester a comparatively short time she had seen and
learned enough of it to know that the place was a hotbed of
gossip.  Once gossip was started there, it spread, widening in
circle after circle.  And though Bryce was probably right when
he said that the person chiefly concerned was usually the last
person to hear what was being whispered, she knew well enough
that sooner or later this talk about Ransford would come to
Ransford's own ears.  But she had no idea that it was to come
so soon, nor from her own brother.

Lunch in the Ransford menage was an informal meal.  At a
quarter past one every day, it was on the table--a cold lunch
to which the three members of the household helped themselves
as they liked, independent of the services of servants.
Sometimes all three were there at the same moment; sometimes
Ransford was half an hour late; the one member who was always
there to the moment was Dick Bewery, who fortified himself
sedulously after his morning's school labours.  On this
particular day all three met in the dining-room at once, and
sat down together.  And before Dick had eaten many mouthfuls
of a cold pie to which he had just liberally helped himself he
bent confidentially across the table towards his guardian.

"There's something I think you ought to be told about, sir,"
he remarked with a side-glance at Mary.  "Something I heard
this morning at school.  You know, we've a lot of fellows
--town boys--who talk."

"I daresay," responded Ransford dryly.  "Following the example
of their mothers, no doubt.  Well--what is it?"

He, too, glanced at Mary--and the girl had her work set to
look unconscious.

"It's this," replied Dick, lowering his voice in spite of the
fact that all three were alone.  "They're saying in the town
that you know something which you won't tell about that affair
last week.  It's being talked of."

Ransford laughed--a little cynically.

"Are you quite sure, my boy, that they aren't saying that I
daren't tell?" he asked.  "Daren't is a much more likely word
than won't, I think."

"Well--about that, sir," acknowledged Dick.  "Comes to that,
anyhow."

"And what are their grounds?" inquired Ransford.  "You've
heard them, I'll be bound!"

"They say that man--Braden--had been here--here, to the
house!--that morning, not long before he was found dead,"
answered Dick.  "Of course, I said that was all bosh!--I said
that if he'd been here and seen you, I'd have heard of it,
dead certain."

"That's not quite so dead certain, Dick, as that I have no
knowledge of his ever having been here," said Ransford.  "But
who says he came here?"

"Mrs. Deramore," replied Dick promptly.  "She says she saw him
go away from the house and across the Close, a little before
ten.  So Jim Deramore says, anyway--and he says his mother's
eyes are as good as another's."

"Doubtless!" assented Ransford.  He looked at Mary again, and
saw that she was keeping hers fixed on her plate.  "Well," he
continued, "if it will give you any satisfaction, Dick, you
can tell the gossips that Dr. Ransford never saw any man,
Braden or anybody else, at his house that morning, and that he
never exchanged a word with Braden.  So much for that!  But,"
he added, "you needn't expect them to believe you.  I know
these people--if they've got an idea into their heads they'll
ride it to death.  Nevertheless, what I say is a fact."

Dick presently went off--and once more Ransford looked at
Mary.  And this time, Mary had to meet her guardian's
inquiring glance.

"Have you heard anything of this?" he asked.

"That there was a rumour--yes," she replied without
hesitation.  "But--not until just now--this morning."

"Who told you of it?" inquired Ransford.

Mary hesitated.  Then she remembered that Mr. Folliot, at any
rate, had not bound her to secrecy.

"Mr. Folliot," she replied.  "He called me into his garden, to
give me those roses, and he mentioned that Mrs. Deramore had
said these things to Mrs. Folliot, and as he seemed to think
it highly probable that Mrs. Folliot would repeat them, he
told me because he didn't want you to think that the rumour
had originally arisen at his house."

"Very good of him, I'm sure," remarked Ransford dryly.  "They
all like to shift the blame from one to another!  But," he
added, looking searchingly at her, "you don't know anything
about--Braden's having come here?"

He saw at once that she did, and Mary saw a slight shade of
anxiety come over his face.

"Yes, I do!" she replied.  "That morning.  But--it was told to
me, only today, in strict confidence."

"In strict confidence!" he repeated.  "May I know--by whom?"

"Dr. Bryce," she answered.  "I met him this morning.  And I
think you ought to know.  Only--it was in confidence."  She
paused for a moment, looking at him, and her face grew
troubled.  "I hate to suggest it," she continued, "but--will
you come with me to see him, and I'll ask him--things being as
they are--to tell you what he told me.  I can't--without his
permission."

Ransford shook his head and frowned.

"I dislike it!" he said.  "It's--it's putting ourselves in his
power, as it were.  But--I'm not going to be left in the dark.
Put on your hat, then."

Bryce, ever since his coming to Wrychester, had occupied
rooms in an old house in Friary Lane, at the back of the
Close.  He was comfortably lodged.  Downstairs he had a
double sitting-room, extending from the front to the back
of the house; his front window looked out on one garden, his
back window on another.  He had just finished lunch in the
front part of his room, and was looking out of his window,
wondering what to do with himself that afternoon, when he saw
Ransford and Mary Bewery approaching.  He guessed the reason
of their visit at once, and went straight to the front door to
meet them, and without a word motioned them to follow him into
his own quarters.  It was characteristic of him that he took
the first word--before either of his visitors could speak.

"I know why you've come," he said, as he closed the door and
glanced at Mary.  "You either want my permission that you
should tell Dr. Ransford what I told you this morning, or, you
want me to tell him myself.  Am I right?"

"I should be glad if you would tell him," replied Mary.  "The
rumour you spoke of has reached him--he ought to know what you
can tell.  I have respected your confidence, so far."

The two men looked at each other.  And this time it was
Ransford who spoke first.

"It seems to me," he said, "that there is no great reason for
privacy.  If rumours are flying about in Wrychester, there is
an end of privacy.  Dick tells me they are saying at the
school that it is known that Braden called on me at my house
shortly before he was found dead.  I know nothing whatever of
any such call!  But--I left you in my surgery that morning.
Do you know if he came there?"

"Yes!" answered Bryce.  "He did come.  Soon after you'd gone
out."

"Why did you keep that secret?" demanded Ransford.  "You could
have told it to the police--or to the Coroner--or to me.  Why
didn't you?"

Before Bryce could answer, all three heard a sharp click of
the front garden gate, and looking round, saw Mitchington
coming up the walk.

"Here's one of the police, now," said Bryce calmly.  "Probably
come to extract information.  I would much rather he didn't
see you here--but I'd also like you to hear what I shall say
to him.  Step inside there," he continued, drawing aside the
curtains which shut off the back room.  "Don't stick at
trifles!--you don't know what may be afoot."

He almost forced them away, drew the curtains again, and
hurrying to the front door, returned almost immediately with
Mitchington.

"Hope I'm not disturbing you, doctor," said the inspector, as
Bryce brought him in and again closed the door.  "Not?  All
right, then--I came round to ask you a question.  There's a
queer rumour getting out in the town, about that affair last
week.  Seems to have sprung from some of those old dowagers in
the Close."

"Of course!" said Bryce.  He was mixing a whisky-and-soda for
his caller, and his laugh mingled with the splash of the
siphon.  "Of course!  I've heard it."

"You've heard?" remarked Mitchington.  "Um!  Good health,
sir!--heard, of course, that--"

"That Braden called on Dr. Ransford not long before the
accident, or murder, or whatever it was, happened," said
Bryce.  "That's it--eh?"

"Something of that sort," agreed Mitchington.  "It's being
said, anyway, that Braden was at Ransford's house, and
presumably saw him, and that Ransford, accordingly, knows
something about him which he hasn't told.  Now--what do you
know?  Do you know if Ransford and Braden did meet that
morning?"

"Not at Ransford's house, anyway," answered Bryce promptly.
"I can prove that.  But since this rumour has got out, I'll
tell you what I do know, and what the truth is.  Braden did
come to Ransford's--not to the house, but to the surgery.  He
didn't see Ransford--Ransford had gone out, across the Close.
Braden saw--me!"

"Bless me!--I didn't know that," remarked Mitchington.  "You
never mentioned it."

"You'll not wonder that I didn't," said Bryce, laughing
lightly, "when I tell you what the man wanted."

"What did he want, then?" asked Mitchington.

"Merely to be told where the Cathedral Library was," answered
Bryce.

Ransford, watching Mary Bewery, saw her cheeks flush, and knew
that Bryce was cheerfully telling lies.  But Mitchington
evidently had no suspicion.

"That all?" he asked.  "Just a question?"

"Just a question--that question," replied Bryce.  "I pointed
out the Library--and he walked away.  I never saw him again
until I was fetched to him--dead.  And I thought so little of
the matter that--well, it never even occurred to me to mention
it."

"Then--though he did call--he never saw Ransford?" asked the
inspector.

"I tell you Ransford was already gone out," answered Bryce.
"He saw no one but myself.  Where Mrs. Deramore made her
mistake--I happen to know, Mitchington, that she started this
rumour--was in trying to make two and two into five.  She saw
this man crossing the Close, as if from Ransford's house and
she at once imagined he'd seen and been talking with
Ransford."

"Old fool!" said Mitchington.  "Of course, that's how these
tales get about.  However, there's more than that in the air."

The two listeners behind the curtains glanced at each other.
Ransford's glance showed that he was already chafing at the
unpleasantness of his position--but Mary's only betokened
apprehension.  And suddenly, as if she feared that Ransford
would throw the curtains aside and walk into the front room,
she laid a hand on his arm and motioned him to be patient--and
silent.

"Oh?" said Bryce.  "More in the air?  About that business?"

"Just so," assented Mitchington.  "To start with, that man
Varner, the mason, has never ceased talking.  They say he's
always at it--to the effect that the verdict of the jury at
the inquest was all wrong, and that his evidence was put clean
aside.  He persists that he did see--what he swore he saw."

"He'll persist in that to his dying day," said Bryce
carelessly.  "If that's all there is--"

"It isn't," interrupted the inspector.  "Not by a long chalk!
But Varner's is a direct affirmation--the other matter's a
sort of ugly hint.  There's a man named Collishaw, a townsman,
who's been employed as a mason's labourer about the Cathedral
of late.  This Collishaw, it seems, was at work somewhere up
in the galleries, ambulatories, or whatever they call those
upper regions, on the very morning of the affair.  And the
other night, being somewhat under the influence of drink, and
talking the matter over with his mates at a tavern, he let out
some dark hints that he could tell something if he liked.  Of
course, he was pressed to tell them--and wouldn't.  Then--so
my informant tells me--he was dared to tell, and became
surlily silent.  That, of course, spread, and got to my ears.
I've seen Collishaw."

"Well?" asked Bryce.

"I believe the man does know something," answered Mitchington.
"That's the impression I carried away, anyhow.  But--he won't
speak.  I charged him straight out with knowing something--but
it was no good.  I told him of what I'd heard.  All he would
say was that whatever he might have said when he'd got a glass
of beer or so too much, he wasn't going to say anything now
neither for me nor for anybody!"

"Just so!" remarked Bryce.  "But--he'll be getting a glass too
much again, some day, and then--then, perhaps he'll add to
what he said before.  And--you'll be sure to hear of it."

"I'm not certain of that," answered Mitchington.  "I made some
inquiry and I find that Collishaw is usually a very sober and
retiring sort of chap--he'd been lured on to drink when he let
out what he did.  Besides, whether I'm right or wrong, I got
the idea into my head that he'd already been--squared!"

"Squared!" exclaimed Bryce.  "Why, then, if that affair was
really murder, he'd be liable to being charged as an accessory
after the fact!"

"I warned him of that," replied Mitchington.  "Yes, I warned
him solemnly."

"With no effect?" asked Bryce.

"He's a surly sort of man," said Mitchington.  "The sort that
takes refuge in silence.  He made no answer beyond a growl."

"You really think he knows something?" suggested Bryce.
"Well--if there is anything, it'll come out--in time."

"Oh, it'll come out!" assented Mitchington.  "I'm by no means
satisfied with that verdict of the coroner's inquiry.  I
believe there was foul play--of some sort.  I'm still
following things up--quietly.  And--I'll tell you something
--between ourselves--I've made an important discovery.  It's
this.  On the evening of Braden's arrival at the Mitre he was
out, somewhere, for a whole two hours--by himself."

"I thought we learned from Mrs. Partingley that he and the
other man, Dellingham, spent the evening together?" said
Bryce.

"So we did--but that was not quite so," replied Mitchington.
"Braden went out of the Mitre just before nine o'clock and he
didn't return until a few minutes after eleven.  Now, then,
where did he go?"

"I suppose you're trying to find that out?" asked Bryce, after
a pause, during which the listeners heard the caller rise and
make for the door.

"Of course!" replied Mitchington, with a confident laugh.
"And--I shall!  Keep it to yourself, doctor."

When Bryce had let the inspector out and returned to his
sitting-room, Ransford and Mary had come from behind the
curtains.  He looked at them and shook his head.

"You heard--a good deal, you see," he observed.

"Look here!" said Ransford peremptorily.  "You put that man
off about the call at my surgery.  You didn't tell him the
truth."

"Quite right," assented Bryce.  "I didn't.  Why should I?"

"What did Braden ask you?" demanded Ransford.  "Come, now?"

"Merely if Dr. Ransford was in," answered Bryce, "remarking
that he had once known a Dr. Ransford.  That was--literally
--all.  I replied that you were not in."

Ransford stood silently thinking for a moment or two.  Then he
moved towards the door.

"I don't see that any good will come of more talk about this,"
he said.  "We three, at any rate, know this--I never saw
Braden when he came to my house."

Then he motioned Mary to follow him, and they went away, and
Bryce, having watched them out of sight, smiled at himself in
his mirror--with full satisfaction.




CHAPTER XII - MURDER OF THE MASON'S LABOURER


It was towards noon of the very neat day that Bryce made a
forward step in the matter of solving the problem of Richard
Jenkins and his tomb in Paradise.  Ever since his return from
Barthorpe he had been making attempts to get at the true
meaning of this mystery.  He had paid so many visits to the
Cathedral Library that Ambrose Campany had asked him jestingly
if he was going in for archaeology; Bryce had replied that
having nothing to do just then he saw no reason why he
shouldn't improve his knowledge of the antiquities of
Wrychester.  But he was scrupulously careful not to let the
librarian know the real object of his prying and peeping into
the old books and documents.  Campany, as Bryce was very well
aware, was a walking encyclopaedia of information about
Wrychester Cathedral: he was, in fact, at that time, engaged
in completing a history of it.  And it was through that
history that Bryce accidentally got his precious information.
For on the day following the interview with Mary Bewery and
Ransford, Bryce being in the library was treated by Campany to
an inspection of certain drawings which the librarian had made
for illustrating his work-drawings, most of them, of old
brasses, coats of arms, and the like,--And at the foot of one
of these, a drawing of a shield on which was sculptured three
crows, Bryce saw the name Richard Jenkins, armiger.  It was
all, he could do to repress a start and to check his tongue.
But Campany, knowing nothing, quickly gave him the information
he wanted.

"All these drawings," he said, "are of old things in and about
the Cathedral.  Some of them, like that, for instance, that
Jenkins shield, are of ornamentations on tombs which are so
old that the inscriptions have completely disappeared--tombs
in the Cloisters, and in Paradise.  Some of those tombs can
only be identified by these sculptures and ornaments."

"How do you know, for instance, that any particular tomb or
monument is, we'll say, Jerkins's?" asked Bryce, feeling that
he was on safe ground.  "Must be a matter of doubt if there's
no inscription left, isn't it?"

"No!" replied Campany.  "No doubt at all.  In that particular
case, there's no doubt that a certain tomb out there in the
corner of Paradise, near the east wall of the south porch, is
that of one Richard Jenkins, because it bears his coat-of-arms,
which, as you see, bore these birds--intended either as crows
or ravens.  The inscription's clean gone from that tomb--which
is why it isn't particularized in that chart of burials in
Paradise--the man who prepared that chart didn't know how to
trace things as we do nowadays.  Richard Jenkins was, as you
may guess, a Welshman, who settled here in Wrychester in the
seventeenth century: he left some money to St. Hedwige's Church,
outside the walls, but he was buried here.  There are more
instances--look at this, now--this coat-of-arms--that's the only
means there is of identifying another tomb in Paradise--that of
Gervase Tyrrwhit.  You see his armorial bearings in this drawing?
Now those--"

Bryce let the librarian go on talking and explaining, and
heard all he had to say as a man hears things in a dream--what
was really active in his own mind was joy at this unexpected
stroke of luck: he himself might have searched for many a year
and never found the last resting-place of Richard Jenkins.
And when, soon after the great clock of the Cathedral had
struck the hour of noon, he left Campany and quitted the
Library, he walked over to Paradise and plunged in amongst its
yews and cypresses, intent on seeing the Jenkins tomb for
himself.  No one could suspect anything from merely seeing him
there, and all he wanted was one glance at the ancient
monument.

But Bryce was not to give even one look at Richard Jenkins's
tomb that day, nor the next, nor for many days--death met him
in another form before he had taken many steps in the quiet
enclosure where so much of Wrychester mortality lay sleeping.

From over the topmost branches of the old yew trees a great
shaft of noontide sunlight fell full on a patch of the grey
walls of the high-roofed nave.  At the foot of it, his back
comfortably planted against the angle of a projecting
buttress, sat a man, evidently fast asleep in the warmth of
those powerful rays.  His head leaned down and forward over
his chest, his hands were folded across his waist, his whole
attitude was that of a man who, having eaten and drunken in
the open air, has dropped off to sleep.  That he had so
dropped off while in the very act of smoking was evident from
the presence of a short, well-blackened clay pipe which had
fallen from his lips and lay in the grass beside him.  Near
the pipe, spread on a coloured handkerchief, were the remains
of his dinner--Bryce's quick eye noticed fragments of bread,
cheese, onions.  And close by stood one of those tin bottles
in which labouring men carry their drink; its cork, tied to
the neck by a piece of string, dangled against the side.  A
few yards away, a mass of fallen rubbish and a shovel and
wheelbarrow showed at what the sleeper had been working when
his dinner-hour and time for rest had arrived.

Something unusual, something curiously noticeable--yet he
could not exactly tell what--made Bryce go closer to the
sleeping man.  There was a strange stillness about him--a
rigidity which seemed to suggest something more than sleep.
And suddenly, with a stifled exclamation, he bent forward and
lifted one of the folded hands.  It dropped like a leaden
weight when Bryce released it, and he pushed back the man's
face and looked searchingly into it.  And in that instant he
knew that for the second time within a fortnight he had found
a dead man in Wrychester Paradise.

There was no doubt whatever that the man was dead.  His hands
and body were warm enough--but there was not a flicker of
breath; he was as dead as any of the folk who lay six feet
beneath the old gravestones around him.  And Bryce's practised
touch and eye knew that he was only just dead--and that he had
died in his sleep.  Everything there pointed unmistakably to
what had happened.  The man had eaten his frugal dinner,
washed it down from his tin bottle, lighted his pipe, leaned
back in the warm sunlight, dropped asleep--and died as quietly
as a child taken from its play to its slumbers.

After one more careful look, Bryce turned and made through the
trees to the path which crossed the old graveyard.  And there,
going leisurely home to lunch, was Dick Bewery, who glanced at
the young doctor inquisitively.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed with the freedom of youth towards
something not much older.  "You there?  Anything on?"

Then he looked more clearly, seeing Bryce to be pale and
excited.  Bryce laid a hand on the lad's arm.

"Look here!" he said.  "There's something wrong--again!--in
here.  Run down to the police-station--get hold of
Mitchington--quietly, you understand!--bring him here at once.
If he's not there, bring somebody else--any of the police.
But--say nothing to anybody but them."

Dick gave him another swift look, turned, and ran.  And
Bryce went back to the dead man--and picked up the tin bottle,
and making a cup of his left hand poured out a trickle of
the contents.  Cold tea!--and, as far as he could judge,
nothing else.  He put the tip of his little finger into the
weak-looking stuff, and tasted--it tasted of nothing but a
super-abundance of sugar.

He stood there, watching the dead man until the sound of
footsteps behind him gave warning of the return of Dick
Bewery, who, in another minute, hurried through the bushes,
followed by Mitchington.  The boy stared in silence at the
still figure, but the inspector, after a hasty glance, turned
a horrified face on Bryce.

"Good Lord!" he gasped.  "It's Collishaw!"

Bryce for the moment failed to comprehend this, and
Mitchington shook his head.

"Collishaw!" he repeated.  "Collishaw, you know!  The man I
told you about yesterday afternoon.  The man that said--"

Mitchington suddenly checked himself, with a glance at Dick
Bewery.

"I remember--now," said Bryce.  "The mason's labourer!  So
--this is the man, eh?  Well, Mitchington, he's dead!--I found
him dead, just now.  I should say he'd been dead five to ten
minutes--not more.  You'd better get help--and I'd like
another medical man to see him before he's removed."

Mitchington looked again at Dick.

"Perhaps you'd fetch Dr. Ransford, Mr--Richard?" he asked.
"He's nearest."

"Dr. Ransford's not at home," said Dick.  "He went to
Highminster--some County Council business or other--at ten
this morning, and he won't be back until four--I happen to
know that.  Shall I run for Dr. Coates?"

"If you wouldn't mind," said Mitchington, "and as it's close
by, drop in at the station again and tell the sergeant to come
here with a couple of men.  I say!" he went on, when the boy
had hurried off, "this is a queer business, Dr. Bryce!  What
do you think?"

"I think this," answered Bryce.  "That man!--look at him!--a
strong, healthy-looking fellow, in the very prime of life--that
man has met his death by foul means.  You take particular care
of those dinner things of his--the remains of his dinner,
every scrap--and of that tin bottle.  That, especially.  Take
all these things yourself, Mitchington, and lock them up
--they'll be wanted for examination."

Mitchington glanced at the simple matters which Bryce
indicated.  And suddenly he turned a half-frightened glance on
his companion.

"You don't mean to say that--that you suspect he's been
poisoned?" he asked.  "Good Lord, if that is so--"

"I don't think you'll find that there's much doubt about it,"
answered Bryce.  "But that's a point that will soon be
settled.  You'd better tell the Coroner at once, Mitchington,
and he'll issue a formal order to Dr. Coates to make a
post-mortem.  And," he added significantly, "I shall be
surprised if it isn't as I say--poison!"

"If that's so," observed Mitchington, with a grim shake of his
head, "if that really is so, then I know what I shall think!
This!" he went on, pointing to the dead man, "this is--a sort
of sequel to the other affair.  There's been something in what
the poor chap said--he did know something against somebody,
and that somebody's got to hear of it--and silenced him.  But,
Lord, doctor, how can it have been done?"

"I can see how it can have been done, easy enough," said
Bryce.  "This man has evidently been at work here, by himself,
all the morning.  He of course brought his dinner with him.
He no doubt put his basket and his bottle down somewhere,
while he did his work.  What easier than for some one to
approach through these trees and shrubs while the man's back
was turned, or he was busy round one of these corners, and put
some deadly poison into that bottle?  Nothing!"

"Well," remarked Mitchington, "if that's so, it proves
something else--to my mind."

"What!" asked Bryce.

"Why, that whoever it was who did it was somebody who had a
knowledge of poison!" answered Mitchington.  "And I should say
there aren't many people in Wrychester who have such knowledge
outside yourselves and the chemists.  It's a black business,
this!"

Bryce nodded silently.  He waited until Dr. Coates, an elderly
man who was the leading practitioner in the town, arrived, and
to him he gave a careful account of his discovery.  And after
the police had taken the body away, and he had accompanied
Mitchington to the police-station and seen the tin bottle and
the remains of Collishaw's dinner safely locked up, he went
home to lunch, and to wonder at this strange development.  The
inspector was doubtless right in saying that Collishaw had
been done to death by somebody who wanted to silence him--but
who could that somebody be?  Bryce's thoughts immediately
turned to the fact that Ransford had overheard all that
Mitchington had said, in that very room in which he, Bryce,
was then lunching--Ransford!  Was it possible that Ransford
had realized a danger in Collishaw's knowledge, and had--

He was interrupted at this stage by Mitchington, who came
hurriedly in with a scared face.

"I say, I say!" he whispered as soon as Bryce's landlady had
shut the door on them.  "Here's a fine business!  I've heard
something--something I can hardly credit--but it's true.  I've
been to tell Collishaw's family what's happened.  And--I'm
fairly dazed by it--yet it's there--it is so!"

"What's so?" demanded Bryce.  "What is it that's true?"

Mitchington bent closer over the table.

"Dr. Ransford was fetched to Collishaw's cottage at six
o'clock this morning!" he said.  "It seems that Collishaw's
wife has been in a poor way about her health of late, and Dr.
Ransford has attended her, off and on.  She had some sort of a
seizure this morning--early--and Ransford was sent for.  He
was there some little time--and I've heard some queer things."

"What sort of queer things?" demanded Bryce.  "Don't be afraid
of speaking out, man!--there's no one to hear but myself."

"Well, things that look suspicious, on the face of it,"
continued Mitchington, who was obviously much upset.  "As
you'll acknowledge when you hear them.  I got my information
from the next-door neighbour, Mrs. Batts.  Mrs. Batts says
that when Ransford--who'd been fetched by Mrs. Batts's eldest
lad--came to Collishaw's house, Collishaw was putting up his
dinner to take to his work--"

"What on earth made Mrs. Batts tell you that?" interrupted
Bryce.

"Oh, well, to tell you the truth, I put a few questions to her
as to what went on while Ransford was in the house," answered
Mitchington.  "When I'd once found that he had been there, you
know, I naturally wanted to know all I could."

"Well?" asked Bryce.

"Collishaw, I say, was putting up his dinner to take to his
work," continued Mitchington.  "Mrs. Batts was doing a thing
or two about the house.  Ransford went upstairs to see Mrs.
Collishaw.  After a while he came down and said he would have
to remain a little.  Collishaw went up to speak to his wife
before going out.  And then Ransford asked Mrs. Batts for
something--I forget what--some small matter which the
Collishaw's hadn't got and she had, and she went next door to
fetch it.  Therefore--do you see?--Ransford was left alone
with--Collishaw's tin bottle!"

Bryce, who had been listening attentively, looked steadily at
the inspector.

"You're suspecting Ransford already!" he said.

Mitchington shook his head.

"What's it look like?" he answered, almost appealingly.  "I
put it to you, now!--what does it look like?  Here's this man
been poisoned without a doubt--I'm certain of it.  And--there
were those rumours--it's idle to deny that they centred in
Ransford.  And--this morning Ransford had the chance!"

"That's arguing that Ransford purposely carried a dose of
poison to put into Collishaw's tin bottle!" said Bryce
half-sneeringly.  "Not very probable, you know, Mitchington."

Mitchington spread out his hands.

"Well, there it is!" he said.  "As I say, there's no denying
the suspicious look of it.  If I were only certain that those
rumours about what Collishaw hinted he could say had got to
Ransford's ears!--why, then--"

"What's being done about that post-mortem?" asked Bryce.

"Dr. Coates and Dr. Everest are going to do it this
afternoon," replied Mitchington.  "The Coroner went to them at
once, as soon as I told him."

"They'll probably have to call in an expert from London," said
Bryce.  "However, you can't do anything definite, you know,
until the result's known.  Don't say anything of this to
anybody.  I'll drop in at your place later and hear if Coates
can say anything really certain."

Mitchington went away, and Bryce spent the rest of the
afternoon wondering, speculating and scheming.  If Ransford
had really got rid of this man who knew something--why, then,
it was certainly Ransford who killed Braden.

He went round to the police-station at five o'clock.
Mitchington drew him aside.

"Coates says there's no doubt about it!" he whispered.
"Poisoned!  Hydrocyanic acid!"




CHAPTER XIII - BRYCE IS ASKED A QUESTION


Mitchington stepped aside into a private room, motioning Bryce
to follow him.  He carefully closed the door, and looking
significantly at his companion, repeated his last words, with
a shake of the head.

"Poisoned!--without the very least doubt," he whispered.
"Hydrocyanic acid--which, I understand, is the same thing as
what's commonly called prussic acid.  They say then hadn't the
least difficulty in finding that out! so there you are."

"That's what Coates has told you, of course?" asked Bryce.
"After the autopsy?"

"Both of 'em told me--Coates, and Everest, who helped him,"
replied Mitchington.  "They said it was obvious from the very
start.  And--I say!"

"Well?" said Bryce.

"It wasn't in that tin bottle, anyway," remarked Mitchington,
who was evidently greatly weighted with mystery.

"No!--of course it wasn't!" affirmed Bryce.  "Good Heavens,
man--I know that!"

"How do you know?" asked Mitchington.

"Because I poured a few drops from that bottle into my hand
when I first found Collishaw and tasted the stuff," answered
Bryce readily.  "Cold tea!  with too much sugar in it.  There
was no H.C.N. in that besides, wherever it is, there's always
a smell stronger or fainter--of bitter almonds.  There was
none about that bottle."

"Yet you were very anxious that we should take care of the
bottle?" observed Mitchington.

"Of course!--because I suspected the use of some much rarer
poison than that," retorted Bryce.  "Pooh!--it's a clumsy way
of poisoning anybody!--quick though it is."

"Well, there's where it is!" said Mitchington.  "That'll be
the medical evidence at the inquest, anyway.  That's how it
was done.  And the question now is--"

"Who did it?" interrupted Bryce.  "Precisely!  Well--I'll say
this much at once, Mitchington.  Whoever did it was either a
big bungler--or damned clever!  That's what I say!"

"I don't understand you," said Mitchington.

"Plain enough--my meaning," replied Bryce, smiling.  "To
finish anybody with that stuff is easy enough--but no poison
is more easily detected.  It's an amateurish way of poisoning
anybody--unless you can do it in such a fashion that no
suspicion can attach you to.  And in this case it's here
--whoever administered that poison to Collishaw must have been
certain--absolutely certain, mind you!--that it was impossible
for any one to find out that he'd done so.  Therefore, I say
what I said--the man must be damned clever.  Otherwise, he'd
be found out pretty quick.  And all that puzzles me is--how
was it administered?"

"How much would kill anybody--pretty quick?" asked
Mitchington.

"How much? One drop would cause instantaneous death!" answered
Bryce.  "Cause paralysis of the heart, there and then,
instantly!"

Mitchington remained silent awhile, looking meditatively at
Bryce.  Then he turned to a locked drawer, produced a key, and
took something out of the drawer--a small object, wrapped in
paper.

"I'm telling you a good deal, doctor," he said.  "But as you
know so much already, I'll tell you a bit more.  Look at
this!"

He opened his hand and showed Bryce a small cardboard
pill-box, across the face of which a few words were written
--One after meals--Mr. Collishaw.

"Whose handwriting's that?" demanded Mitchington.

Bryce looked closer, and started.

"Ransford's!" he muttered.  "Ransford--of course!"

"That box was in Collishaw's waistcoat pocket," said
Mitchington.  "There are pills inside it, now.  See!" He took
off the lid of the box and revealed four sugar-coated pills.
"It wouldn't hold more than six, this," he observed.

Bryce extracted a pill and put his nose to it, after
scratching a little of the sugar coating away.

"Mere digestive pills," he announced.

"Could--it!--have been given in one of these?" asked
Mitchington.

"Possible," replied Bryce.  He stood thinking for a moment.
"Have you shown those things to Coates and Everest?" he asked
at last.

"Not yet," replied Mitchington.  "I wanted to find out, first,
if Ransford gave this box to Collishaw, and when.  I'm going
to Collishaw's house presently--I've certain inquiries to
make.  His widow'll know about these pills."

"You're suspecting Ransford," said Bryce.  "That's certain!"

Mitchington carefully put away the pill-box and relocked the
drawer.

"I've got some decidedly uncomfortable ideas--which I'd much
rather not have--about Dr. Ransford," he said.  "When one
thing seems to fit into another, what is one to think.  If I
were certain that that rumour which spread, about Collishaw's
knowledge of something--you know, had got to Ransford's ears
--why, I should say it looked very much as if Ransford wanted
to stop Collishaw's tongue for good before it could say more
--and next time, perhaps, something definite.  If men once
begin to hint that they know something, they don't stop at
hinting.  Collishaw might have spoken plainly before long--to
us!"

Bryce asked a question about the holding of the inquest and
went away.  And after thinking things over, he turned in the
direction of the Cathedral, and made his way through the
Cloisters to the Close.  He was going to make another move in
his own game, while there was a good chance.  Everything at
this juncture was throwing excellent cards into his hand--he
would be foolish, he thought, not to play them to advantage.
And so he made straight for Ransford's house, and before he
reached it, met Ransford and Mary Bewery, who were crossing
the Close from another point, on their way from the railway
station, whither Mary had gone especially to meet her
guardian.  They were in such deep conversation that Bryce
was close upon them before they observed his presence.  When
Ransford saw his late assistant, he scowled unconsciously
--Bryce, and the interview of the previous afternoon, had been
much in his thoughts all day, and he had an uneasy feeling
that Bryce was playing some game.  Bryce was quick to see that
scowl--and to observe the sudden start which Mary could not
repress--and he was just as quick to speak.

"I was going to your house, Dr. Ransford," he remarked
quietly.  "I don't want to force my presence on you, now or at
any time--but I think you'd better give me a few minutes."

They were at Ransford's garden gate by that time, and Ransford
flung it open and motioned Bryce to follow.  He led the way
into the dining-room, closed the door on the three, and looked
at Bryce.  Bryce took the glance as a question, and put
another, in words.

"You've heard of what's happened during the day?" he said.

"About Collishaw--yes," answered Ransford.  "Miss Bewery has
just told me--what her brother told her.  What of it?"

"I have just come from the police-station," said Bryce.
"Coates and Everest have carried out an autopsy this
afternoon.  Mitchington told me the result."

"Well?" demanded Ransford, with no attempt to conceal his
impatience.  "And what then?"

"Collishaw was poisoned," replied Bryce, watching Ransford
with a closeness which Mary did not fail to observe.  "H.C.N.
No doubt at all about it."

"Well--and what then?" asked Ransford, still more impatiently.
"To be explicit--what's all this to do with me?"

"I came here to do you a service," answered Bryce.  "Whether
you like to take it or not is your look-out.  You may as well
know it you're in danger.  Collishaw is the man who hinted--as
you heard yesterday in my rooms--that he could say something
definite about the Braden affair--if he liked."

"Well?" said Ransford.

"It's known--to the police--that you were at Collishaw's house
early this morning," said Bryce.  "Mitchington knows it."

Ransford laughed.

"Does Mitchington know that I overheard what he said to you,
yesterday afternoon?" he inquired.

"No, he doesn't," answered Bryce.  "He couldn't possibly know
unless I told him.  I haven't told him--I'm not going to tell
him.  But--he's suspicious already."

"Of me, of course," suggested Ransford, with another laugh.
He took a turn across the room and suddenly faced round on
Bryce, who had remained standing near the door.  "Do you
really mean to tell me that Mitchington is such a fool as to
believe that I would poison a poor working man--and in that
clumsy fashion?" he burst out.  "Of course you don't."

"I never said I did," answered Bryce.  "I'm only telling you
what Mitchington thinks his grounds for suspecting.  He
confided in me because--well, it was I who found Collishaw.
Mitchington is in possession of a box of digestive pills which
you evidently gave Collishaw."

"Bah!" exclaimed Ransford.  "The man's a fool!  Let him come
and talk to me."

"He won't do that--yet," said Bryce.  "But--I'm afraid he'll
bring all this out at the inquest.  The fact is--he's
suspicious--what with one thing or another--about the former
affair.  He thinks you concealed the truth--whatever it may
be--as regards any knowledge of Braden which you may or mayn't
have."

"I'll tell you what it is!" said Ransford suddenly.  "It just
comes to this--I'm suspected of having had a hand--the hand,
if you like!--in Braden's death, and now of getting rid of
Collishaw because Collishaw could prove that I had that hand.
That's about it!"

"A clear way of putting it, certainly," assented Bryce.  "But
--there's a very clear way, too, of dissipating any such
ideas."

"What way?" demanded Ransford.

"If you do know anything about the Braden affair--why not
reveal it, and be done with the whole thing," suggested Bryce.
"That would finish matters."

Ransford took a long, silent look at his questioner.  And
Bryce looked steadily back--and Mary Bewery anxiously watched
both men.

"That's my business," said Ransford at last.  "I'm neither to
be coerced, bullied, or cajoled.  I'm obliged to you for
giving me a hint of my--danger, I suppose!  And--I don't
propose to say any more."

"Neither do I," said Bryce.  "I only came to tell you."

And therewith, having successfully done all that he wanted to
do, he walked out of the room and the house, and Ransford,
standing in the window, his hands thrust in his pockets,
watched him go away across the Close.

"Guardian!" said Mary softly.

Ransford turned sharply.

"Wouldn't it be best," she continued, speaking nervously, "if
--if you do know anything about that unfortunate man--if you
told it?  Why have this suspicion fastening itself on you?
You!"

Ransford made an effort to calm himself.  He was furiously
angry--angry with Bryce, angry with Mitchington, angry with
the cloud of foolishness and stupidity that seemed to be
gathering.

"Why should I--supposing that I do know something, which I
don't admit--why should I allow myself to be coerced and
frightened by these fools?" he asked.  "No man can prevent
suspicion falling on him--it's my bad luck in this instance.
Why should I rush to the police-station and say, 'Here--I'll
blurt out all I know--everything!' Why?"

"Wouldn't that be better than knowing that people are saying
things?" she asked.

"As to that," replied Ransford, "you can't prevent people
saying things--especially in a town like this.  If it hadn't
been for the unfortunate fact that Braden came to the surgery
door, nothing would have been said.  But what of that?--I have
known hundreds of men in my time--aye, and forgotten them!
No!--I am not going to fall a victim to this device--it all
springs out of curiosity.  As to this last affair--it's all
nonsense!"

"But--if the man was really poisoned?" suggested Mary.

"Let the police find the poisoner!" said Ransford, with a grim
smile.  "That's their job."

Mary said nothing for a moment, and Ransford moved restlessly
about the room.

"I don't trust that fellow Bryce," he said suddenly.  "He's up
to something.  I don't forget what he said when I bundled him
out that morning."

"What?" she asked.

"That he would be a bad enemy," answered Ransford.  "He's
posing now as a friend--but a man's never to be so much
suspected as when he comes doing what you may call unnecessary
acts of friendship.  I'd rather that anybody was mixed up in
my affairs--your affairs--than Pemberton Bryce!"

"So would I!" she said.  "But--"

She paused there a moment and then looked appealingly at
Ransford.

"I do wish you'd tell me--what you promised to tell me," she
said.  "You know what I mean--about me and Dick.  Somehow--I
don't quite know how or why--I've an uneasy feeling that Bryce
knows something, and that he's mixing it all up with--this!
Why not tell me--please!"

Ransford, who was still marching about the room, came to a
halt, and leaning his hands on the table between them, looked
earnestly at her.

"Don't ask that--now!" he said.  "I can't--yet.  The fact is,
I'm waiting for something--some particulars.  As soon as I get
them, I'll speak to you--and to Dick.  In the meantime--don't
ask me again--and don't be afraid.  And as to this affair,
leave it to me--and if you meet Bryce again, refuse to discuss
any thing with him.  Look here!--there's only one reason why
he professes friendliness and a desire to save me annoyance.
He thinks he can ingratiate himself with--you!"

"Mistaken!" murmured Mary, shaking her head.  "I don't trust
him.  And--less than ever because of yesterday.  Would an
honest man have done what he did?  Let that police inspector
talk freely, as he did, with people concealed behind a
curtain?  And--he laughed about it!  I hated myself for being
there--yet could we help it?"

"I'm not going to hate myself on Pemberton Bryce's account,"
said Ransford.  "Let him play his game--that he has one, I'm
certain."

Bryce had gone away to continue his game--or another line of
it.  The Collishaw matter had not made him forget the Richard
Jenkins tomb, and now, after leaving Ransford's house, he
crossed the Close to Paradise with the object of doing a
little more investigation.  But at the archway of the ancient
enclosure he met old Simpson Harker, pottering about in his
usual apparently aimless fashion.  Harker smiled at sight of
Bryce.

"Ah, I was wanting to have a word with you, doctor!" he said.
"Something important.  Have you got a minute or two to spare,
sir?  Come round to my little place, then--we shall be quiet
there."

Bryce had any amount of time to spare for an interesting
person like Harker, and he followed the old man to his house
--a tiny place set in a nest of similar old-world buildings
behind the Close.  Harker led him into a little parlour,
comfortable and snug, wherein were several shelves of books of
a curiously legal and professional-looking aspect, some old
pictures, and a cabinet of odds and ends, stowed away in of
dark corner.  The old man motioned him to an easy chair, and
going over to a cupboard, produced a decanter of whisky and a
box of cigars.

"We can have a peaceful and comfortable talk here, doctor," he
remarked, as he sat down near Bryce, after fetching glasses
and soda-water.  "I live all alone, like a hermit--my bit of
work's done by a woman who only looks in of a morning.  So
we're all by ourselves.  Light your cigar!--same as that I
gave you at Barthorpe.  Um--well, now," he continued, as Bryce
settled down to listen.  "There's a question I want to put to
you--strictly between ourselves--strictest of confidence, you
know.  It was you who was called to Braden by Varner, and you
were left alone with Braden's body?"

"Well?" admitted Bryce, suddenly growing suspicious.  "What of
it?"

Harker edged his chair a little closer to his guest's, and
leaned towards him.

"What," he asked in a whisper, "what have you done with that
scrap of paper that you took out of Braden's purse?"




CHAPTER XIV - FROM THE PAST


If any remarkably keen and able observer of the odd
characteristics of humanity had been present in Harker's
little parlour at that moment, watching him and his visitor,
he would have been struck by what happened when the old man
put this sudden and point-blank question to the young one.
For Harker put the question, though in a whisper, in no more
than a casual, almost friendlily-confidential way, and Bryce
never showed by the start of a finger or the flicker of an
eyelash that he felt it to be what he really knew it to be
--the most surprising and startling question he had ever had
put to him.  Instead, he looked his questioner calmly in the
eyes, and put a question in his turn.

"Who are you, Mr. Harker?" asked Bryce quietly.

Harker laughed--almost gleefully.

"Yes, you've a right to ask that!" he said.  "Of course!--glad
you take it that way.  You'll do!"

"I'll qualify it, then," added Bryce.  "It's not who--it's
what are you!"

Harker waved his cigar at the book-shelves in front of which
his visitor sat.

"Take a look at my collection of literature, doctor," he said.
"What d'ye think of it?"

Bryce turned and leisurely inspected one shelf after another.

"Seems to consist of little else but criminal cases and legal
handbooks," he remarked quietly.  "I begin to suspect you, Mr.
Harker.  They say here in Wrychester that you're a retired
tradesman.  I think you're a retired policeman--of the
detective branch."

Harker laughed again.

"No Wrychester man has ever crossed my threshold since I came
to settle down here," he said.  "You're the first person I've
ever asked in--with one notable exception.  I've never even
had Campany, the librarian, here.  I'm a hermit."

"But--you were a detective?" suggested Bryce.

"Aye, for a good five-and-twenty years!" replied Harker.  "And
pretty well known, too, sir.  But--my question, doctor.  All
between ourselves!"

"I'll ask you one, then," said Bryce.  "How do you know I took
a scrap of paper from Braden's purse?"

"Because I know that he had such a paper in his purse the
night he came to the Mitre," answered Harker, "and was certain
to have it there next morning, and because I also know that
you were left alone with the body for some minutes after
Varner fetched you to it, and that when Braden's clothing and
effects were searched by Mitchington, the paper wasn't there.
So, of course, you took it!  Doesn't matter to me that ye did
--except that I know, from knowing that, that you're on a
similar game to my own--which is why you went down to
Leicestershire."

"You knew Braden?" asked Bryce.

"I knew him!" answered Harker.

"You saw him--spoke with him--here in Wrychester?" suggested
Bryce.

"He was here--in this room--in that chair--from five minutes
past nine to close on ten o'clock the night before his death,"
replied Harker.

Bryce, who was quietly appreciating the Havana cigar which the
old man had given him, picked up his glass, took a drink, and
settled himself in his easy chair as if he meant to stay there
awhile.

"I think we'd better talk confidentially, Mr. Harker," he
said.

"Precisely what we are doing, Dr. Bryce," replied Harker.

"All right, my friend," said Bryce, laconically.  "Now we
understand each other.  So--do you know who John Braden really
was?"

"Yes!" replied Harker, promptly.  "He was in reality John
Brake, ex-bank manager, ex-convict."

"Do you know if he's any relatives here in Wrychester?"
inquired Bryce.

"Yes," said Harker.  "The boy and girl who live with Ransford
--they're Brake's son and daughter."

"Did Brake know that--when he came here?" continued Bryce.

"No, he didn't--he hadn't the least idea of it," responded
Harker.

"Had you--then?" asked Bryce.

"No--not until later--a little later," replied Harker.

"You found it out at Barthorpe?" suggested Bryce.

"Not a bit of it; I worked it out here--after Brake was dead,"
said Harker.  "I went to Barthorpe on quite different
business--Brake's business."

"Ah!" said Bryce.  He looked the old detective quietly in the
eyes.  "You'd better tell me all about it," he added.

"If we're both going to tell each other--all about it,"
stipulated Harker.

"That's settled," assented Bryce.

Harker smoked thoughtfully for a moment and seemed to be
thinking.

"I'd better go back to the beginning," he said.  "But, first
--what do you know about Brake?  I know you went down to
Barthorpe to find out what you could--how far did your
searches take you?"

"I know that Brake married a girl from Braden Medworth, that
he took her to London, where he was manager of a branch bank,
that he got into trouble, and was sentenced to ten years'
penal servitude," answered Bryce, "together with some small
details into which we needn't go at present."

"Well, as long as you know all that, there's a common basis
and a common starting-point," remarked Harker, "so I'll begin
at Brake's trial.  It was I who arrested Brake.  There was no
trouble, no bother.  He'd been taken unawares, by an inspector
of the bank.  He'd a considerable deficiency--couldn't make
it good--couldn't or wouldn't explain except by half-sullen
hints that he'd been cruelly deceived.  There was no defence
--couldn't be.  His counsel said that he could--"

"I've read the account of the trial," interrupted Bryce.

"All right--then you know as much as I can tell you on that
point," said Harker.  "He got, as you say, ten years.  I saw
him just before he was removed and asked him if there was
anything I could do for him about his wife and children.  I'd
never seen them--I arrested him at the bank, and, of course,
he was never out of custody after that.  He answered in a
queer, curt way that his wife and children were being looked
after.  I heard, incidentally, that his wife had left home, or
was from home--there was something mysterious about it--either
as soon as he was arrested or before.  Anyway, he said
nothing, and from that moment I never set eyes on him again
until I met him in the street here in Wrychester, the other
night, when he came to the Mitre.  I knew him at once--and he
knew me.  We met under one of those big standard lamps in the
Market Place--I was following my usual practice of having an
evening walk, last thing before going to bed.  And we stopped
and stared at each other.  Then he came forward with his hand
out, and we shook hands.  'This is an odd thing!' he said.
'You're the very man I wanted to find!  Come somewhere, where
it's quiet, and let me have a word with you.'  So--I brought
him here."

Bryce was all attention now--for once he was devoting all his
faculties to tense and absorbed concentration on what another
man could tell, leaving reflections and conclusions on what he
heard until all had been told.

"I brought him here," repeated Harker.  "I told him I'd been
retired and was living here, as he saw, alone.  I asked him no
questions about himself--I could see he was a well-dressed,
apparently well-to-do man.  And presently he began to tell me
about himself.  He said that after he'd finished his term he
left England and for some time travelled in Canada and the
United States, and had gone then--on to New Zealand and
afterwards to Australia, where he'd settled down and begun
speculating in wool.  I said I hoped he'd done well.  Yes, he
said, he'd done very nicely--and then he gave me a quiet dig
in the ribs.  'I'll tell you one thing I've done, Harker,' he
said.  'You were very polite and considerate to me when I'd my
trouble, so I don't mind telling you.  I paid the bank every
penny of that money they lost through my foolishness at that
time--every penny, four years ago, with interest, and I've got
their receipt.'  'Delighted to hear it, Mr.--Is it the same
name still?' I said.  'My name ever since I left England,' he
said, giving me a look, 'is Braden--John Braden.'  'Yes,' he
went on, 'I paid 'em--though I never had one penny of the
money I was fool enough to take for the time being--not one
halfpenny!'  'Who had it, Mr. Braden?' I asked him, thinking
that he'd perhaps tell after all that time.  'Never mind, my
lad!' he answered.  'It'll come out--yet.  Never mind that,
now.  I'll tell you why I wanted to see you.  The fact is,
I've only been a few hours in England, so to speak, but I'd
thought of you, and wondered where I could get hold of you
--you're the only man of your profession I ever met, you see,'
he added, with a laugh.  'And I want a bit of help in that
way.'  'Well, Mr. Braden,' I said, 'I've retired, but if it's
an easy job--'  'It's one you can do, easy enough,' he said.
'It's just this--I met a man in Australia who's extremely
anxious to get some news of another man, named Falkiner Wraye,
who hails from Barthorpe, in Leicestershire.  I promised to
make inquiries for him.  Now, I have strong reasons why I
don't want to go near Barthorpe--Barthorpe has unpleasant
memories and associations for me, and I don't want to be seen
there.  But this thing's got to be personal investigation
--will you go here, for me?  I'll make it worth your while.
All you've got to do,' he went on, 'is to go there--see the
police authorities, town officials, anybody that knows the
place, and ask them if they can tell you anything of one
Falkiner Wraye, who was at one time a small estate agent in
Barthorpe, left the place about seventeen years ago--maybe
eighteen--and is believed to have recently gone back to the
neighbourhood.  That's all.  Get what information you can, and
write it to me, care of my bankers in London.  Give me a sheet
of paper and I'll put down particulars for you.'"

Harker paused at this point and nodded his head at an old
bureau which stood in a corner of his room.

"The sheet of paper's there," he said.  "It's got on it, in
his writing, a brief memorandum of what he wanted and the
address of his bankers.  When he'd given it to me, he put his
hand in his pocket and pulled out a purse in which I could see
he was carrying plenty of money.  He took out some notes.
'Here's five-and-twenty pounds on account, Harker,' he said.
'You might have to spend a bit.  Don't be afraid--plenty more
where that comes from.  You'll do it soon?' he asked.  'Yes,
I'll do it, Mr. Braden,' I answered.  'It'll be a bit of a
holiday for me.'  'That's all right,' he said.  'I'm delighted
I came across you.'  'Well, you couldn't be more delighted
than I was surprised,' I said.  'I never thought to see you
in Wrychester.  What brought you here, if one may ask
--sight-seeing?'  He laughed at that, and he pulled out his
purse again.  'I'll show you something--a secret,' he said,
and he took a bit of folded paper out of his purse.  'What
do you make of that?' he asked.  'Can you read Latin?'  'No
--except a word or two,' I said, 'but I know a man who can.'
'Ah, never mind,' said he.  'I know enough Latin for this--and
it's a secret.  However, it won't be a secret long, and you'll
hear all about it.'  And with that he put the bit of paper in
his purse again, and we began talking about other matters, and
before long he said he'd promised to have a chat with a
gentleman at the Mitre whom he'd come along with in the train,
and away he went, saying he'd see me before be left the town."

"Did he say how long he was going to stop here?" asked Bryce.

"Two or three days," replied Harker.

"Did he mention Ransford?" inquired Bryce.

"Never!" said Harker.

"Did he make any reference to his wife and children?"

"Not the slightest!"

"Nor to the hint that his counsel threw out at the trial?"

"Never referred to that time except in the way I told you
--that he hadn't a penny of the money, himself and that he'd
himself refunded it."

Bryce meditated awhile.  He was somewhat puzzled by certain
points in the old detective's story, and he saw now that there
was much more mystery in the Braden affair than he had at
first believed.

"Well," he asked, after a while, "did you see him again?"

"Not alive!" replied Harker.  "I saw him dead--and I held my
tongue, and have held it.  But--something happened that day.
After I heard of the accident, I went into the Crown and
Cushion tavern--the fact was, I went to get a taste of whisky,
for the news had upset me.  And in that long bar of theirs, I
saw a man whom I knew--a man whom I knew, for a fact, to have
been a fellow convict of Brake's.  Name of Glassdale--forgery.
He got the same sentence that Brake got, about the same time,
was in the same convict prison with Brake, and he and Brake
would be released about the same date.  There was no doubt
about his identity--I never forget a face, even after thirty
years I'd tell one.  I saw him in that bar before he saw me,
and I took a careful look at him.  He, too, like Brake, was
very well dressed, and very prosperous looking.  He turned as
he set down his glass, and caught sight of me--and he knew me.
Mind you, he'd been through my hands in times past!  And he
instantly moved to a side-door and--vanished.  I went out and
looked up and down--he'd gone.  I found out afterwards, by a
little quiet inquiry, that he'd gone straight to the station,
boarded the first train--there was one just giving out, to the
junction--and left the city.  But I can lay hands on him!"

"You've kept this quiet, too?" asked Bryce.

"Just so--I've my own game to play," replied Harker.  "This
talk with you is part of it--you come in, now--I'll tell you
why, presently.  But first, as you know, I went to Barthorpe.
For, though Brake was dead, I felt I must go--for this reason.
I was certain that he wanted that information for himself--the
man in Australia was a fiction.  I went, then--and learned
nothing.  Except that this Falkiner Wraye had been, as Brake
said, a Barthorpe man, years ago.  He'd left the town eighteen
years since, and nobody knew anything about him.  So I came
home.  And now then, doctor--your turn!  What were you after,
down there at Barthorpe?"

Bryce meditated his answer for a good five minutes.  He had
always intended to play the game off his own bat, but he had
heard and seen enough since entering Harker's little room to
know that he was in company with an intellect which was keener
and more subtle than his, and that it would be all to his
advantage to go in with the man who had vast and deep
experience.  And so he made a clean breast of all he had done
in the way of investigation, leaving his motive completely
aside.

"You've got a theory, of course?" observed Harker, after
listening quietly to all that Bryce could tell.  "Naturally,
you have!  You couldn't accumulate all that without getting
one."

"Well," admitted Bryce, "honestly, I can't say that I have.
But I can see what theory there might be.  This--that Ransford
was the man who deceived Brake, that he ran away with Brake's
wife, that she's dead, and that he's brought up the children
in ignorance of all that--and therefore--"

"And therefore," interrupted Harker with a smile, "that when
he and Brake met--as you seem to think they did--Ransford
flung Brake through that open doorway; that Collishaw
witnessed it, that Ransford's found out about Collishaw, and
that Collishaw has been poisoned by Ransford.  Eh?"

"That's a theory that seems to be supported by facts," said
Bryce.

"It's a theory that would doubtless suit men like
Mitchington," said the old detective, with another smile.
"But--not me, sir!  Mind you, I don't say there isn't
something in it--there's doubtless a lot.  But--the mystery's
a lot thicker than just that.  And Brake didn't come here to
find Ransford.  He came because of the secret in that scrap of
paper.  And as you've got it, doctor--out with it!"

Bryce saw no reason for concealment and producing the scrap of
paper laid it on the table between himself and his host.
Harker peered inquisitively at it.

"Latin!" he said.  "You can read it, of course.  What does it
say?"

Bryce repeated a literal translation.

"I've found the place," he added.  "I found it this morning.
Now, what do you suppose this means?"

Harker was looking hard at the two lines of writing.

"That's a big question, doctor," he answered.  "But I'll go so
far as to say this--when we've found out what it does mean, we
shall know a lot more than we know now!"




CHAPTER XV - THE DOUBLE OFFER


Bryce, who was deriving a considerable and peculiar pleasure
from his secret interview with the old detective, smiled at
Harker's last remark.

"That's a bit of a platitude, isn't it?" he suggested.  "Of
course we shall know a lot more--when we do know a lot more!"

"I set store by platitudes, sir," retorted Harker.  "You can't
repeat an established platitude too often--it's got the
hallmark of good use on it.  But now, till we do know more
--you've no doubt been thinking a lot about this matter, Dr.
Bryce--hasn't it struck you that there's one feature in
connection with Brake, or Braden's visit to Wrychester to
which nobody's given any particular attention up to now--so
far as we know, at any rate?"

"What?" demanded Bryce.

"This," replied Harker.  "Why did he wish to see the Duke of
Saxonsteade?  He certainly did want to see him--and as soon as
possible.  You'll remember that his Grace was questioned about
that at the inquest and could give no explanation--he knew
nothing of Brake, and couldn't suggest any reason why Brake
should wish to have an interview with him.  But--I can!"

"You?" exclaimed Bryce.

"I," answered Harker.  "And it's this--I spoke just now of
that man Glassdale.  Now you, of course; have no knowledge of
him, and as you don't keep yourself posted in criminal
history, you don't know what his offence was?"

"You said--forgery?" replied Bryce.

"Just so--forgery," assented Harker.  "And the signature that
he forged was--the Duke of Saxonsteade's!  As a matter of
fact, he was the Duke's London estate agent.  He got wrong,
somehow, and he forged the Duke's name to a cheque.  Now,
then, considering who Glassdale is, and that he was certainly
a fellow-convict of Brake's, and that I myself saw him here in
Wrychester on the day of Brake's death--what's the conclusion
to be drawn?  That Brake wanted to see the Duke on some
business of Glassdale's!  Without a doubt!  It may have been
that he and Glassdale wanted to visit the Duke, together."

Bryce silently considered this suggestion for awhile.

"You said, just now, that Glassdale could be traced?" he
remarked at last.

"Traced--yes," replied Harker.  "So long as he's in England."

"Why not set about it?" suggested Bryce.

"Not yet," said Harker.  "There's things to do before that.
And the first thing is--let's get to know what the mystery of
that scrap of paper is.  You say you've found Richard
Jenkins's tomb?  Very well--then the thing to do is to find
out if anything is hidden there.  Try it tomorrow night.
Better go by yourself--after dark.  If you find anything, let
me know.  And then--then we can decide on a next step.  But
between now and then, there'll be the inquest on this man
Collishaw.  And, about that--a word in your ear!  Say as
little as ever you can!--after all, you know nothing beyond
what you saw.  And--we mustn't meet and talk in public--after
you've done that bit of exploring in Paradise tomorrow night,
come round here and we'll consider matters."

There was little that Bryce could say or could be asked to say
at the inquest on the mason's labourer next morning.  Public
interest and excitement was as keen about Collishaw's
mysterious death as about Braden's, for it was already
rumoured through the town that if Braden had not met with his
death when he came to Wrychester, Collishaw would still be
alive.  The Coroner's court was once more packed; once more
there was the same atmosphere of mystery.  But the proceedings
were of a very different nature to those which had attended
the inquest on Braden.  The foreman under whose orders
Collishaw had been working gave particulars of the dead man's
work on the morning of his death.  He had been instructed to
clear away an accumulation of rubbish which had gathered at
the foot of the south wall of the nave in consequence of some
recent repairs to the masonry--there was a full day's work
before him.  All day he would be in and out of Paradise with
his barrow, wheeling away the rubbish he gathered up.  The
foreman had looked in on him once or twice; he had seen him
just before noon, when he appeared to be in his usual health
--he had made no complaint, at any rate.  Asked if he had
happened to notice where Collishaw had set down his dinner
basket and his tin bottle while he worked, he replied that it
so happened that he had--he remembered seeing both bottle and
basket and the man's jacket deposited on one of the box-tombs
under a certain yew-tree--which he could point out, if
necessary.

Bryce's account of his finding of Collishaw amounted to no
more than a bare recital of facts.  Nor was much time spent in
questioning the two doctors who had conducted the post-mortem
examination.  Their evidence, terse and particular, referred
solely to the cause of death.  The man had been poisoned by a
dose of hydrocyanic acid, which, in their opinion, had been
taken only a few minutes before his body was discovered by Dr.
Bryce.  It had probably been a dose which would cause
instantaneous death.  There were no traces of the poison in
the remains of his dinner, nor in the liquid in his tin
bottle, which was old tea.  But of the cause of his sudden
death there was no more doubt than of the effects.
Ransford had been in the court from the outset of the
proceedings, and when the medical evidence had been given he
was called.  Bryce, watching him narrowly, saw that he was
suffering from repressed excitement--and that that excitement
was as much due to anger as to anything else.  His face was
set and stern, and he looked at the Coroner with an expression
which portended something not precisely clear at that moment.
Bryce, trying to analyse it, said to himself that he shouldn't
be surprised if a scene followed--Ransford looked like a man
who is bursting to say something in no unmistakable fashion.
But at first he answered the questions put to him calmly and
decisively.

"When this man's clothing was searched," observed the Coroner,
"a box of pills was found, Dr. Ransford, on which your writing
appears.  Had you been attending him--professionally?"

"Yes," replied Ransford.  "Both Collishaw and his wife.  Or,
rather, to be exact, I had been in attendance on the wife, for
some weeks.  A day or two before his death, Collishaw
complained to me of indigestion, following on his meals.  I
gave him some digestive pills--the pills you speak of, no
doubt."

"These?" asked the Coroner, passing over the box which
Mitchington had found.

"Precisely!" agreed Ransford.  "That, at any rate, is the box,
and I suppose those to be the pills."

"You made them up yourself?" inquired the Coroner.

"I did--I dispense all my own medicines."

"Is it possible that the poison we have beard of, just now,
could get into one of those pills--by accident?"

"Utterly impossible!--under my hands, at any rate," answered
Ransford.

"Still, I suppose, it could have been administered in a pill?"
suggested the Coroner.

"It might," agreed Ransford.  "But," he added, with a
significant glance at the medical men who had just given
evidence.  "It was not so administered in this case, as the
previous witnesses very well know!"

The Coroner looked round him, and waited a moment.

"You are at liberty to explain--that last remark," he said at
last.  "That is--if you wish to do so."
"Certainly!" answered Ransford, with alacrity.  "Those pills
are, as you will observe, coated, and the man would swallow
them whole--immediately after his food.  Now, it would take
some little time for a pill to dissolve, to disintegrate, to
be digested.  If Collishaw took one of my pills as soon as he
had eaten his dinner, according to instructions, and if poison
had been in that pill, he would not have died at once--as he
evidently did.  Death would probably have been delayed some
little time until the pill had dissolved.  But, according to
the evidence you have had before you, he died quite suddenly
while eating his dinner--or immediately after it.  I am not
legally represented here--I don't consider it at all necessary
--but I ask you to recall Dr. Coates and to put this question
to him:  Did he find one of those digestive pills in this
man's stomach?"

The Coroner turned, somewhat dubiously, to the two doctors who
had performed the autopsy.  But before he could speak, the
superintendent of police rose and began to whisper to him, and
after a conversation between them, he looked round at the
jury, every member of which had evidently been much struck by
Ransford's suggestion.

"At this stage," he said, "it will be necessary to adjourn.  I
shall adjourn the inquiry for a week, gentlemen.  You will--"
Ransford, still standing in the witness-box, suddenly lost
control of himself.  He uttered a sharp exclamation and smote
the ledge before him smartly with his open hand.

"I protest against that!" he said vehemently.  "Emphatically,
I protest!  You first of all make a suggestion which tells
against me--then, when I demand that a question shall be put
which is of immense importance to my interests, you close down
the inquiry--even if only for the moment.  That is grossly
unfair and unjust!"

"You are mistaken," said the Coroner.  "At the adjourned
inquiry, the two medical men can be recalled, and you will
have the opportunity--or your solicitor will have--of asking
any questions you like for the present--"

"For the present you have me under suspicion!" interrupted
Ransford hotly.  "You know it--I say this with due respect to
your office--as well as I do.  Suspicion is rife in the city
against me.  Rumour is being spread--secretly--and, I am
certain--from the police, who ought to know better.  And--I
will not be silenced, Mr. Coroner!--I take this public
opportunity, as I am on oath, of saying that I know nothing
whatever of the causes of the deaths of either Collishaw or of
Braden--upon my solemn oath!"

"The inquest is adjourned to this day week," said the Coroner
quietly.

Ransford suddenly stepped down from the witness-box and
without word or glance at any one there, walked with set face
and determined look out of the court, and the excited
spectators, gathering into groups, immediately began to
discuss his vigorous outburst and to take sides for and
against him.

Bryce, judging it advisable to keep away from Mitchington just
then, and, for similar reasons, keeping away from Harker also,
went out of the crowded building alone--to be joined in the
street outside by Sackville Bonham, whom he had noticed in
court, in company with his stepfather, Mr. Folliot.

Folliot, Bryce had observed, had stopped behind, exchanging
some conversation with the Coroner.  Sackville came up to
Bryce with a knowing shake of the hand.  He was one of those
very young men who have a habit of suggesting that their fund
of knowledge is extensive and peculiar, and Bryce waited for a
manifestation.

"Queer business, all that, Bryce!" observed Sackville
confidentially.  "Of course, Ransford is a perfect ass!"

"Think so?" remarked Bryce, with an inflection which suggested
that Sackville's opinion on anything was as valuable as the
Attorney-General's.  "That's how it strikes you, is it?"

"Impossible that it could strike one in any other way, you
know," answered Sackville with fine and lofty superiority.
"Ransford should have taken immediate steps to clear himself
of any suspicion.  It's ridiculous, considering his position
--guardian to--to Miss Bewery, for instance--that he should
allow such rumours to circulate.  By God, sir, if it had been
me, I'd have stopped 'em!--before they left the parish pump!"

"Ah?" said Bryce.  "And--how?"

"Made an example of somebody," replied Sackville, with
emphasis.  "I believe there's law in this country, isn't
there?--law against libel and slander, and that sort of thing,
eh?  Oh, yes!"

"Not been much time for that--yet," remarked Bryce.

"Piles of time," retorted Sackville, swinging his stick
vigorously.  "No, sir, Ransford is an ass!  However, if
a man won't do things for himself, well, his friends
must do something for him.  Ransford, of course, must be
pulled--dragged!--out of this infernal hole.  Of course he's
suspected!  But my stepfather--he's going to take a hand.
And my stepfather, Bryce, is a devilish cute old hand at a
game of this sort!"

"Nobody doubts Mr. Folliot's abilities, I'm sure," said Bryce.
"But--you don't mind saying--how is he going to take a hand?"

"Stir things towards a clearing-up," announced Sackville
promptly.  "Have the whole thing gone into--thoroughly.  There
are matters that haven't been touched on, yet.  You'll see, my
boy!"

"Glad to hear it," said Bryce.  "But--why should Mr. Folliot
be so particular about clearing Ransford?"

Sackville swung his stick, and pulled up his collar, and
jerked his nose a trifle higher.

"Oh, well," he said.  "Of course, it's--it's a pretty well
understood thing, don't you know--between myself and Miss
Bewery, you know--and of course, we couldn't have any
suspicions attaching to her guardian, could we, now?  Family
interest, don't you know--Caesar's wife, and all that sort of
thing, eh?"

"I see," answered Bryce, quietly,--"sort of family arrangement.
With Ransford's consent and knowledge, of course?"

"Ransford won't even be consulted," said Sackville, airily.
"My stepfather--sharp man, that, Bryce!--he'll do things in
his own fashion.  You look out for sudden revelations!"

"I will," replied Bryce.  "By-bye!"

He turned off to his rooms, wondering how much of truth there
was in the fatuous Sackville's remarks.  And--was there some
mystery still undreamt of by himself and Harker?  There might
be--he was still under the influence of Ransford's indignant
and dramatic assertion of his innocence.  Would Ransford have
allowed himself an outburst of that sort if he had not been,
as he said, utterly ignorant of the immediate cause of
Braden's death?  Now Bryce, all through, was calculating, for
his own purposes, on Ransford's share, full or partial, in
that death--if Ransford really knew nothing whatever about it,
where did his, Bryce's theory, come in--and how would his
present machinations result?  And, more--if Ransford's
assertion were true, and if Varner's story of the hand, seen
for an instant in the archway, were also true--and Varner was
persisting in it--then, who was the man who flung Braden to
his death that morning?  He realized that, instead of
straightening out, things were becoming more and more
complicated.

But he realized something else.  On the surface, there was a
strong case of suspicion against Ransford.  It had been
suggested that very morning before a coroner and his jury; it
would grow; the police were already permeated with suspicion
and distrust.  Would it not pay him, Bryce, to encourage, to
help it?  He had his own score to pay off against Ransford; he
had his own schemes as regards Mary Bewery.  Anyway, he was
not going to share in any attempts to clear the man who had
bundled him out of his house unceremoniously--he would bide
his time.  And in the meantime there were other things to be
done--one of them that very night.

But before Bryce could engage in his secret task of excavating
a small portion of Paradise in the rear of Richard Jenkins's
tomb, another strange development came.  As the dark fell over
the old city that night and he was thinking of setting out on
his mission, Mitchington came in, carrying two sheets of
paper, obviously damp from the press, in his hand.  He looked
at Bryce with an expression of wonder.

"Here's a queer go!" he said.  "I can't make this out at all!
Look at these big handbills--but perhaps you've seen 'em?
They're being posted all over the city--we've had a bundle of
'em thrown in on us."

"I haven't been out since lunch," remarked Bryce.  "What are
they?"

Mitchington spread out the two papers on the table, pointing
from one to the other.

"You see?" he said.  "Five Hundred Pounds Reward!--One
Thousand Pounds Reward!  And--both out at the same time, from
different sources!"

"What sources?" asked Bryce, bending over the bills.  "Ah--I
see.  One signed by Phipps & Maynard, the other by Beachcroft.
Odd, certainly!"

"Odd?" exclaimed Mitchington.  "I should think so!  But, do
you see, doctor? that one--five hundred reward--is offered for
information of any nature relative to the deaths of John
Braden and James Collishaw, both or either.  That amount will
be paid for satisfactory information by Phipps & Maynard.  And
Phipps & Maynard are Ransford's solicitors!  That bill, sir,
comes from him!  And now the other, the thousand pound one,
that offers the reward to any one who can give definite
information as to the circumstances attending the death of
John Braden--to be paid by Mr. Beachcroft.  And he's Mr.
Folliot's solicitor!  So--that comes from Mr. Folliot.  What
has he to do with it?  And are these two putting their heads
together--or are these bills quite independent of each other?
Hang me if I understand it!"

Bryce read and re-read the contents of the two bills.  And
then he thought for awhile before speaking.

"Well," he said at last, "there's probably this in it--the
Folliots are very wealthy people.  Mrs. Folliot, it's pretty
well known, wants her son to marry Miss Bewery--Dr. Ransford's
ward.  Probably she doesn't wish any suspicion to hang over
the family.  That's all I can suggest.  In the other case,
Ransford wants to clear himself.  For don't forget this,
Mitchington!--somewhere, somebody may know something!  Only
something.  But that something might clear Ransford of the
suspicion that's undoubtedly been cast upon him.  If you're
thinking to get a strong case against Ransford, you've got
your work set.  He gave your theory a nasty knock this morning
by his few words about that pill.  Did Coates and Everest find
a pill, now?"

"Not at liberty to say, sir," answered Mitchington.  "At
present, anyway.  Um!  I dislike these private offers of
reward--it means that those who make 'em get hold of
information which is kept back from us, d'you see!  They're
inconvenient."

Then he went away, and Bryce, after waiting awhile, until
night had settled down, slipped quietly out of the house and
set off for the gloom of Paradise.




CHAPTER XVI - BEFOREHAND


In accordance with his undeniable capacity for contriving and
scheming, Bryce had made due and careful preparations for his
visit to the tomb of Richard Jenkins.  Even in the momentary
confusion following upon his discovery of Collishaw's dead
body, he had been sufficiently alive to his own immediate
purposes to notice that the tomb--a very ancient and
dilapidated structure--stood in the midst of a small expanse
of stone pavement between the yew-trees and the wall of the
nave; he had noticed also that the pavement consisted of small
squares of stone, some of which bore initials and dates.  A
sharp glance at the presumed whereabouts of the particular
spot which he wanted, as indicated in the scrap of paper taken
from Braden's purse, showed him that he would have to raise
one of those small squares--possibly two or three of them.
And so he had furnished himself with a short crowbar of
tempered steel, specially purchased at the iron-monger's, and
with a small bull's-eye lantern.  Had he been arrested and
searched as he made his way towards the cathedral precincts he
might reasonably have been suspected of a design to break into
the treasury and appropriate the various ornaments for which
Wrychester was famous.  But Bryce feared neither arrest nor
observation.  During his residence in Wrychester he had done a
good deal of prowling about the old city at night, and he knew
that Paradise, at any time after dark, was a deserted place.
Folk might cross from the close archway to the wicket-gate by
the outer path, but no one would penetrate within the thick
screen of yew and cypress when night had fallen.  And now, in
early summer, the screen of trees and bushes was so thick in
leaf, that once within it, foliage on one side, the great
walls of the nave on the other, there was little likelihood of
any person overlooking his doings while he made his
investigation.  He anticipated a swift and quiet job, to be
done in a few minutes.

But there was another individual in Wrychester who knew just
as much of the geography of Paradise as Pemberton Bryce knew.
Dick Bewery and Betty Campany had of late progressed out of
the schoolboy and schoolgirl hail-fellow-well-met stage to the
first dawnings of love, and in spite of their frequent
meetings had begun a romantic correspondence between each
other, the joy and mystery of which was increased a
hundredfold by a secret method of exchange of these missives.
Just within the wicket-gate entrance of Paradise there was an
old monument wherein was a convenient cavity--Dick Bewery's
ready wits transformed this into love's post-office.  In it he
regularly placed letters for Betty: Betty stuffed into it
letters for him.  And on this particular evening Dick had gone
to Paradise to collect a possible mail, and as Bryce walked
leisurely up the narrow path, enclosed by trees and old
masonry which led from Friary Lane to the ancient enclosure,
Dick turned a corner and ran full into him.  In the light of
the single lamp which illumined the path, the two recovered
themselves and looked at each other.

"Hullo!" said Bryce.  "What's your hurry, young Bewery?"

Dick, who was panting for breath, more from excitement than
haste, drew back and looked at Bryce.  Up to then he knew
nothing much against Bryce, whom he had rather liked in the
fashion in which boys sometimes like their seniors, and he was
not indisposed to confide in him.

"Hullo!" he replied.  "I say!  Where are you off to?"

"Nowhere!--strolling round," answered Bryce.  "No particular
purpose, why?"

"You weren't going in--there?" asked Dick, jerking a thumb
towards Paradise.

"In--there!" exclaimed Bryce.  "Good Lord, no!--dreary enough
in the daytime!  What should I be going in there for?"

Dick seized Bryce's coat-sleeve and dragged him aside.

"I say!" he whispered.  "There's something up in there--a
search of some sort!"

Bryce started in spite of an effort to keep unconcerned.

"A search? In there?" he said.  "What do you mean?"

Dick pointed amongst the trees, and Bryce saw the faint
glimmer of a light.

"I was in there--just now," said Dick.  "And some men--three
or four--came along.  They're in there, close up by the nave,
just where you found that chap Collishaw.  They're--digging
--or something of that sort!"

"Digging!" muttered Bryce.  "Digging?"'

"Something like it, anyhow," replied Dick.  "Listen."

Bryce heard the ring of metal on stone.  And an unpleasant
conviction stole over him that he was being forestalled, that
somebody was beforehand with him, and he cursed himself for
not having done the previous night what he had left undone
till this night.

"Who are they?" he asked.  "Did you see them--their faces?"

"Not their faces," answered Dick.  "Only their figures in the
gloom.  But I heard Mitchington's voice."

"Police, then!" said Bryce.  "What on earth are they after?"

"Look here!" whispered Dick, pulling at Bryce's arm again.
"Come on!  I know how to get in there without their seeing us.
You follow me."

Bryce followed readily, and Dick stepping through the
wicket-gate, seized his companion's wrist and led him amongst
the bushes in the direction of the spot from whence came the
metallic sounds.  He walked with the step of a cat, and Bryce
took pains to follow his example.  And presently from behind a
screen of cypresses they looked out on the expanse of flagging
in the midst of which stood the tomb of Richard Jenkins.

Round about that tomb were five men whose faces were visible
enough in the light thrown by a couple of strong lamps, one of
which stood on the tomb itself, while the other was set on the
ground.  Four out of the five the two watchers recognized at
once.  One, kneeling on the flags, and busy with a small
crowbar similar to that which Bryce carried inside his
overcoat, was the master-mason of the cathedral.  Another,
standing near him, was Mitchington.  A third was a clergyman
--one of the lesser dignitaries of the Chapter.  A fourth
--whose presence made Bryce start for the second time that.
evening--was the Duke of Saxonsteade.  But the fifth was a
stranger--a tall man who stood between Mitchington and the
Duke, evidently paying anxious attention to the master-mason's
proceedings.  He was no Wrychester man--Bryce was convinced of
that.

And a moment later he was convinced of another equally certain
fact.  Whatever these five men were searching for, they had
no clear or accurate idea of its exact whereabouts.  The
master-mason was taking up the small squares of flagstone with
his crowbar one by one, from the outer edge of the foot of the
old box-tomb; as he removed each, he probed the earth beneath
it.  And Bryce, who had instinctively realized what was
happening, and knew that somebody else than himself was in
possession of the secret of the scrap of paper, saw that it
would be some time before they arrived at the precise spot
indicated in the Latin directions.  He quietly drew back and
tugged at Dick Bewery.

"Stop here, and keep quiet!" he whispered when they had
retreated out of all danger of being overheard.  "Watch 'em!
I want to fetch somebody--want to know who that stranger is.
You don't know him?"

"Never seen him before," replied Dick.  "I say!--come quietly
back--don't give it away.  I want to know what it's all
about."

Bryce squeezed the lad's arm by way of assurance and made his
way back through the bushes.  He wanted to get hold of Harker,
and at once, and he hurried round to the old man's house and
without ceremony walked into his parlour.  Harker, evidently
expecting him, and meanwhile amusing himself with his pipe and
book, rose from his chair as the younger man entered.

"Found anything?" he asked.

"We're done!" answered Bryce.  "I was a fool not to go last
night!  We're forestalled, my friend!--that's about it!"

"By--whom?" inquired Harker.

"There are five of them at it, now," replied Bryce.
"Mitchington, a mason, one of the cathedral clergy, a
stranger, and the Duke of Saxonsteade!  What do you think of
that?"

Harker suddenly started as if a new light had dawned on him.

"The Duke!" he exclaimed.  "You don't say so!  My conscience!
--now, I wonder if that can really be?  Upon my word, I'd
never thought of it!"

"Thought of what?" demanded Bryce.

"Never mind!  tell you later," said Harker.  "At present, is
there any chance of getting a look at them?"

"That's what I came for," retorted Bryce.  "I've been watching
them, with young Bewery.  He put me up to it.  Come on!  I
want to see if you know the man who's a stranger."

Harker crossed the room to a chest of drawers, and after some
rummaging pulled something out.

"Here!" he said, handing some articles to Bryce.  "Put those
on over your boots.  Thick felt overshoes--you could walk
round your own mother's bedroom in those and she'd never hear
you.  I'll do the same.  A stranger, you say?  Well, this is a
proof that somebody knows the secret of that scrap of paper
besides us, doctor!"

"They don't know the exact spot," growled Bryce, who was
chafing at having been done out of his discovery.  "But,
they'll find it, whatever may be there."

He led Harker back to Paradise and to the place where he had
left Dick Bewery, whom they approached so quietly that Bryce
was by the lad's side before Dick knew he was there.  And
Harker, after one glance at the ring of faces, drew Bryce back
and put his lips close to his ear and breathed a name in an
almost imperceptible yet clear whisper.

"Glassdale!"

Bryce started for the third time.  Glassdale!--the man whom
Harker had seen in Wrychester within an hour or so of Braden's
death: the ex-convict, the forger, who had forged the Duke of
Saxonsteade's name!  And there! standing, apparently quite at
his ease, by the Duke's side.  What did it all mean?

There was no explanation of what it meant to be had from the
man whom Bryce and Harker and Dick Bewery secretly watched
from behind the screen of cypress trees.  Four of them watched
in silence, or with no more than a whispered word now and then
while the fifth worked.  This man worked methodically,
replacing each stone as he took it up and examined the soil
beneath it.  So far nothing had resulted, but he was by that
time working at some distance from the tomb, and Bryce, who
had an exceedingly accurate idea of where the spot might be,
as indicated in the measurements on the scrap of paper, nudged
Harker as the master-mason began to take up the last of the
small flags.  And suddenly there was a movement amongst the
watchers, and the master-mason looked up from his job and
motioned Mitchington to pass him a trowel which lay at a
little distance.

"Something here!" he said, loudly enough to reach the ears of
Bryce and his companions.  "Not so deep down, neither,
gentlemen!"

A few vigorous applications of the trowel, a few lumps of
earth cast out of the cavity, and the master-mason put in
his hand and drew forth a small parcel, which in the light
of the lamp held close to it by Mitchington looked to be
done up in coarse sacking, secured by great blotches of
black sealing wax.  And now it was Harker who nudged Bryce,
drawing his attention to the fact that the parcel, handed by
the master-mason to Mitchington was at once passed on by
Mitchington to the Duke of Saxonsteade, who, it was very plain
to see, appeared to be as much delighted as surprised at
receiving it.

"Let us go to your office, inspector," he said.  "We'll
examine the contents there.  Let us all go at once!"

The three figures behind the cypress trees remained immovable
and silent until the five searchers had gone away with their
lamps and tools and the sound of their retreating footsteps in
Friary Lane had died out.  Then Dick Bewery moved and began to
slip off, and Bryce reached out a hand and took him by the
shoulder.

"I say, Bewery!" he said.  "Going to tell all that?"

Harker got in a word before Dick could answer.

"No matter if he does, doctor," he remarked quietly. "Whatever
it is, the whole town'll know of it by tomorrow.  They'll not
keep it back."

Bryce let Dick go, and the boy immediately darted off in the
direction of the close, while the two men went towards
Harker's house.  Neither spoke until they were safe in the old
detective's little parlour, then Harker, turning up his lamp,
looked at Bryce and shook his head.

"It's a good job I've retired!" he said, almost sadly.  "I'm
getting too old for my trade, doctor.  Once upon a time I
should have been fit to kick myself for not having twigged the
meaning of this business sooner than I have done!"

"Have you twigged it?" demanded Bryce, almost scornfully.
"You're a good deal cleverer than I am if you have.  For hang
me if I know what it means!"

"I do!" answered Harker.  He opened a drawer in his desk and
drew out a scrap-book, filled, as Bryce saw a moment later,
with cuttings from newspapers, all duly arranged and indexed.
The old man glanced at the index, turned to a certain page,
and put his finger on an entry.  "There you are!" he said.
"And that's only one--there are several more.  They'll tell
you in detail what I can tell you in a few words and what I
ought to have remembered.  It's fifteen years since the
famous robbery at Saxonsteade which has never been accounted
for--robbery of the Duchess's diamonds--one of the cleverest
burglaries ever known, doctor.  They were got one night after
a grand ball there; no arrest was ever made, they were never
traced.  And I'll lay all I'm worth to a penny-piece that the
Duke and those men are gladding their eyes with the sight of
them just now!--in Mitchington's office--and that the
information that they were where they've just been found was
given to the Duke by--Glassdale!"

"Glassdale!  That man!" exclaimed Bryce, who was puzzling his
brain over possible developments.

"That man, sir!" repeated Harker.  "That's why Glassdale was
in Wrychester the day of Braden's death.  And that's why
Braden, or Brake, came to Wrychester at all.  He and
Glassdale, of course, had somehow come into possession of the
secret, and no doubt meant to tell the Duke together, and get
the reward--there was 95,000 offered!  And as Brake's dead,
Glassdale's spoken, but"--here the old man paused and gave his
companion a shrewd look--"the question still remains: How did
Brake come to his end?"




CHAPTER XVII - TO BE SHADOWED


Dick Bewery burst in upon his sister and Ransford with a
budget of news such as it rarely fell to the lot of
romance-loving seventeen to tell.  Secret and mysterious digging
up of grave-yards by night--discovery of sealed packets, the
contents of which might only be guessed at--the whole thing
observed by hidden spectators--these were things he had read of
in fiction, but had never expected to have the luck to see in
real life.  And being gifted with some powers of imagination
and of narrative, he made the most of his story to a pair of
highly attentive listeners, each of whom had his, and her, own
reasons for particular attention.

"More mystery!" remarked Mary when Dick's story had come to an
end.  "What a pity they didn't open the parcel!"  She looked
at Ransford, who was evidently in deep thought.  "I suppose it
will all come out?" she suggested.

"Sure to!" he answered, and turned to Dick.  "You say Bryce
fetched old Harker--after you and Bryce had watched these
operations a bit?  Did he say why he fetched him?"

"Never said anything as to his reasons," answered Dick.  "But,
I rather guessed, at the end, that Bryce wanted me to keep
quiet about it, only old Harker said there was no need."

Ransford made no comment on this, and Dick, having exhausted
his stock of news, presently went off to bed.

"Master Bryce," observed Ransford, after a period of silence,
"is playing a game!  What it is, I don't know--but I'm certain
of it.  Well, we shall see!  You've been much upset by all
this," he went on, after another pause, "and the knowledge
that you have has distressed me beyond measure!  But just have
a little--a very little--more patience, and things will be
cleared--I can't tell all that's in my mind, even to you."

Mary, who had been sewing while Ransford, as was customary
with him in an evening, read the Times to her, looked down at
her work.

"I shouldn't care, if only these rumours in the town--about
you--could be crushed!" she said.  "It's so cruel, so vile,
that such things--"

Ransford snapped his fingers.

"I don't care that about the rumours!" he answered,
contemptuously.  "They'll be crushed out just as suddenly as
they arose--and then, perhaps, I'll let certain folk in
Wrychester know what I think of them.  And as regards the
suspicion against me, I know already that the only people in
the town for whose opinion I care fully accept what I said
before the Coroner.  As to the others, let them talk!  If the
thing comes to a head before its due time--"

"You make me think that you know more--much more!--than you've
ever told me!" interrupted Mary.

"So I do!" he replied.  "And you'll see in the end why I've
kept silence.  Of course, if people who don't know as much
will interfere--"

He was interrupted there by the ringing of the front door
bell, at the sound of which he and Mary looked at each other.

"Who can that be?" said Mary.  "It's past ten o'clock."

Ransford offered no suggestion.  He sat silently waiting,
until the parlourmaid entered.

"Inspector Mitchington would be much obliged if you could give
him a few minutes, sir," she said.

Ransford got up from his chair.

"Take Inspector Mitchington into the study," he said.  "Is he
alone?"

"No, sir--there's a gentleman with him," replied the girl.

"All right--I'll be with them presently," answered Ransford.
"Take them both in there and light the gas.  Police!" he went
on, when the parlourmaid had gone.  "They get hold of the
first idea that strikes them, and never even look round for
another, You're not frightened?"

"Frightened--no!  Uneasy--yes!" replied Mary.  "What can they
want, this time of night?"

"Probably to tell me something about this romantic tale of
Dick's," answered Ransford, as he left the room.  "It'll be
nothing more serious, I assure you."

But he was not so sure of that.  He was very well aware that
the Wrychester police authorities had a definite suspicion of
his guilt in the Braden and Collishaw matters, and he knew
from experience that police suspicion is a difficult matter to
dissipate.  And before he opened the door of the little room
which he used as a study he warned himself to be careful--and
silent.

The two visitors stood near the hearth--Ransford took a good
look at them as he closed the door behind him.  Mitchington he
knew well enough; he was more interested in the other man, a
stranger.  A quiet-looking, very ordinary individual, who
might have been half a dozen things--but Ransford instantly
set him down as a detective.  He turned from this man to the
inspector.

"Well?" he said, a little brusquely.  "What is it?"

"Sorry to intrude so late, Dr. Ransford," answered
Mitchington, "but I should be much obliged if you would give
us a bit of information--badly wanted, doctor, in view of
recent events," he added, with a smile which was meant to be
reassuring.  "I'm sure you can--if you will."

"Sit down," said Ransford, pointing to chairs.  He took one
himself and again glanced at the stranger.  "To whom am I
speaking, in addition to yourself, Inspector?" he asked.  "I'm
not going to talk to strangers."

"Oh, well!" said Mitchington, a little awkwardly.  "Of course,
doctor, we've had to get a bit of professional help in these
unpleasant matters.  This gentleman's Detective-Sergeant
Jettison, from the Yard."

"What information do you want?" asked Ransford.

Mitchington glanced at the door and lowered his voice.
"I may as well tell you, doctor," he said confidentially,
"there's been a most extraordinary discovery made tonight,
which has a bearing on the Braden case.  I dare say you've
heard of the great jewel robbery which took place at the Duke
of Saxonsteade's some years ago, which has been a mystery to
this very day?"

"I have heard of it," answered Ransford.

"Very well--tonight those jewels--the whole lot!--have been
discovered in Paradise yonder, where they'd been buried, at
the time of the robbery, by the thief," continued Mitchington.
"They've just been examined, and they're now in the Duke's own
hands again--after all these years!  And--I may as well tell
you--we now know that the object of Braden's visit to
Wrychester was to tell the Duke where those jewels were
hidden.  Braden--and another man--had learned the secret, from
the real thief, who's dead in Australia.  All that I may tell
you, doctor--for it'll be public property tomorrow."

"Well?" said Ransford.

Mitchington hesitated a moment, as if searching for his next
words.  He glanced at the detective; the detective remained
immobile; he glanced at Ransford; Ransford gave him no
encouragement.

"Now look here, doctor!" he exclaimed, suddenly.  "Why not
tell us something?  We know now who Braden really was!  That's
settled.  Do you understand?"

"Who was he, then?" asked Ransford, quietly.

"He was one John Brake, some time manager of a branch of a
London bank, who, seventeen years ago, got ten years' penal
servitude for embezzlement," answered Mitchington, watching
Ransford steadily.  "That's dead certain--we know it!  The man
who shared this secret with him about the Saxonsteade jewels
has told us that much, today.  John Brake!"

"What have you come here for?" asked Ransford.

"To ask you--between ourselves--if you can tell us anything
about Brake's earlier days--antecedents--that'll help us,"
replied Mitchington.  "It may be--Jettison here--a man of
experience--thinks it'll be found to be--that Brake, or Braden
as we call him--was murdered because of his possession of that
secret about the jewels.  Our informant tells us that Braden
certainly had on him, when he came to Wrychester, a sort of
diagram showing the exact location of the spot where the
jewels were hidden--that diagram was most assuredly not found
on Braden when we examined his clothing and effects.  It may
be that it was wrested from him in the gallery of the
clerestory that morning, and that his assailant, or
assailants--for there may have been two men at the job
--afterwards pitched him through that open doorway, after
half-stifling him.  And if that theory's correct--and I,
personally, am now quite inclined to it--it'll help a
lot if you'll tell us what you know of Braden's--Brake's
--antecedents.  Come now, doctor!--you know very well that
Braden, or Brake, did come to your surgery that morning and
said to your assistant that he'd known a Dr. Ransford in times
past!  Why not speak?"

Ransford, instead of answering Mitchington's evidently genuine
appeal, looked at the New Scotland Yard man.

"Is that your theory?" he asked.

Jettison nodded his head, with a movement indicative of
conviction.

"Yes, sir!" he replied.  "Having regard to all the
circumstances of the case, as they've been put before me since
I came here, and with special regard to the revelations which
have resulted in the discovery of these jewels, it is!  Of
course, today's events have altered everything.  If it hadn't
been for our informant--"

"Who is your informant?" inquired Ransford.

The two callers looked at each other--the detective nodded at
the inspector.

"Oh, well!" said Mitchington.  "No harm in telling you,
doctor.  A man named Glassdale--once a fellow-convict with
Brake.  It seems they left England together after their time
was up, emigrated together, prospered, even went so far--both
of 'em!--as to make good the money they'd appropriated, and
eventually came back together--in possession of this secret.
Brake came specially to Wrychester to tell the Duke--Glassdale
was to join him on the very morning Brake met his death.
Glassdale did come to the town that morning--and as soon as he
got here, heard of Brake's strange death.  That upset him--and
he went away--only to come back today, go to Saxonsteade, and
tell everything to the Duke--with the result we've told you
of."

"Which result," remarked Ransford, steadily regarding
Mitchington, "has apparently altered all your ideas about
--me!"

Mitchington laughed a little awkwardly.

"Oh, well, come, now, doctor!" he said.  "Why, yes--frankly,
I'm inclined to Jettison's theory--in fact, I'm certain that's
the truth."

"And your theory," inquired Ransford, turning to the
detective, "is--put it in a few words."

"My theory--and I'll lay anything it's the correct one!--is
this," replied Jettison.  "Brake came to Wrychester with his
secret.  That secret wasn't confined to him and Glassdale
--either he let it out to somebody, or it was known to
somebody.  I understand from Inspector Mitchington here that
on the evening of his arrival Brake was away from the Mitre
Hotel for two hours.  During that time, he was somewhere--with
whom?  Probably with somebody who got the secret out of him,
or to whom he communicated it.  For, think!--according to
Glassdale, who, we are quite sure, has told the exact truth
about everything, Brake had on him a scrap of paper, on which
were instructions, in Latin, for finding the exact spot
whereat the missing Saxonsteade jewels had been hidden, years
before, by the actual thief--who, I may tell you, sir, never
had the opportunity of returning to re-possess himself of
them.  Now, after Brake's death, the police examined his
clothes and effects--they never found that scrap of paper!
And I work things out this way.  Brake was followed into that
gallery--a lonely, quiet place--by the man or men who had got
possession of the secret; he was, I'm told, a slightly-built,
not over-strong man--he was seized and robbed of that paper
and flung to his death.  And all that fits in with the second
mystery of Collishaw--who probably knew, if not everything,
then something, of the exact circumstances of Brake's death,
and let his knowledge get to the ears of--Brake's assailant!
--who cleverly got rid of him.  That's my notion," concluded
the detective.  "And--I shall be surprised if it isn't a
correct one!"

"And, as I've said, doctor," chimed in Mitchington, "can't you
give us a bit of information, now?  You see the line we're on?
Now, as it's evident you once knew Braden, or Brake--"

"I have never said so!" interrupted Ransford sharply.

"Well--we infer it, from the undoubted fact that he called
here," remarked Mitchington.  "And if--"

"Wait!" said Ransford.  He had been listening with absorbed
attention to Jettison's theory, and he now rose from his chair
and began to pace the room, hands in pockets, as if in deep
thought.  Suddenly he paused and looked at Mitchington.  "This
needs some reflection," he said.  "Are you pressed for time?"

"Not in the least," answered Mitchington, readily.  "Our
time's yours, sir.  Take as long as you like."

Ransford touched a bell and summoning the parlourmaid told her
to fetch whisky, soda, and cigars.  He pressed these things on
the two men, lighted a cigar himself, and for a long time
continued to walk up and down his end of the room, smoking and
evidently in very deep thought.  The visitors left him alone,
watching him curiously now and then--until, when quite ten
minutes had gone by, he suddenly drew a chair close to them
and sat down again.

"Now, listen to me!" he said.  "If I give my confidence to
you, as police officials, will you give me your word that you
won't make use of my information until I give you leave--or
until you have consulted me further?  I shall rely on your
word, mind!"

"I say yes to that, doctor," answered Mitchington.

"The same here, sir," said the detective.

"Very well," continued Ransford.  "Then--this is between
ourselves, until such time as I say something more about it.
First of all, I am not going to tell you anything whatever
about Braden's antecedents--at present!  Secondly--I am not
sure that your theory, Mr. Jettison, is entirely correct,
though I think it is by way of coming very near to the right
one--which is sure to be worked out before long.  But--on the
understanding of secrecy for the present I can tell you
something which I should not have been able to tell you but
for the events of tonight, which have made me put together
certain facts.  Now attention!  To begin with, I know where
Braden was for at any rate some time on the evening of the day
on which he came to Wrychester.  He was with the old man whom
we all know as Simpson Harker."

Mitchington whistled; the detective, who knew nothing of
Simpson Harker, glanced at him as if for information.  But
Mitchington nodded at Ransford, and Ransford went on.

"I know this for this reason," he continued.  "You know where
Harker lives.  I was in attendance for nearly two hours that
evening on a patient in a house opposite--I spent a good deal
of time in looking out of the window.  I saw Harker take a man
into his house: I saw the man leave the house nearly an hour
later: I recognized that man next day as the man who met his
death at the Cathedral.  So much for that."

"Good!" muttered Mitchington.  "Good!  Explains a lot."

"But," continued Ransford, "what I have to tell you now is of
a much more serious--and confidential--nature.  Now, do you
know--but, of course, you don't!--that your proceedings
tonight were watched?"

"Watched!" exclaimed Mitchington.  "Who watched us?"

"Harker, for one," answered Ransford.  "And--for another--my
late assistant, Mr. Pemberton Bryce."

Mitchington's jaw dropped.

"God bless my soul!" he said.  "You don't mean it, doctor!
Why, how did you--"

"Wait a minute," interrupted Ransford.  He left the room, and
the two callers looked at each other.

"This chap knows more than you think," observed Jettison in a
whisper.  "More than he's telling now!"

"Let's get all we can, then," said Mitchington, who was
obviously much surprised by Ransford's last information.  "Get
it while he's in the mood."

"Let him take his own time," advised Jettison.  "But--you mark
me!--he knows a lot!  This is only an instalment."

Ransford came back--with Dick Bewery, clad in a loud patterned
and gaily coloured suit of pyjamas.

"Now, Dick," said Ransford.  "Tell Inspector Mitchington
precisely what happened this evening, within your own
knowledge."

Dick was nothing loth to tell his story for the second time
--especially to a couple of professional listeners.  And he
told it in full detail, from the moment of his sudden
encounter with Bryce to that in which he parted with Bryce and
Harker.  Ransford, watching the official faces, saw what it
was in the story that caught the official attention and
excited the official mind.

"Dr. Bryce went off at once to fetch Harker, did he?" asked
Mitchington, when Dick had made a end.

"At once," answered Dick.  "And was jolly quick back with
him!"

"And Harker said it didn't matter about your telling as it
would be public news soon enough?" continued Mitchington.

"Just that," said Dick.

Mitchington looked at Ransford, and Ransford nodded to his
ward.

"All right, Dick," he said.  "That'll do."

The boy went off again, and Mitchington shook his head.

"Queer!" he said.  "Now what have those two been up to?
--something, that's certain.  Can you tell us more, doctor?"

"Under the same conditions--yes," answered Ransford, taking
his seat again.  "The fact is, affairs have got to a stage
where I consider it my duty to tell you more.  Some of what I
shall tell you is hearsay--but it's hearsay that you can
easily verify for yourselves when the right moment comes.  Mr.
Campany, the librarian, lately remarked to me that my old
assistant, Mr. Bryce, seemed to be taking an extraordinary
interest in archaeological matters since he left me--he was
now, said Campany, always examining documents about the old
tombs and monuments of the Cathedral and its precincts."

"Ah--just so!" exclaimed Mitchington.  "To be sure!--I'm
beginning to see!"

"And," continued Ransford, "Campany further remarked, as a
matter for humorous comment, that Bryce was also spending much
time looking round our old tombs.  Now you made this discovery
near an old tomb, I understand?"

"Close by one--yes," assented the inspector.

"Then let me draw your attention to one or two strange facts
--which are undoubted facts," continued Ransford.  "Bryce was
left alone with the dead body of Braden for some minutes,
while Varner went to fetch the police.  That's one."

"That's true," muttered Mitchington.  "He was--several
minutes!"

"Bryce it was who discovered Collishaw--in Paradise," said
Ransford.  "That's fact two.  And fact three--Bryce evidently
had a motive in fetching Harker tonight--to overlook your
operations.  What was his motive?  And taking things
altogether; what are, or have been, these secret affairs which
Bryce and Harker have evidently been engaged in?"

Jettison suddenly rose, buttoning his light overcoat.  The
action seemed to indicate a newly-formed idea, a definite
conclusion.  He turned sharply to Mitchington.

"There's one thing certain, inspector," he said.  "You'll keep
an eye on those two from this out!  From--just now!"

"I shall!" assented Mitchington.  "I'll have both of 'em
shadowed wherever they go or are, day or night.  Harker, now,
has always been a bit of a mystery, but Bryce--hang me if I
don't believe he's been having me!  Double game!--but, never
mind.  There's no more, doctor?"

"Not yet," replied Ransford.  "And I don't know the real
meaning or value of what I have told you.  But--in two days
from now, I can tell you more.  In the meantime--remember your
promise!"

He let his visitors out then, and went back to Mary.

"You'll not have to wait long for things to clear," he said.
"The mystery's nearly over!"




CHAPTER XVIII - SURPRISE


Mitchington and the man from New Scotland Yard walked away in
silence from Ransford's house and kept the silence up until
they were in the middle of the Close and accordingly in
solitude.  Then Mitchington turned to his companion.

"What d'ye think of that?" he asked, with a half laugh.
"Different complexion it puts on things, eh?"

"I think just what I said before--in there," replied the
detective.  "That man knows more than he's told, even now!"

"Why hasn't he spoken sooner, then?" demanded Mitchington.
"He's had two good chance--at the inquests."

"From what I saw of him, just now," said Jettison, "I should
say he's the sort of man who can keep his own counsel till he
considers the right time has come for speaking.  Not the sort
of man who'll care twopence whatever's said about him, you
understand?  I should say he's known a good lot all along, and
is just keeping it back till he can put a finishing touch to
it.  Two days, didn't he say?  Aye, well, a lot can happen in
two days!"

"But about your theory?" questioned Mitchington.  "What do you
think of it now--in relation to what we've just heard?"

"I'll tell you what I can see," answered Jettison. "I can see
how one bit of this puzzle fits into another--in view of what
Ransford has just told us.  Of course, one's got to do a good
deal of supposing it's unavoidable in these cases.  Now
supposing Braden let this man Harker into the secret of the
hidden jewels that night, and supposing that Harker and Bryce
are in collusion--as they evidently are, from what that boy
told us--and supposing they between them, together or
separately, had to do with Braden's death, and supposing that
man Collishaw saw some thing that would incriminate one or
both--eh?"

"Well?" asked Mitchington.

"Bryce is a medical man," observed Jettison.  "It would be an
easy thing for a medical man to get rid of Collishaw as he
undoubtedly was got rid of.  Do you see my point?"

"Aye--and I can see that Bryce is a clever hand at throwing
dust in anybody's eyes!" muttered Mitchington.  "I've had some
dealings with him over this affair and I'm beginning to think
--only now!--that he's been having me for the mug!  He's
evidently a deep 'un--and so's the other man."

"I wanted to ask you that," said Jettison.  "Now, exactly who
are these two?--tell me about them--both."

"Not so much to tell," answered Mitchington.  "Harker's a
quiet old chap who lives in a little house over there--just
off that far corner of this Close.  Said to be a retired
tradesman, from London.  Came here a few years ago, to settle
down.  Inoffensive, pleasant old chap.  Potters about the
town--puts in his time as such old chaps do--bit of reading at
the libraries--bit of gossip here and--there you know the
sort.  Last man in the world I should have thought would have
been mixed up in an affair of this sort!"

"And therefore all the more likely to be!" said Jettison.
"Well--the other?"

"Bryce was until the very day of Braden's appearance,
Ransford's assistant," continued Mitchington.  "Been with
Ransford about two years.  Clever chap, undoubtedly, but
certainly deep and, in a way, reserved, though he can talk
plenty if he's so minded and it's to his own advantage.  He
left Ransford suddenly--that very morning.  I don't know why.
Since then he's remained in the town.  I've heard that he's
pretty keen on Ransford's ward--sister of that lad we saw
tonight.  I don't know myself, if it's true--but I've wondered
if that had anything to do with his leaving Ransford so
suddenly."

"Very likely," said Jettison.  They had crossed the Close by
that time and come to a gas-lamp which stood at the entrance,
and the detective pulled out his watch and glanced at it.
"Ten past eleven," he said.  "You say you know this Bryce
pretty well?  Now, would it be too late--if he's up still--to
take a look at him!  If you and he are on good terms, you
could make an excuse.  After what I've heard, I'd like to get
at close quarters with this gentleman."

"Easy enough," assented Mitchington.  "I've been there as late
as this--he's one of the sort that never goes to bed before
midnight.  Come on!--it's close by.  But--not a word of where
we've been.  I'll say I've dropped in to give him a bit of
news.  We'll tell him about the jewel business--and see how he
takes it.  And while we're there--size him up!"

Mitchington was right in his description of Bryce's habits
--Bryce rarely went to bed before one o'clock in the morning.
He liked to sit up, reading.  His favourite mental food was
found in the lives of statesmen and diplomatists, most of them
of the sort famous for trickery and chicanery--he not only
made a close study of the ways of these gentry but wrote down
notes and abstracts of passages which particularly appealed to
him.  His lamp was burning when Mitchington and Jettison came
in view of his windows--but that night Bryce was doing no
thinking about statecraft: his mind was fixed on his own
affairs.  He had lighted his fire on going home and for an
hour had sat with his legs stretched out on the fender,
carefully weighing things up.  The event of the night had
convinced him that he was at a critical phase of his present
adventure, and it behoved him, as a good general, to review
his forces.

The forestalling of his plans about the hiding-place in
Paradise had upset Bryce's schemes--he had figured on being
able to turn that secret, whatever it was, to his own
advantage.  It struck him now, as he meditated, that he had
never known exactly what he expected to get out of that
secret--but he had hoped that it would have been something
which would make a few more considerable and tightly-strung
meshes in the net which he was endeavouring to weave around
Ransford.  Now he was faced by the fact that it was not going
to yield anything in the way of help--it was a secret no
longer, and it had yielded nothing beyond the mere knowledge
that John Braden, who was in reality John Brake, had carried
the secret to Warchester--to reveal it in the proper quarter.
That helped Bryce in no way--so far as he could see.  And
therefore it was necessary to re-state his case to himself; to
take stock; to see where he stood--and more than all, to put
plainly before his own mind exactly what he wanted.

And just before Mitchington and the detective came up the path
to his door, Bryce had put his notions into clear phraseology.
His aim was definite--he wanted to get Ransford completely
into his power, through suspicion of Ransford's guilt in the
affairs of Braden and Collishaw.  He wanted, at the same time,
to have the means of exonerating him--whether by fact or by
craft--so that, as an ultimate method of success for his own
projects he would be able to go to Mary Bewery and say
"Ransford's very life is at my mercy: if I keep silence, he's
lost: if I speak, he's saved: it's now for you to say whether
I'm to speak or hold my tongue--and you're the price I want
for my speaking to save him!"  It was in accordance with his
views of human nature that Mary Bewery would accede to his
terms: he had not known her and Ransford for nothing, and he
was aware that she had a profound gratitude for her guardian,
which might even be akin to a yet unawakened warmer feeling.
The probability was that she would willingly sacrifice herself
to save Ransford--and Bryce cared little by what means he won
her, fair or foul, so long as he was successful.  So now, he
said to himself, he must make a still more definite move
against Ransford.  He must strengthen and deepen the
suspicions which the police already had: he must give them
chapter and verse and supply them with information, and get
Ransford into the tightest of corners, solely that, in order
to win Mary Bewery, he might have the credit of pulling him
out again.  That, he felt certain, he could do--if he could
make a net in which to enclose Ransford he could also invent a
two-edged sword which would cut every mesh of that net into
fragments.  That would be--child's play--mere statecraft
--elementary diplomacy.  But first--to get Ransford fairly
bottled up--that was the thing!  He determined to lose no more
time--and he was thinking of visiting Mitchington immediately
after breakfast next morning when Mitchington knocked at his
door.

Bryce was rarely taken back, and on seeing Mitchington and a
companion, he forthwith invited them into his parlour, put out
his whisky and cigars, and pressed both on them as if their
late call were a matter of usual occurrence.  And when he had
helped both to a drink, he took one himself, and tumbler in
hand, dropped into his easy chair again.

"We saw your light, doctor--so I took the liberty of dropping
into tell you a bit of news," observed the inspector.  "But I
haven't introduced my friend--this is Detective-Sergeant
Jettison, of the Yard--we've got him down about this business
--must have help, you know."

Bryce gave the detective a half-sharp, half-careless look and
nodded.

"Mr. Jettison will have abundant opportunities for the
exercise of his talents!" he observed in his best cynical
manner.  "I dare say he's found that out already."

"Not an easy affair, sir, to be sure," assented Jettison.
"Complicated!"

"Highly so!" agreed Bryce.  He yawned, and glanced at the
inspector.  "What's your news, Mitchington?" he asked, almost
indifferently.

"Oh, well!" answered Mitchington.  "As the Herald's published
tomorrow you'll see it in there, doctor--I've supplied an
account for this week's issue; just a short one--but I thought
you'd like to know.  You've heard of the famous jewel robbery
at the Duke's, some years ago? Yes?--well, we've found all the
whole bundle tonight--buried in Paradise!  And how do you
think the secret came out?"

"No good at guessing," said Bryce.

"It came out," continued Mitchington, "through a man who, with
Braden--Braden, mark you!--got in possession of it--it's a
long story--and, with Braden, was going to reveal it to the
Duke that very day Braden was killed.  This man waited until
this very morning and then told his Grace--his Grace came with
him to us this afternoon, and tonight we made a search and
found--everything!  Buried--there in Paradise!  Dug 'em up,
doctor!"

Bryce showed no great interest.  He took a leisurely sip at
his liquor and set down the glass and pulled out his cigarette
case.  The two men, watching him narrowly, saw that his
fingers were steady as rocks as he struck the match.

"Yes," he said as he threw the match away.  "I saw you busy."

In spite of himself Mitchington could not repress a start nor
a glance at Jettison.  But Jettison was as imperturbable as
Bryce himself, and Mitchington raised a forced laugh.

"You did!" he said, incredulously.  "And we thought we had it
all to ourselves!  How did you come to know, doctor?"

"Young Bewery told me what was going on," replied Bryce, "so I
took a look at you.  And I fetched old Harker to take a look,
too.  We all watched you--the boy, Harker, and I--out of sheer
curiosity, of course.  We saw you get up the parcel.  But,
naturally, I didn't know what was in it--till now."

Mitchington, thoroughly taken aback by this candid statement,
was at a loss for words, and again he glanced at Jettison.
But Jettison gave no help, and Mitchington fell back on
himself.

"So you fetched old Harker?" he said.  "What--what for,
doctor?  If one may ask, you know."

Bryce made a careless gesture with his cigarette.

"Oh--old Harker's deeply interested in what's going on," he
answered.  "And as young Bewery drew my attention to your
proceedings, why, I thought I'd draw Harker's.  And Harker
was--interested."

Mitchington hesitated before saying more.  But eventually he
risked a leading question.

"Any special reason why he should be, doctor?" he asked.

Bryce put his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat and
looked half-lazily at his questioner.

"Do you know who old Harker really is?" he inquired.

"No!" answered Mitchington.  "I know nothing about him--except
that he's said to be a retired tradesman, from London, who
settled down here some time ago."

Bryce suddenly turned on Jettison.

"Do you?" he asked.

"I, sir!" exclaimed Jettison.  "I don't know this gentleman
--at all!"

Bryce laughed--with his usual touch of cynical sneering.

"I'll tell you--now--who old Harker is, Mitchington," he said.
"You may as well know.  I thought Mr. Jettison might recognize
the name.  Harker is no retired London tradesman--he's a
retired member of your profession, Mr. Jettison.  He was in
his day one of the smartest men in the service of your
department.  Only he's transposed his name--ask them at the
Yard if they remember Harker Simpson?  That seems to startle
you, Mitchington!  Well, as you're here, perhaps I'd better
startle you a bit more."




CHAPTER XIX - THE SUBTLETY OF THE DEVIL


There was a sudden determination and alertness in Bryce's last
words which contrasted strongly, and even strangely, with the
almost cynical indifference that had characterized him since
his visitors came in, and the two men recognized it and
glanced questioningly at each other.  There was an alteration,
too, in his manner; instead of lounging lazily in his chair,
as if he had no other thought than of personal ease, he was
now sitting erect, looking sharply from one man to the other;
his whole attitude, bearing, speech seemed to indicate that he
had suddenly made up his mind to adopt some definite course of
action.

"I'll tell you more!" he repeated.  "And, since you're here
--now!"

Mitchington, who felt a curious uneasiness, gave Jettison
another glance.  And this time it was Jettison who spoke.

"I should say," he remarked quietly, "knowing what I've
gathered of the matter, that we ought to be glad of any
information Dr. Bryce can give us."

"Oh, to be sure!" assented Mitchington.  "You know more, then,
doctor?"

Bryce motioned his visitors to draw their chairs nearer to
his, and when he spoke it was in the low, concentrated tones
of a man who means business--and confidential business.

"Now look here, Mitchington," he said, "and you, too, Mr.
Jettison, as you're on this job--I'm going to talk straight to
both of you.  And to begin with, I'll make a bold assertion--I
know more of this Wrychester Paradise mystery--involving the
deaths of both Braden and Collishaw, than any man living
--because, though you don't know it, Mitchington, I've gone
right into it.  And I'll tell you in confidence why I went
into it--I want to marry Dr. Ransford's ward, Miss Bewery!"

Bryce accompanied this candid admission with a look which
seemed to say: Here we are, three men of the world, who know
what things are--we understand each other!  And while Jettison
merely nodded comprehendingly, Mitchington put his thoughts
into words.

"To be sure, doctor, to be sure!" he said.  "And accordingly
--what's their affair, is yours!  Of course!"

"Something like that," assented Bryce.  "Naturally no man
wishes to marry unless he knows as much as he can get to know
about the woman he wants, her family, her antecedents--and all
that.  Now, pretty nearly everybody in Wrychester who knows
them, knows that there's a mystery about Dr. Ransford and his
two wards--it's been talked of, no end, amongst the old
dowagers and gossips of the Close, particularly--you know what
they are!  Miss Bewery herself, and her brother, young Dick,
in a lesser degree, know there's a mystery.  And if there's
one man in the world who knows the secret, it's Ransford.
And, up to now, Ransford won't tell--he won't even tell Miss
Bewery.  I know that she's asked him--he keeps up an obstinate
silence.  And so--I determined to find things out for myself."

"Aye--and when did you start on that little game, now,
doctor?" asked Mitchington.  "Was it before, or since, this
affair developed?"

"In a really serious way--since," replied Bryce.  "What
happened on the day of Braden's death made me go thoroughly
into the whole matter.  Now, what did happen?  I'll tell you
frankly, now, Mitchington, that when we talked once before
about this affair, I didn't tell you all I might have told.
I'd my reasons for reticence.  But now I'll give you full
particulars of what happened that morning within my knowledge
--pay attention, both of you, and you'll see how one thing
fits into another.  That morning, about half-past nine,
Ransford left his surgery and went across the Close.  Not long
after he'd gone, this man Braden came to the door, and asked
me if Dr. Ransford was in?  I said he wasn't--he'd just gone
out, and I showed the man in which direction.  He said he'd
once known a Dr. Ransford, and went away.  A little later, I
followed.  Near the entrance of Paradise, I saw Ransford
leaving the west porch of the Cathedral.  He was undeniably in
a state of agitation--pale, nervous.  He didn't see me.  I
went on and met Varner, who told me of the accident.  I went
with him to the foot of St. Wrytha's Stair and found the man
who had recently called at the surgery.  He died just as I
reached him.  I sent for you.  When you came, I went back to
the surgery--I found Ransford there in a state of most unusual
agitation--he looked like a man who has had a terrible shock.
So much for these events.  Put them together."

Bryce paused awhile, as if marshalling his facts.

"Now, after that," he continued presently, "I began to
investigate matters myself--for my own satisfaction.  And very
soon I found out certain things--which I'll summarize,
briefly, because some of my facts are doubtless known to you
already.  First of all--the man who came here as John Braden
was, in reality, one John Brake.  He was at one time manager
of a branch of a well-known London banking company.  He
appropriated money from them under apparently mysterious
circumstances of which I, as yet, knew nothing; he was
prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to ten years' penal
servitude.  And those two wards of Ransford's, Mary and
Richard Bewery, as they are called, are, in reality, Mary and
Richard Brake--his children."

"You've established that as a fact?" asked Jettison, who was
listening with close attention.  "It's not a surmise on your
part?"

Bryce hesitated before replying to this question.  After all,
he reflected, it was a surmise.  He could not positively prove
his assertion.

"Well," he answered after a moment's thought, "I'll qualify
that by saying that from the evidence I have, and from what I
know, I believe it to be an indisputable fact.  What I do know
of fact, hard, positive fact, is this:--John Brake married a
Mary Bewery at the parish church of Braden Medworth, near
Barthorpe, in Leicestershire: I've seen the entry in the
register with my own eyes.  His best man, who signed the
register as a witness, was Mark Ransford.  Brake and Ransford,
as young men, had been in the habit of going to Braden
Medworth to fish; Mary Bewery was governess at the vicarage
there.  It was always supposed she would marry Ransford;
instead, she married Brake, who, of course, took her off to
London.  Of their married life, I know nothing.  But within a
few years, Brake was in trouble, for the reason I have told
you.  He was arrested--and Harker was the man who arrested
him."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Mitchington.  "Now, if I'd only known--"

"You'll know a lot before I'm through," said Bryce.  "Now,
Harker, of course, can tell a lot--yet it's unsatisfying.
Brake could make no defence--but his counsel threw out
strange hints and suggestions--all to the effect that Brake
had been cruelly and wickedly deceived--in fact, as it were,
trapped into doing what he did.  And--by a man whom he'd
trusted as a close friend.  So much came to Harker's ears--but
no more, and on that particular point I've no light.  Go on
from that to Brake's private affairs.  At the time of his
arrest he had a wife and two very young children.  Either just
before, or at, or immediately after his arrest they completely
disappeared--and Brake himself utterly refused to say one
single word about them.  Harker asked if he could do anything
--Brake's answer was that no one was to concern himself.  He
preserved an obstinate silence on that point.  The clergyman
in whose family Mrs. Brake had been governess saw Brake, after
his conviction--Brake would say nothing to him.  Of Mrs.
Brake, nothing more is known--to me at any rate.  What was
known at the time is this--Brake communicated to all who came
in contact with him, just then, the idea of a man who has been
cruelly wronged and deceived, who takes refuge in sullen
silence, and who is already planning and cherishing--revenge!"

"Aye, aye!" muttered Mitchington.  "Revenge?--just So!"

"Brake, then," continued Bryce, "goes off to his term of penal
servitude, and so disappears--until he reappears here in
Wrychester.  Leave him for a moment, and go back.  And--it's a
going back, no doubt, to supposition and to theory--but
there's reason in what I shall advance.  We know--beyond
doubt--that Brake had been tricked and deceived, in some money
matter, by some man--some mysterious man--whom he referred to
as having been his closest friend.  We know, too, that there
was extraordinary mystery in the disappearance of his wife and
children.  Now, from all that has been found out, who was
Brake's closest friend?  Ransford!  And of Ransford, at that
time, there's no trace.  He, too, disappeared--that's a fact
which I've established.  Years later, he reappears--here at
Wrychester, where he's bought a practice.  Eventually he has
two young people, who are represented as his wards, come to
live with him.  Their name is Bewery.  The name of the young
woman whom John Brake married was Bewery.  What's the
inference?  That their mother's dead--that they're known under
her maiden name: that they, without a shadow of doubt, are
John Brake's children.  And that leads up to my theory--which
I'll now tell you in confidence--if you wish for it."

"It's what I particularly wish for," observed Jettison
quietly.  "The very thing!"

"Then, it's this," said Bryce.  "Ransford was the close friend
who tricked and deceived Brake:

"He probably tricked him in some money affair, and deceived him
in his domestic affairs.  I take it that Ransford ran away
with Brake's wife, and that Brake, sooner than air all his
grievance to the world, took it silently and began to concoct
his ideas of revenge.  I put the whole thing this way.
Ransford ran away with Mrs. Brake and the two children--mere
infants--and disappeared.  Brake, when he came out of prison,
went abroad--possibly with the idea of tracking them.
Meanwhile, as is quite evident, he engaged in business and did
well.  He came back to England as John Braden, and, for the
reason of which you're aware, he paid a visit to Wrychester,
utterly unaware that any one known to him lived here.  Now,
try to reconstruct what happened.  He looks round the Close
that morning.  He sees the name of Dr. Mark Ransford on the
brass plate of a surgery door.  He goes to the surgery, asks a
question, makes a remark, goes away.  What is the probable
sequence of events?  He meets Ransford near the Cathedral
--where Ransford certainly was.  They recognize each other
--most likely they turn aside, go up to that gallery as a
quiet place, to talk--there is an altercation--blows--somehow
or other, probably from accident, Braden is thrown through
that open doorway, to his death.  And--Collishaw saw what
happened!"

Bryce was watching his listeners, turning alternately from one
to the other.  But it needed little attention on his part to
see that theirs was already closely strained; each man was
eagerly taking in all that he said and suggested.  And he went
on emphasizing every point as he made it.

"Collishaw saw what happened?" he repeated.  "That, of course,
is theory--supposition.  But now we pass from theory back to
actual fact.  I'll tell you something now, Mitchington, which
you've never heard of, I'm certain.  I made it in my way,
after Collishaw's death, to get some information, secretly,
from his widow, who's a fairly shrewd, intelligent woman for
her class.  Now, the widow, in looking over her husband's
effects, in a certain drawer in which he kept various personal
matters, came across the deposit book of a Friendly Society of
which Collishaw had been a member for some years.  It appears
that he, Collishaw, was something of a saving man, and every
year he managed to put by a bit of money out of his wages, and
twice or thrice in the year he took these savings--never very
much; merely a pound or two--to this Friendly Society, which,
it seems, takes deposits in that way from its members.  Now,
in this book is an entry--I saw it--which shows that only two
days before his death, Collishaw paid fifty pounds--fifty
pounds, mark you!--into the Friendly Society.  Where should
Collishaw get fifty pounds, all of a sudden!  He was a mason's
labourer, earning at the very outside twenty-six or eight
shillings a week.  According to his wife, there was no one to
leave him a legacy.  She never heard of his receipt of this
money from any source.  But--there's the fact!  What explains
it?  My theory--that the rumour that Collishaw, with a pint
too much ale in him, had hinted that he could say something
about Braden's death if he chose, had reached Braden's
assailant; that he had made it his business to see Collishaw
and had paid him that fifty pounds as hush-money--and, later,
had decided to rid himself of Collishaw altogether, as he
undoubtedly did, by poison."

Once more Bryce paused--and once more the two listeners showed
their attention by complete silence.

"Now we come to the question--how was Collishaw poisoned?"
continued Bryce.  "For poisoned he was, without doubt.  Here
we go back to theory and supposition once more.  I haven't the
least doubt that the hydrocyanic acid which caused his death
was taken by him in a pill--a pill that was in that box which
they found on him, Mitchington, and showed me.  But that
particular pill, though precisely similar in appearance, could
not be made up of the same ingredients which were in the other
pills.  It was probably a thickly coated pill which contained
the poison;--in solution of course.  The coating would melt
almost as soon as the man had swallowed it--and death would
result instantaneously.  Collishaw, you may say, was condemned
to death when he put that box of pills in his waistcoat
pocket.  It was mere chance, mere luck, as to when the exact
moment of death came to him.  There had been six pills in that
box--there were five left.  So Collishaw picked out the
poisoned pill--first!  It might have been delayed till the
sixth dose, you see--but he was doomed."

Mitchington showed a desire to speak, and Bryce paused.

"What about what Ransford said before the Coroner?" asked
Mitchington.  "He demanded certain information about the
post-mortem, you know, which, he said, ought to have shown
that there was nothing poisonous in those pills."

"Pooh!" exclaimed Bryce contemptuously.  "Mere bluff!  Of such
a pill as that I've described there'd be no trace but the
sugar coating--and the poison.  I tell you, I haven't the
least doubt that that was how the poison was administered.  It
was easy.  And--who is there that would know how easily it
could be administered but--a medical man?"

Mitchington and Jettison exchanged glances.  Then Jettison
leaned nearer to Bryce.

"So your theory is that Ransford got rid of both Braden and
Collishaw--murdered both of them, in fact?" he suggested.  "Do
I understand that's what it really comes to--in plain words?"

"Not quite," replied Bryce.  "I don't say that Ransford meant
to kill Braden--my notion is that they met, had an
altercation, probably a struggle, and that Braden lost his
life in it.  But as regards Collishaw--"

"Don't forget!" interrupted Mitchington.  "Varner swore that
he saw Braden flung through that doorway!  Flung out!  He saw
a hand."

"For everything that Varner could prove to the contrary,"
answered Bryce, "the hand might have been stretched out to
pull Braden back.  No--I think there may have been accident in
that affair.  But, as regards Collishaw--murder, without
doubt--deliberate!"

He lighted another cigarette, with the air of a man who had
spoken his mind, and Mitchington, realizing that he had said
all he had to say, got up from his seat.

"Well--it's all very interesting and very clever, doctor," he
said, glancing at Jettison.  "And we shall keep it all in
mind.  Of course, you've talked all this over with Harker?  I
should like to know what he has to say.  Now that you've told
us who he is, I suppose we can talk to him?"

"You'll have to wait a few days, then," said Bryce.  "He's
gone to town--by the last train tonight--on this business.
I've sent him.  I had some information today about Ransford's
whereabouts during the time of disappearance, and I've
commissioned Harker to examine into it.  When I hear what he's
found out, I'll let you know."

"You're taking some trouble," remarked Mitchington.

"I've told you the reason," answered Bryce.

Mitchington hesitated a little; then, with a motion of his
head towards the door, beckoned Jettison to follow him.

"All right," he said.  "There's plenty for us to see into, I'm
thinking!"

Bryce laughed and pointed to a shelf of books near the
fireplace.

"Do you know what Napoleon Bonaparte once gave as sound advice
to police?" he asked.  "No!  Then I'll tell you.  'The art of
the police,' he said, 'is not to see that which it is useless
for it to see.'  Good counsel, Mitchington!"

The two men went away through the midnight streets, and kept
silence until they were near the door of Jettison's hotel.
Then Mitchington spoke.

"Well!" he said.  "We've had a couple of tales, anyhow!  What
do you think of things, now?"

Jettison threw back his head with a dry laugh.

"Never been better puzzled in all my time!" he said.  "Never!
But--if that young doctor's playing a game--then, by the Lord
Harry, inspector, it's a damned deep 'un!  And my advice is
--watch the lot!"




CHAPTER XX - JETTISON TAKES A HAND


By breakfast time next morning the man from New Scotland Yard
had accomplished a series of meditations on the confidences
made to him and Mitchington the night before and had
determined on at least one course of action.  But before
entering upon it he had one or two important letters to write,
the composition of which required much thought and trouble,
and by the time he had finished them, and deposited them by
his own hand in the General Post Office, it was drawing near
to noon--the great bell of the Cathedral, indeed, was
proclaiming noontide to Wrychester as Jettison turned into the
police-station and sought Mitchington in his office.

"I was just coming round to see if you'd overslept yourself,"
said Mitchington good-humouredly.  "We were up pretty late
last night, or, rather, this morning."

"I've had letters to write," said Jettison.  He sat down and
picked up a newspaper and cast a casual glance over it.  "Got
anything fresh?"

"Well, this much," answered Mitchington.  "The two gentlemen
who told us so much last night are both out of town.  I made
an excuse to call on them both early this morning--just on
nine o'clock.  Dr. Ransford went up to London by the
eight-fifteen.

"Dr. Bryce, says his landlady, went out on his bicycle at
half-past eight--where, she didn't know, but, she fancied,
into the country.  However, I ascertained that Ransford is
expected back this evening, and Bryce gave orders for his
usual dinner to be ready at seven o'clock, and so--"

Jettison flung away the newspaper and pulled out his pipe.

"Oh, I don't think they'll run away--either of 'em," he
remarked indifferently.  "They're both too cock-sure of their
own ways of looking at things."

"You looked at 'em any more?" asked Mitchington.

"Done a bit of reflecting--yes," replied the detective.
"Complicated affair, my lad!  More in it than one would think
at first sight.  I'm certain of this quite apart from whatever
mystery there is about the Braden affair and the Collishaw
murder, there's a lot of scheming and contriving been going
on--and is going on!--somewhere, by somebody.  Underhand work,
you understand?  However, my particular job is the Collishaw
business--and there's a bit of information I'd like to get
hold of at once.  Where's the office of that Friendly Society
we heard about last night?"

"That'll be the Wrychester Second Friendly," answered
Mitchington.  "There are two such societies in the town--the
first's patronized by small tradesmen and the like; the second
by workingmen.  The second does take deposits from its
members.  The office is in Fladgate--secretary's name outside
--Mr. Stebbing.  What are you after?"

"Tell you later," said Jettison.  "Just an idea."

He went leisurely out and across the market square and into
the narrow, old-world street called Fladgate, along which he
strolled as if doing no more than looking about him until he
came to an ancient shop which had been converted into an
office, and had a wire blind over the lower half of its front
window, wherein was woven in conspicuous gilt letters
Wrychester Second Friendly Society--George Stebbing,
Secretary.  Nothing betokened romance or mystery in that
essentially humble place, but it was in Jettison's mind that
when he crossed its threshold he was on his way to discovering
something that would possibly clear up the problem on which he
was engaged.

The staff of the Second Friendly was inconsiderable in
numbers--an outer office harboured a small boy and a tall
young man; an inner one accommodated Mr. Stebbing, also a
young man, sandy-haired and freckled, who, having inspected
Detective-Sergeant Jettison's professional card, gave him the
best chair in the room and stared at him with a mingling of
awe and curiosity which plainly showed that he had never
entertained a detective before.  And as if to show his visitor
that he realized the seriousness of the occasion, he nodded
meaningly at his door.

"All safe, here, sir!" he whispered.  "Well fitting doors in
these old houses--knew how to make 'em in those days.  No
chance of being overheard here--what can I do for you, sir?"

"Thank you--much obliged to you," said Jettison.  "No
objection to my pipe, I suppose?  Just so.  Ah!--well, between
you and me, Mr. Stebbing, I'm down here in connection with
that Collishaw case--you know."

"I know, sir--poor fellow!" said the secretary.  "Cruel thing,
sir, if the man was put an end to.  One of our members, was
Collishaw, sir."

"So I understand," remarked Jettison.  "That's what I've come
about.  Bit of information, on the quiet, eh?  Strictly
between our two selves--for the present."

Stebbing nodded and winked, as if he had been doing business
with detectives all his life.  "To be sure, sir, to be sure!"
he responded with alacrity.  "Just between you and me and the
door post!-all right.  Anything I can do, Mr. Jettison, shall
be done.  But it's more in the way of what I can tell, I
suppose?"

"Something of that sort," replied Jettison in his slow,
easy-going fashion.  "I want to know a thing or two.  Yours is
a working-man's society, I think?  Aye--and I understand
you've a system whereby such a man can put his bits of savings
by in your hands?"

"A capital system, too!" answered the secretary,  seizing on a
pamphlet and pushing it into his visitor's  hand.  "I don't
believe there's better in England!  If you read that--"

"I'll take a look at it some time," said Jettison,  putting
the pamphlet in his pocket.  "Well, now,  I also understand
that Collishaw was in the habit of  bringing you a bit of
saved money now and then a sort of saving fellow, wasn't he?"
Stebbing nodded assent and reached for a ledger which lay on
the farther side of his desk.

 "Collishaw," he answered, "had been a member  of our society
ever since it started--fourteen years  ago.  And he'd been
putting in savings for some eight  or nine years.  Not much,
you'll understand.  Say,  as an average, two to three pounds
every half-year--never more.  But, just before his death, or
murder, or whatever you like to call it, he came in here one
day with fifty pounds!  Fairly astounded me, sir!  Fifty
pounds--all in a lump!"

"It's about that fifty pounds I want to know something," said
Jettison.  "He didn't tell you how he'd come by it?  Wasn't a
legacy, for instance?"

"He didn't say anything but that he'd had a bit of luck,"
answered Stebbing.  "I asked no questions.  Legacy, now?--no,
he didn't mention that.  Here it is," he continued, turning
over the pages of the ledger.  "There!  50 pounds.  You see the
date--that 'ud be two days before his death."

Jettison glanced at the ledger and resumed his seat.

"Now, then, Mr. Stebbing, I want you to tell me something very
definite," he said.  "It's not so long since this happened, so
you'll not have to tag your memory to any great extent.  In
what form did Collishaw pay that fifty pounds to you?"

"That's easy answered, sir," said the secretary.  "It was in
gold.  Fifty sovereigns--he had 'em in a bit of a bag."
Jettison reflected on this information for a moment or two.
Then he rose.

"Much obliged to you, Mr. Stebbing," he said.  "That's
something worth knowing.  Now there's something else you can
tell me as long as I'm here--though, to be sure, I could save
you the trouble by using my own eyes.  How many banks are
there in this little city of yours?"

"Three," answered Stebbing promptly.  "Old Bank, in Monday
Market; Popham & Hargreaves, in the Square; Wrychester Bank,
in Spurriergate.  That's the lot."

"Much obliged," said Jettison.  "And--for the present--not a
word of what we've talked about.  You'll be hearing more
--later."

He went away, memorizing the names of the three banking
establishments--ten minutes later he was in the private
parlour of the first, in serious conversation with its
manager.  Here it was necessary to be more secret, and to
insist on more secrecy than with the secretary of the Second
Friendly, and to produce all his credentials and give all his
reasons.  But Jettison drew that covert blank, and the next,
too, and it was not until he had been closeted for some time
with the authorities of the third bank that he got, the
information he wanted.  And when he had got it, he impressed
secrecy and silence on his informants in a fashion which
showed them that however easy-going his manner might be, he
knew his business as thoroughly as they knew theirs.

It was by that time past one o'clock, and Jettison turned into
the small hotel at which he had lodged himself.  He thought
much and gravely while he ate his dinner; he thought still
more while he smoked his after-dinner pipe.  And his face was
still heavy with thought when, at three o'clock, he walked
into Mitchington's office and finding the inspector alone shut
the door and drew a chair to Mitchington's desk.

"Now then," he said.  "I've had a rare morning's work, and
made a discovery, and you and me, my lad, have got to have
about as serious a bit of talk as we've had since I came
here."

Mitchington pushed his papers aside and showed his keen
attention.

"You remember what that young fellow told us last night about
that man Collishaw paying in fifty pounds to the Second
Friendly two days before his death," said Jettison.  "Well, I
thought over that business a lot, early this morning, and I
fancied I saw how I could find something out about it.  So I
have--on the strict quiet.  That's why I went to the Friendly
Society.  The fact was--I wanted to know in what form
Collishaw handed in that fifty pounds.  I got to know.  Gold!"

Mitchington, whose work hitherto had not led him into the
mysteries of detective enterprise, nodded delightedly.

"Good!" he said.  "Rare idea!  I should never have thought of
it!  And--what do you make out of that, now?"

"Nothing," replied Jettison.  "But--a good deal out of what
I've learned since that bit of a discovery.  Now, put it to
yourself--whoever it was that paid Collishaw that fifty pounds
in gold did it with a motive.  More than one motive, to be
exact--but we'll stick to one, to begin with.  The motive for
paying in gold was--avoidance of discovery.  A cheque can be
readily traced.  So can banknotes.  But gold is not easily
traced.  Therefore the man who paid Collishaw fifty pounds
took care to provide himself with gold.  Now then--how many
men are there in a small place like this who are likely to
carry fifty pounds in gold in their pockets, or to have it at
hand?"

"Not many," agreed Mitchington.

"Just so--and therefore I've been doing a bit of secret
inquiry amongst the bankers, as to who supplied himself with
gold about that date," continued Jettison.  "I'd to convince
'em of the absolute necessity of information, too, before I
got any!  But I got some--at the third attempt.  On the day
previous to that on which Collishaw handed that fifty pounds
to Stebbing, a certain Wrychester man drew fifty pounds in
gold at his bank.  Who do you think he was?"

"Who--who?" demanded Mitchington.

Jettison leaned half-across the desk.

"Bryce!" he said in a whisper.  "Bryce!"

Mitchington sat up in his chair and opened his mouth in sheer
astonishment.

"Good heavens!" he muttered after a moment's silence.  "You
don't mean it?"

"Fact!" answered Jettison.  "Plain, incontestable fact, my
lad.  Dr. Bryce keeps an account at the Wrychester bank.  On
the day I'm speaking of he cashed a cheque to self for fifty
pounds and took it all in gold."

The two men looked at each other as if each were asking his
companion a question.

"Well?" said Mitchington at last.  "You're a cut above me,
Jettison.  What do you make of it?"

"I said last night that the young man was playing a deep
game," replied Jettison.  "But--what game?  What's he building
up?  For mark you, Mitchington, if--I say if, mind!--if that
fifty pounds which he drew in gold is the identical fifty paid
to Collishaw, Bryce didn't pay it as hush-money!"

"Think not?" said Mitchington, evidently surprised.  "Now,
that was my first impression.  If it wasn't hush-money--"

"It wasn't hush-money, for this reason," interrupted Jettison.
"We know that whatever else he knew, Bryce didn't know of the
accident to Braden until Varner fetched him to Braden.  That's
established--on what you've put before me.  Therefore,
whatever Collishaw saw, before or at the time that accident
happened, it wasn't Bryce who was mixed up in it.  Therefore,
why should Bryce pay Collishaw hush-money?"

Mitchington, who had evidently been thinking, suddenly pulled
out a drawer in his desk and took some papers from it which he
began to turn over.

"Wait a minute," he said.  "I've an abstract here--of what the
foreman at the Cathedral mason's yard told me of what he knew
as to where Collishaw was working that morning when the
accident happened--I made a note of it when I questioned him
after Collishaw's death.  Here you are:

  'Foreman says that on morning of Braden's accident,
   Collishaw was at work in the north gallery of the
   clerestory, clearing away some timber which the
   carpenters had left there.  Collishaw was certainly
   thus engaged from nine o'clock until past eleven
   that morning.  Mem.  Have investigated this myself.
   From the exact spot where C. was clearing the timber,
   there is an uninterrupted view of the gallery on the
   south side of the nave, and of the arched doorway at
   the head of St.  Wrytha's Stair.'"

"'Well," observed Jettison, "that proves what I'm saying.  It
wasn't hush-money.  For whoever it was that Collishaw saw lay
hands on Braden, it wasn't Bryce--Bryce, we know, was at that
time coming across the Close or crossing that path through the
part you call Paradise: Varner's evidence proves that.  So--if
the fifty pounds wasn't paid for hush-money, what was it paid
for?"

"Do you suggest anything?" asked Mitchington.

"I've thought of two or three things," answered the detective.
"One's this--was the fifty pounds paid for information?  If
so, and Bryce has that information, why doesn't he show his
hand more plainly?  If he bribed Collishaw with fifty pounds:
to tell him who Braden's assailant was, he now knows!--so why
doesn't he let it out, and have done with it?"

"Part of his game--if that theory's right," murmured
Mitchington.

"It mayn't be right," said Jettison.  "But it's one.  And
there's another--supposing he paid Collishaw that money on
behalf of somebody else?  I've thought this business out right
and left, top-side and bottom-side, and hang me if I don't
feel certain there is somebody else!  What did Ransford tell
us about Bryce and this old Harker--think of that!  And yet,
according to Bryce, Harker is one of our old Yard men!--and
therefore ought to be above suspicion."

Mitchington suddenly started as if an idea had occurred to
him.

"I say, you know!" he exclaimed.  "We've only Bryce's word for
it that Harker is an ex-detective.  I never heard that he was
--if he is, he's kept it strangely quiet.  You'd have thought
that he'd have let us know, here, of his previous calling--I
never heard of a policeman of any rank who didn't like to have
a bit of talk with his own sort about professional matters."

"Nor me," assented Jettison.  "And as you say, we've only
Bryce's word.  And, the more I think of it, the more I'm
convinced there's somebody--some man of whom you don't seem to
have the least idea--who's in this.  And it may be that Bryce
is in with him.  However--here's one thing I'm going to do at
once.  Bryce gave us that information about the fifty pounds.
Now I'm going to tell Bryce straight out that I've gone into
that matter in my own fashion--a fashion he evidently never
thought of--and ask him to explain why he drew a similar
amount in gold.  Come on round to his rooms."

But Bryce was not to be found at his rooms--had not been back
to his rooms, said his landlady, since he had ridden away
early in the morning: all she knew was that he had ordered his
dinner to be ready at his usual time that evening.  With that
the two men had to be content, and they went back to the
police-station still discussing the situation.  And they were
still discussing it an hour later when a telegram was handed
to Mitchington, who tore it open, glanced over its contents
and passed it to his companion who read it aloud.

"Meet me with Jettison Wrychester Station on arrival of
five-twenty express from London mystery cleared up guilty men
known--Ransford."

Jettison handed the telegram back.

"A man of his word!" he said.  "He mentioned two days--he's
done it in one!  And now, my lad--do you notice?--he says men,
not man!  It's as I said--there's been more than one of 'em in
this affair.  Now then--who are they?"




CHAPTER XXI - THE SAXONSTEADE ARMS


Bryce had ridden away on his bicycle from Wrychester that
morning intent on a new piece of diplomacy.  He had sat up
thinking for some time after the two police officials had left
him at midnight, and it had occurred to him that there was a
man from whom information could be had of whose services he
had as yet made no use but who must be somewhere in the
neighbourhood--the man Glassdale.  Glassdale had been in
Wrychester the previous evening; he could scarcely be far away
now; there was certainly one person who would know where he
could be found, and that person was the Duke of Saxonsteade.
Bryce knew the Duke to be an extremely approachable man, a
talkative, even a garrulous man, given to holding converse
with anybody about anything, and he speedily made up his mind
to ride over to Saxonsteade, invent a plausible excuse for his
call, and get some news out of his Grace.  Even if Glassdale
had left the neighbourhood, there might be fragments of
evidence to pick up from the Duke, for Glassdale, he knew, had
given his former employer the information about the stolen
jewels and would, no doubt, have added more about his
acquaintance with Braden.  And before Bryce came to his
dreamed-of master-stroke in that matter, there were one or two
thins he wanted to clear up, to complete his double net, and
he had an idea that an hour's chat with Glassdale would yield
all that he desired.

The active brain that had stood Bryce in good stead while he
spun his meshes and devised his schemes was more active than
ever that early summer morning.  It was a ten-mile ride
through woods and valleys to Saxonsteade, and there were
sights and beauties of nature on either side of him which any
other man would have lingered to admire and most men would
have been influenced by.  But Bryce had no eyes for the clouds
over the copper-crowned hills or the mystic shadows in the
deep valleys or the new buds in the hedgerows, and no thought
for the rustic folk whose cottages he passed here and there in
a sparsely populated country.  All his thoughts were fixed on
his schemes, almost as mechanically as his eyes followed the
white road in front of his wheel.  Ever since he had set out
on his campaign he had regularly taken stock of his position;
he was for ever reckoning it up.  And now, in his opinion,
everything looked very promising.  He had--so far as he was
aware--created a definite atmosphere of suspicion around and
against Ransford--it needed only a little more suggestion,
perhaps a little more evidence to bring about Ransford's
arrest.  And the only question which at all troubled Bryce
was--should he let matters go to that length before putting
his ultimatum before Mary Bewery, or should he show her his
hand first?  For Bryce had so worked matters that a word from
him to the police would damn Ransford or save him--and now it
all depended, so far as Bryce himself was concerned, on Mary
Bewery as to which word should be said.  Elaborate as the
toils were which he had laid out for Ransford to the police,
he could sweep them up and tear them away with a sentence of
added knowledge--if Mary Bewery made it worth his while.  But
first--before coming to the critical point--there was yet
certain information which he desired to get, and he felt sure
of getting it if he could find Glassdale.  For Glassdale,
according to all accounts, had known Braden intimately of
late years, and was most likely in possession of facts about
him--and Bryce had full confidence in himself as an
interviewer of other men and a supreme belief that he could
wheedle a secret out of anybody with whom he could procure an
hour's quiet conversation.

As luck would have it, Bryce had no need to make a call upon
the approachable and friendly Duke.  Outside the little
village at Saxonsteade, on the edge of the deep woods which
fringed the ducal park, stood an old wayside inn, a relic of
the coaching days, which bore on its sign the ducal arms.
Into its old stone hall marched Bryce to refresh himself after
his ride, and as he stood at the bow-windowed bar, he glanced
into the garden beyond and there saw, comfortably smoking his
pipe and reading the newspaper, the very man he was looking
for.

Bryce had no spice of bashfulness, no want of confidence
anywhere in his nature; he determined to attack Glassdale
there and then.  But he took a good look at his man before
going out into the garden to him.  A plain and ordinary sort
of fellow, he thought; rather over middle age, with a tinge
of grey in his hair and moustache; prosperous looking and
well-dressed, and at that moment of the appearance of what he
was probably taken for by the inn people--a tourist.  Whether
he was the sort who would be communicative or not, Bryce could
not tell from outward signs, but he was going to try, and he
presently found his card-case, took out a card, and strolling
down the garden to the shady spot in which Glassdale sat,
assumed his politest and suavest manner and presented himself.

"Allow me, sir," he said, carefully abstaining from any
mention of names.  "May I have the pleasure of a few minutes'
conversation with you?"

Glassdale cast a swift glance of surprise, not unmingled with
suspicion, at the intruder--the sort of glance that a man used
to watchfulness would throw at anybody, thought Bryce.  But
his face cleared as he read the card, though it was still
doubtful as he lifted it again.

"You've the advantage of me, sir," he said.  "Dr. Bryce, I
see.  But--"

Bryce smiled and dropped into a garden chair at Glassdale's
side.

"You needn't be afraid of talking to me," he answered.  "I'm
well known in Wrychester.  The Duke," he went on, nodding his
head in the direction of the great house which lay behind the
woods at the foot of the garden, "knows me well enough--in
fact, I was on my way to see his Grace now, to ask him if he
could tell me where you could be found.  The fact is, I'm
aware of what happened last night--the jewel affair, you know
--Mitchington told me--and of your friendship with Braden, and
I want to ask you a question or two about Braden."

Glassdale, who had looked somewhat mystified at the beginning
of this address, seemed to understand matters better by the
end of it.

"Oh, well, of course, doctor," he said, "if that's it--but, of
course--a word first!--these folk here at the inn don't know
who I am or that I've any connection with the Duke on that
affair.  I'm Mr. Gordon here--just staying for a bit."

"That's all right," answered Bryce with a smile of
understanding.  "All this is between ourselves.  I saw you
with the Duke and the rest of them last night, and I
recognized you just now.  And all I want is a bit of talk
about Braden.  You knew him pretty well of late years?"

"Knew him for a good many years," replied Glassdale.  He
looked narrowly at his visitor.  "I suppose you know his
story--and mine?" he asked.  "Bygone affairs, eh?"

"Yes, yes!" answered Bryce reassuringly.  "No need to go into
that--that's all done with."

"Aye--well, we both put things right," said Glassdale.  "Made
restitution--both of us, you understand.  So that is done
with?  And you know, then, of course, who Braden really was?"

"John Brake, ex bank-manager," answered Bryce promptly.  "I
know all about it.  I've been deeply interested and concerned
in his death.  And I'll tell you why.  I want to marry his
daughter."

Glassdale turned and stared at his companion.

"His daughter!" he exclaimed.  "Brake's daughter!  God bless
my soul!  I never knew he had a daughter!"

It was Bryce's turn to stare now.  He looked at Glassdale
incredulously.

"Do you mean to tell me that you knew Brake all those years
and that he never mentioned his children?" he exclaimed.

"Never a word of 'em!" replied Glassdale.  "Never knew he had
any!"

"Did he never speak of his past?" asked Bryce.

"Not in that respect," answered Glassdale.  "I'd no idea that
he was--or had been--a married man.  He certainly never
mentioned wife nor children to me, sir, and yet I knew Brake
about as intimately as two men can know each other for some
years before we came back to England."

Bryce fell into one of his fits of musing.  What could be the
meaning of this extraordinary silence on Brake's part?  Was
there still some hidden secret, some other mystery at which he
had not yet guessed?

"Odd!" he remarked at last after a long pause during which
Glassdale had watched him curiously.  "But, did he ever speak
to you of an old friend of his named Ransford--a doctor?"

"Never!" said Glassdale.  "Never mentioned such a man!"

Bryce reflected again, and suddenly determined to be explicit.

"John Brake, the bank manager," he said, "was married at a
place called Braden Medworth, in Leicestershire, to a girl
named Mary Bewery.  He had two children, who would be,
respectively, about four and one years of age when his--we'll
call it misfortune--happened.  That's a fact!"

"First I ever heard of it, then," said Glassdale.  "And that's
a fact, too!"

"He'd also a very close friend named Ransford--Mark Ransford,"
continued Bryce.  "This Ransford was best man at Brake's
wedding."

"Never heard him speak of Ransford, nor of any wedding!"
affirmed Glassdale.  "All news to me, doctor."

"This Ransford is now in practice in Wrychester," said Bryce.
"And he has two young people living with him as his wards--a
girl of twenty, a boy of seventeen--who are, without doubt,
John Brake's children.  It is the daughter that I want to
marry."

Glassdale shook his head as if in sheer perplexity.

"Well, all I can say is, you surprise me!" he remarked.  "I'd
no idea of any such thing."

"Do you think Brake came to Wrychester because of that?" asked
Bryce.

"How can I answer that, sir, when I tell you that I never
heard him breathe one word of any children?" exclaimed
Glassdale.  "No!  I know his reason for coming to Wrychester.
It was wholly and solely--as far as I know--to tell the Duke
here about that jewel business, the secret of which had been
entrusted to Brake and me by a man on his death-bed in
Australia.  Brake came to Wrychester by himself--I was to join
him next morning: we were then to go to see the Duke together.
When I got to Wrychester, I heard of Brake's accident, and
being upset by it, I went away again and waited some days
until yesterday, when I made up my mind to tell the Duke
myself, as I did, with very fortunate results.  No, that's the
only reason I know of why Brake came this way.  I tell you I
knew nothing at all of his family affairs!  He was a very
close man, Brake, and apart from his business matters, he'd
only one idea in his head, and that was lodged there pretty
firmly, I can assure you!"

"What was it?" asked Bryce.

"He wanted to find a certain man--or, rather, two men--who'd
cruelly deceived and wronged him, but one of 'em in
particular," answered Glassdale.  "The particular one he
believed to be in Australia, until near the end, when he got
an idea that he'd left for England; as for the other, he
didn't bother much about him.  But the man that he did want!
--ah, he wanted him badly!"

"Who was that man?" asked Bryce.

"A man of the name of Falkiner Wraye," answered Glassdale
promptly.  "A man he'd known in London.  This Wraye, together
with his partner, a man called Flood, tricked Brake into
lending 'em several thousands pounds--bank's money, of course
--for a couple of days--no more--and then clean disappeared,
leaving him to pay the piper!  He was a fool, no doubt, but
he'd been mixed up with them; he'd done it before, and they'd
always kept their promises, and he did it once too often.  He
let 'em have some thousands; they disappeared, and the bank
inspector happened to call at Brake's bank and ask for his
balances.  And--there he was.  And--that's why he'd Falkiner
Wraye on his mind--as his one big idea.  T'other man was a
lesser consideration, Wraye was the chief offender."

"I wish you'd tell me all you know about Brake," said Bryce
after a pause during which he had done some thinking.
"Between ourselves, of course."

"Oh--I don't know that there's so much secrecy!" replied
Glassdale almost indifferently.  "Of course, I knew him first
when we were both inmates of--you understand where; no need
for particulars.  But after we left that place, I never saw
him again until we met in Australia a few years ago.  We were
both in the same trade--speculating in wool.  We got pretty
thick and used to see each other a great deal, and of course,
grew confidential.  He told me in time about his affair, and
how he'd traced this Wraye to the United States, and then, I
think, to New Zealand, and afterwards to Australia, and as I
was knocking about the country a great deal buying up wool, he
asked me to help him, and gave me a description of Wraye, of
whom, he said, he'd certainly heard something when he first
landed at Sydney, but had never been able to trace afterwards.
But it was no good--I never either saw or heard of Wraye--and
Brake came to the conclusion he'd left Australia.  And I know
he hoped to get news of him, somehow, when we returned to
England."

"That description, now?--what was it?" asked Bryce.

"Oh!" said Glassdale.  "I can't remember it all, now--big man,
clean shaven, nothing very particular except one thing.
Wraye, according to Brake, had a bad scar on his left jaw and
had lost the middle finger of his left hand--all from a gun
accident.  He--what's the matter, sir?"

Bryce had suddenly let his pipe fall from his lips.  He took
some time in picking it up.  When he raised himself again his
face was calm if a little flushed from stooping.

"Bit my pipe on a bad tooth!" he muttered.  "I must have that
tooth seen to.  So you never heard or saw anything of this
man?"

"Never!" answered Glassdale.  "But I've wondered since this
Wrychester affair if Brake accidentally came across one or
other of those men, and if his death arose out of it.  Now,
look here, doctor!  I read the accounts of the inquest on
Brake--I'd have gone to it if I'd dared, but just then I
hadn't made up my mind about seeing the Duke; I didn't know
what to do, so I kept away, and there's a thing has struck me
that I don't believe the police have ever taken the slightest,
notice of."

"What's that?" demanded Bryce.

"Why, this!" answered Glassdale.  "That man who called himself
Dellingham--who came with Brake to the Mitre Hotel at
Wrychester--who is he?  Where did Brake meet him?  Where did
he go?  Seems to me the police have been strangely negligent
about that!  According to the accounts I've read, everybody
just accepted this Dellingham's first statement, took his
word, and let him--vanish!  No one, as far as I know, ever
verified his account of himself.  A stranger!"

Bryce, who was already in one of his deep moods of reflection,
got up from his chair as if to go.

"Yes," he said.  "There maybe something in your suggestion.
They certainly did take his word without inquiry.  It's true
--he mightn't be what he said he was."

"Aye, and from what I read, they never followed his movements
that morning!" observed Glassdale.  "Queer business
altogether!  Isn't there some reward offered, doctor?  I heard
of some placards or something, but I've never seen them; of
course, I've only been here since yesterday morning."

Bryce silently drew some papers from his pocket.  From them he
extracted the two handbills which Mitchington had given him
and handed them over.

"Well, I must go," he said.  "I shall no doubt see you again
in Wrychester, over this affair.  For the present, all this is
between ourselves, of course?"

"Oh, of course, doctor!" answered Glassdale.  "Quite so!"
Bryce went off and got his bicycle and rode away in the
direction of Wrychester.  Had he remained in that garden he
would have seen Glassdale, after reading both the handbills,
go into the house and have heard him ask the landlady at the
bar to get him a trap and a good horse in it as soon as
possible; he, too, now wanted to go to Wrychester and at once.
But Bryce was riding down the road, muttering certain words to
himself over and over again.

"The left jaw--and the left hand!" he repeated.  "Left hand
--left jaw!  Unmistakable!"




CHAPTER XXII - OTHER PEOPLE'S NOTIONS


The great towers of Wrychester Cathedral had come within
Bryce's view before he had made up his mind as to the next
step in this last stage of his campaign.  He had ridden away
from the Saxonsteade Arms feeling that he had got to do
something at once, but he was not quite clear in his mind as
to what that something exactly was.  But now, as he topped a
rise in the road, and saw Wrychester lying in its hollow
beneath him, the summer sun shining on its red roofs and grey
walls, he suddenly came to a decision, and instead of riding
straight ahead into the old city he turned off at a by-road,
made a line across the northern outskirts, and headed for the
golf-links.  He was almost certain to find Mary Bewery there
at that hour, and he wanted to see her at once.  The time for
his great stroke had come.

But Mary Bewery was not there--had not been there that morning
said the caddy-master.  There were only a few players out.  In
one of them, coming towards the club-house, Bryce recognized
Sackville Bonham.  And at sight of Sackville, Bryce had an
inspiration.  Mary Bewery would not come up to the links now
before afternoon; he, Bryce, would lunch there and then go
towards Wrychester to meet her by the path across the fields
on which he had waylaid her after his visit to Leicestershire.
And meanwhile he would inveigle Sackville Bonham into
conversation.  Sackville fell readily into Bryce's trap.  He
was the sort of youth who loves to talk, especially in a
hinting and mysterious fashion.  And when Bryce, after
treating him to an appetizer in the bar of the club-house, had
suggested that they should lunch together and got him into a
quiet corner of the dining-room, he launched forth at once on
the pertinent matter of the day.

"Heard all about this discovery of those missing Saxonsteade
diamonds?" he asked as he and Bryce picked up their knives and
forks.  "Queer business that, isn't it?  Of course, it's got
to do with those murders!"

"Think so?" asked Bryce.

"Can anybody think anything else?" said Sackville in his best
dogmatic manner.  "Why, the thing's plain.  From what's been
let out--not much, certainly, but enough--it's quite evident."

"What's your theory?" inquired Bryce.

"My stepfather--knowing old bird he is, too!--sums the whole
thing up to a nicety," answered Sackville.  "That old chap,
Braden, you know, is in possession of that secret.  He comes
to Wrychester about it.  But somebody else knows.  That
somebody gets rid of Braden.  Why?  So that the secret'll be
known then only to one--the murderer!  See!  And why?  Why?"

"Well, why?" repeated Bryce.  "Don't see, so far."

"You must be dense, then," said Sackville with the lofty
superiority of youth.  "Because of the reward, of course!
Don't you know that there's been a standing offer--never
withdrawn!--of five thousand pounds for news of those jewels?"

"No, I didn't," answered Bryce.

"Fact, sir--pure fact," continued Sackville.  "Now, five
thousand, divided in two, is two thousand five hundred each.
But five thousand, undivided, is--what?"

"Five thousand--apparently," said Bryce.

"Just so!  And," remarked Sackville knowingly, "a man'll do a
lot for five thousand."

"Or--according to your argument--for half of it," said Bryce.
"What you--or your stepfather's--aiming at comes to this, that
suspicion rests on Braden's sharer in the secret.  That it?"

"And why not?" asked Sackville.  "Look at what we know--from
the account in the paper this morning.  This other chap,
Glassdale, waits a bit until the first excitement about Braden
is over, then he comes forward and tells the Duke where the
Duchess's diamonds are planted.  Why?  So that he can get the
five thousand pound reward!  Plain as a pikestaff!  Only, the
police are such fools."

"And what about Collishaw?" asked Bryce, willing to absorb all
his companion's ideas.

"Part of the game," declared Sackville.  "Same man that got
rid of Braden got rid of that chap!  Probably Collishaw knew a
bit and had to be silenced.  But, whether that Glassdale did
it all off his own bat or whether he's somebody in with him,
that's where the guilt'll be fastened in the end, my
stepfather says.  And--it'll be so.  Stands to reason!"

"Anybody come forward about that reward your stepfather
offered?" asked Bryce.

"I'm not permitted to say," answered Sackville.  "But," he
added, leaning closer to his companion across the table, "I
can tell you this--there's wheels within wheels!  You
understand!  And things'll be coming out.  Got to!  We can't
--as a family--let Ransford lie under that cloud, don't you
know.  We must clear him.  That's precisely why Mr. Folliot
offered his reward.  Ransford, of course, you know, Bryce, is
very much to blame--he ought to have done more himself.  And,
of course, as my mother and my stepfather say, if Ransford
won't do things for himself, well, we must do 'em for him!  We
couldn't think of anything else."

"Very good of you all, I'm sure," assented Bryce.  "Very
thoughtful and kindly."

"Oh, well!" said Sackville, who was incapable of perceiving a
sneer or of knowing when older men were laughing at him.
"It's one of those things that one's got to do--under the
circumstances.  Of course, Miss Bewery isn't Dr. Ransford's
daughter, but she's his ward, and we can't allow suspicion to
rest on her guardian.  You leave it to me, my boy, and you'll
see how things will be cleared!"

"Doing a bit underground, eh?" asked Bryce.

"Wait a bit!" answered Sackville with a knowing wink.  "It's
the least expected that happens--what?"

Bryce replied that Sackville was no doubt right, and began to
talk of other matters.  He hung about the club-house until
past three o'clock, and then, being well acquainted with Mary
Bewery's movements from long observation of them, set out to
walk down towards Wrychester, leaving his bicycle behind him.
If he did not meet Mary on the way, he meant to go to the
house.  Ransford would be out on his afternoon round of calls;
Dick Bewery would be at school; he would find Mary alone.  And
it was necessary that he should see her alone, and at once,
for since morning an entirely new view of affairs had come to
him, based on added knowledge, and he now saw a chance which
he had never seen before.  True, he said to himself, as he
walked across the links and over the country which lay between
their edge and Wrychester, he had not, even now, the accurate
knowledge as to the actual murderer of either Braden or
Collishaw that he would have liked, but he knew something that
would enable him to ask Mary Bewery point-blank whether he was
to be friend or enemy.  And he was still considering the best
way of putting his case to her when, having failed to meet her
on the way, he at last turned into the Close, and as he
approached Ransford's house, saw Mrs. Folliot leaving it.

Mary Bewery, like Bryce, had been having a day of events.  To
begin with, Ransford had received a wire from London, first
thing in the morning, which had made him run, breakfastless,
to catch the next express.  He had left Mary to make
arrangements about his day's work, for he had not yet replaced
Bryce, and she had been obliged to seek out another
practitioner who could find time from his own duties to attend
to Ransford's urgent patients.  Then she had had to see
callers who came to the surgery expecting to find Ransford
there; and in the middle of a busy morning, Mr. Folliot had
dropped in, to bring her a bunch of roses, and, once admitted,
had shown unmistakable signs of a desire to gossip.

"Ransford out?" he asked as he sat down in the dining-room.
"Suppose he is, this time of day."

"He's away," replied Mary.  "He went to town by the first
express, and I have had a lot of bother arranging about his
patients."

"Did he hear about this discovery of the Saxonsteade jewels
before he went?" asked Folliot.  "Suppose he wouldn't though
--wasn't known until the weekly paper came out this morning.
Queer business!  You've heard, of course?"

"Dr. Short told me," answered Mary.  "I don't know any
details."

Folliot looked meditatively at her a moment.

"Got something to do with those other matters, you know," he
remarked.  "I say!  What's Ransford doing about all that?"

"About all what, Mr. Folliot?" asked Mary, at once on her
guard.  "I don't understand you."

"You know--all that suspicion--and so on," said Folliot.  "Bad
position for a professional man, you know--ought to clear
himself.  Anybody been applying for that reward Ransford
offered?"

"I don't know anything about it," replied Mary.  "Dr. Ransford
is very well able to take care of himself, I think.  Has
anybody applied for yours?"

Folliot rose from his chair again, as if he had changed his
mind about lingering, and shook his head.

"Can't say what my solicitors may or may not have heard--or
done," he answered.  "But--queer business, you know--and ought
to be settled.  Bad for Ransford to have any sort of a cloud
over him.  Sorry to see it."

"Is that why you came forward with a reward?" asked Mary.

But to this direct question Folliot made no answer.  Ile
muttered something about the advisability of somebody doing
something and went away, to Mary's relief.  She had no desire
to discuss the Paradise mysteries with anybody, especially
after Ransford's assurance of the previous evening.  But in
the middle of the afternoon in walked Mrs. Folliot, a rare
caller, and before she had been closeted with Mary five
minutes brought up the subject again.

"I want to speak to you on a very serious matter, my dear Miss
Bewery," she said.  "You must allow me to speak plainly on
account of--of several things.  My--my superiority in--in age,
you know, and all that!"

"What's the matter, Mrs. Folliot?" asked Mary, steeling
herself against what she felt sure was coming.  "Is it--very
serious? And--pardon me--is it about what Mr. Folliot
mentioned to me this morning?  Because if it is, I'm not going
to discuss that with you or with anybody!"

"I had no idea that my husband had been here this morning,"
answered Mrs. Folliot in genuine surprise.  "What did he want
to talk about?"

"In that case, what do you want to talk about?" asked Mary.
"Though that doesn't mean that I'm going to talk about it with
you."

Mrs. Folliot made an effort to understand this remark, and
after inspecting her hostess critically for a moment,
proceeded in her most judicial manner.

"You must see, my dear Miss Bewery, that it is highly
necessary that some one should use the utmost persuasion on
Dr. Ransford," she said.  "He is placing all of you--himself,
yourself, your young brother--in most invidious positions by
his silence!  In society such as--well, such as you get in a
cathedral town, you know, no man of reputation can afford to
keep silence when his--his character is affected."

Mary picked up some needlework and began to be much occupied
with it.

"Is Dr. Ransford's character affected?" she asked.  "I wasn't
aware of it, Mrs. Folliot."

"Oh, my dear, you can't be quite so very--so very, shall we
say ingenuous?--as all that!" exclaimed Mrs. Folliot.  "These
rumours!--of course, they are very wicked and cruel ones, but
you know they have spread.  Dear me!--why, they have been
common talk!"

"I don't think my guardian cares twopence for common talk,
Mrs. Folliot," answered Mary.  "And I am quite sure I don't."

"None of us--especially people in our position--can afford
to ignore rumours and common talk," said Mrs. Folliot in
her loftiest manner.  "If we are, unfortunately, talked
about, then it is our solemn, bounden duty to put ourselves
right in the eyes of our friends--and of society.  If I for
instance, my dear, heard anything affecting my--let me say,
moral-character, I should take steps, the most stringent,
drastic, and forceful steps, to put matters to the test.  I
would not remain under a stigma--no, not for one minute!"

"I hope you will never have occasion to rehabilitate your
moral character, Mrs. Folliot," remarked Mary, bending
closely over her work.  "Such a necessity would indeed
be dreadful."

"And yet you do not insist--yes, insist!--on Dr. Ransford's
taking strong steps to clear himself!" exclaimed Mrs. Folliot.
"Now that, indeed, is a dreadful necessity!"

"Dr. Ransford," answered Mary, "is quite able to defend and to
take care of himself.  It is not for me to tell him what to
do, or even to advise him what to do.  And--since you will
talk of this matter, I tell you frankly, Mrs. Folliot, that I
don't believe any decent person in Wrychester has the least
suspicion or doubt of Dr. Ransford.  His denial of any share
or complicity in those sad affairs--the mere idea of it as
ridiculous as it's wicked--was quite sufficient.  You know
very well that at that second inquest he said--on oath, too
--that he knew nothing of these affairs.  I repeat, there
isn't a decent soul in the city doubts that!"

"Oh, but you're quite wrong!" said Mrs. Folliot, hurriedly.
"Quite wrong, I assure you, my dear.  Of course, everybody
knows what Dr. Ransford said--very excitedly, poor man, I'm
given to understand on the occasion you refer to, but then,
what else could he have said in his own interest?  What people
want is the proof of his innocence.  I could--but I won't
--tell you of many of the very best people who are--well, very
much exercised over the matter--I could indeed!"

"Do you count yourself among them?" asked Mary in a cold
fashion which would have been a warning to any one but her
visitor.  "Am I to understand that, Mrs. Folliot?"

"Certainly not, my dear," answered Mrs. Folliot promptly.
"Otherwise I should not have done what I have done towards
establishing the foolish man's innocence!"

Mary dropped her work and turned a pair of astonished eyes on
Mrs. Folliot's large countenance.

"You!" she exclaimed.  "To establish--Dr. Ransford's
innocence?  Why, Mrs. Folliot, what have you done?"

Mrs. Folliot toyed a little with the jewelled head of her
sunshade.  Her expression became almost coy.

"Oh, well!" she answered after a brief spell of indecision.
"Perhaps it is as well that you should know, Miss Bewery.  Of
course, when all this sad trouble was made far worse by that
second affair--the working-man's death, you know, I said to my
husband that really one must do something, seeing that Dr.
Ransford was so very, very obdurate and wouldn't speak.  And
as money is nothing--at least as things go--to me or to Mr.
Folliot, I insisted that he should offer a thousand pounds
reward to have the thing cleared up.  He's a generous and
open-handed man, and he agreed with me entirely, and put the
thing in hand through his solicitors.  And nothing would
please us more, my dear, than to have that thousand pounds
claimed!  For of course, if there is to be--as I suppose there
is--a union between our families, it would be utterly
impossible that any cloud could rest on Dr. Ransford, even if
he is only your guardian.  My son's future wife cannot, of
course--"

Mary laid down her work again and for a full minute stared
Mrs. Folliot in the face.

"Mrs. Folliot!" she said at last.  "Are you under the
impression that I'm thinking of marrying your son?"

"I think I've every good reason for believing it!" replied
Mrs. Folliot.

"You've none!" retorted Mary, gathering up her work and moving
towards the door.  "I've no more intention of marrying Mr.
Sackville Bonham than of eloping with the Bishop!  The idea's
too absurd to--even be thought of!"

Five minutes later Mrs. Folliot, heightened in colour, had
gone.  And presently Mary, glancing after her across the
Close, saw Bryce approaching the gate of the garden.




CHAPTER XXIII - THE UNEXPECTED


Mary's first instinct on seeing the approach of Pemberton
Bryce, the one man she least desired to see, was to retreat to
the back of the house and send the parlourmaid to the door to
say her mistress was not at home.  But she had lately become
aware of Bryce's curiously dogged persistence in following up
whatever he had in view, and she reflected that if he were
sent away then he would be sure to come back and come back
until he had got whatever it was that he wanted.  And after a
moment's further consideration, she walked out of the front
door and confronted him resolutely in the garden.

"Dr. Ransford is away," she said with almost unnecessary
brusqueness.  "He's away until evening."

"I don't want him," replied Bryce just as brusquely.  "I came
to see you."

Mary hesitated.  She continued to regard Bryce steadily, and
Bryce did not like the way in which she was looking at him.
He made haste to speak before she could either leave or
dismiss him.

"You'd better give me a few minutes," he said, with a note of
warning.  "I'm here in your interests--or in Ransford's.  I
may as well tell you, straight out, Ransford's in serious and
imminent danger!  That's a fact."

"Danger of what?" she demanded.

"Arrest--instant arrest!" replied Bryce.  "I'm telling you the
truth.  He'll probably be arrested tonight, on his return.
There's no imagination in all this--I'm speaking of what I
know.  I've--curiously enough--got mixed up with these
affairs, through no seeking of my own, and I know what's
behind the scenes.  If it were known that I'm letting out
secrets to you, I should get into trouble.  But, I want to
warn you!"

Mary stood before him on the path, hesitating.  She knew
enough to know that Bryce was telling some sort of truth: it
was plain that he had been mixed up in the recent mysteries,
and there was a ring of conviction in his voice which
impressed her.  And suddenly she had visions of Ransford's
arrest, of his being dragged off to prison to meet a cruel
accusation, of the shame and disgrace, and she hesitated
further.

"But if that's so," she said at last, "what's the good of
coming to me?  I can't do anything!"

"I can!" said Bryce significantly.  "I know more--much more
--than the police know--more than anybody knows.  I can save
Ransford.  Understand that!"

"What do you want now?" she asked.

"To talk to you--to tell you how things are," answered Bryce.
"What harm is there in that?  To make you see how matters
stand, and then to show you what I can do to put things
right."

Mary glanced at an open summer-house which stood beneath the
beech trees on one side of the garden.  She moved towards it
and sat down there, and Bryce followed her and seated himself.

"Well--" she said.

Bryce realized that his moment had arrived.  He paused,
endeavouring to remember the careful preparations he had made
for putting his case.  Somehow, he was not so clear as to his
line of attack as he had been ten minutes previously--he
realized that he had to deal with a young woman who was not
likely to be taken in nor easily deceived.  And suddenly he
plunged into what he felt to be the thick of things.

"Whether you, or whether Ransford--whether both or either of
you, know it or not," he said, "the police have been on to
Ransford ever since that Collishaw affair!  Underground work,
you know.  Mitchington has been digging into things ever since
then, and lately he's had a London detective helping him."

Mary, who had carried her work into the garden, had now
resumed it, and as Bryce began to talk she bent over it
steadily stitching.

"Well?" she said.

"Look here!" continued Bryce.  "Has it never struck you--it
must have done!--that there's considerable mystery about
Ransford?  But whether it has struck you or not, it's there,
and it's struck the police forcibly.  Mystery connected with
him before--long before--he ever came here.  And associated,
in some way, with that man Braden.  Not of late--in years
past.  And, naturally, the police have tried to find out what
that was."

"What have they found out?" asked Mary quietly.

"That I'm not at liberty to tell," replied Bryce.  "But I can
tell you this--they know, Mitchington and the London man, that
there were passages between Ransford and Braden years ago."

"How many years ago?" interrupted Mary.

Bryce hesitated a moment.  He had a suspicion that this
self-possessed young woman who was taking everything more
quietly than he had anticipated, might possibly know more than
he gave her credit for knowing.  He had been watching her
fingers since they sat down in the summer-house, and his sharp
eyes saw that they were as steady as the spire of the
cathedral above the trees--he knew from that that she was
neither frightened nor anxious.

"Oh, well--seventeen to twenty years ago," he answered.
"About that time.  There were passages, I say, and they were
of a nature which suggests that the re-appearance of Braden on
Ransford's present stage of life would be, extremely
unpleasant and unwelcome to Ransford."

"Vague!" murmured Mary.  "Extremely vague!"

"But quite enough," retorted Bryce, "to give the police the
suggestion of motive.  I tell you the police know quite enough
to know that Braden was, of all men in the world, the last man
Ransford desired to see cross his path again.  And--on that
morning on which the Paradise affair occurred--Braden did
cross his path.  Therefore, in the conventional police way of
thinking and looking at things, there's motive."

"Motive for what?" asked Mary.

Bryce arrived here at one of his critical stages, and he
paused a moment in order to choose his words.

"Don't get any false ideas or impressions," he said at last.
"I'm not accusing Ransford of anything.  I'm only telling you
what I know the police think and are on the very edge of
accusing him of.  To put it plainly--of murder.  They say
he'd a motive for murdering Braden--and with them motive is
everything.  It's the first thing they seem to think of; they
first question they ask themselves.  'Why should this man have
murdered that man?'--do you see! 'What motive had he?--that's
the point.  And they think--these chaps like Mitchington and
the London man--that Ransford certainly had a motive for
getting rid of Braden when they met."

"What was the motive?" asked Mary.

"They've found out something--perhaps a good deal--about what
happened between Braden and Ransford some years ago," replied
Bryce.  "And their theory is--if you want to know the truth
--that Ransford ran away with Braden's wife, and that Braden
had been looking for him ever since."

Bryce had kept his eyes on Mary's hands, and now at last he
saw the girl's fingers tremble.  But her voice was steady
enough when she spoke.

"Is that mere conjecture on their part, or is it based on any
fact?" she asked.

"I'm not in full knowledge of all their secrets," answered
Bryce, "but I've heard enough to know that there's a basis of
undeniable fact on which they're going.  I know for instance,
beyond doubt, that Braden and Ransford were bosom friends,
years ago, that Braden was married to a girl whom Ransford had
wanted to marry, that Braden's wife suddenly left him,
mysteriously, a few years later, and that, at the same time,
Ransford made an equally mysterious disappearance.  The police
know all that.  What is the inference to be drawn?  What
inference would any one--you yourself, for example--draw?"

"None, till I've heard what Dr. Ransford had to say," replied
Mary.

Bryce disliked that ready retort.  He was beginning to feel
that he was being met by some force stronger that his own.

"That's all very well," he remarked.  "I don't say that I
wouldn't do the same.  But I'm only explaining the police
position, and showing you the danger likely to arise from it.
The police theory is this, as far as I can make it out:
Ransford, years ago, did Braden a wrong, and Braden certainly
swore revenge when he could find him.  Circumstances prevented
Braden from seeking him closely for some time; at last they
met here, by accident.  Here the police aren't decided.  One
theory is that there was an altercation, blows, a struggle, in
the course of which Braden met his death; the other is that
Ransford deliberately took Braden up into the gallery and
flung him through that open doorway--"

"That," observed Mary, with something very like a sneer,
"seems so likely that I should think it would never occur to
anybody but the sort of people you're telling me of!  No man
of any real sense would believe it for a minute!"

"Some people of plain common sense do believe it for all
that!" retorted Bryce.  "For it's quite possible.  But as I
say, I'm only repeating.  And of course, the rest of it
follows on that.  The police theory is that Collishaw
witnessed Braden's death at Ransford's hands, that Ransford
got to know that Collishaw knew of that, and that he therefore
quietly removed Collishaw.  And it is on all that that they're
going, and will go.  Don't ask me if I think they're right or
wrong!  I'm only telling you what I know so as to show you
what danger Ransford is in."

Mary made no immediate answer, and Bryce sat watching her.
Somehow--he was at a loss to explain it to himself--things
were not going as he had expected.  He had confidently
believed that the girl would be frightened, scared, upset,
ready to do anything that he asked or suggested.  But she was
plainly not frightened.  And the fingers which busied
themselves with the fancy-work had become steady again, and
her voice had been steady all along.

"Pray," she asked suddenly, and with a little satirical
inflection of voice which Brice was quick to notice, "pray,
how is it that you--not a policeman, not a detective!--come to
know so much of all this?  Since when were you taken into the
confidence of Mitchington and the mysterious person from
London?"

"You know as well as I do that I have been dragged into the
case against my wishes," answered Bryce almost sullenly.  "I
was fetched to Braden--I saw him die.  It was I who found
Collishaw--dead.  Of course, I've been mixed up, whether I
would or not, and I've had to see a good deal of the police,
and naturally I've learnt things."

Mary suddenly turned on him with a flash of the eye which
might have warned Bryce that he had signally failed in the
main feature of his adventure.

"And what have you learnt that makes you come here and tell me
all this?" she exclaimed.  "Do you think I'm a simpleton, Dr.
Bryce?  You set out by saying that Dr. Ransford is in danger
from the police, and that you know more--much more than the
police! what does that mean?  Shall I tell you?  It means that
you--you!--know that the police are wrong, and that if you
like you can prove to them that they are wrong!  Now, then
isn't that so?"

"I am in possession of certain facts," began Bryce.  "I--"

Mary stopped him with a look.

"My turn!" she said.  "You're in possession of certain facts.
Now isn't it the truth that the facts you are in possession of
are proof enough to you that Dr. Ransford is as innocent as I
am?  It's no use your trying to deceive me!  Isn't that so?"

"I could certainly turn the police off his track," admitted
Bryce, who was growing highly uncomfortable.  "I could
divert--"

Mary gave him another look and dropping her needlework
continued to watch him steadily.

"Do you call yourself a gentleman?" she asked quietly.  "Or
we'll leave the term out.  Do you call yourself even decently
honest?  For, if you do, how can you have the sheer impudence
--more, insolence!--to come here and tell me all this when you
know that the police are wrong and that you could--to use your
own term, which is your way of putting it--turn them off the
wrong track?  Whatever sort of man are you?  Do you want to
know my opinion of you in plain words?"

"You seem very anxious to give it, anyway," retorted Bryce.

"I will give it, and it will perhaps put an end to this,"
answered Mary.  "If you are in possession of anything in the
way of evidence which would prove Dr. Ransford's innocence and
you are wilfully suppressing it, you are bad, wicked, base,
cruel, unfit for any decent being's society!  And," she added,
as she picked up her work and rose, "you're not going to have
any more of mine!"

"A moment!" said Bryce.  He was conscious that he had somehow
played all his cards badly, and he wanted another opening.
"You're misunderstanding me altogether!  I never said--never
inferred--that I wouldn't save Ransford."

"Then, if there's need, which I don't admit, you acknowledge
that you could save him?" she exclaimed sharply.  "Just as I
thought.  Then, if you're an honest man, a man with any
pretensions to honour, why don't you at once!  Any man who had
such feelings as those I've just mentioned wouldn't hesitate
one second.  But you--you!--you come and--talk about it!  As
if it were a game!  Dr. Bryce, you make me feel sick,
mentally, morally sick."

Bryce had risen to his feet when Mary rose, and he now stood
staring at her.  Ever since his boyhood he had laughed and
sneered at the mere idea of the finer feelings--he believed
that every man has his price--and that honesty and honour are
things useful as terms but of no real existence.  And now he
was wondering--really wondering--if this girl meant the things
she said: if she really felt a mental loathing of such minds
and purposes as he knew his own were, or if it were merely
acting on her part.  Before he could speak she turned on him
again more fiercely than before.

"Shall I tell you something else in plain language?" she
asked.  "You evidently possess a very small and limited
knowledge--if you have any at all!--of women, and you
apparently don't rate their mental qualities at any high
standard.  Let me tell you that I am not quite such a fool as
you seem to think me!  You came here this afternoon to bargain
with me!  You happen to know how much I respect my guardian
and what I owe him for the care he has taken of me and my
brother.  You thought to trade on that!  You thought you could
make a bargain with me; you were to save Dr. Ransford, and for
reward you were to have me!  You daren't deny it.  Dr. Bryce
--I can see through you!"

"I never said it, at any rate," answered Bryce.

"Once more, I say, I'm not a fool!" exclaimed Mary.  "I saw
through you all along.  And you've failed!  I'm not in the
least frightened by what you've said.  If the police arrest
Dr. Ransford, Dr. Ransford knows how to defend himself.  And
you're not afraid for him!  You know you aren't.  It wouldn't
matter twopence to you if he were hanged tomorrow, for you
hate him.  But look to yourself!  Men who cheat, and scheme,
and plot, and plan as you do come to bad ends.  Mind yours!
Mind the wheel doesn't come full circle.  And now, if you
please, go away and don't dare to come near me again!"

Bryce made no answer.  He had listened, with an attempt at a
smile, to all this fiery indignation, but as Mary spoke the
last words he was suddenly aware of something that drew his
attention from her and them.  Through an opening in Ransford's
garden hedge he could see the garden door of the Folliots'
house across the Close.  And at that moment out of it emerge
Folliot himself in conversation with Glassdale!

Without a word, Bryce snatched up his hat from the table of
the summer-house, and went swiftly away--a new scheme, a new
idea in his mind.




CHAPTER XXIV - FINESSE


Glassdale, journeying into Wrychester half an hour after
Bryce had left him at the Saxonsteade Arms, occupied himself
during his ride across country in considering the merits of
the two handbills which Bryce had given him.  One announced an
offer of five hundred pounds reward for information in the
Braden-Collishaw matter; the other, of a thousand pounds.  It
struck him as a curious thing that two offers should be made
--it suggested, at once, that more than one person was deeply
interested in this affair.  But who were they?--no answer to
that question appeared on the handbills, which were, in each
case, signed by Wrychester solicitors.  To one of these
Glassdale, on arriving in the old city, promptly proceeded
--selecting the offerer of the larger reward.  He presently
found himself in the presence of an astute-looking man who,
having had his visitor's name sent in to him, regarded
Glassdale with very obvious curiosity.

"Mr. Glassdale?" he said inquiringly, as the caller took an
offered chair.  "Are you, by any chance, the Mr. Glassdale
whose name is mentioned in connection with last night's
remarkable affair?"

He pointed to a copy of the weekly newspaper, lying on his
desk, and to a formal account of the discovery of the
Saxonsteade jewels which had been furnished to the press, at
the Duke's request, by Mitchington.  Glassdale glanced at it
--unconcernedly.

"The same," he answered.  "But I didn't call here on that
matter--though what I did call about is certainly relative to
it.  You've offered a reward for any information that would
lead to the solution of that mystery about Braden--and the
other man, Collishaw."

"Of a thousand pounds--yes!" replied the solicitor, looking at
his visitor with still more curiosity, mingled with
expectancy.  "Can you give any?"

Glassdale pulled out the two handbills which he had obtained
from Bryce.

"There are two rewards offered," he remarked.  "Are they
entirely independent of each other?"

"We know nothing of the other," answered the solicitor.
"Except, of course, that it exists.  They're quite
independent."

"Who's offering the five hundred pound one?" asked Glassdale.

The solicitor paused, looking his man over.  He saw at once
that Glassdale had, or believed he had, something to tell--and
was disposed to be unusually cautious about telling it.

"Well," he replied, after a pause.  "I believe--in fact, it's
an open secret--that the offer of five hundred pounds is made
by Dr. Ransford."

"And--yours?" inquired Glassdale.  "Who's at the back of
yours--a thousand?"

The solicitor smiled.

"You haven't answered my question, Mr. Glassdale," he
observed.  "Can you give any information?"

Glassdale threw his questioner a significant glance.

"Whatever information I might give," he said, "I'd only give
to a principal--the principal.  From what I've seen and known
of all this, there's more in it than is on the surface.  I can
tell something.  I knew John Braden--who, of course, was John
Brake--very well, for some years.  Naturally, I was in his
confidence."

"About more than the Saxonsteade jewels, you mean?" asked the
solicitor.

"About more than that," assented Glassdale.  "Private matters.
I've no doubt I can throw some light--some!--on this Wrychester
Paradise affair.  But, as I said just now, I'll only deal with
the principal.  I wouldn't tell you, for instance--as your
principal's solicitor."

The solicitor smiled again.

"Your ideas, Mr. Glassdale, appear to fit in with our
principal's," he remarked.  "His instructions--strict
instructions--to us are that if anybody turns up who can give
any information, it's not to be given to us, but to--himself!"

"Wise man!" observed Glassdale.  "That's just what I feel
about it.  It's a mistake to share secrets with more than one
person."

"There is a secret, then!" asked the solicitor, half slyly.

"Might be," replied Glassdale.  "Who's your client?"

The solicitor pulled a scrap of paper towards him and wrote a
few words on it.  He pushed it towards his caller, and
Glassdale picked it up and read what had been written--Mr.
Stephen Folliot, The Close.

"You'd better go and see him," said the solicitor,
suggestively.  "You'll find him reserved enough."

Glassdale read and re-read the name--as if he were
endeavouring to recollect it, or connect it with something.

"What particular reason has this man for wishing to find this
out?" he inquired.

"Can't say, my good sir!" replied the solicitor, with a smile.
"Perhaps he'll tell you.  He hasn't told me."

Glassdale rose to take his leave.  But with his hand on the
door he turned.

"Is this gentleman a resident in the place?" he asked.

"A well-known townsman," replied the solicitor.  "You'll
easily find his house in the Close--everybody knows it."

Glassdale went away then--and walked slowly towards the
Cathedral precincts.  On his way he passed two places at which
he was half inclined to call--one was the police-station; the
other, the office of the solicitors who were acting on behalf
of the offerer of five hundred pounds.  He half glanced at.
the solicitor's door--but on reflection went forward.  A man
who was walking across the Close pointed out the Folliot
residence--Glassdale entered by the garden door, and in
another minute came face to face with Folliot himself, busied,
as usual, amongst his rose-trees.

Glassdale saw Folliot and took stock of him before Folliot
knew that a stranger was within his gates.  Folliot, in an old
jacket which he kept for his horticultural labours, was taking
slips from a standard; he looked as harmless and peaceful as
his occupation.  A quiet, inoffensive, somewhat benevolent
elderly man, engaged in work, which suggested leisure and
peace.

But Glassdale, after a first quick, searching glance,
took another and longer one--and went nearer with
a discreet laugh.

Folliot turned quietly, and seeing the stranger, showed no
surprise.  He had a habit of looking over the top rims of his
spectacles at people, and he looked in this way at Glassdale,
glancing him up and down calmly.  Glassdale lifted his slouch
hat and advanced.

"Mr. Folliot, I believe, sir?" he said.  "Mr. Stephen
Folliot?"

"Aye, just so!" responded Folliot.  "But I don't know you.
Who may you be, now?"

"My name, sir, is Glassdale," answered the other.  "I've just
come from your solicitor's.  I called to see him this
afternoon--and he told me that the business I called about
could only be dealt with--or discussed--with you.  So--I came
here."

Folliot, who had been cutting slips off a rose-tree, closed
his knife and put it away in his old jacket.  He turned and
quietly inspected his visitor once more.

"Aye!" he said quietly.  "So you're after that thousand pound
reward, eh?"

"I should have no objection to it, Mr. Folliot," replied
Glassdale.

"I dare say not," remarked Folliot, dryly.  "I dare say not!
And which are you, now?--one of those who think they can tell
something, or one that really can tell?  Eh?"

"You'll know that better when we've had a bit of talk, Mr.
Folliot," answered Glassdale, accompanying his reply with a
direct glance.

"Oh, well, now then, I've no objection to a bit of talk--none
whatever!" said Folliot.  "Here!--we'll sit down on that
bench, amongst the roses.  Quite private here--nobody about.
And now," he continued, as Glassdale accompanied him to a
rustic bench set beneath a pergola of rambler roses, "who are
you, like?  I read a queer account in this morning's local
paper of what happened in the Cathedral grounds yonder last
night, and there was a person of your name mentioned.  Are you
that Glassdale?"

"The same, Mr. Folliot," answered the visitor, promptly.

"Then you knew Braden--the man who lost his life here?" asked
Folliot.

"Very well indeed," replied Glassdale.

"For how long?" demanded Folliot.

"Some years--as a mere acquaintance, seen now and then," said
Glassdale.  "A few years, recently, as what you might call a
close friend."

"Tell you any of his secrets?" asked Folliot.

"Yes, he did!" answered Glassdale.

"Anything that seems to relate to his death--and the mystery
about it?" inquired Folliot.

"I think so," said Glassdale.  "Upon consideration, I think
so!"

"Ah--and what might it be, now?" continued Folliot.  He gave
Glassdale a look which seemed to denote and imply several
things.  "It might be to your advantage to explain a bit, you
know," he added.  "One has to be a little--vague, eh?"

"There was a certain man that Braden was very anxious to
find," said Glassdale.  "He'd been looking for him for a good
many years."

"A man?" asked Folliot.  "One?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, there were two," admitted
Glassdale, "but there was one in particular.  The other--the
second--so Braden said, didn't matter; he was or had been,
only a sort of cat's-paw of the man he especially wanted."

"I see," said Folliot.  He pulled out a cigar case and offered
a cigar to his visitor, afterwards lighting one himself.  "And
what did Braden want that man for?" he asked.

Glassdale waited until his cigar was in full going order
before he answered this question.  Then he replied in one
word.

"Revenge!"

Folliot put his thumbs in the armholes of his buff waistcoat
and leaning back, seemed to be admiring his roses.

"Ah!" he said at last.  "Revenge, now?  A sort of vindictive
man, was he?  Wanted to get his knife into somebody, eh?"

"He wanted to get something of his own back from a man who'd
done him," answered Glassdale, with a short laugh.  "That's
about it!"

For a minute or two both men smoked in silence.  Then Folliot
--still regarding his roses--put a leading question.

"Give you any details?" he asked.

"Enough," said Glassdale.  "Braden had been done--over a money
transaction--by these men--one especially, as head and front
of the affair--and it had cost him--more than anybody would
think!  Naturally, he wanted--if he ever got the chance--his
revenge.  Who wouldn't?"

"And he'd tracked 'em down, eh?" asked Folliot.

"There are questions I can answer, and there are questions I
can't answer," responded Glassdale.  "That's one of the
questions I've no reply to.  For--I don't know!  But--I can
say this.  He hadn't tracked 'em down the day before he came
to Wrychester!"

"You're sure of that?" asked Folliot.  "He--didn't come here
on that account?"

"No, I'm sure he didn't!" answered Glassdale, readily.  "If he
had, I should have known.  I was with him till noon the day he
came here--in London--and when he took his ticket at Victoria
for Wrychester, he'd no more idea than the man in the moon as
to where those men had got to.  He mentioned it as we were
having a bit of lunch together before he got into the train.
No--he didn't come to Wrychester for any such purpose as that!
But--"

He paused and gave Folliot a meaning glance out of the corner
of his eyes.

"Aye--what?" asked Folliot.

"I think he met at least one of 'em here," said Glassdale,
quietly.  "And--perhaps both."

"Leading to--misfortune for him?" suggested Folliot.

"If you like to put it that way--yes," assented Glassdale.

Folliot smoked a while in more reflective silence.

"Aye, well!" he said at last.  "I suppose you haven't put
these ideas of yours before anybody, now?"

"Present ideas?" asked Glassdale, sharply.  "Not to a soul!
I've not had 'em--very long."

"You're the sort of man that another man can do a deal with, I
suppose?" suggested Folliot.  "That is, if it's made worth
your while, of course?"

"I shouldn't wonder," replied Glassdale.  "And--if it is made
worth my while."

Folliot mused a little.  Then he tapped Glassdale's elbow.

"You see," he said, confidentially, "it might be, you know,
that I had a little purpose of my own in offering that
reward.  It might be that it was a very particular friend of
mine that had the misfortune to have incurred this man
Braden's hatred.  And I might want to save him, d'ye see,
from--well, from the consequence of what's happened, and to
hear about it first if anybody came forward, eh?"

"As I've done," said Glassdale.

"As--you've done," assented Folliot.  "Now, perhaps it would
be in the interest of this particular friend of mine if he
made it worth your while to--say no more to anybody, eh?"

"Very much worth his while, Mr. Folliot," declared Glassdale.

"Aye, well," continued Folliot.  "This very particular friend
would just want to know, you know, how much you really, truly
know!  Now, for instance, about these two men--and one in
particular--that Braden was after? Did--did he name 'em?"

Glassdale leaned a little nearer to his companion on the
rose-screened bench.

"He named them--to me!" he said in a whisper.  "One was a man
called Falkiner Wraye, and the other man was a man named
Flood.  Is that enough?"

"I think you'd better come and see me this evening," answered
Folliot.  "Come just about dusk to that door--I'll meet you
there.  Fine roses these of mine, aren't they?" he continued,
as they rose.  "I occupy myself entirely with 'em."

He walked with Glassdale to the garden door, and stood there
watching his visitor go away up the side of the high wall
until he turned into the path across Paradise.  And then, as
Folliot was retreating to his roses, he saw Bryce coming over
the Close--and Bryce beckoned to him.




CHAPTER XXV - THE OLD WELL HOUSE


When Bryce came hurrying up to him, Folliot was standing at
his garden door with his hands thrust under his coat-tails
--the very picture of a benevolent, leisured gentleman who has
nothing to do and is disposed to give his time to anybody.  He
glanced at Bryce as he had glanced at Glassdale--over the tops
of his spectacles, and the glance had no more than mild
inquiry in it.  But if Bryce had been less excited, he would
have seen that Folliot, as he beckoned him inside the garden,
swept a sharp look over the Close and ascertained that there
was no one about, that Bryce's entrance was unobserved.  Save
for a child or two, playing under the tall elms near one of
the gates, and for a clerical figure that stalked a path in
the far distance, the Close was empty of life.  And there was
no one about, either, in that part of Folliot's big garden.

"I want a bit of talk with you," said Bryce as Folliot closed
the door and turned down a side-path to a still more retired
region.  "Private talk.  Let's go where it's quiet."

Without replying in words to this suggestion, Folliot led the
way through his rose-trees to a far corner of his grounds,
where an old building of grey stone, covered with ivy, stood
amongst high trees.  He turned the key of a doorway and
motioned Bryce to enter.

"Quiet enough in here, doctor," he observed.  "You've never
seen this place--bit of a fancy of mine."

Bryce, absorbed as he was in the thoughts of the moment,
glanced cursorily at the place into which Folliot had led him.
It was a square building of old stone, its walls unlined,
unplastered; its floor paved with much worn flags of
limestone, evidently set down in a long dead age and now
polished to marble-like smoothness.  In its midst, set flush
with the floor, was what was evidently a trap-door, furnished
with a heavy iron ring.  To this Folliot pointed, with a
glance of significant interest.

"Deepest well in all Wrychester under that," he remarked.
"You'd never think it--it's a hundred feet deep--and more!
Dry now--water gave out some years ago.  Some people would
have pulled this old well-house down--but not me!  I did
better--I turned it to good account."  He raised a hand and
pointed upward to an obviously modern ceiling of strong oak
timbers.  "Had that put in," he continued, "and turned the top
of the building into a little snuggery.  Come up!"

He led the way to a flight of steps in one corner of the lower
room, pushed open a door at their head, and showed his
companion into a small apartment arranged and furnished in
something closely approaching to luxury.  The walls were hung
with thick fabrics; the carpeting was equally thick; there
were pictures, books, and curiosities; the two or three chairs
were deep and big enough to lie down in; the two windows
commanded pleasant views of the Cathedral towers on one side
and of the Close on the other.

"Nice little place to be alone in, d'ye see?" said Folliot.
"Cool in summer--warm in winter--modern fire-grate, you
notice.  Come here when I want to do a bit of quiet thinking,
what?"

"Good place for that--certainly," agreed Bryce.

Folliot pointed his visitor to one of the big chairs and
turning to a cabinet brought out some glasses, a syphon of
soda-water, and a heavy cut-glass decanter.  He nodded at a box
of cigars which lay open on a table at Bryce's elbow as he
began to mix a couple of drinks.

"Help yourself," he said.  "Good stuff, those."

Not until he had given Bryce a drink, and had carried his own
glass to another easy chair did Folliot refer to any reason
for Bryce's visit.  But once settled down, he looked at him
speculatively.

"What did you want to see me about?" he asked.

Bryce, who had lighted a cigar, looked across its smoke at the
imperturbable face opposite.

"You've just had Glassdale here," he observed quietly.  "I saw
him leave you."

Folliot nodded--without any change of expression.

"Aye, doctor," he said.  "And--what do you know about
Glassdale, now?"

Bryce, who would have cheerfully hobnobbed with a man whom he
was about to conduct to the scaffold, lifted his glass and
drank.

"A good deal," he answered as he set the glass down.  "The
fact is--I came here to tell you so!--I know a good deal about
everything."

"A wide term!" remarked Folliot.  "You've got some limitation
to it, I should think.  What do you mean by--everything?"

"I mean about recent matters," replied Bryce.  "I've
interested myself in them--for reasons of my own.  Ever since
Braden was found at the foot of those stairs in Paradise, and
I was fetched to him, I've interested myself.  And--I've
discovered a great deal--more, much more than's known to
anybody."

Folliot threw one leg over the other and began to jog his
foot.

"Oh!" he said after a pause.  "Dear me!  And--what might you
know, now, doctor?  Aught you can tell me eh?"

"Lots!" answered Bryce.  "I came to tell you--on seeing that
Glassdale had been with you.  Because--I was with Glassdale
this morning."

Folliot made no answer.  But Bryce saw that his cool, almost
indifferent manner was changing--he was beginning, under the
surface, to get anxious.

"When I left Glassdale--at noon," continued Bryce, "I'd no
idea--and I don't think he had--that he was coming to see you.
But I know what put the notion into his head.  I gave him
copies of those two reward bills.  He no doubt thought he
might make a bit--and so he came in to town, and--to you."

"Well?" asked Folliot.

"I shouldn't wonder," remarked Bryce, reflectively, and almost
as if speaking to himself, "I shouldn't at all wonder if
Glassdale's the sort of man who can be bought.  He, no doubt,
has his price.  But all that Glassdale knows is nothing--to
what I know."

Folliot had allowed his cigar to go out.  He threw it away,
took a fresh one from the box, and slowly struck a match and
lighted it.

"What might you know, now?" he asked after another pause.

"I've a bit of a faculty for finding things out," answered
Bryce boldly.  "And I've developed it.  I wanted to know all
about Braden--and about who killed him--and why.  There's only
one way of doing all that sort of thing, you know.  You've got
to go back--a long way back--to the very beginnings.  I went
back--to the time when Braden was married.  Not as Braden, of
course--but as who he really was--John Brake.  That was at a
place called Braden Medworth, near Barthorpe, in Leicestershire."

He paused there, watching Folliot.  But Folliot showed no more
than close attention, and Bryce went on.

"Not much in that--for the really important part of the
story," he continued.  "But Brake had other associations with
Barthorpe--a bit later.  He got to know--got into close touch
with a Barthorpe man who, about the time of Brake's marriage,
left Barthorpe end settled in London.  Brake and this man
began to have some secret dealings together.  There was
another man in with them, too--a man who was a sort of partner
of the Barthorpe man's.  Brake had evidently a belief in these
men, and he trusted them--unfortunately for himself he
sometimes trusted the bank's money to them.  I know what
happened--he used to let them have money for short financial
transactions--to be refunded within a very brief space.  But
--he went to the fire too often, and got his fingers burned in
the end.  The two men did him--one of them in particular--and
cleared out.  He had to stand the racket.  He stood it--to the
tune of ten years' penal servitude.  And, naturally, when he'd
finished his time, he wanted to find those two men--and began
a long search for them.  Like to know the names of the men,
Mr. Folliot?"

"You might mention 'em--if you know 'em," answered Folliot.

"The name of the particular one was Wraye--Falkiner Wraye,"
replied Bryce promptly.  "Of the other--the man of lesser
importance--Flood."

The two men looked quietly at each other for a full moment's
silence.  And it was Bryce who first spoke with a ring of
confidence in his tone which showed that he knew he had the
whip hand.

"Shall I tell you something about Falkiner Wraye?" he asked.
"I will!--it's deeply interesting.  Mr. Falkiner Wraye, after
cheating and deceiving Brake, and leaving him to pay the
penalty of his over-trustfulness, cleared out of England and
carried his money-making talents to foreign parts.  He
succeeded in doing well--he would!--and eventually he came
back and married a rich widow and settled himself down in an
out-of-the-world English town to grow roses.  You're Falkiner
Wraye, you know, Mr. Folliot!"

Bryce laughed as he made this direct accusation, and sitting
forward in his chair, pointed first to Folliot's face and then
to his left hand.

"Falkiner Wraye," he said, "had an unfortunate gun accident in
his youth which marked him for life.  He lost the middle
finger of his left hand, and he got a bad scar on his left
jaw.  There they are, those marks!  Fortunate for you, Mr.
Folliot, that the police don't know all that I know, for if
they did, those marks would have done for you days ago!"  For
a minute or two Folliot sat joggling his leg--a bad sign in
him of rising temper if Bryce had but known it.  While he
remained silent he watched Bryce narrowly, and when he spoke,
his voice was calm as ever.

"And what use do you intend to put your knowledge to, if one
may ask?" he inquired, half sneeringly.  "You said just now
that you'd no doubt that man Glassdale could be bought, and
I'm inclining to think that you're one of those men that have
their price.  What is it?"

"We've not come to that," retorted Bryce.  "You're a bit
mistaken.  If I have my price, it's not in the same commodity
that Glassdale would want.  But before we do any talking about
that sort of thing, I want to add to my stock of knowledge.
Look here!  We'll be candid.  I don't care a snap of my
fingers that Brake, or Braden's dead, or that Collishaw's
dead, nor if one had his neck broken and the other was
poisoned, but--whose hand was that which the mason, Varner,
saw that morning, when Brake was flung out of that doorway?
Come, now!--whose?"

"Not mine, my lad!" answered Folliot, confidently.  "That's a
fact?"

Bryce hesitated, giving Folliot a searching look.  And Folliot
nodded solemnly.  "I tell you, not mine!" he repeated.  "I'd
naught to do with it!"

"Then who had?" demanded Bryce.  "Was it the other man--Flood?
And if so, who is Flood?"

Folliot got up from his chair and, cigar between his lips and
hands under the tails of his old coat, walked silently about
the quiet room for awhile.  He was evidently thinking deeply,
and Bryce made no attempt to disturb him.  Some minutes went
by before Folliot took the cigar from his lips and leaning
against the chimneypiece looked fixedly at his visitor.

"Look here, my lad!" he said, earnestly.  "You're no doubt, as
you say, a good hand at finding things out, and you've
doubtless done a good bit of ferreting, and done it well
enough in your own opinion.  But there's one thing you can't
find out, and the police can't find out either, and that's the
precise truth about Braden's death.  I'd no hand in it--it
couldn't be fastened on to me, anyhow."

Bryce looked up and interjected one word.

"Collishaw?"

"Nor that, neither," answered Folliot, hastily.  "Maybe I know
something about both, but neither you nor the police nor
anybody could fasten me to either matter!  Granting all you
say to be true, where's the positive truth?"

"What about circumstantial evidence," asked Bryce.

"You'd have a job to get it," retorted Folliot.  "Supposing
that all you say is true about--about past matters?  Nothing
can prove--nothing!--that I ever met Braden that morning.  On
the other hand, I can prove, easily, that I never did meet
him; I can account for every minute of my time that day.  As
to the other affair--not an ounce of direct evidence!"

"Then--it was the other man!" exclaimed Bryce.  "Now then, who
is he?"

Folliot replied with a shrewd glance.

"A man who by giving away another man gave himself away would
be a damned fool!" he answered.  "If there is another man--"

"As if there must be!" interrupted Bryce.

"Then he's safe!" concluded Folliot.  "You'll get nothing from
me about him!"

"And nobody can get at you except through him?" asked Bryce.

"That's about it," assented Folliot laconically.

Bryce laughed cynically.

"A pretty coil!" he said with a sneer.  "Here!  You talked
about my price.  I'm quite content to hold my tongue if you'd
tell me something about what happened seventeen years ago."

"What?" asked Folliot.

"You knew Brake, you must have known his family affairs," said
Bryce.  "What became of Brake's wife and children when he went
to prison?"

Folliot shook his head, and it was plain to Bryce that his
gesture of dissent was genuine.

"You're wrong," he answered.  "I never at any time knew
anything of Brake's family affairs.  So little indeed, that I
never even knew he was married."

Bryce rose to his feet and stood staring.

"What!" he exclaimed.  "You mean to tell me that, even now,
you don't know that Brake had two children, and that--that
--oh, it's incredible!"

"What's incredible?" asked Folliot.  "What are you talking
about?"

Bryce in his eagerness and surprise grasped Folliot's arm and
shook it.

"Good heavens, man!" he said.  "Those two wards of Ransford's
are Brake's girl and boy!  Didn't you know that, didn't you?"

"Never!" answered Folliot.  "Never!  And who's Ransford, then?
I never heard Brake speak of any Ransford!  What game is all
this? What--"

Before Bryce could reply, Folliot suddenly started, thrust his
companion aside and went to one of the windows.  A sharp
exclamation from him took Bryce to his side.  Folliot lifted a
shaking hand and pointed into the garden.

"There!" he whispered.  "Hell and--What's this mean?"

Bryce looked in the direction pointed out.  Behind the pergola
of rambler roses the figures of men were coming towards the
old well-house led by one of Folliot's gardeners.  Suddenly
they emerged into full view, and in front of the rest was
Mitchington and close behind him the detective, and behind
him--Glassdale!




CHAPTER XXVI - THE OTHER MAN


It was close on five o'clock when Glassdale, leaving Folliot
at his garden door, turned the corner into the quietness of
the Precincts.  He walked about there a while, staring at the
queer old houses with eyes which saw neither fantastic gables
nor twisted chimneys.  Glassdale was thinking.  And the result
of his reflections was that he suddenly exchanged his idle
sauntering for brisker steps and walked sharply round to the
police-station, where he asked to see Mitchington.

Mitchington and the detective were just about to walk down to
the railway-station to meet Ransford, in accordance with his
telegram.  At sight of Glassdale they went back into the
inspector's office.  Glassdale closed the door and favoured
them with a knowing smile.

"Something else for you, inspector!" he said.  "Mixed up a bit
with last night's affair, too.  About these mysteries--Braden
and Collishaw--I can tell you one man who's in them."

"Who, then?" demanded Mitchington.

Glassdale went a step nearer to the two officials and lowered
his voice.

"The man who's known here as Stephen Folliot," he answered.
"That's a fact!"

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Mitchington.  Then he laughed
incredulously.  "Can't believe it!" he continued.  "Mr.
Folliot!  Must be some mistake!"

"No mistake," replied Glassdale.  "Besides, Folliot's only an
assumed name.  That man is really one Falkiner Wraye, the man
Braden, or Brake, was seeking for many a year, the man who
cheated Brake and got him into trouble.  I tell you it's a
fact!  He's admitted it, or as good as done so, to me just
now."

"To you?  And--let you come away and spread it?" exclaimed
Mitchington.  "That's incredible! more astonishing than the
other!"

Glassdale laughed.

"Ah, but I let him think I could be squared, do you see?" he
said.  "Hush-money, you know.  He's under the impression that
I'm to go back to him this evening to settle matters.  I knew
so much--identified him, as a matter of fact--that he'd no
option.  I tell you he's been in at both these affairs
--certain!  But--there's another man."

"Who's he?" demanded Mitchington.

"Can't say, for I don't know, though I've an idea he'll be a
fellow that Brake was also wanting to find," replied
Glassdale.  "But anyhow, I know what I'm talking about when I
tell you of Folliot.  You'd better do something before he
suspects me."

Mitchington glanced at the clock.

"Come with us down to the station," he said.  "Dr. Ransford's
coming in on this express from town; he's got news for us.
We'd better hear that first.  Folliot!--good Lord!--who'd have
believed or even dreamed it!"

"You'll see," said Glassdale as they went out.

"Maybe Dr. Ransford's got the same information."  Ransford
was out of the train as soon as it ran in, and hurried to
where Mitchington and his companions were standing.  And
behind him, to Mitchington's surprise, came old Simpson
Harker, who had evidently travelled with him.  With a silent
gesture Mitchington beckoned the whole party into an empty
waiting-room and closed its door on them.

"Now then, inspector," said Ransford without preface or
ceremony, "you've got to act quickly!  You got my wire--a few
words will explain it.  I went up to town this morning in
answer to a message from the bank where Braden lodged his
money when he returned to England.  To tell you the truth, the
managers there and myself have, since Braden's death, been
carrying to a conclusion an investigation which I began on
Braden's behalf--though he never knew of it--years ago.  At
the bank I met Mr. Harker here, who had called to find
something out for himself.  Now I'll sum things up in a
nutshell: for years Braden, or Brake, had been wanting to find
two men who cheated him.  The name of one is Wraye, of the
other, Flood.  I've been trying to trace them, too.  At last
we've got them.  They're in this town, and without doubt the
deaths of both Braden and Collishaw are at their door!  You
know both well enough.  Wraye is-"

"Mr. Folliot!" interrupted Mitchington, pointing to Glassdale.
"So he's just told us; he's identified him as Wraye.  But the
other--who's he, doctor?"

Ransford glanced at Glassdale as if he wished to question him,
but instead he answered Mitchington's question.

"The other man," he said, "the man Flood, is also a well-known
man to you.  Fladgate!"

Mitchington started, evidently more astonished than by the
first news.

"What!" he exclaimed.  "The verger!  You don't say!"

"Do you remember," continued Ransford, "that Folliot got
Fladgate his appointment as verger not so very long after he
himself came here?  He did, anyway, and Fladgate is Flood.
We've traced everything through Flood.  Wraye has been a
difficult man to trace, because of his residence abroad for a
long time and his change of name, and so on, and it was only
recently that my agents struck on a line through Flood.  But
there's the fact.  And the probability is that when Braden
came here he recognized and was recognized by these two, and
that one or other of them is responsible for his death and for
Collishaw's too.  Circumstantial evidence, all of it, no
doubt, but irresistible!  Now, what do you propose to do?"

Mitchington considered matters for a moment.

"Fladgate first, certainly," he said.  "He lives close by
here; we'll go round to his cottage.  If he sees he's in a
tight place he may let things out.  Let's go there at once."

He led the whole party out of the station and down the High
Street until they came to a narrow lane of little houses which
ran towards the Close.  At its entrance a policeman was
walking his beat.  Mitchington stopped to exchange a few words
with him.

"This man Fladgate," he said, rejoining the others, "lives
alone--fifth cottage down here.  He'll be about having his
tea; we shall take him by surprise."  Presently the group
stood around a door at which Mitchington knocked gently,
and it was on their grave and watchful faces that a tall,
clean-shaven, very solemn-looking man gazed in astonishment
as he opened the door, and started back.  He went white to
the lips and his hand fell trembling from the latch as
Mitchington strode in and the rest crowded behind.

"Now then, Fladgate!" said Mitchington, going straight to the
point and watching his man narrowly, while the detective
approached him closely on the other side.  "I want you and a
word with you at once.  Your real name is Flood!  What have
you to say to that?  And--it's no use beating about the bush
--what have you to say about this Braden affair, and your
share with Folliot in it, whose real name is Wraye.  It's all
come out about the two of you.  If you've anything to say,
you'd better say it."

The verger, whose black gown lay thrown across the back of a
chair, looked from one face to another with frightened eyes.
It was very evident that the suddenness of the descent had
completely unnerved him.  Ransford's practised eyes saw that
he was on the verge of a collapse.

"Give him time, Mitchington," he said.  "Pull yourself
together," he added, turning to the man.  "Don't be
frightened; answer these questions!"

"For God's sake, gentlemen!" grasped the verger.  "What--what
is it?  What am I to answer?  Before God, I'm as innocent as
--as any of you--about Mr. Brake's death!  Upon my soul and
honour I am!"

"You know all about it;" insisted Mitchington.

"Come, now, isn't it true that you're Flood, and that
Folliot's Wraye, the two men whose trick on him got Brake
convicted years ago?  Answer that!"

Flood looked from one side to the other.  He was leaning
against his tea-table, set in the middle of his tidy living
room.  From the hearth his kettle sent out a pleasant singing
that sounded strangely in contrast with the grim situation.

"Yes, that's true," he said at last.  "But in that affair I--I
wasn't the principal.  I was only--only Wraye's agent, as it
were: I wasn't responsible.  And when Mr. Brake came here,
when I met him that morning--"

He paused, still looking from one to another of his audience
as if entreating their belief.

"As sure as I'm a living man, gentlemen!" he suddenly burst
out, "I'd no willing hand in Mr. Brake's death!  I'll tell you
the exact truth; I'll take my oath of it whenever you like.
I'd have been thankful to tell, many a time, but for--for
Wraye.  He wouldn't let me at first, and afterwards it got
complicated.  It was this way.  That morning--when Mr. Brake
was found dead--I had occasion to go up into that gallery
under the clerestory.  I suddenly came on him face to face.
He recognized me.  And--I'm telling you the solemn, absolute
truth, gentlemen!--he'd no sooner recognized me than he
attacked me, seizing me by the arm.  I hadn't recognized him
at first, I did when he laid hold of me.  I tried to shake him
off, tried to quiet him; he struggled--I don't know what he
wanted to do--he began to cry out--it was a wonder he wasn't
heard in the church below, and he would have been only the
organ was being played rather loudly.  And in the struggle he
slipped--it was just by that open doorway--and before I could
do more than grasp at him, he shot through the opening and
fell!  It was sheer, pure accident, gentlemen!  Upon my soul,
I hadn't the least intention of harming him."

"And after that?" asked Mitchington, at the end of a brief
silence.

"I saw Mr. Folliot--Wraye," continued Flood.  "Just
afterwards, that was.  I told him; he bade me keep silence
until we saw how things went.  Later he forced me to be
silent.  What could I do?  As things were, Wraye could have
disclaimed me--I shouldn't have had a chance.  So I held my
tongue."

"Now, then, Collishaw?" demanded Mitchington.  "Give us the
truth about that.  Whatever the other was, that was murder!"

Flood lifted his hand and wiped away the perspiration that had
gathered on his face.

"Before God, gentlemen!" he answered.  "I know no more--at
least, little more--about that than you do!  I'll tell you all
I do know.  Wraye and I, of course, met now and then and
talked about this.  It got to our ears at last that Collishaw
knew something.  My own impression is that he saw what
occurred between me and Mr. Brake--he was working somewhere up
there.  I wanted to speak to Collishaw.  Wraye wouldn't let
me, he bade me leave it to him.  A bit later, he told me he'd
squared Collishaw with fifty pounds--"

Mitchington and the detective exchanged looks.

"Wraye--that's Folliot--paid Collishaw fifty pounds, did he?"
asked the detective.

"He told me so," replied Flood.  "To hold his tongue.  But I'd
scarcely heard that when I heard of Collishaw's sudden death.
And as to how that happened, or who--who brought it about
--upon my soul, gentlemen, I know nothing!  Whatever I may
have thought, I never mentioned it to Wraye--never!  I--I
daren't!  You don't know what a man Wraye is!  I've been under
his thumb most of my life and--and what are you going to do
with me, gentlemen?"

Mitchington exchanged a word or two with the detective, and
then, putting his head out of the door beckoned to the
policeman to whom he had spoken at the end of the lane and who
now appeared in company with a fellow-constable.  He brought
both into the cottage.

"Get your tea," he said sharply to the verger.  "These men
will stop with you--you're not to leave this room."  He gave
some instructions to the two policemen in an undertone and
motioned Ransford and the others to follow him.  "It strikes
me," he said, when they were outside in the narrow lane, "that
what we've just heard is somewhere about the truth.  And now
we'll go on to Folliot's--there's a way to his house round
here."

Mrs. Folliot was out, Sackville Bonham was still where Bryce
had left him, at the golf-links, when the pursuers reached
Folliot's.  A parlourmaid directed them to the garden; a
gardener volunteered the suggestion that his master might be
in the old well-house and showed the way.  And Folliot and
Bryce saw them coming and looked at each other.

"Glassdale!" exclaimed Bryce.  "By heaven, man!--he's told on
you!"

Folliot was still staring through the window.  He saw Ransford
and Harker following the leading figures.  And suddenly he
turned to Bryce.

"You've no hand in this?" he demanded.

"I?" exclaimed Bryce.  "I never knew till just now!"

Folliot pointed to the door.

"Go down!" he said.  "Let 'em in, bid 'em come up!  I'll--I'll
settle with 'em.  Go!"

Bryce hurried down to the lower apartment.  He was filled with
excitement--an unusual thing for him--but in the midst of it,
as he made for the outer door, it suddenly struck him that all
his schemings and plottings were going for nothing.  The truth
was at hand, and it was not going to benefit him in the
slightest degree.  He was beaten.

But that was no time for philosophic reflection; already those
outside were beating at the door.  He flung it open, and the
foremost men started in surprise at the sight of him.  But
Bryce bent forward to Mitchington--anxious to play a part to
the last.

"He's upstairs!" he whispered.  "Up there!  He'll bluff it out
if he can, but he's just admitted to me--"

Mitchington thrust Bryce aside, almost roughly.

"We know all about that!" he said.  "I shall have a word or
two for you later!  Come on, now--"

The men crowded up the stairway into Folliot's snuggery,
Bryce, wondering at the inspector's words and manner,
following closely behind him and the detective and Glassdale,
who led the way.  Folliot was standing in the middle of the
room, one hand behind his back, the other in his pocket.  And
as the leading three entered the place he brought his
concealed hand sharply round and presenting a revolver at
Glassdale fired point-blank at him.

But it was not Glassdale who fell.  He, wary and watching,
started aside as he saw Folliot's movement, and the bullet,
passing between his arm and body, found its billet in Bryce,
who fell, with little more than a groan, shot through the
heart.  And as he fell, Folliot, scarcely looking at what he
had done, drew his other hand from his pocket, slipped
something into his mouth and sat down in the big chair behind
him ... and within a moment the other men in the room were
looking with horrified faces from one dead face to another.




CHAPTER XXVII - THE GUARDED SECRET


When Bryce had left her, Mary Bewery had gone into the house
to await Ransford's return from town.  She meant to tell him
of all that Bryce had said and to beg him to take immediate
steps to set matters right, not only that he himself might be
cleared of suspicion but that Bryce's intrigues might be
brought to an end.  She had some hope that Ransford would
bring back satisfactory news; she knew that his hurried visit
to London had some connection with these affairs; and she also
remembered what he had said on the previous night.  And so,
controlling her anger at Bryce and her impatience of the whole
situation she waited as patiently as she could until the time
drew near when Ransford might be expected to be seen coming
across the Close.  She knew from which direction he would
come, and she remained near the dining-room window looking out
for him.  But six o'clock came and she had seen no sign of
him; then, as she was beginning to think that he had missed
the afternoon train she saw him, at the opposite side of the
Close, talking earnestly to Dick, who presently came towards
the house while Ransford turned back into Folliot's garden.

Dick Bewery came hurriedly in.  His sister saw at once that he
had just heard news which had had a sobering effect on his
usually effervescent spirits.  He looked at her as if he
wondered exactly how to give her his message.

"I saw you with the doctor just now," she said, using the term
by which she and her brother always spoke of their guardian.
"Why hasn't he come home?"

Dick came close to her, touching her arm.

"I say!" he said, almost whispering.  "Don't be frightened
--the doctor's all right--but there's something awful just
happened.  At Folliot's."

"What" she demanded.  "Speak out, Dick!  I'm not frightened.
What is it?"

Dick shook his head as if he still scarcely realized the full
significance of his news.

"It's all a licker to me yet!" he answered.  "I don't
understand it--I only know what the doctor told me--to come
and tell you.  Look here, it's pretty bad.  Folliot and Bryce
are both dead!"

In spite of herself Mary started back as from a great shock
and clutched at the table by which they were standing.

"Dead!" she exclaimed.  "Why--Bryce was here, speaking to me,
not an hour ago!"

"Maybe," said Dick.  "But he's dead now.  The fact is, Folliot
shot him with a revolver--killed him on the spot.  And then
Folliot poisoned himself--took the same stuff, the doctor
said, that finished that chap Collishaw, and died instantly.
It was in Folliot's old well-house.  The doctor was there and
the police."

"What does it all mean?" asked Mary.

"Don't know.  Except this," added Dick; "they've found out
about those other affairs--the Braden and the Collishaw
affairs.  Folliot was concerned in them; and who do you think
the other was?  You'd never guess!  That man Fladgate, the
verger.  Only that isn't his proper name at all.  He and
Folliot finished Braden and Collishaw, anyway.  The police
have got Fladgate, and Folliot shot Bryce and killed himself
just when they were going to take him."

"The doctor told you all this?" asked Mary.

"Yes," replied Dick.  "Just that and no more.  He called me in
as I was passing Folliot's door.  He's coming over as soon as
he can.  Whew!  I say, won't there be some fine talk in the
town!  Anyway, things'll be cleared up now.  What did Bryce
want here?"

"Never mind; I can't talk of it, now," answered Mary.  She was
already thinking of how Bryce had stood before her, active and
alive, only an hour earlier; she was thinking, too, of her
warning to him.  "It's all too dreadful!  too awful to
understand!"

"Here's the doctor coming now," said Dick, turning to the
window.  "He'll tell more."

Mary looked anxiously at Ransford as he came hastening in.  He
looked like a man who has just gone through a crisis and yet
she was somehow conscious that there was a certain atmosphere
of relief about him, as though some great weight had suddenly
been lifted.  He closed the door and looked straight at her.

"Dick has told you?" he asked.

"All that you told me," said Dick.

Ransford pulled off his gloves and flung them on the table
with something of a gesture of weariness.  And at that Mary
hastened to speak.

"Don't tell any more--don't say anything--until you feel
able," she said.  "You're tired."

"No!" answered Ransford.  "I'd rather say what I have to say
now--just now!  I've wanted to tell both of you what all this
was, what it meant, everything about it, and until today,
until within the last few hours, it was impossible, because I
didn't know everything.  Now I do!  I even know more than I
did an hour ago.  Let me tell you now and have done with it.
Sit down there, both of you, and listen."

He pointed to a sofa near the hearth, and the brother and
sister sat down, looking at him wonderingly.  Instead of
sitting down himself he leaned against the edge of the table,
looking down at them.

"I shall have to tell you some sad things," he said
diffidently.  "The only consolation is that it's all over now,
and certain matters are, or can be, cleared and you'll have no
more secrets.  Nor shall I!  I've had to keep this one
jealously guarded for seventeen years!  And I never thought it
could be released as it has been, in this miserable and
terrible fashion!  But that's done now, and nothing can help
it.  And now, to make everything plain, just prepare
yourselves to hear something that, at first, sounds very
trying.  The man whom you've heard of as John Braden, who came
to his death--by accident, as I now firmly believe--there in
Paradise, was, in reality, John Brake--your father!"

Ransford looked at his two listeners anxiously as he told
this.  But he met no sign of undue surprise or emotion.  Dick
looked down at his toes with a little frown, as if he were
trying to puzzle something out; Mary continued to watch
Ransford with steady eyes.

"Your father--John Brake," repeated Ransford, breathing
more freely now that he had got the worst news out.  "I
must go back to the beginning to make things clear to you
about him and your mother.  He was a close friend of mine
when we were young men in London; he a bank manager; I, just
beginning my work.  We used to spend our holidays together
in Leicestershire.  There we met your mother, whose name was
Mary Bewery.  He married her; I was his best man.  They went
to live in London, and from that time I did not see so much of
them, only now and then.  During those first years of his
married life Brake made the acquaintance of a man who came
from the same part of Leicestershire that we had met your
mother in--a man named Falkiner Wraye.  I may as well tell
you that Falkiner Wraye and Stephen Folliot were one and the
same person."

Ransford paused, observing that Mary wished to ask a question.

"How long have you known that?" she asked.

"Not until today," replied Ransford promptly.  "Never had the
ghost of a notion of it!  If I only had known--but, I hadn't!
However, to go back--this man Wraye, who appears always to
have been a perfect master of plausibility, able to twist
people round his little finger, somehow got into close touch
with your father about financial matters.  Wraye was at that
time a sort of financial agent in London, engaging in various
doings which, I should imagine, were in the nature of gambles.
He was assisted in these by a man who was either a partner
with him or a very confidential clerk or agent, one Flood, who
is identical with the man you have known lately as Fladgate,
the verger.  Between them, these two appear to have cajoled or
persuaded your father at times to do very foolish and
injudicious things which were, to put it briefly and plainly,
the lendings of various sums of money as short loans for their
transactions.  For some time they invariably kept their word
to him, and the advances were always repaid promptly.  But
eventually, when they had borrowed from him a considerable
sum--some thousands of pounds--for a deal which was to be
carried through within a couple of days, they decamped with
the money, and completely disappeared, leaving your father to
bear the consequences.  You may easily understand what
followed.  The money which Brake had lent them was the bank's
money.  The bank unexpectedly came down on him for his
balance, the whole thing was found out, and he was prosecuted.
He had no defence--he was, of course, technically guilty--and
he was sent to penal servitude."

Ransford had dreaded the telling of this but Mary made no
sign, and Dick only rapped out a sharp question.

"He hadn't meant to rob the bank for himself, anyway, had he?"
he asked.

"No, no!  not at all!" replied Ransford hastily.  "It was a
bad error of judgment on his part, Dick, but he--he'd relied
on these men, more particularly on Wraye, who'd been the
leading spirit.  Well, that was your father's sad fate.  Now
we come to what happened to your mother and yourselves.  Just
before your father's arrest, when he knew that all was lost,
and that he was helpless, he sent hurriedly for me and told me
everything in your mother's presence.  He begged me to get her
and you two children right away at once.  She was against it;
he insisted.  I took you all to a quiet place in the country,
where your mother assumed her maiden name.  There, within a
year, she died.  She wasn't a strong woman at any time.  After
that--well, you both know pretty well what has been the run of
things since you began to know anything.  We'll leave that,
it's nothing to do with the story.  I want to go back to your
father.  I saw him after his conviction.  When I had satisfied
him that you and your mother were safe, he begged me to do my
best to find the two men who had ruined him.  I began that
search at once.  But there was not a trace of them--they had
disappeared as completely as if they were dead.  I used all
sorts of means to trace them--without effect.  And when at
last your father's term of imprisonment was over and I went to
see him on his release, I had to tell him that up to that
point all my efforts had been useless.  I urged him to let the
thing drop, and to start life afresh.  But he was determined.
Find both men, but particularly Wraye, he would!  He refused
point-blank to even see his children until he had found these
men and had forced them to acknowledge their misdeeds as
regards him, for that, of course, would have cleared him to a
certain extent.  And in spite of everything I could say, he
there and then went off abroad in search of them--he had got
some clue, faint and indefinite, but still there, as to
Wraye's presence in America, and he went after him.  From that
time until the morning of his death here in Wrychester I never
saw him again!"

"You did see him that morning?" asked Mary.

"I saw him, of course, unexpectedly," answered Ransford.  "I
had been across the Close--I came back through the south aisle
of the Cathedral.  Just before I left the west porch I saw
Brake going up the stairs to the galleries.  I knew him at
once.  He did not see me, and I hurried home much upset.
Unfortunately, I think, Bryce came in upon me in that state of
agitation.  I have reason to believe that he began to suspect
and to plot from that moment.  And immediately on hearing of
Brake's death, and its circumstances, I was placed in a
terrible dilemma.  For I had made up my mind never to tell you
two of your father's history until I had been able to trace
these two men and wring out of them a confession which would
have cleared him of all but the technical commission of the
crime of which he was convicted.  Now I had not the least idea
that the two men were close at hand, nor that they had had any
hand in his death, and so I kept silence, and let him be
buried under the name he had taken--John Braden."

Ransford paused and looked at his two listeners as if inviting
question or comment.  But neither spoke, and he went on.

"You know what happened after that," he continued.  "It soon
became evident to me that sinister and secret things were
going on.  There was the death of the labourer--Collishaw.
There were other matters.  But even then I had no suspicion of
the real truth--the fact is, I began to have some strange
suspicions about Bryce and that old man Harker--based upon
certain evidence which I got by chance.  But, all this time, I
had never ceased my investigations about Wraye and Flood, and
when the bank-manager on whom Brake had called in London was
here at the inquest, I privately told him the whole story and
invited his co-operation in a certain line which I was then
following.  That line suddenly ran up against the man Flood
--otherwise Fladgate.  It was not until this very week,
however, that my agents definitely discovered Fladgate to be
Flood, and that--through the investigations about Flood
--Folliot was found to be Wraye.  Today, in London, where I
met old Harker at the bank at which Brake had lodged the money
he had brought from Australia, the whole thing was made clear
by the last agent of mine who has had the searching in hand.
And it shows how men may easily disappear from a certain round
of life, and turn up in another years after!  When those two
men cheated your father out of that money, they disappeared
and separated--each, no doubt, with his share.  Flood went off
to some obscure place in the North of England; Wraye went over
to America.  He evidently made a fortune there; knocked about
the world for awhile; changed his name to Folliot, and under
that name married a wealthy widow, and settled down here in
Wrychester to grow roses!  How and where he came across Flood
again is not exactly clear, but we knew that a few years ago
Flood was in London, in very poor circumstances, and the
probability is that it was then when the two men met again.
What we do know is that Folliot, as an influential man here,
got Flood the post which he has held, and that things
have resulted as they have.  And that's all!--all that I need
tell you at present.  There are details, but they're of no
importance."

Mary remained silent, but Dick got up with his hands in his
pockets.

"There's one thing I want to know," he said.  "Which of those
two chaps killed my father?  You said it was accident--but was
it?  I want to know about that!  Are you saying it was
accident just to let things down a bit?  Don't!  I want to
know the truth."

"I believe it was accident," answered Ransford.  "I listened
most carefully just now to Fladgate's account of what
happened.  I firmly believe the man was telling the truth.
But I haven't the least doubt that Folliot poisoned Collishaw
--not the least.  Folliot knew that if the least thing came
out about Fladgate, everything would come out about himself."

Dick turned away to leave the room.

"Well, Folliot's done for!" he remarked.  "I don't care about
him, but I wanted to know for certain about the other."

        *       *       *       *       *

When Dick had gone, and Ransford and Mary were left alone, a
deep silence fell on the room.  Mary was apparently deep in
thought, and Ransford, after a glance at her, turned away and
looked out of the window at the sunlit Close, thinking of the
tragedy he had just witnessed.  And he had become so absorbed
in his thoughts of it that he started at feeling a touch on
his arm and looking round saw Mary standing at his side.

"I don't want to say anything now," she said, "about what you
have just told us.  Some of it I had half-guessed, some of it
I had conjectured.  But why didn't you tell me!  Before!  It
wasn't that you hadn't confidence?"

"Confidence!" he exclaimed.  "There was only one reason--I
wanted to get your father's memory cleared--as far as
possible--before ever telling you anything.  I've been wanting
to tell you!  Hadn't you seen that I hated to keep silent?"

"Hadn't you seen that I wanted to share all your trouble about
it?" she asked.  "That was what hurt me--because I couldn't!"

Ransford drew a long breath and looked at her.  Then he put
his hands on her shoulders.

"Mary!" he said.  "You--you don't mean to say--be plain!--you
don't mean that you can care for an old fellow like me?"

He was holding her away from him, but she suddenly smiled and
came closer to him.

"You must have been very blind not to have seen that for a
long time!" she answered.



THE END





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