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.”
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!”