“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.”