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