“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.
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?”