“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.”