Bryce had risen to his feet when Mary rose, and he now stood staring at her. Ever since his boyhood he had laughed and sneered at the mere idea of the finer feelings—he believed that every man has his price—and that honesty and honour are things useful as terms but of no real existence. And now he was wondering—really wondering—if this girl meant the things she said: if she really felt a mental loathing of such minds and purposes as he knew his own were, or if it were merely acting on her part. Before he could speak she turned on him again more fiercely than before.
“Shall I tell you something else in plain language?” she asked. “You evidently possess a very small and limited knowledge—if you have any at all!—of women, and you apparently don’t rate their mental qualities at any high standard. Let me tell you that I am not quite such a fool as you seem to think me! You came here this afternoon to bargain with me! You happen to know how much I respect my guardian and what I owe him for the care he has taken of me and my brother. You thought to trade on that! You thought you could make a bargain with me; you were to save Dr. Ransford, and for reward you were to have me! You daren’t deny it. Dr. Bryce —I can see through you!”
“I never said it, at any rate,” answered Bryce.
“Once more, I say, I’m not a fool!” exclaimed Mary. “I saw through you all along. And you’ve failed! I’m not in the least frightened by what you’ve said. If the police arrest Dr. Ransford, Dr. Ransford knows how to defend himself. And you’re not afraid for him! You know you aren’t. It wouldn’t matter twopence to you if he were hanged tomorrow, for you hate him. But look to yourself! Men who cheat, and scheme, and plot, and plan as you do come to bad ends. Mind yours! Mind the wheel doesn’t come full circle. And now, if you please, go away and don’t dare to come near me again!”
Bryce made no answer. He had listened, with an attempt at a smile, to all this fiery indignation, but as Mary spoke the last words he was suddenly aware of something that drew his attention from her and them. Through an opening in Ransford’s garden hedge he could see the garden door of the Folliots’ house across the Close. And at that moment out of it emerge Folliot himself in conversation with Glassdale!
Without a word, Bryce snatched up his hat from the table of the summer-house, and went swiftly away—a new scheme, a new idea in his mind.