Bryce laughed cynically.
“A pretty coil!” he said with a sneer. “Here! You talked about my price. I’m quite content to hold my tongue if you’d tell me something about what happened seventeen years ago.”
“What?” asked Folliot.
“You knew Brake, you must have known his family affairs,” said Bryce. “What became of Brake’s wife and children when he went to prison?”
Folliot shook his head, and it was plain to Bryce that his gesture of dissent was genuine.
“You’re wrong,” he answered. “I never at any time knew anything of Brake’s family affairs. So little indeed, that I never even knew he was married.”
Bryce rose to his feet and stood staring.
“What!” he exclaimed. “You mean to tell me that, even now, you don’t know that Brake had two children, and that—that —oh, it’s incredible!”
“What’s incredible?” asked Folliot. “What are you talking about?”
Bryce in his eagerness and surprise grasped Folliot’s arm and shook it.
“Good heavens, man!” he said. “Those two wards of Ransford’s are Brake’s girl and boy! Didn’t you know that, didn’t you?”
“Never!” answered Folliot. “Never! And who’s Ransford, then? I never heard Brake speak of any Ransford! What game is all this? What—”
Before Bryce could reply, Folliot suddenly started, thrust his companion aside and went to one of the windows. A sharp exclamation from him took Bryce to his side. Folliot lifted a shaking hand and pointed into the garden.
“There!” he whispered. “Hell and—What’s this mean?”
Bryce looked in the direction pointed out. Behind the pergola of rambler roses the figures of men were coming towards the old well-house led by one of Folliot’s gardeners. Suddenly they emerged into full view, and in front of the rest was Mitchington and close behind him the detective, and behind him—Glassdale!
THE OTHER MAN
It was close on five o’clock when Glassdale, leaving Folliot at his garden door, turned the corner into the quietness of the Precincts. He walked about there a while, staring at the queer old houses with eyes which saw neither fantastic gables nor twisted chimneys. Glassdale was thinking. And the result of his reflections was that he suddenly exchanged his idle sauntering for brisker steps and walked sharply round to the police-station, where he asked to see Mitchington.
Mitchington and the detective were just about to walk down to the railway-station to meet Ransford, in accordance with his telegram. At sight of Glassdale they went back into the inspector’s office. Glassdale closed the door and favoured them with a knowing smile.
“Something else for you, inspector!” he said. “Mixed up a bit with last night’s affair, too. About these mysteries—Braden and Collishaw—I can tell you one man who’s in them.”