“What is it?—what are you doing there?” he demanded almost fiercely. “What do you mean by coming in like that?”
Bryce affected to have seen nothing.
“I came to fetch you,” he answered. “There’s been an accident in Paradise—man fallen from that door at the head of St. Wrytha’s Stair. I wish you’d come—but I may as well tell you that he’s past help—dead!”
“Dead! A man?” exclaimed Ransford. “What man? A workman?”
Bryce had already made up his mind about telling Ransford of the stranger’s call at the surgery. He would say nothing—at that time at any rate. It was improbable that any one but himself knew of the call; the side entrance to the surgery was screened from the Close by a shrubbery; it was very unlikely that any passer-by had seen the man call or go away. No—he would keep his knowledge secret until it could be made better use of.
“Not a workman—not a townsman—a stranger,” he answered. “Looks like a well-to-do tourist. A slightly-built, elderly man—grey-haired.”
Ransford, who had turned to his desk to master himself, looked round with a sudden sharp glance—and for the moment Bryce was taken aback. For he had condemned Ransford—and yet that glance was one of apparently genuine surprise, a glance which almost convinced him, against his will, against only too evident facts, that Ransford was hearing of the Paradise affair for the first time.
“An elderly man—grey-haired—slightly built?” said Ransford. “Dark clothes—silk hat?”
“Precisely,” replied Bryce, who was now considerably astonished. “Do you know him?”
“I saw such a man entering the Cathedral, a while ago,” answered Ransford. “A stranger, certainly. Come along, then.”
He had fully recovered his self-possession by that time, and he led the way from the surgery and across the Close as if he were going on an ordinary professional visit. He kept silence as they walked rapidly towards Paradise, and Bryce was silent, too. He had studied Ransford a good deal during their two years’ acquaintanceship, and he knew Ransford’s power of repressing and commanding his feelings and concealing his thoughts. And now he decided that the look and start which he had at first taken to be of the nature of genuine astonishment were cunningly assumed, and he was not surprised when, having reached the group of men gathered around the body, Ransford showed nothing but professional interest.
“Have you done anything towards finding out who this unfortunate man is?” asked Ransford, after a brief examination, as he turned to Mitchington. “Evidently a stranger—but he probably has papers on him.”
“There’s nothing on him—except a purse, with plenty of money in it,” answered Mitchington. “I’ve been through his pockets myself: there isn’t a scrap of paper—not even as much as an old letter. But he’s evidently a tourist, or something of the sort, and so he’ll probably have stayed in the city all night, and I’m going to inquire at the hotels.”