THE DOUBLE TRAIL
Pemberton Bryce was not the only person in Wrychester who was watching Ransford with keen attention during these events. Mary Bewery, a young woman of more than usual powers of observation and penetration, had been quick to see that her guardian’s distress over the affair in Paradise was something out of the common. She knew Ransford for an exceedingly tender-hearted man, with a considerable spice of sentiment in his composition: he was noted for his more than professional interest in the poorer sort of his patients and had gained a deserved reputation in the town for his care of them. But it was somewhat surprising, even to Mary, that he should be so much upset by the death of a total stranger as to lose his appetite, and, for at any rate a couple of days, be so restless that his conduct could not fail to be noticed by herself and her brother. His remarks on the tragedy were conventional enough—a most distressing affair—a sad fate for the poor fellow—most unexplainable and mysterious, and so on—but his concern obviously went beyond that. He was ill at ease when she questioned him about the facts; almost irritable when Dick Bewery, schoolboy-like, asked him concerning professional details; she was sure, from the lines about his eyes and a worn look on his face, that he had passed a restless night when he came down to breakfast on the morning of the inquest. But when he returned from the inquest she noticed a change—it was evident, to her ready wits, that Ransford had experienced a great relief. He spoke of relief, indeed, that night at dinner, observing that the verdict which the jury had returned had cleared the air of a foul suspicion; it would have been no pleasant matter, he said, if Wrychester Cathedral had gained an unenviable notoriety as the scene of a murder.
“All the same,” remarked Dick, who knew all the talk of the town, “Varner persists in sticking to what he’s said all along. Varner says—said this afternoon, after the inquest was over—that he’s absolutely certain of what he saw, and that he not only saw a hand in a white cuff and black coat sleeve, but that he saw the sun gleam for a second on the links in the cuff, as if they were gold or diamonds. Pretty stiff evidence that, sir, isn’t it?”
“In the state of mind in which Varner was at that moment,” replied Ransford, “he wouldn’t be very well able to decide definitely on what he really did see. His vision would retain confused images. Probably he saw the dead man’s hand—he was wearing a black coat and white linen. The verdict was a most sensible one.”
No more was said after that, and that evening Ransford was almost himself again. But not quite himself. Mary caught him looking very grave, in evident abstraction, more than once; more than once she heard him sigh heavily. But he said no more of the matter until two days later, when, at breakfast, he announced his intention of attending John Braden’s funeral, which was to take place that morning.