When everything had been taken into account, Bryce saw no better clue for the moment than that suggested by Ambrose Campany—Barthorpe. Ambrose Campany, bookworm though he was, was a shrewd, sharp fellow, said Bryce—a man of ideas. There was certainly much in his suggestion that a man wasn’t likely to buy an old book about a little insignificant town like Barthorpe unless he had some interest in it—Barthorpe, if Campany’s theory were true, was probably the place of John Braden’s origin.
Therefore, information about Braden, leading to knowledge of his association or connection with Ransford, might be found at Barthorpe. True, the Barthorpe police had already reported that they could tell nothing about any Braden, but that, in Bryce’s opinion, was neither here nor there—he had already come to the conclusion that Braden was an assumed name. And if he went to Barthorpe, he was not going to trouble the police—he knew better methods than that of finding things out. Was he going?—was it worth his while? A moment’s reflection decided that matter—anything was worth his while which would help him to get a strong hold on Mark Ransford. And always practical in his doings, he walked round to the Free Library, obtained a gazeteer, and looked up particulars of Barthorpe. There he learnt that Barthorpe was an ancient market-town of two thousand inhabitants in the north of Leicestershire, famous for nothing except that it had been the scene of a battle at the time of the Wars of the Roses, and that its trade was mainly in agriculture and stocking-making —evidently a slow, sleepy old place.
That night Bryce packed a hand-bag with small necessaries for a few days’ excursion, and next morning he took an early train to London; the end of that afternoon found him in a Midland northern-bound express, looking out on the undulating, green acres of Leicestershire. And while his train was making a three minutes’ stop at Leicester itself, the purpose of his journey was suddenly recalled to him by hearing the strident voices of the porters on the platform.
“Barthorpe next stop!—next stop Barthorpe!”
One of two other men who shared a smoking compartment with Bryce turned to his companion as the train moved off again.
“Barthorpe?” he remarked. “That’s the place that was mentioned in connection with that very queer affair at Wrychester, that’s been reported in the papers so much these last few days. The mysterious stranger who kept ten thousand in a London bank, and of whom nobody seems to know anything, had nothing on him but a history of Barthorpe. Odd! And yet, though you’d think he’d some connection with the place, or had known it, they say nobody at Barthorpe knows anything about anybody of his name.”