“Who was she?” demanded Bryce.
“Governess at the vicarage,” replied Claybourne. “Nice, sweet young lady.”
“And the man she married?—Mr. Brake,” continued Bryce. “Who was he?”
“A young gentleman that used to come here for the fishing, now and then,” answered Claybourne, pointing at the river. “Famous for our trout we are here, you know, sir. And Brake had come here for three years before they were married—him and his friend Mr. Ransford.”
“You remember him, too?” asked Bryce.
“Remember both of ’em very well indeed,” said Claybourne, “though I never set eyes on either after Miss Mary was wed to Mr. Brake. But I saw plenty of ’em both before that. They used to put up at the inn there—that I saw you come out of just now. They came two or three times a year—and they were a bit thick with our parson of that time—not this one: his predecessor—and they used to go up to the vicarage and smoke their pipes and cigars with him—and of course, Mr. Brake and the governess fixed it up. Though, you know, at one time it was considered it was going to be her and the other young gentleman, Mr. Ransford—yes! But, in the end, it was Brake —and Ransford stood best man for him.”
Bruce assimilated all this information greedily—and asked for more.
“I’m interested in that entry,” he said, tapping the open book. “I know some people of the name of Bewery—they may be relatives.”
The shoemaker shook his head as if doubtful.
“I remember hearing it said,” he remarked, “that Miss Mary had no relations. She’d been with the old vicar some time, and I don’t remember any relations ever coming to see her, nor her going away to see any.”
“Do you know what Brake was?” asked Bryce. “As you say he came here for a good many times before the marriage, I suppose you’d hear something about his profession, or trade, or whatever it was?”
“He was a banker, that one,” replied Claybourne. “A banker —that was his trade, sir. T’other gentleman, Mr. Ransford, he was a doctor—I mind that well enough, because once when him and Mr. Brake were fishing here, Thomas Joynt’s wife fell downstairs and broke her leg, and they fetched him to her —he’d got it set before they’d got the reg’lar doctor out from Barthorpe yonder.”
Bryce had now got all the information he wanted, and he made the old parish clerk a small present and turned to go. But another question presented itself to his mind and he reentered the little shop.
“Your late vicar?” he said. “The one in whose family Miss Bewery was governess—where is he now? Dead?”
“Can’t say whether he’s dead or alive, sir,” replied Claybourne. “He left this parish for another—a living in a different part of England—some years since, and I haven’t heard much of him from that time to this—he never came back here once, not even to pay us a friendly visit—he was a queerish sort. But I’ll tell you what, sir,” he added, evidently anxious to give his visitor good value for his half-crown, “our present vicar has one of those books with the names of all the clergymen in ’em, and he’d tell you where his predecessor is now, if he’s alive—name of Reverend Thomas Gilwaters, M.A.—an Oxford college man he was, and very high learned.”