Bryce went back to the vicarage, returned the borrowed book, and asked to look at the registers for the year 1891. He verified his copy and turned to the vicar.
“I accidentally came across the record of a marriage there in which I’m interested,” he said as he paid the search fees. “Celebrated by your predecessor, Mr. Gilwaters. I should be glad to know where Mr. Gilwaters is to be found. Do you happen to possess a clerical directory?”
The vicar produced a “Crockford”, and Bryce turned over its pages. Mr. Gilwaters, who from the account there given appeared to be an elderly man who had now retired, lived in London, in Bayswater, and Bryce made a note of his address and prepared to depart.
“Find any names that interested you?” asked the vicar as his caller left. “Anything noteworthy?”
“I found two or three names which interested me immensely,” answered Bryce from the foot of the vicarage steps. “They were well worth searching for.”
And without further explanation he marched off to Barthorpe duly followed by his shadow, who saw him safely into the Peacock an hour later—and, an hour after that, went to the police superintendent with his report.
“Gone, sir,” he said. “Left by the five-thirty express for London.”
THE HOUSE OF HIS FRIEND
Bryce found himself at eleven o’clock next morning in a small book-lined parlour in a little house which stood in a quiet street in the neighbourhood of Westbourne Grove. Over the mantelpiece, amongst other odds and ends of pictures and photographs, hung a water-colour drawing of Braden Medworth —and to him presently entered an old, silver-haired clergyman whom he at once took to be Braden Medworth’s former vicar, and who glanced inquisitively at his visitor and then at the card which Bryce had sent in with a request for an interview.
“Dr. Bryce?” he said inquiringly. “Dr. Pemberton Bryce?”
Bryce made his best bow and assumed his suavest and most ingratiating manner.
“I hope I am not intruding on your time, Mr. Gilwaters?” he said. “The fact is, I was referred to you, yesterday, by the present vicar of Braden Medworth—both he, and the sexton there, Claybourne, whom you, of course, remember, thought you would be able to give me some information on a subject which is of great importance—to me.”
“I don’t know the present vicar,” remarked Mr. Gilwaters, motioning Bryce to a chair, and taking another close by. “Clayborne, of course, I remember very well indeed—he must be getting an old man now—like myself! What is it you want to know, now?”
“I shall have to take you into my confidence,” replied Bryce, who had carefully laid his plans and prepared his story, “and you, I am sure, Mr. Gilwaters, will respect mine. I have for two years been in practice at Wrychester, and have there made the acquaintance of a young lady whom I earnestly desire to marry. She is the ward of the man to whom I have been assistant. And I think you will begin to see why I have come to you when I say that this young lady’s name is—Mary Bewery.”