The old clergyman started, and looked at his visitor with unusual interest. He grasped the arm of his elbow chair and leaned forward.
“Mary Bewery!” he said in a low whisper. “What—what is the name of the man who is her—guardian?”
“Dr. Mark Ransford,” answered Bryce promptly.
The old man sat upright again, with a little toss of his head.
“Bless my soul!” he exclaimed. “Mark Ransford! Then—it must have been as I feared—and suspected!”
Bryce made no remark. He knew at once that he had struck on something, and it was his method to let people take their own time. Mr. Gilwaters had already fallen into something closely resembling a reverie: Bryce sat silently waiting and expectant. And at last the old man leaned forward again, almost eagerly.
“What is it you want to know?” he asked, repeating his first question. “Is—is there some—some mystery?”
“Yes!” replied Bryce. “A mystery that I want to solve, sir. And I dare say that you can help me, if you’ll be so good. I am convinced—in fact, I know!—that this young lady is in ignorance of her parentage, that Ransford is keeping some fact, some truth back from her—and I want to find things out. By the merest chance—accident, in fact—I discovered yesterday at Braden Medworth that some twenty-two years ago you married one Mary Bewery, who, I learnt there, was your governess, to a John Brake, and that Mark Ransford was John Brake’s best man and a witness of the marriage. Now, Mr. Gilwaters, the similarity in names is too striking to be devoid of significance. So—it’s of the utmost importance to me!—can or will you tell me—who was the Mary Bewery you married to John Brake? Who was John Brake? And what was Mark Ransford to either, or to both?”
He was wondering, all the time during which he reeled off these questions, if Mr. Gilwaters was wholly ignorant of the recent affair at Wrychester. He might be—a glance round his book-filled room had suggested to Bryce that he was much more likely to be a bookworm than a newspaper reader, and it was quite possible that the events of the day had small interest for him. And his first words in reply to Bryce’s questions convinced Bryce that his surmise was correct and that the old man had read nothing of the Wrychester Paradise mystery, in which Ransford’s name had, of course, figured as a witness at the inquest.
“It is nearly twenty years since I heard any of their names,” remarked Mr. Gilwaters. “Nearly twenty years—a long time! But, of course, I can answer you. Mary Bewery was our governess at Braden Medworth. She came to us when she was nineteen—she was married four years later. She was a girl who had no friends or relatives—she had been educated at a school in the North—I engaged her from that school, where, I understood, she had lived since infancy. Now then, as to Brake and Ransford. They were two young men from London, who used to