“Old fool!” said Mitchington. “Of course, that’s how these tales get about. However, there’s more than that in the air.”
The two listeners behind the curtains glanced at each other. Ransford’s glance showed that he was already chafing at the unpleasantness of his position—but Mary’s only betokened apprehension. And suddenly, as if she feared that Ransford would throw the curtains aside and walk into the front room, she laid a hand on his arm and motioned him to be patient—and silent.
“Oh?” said Bryce. “More in the air? About that business?”
“Just so,” assented Mitchington. “To start with, that man Varner, the mason, has never ceased talking. They say he’s always at it—to the effect that the verdict of the jury at the inquest was all wrong, and that his evidence was put clean aside. He persists that he did see—what he swore he saw.”
“He’ll persist in that to his dying day,” said Bryce carelessly. “If that’s all there is—”
“It isn’t,” interrupted the inspector. “Not by a long chalk! But Varner’s is a direct affirmation—the other matter’s a sort of ugly hint. There’s a man named Collishaw, a townsman, who’s been employed as a mason’s labourer about the Cathedral of late. This Collishaw, it seems, was at work somewhere up in the galleries, ambulatories, or whatever they call those upper regions, on the very morning of the affair. And the other night, being somewhat under the influence of drink, and talking the matter over with his mates at a tavern, he let out some dark hints that he could tell something if he liked. Of course, he was pressed to tell them—and wouldn’t. Then—so my informant tells me—he was dared to tell, and became surlily silent. That, of course, spread, and got to my ears. I’ve seen Collishaw.”
“Well?” asked Bryce.
“I believe the man does know something,” answered Mitchington. “That’s the impression I carried away, anyhow. But—he won’t speak. I charged him straight out with knowing something—but it was no good. I told him of what I’d heard. All he would say was that whatever he might have said when he’d got a glass of beer or so too much, he wasn’t going to say anything now neither for me nor for anybody!”
“Just so!” remarked Bryce. “But—he’ll be getting a glass too much again, some day, and then—then, perhaps he’ll add to what he said before. And—you’ll be sure to hear of it.”
“I’m not certain of that,” answered Mitchington. “I made some inquiry and I find that Collishaw is usually a very sober and retiring sort of chap—he’d been lured on to drink when he let out what he did. Besides, whether I’m right or wrong, I got the idea into my head that he’d already been—squared!”
“Squared!” exclaimed Bryce. “Why, then, if that affair was really murder, he’d be liable to being charged as an accessory after the fact!”
“I warned him of that,” replied Mitchington. “Yes, I warned him solemnly.”