“Wouldn’t that be better than knowing that people are saying things?” she asked.
“As to that,” replied Ransford, “you can’t prevent people saying things—especially in a town like this. If it hadn’t been for the unfortunate fact that Braden came to the surgery door, nothing would have been said. But what of that?—I have known hundreds of men in my time—aye, and forgotten them! No!—I am not going to fall a victim to this device—it all springs out of curiosity. As to this last affair—it’s all nonsense!”
“But—if the man was really poisoned?” suggested Mary.
“Let the police find the poisoner!” said Ransford, with a grim smile. “That’s their job.”
Mary said nothing for a moment, and Ransford moved restlessly about the room.
“I don’t trust that fellow Bryce,” he said suddenly. “He’s up to something. I don’t forget what he said when I bundled him out that morning.”
“What?” she asked.
“That he would be a bad enemy,” answered Ransford. “He’s posing now as a friend—but a man’s never to be so much suspected as when he comes doing what you may call unnecessary acts of friendship. I’d rather that anybody was mixed up in my affairs—your affairs—than Pemberton Bryce!”
“So would I!” she said. “But—”
She paused there a moment and then looked appealingly at Ransford.
“I do wish you’d tell me—what you promised to tell me,” she said. “You know what I mean—about me and Dick. Somehow—I don’t quite know how or why—I’ve an uneasy feeling that Bryce knows something, and that he’s mixing it all up with—this! Why not tell me—please!”
Ransford, who was still marching about the room, came to a halt, and leaning his hands on the table between them, looked earnestly at her.
“Don’t ask that—now!” he said. “I can’t—yet. The fact is, I’m waiting for something—some particulars. As soon as I get them, I’ll speak to you—and to Dick. In the meantime—don’t ask me again—and don’t be afraid. And as to this affair, leave it to me—and if you meet Bryce again, refuse to discuss any thing with him. Look here!—there’s only one reason why he professes friendliness and a desire to save me annoyance. He thinks he can ingratiate himself with—you!”
“Mistaken!” murmured Mary, shaking her head. “I don’t trust him. And—less than ever because of yesterday. Would an honest man have done what he did? Let that police inspector talk freely, as he did, with people concealed behind a curtain? And—he laughed about it! I hated myself for being there—yet could we help it?”
“I’m not going to hate myself on Pemberton Bryce’s account,” said Ransford. “Let him play his game—that he has one, I’m certain.”
Bryce had gone away to continue his game—or another line of it. The Collishaw matter had not made him forget the Richard Jenkins tomb, and now, after leaving Ransford’s house, he crossed the Close to Paradise with the object of doing a little more investigation. But at the archway of the ancient enclosure he met old Simpson Harker, pottering about in his usual apparently aimless fashion. Harker smiled at sight of Bryce.