“Impossible that it could strike one in any other way, you know,” answered Sackville with fine and lofty superiority. “Ransford should have taken immediate steps to clear himself of any suspicion. It’s ridiculous, considering his position —guardian to—to Miss Bewery, for instance—that he should allow such rumours to circulate. By God, sir, if it had been me, I’d have stopped ’em!—before they left the parish pump!”
“Ah?” said Bryce. “And—how?”
“Made an example of somebody,” replied Sackville, with emphasis. “I believe there’s law in this country, isn’t there?—law against libel and slander, and that sort of thing, eh? Oh, yes!”
“Not been much time for that—yet,” remarked Bryce.
“Piles of time,” retorted Sackville, swinging his stick vigorously. “No, sir, Ransford is an ass! However, if a man won’t do things for himself, well, his friends must do something for him. Ransford, of course, must be pulled—dragged!—out of this infernal hole. Of course he’s suspected! But my stepfather—he’s going to take a hand. And my stepfather, Bryce, is a devilish cute old hand at a game of this sort!”
“Nobody doubts Mr. Folliot’s abilities, I’m sure,” said Bryce. “But—you don’t mind saying—how is he going to take a hand?”
“Stir things towards a clearing-up,” announced Sackville promptly. “Have the whole thing gone into—thoroughly. There are matters that haven’t been touched on, yet. You’ll see, my boy!”
“Glad to hear it,” said Bryce. “But—why should Mr. Folliot be so particular about clearing Ransford?”
Sackville swung his stick, and pulled up his collar, and jerked his nose a trifle higher.
“Oh, well,” he said. “Of course, it’s—it’s a pretty well understood thing, don’t you know—between myself and Miss Bewery, you know—and of course, we couldn’t have any suspicions attaching to her guardian, could we, now? Family interest, don’t you know—Caesar’s wife, and all that sort of thing, eh?”
“I see,” answered Bryce, quietly,—“sort of family arrangement. With Ransford’s consent and knowledge, of course?”
“Ransford won’t even be consulted,” said Sackville, airily. “My stepfather—sharp man, that, Bryce!—he’ll do things in his own fashion. You look out for sudden revelations!”
“I will,” replied Bryce. “By-bye!”
He turned off to his rooms, wondering how much of truth there was in the fatuous Sackville’s remarks. And—was there some mystery still undreamt of by himself and Harker? There might be—he was still under the influence of Ransford’s indignant and dramatic assertion of his innocence. Would Ransford have allowed himself an outburst of that sort if he had not been, as he said, utterly ignorant of the immediate cause of Braden’s death? Now Bryce, all through, was calculating, for his own purposes, on Ransford’s share, full or partial, in that death—if Ransford really knew nothing