“You make me think that you know more—much more!—than you’ve ever told me!” interrupted Mary.
“So I do!” he replied. “And you’ll see in the end why I’ve kept silence. Of course, if people who don’t know as much will interfere—”
He was interrupted there by the ringing of the front door bell, at the sound of which he and Mary looked at each other.
“Who can that be?” said Mary. “It’s past ten o’clock.”
Ransford offered no suggestion. He sat silently waiting, until the parlourmaid entered.
“Inspector Mitchington would be much obliged if you could give him a few minutes, sir,” she said.
Ransford got up from his chair.
“Take Inspector Mitchington into the study,” he said. “Is he alone?”
“No, sir—there’s a gentleman with him,” replied the girl.
“All right—I’ll be with them presently,” answered Ransford. “Take them both in there and light the gas. Police!” he went on, when the parlourmaid had gone. “They get hold of the first idea that strikes them, and never even look round for another, You’re not frightened?”
“Frightened—no! Uneasy—yes!” replied Mary. “What can they want, this time of night?”
“Probably to tell me something about this romantic tale of Dick’s,” answered Ransford, as he left the room. “It’ll be nothing more serious, I assure you.”
But he was not so sure of that. He was very well aware that the Wrychester police authorities had a definite suspicion of his guilt in the Braden and Collishaw matters, and he knew from experience that police suspicion is a difficult matter to dissipate. And before he opened the door of the little room which he used as a study he warned himself to be careful—and silent.
The two visitors stood near the hearth—Ransford took a good look at them as he closed the door behind him. Mitchington he knew well enough; he was more interested in the other man, a stranger. A quiet-looking, very ordinary individual, who might have been half a dozen things—but Ransford instantly set him down as a detective. He turned from this man to the inspector.
“Well?” he said, a little brusquely. “What is it?”
“Sorry to intrude so late, Dr. Ransford,” answered Mitchington, “but I should be much obliged if you would give us a bit of information—badly wanted, doctor, in view of recent events,” he added, with a smile which was meant to be reassuring. “I’m sure you can—if you will.”
“Sit down,” said Ransford, pointing to chairs. He took one himself and again glanced at the stranger. “To whom am I speaking, in addition to yourself, Inspector?” he asked. “I’m not going to talk to strangers.”
“Oh, well!” said Mitchington, a little awkwardly. “Of course, doctor, we’ve had to get a bit of professional help in these unpleasant matters. This gentleman’s Detective-Sergeant Jettison, from the Yard.”