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- The Paradise Mystery - 40/50 -
straight ahead into the old city he turned off at a by-road, made a line across the northern outskirts, and headed for the golf-links. He was almost certain to find Mary Bewery there at that hour, and he wanted to see her at once. The time for his great stroke had come.
But Mary Bewery was not there--had not been there that morning said the caddy-master. There were only a few players out. In one of them, coming towards the club-house, Bryce recognized Sackville Bonham. And at sight of Sackville, Bryce had an inspiration. Mary Bewery would not come up to the links now before afternoon; he, Bryce, would lunch there and then go towards Wrychester to meet her by the path across the fields on which he had waylaid her after his visit to Leicestershire. And meanwhile he would inveigle Sackville Bonham into conversation. Sackville fell readily into Bryce's trap. He was the sort of youth who loves to talk, especially in a hinting and mysterious fashion. And when Bryce, after treating him to an appetizer in the bar of the club-house, had suggested that they should lunch together and got him into a quiet corner of the dining-room, he launched forth at once on the pertinent matter of the day.
"Heard all about this discovery of those missing Saxonsteade diamonds?" he asked as he and Bryce picked up their knives and forks. "Queer business that, isn't it? Of course, it's got to do with those murders!"
"Think so?" asked Bryce.
"Can anybody think anything else?" said Sackville in his best dogmatic manner. "Why, the thing's plain. From what's been let out--not much, certainly, but enough--it's quite evident."
"What's your theory?" inquired Bryce.
"My stepfather--knowing old bird he is, too!--sums the whole thing up to a nicety," answered Sackville. "That old chap, Braden, you know, is in possession of that secret. He comes to Wrychester about it. But somebody else knows. That somebody gets rid of Braden. Why? So that the secret'll be known then only to one--the murderer! See! And why? Why?"
"Well, why?" repeated Bryce. "Don't see, so far."
"You must be dense, then," said Sackville with the lofty superiority of youth. "Because of the reward, of course! Don't you know that there's been a standing offer--never withdrawn!--of five thousand pounds for news of those jewels?"
"No, I didn't," answered Bryce.
"Fact, sir--pure fact," continued Sackville. "Now, five thousand, divided in two, is two thousand five hundred each. But five thousand, undivided, is--what?"
"Five thousand--apparently," said Bryce.
"Just so! And," remarked Sackville knowingly, "a man'll do a lot for five thousand."
"Or--according to your argument--for half of it," said Bryce. "What you--or your stepfather's--aiming at comes to this, that suspicion rests on Braden's sharer in the secret. That it?"
"And why not?" asked Sackville. "Look at what we know--from the account in the paper this morning. This other chap, Glassdale, waits a bit until the first excitement about Braden is over, then he comes forward and tells the Duke where the Duchess's diamonds are planted. Why? So that he can get the five thousand pound reward! Plain as a pikestaff! Only, the police are such fools."
"And what about Collishaw?" asked Bryce, willing to absorb all his companion's ideas.
"Part of the game," declared Sackville. "Same man that got rid of Braden got rid of that chap! Probably Collishaw knew a bit and had to be silenced. But, whether that Glassdale did it all off his own bat or whether he's somebody in with him, that's where the guilt'll be fastened in the end, my stepfather says. And--it'll be so. Stands to reason!"
"Anybody come forward about that reward your stepfather offered?" asked Bryce.
"I'm not permitted to say," answered Sackville. "But," he added, leaning closer to his companion across the table, "I can tell you this--there's wheels within wheels! You understand! And things'll be coming out. Got to! We can't --as a family--let Ransford lie under that cloud, don't you know. We must clear him. That's precisely why Mr. Folliot offered his reward. Ransford, of course, you know, Bryce, is very much to blame--he ought to have done more himself. And, of course, as my mother and my stepfather say, if Ransford won't do things for himself, well, we must do 'em for him! We couldn't think of anything else."
"Very good of you all, I'm sure," assented Bryce. "Very thoughtful and kindly."
"Oh, well!" said Sackville, who was incapable of perceiving a sneer or of knowing when older men were laughing at him. "It's one of those things that one's got to do--under the circumstances. Of course, Miss Bewery isn't Dr. Ransford's daughter, but she's his ward, and we can't allow suspicion to rest on her guardian. You leave it to me, my boy, and you'll see how things will be cleared!"
"Doing a bit underground, eh?" asked Bryce.
"Wait a bit!" answered Sackville with a knowing wink. "It's the least expected that happens--what?"
Bryce replied that Sackville was no doubt right, and began to talk of other matters. He hung about the club-house until past three o'clock, and then, being well acquainted with Mary Bewery's movements from long observation of them, set out to walk down towards Wrychester, leaving his bicycle behind him. If he did not meet Mary on the way, he meant to go to the house. Ransford would be out on his afternoon round of calls; Dick Bewery would be at school; he would find Mary alone. And it was necessary that he should see her alone, and at once, for since morning an entirely new view of affairs had come to him, based on added knowledge, and he now saw a chance which he had never seen before. True, he said to himself, as he walked across the links and over the country which lay between their edge and Wrychester, he had not, even now, the accurate knowledge as to the actual murderer of either Braden or Collishaw that he would have liked, but he knew something that would enable him to ask Mary Bewery point-blank whether he was to be friend or enemy. And he was still considering the best way of putting his case to her when, having failed to meet her on the way, he at last turned into the Close, and as he approached Ransford's house, saw Mrs. Folliot leaving it.
Mary Bewery, like Bryce, had been having a day of events. To begin with, Ransford had received a wire from London, first thing in the morning, which had made him run, breakfastless, to catch the next express. He had left Mary to make arrangements about his day's work, for he had not yet replaced Bryce, and she had been obliged to seek out another practitioner who could find time from his own duties to attend to Ransford's urgent patients. Then she had had to see callers who came to the surgery expecting to find Ransford there; and in the middle of a busy morning, Mr. Folliot had dropped in, to bring her a bunch of roses, and, once admitted, had shown unmistakable signs of a desire to gossip.
"Ransford out?" he asked as he sat down in the dining-room. "Suppose he is, this time of day."
"He's away," replied Mary. "He went to town by the first express, and I have had a lot of bother arranging about his patients."
"Did he hear about this discovery of the Saxonsteade jewels before he went?" asked Folliot. "Suppose he wouldn't though --wasn't known until the weekly paper came out this morning. Queer business! You've heard, of course?"
"Dr. Short told me," answered Mary. "I don't know any details."
Folliot looked meditatively at her a moment.
"Got something to do with those other matters, you know," he remarked. "I say! What's Ransford doing about all that?"
"About all what, Mr. Folliot?" asked Mary, at once on her guard. "I don't understand you."
"You know--all that suspicion--and so on," said Folliot. "Bad position for a professional man, you know--ought to clear himself. Anybody been applying for that reward Ransford offered?"
"I don't know anything about it," replied Mary. "Dr. Ransford is very well able to take care of himself, I think. Has anybody applied for yours?"
Folliot rose from his chair again, as if he had changed his mind about lingering, and shook his head.
"Can't say what my solicitors may or may not have heard--or done," he answered. "But--queer business, you know--and ought to be settled. Bad for Ransford to have any sort of a cloud over him. Sorry to see it."
"Is that why you came forward with a reward?" asked Mary.
But to this direct question Folliot made no answer. Ile muttered something about the advisability of somebody doing something and went away, to Mary's relief. She had no desire to discuss the Paradise mysteries with anybody, especially after Ransford's assurance of the previous evening. But in the middle of the afternoon in walked Mrs. Folliot, a rare caller, and before she had been closeted with Mary five minutes brought up the subject again.
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