The Paradise Mystery by J. S. Fletcher


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Page 1

In one of the oldest of these houses, half hidden behind trees
and shrubs in a corner of the Close, three people sat at
breakfast one fine May morning. The room in which they sat
was in keeping with the old house and its surroundings--a
long, low-ceilinged room, with oak panelling around its walls,
and oak beams across its roof--a room of old furniture, and,
old pictures, and old books, its antique atmosphere relieved
by great masses of flowers, set here and there in old china
bowls: through its wide windows, the casements of which
were thrown wide open, there was an inviting prospect of a
high-edged flower garden, and, seen in vistas through the
trees and shrubberies, of patches of the west front of the
Cathedral, now sombre and grey in shadow. But on the garden
and into this flower-scented room the sun was shining gaily
through the trees, and making gleams of light on the silver
and china on the table and on the faces of the three people
who sat around it.

Of these three, two were young, and the third was one of those
men whose age it is never easy to guess--a tall, clean-shaven,
bright-eyed, alert-looking man, good-looking in a clever,
professional sort of way, a man whom no one could have taken
for anything but a member of one of the learned callings. In
some lights he looked no more than forty: a strong light
betrayed the fact that his dark hair had a streak of
grey in it, and was showing a tendency to whiten about the
temples. A strong, intellectually superior man, this,
scrupulously groomed and well-dressed, as befitted what he
really was--a medical practitioner with an excellent
connection amongst the exclusive society of a cathedral town.
Around him hung an undeniable air of content and prosperity
--as he turned over a pile of letters which stood by his
plate, or glanced at the morning newspaper which lay at his
elbow, it was easy to see that he had no cares beyond those of
the day, and that they--so far as he knew then--were not
likely to affect him greatly. Seeing him in these pleasant
domestic circumstances, at the head of his table, with
abundant evidences of comfort and refinement and modest luxury
about him, any one would have said, without hesitation, that
Dr. Mark Ransford was undeniably one of the fortunate folk of
this world.

The second person of the three was a boy of apparently
seventeen--a well-built, handsome lad of the senior schoolboy
type, who was devoting himself in business-like fashion to
two widely-differing pursuits--one, the consumption of eggs
and bacon and dry toast; the other, the study of a Latin
textbook, which he had propped up in front of him against
the old-fashioned silver cruet. His quick eyes wandered
alternately between his book and his plate; now and then he
muttered a line or two to himself. His companions took no
notice of these combinations of eating and learning: they
knew from experience that it was his way to make up at
breakfast-time for the moments he had stolen from his studies
the night before.

It was not difficult to see that the third member of the
party, a girl of nineteen or twenty, was the boy's sister.
Each had a wealth of brown hair, inclining, in the girl's case
to a shade that had tints of gold in it; each had grey eyes,
in which there was a mixture of blue; each had a bright, vivid
colour; each was undeniably good-looking and eminently
healthy. No one would have doubted that both had lived a good
deal of an open-air existence: the boy was already muscular
and sinewy: the girl looked as if she was well acquainted with
the tennis racket and the golf-stick. Nor would any one have
made the mistake of thinking that these two were blood
relations of the man at the head of the table--between them
and him there was not the least resemblance of feature, of
colour, or of manner.

While the boy learnt the last lines of his Latin, and the
doctor turned over the newspaper, the girl read a letter
--evidently, from the large sprawling handwriting, the missive
of some girlish correspondent. She was deep in it when, from
one of the turrets of the Cathedral, a bell began to ring. At
that, she glanced at her brother.

"There's Martin, Dick!" she said. "You'll have to hurry."

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Dec 2019, 20:54