The Paradise Mystery

J.S. Fletcher
The Paradise Mystery

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Title: The Paradise Mystery
Author: J. S. Fletcher
Release Date: March, 2004 [EBook #5308] [Yes, we are more than one
year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on June 27, 2002]

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The Paradise Mystery by J. S. Fletcher

American tourists, sure appreciators of all that is ancient and
picturesque in England, invariably come to a halt, holding their breath
in a sudden catch of wonder, as they pass through the half-ruinous
gateway which admits to the Close of Wrychester. Nowhere else in
England is there a fairer prospect of old-world peace. There before their
eyes, set in the centre of a great green sward, fringed by tall elms and
giant beeches, rises the vast fabric of the thirteenth-century Cathedral,
its high spire piercing the skies in which rooks are for ever circling and
calling. The time-worn stone, at a little distance delicate as lacework, is
transformed at different hours of the day into shifting shades of colour,
varying from grey to purple: the massiveness of the great nave and
transepts contrasts impressively with the gradual tapering of the spire,
rising so high above turret and clerestory that it at last becomes a mere
line against the ether. In morning, as in afternoon, or in evening, here is
a perpetual atmosphere of rest; and not around the great church alone,
but in the quaint and ancient houses which fence in the Close. Little
less old than the mighty mass of stone on which their ivy-framed
windows look, these houses make the casual observer feel that here, if
anywhere in the world, life must needs run smoothly. Under those high

gables, behind those mullioned windows, in the beautiful old gardens
lying between the stone porches and the elm-shadowed lawn, nothing,
one would think, could possibly exist but leisured and pleasant
existence: even the busy streets of the old city, outside the crumbling
gateway, seem, for the moment, far off.
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
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