Marley was an old moated house some five miles from Roxton, a place that seemed stolen from a romance, save that there was nothing romantic about its inmates. A well-wooded park protected it from the high-road, the red walls rising warm and mellow behind the yews, junipers, and cedars that grew in the rambling garden. Spring flowers were binding the sleek, sun-streaked lawns with strands of color, dashes of crimson, of azure, and white, of golden daffodils blowing like banners amid a sheaf of spears. Here and there the lawns were purple with crocuses, and the singing of the birds seemed to turn the yew-trees into towers of song.
The panting of Murchison’s car seemed to outrage the atmosphere of the place, as though the fierce and aggressive present were intruding upon the dreamy past. A manservant met the doctor, and led him across the Jacobean hall to the library, whose windows looked towards the west.
Parker Steel was standing before the fire, biting his black mustache. He had the appearance of a man whose vanity had been ruffled, and who was having an unwelcome consultation forced upon him by the preposterous fussing of some elderly relative.
The two men shook hands, Steel’s white fingers limp in his rival’s palm. His air of cultured hauteur had fallen to freezing point. He condescended, and made it a matter of dignity.
“Sorry to drag you over here, Murchison. Mr. Pennington has been on the fidget with regard to his daughter, and to appease him I elected to send for you at once.”
Murchison warmed his hands before the fire. Steel’s grandiloquent manner always amused him.
“I am glad to be of any use to you. Who is the patient, Miss Julia Pennington?”