The Clue of the Twisted Candle

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The room was obviously a man's den. The leather-covered chairs, the big and well-filled bookcase which covered one wall of the room, the huge, solid-oak writing-desk, covered with books and half-finished manuscripts, spoke unmistakably of its owner's occupation.

After he had changed his shoes, he refilled his pipe, walked over to the fire, and stood looking down into its glowing heart.

He was a man a little above medium height, slimly built, with a breadth of shoulder which was suggestive of the athlete. He had indeed rowed 4 in his boat, and had fought his way into the semi-finals of the amateur boxing championship of England. His face was strong, lean, yet well-moulded. His eyes were grey and deep, his eyebrows straight and a little forbidding. The clean-shaven mouth was big and generous, and the healthy tan of his cheek told of a life lived in the open air.

There was nothing of the recluse or the student in his appearance. He was in fact a typical, healthy-looking Britisher, very much like any other man of his class whom one would meet in the mess-room of the British army, in the wardrooms of the fleet, or in the far-off posts of the Empire, where the administrative cogs of the great machine are to be seen at work.

There was a little tap at the door, and before he could say "Come in" it was pushed open and Grace Lexman entered.

If you described her as brave and sweet you might secure from that brief description both her manner and her charm. He half crossed the room to meet her, and kissed her tenderly.

"I didn't know you were back until - " she said; linking her arm in his.

"Until you saw the horrible mess my mackintosh has made," he smiled. "I know your methods, Watson!"

She laughed, but became serious again.

"I am very glad you've come back. We have a visitor," she said.

He raised his eyebrows.

"A visitor? Whoever came down on a day like this?"

She looked at him a little strangely.

"Mr. Kara," she said.

"Kara? How long has he been here?"

"He came at four."

There was nothing enthusiastic in her tone.

"I can't understand why you don't like old Kara," rallied her husband.

"There are very many reasons," she replied, a little curtly for her.

"Anyway," said John Lexman, after a moment's thought, "his arrival is rather opportune. Where is he?"

"He is in the drawing-room."

The Priory drawing-room was a low-ceilinged, rambling apartment, "all old print and chrysanthemums," to use Lexman's description. Cosy armchairs, a grand piano, an almost medieval open grate, faced with dull-green tiles, a well-worn but cheerful carpet and two big silver candelabras were the principal features which attracted the newcomer.

There was in this room a harmony, a quiet order and a soothing quality which made it a haven of rest to a literary man with jagged nerves. Two big bronze bowls were filled with early violets, another blazed like a pale sun with primroses, and the early woodland flowers filled the room with a faint fragrance.

A man rose to his feet, as John Lexman entered and crossed the room with an easy carriage. He was a man possessed of singular beauty of face and of figure. Half a head taller than the author, he carried himself with such a grace as to conceal his height.

"I missed you in town," he said, "so I thought I'd run down on the off chance of seeing you."

He spoke in the well-modulated tone of one who had had a long acquaintance with the public schools and universities of England. There was no trace of any foreign accent, yet Remington Kara was a Greek and had been born and partly educated in the more turbulent area of Albania.

The two men shook hands warmly.

"You'll stay to dinner?"

Kara glanced round with a smile at Grace Lexman. She sat uncomfortably upright, her hands loosely folded on her lap, her face devoid of encouragement.

"If Mrs. Lexman doesn't object," said the Greek.

"I should be pleased, if you would," she said, almost mechanically; "it is a horrid night and you won't get anything worth eating this side of London and I doubt very much," she smiled a little, "if the meal I can give you will be worthy of that description."

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