The rain gave over about five o'clock, and the sun, having struggled unavailingly all day with a leaden November sky, burst forth in fiery rage, when but a few short minutes separated him from the horizon. His tawny splendour surrounded me as I trudged from Richmond, in Surrey, to the neighbouring hamlet of Petersham. Above me the wet, naked branches of the trees shone red, and seemed to drip with blood; the hedgerows sparkled their flaming gems; in the meadows, which I struck across to save time, parallel streaks of crimson lay along the cart-ruts. All nature glowed in the lurid light, and, to a mind fraught with much trouble and anxiety, there was something sinister in the slowly dying illumination, in the lowering, savage sky, in the bars of blood that sank hurtling together into the west, and in the vast cloudlands of gloom that were now fast bringing back the rain and the night. Should you ask what reason I, John Lott, a small, middle-aged, banking clerk, who lived in North London, might have for thus rushing away from the warm fire, good wife, pretty daughter, and comforting tea-cake, that were all at this moment awaiting me somewhere in Kilburn, I would reply, that death, sudden and startling, had brought about this earthquake in my orderly existence. Should you again naturally suggest that a four-wheeled cab might have effected with greater cleanliness and dispatch, than my short legs, the country journey between Richmond and Petersham, I would admit the fact, but, at the same time, advance sufficiently sound reasons why that muddy walk was best undertaken on foot. For, touching this death, but one other living man could have equal interest in it with myself; and for me, especially, were entwined round about it issues of very grave and stupendous moment. Honour, rectitude, my duty to myself and to my neighbour, together with other no less important questions, were all at stake; and upon my individual judgment, blinded by no thoughts of personal danger or self-interest, must the case be decided. I had foreseen this for some years, had given much consideration to the matter; but no satisfactory solution of the difficulties at any time presented itself, and now the long anticipated circumstance arrived, as it always does with men of my calibre, to find him most involved and concerned in the conduct of affairs, least qualified to cope with them. Why I walked to Oak Lodge, Petersham, then, was to gain a few minutes, to collect my wandering wits and acquire a mental balance capable of meeting the troubles that awaited me. What I had been unable to accomplish in two years, however, did not seem likely to be effected in twenty minutes; and, indeed, the angry sunset, together with an element of grave personal danger already mentioned, combined to drive all reasonable trains of thought from my head. Ultimately I arrived at my destination, with a mind about as concentrated and purposes about as strong as those of a drowned worm. And wherefore all this misery, do you suppose? Simply because an estimable lady had just been pleased to leave me a comfortable matter of ten thousand pounds. So far good; but when I say that I am not related to the deceased, that her next of kin has for the past fifteen years been seeking an opportunity to take my life, and that a meeting between us is now imminent, it will be noticed the case presents certain unusual difficulties. This assertion - that a man has sought to rob me of my insignificant existence for fifteen years - doubtless appears so preposterous, that it is best I should clearly explain the matter at once. A scrap of the past must here, then, be intercalated between my arrival at Oak Lodge and the events which followed it. Upon my father's death, my mother, who was at that time not much over twenty years of age, married again with one George Beakbane, a wealthy farmer and owner of a comfortable freehold estate in Norfolk. This property had for its title the family name of Beakbane.
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Used availability for Eden Phillpotts's My Adventure in the Flying Scotsman
August 1975 : USA Paperback