The Black Moth (Chapter 3, page 1 of 15)

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Chapter 3

Wyncham! A stately old house with mullioned windows, standing high on its stone terraces, half-covered by creepers; a house surrounded by lawns, rolling down on the one side to a river that rippled and murmured its way along beneath overhanging trees and a blue sky, over boulders and rocks, so clear and sparkling that the myriad pebbles could be seen deep down on its bed.

In the other direction, the velvet lawns stretched away till they met the orchards and the quiet meadowland.

On two sides the house had its terraces, very white in the sunshine, with stone steps leading down to a miniature lake where waterlilies grew, and where the tiny fish darted to and fro unconcernedly.

Flagged walks there were, running between flower beds a riot of colour, and solemn old trees that had stood there through all the years.

Cool woodland lay beyond the little river, carpeted with dark moss, where in spring the primroses grew. So thick was the foliage of the trees that the sun but penetrated in uneven patches.

Up the terrace walls crept roses, yellow and red, pink and white, and tossed their trailing sprays across the parapet. Over the walls of the house they climbed, mingling with purple clematis, jasmine, and sickly honeysuckle. The air was heavy with their united perfumes, while, wafted from a bed below, came the smoky scent of lavender.

The old house seemed half asleep, basking in the sunlight. Save for a peacock preening its feathers on the terrace steps, there was no sign of life. . . .

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