Read CHAPTER I - THE VISITOR'S SHADOW of Ambrotox and Limping Dick , free online book, by Oliver Fleming, on ReadCentral.com.

Randal Bellamy’s country house was a place of pleasant breakfasts. From the dining room the outlook was delightful; grass, flowers and sunshine, with the host’s easy charm, made it almost as easy for Theophilus Caldegard to drink his tea fresh, as for his daughter Amaryllis not to keep her host, Sir Randal, waiting for his coffee.

This morning, while she waited for the two men, the girl, remembering that this was the eighteenth of June, was surprised by the ease with which the five weeks of her stay had slipped by; and she wondered, without anxiety, at what point the guest merges into the inmate.

“I can’t live here for ever,” she thought; “but as long as there’s room for his test-tubes, and his dinner’s good, dad thinks it’s all right for a girl.”

And, as if it was all right, she laughed just in time for Randal Bellamy to get full benefit of the pleasant sound.

“Laughing all alone?” he said.

“That’s when the funny things happen,” replied Amaryllis.

Bellamy looked down at her, as if asking a share in her merriment.

“After all, I don’t know why I laughed,” she said. “I was only thinking it’s five whole weeks since we came here, and ”

“And you want to go somewhere else?”

Amaryllis shook her head. “And it’s gone like five days, I was going to say.”

She took her seat at the table and poured out his coffee. “I’m not going to let you wait a moment for father this morning; it was two o’clock when he went to bed.”

“How do you know that, you bad girl?” said Bellamy.

“Because dad can’t get out of the habit of putting his boots outside his door,” she replied. “And when he’s pleased with his work, he throws ’em out.”

“I’ve heard them,” he said, laughing. “But last night I was in bed before twelve; I suppose he took advantage of that and sneaked back to the laboratory again.”

“But I thought,” said Amaryllis, after a pause, “that Ambrotox was finished and ready to make its bow to the public.”

“God forbid!” said Bellamy, in a tone of such intensity that the girl was astonished.

“But surely you’ve been helping him to finish it you wanted it finished,” she exclaimed.

“Yes, but not published,” said the man.

The girl’s next eager question was cut short by the entrance of the parlour-maid with the morning’s letters; and after her came Theophilus Caldegard.

His person was as unlike the popular conception of a man of science as can well be imagined. His sturdy figure, thick white hair, and the ruddy complexion of his face, where the benevolence of the mouth attracted attention before the keenness of the eyes, suggested rather the country gentleman than the man of genius whose discoveries might move a world.

He kissed his daughter, and, “Tea quick the kettle’s boiling, Amy,” he said. “Morning, Bellamy.”

And, as Bellamy made no response, “First time I ever saw him absorbed by a letter,” he remarked:

“Best one I’ve had for six months,” said Bellamy, looking up. “That young brother of mine’s coming down by the three-ten.”

“Rolling down, you mean,” said Caldegard.

“Can’t roll any longer covered with moss,” retorted Bellamy. “Aunt Jenny died and didn’t leave me a cent.”

“Why didn’t he come before?” asked Caldegard.

“Been looking for something to do,” said the brother. “Now he’s been a soldier, I don’t believe there’s anything left.”

“How long was he in the Army?”

“Twelve months in the trenches, two years in the Air Force, and, one time with another, ten months in hospital,” replied Bellamy.

“And as soon as he’s clear of the Army, he finds he’s got money to burn,” chuckled Caldegard. “No wonder it’s six months before he pays a visit to his respectable big brother.”

Amaryllis gathered up her half-read letters, and walked absent-mindedly to the open french-window.

“Oh well,” continued her father, “I’m afraid there aren’t many sensations left for your rolling stone.”

Amaryllis went slowly down the steps into the garden, Bellamy watching her until she was out of sight.

“Look here, Caldegard,” he said, turning quickly. “Your daughter knows it’s a secret, but she does not know it’s a deadly one.”

“Well?” said Caldegard.

“My brother,” continued Bellamy, “doesn’t know there is a secret, and is coming to live in the middle of it. I think that your daughter should know the whole story; and, when you’ve met him, I hope you’ll think it good business to trust my young ’un as completely as I trust yours.”