The Dynamiter

Page 56

'How simple and manly!' she cried: 'none of that effeminacy of neatness, which is so detestable in a man!' Hard upon this, telling him, before he had time to reply, that she very well knew her way, and would trouble him no further, she took her leave with an engaging smile, and ascended the staircase alone.

For more than an hour the young lady remained closeted with Mr. Jones; and at the end of that time, the night being now come completely, they left the house in company. This was the first time since the arrival of his lodger, that Somerset had found himself alone with the Irish widow; and without the loss of any more time than was required by decency, he stepped to the foot of the stairs and hailed her by her name. She came instantly, wreathed in weak smiles and with a nodding head; and when the young man politely offered to introduce her to the treasures of his art, she swore that nothing could afford her greater pleasure, for, though she had never crossed the threshold, she had frequently observed his beautiful pictures through the door. On entering the dining-room, the sight of a bottle and two glasses prepared her to be a gentle critic; and as soon as the pictures had been viewed and praised, she was easily persuaded to join the painter in a single glass. 'Here,' she said, 'are my respects; and a pleasure it is, in this horrible house, to see a gentleman like yourself, so affable and free, and a very nice painter, I am sure.' One glass so agreeably prefaced, was sure to lead to the acceptance of a second; at the third, Somerset was free to cease from the affectation of keeping her company; and as for the fourth, she asked it of her own accord. 'For indeed,' said she, 'what with all these clocks and chemicals, without a drop of the creature life would be impossible entirely. And you seen yourself that even M'Guire was glad to beg for it. And even himself, when he is downhearted with all these cruel disappointments, though as temperate a man as any child, will be sometimes crying for a glass of it. And I'll thank you for a thimbleful to settle what I got.' Soon after, she began with tears to narrate the deathbed dispositions and lament the trifling assets of her husband. Then she declared she heard 'the master' calling her, rose to her feet, made but one lurch of it into the still-life rockery, and with her head upon the lobster, fell into stertorous slumbers.

Somerset mounted at once to the first story, and opened the door of the drawing-room, which was brilliantly lit by several lamps. It was a great apartment; looking on the square with three tall windows, and joined by a pair of ample folding-doors to the next room; elegant in proportion, papered in sea-green, furnished in velvet of a delicate blue, and adorned with a majestic mantelpiece of variously tinted marbles. Such was the room that Somerset remembered; that which he now beheld was changed in almost every feature: the furniture covered with a figured chintz; the walls hung with a rhubarb-coloured paper, and diversified by the curtained recesses for no less than seven windows. It seemed to himself that he must have entered, without observing the transition, into the adjoining house. Presently from these more specious changes, his eye condescended to the many curious objects with which the floor was littered. Here were the locks of dismounted pistols; clocks and clockwork in every stage of demolition, some still busily ticking, some reduced to their dainty elements; a great company of carboys, jars and bottles; a carpenter's bench and a laboratory-table.

The back drawing-room, to which Somerset proceeded, had likewise undergone a change. It was transformed to the exact appearance of a common lodging-house bedroom; a bed with green curtains occupied one corner; and the window was blocked by the regulation table and mirror. The door of a small closet here attracted the young man's attention; and striking a vesta, he opened it and entered. On a table several wigs and beards were lying spread; about the walls hung an incongruous display of suits and overcoats; and conspicuous among the last the young man observed a large overall of the most costly sealskin.

The Dynamiter Page 57

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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