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Aylward Edward Dingle
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In a great canopied bed, taken from some rich looted Indiaman, Red Jabez lay motionless as an effigy in stone. His tall, powerful body was sharply outlined in coverings of silk and rare lace; the arms and crest of a ducal house were worked into the pillows that supported his massive head. His dra wn, haggard face was surrounded and all but covered with a great mane of vivid red hair; his silken shirt, wide open at the neck, revealed a massive chest, whose tide of respiration had all but ceased to run. Only his eyes, fierce yet, held token of lingering life; it was as if the vital spark was concentrated into one final blaze of tremendous brilliancy.
The fierce eyes moved swiftly at Dolores's entrance, and one might have said a film of tenderness swept for an instant over the hard glint in them. It was gone as swiftly as it came, and the stare settled unwaveringly upon the stupefied girl. For stupefaction had gripped Dolores in that first entry into the great chamber. Her wildest dreams, and they had been at times fantastic, had never showed her anything measurably approaching the scene that smote her eyes now. For the moment death, Red Jabez, her destiny, everything melted into the visionary beyond and left her capable of no volition.
The great bed stood in the center of a vast cavern; sides, roof, floor, every inch of the rock itself bore proof of the handiwork of hundreds of cunning craftsmen; but the furnishings filled Dolores's eyes to the exclusion of all else. Divans and chairs, cabinets and tables carried the mind far away to the realm of emperors and kings; vases from China and Greece stood on stands of boule-work; a tall ebony-and-ivory clock-case, in which ticked sonorously a masterpiece of Peter Hele, stood between two gorgeous pieces of Gobelin tapestry. And around her and above, Dolores's amazed eyes lighted upon gems of the painter's art such as few collections might boast. The entire ceiling was covered with a colossal "Battle of the Amazons," by Rubens, each figure thrown out in startling distinctness, full of voluptuous life and action; the walls were mantled by vast golden frames holding the best of Titian, Correggio and Giorgione, Raphael and Ribera. And jewels flashed everywhere; cunningly placed lamps, themselves encrusted with the reddest of rubies, the subtlest of green emeralds, flooded walls and furnishings with a soft yet searching light which seemed to be carefully calculated to accentuate those things whose beauty demanded light, yet to leave the eye unwearied.