St. Elmo (Chapter 5, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 5

At length, by the aid of crutches, Edna was able to leave the room where she had been so long confined, and explore the house in which every day discovered some new charm. The parlors and sitting-room opened on a long, arched veranda, which extended around two sides of the building, and was paved with variegated tiles; while the stained-glass doors of the dining-room, with its lofty frescoed ceiling and deep bow-windows, led by two white marble steps out on the terrace, whence two more steps showed the beginning of a serpentine gravel walk winding down to an octagonal hot-house, surmounted by a richly carved pagoda-roof. Two sentinel statues--a Bacchus and Bacchante--placed on the terrace, guarded the entrance to the dining-room; and in front of the house, where a sculptured Triton threw jets of water into a gleaming circular basin, a pair of crouching monsters glared from the steps.

When Edna first found herself before these grim doorkeepers, she started back in unfeigned terror, and could scarcely repress a cry of alarm, for the howling rage and despair of the distorted hideous heads seemed fearfully real, and years elapsed before she comprehended their significance, or the sombre mood which impelled their creation. They were imitations of that monumental lion's head, raised on the battle- field of Chaeroneia, to commemorate the Boeotians slain. In the rear of and adjoining the library, a narrow, vaulted passage with high Gothic windows of stained-glass, opened into a beautifully proportioned rotunda, and beyond this circular apartment with its ruby-tinted skylight and Moresque frescoes, extended two other rooms, of whose shape or contents Edna knew nothing, save the tall arched windows that looked down on the terrace. The door of the rotunda was generally closed, but accidentally it stood open one morning, and she caught a glimpse of the circular form and the springing dome. Evidently this portion of the mansion had been recently built, while the remainder of the house had been constructed many years earlier; but all desire to explore it was extinguished when Mrs. Murray remarked one day: "That passage leads to my son's apartments, and he dislikes noise or intrusion."

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