St. Elmo (Chapter 6, page 1 of 11)


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Chapter 6

The narrow, vaulted passage leading to Mr. Murray's suit of rooms was dim and gloomy when Edna approached the partly opened door of the rotunda, whence issued a stream of light. Timidly she crossed the threshold and stood within on the checkered floor, whose polished tiles glistened under the glare of gas from bronze brackets representing Telamones, that stood at regular intervals around the apartment. The walls were painted in Saracenic style, and here and there hung specimens of Oriental armor--Turcoman cimeters, Damascus swords, Bedouin lances, and a crimson silk flag, with heavy gold fringe, surmounted by a crescent. The cornice of the lofty arched ceiling was elaborately arabesque, and as Edna looked up she saw through the glass roof the flickering of stars in the summer sky. In the centre of the room, immediately under the dome, stretched a billiard-table, and near it was a circular one of black marble, inlaid with red onyx and lapis lazuli, which formed a miniature zodiac similar to that at Denderah, while in the middle of this table sat a small Murano hour-glass, filled with sand from the dreary valley of El Ghor.

A huge plaster Trimurti stood close to the wall, on a triangular pedestal of black rock, and the Siva-face and the writhing cobra confronted all who entered. Just opposite grinned a red granite slab with a quaint basso-relievo taken from the ruins of Elora. Near the door were two silken divans, and a richly carved urn, three feet high, which had once ornamented the facade of a tomb in the royal days of Petra, ere the curse fell on Edom, now stood an in memoriam of the original Necropolis. For what purpose this room was designed or used Edna could not imagine, and after a hasty survey of its singular furniture, she crossed the rotunda, and knocked at the door that stood slightly ajar. All was silent; but the smell of a cigar told her that the owner was within, and she knocked once more.

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