Gentle Julia (Chapter Seven, page 2 of 9)


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She found him at home. He was importantly engaged in a room in the cellar, where were loosely stored all manner of incapacitated household devices; two broken clothes-wringers, a crippled and rusted sewing-machine, an ice-cream freezer in like condition, a cracked and discarded marble mantelpiece, chipped porcelain and chinaware of all sorts, rusted stove lids and flatirons, half a dozen dead mops and brooms. This was the laboratory, and here, in congenial solitude, Herbert conducted his investigations. That is to say, until Florence arrived he was undisturbed by human intrusion, but he was not alone--far from it! There was, in fact, almost too much life in the place.

Where the light fell clearest from the cobwebby windows at the ground level overhead, he had placed a long deal table, once a helpmate in the kitchen, but now a colourless antique on three legs and two starch boxes. Upon the table were seven or eight glass jars, formerly used for preserves and pickles, and a dozen jelly glasses (with only streaks and bits of jelly in them now) and five or six small round pasteboard pill-boxes. The jars were covered, some with their own patent tops, others with shingles or bits of board, and one with a brick. The jelly glasses stood inverted, and were inhabited; so were the preserve jars and pickle jars; and so were the pill-boxes, which evidently contained star boarders, for they were pierced with "breathing holes," and one of them, standing upon its side like a little wheel, now and then moved in a faint, ghostly manner as if about to start rolling on its own account--whereupon Herbert glanced up and addressed it sternly, though somewhat inconsistently: "You shut up!"

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