The Midnight Queen (Chapter 8, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 8

When Sir Norman Kingsley entered the ancient ruin, his head was fall of
Leoline--when he knelt down to look through the aperture in the flagged
floor, head and heart were full of her still. But the moment his eyes
fell on the scene beneath, everything fled far from his thoughts,
Leoline among the rest; and nothing remained but a profound and
absorbing feeling of intensest amaze.

Right below him he beheld an immense room, of which the flag he had
raised seemed to form part of the ceiling, in a remote corner. Evidently
it was one of a range of lower vaults, and as he was at least fourteen
feet above it, and his corner somewhat in shadow, there was little
danger of his being seen. So, leaning far down to look at his leisure,
he took the goods the gods provided him, and stared to his heart's
content.

Sir Norman had seen some queer sights daring the four-and-twenty years
he had spent in this queer world, but never anything quite equal to
this. The apartment below, though so exceedingly large, was lighted with
the brilliance of noon-day; and every object it contained; from one end
to the other, was distinctly revealed. The floor, from glimpses he
had of it in obscure corners, was of stone; but from end to end it was
covered with richest rugs and mats, and squares of velvet of as many
colors as Joseph's coat. The walls were hung with splendid tapestry,
gorgeous in silk and coloring, representing the wars of Troy, the
exploits of Coeur de Lion among the Saracens, the death of Hercules, all
on one side; and on the other, a more modern representation, the Field
of the Cloth of Gold. The illumination proceeded from a range of wax
tapers in silver candelabra, that encircled the whole room. The air was
redolent of perfumes, and filled with strains of softest and sweetest
music from unseen hands. At one extremity of the room was a huge door
of glass and gilding; and opposite it, at the other extremity, was
a glittering throne. It stood on a raised dais, covered with crimson
velvet, reached by two or three steps carpeted with the same; the throne
was as magnificent as gold, and satin, and ornamentation could make
it. A great velvet canopy of the same deep, rich color, cut in antique
points, and heavily hang with gold fringe, was above the seat of honor.
Beside it, to the right, but a little lower down, was a similar throne,
somewhat lees superb, and minus a canopy. From the door to the throne
was a long strip of crimson velvet, edged and embroidered with gold, and
arranged in a sweeping semi-circle, on either side, were a row of great
carved, gilded, and cushioned chairs, brilliant, too, with crimson and
gold, and each for every-day Christians, a throne in itself. Between the
blaze of illumination, the flashing of gilding and gold, the tropical
flush of crimson velvet, the rainbow dyes on floor and walls, the
intoxicating gushes of perfume, and the delicious strains of unseen
music, it is no wonder Sir Norman Kingsley's head was spinning like a
bewildered teetotum.

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