The New Magdalen (Chapter 6, page 1 of 11)


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Chapter 6

IT is a glorious winter's day. The sky is clear, the frost is hard, the
ice bears for skating.

The dining-room of the ancient mansion called Mablethorpe House,
situated in the London suburb of Kensington, is famous among artists
and other persons of taste for the carved wood-work, of Italian origin,
which covers the walls on three sides. On the fourth side the march of
modern improvement has broken in, and has va ried and brightened the
scene by means of a conservatory, forming an entrance to the room
through a winter-garden of rare plants and flowers. On your right hand,
as you stand fronting the conservatory, the monotony of the paneled wall
is relieved by a quaintly patterned door of old inlaid wood, leading
into the library, and thence, across the great hall, to the other
reception-rooms of the house. A corresponding door on the left hand
gives access to the billiard-room, to the smoking-room next to it,
and to a smaller hall commanding one of the secondary entrances to the
building. On the left side also is the ample fireplace, surmounted by
its marble mantelpiece, carved in the profusely and confusedly ornate
style of eighty years since. To the educated eye the dining-room, with
its modern furniture and conservatory, its ancient walls and doors,
and its lofty mantelpiece (neither very old nor very new), presents a
startling, almost a revolutionary, mixture of the decorative workmanship
of widely differing schools. To the ignorant eye the one result
produced is an impression of perfect luxury and comfort, united in the
friendliest combination, and developed on the largest scale.

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