Book the Second - the Golden Thread
9. IX. The Gorgon's Head
It was a heavy mass of building, that chateau of Monsieur the Marquis,
with a large stone courtyard before it, and two stone sweeps of
staircase meeting in a stone terrace before the principal door.
A stony business altogether, with heavy stone balustrades, and stone
urns, and stone flowers, and stone faces of men, and stone heads of
lions, in all directions. As if the Gorgon's head had surveyed it,
when it was finished, two centuries ago.
Up the broad flight of shallow steps, Monsieur the Marquis, flambeau
preceded, went from his carriage, sufficiently disturbing the darkness
to elicit loud remonstrance from an owl in the roof of the great pile
of stable building away among the trees. All else was so quiet, that
the flambeau carried up the steps, and the other flambeau held at the
great door, burnt as if they were in a close room of state, instead
of being in the open night-air. Other sound than the owl's voice
there was none, save the failing of a fountain into its stone basin;
for, it was one of those dark nights that hold their breath by the hour
together, and then heave a long low sigh, and hold their breath again.
The great door clanged behind him, and Monsieur the Marquis crossed
a hall grim with certain old boar-spears, swords, and knives of the
chase; grimmer with certain heavy riding-rods and riding-whips, of
which many a peasant, gone to his benefactor Death, had felt the
weight when his lord was angry.
Avoiding the larger rooms, which were dark and made fast for the
night, Monsieur the Marquis, with his flambeau-bearer going on before,
went up the staircase to a door in a corridor. This thrown open,
admitted him to his own private apartment of three rooms:
his bed-chamber and two others. High vaulted rooms with cool
uncarpeted floors, great dogs upon the hearths for the burning
of wood in winter time, and all luxuries befitting the state
of a marquis in a luxurious age and country. The fashion
of the last Louis but one, of the line that was never to break
--the fourteenth Louis--was conspicuous in their rich furniture;
but, it was diversified by many objects that were illustrations
of old pages in the history of France.