Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/403

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The dining-room in Arden Lodge was superbly furnished with a silver chandelier. This splendid object was of such incomparable interest that Lord Twacorbie, who was a man of taste no less than an economist, had the walls which formed its background, bare, the floor beneath covered with a plain drugget, and the tables and chairs in the apartment of the simplest design. On the same artistic principle, he gave large dinners, at which the rarest, indeed, unheard-of delicacies, (which were as disagreeable to the palate as they were interesting to the explorer and antiquarian), formed the brief but sufficient menu.

On a certain evening in the early spring of 189-, one of these dinners had taken place with unusual success, possibly because most of the thirty guests were persons of importance, probably because some roast mutton had, by a new cook's judicious mistake, formed a vulgar but stimulating addition to the choice viands of the banquet. The ladies had left the table, and the fifteen men who remained sighed, some with relief, some with regret, some from the force of example, and some because they could dine no more that day.

Lord Twacorbie was a gentleman whom food did not nourish, and whose airy shapelessness made him seem in some way symbolic of the universe when it was without form, and void. To-night he fluttered