Page:What will he do with it.djvu/86

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


relief and running be tween woodwork and ceiling. The ceiling itself was relieved by long pendants without any apparent meaning, and by the crest of the Darrells,—a heron, wreathed round with the family motto, "Ardua petit Ardea." It was a dining-room, as was shown by the character of the furniture. But there was no attempt on the part of the present owner, and there had clearly been none on the part of his predecessor, to suit the furniture to the room. The furniture, indeed, was of the heavy, graceless taste of George the First,—cumbrous chairs in walnut-tree, with a worm-eaten mosaic of the heron on their homely backs, and a faded blue worsted on their seats; a marvellously ugly sideboard to match, and on it a couple of black shagreen cases, the lids of which were flung open, and discovered the pistol-shaped handles of silver knives. The mantelpiece reached to the ceiling, in panelled compartments, with heraldic shields, and supported by rude stone Caryatides. On the walls were several pictures,—family portraits, for the names were inscribed on the frames. They varied in date from the reign of Elizabeth to that of George I. A strong family likeness pervaded them all,—high features, dark hair, grave aspects,—save indeed one, a Sir Ralph Haughton Darrell, in a dress that spoke him of the holiday date of Charles II.,—all knots, lace, and ribbons; evidently the beau of the race; and he had blue eyes, a blonde peruke, a careless profligate smile, and looked altogether as devil-me-care, rakehelly, handsome, good-for-nought, as ever swore at a drawer, beat a watchman, charmed a lady, terrified a husband, and hummed a song as he pinked his man.

Lionel was still gazing upon the effigies of this airy cavalier when the door behind him opened very noiselessly, and a man of imposing presence stood on the threshold,—stood so still, and the carved mouldings of the doorway so shadowed, and as it were cased round his figure, that Lionel, on turning quickly, might have mistaken him for a portrait brought into bold relief from its frame by a sudden fall of light. We hear it, indeed, familiarly said that such a one is like an old picture. Never could it be more appositely said than of the face on which the young visitor gazed, much startled and somewhat awed. Not such as inferior limners had painted in the portraits there, though it had something in common with those family lineaments, but such as might have looked tranquil power out of the canvas of Titian.

The man stepped forward, and the illusion passed. "I thank you," he said, holding out his hand, "for taking me at my word, and answering me thus in person." He paused a moment, sur-