The imagery by which, in the depths of his mind, he sought to interpret to himself the whole singular business ran, it seems, even then to music and the analogies of music. The meal was short and very simple. Mrs. Mawle carved the joint at the end of the table, handed the vegetables and looked after their wants with the precision of long habit.
She recalled Tom Abbott's warning to keep them always in her safe deposit box and the key hidden. They might be traced if stolen, but State's Prison for the thief would be cold comfort if the bonds had been cashed and the money spent. She had always had one of the lighter Italian pieces in her bedroom, a beautiful cabinet of carved and gilded oak nearly black with age.
There were patches of grey on the walls, which had once been painted with garlands of roses and Cupids and pastoral scenes by a noted artist of the Great Age. The ceiling had fallen in places, and the woodwork of the carved furniture gave forth a subtle scent of dry rot. But everything was in an exquisite taste which vulgarer generations have never yet succeeded in imitating.
Crewe led the way through the house to the study, pausing once or twice to point out to Austen a carved ivory elephant procured at great expense in China, and a piece of tapestry equally difficult of purchase.
After careful search he discovered on some of the pillars of the middle doorway the Vices embodied in small carved groups: Lust, as a woman fondling a young man; Drunkenness as a boor about to hit a bishop; Discord by a husband quarrelling with his wife, while an empty bottle and a broken distaff lie near them.
In the vestibule-the hangings of which are of Cordova-leather, with gold ground-seemingly awaiting the good pleasure of some grand lady, is a sedan-chair, decorated with paintings by Fragonard. Farther on, there is one of those superb carved mother-of-pearl coffers, in which Oriental women lay by their finery and jewellery.
Persisting in his efforts, he now launched three roughly carved canoes, in which he placed a number of seeds, pointing at himself and various others; then in each of the prows he placed two seeds and pointed at the six of us, two at a time.
One lingers in the cool shadow of the cloisters before many an old marble, a vase carved with Bacchanalian women, the head of Achilles, or the bust of Isotta of Rimini. But it is before the fresco of the Triumph of Death that one stays longest, trying to understand the dainty treatment of so horrible a subject.
It was my duty to close it, and I had not been there to do so. Then, bidding the dog lie down outside, I stepped through boldly, reached the door of my hut, and listened. It was empty; there was not even a breath to be heard. So I crept in and began to search for my assegais, my water-gourd, and my wood pillow, which was so nicely carved that I did not like to leave it. Soon I found them.
The furniture of the house consisted of a number of large sleeping-mats, five or six carved wooden stools, and two narrow tables, or rather shelves, of wicker-work, fastened against the wall at opposite sides of the room. Upon one of these were arranged a number of calabashes, carved wooden dishes, cocoa-nut drinking-cups, and other domestic utensils.