The windows whose blue fissured panes, stippled with fragments of gold-edged bottles, intercepted the view of the country and only permitted a faint light to enter, were draped with curtains cut from old stoles of dark and reddish gold neutralized by an almost dead russet woven in the pattern.
The mantel shelf was sumptuously draped with the remnant of a Florentine dalmatica. Between two gilded copper monstrances of Byzantine style, originally brought from the old Abbaye-au-Bois de Bievre, stood a marvelous church canon divided into three separate compartments delicately wrought like lace work. It contained, under its glass frame, three works of Baudelaire copied on real vellum, with wonderful missal letters and splendid coloring: to the right and left, the sonnets bearing the titles of La Mort des Amants and L’Ennemi; in the center, the prose poem entitled, Anywhere Out of the World—n’importe ou, hors du monde.
After selling his effects, Des Esseintes retained the two old domestics who had tended his mother and filled the offices of steward and house porter at the Chateau de Lourps, which had remained deserted and uninhabited until its disposal.
These servants he brought to Fontenay. They were accustomed to the regular life of hospital attendants hourly serving the patients their stipulated food and drink, to the rigid silence of cloistral monks who live behind barred doors and windows, having no communication with the outside world.
The man was assigned the task of keeping the house in order and of procuring provisions, the woman that of preparing the food. He surrendered the second story to them, forced them to wear heavy felt coverings over their shoes, put sound mufflers along the well-oiled doors and covered their floor with heavy rugs so that he would never hear their footsteps overhead.
He devised an elaborate signal code of bells whereby his wants were made known. He pointed out the exact spot on his bureau where they were to place the account book each month while he slept. In short, matters were arranged in such wise that he would not be obliged to see or to converse with them very often.
Nevertheless, since the woman had occasion to walk past the house so as to reach the woodshed, he wished to make sure that her shadow, as she passed his windows, would not offend him. He had designed for her a costume of Flemish silk with a white bonnet and large, black, lowered hood, such as is still worn by the nuns of Ghent. The shadow of this headdress, in the twilight, gave him the sensation of being in a cloister, brought back memories of silent, holy villages, dead quarters enclosed and buried in some quiet corner of a bustling town.
The hours of eating were also regulated. His instructions in this regard were short and explicit, for the weakened state of his stomach no longer permitted him to absorb heavy or varied foods.