Theron Ware looked about him with frankly undisguised astonishment.
The room in which he found himself was so dark at first that it yielded little to the eye, and that little seemed altogether beyond his comprehension. His gaze helplessly followed Celia and her candle about as she busied herself in the work of illumination. When she had finished, and pinched out the taper, there were seven lights in the apartment—lights beaming softly through half-opaque alternating rectangles of blue and yellow glass. They must be set in some sort of lanterns around against the wall, he thought, but the shape of these he could hardly make out.
Gradually his sight adapted itself to this subdued light, and he began to see other things. These queer lamps were placed, apparently, so as to shed a special radiance upon some statues which stood in the corners of the chamber, and upon some pictures which were embedded in the walls. Theron noted that the statues, the marble of which lost its aggressive whiteness under the tinted lights, were mostly of naked men and women; the pictures, four or five in number, were all variations of a single theme—the Virgin Mary and the Child.
A less untutored vision than his would have caught more swiftly the scheme of color and line in which these works of art bore their share. The walls of the room were in part of flat upright wooden columns, terminating high above in simple capitals, and they were all painted in pale amber and straw and primrose hues, irregularly wavering here and there toward suggestions of white. Between these pilasters were broader panels of stamped leather, in gently varying shades of peacock blue. These contrasted colors vaguely interwove and mingled in what he could see of the shadowed ceiling far above. They were repeated in the draperies and huge cushions and pillows of the low, wide divan which ran about three sides of the room. Even the floor, where it revealed itself among the scattered rugs, was laid in a mosaic pattern of matched woods, which, like the rugs, gave back these same shifting blues and uncertain yellows.
The fourth side of the apartment was broken in outline at one end by the door through which they had entered, and at the other by a broad, square opening, hung with looped-back curtains of a thin silken stuff. Between the two apertures rose against the wall what Theron took at first glance to be an altar. There were pyramidal rows of tall candles here on either side, each masked with a little silken hood; below, in the centre, a shelf-like projection supported what seemed a massive, carved casket, and in the beautiful intricacies of this, and the receding canopy of delicate ornamentation which depended above it, the dominant color was white, deepening away in its shadows, by tenderly minute gradations, to the tints which ruled the rest of the room.
Celia lighted some of the high, thick tapers in these candelabra, and opened the top of the casket. Theron saw with surprise that she had uncovered the keyboard of a piano. He viewed with much greater amazement her next proceeding—which was to put a cigarette between her lips, and, bending over one of the candles with it for an instant, turn to him with a filmy, opalescent veil of smoke above her head.