When Gabriel had shut the door after announcing his uncle’s arrival, the Consul got up and went off to the key-drawer, from whence he took a gigantic key, to which was attached a wooden label black with age. He then brushed his coat, and, after adjusting his chin in his neckcloth and arranging his scanty locks, left the office.
The house was large and old fashioned, with long passages and broad staircases. In the western wing were the offices, having a separate entrance on the side towards the sea. On the southern side, and overlooking the garden, were the bedrooms of the family, and the apartments which were generally used as sitting-rooms.
The second floor consisted entirely of reception-rooms, which were so arranged as to have the large ballroom in the middle, with salons at the side. In one of these rooms the family generally dined on Sunday, or when they had guests, and it was the small salon at the north-west corner, looking over the building-yard and the sea, in which the dinner was usually served.
On the third floor, or, more correctly, in the garrets, was an endless number of spare rooms, whose windows looked out of the quaint dormers which embellished the roof.
The furniture was mostly of mahogany, now dark with age, while chairs and sofas were covered with horsehair. Against the walls stood tall dark presses, and mirrors with the glass in two pieces, and having their gilded frames adorned with urns and garlands. The rooms were lit by old-fashioned chandeliers and girandoles.
The Consul met one of the servants in the passage. “Has Mr. Garman arrived?”
“Yes, sir; and he has gone upstairs, to my mistress,” answered the girl.
When the weather was warm, Mrs. Garman usually preferred one of the airy rooms upstairs. She was a very fat lady, who lived in a continual state of strife with dyspepsia. From whatever side you looked at her, she presented a succession of smoothly rounded curves covered with shining black silk.
It was wonderful that Mrs. Garman got so stout; it must have been, as she herself said, “a cross” she had to bear. She seemed to eat very little at her meals, and could not control her astonishment at the appetites of the rest of the company. Only at times, when she was alone in her room, she seemed to have a fancy for some little delicacy, and Miss Cordsen used to bring her a little bit of just what happened to be handy.