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Julian Hawthorne
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 231 pages of information about Idolatry.

But he was come to seek the living, not the dead.  The figure that he had seen outside must be within these four walls, there being no other visible outlet besides the door through which Balder had entered.  Was old Hiero Glyphic lurking in one of these darksome corners, or behind some thick-set column?  The young man looked about him as sharply as he could, but nothing moved except the shadows thrown by the lamp, which was vibrating pendulum-like on its long chain.

He approached this lamp, his steps echoing on the floor of polished granite.  What had set the thing swinging?  It had a leisurely elliptical motion, as from a moderate push sideways.  The lamp was wrought in bronze, antique of fashion and ornament.  It had capacity for gallons of oil, and would burn for weeks without refilling.  The altar beneath was a plain black marble prism, highly polished, resting upon a round base of alabaster.  A handful of ashes crowned its top.  Between the altar and the wall intervened a space of about seven feet.

The glare of the lamp had blinded Balder to what was beyond it; but, on stepping round it, he was confronted by an old-fashioned upright clock, such as were in vogue upon staircase-landings and in entrance-halls a hundred years ago.  With its broad, white, dial-plate, high shoulders, and dark mahogany case, it looked not unlike a tall, flat-featured man, holding himself stiffly erect.  But whether man or clock, it was lifeless; the hands were motionless,—­there was no sound of human or mechanical heart-beat within though Balder held his yet panting breath to listen.  Was it Time’s coffin, wherein his corpse had lain still many a silent year,—­only that years must stand still without Time to drive them on!  But this still had had no part in the moving world,—­knew naught of life and change, day and night.  Here dwelt a moveless present,—­a present at once past and to come, yet never here!  No wonder the mummies felt at home! though even they could only partially appreciate the situation.

The clock was fastened against the wall.  The longer Balder gazed at it, the more human-like did it appear.  Its face was ornamented with colored pictures of astronomical processes, sufficiently resembling a set of shadowy features, of a depressed and insignificant type.  The mahogany case served for a close-fitting brown surtout, buttoned to the chin.  The slow vibration of the lamp produced on the countenance the similitude of a periodically recurring grimace.

Not only did the clock look human, but—­or so Balder fancied—­it bore a grotesque and extravagant likeness to a certain elderly relative of his, whose portrait he had carried in an inner pocket of his haversack,—­now in Long Island Sound.  It reminded him, in a word, of poor old Uncle Hiero, whom he had—­no, no!—­who was alive and well, and was perhaps even now observing his dear nephew’s perplexity, and maliciously chuckling over it!

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