His lament over, Manetho turned to Nurse for such information regarding the guest’s arrival and behavior as she might have to communicate. Of his own affair with Balder he made no mention. The conversation was carried on by signs, according to a code long since grown up between the two. When the tale was told, Nurse was despatched to make ready Helen’s room for the new-comer, and thither did the two laboriously bear him, and laid him, still sleeping, on his mother’s bed.
Music and madness.
Before leaving Balder to his repose, Manetho paused to regain his breath, and to throw a glance round the room. It was a place he seldom visited. He had seen Helen’s dead body lie on that bed, and the sight had bred in him an animosity against the chamber and everything it contained. After Doctor Glyphic’s death he had gratified this feeling in a characteristic manner. Possessing a genius for drawing second only to that for music, he had exercised it on the walls of the room, originally modelled and tinted to represent a robin’s egg. He mixed his colors with the bitter distillations of his heart, and created the beautiful but ill-omened vision which long afterwards so disquieted Balder.—
From the chamber he now repaired to the kitchen, which was in some respects the most attractive place in the house. The smoky ceiling; the cavernous cupboards opening into the walls; the stanch dressers, polished by use and mottled with many an ancient stain; the great black range, which would have cooked a meal for a troop of men-at-arms,—all spoke of homely comfort. Nurse had Manetho’s meal ready for him, and, having set it out on the table, she retired to her position in the chimney-corner. The Egyptian’s spare body was ordinarily nourished with little more than goes to the support of an Arab, and Nurse’s monotonous life must have been unfavorable to large appetite. As for Gnulemah,—although young women are said to thrive and grow beautiful on a diet of morning dew, noonday sunshine, and evening mist,—it seems quite likely that she ate no less than the health and activity of a Diana might naturally require.
Manetho made a gleeful repast, and Nurse looked on from her corner, externally as unattractive-looking a woman as one would wish to see. Nevertheless, had she been made as some clocks are, with a plate of glass over her inner movements, she would have monopolized the clergyman’s attention and impaired his appetite. He did not sit down to the table, but took up one viand after another, and ate as he walked to and fro the floor. Supper over, he crowned it with an unheard-of excess,—for Manetho was commonly a very temperate man. He brought from a cupboard a dusty bottle of priceless wine, which had once enriched the cellar of a king of Spain. Drawing the cork, he poured some of the golden liquor into a slender glass, while the spiritual aroma flowed invisible along the air, visiting every darksome nook, and even saluting Nurse, who had long been a stranger to any such delicate attention.