Mr. Fentolin touched a button in the wall, and the place was at once brilliantly illuminated. A little row of lights from the ceiling and the walls stretched away as far as one could see. They passed through the iron gates, which shut behind them with a click. Stooping a little, Hamel was still able to walk by the side of the man in the chair. They traversed about a hundred yards of subterranean way. Here and there a fungus hung down from the wall, otherwise it was beautifully kept and dry. By and by, with a little turn, they came to an incline and another iron gate, held open for them by a footman. Mr. Fentolin sped up the last few feet into the great hail, which seemed more imposing than ever by reason of this unexpected entrance. Hamel, blinking a little, stepped to his side.
“Welcome!” Mr. Fentolin cried gaily. “Welcome, my friend Mr. Hamel, to St. David’s Hall!”
During the next half-hour, Hamel was introduced to luxuries to which, in a general way, he was entirely unaccustomed. One man-servant was busy preparing his bath in a room leading out of his sleeping apartment, while another brought him a choice of evening clothes and superintended his disrobing. Hamel, always observant, studied his surroundings with keen interest. He found himself in a queerly mixed atmosphere of luxurious modernity and stately antiquity. His four-poster, the huge couch at the foot of his bed, and all the furniture about the room, was of the Queen Anne period. The bathroom which communicated with his apartment was the latest triumph of the plumber’s art—a room with floor and walls of white tiles, the bath itself a little sunken and twice the ordinary size. He dispensed so far as he could with the services of the men and descended, as soon as he was dressed, into the hall. Meekins was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, dressed now in somber black.
“Mr. Fentolin will be glad if you will step into his room, sir,” he announced, leading the way.
Mr. Fentolin was seated in his chair, reading the Times in a corner of his library. Shaped blocks had been placed behind and in front of the wheels of his little vehicle, to prevent it from moving. A shaded reading-lamp stood on the table by his side. He did not at once look up, and Hamel glanced around with genuine admiration. The shelves which lined the walls and the winged cases which protruded into the room were filled with books. There was a large oak table with beautifully carved legs, piled with all sorts of modern reviews and magazines. A log fire was burning in the big oaken grate. The perfume from a great bowl of lavender seemed to mingle curiously yet pleasantly with the half musty odour of the old leather-bound volumes. The massive chimneypiece was of black oak, and above it were carved the arms of the House of Fentolin. The walls were oak-panelled to the ceiling.