Great American Novels, Ranked by How Much We Hate Them
|It was a heavy mass of building, that chateau of Monsieur the Marquis, with a large stone courtyard before it, and two stone sweeps of staircase meeting in a stone terrace before the principal door. A stony business altogether, with heavy stone balustrades, and stone urns, and stone flowers, and stone faces of men, and stone heads of lions, in all directions. As if the Gorgon’s head had surveyed it, when it was finished, two centuries ago.||
The marquis’s chateau was a massive, solid building. It had a large stone
courtyard in front of it, and two stone staircases on either side led up to a
stone terrace in front of the main door. The whole thing was made of stone. It
had heavy stone railings and large stone flowerpots with stone flowers in them.
There were men’s faces and lion’s heads carved out of stone decorating the
building everywhere. It was as if a
a woman in Greek mythology with snakes for hair who turned people who looked at her into stoneGorgon had looked at the chateau when it had been built two hundred years ago and turned it all to stone.
|Up the broad flight of shallow steps, Monsieur the Marquis, flambeau preceded, went from his carriage, sufficiently disturbing the darkness to elicit loud remonstrance from an owl in the roof of the great pile of stable building away among the trees. All else was so quiet, that the flambeau carried up the steps, and the other flambeau held at the great door, burnt as if they were in a close room of state, instead of being in the open night-air. Other sound than the owl’s voice there was none, save the failing of a fountain into its stone basin; for, it was one of those dark nights that hold their breath by the hour together, and then heave a long low sigh, and hold their breath again.||The marquis got out of his carriage and went up the wide flight of short steps, and servants with torches went before him. The light cut through the darkness, causing an owl to hoot in the roof of a large stable that was off through the trees. Otherwise it was so quiet that the torches the servants carried on the steps and held at the front door sounded as if they were burning in a small stateroom instead of in the open night air. There was no other sound besides the hooting of the owl and the sound of water in a fountain falling into its stone basin. It was as if the night were holding its breath, sighing a long, low breath, and then holding its breath again.|
|The great door clanged behind him, and Monsieur the Marquis crossed a hall grim with certain old boar-spears, swords, and knives of the chase; grimmer with certain heavy riding-rods and riding-whips, of which many a peasant, gone to his benefactor Death, had felt the weight when his lord was angry.||The marquis walked through the front door, which clanged shut behind him. He walked across a dark hall decorated with old boar spears, swords, and hunting knives. There were also some riding rods and whips, which many of the peasants, all of whom were now dead, had been beaten with when the lord of the house was angry.|
|Avoiding the larger rooms, which were dark and made fast for the night, Monsieur the Marquis, with his flambeau-bearer going on before, went up the staircase to a door in a corridor. This thrown open, admitted him to his own private apartment of three rooms: his bed-chamber and two others. High vaulted rooms with cool uncarpeted floors, great dogs upon the hearths for the burning of wood in winter time, and all luxuries befitting the state of a marquis in a luxurious age and country. The fashion of the last Louis but one, of the line that was never to break—the fourteenth Louis—was conspicuous in their rich furniture; but, it was diversified by many objects that were illustrations of old pages in the history of France.||The marquis avoided the larger rooms, which were dark and had been locked for the night. With his torchbearer going in front of him, he went up a staircase to a door in a hallway. The door led him to his own private three-room apartment, consisting of a bedroom and two other rooms. The rooms had high, vaulted ceilings and cold, bare floors. There were large dogs on the hearth where they would burn wood in the fireplace during the winter. The rooms had all the luxuries befitting a marquis at this luxurious time and place in history. The style of one of the last kings, Louis XIV of France—part of a line of kings that thought for sure they would rule forever—was known for its elegant furniture. But there were also many objects that referred to different periods in the history of France.|
|A supper-table was laid for two, in the third of the rooms; a round room, in one of the chateau’s four extinguisher-topped towers. A small lofty room, with its window wide open, and the wooden jalousie-blinds closed, so that the dark night only showed in slight horizontal lines of black, alternating with their broad lines of stone colour.||In the third room the servants set the dinner table for two. The room was round and was in one of the house’s four towers, the tops of which looked like candle extinguishers. It was a small room, high up in the chateau. The window was wide open and the wooden shutters were closed. The darkness shone through the slats of the shutters and made dark horizontal lines on the stone floor.|
|“My nephew,” said the Marquis, glancing at the supper preparation; “they said he was not arrived.”||The marquis looked at the table settings. “Is that for my nephew? The servants said he hadn’t arrived yet.”|
|Nor was he; but, he had been expected with Monseigneur.||He had not arrived, but he was expected.|
|“Ah! It is not probable he will arrive to-night; nevertheless, leave the table as it is. I shall be ready in a quarter of an hour.”||“Ah! He probably won’t arrive tonight. But leave the table as it is anyway. I will be ready for dinner in fifteen minutes.”|