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Basil

Chapter I.10
On my arrival at North Villa, I was shown into what I presumed was the drawing-
room.
Everything was oppressively new. The brilliantly-varnished door cracked with a
report like a pistol when it was opened; the paper on the walls, with its gaudy
pattern of birds, trellis-work, and flowers, in gold, red, and green on a white
ground, looked hardly dry yet; the showy window-curtains of white and sky-blue,
and the still showier carpet of red and yellow, seemed as if they had come out of
the shop yesterday; the round rosewood table was in a painfully high state of
polish; the morocco-bound picture books that lay on it, looked as if they had
never been moved or opened since they had been bought; not one leaf even of
the music on the piano was dogs-eared or worn. Never was a richly furnished
room more thoroughly comfortless than this--the eye ached at looking round it.
There was no repose anywhere. The print of the Queen, hanging lonely on the
wall, in its heavy gilt frame, with a large crown at the top, glared on you: the
paper, the curtains, the carpet glared on you: the books, the wax-flowers in
glass-cases, the chairs in flaring chintz-covers, the china plates on the door, the
blue and pink glass vases and cups ranged on the chimney-piece, the over-
ornamented chiffoniers with Tonbridge toys and long-necked smelling bottles on
their upper shelves--all glared on you. There was no look of shadow, shelter,
secrecy, or retirement in any one nook or corner of those four gaudy walls. All
surrounding objects seemed startlingly near to the eye; much nearer than they
really were. The room would have given a nervous man the headache, before he
had been in it a quarter of an hour.
I was not kept waiting long. Another violent crack from the new door, announced
the entrance of Mr. Sherwin himself.
He was a tall, thin man: rather round-shouldered; weak at the knees, and trying
to conceal the weakness in the breadth of his trowsers. He wore a white cravat,
and an absurdly high shirt collar. His complexion was sallow; his eyes were
small, black, bright, and incessantly in motion--indeed, all his features were
singularly mobile: they were affected by nervous contractions and spasms which
were constantly drawing up and down in all directions the brow, the mouth, and
the muscles of the cheek. His hair had been black, but was now turning to a sort
of iron-grey; it was very dry, wiry, and plentiful, and part of it projected almost
horizontally over his forehead. He had a habit of stretching it in this direction, by
irritably combing it out, from time to time, with his fingers. His lips were thin and
colourless, the lines about them being numerous and strongly marked. Had I
seen him under ordinary circumstances, I should have set him down as a little-
minded man; a small tyrant in his own way over those dependent on him; a
pompous parasite to those above him--a great stickler for the conventional
respectabilities of life, and a great believer in his own infallibility. But he was
Margaret's father; and I was determined to be pleased with him.
 
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