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Jacob's Room

CHAPTER SIX
The flames had fairly caught.
"There's St. Paul's!" some one cried.
As the wood caught the city of London was lit up for a second; on other sides of the fire
there were trees. Of the faces which came out fresh and vivid as though painted in
yellow and red, the most prominent was a girl's face. By a trick of the firelight she
seemed to have no body. The oval of the face and hair hung beside the fire with a dark
vacuum for background. As if dazed by the glare, her green-blue eyes stared at the
flames. Every muscle of her face was taut. There was something tragic in her thus
staring--her age between twenty and twenty-five.
A hand descending from the chequered darkness thrust on her head the conical white
hat of a pierrot. Shaking her head, she still stared. A whiskered face appeared above
her. They dropped two legs of a table upon the fire and a scattering of twigs and leaves.
All this blazed up and showed faces far back, round, pale, smooth, bearded, some with
billycock hats on; all intent; showed too St. Paul's floating on the uneven white mist, and
two or three narrow, paper-white, extinguisher-shaped spires.
The flames were struggling through the wood and roaring up when, goodness knows
where from, pails flung water in beautiful hollow shapes, as of polished tortoiseshell;
flung again and again; until the hiss was like a swarm of bees; and all the faces went
out.
"Oh Jacob," said the girl, as they pounded up the hill in the dark, "I'm so frightfully
unhappy!"
Shouts of laughter came from the others--high, low; some before, others after.
The hotel dining-room was brightly lit. A stag's head in plaster was at one end of the
table; at the other some Roman bust blackened and reddened to represent Guy
Fawkes, whose night it was. The diners were linked together by lengths of paper roses,
so that when it came to singing "Auld Lang Syne" with their hands crossed a pink and
yellow line rose and fell the entire length of the table. There was an enormous tapping
of green wine-glasses. A young man stood up, and Florinda, taking one of the purplish
globes that lay on the table, flung it straight at his head. It crushed to powder.
"I'm so frightfully unhappy!" she said, turning to Jacob, who sat beside her.
The table ran, as if on invisible legs, to the side of the room, and a barrel organ
decorated with a red cloth and two pots of paper flowers reeled out waltz music.
 
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