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In the Devil's drawing-room

Wed 21 Nov 2001 by mskala Tags used: ,

It is a place of thick red carpets and elaborate plasterwork. The furniture shows centuries, if not millenia, of wear, but has stood up well on the whole both in physical and stylistic terms. You wouldn't be able to guess just when some damned hand first rubbed that varnish.

The guests are quiet, refined, and for the most part non-descript. But each one sparkles with the same manic energy that taints the paintings hanging on the walls. Forgotten blasted landscapes, still lifes of unidentifiable semi-mechanical objects, and the portraits, oh, the portraits of historical figures both familiar and unfamiliar. You shouldn't be surprised to meet them, alive and well in the Devil's drawing-room, arguing eagerly over some new point of fashion or ethics. No subject is to big or small here.

Sometimes, there is music. The harsichord is carefully kept in tune, but you might not realise that to hear the music played upon it. Oh! that music, by turns fast and delicate like the lace antimacassars on the plush chairs, later slow and ponderous like the huge vases that stand at intervals around the walls. Do not look inside. The guests gather their chairs into a circle around the harpsichord, listening intently to each note, watching the movements of the gloved fingers on the keys as if trying to memorize every nuance. Actually, they are doing exactly that, and delight in analysing the performance moment by moment over the course of weeks. Woe to the player who hits a sour note. He will be reminded of it for months.

At other times, there is dancing.

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