December 26 , 2010

Java Head


Very late indeed in May, but early in the morning, Laurel Ammidon lay in bed considering two widely different aspects of chairs. The day before she had been eleven, and the comparative maturity of that age had filled her with a moving disdain for certain fanciful thoughts which had given her extreme youth a decidedly novel if not an actually adventurous setting. Until yesterday, almost, she had regarded the various chairs of the house as beings endowed with life and character; she had held conversations with some, and, with a careless exterior not warranted by an inner dread, avoided Others in gloomy dusks. All this, now, she contemptuously discarded. Chairs were – chairs, things to sit on, wood and stuffed cushions. Yet she was slightly melancholy at losing such a satisfactory lot of reliable familiars: unlike older people, victims of the most disconcerting moods and mysterious changes, chairs could always be counted on to remain secure in their individual peculiarities. She could see by her fireplace the elaborately carved teakwood chair that her grandfather had brought home from China, which had never varied from the state of a brown and rather benevolent dragon; its claws were always claws, the grinning fretted mouth was perpetually fixed for a cloud of smoke and a mild rumble of complaint. The severe waxed hickory beyond with the broad arm for writing, a source of special pride, had been an accommodating and precise old gentleman. The spindling gold chairs in the drawingroom were supercilious creatures at a king's ball; the graceful impressive formality of the Heppelwhites in the dining room belonged to the loveliest of Boston ladies. Those with difficult haircloth seats in the parlor were deacons; Others in the breakfast room talkative and unpretentious; while the deep easy-chair before the library fire was a ship. There were mahogany stools, dwarfs of dark tricks; angry high-backed things in the hall below; and a terrifying shape of gleaming red that, without question, stirred hatefully and reached out curved and dripping hands. Anyhow, such they had all seemed. But lately she had felt a growing secrecy about it, an increasing dread of being laughed at; and now, definitely eleven, she recognized the necessity of dropping such pretense even with herself. They were just chairs, she rerepeated; there was an end of that. The tall clock with the brass face outside her door, after a premonitory whirring, loudly and firmly struck seven, and Laurel wondered whether her sisters, in the room open from hers, were awake. She listened attentively but there was no sound of movement. She made a noise in her throat, that might at once have appeared accidental and been successful in its purpose of arousing them; but there was no response. She would have gone in and frankly waked Janet, who was not yet thirteen and reasonable; but experience had shown her that Camilla, reposing in the eminence and security of two years more, would permit no such light freedom with her slumbers
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