He was standing in one of the "gala rooms," the Silver Hall, in which, as he knew, his father the Grand Duke received solemn deputations—he happened to have wandered into it by himself and he took stock of his surroundings.
It was winter-time and cold, his little shoes were reflected in the glass-clear yellow squares of the parquet which spread like a sheet of ice before him. The ceiling, covered with silvered arabesque-work, was so high that a long metal shaft was necessary to allow the many-armed silver chandelier with its forest of tall white candles to swing in the middle of the great space. Below the ceiling came silver-framed coats-of-arms in faded colours. The walls were edged with silver, and hung with white silk with yellow spots, not to mention a split here and there. A sort of monumental baldachin, resting on two strong silver columns and decorated in front with a silver garland, broken in two places, from the top of which looked down a portrait of a deceased, powdered ancestress draped in imitation ermine, formed the chimney-piece. On each side of the fireplace were broad silvered arm-chairs up holstered in torn white silk. On the side walls opposite each other towered enormous silver-framed mirrors, whose glass was covered with blind spots, and on each side of whose broad white marble ledges stood two can delabra which carried big white candles like the sconces on the walls all round, and like the four silver candlesticks which stood in the corners. Before the high windows to the right, looking over the Albrechtsplatz, whose outer ledges were covered with snow, white silk curtains, yellow spotted, with silver cords and trimmed with lace, fell in rich, heavy folds to the floor. In the middle of the room, under the chandelier, a moderate-sized table, with a pedestal made like a knobbly silver tree-stump and a top made of eight triangles of opaque mother-of-pearl, stood useless, as there were no chairs round it, and it