Wednesday

The pleasures of secret passages.


Professor Plum walks in the SECRET PASSAGE between the LOUNGE and the CONSERVATORY. He enjoys traversing the house this way: the passage corresponds to something secretive, dark, and wayward in his temperament. The erratic earthen path, the dank stone walls, the dim yellow glow of irregularly placed kerosene lanterns, the spaces of near-dark, all these soothe and excite him, and bring back those boyhood rambles along the bank of the brook in the wood behind his father’s house. He thinks of Pope’s tunnel at Twickenham, of the emergence of eighteenth-century English gardens from the rigidity of French and Italian forms, of the grove of hickory trees in the wood, of asymmetrical architecture and the cult of genius. Professor Plum does not suffer from delusions of boldness. Part of the pleasure of the serpentine dark lies in knowing that he is walking between two well-known points, the LOUNGE and the CONSERVATORY, and it is precisely this knowledge that permits him to experience a pleasurable shiver at the appearance of a lizard in the path, the fall of a mysterious pebble, the ambiguous shadows that might conceal the murderer, the sudden extinction of a lantern on the wall.

Steven Millhauser, “A Game of Clue”

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