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The Story of Valentine and His Brother

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Pages: 598

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Two ladies were seated in a great dim room, partially illuminated by fits and starts with gleams of firelight. The large windows showed a pale dark sky, in which twilight was giving place to night, and across which the brown branches of the trees, rough with the buds of March, tossed wildly in a hurricane of wind, burdened with intermittent blasts of rain—rain that dashed fiercely against the windows a handful at a time, then ceased till some new cloud was ready to discharge its angry shower. Something fiercely personal and furious was in the storm. It looked and felt like something not addressed to the world in general, but aimed individually by some angry spirit of the elements at the people who lived here high up above the brawling Esk amid the brown wintry woods at Rosscraig House. The drawing-room was large, lofty, and full of old-fashioned furniture which would have enchanted a connoisseur. The two ladies, who were its only occupants, were scarcely discernible at first, though the firelight, gleaming about among the still life, caught here a green reflection from a wonderful cabinet of rarest Vernis-Martin, and there entangled itself in the bevelled sides of a strange old mirror, used to reflecting wizards. It was more easy to make out these accessories of existence than it was to identify the two voices which occupied and reigned over this still and darkling chamber. They were in one corner of the room near the fire; one, the prevailing voice, was soft but strong, with the vigour in it of mature life, just roughened here and there by a touch of age, which gave it an aigre-doux of distinct character—and came from an ample dark shadow in a great chair turned towards the fire. The other, which gave forth only monosyllabic sounds of assent or wonder, sweet and tender, but feeble, belonged to a smaller person near the first, and facing her—whose countenance, turned towards the window, showed like a pale whiteness in the dark. This was the central light, the highest tone in the picture, except the pale gleaming of the sky from the windows, and the fitful red flash from the fire.

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