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The red curtains had been drawn over the windows; the fire blazed high and cheerfully on the hearth. The. room was magnificently furnished. Couches, chairs, carpets, ornaments, alabaster vases, Sèvres china, a grand piano; paintings by Turner, Roberts, Stanfield, Landseer, on the walls; massive projecting gold frames creating their snug shadows in the corners of the rich paintings; enormous pier glasses, volumes of Dante and Tasso slumbering in Russian leather, and Pisistratus Caxton with Mudie's name on the side; were a few out of the many signs of the affluence and comfort of Brandon Hall.
It was a dull cold February evening. The wind wbined and wailed through leafless boughs outside, and cried and knocked at the window, as if to gain admittance for some mysterious phantom stranger, whom the old wind had brought in his chariot through the winter night: but the double sets of plated glass, and
the well compacted window frames forbad entrance. The family were all at home. Mrs. Loraine was sitting by the side of a small table near the fire, working with worsted; a boy of about fourteen years old was leaning over her chair, intreating, though it seemed in vain, that his mother would let him go out hunting the next day.
“Do, dear mamma, my father doesn't a bit mind it if you don't, do please.”
“Oh! my dear Maxwell,” said his mother, “you know how often I have told you, it is so wrong for you to go on pressing a thing you know is against my wish.',
“Well, but dear mamma, I thought you might have changed your mind in the last five minutes, and that it . wasn't your wish to go on disappointing your dear younger son. Do, dear mamma," said Maxwell in a half vacant tone, caused by having taken up a book which he had begun to read backwards.
There were two girls sitting at the piano, one playing and the other singing. Cicely Loraine, the eldest daughter of the family, played beautifully. She was good-looking, commanding in manner, rather tall, graceful in figure, and had a slightly aquiline nose; her dark hair was braided closely and simply over a very good forehead, while a small brown net contained the hair on the back of her head. The girl by her side was different in all respects. She was very fair, small and frail in her appearance, and had a colour, which, while it heightened her beauty, gave the impression that life might be brief. Jessy Seymour was the daughter of the Rector of the parish.
“Oh do, dear Jessy, sing that verse once more,” said Cicely, as she moved her rings up her finger, and prepared again to touch the piano. “ Wasn't it beau. tiful, dear mamma ?” said she, turning to her mother.
“Very, my dear,” said Mrs. Loraine, "only this tiresome boy will not let me attend to anything: do sing it again, my love."
“Yes, do,” said Mr. Loraine, throwing down the Times, and turning towards the rug, putting his hands behind him.
"Dear old Jessy,” said little Grace, suddenly getting up and throwing down the books she had been reading at the other end of the room. “Dear old Jessy, there is nobody ever sings like you, I think :" and as she kissed Jessy's blushing forehead, the clergyman's daughtes parted the hair over Grace's beautiful face, and said, “Dear Grace.”
“What a fool you are, Grace,” said Maxwell turning round suddenly from the table. “I should think Jessy wouldn't thank you for calling her old."
“ I always call things I love old, don't I, Jessy ? you understand me."
“Do let Jessy sing,” said Alice, who was sedulously going on with her work at the round table, "you never will let anybody do anything, Maxwell.”
“Well now, what do you want, old -- -" but the completion of the sentence was stopped by the manifest expression of public feeling, that Jessy should be allowed to sing. There was a silence, and with a sweet voice, which showed no great power, but yet such a plaintive and melancholy cadence that no one who heard it could do anything but listen, Jessy Seymour sung
“Go, forget me, why should sorrow
O'er thy brow one sadness fling ?
Brightly smile and blithely sing."
As she reached the last line of the verse, the door opened. A young man of about nineteen entered. He was tall, and the same features that in Cicely scarcely would be called suitable to a girl, made her brother eminently handsome. His hair slightly curling, gave an expression of extreme youth to his countenance. His dark eye, which sparkled between a keen intelligence and natural vivacity, lit up his face with a peculiar lustre, and his upper lip, which naturally curved, quivered with momentary excitement, as, unwilling to close the door behind him, he stood to catch the last line of Jessy's song. The colour that instantly spread over Jessy's face, and the cessation of her voice after the first verse was finished, leaving only the lovely echoes of her song lingering round the room, told plainly enough how matters stood between Jessy Seymour and Leonard Loraine,
Leonard was a lieutenant in the army; he had never yet seen service, as there had been no war except the Indian war. He was evidently the idol of all his family, the pride of the servants, and the object of no small 'attention from Jessy Seymour.
As soon as he entered the room, the song ceased, Cicely sprung up, and going quickly across the room, met her brother with that sort of manner, which showed