IN a gloomy room, looking out through one narrow window upon a moor, two young people together, and yet alone, consumed the dreary hours of a February afternoon. The scene within doors exhibited scarcely less monotony and dreariness than did the moor without, which stretched black and heavy to the hills under a leaden sky. The room was well-sized, and lighted only by that one window, which was deeply sunk in the deep wall, and hung with terrible curtains of red moreen, enough to kill what little amount of light there was. A large dining-table, of cold, well-polished mahogany, occupied the centre of the apartment—an old-fashioned sideboard and mysterious bureau of the same character stood out darkly from the walls—and hard, angular chairs furnished forth the dining-room, as it was called—but which was, indeed, drawing-room, study, boudoir, everything to the brother and sister who held occupation of it now. And here were none of those traces of feminine presence which one reads of in books—no pretty things, no flowers, no embroideries, nothing to cast a grace upon the dulness. Perhaps that might be partly Susan’s fault; but when one lives all one’s life on the borders of Lanwoth Moor, ten miles off from the humblest attempt at a town, without any money, and seeing nobody to stir one’s ambition, even a girl of seventeen may be pardoned if she can make little brightness except that of her presence in her shady place. To tell the truth, nobody made much account of Susan; she was not expected to exert much influence on the changeless atmosphere of Marchmain. No one supposed her to be the flower of that solitude: any little embellishments which she tried were put down ruthlessly; and the little girl had long ago learned, as the first duties of womankind, to do as she was bid, and hold her peace. She was seated now before the fire, making a little centre with her work upon the cold glimmer of the uncovered table. She was very fair in her complexion, with hair almost flaxen, white teeth, blue eyes, and a pretty colour. She did not look intellectual, nor interesting, nor melancholy; but sat leaning very closely over her work, because there was not much light, and Horace stood full between her and what little there was. She had a pair of scissors, a reel of cotton, and a paper of buttons on the table before her; and on the back of her chair hang a huge bag, made of printed cotton, which it was safe to believe was her work-bag. There she sat, with a little firelight playing vainly upon her dark woollen dress—a domestic creature, not very happy, but very contented, dully occupied in the silence and the gray afternoon, living a life against which her youth protested, but somehow managing to get on with tolerable comfort, as women unawakened and undisturbed do.