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Tales of the Five Towns eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Tales of the Five Towns.

The fate of the Brent gander was never ascertained.

II

The dining-room of The Firs was a spacious and inviting refectory, which owed nothing of its charm to William Morris, Regent Street, or the Arts and Crafts Society.  Its triple aim, was richness, solidity, and comfort, but especially comfort; and this aim was achieved in new oak furniture of immovable firmness, in a Turkey carpet which swallowed up the feet like a feather bed, and in large oil-paintings, whose darkly-glinting frames were a guarantee of their excellence.  On a winter’s night, as now, the room was at its richest, solidest, most comfortable.  The blue plush curtains were drawn on their stout brass rods across door and French window.  Finest selected silkstone fizzed and flamed in a patent grate which had the extraordinary gift of radiating heat into the apartment instead of up the chimney.  The shaded Welsbach lights of the chandelier cast a dazzling luminance on the tea-table of snow and silver, while leaving the pictures in a gloom so discreet that not Ruskin himself could have decided whether these were by Whistler or Peter Paul Rubens.  On either side of the marble mantelpiece were two easy-chairs of an immense, incredible capacity, chairs of crimson plush for Titans, chairs softer than moss, more pliant than a loving heart, more enveloping than a caress.  In one of these chairs, that to the left of the fireplace, Mr. Curtenty was accustomed to snore every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and almost every evening.  The other was usually empty, but to-night it was occupied by Mrs. Curtenty, the jewel of the casket.  In the presence of her husband she always used a small rocking-chair of ebonized cane.

To glance at this short, slight, yet plump little creature as she reclined crosswise in the vast chair, leaving great spaces of the seat unfilled, was to think rapturously to one’s self:  This is a woman.  Her fluffy head was such a dot against the back of the chair, the curve of her chubby ringed hand above the head was so adorable, her black eyes were so provocative, her slippered feet so wee—­yes, and there was something so mysteriously thrilling about the fall of her skirt that you knew instantly her name was Clara, her temper both fiery and obstinate, and her personality distracting.  You knew that she was one of those women of frail physique who can endure fatigues that would destroy a camel; one of those daemonic women capable of doing without sleep for ten nights in order to nurse you; capable of dying and seeing you die rather than give way about the tint of a necktie; capable of laughter and tears simultaneously; capable of never being in the wrong except for the idle whim of so being.  She had a big mouth and very wide nostrils, and her years were thirty-five.  It was no matter; it would have been no matter had she been a hundred and thirty-five.  In short....

Clara Curtenty wore tight-fitting black silk, with a long gold chain that descended from her neck nearly to her waist, and was looped up in the middle to an old-fashioned gold brooch.  She was in mourning for a distant relative.  Black pre-eminently suited her.  Consequently her distant relatives died at frequent intervals.

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