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The intention, one of the first which
Marian Creswell had expressed after her
marriage, and one which had so incensed
Gertrude, of converting the girls' music-
room into a boudoir, had long since been
carried out. Almost immediately after he
had returned from his wedding trip, Mr.
Creswell had sent to London for decorators
and upholsterers. An army of foreign
artists, much given to beard and
pantomimical gesture, to humming scraps of
operas over their work, and to furtively
smoking cigarettes in the shrubberies whenever
they could evade the stern eye of the
overseer, had arrived upon the scene; and
when they returned to town they left the
music-room, which had been a bleak, gaunt,
cheerless apartment enough, a miracle of
brightness and cosiness, elegance and
comfort. Everybody was astonished at the
change, and the young ladies themselves
were compelled to confess that the boudoir,
as it then appeared, was perfectly charming,
and that really, perhaps, after all, Mrs.
Creswell might have been actuated, apart
from mere malevolence and spite, by some
sense and appreciation of the capabilities of
the room in the selection she had made.
There was a good deal of actual truth in
this judgment; Marian had determined to
take the earliest opportunity of asserting
herself against the girls and letting them
know the superiority of her position; she
had also intended, if ever she were able, to
gratify the wish to have a room of her own,
where she might be absolute mistress,
surrounded by her books, pictures, and other
belongings; and by the acquisition of the
music-room she was able to accomplish
both these intentions. Moreover the
windows of the music-room looked out towards
Helmingham. Half-way towards the dim
distance stood the old school-house, where
she had been born, where all her childhood
had been spent, and where she had been
comparatively innocent and unworldly; for
though the worship of wealth had probably
been innate in her, and had grown with her
growth and strengthened with her strength,
she had not then sacrificed others to her
own avarice, nor forfeited her self-respect
for the gratification of her overwhelming
passion. In a person differently constituted,
the constant contemplation of such
views might have had an irritating or a
depressing effect, but Marian's strength of
mind rendered her independent of any such
feeling. She never thought with regret of
the step she had taken; she never had the
remotest twinge of conscience as to the
manner in which she had behaved to Walter
Joyce; she was frequently in the habit of
passing all the circumstances in review in
her mind, and invariably came to the
conclusion that she had acted wisely, and that,
were she placed in a similar position again,
she should do exactly the same. No; she
was able to think over all the passages of
her first and only lovethat love which she
had deliberately cast from the pedestal of
her heart, and trampled under footwithout
an extra pulsation of excitement or regret.
She would pass hour after hour in gazing
from her window on distant places where,
far removed from the chance of intrusion
by the prying villagerswho, however,
were profoundly ignorant of what was
going onshe would have stolen interviews
with her lover, listening to his fond words,
and experiencing a kind of pleasure such as