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To have an income of fifteen thousand a
year, and to be her own mistress, would,
one would have imagined, have placed
Marian Creswell on the pinnacle of worldly
success, and rendered her perfectly happy.
In the wildest day-dreams of her youth she
had never thought of attaining such an
income, and such a position as that income
afforded her. The pleasures of that position
she had only just begun to appreciate;
for the life at Woolgreaves, though with
its domestic comforts, its carriages and
horses and attentive servants, infinitely
superior to the life in the Helmingham
school-house, had no flavour of the outside
world. Her place in her particular sphere
was very much elevated, but that sphere
was as circumscribed as ever. It was not
until after her husband's death that Marian
felt she had really come into her kingdom.
The industrious gentlemen who publish in
the newspapers extracts from the last wills
and testaments of rich or distinguished
persons, thereby planting a weekly dagger in
the bosoms of the impecunious, who are led
by a strange kind of fascination to read of the
enormous sums gathered and bequeathed,
had of course not overlooked the testamentary
disposition of Mr. Creswell, "of Woolgreaves,
and Charleycourt Mills, Brocksopp,
cotton-spinner and mill-owner," but
had nobly placed him at the head of one of
their weekly lists. So that when Mrs.
Creswell "and suite," as they were good
enough to describe her servants in the
local papers, arrived at the great hotel at
Tunbridge Wells, the functionaries of that
magnificent establishmentgreat creatures
accustomed to associate with the salt of the
earth, and having a proper contempt, which
they do not suffer themselves to disguise,
for the ordinary travellerwere fain to
smile on her, and to give her such a
welcome as only the knowledge of the extent
to which they intended mulcting her in
the bill could possibly have extorted from
them. The same kindly feeling towards
her animated all the sojourners in that
pleasant watering-place. No sooner had
her name appeared in the Strangers' List,
no sooner had it been buzzed about that
she was the Mrs. Creswell, whose husband
had recently died, leaving her so wonderfully
well off, than she became an object of
intense popular interest.

Two ladies of titlethe widow of a
viscount (Irish), and the wife of a baronet
(English), insolvent, and at that moment
in exile in the island of Coll, there hiding
from his creditorsleft cards on her, and
earnestly desired the pleasure of her
acquaintance. The roistering youth of the
place, the East India colonels, the gay dogs
superannuated from the government offices,
the retired business men, who, in the fallow
leisure of their lives, did what they would
all looked on her with longing eyes, and
set their wits to work on all sorts of
schemes to compass knowing her. Over
laymen the clergy have a great advantage,
their mission is in itself sufficient
introduction, and lists of all the local
charities, district churches to be erected,
parsonages to be repaired, and schools to
be established, had been presented by those
interested in them to the rich widow in
person before she had been forty-eight
hours in the place.

It was very pleasant, this popularity,
this being sought after and courted and