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Marian remained standing where Walter
Joyce had left her, gazing after his retreating
figure until it had passed out of sight.
At first so little did she comprehend the
full meaning of the curt sentence in which
he had conveyed to her his abrupt rejection
of the bribe which she had proposed to him,
his perfect appreciation of the snare which
she had prepared for him, that she had
some sort of an idea that he would hesitate
on his career, stop, turn back, and finally
consent, if not to an immediate concession
to her views, at all events, to some further
discussion, with a view to future settlement.
But after his parting bow he strode
unrelentingly onward, and it was not until he had
reached the end of the newly-made road, and,
dropping down into the meadows leading to
Helmingham, had entirely disappeared, that
Marian realised how completely she had
been foiled, was able to understand, to estimate,
and, in estimating, to wince under,
the bitter scorn with which her suggestion
had been received, the scathing terms in
which that scorn had been conveyed. A
money value for anything to be desired
that was the only way in which he could
make it clear to her understanding or
appreciationwas not that what he had said ?
A money value! Marian Creswell was not
of those who sedulously hide their own
failings from themselves, shrink at the very
thought of them, make cupboard-skeletons
of them, to be always kept under turned
key. Too sensible for this, she knew that
this treatment only enhanced the importance
of the skeleton, without at all benefiting
its possessor, felt that much the better
plan was to take it out and subject it to
examination, observe its form and its
articulation, dust its bones, see that its joints
swung easily, and replace it in its cupboard-
home. But all these rites were, of course,
performed in private, and the world was to
be kept in strict ignorance of the existence
of the skeleton. And now Walter Joyce
knew of it! a money value, her sole standard
of appreciation! Odd as it may seem,
Marian had never taken the trouble to
imagine to herself to what motive Walter
would ascribe her rejection of him, her
preference of Mr. Creswell. True, she had
herself spoken in her last letter of the
impossibility of her enjoying life without
wealth and the luxuries which wealth
commands, but she had argued to herself that
he would scarcely have believed that,
principally, perhaps, from the fact of her
having advanced the statement so boldly,
and now she found him throwing the
argument in her teeth. And if Walter knew
and understood this to be the dominant
passion of her soul, the great motive power
of her life, the knowledge was surely not
confined to himothers would know it too.
In gaining her position as Mr. Creswell's
wife, her success, her elation, had been so
great as completely to absorb her thoughts,
and what people might say as to the manner
in which that success had been obtained,
or the reasons for which the position had
been sought, had never troubled her for
one instant. Now, however, she saw at
once that her designs had been suspected,
and doubtless talked of, sneered at, and
jested over, and her heart beat with extra
speed, and the blood suffused her cheeks,
as she thought of how she had probably
been the subject of ale-house gossip, how
the townsfolk and villagers amongst whom,