The Shadow of the East (Chapter 4, page 1 of 20)


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Chapter 4

On the cushioned window seat in her bedroom at Craven Towers Gillian Locke sat with her arms wrapped round her knees waiting for the summons to dinner. With Miss Craven and her guardian she had left London that morning, arriving at the Towers in the afternoon, and she was tired and excited with the events of the day. She leant back against the panelled embrasure, her mind dwelling on the last three crowded months they had spent in Paris and London waiting until the house was redecorated and ready to receive them. It had been for her a wonderful experience. The novelty, the strangeness of it, left her breathless with the feeling that years, not weeks, had rushed by. Already in the realisation of the new life the convent days seemed long ago, the convent itself to have receded into a far off past. And yet there were times when she wondered whether she was dreaming, whether waking would be inevitable and she would find herself once more in the old dormitory to pray passionately that she might dream again. And until tonight there had scarcely been time even to think, her days had been full, at night she had gone to bed to sleep in happy dreamlessness.

The hotel bedrooms with their litter of trunks suggesting imminent flight had held no restfulness. To Gillian the transitory sensation had strained already over-excited nerves and heightened the dreamlike feeling that made everything seem unreal. But here, the visible evidences of travel removed, the deep silence of a large country house penetrating her mind and conducing to peace, she could think at last. The surroundings were helpful. There was about the room an air of permanence which the hotel bedrooms had never given, an atmosphere of abiding quiet that soothed her. She was sensitive of an influence that was wholly new to her and very sweet, that brought with it a feeling of laughter and tears strangely mingled, that made the room appear as no other room had ever done. It Was her room, and it had welcomed her. It was like a big friendly silent person offering mute reception, radiating repose. In a few hours the room had become intimate, dear to her. She laughed happily--then checked at a guilty feeling of treason against the grey old walls in Paris that had so long sheltered her. She was not ungrateful, all her life she would remember with gratitude the love and care she had received. But the convent had been prison. Since her father had left her there, a tiny child, she had inwardly rebelled; the life was abhorrent to her, the restraint unbearable. With childish pride she had hidden her feelings, living through a period of acute misery with no hint to those about her of what she suffered. And the habit of suppression acquired in childhood had grown with her own development. As the years passed the limitations of the convent became more perceptible.

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