Part 2 out of 9
'Then he'll hardly care to come here for that purpose. When I heard of
his proceedings I began to be afraid.'
'I don't think he would do anything to annoy you for the world,' said
Clara, enthusiastically. 'He's the most unselfish person I ever met.'
'He'd have a perfect right to take the shooting if he liked it that is
always supposing that he and your father agreed about it.'
'They agree about everything now. He has altogether disarmed papa's
prejudices, and it seems to be recognized that he is to have his own
way about the place. But I don't think he'll interfere about the
'He won't, my dear, if you ask him not,' said Mrs Askerton.
'I'll ask him in a moment if Colonel Askerton wishes it.'
'Oh dear no,' said he. 'It would be teaching the ostler to grease the
horse's teeth. Perhaps he hasn't thought of it.'
'He thinks of everything,' said Clara.
'I wonder whether he's thinking of .' So far Mrs Askerton spoke, and
then she paused. Colonel Askerton looked up at Clara with an
ill-natured smile, and Clara felt that she blushed. Was it not cruel
that she could not say a word in favour of a friend and a cousin a
cousin who had promised to be a brother to her, without being treated
with such words and such looks as these? But she was determined not to
be put down. 'I'm quite sure of this,' she said, 'that my cousin would
do nothing unfair or ungentlemanlike.'
'There would be nothing unfair or ungentlemanlike in it. I shouldn't
take it amiss at all but I should simply take up my bed and walk. Pray
tell him that I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing him before he
goes. I did call yesterday, but he was out.'
'He'll be here soon. He's to come here for me.' But Colonel Askerton's
horse was brought to the door, and he could not therefore wait to make
Mr Belton's acquaintance on that occasion.
'What a phoenix this cousin of yours is,' said Mrs Askerton, as soon as
her husband was gone.
'He is a splendid fellow he is indeed. There's so much life about him!
He's always doing something. He says that doing good will always pay in
the long run. Isn't that a fine doctrine?'
'Quite a practical phoenix!'
'It has done papa so much good! At this moment he's out somewhere,
thinking of what is going on, instead of moping in the house. He
couldn't bear the idea of Will's coming, and now he is already
beginning to complain because he's going away.'
'And why not Will? He's my cousin.'
'Yes ten times removed. But so much the better if he's to be anything
more than a cousin.'
'He is to be nothing more, Mrs Askerton.'
'You're quite sure of that?
'I am quite sure of it. And I cannot understand why there should be
such a suspicion because he and I are thrown closely together, and are
fond of each other. Whether he is a sixth, eighth, or tenth cousin
makes no difference. He is the nearest I have on that side; and since
my poor brother's death he is papa's heir. It is so natural that he
should be my friend and such a comfort that he should be such a friend
as he is! I own it seems cruel to me that under such circumstances
there should be any suspicion.'
'Suspicion, my dear suspicion of what?'
'Not that I care I or it. I am prepared to love him as if he were my
brother. I think him one of the finest creatures I ever knew perhaps
the finest I ever did know. His energy and good-nature together are
just the qualities to make the best kind of man. I am proud of him as
my friend and my cousin, and now you may suspect what you please.'
'But, my dear, why should not he fall in love with you? It would be the
most proper, and also the most convenient thing in the world.'
'I hate talking of falling in love as though a woman had nothing else
to think of whenever she sees a man.'
'A woman has nothing else to think of.'
'I have a great deal else. And so has he.'
'It's quite out of the question on his part, then?'
'Quite out of the question. I'm sure he likes me; I can see it in his
face, and hear it in his voice, and am so happy that it is so. But it
isn't in the way that you mean. Heaven knows that I may want a friend
some of these days, and I feel that I may trust to him. His feelings to
me will be always those of a brother.'
'Perhaps so. I have seen that fraternal love before under similar
circumstances, and it has always ended in the same way.'
'I hope it won't end in any way between us.'
'But the joke is that this suspicion, as you call it which makes you so
indignant is simply a suggestion that a thing should happen which, of
all things in the world, would be the best for both of you.'
'But the thing won't happen, and therefore let there be an end of it. I
hate the twaddle talk of love, whether it's about myself or about any
one else. It makes me feel ashamed of my sex, when I find that I cannot
talk of myself to another woman without being supposed to be either in
love or thinking of love cither looking for it or avoiding it. When it
comes, if it cornea prosperously, it's a very good thing. But I for one
can do without it, and I feel myself injured when such a state of
things is presumed to be impossible.'
'It is worth any one's while to irritate you, because your indignation
is so beautiful.'
'It is not beautiful to me; for I always feel ashamed afterwards of my
own energy. And now, if you please, we won't say anything more about Mr
'May I not talk about him, even as the enterprising cousin?
'Certainly; and in any other light you please. Do you know he seemed to
think that he had known you ever so many years ago.' Clara, as she said
this, did not look direct at her friend's face; but still she could
perceive that Mrs Askerton was disconcerted. There came a shade of
paleness over her face, and a look of trouble on her brow, and for a
moment or two she made no reply.
'Did he?' she then said. 'And when was that?'
'I suppose it was in London. But, after all, I believe it was not you,
but somebody whom he remembers to have been like you. He says that the
lady was a Miss Vigo.' As she pronounced the name, Clara turned her
face away, feeling instinctively that it would be kind to do so.
'Miss Vigo!' said Mrs Askerton at once; and there was that in the tone
of her voice which made Clara feel that all was not right with her. 'I
remember that there were Miss Vigos; two of them, I think. I didn't
know that they were like me especially.'
'And he says that the one he remembers married a Mr Berdmore.'
'Married a Mr Berdmore!' The tone of voice was still the same, and
there was an evident struggle, as though the woman was making a
vehement effort to speak in her natural voice. Then Clara looked at
her, feeling that if she abstained from doing so, the very fact of her
so abstaining would be remarkable. There was the look of pain on Mrs
Askerton's brow, and her cheeks were still pale, but she smiled as she
went on speaking. 'I'm sure I'm flattered, for I remember that they
were both considered beauties. Did he know anything more of her?
'No; nothing more.'
'There must have been some casual likeness I suppose.' Mrs Askerton was
a clever woman, and had by this time almost recovered her
self-possession. Then there came a ring at the front door, and in
another minute Mr Belton was in the room. Mrs Askerton felt that it was
imperative on her to make some allusion to the conversation which had
just taken place, and dashed at the subject at once. 'Clara tells me
that I am exactly like some old friend of yours, Mr Belton.'
Then he looked at her closely as he answered her. 'I have no right to
say that she was my friend, Mrs Askerton,' he said; 'indeed there was
hardly what might be called an acquaintance between us; but you
certainly are extremely like a certain Miss Vigo that I remember.'
'I often wonder that one person isn't more often found to be like
another,' said Mrs Askerton.
'People often are like,' said he, 'but not like in such a way as to
give rise to mistakes as to identity. Now, I should have stopped you in
the street and called you Mrs Berdmore.'
'Didn't I once see or hear the name of Berdmore in this house?' asked
Then that look of pain returned. Mrs Askerton had succeeded in
recovering the usual tone of her countenance, but now she was once more
disturbed. 'I think I know the name,' said she.
'I fancy that I have seen it in this house,' said Clara. 'You may more
likely have heard it, my dear. My memory is very poor, but if I
remember rightly, Colonel Askerton did know a Captain Berdmore a long
while ago, before he was married; and you may probably have heard him
mention the name.' This did not quite satisfy Clara, but she said
nothing more about it then. If there was a mystery which Mrs Askerton
did not wish to have explored, why should she explore it?
Soon after this Clara got up to go, and Mrs Askerton, making another
attempt to be cheerful, was almost successful. So you're going back
into Norfolk on Saturday, Clara tells me. You are making a very short
visit now that you're come among us.'
'It is a long time for me to be away from home. Farmers can hardly ever
dare to leave their work. But in spite of my farm, I am talking of
coming here again about Christmas.'
'But you are going to have a farming establishment here too?'
'That will be nothing. Clara will look after that for me; will you
not?' Then they went, and Belton had to consider how he would begin the
work before him. He had some idea that too much precipitancy might do
him an injury, but he hardly knew how to commence without coming to the
point at once. When they were out together in the park, he went back at
first to the subject of Mrs Askerton.
'I would almost have sworn they were one and the same woman,' he said.
'But you see that they are not.'
'It's not only the likeness, but the voice. It so chanced that I once
saw that Miss Vigo in some trouble. I happened to meet her in company
with a man who was who was tipsy, in fact, and I had to relieve her.'
'Dear me how disagreeable!'
'It's a long time ago, and there can't be any harm in mentioning it
now. It was the man she was going to marry, and whom she did marry.'
'What the Mr Berdmore?'
'Yes; he was often in that way. And there was a look about Mrs Askerton
just now so like the look of that Miss Vigo then, that I cannot get rid
of the idea.'
'They can't be the same, as she was certainly a Miss Oliphant. And you
hear, too, what she says.'
'Yes I heard what she said. You have known her long?'
'These two years.'
'Very intimately. She is our only neighbour; and her being here has
certainly been a great comfort to me. It is sad not having some woman
near one that one can speak to and then, I really do like her very
'No doubt it's all right.'
'Yes; it's all right,' said Clara. After that there was nothing more
said about Mrs Askerton, and Belton began his work. They had gone from
the cottage, across the park, away from the house, up to a high rock
which stood boldly out of the ground, from whence could be seen the sea
on one side, and on the other a far track of country almost away to the
moors. And when they reached this spot they seated themselves. 'There,'
said Clara, 'I consider this to be the prettiest spot in England.'
'I haven't seen all England,' said Belton.
'Don't be so matter-of-fact, Will. I say it's the prettiest in England,
and you can't contradict me.'
'And I say you're the prettiest girl in England, and you can't
This annoyed Clara, and almost made her feel that her paragon of a
cousin was not quite so perfect as she had represented him to be. 'I
see', she said, 'that if I talk nonsense I'm to be punished.'
'Is it a punishment to you to know that I think you very handsome?' he
said, turning round and looking full into her face.
'It is disagreeable to me very, to have any such subject talked about
at all. What would you think if I began to pay you foolish personal
'What I say isn't foolish; and there's a great difference. Clara, I
love you better than all the world put together.'
She now looked at him; but still she did not believe it. It could not
be that after all her boastings she should have made so gross a
blunder. 'I hope you do love me,' she said; 'indeed, you are bound to
do so, for you promised that you would be my brother.'
'But that will not satisfy me now, Clara. Clara, I want to be your
'Will!' she exclaimed.
'Now you know it all; and if I have been too sudden, I must beg your
'Oh, Will, forget that you have said this. Do not go on until
everything must be over between us.'
'Why should anything be over between us? Why should it be wrong in me
to love you?'
'What will papa say?'
'Mr Amedroz knows all about it already, and has given me his consent. I
asked him directly I had made up my own mind, and he told me that I
might go to you.'
'You have asked papa? Oh dear, oh dear, what am I to do?'
'Am I so odious to you then?' As he said this he got up from his seat
and stood before her. He was a tall, well-built, handsome man, and he
could assume a look and mien that were almost noble when he was moved
as he was moved now.
'Odious! Do you not know that I have loved you as my cousin that I have
already learned to trust you as though you were really my brother? But
this breaks it all.'
'You cannot love me then as my wife?'
'No.' She pronounced the monosyllable alone, and then he walked away
from her as though that one little word settled the question for him,
now and for ever. He walked away from her, perhaps a distance of two
hundred yards, as though the interview was over, and he were leaving
her. She, as she saw him go, wished that he would return that she might
say some word of comfort to him. Not that she could have said the only
word that would have comforted him. At the first blush of the thing, at
the first sound of the address which he had made to her, she had been
angry with him. He had disappointed her, and she was indignant. But her
anger had already melted and turned itself to ruth. She could not but
love him better, in that he had loved her so well; but yet she could
not love him with the love which he desired.
But he did not leave her. When he had gone from her down the hill the
distance that has been named, he turned back and came up to her slowly.
He had a trick of standing and walking with his thumbs fixed into the
armholes of his waistcoat, while his large hands rested on his breast.
He would always assume this attitude when he was assured that he was
right in his views, and was eager to carry some point at issue. Clara
already understood that this attitude signified his intention to be
autocratic. He now came close up to her and again stood over her,
before he spoke. 'My dear,' he said, 'I have been rough and hasty in
what I have said to you, and I have to ask you to pardon my want of
'No, no, no,' she exclaimed.
'But in a matter of so much interest to us both you will not let an
awkward manner prejudice me.'
'It is not that; indeed, it is not.'
'Listen to me, dearest. It is true that I promised to be your brother,
and I will not break my word unless I break it by your own sanction. I
did promise to be your brother, but I did not know then how fondly I
should come to love you. Your father, when I told him of this, bade me
not to be hasty; but I am hasty, and I haven't known how to wait. Tell
me that I may come at Christmas for my answer, and I will not say a
word to trouble you till then. I will be your brother, at any rate till
'Be my brother always.'
A black cloud crossed his brow as this request reached his ears. She
was looking anxiously into his face, watching every turn in the
expression of his countenance. 'Will you not let it wait till
Christmas?' he asked.
She thought it would be cruel to refuse this request, and yet she knew
that no such waiting could be of service to him. He had been awkward in
his love-making, and was aware of it. He should have contrived this
period of waiting for himself; giving her no option but to wait and
think of it. He should have made no proposal, but have left her certain
that such proposal was coming. In such case she must have waited and if
good could have come to him from that, he might have received it. But,
as the question was now presented to her, it was impossible that she
should consent to wait. To have given such consent would have been
tantamount to receiving him as her lover. She was therefore forced to
'It will be of no avail to postpone my answer when I know what it must
be. Why should there be suspense?'
'You mean that it is impossible that you should love me?'
'Not in that way, Will.'
'And why not?' Then there was a pause. 'But I am a fool to ask such a
question as that, and I should be worse than a fool were I to press it.
It must then be considered as settled?'
She got up and clung to his arm. 'Oh, Will, do not look at me like that!
'It must then be considered as settled?' he repeated.
'Yes, Will, yes. Pray consider it as settled.' He then sat down on the
rock again, and she came and sat by him near to him, but not close as
she had been before. She turned her eyes upon him, gazing on him, but
did not speak to him; and he sat also without speaking for a while,
with his eyes fixed upon the ground. 'I suppose we may go back to the
house?' he said at last.
'Give me your hand, Will, and tell me that you will still love me as
He gave her his hand. 'If you ever want a brother's care you shall have
it from me,' he said.
'But not a brother's love?'
'No. How can the two go together? I shan't cease to love you because my
love is in vain. Instead of making me happy it will make me wretched.
That will be the only difference.'
'I would give my life to make you happy, if that were possible.'
'You will not give me your life in the way that I would have it.'
After that they walked in silence back to the house, and when he had
opened the front door for her, he parted from her and stood alone under
the porch, thinking of his misfortune.
SAFE AGAINST LOVE-MAKING ONCE AGAIN
For a considerable time Belton stood under the porch of the house,
thinking of what had happened to him, and endeavouring to steady
himself under the blow which he had received. I do not know that he had
been sanguine of success. Probably he had made to himself no assurances
on the subject. But he was a man to whom failure, of itself, was
intolerable. In any other event of life he would have told himself that
he would not fail that he would persevere and conquer. He could imagine
no other position as to which he could at once have been assured of
failure, in any project on which he had set his heart. But as to this
project it was so. He had been told that she could not love him that
she could never love him and he had believed her. He had made his
attempt and had failed; and, as he thought of this, standing under the
porch, he became convinced that life for him was altogether changed,
and that he who had been so happy must now be a wretched man.
He was still standing there when Mr Amedroz came down into the hall,
dressed for dinner, and saw his figure through the open doors. 'Will,'
he said, coming up to him, 'it only wants five minutes to dinner.'
Belton started and shook himself, as though he were shaking off a
lethargy, and declared that he was quite ready. Then he remembered that
he would be expected to dress, and rushed upstairs, three steps at a
time, to his own room. When he came down, Clara and her father were
already in the dining-room, and he joined them there.
Mr Amedroz, though he was not very quick in reading facts from the
manners of those with whom he lived, had felt assured that things had
gone wrong between Belton and his daughter. He had not as yet had a
minute in which to speak to Clara, but he was certain that it was so.
Indeed, it was impossible not to read terrible disappointment and deep
grief in the young man's manner. He made no attempt to conceal it,
though he did not speak of it. Through the whole evening, though he was
alone for a while with the squire, and alone also for a time with
Clara, he never mentioned or alluded to the subject of his rejection.
But he bore himself as though he knew and they knew as though all the
world knew that he had been rejected. And yet he did not remain silent.
He talked of his property and of his plans, and explained how things
were to be done in his absence. Once only was there something like an
allusion made to his sorrow. 'But you will be here at Christmas?' said
Mr Amedroz, in answer to something which Belton had said as to work to
be done in his absence. 'I do not know how that may be now,' said
Belton. And then they had all been silent.
It was a terrible evening to Clara. She endeavoured to talk, but found
it to be impossible. All the brightness of the last few days had
disappeared, and the world seemed to her to be more sad and solemn than
ever. She had no idea when she was refusing him that he would have
taken it to heart as he had done. The question had come before her for
decision so suddenly, that she had not, in fact, had time to think of
this as she was making her answer. All she had done was to feel that
she could not be to him what he wished her to be. And even as yet she
had hardly asked herself why she must be so steadfast in her refusal.
But she had refused him steadfastly, and she did not for a moment think
of reducing the earnestness of her resolution. It seemed to be manifest
to her, from his present manner, that he would never ask the question
again; but she was sure, let it be asked ever so often, that it could
not be answered in any other way.
Mr Amedroz, not knowing why it was so, became cross and querulous, and
scolded his daughter. To Belton, also, he was captious, making little
difficulties, and answering him with petulance. This the rejected lover
took with most extreme patience, as though such a trifling annoyance
had no effect in adding anything to his misery. He still held his
purpose of going on the Saturday, and was still intent on work which
was to be done before he went; but it seemed that he was satisfied to
do everything now as a duty, and that the enjoyment of the thing, which
had heretofore been so conspicuous, was over.
At last they separated, and Clara, as was her wont, went up to her
father's room. 'Papa,' she said, 'what is all this about Mr Belton?'
'All what, my dear? what do you mean?'
'He has asked me to be to be his wife; and has told me that he came
with your consent.'
'And why shouldn't he have my consent? What is there amiss with him?
Why shouldn't you marry him if he likes you? You seemed, I thought, to
be very fond of him.'
This surprised Clara more than anything. She could hardly have told
herself why, but she would have thought that such a proposition from
her cousin would have made her father angry unreasonably angry angry
with him for presuming to have such an idea; but now it seemed that he
was going to be angry with her for not accepting her cousin out of hand.
'Yes, papa; I am fond of him; but not like that. I did not expect that
he would think of me in that way.'
'But why shouldn't he think of you? It would be a very good marriage
for you, as far as money is concerned.'
'You would not have me marry any one for that reason would you, papa?'
'But you seemed to like him. Well; of course I can't make you like him.
I meant to do for the best; and when he came to me as he did, I thought
he was behaving very handsomely, and very much like a gentleman.'
'I am sure he would do that.'
'And if I could have thought that this place would be your home when I
am gone, it would have made me very happy very happy.'
She now came and stood close to him and took his hand. 'I hope, papa,
you do not make yourself uneasy about me. I shall do very well. Fm sure
you can't want me to go away and leave you.'
'How will you do very well? I'm sure I don't know. And if your aunt
Winterfield means to provide for you, it would only be kind in her to
let me know it, so that I might not have the anxiety always on my mind.'
Clara knew well enough what was to be the disposition of her aunt's
property, but she could not tell her father of that now. She almost
felt that it was her duty to do so, but she could not bring herself to
do it. She could only beg him not to be anxious on her behalf, making
vague assurances that she would do very well. 'And are you determined
not to change your mind about Will?' he said at last.
'I shall not change my mind about that, papa, certainly,' she answered.
Then he turned away from her, and she saw that he was displeased.
When alone, she was forced to ask herself why it was that she was so
certain. Alas! there could in truth be no doubt on that subject in her
own mind. When she sat down, resolved to give herself an answer, there
was no doubt. She could not love her cousin, Will Belton, because her
heart belonged to Captain Aylmer.
But she knew that she had received nothing in exchange for her heart.
He had been kind to her on that journey to Taunton, when the agony
arising from her brother's death had almost crushed her. He had often
been kind to her on days before that so kind, so soft in his manners,
approaching so nearly to the little tenderness of incipient
love-making, that the idea of regarding him as her lover had of
necessity forced itself upon her. But in nothing had he gone beyond
those tendernesses, which need not imperatively be made to mean
anything, though they do often mean so much. It was now two years since
she had first thought that Captain Aylmer was the most perfect
gentleman she knew, and nearly two years since Mrs Winterfield had
expressed to her a hope that Captain Aylmer might become her husband.
She had replied that such a thing was impossible as any girl would have
replied; and had in consequence treated Captain Aylmer with all the
coolness which she had been able to assume whenever she was in company
with him in her aunt's presence. Nor was it natural to her to be
specially gracious to a man under such trying circumstances, even when
no Mrs Winterfield was there to behold. And so things had gone on.
Captain Aylmer had now and again made himself very pleasant to her at
certain trying periods of joy or trouble almost more than pleasant. But
nothing had come of it, and Clara had told herself that Captain Aylmer
had no special feeling in her favour. She had told herself this, ever
since that journey together from Perivale to Taunton; but never till
now had she confessed to herself what was her own case.
She made a comparison between the two men. Her cousin Will was, she
thought, the more generous, the more energetic perhaps by nature, the
man of the higher gifts. In person he was undoubtedly the superior. He
was full of noble qualities forgetful of self, industrious, full of
resources, a very man of men, able to command, eager in doing work for
others' good and his own a man altogether uncontaminated by the
coldness and selfishness of the outer world. But he was rough, awkward,
but indifferently educated, and with few of those tastes which to Clara
Amedroz were delightful. He could not read poetry to her, he could not
tell her of what the world of literature was doing now or of what it
had done in times past. He knew nothing of the inner world of worlds
which governs the world. She doubted whether he could have told her who
composed the existing cabinet, or have given the name of a single
bishop beyond the see in which his own parish was situated. But Captain
Aylmer knew everybody, and had read everything, and understood, as
though by instinct, all the movements of the world in which he lived.
But what mattered any such comparison? Even though she should be able
to prove to herself beyond the shadow of a doubt that her cousin Will
was of the two the fitter to be loved the one more worthy of her heart
no such proof could alter her position. Love does not go by worth. She
did not love her cousin as she must love any man to whom she could give
her hand and, alas! she did love that other man.
On this night I doubt whether Belton did slumber with that solidity of
repose which was usual to him. At any rate, before he came down in the
morning he had found time for sufficient thought, and had brought
himself to a resolution. He would not give up the battle as lost. To
his thinking there was something weak and almost mean in abandoning any
project which he had set before himself. He had been awkward, and he
exaggerated to himself his own awkwardness. He had been hasty, and had
gone about his task with inconsiderate precipitancy. It might be that
he had thus destroyed all his chance of success. But, as he said to
himself, 'he would never say die, as long as there was a puff of breath
left in him.' He would not mope, and hang down his head, and wear the
willow. Such a state of things would ill suit either the roughness or
the readiness of his life. No! He would bear Like a man the
disappointment which had on this occasion befallen him, and would
return at Christmas and once more try his fortune.
At breakfast, therefore, the cloud had passed from his brow. When he
came in he found Clara alone in the room, and he simply shook hands
with her after his ordinary fashion. He said nothing of yesterday, and
almost succeeded in looking as though yesterday had been in no wise
memorable. She was not so much at her ease, but she also received some
comfort from his demeanour. Mr Amedroz came down almost immediately,
and Belton soon took an opportunity of saying that he would be back at
Christmas if Mr Amedroz would receive him.
'Certainly,' said the squire. 'I thought it had been all settled.'
'So it was till I said a word yesterday which foolishly seemed to
unsettle it. But I have thought it over again, and I find that I can
'We shall be so glad to have you!' said Clara.
'And I shall be equally glad to come. They are already at work, sir,
about the sheds.'
'Yes; I saw the carts full of bricks go by,' said the squire,
querulously. 'I didn't know there was to be any brickwork. You said you
would have it made of deal slabs with oak posts.'
'You must have a foundation, sir. I propose to carry the brickwork a
foot and a half above the ground.'
'I suppose you know best. Only that kind of thing is so very ugly.'
'If you find it to be ugly after it is done, it shall be pulled down
'No it can never come down again.'
'It can and it shall, if you don't like it. I never think anything of
changes like that.'
'I think they'll be very pretty!' said Clara.
'I dare say,' said the squire,' but at any rate it won't make much
difference to me. I shan't be here long to see them.'
This was rather melancholy; but Belton bore up even against this,
speaking cheery words and expressing bright hopes so that it seemed,
both to Clara and her father, that he had in a great measure overcome
the disappointment of the preceding day. It was probable that he was a
man not prone to be deeply sensitive in such matters for any long
period. The period now had certainly not been long, and yet Will Belton
was alive again.
Immediately after breakfast there occurred a little incident which was
not without its effect upon them all. There came up on the drive
immediately before the front door, under the custody of a boy, a cow.
It was an Alderney cow, and any man or woman at all understanding cows
would at once have perceived that this cow was perfect in her kind. Her
eyes were mild, and soft, and bright. Her legs were like the legs of a
deer; and in her whole gait and demeanour she almost gave the lie to
her own name, asserting herself to have sprung from some more noble
origin among the woods, than maybe supposed to be the origin of the
ordinary domestic cow a useful animal, but heavy in its appearance, and
seen with more pleasure at some little distance than at close quarters.
But this cow was graceful in its movements, and almost tempted one to
regard her as the far-off descendant of the elk or the antelope.
'What's that?' said Mr Amedroz, who, having no cows of his own, was not
pleased to see one brought up in that way before his hail door.
'There's somebody's cow come here.'
Clara understood it in a moment; but she was pained, and said nothing.
Had the cow come without any such scene as that of yesterday, she would
have welcomed the animal with all cordiality, and would have sworn to
her cousin that the cow should be cherished for his sake. But after
what had passed it was different. How was she to take any present from
But Belton faced the difficulty without any bashfulness or apparent
regret. 'I told you I would give you a cow,' said he 'and here she is.'
'What can she want with a cow?' said Mr Amedroz.
'I am sure she wants one very much. At any rate she won't refuse the
present from me; will you, Clara?'
What could she say? 'Not if papa will allow me to keep it.'
'But we've no place to put it!' said the squire. 'We haven't got grass
'There's plenty of grass,' said Belton. 'Come, Mr Amedroz; I've made a
point of getting this little creature for Clara, and you mustn't stand
in the way of my gratification.' Of course he was successful, and of
course Clara thanked him with tears in her eyes.
The next two days passed by without anything special to mark them, and
then the cousin was to go. During the period of his visit he did not
see Colonel Askerton, nor did he again see Mrs Askerton. He went to the
cottage once, with the special object of returning the colonel's call;
but the master was out, and he was not specially invited in to see the
mistress. He said nothing more to Clara about her friends, but he
thought of the matter more than once, as he was going about the place,
and became aware that he would like to ascertain whether there was a
mystery, and if so, what was its nature. He knew that he did not like
Mrs Askerton, and he felt also that Mrs Askerton did not like him. This
was, as he thought, unfortunate; for might it not be the case, that in
the one matter which was to him of so much importance, Mrs Askerton
might have considerable influence over Clara?
During these days nothing special was said between him and Clara. The
last evening passed over without anything to brighten it or to make it
memorable. Mr Amedroz, in his passive, but gently querulous way, was
sorry that Belton was going to leave him, as his cousin had been the
creation of some new excitement for him, but he said nothing on the
subject; and when the time for going to bed had come, he bade his guest
farewell with some languid allusion to the pleasure which he would have
in seeing him again at Christmas. Belton was to start very early in the
morning before six, and of course he was prepared to take leave also of
Clara. But she told him very gently, so gently that her father did not
hear it, that she would be up to give him a cup of coffee before he
'Oh no,' he said.
'But I shall. I won't have you go without seeing you out of the door.'
And on the following morning she was up before him. She hardly
understood, herself, why she was doing this. She knew that it should be
her object to avoid any further special conversation on that subject
which they discussed up among the rocks. She knew that she could give
him no comfort, and that he could give none to her. It would seem that
he was willing to let the remembrance of the scene pass away, so that
it should be as though it had never been; and surely it was not for her
to disturb so salutary an arrangement! But yet she was up to bid him
God speed as he went. She could not bear,. so she excused the matter to
herself she could not bear to think that he should regard her as
ungrateful. She knew all that he had done for them. She had perceived
that the taking of the land, the building of the sheds, the life which
he had contrived in so short a time to throw into the old place, had
all come from a desire on his part to do good to those in whose way he
stood by family arrangements made almost before his birth; and she
longed to say to him one word of thanks. And had he not told her once
in the heat of his disappointment; for then at that moment, as Clara
had said to herself, she supposed that he must have been in some
measure disappointed had he not even then told her that when she wanted
a brother's care, a brother's care should be given to her by him? Was
she not therefore~ bound to do for him what she would do for a brother?
She, with her own hands, brought the coffee into the little breakfast
parlour, and handed the cup into his hands. The gig, which had come
overnight from Taunton, was not yet at the door, and there was a minute
or two during which they must speak to each other. Who has not seen
some such girl when she has come down early, without the full
completeness of her morning toilet, and yet nicer, fresher, prettier to
the eye of him who is so favoured, than she has ever been in more
formal attire? And what man who has been so favoured has not loved her
who has so favoured him, even though he may not previously have been
enamoured as deeply as poor Will Belton?
'This is so good of you,' he said.
'I wish I knew how to be good to you,' she answered not meaning to
trench upon dangerous ground, but feeling, as the words came from her,
that she had done so. 'You have been so good to us, so very good to
papa, that we owe you everything. I am so grateful to you for saying
that you will come back at Christmas.'
He had resolved that he would refrain from further love-making till the
winter; but he found it very hard to refrain when so addressed. To take
her in his arms, and kiss her twenty times, and swear that he would
never let her go to claim her at once savagely as his own, that was the
line of conduct to which temptation prompted him. How could she look at
him so sweetly, how could she stand before him, ministering to him with
all her pretty maidenly charms brought so close to him, without
intending that he should love her? But he did refrain. 'Blood is
thicker than water,' said he. 'That's the real reason why I first came.'
'I understand that quite, and it is that feeling that makes you so
good. But I'm afraid you are spending a great deal of money here and
all for our sakes.'
'Not at all. I shall get my money back again. And if I didn't, what
then? I've plenty of money. it is not money that I want.'
She could not ask him what it was that he did want, and she was obliged
therefore to begin again. 'Papa will look forward so to the winter now.'
'And so shall I.'
'But you must come for longer then you won't go away at the end of a
week? Say that you won't.'
'I'll see about it. I can't tell quite yet. You'll write me a line to
say when the shed is finished, won't you?'
'That I will, and I'll tell you how Bessy goes on.' Bessy was the cow.
'I will be so very fond of her. She'll come to me for apples already.'
Belton thought that he would go to her, wherever she might be, even if
he were to get no apples. 'It's all cupboard love with them,' he said.
'I'll tell you what I'll do when I come, I'll bring you a dog that will
follow you without thinking of apples.' Then the gig was heard on the
gravel before the door, and Belton was forced to go. For a moment he
reflected whether, as her cousin, it was not his duty to kiss her. It
was a matter as to which he had doubt as is the case with many male
cousins; but ultimately he resolved that if he kissed her at all he
would not kiss her in that light, and so he again refrained. 'Goodbye,'
he said, putting out his great hand to her.
'Good-bye, Will, and God bless you.' I almost think he might have
kissed her, asking himself no questions as to the light in which it was
As he turned from her he saw the tears in her eyes; and as he sat in
the gig, thinking of them, other tears came into his own. By heaven, he
would have her yet! He was a man who had not read much of romance. To
him all the imagined mysteries of passion had not been made common by
the perusal of legions of love stories but still he knew enough of the
game to be aware that women had been won in spite, as it were, of their
own teeth. He knew that he could not now run away with her, taking her
off by force; but still he might conquer her will by his own. As he
remembered the tears in her eyes, and the tone of her voice, and the
pressure of her hand, and the gratitude that had become tender in its
expression, he could not hut think that he would be wise to love her
still. Wise or foolish, he did love her still; and it should not be
owing to fault of his if she did not become his wife. As he drove along
he saw little of the Quantock hills, little of the rich Somersetshire
pastures, little of the early beauty of the August morning. He saw
nothing but her eyes, moistened with bright tears, and before he
reached Taunton he had rebuked himself with many revilings in that he
had parted from her and not kissed her.
Clara stood at the door watching the gig till it was out of sight
watching it as well as her tears would allow. What a grand cousin he
was! Had it not been a pity a thousand pities that that grievous
episode should have come to mar the brotherly love, the sisterly
confidence, which might otherwise have been so perfect between them?
But perhaps it might all be well yet. Clara knew, or thought that she
knew, that men and women differed in their appreciation of love. She,
having once loved, could not change. Of that she was sure. Her love
might be fortunate or unfortunate. It might be returned, or it might
simply be her own, to destroy all hope of happiness for her on earth.
But whether it were this or that, whether productive of good or evil,
the love itself could not be changed. But with men she thought it might
be different. Her cousin, doubtless, had been sincere in the full
sincerity of his heart when he made his offer. And had she accepted it
had she been able to accept it she believed that he would have loved
her truly and constantly. Such was his nature. But she also believed
that love with him, unrequited love, would have no enduring effect, and
that he had already resolved, with equal courage and wisdom, to tread
this short-lived passion out beneath his feet. One night had sufficed
to him for that treading out. As she thought of this the tears ran
plentifully down her cheek; and going again to her room she remained
there crying till it was time for her to wipe away the marks of her
weeping, that she might go to her father.
But she was very glad that Will bore it so well very glad! Her cousin
was safe against love-making once again.
MISS AMEDROZ GOES TO PERIVALE
It had been settled for some time past that Miss Amedroz was to go to
Perivale for a few days in November. Indeed it seemed to be a
recognized fact in her life that she was to make the journey from
Belton to Perivale and back very often, as there prevailed an idea that
she owed a divided duty. This was in some degree hard upon her, as she
had very little gratification in these visits to her aunt. Had there
been any intention on the part of Mrs Winterfield to provide for her,
the thing would have been intelligible according to the usual
arrangements which are made in the world on such matters; but Mrs
Winterfield had scarcely a right to call upon her niece for dutiful
attendance after having settled it with her own conscience that her
property was all to go to her nephew. But Clara entertained no thought
of rebelling, and had agreed to make the accustomed journey in
November, travelling then, as she did on all such journeys, at her
Two things only occurred to disturb her tranquillity before she went,
and they were not of much violence. Mr Wright, the clergyman, called at
Belton Castle, and in the course of conversation with Mr Amedroz
renewed one of those ill-natured rumours which had before been spread
about Mrs Askerton. Clara did not see him, but she heard an account of
it all from her father.
'Does it mean, papa,' she said, speaking almost with anger, 'that you
want me to give up Mrs Askerton?'
'How can you be so unkind as to ask me such a question?' he replied.
'You know how I hate to be bothered. I tell you what I hear, and then
you can decide for yourself.'
'But that isn't quite fair either, papa. That man comes here'
'That man, as you call him, is the rector of the parish, and I've known
him for forty years.'
'And have never liked him, papa.'
'I don't know much about liking anybody, my dear. Nobody likes me, and
so why should I trouble myself?'
'But, papa, it all amounts to this that somebody has said that the
Askertons are not Askertons at all, but ought to be called something
else. Now we know that he served as Captain and Major Askerton for
seven years in India and in fact it all means nothing. If I know
anything, I know that he is Colonel Askerton.'
'But do you know that she is his wife? That is what Mr Wright asks. I
don't say anything. I think it's very indelicate talking about such
'If I am asked whether I have seen her marriage certificate, certainly
I have not; nor probably did you ever do so as to any lady that you
ever knew. But I know that she is her husband's wife, as we all of us
know things of that sort. I know she was in India with him. I've seen
things of hers marked with her name that she has had at least ten
'I don't know anything about it, my dear,' said Mr Amedroz, angrily.
'But Mr Wright ought to know something about it before he says such
things. And then this that he's saying now isn't the same that he said
'I don't know what he said before.'
'He said they were both of them using a feigned name.'
'It's nothing to me what name they use. I know I wish they hadn't come
here, if I'm to be troubled about them in this way first by Wright and
then by you.'
'They have been very good tenants, papa.'
'You needn't tell me that, Clara, and remind me about the shooting when
you know how unhappy it makes me.'
After this Clara said nothing more, and simply determined that Mr
Wright and his gossip should have no effect upon her intimacy with Mrs
Askerton. But not the less did she continue to remember what her cousin
had said about Miss Vigo.
And she had been ruffled a second time by certain observations which
Mrs Askerton made to her respecting her cousin or rather by little
words which were dropped on various occasions. It was very clear that
Mrs Askerton did not like Mr Belton, and that she wished to prejudice
Clara against him. 'It's a pity he shouldn't be a lover of yours,' the
lady said, 'because it would be such a fine instance of Beauty and the
Beast.' It will of course be understood that Mrs Askerton had never
been told of the offer that had been made.
'You don't mean to say that he's not a handsome man,' said Clara.
'I never observe whether a man is handsome or not; but I can see very
well whether he knows what to do with his arms and legs, or whether he
has the proper use of his voice before ladies.' Clara remembered a word
or two spoken by her cousin to herself, in speaking which he had seemed
to have a very proper use of his voice. 'I know when a man is at ease
like a gentleman, and when he is awkward like a'
'Like a what?' said Clara. 'Finish what you've got to say.'
'Like a ploughboy, I was going to say,' said Mrs Askerton.
'I declare I think you have a spite against him, because he said you
were like some Miss Vigo,' replied Clara, sharply. Mrs Askerton was on
that occasion silenced, and she said nothing more about Mr Belton till
after Clara had returned from Perivale.
The journey itself from Belton to Perivale was always a nuisance, and
was more so now than usual, as it was made in the disagreeable month of
November. There was kept at the little inn at Redicote an old fly-so
called which habitually made the journey to the Taunton
railway-station, under the conduct of an old grey horse and an older
and greyer driver, whenever any of the old ladies of the neighbourhood
were minded to leave their homes. This vehicle usually travelled at the
rate of five miles an hour; but the old grey driver was never content
to have time allowed to him for the transit calculated upon such a rate
of speed. Accidents might happen, and why should he be made, as he
would plaintively ask, to drive the poor beast out of its skin? He was
consequently always at Belton a full hour before the time, and though
Clara was well aware of all this, she could not help herself. Her
father was fussy and impatient, the man was fussy and impatient; and
there was nothing for her but to go. On the present occasion she was
taken off in this way the full sixty minutes too soon, and after four
dreary hours spent upon the road, found herself landed at the Taunton
station, with a terrible gulf of time to be passed before she could
again proceed on her journey.
One little accident had occurred to her. The old horse, while trotting
leisurely along the level high road, had contrived to tumble down.
Clara did not think very much of this, as the same thing had happened
with her before; but, even with an hour or more to spare, there arises
a question whether under such circumstances the train can be saved. But
the grey old man reassured her. 'Now, miss,' said he, coming to the
window, while he left his horse recumbent and apparently comfortable on
the road, 'where'd you have been now, zure, if I hadn't a few minutes
in hand for you?' Then he walked off to some neighbouring cottage, and
having obtained assistance, succeeded in putting his beast again upon
his legs. After that he looked once more in at the window. 'Who's right
now, I wonder?' he said, with an air of triumph. And when he came to
her for his guerdon at Taunton, he was evidently cross in not having it
increased because of the accident.
That hour at the Taunton station was terrible to her. I know of no
hours more terrible than those so passed. The minutes will not go away,
and utterly fail in making good their claim to be called winged. A man
walks up and down the platform, and in that way obtains something of
the advantage of exercise; but a woman finds herself bound to sit still
within the dreary dullness of the waiting- room. There are, perhaps,
people who under such circumstances can read, but they are few in
number. The mind altogether declines to be active, whereas the body is
seized by a spirit of restlessness to which delay and tranquillity are
loathsome. The advertisements on the walls are examined, the map of
some new Eden is studied some Eden in which an irregular pond and a
church are surrounded by a multiplicity of regular villas and shrubs
till the student feels that no consideration of health or economy would
induce him to live there. Then the porters come in and out, till each
porter has made himself odious to the sight. Everything is hideous,
dirty, and disagreeable; and the mind wanders away, to consider why
station-masters do not more frequently commit suicide. Clara Amedroz
had already got beyond this stage, and was beginning to think of
herself rather than of the station-master, when at last there sounded,
close to her ears, the bell of promise, and she knew that the train was
At Taunton there branched away from the main line that line which was
to take her to Perivale, and therefore she was able to take her own
place quietly in the carriage when she found that the down- train from
London was at hand. This she did, and could then watch with equanimity,
while the travellers from the other train went through the penance of
changing their seats. But she had not been so watching for many seconds
when she saw Captain Frederic Aylmer appear upon the platform.
Immediately she sank back into her corner and watched no more. Of
course he was going to Perivale; but why had not her aunt told her that
she was to meet him? Of course she would be staying in the same house
with him, and her present small attempt to avoid him would thus be
futile. The attempt was made; but nevertheless she was probably pleased
when she found that it was made in vain. He came at once to the
carriage in which she was sitting, and had packed his coats, and
dressing-bag, and desk about the carriage before he had discovered who
was his fellow-traveller 'How do you do, Captain Aylmer?' she said, as
he was about to take his seat.
'Miss Amedroz! Dear me; how very odd! I had not the slightest
expectation of meeting you here. The pleasure is of course the greater.'
'Nor I of seeing you. Mrs Winterfield has not mentioned to me that you
were coming to Perivale.'
'I didn't know it myself till the day before yesterday. I'm going to
give an account of my stewardship to the good-natured Perivalians who
sent me to Parliament. I'm to dine with the Mayor tomorrow, and as some
big-wig has come in his way who is going to dine with him also, the
thing has been got up in a hurry. But I'm delighted to find that you
are to be with us.'
'I generally go to my aunt about this time of the year.'
'It is very good-natured of you.' Then he asked after her father, and
she told him of Mr Belton's visit, telling him nothing as the reader
will hardly require to be told of Mr Belton's offer. And so, by
degrees, they fell into close and intimate conversation.
'I am so glad, for your, father's sake!' said the captain, with
sympathetic voice, speaking still of Mr Belton's visit.
'That's what I feel, of course.'
'I is just as it should be, as he stands in that position to the
property. And so he is a nice sort of fellow, is he?
'Nice is no word for him. He is perfect!'
'Dear me! This is terrible! You remember that they hated some old Greek
patriot when they could find no fault in him?'
'I'll defy you to hate my cousin Will.'
'What sort of looking man is he?'
'Extremely handsome at least I should say so.'
'Then I certainly must hate him. And clever?'
'Well not what you would call clever. He is very clever about fields
'Come, there is some relief in that.'
'But you must not mistake me. He is clever; and then there's a way
about him of doing everything just as he likes it, which is wonderful.
You feel quite sure that he'll become master of everything.'
'But I do not feel at all sure that I should like him better for that
'But he doesn't meddle in things that he doesn't understand. And then
he is so generous! His spending all that money down there is only done
because he thinks it will make the place pleasanter to papa.'
'Has he got plenty of money?'
'Oh, plenty! At least, I think so. He says that he has.'
'The idea of any man owning that he had got plenty of money! What a
happy mortal! And then to be handsome, and omnipotent, and to
understand cattle and fields! One would strive to emulate him rather
than envy him, had not one learned to acknowledge that it is not given
to every one to get to Corinth.'
'You may laugh at him, but you'd like him if you knew him.'
'One never can be sure of that from a lady's account of a man. When a
man talks to me about another man, I can generally tell whether I
should like him or not particularly if I know the man well who is
giving the description; but it is quite different when a woman is the
'You mean that you won't take my word?'
'We see with different eyes in such matters. I have no doubt your
cousin is a worthy man and as prosperous a gentleman as the Thane of
Cawdor in his prosperous days but probably if he and I came together we
shouldn't have a word to say to each other.'
Clara almost hated Captain Aylmer for speaking as he did, and yet she
knew that it was true. Will Belton was not an educated man, and were
they two to meet in her presence the captain and the farmer she felt
that she might have to blush for her cousin. But yet he was the better
man of the two. She knew that he was the better man of the two, though
she knew also that she could not love him as she loved the other.
Then they changed the subject of their conversation, and discussed Mrs
Winterfield, as they had often done before. Captain Aylmer had said
that he should return to London on the Saturday, the present day being
Tuesday, and Clara accused him of escaping always from the real hard
work of his position. 'I observe that you never stay a Sunday at
Perivale,' she said.
'Well not often. Why should I? Sunday is just the day that people like
to be at home.'
'I should have thought it would not have made much difference to a
bachelor in that way.'
'But Sunday is a day that one specially likes to pass after one's own
'Exactly and therefore you don't stay with my aunt. I understand it all
'Now you mean to be ill-natured!'
'I mean to say that I don't like Sundays at Perivale at all, and that I
should do just as you do if I had the power. But women women, that is,
of my age are such slaves! We are forced to give an obedience for which
we can see no cause, and for which we can understand no necessity. I
couldn't tell my aunt that I meant to go away on Saturday.'
'You have no business which makes imperative calls upon your time.'
'That means that I can't plead pretended excuses. But the true reason
is that we are dependent.'
'There is something in that, I suppose.'
'Not that I am dependent on her. But my position generally is
dependent, and I cannot assist myself.'
Captain Aylmer found it difficult to make any answer to this, feeling
the subject to be one which could hardly be discussed between him and
Miss Amedroz. He not unnaturally looked to be the heir of his aunt's
property, and any provision made out of that property for Clara would
so far lessen that which would come to him. For anything that he knew,
Mrs Winterfield might leave everything she possessed to her niece. The
old lady had not been open and candid to him whom she meant to favour
in her will, as she had been to her to whom no such favour was to be
shown. But Captain Aylmer did know, with tolerable accuracy, what was
the state of affairs at Belton, and was aware that Miss Amedroz had no
prospect of maintenance on which to depend, unless she could depend on
her aunt. She was now pleading that she was not dependent on that lady,
and Captain Aylmer felt that she was wrong. He was a man of the world,
and was by no means inclined to abandon any right that was his own; but
it seemed to him that he was almost bound to say some word to show that
in his opinion Clara should hold herself bound to comply with her
'Dependence is a disagreeable word,' he said; and one never quite knows
what it means.'
'If you were a woman you'd know. It means that I must stay at Perivale
on Sundays, while you can go up to London or down to Yorkshire. That's
what it means.'
'What you do mean, I think, is this that you owe a duty to your aunt,
the performance of which is not altogether agreeable. Nevertheless it
would be foolish in you to omit it.'
'It isn't that not that at all. It would not be foolish, not in your
sense of the word, but it would be wrong. My aunt has been kind to me,
and therefore I am bound to her for this service. But she is kind to
you also, and yet you are not bound. That's why I complain. You sail
always under false pretences, and yet you think you do your duty. You
have to see your lawyer which means going to your club; or to attend to
your tenants which means hunting and shooting.'
'I haven't got any tenants.'
'You know very well that you could remain over Sunday without doing any
harm to anybody only you don't like going to church three times, and
you don't like hearing my aunt read a sermon afterwards. Why shouldn't
you stay, and I go to the club?'
'With all my heart, if you can manage it.'
'But I can't; we ain't allowed to have clubs, or shooting, or to have
our own way in anything, putting forward little pretences about
'Come, I'll stay if you'll ask me.'
'I'm sure I won't do that. In the first place you'd go to sleep, and
then she would be offended; and I don't know that your sufferings would
make mine any lighter. I'm not prepared to alter the ways of the world,
but feel myself entitled to grumble at them sometimes.'
Mrs Winterfield inhabited a large brick house in the centre of the
town. It had a long frontage to the street; for there was not only the
house itself, with its three square windows on each side of the door,
and its seven windows over that, and again its seven windows in the
upper story but the end of the coach-house also abutted on the street,
on which was the family clock, quite as much respected in Perivale as
was the town-clock; and between the coach-house and the mansion there
was the broad entrance into the yard, and the entrance also to the back
door. No Perivalian ever presumed to doubt that Mrs Winterfield's house
was the most important house in the town. Nor did any stranger doubt it
on looking at the frontage. But then it was in all respects a town
house to the eye that is, an English town house, being as ugly and as
respectable as unlimited bricks and mortar could make it. Immediately
opposite to Mrs Winterfield lived the leading doctor and a retired
builder, so that the lady's eye was not hurt by any sign of a shop. The
shops, indeed, came within a very few yards of her on either side; but
as the neighbouring shops on each side were her own property, this was
not unbearable. To me, had I lived there, the incipient growth of grass
through some of the stones which formed the margin of the road would
have been altogether unendurable. There is no sign of coming decay
which is so melancholy to the eye as any which tells of a decrease in
the throng of men. Of men or horses there was never any throng now in
that end of Perivale. That street had formed part of the main line of
road from Salisbury to Taunton, and coaches, wagons, and
posting-carriages had been frequent on it; but now, alas lit was
deserted. Even the omnibuses from the railway-station never came there
unless they were ordered to call at Mrs Winterfield's door. For Mrs
Winterfield herself, this desolation had, I think, a certain melancholy
attraction. It suited her tone of mind and her religious views that she
should be thus daily reminded that things of this world were passing
away and going to destruction. She liked to have ocular proof that
grass was growing in the highways under mortal feet, and that it was no
longer worth man's while to renew human flags in human streets. She was
drawing near to the pavements which would ever be trodden by myriads of
bright sandals, and which yet would never be worn, and would be carried
to those jewelled causeways on which no weed could find a spot for its
Behind the house there was a square prim garden, arranged in
parallelograms, tree answering to tree at every corner, round which it
was still her delight to creep when the weather permitted. Poor Clara!
How much advice she had received during these creepings, and how often
had she listened to inquiries as to the schooling of the gardener's
children. Mrs Winterfield was always unhappy about her gardener.
Serious footmen are very plentiful, and even coachmen are to be found
who, at a certain rate of extra payment, will be punctual at prayer
time, and will promise to read good little books; but gardeners, as a
class, are a profane people, who think themselves entitled to claim
liberty of conscience, and who will not submit to the domestic
despotism of a serious Sunday. They live in cottages by themselves, and
choose to have an opinion of their own on church matters. Mrs
Winterfield was aware that she ought to bid high for such a gardener as
she wanted. A man must be paid well who will submit to daily inquiries
as to the spiritual welfare of himself, his wife, and family. But even
though she did bid high, and though she paid generously, no gardener
would stop with her. One conscientious man attempted to bargain for
freedom from religion during the six unimportant days of the week,
being strong, and willing therefore to give up his day of rest; but
such liberty could not be allowed to him, and he also went. 'He
couldn't stop,' he said, 'in justice to the greenhouses, when missus
was so constant down upon him about his sprittual backsliding. And
after all, where did he backslide? It was only a pipe of tobacco with
the babby in his arms, instead of that darned evening lecture.'
Poor Mrs Winterfield! She had been strong in her youth, and had herself
sat through evening lectures with a fortitude which other people cannot
attain. And she was strong too in her age, with the strength of a
martyr, submitting herself with patience to wearinesses which are
insupportable to those who have none of the martyr spirit. The sermons
of Perivale were neither bright, nor eloquent, nor encouraging. All the
old vicar or the young curate could tell she had heard hundreds of
times. She knew it all by heart, and could have preached their sermons
to them better than they could preach them to her. It was impossible
that she could learn anything from them: and yet she would sit there
thrice a day, suffering from cold in winter, from cough in spring, from
heat in summer, and from rheumatism in autumn; and now that her doctor
had forbidden her to go more than twice, recommending her to go only
once, she really thought that she regarded the prohibition as a
grievance. Indeed, to such as her, that expectation of the jewelled
causeway, and of the perfect pavement that shall never be worn, must be
everything. But if she was right right as to herself and others then
why has the world been made so pleasant? Why is the fruit of the earth
so sweet; and the trees why are they so green; and the mountains so
full of glory? Why are women so lovely? and why is it that the activity
of man's mind is the only sure forerunner of man's progress? In
Listening thrice a day to outpourings from the clergyman at Perivale
there certainly was no activity of mind.
Now, in these days, Mrs Winterfield was near to her reward. That she
had ensured that I cannot doubt. She had fed the poor, and filled the
young full with religious teachings perhaps not wisely, and in her own
way only too well, but yet as her judgment had directed her. She had
cared little for herself forgiving injuries done to her, and not
forgiving those only which she thought were done to the Lord. She had
lived her life somewhat as the martyr lived, who stood for years on his
pillar unmoved, while his nails grew through his flesh. So had she
stood, doing, I fear, but little positive good with her large means but
thinking nothing of her own comfort here, in comparison with the
comfort of herself and others in the world to which she was going.
On this occasion her nephew and niece reached her together; the prim
boy, with the white cotton gloves and the low four-wheeled carriage,
having been sent down to meet Clara. For Mrs Winterfield was a lady who
thought it unbecoming that her niece though only an adopted niece
should come to her door in an omnibus. Captain Aylmer had driven the
four-wheeled carriage from the station, dispossessing the boy, and the
luggage had been confided to the public conveyance.
'It is very fortunate that you should come together,' said Mrs
Winterfield. 'I didn't know when to expect you, Fred. Indeed, you never
say at what hour you'll come.'
'I think it safer to allow myself a little margin, aunt, because one
has so many things to do.'
'I suppose it is so with a gentleman,' said Mrs Winterfield. After
which Clara looked at Captain Aylmer, but did not betray any of her
suspicions. 'But I knew Clara would come by this train,' continued the
old lady; 'so I sent Tom to meet her. Ladies always can be punctual;
they can do that at any rate.' Mrs Winterfield was one of those women
who have always believed that their own sex is in every respect
inferior to the other.
CAPTAIN AYLMER MEETS HIS CONSTITUENTS
On the first evening of their visit Captain Aylmer was very attentive
to his aunt. He was quite alive to the propriety of such attentions,
and to their expediency; and Clara was amused as she watched him while
he sat by her side, by the hour together, answering little questions
and making little remarks suited to the temperament of the old lady's
mind. She, herself, was hardly called upon to join in the conversation
on that evening, and as she sat and listened, she could not but think
that Will Belton would have been less adroit, but that he would also
have been more straightforward. And yet why should not Captain Aylmer
talk to his mat? Will Belton would also have talked to his aunt if he
had one, but then he would have talked his own talk, and not his aunt's
talk. Clara could hardly make up her mind whether Captain Aylmer was or
was not a sincere man. On the following day Aylmer was out all the
morning, paying visits among his constituents, and at three o'clock he
was to make his speech in the town-hall. Special places in the gallery
were to be kept for Mrs Winterfield and her niece, and the old woman
was quite resolved that she would be there. As the day advanced she
became very fidgety, and at length she was quite alive to the perils of
having to climb up the town-hall stairs; but she persevered, and at ten
minutes before three she was seated in her place.
'I suppose they will begin with prayer,' she said to Clara. Clara, who
knew nothing of the manner in which things were done at such meetings,
said that she supposed so. A town councillor's wife who sat on the
other side of Mrs Winterfield here took the liberty of explaining that
as the captain was going to talk politics there would be no prayers.
'But they have prayers in the Houses of Parliament,' said Mrs
Winterfield, with much anger. To this the town councillor's wife, who
was almost silenced by the great lady's wrath, said that indeed she did
not know. After this Mrs Winterfield continued to hope for the best,
till the platform was filled and the proceedings had commenced. Then
she declared the present men of Perivale to be a godless set, and
expressed herself very sorry that her nephew had ever had anything to
do with them. 'No good can come of it, my dear,' she said. Clara from
the beginning had feared that no good would come of her aunt's visit to
The business was put on foot at once, and with some little flourishing
at the commencement, Captain Aylmer made his speech the same speech
which we have all heard and read so often, specially adapted to the
meridian of Perivale. He was a Conservative, and of course he told his
hearers that a good time was coming; that he and his family were really
about to buckle themselves to the work, and that Perivale would hear
things that would surprise it. The malt tax was to go, and the farmers
were to have free trade in beer the arguments from the other side
having come beautifully round in their appointed circle and old England
was to be old England once again. He did the thing tolerably well, as
such gentlemen usually do, and Perivale was contented with its Member,
with the exception of one Perivalian. To Mrs Winterfield, sitting up
there and listening with all her ears, it seemed that he had hitherto
omitted all allusion to any subject that was worthy of mention. At last
he said some word about the marriage and divorce court, condemning the
iniquity of the present law, to which Perivale had opposed itself
violently by petition and general meetings; and upon hearing this Mrs
Winterfield had thumped with her umbrella, and faintly cheered him with
her weak old voice. But the surrounding Perivalians had heard the
cheer, and it was repeated backward and forwards through the room, till
the Member's aunt thought that it might be her nephew's mission to
annul that godless Act of Parliament and restore the matrimonial bonds
of England to their old rigidity. When Captain Aylmer came out to hand
her up to her little carriage, she patted him, and thanked him, and
encouraged him; and on her way home she congratulated herself to Clara
that she should have such a nephew to leave behind in her place.
Captain Aylmer was dining with the Mayor on that evening, and Mrs
Winterfield was therefore able to indulge herself in talking about him.
'I don't see much of young men, of course,' she said; 'but I do not
even hear of any that are like him.' Again Clara thought of her cousin
Will. Will was not at all like Frederic Aylmer; but was he not better?
And yet, as she thought thus, she remembered that she had refused her
cousin Will because she loved that very Frederic Aylmer whom her mind
was thus condemning.
'I'm sure he does his duty as a Member of Parliament very well,' said
'That alone would not be much; but when that is joined to so much that
is better, it is a great deal. I am told that very few of the men in
the House now are believers at all.'
'It is terrible to think of, my dear.'
'But, aunt; they have to take some oath, or something of that sort, to
show that they are Christians.'
'Not now, my dear. They've done away with all that since we had Jew
members. An atheist can go into Parliament now; and I'm told that most
of them are that, or nearly as bad. I can remember when no Papist could
sit in Parliament. But they seem to me to be doing away with
everything. It's a great comfort to me that Frederic is what he is.'
'I'm sure it must be, aunt.'
Then there was a pause, during which, however, Mrs Winterfield gave no
sign that the conversation was to be considered as being over. Clara
knew her aunt's ways so well, that she was sure something more was
coming, and therefore waited patiently, without any thought of taking
up her book. 'I was speaking to him about you yesterday,' Mrs
Winterfield said at last.
'That would not interest him very much.'
'Why not? Do you suppose he is not interested in those I love? Indeed,
it did interest him; and he told me what I did not know before, and
what you ought to have told me.'
Clara now blushed, she knew not why, and became agitated. 'I don't know
that I have kept anything from you that I ought to have told,' she said.
'He says that the provision made for you by your father has all been
'If he used that word he has been very unkind,' said Clara, angrily.
'I don't know what word he used, but he was not unkind at all; he never
is. I think he was very generous.
'I do not want his generosity, aunt,'
'That is nonsense, my dear. If he has told me the truth, what have you
to depend on?'
'I don't want to depend on anything. I hate hearing about it.'
'Clara, I wonder you can talk in that way. If you were only seventeen
it would be very foolish; but at your age it is inexcusable. When I am
gone, and your father is gone, who is to provide for you? Will your
cousin do it Mr Belton, who is to have the property?'
'Yes, he would if I would let him of course I would not let him. But,
aunt, pray do not go on. I would sooner have to starve than talk about
it at all.'
There was another pause; but Clara again knew that the conversation was
not over; and she knew also that it would be vain for her to endeavour
to begin another subject. Nor could she think of anything else to say,
so much was she agitated.
'What makes you suppose that Mr Belton would be so liberal?' asked Mrs
'I don't know. I can't say. He is the nearest relation I shall have;
and of all the people I ever knew he is the best, and the most
generous, and the least selfish. When he came to us papa was quite
hostile to him disliking his very name; but when the time came, papa
could not bear to think of his going, because he had been so good.'
'I hope you know my affection for you.'
'Of course I do, aunt; and I hope you trust mine for you also.'
'Is there anything between you and Mr Belton besides cousinship?'
'Because if I thought that, my trouble would of course be at an end.'
'There is nothing but pray do not lot me be a trouble to you.' Clara,
for a moment, almost resolved to tell her aunt the whole truth; but she
remembered that she would be treating her cousin badly if she told the
story of his rejection.
There was another short period of silence, and then Mrs Winterfield
went on. 'Frederic thinks that I should make some provision for you by
will. That, of course, is the same as though he offered to do it
himself. I told him that it would be so, and I read him my will last
night. He said that that made no difference, and recommended me to add
a codicil. I asked him how much I ought to give you, and he said
fifteen hundred pounds. There will be as much as that after burying me
without burden to the estate. You must acknowledge that he has been
But Clara, in her heart, did not at all thank Captain Aylmer for his
generosity. She would have had everything from him, or nothing. It was
grievous to her to think that she should owe to him a bare pittance to
keep her out of the workhouse to him who had twice seemed to be on the
point of asking her to share everything with him. She did not love her
cousin Will as she loved him; but her cousin Will's assurance to her
that he would treat her with a brother's care was sweeter to her by far
than Frederic Aylmer's well-balanced counsel to his aunt on her behalf.
In her present mood, too, she wanted no one to have fore. thought for
her; she desired no provision; for her, in the discomfiture of heart,
there was consolation in the feeling that when she should find herself
alone in the world, she would have been ill-treated by her friends all
round her. There was a charm in the prospect of her desolation of which
she did not wish to be robbed by the assurance of some seventy pounds a
year, to be given to her by Captain Frederic Aylmer. To be robbed of
one's grievance is the last and foulest wrong a wrong under which the
most enduring temper will at last yield and become soured by which the
strongest back will be broken. 'Well, my dear,' continued Mrs
Winterfield, when Clara made no response to this appeal for praise.
'It is so hard for me to say anything about it, aunt. What can I say
but that I don't want to be a burden to any one?'
'That is a position which very few women can attain, that is, very few
'I think it would be well if all single women were strangled by the
time they are thirty,' said Clara with a fierce energy which absolutely
frightened her aunt.
'Clara! how can you say anything so wicked so abominably wicked?'
'Anything would be better than being twitted in this way. How can I
help it that I am not a man and able to work for my bread? But I am not
above being a housemaid, and so Captain Aylmer shall find. I'd sooner
be a housemaid, with nothing but my wages, than take the money which
you say he is to give me. It will be of no use, aunt, for I shall not
'It is I that am to leave it to you. It is not to be a present from
'It is the same thing, aunt. He says you are to do it; and you told me
just now that it was to come out of his pocket.'
'I should have done it myself long ago, had you told me all the truth
about your father's affairs.'
'How was I to tell you? I would sooner have bitten my tongue out. But I
will tell you the truth now. If I had known that all this was to be
said to me about money, and that our poverty was to be talked over
between you and Captain Aylmer, I would not have come to Perivale. I
would rather that you should be angry with me and think that I had
'You would not say that, Clara, if you remembered that this will
probably be your last visit to me.'
'No, no; it will not be the last. But do not talk about these things.
And it will be so much better that I should be here when he is not
'I had hoped that when I died you might both be with me together as
husband and wife.'
'Such hopes never come to anything.'
'I still think that he would wish it.'
'That is nonsense, aunt. it is indeed, for neither of us wish it.' A
lie on such a subject from a woman under such circumstances is hardly
to be considered a lie at all. It is spoken with no mean object, and is
the only bulwark which the woman has ready at her need to cover her own
'From what he said yesterday,' continued Mrs Winterfield, 'I think it
is your own fault.'
'Pray pray do not talk in that way. It cannot be matter of any fault
that two people do not want to marry each other.'
'Of course I asked him no positive question. It would be indelicate
even in me to have done that. But he spoke as though he thought very
highly of you.'
'No doubt he does. And so do I of Mr Possitt.'
'Mr Possitt is a very excellent young man,' said Mrs Winterfield,
gravely. Mr Possitt was, indeed, her favourite curate of Perivale, and
always dined at the house on Sundays between services, when Mrs
Winter-field was very particular in seeing that he took two glasses of
her best port wine to support him. 'But Mr Possitt has nothing but his
'There is no danger, aunt, I can assure you.'
'I don't know what you call danger; but Frederic seemed to think that
you are always sharp with him. You don't want to quarrel with him, I
hope, because I love him better than any one in the world?'
'Oh, aunt, what cruel things you say to me without thinking of them!'
'I do not mean to be cruel, but I will say nothing more about him. As I
told you before that I had not thought it expedient to leave away any
portion of my little property from Frederic believing, as I did then,
that the money intended for you by your father was still remaining it
is best that you should now know that I have at last learnt the truth,
and that I will at once see my lawyer about making the change.'
'Dear aunt, of course I thank you.'
'I want no thanks, Clara. I humbly strive to do what I believe to be my
duty. I have never felt myself to be more than a steward of my money.
That I have often failed in my stewardship I know well for in what
duties do we not all fail?' Then she gently laid herself back in her
arm-chair, closing her eyes, while she kept fast clasped in her hands
the little book of daily devotion which she had been striving to read
when the conversation had been commenced. Clara knew then that nothing
more was to be said, and that she was not at present to interrupt her
aunt. From her posture, and the closing of her eyelids, Mrs Winterfield
might have been judged to be asleep; but Clara could see the gentle
motion of her lips, and was aware that her aunt was solacing herself
Clara was angry with herself, and angry with all the world. She knew
that the old lady who was sitting then before her was very good; and
that all this that had now been said had come from pure goodness, and a
desire that strict duty might be done; and Clara was angry with herself
in that she had not been more ready with her thanks and more
demonstrative with her love and gratitude. Mrs Winterfield was
affectionate as well as good, and her niece's coldness, as the niece
well knew, had hurt her sorely. But still what could Clara have done or
said? She told herself that it was beyond her power to burst out into
loud praises of Captain Aylmer; and of such nature was the gratitude
which Mrs Winterfield had desired. She was not grateful to Captain
Aylmer, and wanted nothing that was to come from his generosity. And
then her mind went away to that other portion of her aunt's discourse.
Could it be possible that this man was in truth attached to her, and
was repelled simply by her own manner? She was aware that she had
fallen into a habit of fighting with him, of sparring against him with
words about indifferent things, and calling his conduct in question in
a manner half playful and half serious. Could it be the truth that she
was thus robbing herself of that which would be to her as to herself
she had frankly declared the one treasure which she would desire?
Twice, as has been said before, words had seemed to tremble on his lips
which might have settled the question for her for ever; and on both
occasions, as she knew, she herself had helped to laugh off the
precious word that had been coming. But had he been thoroughly in
earnest in earnest as she would have him to be no laugh would have
deterred him from his purpose. Could she have laughed Will Belton out
of his declaration?
At last the lips ceased to move, and she knew that her aunt was in
truth asleep. The poor old lady hardly ever slept at night; but nature,
claiming something of its due, would give her rest such as this in her
arm-chair by the fire-side. They were sitting in a large double
drawing-room upstairs, in which there were, as was customary with Mrs
Winterfield in winter, two fires; and the candles were in the
back-room, while the two ladies sat in that looking out into the
street. This Mrs Winterfield did to save her eyes from the candles, and
yet to be within reach of light if it were wanted. And Clara also sat
motionless in the dark, careful not to disturb her aunt, and desirous
of being with her when she should awake. Captain Aylmer bad declared
his purpose of being home early from the Mayor's dinner, and the ladies
were to wait for his arrival before tea was brought to them. Clara was
herself almost asleep when the door was opened, and Captain Aylmer
entered the room.
'H sh!' she said, rising gently from her chair, and putting up her
finger. He saw her by the dull light of the fire, and closed the door
without a sound. Clara then crept into the back-room and he followed
her with a noiseless step. ' She did not sleep at all last night,' said
Clara; 'and now the unusual excitement of the day has fatigued her, and
I think it is better not to wake her.' The rooms were large, and they
were able to place themselves at such a distance from the sleeper that
their low words could hardly disturb her.
'Was she very tired when she got home? 'he asked.
'Not very. She has been talking much since that.'
'Has she spoken about her will to you?'
'Yes she has.'
'I thought she would.' Then he was silent, as though he expected that
she would speak again on that matter. But she had no wish to discuss
her aunt's will with him, and therefore, to break the silence, asked
him some trifling question. 'Are you not home earlier than you
'It was very dull, and there was nothing more to be said. I did come
away early, and perhaps have given affront. I hope you will accept the
'Your aunt will, when she wakes. She will be delighted to find you
'I am awake,' said Mrs Winterfield. 'I heard Frederic come in. It is
very good of him to come so soon. Clara, my dear, we will have tea.'
During tea, Captain Aylmer was called upon to give an account of the
Mayor's feast how the rector had said grace before dinner, and Mr
Possitt had done so after dinner, and how the soup had been uneatable.
'Dear me!' said Mrs Winterfield. 'And yet his wife was housekeeper
formerly in a family that lived very well!' The Mrs Winterfields of
this world allow themselves little spiteful pleasures of this kind,
repenting of them, no doubt, in those frequent moments in which they
talk to their friends of their own terrible vilenesses. Captain Aylmer
then explained that his own health had been drunk, and his aunt desired
to know whether, in returning thanks, he had been able to say anything
further against that wicked Divorce Act of Parliament. This her nephew
was constrained to answer with a negative, and so the conversation was
carried on till tea was over. She was very anxious to hear every word
that he could be made to utter as to his own doings in Parliament, and
as to his doings in Perivale, and hung upon him with that wondrous
affection which old people with warm hearts feel for those whom they
have selected as their favourites. Clara saw it all, and knew that her
aunt was almost doting.
'I think I'll go up to bed now, my dears,' said Mrs Winterfield, when
she had taken her cup of tea. 'I am tired with those weary stairs in
the Town-hall, and I shall be better in my own room.' Clara offered to
go with her, but this attendance her aunt declined as she did always.
So the bell was rung, and the old maid. servant walked off with her
mistress, and Miss Amedroz and Captain Aylmer were left together.
'I don't think she will last long,' said Captain Aylmer, soon after the
door was closed.
'I should be sorry to believe that; but she is certainly much altered.'
'She has great courage to keep her up and a feeling that she should not
give way, but do her duty to the last. In spite of all that, however, I
can see how changed she is since the summer. Have you ever thought how
sad it will be if she should be alone when the day comes?'
'She has Martha, who is more to her now than any one else unless it is
'You could not remain with her over Christmas, I suppose?'
'Who, I? What would my father do? Papa is as old, or nearly as old, as
'But he is strong.'
'He is very lonely. He would be more lonely than she is, for he has no
such servant as Martha to be with him. Women can do better than men, I
think, when they come to my aunt's age.'
>From this they got into a conversation as to the character of the lady
with whom they were both so nearly connected, and, in spite of all that
Clara could do to prevent it, continual references were made by Captain
Aylmer to her money and will, and the need of an addition to that will
on Clara's behalf. At last she was driven to speak out. 'Captain
Aylmer,' she said, 'the subject is so distasteful to me, that I must
ask you not to speak about it.'
'In my position I am driven to think about it.'
'I cannot, of course, help your thoughts; but I can assure you that
they are unnecessary.'
'It seems to me so hard that there should be such a gulf between you
and me.' This he said after he had been silent for a while; and as he
spoke he looked away from her at the fire.
'I don't know that there is any particular gulf,' she replied.
'Yes, there is. And it is you that make it. Whenever I attempt to speak
to you as a friend you draw yourself off from me, and shut yourself up.
I know that it is not jealousy.'
'Jealousy, Captain Aylmer!'
'Jealousy with my aunt, I mean.'
'You are infinitely too proud for that; but I am sure that a stranger
seeing it would think that it was so.'
'I don't know what it is that I do or that I ought not to do. But all
my life everything that I have done at Perivale has always been wrong.'
'It would have been so natural that you and I should be friends.'
'If we are enemies, Captain Aylmer, I don't know it.'
'But if ever I venture to speak of your future life you always repel me
as though you were determined to let me know that it should not be a
matter of care to me.'
'That is exactly what I am determined to let you know. You are, or will
be, a rich man, and you have everything the world can give you. I am,
or shall be, a very poor woman.'
'Is that a reason why I should not be interested in your welfare?'
'Yes the best reason in the world. We are not related to each other,
though we have a common connexion in dear Mrs Winterfield. And nothing,
to my idea, can be more objectionable than any sort of dependence from
a woman of my age on a man of yours there being no real tie of blood
between them. I have spoken very plainly, Captain Aylmer, for you have
made me do it.'
'Very plainly,' he said.
'If I have said anything to offend you, I beg your pardon; but I was
driven to explain myself.'
Then she got up and took her bed-candle in her hand.
'You have not offended me,' he said, as he also rose.
'Good-night, Captain Aylmer.'
He took her hand and kept it. 'Say that we are friends.'
'Why should we not be friends?'
'There is no reason on my part why we should not be the dearest
friends,' he said. 'Were it not that I am so utterly without
encouragement, I should say the very dearest.' He still held her hand,
and was looking into her face as he spoke. For a moment she stood
there, bearing his gaze, as though she expected some further words to
be spoken. Then she withdrew her hand, and again saying, in a clear
voice, 'Good-night, Captain Aylmer,' she left the room.
CAPTAIN AYLMER'S PROMISE TO HIS AUNT
What had Captain Aylmer meant by telling her that they might be the
dearest friends by saying so much as that, and then saying no more? Of
course Clara asked herself that question as soon as she was alone in
her bedroom, after leaving Captain Aylmer below. And she made two
answers to herself two answers which were altogether distinct and
contradictory one of the other. At first she decided that he had said
so much and no more because he was deceitful because it suited his
vanity to raise hopes which he had no intention of fulfilling because
he was fond of saying soft things which were intended to have no
meaning. This was her first answer to herself. But in her second she
accused herself as much as before she had accused him. She had been
cold to him, unfriendly, and harsh. As her aunt had told her, she spoke
sharp words to him, and repulsed the kindness which he offered her.
What right had she to expect from him a declaration of love when she
was studious to stop him at every avenue by which he might approach it?
A little management on her side would, she almost knew, make things
right. But then the idea of any such management distressed her nay,
more, disgusted her. The management, if any were necessary, must come
from him. And it was manifest enough that if he had any strong wishes
in this matter he was not a good manager. Her cousin, Will Belton, knew
how to manage much better.
On the next morning, however, all her thoughts respecting Captain
Aylmer were dissipated by tidings which Martha brought to her bedside.
Her aunt was ill. Martha was afraid that her mistress was very ill. She
did not dare to send specially for the doctor on her own
responsibility, as Mrs Winterfield had strong and peculiar feelings
about doctors' visits, and had on this very morning declined to be so
visited. On the next day the doctor would come in the usual course of
things, for she had submitted for some years back to such periodical
visitings; but she had desired that nothing might be done out of the
common way. Martha, however, declared that if she were alone with her
mistress the doctor would be sent for; and she now petitioned for aid
from Clara. Clara was, of course, by her aunt's bedside in a few
minutes, and in a few minutes more the doctor from the other side of
the way was there also.
It was ten o'clock before Captain Aylmer and Miss Amedroz met at
breakfast, and they had before that been together in Mrs Winterfield's
room. The doctor had told Captain Aylmer that his aunt was very ill
very ill, dangerously ill. She had been wrong to go into such a place
as the cold, unaired Town-hall, and that, too, in the month of
November; and the fatigue had also been too much for her. Mrs
Winterfield, too, had admitted to Clara that she know herself to be
very ill. 'I felt it coming on me last night,' she said, 'when I was
talking to you; and I felt it still more strongly when I left you after
tea. I have lived long enough. God's will be done.' At that moment,
when she said she had lived long enough, she forgot her intention with
reference to her will. But she remembered it before Clara had left the
room. 'Tell Frederic', she said, 'to send at once for Mr Palmer.' Now
Clara knew that Mr Palmer was the attorney, and resolved that she would
give no such message to Captain Aylmer. But Mrs Winterfield sent for
her nephew, who had just left her, and herself gave her orders to him.
In the course of the morning there came tidings from the attorney's
office that Mr Palmer was away from Perivale, that he would be back on
the morrow, and that he would of course wait on Mrs Winterfield
immediately on his return.
Captain Aylmer and Miss Amedroz discussed nothing but their aunt's
state of health that morning over the breakfast-table. Of course, under
such circumstances in the house, there was no further immediate
reference made to that offer of dearest friendship. It was clear to
them both that the doctor did not expect that Mrs Winterfield would
again leave her bed; and it was clear to Clara also that her aunt was
of the same opinion.
'I shall hardly be able to go home now,' she said.
'It will be kind of you if you can remain.'
'I shall remain over the Sunday. If by that time she is at all better,
I will run up to town and come down again before the end of the week. I
know you don't believe it, but a man really has some things which he
'I don't disbelieve you, Captain Aylmer.'
'But you must write to me daily if I do go.'
To this Clara made no objection and she must write also to some one
else. She must let her cousin know how little chance there was that she
would be at home at Christmas, explaining to him at the same time that
his visit to her father would on that account be all the more welcome.
'Are you going to her now?' he asked, as Clara got up immediately after
breakfast. 'I shall be in the house all the morning, and if you want me
you will of course send for me.'
'She may perhaps like to see you.'
'I will come up every now and again. I would remain there altogether,
only I should be in the way.' Then he got a newspaper and made himself
comfortable over the fire, while she went up to her weary task in her
Neither on that day nor on the next did the lawyer come, and on the
following morning all earthly troubles were over with Mrs Winterfield.
It was early on the Sunday morning that she died, and late on the
Saturday evening Mr Palmer had sent up to say that he had been detained
at Taunton, but that he would wait on Mrs Winterfield early on the
Monday morning. On the Friday the poor lady had said much on the
subject, but had been comforted by an assurance from her nephew that
the arrangement should be carried out exactly as she wished it, whether
the codicil was or was not added to the will. To Clara she said nothing
more on the subject, nor at such a time did Captain Aylmer feel that he
could offer her any assurance on the matter. But Clara knew that the
will was not altered; and though at the time she was not thinking much
about money, she had, nevertheless, very clearly made up her own mind
as to her own conduct. Nothing should induce her to take a present of