Part 6 out of 9
'I'll be sure to take her wery steady,' Jem answered, 'and tell Compton
to have the samples of barley ready for me. I may be back any day, and
we shall be sowing early this spring.'
Then he left his cart, followed the porter who had taken his luggage
eagerly, knowing that Mr Belton was always good for sixpence, and in
five minutes' time he was again in motion.
On his arrival in London he drove at once to the chambers of his
friend, Mr Green, and luckily found the lawyer there. Had he missed
doing this, it was his intention to go out to his friend's house; and
in that case he could not have gone down to Taunton till the next
morning; but now he would be able to say what he wished to say, and
hear what he wished to hear, and would travel down by the night- mail
train. He was anxious that Clara should feel that he had hurried to her
without a moment's delay. It would do no good. He knew that. Nothing
that he could do would alter her, or be of any service to him. She had
accepted this man, and had herself no power of making a change, even if
she should wish it. But still there was to him something of
gratification in the idea that she should be made to feel that he,
Belton, was more instant in his affection, more urgent in his good
offices, more anxious to befriend her in her difficulties, than the man
whom she had consented to take for her husband. Aylmer would probably
go down to Belton, but Will was very anxious to be the first on the
ground very anxious though his doing so could be of no use. All this
was wrong on his part. He knew that it was wrong, and he abused himself
for his own selfishness. But such self-abuse gave him no aid in
escaping from his own wickedness. He would, if possible, be at Belton
before Captain Aylmer; and he would, if possible, make Clara feel that,
though he was not a Member of Parliament, though he was not much given
to books, though he was only a farmer, yet he had at any rate as much
heart and spirit as the fine gentleman whom she preferred to him.
'I thought I should see you,' said the lawyer; 'but I hardly expected
you so soon as this.'
'I ought to have been a day sooner, only we don't get our telegraphic
messages on a Sunday.'
He still kept his greatcoat on; and it seemed by his manner that he had
no intention of staying where he was above a minute or two.
'You'll come out and dine with me today?' said Mr Green.
'I can't do that, for I shall go down by the mail train.'
'I never saw such a fellow in my life. What good will that do? It is
quite right that you should be there in time for the funeral; but I
don't suppose he will he buried before this day week.'
But Belton had never thought about the funeral. When he had spoken to
his sister of saying but a few words to Clara and then returning, he
had forgotten that there would be any such ceremony, or that he would
be delayed by any such necessity.
'I was not thinking about the funeral,' said Belton. 'You'll only find
yourself uncomfortable there.'
'Of course I shall be uncomfortable.'
'You can't do anything about the property, you know.'
'What do you mean by doing anything?' said Belton, in an angry tone.
'You can't very well take possession of the place, at any rate, till
after the funeral. It would not be considered the proper thing to do.'
'You think, then, that I'm a bird of prey, smelling the feast from afar
off, and hurrying at the dead man's carcase as soon as the breath is
out of his body?'
'I don't think anything of the kind, my dear fellow.'
'Yes, you do, or you wouldn't talk to me about doing the proper thing!
I don't care a straw about the proper thing! If I find that there's
anything to be done tomorrow that can be of any use, I shall do it,
though all Somersetshire should think it improper! But I'm not going to
look after my own interests!'
'Take off your coat and sit down, Will, and don't look angry at me. I
know that you're not greedy, well enough. Tell me what you are going to
do, and let me see if I can help you.'
Belton did as he was told; he pulled off his coat and sat himself down
by the fire. 'I don't know that you can do anything to help me at
least, not as yet. But I must go and see after her. Perhaps she may be
'I suppose she is all alone.'
'He hasn't gone down, then?'
'Who Captain Aylmer? No he hasn't gone down, certainly. He is in
'I'm glad of that!'
'He won't hurry himself. He never does, I fancy. I had a letter from
him this morning about Miss Amedroz.'
'And what did he say?'
'He desired me to send her seventy-five pounds the interest of her
'Seventy-five pounds!' said Will Belton, contemptuously.
'He thought she might want money at once; and I sent her the cheque
today. It will go down by the same train that carries you.'
'Seventy-five pounds! And you are sure that he has not gone himself?'
'It isn't likely that he should have written to me, and passed through
London himself, at the same time but it is possible, no doubt. I don't
think he even knew the old squire; and there is no reason why he should
go to the funeral.'
'No reason at all,' said Belton who felt that Captain Aylmer's presence
at the Castle would be an insult to himself. 'I don't know what on
earth he should do there except that I think him just the fellow to
intrude where he is not wanted.' And yet Will was in his heart
despising Captain Aylmer because he had not already hurried down to the
assistance of the girl whom he professed to love.
'He is engaged to her, you know,' said the lawyer, in a low voice.
'What difference does that make with such a fellow as he is a
cold-blooded fish of a man, who thinks of nothing in the world but
being respectable? Engaged to her! Oh, damn him!'
'I've not the slightest objection. I don't think, however, that you'll
find him at Belton before you. No doubt she will have heard from him;
and it strikes me as very possible that she may go to Aylmer Park.'
'What should she go there for?'
'Would it not be the best place for her?'
'No. My house would be the best place for her. I am her nearest
relative. Why should she not come to us?'
Mr Green turned round his chair and poked the fire, and fidgeted about
for some moments before he answered. 'My dear fellow, you must know
that that wouldn't do.' He then said, 'You ought to feel that it
wouldn't do you ought indeed.'
'Why shouldn't my sister receive Miss Amedroz as well as that old woman
down in Yorkshire?'
'If I may tell you, I will.'
'Of course you may tell me.'
'Because Miss Amedroz is engaged to be married to that old woman's son,
and is not engaged to be married to your sister's brother. The thing is
done, and what is the good of interfering? As far as she is concerned,
a great burden is off your hands.'
'What do you mean by a burden?'
'I mean that her engagement to Captain Aylmer makes it unnecessary for
you to suppose that she is in want of any pecuniary assistance. You
told me once before that you would feel yourself called upon to see
that she wanted nothing.'
'So I do now.'
'But Captain Aylmer will look after that.'
'I tell you what it is, Joe; I mean to settle the Belton property in
such a way that she shall have it, and that he shan't be able to touch
it. And it shall go to some one who shall have my name William Belton.
That's what I want you to arrange for me.'
'After you are dead, you mean.'
'I mean now, at once. I won't take the estate from her. I hate the
place and everything belonging to it. I don't mean her. There is no
reason for hating her.'
'My dear Will, you are talking nonsense.'
'Why is it nonsense? I may give what belongs to me to whom I please.'
'You can do nothing of the kind at any rate, not by my assistance. You
talk as though the world were all over with you as though you were
never to be married or have any children of your own.'
'I shall never marry.'
'Nonsense, Will. Don't make such an ass of yourself as to suppose that
you'll not get over such a thing as this. You'll be married and have a
dozen children yet to provide for. Let the eldest have Belton Castle,
and everything will go on then in the proper way.'
Belton had now got the poker into his hands, and sat silent for some
time, knocking the coals about. Then he got up, and took his hat, and
put on his coat. Of course I can't make you understand me,' he said; at
any rate not all at once. I'm not such a fool as to want to give up my
property just because a girl is going to be married to a man I don't
like. I'm not such an ass as to give him my estate for such a reason as
that for it will be giving it to him, let me tie it up as I may. But
I've a feeling about it which makes it impossible for me to take it.
How would you like to get a thing by another fellow having destroyed
'You can't help that. It's yours by law.'
'Of course it is. I know that. And as it's mine I can do what I like
with it. Well good-bye. When I've got anything to say, I'll write.'
Then he went down to his cab and had himself driven to the Great
Western Railway Hotel.
Captain Aylmer had sent to his betrothed seventy. five pounds; the
exact interest at five per cent, for one year of the sum which his aunt
had left her. This was the first subject of which Belton thought when
he found himself again in the railway carriage, and he continued
thinking of it half the way down to Taunton. Seventy-five pounds! As
though this favoured lover were prepared to give her exactly her due,
and nothing more than her due! Had he been so placed, he, Will Belton,
what would he have done? Seventy-five pounds might have been more money
than she would have wanted, for he would have taken her to his own
house to his own bosom as soon as she would have permitted, and would
have so laboured on her behalf, taking from her shoulders all money
troubles, that there would have been no question as to principal or
interest between them. At any rate be would not have confined himself
to sending to her the exact sum which was her due. But then Aylmer was
a cold-blooded man more like a fish than a man. Belton told himself
over and over again that he had discovered that at the single glance
which he had had when he saw Captain Aylmer in Green's chambers.
Seventy-five pounds indeed! He himself was prepared to give his whole
estate to her, if she would take it even though she would not marry
him, even though she was going to throw herself away upon that fish!
Then he felt somewhat as Hamlet did when he jumped upon Laertes at the
grave of Ophelia. Send her seventy-five pounds indeed, while he was
ready to drink up Esil for her, or to make over to her the whole Belton
estate, and thus abandon the idea for ever of being Belton of Belton!
He reached Taunton in the middle of the night during the small hours of
the morning in a winter night; but yet he could not bring himself to go
to bed. So he knocked up an ostler at the nearest inn, and ordered out
a gig. He would go down to the village of Redicote, on the Minehead
road, and put up at the public-house there. He could not now have
himself driven at once to Belton Castle, as he would have done had the
old squire been alive. He fancied that his presence would be a nuisance
if he did so. So he went to the little inn at Redicote, reaching that
place between four and five o'clock in the morning; and very
uncomfortable he was when he got there. But in his present frame of
mind he preferred discomfort. He liked being tired and cold, and felt,
when he was put into a chill room, without fire, and with a sanded
floor, that things with him were as they ought to be.
Yes he could have a fly over to Belton Castle after breakfast. Having
learned so much, and ordered a dish of eggs and bacon for his morning's
breakfast, be went upstairs to a miserable little bedroom, to dress
himself after his night's journey.
MRS ASKERTON'S GENEROSITY
The death of the old man at Belton Castle had been very sudden. At
three o'clock in the morning Clara had been called into his room, and
at five o'clock she was alone in the world having neither father,
mother, nor brother; without a home, without a shilling that she could
call her own with no hope as to her future life, if as she had so much
reason to suppose Captain Aylmer should have chosen to accept her last
letter as a ground for permanent separation. But at this moment, on
this saddest morning, she did not care much for that chance. It seemed
to be almost indifferent to her, that question of Lady Aylmer and her
anger. The more that she was absolutely in need of external friendship,
the more disposed was she to reject it, and to declare to herself that
she was prepared to stand alone in the world.
For the last week she had understood from the doctor that her father
was in truth sinking, and that she might hardly hope ever to see him
again convalescent. She had therefore in some sort prepared herself for
her loneliness, and anticipated the misery of her position. As soon as
it was known to the women in the room that life had left the old man,
one of them had taken her by the hand and led her back to her own
chamber. 'Now, Miss Clara, you had better lie down on the bed again you
had indeed; you can do nothing sitting up.' She took the old woman's
advice, and allowed them to do with her as they would. It was true that
there was no longer any work by which she could make herself useful in
that house in that house, or, as far as she could see, in any other.
Yes; she would go to bed, and lying there would feel how convenient it
would be for many persons if she also could be taken away to her long
rest, as her father, and aunt, and brother had been taken before her.
Her name and family had been unfortunate, and it would be well that
there should be no Amedroz left to trouble those more fortunate persons
who were to come after them. In her sorrow and bitterness she included
both her Cousin Will and Captain Aylmer among those more fortunate ones
for whose sake it might be well that she should be made to vanish from
off the earth. She had read Captain Aylmer's letter over and over again
since she had answered it, and had read nearly as often the copy of her
own reply and had told herself, as she read them, that of course he
would not forgive her. He might perhaps pardon her, if she would submit
to him in everything; but that she would not submit to his commands
respecting Mrs Askerton she was fully resolved and, therefore, there
could be no hope. Then, when she remembered how lately her dear
father's spirit had fled, she hated herself for having allowed her mind
to dwell on any. thing beyond her loss of him.
She was still in her bedroom, having fallen into that half-waking
slumber which the numbness of sorrow so often produces, when word was
brought to her that Mrs Askerton was in the house. It was the first
time that Mrs Askerton had ever crossed the door, and the remembrance
that it was so came upon her at once. During her father's lifetime it
had seemed to be understood that their neighbour should have no
admittance there but now now that her father was gone the barrier was
to be overthrown. And why not? Why should not Mrs Askerton come to her?
Why, if Mrs Askerton chose to be kind to her, should she not altogether
throw herself into her friend's arms? Of course her doing so would give
mortal offence to everybody at Aylmer Park; but why need she stop to
think of that? She had already made up her mind that she would not obey
orders from Aylmer Park on this subject.
She had not seen Mrs Askerton since that interview between them which
was described some few chapters back. Then everything had been told
between them, so that there was no longer any mystery either on the one
side or on the other. Then Clara had assured her friend of her loving
friendship in spite of any edicts to the contrary which might come from
Aylmer Park; and after that what could be more natural than that Mrs
Askerton should come to her in her sorrow? 'She says she'll come up to
you if you'll let her,' said the servant. But Clara declined this
proposition, and in a few minutes went down to the small parlour in
which she had lately lived, and where she found her visitor.
'My poor dear, this has been very sudden,' said Mrs Askerton.
'Very sudden very sudden. And yet, now that he has gone, I know that I
'Of course I came to you as soon as I heard of it, because I knew you
were all alone. If there had been any one else I should not have come.'
'It is very good of you.'
'Colonel Askerton thought that perhaps he had better come. I told him
of all that which we said to each other the other day. He thought at
first that it would be better that I should not see you.'
'It was very good of you to come,' said Clara again, and as she spoke
she put out her hand and took Mrs Askerton's continuing to hold it for
awhile; 'very good indeed.'
'I told him that I could not but go down to you that I thought you
would not understand it if I stayed away.'
'At any rate it was good of you to come to me.'
'I don't believe,' said Mrs Askerton, 'that what people call
consolation is ever of any use. It is a terrible thing to lose a
'Very terrible. Ah, dear, I have hardly yet found out how sad it is. As
yet I have only been thinking of myself, and wishing that I could be
'How can I help it? What am I to do? Or where am I to go? Of what use
is life to such a one as me? And for him who would dare to wish him
back again? When people have fallen and gone down in the world, it is
bad for them to go on living. Everything is a trouble, and there is
nothing but vexation.'
'Think what I have suffered, dear.'
'But you have had somebody to care for you somebody whom you could
'And have not you?'
'No; no one.'
'What do you mean, Clara?'
'I mean what I say. I have no one. It is no use asking questions not
now, at such a time as this. And I did not mean to complain.
Complaining is weak and foolish. I have often told myself that I could
bear anything, and so I will. When I can bring myself to think of what
I have lost in my father I shall be better, even though I shall be more
sorrowful. As it is, I hate myself for being so selfish.'
'You will let me come and stay with you today, will you not?'
'No, dear; not today.'
'Why not today, Clara?'
'I shall be better alone. I have so many things to think of.'
'I know well that it would be better that you should not be alone much
better. But I will not press it. I cannot insist with you as another
'You are wrong there; quite wrong. I would be led by you sooner than by
any woman living. What other woman is there to whom I would listen for
a moment?' As she said this, even in the depth of her sorrow she
thought of Lady Aylmer, and strengthened herself in her resolution to
rebel against her lover's mother. Then she continued, 'I wish I knew my
Cousin Mary Mary Bolton; but I have never seen her.'
'Is she nice?
'So Will tells me; and I know that what he says must be true even about
'Will, Will! You are always thinking of your Cousin Will. If he be
really so good he will show it now.'
'How can he show it? What can he do?'
'Does he not inherit all the property?'
'Of course he does. And what of that? When I say that I have no friend
I am not thinking of my poverty.'
'If he has that regard for you which he pretends, he can do much to
assist you. Why should he not come here at once?'
'Why? Why do you say so? He is your nearest relative.'
'If you do not understand I cannot explain.'
'Has he been told what has happened?' Mrs Askerton asked.
'Colonel Askerton sent a message to him, I believe.'
'And to Captain Aylmer also?'
'Yes; and to Captain Aylmer. It was Colonel Askerton who sent it.'
'Then he will come, of course.'
'I think not. Why should he come? He did not even know poor papa.'
'But, my dear Clara, has he not known you?'
'You will see that he will not come. And I tell you beforehand that he
will be right to stay away. Indeed, I do not know how he could come and
I do not want him here.'
'I cannot understand you, Clara.'
'I suppose not. I cannot very well understand myself.'
'I should not be at all surprised if Lady Aylmer were to come herself.'
'Oh, heavens! How little you can know of Lady Aylmer's position and
'But if she is to be your mother-in-law?'
'And even if she were! The idea of Lady Aylmer coming away from Aylmer
Park all the way from Yorkshire, to such a house as this! If they told
me that the Queen was coming it would hardly disconcert me more. But,
dear, there is no danger of that at least.'
'I do not know what may have passed between you and him; but unless
there has been some quarrel he will come. That is, he will do so if he
is at all like any men whom I have known.'
'He will not come.'
Then Mrs Askerton made some half-whispered offers of services to be
rendered by Colonel Askerton, and soon afterwards took her leave,
having first asked permission to come again in the afternoon, and when
that was declined, having promised to return on the following morning.
As she walked back to the cottage she could not but think more of
Clara's engagement to Captain Aylmer than she did of the squire's
death. As regarded herself, of course she could not grieve for Mr
Amedroz; and as regarded Clara, Clara's father had for some time past
been apparently so insignificant, even in his own house, that it was
difficult to acknowledge the fact that the death of such a one as he
might leave a great blank in the world. But what had Clara meant by
declaring so emphatically that Captain Aylmer would not visit Belton,
and by speaking of herself as one who had neither position nor friends
in the world? If there had been a quarrel, indeed, then it was
sufficiently intelligible and if there was any such quarrel, from what
source must it have arisen? Mrs Askerton felt the blood rise to her
cheeks as she thought of this, and told herself that there could be but
one such source. Mrs Askerton knew that Clara had received orders from
Aylmer Castle to discontinue all acquaintance with herself, and,
therefore, there could be no doubt as to the cause of the quarrel. It
had come to this then, that Clara was to lose her husband because she
was true to her friend; or rather because she would not consent to cast
an additional stone at one who for some years past had become a mark
for many stones.
I am not prepared to say that Mrs Askerton was a high-minded woman.
Misfortunes had come upon her in life of a sort which are too apt to
quench high nobility of mind in woman. There are calamities which, by
their natural tendencies, elevate the character of women and add
strength to the growth of feminine virtues but then, again, there are
other calamities which few women can bear without some degradation,
without some injury to that delicacy and tenderness which is
essentially necessary to make a woman charming as a woman. In this, I
think, the world is harder to women than to men; that a woman often
loses much by the chance of adverse circumstances which a man only
loses by his own misconduct. That there are women whom no calamity can
degrade is true enough and so it is true that there are some men who
are heroes; but such are exceptions both among men and women. Not such
a one had Mrs Askerton been. Calamity had come upon her partly, indeed,
by her own fault, though that might have been pardoned but the weight
of her misfortunes had been too great for her strength, and she had
become in some degree hardened by what she had endured; if not
unfeminine, still she was feminine in an inferior degree, with womanly
feelings of a lower order. And she had learned to intrigue, not being
desirous of gaining aught by dishonest intriguing, but believing that
she could only hold her own by carrying on her battle after that
fashion. In all this I am speaking of the general character of the
woman, and am not alluding to the one sin which she had committed.
Thus, when she had first become acquainted with Miss Amedroz, her
conscience had not rebuked her in that she was deceiving her new
friend. When asked casually in conversation as to her maiden name, she
had not blushed as she answered the question with a falsehood. When,
unfortunately, the name of her first husband had in some way made
itself known to Clara, she had been ready again with some prepared fib.
And when she had recognized William Belton, she had thought that the
danger to herself of having any one near her who might know her quite
justified her in endeavouring to create ill-will between Clara and her
cousin. 'Self-preservation is the first law of nature,' she would have
said; and would have failed to remember, as she did always fail to
remember that nature does not require by any of its laws that
self-preservation should be aided by falsehood.
But though she was not high-minded, so also was she not ungenerous; and
now, as she began to understand that Clara was sacrificing herself
because of that promise which had been given when they two had stood
together at the window in the cottage drawing-room, she was capable of
feeling more for her friend than for herself. She was capable even of
telling herself that it was cruel on her part even to wish for any
continuance of Clara's acquaintance. 'I have made my bed, and I must
lie upon it,' she said to herself; and then she resolved that, instead
of going up to the house on the following day, she would write to
Clara, and put an end to the intimacy which existed between them. 'The
world is hard, and harsh, and unjust,' she said, still speaking to
herself. 'But that is not her fault; I will not injure her because I
have been injured myself.'
Colonel Askerton was up at the house on the same day, but he did not
ask for Miss Amedroz, nor did she see him. Nobody else came to the
house then, or on the following morning, or on that afternoon, though
Clara did not fail to tell herself that Captain Aylmer might have been
there if he had chosen to take the journey and to leave home as soon as
he had received the message; and she made the same calculation as to
her Cousin Will though in that calculation, as we know, she was wrong.
These two days had been very desolate with her, and she had begun to
look forward to Mrs Askerton's coming when instead of that there came a
messenger with a letter from the cottage.
'You can do as you like, my dear,' Colonel Askerton had said on the
previous evening to his wife. He had listened to all she had been
saying without taking his eyes from off his newspaper, though she had
spoken with much eagerness.
'But that is not enough. You should say more to me than that.'
'Now I think you are unreasonable. For myself, I do not care how this
matter goes; nor do I care one straw what any tongues may say. They
cannot reach me, excepting so far as they may reach me through you.'
'But you should advise me.'
'I always do copiously, when I think that I know better than you; but
in this matter I feel so sure that you know better than I, that I don't
wish to suggest anything.' Then he went on with his newspaper, and she
sat for a while looking at him, as though she expected that something
more would be said. But nothing more was said, and she was left
entirely to her own guidance.
Since the days in which her troubles had come upon Mrs Askerton, Clara
Amedroz was the first female friend who had come near her to comfort
her, and she was very loth to abandon such comfort. There had, too,
been something more than comfort, something almost approaching to
triumph, when she found that Clara had clung to her with affection
after hearing the whole story of her life. Though her conscience had
not pricked her while she was exercising all her little planned
deceits, she had not taken much pleasure in them. How should any one
take pleasure in such work? Many of us daily deceive our friends, and
are so far gone in deceit that the deceit alone is hardly painful to
us. But the need of deceiving a friend is always painful. The treachery
is easy; but to be treacherous to those we love is never easy never
easy, even though it be so common. There had been a double delight to
this poor woman in the near neighbourhood of Clara Amedroz since there
had ceased to be a necessity for falsehood on her part. But now, almost
before her joy had commenced, almost before she had realized the
sweetness of her triumph, had come upon her this task of doing that
herself which Clara in her generosity had refused to do. 'I have made
my bed and I must lie upon it,' she said. And then, instead of going
down to the house as she had promised, she wrote the following letter
to Miss Amedroz:
'The Cottage, Monday.
I need not tell you that I write as I do now with a bleeding heart. A
few days since I should have laughed at any woman who used such a
phrase of herself, and declared her to be an affected fool; but now I
know how true such a word may be. My heart is bleeding, and I feel
myself to be overcome by my disgrace. You told me that I did not
understand you yesterday. Of course I understood you. Of course I know
how it all is, and why you spoke as you did of Captain Aylmer. He has
chosen to think that you could not know me without pollution, and has
determined that you must give up either me or him. Though he has judged
me, I am not going to judge him. The world is on his side; and,
perhaps, he is right. He knows nothing of my trials and difficulties
and why should he? I do not blame him for demanding that his future
wife shall not be intimate with a woman who is supposed to have lost
her fitness for the society of women.
At any rate, dearest, you must obey him and we will see each other no
more. I am quite sure that I should be very wicked were I to allow you
to injure your position in life on my account. You at any rate love
him, and would be happy with him, and as you are engaged to him, you
have no just ground for resenting his interference.
You will understand me now as well as though I were to fill sheets and
sheets of paper with what I could say on the subject. The simple fact
is, that you and I must forget each other, or simply remember one
another as past friends. You will know in a day or two what your plans
are. If you remain here, we will go away. If you go away, we will
remain here that is, if your cousin will keep us as tenants. I do not,
of course, know what you may have written to Captain Aylmer since our
interview up here, but I beg that you will write to him now, and make
him understand that he need have no fears in respect of me. You may
send him this letter if you will. Oh, dear! If you could know what I
suffer as I write this.
I feel that I owe you an apology for harassing you on such a subject at
such a time; but I know that I ought not to lose a day in tolling you
that you are to see nothing more of the friend who has loved you.
Clara's first impulse on receiving this letter was to go off at once
to the cottage, and insist on her privilege of choosing her own
friends. If she preferred Mrs Askerton to Captain Aylmer, that was no
one's business but her own. And she would have done so had she not been
afraid of meeting with Colonel Askerton. To him she would not have
known how to speak on such a subject nor would she have known how to
conduct herself at the cottage without speaking of it. And then, after
a while, she felt that were she to do so should she now deliberately
determine to throw herself into Mrs Askerton's arms she must at the
same time give up all ideas of becoming Captain Aylmer's wife. As she
thought of this she asked herself various questions concerning him,
which she did not find it easy to answer. Did she wish to be his wife?
Could she assure herself that if they were married they would make each
other happy? Did she love him? She was still able to declare to herself
that the answer to the last question should be an affirmative; but,
nevertheless, she thought that she could give him up without great
unhappiness. And when she began to think of Lady Aylmer, and to
remember that Frederic Aylmer's imperative demands upon her obedience
had, in all probability, been dictated by his mother, she was again
anxious to go at once to the cottage, and declare that she would not
submit to any interference with her own judgment.
On the next morning the postman brought to her a letter which was of
much moment to her but he brought to her also tidings which moved her
more even than the letter. The letter was from the lawyer, and enclosed
a cheque for seventy-five pounds, which he had been instructed to pay
to her, as the interest of the money left to her by her aunt. What
should be her answer to that letter she knew very well, and she
instantly wrote it, sending back the cheque to Mr Green. The postman's
news, more important than the letter, told her that William Belton was
at the inn at Redicote.
Clara wrote her letter to the lawyer, returning the cheque, before she
would allow herself a moment to dwell upon the news of her cousin's
arrival. She felt that it was necessary to do that before she should
even see her cousin thus providing against any difficulty which might
arise from adverse advice on his part; and as soon as the letter was
written she sent it to the post-office in the village. She would do
almost any. thing that Will might tell her to do, but Captain Aylmer's
money she would not take, even though Will might so direct her. They
would tell her, no doubt, among them, that the money was her own that
she might take it without owing any thanks for it to Captain Aylmer.
But she knew better than that as she told herself over and over again.
Her aunt had left her nothing, and nothing would she have from Captain
Aylmer unless she had all that Captain Aylmer had to give, after the
fashion in which women best love to take such gifts.
Then, when she had done that, she was able to think of her cousin's
visit. 'I knew he would come,' she said to herself, as she sat herself
in one of the old chairs in the hall, with a large shawl wrapped round
her shoulders. She had just been to the front door, with the nominal
purpose of dispatching her messenger thence to the post-office; but she
had stood for a minute or two under the portico, looking in the
direction by which Belton would come from Redicote, expecting, or
rather hoping, that she might see his figure or hear the sound of his
gig. But she saw nothing and heard nothing, and so returned into the
hall, slowly shutting the door. 'I knew that he would come,' she said,
repeating to herself the same words over and over again. Yet when Mrs
Askerton had told her that he would do this thing which he had now
done, she had expressed herself as almost frightened by the idea. 'God
forbid,' she had said. Nevertheless now that he was there at Redicote,
she assured herself that his coming was a thing of which she had been
certain; and she took a joy in the knowledge of his nearness to her
which she did not attempt to define to herself. Had he not said that he
would be a brother to her, and was it not a brother's part to go to a
sister in affliction? 'I knew that he would come. I was sure of it. He
is so true.' As to Captain Aylmer's not coming she said nothing, even
to herself; but she felt that she had been equally sure on that
subject. Of course, Captain Aylmer would not come! He had sent her
seventy-five pounds in lieu of coming, and in doing so was true to his
character. Both men were doing exactly that which was to have been
expected of them. So at least Clara Amedroz now assured herself. She
did not ask herself how it was that she had come to love the thinner
and the meaner of the two men, but she knew well that such had been her
On a sudden she rose from her chair, as though remembering a duty to be
performed, and went to the kitchen and directed that breakfast might be
got ready for Mr Belton. He would have travelled all night and would be
in want of food. Since the old squire's death there had been no regular
meal served in the house, and Clara had taken such scraps of food and
cups of tea as the old servant of the house had brought to her. But now
the cloth must be spread again, and as she did this with her own hands
she remembered the dinners which had been prepared for Captain Aylmer
at Perivale after his aunt's death. It seemed to her that she was used
to be in the house with death, and that the sadness and solemn
ceremonies of woe were. becoming things familiar to her. There grew
upon her a feeling that it must be so with her always. The
circumstances of her life would ever be sad. What right had she to
expect any other fate after such a catastrophe as that which her
brother had brought upon the family? It was clear to her that she had
done wrong in supposing that she could marry and live with a prosperous
man of the world like Captain Aylmer. Their natures were different, and
no such union could lead to any good. So she told herself, with much
misery of spirit, as she was preparing the breakfast-table for William
But William Belton did not come to eat the breakfast. He got what he
wanted in that way at the inn at Redicote, and even then hesitated,
loitering at the bar, before he would go over. What was he to say, and
how would he be received? After all, had he not done amiss in coming to
a house at which he probably might not be wanted? Would it not be
thought that his journey had been made solely with a view to his own
property? He would be regarded as the heir pouncing upon the
inheritance before as yet the old owner was under the ground. At any
rate it would be too early for him to make his visit yet awhile; and,
to kill time, he went over to a carpenter who had been employed by him
about the place at Belton. The carpenter spoke to him as though
everything were his own, and was very intent upon future improvements.
This made Will more disgusted with himself than ever, and before he
could get out of the carpenter's yard he thoroughly wished himself back
at Plaistow. But having come so far, he could hardly return without
seeing his cousin, and at last he had himself driven over, reaching the
house between eleven and twelve o'clock in the day.
Clara met him in the hall, and at once led him into the room which she
had prepared for him. He had given her his hand in the hall, but did
not speak to her till she had spoken to him after the closing of the
room door behind them. 'I thought that you would come' she said, still
holding him by the hand.
'I did not know what to do,' he answered. 'I couldn't say which was
best. Now I am here I shall only be in your way.' He did not dare to
press her hand, nor could he bring himself to take his away from her.
'In my way yes; as an angel, to tell me what to do in my trouble. I
knew you would come, because you are so good. But you will have
breakfast see, I have got it ready for you.'
'Oh no; I breakfasted at Redicote. I would not trouble you.'
'Trouble me, Will! Oh, Will, if you knew!' Then there came tears in her
eyes, and at the sight of them both his own were filled. How was he to
stand it? To take her to his bosom and hold her there for always; to
wipe away her tears so that she should weep no more; to devote himself
and all his energy and all that was his comfort to her this he could
have done; but he knew not how to do anything short of this. Every word
that she spoke to him was an encouragement to this, and yet he knew
that it could not be so. To say a word of his love, or even to look it,
would now be an unmanly insult. And yet, how was he not to look it not
to speak of it? 'It is such a comfort that you should be here with me,'
'Then I am glad I am here, though I do not know what I can do. Did he
suffer much, Clara?'
'No, I think not; very little. He sank at last quicker than I expected,
but just as I thought he would go. He used to speak of you so often,
and. always with regard and esteem!'
' Dear old man!'
'Yes, Will; he was, in spite of his little faults. No father ever loved
his daughter better than he loved me.'
After a while the servant brought in the tea, explaining to Belton that
Miss Clara had neither eaten nor drank that morning. 'She wouldn't take
anything till you came, sir.' Then Will added his entreaties, and Clara
was persuaded, and by degrees there grew between them more ease of
manner and capability for talking than had been within their reach when
they first met. And during the morning many things were explained, as
to which Clara would a few hours previously have thought it to be
almost impossible that she should speak to her cousin. She had told him
of her aunt's money, and the way in which she had on that very morning
sent back the cheque to the lawyer; and she had said something also as
to Lady Aylmer's views, and her own views as to Lady Aylmer. With Will
this subject was one most difficult of discussion; and he blushed and
fidgeted in his chair, and walked about the room, and found himself
unable to look Clara in the face as she spoke to him. But she went on,
goading him with the name, which of all names was the most distasteful
to him; and mentioning that name almost in terms of reproach of
reproach which he felt it would be ungenerous to reciprocate, but which
he would have exaggerated to unmeasured abuse if he had given his
tongue licence to speak his mind.
'I was right to send back the money wasn't I, Will? Say that I was
right. Pray tell me that you think so!'
'I don't understand it at present, you see; I am no lawyer.'
'But it doesn't want a lawyer to know that I couldn't take the money
from him. I am sure you feel that.'
'If a man owes money of course he ought to pay it.'
'But he doesn't owe it, Will. It is intended for generosity.'
'You don't want anybody's generosity, certainly.' Then he reflected
that Clara must, after all, depend entirely on the generosity of some
one till she was married; and he wanted to explain to her that
everything he had in the world was at her service was indeed her own.
Or he would have explained, if he knew how, that he did not intend to
take advantage of the entail that the Belton estate should belong to
her as the natural heir of her father. But he conceived that the moment
for explaining this had hardly as yet arrived, and that he bad better
confine himself to some attempt at teaching her that no extraneous
assistance would be necessary to her, 'In money matters,' said he, 'of
course you are to look to me. That is a matter of course. I'll see
Green about the other affairs. Green and I are friends. We'll settle
'That's not what I meant, Will.'
'But it's what I mean. This is one of those things in which a man has
to act on his own judgment. Your father and I understood each other.'
'He did not understand that I was to accept your bounty.'
'Bounty is a nasty word, and I hate it. You accepted me as your
brother, and as such I mean to act.' The word almost stuck in his
throat, but be brought it out at last in a fierce tone, of which she
understood accurately the cause and meaning. 'All money matters about
the place must be settled by me. Indeed, that's why I came down.'
'Not only for that, Will?'
'Just to be useful in that way, I mean.'
'You came to see me because you knew I should want you.' Surely this
was malice prepense! Knowing what was his want, how could she
exasperate it by talking thus of her own? 'As for money, I have no
claim on any one. No creature was ever more forlorn. But I will not
talk of that.'
'Did you not say that you would treat me as a brother?'
'I did not mean that I was to be a burden on you.'
'I know what I meant, and that is sufficient.' Belton had been at the
house some hours before he made any signs of leaving her, and when he
did so he had to explain something of his plans. He would remain, he
said, for about a week in the neighbourhood.
She of course was obliged to ask him to stay at the house at the house
which was in fact his own; but he declined to do this, blurting out his
reason at last very plainly. 'Captain Aylmer would not like it, and I
suppose you are bound to think of what he likes and dislikes.' 'I don't
know what right Captain Aylmer would have to dislike any such thing,'
said Clara. But, nevertheless, she allowed the reason to pass as
current, and did not press her invitation. Will declared that he would
stay at the inn at Redicote,, striving to explain in some very
unintelligible manner that such an arrangement would be very
convenient. He would remain at Redicote, and would come over to Belton
every day during his sojourn in the country. Then he asked one question
in a low whisper as to the last sad ceremony, and, having received an
answer, started off with the declared intention of calling on Colonel
The next two or three days passed uncomfortably enough with Will
Belton. He made his head- quarters at the little inn of Redicote, and
drove himself backwards and forwards between that place and the estate
which was now his own. On each of these days he saw Colonel Askerton,
whom he found to be a civil pleasant man, willing enough to rid himself
of the unpleasant task he had undertaken, but at the same time, willing
also to continue his services if any further services were required of
him. But of Mrs Askerton on these occasions Will saw nothing, nor had
he ever spoken to her since the time of his first visit to the Castle.
Then came the day of the funeral, and after that rite was over he
returned with his cousin to the house. There was no will to be read.
The old squire had left no will, nor was there anything belonging to
him at the time of his death that he could bequeath. The furniture in
the house, the worn-out carpets and old-fashioned chairs, belonged to
Clara; but, beyond that, property had she none, nor had it been in her
father's power to endow her with anything. She was alone in the world,
penniless, with a conviction on her own mind that her engagement with
Frederic Aylmer must of necessity come to an end, and with a feeling
about her cousin which she could hardly analyse, but which told her
that she could not go to his house in Norfolk, nor live with him at
Belton Castle, nor trust herself in his hands as she would into those
of a real brother.
On the afternoon of the day on which her father had been buried, she
brought to him a letter, asking him to read it, and tell her what she
should do. The letter was from Lady Aylmer, and contained an invitation
to Aylmer Castle. It had been accompanied, as the reader may possibly
remember, by a letter from Captain Aylmer himself. Of this she of
course informed her cousin; but she did not find it to be necessary to
show the letter of one rival to the other. Lady Aylmer's letter was
cold in its expression of welcome, but very dictatorial in pointing out
the absolute necessity that Clara should accept the invitation so
given. 'I think you will not fail to agree with me, dear Miss Amedroz,'
the letter said, 'that under these strange and perplexing
circumstances, this is the only roof which can, with any propriety,
afford you a shelter.' 'And why not the poor-house?' she said, aloud to
her cousin, when she perceived that his eye had descended so far on the
page. He shook his head angrily, but said nothing; and when he had
finished the letter he folded it and gave it back still in silence.
'And what am I to do?' she said. 'You tell me that I am to come to you
for advice in everything.'
'You must decide for yourself here.'
'And you won't advise me.. You won't tell me whether she is right?
'I suppose she is right.'
'Then I had better go?'
'If you mean to marry Captain Aylmer, you had better go.'
'I am engaged to him.'
'Then you had better go.'
'But I will not submit myself to her tyranny.'
'Let the marriage take place at once, and you will have to submit only
to his. I suppose you are prepared for that?'
'I do not know. I do not like tyranny.'
Again he stood silent for awhile, looking at her, and then he answered:
' I should not tyrannize over you, Clara.'
'Oh, Will, Will, do not speak like that. Do not destroy everything.'
'What am I to say?'
'What would you say if your sister, your real sister, asked advice in
such a strait? If you had a sister, who came to you, and told you all
her difficulty, you would advise her. You would not say words to make
things worse for her.'
'It would be very different.'
'But you said you would be my brother.'
'How am I to know what you feel for this man? It seems to me that you
half hate him, half fear him, and sometimes despise him.'
'Hate him! No I never hate him.'
'Go to him, then, and ask him what you had better do. Don't ask me.'
Then he hurried out of the room, slamming the door behind him. But
before he had half gone down the stairs he remembered the ceremony at
which he had just been present, and how desolate she was in the world,
and he returned to her. 'I beg your pardon, Clara,' he said, 'I am
passionate; but I must be a beast to show my passion to you on such a
day as this. If I were you I should accept Lady Aylmer's invitation
merely thanking her for it in the ordinary way. I should then go and
see how the land lay. That is the advice I should give my sister.'
'And I will if it is only because you tell me.'
'But as for a home tell her you have one of your own at Belton Castle,
from which no one can turn you out, and where no one can intrude on
you. This house belongs to you.' Then, before she could answer him, he
had left the room and she listened to his heavy quick footsteps as he
went across the hall and out of the front door.
He walked across the park and entered the little gate of Colonel
Askerton's garden, as though it were his habit to go to the cottage
when he was at Belton. There had been various matters on which the two
men had been brought into contact concerning the old squire's death and
the tenancy of the cottage, so that they had become almost intimate.
Belton had nothing new that he specially desired to say to Colonel
Askerton, whom, indeed, he had seen only a short time before at the
funeral; but he wanted the relief of speaking to some one before he
returned to the solitude of the inn at Redicote. On this occasion,
however, the colonel was out, and the maid asked him if he would see
Mrs Askerton. When he said something about not troubling her, the girl
told him that her mistress wished to speak to him, and then he had no
alternative but to allow himself to be shown into the drawing-room.
'I want to see you a minute,' said Mrs Askerton, bowing to him without
putting out her hand, 'that I might ask you how you find your cousin.'
'She is pretty well, I think'
'Colonel Askerton has seen more of her than I have since her father's
death, and he says that she does not bear it well. He thinks that she
'I do not think her ill. Of course she is not in good spirits.'
'No; exactly. How should she be? But he thinks she seems so worn. I
hope you will excuse me, Mr Belton, but I love her so well that I
cannot bear to be quite in the dark as to her future. Is anything
'She is going to Aylmer Castle.'
'To Aylmer Castle! Is she indeed? At once?'
'Very soon. Lady Aylmer has asked her.'
'Lady Aylmer! Then I suppose'
'You suppose what?' Will Belton asked.
'I did not think she would have gone to Aylmer Castle though I dare say
it is the best thing she could do She seemed to me to dislike the
Aylmers that is, Lady Aylmer so much! But I suppose she is right?'
'She is right to go if she likes it.'
'She is circumstanced so cruelly! Is she not? Where else could she go?
I do so feel for her. I believe I need hardly tell you, Mr Belton,
that, she would be as welcome here as flowers in May but that I do not
dare to ask her to come to us.' She said this in a low voice, turning
her eyes away from him, looking first upon the ground, and then again
up at the window but still not daring to meet his eye.
'I don't exactly know about that,' said Belton awkwardly.
'You know, I hope, that I love her dearly.'
'Everybody does that,' said Will.
'You do, Mr Belton.'
'Yes I do; just as though she were my sister.'
'And as your sister would you let her come here to us?' He sat silent
for awhile, thinking, and she waited patiently for his answer. Bat she
spoke again before he answered her. 'I am well aware that you know all
my history, Mr Belton.'
'I shouldn't tell it her, if you mean that, though she were my sister.
If she were my wife I should tell her.'
'And why your wife?'
'Because then I should be sure it would do no harm.'
'Then I find that you can be generous, Mr Belton. But she knows it all
as well as you do.'
'I did not tell her.'
'Nor did I but I should have done so had not Captain Aylmer been before
me. And now tell me whether I could ask her to come here.'
'It would be useless, as she is going to Aylmer Castle'.
'But she is going there simply to find a home having no other.'
'That is not so, Mrs Askerton. She has a home as perfectly her own as
any woman in the land. Belton Castle is hers, to do what she may please
with it. She can live here if she likes it, and nobody can say a word
to her. She need not go to Aylmer Castle to look for a home.'
'You mean you would lend her the house?'
'It is hers.'
'I do not understand you, Mr Belton.'
'It does not signify we will say no more about it.'
'And you think she likes going to Lady Aylmer's?'
'How should I say what she likes?'
Then there was another pause before Mrs Askerton spoke again. 'I can
tell you one thing,' she said: 'she does not like him.'
'That is her affair.'
'But she should be taught to know her own mind before she throws
herself away altogether. You would not wish your cousin to marry a man
whom she does not love because at one time she had come to think that
she loved him. That is the truth of it, Mr Belton. If she goes to
Aylmer Castle she will marry him and she will be an unhappy woman
always afterwards. If you would sanction her coming here for a few
days, I think all that would be cured. She would come in a moment, if
you advised her.'
Then he went away, allowing himself to make no further answer at the
moment, and discussed the matter with himself as he walked back to
Redicote, meditating on it with all his mind, and all his heart, and
all his strength. And, as he meditated, it came on to rain bitterly a
cold piercing February rain and the darkness of night came upon him,
and he floundered on through the thick mud of the Somersetshire lanes,
unconscious of the weather and of the darkness. There was a way open to
him by which he might even yet get what he wanted. He thought he saw
that there was a way open to him through the policy of this woman, whom
he perceived to have become friendly to him. He saw, or thought that he
saw, it all. No day had absolutely been fixed for this journey to
Yorkshire; and if Clara were induced to go first to the cottage, and
stay there with Mrs Askerton, no such journey might ever be taken. He
could well understand that such a visit on her part would give a mortal
offence to all the Aylmers. That tyranny of which Clara spoke with so
much dread would be exhibited then without reserve, and so there would
be an end altogether of the Aylmer alliance. But were she once to start
for Aylmer Park, then there would be no hope for him. Then her fate
would be decided -and his. As far as he could see, too as far as he
could see then, there would be no dishonesty in this plan. Why should
Clara not go to Mrs Askerton's house? What could be more natural than
such a visit at such a time? If she were in truth his sister he would
not interfere to prevent it if she wished it. He had told himself that
the woman should be forgiven her offence, and had thought that that
forgiveness should be complete. If the Aylmers were so unreasonable as
to quarrel with her on this ground, let them quarrel with her. Mrs
Askerton had told him that Clara did not really like Captain Aylmer.
Perhaps it was so; and if so, what greater kindness could he do her
than give her an opportunity for escaping such a union?
The whole of the next day he remained at Redicote, thinking, doubting,
striving to reconcile his wishes and his honesty. It rained all day,
and as he sat alone, smoking in the comfortless inn, he told himself
that the rain was keeping him but in truth it was not the rain. Had he
resolved to do his best to prevent this visit to Yorkshire, or had he
resolved to further it, I think he would have gone to Belton without
much fear of the rain. On the second day after the funeral he did go,
and he had then made up his mind. Clara, if she would listen to him,
should show her independence of Lady Aylmer by staying a few days with
the Askertons before she went to Yorkshire, and by telling Lady Aylmer
that such was her intention. 'If she really loves the man,' he said to
himself, 'she will go at once, in spite of anything that I can say. If
she does not, I shall be saving her.'
'How cruel of you not to come yesterday! ' Clara said, as soon as she
'It rained hard,' he answered.
' But men like you care so little for rain; but that is when you have
business to take you out or pleasure.'
'You need not be so severe. The truth is I had things to trouble me.'
'What troubled you, Will. I thought all the trouble was mine.'
'I suppose everybody thinks that his own shoe pinches the hardest.'
'Your shoe can't pinch you very bad, I should think. Sometimes when I
think of you it seems that you are an embodiment of prosperity and
'I don't see it myself that's all. Did you write to Lady Aylmer, Clara?'
'I wrote; but I didn't send it. I would not send any letter till I had
shown it to you, as you are my confessor and adviser. There; read it.
Nothing, I think, could be more courteous or less humble.' He took the
letter and read it. Clara had simply expressed herself willing to
accept Lady Aylmer's invitation, and asked her ladyship to fix a day.
There was no mention of Captain Aylmer's name in the note.
'And you think this is best?' he said. His voice was hardly like his
own as he spoke. There was wanting to it that tone of self-assurance
which his voice almost always possessed, even when self- assurance was
lacking to his words.
'I thought it was your own advice,' she said.
'Well yes; that is, I don't quite know. You couldn't go for a week or
so yet, I suppose.'
'Perhaps in about a week.'
'And what will you do till then.?'
'What will I do!'
'Yes where do you mean to stay?'
'I thought, Will, that perhaps you would let me remain here.'
'Let you! Oh, heavens! Look here, Clara.'
'Before heaven I want what may be the best for you without thinking of
you, if I could only help it.'
'I have never doubted you. I never will doubt you. I believe in you
next to my God. I do, Will; I do.' He walked up and down the room
half-a-dozen times before he spoke again, while she stood by the table
watching him. 'I wish,' she said, 'I knew what it is that troubles
you.' To this he made no answer, but went on walking till she came up
to him, and putting both her hands upon his arm said, 'It will be
better, Will, that I should go will it not? Speak to me, and say so. I
feel that it will be better.' Then he stopped in his walk and looked
down upon her, as her hands still rested upon his shoulder. He gazed
upon her for some few seconds, remaining quite motionless, and then,
opening his arms, he surrounded her with his embrace, and pressing her
with all his strength close to his bosom, kissed her forehead, and her
cheeks, and her lips, and her eyes. His will was so masterful, his
strength so great, and his motion so quick, that she was powerless to
escape from him till he relaxed his hold. Indeed she hardly struggled,
so much was she surprised and so soon released. But the moment that he
left her he saw that her face was burning red, and that the tears were
streaming from her eyes. She stood for a moment trembling, with her
hands clenched, and with a look of scorn upon her lips and brow that he
had never seen before; and then she threw herself on a sofa, and,
burying her face, sobbed aloud; while her whole body was shaken as with
convulsions. He leaned over her repentant, not knowing what to do, not
knowing how to speak. All ideas of his scheme had gone from him now. He
had offended her for ever past redemption. What could be the use now of
any scheme? And as he stood there he hated himself because of his
scheme. The utter misery and disgrace of the present moment had come
upon him because he had thought more of himself than of her. It was but
a few moments since she had told him that she trusted him next to her
God; and yet in those few moments, he had shown himself utterly
unworthy of that trust, and had destroyed all her confidence. But he
could not leave, her without speaking to her. 'Clara!' he said 'Clara.'
But she did not answer him. 'Clara; will you not speak to me? Will you
not let me ask you to forgive me?' But still she only sobbed. For her,
at that moment, we may say that sobbing was easier than speech. How was
she to pardon so great an offence? How was she to resent such
But he could not continue to stand there motionless, all but
speechless, while she lay with her face turned away from him. He must
at any rate in some manner take himself away out of the room; and this
he could not do, even in his present condition of unlimited disgrace,
without a word of farewell. 'Perhaps I had better go and leave you,' he
Then at last there came a voice, 'Oh, Will, why have you done this?
Why have you treated me so badly?' When he had last seen her face her
mouth had been full of scorn, but, there was, no scorn now in her
voice. 'Why why why?'
Why indeed except that it was needful for him that she should know the
depth of his passion. 'If you will forgive me, Clara, I will not offend
you so again,' he said.
'You have offended me. What am I to say? What am I to do? I have no
'I am a wretch. I know that I am a wretch.'
'I did not suspect that you would be so cruel. Oh, Will!'
But before he went she told him that she had forgiven him, and she had
preached to him a solemn, sweet sermon on the wickedness of yielding,
to momentary impulses. Her low, grave words sank into his ears as
though they were divine; and when she said a word to him, blushing as
she spoke, of the sin of his passion and of what her sin would be, if
she were to permit it, he sat by her weeping like an infant, tears
which were certainly tears of innocence. She had been very angry with
him; but I think she loved him better when, her sermon was finished
than she had ever loved him before.
There was no further question as to her going to Aylmer Castle, nor was
any mention made of Mrs Askerton's invitation to the cottage. The
letter for Lady Aylmer was sent, and it was agreed between them that
Will should remain at Redicote till the answer from Yorkshire should
come, and should then convey Clara as far as London on her journey. And
when he took leave of her that afternoon, she was able to give him her
hand in her old hearty, loving way, and to call him Will with the old
hearty, loving tone. And he he was able to accept these tokens of her
graciousness, as though they were signs of a pardon which she had been
good to give, but which he certainly had not deserved.
As he went back to Redicote, he swore to himself that he would never
love any woman but her even though she must be the wife of Captain
THE LAST DAY AT BELTON
In course of post there came an answer from Lady Aylmer, naming a day
for Clara's journey to Yorkshire, and also a letter from Captain
Aylmer, in, which he stated that he would meet her in London and convey
her down to Aylmer Park. 'The House is sitting,' he said, 'and
therefore I shall be a little troubled about my time; but I cannot
allow that your first meeting with my mother should take place in my
absence.' This was all very well, but at the end of the letter there
was a word of caution that was not so well. 'I am sure, my dear Clara,
that you will remember how much is due to my mother's age, and
character, and position. Nothing will be wanted to the happiness of our
marriage, if you can succeed in gaining her affection, and therefore I
make it my first request to you, that you should endeavour to win her
good opinion.' There was nothing perhaps really amiss, certainly
nothing unreasonable, in such words from a future husband to his future
wife; but Clara, as she read them, shook her head and pressed her foot
against the ground in anger. It would not do. Sorrow would come and
trouble and disappointment. She did not say so, even to herself in
words; but the words, though not spoken, were audible enough to
herself. She could not, would not, bend to Lady Aylmer, and she knew
that trouble would come of this visit.
I fear that many ladies will condemn Miss Amedroz when I tell them that
she showed this letter to her Cousin Will. It does not promise well for
any of the parties concerned when a young woman with two lovers can
bring herself to show the love-letters of him to whom she is engaged to
the other lover whom she has refused! But I have two excuses to put
forward in Clara's defence. In the first place, Captain Aylmer's
love-letters were not in truth love-letters, but were letters of
business; and in the next place, Clara was teaching herself to regard
Will Belton as her brother, and to forget that he had ever assumed the
part of a lover.
She was so teaching herself, but I cannot say that the lesson was one
easily learned; nor had the outrage upon her of which Will had been
guilty, and which was described in the last chapter, made the teaching
easier. But she had determined, nevertheless, that it should be so.
When she thought of Will her heart would become very soft towards him;
and sometimes, when she thought of Captain Aylmer, her heart would
become anything but soft towards him. Unloving feelings would be very
strong within her bosom as she re-read his letters, and remembered that
he had not come to her, but had sent her seventy-five pounds to comfort
her in her trouble! Nevertheless, he was to be her husband, and she
would do her duty. What might have happened had Will Belton come to
Belton Castle before she had known Frederic Aylmer of that she stoutly
resolved that she would never think at all; and consequently the
thought was always intruding upon her.
'You will sleep one night in town, of course?' said Will.
'I suppose so. You know all about it. I shall do as I'm told.'
'You can't go down to Yorkshire from here in one day. Where would you
like to stay in London?'
'How on earth should I know? Ladies do sleep at hotels in London
sometimes, I suppose?'
'Oh yes. I can write and have rooms ready for you.'
'Then that difficulty is over,' said Clara.
But in Belton's estimation the difficulty was not exactly over. Captain
Aylmer would, of course, be in London that night, and it was a question
with Will whether or no Clara was not bound in honour to tell the
accursed beast, I am afraid Mr Belton called him in his soliloquies
where she would lodge on the occasion. Or would it suffice that he,
Will, should hand her over to the enemy at the station of the Great
Northern Railway on the following morning? All the little intricacies
of the question presented themselves to Will's imagination. How careful
he would be with her, that the inn accommodation should suffice for her
comfort! With what pleasure would he order a little dinner for them
two, making something of a gentle fˆte of the occasion! How sedulously
would he wait upon her with those little attentions, amounting almost
to worship, with which such men as Will Belton are prone to treat all
women in exceptionable circumstances, when the ordinary routine of life
has been disturbed! If she had simply been his cousin, and if he had
never regarded her otherwise, how happily could he have done all this!
As things now were, if it was left to him to do, he should do it, with
what patience and grace might be within his power; he would do it,
though he would be mindful every moment of the bitterness of the
transfer which he would so soon be obliged to make; but he doubted
whether it would not be better for Clara's sake that the transfer
should be made overnight. He would take her up to London, because in
that way he could be useful; and then he would go away and hide
himself. 'Has Captain Aylmer said where he would meet you?' he asked
after a pause.
'Of course I must write and tell him.'
'And is he to come to you when you reach London?'
'He has said nothing about that. 'He will probably be at the House of
Commons, or too busy somewhere to come to me then. But why do you ask?
Do you wish to hurry through town?'
'Oh dear, no.'
'Or perhaps you have friends you want to see. Pray don't let me be in
your way. I shall do very well, you know.'
Belton rebuked her by a look before he answered her. 'I was only
thinking,' he said, 'of what would be most convenient for yourself. I
have nobody to see, and nothing to do, and nowhere to go to.' Then
Clara understood it all, and said that she would write to Captain
Aylmer and ask him, to join them at the hotel.
She determined that she would see Mrs Askerton before she went; and as
that lady did not come to the Castle, Clara called upon her at the
cottage. This she did the day before she left, and she took her cousin
with her. Belton had been at the cottage once or twice since the day on
which Mrs Askerton had explained to him how the Aylmer alliance might
be extinguished, but Colonel Askerton had always been there, and no
reference had been made to the former conversation. Colonel Askerton
was not there now, and Belton was almost afraid that words would be
spoken to which he would hardly know how to listen.
'And so you are really going?' said Mrs Askerton.
'Yes; we start tomorrow,' said Clara.
'I am not thinking of the journey to London,' said Mrs Askerton, 'but
of the danger and privations of your subsequent progress to the North.'
'I shall do very well. I am not afraid that any one will eat me.'
'There are so many different ways of eating people! Are there not, Mr
'I don't know about eating, but there are a great many ways of boring
people,' said he.
'And I should think they will be great at that kind of thing at Aylmer
Castle. One never hears of Sir Anthony, but I can fancy Lady Aylmer to
be a terrible woman.'
'I shall manage to hold my own, I dare say,' said Clara.
'I hope you will; I do hope you will,' said Mrs Askerton. 'I don't know
whether you will be powerful to do so, or whether you will fail; my
heart is not absolute; but I do know what will be the result if you are
'It is much more then than I know myself.'
'That I can believe too. Do you travel down to Yorkshire alone?'
'No; Captain Aylmer will meet me in town.'
Then Mrs Askerton looked at Mr Belton, but made no immediate reply; nor
did she say anything further about Clara's journey. She looked at Mr
Belton, and Will caught her eye, and understood that he was being
rebuked for not having carried out that little scheme which, had been
prepared for him. But he had come to hate the scheme, and almost hated
Mrs Askerton for proposing it. He had declared to himself that her
welfare, Clara's welfare, was the one thing which the should regard;
and he had told himself that he was not strong enough, either in
purpose or in wit, to devise schemes for her welfare. She was better
able to manage things for herself than he was to manage them for her.
If she loved this 'accursed beast,' let her marry him; only for that
was now his one difficulty only he could not bring himself to think it
possible that she should love him.
'I suppose you will never see this place again?' said Mrs Askerton
after a long pause.
'I hope I shall, very often,' said Clara. 'Why should I not see it
again? It is not going out of the family.'
'No not exactly out of the family. That is, it will belong to your
'And cousins may be as far apart as strangers, you mean; but Will and I
are not like that; are we, Will?'
'I hardly know what we are like,' said he.
'You do not mean to say that you will throw me over? But the truth is,
Mrs Askerton, that I do not mean to be thrown over. I look upon him as
my brother, and I intend to cling to him as sisters do cling.'
'You will hardly come back here before you are married,' said Mrs
Askerton. It was a terrible speech for her to make, and could only be
excused on the ground that the speaker was in truth desirous of doing
that which she thought would benefit both of those whom she addressed.
'Of course you are going to your wedding now?'
'I am doing nothing of the kind,' said Clara. 'How can you speak in
that way to me so soon after my father's death? It is a rebuke to me
for being here at all.'
'I intend no rebuke, as you well know. What I mean is this; if you do
not stay in Yorkshire till you are married, let the time be when it
may, where do you intend to go in the meantime?'
'My plans are not settled yet.'
'She will have this house if she pleases,' said Will. 'There will be no
one else here. It will be her own, to do as she likes with it.'
'She will hardly come here to be alone.'
'I will not be inquired into, my dear,' said Clara, speaking with
restored good-humour. 'Of course I am an unprotected female, and
subject to disadvantages. Perhaps I have no plans for the future; and
if I have plans, perhaps I do not mean to divulge them.'
'I had better come to the point at once,' said Mrs Askerton. 'If if if
it should ever suit you, pray come here to us. Flowers shall not be
more welcome in May. It is difficult to speak of it all, though you
both understand everything as well as I do. I cannot press my
invitation as another woman might.'
'Yes, you can,' said Clara with energy. 'Of course you can.'
'Can I? Then I do. Dear Clara, do come to us.' And then as she spoke
Mrs Askerton knelt on the ground at her visitor's knees. 'Mr Belton, do
tell her that when she is tired with the grandeur of Aylmer Park she
may come to us here.'
'I don't know anything about the grandeur of Aylmer Park,' said Will,
'But she may come here may she not?'
'She will not ask my leave,' said he.
'She says that you are her brother. Whose leave should she ask?'
'He knows that I should ask his rather than that of any living person,'
'There, Mr Belton. Now you must say that she may come or that she may
'I will say nothing. She knows what to do much better than I can tell
Mrs Askerton was still kneeling, and again appealed to Clara. 'You hear
what he says. What do you say yourself? Will you come to us? that is,
if such a visit will suit you in point of convenience?'
'I will make no promise; but I know no reason why I should not.'
'And I must be content with that? Well: I will be content.' Then she
got up. 'For such a one as I am, that is a great deal. And, Mr Belton,
let me tell you this I can be grateful to you, though you cannot be
gracious to me.'
'I hope I have not been ungracious,' said he.
'Upon my word, I cannot compliment you. But there is something so much
better than grace, that I can forgive you. You know, at any rate, how
thoroughly I wish you well.'
Upon this Clara got up to take her leave, and the demonstrative
affection of an embrace between the two women afforded a remedy for the
awkwardness of the previous conversation.
'God bless you, dearest,' said Mrs Askerton. 'May I write to you?'
'Certainly,' said Clara.
'And you will answer my letters?'
'Of course I will. You must tell me everything about the place and
especially as to Bessy. Bessy is never to be sold is she, Will? Bessy
was the cow which Belton had given her.
'Not if you choose to keep her.'
'I will go down and see to her myself,' said Mrs Askerton, and will
utter little prayers of my own over her horns that certain events that
I desire may come to pass. Good-bye, Mr Belton. You may be as
ungracious as you please, but it will not make any difference.'
When Clara and her cousin left the cottage they did not return to the
house immediately, but took a last walk round the park, and through the
shrubbery, and up to the rocks on which a remarkable scene bad once
taken place between them. Few words were spoken as they were walking,
and there had been no agreement as to the path they would take. Each
seemed to understand that there was much of melancholy in their present
mood, and that silence was more fitting than speech. But when they
reached the rocks Belton sat himself down, asking Clara's leave to stop
there for a moment. 'I don't suppose I shall ever come to this place
again,' said he.
'You are as bad as Mrs Askerton,' said Clara.
'I do not think I shall ever come to this place again,' said he,
repeating his words very solemnly. At any rate, I will never do so
'Unless you are either my wife, or have promised to become so.'
'Oh, Will; you know that that is impossible.'
'Then it is impossible that I should come here again.'
'You know that I am engaged to another man.'
'Of course I do. I am not asking you to break your engagement. I am
simply telling you that in spite of that engagement I love you as well
as I did love you before you had made it. I have a right to let you
know the truth.' As if she had not known it without his telling it to
her now! 'It was here that I told you that I loved you. I now repeat it
here; and will never come here again unless I may say the same thing
over and over and over. That is all. We might as well go on now.' But
when he got up she sat down, as though unwilling to leave the spot. It
was still winter, and the rock was damp with cold drippings from the
trees, and the moss around was wet, and little pools of water had
formed themselves in the shallow holes upon the surface. She did not
speak as she seated herself; but he was of course obliged to wait till
she should be ready to accompany him. 'It is too cold for you to sit
there,' he said. 'Come, Clara; I will not have you loiter here. It is
cold and wet.'
'It is not colder for me than for you.'
'You are not used to that sort of thing as I am.'
'Will,' she said, ' you must never speak to me again as you spoke just
now. Promise me that you will not.'
'Promises will do no good in such a matter.'
'It is almost a repetition of what you did before though of course it
is not so bad as that.'
'Everything I do is bad.'
'No, Will dear Will! Almost everything you do is good. But of what use
can it be to either of us for you to be thinking of that which can
never be? Cannot you think of me as your sister and only as your sister?
'No; I cannot.'
'Then it is not right that we should be together.'
'I know nothing of right. You ask me a question, and I suppose you
don't wish that I should tell you a lie.'
'Of course I do not wish that.'
'Therefore I tell you the truth. I love you as any other man loves the
girl that he does love; and, as far as I know myself now, I never can
be happy unless you are my own.'
'Oh, Will, how can that be when I am engaged to marry another man?'
'As to your engagement I should care nothing. Does he love you as I
love you? If he loves you, why is he not here? If he loves you, why
does he let his mother ill-use you, and treat you with scorn? If he
loves you as I love you, how could he write to you as he does write?
Would I write to you such a letter as that? Would I let you be here
without coming to you to be looked after by any one else? If you had
said that you would be my wife, would I leave you in solitude and
sorrow, and then send you seventy-five pounds to console you? If you
think he loves you, Clara'
'He thought he was doing right when he sent me the money.'
'But he shouldn't have thought it right. Never mind. I don't want to
accuse him; but this I know and you know; he does not love you as I
'What can I say to answer you?'
'Say that you will wait till you have seen him. Say that I may have a
hope a chance; that if he is cold, and hard, and and and, just what we
know he is, then I may have a chance.'
'How can I say that when I am engaged to him? Cannot you understand
that I am wrong to let you speak of him as you do?'
'How else am I to speak of him? Tell me this. Do you love him?' 'Yes I
'I don't believe it!'
'I don't believe it. Nothing on earth shall make me believe it. It is
'Do you mean to insult me, Will?'
'No; I do not mean to insult you, but I mean to tell you the truth. I
do not think you love that man as you ought to love the man whom you
are going to marry. I should tell you just the same thing if I were
really your brother. Of course it isn't that I suppose you love any one
else me for instance. I'm not such a fool as that. But I don't think
you love him; and I'm quite sure he doesn't love you. That's just what
I believe; and if I do believe it, how am I to help telling you?'
'You've no right to have such beliefs.'
'How am I to help it? Well never mind. I won't let you sit there any
longer. At any rate you'll be able to understand now that I shall never
come to this place any more.' Clara, as she got up to obey him, felt
that she also ought never to see it again unless, indeed unless
They passed that evening together without any reference to the scene on
the rock, or any allusion to their own peculiar troubles. Clara, though
she would not admit to Mrs Askerton that she was going away from the
place for ever, was not the less aware that such might very probably be
the case. She had no longer any rights of ownership at Belton Castle,
and all that had taken place between her and her cousin tended to make
her feel that under no circumstances could she again reside there. Nor
was it probable that she would be able to make to Mrs Askerton the
visit of which they had been talking. If Lady Aylmer were wise so Clara
thought there would be no mention of Mrs Askerton at Aylmer Park; and,
if so, of course she would not outrage her future husband by proposing
to go to a house of which she knew that he disapproved. If Lady Aylmer
were not wise if she should take upon herself the task of rebuking
Clara for her friendship then, in such circumstances as those, Clara
believed that the visit to Mrs Askerton might be possible.
But she determined that she would leave the home in which she had been
born, and had passed so many happy and so many unhappy days, as though
she were never to see it again. All her packing had been done, down to
the last fragment of an old letter that was stuffed into her
writing-desk; but, nevertheless, she went about the house with a candle
in her hand, as though she were still looking that nothing had been
omitted, while she was in truth saying farewell in her heart to every
corner which she knew so well. When at last she came down to pour out
for her desolate cousin his cup of tea, she declared that everything
was done. 'You may go to work now, Will,' she said, and do what you
please with the old place. My jurisdiction is over.'
'Not altogether,' said he. He no longer spoke like a despairing lover.
Indeed there was a smile round his mouth, and his voice was cheery.
'Yes altogether. I give over my sovereignty from this moment and a
dirty dilapidated sovereignty it is.'
'That's all very well to say.'
'And also very well to do. What best pleases me in going to Aylmer
Castle just now is the power it gives me of doing at once that which
otherwise I might have put off till the doing of it had become much
more unpleasant. Mr Belton, there is the key of the cellar which I
believe gentlemen always regard as the real sign of possession. I don't
advise you to trust much to the contents.' He took the key from her,
and without saying a word chucked it across the room on to an old sofa.
'If you won't take it, you had better, at any rate, have it tied up
with the others,' she said.
'I dare say you'll know where to find it when you want it,' he answered.
'I shall never want it.'
'Then it's as well there as anywhere else.'
'But you won't remember, Will.'
'I don't suppose I shall have occasion for remembering.' Then he paused
a moment before he went on. 'I have told you before that I do not
intend to take possession of the place. I do not regard it as mine at
'And whose is it, then?'
'No, dear Will; it is not mine. You know that.'
'I intend that it shall be so, and therefore you might as well put the
keys where you will know how to find them.'
Alter he had gone she did take up the key, and tied it with sundry
others, which she intended to give to the old servant who was to be
left in charge of the house. But after a few moments' consideration she
took the cellar key again off the bunch, and put it back upon the sofa
in the place to which he had thrown it.
On the following morning they started on their journey. The old fly
from Redicote was not used on this occasion, as Belton had ordered a
pair of post-horses and a comfortable carriage from Taunton. 'I think
it such a shame,' said Clara, 'going away for the last time without
having Jerry and the grey horse.' Jerry was the man who had once driven
her to Taunton when the old horse fell with her on the road. 'But Jerry
and the grey horse could not have taken you and me too, and all our
luggage,' said Will. 'Poor Jerry! I suppose not,' said Clara; 'but
still there is an injury done in going without him.'
There were four or five old dependents of the family standing round the
door to bid her adieu, to all of whom she gave her hand with a cordial
pressure. They, at least, seemed to regard her departure as final. And
of course it was final. She had assured herself of that during the
night. And just as they were about to start, both Colonel and Mrs
Askerton walked up to the door. 'He wouldn't let you go without bidding
you farewell,' said Mrs Askerton. 'I am so glad to shake hands with
him,' Clara answered. Then the colonel spoke a word to her, and, as he
did so, his wife contrived to draw Will Belton for a moment behind the
carriage. 'Never give it up, Mr Belton,' said she eagerly. 'If you
persevere she'll be yours yet.' 'I fear not,' he said. 'Stick to her
like a man,' said she, pressing his hand in her vehemence. 'If you do,
you'll live to thank me for having told you so.' Will had not a word to
say for himself, but he thought that he would stick to her. Indeed, he
thought that he had stuck to her pretty well.
At last they were off, and the village of Belton was behind them; Will,
glancing into his cousin's face, saw that her eyes were laden with
tears, and refrained from speaking. As they passed the ugly red-brick
rectory. house, Clara for a moment put her face to the window, and then
withdrew it. 'There is nobody there,' she said, 'who will care to see
me. Considering that I have lived here all my life, is it not odd that
there should be so few to bid me good-bye?'
'People do not like to put themselves forward on such occasions,' said
'People there are no people. No one ever had so few to care for them as
I have. And now But never mind; I mean to do very well, and I shall do
very well.' Belton would not take advantage of her in her sadness, and
they reached the station at Taunton almost without another word.
Of course they had to wait there for half an hour, and of course the
waiting was very tedious. To Will it was very tedious indeed, as he was
not by nature good at waiting. To Clara, who on this occasion sat
perfectly still in the waiting-room, with her toes on the fender before
the fire, the evil of the occasion was not so severe. 'The man would
take two hours for the journey, though I told him an hour and a half
would be enough,' said Will, querulously.
'But we might have had an accident.'
'An accident! What accident? People don't have accidents every day.'
At last the train came and they started. Clara, though she had with her
her best friend I may almost say the friend whom in the world she loved
the best did not have an agreeable journey. Belton would not talk; but
as he made no attempt at reading, Clara did not like to have recourse
to the book which she had in her travelling-bag. He sat opposite to
her, opening the window and shutting it as he thought she might like
it, but looking wretched and forlorn. At Swindon he brightened up for a
moment under the excitement of getting her something to eat, but that
relaxation lasted only for a few minutes. Alter that he relapsed again
into silence till the train had passed Slough and he knew that in
another half-hour they would be in London. Then he leant over her and
'This will probably be the last opportunity I shall have of saying a
few words to you alone.'
'I don't know that at all, Will.'
'It will be the last for a long time at any rate. And as I have got
something to say, I might as well say it now. I have thought a great
deal about the property the Belton estate, I mean; and I don't intend
to take it as mine.'
'That is sheer nonsense, Will. You must take it, as it is yours, and
can't belong to any one else.'
'I have thought it over, and I am quite sure that all the business of
the entail was wrong radically wrong from first to last. You are to
understand that my special regard for you has nothing whatever to do
with it. I should do the same thing if I felt that I hated you.'
'Don't hate me, Will!'
'You know what I mean. I think the entail was all wrong, and I shan't
take advantage of it. It's not common sense that I should have
everything because of poor Charley's misfortune.'
'But it seems to me that it does not depend upon you or upon me, or
upon anybody. It is yours by law, you know.'
'And therefore it won't be sufficient for me to give it up without
making it yours by law also which I intend to do. I shall stay in town
tomorrow and give instructions to Mr Green. I have thought it proper to
tell you this now, in order that you may mention it to Captain Aylmer.'
They were leaning over in the carriage one towards the other; her face
had been slightly turned away from him; but now she slowly raised her
eyes till they met his, and looking into the depth of them, and seeing
there all his love and all his suffering, and the great nobility of his
nature, her heart melted within her. Gradually, as her tears came would
come, in spite of all her constraint, she again turned her face towards
the window. 'I can't talk now,' she said, 'indeed I can't.'
'There is no need for any more talking about it,' be replied. And there
was no more talking between them, on that subject or on any other, till
the tickets bad been taken and the train was again in motion. Then he
referred to it again for a moment. 'You will tell Captain Aylmer, my
'I will tell him what you say, that he may know your generosity. But of
course he will agree with me that no such offer can be accepted. It is
quite quite quite out of the question.'
'You had better tell him and say nothing more; or you can ask him to
see Mr Green after tomorrow. He, as a man who understands business,
will know that this arrangement must he made, if I choose to make it.
Come; here we are. Porter, a four-wheeled cab. Do you go with him, and
I'll look after the luggage.'
Clara, as she got into the cab, felt that she ought to have been more
stout in her resistance to his offer. But it would be better, perhaps,
that she should write to him from Aylmer Park, and get Frederic to
THE GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY HOTEL
At the door of the hotel of the Great Northern Railway Station they
met Captain Aylmer. Rooms had been taken there because they were to
start by an early train on that line in the morning, and Captain Aylmer
had undertaken to order dinner. There was nothing particular in the
meeting to make it unpleasant to our friend Will. The fortunate rival
could do no more in the hall of the inn than give his hand to his
affianced bride, as he might do to any other lady, and then suggest to
her that she should go upstairs and see her room. When he had done
this, he also offered his hand to Belton; and Will, though he would
almost sooner have out off his own, was obliged to take it. In a few
minutes the two men were standing alone together in the sitting-room.
'I suppose you found it cold coming up?' said the captain.
'Not particularly,' said Will.
'It's rather a long journey from Belton.'
'Not very long,' said Will.
'Not for you, perhaps; but Miss Amedroz must be tired.'
Belton was angry at having his cousin called Miss Amedroz feeling that
the reserve of the name was intended to keep him at a distance. But he
would have been equally angry had Aylmer called her Clara.
'My cousin,' said Will, stoutly, 'is able to bear slight fatigue of
that kind without suffering.'
'I didn't suppose she suffered; but journeys are always tedious,
especially where there is so much roadwork. I believe you are twenty
miles from the station?'
'Belton Castle is something over twenty miles from Taunton.'
'We are seven from our station at Aylmer Park, and we think that a
'I'm more than that at Plaistow,' said Will.
'Oh, indeed. Plaistow is in Norfolk, I believe?'
'Yes Plaistow is in Norfolk.'
'I suppose you'll leave it now and go into Somersetshire,' suggested
'Certainly not. Why should I leave it?'
'I thought, perhaps as Belton Castle is now your own'
'Plaistow Hall is more my own than Belton Castle, if that signifies
anything which it doesn't.' This he said in an angry tone, which, as he
became conscious of it, he tried to rectify. 'I've a deal of stock and
all that sort of thing at Plaistow, and couldn't very well leave it,
even if I wished it,' he said.
'You've pretty good shooting too, I suppose,' said Aylmer.
'As far as partridges go I'll back it against most properties of the
same extent in any county.'
'I'm too busy a man myself,' said the captain, 'to do much at
partridges. We think more of pheasants down with us.'
'I dare say.'
'But a Norfolk man like you is of course keen about birds.'
'We are obliged to put up with what we've got, you know not but what I
believe there is a better general head of game in Norfolk than in any
other county in England.'
'That's what makes your hunting rather poor.'
'Our hunting poor! Why do you say it's poor?'
'So many of you are against preserving foxes.'
'I'll tell you what, Captain Aylmer; I don't know what pack you hunt
with, but I'll bet you a five- pound note that we killed more foxes
last year than you did that is, taking three days a week. Nine-
and-twenty brace and a half in a short season I don't call poor at all.'
Captain Aylmer saw that the man was waxing angry, and made no further