Part 8 out of 9
be able to make it over to me, I can give it back again.'
'I think not. In such a matter as this a lady in your position can only
be guided by her natural advisers her father's lawyer and other family
'I don't know why a young lady should be in any way different from an
'But an old gentleman would not hesitate under such circumstances. The
entail in itself was a cruelty, and the operation of it on your poor
brother's death was additionally cruel.'
'It is cruel that any one should be poor,' argued Clara; 'but that does
not take away the right of a rich man to his property.'
There was much more of this sort said between them, till Clara was at
any rate convinced that Colonel Askerton believed that she ought to be
the owner of the property. And then at last he ventured upon another
argument which soon drove Clara out of the room. 'There is, I believe,
one way in which it can all be made right,' said he.
'What way? 'said Clara, forgetting in her eagerness the obviousness of
the mode which her companion was about to point out.
'Of course, I know nothing of this myself,' he said smiling; 'but Mary
thinks that you and your cousin might arrange it between you if you
'You must not listen to what she says about that, Colonel Askerton.'
'Must I not? Well; I will not listen to more than I can help; but Mary,
as you know, is a persistent talker. I, at any rate, have done my
commission.' Then Clara left him and was alone for what remained of the
It could not be, she said to herself, that the property ought to be
hers. It would make her miserable, were she once to feel that she had
accepted it. Some small allowance out of it, coming to her from the
brotherly love of her cousin some moderate stipend sufficient for her
livelihood, she thought she could accept from him. It seemed to her
that it was her destiny to be dependent on charity to eat bread given
to her from the benevolence of a friend; and she thought that she could
endure his benevolence better than that of any other. Benevolence from
Aylmer Park or from Perivale would be altogether unendurable.
But why should it not be as Colonel Askerton had proposed? That this
cousin of hers loved her with all his heart with a constancy for which
she had at first given him no credit she was well aware. And, as
regarded herself, she loved him better than all the world beside. She
had at last become conscious that she could not now marry Captain
Aylmer without sin without false vows, and fatal injury to herself and
him. To the prospect of that marriage, as her future fate, an end must
be put at any rate an end, if that which had already taken place was
not to be regarded as end enough. But yet she had been engaged to
Captain Aylmer was engaged to him even now. When last her cousin had
mentioned to her Captain Aylmer's name she had declared that she loved
him still. How then could she turn round now, and so soon accept the
love of another man? How could she bring herself to let her cousin
assume to himself the place of a lover, when it was but the other day
that she had rebuked him for expressing the faintest hope in that
But yet yet ! As for going to Plaistow, that was quite out of the
'So you are to be the heiress after all,' said Mrs Askerton to her that
night in her bedroom.
'No; I am not to be the heiress after all,' said Clara, rising against
her friend impetuously.
'You'll have to be lady of Belton in one way or the other at any rate,'
said Mrs Askerton.
MISS AMEDROZ IS PURSUED
'I suppose now, my dear, it may be considered that everything is
settled about that young lady,' said Lady Aylmer to her son, on the
same day that Miss Amedroz left Aylmer Park.
'Nothing is settled, ma'am,' said the captain.
'You don't mean to tell me that after what has passed you intend to
follow her up any farther.'
'I shall certainly endeavour to see her again.'
'Then, Frederic, I must tell you that you are very wrong indeed almost
worse than wrong. I would say wicked, only I feel sure that you will
think better of it. You cannot mean to tell me that you would marry her
after what has taken place?'
'The question is whether she would marry me.'
'That is nonsense, Frederic. I wonder that you, who are so generally so
clear-sighted, cannot see more plainly than that. She is a scheming,
artful young woman, who is playing a regular game to catch a husband.'
'If that were so, she would have been more humble to you, ma'am.'
'Not a bit, Fred. That's just it. That has been her cleverness. She
tried that on at first, and found that she could not get round me.
Don't allow yourself to be deceived by that, I pray. And then there is
no knowing how she may be bound up with those horrid people, so that
she cannot throw them over, even if she would.'
'I don't think you understand her, ma'am.'
'Oh very well. But I understand this, and you had better understand it
too that she will never again enter a house of which I am the mistress;
nor can I ever enter a house in which she is received. If you choose to
make her your wife after that, I have done.' Lady Aylmer had not done,
or nearly done; but we need hear no more of her threats or entreaties.
Her son left Aylmer Park immediately after Easter Sunday, and as he
went, the mother, nodding her head, declared to her daughter that that
marriage would never come off, let Clara Amedroz be ever so sly, or
ever so clever.
'Think of what I have said to you, Fred,' said Sir Anthony, as he took
his leave of his son.
'Yes, sir, I will.'
'You can't be better off than you are you can't, indeed.' With these
words in his ears Captain Aylmer started for London, intending to
follow Clara down to Belton. He hardly knew his own mind on this matter
of his purposed marriage. He was almost inclined to agree with his
father that he was very well off as he was. He was almost inclined to
agree with his mother in her condemnation of Clara's conduct. He was
almost inclined to think that he had done enough towards keeping the
promise made to his aunt on her death. bed but still he was not quite
contented with himself. He desired to be honest and true, as far as his
ideas went of honesty and truth, and his conscience told him that Clara
had been treated with cruelty by his mother. I am inclined to think
that Lady Aylmer, in spite of her high experience and character for
wisdom, had not fought her battle altogether well. No man likes to be
talked out of his marriage by his mother, and especially not so when
the talking takes the shape of threats. When she told him that under no
circumstances would she again know Clara Amedroz, he was driven by his
spirit of manhood to declare to himself that that menace from her
should not have the slightest influence on him. The word or two which
his father said was more effective. After all it might be better for
him in his peculiar position to have no wife at all. He did begin to
believe that he had no need for a wife. He had never before thought so
much of his father's example as he did now. Clara was manifestly a
hot-tempered woman a very hot-tempered woman indeed! Now his mother was
also a hot-tempered woman, and he could see the result in the present
condition of his father's life. He resolved that he would follow Clara
to Belton, so that some final settlement might be made between them;
but in coming to this resolution he acknowledged to himself that should
she decide against him he would not break his heart. She, however,
should have her chance. Undoubtedly it was only right that she should
have her chance.
But the difficulty of the circumstances in which he was placed was so
great, that it was almost impossible for him to make up his mind
fixedly to any purpose in reference to Clara. As he passed through
London on his way to Belton he called at Mr Green's chambers with
reference to that sum of fifteen hundred pounds, which it was now
absolutely necessary that he should make over to Miss Amedroz, and from
Mr Green he learned that William Belton had given positive instructions
as to the destination of the Belton estate. He would not inherit it, or
have anything to do with it under the entail from the effects of which
he desired to be made entirely free. Mr Green, who knew that Captain
Aylmer was engaged to marry his client, and who knew nothing of any
interruption to that agreement, felt no hesitation in explaining all
this to Captain Aylmer. 'I suppose you had heard of it before,' said Mr
Green. Captain Aylmer certainly had heard of it, and had been very much
struck by the idea; but up to this moment he had not quite believed in
it. Coming simply from William Belton to Clara Amedroz, such an offer
might be no more than a strong argument used in love- making. 'Take
back the property, but take me with it, of course.' That Captain Aylmer
thought might have been the correct translation of Mr William Belton's
romance. But he was forced to look at the matter differently when he
found that it had been put into a lawyer's hands. 'Yes,' said he,' I
have heard of it. Mr Belton mentioned it to me himself.' This was not
strictly true. Clara had mentioned it to him; but Belton had come into
the room immediately afterwards, and Captain Aylmer might probably have
'He's quite in earnest,' said Mr Green.
'Of course, I can say nothing, Mr Green, as I am myself so nearly
interested in the matter. It is a great question, no doubt, how far
such an entail as that should be allowed to operate.'
'I think it should stand, as a matter of course. I think Belton is
wrong,' said Mr Green.
'Of course I can give no opinion,' said the other.
'I'll tell you what you can do, Captain Aylmer. You can suggest to Miss
Amedroz that there should be a compromise. Let them divide it. They are
both clients of mine, and in that way I shall do my duty to each. Let
them divide it. Belton has money enough to buy up the other moiety, and
in that way would still be Belton of Belton.'
Captain Aylmer had not the slightest objection to such a plan. Indeed,
he regarded it as in all respects a wise and salutary arrangement. The
moiety of the Belton estate might probably be worth twenty-five
thousand pounds, and the addition of such a sum as that to his existing
means would make all the difference in the world as to the expediency
of his marriage. His father's arguments would all fall to the ground if
twenty-five thousand pounds were to be obtained in this way; and he had
but little doubt that such a change in affairs would go far to mitigate
his mother's wrath. But he was by no means mercenary in his views so,
at least, he assured himself. Clara should have her chance with or
without the Belton estate or with or without the half of it. He was by
no means mercenary. Had he not made his offer to her and repeated it
almost with obstinacy, when she had no prospect of any fortune? He
could always remember that of himself at least; and remembering that
now, he could take a delight in these bright money prospects without
having to accuse himself in the slightest degree of mercenary motives.
This fortune was a godsend which he could take with clean hands if only
he should ultimately be able to take the lady who possessed the fortune!
>From London he wrote to Clara, telling her that he proposed to visit
her at Belton. His letter was written before he had seen Mr Green, and
was not very fervent in its expressions; but, nevertheless, it was a
fair letter, written with the intention of giving her a fair chance. He
had seen with great sorrow 'with heartfelt grief,' that quarrel between
his mother and his own Clara. Thinking, as he felt himself obliged to
think, about Mrs Askerton, he could not but feel that his mother bad
cause for her anger. But he himself was unprejudiced, and was ready,
and anxious also the word anxious was underscored to carry out his
engagement. A few words between them might probably set everything
right, and therefore be proposed to meet her at the Belton Castle
house, at such an hour, on such a day. He should run down to Perivale
on his journey, and perhaps Clara would let him have a line addressed
to him there. Such was his letter.
'What do you think of that?' said Clara, showing it to Mrs Askerton on
the afternoon of the day on which she had received it.
'What do you think of it?' said Mrs Askerton. 'I can only hope, that he
will not come within reach of my hands.'
'You are not angry with me for showing it to you?'
'No why should I be angry with you? Of course I knew it all without any
showing. Do not tell Colonel Askerton, or they will be killing each
'Of course I shall not tell Colonel Askerton; but I could not help
showing this to you.'
'And you will meet him?'
'Yes; I shall meet him. What else can I do?'
'Unless, indeed, you were to write and tell him that it would do no
'It will be better that he should come.'
'If you allow him to talk you over you will be a wretched woman all
'It will be better that he should come,' said Clara again. And then she
wrote to Captain Aylmer at Perivale, telling him that she would be at
the house at the hour he had named, on the day he had named.
When that day came she walked across the park a little before the time
fixed, not wishing to meet Captain Aylmer before she had reached the
house. It was now nearly the middle of April, and the weather was soft
and pleasant. It was almost summer again, and as she felt this, she
thought of all the events which had occurred since the last summer of
their agony of grief at the catastrophe which had closed her brother's
life, of her aunt's death first, and then of her father's following so
close upon the other, and of the two offers of marriage made to her as
to which she was now aware that she had accepted the wrong man and
rejected the wrong man. She was steadily minded, now, at this moment,
that before she parted from Captain Aylmer, her engagement with him
should be brought to a close. Now, at this coming interview, so much at
any rate should be done. She had tried to make herself believe that she
felt for him that sort of affection which a woman should have for the
man she is to marry, but she had failed. She hardly knew whether she
had in truth ever loved him; but she was quite sure that she did not
love him now. No she had done with Aylmer Park, and she could feel
thankful, amidst all her troubles, that that difficulty should vex her
no more. In showing Captain Aylmer's letter to Mrs Askerton she had
made no such promise as this, but her mind had been quite made up. 'He
certainly shall not talk me over,' she said to herself as she walked
across the park.
But she could not see her way so clearly out of that further difficulty
with regard to her cousin. It might be that she would be able to rid
herself of the one lover with comparative ease; but she could not bring
herself to entertain the idea of accepting the other. It was true that
this man longed for her desired to call her his own, with a wearing,
anxious, painful desire which made his heart grievously heavy heavy as
though with lead hanging to its strings; and it was true that Clara
knew that it was so. It was true also that his spirit had mastered her
spirit, and that his persistence had conquered her resistance the
resistance, that is, of her feelings. But there remained with her a
feminine shame, which made it seem to her to be impossible that she
should now reject Captain Aylmer, and as a consequence of that
rejection, accept Will Belton's hand. As she thought of this, she could
not see her way out of her trouble in that direction with any of that
clearness which belonged to her in reference to Captain Aylmer.
She had been an hour in the house before he came, and never did an hour
go so heavily with her. There was no employment for her about the
place, and Mrs Bunce, the old woman who now lived there, could not
understand why her late mistress chose to remain seated among the
unused furniture. Clara had of course told her that a gentleman was
coming. 'Not Mr Will?' said the woman. 'No; it is not Mr Will,' said
Clara; 'his name is Captain Aylmer.' 'Oh, indeed.' And then Mrs Bunce
looked at her with a mystified look. Why on earth should not the
gentleman call on Miss Amedroz at Mrs Askerton's cottage? 'I'll be sure
to show 'un up, when a comes, at any rate,' said the old woman solemnly
and Clara felt that it was all very uncomfortable.
At last the gentleman did come, and was shown up with all the ceremony
of which Mrs Bunce was capable. 'Here he be, mum.' Then Mrs Bunce
paused a moment before she retreated, anxious to learn whether the new
corner was a friend or a foe. She concluded from the captain's manner
that he was a very dear friend, and then she departed.
'I hope you are not surprised at my coming,' said Captain Aylmer, still
holding Clara by the hand.
'A little surprised,' she said, smiling.
'But not annoyed?'
'No not annoyed.'
'As soon as you had left Aylmer Park I felt that it was the right thing
to do the only thing to do as I told my mother.'
'I hope you have not come in opposition to her wishes,' said Clara,
unable to control a slight tone of banter as she spoke.
'In this matter I found myself compelled to act in accordance with my
own judgment,' said he, untouched by her sarcasm.
'Then I suppose that Lady Aylmer is is vexed with you for coming here.
I shall be so sorry for that so very sorry, as no good can come of it.'
'Well I am not so sure of that. My mother is a most excellent woman,
one for whose opinions on all matters I have the highest possible value
a value so high, that that that'
'That you never ought to act in opposition to it. That is what you
really mean, Captain Aylmer; and upon my word I think that you are
'No, Clara; that is not what I mean not exactly that. Indeed, just at
present I mean the reverse of that. There are some things on which a
man must act on his own judgment, irrespectively of the opinions of any
'Not of a mother, Captain Aylmer?'
'Yes of a mother. That is to say, a man must do so. With a lady of
course it is different. I was very, very sorry that there should have
been any unpleasantness at Aylmer Park.'
'It was not pleasant to me, certainly.'
'Nor to any of us, Clara.'
'At any rate, it need not be repeated.'
'I hope not.'
'No it certainly need not be repeated. I know now that I was wrong to
go to Aylmer Park. I felt sure beforehand that there were many things
as to which I could not possibly agree with Lady Aylmer, and I ought
not to have gone.'
'I don't see that at all, Clara.'
'I do see it now.'
'I can't understand you. What things? Why should you be determined to
disagree with my mother? Surely you ought at any rate to endeavour to
think as she thinks.'
'I cannot do that, Captain Aylmer.'
'I am sorry to hear you speak in this way. I have come here all the way
from Yorkshire to try to put things straight between us; but you
receive me as though you would remember nothing but that unpleasant
'It was so unpleasant so very unpleasant! I had better speak out the
truth at once. I think that Lady Aylmer ill-used me cruelly. I do. No
one can talk me out of that conviction. Of course I am sorry to be
driven to say as much to you and I should never have said it, had you
not come here. But when you speak of me and your mother together, I
must say what I feel. Your mother and I, Captain Aylmer, are so opposed
to each other, not only in feeling, but in opinions also, that it is
impossible that we should be friends impossible that we should not be
enemies if we are brought together.'
This she said with great energy, looking intently into his face as she
spoke. He was seated near her, on a chair from which he was leaning
over towards her, holding his hat in both hands between his legs. Now,
as he listened to her, he drew his chair still nearer, ridding himself
of his hat, which he left upon the carpet, and keeping his eyes upon
hers as though he were fascinated. 'I am sorry to hear you speak like
this,' he said.
'It is best to say the truth.'
'But, Clara, if you intend to be my wife'
'Oh, no that is impossible now.' 'What is impossible?'
'Impossible that I should become your wife. Indeed I have convinced
myself that you do not wish it.'
'But I do wish it.'
'No no. If you will question your heart about it quietly, you will find
that you do not wish it.'
'You wrong me, Clara.'
'At any rate it cannot be so.'
'I will not take that answer from you,' he said, getting up from his
chair, and walking once up and down the room. Then he returned to it,
and repeated his words. 'I will not take that answer from you. An
engagement such as ours cannot be put aside like an old glove. You do
not mean to tell me that all that has been between us is to mean
nothing.' There was something now like feeling in his tone, something
like passion in his gesture, and Clara, though she had no thought of
changing her purpose, was becoming unhappy at the idea of his
'It has meant nothing,' she said. 'We have been like children together,
playing at being in love. It is a game from which you will come out
scatheless, but I have been scalded.'
'Well never mind. I do not mean to complain, and certainly not of you.'
'I have come here all the way from Yorkshire in order that things may
be put right between us.'
'You have been very good very good to come, and I will not say that I
regret your trouble. It is best, I think, that we should meet each
other once more face to face, so that we may understand each other.
There was no understanding anything during those terrible days at
Aylmer Park.' Then she paused, but as he did not speak at once she went
on. 'I do not blame you for anything that has taken place, but I am
quite sure of this that you and I could never be happy together as man
'I do not know why you say so; I do not indeed.'
'You would disapprove of everything that I should do. You do disapprove
of what I am doing now.'
'Disapprove of what?'
'I am staying with my friend, Mrs Askerton.'
He felt that this was hard upon him. As she had shown herself inclined
to withdraw herself from him, he had become more resolute in his desire
to follow her up, and to hold by his engagement. He was not employed
now in giving her another chance as he had proposed to himself to do
but was using what eloquence he had to obtain another chance for
himself. Lady Aylmer had almost made him believe that Clara would be
the suppliant, but now he was the suppliant himself. In his anxiety to
keep her he was willing even to pass over her terrible iniquity in
regard to Mrs Askerton that great sin which had led to all these
troubles. He had once written to her about Mrs Askerton, using very
strong language, and threatening her with his mother's full
displeasure. At that time Mrs Askerton had simply been her friend.
There had been no question then of her taking refuge under that woman's
roof. Now she had repelled Lady Aylmer's counsels with scorn, was
living as a guest in Mrs Askerton's house; and yet he was willing to
pass over the Askerton difficulty without a word. He was willing not
only to condone past offences, but to wink at existing iniquity! But
she she who was the sinner, would not permit of this. She herself
dragged up Mrs Askerton's name, and seemed to glory in her own shame.
'I had not intended,' said he, 'to speak of your friend.'
'I only mention her to show how impossible it is that we should ever
agree upon some subjects as to which a husband and wife should always
be of one mind. I knew this from the moment in which I got your letter
and only that I was a coward I should have said so then.'
'And you mean to quarrel with me altogether?'
'No why should we quarrel?'
'Why, indeed?' said he.
'But I wish it to be settled quite settled, as from the nature of
things it must be, that there shall be no attempt at renewal of our
engagement. After what has passed, how could I enter your mother's
'But you need not enter it.' Now, in his emergency he was willing to
give up anything everything. He had been prepared to talk her over into
a reconciliation with his mother, to admit that there had been faults
on both sides, to come down from his high pedestal and discuss the
matter as though Clara and his mother stood upon the same footing.
Having recognized the spirit of his lady-love, he had told himself that
so much indignity as that must be endured. But now, he had been carried
so far beyond this, that he was willing, in the sudden vehemence of his
love, to throw his mother over altogether, and to accede to any terms
which Clara might propose to him. 'Of course, I would wish you to be
friends,' he said, using now all the tones of a suppliant; 'but if you
found that it could not be so'
'Do you think that I would divide you from your mother?'
'There need be no question as to that.'
'Ah there you are wrong. There must be such questions. I should have
thought of it sooner.'
'Clara, you are more to me than my mother. Ten times more.' As he said
this he came up and knelt down beside her. 'You are everything to me.
You will not throw me over.' He was a suppliant indeed, and such
supplications are very potent with women. Men succeed often by the
simple earnestness of their prayers. Women cannot refuse to give that
which is asked for with so much of the vehemence of true desire.
'Clara, you have promised to be my wife. You have twice promised; and
can have no right to go back because you are displeased with what my
mother may have said. I am not responsible for my mother. Clara, say
that you will be my wife.' As he spoke he strove to take her hand, and
his voice sounded as though there were in truth something of passion in
THERE IS NOTHING TO TELL
Captain Aylmer had never before this knelt to Clara Amedroz. Such
kneeling on the part of lovers used to be the fashion because lovers in
those days held in higher value than they do now that which they asked
their ladies to give or because they pretended to do so. The forms at
least of supplication were used; whereas in these wiser days Augustus
simply suggests to Caroline that they two might as well make fools of
themselves together and so the thing is settled without the need of
much prayer. Captain Aylmer's engagement had been originally made
somewhat after this fashion. He had not, indeed, spoken of the thing
contemplated as a folly, not being a man given to little waggeries of
that nature; but he had been calm, unenthusiastic, and reasonable. He
bad not attempted to evince any passion, and would have been quite
content that Clara should believe that he married as much from
obedience to his aunt as from love for herself, had he not found that
Clara would not take him at all under such a conviction. But though she
had declined to come to him after that fashion though something more
than that had been needed still she had been won easily, and,
therefore, lightly prized. I fear that it is so with everything that we
value with our horses, our houses, our wines, and, above all, with our
women. Where is the man who has heart and soul big enough to love a
woman with increased force of passion because she has at once
recognized in him all that she has herself desired? Captain Aylmer
having won his spurs easily, had taken no care in buckling them, and
now found, to his surprise, that he was like to lose them. He had told
himself that he would only be too glad to shuffle his feet free of
their bondage; but now that they were going from him, he began to find
that they were very necessary for the road that he was to travel.
'Clara,' he said, kneeling by her side,' you are more to me than my
mother; ten times more!'
This was all new to her. Hitherto, though she had never desired that he
should assume such attitude as this, she had constantly been
unconsciously wounded by his coldness by his cold propriety and
unbending self-possession. His cold propriety and unbending
self-possession were gone now, and he was there at her feet. Such an
argument, used at Aylmer Park, would have conquered her would have won
her at once, in spite of herself; but now she was minded to be
resolute. She had sworn to herself that she would not peril herself, or
him, by joining herself to a man with whom she had so little sympathy,
and who apparently had none with her. But in what way was she to answer
such a prayer as that which was now made to her? The man who addressed
her was entitled to use all the warmth of an accepted lover. He only
asked for that which had already been given to him.
'Captain Aylmer ' she began.
'Why is it to be Captain Aylmer? What have I done that you should use
me in this way? It was not I who who made you unhappy at Aylmer Park.'
'I will not go back to that. It is of no use. Pray get up. It shocks me
to see you in this way.'
'Tell me, then, that it is once more all right between us. Say that,
and I shall be happier than I ever was before yes, than I ever was
before. I know how much I love you now, how sore it would be to lose
you. I have been wrong. I had not thought enough of that, but I will
think of it now.'
She found that the task before her was very difficult so difficult that
she almost broke down in performing it. It would have been so easy and,
for the moment, so pleasant to have yielded. He had his hand upon her
arm, having attempted to take her hand. In preventing that she had
succeeded, but she could not altogether make herself free from him
without rising. For a moment she had paused paused as though she were
about to yield. For a moment, as he looked into her eyes, he had
thought that he would again be victorious. Perhaps there was something
in his glance, some too visible return of triumph to his eyes, which
warned her of her danger. 'No!' she said, getting up and walking away
from him; 'no!'
'And what does "no" mean, Clara?' Then he also rose, and stood leaning
on the table. 'Does it mean that you will be forsworn?'
'It means this that I will not come between you and your mother; that I
will not be taken into a family in which I am scorned; that I will not
go to Aylmer Park myself or be the means of preventing you from going
'There need be no question of Aylmer Park.'
'There shall be none!'
'But, so much being allowed, you will be my wife?'
'No, Captain Aylmer no. I cannot be your wife. Do not press it further;
you must know that on such a subject I would think much before I
answered you. I have thought much, and I know that I am right.'
'And your promised word is to go for nothing?'
'If it will comfort you to say so, you may say it. If you do not
perceive that the mistake made between us has been as much your mistake
as mine, and has injured me more than it has injured you, I will not
remind you of it will never remind you of it after this.'
'But there has been no mistake and there shall be no injury.'
'Ah, Captain Aylmer you do not understand; you cannot understand. I
would not for worlds reproach you; but do you think I suffered nothing
from your mother?'
'And must I pay for her sins?'
'There shall be no paying, no punishment, and no reproaches. There
shall be none at least from me. But do not think that I speak in anger
or in pride I will not marry into Lady Aylmer's family.'
'This is too bad too bad! After all that is past, it is too bad!'
'What can I say? Would you advise me to do that which would make us
'It would not make me wretched. It would make me happy. It would
satisfy me altogether.'
'It cannot be, Captain Aylmer. It cannot be. When I speak to you in
that way, will you not let it be final?'
He paused a moment before he spoke again, and then he turned sharp upon
her. 'Tell me this, Clara; do you love me? Have you ever loved me?' She
did not answer him, but stood there, listening quietly to his
accusations. 'You have never loved me, and yet you have allowed
yourself to say that you did. Is not that true?' Still she did not
answer. 'I ask you whether that is not true?' But though he asked her,
and paused for an answer, looking the while full into her face, yet she
did not speak. And now I suppose you will become your cousin's wife?'
he said. 'It will suit you to change, and to say that you love him.'
Then at last she spoke. 'I did not think that you would have treated me
in this way, Captain Aylmer! I did not expect that you would insult me!'
'I have not insulted you.'
'But your manner to me makes my task easier than I could have hoped it
to be. You asked me whether I ever loved you? I once thought that I did
so; and so thinking, told you, without reserve, all my feeling. When I
came to find that I had been mistaken, I conceived myself bound by my
engagement to rectify my own error as best I could; and I resolved,
wrongly as I now think, very wrongly that I could learn as your wife to
love you. Then came circumstances which showed me that a release would
be good for both of us, and which justified me in accepting it. No girl
could be bound by any engagement to a man who looked on and saw her
treated in his own home, by his own mother, as you saw me treated at
Aylmer Park. I claim to be released myself, and I know that this
release is as good for you as it is for me.'
'I am the best judge of that.'
'For myself at any rate I will judge. For myself I have decided. Now I
have answered the questions which you asked me as to my love for
yourself. To that other question which you have thought fit to put to
me about my cousin, I refuse to give any answer whatsoever.' Then,
having said so much, she walked out of the room, closing the door
behind her, and left him standing there alone.
We need not follow her as she went up, almost mechanically, into her
own room the room that used to be her own and then shut herself in,
waiting till she should be assured, first by sounds in the house, and
then by silence, that he was gone. That she fell away greatly from the
majesty of her demeanour when she was thus alone, and descended to the
ordinary ways of troubled females, we may be quite sure. But to her
there was no further difficulty. Her work for the day was done. In due
time she would take herself to the cottage, and all would be well, or,
at any rate, comfortable with her. But what was he to do? How was he to
get himself out of the house, and take himself back to London? While he
had been in pursuit of her, and when he was leaving his vehicle at the
public- house in the village of Belton, he like some other invading
generals had failed to provide adequately for his retreat. When he was
alone he took a turn or two about the room, half thinking that Clara
would return to him. She could hardly leave him alone in a strange
house him, who, as he had twice told her, had come all the way from
Yorkshire to see her. But she did not return, and gradually he came to
understand that he must provide for his own retreat without assistance.
He was hardly aware, even now, how greatly he had transcended his usual
modes of speech and action, both in the energy of his supplication and
in the violence of his rebuke. He had been lifted for awhile out of
himself by the excitement of his position, and now that he was
subsiding into quiescence, he was unconscious that he had almost
mounted into passion that he had spoken of love very nearly with
eloquence. But he did recognize this as a fact that Clara was not to be
his wife, and that he had better get back from Belton to London as
quickly as possible. It would be well for him to teach himself to look
back on the result of his aunt's dying request as an episode in his
life satisfactorily concluded. His mother had undoubtedly been right.
Clara, he could see now, would have led him a devil of a life; and even
had she come to him possessed of a moiety of the property a supposition
as to which he had very strong doubts still she might have been dear at
the money. 'No real feeling,' he said to himself, as he walked about
the room 'none whatever; and then so deficient in delicacy!' But still
he was discontented because he had been rejected, and therefore tried
to make him. self believe that he could still have her if he chose to
persevere. 'But no,' he said, as he continued to pace the room, 'I have
done everything more than every. thing that honour demands. I shall not
ask her again. it is her own fault. She is an imperious woman, and my
mother read her character aright.' It did not occur to him, as he thus
consoled himself for what he had lost, that his mother's accusation
against Clara had been altogether of a different nature. When we
console ourselves by our own arguments, we are not apt to examine their
accuracy with much strictness.
But whether he were consoled or not, it was necessary that he should
go, and in his going he felt himself to be ill-treated. He left the
room, and as he went downstairs was disturbed and tormented by the
creaking of his own boots. He tried to be dignified as he walked
through the hall, and was troubled at his failure, though he was not
conscious of any one looking at him. Then it was grievous that he
should have to let himself out of the front door without attendance. At
ordinary times he thought as little of such things as most men, and
would not be aware whether he opened a door for himself or had it
opened for him by another but now there was a distressing awkwardness
in the necessity for self-exertion. He did not know the turn of the
handle, and was unfamiliar with the manner of exit. He was being
treated with indignity, and before he had escaped from the house had
come to think that the Amedroz and Belton people were somewhat below
him. He endeavoured to go out without a noise, but there was a slam of
the door, without which he could not get the lock to work; and Clara,
up in her own room, knew all about it.
'Carriage yes; of course I want the carnage,' he said to the
unfortunate boy at the public-house. 'Didn't you hear me say that I
wanted it?' He had come down with a pair of horses, and as he saw them
being put to the vehicle he wished he had been contented with one. As
he was standing there, waiting, a gentleman rode by, and the boy, in
answer to his question, told him that the horseman was Colonel
Askerton. Before the day was over Colonel Askerton would probably know
all that had happened to him. 'Do move a little quicker; will you?' he
said to the boy and the old man who was to drive him. Then he got into
the carriage, and was driven out of Belton, devoutly purposing that he
never would return; and as he made his way back to Perivale he thought
of a certain Lady Emily, who would, as he assured himself, have behaved
much better than Clara Amedroz had done in any such scene as that which
had just taken place.
When Clara was quite sure that Captain Aylmer was off the premises,
she, too, descended, but she did not immediately leave the house. She
walked through the room, and rang for the old woman, and gave certain
directions as to the performance of which she certainly was not very
anxious, and was careful to make Mrs Bunce understand that nothing had
occurred between her and the gentleman that was either exalting or
depressing in its nature. 'I suppose Captain Aylmer went out, Mrs
Bunce?' 'Oh yes, miss, a went out. I stood and see'd un from the top of
the kitchen stairs.' 'You might have opened the door for him, Mrs
Bunce.' 'Indeed then I never thought of it, miss, seeing the house so
empty and the like.' Clara said that it did not signify; and then,
after an hour of composure, she walked back across the park to the
'Well?' said Mrs Askerton as soon as Clara was inside the drawing-room.
'Well,' replied Clara.
'What have you got to tell? Do tell me what you have to tell.'
'I have nothing to tell.'
'Clara, that is impossible. Have you seen him? I know you have seen
him, because he went by from the house about an hour since.'
'Oh yes; I have seen him.'
'And what have you said to him?'
'Pray do not ask me these questions just now. I have got to think of it
all to think what he did say and what I said.'
'But you will tell me.'
'Yes; I suppose so.' Then Mrs Askerton was silent on the subject for
the remainder of the day, allowing Clara even to go to bed without
another question. And nothing was asked on the following morning
nothing till the usual time for the writing of letters.
'Shall you have anything for the post?' said Mrs Askerton.
'There is plenty of time yet.'
'Not too much if you mean to go out at all. Come, Clara, you had better
write to him at once.'
'Write to whom? I don't know that I have any letter to write at all.'
Then there was a pause. 'As far as I can see,' she said, 'I may give up
writing altogether for the future, unless some day you may care to hear
'But you are not going away.'
'Not just yet if you will keep me. To tell you the truth, Mrs Askerton,
I do not yet know where on earth to take myself.'
'Wait here till we turn you out.'
'I have got to put my house in order. You know what I mean. The job
ought not to be a troublesome one, for it is a very small house.'
'I suppose I know what you mean.'
'It will not be a very smart establishment. But I must look it all in
the face; must I not? Though it were to be no house at all, I cannot
stay here all my life.'
'Yes, you may. You have lost Aylmer Park because you were too noble not
to come to us.'
'No,' said Clara, speaking aloud, with bright eyes almost with her
hands clenched. 'No I deny that.'
'I shall choose to think so for my own purposes. Clara, you are savage
to me almost always savage; but next to him I love you better than all
the world beside. And so does he. "It's her courage," he said to me the
other day. "That she should dare to do as she pleases here, is nothing;
but to have dared to persevere in the fangs of that old dragon," it was
just what he said "that was wonderful!"'
'There is an end of the old dragon now, so far as I am concerned.'
'Of course there is and of the young dragon too. You wouldn't have had
the heart to keep me in suspense if you had accepted him again. You
couldn't have been so pleasant last night if that had been so.'
'I did not know I was very pleasant.'
'Yes, you were. You were soft and gracious gracious for you, at least.
And now, dear, do tell me about it. Of course I am dying to know.'
'There is nothing to tell.'
'That is nonsense. There must be a thousand things to tell. At any rate
it is quite decided?'
'Yes; it is quite decided.'
'All the dragons, old and young, are banished into outer darkness.'
'Either that, or else they are to have all the light to themselves.'
'Such light as glimmers through the gloom of Aylmer Park. And was he
contented? I hope not. I hope you had him on his knees before he left
'Why should you hope that? How can you talk such nonsense?'
'Because I wish that he should recognize what he has lost that he
should know that he has been a fool a mean fool.'
'Mrs Askerton, I will not have him spoken of like that. He is a man
very estimable of estimable qualities.'
'Fiddle-de-dee. He is an ape a monkey to be carried on his mother's
organ. His only good quality was that you could have carried him on
yours. I can tell you one thing there is not a woman breathing that
will ever carry William Belton on hers. Whoever his wife may be, she
will have to dance to his piping.'
'With all my heart and I hope the tunes will be good.'
'But I wish I could have been present to have heard what passed hidden,
you know, behind a curtain. You won't tell me?'
'I will tell you not a word more.'
'Then I will get it out from Mrs Bunce. I'll be bound she was
'Mrs Bunce will have nothing to tell you; I do not know why you should
be so curious.'
'Answer me one question at least when it came to the last, did he want
to go on with it? Was the final triumph with him or with you?'
'There was no final triumph. Such things, when they have to end, do not
'And is that to be all?' 'Yes that is to be all.'
'And you say that you have no letter to write.'
'None no letter; none at present; none about this affair. Captain
Aylmer, no doubt, will write to his mother, and then all those who are
concerned will have been told.'
Clara Amedroz held her purpose and wrote no letter, but Mrs Askerton
was not so discreet, or so indiscreet as the case might be. She did
write not on that day or on the next, but before a week had passed by.
She wrote to Norfolk, telling Clara not a word of her letter, and by
return of post the answer came. But the answer was for Clara, not for
Mrs Askerton, and was as follows:
'Plaistow Hall, April, 186
My dear Clara,
I don't know whether I ought to tell you but I suppose I may as well
tell you, that Mary has had a letter from Mrs Askerton. It was a kind,
obliging letter, and I am very grateful to her. She has told us that
you have separated yourself altogether from the Aylmer Park people. I
don't suppose you'll think I ought to pretend to be very sorry. I can't
be sorry, even though I know how much you have lost in a worldly point
of view. I could not bring myself to like Captain Aylmer, though I
tried hard.' Oh Mr Belton, Mr Belton! 'He and I never could have been
friends, and it is no use my pretending regret that you have quarrelled
with them. But that, I suppose, is all over, and I will not say a word
more about the Aylmers.
I am writing now chiefly at Mary's advice, and because she says that
something should be settled about the estate. Of course it is necessary
that you should feel yourself to be the mistress of your own income,
and understand exactly your own position. Mary says that this should be
arranged at once, so that you may be able to decide how and where you
will live. I therefore write to say that I will have nothing to do with
your father's estate at Belton nothing, that is, for myself. I have
written to Mr Green to tell him that you are to be considered as the
heir. If you will allow me to undertake the management of the property
as your agent, I shall be delighted. I think I could do it as well as
any one else: and, as we agreed that we would always be dear and close
friends, I think that you will not refuse me the pleasure of serving
you in this way.
And now Mary has a proposition to make, as to which she will write
herself tomorrow, but she has permitted me to speak of it first. If you
will accept her as a visitor, she will go to you at Belton. She thinks,
and I think too, that you ought to know each other. I suppose nothing
would make you come here, at present, and therefore she must go to you.
She thinks that all about the estate would be settled more comfortably
if you two were together. At any rate, it would be very nice for her
and I think you would like my sister Mary. She proposes to start about
the 10th of May. I should take her as far as London and see her off,
and she would bring her own maid with her. In this way she thinks that
she would get as far as Taunton very well. She had, perhaps, better
stay there for one night, but that can all be settled if you will say
that you will receive her at the house.
I cannot finish my letter without saying one word for myself. You know
what my feelings have been, and I think you know that they still are,
and always must be, the same. From almost the first moment that I saw
you I have loved you. When you refused me I was very unhappy; but I
thought I might still have a chance, and therefore I resolved to try
again. Then, when I heard that you were engaged to Captain Aylmer, I
was indeed broken-hearted. Of course I could not be angry with you. I
was not angry, but I was simply broken-hearted. I found that I loved
you so much that I could not make myself happy without you. It was all
of no use, for I knew that you were to be married to Captain Aylmer. I
knew it, or thought that I knew it. There was nothing to be done only I
knew that I was wretched. I suppose it is selfishness, but I felt, and
still feel, that unless I can have you for my wife, I cannot be happy
or car for anything. Now you are free again free, I mean, from Captain
Aylmer and how is it possible that I should not again have a hope?
Nothing but your marriage or death could keep me from hoping.
I don't know much about the Aylmers. I know nothing of what has made
you quarrel with the people at Aylmer Park nor do I want to know. To me
you are once more that Clara Amedroz with whom I used to walk in Belton
Park, with your hand free to be given wherever your heart can go with
it. While it is free I shall always ask for it. I know that it is in
many ways above my reach. I quite understand that in education and
habits of thinking you are my superior. But nobody can love you better
than I do. I sometimes fancy that nobody could ever love you so well.
Mary thinks that I ought to allow a time to go by before I say all this
again but what is the use of keeping it back? It seems to me to be more
honest to tell you at once that the only thing in the world for which I
care one straw is that you should be my wife.
Your most affectionate Cousin,
'Miss Belton is coming here, to the castle, in a fortnight,' said
Clara that morning at breakfast. Both Colonel Askerton and his wife
were in the room, and she was addressing herself chiefly to the former.
'Indeed, Miss Belton! And is he coming?' said Colonel Askerton.
'So you have heard from Plaistow?' said Mrs Askerton.
'Yes in answer to your letter. No, Colonel Askerton, my Cousin William
is not coming. But his sister purposes to be here, and I must go up to
the house and get it ready.'
'That will do when the time comes,' said Mrs Askerton.
'I did not mean quite immediately.'
'And are you to be her guest, or is she to be yours? said Colonel
'It's her brother's home, and therefore I suppose I must be hers.
Indeed it must be so, as I have no means of entertaining any one,'
'Something, no doubt, will be settled,' said the colonel.
'Oh, what a weary word that is,' said Clara; 'weary, at least, for a
woman's ears! It sounds of poverty and dependence, and endless trouble
given to others, and all the miseries of female dependence. If I were a
young man I should be allowed to settle for myself.'
'There would be no question about the property in that case,' said the
'And there need be no question now,' said Mrs Askerton.
When the two women were alone together, Clara, of course, scolded her
friend for having written to Norfolk without letting it be known that
she was doing so scolded her, and declared how vain it was for her to
make useless efforts for an unattainable end; but Mrs Askerton always
managed to slip out of these reproaches, neither asserting herself to
be right, nor owning herself to be wrong. 'But you must answer his
letter,' she said.
'Of course I shall do that.'
'I wish I knew what he said.'
'I shan't show it you, if you mean that.'
'All the same I wish I knew what he said.'
Clara, of course, did answer the letter; but she wrote her answer to
Mary, sending, however, one little scrap to Mary's brother. She wrote
to Mary at great length, striving to explain, with long and laborious
arguments, that it was quite impossible that she should accept the
Belton estate from her cousin. That subject, however, and the manner of
her future life, she would discuss with her dear Cousin Mary, when Mary
should have arrived. And then Clara said how she would go to Taunton to
meet her cousin, and how she would prepare William's house for the
reception of William's sister; and how she would love her cousin when
she should come to know her. All of which was exceedingly proper and
pretty. Then there was a little postscript, 'Give the enclosed to
William.' And this was the note to William:
Did you not say that you would be my brother? Be my brother always. I
will accept from your hands all that a brother could do; and when that
arrangement is quite fixed, I will love you as much as Mary loves you,
and trust you as completely; and I will be obedient, as a younger
sister should be.
Your loving Sister, C. A.'
'It's all no good,' said William Belton, as he crunched the note in
his hand. 'I might as well shoot myself. Get out of the way there, will
you?' And the injured groom scudded across the farm-yard, knowing that
there was something wrong with his master.
It was about the middle of the pleasant month of May when Clara
Amedroz again made that often repeated journey to Taunton, with the
object of meeting Mary Belton. She had transferred herself and her own
peculiar belongings back from the cottage to the house, and had again
established herself there so that she might welcome her new friend. But
she was not satisfied with simply receiving her guest at Belton, and
therefore she made the journey to Taunton, and settled herself for the
night at the inn. She was careful to get a bedroom for an 'invalid
lady', close to the sitting-room, and before she went down to the
station she saw that the cloth was laid for tea, and that the tea
parlour had been made to look as pleasant as was possible with an inn
She was very nervous as she stood upon the platform waiting for the new
comer to show herself. She knew that Mary was a cripple, but did not
know how far her cousin was disfigured by her infirmity; and when she
saw a pale-faced little woman, somewhat melancholy, but yet pretty
withal, with soft, clear eyes, and only so much appearance of a stoop
as to soften the hearts of those who saw her, Clara was agreeably
surprised, and felt herself to be suddenly relieved of an unpleasant
weight. She could talk to the woman she saw there, as to any other
woman, without the painful necessity of treating her always as an
invalid. 'I think you are Miss Belton?' she said, holding out her hand.
The likeness between Mary and her brother was too great to allow of
Clara being mistaken.
'And you are Clara Amedroz? It is so good of you to come to meet me!'
'I thought you would be dull in a strange town by yourself.'
'It will be much nicer to have you with me.'
Then they went together up to the inn; and when they had taken their
bonnets off, Mary Belton kissed her cousin. 'You are very nearly what I
fancied you,' said Mary.
'Am I? I hope you fancied me to be something that you could like.'
'Something that I could love very dearly. You are a little taller than
what Will said; but then a gentleman is never a judge of a lady's
height. And he said you were thin.'
'I am not very fat.'
'No; not very fat; but neither are you thin. Of course, you know, I
have thought a great deal about you. It seems as though you had come to
be so very near to us; and blood is thicker than water, is it not? If
cousins are not friends, who can be?'
In the course of that evening they became very confidential together,
and Clara thought that she could love Mary Belton better than any woman
that she had ever known. Of course they were talking about William, and
Clara was at first in constant fear lest some word should be said on
her lover's behalf some word which would drive her to declare that she
would not admit him as a lover; but Mary abstained from the subject
with marvellous care and tact. Though she was talking through the whole
evening of her brother, she so spoke of him as almost to make Clara
believe that she could not have heard of that episode in his life. Mrs
Askerton would have dashed at the subject at once; but then, as Clara
told herself, Mary Bolton was better than Mrs Askerton.
A few words were said about the estate, and they originated in Clara's
declaration that Mary would have to be regarded as the mistress of the
house to which they were going. 'I cannot agree to that,' said Mary.
'But the house is William's, you know,' said Clara.
'He says not.'
'But of course that must be nonsense, Mary.'
'It is very evident that you know nothing of Plaistow ways, or you
would not say that anything coming from William was nonsense. We are
accustomed to regard all his words as law, and when he says that a
thing is to be so, it always is so.'
'Then he is a tyrant at home.'
'A beneficent despot. Some despots, you know, always were beneficent.'
'He won't have his way in this thing.'
'I'll leave you and him to fight about that, my dear. I am so
completely under his thumb that I always obey him in everything. You
must not, therefore, expect to range me on your side.'
The next day they were at Belton Castle, and in a very few hours Clara
felt that she was quite at home with her cousin. On the second day Mrs
Askerton came up and called according to an arrangement to that effect
made between her and Clara. I'll stay away if you like it,' Mrs
Askerton had said. But Clara had urged her to come, arguing with her
that she was foolish to be thinking always of her own misfortune. 'Of
course I am always thinking of it,' she had replied, and always
thinking that other people are thinking of it. Your cousin, Miss
Belton, knows all my history, of course, But what matters? I believe it
would be better that everybody should know it. I suppose she's very
straight-laced and prim.'She is not prim at all,' said Clara. 'Well,
I'll come,' said Mrs Askerton, 'but I shall not be a bit surprised if I
hear that she goes back to Norfolk the next day.'
So Mrs Askerton came, and Miss Belton did not go back to Norfolk.
Indeed, at the end of the visit, Mrs Askerton had almost taught herself
to believe that William Belton had kept his secret, even from his
sister. 'She's a dear little woman,' Mrs Askerton afterwards said to
'Is she not?'
'And so thoroughly like a lady.'
'Yes; I think she is a lady.'
'A princess among ladies! What a pretty little conscious way she has of
asserting herself when she has an opinion and means to stick to it! I
never saw a woman who got more strength out of her weakness. Who would
dare to contradict her?'
'But then she knows everything so well,' said Clara.
'And how like her brother she is!'
'Yes there is a great family likeness.'
'And in character, too. I'm sure you'd find, if you were to try her,
that she has all his personal firmness, though she can't show it as he
does by kicking out his feet and clenching his fist.'
'I'm glad you like her,' said Clara.
'I do like her very much.'
'It is so odd the way you have changed. You used to speak of him as
though he was merely a clod of a farmer, and of her as a stupid old
maid. Now, nothing is too good to say of them.'
'Exactly, my dear and if you do not understand why, you are not so
clever as I take you to be.'
Life went on very pleasantly with them at Belton for two or three weeks
but with this drawback as regarded Clara, that she had no means of
knowing what was to be the course of her future life. During these
weeks she twice received letters from her Cousin Will, and answered
both of them. But these letters referred to matters of business which
entailed no contradiction to certain details of money due to the estate
before the old squire's death, and to that vexed question of Aunt
Winterfield's legacy, which had by this time drifted into Belton's
hands, and as to which he was inclined to act in accordance with his
cousin's wishes, though he was assured by Mr Green that the legacy was
as good a legacy as had ever been left by an old woman. 'I think,' he
said in his last letter,' that we shall be able to throw him over in
spite of Mr Green.' Clara, as she read this, could not but remember
that the man to be thrown over was the man to whom she had been
engaged, and she could not but remember also all the circumstances of
the intended legacy of her aunt's death, and of the scenes which had
immediately followed her death. It was so odd that William Belton
should now be discussing with her the means of evading all her aunt's
intentions and that he should be doing so, not as her accepted lover.
He had, indeed, called himself her brother, but he was in truth her
>From time to time during these weeks Mrs Askerton would ask her
whether Mr Belton was coming to Belton, and Clara would answer her with
perfect truth that she did not believe that he had any such intention.
'But he must come soon,' Mrs Askerton would say. And when Clara would
answer that she knew nothing about it, Mrs Askerton would ask further
questions about Mary Belton. 'Your cousin must know whether her brother
is coming to look after the property?' But Miss Belton, though she
heard constantly from her brother, gave no such intimation. If he had
any intention of coming, she did not speak of it. During all these days
she had not as yet said a word of her brother's love. Though his name
was daily in her mouth and latterly, was frequently mentioned by Clara
there had been no allusion to that still enduring hope of which Will
Belton himself could not but speak when he had any opportunity of
speaking at all. And this continued till at last Clara was driven to
suppose that Mary Belton knew nothing of her brother's hopes.
But at last there came a change a change which to Clara was as great as
that which had affected her when she first found that her delightful
cousin was not sale against love-making. She had made up her mind that
the sister did not intend to plead for her brother that the sister
probably knew nothing of the brother's necessity for pleading that the
brother probably had no further need for pleading When she remembered
his last passionate words, she could not but accuse herself of
hypocrisy when she allowed place in her thoughts to this latter
supposition. He had been so intently earnest! The nature of the man was
so eager and true! But yet, in spite of all that bad been said, of all
the fire in his eyes, and life in his words, and energy in his actions,
he had at last seen that his aspirations were foolish, and his desires
vain. It could not otherwise be that she and Mary should pass these
hours in such calm repose without an allusion to the disturbing
subject! After this fashion, and with such meditations as these, had
passed by the last weeks and then at last there came the change.
'I have had a letter from William this morning,' said Mary.
'And so have not I,' said Clara, and yet I expect to hear from him.'
'He means to be here soon,' said Mary.
'He speaks of being here next week.'
For a moment or two Clara had yielded to the agitation caused by her
cousin's tidings; but with a little gush she recovered her presence of
mind, and was able to speak with all the hypocritical propriety of a
female. 'I am glad to hear it,' she said. 'It is only right that he
'He has asked me to say a word to you as to the purport of his journey.'
Then again Clara's courage and hypocrisy were so far subdued that they
were not able to maintain her in a position adequate to the occasion.
'Well,' she said laughing, 'what is the word? I hope it is not that I
am to pack up, bag and baggage, and take myself elsewhere. Cousin
William is one of those persons who are willing to do everything except
what they are wanted to do. He will go on talking about the Belton
estate, when I want to know whether I may really look for as much as
twelve shillings a week to live upon.'
'He wants me to speak to you about about the earnest love he bears for
'Oh dear! Mary could you not suppose it all to be said? It is an old
trouble, and need not be repeated.'
'No,' said Mary, 'I cannot suppose it to be all said.' Clara looking up
as she heard the voice, was astonished both by the fire in the woman's
eye and by the force of her tone. 'I will not think so meanly of you as
to believe that such words from such a man can be passed by as meaning
nothing. I will not say that you ought to be able to love him; in that
you cannot control your heart; but if you cannot love him, the want of
such love ought to make you suffer to suffer much and be very sad.'
'I cannot agree to that, Mary.'
'Is all his life nothing, then? Do you know what love means with him
this love which he bears to you? Do you understand that it is
everything to him? that from the first moment in which he acknowledged
to himself that his heart was set upon you, he could not bring himself
to set it upon any other thing for a moment? Perhaps you have never
understood this; have never perceived that he is so much in earnest,
that to him it is more than money, or land, or health more than life
itself that he so loves that he would willingly give everything that he
has for his love? Have you known this?'
Clara would not answer these questions for a while. What if she had
known it all, was she therefore bound to sacrifice herself? Could it be
the duty of any woman to give herself to a man simply because a man
wanted her? That was the argument as it was put forward now by Mary
'Dear, dearest Clara,' said Mary Belton, stretching herself forward
from her chair, and putting out her thin, almost transparent, hand, 'I
do not think that you have thought enough of this; or, perhaps, you
have not known it. But his love for you is as I say. To him it is
everything. It pervades every hour of every day, every corner in his
life! He knows nothing of anything else while he is in his present
'He is very good more than good.'
'He is very good.'
'But I do not see that that Of course I know how disinterested he is.'
'Disinterested is a poor word. It insinuates that in such a matter
there could be a question of what people call interest.'
'And I know, too, how much he honours me.'
'Honour is a cold word. It is not honour, but love downright true,
honest love. I hope he does honour you. I believe you to be an honest,
true woman; and, as he knows you well, he probably does honour you but
I am speaking of love.' Again Clara was silent. She knew what should be
her argument if she were determined to oppose her cousin's pleadings;
and she knew also she thought she knew that she did intend to oppose
them; but there was a coldness in the argument to which she was averse.
'You cannot be insensible to such love as that!' said Mary, going on
with the cause which she had in hand.
'You say that he is fond of me.'
'Fond of you! I have not used such trifling expressions as that.'
'That he loves me.'
'You know he loves you. Have you ever doubted a word that he has spoken
to you on any subject?'
'I believe he speaks truly.'
'You know he speaks truly. He is the very soul of truth.'
'Well, Clara! But remember; do not answer me lightly. Do not play with
a man's heart because you have it in your power.'
'You wrong me. I could never do like that. You tell me that he loves me
but what if I do not love him? Love will not be constrained. Am I to
say that I love him because I believe that he loves me?'
This was the argument, and Clara found herself driven to use it not so
much from its special applicability to herself, as on account of its
general fitness. Whether it did or did not apply to herself she had no
time to ask herself at that moment; but she felt that no man could have
a right to claim a woman's hand on the strength of his own love unless
he had been able to win her love. She was arguing on behalf of women in
general rather than on her own behalf.
'If you mean to tell me that you cannot love him, of course I must give
over,' said Mary, not caring at all for men and women in general, but
full of anxiety for her brother. 'Do you mean to say that that you can
never love him?' It almost seemed, from her face, that she was
determined utterly to quarrel with her new-found cousin to quarrel and
to go at once away if she got an answer that would not please her.
'Dear Mary, do not press me so hard.'
'But I want to press you hard. It is not right that he should lose his
life in longing and hoping.'
'He will not lose his life, Mary.'
'I hope not not not if I can help it. I trust that he will be strong
enough to get rid of his trouble to put it down and trample it under
his feet.' Clara, as she heard this, began to ask herself what it was
that was to be trampled under Will's feet. 'I think he will be man
enough to overcome his passion; and then, perhaps you may regret what
you have lost.'
'Now you are unkind to me.'
'Well; what would you have me say? Do I not know that he is offering
you the best gift that he can give? Did I not begin by swearing to you
that he loved you with a passion of love that cannot but be flattering
to you? If it is to be love in vain, this to him is a great misfortune.
And, yet, when I say that I hope that he will recover, you tell me that
I am unkind.'
'No not for that.'
'May I tell him to come and plead for himself?'
Again Clara was silent, not knowing how to answer that last question.
And when she did answer it, she answered it thoughtlessly. 'Of course
he knows that he can do that.'
'He says that he has been forbidden.'
'Oh, Mary, what am I to say to you? You know it all, and I wonder that
you can continue to question me in this way.'
'Know all what?'
'That I have been engaged to Captain Aylmer.'
'But you are not engaged to him now.'
'No I am not.'
'And there can be no renewal there, I suppose?'
'Not even for my brother would I say a word if I thought'
'No there is nothing of that; but If you cannot understand, I do not
think that I can explain it.' It seemed to Clara that her cousin, in
her anxiety for her brother, did not conceive that a woman, even if she
could suddenly transfer her affections from one man to another, could
not bring herself to say that she had done so.
'I must write to him today,' said Mary, 'and I must give him some
answer. Shall I tell him that he had better not come here till you are
'That will perhaps be best,' said Clara.
'Then he will never come at all.'
'I can go can go at once. I will go at once. You shall never have to
say that my presence prevented his coming to his own house. I ought not
to be here. I know it now. I will go away, and you may tell him that I
'No, dear; you will not go.'
'Yes I must go. I fancied things might be otherwise, because he once
told me that he would be a brother to me. And I said I would hold him
to that not only because I want a brother so badly, but because I love
him so dearly. But it cannot be like that.'
'You do not think that he will ever desert you?'
'But I will go away, so that he may come to his own house. I ought not
to be here. Of course I ought not to be at Belton either in this house
or in any other. Tell him that I will be gone before he can come, and
tell him also that I will not be too proud to accept from him what it
may be fit that he should give me. I have no one but him no one but him
no one but him.' Then she burst into tears, and throwing hack her head,
covered her face with her hands.
Miss Belton, upon this, rose slowly from the chair on which she was
sitting, and making her way painfully across to Clara, stood leaning on
the weeping girl's chair. 'You shall not go while I am here,' she said.
'Yes; I must go. He cannot come till I am gone.'
'Think of it all once again, Clara. May I not tell him to come, and
that while he is coming you will see if you cannot soften your heart
'Soften my heart! Oh, if I could only harden it!'
'He would wait. If you would only hid him wait, he would be so happy in
'Yes till tomorrow morning. I know him. Hold out your little finger to
him, and he has your whole hand and arm in a moment.'
'I want you to say that you will try to love him.'
But Clara was in truth trying not to love him. She was ashamed of
herself because she did love the one man, when, but a few weeks since,
she had confessed that she loved another. She had mistaken herself and
her own feelings, not in reference to her cousin, but in supposing that
she could really have sympathized with such a man as Captain Aylmer. It
was necessary to her self-respect that she should be punished because
of that mistake. She could not save herself from this condemnation she
would not grant herself a respite because, by doing so, she would make
another person happy. Had Captain Aylmer never crossed her path, she
would have given her whole heart to her cousin. Nay; she had so given
it had done so, although Captain Aylmer had crossed her path and come
in her way. But it was matter of shame to her to find that this had
been possible, and she could not bring herself to confess her shame.
The conversation at last ended, as such conversations always do end,
without any positive decision. Mary wrote of course to her brother, but
Clara was not told of the contents of the letter. We, however, may know
them, and may understand their nature, without learning above two lines
of the letter. 'If you can be content to wait awhile, you will
succeed,' said Mary; 'but when were you ever content to wait for
anything?' ' If there is anything I hate, it is waiting,' said Will,
when he received the letter; nevertheless the letter made him happy,
and he went about his farm with a sanguine heart, as he arranged
matters for another absence. 'Away long?' he said, in answer to a
question asked him by his head man; 'how on earth can I say how long I
shall be away? You can go on well enough without me by this time, I
should think. You will have to learn, for there is no knowing how often
I may be away, or for how long.'
When Mary said that the letter had been written, Clara again spoke
about going. 'And where will you go?' said Mary.
'I will take a lodging in Taunton.'
'He would only follow you there, and there would be more trouble. That
would be all. He must act as your guardian, and in that capacity, at
any rate, you must submit to him.' Clara, therefore, consented to
remain at Belton; but, before Will arrived, she returned from the house
to the cottage.
'Of course I understand all about it,' said Mrs Askerton; 'and let me
tell you this that if it is not all settled within a week from his
coming here, I shall think that you are without a heart. He is to be
knocked about, and cuffed, and kept from his work, and made to run up
and down between here and Norfolk, because you cannot bring yourself to
confess that you have been a fool.'
'I have never said that I have not been a fool,' said Clara.
'You have made a mistake as young women will do sometimes, even when
they are as prudent and circumspect as you are and now you don't quite
like the task of putting it right.'
It was all true, and Clara knew that it was true. The putting right of
mistakes is never pleasant; and in this case it was so unpleasant that
she could not bring herself to acknowledge that it must be done. And
yet, I think that, by this time, she was aware of the necessity.
'I want her to have it all,' said William Belton to Mr Green, the
lawyer, when they came to discuss the necessary arrangements for the
'But that would be absurd.'
'Never mind. It is what I wish. I suppose a man may do what he likes
with his own.'
'She won't take it,' said the lawyer.
'She must take it, if you manage the matter properly,' said Will.
'I don't suppose it will make much difference,' said the lawyer 'now
that Captain Aylmer is out of the running.'
'I know nothing about that. Of course I am very glad that he should be
out of the running, as you call it. He is a bad sort of fellow, and I
didn't want him to have the property. But all that has had nothing to
do with it. I'm not doing it because I think she is ever to be my wife.'
>From this the reader will understand that Belton was still fidgeting
himself and the lawyer about the estate when he passed through London.
The matter in dispute, however, was so important that he was induced to
seek the advice of others besides Mr Green, and at last was brought to
the conclusion that it was his paramount duty to become Belton of
Belton. There seemed in the minds of all these councillors to be some
imperative and almost imperious requirement that the acres should go
back to a man of his name. Now, as there was no one else of the family
who could stand in his way, he had no alternative but to become Belton
of Belton. He would, however, sell his estate in Norfolk, and raise
money for endowing Clara with commensurate riches. Such was his own
plan but having fallen among counsellors he would not exactly follow
his own plan, and at last submitted to an arrangement in accordance
with which an annuity of eight hundred pounds a year was to be settled
upon Clara, and this was to lie as a charge upon the estate in Norfolk.
'It seems to me to be very shabby,' said William Belton.
'It seems to me to be very extravagant,' said the leader among the
counsellors. 'She is net entitled to sixpence.'
But at last the arrangement as above described was the one to which
they all assented.
When Belton reached the house which was now his own he found no one
there but his sister. Clara was at the cottage. As he had been told
that she was to return there, he had no reason to be annoyed. But,
nevertheless, he was annoyed, or rather discontented, and had not been
a quarter of an hour about the place before he declared his intention
to go and seek her.
'Do no such thing, Will; pray do not,' said his sister.
'And why not?'
'Because it will be better that you should wait. You will only injure
yourself and her by being impetuous.'
'But it is absolutely necessary that she should know her own position.
It would be cruelty to keep her in ignorance though for the matter of
that I shall be ashamed to tell her. Yes I shall be ashamed to look her
in the face. What will she think of it after I had assured her that she
should have the whole?'
'But she would not have taken it, Will. And had she done so, she would
have been very wrong. Now she will be comfortable.'
'I wish I could be comfortable,' said he.
'If you will only wait'
'I hate waiting. I do not see what good it will do. Besides, I don't
mean to say anything about that not today, at least. I don t indeed. As
for being here and not seeing her, that is out of the question. Of
course she would think that I had quarrelled with her, and that I meant
to take everything to myself, now that I have the power.'
'She won't suspect you of wishing to quarrel with her, Will'
'I should in her place. It is out of the question that I should be
here, and not go to her. It would be monstrous. I will wait till they
have done lunch, and then I will go up.'
It was at last decided that he should walk up to the cottage, call upon
Colonel Askerton, and ask to see Clara in the colonel's presence. It
was thought that he could make his statement about the money better
before a third person who could be regarded as Clara's friend, than
could possibly be done between themselves. He did, therefore, walk
across to the cottage, and was shown into Colonel Askerton's study.
'There he is,' Mrs Askerton said, as soon as she heard the sound of the
bell. 'I knew that he would come at once.'
During the whole morning Mrs Askerton had been insisting that Belton
would make his appearance on that very day the day of his arrival at
Belton, and Clara had been asserting that he would not do so.
'Why should he come?' Clara had said.
'Simply to take you to his own house, like any other of his goods and
'I am not his goods or his chattels.'
'But you soon will be; and why shouldn't you accept your lot quietly?
He is Belton of Belton, and everything here belongs to him.'
'I do not belong to him.'
'What nonsense! When a man has the command of the situation, as he has,
he can do just what he pleases. If he were to come and carry you off by
violence, I have no doubt the Beltonians would assist him, and say that
he was right. And you of course would forgive him. Belton of Belton may
'That is nonsense, if you please.'
'Indeed if you had any of that decent feeling of feminine inferiority
which ought to belong to all women, he would have found you sitting on
the doorstep of his house waiting for him.'
That had been said early in the morning, when they first knew that he
had arrived; but they had been talking about him ever since talking
about him under pressure from Mrs Askerton, till Clara had been driven
to long that she might be spared. 'If he chooses to come, he will
come,' she said. 'Of course he will come,' Mrs Askerton had answered,
and then they heard the ring of the hell. 'There he is. I could swear
to the sound of his foot. Doesn't he step as though he were Belton of
Belton, and conscious that everything belonged to him?' Then there was
a pause. 'He has been shown in to Colonel Askerton. What on earth could
he want with him?'
'He has called to tell him something about the cottage,' said Clara,
endeavouring to speak as though she were calm through it all.
'Cottage! Fiddlestick! The idea of a man coming to look after his
trumpery cottage on the first day of his showing himself as lord of his
own property! Perhaps he is demanding that you shall be delivered up to
him. If he does I shall vote for obeying.'
'And I for disobeying and shall vote very strongly too.'
Their suspense was yet prolonged for another ten minutes, and at the
end of that time the servant came in and asked if Miss Amedroz would be
good enough to go into the master's room. 'Mr Belton is there, Fanny?'
asked Mrs Askerton. The girl confessed that Mr Belton was there, and
then Clara, without another word, got up and left the room. She had
much to do in assuming a look of composure before she opened the door;
but she made the effort, and was not unsuccessful. In another second
she found her hand in her cousin's, and his bright eye was fixed upon
her with that eager friendly glance which made his face so pleasant to
those whom he loved.
'Your cousin has been telling me of the arrangements he has been making
for you with the lawyers,' said Colonel Askerton. 'I can only say that
I wish all the ladies had cousins so liberal, and so able to be
'I thought I would see Colonel Askerton first, as you are staying at
his house. And as for liberality there is nothing of the kind. You must
understand, Clara, that a fellow can't do what he likes with his own in
this country. I have found myself so bullied by lawyers and that sort
of people, that I have been obliged to yield to them. I wanted that you
should have the old place, to do just what you pleased with It.'
'That was out of the question, Will.'
'Of course it was,' said Colonel Askerton. Then, as Belton himself did
not proceed to the telling of his own story, the colonel told it for
him, and explained what was the income which Clara was to receive.
'But that is as much out of the question,' said she, 'as the other. I
cannot rob you in that way. I cannot and I shall not. And why should I?
What do I want with an income? Something I ought to have, if only for
the credit of the family, and that I am willing to take from your
'It's all settled now, Clara.'
'I don't think that you can lessen the weight of your obligation, Miss
Amedroz, after what has been done up in London,' said the colonel.
'If you had said a hundred a year'
'I have been allowed to say nothing,' said Belton; 'those people have
said eight and so it is settled. When are you coming over to see Mary?'
To this question he got no definite answer, and as he went away
immediately afterwards he hardly seemed to expect one. He did not even
ask for Mrs Askerton, and as that lady remarked, behaved altogether
like a bear. 'But what a munificent bear!' she said. 'Fancy eight
hundred a year of your own. One begins to doubt whether it is worth
one's while to marry at all with such an income as that to do what one
likes with! However, it all means nothing. It will all be his own again
before you have even touched it.'
'You must not say anything more about that,' said Clara gravely.
'And why must I not?'
'Because I shall hear nothing more of it. There is an end of all that
as there ought to be.'
'Why an end? I don't see an end. There will be no end till Belton of
Belton has got you and your eight hundred a year as well as everything
'You will find that he does not mean anything more,' said Clara.
'You think not?'
'I am sure of it.' Then there was a little sound in her throat as
though she were in some danger of being choked; but she soon recovered
herself, and was able to express herself clearly. 'I have only one
favour to ask you now, Mrs Askerton, and that is that you will never
say anything more about him. He has changed his mind. Of course he has,
or he would not come here like that and have gone away without saying a
'Not a word! A man gives you eight hundred a year and that is not
saying a word!'
'Not a word except about money! But of course he is right. I know that
he is right. Alter what has passed he would be very wrong to to think
about it any more. You joke about his being Belton of Belton. But it
does make a difference.'
'It does does it?'
'It has made a difference. I see and feel it now. I shall never hear
him ask me that question any more.'
'And if you did hear him, what answer would you make him?'
'I don't know.'
'That is just it. Women are so cross-grained that it is a wonder to me
that men should ever have any. thing to do with them. They have about
them some madness of a phantasy which they dignify with the name of
feminine pride, and under the cloak of this they believe themselves to
be justified in tormenting their lovers' lives out. The only
consolation is that they torment themselves as much. Can anything be
more cross-grained than you are at this moment? You were resolved just
now that it would be the most unbecoming thing in the world if he spoke
a word more about his love for the next twelve months'
'Mrs Askerton, I said nothing about twelve months.'
'And now you are broken-hearted because he did not blurt it all out
before Colonel Askerton in a business interview, which was very
properly had at once, and in which he has had the exceeding good taste
to confine himself altogether to the one subject.'
'I am not complaining.'
'It was good taste; though if he had not been a bear he might have
asked after me, who am fighting his battles for him night and day.'
'But what will he do next?'
'Eat his dinner, I should think, as it is now nearly five o'clock. Your
father used always to dine at five.'
'I can't go to see Mary,' she said, 'till he comes here again.'
'He will be here fast enough. I shouldn't wonder if he was to come here
tonight.' And he did come again that night.
When Belton's interview was over in the colonel's study, he left the
house without even asking after the mistress, as that mistress had
taken care to find out and went off, rambling about the estate which
was now his own. It was a beautiful place, and he was not insensible to
the gratification of being its owner. There is much in the glory of
ownership of the ownership of land and houses, of beeves and woolly
flocks, of wide fields and thick-growing woods, even when that
ownership is of late date, when it conveys to the owner nothing but the
realization of a property on the soil; but there is much more in it
when it contains the memories of old years; when the glory is the glory
of race as well as the glory of power and property. There had been
Beltons of Belton living there for many centuries, and now he was the
Belton of the day, standing on his own ground the descendant and
representative of the Beltons of old Belton of Belton without a flaw in
his pedigree! He felt himself to be proud of his position prouder than
he could have been of any other that might have been vouchsafed to him.
And yet amidst it all he was somewhat ashamed of his pride. 'The man
who can do it for himself is the real man after all,' he said. 'But I
have got it by a fluke and by such a sad chance too!' Then he wandered
on, thinking of the circumstances under which the property had fallen
into his hands, and remembering how and when and where the first idea
had occurred to him of making Clara Amedroz his wife. He had then felt
that if he could only do that he could reconcile himself to the
heirship. And the idea had grown upon him instantly, and had become a
passion by the eagerness with which he had welcomed it. From that day
to this he had continued to tell himself that he could not enjoy his
good fortune unless he could enjoy it with her. There had come to be a
horrid impediment in his way a barrier which had seemed to have been
placed there by his evil fortune, to compensate the gifts given to him
by his good fortune, and that barrier had been Captain Aylmer. He had
not, in fact, seen much of his rival, but he had seen enough to make it
matter of wonder to him that Clara could be attached to such a man. He
had thoroughly despised Captain Aylmer, and had longed to show his
contempt of the man by kicking him out of the hotel at the London
railway station. At that moment all the world had seemed to him to be
wrong and wretched.
But now it seemed that all the world might so easily be made right
again! The impediment had got itself removed. Belton did not even yet
altogether comprehend by what means Clara had escaped from the meshes
of the Aylmer Park people, but he did know that she had escaped. Her
eyes had been opened before it was too late, and she was a free woman
to be compassed if only a man might compass her. While she had been
engaged to Captain Aylmer, Will had felt that she was not assailable.
Though he had not been quite able to restrain himself as on that fatal
occasion when he had taken her in his arms and kissed her still he had
known that as she was an engaged woman, he could not, without insulting
her, press his own suit upon her. But now all that was over. Let him
say what he liked on that head, she would have no proper plea for
anger. She was assailable and, as this was so, why the mischief should
he not set about the work at once? His sister bade him wait. Why should
he wait when one fortunate word might do it? Wait! He could not wait.
How are you to bid a starving man to wait when you put him down at a
well-covered board? Here was he, walking about Belton Park just where
she used to walk with him and there was she at Belton Cottage, within
half an hour of him at this moment, if he were to go quickly; and yet
Mary was telling him to wait! No; he would not wait. There could be no
reason for waiting. Wait, indeed, till some other Captain Aylmer should
come in the way and give him more trouble!
So he wandered on, resolving that he would see his cousin again that
very day. Such an interview as that which had just taken place between
two such dear friends was not natural was not to be endured. What might
not Clara think of it! To meet her for the first time after her escape
from Aylmer Park, and to speak to her only on matters concerning money!
He would certainly go to her again on that afternoon. In his walking he
came to the bottom of the rising ground on the top of which stood the
rock on which he and Clara had twice sat. But he turned away, and would
not go up to it. He hoped that he might go up to it very soon but,
except under certain dream. stances, he would never go up to it again.
'I am going across to the cottage immediately after dinner,' he said to
'Have you an appointment?'
'No; I have no appointment. I suppose a man doesn't want an appointment
to go and see his own cousin down in the country.'
'I don't know what their habits are.'
'I shan't ask to go in; but I want to see her.'
Mary looked at him with loving, sorrowing eyes, but she said no more.
She loved him so well that she would have given her right hand to get
for him what he wanted but she sorrowed to think that he should want
such a thing so sorely. Immediately after his dinner, he took his hat
and went out without saying a word further, and made his way once more
across to the gate of the cottage. It was a lovely summer evening, at
that period of the year in which our summer evenings just begin, when
the air is sweeter and the flowers more fragrant, and the forms of the
foliage more lovely than at any other time. it was now eight o'clock,
but it was hardly as yet evening; none at least of the gloom of evening
had come, though the sun was low in the heavens. At the cottage they
were all sitting out on the lawn; and as Belton came near he was seen
by them, and he saw them.
'I told you so,' said Mrs Askerton, to Clara, in a whisper.
'He is not coming in,' Clara answered. 'He is going on.'
But when he had come nearer, Colonel Askerton called to him over the
garden paling, and asked him to join them. He was now standing within
ten or fifteen yards of them, though the fence divided them. 'I have
come to ask my Cousin Clara to take a walk with me,' he said. 'She can
be back by your tea time.' He made his request very placidly, and did
not in any way look like a lover.
'I am sure she will be glad to go,' said Mrs Askerton. But Clara said
'Do take a turn with me, if you are not tired,' said he.
'She has not been out all day, and cannot be tired,' said Mrs Askerton,
who had now walked up to the paling. 'Clara, get your hat. But, Mr
Belton, what have I done that I am to be treated in this way? Perhaps
you don't remember that you have not spoken to me since your arrival.'
'Upon my word, I beg your pardon,' said he, endeavouring to stretch his
hand across the bushes.
'I forgot I didn't see you this morning.'
'I suppose I musn't be angry, as this is your day of taking possession;
but it is exactly on such days as this that one likes to be remembered.'
'I didn't mean to forget you, Mrs Askerton; I didn't, indeed. And as
for the special day, that's all bosh, you know. I haven't taken
particular possession of anything that I know of.'
'I hope you will, Mr Belton, before the day is over,' said she. Clara
had at length arisen, and had gone into the house to fetch her hat. She
had not spoken a word, and even yet her cousin did not know whether she
was coming. 'I hope you will take possession of a great deal that is
very valuable. Clara has gone to get her hat.'
'Do you think she means to walk?'
'I think she does, Mr Belton. And there she is at the door. Mind you
bring her back to tea.'
Clara, as she came forth, felt herself quite unable to speak, or walk,
or look after her usual manner. She knew herself to be a victim to be
so far a victim that she could no longer control her own fate. To
Captain Aylmer, at any rate, she had never succumbed. In all her
dealings with him she had fought upon an equal footing. She had never
been compelled to own herself mastered. But now she was being led out
that she might confess her own submission, and acknowledge that
hitherto she had not known what was good for her. She knew that she
would have to yield. She must have known how happy she was to have an
opportunity of yielding; but yet yet, had there been any room for
choice, she thought she would have refrained from walking with her
cousin that evening. She had wept that afternoon because she had