Part 9 out of 9
thought that he would not come again; and now that he had come at the
first moment that was possible for him, she was almost tempted to wish
him once more away.
'I suppose you understand that when I came up this morning I came
merely to talk about business,' said Belton, as soon as they were off
'It was very good of you to come at all so soon after your arrival.'
'I told those people in London that I would have it all settled at
once, and so I wanted to have it off my mind.'
'I don't know what I ought to say to you. Of course I shall not want so
much money as that.'
'We won't talk about the money any more today. I hate talking about
'It is not the pleasantest subject in the world.'
'No,' said he; 'no indeed. I hate it particularly between friends. So
you have come to grief with your friends, the Aylmers?'
'I hope I haven't come to grief and the Aylmers, as a family, never
were my friends. I'm obliged to contradict you, point by point you see.'
'I don't like Captain Aylmer at all,' said Will, after a pause.
'So I saw, Will; and I dare say he was not very fond of you.' 'Fond of
me! I didn't want him to be fond of me. I don't suppose he ever thought
much about me. I could not help thinking of him.' She had nothing to
say to this, and therefore walked on silently by his side. 'I suppose
he has not any idea of coming back here again?'
'What; to Belton? No, I do not think he will come to Belton any more.'
'Nor will you go to Aylmer Park?'
'No; certainly not. Of all the places on earth. Will, to which you
could send me, Aylmer Park is the one to which I should go most
'I don't want to send you there.'
'You never could be made to understand what a woman she is; how
disagreeable, how cruel, how imperious, how insolent.'
'Was she so bad as all that?'
'Indeed she was, Will. I can't but tell the truth to you.
'And he was nearly as bad as she.'
'No, Will; no; do not say that of him.'
'He was such a quarrelsome fellow. He flew at me just because I said we
had good hunting down in Norfolk.'
'We need not talk about all that, Will.'
'No of course not. It's all passed and gone, I suppose.'
'Yes it is all passed and gone. You did not know my Aunt Winterfield,
or you would understand my first reason for liking him.'
'No,' said Will; 'I never saw her.'
Then they walked on together for a while without speaking, and Clara
was beginning to feel some relief some relief at first; but as the
relief came, there came back to her the dead, dull, feeling of
heaviness at her heart which had oppressed her after his visit in the
morning. She had been right, and Mrs Askerton had been wrong. He had
returned to her simply as her cousin, and now he was walking with her
and talking to her in this strain, to teach her that it was so. But of
a sudden they came to a place where two paths diverged, and he turned
upon her and asked her quickly which path they should take. 'Look,
Clara,' he said, 'will you go up there with me?' It did not need that
she should look, as she knew that the way indicated by him led up among
'I don't much care which way,' she said, faintly.
'Do you not? But I do. I care very much. Don't you remember where that
path goes?' She had no answer to give to this. She remembered well, and
remembered how he had protested that he would never go to the place
again unless he could go there as her accepted lover. And she had asked
herself sundry questions as to that protestation. Could it be that for
her sake he would abstain from visiting the prettiest spot on his
estate that he would continue to regard the ground as hallowed because
of his memories of her? 'Which way shall we go?' he asked.
'I suppose it does not much signify,' said she, trembling.
'But it does signify. It signifies very much to me. Will you go up to
'I am afraid we shall be late, if we stay out long.'
'What matters how late? Will you come?'
'I suppose so if you wish it, Will.'
She had anticipated that the high rock was to be the altar at which the
victim was to be sacrificed; but now he would not wait till he had
taken her to the sacred spot. He had of course intended that he would
there renew his offer; but he had perceived that his offer had been
renewed, and had, in fact, been accepted, during this little parley as
to the pathway. There was hardly any necessity for further words. So he
must have thought; for, as quick as lightning, he flung his arms around
her, and kissed her again, as he had kissed her on that other terrible
occasion that occasion on which he had felt that he might hardly hope
'William, William,' she said; 'how can you serve me like that?' But he
had a full understanding as to his own privileges, and was well aware
that he was in the right now, as he had been before that he was
trespassing egregiously. 'Why are you so rough with me?' she said.
'Clara, say that you love me.'
'I will say nothing to you because you are so rough.' They were now
walking up slowly towards the rocks.
And as he had his arm round her waist, he was contented for awhile to
allow her to walk without speaking. But when they were on the summit it
was necessary for him that he should have a word from her of positive
assurance. 'Clara, say that you love me.'
'Have I not always loved you, Will, since almost the first moment that
I saw you?'
'But that won't do. You know that is not fair. Come, Clara; I've had a
deal of trouble and grief too; haven't I? You should say a word to make
up for it that is, if you can say it.'
'What can a word like that signify to you today? You have got
'Have I got you?' Still she paused. 'I will have an answer. Have I got
you? Are you now my own?'
'I suppose so, Will. Don't now. I will not have it again. Does not that
'Tell me that you love me.'
'You know that I love you.'
'Better than anybody in the world?'
'Yes better than anybody in the world.'
'And after all you will be my wife?'
'Oh, Will how you question one!'
'You shall say it, and then it will all be fair and honest.'
'Say what? I'm sure I thought I had said everything.'
'Say that you mean to be my wife.'
'I suppose so if you wish it.'
'Wish it!' said he, getting up from his seat, and throwing his hat into
the bushes on one side; 'wish it! I don't think you have ever
understood howl have wished it. Look here, Clara; I found when I got
down to Norfolk that I couldn't live without you. Upon my word it is
true. I don't suppose you'll believe me.'
'I didn't think it could be so bad with you as that.'
'No I don't suppose women ever do believe. And I wouldn't have believed
it of myself. I hated myself for it. By George, I did. That is when I
began to think it was all up with me.'
'All up with you! Oh, Will!'
'I had quite made up my mind to go to New Zealand. I had, indeed. I
couldn't have kept my hands off that man if we had been living in the
same country. I should have wrung his neck.'
'Will, how can you talk so wickedly?'
'There's no understanding it till you have felt it. But never mind.
It's all right now; isn't it, Clara?'
'If you think so.'
'Think so! Oh, Clara, I am such a happy fellow. Do give me a kiss. You
have never given me one kiss yet.'
'What nonsense! I didn't think you were such a baby.'
'By George, but you shall or you shall never get home to tea to-night.
My own, own, own darling. Upon my word, Clara, when I begin to think
about it I shall be half mad.'
'I think you are quite that already.'
'No, I'm not but I shall be when I'm alone. What can I say to you,
Clara, to make you under. stand how much I love you? You remember the
song, "For Bonnie Annie Laurie I'd lay me down and dee". Of course it
is all nonsense talking of dying for a woman. What a man has to do is
to live for her. But that is my feeling. I'm ready to give you my life.
If there was anything to do for you, I'd do it if I could, whatever it
was. Do you understand me?'
'Dear Will! Dearest Will!'
'Am I dearest?'
'Are you not sure of it?'
'But I like you to tell me so. I like to feel that you are not ashamed
to own it. You ought to say it a few times to me, as I have said it so
very often to you.'
'You'll hear enough of it before you've done with me.'
'I shall never have heard enough of it. Oh, Heavens, only think, when I
was coming down in the train last night I was in such a bad way.'
'And are you in a good way now?'
'Yes; in a very good way. I shall crow over Mary so when I get home.'
'And what has poor Mary done?'
'I dare say she knows what is good for you better than you know
yourself. I suppose she has told you that you might do a great deal
better than trouble yourself with a wife?'
'Never mind what she has told me. It is settled now is it not?
'I hope so, Will.'
'But not quite settled as yet. When shall it be? That is the next
But to that question Clara positively refused to make any reply that
her lover would consider to be satisfactory. He continued to press her
till she was at last driven to remind him how very short a time it was
since her father had been among them; and then he was very angry with
himself, and declared himself to be a brute. 'Anything but that,' she
said. 'You are the kindest and the best of men but at the same time the
'That's what Mary says; but what's the good of waiting? She wanted me
to wait today.'
'And as you would not, you have fallen into a trap out of which you can
never escape. But pray let us go. What will they think of us?'
'I shouldn't wonder if they didn't think something near the truth.'
'Whatever they think, we will go back. It is ever so much past nine.'
'Before you stir, Clara, tell me one thing. Are you really happy?'
'And are you glad that this has been done?'
'Very glad. Will that satisfy you?'
'And you do love me?'
'I do I do I do. Can I say more than that?
'More than anybody else in the world?'
'Better than all the world put together.'
'Then,' said he, holding her tight in his arms, 'show me that you love
me.' And as he made his request he was quick to explain to her what,
according to his ideas, was the becoming mode by which lovers might
show their love. I wonder whether it ever occurred to Clara, as she
thought of it all before she went to bed that night, that Captain
Aylmer and William Belton were very different in their manners. And if
so, I must wonder further whether she most approved the manners of the
patient man or the man who was impatient.
About two months after the scene described in the last chapter, when
the full summer had arrived, Clara received two letters from the two
lovers the history of whose loves have just been told, and these shall
be submitted to the reader, as they will serve to explain the manner in
which the two men proposed to arrange their affairs. We will first have
Captain Aylmer's letter, which was the first read; Clara kept the
latter for the last, as children always keep their sweetest morsels.
'Aylmer Park, August 188
My dear Miss Amedroz,
I heard before leaving London that you are engaged to marry your cousin
Mr William Belton, and I think that perhaps you may be satisfied to
have a line from me to let you know that I quite approve of the
marriage.' 'I do not care very much for his approval or disapproval,'
said Clara as she read this. 'No doubt it will be the best thing you
can do, especially as it will heal all the sores arising from the
entail.' 'There never was any sore,' said Clara. 'Pray give my
compliments to Mr Belton, and offer him my congratulations, and tell
him that I wish him all happiness in the married state.' 'Married
fiddlestick!' said Clara. In this she was unreasonable; but the
euphonious platitudes of Captain Aylmer were so unlike the vehement
protestations of Mr Belton that she must be excused if by this time she
had come to entertain something of an unreasonable aversion for the
I hope you will not receive my news with perfect indifference when I
tell you that I also am going to be married. The lady is one whom I
have known for a long time, and have always esteemed very highly. She
is Lady Emily Tagmaggert, the youngest daughter of the Earl of Mull.'
Why Clara should immediately have conceived a feeling of supreme
contempt for Lady Emily Tagmaggert, and assured herself that her
ladyship was a thin, dry, cross old maid with a red nose, I cannot
explain; but I do know that such were her thoughts, almost
instantaneously, in reference to Captain Aylmer's future bride. 'Lady
Emily is a very intimate friend of my sister's; and you, who know how
our family cling together, will feel how thankful I must be when I tell
you that my mother quite approves of the engagement. I suppose we shall
be married early in the spring. We shall probably spend some months
every year at Perivale, and I hope that we may look forward to the
pleasure of seeing you sometimes as a guest beneath our roof.' On
reading this Clara shuddered, and made some inward protestation which
seemed to imply that she had no wish whatever to revisit the dull
streets of the little town with which she had been so well acquainted.
'I hope she'll be good to poor Mr Possit,' said Clara, 'and give him
port wine on Sundays.'
I have one more thing that I ought to say. You will remember that I
intended to pay my aunt's legacy immediately after her death, but that
I was prevented by circumstances which I could not control. I have paid
it now into Mr Green's hands on your account, together with the sum of
œ59 18s 3d., which is due upon it as interest at the rate of 5 per
cent. I hope that this may be satisfactory.' 'It is not satisfactory at
all,' said Clara, putting down the letter, and resolving that Will
Belton should be instructed to repay the money instantly. It may,
however, be explained here that in this matter Clara was doomed to be
disappointed; and that she was forced, by Mr Green's arguments, to
receive the money. 'Then it shall go to the hospital at Perivale,' she
declared when those arguments were used. As to that, Mr Green was quite
indifferent, but I do not think that the legacy which troubled poor
Aunt Winterfield so much on her dying bed was ultimately applied to so
worthy a purpose.
And now, my dear Miss Amedroz,' continued the letter, 'I will say
farewell, with many assurances of my unaltered esteem, and with
heartfelt wishes for your future happiness. Believe me to be always,
Most faithfully and sincerely yours,
FREDERIC F. AYLMER.
'Esteem!' said Clara, as she finished the letter. 'I wonder which he
esteems the most, me or Lady Emily Tagmaggert. He will never get beyond
esteem with any one.
The letter which was last read was as follows:
Plaistow, August 186 .
I don't think I shall ever get done, and I am coming to hate farming.
It is awful lonely here, too, and I pass all my evenings by myself,
wondering why I should be doomed to this kind of thing, while you and
Mary are comfortable together at Belton. We have begun with the wheat,
and as soon as that is safe I shall cut and run. I shall leave the
barley to Bunce. Bunce knows as much about it as I do and as for
remaining here all the summer, it's out of the question.
My own dear, darling love, of course I don't intend to urge you to do
anything that you don't like; but upon my honour I don't see the force
of what you say. You know I have as much respect for your father's
memory as anybody, but what harm can it do to him that we should be
married at once? Don't you think he would have wished it himself? It
can be ever so quiet. So long as it's done, I don't care a straw how
it's done. Indeed, for the matter of that, I always think it would be
best just to walk to church and to walk home again without saying
anything to anybody. I hate fuss and nonsense, and really I don't think
anybody would have a right to say anything if we were to do it at once
in that sort of way. I have had a bad time of it for the last
twelvemonth. You must allow that, and I think that I ought to be
As for living, you shall have your choice. Indeed you shall live
anywhere you please at Timbuctoo if you like it. I don't want to give
up Plaistow, because my father and grandfather farmed the land
themselves; but I am quite prepared not to live here. I don't think it
would suit you, because it has so much of the farm-house about it. Only
I should like you sometimes to come and look at the old place. What I
should like would be to pull down the house at Belton and build
another. But you mustn't propose to put it off till that's done, as I
should never have the heart to do it. If you think that would suit you,
I'll make up my mind to live at Belton for a constancy; and then I'd go
in for a lot of cattle, and don't doubt I'd make a fortune. I'm almost
sick of looking at the straight ridges in the big square fields every
day of my life.
Give my love to Mary. I hope she fights my battle for me. Pray think of
all this, and relent if you can. I do so long to have an end of this
purgatory. If there was any use, I wouldn't say a word; but there's no
good in being tortured, when there is no use. God bless you, dearest
love. I do love you so well!
Yours most affectionately,
She kissed the letter twice, pressed it to her bosom, and then sat
silent for half an hour thinking of it of it, and the man who wrote it,
and of the man who had written the other letter. She could not but
remember how that other man had thought to treat her, when it was his
intention and her intention that they two should join their lots
together how cold he had been; how full of caution and counsel; how he
had preached to her himself and threatened her with the preaching of
his mother; how manifestly he had purposed to make her life a sacrifice
to his life; how he had premeditated her incarceration at Perivale,
while he should be living a bachelor's life in London! Will Belton's
ideas of married life were very different. Only come to me at once now,
immediately, and everything else shall be disposed just as you please.
This was his offer. What he proposed to give or rather his willingness
to be thus generous, was very sweet to her; but it was not half so
sweet as his impatience in demanding his reward. How she doted on him
because he considered his present state to be a purgatory! How could
she refuse anything she could give to one who desired her gifts so
As for her future residence, it would be a matter of indifference to
her where she should live, so long as she might live with him; but for
him she felt that but one spot in the world was fit for him. He was
Belton of Belton, and it would not be becoming that he should live
elsewhere. Of course she would go with him to Plaistow Hall as often as
he might wish it; but Belton Castle should be his permanent
resting-place. It would be her duty to be proud for him, and therefore,
for his sake, she would beg that their home might be in Somersetshire.
'Mary,' she said to her cousin soon afterwards, 'Will sends his love to
'And what else does he say?'
'I couldn't tell you everything. You shouldn't expect it.'
'I don't expect it; but perhaps there may be something to be told.'
'Nothing that I need tell specially. You, who know him so well, can
imagine what he would say.'
'Dear Will! I am sure he would mean to write what was pleasant.'
Then the matter would have dropped had Clara been so minded but she, in
truth, was anxious to be forced to talk about the letter. She wished to
be urged by Mary to do that which Will urged her to do or, at least, to
learn whether Mary thought that her brother's wish might be gratified
without impropriety. 'Don't you think we ought to live here?' she said.
'By all means if you both like it.'
'He is so good so unselfish, that he will only ask me to do what I like
'And which would you like best?'
'I think he ought to live here because it is the old family property. I
confess that the name goes for something with me. He says that he would
build a new house.'
'Does he think he could have it ready by the time you are married?'
'Ah that is just the difficulty. Perhaps, after all, you had better
read his letter. I don't know why I should not show it to you. It will
only tell you what you know already that he is the most generous fellow
in all the world.' Then Mary read the letter. 'What am I to say to
him?' Clara asked. 'It seems so hard to refuse anything to one who is
so true, and good, and generous.'
'It is hard.'
'But you see my poor, dear father's death has been so recent.'
'I hardly know,' said Mary, 'how the world feels about such things.'
'I think we ought to wait at least twelve months,' said Clara, very
'Poor Will! He will be broken-hearted a dozen times before that. But
then, when his happiness does come, he will be all the happier.' Clara,
when she heard this, almost hated her cousin Mary not for her own sake,
but on Will's account. Will trusted so implicitly to his sister, and
yet she could not make a better fight for him than this! It almost
seemed that Mary was indifferent to her brother's happiness. Had Will
been her brother, Clara thought, and had any girl asked her advice
under similar circumstances, she was sure that she would have answered
in a different way. She would have told such girl that her first duty
was owing to the man who was to be her husband, and would not have said
a word to her about the feeling of the world. After all, what did the
feeling of the world signify to them, who were going to be all the
world to each other?
On that afternoon she went up to Mrs Askerton's; and succeeded in
getting advice from her also, though she did not show Will's letter to
that lady. 'Of course, I know what he says,' said Mrs Askerton. 'Unless
I have mistaken the man, he wants to be married tomorrow.'
'He is not so bad as that,' said Clara.
'Then the next day, or the day after. Of course he is impatient, and
does not see any earthly reason why his impatience should not be
'He is impatient.'
'And I suppose you hesitate because of your father's death?
'It seems but the other day does it not?' said Clara.
'Everything seems but the other day to me. It was but the other day
that I myself was married.'
'And, of course, though I would do anything I could that he would ask
me to do'
'But would you do anything?'
'Anything that was not wrong I would. Why should I not, when he is so
good to me?'
'Then write to him, my dear, and tell him that it shall be as he wishes
it. Believe me, the days of Jacob are over. Men don't understand
waiting now, and it's always as well to catch your fish when you can.'
'You don't suppose I have any thought of that kind?'
'I am sure you have not and I'm sure that he deserves no such thought
but the higher that are his deserts, the greater should be his reward.
If I were you, I should think of nothing but him, and I should do
exactly as he would have me.' Clara kissed her friend as she parted
from her, and again resolved that all that woman's sins should be
forgiven her. A woman who could give such excellent advice deserved
that every sin should be forgiven her. 'They'll be married yet before
the summer is over,' Mrs Askerton said to her husband that afternoon.
'I believe a man may have anything he chooses to ask for, if he'll only
ask hard enough.'
And they were married in the autumn, if not actually in the summer.
With what precise words Clara answered her lover's letter I will not
say; but her answer was of such a nature that he found himself
compelled to leave Plaistow, even before the wheat was garnered. Great
confidence was placed in Bunce on that occasion, and I have reason to
believe that it was not misplaced. They were married in September yes,
in September, although that letter of Will's was written in August, and
by the beginning of October they had returned from their wedding trip
to Plaistow. Clara insisted that she should be taken to Plaistow, and
was very anxious when there to learn all the particulars of the farm.
She put down in a little book how many acres there were in each field,
and what was the average produce of the land. She made inquiry about
four-crop rotation, and endeavoured, with Bunce, to go into the great
subject of stall-feeding. But Belton did not give her as much
encouragement as he might have done. 'We'll come here for the shooting
next year,' he said; 'that is, if there is nothing to prevent us.'
'I hope there'll be nothing to prevent us.'
'There might be, perhaps; but we'll always come if there is not. For
the rest of it, I'll leave it to Bunce, and just run over once or twice
in the year. It would not be a nice place for you to live at long.'
'I like it of all things. I am quite interested about the farm.'
'You'd get very sick of it if you were here in the winter. The truth is
that if you farm well, you must farm ugly. The picturesque nooks and
corners have all to be turned inside out, and the hedgerows must be
abolished, because we want the sunshine. Now, down at Belton, just
above the house, we won't mind farming well, but will stick to the
The new house was immediately commenced at Belton, and was made to
proceed with all imaginable alacrity. It was supposed at one time at
least Belton himself said that he so supposed that the building would
be ready for occupation at the end of the first summer; but this was
not found to be possible. 'We must put it off till May, after all,'
said Belton, as he was walking round the unfinished building with
Colonel Askerton. 'It's an awful bore, but there's no getting people
really to pull out in this country.'
'I think they've pulled out pretty well. Of course you couldn't have
gone into a damp house for the winter.'
'Other people can get a house built within twelve months. Look what
they do in London.'
'And other people with their wives and children die in consequence of
colds and sore throats and other evils of that nature. I wouldn't go
into a new house, I know, till I was quite sure it was dry.'
As Will at this time was hardly ten months married, he was not as yet
justified in thinking about his own wife and children; but he had
already found it expedient to make arrangements for the autumn, which
would prevent that annual visit to Plaistow which Clara had
contemplated, and which he had regarded with his characteristic
prudence as being subject to possible impediments. He was to be absent
himself for the first week in September, but was to return immediately
after that. This he did; and before the end of that month he was
justified in talking of his wife and family. 'I suppose it wouldn't
have done to have been moving now under all the circumstances,' he said
to his friend, Mrs Askerton, as he still grumbled about the unfinished
'I don't think it would have done at all, under all the circumstances,'
said Mrs Askerton.
But in the following spring or early summer they did get into the new
house and a very nice house it was, as will, I think, be believed by
those who have known Mr William Belton. And when they were well
settled, at which time little Will Belton was some seven or eight
mouths old little Will, for whom great bonfires had been lit, as though
his birth in those parts was a matter not to be regarded lightly; for
was he not the first Belton of Belton who had been born there for more
than a century? when that time came visitors appeared at the new Belton
Castle, visitors of importance, who were entitled to, and who received,
great consideration. These were no less than Captain Aylmer, Member for
Perivale, and his newly-married bride, Lady Emily Aylmer, n‚e
Tagmaggert. They were then just married, and had come down to Belton
Castle immediately after their honeymoon trip. How it had come to pass
that such friendship had sprung up or rather how it had been revived it
would be bootless here to say. But old affiances, such as that which
had existed between the Aylmer and the Amedroz families, do not allow
themselves to die out easily, and it is well for us all that they
should be long-lived. So Captain Aylmer brought his bride to Belton
Park, and a small fatted calf was killed, and the Askertons came to
dinner on which occasion Captain Aylmer behaved very well, though we
may imagine that he must have had some misgivings on the score of his
young wife. The Askertons came to dinner, and the old rector, and the
squire from a neighbouring parish, and everything was very handsome and
very dull. Captain Aylmer was much pleased with his visit, and declared
to Lady Emily that marriage had greatly improved Mi. William Belton.
Now Will had been very dull the whole evening, and very unlike the
fiery, violent, unreasonable man whom Captain Aylmer remembered to have
met at the station hotel of the Great Northern Railway.
'I was as sure of it as possible,' Clara said to her husband that night.
'Sure of what, my dear?'
'That she would have a red nose.'
'Who has got a red nose?'
'Don't be stupid, Will. Who should have it but Lady Emily?'
'Upon my word I didn't observe it.'
'You never observe anything, Will; do you? But don't you think she is
'Upon my word I don't know. She isn't as handsome as some people.'
'Don't be a fool, Will. How old do you suppose her to be?' 'How old?
Let me see. Thirty, perhaps.'
'If she's not over forty, I'll consent to change noses with her.'
'No we won't do that; not if I know it.'
'I cannot conceive why any man should marry such a woman as that. Not
but what she's a very good woman, I dare say; only what can a man get
by it? To be sure there's the title, if that's worth anything.' But
Will Belton was never good for much conversation at this hour, and was
too fast asleep to make any rejoinder to the last remark.