Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

If you

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

6

except under certain circumstances. She so, will it not be well that you should come
knew that those circumstances would nev- to me for a short time?
er come to piss; but yet neither would she “ Both William and I feel that just for
go there. She would never go there till the present, — for a little time, - you would
her cousin was married. Then, if in those perhaps prefer to be alone with me. He
days she should ever be present at Belton must go to Londen for a while, and then on
Ca-tle, she would creep up to the spot all to Belton, to settle your affairs and his. He
alone, and allow hersell to think of the old intends to be absent for six weeks.
days.

would not be afraid of the dulness of this
On the following morning there came to house for so long a time, pray come to us.
her a letter bearing the Downbam post- The pleasure to me would be very great,
mark, — but at the first glance she knew and I hope that you have some of that feeling,
that it was not from her cousin Will. Will which with me is so strong, that we ought
wrote with a bold round hand, that was ex- not to be any longer personally strangers to
tremely plain and caligraphic when he al- each other. You could then make up your
lowed himself time for the work in hand, mind as to what you would choose to do
as he did with the commencement of his afterwards. I think that by the end of thát
epistles. but which would become confused time, —that is, when William returns, - my
and altogether anti-caligraphic when he uncle and aunt from Sleaford will be with
fell into a hurry towards the end of his us. He is a clergyman, you know; and if
per'ormance, as was his wont. But the you then like to remain, they will be de-
address of this letter was written in a pret- light-d to make your acquaintance.
ty, small, female hand, - very careful in “ It seems to be a long journey for a
the perfection of every letter, and very young lady to make alone, from Belton to
neat in every stroke. It was from Marv Plaistow; but travelling is so easy now-a-
Belton, between whom and Clara there had days, and young ladies seem to be so inde-
never hitherto been occasion for correspon- pendent that you may be able to manage
dence. The letter was as follows:

it. Hoping to see you soon,

I remain
Your affectionate Cousin,

• MARY BELTON."
“Plaistow Hall, April, 186—.
“ MY DEAR Cousin CLARA,

This letter she received before breakfast, “ William has heard from your friends and was therefore able to read it in solitude, at Belton, who are tenants on the estate, and to keep its receipt from the knowledge and as to whom there seems to be some of Mrs. Askerton, if she should be so mindquestion whether they are to remain. He ed. She understood at once all that it inhas written, saying, I believe, that there tended to convey, - a hint that Plaistow need be no difficulty if they wish to stay Hall would be a better resting-place for her there. But we learn, also, from Mrs. Ask than Mrs. Askerton's cottage; and an assurerton's letter, that you are expected at the ance that if she would go to Plaistow Hall cottage, and therefore I will address this for ber 'convenience, no advantage should to Belton, supposing that it may find you be taken of her presence there by the there.

owner of the house for his convenience. As “ You and I have never yet known each she sat thinking of the offer which had other ; which has been a grief to'me; been made to her she fancied that she could but this grief, I hope, may be cured some see and hear her cousin Will as he discussday before long. I myself, as you know, ed the matter with his sister, and with a half am such a poor creature that I cannot go assumption of surliness declared his own about the world to see my friends as other intention of going away. Captain Aylmer people do; - at least, not very well; and after that interview in London had spoken therelore I write to you with the object ot of Belton's conduct as being unpardonable ; asking you to come and see me here. This but Clara had not only pardoned him, but is an interesting old house in its way; and had, in her own mind, pronounced his virthough I must not conceal from you that tues to be so much greater than his vices life here is very, very quiet, I would do my as to make him almost perfect. “ But I best to make the days pass pleasantly with will not drive him out of his own house," you. I had heard that you were gone to she said. " What does it matter where I Aylmer Park.

Indeed, William told me of go?" his taking you up to London. Now it seems “ Colonel Askerton has had a letter from you have left Yorkshire, and I suppose you your cousin,” said Mrs. Askerton as soon will not return there very soon. If it be l as the two ladies were alone together.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

“ And what does he say?”

“ I thought I had invited myself.” “ Not a word about you.

“ No; I asked you to come, and when I “ So much the better. I have given him asked you I knew that I

was wrong trouble enough, and am glad to think that Though I meant to be kind, I knew that he should be free of me for a while. Is I was unkind. I saw that my husband disColonel Askerton to stay at the cottage ?” approved it, though he had not the heart

Now, Clara, you are a hypocrite. You to tell me so. I wish he had. I wish be know that you are a hypocrite.”

had.” Very likely, - but I don't know why you “ Mrs. Askerton, I cannot tell you how should accuse me just now.”

much you wrong yourself, and how you “Yes, you do. Have not you heard from wrong me also. I am more than contented Norfolk also ?”

to be here." “Yes; - I have.”

“But

you

should not be contented to be “I was sure of it. I knew he would here. It is just that. In learning to love never have written in that way, in answer me,

or rather, perhaps, to pity me, you to my letter, ignoring your visit here lower yourself. Do you think that I do not altogether, unless he had written to you see it all, and know it all? Of course it is also."

bad to be alone, but I have no right not to “. But he has not written to me. My let- be alone.”. There was nothing for Clara to ter is from his sister. There it is.” Where- do but to draw herself once again close to upon she handed the letter to Mrs. Asker- the poor woman, and to embrace her with ton, and waited patiently while it was being protestations of fair, honest, equal regard read. Her friend returned it to her with- and friendship. “Do you think I do not out a word, and Clara was the first to speak understand that letter ? ” continued Mrs. again. - It is a nice letter, is it not? I Askerton. “ If it had come from Lady never saw her you know.”

Aylmer I could have laughed at it, because “ So she says."

I believe Lady Aylmer to be an overbear“But is it not a kind letter ?”

ing virago, whom it is good to put down in I suppose it is meant for kindness. It every way possible. But this comes from a is not very complimentary to me. It pre- pure-minded woman, one whom I believe sumes that such a one as I may be treated to be little given to harsh judgments on without the slightest consideration. And her fellow-sinners; and she tells you in her So I may. It is only fit that I should be so calm wise way that it is bad for you to be treated. If you ask my advice, I advise here with me.” you to go at once; at once.”

“ She says nothing of the kind.” * But I have not asked your advice, dear;

“ But does she not mean it ? Tell me nor do I intend to ask it."

honestly ; - do you not know that she "You, would not have shown it me if you means it ?' had not intended to go.”

“I am not to be guided by what she " How unreasonable you are! You told means.” me just now that I was a hypocrite, for not " But you are to be guided by what her telling you of my letter, and now you are brother means. It is to come to that, and angry with me because I have shown it you may as well bend your neck at once. you."

It is to come to that, and the sooner the “I am not angry. I think you have been better for you. It is easy to see that you quite right to show it me. I don't know how are badly off for guidance when you take else you could have acted upon it.”

up me as your friend.” When she had so * But I do not mean to act upon it. I spoken Mrs. Askerton got up and went to shall not go to Plaistow. There are two the door. “ No, Clara, do not come with reasons aguinst it, each sufficient. I shall me; not now,” she said, turning to her not leave you quite yet, - unless you send companion, who had risen as though to me awav; and I shall not cause my cousin follow her." I will come to you soon, but to be turned out of his own house."

I would rather be alone now. And, look * Why should he be turned out? Why here, dear; you must answer your cousin's should you not go to him? You love him; letter. Do so at once, and say that you - an i as for him, he is more in love than will go to Plaistow. In any event it will be any man I ever knew. Go to Plaistow better for you.” Húl, and everything will run smooth.” Clara, when she was alone, did answer *No, d-ar; I shall not do that."

her cousin's letter, but she did not accept " Then you are foolish. I am bound to the invitation that had been given her.. tell you so, as I have inveigled you here."

She assured Miss Belton that she was most

very animated.

anxious to know her, and hoped that she said. “ Though he may be able to make it
might do so before long either at Plaistow over to me, I can give it buk again.”
or at Belton ; but that at present she was “I think not. In such a matter as this a
under an engagement to stay with her lady in your position can only be guided by
friend Mrs. Askerton. In an hour or two her natural advisers, her father's lawyer
Mrs. Askerton returned, and Clara handed and other family friends."
to her the note to read. “Then all I can “ I don't know why a young lady should
say is you are very silly, and don't know be in any way different from an old gentle-
on which side your bread is buttered.” It man.
was evident from Mrs. Askerton's voice “But an old gentleman would not hesi-
that she had recovered her mood and tone tate under such circumstances. The entai)
of mind “I don't suppose it will much in itself was a cruelty, and the operation of
signify, as it will all come right at last,” it on your poor brother's death was addi-
she said afterwards. And then, after lunch- tionally cruel.”
eon, when she had been for a few minutes * It is cruel that any one should be poor,"
with her busband in his own room, she told argued Clara ; “ but that does not take
Clara that the Colonel wanted to speak to away the right of a rich man to his prop-
her. * You'll find him as grave as a judge, erty.”
for he has got something to say to you in There was much more of this sort said
earnest. Nobody can be so stern as he is between them, till Clara was at any rate
when he chooses to put on his wig and convinced that Colovel Askerton believed
gown.” So Clara went into the Colonel's that she ought to be the owner of the prop-
study, and seated herself in a chair which erty. And then at last he ventured upon
he had prepared for her.

another argument which soon drove Clara She remained there for over an hour, and out of the room. “ There is, I believe, one during the hour the conversation became way in which it can all be made right,”

Colonel Askerton's as- said he. sumed gravity had given way to ordinary " What way ? ” said Clara, forgetting in eagerness, during which he had walked her eagerness the obviousness of the mode about the room in the vehemence of his which her companion was about to point argument; and Clara, in answering him, out. had also put forth all her strength. She “Of course, I know nothing of this myhad expected that he also was going to self,” he said smiling ; " but Mary thinks speak to her on the propriety of her going that you and your cousin might arrange it to Norfolk ; but he made no allusion to that between you if you were together.” subject, although all that he did say was “ You must not listen to what she says. founded on Will Belton's letter to himself. about that, Colonel Askerton.” Belton, in speaking of the cottage, bad “ Must I not ? Well; I will not listen to told Colonel `Askerton that Miss Amedroz more than I can help; but Mary, as you would be his future landlord, and had then know, is a persistent talker. 1. at any rate, gone on to explain that it was his, Belton's, have done my conmission.” Then Clara intention to destroy the entail, and allow left him, and was alone for what remained the property to descend from the father to of the afternoon. the daughter. “ As Miss Ainedroz is with It could not be, she said to berself, that you now," he said, “ may I beg you to take the property ought to be hers. It would the trouble to explain the matier to her at make her miserable, were she once to feel length, and to make her understand that that she had accepted it. Some small althe estate is now, at this moment in fact, lowance out of it, coming to her from the her own. Her possession of it does not brotherly love of her couisin,

some moddepend on any act of hers, — or, indeed, erate stipend sufficient for her livelihood, upon her own will or wish in the matter.” she thought she could accept from him. Ic On this subject Colonel Askerton had seemed to her that it was her destiny to be argued, using all his skill to make Clara in dependent on charity, to eat bread given truth perceive that she was her father's to her from the benevolence of a friend ; heiress, — through the generosity undoubt- and she thought that she could endure his edly of her cousin, and that she had no benevole nce better than that of any other. alternative but to assume the possession Benevolence from Aylmer Park or from which was thus thrust upon her.

Perivale would be altogether unendurable. And so eloquent was the Colonel that But why should it not be as Colonel Clara was staggered, "hough she was not Askerton had proposed? That this cousin convinced. “It is quite impossible,” she others loved her with all his heart, — with

[ocr errors]

But yet,

- yet -!

a constancy for which she had at first given cannot see more plainly than that. She is him no credit, she was well aware. And as a scheming, artful young woman, who is regarded herself, she loved him better than playing a regular game to catch a husall the world beside. She had at last be- band.” come conscious that she could not now “ If that were so, she would have been marry Captain Aylmer without sin, with- more humble to you, ma'am” out false vows, and fatal injury to herself “ Not a bit, Fred. That's just it. That and him. To the prospect of that marriage, has been her cleverness. She tried that on as her future fate, an end must be put at at first, and found that she could not get any rate,

an end, if that which had al- round me. Don't allow yourself to be deready taken place was not to be regarded ceived by that, I pray. And then there is as end enough. But yet she had been en- no knowing how she may be bound up with gaged to Captain Aylmer, was engaged those horrid people, so that she cannot to him even now. When last her cousin throw them over even if she would.” had mentioned to her Captain Aylmer's “I don't think you understand her, name she had declared that she loved him ma'am.” still. How then could she turn round now, " Oh;- very well. But I understand and so soon accept the love of another man? this, and you had better understand it too; How could she bring herself to let her cous- - that she will never again enter a house in assume to himself the place of a lover, of which I am the mistress; nor can I ever when it was but the other day that she had enter a house in which she is received. If rebuked him for expressing the faintest you choose to make her your wife after hope in that direction?

that, I have done.” Lady Aylmer had not

As for going to done, or nearly done; but we need hear no Plaistow, that was quite out of question. more of her threats or entreaties. Her son

“So you are to be the heiress, after all,” left Aylmer Park immediately after Easter said Mrs. Askerton to her that night in her Sunday, and as he went, the mother, nodbed-room.

ding her head, declared to her daughter “ No;

I am not to be the heiress, after that that marriage would never come off, all,” said Clara, rising against her friend let Clara Amedroz be ever so sly, or ever impetuously.

so clever. * You'll have to be lady of Belton in one “ Think of what I have said to you, way or the other at any rate,” said Mrs. Fred,” said Sir Anthony, as he took his Askerton.

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 Lon

don, intending to follow Clara down to “I SUPPOSE now, my dear, it may be con- Belton. He hardly knew his own mind on sidered that everything is settled about this matter of his purposed marriage. He that young lady,” said Lady Aylmer to her was almost inclined to agree with his father son, on the same day that Miss Amedroz that he was very well off as he was. He left Aylmer Park.

was almost inclined to agree with his mother “ Nothing is settled, ma'am,” said the in her condemnation of Clara's conduct. Captain.

He was almost inclined to think that he • You don't mean to tell me that after had done enough towards keeping the promwhat has passed you intend to follow her ise made to his aunt on her deathbed,

but still he was not quite contented with " I shall certainly endeavor to see her himself. He desired to be honest and true,

as far as his ideas went of honesty and. " Then, Frederic, I must tell you that truth, and his conscience told him that you are very wrong indeed; — almost worse Clara had been treated with cruelty by than wrong. I would say wicked, only his mother. I am inclined to think that feel sure that you will think better of it. Lady Aylmer, in spite of her high experiYou cannot mean to tell me that you would ence and character for wisdom, had not

marry her after what has taken place ?" fought her battle altogether well. No man

“ The question is whether she would likes to be talked out of his marriage by his marry me.

mother, and especially not so when the talk" That is nonsense, Frederic. I wonder ing takes the place of threats. When she told that you, who are generally so clear-sighted, | him that under no circumstances would she

LIVING AGE. VOL. XXXII. 1442.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

MISS AMEDROZ IS PURSUED.

up any further.”

again."

THIRD SERIES

again know Clara Amedroz, he was driven me himself.” This was not strictly true. by his spirit of manhood to declare to bim- Clara had mentioned it to him; but Belton self that that menace from her should not had come into the room immediately afterhave the slightest influence on him. The wards, and Captain Aylmer might probably word or two which his father said was more have been mistaken. effective. After all it might be better for “He's quite in earnest,” said Mr. Green. him in his peculiar position to have no wife “Of course, I can say nothing, Mr. at all. He did begin to believe that he Green, as I am myself so nearly interested had no need for a wife. He had never in the matter. It is a great question, no before thought so much of his father's ex- doubt, how far such an entail as that should ample as he did now. Clara was mani- be allowed to operate." festly a hot-tempered woman, - a very hot

" I think it should stand as a matter of tempered woman indeed! Now his mother course. I think Belton is wrong," said Mr. was also a hot-tempered woman, and he Green. could see the result in the present condition Of course I can give no opinion,” said of his father's life. He re-olved that he the other. would follow Clara to Belton, so that some " I'll tell you what you can do, Captain final settlement might be made between Aylmer. You can suggest to Miss Amethem; but in coming to this resolution he droz that there should be a compromise. acknowledged to himself that should she de- Let them divide it. They are both clients cide against him he would not break his of mine, and in that way I shall do my duty heart. She, however, should have her to each. Let them divide it. Belton has chance. Undoubtedly it was only right money enough to buy up the other moiety, that she should have her chance.

and in that way would still be Belton of But the difficulty of the circumstances in Belton." which he was placed was so great, that it Captain Aylmer had not the slightest was almost impossible for him to make up objection to such a plan. Indeed, he rehis mind fixedly to any purpose in reference garded it as in all respects a wise and saluto Clara. As he passed through London tary arrangement. The moiety of the Belon his way to Belton he called at Mr. ton Estate might probably be worth twentyGreen's chambers with reference to that five thousand pounds, and the addition of sum of fifteen hundred pounds, which it such a sum as that to his existing means was now absolutely necessary that he should would make all the difference in the world make over to Miss Amedroz, and from Mr. as to the expedience of his marriage. His Green he learned that William Belton had father's arguments would all fall to the given positive instructions as to the destina- ground if twenty-five thousand pounds tion of the Belton Estate. He would not were to be obtained in this way; and he inherit it, or have anything to do with it had but little doubt that such a change in under the entail, – from the effects of which affairs would go far to mitigate his mother's he desired to be made entirely free. Mr. wrath. But he was by no means mercenary Green, who knew that Captain Aylmer in his views; so, at least, he assured himwas engaged to marry his client, and who self. Clara should have her chance with knew nothing of any interruption to that or without the Belton Estate, – or with or agreement, felt no hesitation in explaining without the half of it. He was by no all this to Captain Aylmer. “I suppose means mercenary. Had he not made his you had heard of it before,” said Mr. Green. offer to her, and repeated it almost with Captain Aylmer certainly had heard of it, obstinacy, when she had no prospect of any and had been very much struck by the fortune He could always remember that

but up to this moment he had not of himself at least ; and remembering that quite believed in it. Coming simply from now, he could take a delight in these bright William Belton to Ciara Amedroz, such an money prospects without having to accuse offer might be no more than a strong argu- himself in any degree of mercenary motives. ment used in love-making. “ Take back This fortune was a godsend wbich he could the property, but take me with it, of take with clean bands; -- if only he should

That Captain Aylmer thought ultimately be able to take the lady who might have been the correct translation of possessed the fortune! Mr. William Belton's romance. But he From London he wrote to Clara, telling was forced to look at the matter differently her that he proposed to visit her at Belton. when he found that it had been put into a His letter was written before he had seen lawyer's hands.

“Yes,” said be, “ I have Mr. Green, and was not very fervent in its heard of it. Mr. Belton mentioned it to expressions; but, nevertheless, it was a fair

idea;

• course.

« VorigeDoorgaan »