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he chooses to come, he will come,” she said. said she, “ as the other. I cannot rob you
" He has been " It's all settled now, Clara."
weight of your obligation, Miss Amedroz, “ He has called to tell him something after what has been done up in London," about the cottage,” said Clara, endeavour- said the Colonel. ing to speak as though she were calm “ If you had said a hundred a year". through it all.
“I have been allowed to say nothing," Cottage! Fiddlestick! The idea of a said Belton; “ those people have said eight, man coming to look after his trumpery cot- and so it is settled. When are you comtage on the first day of his showing himself ing over to see Mary ? ” as lord of his own property! Perhaps he is To this question he got no definite andemanding that you shall be delivered up swer, and as he went away immediately to him. If he does, I shall vote for obey- afterwards he hardly seemed to expect one. ing."
He did not even ask for Mrs. Askerton, and, * And I for disobeying, -- and shall vote as that lady remarked, behaved altogether very strongly, too.”
like a bear. “ But what a munificent bear!” Their suspense was yet prolonged for she said. “Fancy; - eight hundred a year another ten minutes, and at the end of that of your own. One begins to doubt whether time the servant came in and asked if Miss it is worth one's while to marry at all with Amedroz would be good enough to go into such an income as that to do what one likes the master's room. “ Mr. Belton is there, with! However, it all means nothing. It Fanny ?” asked Mrs. Askerton. The girl will all be his own again before you have confessed that Mr. Belton was there, and even touched it." then Clara, without another word, got up " You must not say anything more about and left the room. She had much to do in that,” said Clara gravely. assuming a look of composure before she “And why must I not ?" opened the door ; but she made the effort, “ Because I shall hear nothing more of it. and was not unsuccessful. In another sec- There is an end of all that,
as there ond she found her hand in her cousin's, and ought to be.” his bright eye was fixed upon her with that " Why an end? I don't see an end. eager, friendly glance which made his face There will be no end till Belton of Belton 80 pleasant to those whom he loved. has got you and your eight hundred a year
“ Your cousin has been telling me of the as well as everything else.” arrangements he has been making for you You will find that — he – does not with the lawyers,” said Colonel Askerton. mean — anything — more,” said Clara. “I can only say that I wish all ladies had “ You think not?” cousins so liberal, and so able to be liberal” “ I am - sure of it.” Then there was a
“ I thought I would see Colonel Askerton little sound in her throat as though she first, as you are staying at his house. And were in some danger of being choked; but as for liberality, — there is nothing of the she soon recovered herself, and was able to : kind. You must understand, Clara, that a express herself clearly. “I have only one fellow can't do what he likes with his own favour to ask you now, Mrs. Askerton, and in this country. I have found myself so that is that you will never say anything bullied by lawyers and that sort of people, more about him. He has changed his that I have been obliged to yield to them. mind. Of course he has, or he would not I wanted that you should have the old come here like that and have gone away place, to do just what you pleased with it.” without saying a word.”
“ That was out of the question, Will." “ Not a'word! A man gives you eight
“Of course it was," said Colonel Asker- hundred a year, and that is not saying a ton. Then, as Belton himself did not pro- word ! " ceed to the telling of his own story, the “ Not a word except about money? But Colonel told it for bim, and explained what of course he is right. I know that he is was the income which Clara was to receive. right. After what has passed he would be
“ But that is as much out of the question,” | very wrong to - to - think about it any
You joke about his being Belton of
"It does; does it?"
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
"It has made a difference. I see and glory of power and property. There had feel it now. I shall never- - hear him- been Beltons of Belton living there for many centuries, and now he was the Belton
"And if you did hear him, what answer of the day, standing on his own ground, would you make him?"
"I don't know."
"That is just it. Women are so crossgrained that it is a wonder to me that men should ever have anything 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 twelvemonths".
"Mrs. Askerton, I said nothing about twelvemonths."
"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 are 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 again to-night." 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
the descendant and representative of the Beltons of old,- Belton of Bolton 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 to 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 wellcovered 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 circumstances, he would never go up to it again.
"I am going across to the cottage immediately after dinner," he said to his sister.
"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, sorrow ing 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 nothing. "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 bad 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 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 usiness," said Belton, as soon they were off together.
"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 set led 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 to-day. I hate talking about money 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?"
"Nor will you go to Aylmer Park?" "No; certainly not. Of all the places on earth, Will, to which you would send me, Aylmer Park is the one to which I should go most unwillingly."
"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?"
"No," said Will; "I never saw her." Then they walked on together for a while without speaking, and Ciara 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 and 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 the rocks.
“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.
"What; to Belton? No, I do not think he will come to Belton any more."
He was such a quarrelsome fellow. He flew at me just because I said we had good bunting 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's all passed and gone. You did not know my aunt Winterfield, or you would understand my first reason for liking him."
"But it does signify. It signifies very much to me. Will you go up to the rocks?" "I am afraid we shall be late, if we stay out long."
"What matters how late? come?"
"I suppose so, if you wish it, Will."
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 for pardon.
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 his right now, as he had been before that he was trespassing egregiously.
Why are you so rough with me?" she said.
"Clara, say that 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 know that I love you." "Better than anybody in the world?" "Yes; better than anybody in the
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 how I 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; 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 understand 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?"