Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Love and Life: An Old Story in Eighteenth Century Costume
Author: Yonge, Charlotte M. (Charlotte Mary)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Love and Life: An Old Story in Eighteenth Century Costume" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



LOVE AND LIFE

An Old Story in Eighteenth Century Costume


By Charlotte M. Yonge



Transcriber’s note: There are numerous examples throughout this text
of words appearing in alternate spellings: madame/madam, practise/
practice, Ladyship/ladyship, &c. We can only wonder what the publisher
had in mind. I have left them unchanged.--D.L.



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.


The first edition of this tale was put forth without explaining the
old fable on which it was founded--a fable recurring again and again in
fairy myths, though not traceable in the classic world till a very late
period, when it appeared among the tales of Apuleius, of the province
of Africa, sometimes called the earliest novelist. There are, however,
fragments of the same story in the popular tales of all countries, so
that it is probable that Apuleius availed himself of an early form of
one of these. They are to be found from India to Scandinavia, adapted to
the manners and fancy of every country in turn, _Beauty and the Beast_
and the _Black Bull of Norroway_ are the most familiar forms of the
tale, and it seemed to me one of those legends of such universal
property that it was quite fair to put it into 18th century English
costume.

Some have seen in it a remnant of the custom of some barbarous tribes,
that the wife should not behold her husband for a year after marriage,
and to this the Indian versions lend themselves; but Apuleius himself
either found it, or adapted it to the idea of the Soul (the Life)
awakened by Love, grasping too soon and impatiently, then losing it,
and, unable to rest, struggling on through severe toils and labours till
her hopes are crowned even at the gates of death. Psyche, the soul or
life, whose emblem is the butterfly, thus even in heathen philosophy
strained towards the higher Love, just glimpsed at for a while.

Christians gave a higher meaning to the fable, and saw in it the Soul,
or the Church, to whom her Bridegroom has been for a while made known,
striving after Him through many trials, to be made one with Him after
passing through Death. The Spanish poet Calderon made it the theme of
two sacred dramas, in which the lesson of Faith, not Sight, was taught,
with special reference to the Holy Eucharist.

English poetry has, however, only taken up its simple classical aspect.
In the early part of the century, Mrs. Tighe wrote a poem in Spenserian
stanza, called _Psyche_, which was much admired at the time; and Mr.
Morris has more lately sung the story in his _Earthly Paradise_. This
must be my excuse for supposing the outline of the tale to be familiar
to most readers.

The fable is briefly thus:--

Venus was jealous of the beauty of a maiden named Psyche, the youngest
of three daughters of a king. She sent misery on the land and family,
and caused an oracle to declare that the only remedy was to deck his
youngest daughter as a bride, and leave her in a lonely place to become
the prey of a monster. Cupid was commissioned by his mother to destroy
her. He is here represented not as a child, but as a youth, who on
seeing Psyche’s charms, became enamoured of her, and resolved to save
her from his mother and make her his own. He therefore caused Zephyr to
transport her to a palace where everything delightful and valuable was
at her service, feasts spread, music playing, all her wishes fulfilled,
but all by invisible hands. At night in the dark, she was conscious of
a presence who called himself her husband, showed the fondest affection
for her, and promised her all sorts of glory and bliss, if she would be
patient and obedient for a time.

This lasted till yearnings awoke to see her family. She obtained consent
with much difficulty and many warnings. Then the splendour in which she
lived excited the jealousy of her sisters, and they persuaded her that
her visitor was really the monster who would deceive her and devour her.
They thus induced her to accept a lamp with which to gaze on him when
asleep. She obeyed them, then beholding the exquisite beauty of the
sleeping god of love, she hung over him in rapture till a drop of the
hot oil fell on his shoulder and awoke him. He sprang up, sorrowfully
reproached her with having ruined herself and him, and flew away,
letting her fall as she clung to him.

The palace was broken up, the wrath of Venus pursued her; Ceres and all
the other deities chased her from their temples; even when she would
have drowned herself, the river god took her in his arms, and laid her
on the bank. Only Pan had pity on her, and counselled her to submit to
Venus, and do her bidding implicitly as the only hope of regaining her
lost husband.

Venus spurned her at first, and then made her a slave, setting her first
to sort a huge heap of every kind of grain in a single day. The ants,
secretly commanded by Cupid, did this for her. Next, she was to get
a lock of golden wool from a ram feeding in a valley closed in by
inaccessible rocks; but this was procured for her by an eagle; and
lastly, Venus, declaring that her own beauty had been impaired by
attendance on her injured son, commanded Psyche to visit the Infernal
Regions and obtain from Proserpine a closed box of cosmetic which was on
no account to be opened. Psyche thought death alone could bring her to
these realms, and was about to throw herself from a tower, when a voice
instructed her how to enter a cavern, and propitiate Cerberus with cakes
after the approved fashion.

She thus reached Proserpine’s throne, and obtained the casket, but when
she had again reached the earth, she reflected that if Venus’s beauty
were impaired by anxiety, her own must have suffered far more; and
the prohibition having of course been only intended to stimulate her
curiosity, she opened the casket, out of which came the baneful fumes of
Death! Just, however, as she fell down overpowered, her husband, who had
been shut up by Venus, came to the rescue, and finding himself unable
to restore her, cried aloud to Jupiter, who heard his prayer, reanimated
Psyche, and gave her a place among the gods.


CHAPTERS.


       I.   A SYLLABUB PARTY.
      II.   THE HOUSE OF DELAVIE.
     III.   AMONG THE COWSLIPS.
      IV.   MY LADY’S MISSIVE.
       V.   THE SUMMONS.
      VI.   DISAPPOINTED LOVE.
     VII.   ALL ALONE.
    VIII.   THE ENCHANTED CASTLE.
      IX.   THE TRIAD.
       X.   THE DARK CHAMBER.
      XI.   A VOICE FROM THE GRAVE.
     XII.   THE SHAFTS OF PHOEBE.
    XIII.   THE FLUTTER OF HIS WINGS.
     XIV.   THE CANON OF WINDSOR.
      XV.   THE QUEEN OF BEAUTY.
     XVI.   AUGURIES.
    XVII.   THE VICTIM DEMANDED.
   XVIII.   THE PROPOSAL.
     XIX.   WOOING IN THE DARK.
      XX.   THE MUFFLED BRIDEGROOM.
     XXI.   THE SISTER’S MEETING
    XXII.   A FATAL SPARK.
   XXIII.   WRATH AND DESOLATION.
    XXIV.   THE WANDERER.
     XXV.   VANISHED.
    XXVI.   THE TRACES.
   XXVII.   CYTHEREA’S BOWER.
  XXVIII.   THE ROUT.
    XXIX.   A BLACK BLONDEL.
     XXX.   THE FIRST TASK.
    XXXI.   THE SECOND TASK.
   XXXII.   LIONS.
  XXXIII.   THE COSMETIC.
   XXXIV.   DOWN THE RIVER.
    XXXV.   THE RETURN.
   XXXVI.   WAKING.
  XXXVII.   MAKING THE BEST OF IT.



LOVE AND LIFE.



CHAPTER I. A SYLLABUB PARTY.


    Oft had I shadowed such a group
      Of beauties that were born
    In teacup times of hood and hoop,
      And when the patch was worn;
    And legs and arms with love-knots gay.
      About me leaped and laughed
    The modish Cupid of the day,
      And shrilled his tinselled shaft.--Tennyson.


If times differ, human nature and national character vary but little;
and thus, in looking back on former times, we are by turns startled
by what is curiously like, and curiously unlike, our own sayings and
doings.

The feelings of a retired officer of the nineteenth century expecting
the return of his daughters from the first gaiety of the youngest
darling, are probably not dissimilar to those of Major Delavie, in the
earlier half of the seventeen hundreds, as he sat in the deep bay window
of his bed-room; though he wore a green velvet nightcap; and his whole
provision of mental food consisted of half a dozen worn numbers of the
_Tatler_, and a _Gazette_ a fortnight old. The chair on which he sat was
elbowed, and made easy with cushions and pillows, but that on which
his lame foot rested was stiff and angular. The cushion was exquisitely
worked in chain-stich, as were the quilt and curtains of the great
four-post bed, and the only carpeting consisted of three or four narrow
strips of wool-work. The walls were plain plaster, white-washed, and
wholly undecorated, except that the mantelpiece was carved with the
hideous caryatides of the early Stewart days, and over it were suspended
a long cavalry sabre, and the accompanying spurs and pistols; above them
the miniature of an exquisitely lovely woman, with a white rose in her
hair and a white favour on her breast.

The window was a deep one projecting far into the narrow garden below,
for in truth the place was one of those old manor houses which their
wealthy owners were fast deserting in favour of new specimens of
classical architecture as understood by Louis XIV., and the room in
which the Major sat was one of the few kept in habitable repair. The
garden was rich with white pinks, peonies, lilies of the valley, and
early roses, and there was a flagged path down the centre, between the
front door and a wicket-gate into a long lane bordered with hawthorn
hedges, the blossoms beginning to blush with the advance of the season.
Beyond, rose dimly the spires and towers of a cathedral town, one of
those county capitals to which the provincial magnates were wont to
resort during the winter, keeping a mansion there for the purpose, and
providing entertainment for the gentry of the place and neighbourhood.

Twilight was setting in when the Major began to catch glimpses of the
laced hats of coachman and footmen over the hedges, a lumbering made
itself heard, and by and by the vehicle halted at the gate. Such
a coach! It was only the second best, and the glories of its
landscape--painted sides were somewhat dimmed, the green and silver of
the fittings a little tarnished to a critical eye; yet it was a splendid
article, commodious and capacious, though ill-provided with air and
light. However, nobody cared for stuffiness, certainly not the three
young ladies, who, fan in hand, came tripping down the steps that
were unrolled for them. The eldest paused to administer a fee to their
entertainer’s servants who had brought them home, and the coach rolled
on to dispose of the remainder of the freight.

The father waved greetings from one window, a rosy little audacious
figure in a night-dress peeped out furtively from another, and the
house-door was opened by a tall old soldier-servant, stiff as a ramrod,
with hair tightly tied and plastered up into a queue, and a blue and
brown livery which sat like a uniform.

“Well, young ladies,” he said, “I hope you enjoyed yourselves.”

“Vastly, thank you, Corporal Palmer. And how has it been with my father
in our absence?”

“Purely, Miss Harriet. He relished the Friar’s chicken that Miss Delavie
left for him, and he amused himself for an hour with Master Eugene,
after which he did me the honour to play two plays at backgammon.”

“I hope,” said the eldest sister, coming up, “that the little rogue whom
I saw peeping from the window has not been troublesome.”

“He has been as good as gold, madam. He played in master’s room till
Nannerl called him to his bed, when he went at once, ‘true to his
orders,’ says the master. ‘A fine soldier he will make,’ says I to my
master.”

Therewith the sisters mounted the uncarpeted but well-polished oak
stair, knocked at the father’s door, and entered one by one, each
dropping her curtsey, and, though the eldest was five-and-twenty,
neither speaking nor sitting till they were greeted with a hearty,
“Come, my young maids, sit you down and tell your old father your gay
doings.”

The eldest took the only unoccupied chair, while the other two placed
themselves on the window-seat, all bolt upright, with both little high
heels on the floor, in none of the easy attitudes of damsels of later
date, talking over a party. All three were complete gentlewomen in air
and manners, though Betty had high cheek-bones, a large nose, rough
complexion, and red hair, and her countenance was more loveable and
trustworthy than symmetrical. The dainty decorations of youth looked
grotesque upon her, and she was so well aware of the fact as to put on
no more than was absolutely essential to a lady of birth and breeding.
Harriet (pronounced Hawyot), the next in age, had a small well-set head,
a pretty neck, and fine dark eyes, but the small-pox had made havoc
of her bloom, and left its traces on cheek and brow. The wreck of her
beauty had given her a discontented, fretful expression, which rendered
her far less pleasing than honest, homely Betty, though she employed
all the devices of the toilette to conceal the ravages of the malady and
enhance her remaining advantages of shape and carriage.

There was an air of vexation about her as her father asked, “Well, how
many conquests has my little Aurelia made?” She could not but recollect
how triumphantly she had listened to the same inquiry after her own
first appearance, scarcely three short years ago. Yet she grudged
nothing to Aurelia, her junior by five years, who was for the first
time arrayed as a full-grown belle, in a pale blue, tight-sleeved,
long-waisted silk, open and looped up over a primrose skirt, embroidered
by her own hands with tiny blue butterflies hovering over harebells.
There were blue silk shoes, likewise home-made, with silver buckles, and
the long mittens and deep lace ruffles were of Betty’s fabrication.
Even the dress itself had been cut by Harriet from old wedding hoards
of their mother’s, and made up after the last mode imported by Madam
Churchill at the Deanery.

The only part of the equipment not of domestic handiwork was the
structure on the head. The Carminster hairdresser had been making his
rounds since daylight, taking his most distinguished customers last; and
as the Misses Delavie were not high on the roll, Harriet and Aurelia had
been under his hands at nine A.M. From that time till three, when the
coach called for them, they had sat captive on low stools under a tent
of table-cloth over tall chair-backs to keep the dust out of the frosted
edifice constructed out of their rich dark hair, of the peculiar tint
then called mouse-colour. Betty had refused to submit to this durance.
“What sort of dinner would be on my father’s table-cloth if I were to
sit under one all day?” said she in answer to Harriet’s representation
of the fitness of things. “La, my dear, what matters it what an old
scarecrow like me puts on?”

Old maidenhood set in much earlier in those days than at present; the
sisters acquiesced, and Betty had run about as usual all the morning in
her mob-cap, and chintz gown tucked through her pocket-holes, and only
at the last submitted her head to the manipulations of Corporal Palmer,
who daily powdered his master’s wig.

Strange and unnatural as was the whitening of the hair, it was effective
in enhancing the beauty of Aurelia’s dark arched brows, the soft
brilliance of her large velvety brown eyes, and the exquisite carnation
and white of her colouring. Her features were delicately chiselled, and
her face had that peculiar fresh, innocent, soft, untouched bloom and
undisturbed repose which form the special charm and glory of the first
dawn of womanhood. Her little head was well poised on a slender neck,
just now curving a little to one side with the fatigue of the hours
during which it had sustained her headgear. This consisted of a
tiny flat hat, fastened on by long pins, and adorned by a cluster of
campanulas like those on her dress, with a similar blue butterfly on an
invisible wire above them, the dainty handiwork of Harriet.

The inquiry about conquests was a matter of course after a young lady’s
first party, but Aurelia looked too childish for it, and Betty made
haste to reply.

“Aurelia was a very good girl. No one could have curtsied or bridled
more prettily when we paid our respects to my Lady Herries and Mrs.
Churchill, and the Dean highly commended her dancing.”

“You danced? Fine doings! I thought you were merely invited to look on
at the game at bowls. Who had the best of the match?”

“The first game was won by Canon Boltby, the second by the Dean,” said
Betty; “but when they would have played the conqueror, Lady Herries
interfered and said the gentlemen had kept the field long enough, and
now it was our turn. So a cow was driven on the bowling-green, with a
bell round her neck and pink ribbons on her horns.”

“A cow! What will they have next?”

“They say ‘tis all the mode in London,” interposed Harriet.

“Pray was the cow to instruct you in dancing?” continued the Major.

“No, sir,” said Aurelia, whom he had addressed; “she was to be milked
into the bowl of syllabub.”

This was received with a great “Ho! ho!” and a demand who was to act as
milker.

“That was the best of it,” said Aurelia. “Soon came Miss Herries in
a straw hat, and the prettiest green petticoat under a white gown and
apron, as a dairy-maid, but the cow would not stand still, for all the
man who led her kept scolding her and saying ‘Coop! coop!’ No sooner had
Miss Herries seated herself on the stool than Moolly swerved away, and
it was a mercy that the fine china bowl escaped. Every one was laughing,
and poor Miss Herries was ready to cry, when forth steps my sister,
coaxes the cow, bids the man lend his apron, sits down on the stool, and
has the bowl frothing in a moment.”

“I would not have done so for worlds,” said Harriet; “I dreaded every
moment to be asked where Miss Delavie learnt to be a milk-maid.”

“You were welcome to reply, in her own yard,” said Betty. “You may thank
me for your syllabub.”

“Which, after all, you forbade poor Aura to taste!”

“Assuredly. I was not going to have her turn sick on my hands. She may
think herself beholden to me for her dance with that fine young beau.
Who was he, Aura?”

“How now!” said the Major, in a tone of banter, while Harriet indulged
in a suppressed giggle. “You let Aura dance with a stranger! Where was
your circumspection, Mrs. Betty?” Aurelia coloured to the roots of her
hair and faltered, “It was Lady Herries who presented him.”

“Yes, the child is not to blame,” said Betty; “I left her in charge
of Mrs. Churchill while I went to wash my hands after milking the cow,
which these fine folk seemed to suppose could be done without soiling a
finger.”

“That’s the way with Chloe and Phyllida in Arcadia,” said her father.

“But not here,” said Betty. “In the house, I was detained a little
while, for the housekeeper wanted me to explain my recipe for taking out
the grease spots.”

“A little while, sister?” said Harriet. “It was through the dancing of
three minuets, and the country dance had long been begun.”

“I was too busy to heed the time,” said Betty, “for I obtained the
recipe for those delicious almond-cakes, and showed Mrs. Waldron the
Vienna mode of clearing coffee. When I came back the fiddles were
playing, and Aurelia going down the middle with a young gentleman in a
scarlet coat. Poor little Robert Rowe was too bashful to find a partner,
though he longed to dance; so I made another couple with him, and thus
missed further speech, save that as we took our leave, both Sir George
and the Dean complimented me, and said what there is no occasion to
repeat just now, sir, when I ought to be fetching your supper.”

“Ha! Is it too flattering for little Aura?” asked her father. “Come,
never spare. She will hear worse than that in her day, I’ll warrant.”

“It was merely,” said Betty, reluctantly, “that the Dean called her the
star of the evening, and declared that her dancing equalled her face.”

“Well said of his reverence! And his honour the baronet, what said he?”

“He said, sir, that so comely and debonnaire a couple had not been seen
in these parts since you came home from Flanders and led off the assize
ball with Mistress Urania Delavie.”

“There, Aura, ‘tis my turn to blush!” cried the Major, comically hiding
his face behind Betty’s fan. “But all this time you have never told me
who was this young spark.”

“That I cannot tell, sir,” returned Betty. “We were sent home in
the coach with Mistress Duckworth and her daughters, who talked so
incessantly that we could not open our lips. Who was he, Aura?”

“My Lady Herries only presented him as Sir Amyas, sister,” replied
Aurelia.

“Sir Amyas!” cried her auditors, all together.

“Nothing more,” said Aurelia. “Indeed she made as though he and I must
be acquainted, and I suppose that she took me for Harriet, but I knew
not how to explain.”

“No doubt,” said Harriet. “I was sick of the music and folly, and had
retired to the summerhouse with Peggy Duckworth, who had brought a sweet
sonnet of Mr. Ambrose Phillips, ‘Defying Cupid.’”

Her father burst into a chuckling laugh, much to her mortification,
though she would not seem to understand it, and Betty took up the moral.

“Sir Amyas! Are you positive that you caught the name, child?”

“I thought so, sister,” said Aurelia, with the insecurity produced by
such cross-questioning; “but I may have been mistaken, since, of course,
the true Sir Amyas Belamour would never be here without my father’s
knowledge.”

“Nor is there any other of the name,” said her father, “except that
melancholic uncle of his who never leaves his dark chamber.”

“Depend upon it,” said Harriet, “Lady Herries said Sir Ambrose. No doubt
it was Sir Ambrose Watford.”

“Nay, Harriet, I demur to that,” said her father drolly. “I flatter
myself I was a more personable youth than to be likened to Watford with
his swollen nose. What like was your cavalier, Aura?”

“Indeed, sir, I cannot describe him. I was so much terrified lest he
should speak to me that I had much ado to mind my steps. I know he had
white gloves and diamond shoe-buckles, and that his feet moved by no
means like those of Sir Ambrose.”

“Aura is a modest child, and does credit to her breeding,” said Betty.
“Thus much I saw, that the young gentleman was tall and personable
enough to bear comparison even to you, sir, not more than nineteen or
twenty years of age, in a laced scarlet uniform, as I think, of the
Dragoon Guards, and with a little powder, but not enough to disguise
that his hair was entire gold.”

“That all points to his being indeed young Belamour,” said her father;
“age, military appearance, and all--I wonder what this portends!”

“What a disaster!” exclaimed Harriet, “that my sister and I should have
been out of the way, and only a chit like Aura be there to be presented
to him.”

“If young ladies _will_ defy Cupid,” began her father;--but at that
moment Corporal Palmer knocked at the door, bringing a basin of soup for
his master, and announcing “Supper is served, young ladies.”

Each of the three bent her knee to receive her father’s blessing and
kiss, then curtseying at the door, departed, Betty lingering behind her
two juniors to see her father taste his soup and to make sure that he
relished it.



CHAPTER II. THE HOUSE OF DELAVIE.


    All his Paphian mother fear;
    Empress! all thy sway revere!
                            EURIPEDES (Anstice).


The parlour where the supper was laid was oak panelled, but painted
white. Like a little island in the vast polished slippery floor lay a
square much-worn carpet, just big enough to accommodate a moderate-sized
table and the surrounding high-backed chairs. There was a tent-stitch
rug before the Dutch-tiled fireplace, and on the walls hung two framed
prints,--one representing the stately and graceful Duke of Marlborough;
the other, the small, dark, pinched, but fiery Prince Eugene. On the
spotless white cloth was spread a frugal meal of bread, butter, cheese,
and lettuce; a jug of milk, another of water, and a bottle of cowslip
wine; for the habits of the family were more than usually frugal and
abstemious.

Frugality and health alike obliged Major Delavie to observe a careful
regimen. He had served in all Marlborough’s campaigns, and had
afterwards entered the Austrian army, and fought in the Turkish war,
until he had been disabled before Belgrade by a terrible wound, of which
he still felt the effects. Returning home with his wife, the daughter of
a Jacobite exile, he had become a kind of agent in managing the family
estate for his cousin the heiress, Lady Belamour, who allowed him
to live rent-free in this ruinous old Manor-house, the cradle of the
family.

This was all that Harriet and Aurelia knew. The latter had been born
at the Manor, and young girls, if not brought extremely forward, were
treated like children; but Elizabeth, the eldest of the family, who
could remember Vienna, was so much the companion and confidante of her
father, that she was more on the level of a mother than a sister to her
juniors.

“Then you think Aurelia’s beau was really Sir Amyas Belamour,” said
Harriet, as they sat down to supper.

“So it appears,” said Betty, gravely.

“Do you think he will come hither, sister? I would give the world to see
him,” continued Harriet.

“He said something of hoping for better acquaintance,” softly put in
Aurelia.

“Oh, did he so?” cried Harriet. “For demure as you are, Miss Aura, I
fancy you looked a little above the diamond shoe-buckles!”

“Fie, Harriet!” exclaimed Betty; “I will not have the child tormented.
He ought to come and pay his respects to my father.”

“Have you ever seen my Lady?” asked Aurelia.

“That have I, Miss Aurelia,” interposed Corporal Palmer, “and a rare
piece of beauty she would be, if one could forget the saying ‘handsome
is as handsome does.’”

“I never knew what she has done,” said Aurelia.

“‘Tis a long story,” hastily said Betty, “too long to tell at table. I
must make haste to prepare the poultice for my father.”

She quickly broke up the supper party, and the two younger sisters
repaired to their chamber, both conscious of having been repressed; the
one feeling injured, the other rebuked for forwardness and curiosity.
The three sisters shared one long low room with a large light closet
at each end. One of these was sacred to powder, the other was Betty’s
private property. Harriet had a little white bed to herself, Betty and
Aurelia nightly climbed into a lofty and solemn structure curtained with
ancient figured damask. Each had her own toilette-table and a press for
her clothes, where she contrived to stow them in a wonderfully small
space.

Harriet and Aurelia had divested themselves of their finery before
Betty came in, and they assisted her operations, Harriet preferring a
complaint that she never would tell them anything.

“I have no objection to tell you at fitting times,” said Betty, “but not
with Palmer putting in his word. You should have discretion, Harriet.”

“The Dean’s servants never speak when they are waiting at table,” said
Harriet with a pout.

“But I’ll warrant them to hear!” retorted Betty.

“And I had rather have our dear old honest corporal than a dozen of
those fine lackeys,” said Aurelia. “But you will tell us the story like
a good sister, while we brush the powder out of our hair.”

They put on powdering gowns, after releasing themselves from the armour
of their stays, and were at last at ease, each seated on a wooden chair
in the powdering closet, brush in hand, with a cloud of white dust
flying round, and the true colour of the hair beginning to appear.

“Then it is indeed true that My Lady is one of the greatest beauties of
Queen Caroline’s Court, if not the greatest?” said Harriet.

“Truly she is,” said Betty, “and though in full maturity, she preserves
the splendour of her prime.”

“Tell us more particularly,” said Aurelia; “can she be more lovely than
our dear mamma?”

“No, indeed! lovely was never the word for her, to my mind,” said
Betty; “her face always seemed to me more like that of one of the marble
statues I remember at Vienna; perfect, but clear, cold, and hard. But
I am no judge, for I did not love her, and in a child, admiration
accompanies affection.”

“What did Palmer mean by ‘handsome is that handsome does’? Surely my
father never was ill-treated by Lady Belamour?”

“Let me explain,” said the elder sister. “The ancient custom and
precedent of our family have always transmitted the estates to the male
heir. But when Charles II. granted the patent of nobility to the first
Baron Delavie, the barony was limited to the heirs male of his body, and
out grandfather was only his brother. The last Lord had three sons, and
one daughter, Urania, who alone survived him.”

“I know all that from the monument,” said Aurelia; “one was drowned
while bathing, one died of spotted fever, and one was killed at the
battle of Ramillies. How dreadful for the poor old father!”

“And there is no Lord Delavie now,” said Harriet. “Why, since my Lady
could not have the title, did it not come to our papa?”

“Because his father was not in the patent,” said Betty. “However, it
was thought that if he were married to Mistress Urania, there would be
a fresh creation in their favour. So as soon as the last campaign was
over, our father, who had always been a favourite at the great house,
was sent for from the army, and given to understand that he was to
conduct his courtship, with the cousin he had petted as a little child,
as speedily as was decorous. However, in winter quarters at Tournai he
had already pledged his faith to the daughter of a Scottish gentleman
in the Austrian service. This engagement was viewed by the old Lord as
a trifling folly, which might be set aside by the head of the family.
He hinted that the proposed match was by no means disagreeable to his
daughter, and scarcely credited his ears when his young kinsman declared
his honour forbade him to break with Miss Murray.”

“Dear father,” ejaculated Aurelia, “so he gave up everything for her
sake?”

“And never repented it!” said Betty.

“Now,” said Harriet, “I understand why he entered the army.”

“It was all he had to depend on,” said Betty, “and he had been
favourably noticed by Prince Eugene at the siege of Lisle, so that he
easily obtained a commission. He believed that though it was in the
power of the old Lord to dispose of part of his estates by will, yet
that some of the land was entailed in the male line, so that there need
not be many years of campaigning or poverty for his bride, even if her
father never were restored to his Scottish property. As you know, our
grandfather, Sir Archibald Murray, died for his loyalty in the rising of
‘15, and two years later our father received at Belgrade that terrible
wound which closed his military career. Meantime, Urania had married Sir
Jovian Belamour, and Lord Delavie seemed to have forgotten my father’s
offence, and gave him the management of the estate, with this old house
to live in, showing himself glad of the neighbourhood of a kinsman whom
he could thoroughly trust. All went well till my Lady came to visit her
father. Then all old offences were renewed. Lady Belamour treated my
mother as a poor dependant. She, daughter to a noble line of pedigree
far higher than that of the Delavies, might well return her haughty
looks, and would not yield an inch, nor join in the general adulation.
There were disputes about us children. Poor Archie was a most beautiful
boy, and though you might not suppose it, I was a very pretty little
girl, this nose of mine being then much more shapely than the little
buttons which grow to fair proportions. On the other hand, the little
Belamours were puny and sickly; indeed, as you know, this young Sir
Amyas, who was not then born, is the only one of the whole family who
has been reared. Then we had been carefully bred, could chatter French,
recite poetry, make our bow and curtsey, bridle, and said Sir and Madam,
while the poor little cousins who had been put out to nurse had no more
manners than the calves and pigs. People were the more flattering to us
because they expected soon to see my father in his Lordship’s place; and
on the other hand, officious tongues were not wanting to tell my Lady
how Mrs. Delavie contrasted the two sets of children. Very bitter
offence was taken; nor has my Lady ever truly forgiven, whatever our
dear good father may believe. When the old Lord died, a will was found,
bequeathing all his unentailed estates to his daughter, and this was of
course strong presumption that he believed in the existence of a deed of
entail; but none could ever be found, and the precedents were not held
to establish the right.”

“Did he leave my father nothing?” asked Harriet.

“He left him three hundred pounds and made him joint executor with Sir
Jovian. There was no mention of this house, which was the original house
of the family, the first Lord having built the Great House; and both my
father and Sir Jovian were sure the Lord Delavie believed it would come
to him; but no proofs were extant, and my Lady would only consent to his
occupying it, as before, as her agent.”

“I always knew we were victims to an injustice,” said Harriet, “though I
never understood the matter exactly.”

“You were a mere child, and my father does not love to talk of it. He
ceased to care much about the loss after our dear Archie died.”

“Not for Eugene’s sake?”

“Eugene was not born for two years after Archie’s death. My dear mother
had drooped from the time of the disappointment, blaming herself for
having ruined my father, and scarce accepting comfort when he vowed that
all was well lost for her sake. She reproached herself with having
been proud and unconciliatory, though I doubt whether it made much
difference. Then her spirit was altogether crushed by the loss of
Archie, she never had another day’s health. Eugene came to her like
Ichabod to Phinehas’ wife, and she was soon gone from us,” said Betty,
wiping away a tear.

“Leaving us a dear sister to be a mother to us,” said Aurelia, raising
her sweet face for a kiss.

Harriet pondered a little, and said, “My Lady is not at enmity with us,
since my father keeps the house and agency.”

“We should be reduced to poverty indeed without them,” said Betty; “and
Sir Jovian, an upright honourable man, the only person whom my Lady
truly respected, insisted on his continuance. As long as my Lady regards
his memory we are safe, but no one can trust to her caprice.”

“She never comes here, nor disturbs my father.”

“No, but she makes heavy calls on the estate, and is displeased if he
refuses to overpress the tenants or hesitates to cut the timber.”

“I have heard say,” added Harriet, “that her debts in town and her
losses at play drove her to accept her present husband, Mr. Wayland, a
hideous old fellow, who had become vastly rich through some discovery
about cannon.”

“He is an honourable and upright man,” said Betty. “I should have
fewer anxieties if he had not been sent out to Gibraltar and Minorca to
superintend the fortifications.”

“Meantime my Lady makes the money fly, by the help of the gallant
Colonel Mar,” said Harriet lightly.

“Fie! Harriet!” returned the elder sister; “I have allowed you too far.
My father calls Lady Belamour his commanding officer, and permits no
scandal to be spoken of her.”

“Any more than of Prince Eugene?” said Harriet, laughing.

“But oh! sister!” cried Aurelia, “let us stay a little longer. I have
not half braided my hair, and I long to hear who is the gentleman of
whom my father spoke as living in the dark.”

“Mr. Amyas Belamour! Sir Jovian’s brother! Ah! that is a sad story,”
 replied Betty, “though I am not certain that I have it correctly,
having only heard it discussed between my father and mother when I was a
growing girl, sitting at my sampler. I think he was a barrister; I know
he was a very fine gentleman and a man of parts, who had made the Grand
Tour; for when he was staying at the Great House, he said my mother was
the only person he met who could converse with him on the Old Masters,
or any other subject of _virtu_, and that, being reported to my Lady,
increased her bitterness all the more because Mr. Belamour was a friend
of Mr. Addison and Sir Richard Steele, and had contributed some papers
to the _Spectator_. He was making a good fortune in his profession, and
had formed an engagement with a young lady in Hertfordshire, of a good
old family, but one which had always been disliked by Lady Belamour. It
is said, too, that Miss Sedhurst had been thought to have attracted one
of my Lady’s many admirers, and that the latter was determined not
to see her rival become her sister-in-law, and probably with the same
title, since Mr. Belamour was on the verge of obtaining knighthood. So,
if she be not greatly belied, Lady Belamour plied all parties with her
confidences, till she contrived to breed suspicion and jealousy on all
sides, until finally Miss Sedhurst’s brother, a crack-brained youth,
offered such an insult to Mr. Belamour, that honour required a
challenge. It was thought that as Mr. Belamour was the superior in age
and position, the matter might have been composed, but the young man was
fiery and hot tempered, and would neither retract nor apologise; and
Mr. Belamour had been stung in his tenderest feeling. They fought with
pistols, an innovation that, as you know, my father hates, as far more
deadly and unskilful than the noble practice of fencing; and the result
was that Mr. Sedhurst was shot dead, and Mr. Belamour received a severe
wound in the head. The poor young lady, being always of a delicate
constitution, fell into fits on hearing the news, an died in a few
weeks. The unfortunate Mr. Belamour survives, but whether from injury to
the brain, or from grief and remorse, he has never been able to endure
either light or company, but has remained ever since in utter darkness
and seclusion.”

“Utter darkness! How dreadful!” cried Aurelia, shuddering.

“How long has this been, sister?” inquired Harriet.

“About nine years,” said Betty. “The lamentable affair took place just
before Sir Jovian’s death, and the shock may have hastened it, for he
had long been in a languishing state. It was the more unfortunate, since
he had made Mr. Belamour sole personal guardian to his only surviving
son, and appointed him, together with my father and another gentleman,
trustee for the Belamour property; and there has been much difficulty
in consequence of his being unable to act, or to do more than give his
signature.”

“Ah! sister, I wish you had not told me,” said Aurelia. “I shall dream
of the unfortunate gentleman all night. Nine years of utter darkness!”

“We know who is still child enough to hate darkness,” said Harriet.

“Take care,” said Betty. “You must make haste, or I shall leave you to
it.”



CHAPTER III. AMONG THE COWSLIPS.


    The insect youth are on the wing,
    Eager to taste the honeyed spring,
        And float amid the liquid noon,
    Some lightly on the torrent skim,
    Some show their gaily gilded trim,
        Quick glancing to the sun.--GRAY


Though hours were early, the morning meal was not served till so late as
really to deserve the title of breakfast.

When the three sisters sat down at nine-o’clock, in mob caps, and
the two younger in white dresses, all had been up at least two hours.
Aurelia led forward little Eugene in a tailed red coat, long-breasted
buff waistcoat, buff tights and knitted stockings, with a deep frilled
collar under the flowing locks on his shoulders, in curls which
emulated a wig. She had been helping him to prepare “his tasks” from
the well-thumbed but strongly-bound books which had served poor Archie
before him. They were deposited on the window-seat to wait till the
bowls of bread and milk were discussed, since tea and coffee were only
a special afternoon treat not considered as wholesome for children; so
that Aurelia had only just been promoted to them, along with powder and
fan.

Harriet wore her favourite pistachio ribbon round her cap and as a
breast-knot, and her cheeks bore token of one of the various washes
with which she was always striving to regain the smoothness of her
complexion. Knowing what this betokened, an elder-sisterly instinct of
caution actuated Betty to remind her juniors of an engagement made with
Dame Jewel of the upland farm for the exchange of a setting of white
duck’s eggs for one of five-toed fowls, and to request them to carry the
basket.

Eugene danced on his chair and begged to be of the party; but Harriet
pouted, and asked why the “odd boy” could not be sent.

“Because, as you very well know, if he did not break, he would addle,
every egg in the basket.

“There can be no need to go to-day.”

“The speckled hen is clocking to brood, and she is the best mother in
the yard. Besides, it is time that the cowslip wine were made, and I
will give you some bread and cheese and gingerbread for noonchin, so
that you may fill your baskets in the meadows before they are laid up
for grass. Mrs. Jewel will give you a drink of milk.”

“O let me go, sister!” pleaded Eugene. “She gives us bread and honey!
And I want to hear the lapwings in the meadows cry pee-wit.”

“We shall have you falling into the river,” said Harriet, rather
fretfully.

“No, indeed! If you fall in, I will pull you out. Young maids should not
run about the country without a gentleman to take care of them. Should
they, sister?” cried the doughty seven years’ old champion.

“Who taught you that, sir?” asked Betty, trying to keep her countenance.

“I heard Mrs. Churchill say so to my papa,” returned the boy. “So now,
there’s a good sister. Do pray let me go!”

“If you say your tasks well, and will promise to be obedient to Harriet
and to keep away from the river, and not touch the basket of eggs.”

Eugene was ready for any number of promises; and Harriet, seeing there
was no escape for her, went off with Aurelia to put on their little
three-cornered muslin handkerchiefs and broad-brimmed straw hats, while
Eugene repeated his tasks, namely, a fragment of the catechism, half
a column of spelling from the _Universal Spelling-Book_, and (Betty’s
special pride) his portion of the _Orbis Sensualium Pictus_ of Johannes
Amos Comenius, the wonderful vocabulary, with still more wonderful
“cuts,” that was then the small boys path to Latinity.

The Eagle, _Aquila_, the King of Birds, _Rex Avium_, looketh at the Sun,
_intuetur Solem_, as indeed he could hardly avoid doing, since in the
“cut” the sun was within a hairsbreath of his beak, while his claws were
almost touching a crow (_Corvus_) perched on a dead horse, to exemplify
how _Aves Raptores_ fed on carrion.

Thanks to Aurelia’s private assistance, Eugene knew his lessons well
enough for his excitement not to make him stumble so often as to prevent
Betty’s pronouncing him a good boy, and dispensing with his copy,
sum, piece, and reading, until the evening. These last were very tough
affairs, the recitation being from Shakespeare, and the reading from the
_Spectator_. There were no children’s books, properly so called,
except the ballads, chap-books brought round by pedlers, often far from
edifying, and the plunge from the horn-book into general literature was,
to say the least of it, bracing.

The Delavie family was cultivated for the time. French had been brought
home as a familiar tongue, though _Telemaque_, Racine, and _Le Grand
Cyrus_ were the whole library in that language; and there was not
another within thirty miles. On two days in the week the sisters became
Mesdemoiselles Elisabeth, Henriette, and Aurelie, and conversed in
French over their spinning, seams, lace, or embroidery; nor was Aurelia
yet emancipated from reciting Racine on alternate days with Milton and
Shakespeare.

Betty could likewise talk German with the old Austrian maid, Nannerl,
who had followed the family from Vienna; but the accomplishment was not
esteemed, and the dialect was barbarous. From the time of her mother’s
death, Betty had been a strict and careful, though kind, ruler to her
sisters; and the long walk was a greater holiday to Aurelia than to
Eugene, releasing her from her book and work, whereas he would soon
have been trundling his hoop, and haunting the steps of Palmer, who was
gardener as well as valet, butler, and a good deal besides, and moreover
drilled his young master. Thus Eugene carried his head as erect as
any Grenadier in the service, and was a thorough little gentleman in
miniature; a perfect little beau, as his sisters loved to call the
darling of their hearts and hopes.

Even Harriet could not be cross to him, though she made Aurelia carry
the eggs, and indulged in sundry petulant whisks of the fan which she
carried by way of parasol. “Now, why does Betty do this?” she exclaimed,
as soon as they were out of hearing. “Is it to secure to herself the
whole enjoyment of your beau?”

“You forget,” said Aurelia. “You promised to fetch the eggs, when we met
Mrs. Jewel jogging home from market on her old blind white horse last
Saturday, because you said no eggs so shaken could ever be hatched.”

“You demure chit!” exclaimed Harriet; “would you make me believe that
you have no regrets for so charming a young gentleman, my Lady’s son and
our kinsman.”

“If he spoke to me I should not know how to answer. And then you would
blame my rudeness. Besides,” she added, with childish sagacity, “he can
be nothing but a fine London macaroni. Only think of the cowslips! A
whole morning to make cowslip balls,” she added with a little frisk. “I
would not give one for all the macaronies in England, with their powder
and their snuff-boxes. Faugh!”

“Ah, child, you will sing another note perhaps when it is too late,”
 said her sister, with a sigh between envy and compassion.

It floated past Aurelia unheeded, as she danced up one side of a stile,
and sprang clear down into a green park, jumped Eugene down after her by
both hands, and exclaimed, “Harriet is in her vapours; come, let us have
a race!”

She was instantly careering along like a white butterfly in the
sunshine, flitting on as the child tried to catch her, among the snowy
hawthorn bushes, or sinking down for very joy and delight among the bank
of wild hyacinths. Life and free motion were joy and delight enough for
that happy being with her childish heart, and the serious business of
the day was all delight. There lay the rich meadows basking in the sun,
and covered with short grass just beginning its summer growth, but with
the cowslips standing high above it; hanging down their rich clusters of
soft, pure, delicately-scented bells, from their pinky stems over their
pale crinkled leaves, interspersed here and there with the deep purple
of the fool’s orchis, and the pale brown quiver-grass shaking out its
trembling awns on their invisible stems. No flower is more delightful
to gather than the cowslip, fragrant as the breath of a cow. And
Aurelia darted about, piling the golden heap in her basket with untiring
enjoyment; then, producing a tape, called on Harriet, who had been
working in a more leisurely fashion, to join her in making a cowslip
ball, and charged Eugene not to nip off the heads too short.

The sweet, soft, golden globe was made, and even Harriet felt the
delicious intoxication. The young things tossed it aloft, flung from
one to the other, caught it, caressed it, buried their faces in it, and
threw it back with shrieks of glee.

Suddenly Harriet checked her sister with a peremptory sign. She heard
horse-hoofs in the lane, divided from the field by a hedge of pollard
willows, so high that she had never thought of being overlooked, till
the cessation of the trotting sound struck her; and looking round she
saw that a horseman had halted at the gate, and was gazing at their
sports. It was from the distance of a field, but this was enough to
fill Harriet with dismay. She drew herself up in a moment, signing
peremptorily to Aurelia, who was flying about, her hat off, her one long
curl streaming behind as she darted hither and thither, evading Eugene
who was pursuing her.

As she paused, and Eugene clutched her dress with a shout of ecstasy,
Harriet came up, glancing severely toward the gate, and saying, as she
handed her sister the hat, “This comes of childishness! That we should
be seen thus! What a hoyden he will think you!” as the hoofs went on and
the red coat vanished.

“He! Who? Not the farmer?” said Aurelia. “This is not laid up for hay.”

“No indeed. I believe it is he,” said Harriet, mysteriously.

“He?” repeated Aurelia. “Not Mr. Arden, for he would be in black,” and
at Harriet’s disgusted gesture, “I beg your pardon, but I did not
know you had a new _he_. Oh! surely you are not thinking of the young
baronet?”

“I am sure it was his figure.”

“You did not see him yesterday?”

“No, but his air had too much distinction for any one from these parts.”

“Could you see what his air was from this distance? I should never have
guessed it, but you have more experience, being older. Come, Eugene,
another race!”

“No, I will have no more folly. I was too good-natured to allow it. I am
vexed beyond measure that he should have seen such rusticity.”

“Never mind, dear Harriet. Most likely it was no such person, for it
was not well-bred to sit staring at us; and if it were he, you were not
known to him.”

“You were.”

“Then he must have eyes as sharp as yours are for an air of distinction.
Having only seen me in my blue and primrose suit, how should he know me
in my present trim? Besides, I believe it was only young Dick Jewel in a
cast coat of Squire Humphrey’s.”

The charm of the cowslip gathering was broken. Eugene found himself
very hungry, and the noonchin was produced, after which the walk was
continued to the farm-house, where the young people were made very
welcome.

Farmers were, as a rule, more rustic than the present labourer, but they
lived a life of far less care, if of more toil, than their successors,
having ample means for their simple needs, and enjoying jocund plenty.
The clean kitchen, with the stone floor, the beaupot of maythorn on the
empty hearth, the shining walnut-wood table, the spinning-wheel, wooden
chairs, and forms, all looked cool and inviting, and the visitors were
regaled with home-made brown bread, delicious butter and honey, and a
choice of new milk, mead, and currant wine.

Dame Jewel, in a white frill under a black silken hood, a buff turnover
kerchief, stout stuff gown and white apron, was delighted to wait
on them; and Eugene’s bliss was complete among the young kittens and
puppies in baskets on opposite sides of the window, the chickens before
their coops, the ducklings like yellow balls on the grass, and the huge
family of little spotted piglings which, to the scandal of his sisters,
he declared the most delightful of all.

Their hostess knew nothing of the young baronet being in the
neighbourhood, and was by no means gratified by the intelligence.

“Lack-a-day! Miss Harriet, you don’t mean that the family is coming down
here! I don’t want none of them. ‘Tis bad times for the farmer when
any of that sort is nigh. They make nothing of galloping their horses a
hunting right through the crops, ay, and horsewhipping the farmer if he
do but say a word for the sweat of his brow.”

“O Mrs. Jewel!” cried Aurelia, in whose ear lingered the courteous
accents of her partner, “they would never behave themselves so.”

“Bless you, Miss Orreely, I’ll tell you what I’ve seen with my own eyes.
My own good man, the master here, with the horsewhip laid about his
shoulders at that very thornbush, by one of the fine gentlefolks,
just because he had mended the gap in the hedge they was used to ride
through, and my Lady sitting by in her laced scarlet habit on her fine
horse, smiling like a painted picture, and saying, ‘Thank you, sir,
the rascals need to learn not to interfere with our sport,’ all in that
gentle sounding low voice of hers, enough to drive one mad.”

“I thought Sir Jovian had been a kind master,” said Harriet.

“This was not Sir Jovian. Poor gentleman, he was not often out
a-hunting. This was one of the fine young rakish fellows from Lunnun
as were always swarming about my Lady, like bees over that maybush. Sir
Thomas Donne, I think they called him. They said he got killed by a wild
boar, hunting in foreign parts, afterwards, and serve him right! But
there! They would all do her bidding, whether for bad or good, so maybe
it was less his fault than hers. She is a bitter one, is my Lady, for
all she looks so sweet. And this her young barrowknight will be his own
mother’s son, and I don’t want none of ‘em down here. ‘Tis a good job we
have your good papa, the Major, to stand between her and us; I only wish
he had his own, for a rare good landlord he would be.”

The Dame’s vain wishes were cut short by shrieks from the poultry-yard,
where Eugene was discovered up to his ankles in the black ooze of the
horse-pond, waving a little stick in defiance of an angry gander, who
with white outspread wings, snake-like neck, bent and protruded, and
frightful screams and hisses, was no bad representation of his namesake
the dragon, especially to a child not much exceeding him in height.

The monster was put to rout, the champion dragged out of the pond,
breathlessly explaining that he only wanted to look at the goslings when
the stupid geese cackled and the gander wanted to fly at his eyes. “And
I didn’t see where I was going, for I had to keep him off, so I got into
the mud. Will sister be angry?” he concluded, ruefully surveying the
dainty little stockings and shoes coated with black mud.

But before the buckled shoon had been scraped, or the hosen washed and
dried, the cheerful memory of boyhood had convinced itself that the
enemy had been put to flight by his manful resistance; and he turned a
deaf ear to Aurelia’s suggestion that the affair had been retribution
for his constant oblivion of Comenius’ assertion that _auser gingrit,_
“the goose gagleth.”

They went home more soberly, having been directed by Mrs. Jewel to a
field bordered by a copse, where grew the most magnificent of Titania’s
pensioners tall, wearing splendid rubies in their coats; and in due
time the trio presented themselves at home, weary, but glowing with
the innocent excitement of their adventures. Harriet was the first
to proclaim that they had seen a horseman who must be Sir Amyas. “Had
sister seen him?”

“Only through the window of the kitchen where I was making puff paste.”

“He called then! Did my papa see him?”

“My father was in no condition to see any one, being under the hands and
razor of Palmer.”

“La! what a sad pity. Did he leave no message?”

“He left his compliments, and hoped his late partner was not fatigued.”

“Is he at the Great House? Will he call again?”

“He is on his way to make a visit in Monmouthshire, together with a
brother office, who is related to my Lady Herries, and finding that
their road led them within twenty miles of our town, the decided on
making a diversion to see her. It was only from her that Sir Amyas
understood how close he was to his mother’s property, for my Lady is
extremely jealous of her prerogative.”

“How did you hear all this, sister?”

“Sir George Herries rode over this afternoon and sat an hour with my
father, delighting him by averring that the young gentleman has his
mother’s charms of person, together with his father’s solidity of
principle and character, and that he will do honour to his name.”

“O, I hope he will come back by this route!” cried Harriet.

“Of that there is small likelihood,” said Betty. “His mother is nearly
certain to prevent it since she is sure to take umbrage at his having
visited the Great House without her permission.”



CHAPTER IV. MY LADY’S MISSIVE.


    To the next coffee-house he speeds,
    Takes up the news, some scraps he reads.--GAY.


Though Carminster was a cathedral city, the Special General Post only
came in once a week, and was liable to delay through storms, snows, mire
and highwaymen, so that its arrival was as great an event as is now
the coming in of a mail steamer to a colonial harbour. The “post” was
a stout countryman, with a red coat, tall jackboots and a huge hat.
He rode a strong horse, which carried, _en croupe_, an immense pack,
covered with oiled canvas, rising high enough to support his back, while
he blew a long horn to announce his arrival.

Letters were rare and very expensive articles unless franked by a Member
of Parliament, but gazettes and newsletters formed a large portion of
his freight. No private gentleman except the Dean and Sir George Herries
went to the extravagance of taking in a newspaper on his own account,
but there was a club who subscribed for the _Daily Gazetteer_, the
_Tatler_, and one or two other infant forms of periodical literature.
These were hastily skimmed on their first arrival at the club-room at
the White Dragon, lay on the table to be more deliberately conned for
a week, and finally were divided among the members to be handed about
among the families and dependants as long as they would hold together.

Major Delavie never willingly missed the coming of the mail, for his
foreign experiences gave him keen interest in the war between France and
Austria, and he watched the campaigns of his beloved Prince Eugene with
untiring enthusiasm, being, moreover, in the flattering position of
general interpreter and guide to his neighbours through the scanty
articles on foreign intelligence.

It was about ten days after the syllabub party, when he had quite
recovered his ordinary health, that he mounted his stout pony in his
military undress, his cocked hat perched on his well-powdered bob-wig,
with a queue half-way down his dark green gold-laced coat, and with
his long jack-boots carefully settle by Palmer over the knee that would
never cease to give him trouble.

Thus he slowly ambled into the town, catching on his way distant toots
of the postman’s horn. In due time he made his way into the High
Street, broad and unpaved, with rows of lime or poplar trees before the
principal houses, the most modern of which were of red brick, with heavy
sash-windows, large stone quoins, and steps up to the doors.

The White Dragon, dating from the times of the Mortimer badge, was built
of creamy stone, and had an archway conducting the traveller into a
courtyard worthy of Chaucer, with ranges of galleries running round
it, the balustrades of dark carved oak suiting with the timbers of the
latticed window and gables, and with the noble outside stair at one
angle, by which they communicated with one another. To these beauties
the good Major was entirely insensible. He only sighed at the trouble it
gave his lame knee to mount the stair to the first storey, and desired
the execution of the landlord’s barbarous design of knocking down the
street front to replace it with a plain, oblong assembly room, red brick
outside, and within, blue plaster, adorned with wreaths and bullocks’
faces in stucco.

Such were the sentiments of most of the burly squires who had ridden
in on the same errand, and throwing the reins to their grooms, likewise
climbed the stair to the club-room with its oriel looking over the
street. There too were several of the cathedral clergy, the rubicund
double-chinned face of the Canon in residence set off by a white,
cauliflower wig under a shovel hat, while the humbler minor canons (who
served likewise as curates to all the country round) only powdered their
own hair, and wore gowns and cassocks of quality very inferior to that
which adorned the portly person of their superior. His white bands were
of fine cambric, theirs of coarser linen; his stockings were of ribbed
silk, theirs of black worsted; his buckles of silver, theirs of steel;
and the line of demarcation was as strongly marked as that between the
neat, deferential tradesman, and the lawyer in his spruce snuff-coloured
coat, or the doctor, as black in hue as the clergy, though with a
secular cut, a smaller wig, and a gold-headed cane. Each had, as in duty
bound, ordered his pint of port or claret for the good of the house, and
it was well if these were not in the end greatly exceeded; and some had
lighted long clay pipes; but these were mostly of the secondary rank,
who sat at the table farthest from the window, and whose drink was a
measure of ale.

The letters had not yet been sorted, but the newspaper had been
brought in, and the Canon Boltby had possessed himself of it, and was
proclaiming scraps of intelligence about the King, Queen, and Sir
Robert Walpole, the character of Marshal Berwick, recently slain at
Philipsburg, an account of Spanish outrages at sea, or mayhap the story
of a marvelous beast, half-tiger, half-wolf, reported to be running wild
in France. The other gentlemen, waiting till the mail-bags were opened,
listened and commented; while one or two of the squires, and a shabby,
disreputable-looking minor canon made each notable name the occasion of
a toast, whether of health to his majesty’s friends or confusion to his
foes. A squabble, as to whether the gallant Berwick should be reckoned
as an honest Frenchman or as a traitor Englishman, was interrupted by
the Major’s entrance, and the congratulations on his recovery.

One of the squires inquired after his daughters, and pronounced the
little one with the outlandish name was becoming a belle, and would be
the toast of the neighbourhood, a hint of which the topers were not slow
to take advantage, while one of the guests at the recent party observed,
“Young Belamour seemed to be of that opinion.”

“May it be so,” said the Canon, “that were a step to the undoing of a
great wrong.”

“Mr. Scrivener will tell you, sir, that there was no justice in the eye
of the law,” said the Major.

“_Summum jus, summa injuria_,” quoted, _sotto voce_, Mr. Arden, a minor
canon who, being well born, scholarly, scientific and gentlemanly,
occupied a middle place between his colleagues and the grandees. He was
not listened to. Each knot of speakers was becoming louder in debate,
and Dr. Boltby’s voice was hardly heard when he announced that a rain of
blood had fallen on the Macgillicuddy mountains in Ireland, testified to
by numerous respectable Protestant witnesses, and attributable, either
to the late comet, or to the Pretender.

At that moment the letters were brought in by the postman, and each
recipient had--not without murmurs--to produce his purse and pay heavily
for them. There were not many. The Doctor had two, Mr. Arden one, Mr.
Scrivener no less than five, but of them two were franked, and a
franked letter was likewise handed over to Major DeLavie, with the word
“Aresfield” written in the corner.

“From my Lady,” said an unoccupied neighbour.

“Aye, aye,” said the Major, putting it into his pocket, being by no
means inclined to submit the letter to the general gaze.

“A good omen,” said Canon Boltby, looking up from his paper. And
the Major smiled in return, put a word or two into the discussion on
affairs, and then, as soon as he thought he could take leave without
betraying anxiety, he limped down stairs, and called for his horse. Lady
Belamour’s letters were wont to be calls for money, not easily answered,
and were never welcome sights, and this hung heavy in the laced pocket
of his coat.

Palmer met him at the back gate, and took his horse, but judged it
advisable to put no questions about the news, while his master made
his way in by the kitchen entrance of the rambling old manor house,
and entered a stone-paved low room, a sort of office or study, where he
received, and paid, money for my Lady, and smoked his pipe. Here he sat
down in his wooden armchair, spread forth his legs, and took out the
letter, opening it with careful avoidance of defacing the large red
seal, covered with many quarterings, and the Delavie escutcheon of
pretence reigning over all.

It opened, as he expected, with replies to some matters about leases and
repairs; and then followed:--

“I am informed that you have a large Family, and Daughters growing up
whom it is desirable to put in the way of making a good Match, or else
an honourable Livelihood; I am therefore willing, for the Sake of our
Family Connection, to charge myself with your youngest Girl, whose Name
I understand to be Aurelia. I will cause her to be trained in useful
Works in my Household, expecting her, in Return, to assist in the Care
and Instruction of my young Children; and if she please me and prove
herself worthy and attentive, I will bestow her Marriage upon some
suitable Person. This is the more proper and convenient for you, because
your Age and Health are such that I may not long be able to retain you
in the Charge of my Estate--in which indeed you are continued only
out of Consideration of an extremely distant Relationship, although a
younger and more active Man, bred to the Profession, would serve me far
more profitably.”

When Betty came into the room a few minutes later to pull off her
father’s boots she found him sitting like one transfixed. He held out
the letter, saying, “Read that, child.”

Betty stood by the window and read, only giving one start, and muttering
between her teeth, “Insolent woman!” but not speaking the words aloud,
for she knew her father would treat them as treason. He always had a
certain tender deference for his cousin Urania, mixed with something
akin to compunction, as if his loyalty to his betrothed had been
disloyalty to his family. Thus, he exceeded the rest of his sex in
blindness to the defects that had been so evident to his wife and
daughter; and whatever provocation might make him say of my Lady
himself, he never permitted a word against her from any one else. He
looked wistfully at Betty and said, “My little Aura! It is a kindly
thought. Her son must have writ of the child. But I had liefer she had
asked me for the sight of my old eyes.”

“The question is,” said Betty, in clear, incisive tones, “whether we
surrender Aurelia or your situation?”

“Nay, nay, Betty, you always do my cousin less than justice. She means
well by the child and by us all. Come, come say what is in your mind,”
 he add testily.

“Am I at liberty to express myself, sir?”

“Of course you are. I had rather hear the whole discharge of your
battery than see you looking constrained and satirical.”

“Then, sir, my conclusion is this. The young baronet has shown himself
smitten with out pretty Aurelia, and has spoken of tarrying on his
return to make farther acquaintance. My Lady is afraid of his going to
greater lengths, and therefore wishes to have her at her disposal.”

“She proposes to take her into her own family; that is not taking her
out of his way.”

“I am sure of that.”

“You are prejudiced, like your poor dear mother--the best of women, if
only she could ever have done justice to her Ladyship! Don’t you see,
child, Aurelia would not be gone before his return, supposing he should
come this way.”

“His visit was to be for six weeks. Did you not see the postscript?”

“No, the letter was enough for one while.”

“Here it is: ‘I shall send Dove in the Space of about a Fortnight or
three Weeks to bring to Town the young Coach Horses you mentioned. His
Wife is to return with him, as I have Occasion for her in Town, and your
Daughter must be ready to come up with them.’”

“Bless me! That is prompt! But it is thoughtful. Mrs. Dove is a good
soul. It seems to me as if my Lady, though she may not choose to say so,
wishes to see the child, and if she approve of her, breed her up in the
accomplishments needed for such an elevation.”

“If you hold that opinion, dear sir, it is well.”

“If I thought she meant other than kindness toward the dear maid, I had
rather we all pinched together than risk the little one in her hands. I
had rather-if it comes to that--live on a crust a day than part with
my sweet child; but if it were for good, Betty! It is hard for you all
three to be cooped up together here, with no means of improving your
condition; and this may be an opening that I ought not to reject. What
say you, Betty?”

“If I were to send her out into the world, I had rather bind her
apprentice to the Misses Rigby to learn mantua-making.”

“Nay, nay, my dear; so long as I live there is no need for my children
to come to such straits.”

“As long as you retain your situation, sir; but you perceive how my Lady
concludes her letter.”

“An old song, Betty, which she sings whenever the coin does not come
in fast enough to content her. She does not mean what she says; I know
Urania of old. No; I will write back to her, thanking her for her good
offices, but telling her my little girl is too young to be launched
into the world as yet. Though if it were Harriet, she might not be
unwilling.”

“Harriet would be transported at the idea; but it is not she whom the
Lady wants. And indeed I had rather trust little Aurelia to take care of
herself than poor Harriet.”

“We shall see! We shall see! Meantime, do not broach the subject to your
sisters.”

Betty assented, and departed with a heavy heart, feeling that, whatever
her father might believe, the choice would be between the sacrifice of
Aurelia or of her father’s agency, which would involve the loss of
home, of competence, and of the power of breeding up her darling Eugene
according to his birth. She did not even know what her father had
written, and could only go about her daily occupations like one under a
weight, listening to her sisters’ prattle about their little plans with
a strange sense that everything was coming to an end, and constantly
weighing the comparative evils of yielding or refusing Aurelia.

No one would have more valiantly faced poverty than Elizabeth Delavie,
had she alone been concerned. Cavalier and Jacobite blood was in her
veins, and her unselfish character had been trained by a staunch and
self-devoted mother. But her father’s age and Eugene’s youth made her
waver. She might work her fingers to the bone, and live on oatmeal, to
give her father the comforts he required; but to have Eugene brought
down from his natural station was more than she could endure. His
welfare must be secured at the cost not only of Aurelia’s sweet
presence, but of her happiness; and Betty durst not ask herself what
more she dreaded, knowing too that she would probably be quite incapable
of altering her father’s determination whatever it might be, and that he
was inclined to trust Lady Belamour. The only chance of his refusal was
that he should take alarm at the manner of requiring his daughter from
him.



CHAPTER V. THE SUMMONS.


    But when the King knew that the thing must be,
    And that no help there was in this distress,
    He bade them have all things in readiness
    To take the maiden out.--MORRIS.


The second Sunday of suspense had come. The Sundays of good young ladies
little resembled those of a century later, though they were not devoid
of a calm peacefulness, worthy of the “sweet day, so cool, so calm, so
bright.” The inhabited rooms of the old house looked bright and festal;
there were fresh flowers in the pots, honey as well as butter on
the breakfast table. The Major and Palmer were both in full uniform,
wonderfully preserved. Eugene, a marvel of prettiness, with his curled
hair and little velvet coat, contrived by his sisters out of some
ancestral hoard. Betty wore thick silk brocade from the same store;
Harriet a fresh gay chintz over a crimson skirt, and Aurelia was in
spotless white, with a broad blue sash and blue ribbons in her hat, for
her father liked to see her still a child; so her hair was only tied
with blue, while that of her sisters was rolled over a cushion, and
slightly powdered.

The church was so near that the Major could walk thither, leaning on
his stout crutch-handled stick, and aided by his daughter’s arm, as
he proceeded down the hawthorn lane, sweet with the breath of May,
exchanging greetings with whole families of the poor, the fathers in
smock frocks wrought with curious needlework on the breast and back,
the mothers in high-crowned hats and stout dark blue woollen gowns, the
children, either patched or ragged, and generally barefooted, but by no
means ill-fed.

No Sunday school had been invented. The dame who hobbled along in
spectacles, dropping a low curtsey to the “quality,” taught the hornbook
and the primer to a select few of the progeny of the farmers and
artisans, and the young ladies would no more have thought of assisting
her labours than the blacksmith’s. They only clubbed their pocket money
to clothe and pay the schooling of one little orphan, who acknowledged
them by a succession of the lowest bobs as she trotted past, proud as
Margery Twoshoes herself of the distinction of being substantially shod.

The church was small, and with few pretensions to architecture at
the best. It had been nearly a ruin, when, stirred by the Major, the
church-wardens had taken it in hand, so that, owing to Richard Stokes
and John Ball, as they permanently declared in yellow letters on a blue
ground, the congregation were no longer in danger of the roof admitting
the rain or coming down on the congregation. They had further beautified
the place with a huge board of the royal arms, and with Moses and Aaron
in white cauliflower wigs presiding over the tables of the Commandments.
Four long dark, timber pews and numerous benches, ruthlessly constructed
out of old carvings, occupied the aisle, and the chancel was more than
half filled with the lofty “closet” of the Great House family. Hither
the Delavie family betook themselves, and on her way Betty was startled
by the recognition, in the seat reserved for the servants, of a broad
back and curled wig that could belong to no one but Jonah Dove. She did
her utmost to keep her mind from dwelling on what this might portend,
though she followed the universal custom by exchanging nods and curtsies
with the Duckworth family as she sailed up the aisle at the head of the
little procession.

There was always a little doubt as to who would serve the church. One
of the Canons was the incumbent, and the curate was Mr. Arden, the
scientific minor canon, but when his services were required at the
cathedral, one of his colleagues would supply his place, usually in a
sadly perfunctory manner. However, he was there in person, as his voice,
a clear and pleasant one, showed the denizens of the “closet,” for they
could not see out of it, except where Eugene had furtively enlarged
a moth-eaten hole in the curtain, through which, when standing on the
seat, he could enjoy an oblique view of the back of an iron-moulded
surplice and a very ill-powdered wig. This was a comfort to him. It
would have been more satisfactory to have been able to make out whence
came the stentorian A-men, that responded to the parson, totally
unaccompanied save by the good Major, who always read his part almost as
loud as the clerk, from a great octavo prayer-book, bearing on the lid
the Delavie arms with coronet, supporters, and motto, “_Ma Vie et ma
Mie_.” It would have been thought unladylike, if not unscriptural,
to open the lips in church; yet, for all her silence, good Betty was
striving to be devout and attentive, praying earnestly for her little
sister’s safety, and hailing as a kind of hopeful augury this verse from
the singers--


                 “At home, abroad, in peace, in war
                    Thy God shall thee defend,
                  Conduct thee through life’s pilgrimage
                    Safe to the journey’s end.”


Much cannot be said for the five voices that sang, nor for the two
fiddles that accompanied them. Eugene had scarcely outgrown his terror
at the strains, and still required Aurelia to hold his hand, under
pretext of helping him to follow the words, not an easy thing, since the
last lines were always repeated three or four times.

Somehow the repetition brought them the more home to Betty’s heart, and
they rang consolingly in her ears, all through the sermon, of which
she took in so little that she never found out that it was an elaborate
exposition of the Newtonian philosophy, including Mr. Arden’s views of
the miracle at the battle Beth-horon, in the Lesson for the day.

The red face and Belamour livery looked doubly ominous when she came
out of church, but she had to give her arm to her father till they were
overtaken by Mr. Arden, who always shared the Sunday roast beef and plum
pudding. Betty feared it was the best meal he had in the week, for he
lived in lodgings, and his landlady was not too careful of his comforts,
while he was wrapped up in his books and experiments. There was a hole
singed in the corner of his black gown, which Eugene pointed out with
great awe to Aurelia as they walked behind him.

“See there, Aura. Don’t you think he has been raising spirits, like
Friar Bacon?”

“What do you know about Friar Bacon?” asked Harriet.

“He is in a little book that I bought of the pedlar. He had a brazen
head that said--

                        ‘Time is,
                         Time was,
                         Time will be.’

I wonder if Mr. Arden would show me one like it.”

“You ridiculous little fellow to believe such trash!” said Harriet.

“But, Hatty, he can really light a candle without a tinder-box,” said
Eugene. “His landlady told Palmer so; and Palmer says the Devil flew
away with Friar Bacon; but my book says he burnt all his books and gave
himself to the study of divinity, and dug his grave with his own nails.”

“Little boys should not talk of such things on Sundays,” said Harriet,
severely.

“One does talk of the Devil on Sunday, for he is in the catechism,”
 returned Eugene. “If he carries Mr. Arden off, do you think there will
be a great smoke, and that folk will see it?”

Aurelia’s silvery peal of laughter fell sadly upon Betty’s ears in
front, and her father and Mr. Arden turned to ask what made them so
merry. Aurelia blushed in embarrassment, but Harriet was ready.

“You will think us very rude, Sir, but my little brother has been
reading the life of Friar Bacon, and he thinks you an equally great
philosopher.”

“Indeed, my little master, you do me too much honour. You will soon be a
philosopher yourself. I did not expect so much attention in so young an
auditor,” said mr. Arden, thinking this the effect of his sermon on the
solar system.

Whereupon Eugene begged to inspect the grave he was digging with his own
nails.

They were at home by this time, and Betty was aware that they had been
followed at a respectful distance by Palmer and the coachman. Anxious as
she was, she could not bear that her father’s dinner should be spoilt,
or that he, in his open-hearted way, should broach the matter with Mr.
Arden; so she repaired to the garden gate, and on being told that Mr.
Dove had a packet from my Lady for the Major, she politely invited him
to dinner with the servants, and promised that her father should see him
afterwards.

This gave a long respite, since the servants had the reversion of the
beef, so the Mr. Arden had taken leave, and gone to see a bedridden
pauper, and the Major had time for his forty winks, while Betty, though
her heart throbbed hard beneath her tightly-laced boddice, composed
herself to hear Eugene’s catechism, and the two sisters, each with a
good book, slipped out to the honeysuckle arbour in the garden behind
the house. Harriet had _Sherlock in Death_, her regular Sunday study,
though she never got any further than the apparition of Mrs. Veal, over
which she gloated in a dreamy state; Aurelia’s study was a dark-covered,
pale-lettered copy of the _Ikon Basilike_, with the strange attraction
that youth has to pain and sorrow, and sat musing over the resigned
outpourings of the perplexed and persecuted king, with her bright eyes
fixed on the deep blue sky, and the honeysuckle blossoms gently waving
against it, now and then visited by bee or butterfly, while through the
silence came the throbbing notes of the nightingale, followed by its
jubilant burst of glee, and the sweet distant chime of the cathedral
bells rose and fell upon the wind. What peace and repose there was in
all the air, even in the gentle breeze, and the floating motions of the
swallows skimming past.

The stillness was first broken by the jangle of their own little church
bell, for Mr. Arden was a more than usually diligent minister, and
always gave two services when he was not in course at the cathedral. The
young ladies always attended both, but as Harriet and Aurelia crossed
the lawn, their brother ran to meet them, saying, “We are not to wait
for sister.”

“I hope my papa is well,” said Aurelia.

“Oh yes,” said Eugene, “but the man in the gold-laced hat has been
speaking with him. Palmer says it is Mrs. Dove’s husband, and he is
going to take Lively Tom and Brown Bet and the two other colts to
London. He asked if I should like to ride a-cockhorse there with him.
‘Dearly,’ I said, and then he laughed and said it was not my turn, but
he should take Miss Aurelia instead.”

Aurelia laughed, and Harriet said, “Extremely impudent.”

Little she guessed what Betty was at that moment reading.

“I am astonished,” wrote Lady Belamour to her cousin, “that you should
decline so highly advantageous an Offer for your Daughter. I can only
understand it as a Token that you desire no further Connection with,
nor Favour from me; and I shall therefore require of you to give up the
Accounts, and vacate the House by Michaelmas next ensuing. However, as I
am willing to allow some excuse for the Weakness of parental Affection,
if you change your Mind within the next Week and send up your Daughter
with Dove and his Wife, I will overlook your first hasty and foolish
Refusal, ungrateful as it was, and will receive your Daughter and give
her all the Advantages I promised. Otherwise your Employment is at
an end, and you had better prepare your Accounts for Hargrave’s
Inspection.”

“There is no help for it then,” said Betty.

“And if it be for the child’s advantage, we need not make our moan,”
 said her father. “‘Tis like losing the daylight out of our house, but we
must not stand in the way of her good.”

“If I were only sure it is for her good!”

“Why, child, there’s scarce a wench in the county who would not go down
on her knees for such a chance. See what Madam Duckworth would say to it
for Miss Peggy!”

Betty said no more. The result of her cogitations had been that since
Aurelia must be yielded for the sake of her father and Eugene, it was
better not to disturb him with fears, which would only anger him at the
moment and disquiet him afterwards. She was likewise reassured by Mrs.
Dove’s going with her, since that good woman had been nurse to the
little Belamour cousins now deceased, and was well known as an excellent
and trustworthy person, so that, if she were going to act in the same
capacity to my Lady’s second family, Aurelia would have a friend at
hand. So the Major cheated his grief by greeting the church-goers with
the hilarious announcement--

“Here’s great news! What says my little Aura to going London to my
Lady’s house.”

“O Sir! are you about to take us.”

“Not I! My Lady wants pretty young maidens, not battered old soldiers.”

“Nor my sisters? O then, if you please, Sir, I would rather not go!”

“Silly children cannot choose! No, no, Aura, you must go out and see the
world, and come back to us such a belle that your poor old father will
scarce know you.”

“I do not wish to be a belle,” said the girl. “O Sir, let me stay with
you and sister.”

“Do not be so foolish, Aura,” put in Harriet. “It will be the making of
you. I wish I had the offer.”

“O Harriet, could not you go instead?”

“No, Aurelia,” said Betty. “There is no choice, and you must be a good
girl and not vex my father.”

The gravity of her eldest sister convinced Aurelia that entreaties would
be vain, and there was soon a general outburst of assurances that she
would see all that was delightful in London, the lions in the Tower, the
new St. Paul’s, the monuments, Ranelagh, the court ladies, may be,
the King and Queen themselves; until she began to feel exhilarated and
pleased at the prospect and the distinction.

Then came Monday and the bustle of preparing her wardrobe. The main body
of it was to be sent in the carrier’s waggon, for she was to ride on
a pillion behind Mr. Dove, and could only take a valise upon a groom’s
horse. There was no small excitement in the arrangement, and in
the farewells to the neighbours, who all agreed with Harriet in
congratulating the girl on her promotion. Betty did her part with all
her might, washed lace, and trimmed sleeves, and made tuckers, giving
little toilette counsels, while her heart ached sorely all the time.

When she could speak to Mrs. Dove alone, she earnestly besought that old
friend to look after the child, her health, her dress, and above all to
supply here lack of experience and give her kind counsel and advice.

“I will indeed, ma’am, as though she were my own,” promised Mrs. Dove.

“O nurse, I give my sweet jewel to your care; you know what a great
house in London is better than I do. You will warn her of any danger.”

“I will do my endeavour, ma’am. We servants see and hear much, and if
any harm should come nigh the sweet young miss, I’ll do my best for
her.”

“Thank you, nurse, I shall never, never see her more in her free artless
childishness,” said Betty, sobbing as if her heart would break; “but oh,
nurse, I can bear the thought better since I have known that you would
be near her.”

And at night, when her darling nestled for the last time in her arms,
the elder sister whispered her warnings. Her knowledge of the great
world was limited, but she believed it to be a very wicked place, and
she profoundly distrusted her brilliant kinswoman; yet her warnings took
no shape more definite than--“My dearest sister will never forget her
prayers nor her Bible.” There was a soft response and fresh embrace at
each pause. “Nor play cards of a Sunday, nor ever play high. And my Aura
must be deaf to rakish young beaux and their compliments. They never
mean well by poor pretty maids. If you believe them, they will only
mock, flout, and jeer you in the end. And if the young baronet should
seek converse with you, promise me, oh, promise me, Aurelia, to grant
him no favour, no, not so much as to hand him a flower, or stand
chatting with him unknown to his mother. Promise me again, child, for
naught save evil can come of any trifling between you. And, Aurelia, go
to Nurse Dove in all your difficulties. She can advise you where your
poor sister cannot. It will ease my heart if I know that my child will
attend to her. You will not let yourself be puffed up with flattery,
nor be offended if she be open and round with you. Think that your poor
sister Betty speaks in her. Pray our old prayers, go to church, and
read your Psalms and Lessons daily, and oh! never, never cheat your
conscience. O may God, in His mercy, keep my darling!”

So Aurelia cried herself to sleep, while Betty lay awake till the early
hour in the morning when all had to be prepared for the start. There was
to be a ride of an hour and a half before breakfast so as to give the
horses a rest. It was a terrible separation, in many respects more
complete than if Aurelia had been going, in these days, to America;
for communication by letter was almost as slow, and infinitely more
expensive.

No doubt the full import of what he had done had dawned even on Major
Delavie during the watches of that last sorrowful night, for he came out
a pale, haggard man, looking as if his age had doubled since he went to
bed, wrapped in his dressing gown, his head covered with his night-cap,
and leaning heavily on his staff. He came charged with one of the long
solemn discourses which parents were wont to bestow on their children
as valedictions, but when Aurelia, in her camlet riding cloak and hood,
brought her tear-stained face to crave his blessing, he could only utter
broken fragments. “Bless thee my child! Take heed to yourself and your
ways. It is a bad world, beset with temptations. Oh! heaven forgive me
for sending my innocent lamb out into it. Oh! what would your blessed
mother say?”

“Dear sir,” said Betty, who had wept out her tears, and was steadily
composed now, “this is no time to think of that. We must only cheer up
our darling, and give her good counsel. If she keep to what her Bible,
her catechism and her conscience tell her, she will be a good girl, and
God will protect her.”

“True, true, your sister is right; Aura, my little sweetheart, I had
much to say to you, but it is all driven out of my poor old head.”

“Aura! Aura! the horses are coming! Ten of them!” shouted Eugene. “Come
along! Oh! if I were but going! How silly of you to cry; _I_ don’t.”

“There! there! Go my child, and God in His mercy protect you!”

Aurelia in speechless grief passed from the arms of one sister to the
embrace of the other, hugged Eugene, was kissed by Nannerl, who forced
a great piece of cake into her little bag, and finally was lifted to her
pillion cushion by Palmer, who stole a kiss of her hand before Dove put
his horse in motion, while Betty was still commending her sister to his
wife’s care, and receiving reiterated promises of care.



CHAPTER VI. DISAPPOINTED LOVE.


    I know thee well, thy songs and sighs,
       A wicked god thou art;
    And yet, most pleasing to the eyes,
       And witching to the heart.
                             W. MACKWORTH PRAED.


The house was dull when Aurelia was gone. Her father was ill at ease
and therefore testy, Betty too sore at heart to endure as cheerfully
as usual his unwonted ill-humour. Harriet was petulant, and Eugene
troublesome, and the two were constantly jarring against one another,
since the one missed her companion, the other his playmate; and they
were all more sensible than ever how precious and charming an element
was lost to the family circle.

On the next ensuing Sunday, Eugene had made himself extremely obnoxious
to Harriet, by persisting in kicking up the dust, and Betty, who had
gone on before with her father, was availing herself of the shelter of
the great pew to brush with a sharp hand the dust from the little
legs, when, even in the depths of their seclusion, the whole party were
conscious of a sort of breathless sound of surprise and admiration, a
sweep of bows and curtsies, and the measured tread of boots and clank of
sword and spurs coming nearer--yes, to the very chancel. Their very door
was opened by the old clerk with the most obsequious of reverences, and
there entered a gorgeous vision of scarlet and gold, bowing gracefully
with a wave of a cocked and plumed hat!

The Major started, and was moving out of his corner--the seat of
honour--but the stranger forbade this by another gesture, and took his
place, after standing for a moment with his face hidden in his hat. Then
he took an anxious survey, not without an almost imperceptible
elevation of eyebrow and shoulder, as if disappointed, and accepted the
Prayer-book, which the Major offered him.

Betty kept her eyes glued to her book, and when that was not in
use, upon the mittened hands crossed before her, resolute against
distraction, and every prayer turning into a petition for her sister’s
welfare; but Eugene gazed, open-eyed and open-mouthed, oblivious of his
beloved hole, and Harriet, though keeping her lids down, and her book
open, contrived to make a full inspection of the splendid apparition.

It was tall and slight, youthfully undeveloped, yet with the grace of
personal symmetry, high breeding, and military training, upright without
stiffness, with a command and dexterity of movement which prevented the
sword and spurs from being the annoyance to his pew-mates that country
awkwardness usually made these appendages. The spurs were on cavalry
boots, guarding the knee, and met by white buckskins, both so little
dusty that there could have been no journey that morning. The bright
gold-laced scarlet coat of the Household troops entirely effaced the
Major’s old Austrian uniform; and over it, the hair, of a light golden
brown, was brushed back, tied with black ribbon, and hung down far
behind in a queue, only leaving little gold rings curling on the brow
and temples. The face was modelled like a cameo, faultless in the
outlines, with a round peach-like fresh contour and bloom on the fair
cheek, which had much of the child, though with a firmness in the lip,
and strength in the brow, that promised manliness. Indeed there was
a wonderful blending of the beauty of manhood and childhood about the
youth; and his demeanour was perfectly decorous and reverent, no small
merit in a young officer and London beau. Indeed Betty could almost have
forgotten his presence, if gleams from his glittering equipments had
not kept glancing before her eyes, turn them where she would, and if Mr.
Arden’s sermon had not been of Solomon’s extent of natural philosophy,
and so full of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that she could not follow it at
all.

After the blessing, the young gentleman, with a bow, the pink of
courtesy, offered a hand to lead her out, nor could she refuse, though,
to use her own expression, she hated the absurdity of mincing down the
aisle with a fine young spark looking like her grandson; while her poor
father had to put up with Harriet’s arm. Outside came the greetings, the
flourish of the hat, the “I may venture to introduce myself, and to beg
of you, sir, and of my fair cousins to excuse my sudden intrusion.”

“No apology can be needed for your appearance in your own pew, Sir
Amyas,” said the Major with outstretched hand; “it did my heart good to
see you there!”

“I would not have taken you thus by surprise,” continued the youth, “but
one of my horses lost a shoe yesterday, and we were constrained to halt
at Portkiln for the night, and ride on this morning. Herries went on to
the Deanery, and I hoped to have seen you before church, but found you
had already entered.”

Portkiln was so near, that this Sabbath day’s journey did not scandalise
Betty, and her father eagerly welcomed his kinsman, and insisted that he
should go no farther. Sir Amyas accepted the invitation, nothing loth,
only asking, with a little courtly diffidence, if it might not be
convenient for him to sleep at the Great House, and begging the ladies
to excuse his riding dress.

His eyes wandered anxiously as though in search of something in the
midst of all his civility, and while the Major was sending Eugene to
bring Mr. Arden--who was hanging back at the churchyard gate, unwilling
to thrust himself forward--the faltering question was put, while the
cheeks coloured like a girl’s, “I hope my fair partner, my youngest
cousin, Miss Aurelia Delavie, is in good health?”

“We hope so, sir, thank you,” returned Betty; “but she left us six days
ago.”

“Left you!” he repeated, in consternation that overpowered his
courtliness.

“Yes, sir,” said Harriet, “my Lady, your mother, has been good enough to
send for her to London.”

“My Lady!” he murmured to himself; “I never thought of that! How and
when did she go?”

The answer was interrupted by the Major coming up “Sir Amyas Belamour,
permit me to present to you the Reverend Richard Arden, the admirable
divine to whom we are beholden for the excellent and learned
discourse of this morning. You’ll not find such another scholar in all
Carminster.”

“I am highly honoured,” returned the baronet, with a bow in return for
Mr. Arden’s best obeisance, such as it was; and Harriet, seeing Peggy
Duckworth in the distance, plumed herself on her probable envy.

Before dinner was served Sir Amyas had obtained the information as to
Aurelia’s departure, and even as to the road she had taken, and he had
confessed that, “Of course he had write to his mother that he had danced
with the most exquisitely beautiful creature he had ever seen, and that
he longed to know his cousins better.” No doubt his mother, having been
thus reminded of her connections, had taken the opportunity of summoning
Aurelia to London to give her the advantages of living in her household
and acquiring accomplishments. The lad was so much delighted at the
prospect of enjoying her society that he was almost consoled for not
finding her at the Manor House; and his elaborate courtesy became every
moment less artificial and more affectionate, as the friendly atmosphere
revealed that the frankness and simplicity of the boy had not been lost,
captain in the dragoon guards as he was, thanks to interest, though
he had scarcely yet joined his troop. He had been with a tutor in the
country, until two years ago, when his stepfather, Mr. Wayland, had
taken him, still with his tutor, on the expedition to the Mediterranean.
He had come home from Gibraltar, and joined his regiment only a few
weeks before setting out with his friend Captain Herries, to visit
Battlefield, Lady Aresfield’s estate in Monmouthshire. He was quartered
in the Whitehall barracks, but could spend as much time as he pleased at
his mother’s house in Hanover Square.

Betty’s mind misgave her as she saw the brightening eye with which he
said it; but she could not but like the youth himself, he was so bright,
unspoilt, and engaging that she could not think him capable of doing
wilful wrong to her darling. Yet how soon would the young soldier,
plunged into the midst of fashionable society, learn to look on the fair
girl with the dissipated eyes of his associates? There was some comfort
in finding that Mr. Wayland was expected to return in less than a year,
and that his stepson seemed to regard him with unbounded respect, as
a good, just, and wise man, capable of everything! Indeed Sir Amyas
enlightened Mr. Arden on the scientific construction of some of Mr.
Wayland’s inventions so as to convince both the clergyman and the
soldier that the lad himself was no fool, and had profited by his
opportunities.

Major Delavie produced his choice Tokay, a present from an old Hungarian
brother-officer, and looked happier than since Aurelia’s departure. He
was no match-maker, and speculated on no improbable contingencies for
his daughter, but he beheld good hopes for the Delavie property and
tenants in an heir such as this, and made over his simple loyal heart
to the young man. Presently he inquired whether the unfortunate Mr.
Belamour still maintained his seclusion.

“Yes, sir,” was the reply. “He still lives in two dark rooms with
shutters and curtains excluding every ray of light. He keeps his bed for
the greater part of the day, but sometimes, on a very dark night, will
take a turn on the terrace.”

“Poor gentleman!” said Betty. “Has he no employment or occupation?”

“Mr. Wayland contrived a raised chess and draught board, and persuaded
him to try a few games before we went abroad, but I do not know whether
he has since continued it.”

“Does he admit any visits?”

“Oh no. He has been entirely shut up, except from the lawyer, Hargrave,
on business. Mr. Wayland, indeed, strove to rouse him from his
despondency, but without success, except that latterly he became willing
to receive him.”

“Have you ever conversed with him?”

There was an ingenuous blush as the young man replied. “I fear I must
confess myself remiss. Mr. Wayland has sometimes carried me with him to
see my uncle, but not with my good will, and my mother objected lest it
should break my spirits. However, when I left Gibraltar, my good
father charged me to endeavour from time to time to enliven my uncle’s
solitude, but there were impediments to my going to him, and I take
shame to myself for not having striven to overcome them.”

“Rightly spoken, my young kinsman,” cried the Major. “There are no such
impediments as a man’s own distaste.”

“And pity will remove that,” said Betty.

Soon after the removal of the cloth the ladies withdrew, and Eugene was
called to his catechism, but he was soon released, for the Tokay had
made her father sleepy, while it seemed to have emboldened Mr. Arden,
since he came forth with direct intent to engross Harriet; and Sir Amyas
wandered towards Betty, apologising for the interruption.

“It is a rare occasion,” said she as her pupil scampered away.

“Happy child, to be taught by so good a sister,” said the young baronet,
regretfully.

“Your young half-brothers and sisters must be of about the same age,”
 said Betty.

“My little brother, Archer, is somewhat younger. He is with my mother in
London, the darling of the ladies, who think him a perfect beauty, and
laugh at all his mischievous pranks. As to my little sisters, you will
be surprised to hear that I have only seen them once, when I rode with
their father to see them at the farm houses at which they are nursed.”

“No doubt they are to be fetched home, since Mrs. Dove is gone to wait
on them, and my Lady said something of intending my sister to be with
her young children.”

“Nay, she must have no such troublesome charge. My mother cannot intend
anything of the kind. I shall see that she is treated as---”

Betty, beginning to perceive that he knew as little of his own mother as
did the rest of his sex, here interrupted him. “Excuse me, sir, I doubt
not of your kind intentions, but let me speak, for Aurelia is a very
precious child to me, and I am afraid that any such attempt on your part
might do her harm rather than good. She must be content with the lot of
a poor dependant.”

“Never!” he exclaimed. “She is a Delavie; and besides, no other ever
shall be my wife.”

“Hush, hush!” Betty had been saying before the words were out of his
“You are but a silly boy, begging your Honour’s pardon, though you
speak, I know, with all your heart. What would your Lady mother say or
do to my poor little sister if she heard you?”

“She could but send her home, and then flood and fire could not hold me
from her.”

“I wish that were the worst she could do. No, Sir Amyas Belamour, if you
have any kindness for the poor helpless girl under your mother’s roof,
you will make no advance to excite alarm or anger against her. Remember
it is she who will be the sufferer and not yourself. The woman, however
guiltless, is sure to fall under suspicion and bear the whole penalty.
And oh! what would become of her, defenceless, simple, unprotected as
she is?”

“Yet you sent her!” said he.

“Yes,” said Betty, sadly, “because there was no other choice between
breaking with my Lady altogether.”

He made an ejaculation under his breath, half sad, half violent, and
exclaimed, “Would that I were of age, or my father were returned.”

“But now you know all, you will leave my child in peace,” said Betty.

“What, you would give me no hope!”

“Only such as you yourself have held out,” said Betty. “When you are
your own master, if you keep in the same mind till then, and remain
truly worthy, I cannot tell what my father would answer.”

“I am going to speak to him this very day. I came with that intent.”

“Do no such thing, I entreat,” cried Betty. “He would immediately think
it his duty to inform my Lady. Then no protestation would persuade her
that we had not entrapped your youth and innocence. His grey head would
be driven out without shelter, and what might not be the consequence to
my sister? You could not help us, and could only make it worse. No,
do nothing rash, incautious, or above all, disobedient. It would be
self-love, not true love that would risk bringing her into peril and
trouble when she is far out of reach of all protection.”

“Trust me, trust me, Cousin Betty,” cried the youth. “Only let me hope,
and I’ll be caution itself; but oh! what an endless eternity is two
years to wait without a sign!”

But here appeared the Major, accompanied by Captain Herries and Dean
Churchill, who had ordered out his coach, Sunday though it were, to pay
his respects to my Lady’s son, and carry him and his hosts back to sup
at the Deanery. It was an age of adulation, but Betty was thankful that
perilous conversations were staved off.



CHAPTER VII. ALL ALONE.


    By the simplicity of Venus’ doves.
                                 _Merchant of Venice_.


That Sunday was spent by Aurelia at the Bear Inn, at Reading. Her
journey had been made by very short stages, one before breakfast,
another lasting till noon, when there was a long halt for dinner and
rest for horse and rider, and then another ride, never even in these
longest summer days prolonged beyond six or seven o’clock at latest,
such was the danger of highwaymen being attracted by the valuable
horses, although the grooms in charge were so well armed that they might
almost as well have been troopers.

The roads, at that time of year, were at their best, and Aurelia and
Mrs. Dove were mounted on steady old nags, accustomed to pillions.
Aurelia could have ridden single, but this would not have been thought
fitting on a journey with no escort of her own rank, and when she
mounted she was far too miserable to care for anything but hiding her
tearful face behind Mr. Dove’s broad shoulders. Mrs. Dove was perched
behind a wiry, light-weighted old groom, whom she kept in great order,
much to his disgust.

After the first wretchedness, Aurelia’s youthful spirits had begun to
revive, and the novel scenes to awaken interest. The Glastonbury thorn
was the first thing she really looked at. The Abbey was to her only an
old Gothic melancholy ruin, not worthy of a glance, but the breezy
air of the Cheddar Hills, the lovely cliffs, and the charm of the open
country, with its strange islands of hills dotted about, raised her
spirits, as she rode through the meadows where hay was being tossed, and
the scent came fragrant on the breeze. Mr. Dove would tell her over his
shoulder the names of places and their owners when they came to parks
bordering the road, and castles “bosomed high in the tufted trees.” Or
he would regale her with legends of robberies and point to the frightful
gibbets, one so near to the road that she shut her eyes and crouched low
behind him to avoid seeing the terrible burthen. She had noted the
White Horse, and shuddered at the monument at Devizes commemorating the
judgment on the lying woman, and a night had been spent at Marlborough
that “Miss” might see a strolling company of actors perform in a barn;
but as the piece was the _Yorksire Tragedy_, the ghastly performance
overcame her so completely that Mrs. Dove had to take her away,
declaring that no inducement should ever take her to a theatre again.

Mr. Dove was too experienced a traveller not to choose well his quarters
for the night, and Aurelia slept in the guest chambers shining with
cleanliness and scented with lavender, Mrs. Dove always sharing her
room. “Miss” was treated with no small regard, as a lady of the good old
blood, and though the coachman and his wife talked freely with her,
they paid her all observance, never ate at the same table, and provided
assiduously for her comfort and pleasure. Once they halted a whole
day because even Mr. Dove was not proof against the allurements of
a bull-baiting, though he carefully explained that he only made a
concession to the grooms to prevent them from getting discontented,
and went himself to the spectacle to hinder them from getting drunk, in
which, be it observed, he did not succeed.

So much time was spent on thus creeping from stage to stage that Aurelia
had begun to feel as if the journey had been going on for ages, and as
if worlds divided her from her home, when on Sunday she timidly preceded
Mrs. Dove into Reading Abbey Church, and afterwards was shown where
rolled Father Thames. The travellers took early morning with them for
Maidenhead Thicket, and breakfasted on broiled trout at the King’s Arms
at Maidenhead Bridge, while Aurelia felt her eye filled with the beauty
of the broad glassy river, and the wooded banks, and then rose onwards,
looking with loyal awe at majestic Windsor, where the flag was flying.
They slept at a poor little inn a Longford, rather than cross Hounslow
Heath in the evening, and there heard all the last achievements of the
thieves, so that Aurelia, in crossing the next day, looked to see a
masked highwayman start out of every bush; but they came safely to the
broad archway of the inn at Knightsbridge, their last stage. Mrs.
Dove took her charge up stairs at once to refresh her toilette, before
entering London and being presented to my Lady.

But a clattering and stamping were heard in the yard, and Aurelia,
looking from the window, called Mrs. Dove to see four horses being
harnessed to a coach that was standing there.

“Lawk-a-day?” cried the good woman, “if it be not our own old coach, as
was the best in poor Sir Jovian’s time! Ay, there be our colours, you
see, blue and gold, and my Lady’s quartering. Why, ‘twas atop of that
very blue hammercloth that I first set eyes on my Dove! So my Lady has
sent to meet you, Missie. Well, I do take it kind of her. Now you will
not come in your riding hood, all frowsed and dusty, but can put on your
pretty striped sacque and blue hood that you wore on Sunday, and look
the sweet pretty lady you are.”

Mrs. Dove’s intentions were frustrated, for the maid of the inn knocked
at the door with a message that the coach had orders not to wait, but
that Miss was to come down immediately.

“Dear, dear!” sighed Mrs. DOve. “Tell the jackanapes not to be so
hasty. He must give the young lady time to change her dress, and eat a
mouthful.”

This brought Dove up to the door. “Never mind dressing and fallals,” he
said; “this is a strange fellow that says he is hired for the job, and
his orders are precise. Miss must take a bit of cake in her hand. Come,
dame, you have not lived so long in my Lady’s service as to forget what
it is to cross her will, or keep her waiting.”

Therewith he hurried Aurelia down stairs, his wife being in such a state
of _deshabille_ that she could not follow. He handed the young lady
into the carriage, gave her a parcel of slices of bread and meat, with a
piece of cake, shut the door, and said, “Be of good heart, Missie, we’ll
catch you up by the time you are in the square. All right!”

Off went Aurelia in solitude, within a large carriage, once gaily fitted
though now somewhat faded and tarnished. She was sorry to be parted from
the Doves, whom she wanted to give her courage for the introduction to
my Lady, and to explain to her the wonders of the streets of London,
which she did not _quite_ expect to see paved with gold! She ate her
extemporised meal, gazing from the window, and expecting to see houses
and churches thicken on her, and hurrying to brush away her crumbs, and
put on her gloves lest she should arrive unawares, for she had counted
half-a-dozen houses close together. No! here was another field! More
fields and houses. The signs of habitation were, so far from increasing,
growing more scanty, and looked strangely like what she had before
passed. Could this be the right road! How foolish to doubt, when this
was my Lady’s own coach. But oh, that it had waited for Mrs. Dove! She
would beg her to get in when the riders overtook her. When would they?
No sign of them could be seen from the windows, and here were more
houses. Surely this was Turnham Green again, or there must be another
village green exactly like it in the heart of London. How many times did
not poor Aurelia go through all these impressions in the course of the
drive. She was absolutely certain that she was taken through Brentford
again, this time without a halt; but after this the country became
unknown to her, and the road much worse. It was in fact for the most
part a mere ditch or cart track, so rough that the four horses came to
a walk. Aurelia had read no novels but _Telemaque_ and _Le Grand Cyrus_,
so her imagination was not terrified by tales of abduction, but alarm
began to grow upon her. She much longed to ask the coachman whither
he was taking her, but the check string had been either worn out or
removed; she could not open the door from within, nor make him hear, and
indeed she was a little afraid of him.

Twilight began to come on; it was much later than Mr. Dove had ever
ventured to be out, but here at last there was a pause, and the swing of
a gate, the road was smoother and she seemed to be in a wood, probably
private ground. On and on, for an apparently interminable time, went the
coach with the wearied and affrighted girl, through the dark thicket,
until at last she emerged, into a park, where she could again see the
pale after-glow of the sunset, and presently she found herself before a
tall house, perfectly dark, with strange fantastic gables and chimneys,
ascending far above against the sky.

All was still as death, except the murmuring caws of the rooks in their
nests, and the chattering shriek of a startled blackbird. The servant
from behind ran up the steps and thundered at the door; it was opened,
a broad line of light shone out, some figures appeared, and a man
in livery came forward to open the carriage door, but to Aurelia’s
inexpressible horror, his face was perfectly black, with negro features,
rolling eyes, and great white teeth!

She hardly knew what she did, the dark carriage was formidable on one
side, the apparition on the other! The only ray of comfort was in the
face of a stout, comely, rosy maid-servant, who was holding the candle
on the threshold, and with one bound the poor traveller dashed past the
black hand held out to help her, and rushing up to the girl, caught hold
of her, and gasped out, “Oh! What is that? Where am I? Where have they
taken me?”

“Lawk, ma’am,” said the girl, with a broad grin, “that ‘ere bees only
Mr. Jumbo. A’ won’t hurt’ee. See, here’s Mistress Aylward.”

A tall, white-capped, black-gowned elderly woman turned on the new-comer
a pale, grave, unsmiling face, saying, “Your servant--Miss Aurelia
Delavie, as I understand.”

Bending her head, and scarcely able to steady herself, for she was
shaking from head to foot, Aurelia managed to utter the query,

“Where am I?”

“At Bowstead Park, madam, by order of my Lady.”

Much relieved, and knowing this was the Belamour estate, Aurelia said,
“Please let me wait till Mrs. Dove comes before I am presented to my
Lady.”

“My Lady is not here, madam,” said Mrs. Aylward. “Allow me--” and she
led the way across a great empty hall, that seemed the vaster for its
obscurity, then along a matted passage, and down some steps into a room
surrounded with presses and cupboards, evidently belonging to the to the
housekeeper. She set a chair for the trembling girl, saying, “You will
excuse the having supper here to-night, madam; the south parlour will be
ready for you to-morrow.”

“Is not Mrs. Dove coming?” faintly asked Aurelia.

“Mrs. Dove is gone to London to attend on little Master Wayland. You are
to be here with the young ladies, ma’am.”

“What young ladies?” asked the bewildered maiden.

“My Lady’s little daughters--the Misses Wayland. I thought she had sent
you her instructions; but I see you are over wearied and daunted,” she
added, more kindly; “you will be better when you have taken some food.
Molly, I say, you sluggard of a wench, bring the lady’s supper, and
don’t stand gaping there.”

Mrs. Aylward hurried away to hasten operations, and Aurelia began
somewhat to recover her senses, though she was still so much dismayed
that she dreaded to look up lest she should see something frightful, and
started at the first approach of steps.

A dainty little supper was placed before her, but she was too faint and
sick at heart for appetite, and would have excused herself. However,
Mrs. Aylward severely said she would have no such folly, filled a glass
of wine, and sternly administered it; then setting her down in a large
chair, helped her to a delicate cutlet. She ate for very fright, but
her cheeks and eyes were brightened, the mists of terror and exhaustion
began to clear away, and when she accepted a second help, she had felt
herself reassured that she had not fallen into unkindly hands. If she
could only have met a smile she would have been easier, but Mrs. Aylward
was a woman of sedate countenance and few words, and the straight set
line of lips encouraged no questioning, so she merely uttered thanks for
each act of hospitality.

“There! You will take no more roll? You are better, now, but you will
not be sorry to go to your bed,” said Mrs. Aylward, taking up a candle,
and guiding her along the passage up a long stair to a pretty room
wainscoted and curtained with fresh white dimity, and the window showing
the young moon pale in the light of the western sky.

Bedrooms were little furnished, and this was more luxurious than the
dear old chamber at home, but the girl had never before slept alone, and
she felt unspeakably lonely in the dreariness, longing more than ever
for Betty’s kiss--even for Betty’s blame--or for a whine from Harriet;
and she positively hungered for a hug from Eugene, as she gazed timidly
at the corners beyond the influence of her candle; and instead of
unpacking the little riding mail she kissed it, and laid her cheek on
it as the only thing that came from home, and burst into a flood of
despairing tears.

In the midst, there fell on her ears a low strain of melancholy music
rising and falling like the wailing of mournful spirits. She sprang to
her feet and stood listening with dilated eyes; then, as a louder note
reached her, in terror uncontrollable, she caught up her candle, rushed
down the stairs like a wild bird, and stood panting before Mrs. Aylward,
who had a big Bible open on the table before her.

“Oh, ma’am,” she cried, between her panting sobs, “I can’t stay there! I
shall die!”

“What means this, madam?” said Mrs. Aylward, stiffly, making the word
sound much like “foolish child.”

“The--the music!” she managed faintly to utter, falling again into the
friendly chair.

“The music?” said Mrs. Aylward, considering; then with a shade of polite
contempt, “O! Jumbo’s fiddle! I did not know it could be heard in your
room, but no doubt the windows below are open.”

“Is Jumbo that black man?” asked Aurelia, shuddering; for negro
servants, though the fashion in town, had not penetrated into the west.

“Mr. Belamour’s blackamoor. He often plays to him half the night.”

“Oh!” with another quivering sound of alarm; “is Mr. Belamour the
gentleman in the dark?”

“Even so, madam, but you need have no fears. He keeps his room and
admits no one, though he sometimes walks out by night. You will only
have to keep the children from a noise making near his apartments. Good
night, madam.”

“Oh, pray, if I do not disturb you, would you be pleased to let me stay
till you have finished your chapter; I might not be so frightened then.”

In common humanity Mrs. Aylward could not refuse, and Aurelia sat
silently grasping the arms of her chair, and trying to derive all the
comfort she could from the presence of a Bible and a good woman. Her
nerves were, in fact, calmed by the interval, and when Mrs. Aylward
took off her spectacles and shut up her book, it had become possible to
endure the terrors of the lonely chamber.



CHAPTER VIII. THE ENCHANTED CASTLE.


    A little she began to lose her fear.--MORRIS.


Aurelia slept till she was wakened by a bounce at the door, and the
rattling of the lock, but it was a little child’s voice that was crying,
“I will! I will! I will go in and seem by cousin!”

Then came Mrs. Aylward’s severe voice: “No, miss, you are not to waken
your cousin. Come away. Where is that slut, Jenny?”

Then there was a scuffle and a howl, as if the child were being forcibly
carried away. Aurelia sprang out of bed, for sunshine was flooding the
room, and she felt accountable for tardiness. She had made some progress
in dressing, when again little hands were on the lock, little feet
kicking the door, and little voices calling, “Let me in.”

She opened the door, and white nightgowns, all tumbled back one over the
other.

“My little cousins,” she said, “come and kiss me.”

One came forward and lifted up a sweet little pale face, but the other
two stood, each with a finger in the mouth, right across the threshold,
in a manner highly inconvenient to Aurelia, who was only in her stiff
stays and dimity petticoat, with a mass of hair hanging down below her
waist. She turned to them with arms out-stretched, but this put them
instantly to the rout, and they ran off as fast as their bare pink feet
could carry them, till one stumbled, and lay with her face down and her
plump legs kicking in the air. Aurelia caught her up, but the capture
produced a powerful yell, and out, all at once hurried into
the corridor, Mrs. Aylward, a tidy maid servant, a stout, buxom
countrywoman, and a rough girl, scarcely out of bed, but awake enough
to snatch the child out of the young lady’s arms, and carry her off.
The housekeeper began scolding vigorously all round, and Aurelia escaped
into her room, where she completed her toilette, looking out into a
garden below, laid out in the formal Dutch fashion, with walks and beds
centring in a fountain, the grass plats as sharply defined as possible,
and stiff yews and cypresses dotted at regular intervals or forming
straight alleys. She felt strange and shy, but the sunshine, the
cheerfulness, and the sight of the children, had reassured her, and when
she had said her morning prayer, she had lost the last night’s sense of
hopeless dreariness and unprotectedness. When another knock came,
she opened the door cheerfully, but there was a chill in meeting Mrs.
Aylward’s grave, cold face, and stiff salutation. “If you are ready,
madam,” she said, “I will show you to the south parlour, where the
children will eat with you.”

Aurelia ventured to ask about her baggage, and was told that it would be
forwarded from Brentford. Mrs. Aylward then led the way to a wide stone
staircase, with handsome carved balusters, leading down into the great
hall, with doors opening from all sides. All was perfectly empty, and so
still, that the sweep of the dresses, and the tap of the heels made an
echo; and the sunshine, streaming in at the large window, marked out
every one upon the floor, in light and shadow, and exactly repeated
the brown-shaded, yellow-framed medallions of painted glass upon the
pavement. There was something awful and oppressive in the entire absence
of all tokens of habitation, among those many closed doors.

One, however, at the foot of the stairs was opened by Mrs. Aylward. It
led to a sort of narrow lobby, with a sashed window above a low door,
opening on stone steps down to the terrace and garden. To the right was
an open door, giving admittance to a room hung with tapestry, with a
small carpet in the centre of the floor, and a table prepared for the
morning meal. There was a certain cheerfulness about it, though it was
bare of furniture; but there was an easy chair, a settee, a long
couch, a spinnet, and an embroidery frame, so that altogether it had
capabilities of being lived in.

“Here you will sit, madam, with the young ladies,” said Mrs. Aylward.
“They have a maid-servant who will wait on you, and if you require
anything, you will be pleased to speak to me. My Lady wishes you to take
charge of them, and likewise to execute the piece of embroidery you will
find in that frame, with the materials. This will be your apartment,
and you can take the young ladies into the garden and park, wherever you
please, except that they must not make a noise before the windows of the
other wing, which you will see closed with shutters, for those are Mr.
Belamour’s rooms.”

With these words Mrs. Aylward curtsied as if about to retire, Aurelia
held out her hand in entreaty. “Oh, cannot you stay with me?”

“No, madam, my office is the housekeeper’s,” was the stiff response.
“Molly will call me if you require my services. I think you said you
preferred bread and milk for breakfast. Dinner will be served at one.”

Mrs. Aylward retreated, leaving a chill on the heart of the lonely girl.

She was a clergyman’s widow, though with no pretensions to gentility,
and was a plain, conscientious, godly woman, but with the narrow
self-concentrated piety of the time, which seemed to ignore all the
active part of the duty to our neighbour. She had lived many years as
a faithful retainer to the Belamour family, and avoided perplexity by
minding no one’s business but her own, and that thoroughly. Naturally
reserved, and disapproving much that she saw around her, she had never
held it to be needful to do more than preserve her own integrity, and
the interests of her employers, and she made it a principle to be in
no wise concerned in family affairs, and to hold aloof from perilous
confidences.

Thus Aurelia was left to herself, till three bowls of milk were borne in
by Molly, who was by no means loth to speak.

“The little misses will be down directly, ma’am,” she said, “that is,
two on ‘em. The little one, she won’t leave Jenny Bowles, but Dame
Wheatfield, she’ll bring down the other two. You see, ma’am, they
be only just taken home from being out at nurse, and don’t know one
another, nor the place, and a pretty handful we shall have of ‘em.”

Here came a call for Molly, and the girl with a petulant exclamation,
sped away, leaving Aurelia to the society of the tapestry. It was of
that set of Gobelin work which represents the four elements personified
by their goddesses, and Aurelia’s mythology, founded on Fenelon, was
just sufficient to enable her to recognise the forge of Vulcan and the
car [chariot--D.L.] of Venus. Then she looked at the work prepared for
her, a creamy piece of white satin, and a most elaborate pattern of
knots of roses, lilacs, hyacinths, and laburnums, at which her heart
sank within her. However, at that moment the stout woman she had seen in
the morning appeared at the open door with a little girl in each hand,
both in little round muslin caps, long white frocks, and blue sashes.

One went up readily to Aurelia and allowed herself to be kissed, and
lifted to a chair; the other clung to Dame Wheatfield, in spite of
coaxing entreaties. “Speak pretty, my dear; speak to the pretty lady.
Don’t ye see how good your sister is? It won’t do, miss,” to Aurelia;
“she’s daunted, is my pretty lamb. If I might just give her her
breakwist--for it is the last time I shall do it--then she might get
used to you before my good man comes for me.”

Aurelia was only too glad to instal Dame Wheatfield in a chair with her
charge in her lap. The other child was feeding herself very tidily and
independently, and Aurelia asked her if she were the eldest.

“Yes,” she said.

“And what shall I call you, my dear?”

“I’m Missy.”

“No, Missy, me--me eldest,” cried the other.

“Bless the poor children!” exclaimed Mrs. Wheatfield, laughing, “they be
both of ‘em eldest, as one may say.”

“They are twins, then?” said Aurelia.

“More than that--all three of them came together! I’ve heard tell of
such a thing once or twice, but never of all living and thriving. Folk
said it was a judgment on my Lady that she spoke sharp and hard to a
poor beggar woman with a child on each arm. It was not a week out before
my Lady herself was down, quite unexpected, as I may say, for she was
staying here for a week, with a lot of company, when these three was
born. They do say she was nigh beside herself that the like of that
should have happened to her. Mr. Wayland, he was not so ill pleased, but
the poor little things had to be got out of the house any way, for she
could not abear to hear of them. Mrs. Rolfe, as was an old servant of
the family, took that one, and I was right glad to have you, my pretty
one, for I had just lost my babe at a fortnight old, and the third was
sent to Goody Bowles, for want of a better. They says as how my Lady
means to bring them out one by one, and to make as this here is bigger,
and the other up stairs is lesser, and never let on that they are all of
an age.”

The good gossip must have presumed greatly on the children’s want of
comprehension if she did not suppose that they understood her at least
as well as the young lady to whom her dialect was strange.

“And has she not seen them?”

“Never till last Monday, if you’ll believe me miss, when she drove down
in her coach, and the children were all brought home. I thought she
might have said something handsome, considering the poor little babe
as my Missy here was when I had her--not so long as my hand--and scarce
able to cry enough to show she was alive. The work I and my good man had
with her! He would walk up and down half the night with her. Not as we
grudged it. He is as fond of the child as myself; and Mr. Wayland, he
knew it. ‘She has a good nurse, dame,’ says he to me, with the water in
his eyes, before he went to foreign parts. But my Lady! When the little
one as had been with Goody Bowles--an ignorant woman, you see--cried and
clung to her, and kicked, ‘Little savages all,’ says my Lady. There was
thanks to them that had had more work to rear her children than ever
with one of her own! ‘Perfect little rustics!’ she said, even when you
made your curtsey as pretty as could be, didn’t you, my little lammie?”

“Mammy Rolfe taught me to make my curtsey like a London lady,” said the
other child, the most advanced in manners.

“Aha! little pitchers have long ears; but, bless you, they don’t know
what it means,” said Dame Wheatfield, too glad to talk to check herself
on any account; “Not so much as a kiss for them, poor little darlings!
Folks say she does not let even Master Wayland kiss aught but her hands
for fear of her fine colours. A plague on such colours, I say.”

“Poor little things!” whispered Aurelia.

“You’ll be good to them, won’t you miss?”

“Indeed I hope so! I am only just come from home, and they will be all I
have to care for here.”

“Ay, you must be lonesome in this big place; but I’m right glad to have
seen you, miss; I can part with the little dear with a better heart, for
Mrs. Aylward don’t care for children, and Jenny Bowles is a rough wench,
wrapped up in her own child, and won’t be no good to the others. Go to
the lady, my precious,” she added, trying to put the little girl into
her cousin’s lap, but this was met with struggles, and vehement cries
of--

“No; stay with mammy!”

The little sister, who had not brought her nurse, was, however, well
contented to be lifted to Aurelia’s knee, and returned her caresses.

“And have you not a name, my dear? We can’t call you all missie.”

“Fay,” the child lisped; “Fayfiddly Wayland.”

“Lawk-a-daisy!” and Mrs. Wheatfield fell back laughing. “I’ll tell you
how it was, ma’am. When no one thought they would live an hour, Squire
Wayland he sent for parson and had ‘em half baptised Faith, Hope, and
Charity. They says his own mother’s was called Faith, and the other two
came natural after it, and would do as well to be buried by as aught. So
that’s what she means by Fay, and this here is Miss Charity.”

“She said something besides Faith.”

“Well, when my lady got about again, they say if she was mad at their
coming all on a heap, she was madder still at their name. Bible wasn’t
grand enough for her! I did hear tell that she throwed her slipper at
her husband’s head, and was like to go into fits. So to content her he
came down, and took each one to Church, and had a fine London name of my
Lady’s choosing tacked on in parson’s register for them to go by; but
to my mind it ain’t like their christened name. Mine here got called for
her share Amoretta.”

“A little Love,” cried Aurelia. “Oh, that is pretty. And what can your
name be, my dear little Fay? Will you tell me again?”

When repeated, it was plainly Fidelia, and it appeared that Hope had
been also called Letitia. As to age, Mrs. Wheatfield knew it was five
years last Michaelmas since the child had been brought to her from whom
she was so loth to part that she knew not how to go when her husband
came for her in his cart. He was a farmer, comfortably off, though very
homely, and there were plenty of children at home, so that she had been
ill spared to remain at the Park till Aurelia’s arrival. Thus she took
the opportunity of going away while the little one was asleep.

Aurelia asked where she lived now. At Sedhurst, in the next parish, she
was told; but she would not accept a promise that her charge should soon
be brought to visit her. “Better not, ma’am, thank you all the same,
not till she’s broke in. She’ll pine the less if she don’t see nor hear
nothing about the old place, nor Daddy and Sally and Davie. If you
bring her soon, you’ll never get her away again. That’s the worst of a
nurse-child. I was warned. It just breaks your heart!”

So away went the good foster-mother sobbing; and Aurelia’s charge began.
Fay claimed her instantly to explore the garden and house. The child had
been sent home alone on the sudden illness of her nurse, and had been
very forlorn, so that her cousin’s attention was a great boon to her.
Hope was incited to come out; but Jenny Bowles kept a jealous watch over
her, and treated every one else as an enemy; and before Aurelia’s
hat was on, came the terrible woe of Amoret’s awakening. Her sobs and
wailings for her mammy were entirely beyond the reach of Aurelia’s
soothings and caresses, and were only silenced by Molly’s asseveration
that the black man was at the door ready to take her into the dark room.
That this was no phantom was known to the poor child, and was a lurking
horror to Aurelia herself. No wonder that the little thing clung to her
convulsively, and would not let her hand go for the rest of the day,
every now and then moaning out entreaties to go home to mammy.

With the sad little being hanging to her hand, Aurelia was led by Fay
round their new abiding place. The house was of brick, shaped like the
letter H, Dutch, and with a tall wing, at each end of the main body,
projecting, and finishing in fantastic gables edged with stone. One
of these square wings was appropriated to Aurelia and her charges, the
other to the recluse Mr. Belamour. The space that lay between the two
wings, on the garden front, was roofed over, and paved with stone,
descending in several broad shallow steps at the centre and ends,
guarded at each angle by huge carved eagles, the crest of the builder,
of the most regular patchwork, and kept, in spite of the owner’s
non-residence, in perfect order. The strange thing was that this fair
and stately place, basking in the sunshine of early June, should be left
in complete solitude save for the hermit in the opposite wing, the three
children, and the girl, who felt as though in a kind of prison.

The sun was too hot for Aurelia to go out of doors till late in the day,
when the shadow of the house came over the steps. She was sitting on
one, with Amoret nestled in her lap, and was crooning an old German
lullaby of Nannerl’s, which seemed to have a wonderful effect in calming
the child, who at last fell into a doze. Aurelia had let her voice die
away, and had begun to think over her strange situation, when she was
startled by a laugh behind her, and looking round, hardly repressed
a start or scream, at the sight of Fay enjoying a game at bo-peep,
with--yes--it actually was--the negro--over the low-sashed door.

“I beg pardon, ma’am,” said Jumbo, twitching his somewhat grizzled wool;
“I heard singing, and little missy--”

Unfortunately Amoret here awoke, and with a shriek of horror cowered in
her arms.

“I am so sorry,” said Aurelia, anxious not to hurt his feelings. “She
knows no better.”

Jumbo grinned, bowed, and withdrew, Fay running after him, for she had
made friends with him during her days of solitude, being a fearless
child, and not having been taught to make a bugbear of him. “The soot
won’t come off,” she said.

Aurelia had not a moment to herself till Fay had said the Lord’s prayer
at her knee, and Amoret, with much persuasion, had been induced to lisp
out--

                  “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
                   Bless the bed I sleep upon;
                   Four corners to by bed,
                   Four angles round my head,
                   One to read and one to write,
                   And two to guard my soul at night.”

Another agony for mammy ensued, nor could Aurelia leave the child till
sleep had hushed the wailings. Then only could she take her little
writing-case to begin her letter to Betty. It would be an expensive
luxury to her family, but she knew how it would be longed for; and
though she cried a good deal over her writing, she felt as if she ought
to make the best of her position, for had not Betty said it was for her
father’s sake? No, her tears must not blot the paper, to distress
those loving hearts. Yet how the drops _would_ come, gathering fast and
blinding her! Presently, through the window, came the sweet mysterious
strains of the violin, not terrifying her as before, but filling her
with an inexpressible sense of peace and calmness. She sat listening
almost as one in a dream, with her pen suspended, and when the spell was
broken by Molly’s entrance with her supper, she went on in a much more
cheerful strain than she had begun. It was dull, and it was a pity that
her grand wardrobe, to say nothing of Betty’s good advice, should be
wasted, but her sister would rejoice in her seclusion from the grand,
fashionable world, and her heart went out to the poor little neglected
children, whose mother could not bear the sight of them.



CHAPTER IX. THE TRIAD.


    “I know sisters, sisters three.”


Ere many days had passed Aurelia had drifted into what would now be
regarded as the duties of a nursery governess to her little companions.

Fay and Amoret were always with her, and depended on her for everything.
Jenny Bowles, with a sort of animal jealousy, tried to monopolise her
charge, Letitia. The child was attracted by the sounds of her sister’s
sports, and there was no keeping her from them, or from their cousin.
Then the rude untaught Jenny became cross, moped, showed spite to the
other children, and insolence to the young lady, and was fortunately
overheard by Mrs. Aylward, and dismissed. Letty did not seem to mind the
loss as Amoret had felt that of her foster-mother, for indeed Jenny had
been almost as disagreeable to her as to the others during these days of
jealousy.

The triad were not much alike: Amoret was the largest of the three,
plump, blue-eyed, golden-haired, rosy-cheeked, a picture of the
cherub-type of child; Letitia had the delicate Delavie features and
complexion; and Fidelia, the least pretty, was pale, and rather sallow,
with deep blue eyes set under a broad forehead and dark brows, with hair
also dark. Though the smallest, she was the most advanced, and showed
signs of good training. She had some notion of good manners, and knew
as much of her hornbook [a child’s primer consisting of a sheet of
parchment or paper protected by a sheet of transparent horn--D.L.] and
catechism as little girls of five were wont to know. The other two were
perfectly ignorant, but Mrs. Aylward procured hornbooks, primers, and
slates, and Aurelia began their education in a small way.

It was a curious life. There was the great empty house, through whose
long corridors and vacant rooms the children might wander at will,
peeping at the swathed curtains of velvet pile, the rolls of carpet, and
the tapestry pictures on the walls, running and shouting in the empty
passages, or sometimes, in a fit of nameless fright, taking refuge in
Aurelia’s arms. Or they might play in the stately garden, provided they
trod on no borders, and meddled with neither flower nor fruit. The old
gardener began by viewing them as his natural enemies, but soon relaxed
in amusement at their pretty sportive ways, gave them many precious
spoils, and forgave more than one naughty little inroad, which greatly
alarmed their guardian.

Or if the little party felt enterprising, there lay beyond, the park,
its slopes covered with wild strawberries, and with woods where they
could gather flowers unchecked. Further, there was no going, except on
alternate Sundays, when there was service in the tumble-down Church at
the park gate. It was in far worse condition than the Church at home,
and was served by a poor forlorn-looking curate, who lived at Brentford,
and divided his services between four parishes, each of which was
content to put up with a fortnightly alternate morning and evening
service. The Belamour seat was a square one, without the comfortable
appliances of the Delavie closet, and thus permitting a much fuller
view, but there was nothing to be seen except a row of extremely gaudy
Belamour hatchments, displaying to the full, the saltir-wise sheafs of
arrows on the shields or lozenges, supported by grinning skulls. The
men’s shields preserved their eagle crest, the women had only lozenges,
and the family motto, _Amo et Amabo_, was exchanged for the more pious
“_Resurgam_.”

Aurelia found that the family seat, whither she was marshalled by Mrs.
Aylward, was already occupied by two ladies, who rose up, and made her
stately curtsies with a decidedly disgusted air, although there was
ample space for her and Fidelia, the only one of her charges whom
she had ventured to take with her. They wore the black hoods, laced
boddices, long rolls of towering curl and open upper skirts, of Queen
Anne’s day, and in the eyes of thirty years’ later, looked so ridiculous
that Fay could not but stare at them the whole time, and whenever
Aurelia turned her glances from her book to see whether her little
companion was behaving herself, the big blue considering eyes were
always levelled full upon the two forms before her.

The ladies were in keeping with their dress, thin, stiff and angular,
with worn and lined faces, highly rouged, and enormous long-handled
fans, and Aurelia was almost as much astonished as the child.

There was a low curtseying again, and much ceremony before it was
possible to get out of the pew, and the two ladies mounted at the door
on lofty pattens which added considerably to their height, and, attended
by a loutish-looking man in livery, who carried their books, stalked of
into the village.

Aurelia found from the communicative Molly that they were Mistress
Phoebe and Mistress Delia Treforth, kinswomen of the Belamour family,
who had in consequence a life residence rent-free in a tall thin red
square house near the churchyard, where a very gay parrot was always
to be seen in the windows. They no doubt regarded Miss Delavie and the
little Waylands as interlopers at Bowstead, and their withering glances
made Church-going a trying affair--indeed the first time that Aurelia
took little Amoret, they actually drove the sensitive child into a
sobbing fit, so that she had to be carried out, begging to know why
those ladies looked so cross at her.

The life, on the whole, was not unhappy, except for fits of homesickness
and longing for letters. The arrival of the boxes from the carrier
was the first comfort, and then at last came a thick letter from
home, franked by Sir George Herries, and containing letters from
everybody--even a few roundhand lines from Eugene.

Her father wrote at length all the excellent moral and religious essay
which had stuck in his throat at the parting; neither was Betty’s letter
deficient in good advice, though she let it appear that the family were
much amused at Lady Belamour’s affliction in her triad of daughters, the
secret having been hitherto so carefully kept that they supposed her to
have only one.

“It will be your Charge,” wrote Betty, “so far as in you lies, to render
them not merely the Graces, as my Father terms them, but the true and
faithful Guardian to these Infant Spirits. Though their Mother has shown
no Care or heed in entrusting them to you, yet remember that it is truly
the good Providence of their Heavenly Father that has put these little
Children of His in your Charge, to receive from you the first Principles
of Religion and Morals which may mould their whole Lives; and I trust
that you will do the Work faithfully and successfully. It may be dull
and tedious at Bowstead, but I had much rather hear of you thus than
exposed to the Glare of My Lady’s Saloon in London. No doubt Harriet
has write to you of the Visit of young Sir Amyas, the Sunday after your
departure. We have since heard that his expedition to Monmouthshire was
with a View to his marriage to Lady Aresfield’s Daughter, and this may
well be, so that if he fall in your way, you will be warned against
putting any misconstruction on any Civil Attentions he may pay to you.
Ever since your Departure Mr. Arden has redoubled his Assiduities in
a certain Quarter, and as it is thought the Dean and Chapter are not
unlikely to present him to a good Vicarage in Buckinghamshire, it is not
unlikely that ere long you may hear of a Wedding in the Family, although
Harriet would be extremely angry with me for daring to give such a
Hint.”

Certainly Aurelia would not have gathered the hint from Harriet’s
letter, which was very sentimental about her own loneliness and lack of
opportunity, in contrast with Aurelia, who was seeing the world. That
elegant beau, Sir Amyas, had just given a sample to tantalise their
rusticity, and then had vanished; and here was that oddity, Mr. Arden,
more wearisome and pertinacious than ever. So tiresome!



CHAPTER X. THE DARK CHAMBER.


    Or singst thou rather under force
       Of some Divine command,
    Commissioned to presage a course
       Of happier days at hand?
                              COWPER.


Aurelia was coming down stairs in the twilight after singing her charges
to sleep about three weeks after her arrival, when she saw Jumbo waiting
at the bottom of the stairs.

She had long ceased to be afraid of him. Indeed he had quite amazed her
by his good-nature in helping to lift down naughty little Letitia, who
was clambering up to the window of his master’s chamber to look through
the crevices of the shutters. He had given the children a gaily dressed
rag doll, and was as delighted as they were when he played his fiddle to
them and set them dancing.

Still, the whites of his eyes, his shining teeth, and the gold lace of
his livery had a startling effect in the darkness, and Aurelia wished he
would move away; but he was evidently waiting for her, and when she
came near he addressed her thus, “Mis’r Belamour present compliment, and
would Miss Delavie be good enough to honour him with her company for a
short visit?”

The girl started, dismayed, alarmed, yet unwilling to be unkind to the
poor recluse, while she hoped that decorum and propriety would put the
visit out of the question. She replied that she would ask Mrs. Aylward
whether she might, and Jumbo followed her to the still-room, saying on
the way, “Mas’r heard Miss Delavie sing. He always has the window opened
to hear her. It makes him hum the air--be merry. He has not asked to
speak with lady since he heard the bad news--long, long, ago.”

Then Aurelia felt that nothing short of absolute impropriety ought to
make her gratify her shrinking reluctance. Mrs. Aylward seemed to think
her doubts uncalled for, and attributed her hesitation to fear of the
dark room.

“Oh, no I am not so childish,” said the young lady with nervous dignity;
“but would it be proper?”

“Bless me, madam, he is as old as your father, and as civil a gentleman
as lives. I would come in with you but that I am expecting Mr. Potts
with the tallies. You need have no scruples.”

There was no excuse nor escape, and Aurelia followed the negro in
trepidation. Crossing the hall, he opened for her the door of the lobby
corresponding to her own, and saying, “Allow me, ma’am,” passed before
her, and she heard another door unclosed, and a curtain withdrawn.
Beyond she only saw a gulf of darkness, but out of it came a deep manly
voice, subdued and melancholy, but gentlemanlike and deferential.

“The young lady is so kind as to come and cheer the old hermit. A
thousand thanks, madam. Permit me.”

Aurelia’s hand was taken by one soft for want of use, and she was led
forward on a deep piled carpet, and carefully placed on a chair in the
midst of the intense black darkness. There was a little movement and
then the voice said, “I am most sensible of your goodness, madam.”

“I--I am glad. You are very good, sir,” murmured Aurelia, oppressed by
the gloom and the peculiar atmosphere, cool--for the windows were open
behind the shutters--but strangely fragrant.

“How does my excellent friend, Major Delavie?”

“I thank you, sir, he is well, though his wound troubles him from time
to time.”

“Commend me to him when you write, if you are good enough to remember
it.”

“I thank you, sir. He will be rejoiced to hear of you.”

“He does me too much honour.”

These conventionalities being exhausted, a formidable pause ensued,
first broken by Mr. Belamour, “May I ask how my fair visitor likes
Bowstead?”

“It is a fine place, sir.”

“But somewhat lonely for so youthful a lady?”

“I have the children, sir.”

“I often hear their cheerful voices.”

“I hope we do not disturb you, sir, I strive to restrain them, but I
fear we are all thoughtless.”

“Nay, the innocent sounds of mirth ring sweetly on my ears, like the
notes of birds. And when I have heard a charming voice singing to the
little ones, I have listened with delight. Would it be too presumptuous
to beg the air songstress to repeat her song for the old recluse?”

“O, sir, I have only nursery ditties, caught from our old German maid,”
 cried Aurelia, in dismay.

“That might not diminish the charm to me,” he said. “In especial there
was one song whose notes Jumbo caught as you accompanied yourself on the
spinnet.”

And Jumbo, who seemed able to see in the dark, played a bar on his
violin, while Aurelia trembled with shyness.

“The Nightingale Song,” she said. “My dear mother learnt the tune
abroad. And I believe that she herself made the English words, when she
was asked what the nightingales say.”

“May I hear it? Nightingales can sing in the dark.” Refusal was
impossible, and Jumbo’s violin was a far more effective accompaniment
than her own very moderate performance on the spinnet; so in a sweet,
soft, pure, untrained and trembling voice, she sang--


 “O Life and Light are sweet, my dear,   O life and Light are sweet;
  But sweeter still the hope and cheer
    When Love and Life shall meet.
  Oh! then it is most sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet.

 “But Love puts on the yoke, my dear,   But Love puts on the yoke;
  The dart of Love calls forth the tear,
    As though the heart were broke.
  The very heart were broke, broke, broke, broke, broke, broke.

 “And Love can quench Life’s Light, my dear,   Drear, dark, and melancholy;
  Seek Light and Life and jocund cheer,
    And mirth and pleasing folly.
  Be thine, light-hearted folly, folly, folly, folly, folly, folly.

 “‘Nay, nay,’ she sang. ‘yoke, pain, and tear,
    For Love I gladly greet;
  Light, Life, and Mirth are nothing here,
    Without Love’s bitter sweet.
  Give me Love’s bitter sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet.’”


“Accept my fervent thanks, kind songstress. So that is the nightingale’s
song, and your honoured mother’s?”

“Yes, sir. My father often makes us sing it because it reminds him of
her.”

“Philomel could not have found a better interpreter,” said the grave
voice, sounding so sad that Aurelia wished she could have sung something
less affecting to his spirits.

“I gather from what you said that you are no longer blessed with the
presence of the excellent lady, your mother,” presently added Mr.
Belamour.

“No, sir. We lost her seven years ago.”

“And her husband mourns her still. Well he may. She was a rare creature.
So she is gone! I have been so long in seclusion that no doubt time has
made no small havoc, and my friends have had many griefs to bewail.”

Aurelia knew not what answer to make, and was relieved when he collected
himself and said:--

“I will trespass no longer on my fair visitor’s complaisance, but if she
have not found the gloom of this apartment insupportable, it would be a
charitable action to brighten it once more with her presence.”

“O sir, I will come whenever you are pleased to send for me,” she
exclaimed, all her doubts, fears, and scruples vanishing at his tone of
entreaty. “My father would be so glad. I will practise my best song to
sing to you to-morrow.”

“My best thanks are yours,” and her hand was taken, she was carefully
conducted to the door and dismissed with a gentle pressure of her
fingers, and a courteous: “Goodnight, madam; _Au revoir_, if I may
venture to say so.”

By contrast, the hall looked almost light, and Aurelia could see the
skip of joy with which Jumbo hurried to fetch a candle. As he gave it to
her, he made his teeth flash from ear to ear, as he exclaimed: “Pretty
missy bring new life to mas’r!”

Thus did a new element come into Aurelia’s life. She carefully prepared
Harriet’s favourite song, a French _romance_, but Mr. Belamour did not
like it equally well with the Nightingale, which he made her repeat,
rewarding her by telling her of the charming looks and manners of her
mother, so that she positively enjoyed her visit. The next night he made
inquiries into her walks at Bowstead, asking after the favourite nooks
of his childhood, and directing her to the glades where grew the largest
dewberries and sweetest blackberries. This led to her recital of a
portion of _Midsummer Night’s Dream_, for he drew her on with thanks at
every pause: “I have enjoyed no such treat for many years,” he said.

“There are other pieces that I can recite another time,” said Aurelia
timidly.

“You will confer a great favour on me,” he answered.

So she refreshed her memory by a mental review of _Paradise Lost_ over
her embroidery frame, and was ready with Adam’s morning hymn, which was
much relished. Compliments on her elocution soon were turned by her into
the praise of “sister,” and as she became more at ease, the strange man
in the dark listened with evident delight to her pretty fresh prattle
about sister and brother, and father and home. Thus it had become a
daily custom that she should spend the time between half past seven and
nine in the company of the prisoner of darkness, and she was beginning
to look forward to it as the event of the day. She scarcely expected
to be sent for on Sunday evening, but Jumbo came as usual with the
invitation, and she was far from sorry to quit a worm-eaten Baxter’s
_Saints’ Rest_ which she had dutifully borrowed from Mrs. Aylward.

“Well, my fair visitor,” said the voice which had acquired a tone of
pleased anticipation, “what mental repast has your goodness provided?”

“It is Sunday, sir.”

“Ah!” as if it had not occurred to him, and with some disappointment.

“I could say the Psalms by heart, sir, if you would like it, for it is
the 20th day of the month.”

“Thank you. Your voice can make anything sweet.”

Aurelia was shocked, and knew that Betty would be more so, but she was
too shy to do anything except to begin: “Praise thou the Lord, O my
soul.”

It was a fortunate thing that it was a Psalm of such evident beauty, for
it fell less familiarly on his ear than her passages from the poets. At
the end he said: “Yes, that is true poetry. Praise fits well with happy
young lips. You have been to church?”

“No, sir, Mr. Greaves does not come to-day.”

“Then how did the gentle saint perform her orisons?”

“Please do not so call me, sir! I tried to read the service, but I could
not get the children to be still, so I had to tell them about Joseph,
and I found a beautiful Bible full of pictures, like our Dutch one at
home.”

“You found the old Bible? My mother used to show it to my brother and
me--my poor mother!”

He mentioned one or two of the engravings, which he had never forgotten,
but the evening was less of a success than usual, and Aurelia doubted
whether we would wish for her that day se’nnight. All her dread of him
was gone; she knew she had brought a ray of brightness into his solitary
broken life, and her mind was much occupied with the means of affording
him pleasure. Indeed she might have wearied of the lack of all
companionship save that of the young children; and converse with a
clever highly cultivated mind was stimulating and expanding all her
faculties. When the stores or her memory were becoming exhausted, Jumbo
was bidden to open a case of books which had lain untouched since they
were sent sown from Mr. Belamour’s chambers at the Temple, and they were
placed at her disposal. Here was Mr. Alexander Pope’s translation of the
_Iliad_ of Homer, which had appeared shortly before the fatal duel,
and Aurelia eagerly learnt whole pages of it by heart for the evening’s
amusement, enjoying extremely the elucidations and criticisms of her
auditor, who would dwell on a passage all day, beg to have it repeated
a second time in the evening, and then tell her what his memory or
his reflection had suggested about it. Moreover, having heard some
inexplicable report, through Jumbo, of the Porteous mob, Mr. Belamour
became curious to learn the truth, and this led to his causing the
newspapers to be sent weekly to be read and reported to him by Aurelia.
It seemed incredible that a man of much ability should have been content
to spend all these years in the negro’s sole society, but no doubt the
injury done to the brain had been aggravated by grief and remorse, so
that he had long lain, with suspended faculties, in a species of living
death; whence he had only gradually, and as it were unconsciously,
advanced to his present condition. Perhaps Mr. Wayland’s endeavours to
rouse him had come too soon, or in a less simple and attractive
form, for they had been reluctantly received and had proved entirely
unsuccessful; while the child-like efforts of the girl, following his
lead instead of leading him, were certainly awakening him, and renewing
his spirits and interest in the world at large in an unlooked-for
manner.



CHAPTER XI. A VOICE FROM THE GRAVE.


    He hath a word for thee to speak.
                                  KEBLE.


No difference was made to Aurelia’s visits to Mr. Belamour on Sunday
evenings, but he respected her scruples against indulgence in profane
literature, and encouraged her to repeat passages of Scripture,
beginning to taste the beauty of the grand cadences falling from her
soft measured voice. Thus had she come to the Sermon on the Mount, and
found herself repeating the expansion of the Sixth Commandment ending
with, “And thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt
not come out thence until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”

A groan startled her. Then came the passage and the unhappy man’s
history with a sudden stab. A horror of the darkness fell on her. She
felt as if he were in the prison and she reproaching him, and cried
out--“O sir, forgive me. I forgot; I did not say it on purpose.”

“No, my child, it was Mary speaking by your voice. No, Mary, I shall
never come out. It will never be paid.”

She shook with fright as Jumbo touched her, saying, “Missee, go; mas’r
bear no more;” but, as she rose to go away, a sweet impulse made her
pause and say, “It is paid, _He_ paid. You know Who did--in his own
Blood.”

Jumbo drew her away almost by force, and when outside, exclaimed,
“Missee never speak of blood or kill to mas’r--he not bear it. Head turn
again--see shapes as bad as ever.”

The poor child cried bitterly, calling herself cruel, thoughtless,
presumptuous; and for the next few days Jumbo’s eyes glared at her as he
reported his master to be very ill; but, on the third day, he came
for her as usual. She thought Mr. Belamour’s tones unwontedly low and
depressed, but no reference was made to the Sunday, and she was glad
enough to plunge into the council of Olympus.

A day or two later, Dame Wheatfield sent her husband with an urgent
invitation to Miss Amoret with her sisters and cousin to be present at
her harvest home. Mrs. Aylward, with a certain tone of contempt, gave
her sanction to their going with Molly, by the help of the little pony
cart used about the gardens. Aurelia, in high glee, told Mr. Belamour,
who encouraged her to describe all her small adventures, and was her
oracle in all the difficult questions that Fidelia’s childish wisdom was
wont to start.

“To Wheatfield’s farm, did you say? That is in Sedhurst. There are but
three fields between it and the church.”

Presently he added: “I am tempted to ask a great kindness, though I know
not whether it will be possible to you.”

“Indeed, sir, I will do my utmost.”

“There are two graves in Sedhurst Church, I have never dared to inquire
about them. Would it be asking too much from my gentle friend to beg of
her to visit them, and let me hear of them.”

“I will, I will, sir, with all my heart.”

By eight o’clock the next evening she was again with him, apologizing
for being late.

“I scarcely expected this pleasure to-night. These rural festivities are
often protracted.”

“O sir, I was heartily glad to escape and to get the children away. The
people were becoming so rude and riotous that I was frightened. I never
would have gone, had I known what it would be like, but at home the
people are fond of asking us to their harvest feasts, and they always
behave well whilst we are there.”

“No doubt they hold your father in respect.”

“Yes,” said Aurelia, unwilling to tell him how much alarmed and offended
she had been, though quite unintentionally. Dame Wheatfield only
intended hospitality; but in her eyes “Miss” was merely a poor
governess, and that to the little Waylands--mere interlopers in the eyes
of the Belamour tenantry. So the good woman had no idea that the rough
gallantry of the young farmer guests was inappropriate, viewing it as
the natural tribute to her guest’s beauty, and mistaking genuine offence
for mere coyness, until, finding it was real earnest, considerable
affront was taken at “young madam’s fine airs, and she only a poor
kinswoman of my Lady’s!” Quite as ill was it received that the young
lady had remonstrated against the indigestible cakes and strange
beverages administered to all her charges, and above all to Amoret. She
had made her escape on the plea of early hours for the children, leaving
Molly behind her, just as the boisterous song was beginning in which
Jack kisses Bet, Joe kisses Sue, Tom kisses Nan, &c. down to poor
Dorothy Draggletail, who is left in the lurch. The farewell had been
huffy. “A good evening to you, madam; I am sorry our entertainment
was not more to your taste.” She had felt guilty and miserable at the
accusation of pride, and she could not imagine how Mrs. Aylward could
have let her go without a warning; the truth being that Mrs. Aylward
despised her taste, but thought she knew what a harvest supper was like.

All this was passed over in silence by Aurelia’s pride and delicacy. She
only described the scene when the last waggon came in with its load, the
horses decked with flowers and ribbons, and the farmer’s youngest girl
enthroned on the top of the shocks, upholding the harvest doll. This was
a little sheaf, curiously constructed and bound with straw plaits
and ribbons. The farmer, on the arrival in the yard, stood on the
horse-block, and held it high over the heads of all the harvesters, and
the chorus was raised:

                 “A knack, a knack, a knack,
                    Well cut, well bound,
                    Well shocked, well saved from the ground,
                  Whoop! whoop! whoop!”

After which the harvest doll displaced her last year’s predecessor over
the hearth, where she was to hang till next year.

All this Aurelia described, comparing the customs with those of her own
county, her heart beating all the time under the doubt how to venture on
describing the fulfilment of her commission. At last Mr. Belamour said,

“In such a scene of gaiety, no doubt the recollection of sorrow had no
place.”

“O sir, you could not think I should forget.”

“I thought I might have asked more than was possible to you.”

“It was the only part of the day that I enjoyed. I took little Fay with
me, for no one seemed to care for her, while Amy was queening it with
all the Wheatfields, and Letty was equally happy with her foster mother.
I could see the church spire, so I needed not to ask the way, and we
crossed the stubble fields, while the sun sent a beautiful slanting
light through the tall elm trees that closed in the churchyard, but
let one window glitter between them like a great diamond. It looked so
peaceful after all the noise we left behind, even little Fay felt it,
and said she loved the quiet walk along the green baulks [An unplowed
strip of land--D.L.]. The churchyard has a wooden rail with steps to
cross it on either side, and close under the church wall is a tomb, a
great square simple block, surmounted by an urn.”

“Yes, let me hear,” said the voice, eager, though stifled.

“I thought it might be what you wished me to see and went up to read the
names.”

“Do not spare. Never fear. Let me hear the very words.”

“On one face of the block there was a name--


                   ‘WILLIAM SEDHURST,
                        _AGED_ 27,
                    DIED MAY 13, 1729.’


On the other side was this inscription:--


                        ‘MARY,
        ONLY DAUGHTER OF GEORGE SEDHURST, ESQUIRE,
                       _AGED_ 19,
                 DIED AUGUST 1st, 1729.

                _Love is strong as Death.
         Sorrow not as others that have no Hope_.’


In smaller letters down below, ‘This epitaph is at her own special
request.’

“Sir,” continued Aurelia, “it was very curious. I should not have
observed those words if it had not been that a large beautiful
butterfly, with rainbow eyes on its wings, sat sunning itself on the
white marble, and Fay called me to look at it.”

“Her message! May I ask you to repeat it again?”

“The texts? ‘Love is strong as death. Sorrow not as others that have no
hope.’”

“Did you call them Scripture texts?”

“Yes, sir; I know the last is in one of the Epistles, and I will look
for the other.”

“It matters not. She intended them for a message to me who lay in utter
darkness and imbecility well befitting her destroyer.”

“Nay, they have come to you at last,” said Aurelia gently. “You really
never knew of them before?”

“No, I durst not ask, nor did any one dare to speak to me. My brother,
who alone would have done so, died, I scarcely know when; but ere the
very consciousness of my own wretched existence had come back to me.
Once again repeat the words, gentle messenger of mercy.”

She obeyed, but this time he mournfully murmured, “Hope! What hope for
their destroyer?”

“They are God’s words, as well as hers,” the girl answered, with
diffident earnestness, but in reply she only heard tightened breaths,
which made her say, “You cannot bear more, sir. Let me call Jumbo, and
bid you good night.”

Jumbo came at the mention of his name. Somehow he was so unlike other
human beings, and so wholly devoted to his master, that it never seemed
to be a greater shock to find that he had been present than if he had
been a faithful dog.

A few days later he told Aurelia that Mas’r was not well enough to see
her. He had set forth as soon as the moon had set, and walked with his
trusty servant to Sedhurst, where he had traced with his finger the
whole inscription, lingering so long that the sun was above the horizon
before he could get home; and he was still lying on the bed where he
had thrown himself on first coming in, having neither spoken nor eaten
since. Jumbo could not but grumble out that Mas’r was better left to
himself.

Yet when Aurelia on the third evening was recalled, there was a ring of
refreshment in the voice. It was still melancholy, but the dejection
was lessened, and though it was only of Achilles and Patroclus that
they talked, she was convinced that the pressure of the heavy burthen of
grief and remorse was in some degree lightened.



CHAPTER XII. THE SHAFTS OF PHOEBE.


                  Her golden bow she bends,
    Her deadly arrows sending forth.
                         _Greek Hymn_ (KEIGHTLEY).


On coming in from a walk, Aurelia was surprised by the tidings that
Mistress Phoebe Treforth had come to call on her, and had left a
billet. The said billet was secured with floss silk sealed down in the
antiquated fashion, and was written on full-sized quarto paper. These
were the contents:--


“Madam,

   “My Sister and Myself are desirous of the Honour of your
    Acquaintance, and shall be happy if you will do use the
    Pleasure of coming to partake of Dinner at Three o’Clock
    on Tuesday, the 13th instant.

                         “I remain,
                              “Yours to command,
                                  “DELIA TREFORTH.”


Aurelia carried the invitation to her oracle.

“My cousins are willing to make your acquaintance?” said he. “That is
well. Jumbo shall escort you home in the evening.”

“Thank you, sir, but must I accept the invitation?”

“It could not be declined without incivility. Moreover, the Mistresses
Treforth are highly respected, and your father and sister will certainly
think it well for you to have female friends.”

“Do you think those ladies could ever be my friends, sir?” she asked,
with an intonation that made him reply, with a sound of amusement.

“I am no judge in such matters, but they are ladies connected and
esteemed, who might befriend and counsel you in case of need, and at any
rate, it is much more suitable that you should be on terms of friendly
intercourse with them. I am heartily glad they have shown you this
attention.”

“I do not mean to be ungrateful, sir.”

“And I think you have disproved that

                      Crabbed age and youth
                        Cannot live together.”

“If they were only like you, sir!”

“What would they say to that?” he said with the slight laugh that had
begun to enliven his voice. “I suppose your charges are not included in
the invitation?”

“No; but Molly can take care of them, if my Lady will not object to my
leaving them.”

“She cannot reasonably do so.”

“And, sir, shall I be permitted to come home in time for you to receive
me?”

“I fear I must forego that pleasure. The ladies will insist on cards and
supper. Jumbo shall come for you at nine o’clock.”

Aurelia submitted, and tripped down arrayed in the dress that recalled
the fete at Carminster, except that only a little powder was sprinkled
on her temples. The little girls jumped round her in admiring ecstasy,
and, under Molly’s charge, escorted her to the garden gate, and hovered
outside to see her admitted, while she knocked timidly at the door, in
the bashful alarm of making her first independent visit.

The loutish man ushered her into a small close room, containing a cat,
a little spaniel, a green parrot, a spinning-wheel, and an embroidery
frame. There were also the two old ladies, dressed with old-fashioned
richness, a little faded, and a third, in a crimson, gold-laced joseph
[A long riding coat with a small cape, worn by women in the 18th
century.--D.L.], stout, rubicund, and hearty, to whom Aurelia was
introduced thus--

“Mrs. Hunter, allow me to present to you Miss Delavie, a relative of my
Lady Belamour. Miss Delavie, Mrs. Hunter of Brentford.”

“I am most happy to make your acquaintance, Miss,” said the lady, in a
jovial voice, and Aurelia made her curtsey, but at that moment the
man announced that dinner was served, whereupon Mrs. Delia handed Mrs.
Hunter in, and Mrs. Phoebe took the younger guest.

The ladies’ faces both bore token of their recent attention to the
preparation of the meal, and the curious dishes would have been highly
interesting to Betty, but there was no large quantity of any, and a
single chicken was the _piece de resistance_, whence very tiny helps
were dealt out, and there was much unnecessary pressing to take a little
more, both of that and of the brace of partridges which succeeded it. As
to conversation, there was room for none, except hospitable invitations
from the hostesses to take the morsels that they cut for their guests,
praises of the viands from Mrs. Hunter, and endeavours to fish at the
recipes, which the owners guarded jealously as precious secrets. Aurelia
sat perfectly silent, as was then reckoned as proper in a young lady of
her age, except when addressed. A good deal of time was also expended in
directing John Stiggins, the ladies’ own man, and George Brown, who had
ridden with Mrs. Hunter from Brentford, in the disposal of the dishes,
and the handing of the plates. George Brown was the more skilled
waiter, and as the man who was at home did not brook interference, their
disputes were rude and audible, and kept the ladies in agonies lest they
should result in ruin to the best china.

At last, however, the cloth was removed, walnuts, apples, pears, and
biscuits were placed on the table, a glass of wine poured out for each
lady, and the quartette, with the cat and dog, drew near the sunny
window, where there was a little warmth. It was a chilly day, but no one
ever lighted a fire before the 5th of November, Old Style.

Then began one of those catechisms which fortunately are less unpleasant
to youth and simplicity than they are to persons of an age to resent
inquiry, and who have more resources of conversation. In truth, Aurelia
was in the eyes of the Treforth sisters, descendants of a former Sir
Jovian, only my Lady’s poor kinswoman sent down to act _gouvernante_ to
the Wayland brats, who had been impertinently quartered in the Belamour
household. She would have received no further notice, had it not been
reported through the servants that “young Miss” spent the evenings
with their own cousin, from whom they had been excluded ever since his
illness.

The subject was approached through interrogations on Miss Delavie’s home
and breeding, how she had travelled, and what were her accomplishments,
also whether she were quite sure that none of the triad was either
imbecile nor deformed. Mrs. Hunter seemed to have heard wonderful
rumours about the poor children.

“Has their lady mother seen them?”

“Yes, madam. She had been there with them shortly before my arrival.”

“Only once in their lives!” There was a groan of censure such as would
have fired the loyal Major in defence.

“No wonder, Sister Phoebe, my Lady Belamour does not lead the life of a
tender mother.”

“She has the little boy, Archer, with her in London,” Aurelia ventured
to say.

“And a perfect puppet she makes of the poor child,” said Mrs. Hunter.
“My sister Chetwynd saw him with his mother at a masquerade, my Lady
Belamour flaunting as Venus, and he, when he ought to have been in his
bed, dressed in rose-colour and silver, with a bow and arrows, and gauze
wings on his shoulders!”

“What will that child come to?”

“Remember, Sister Delia, he is no kin of ours. He is only a Wayland!”
 returned Mrs. Phoebe, in an accent as if the Waylands were the most
contemptible of vermin.

“I hope,” added Mrs. Delia, “that these children are never permitted to
incommode our unfortunate cousin, Mr. Belamour.”

“I trust not, madam,” said Aurelia. “Their rooms are at a distance from
his; they are good children, and he says he likes to hear young voices
in the gardens.”

“You have, then, seen Mr. Belamour?”

“I cannot say that I have seen him,” said Aurelia, modestly; “but I have
conversed with him.”

“Indeed! Alone with him?”

“Jumbo was there.”

The two old ladies drew themselves up, while Mrs. Hunter chuckled and
giggled. “Indeed!” said Mrs. Phoebe; “we should never see a gentleman in
private without each other’s company, or that of some female companion.”

“I consulted Mrs. Aylward,” returned Aurelia, “and she said he was old
enough to be my father.”

“Mrs. Aylward may be a respectable housekeeper, though far too lavish of
butcher’s meat, but I should never have recourse to her on a matter of
decorum,” said Mrs. Phoebe.

Aurelia’s cheeks burnt, but she still defended herself. “I have heard
from my father and my sister,” she said, “and they make no objection.”

“Hoity-toity! What means this heat, miss?” exclaimed Mrs. Phoebe; “I am
only telling you, as a kindness, what we should have thought becoming
with regard even to a blood relation of our own.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Aurelia; “but, you see, you are so much nearer
his age, that the cases are not alike.”

She said it in all simplicity, and did not perceive, at first, why the
two sisters drew themselves up in so much offence, or why Mrs. Hunter
cried, “Oh, fie, for shame, you saucy chit! Bless me!” she continued,
more good-naturedly, “Cousin Phoebe, times are changed since we were
young, and poor Sir Jovian and his brother were the county beaux. The
child is right enough when one comes to think of it; and for my part, I
should be glad that poor Mr. Amyas had some one young and cheerful about
him. It is only a pity his nephew, the young baronet, never comes down
to see him.”

“Like mother like son,” said Mrs. Phoebe; “I grieve to think what the
old place will come to.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Hunter, “I do not hear the young gentleman ill spoken
of; though, more’s the pity, he is in a bad school with Colonel Mar for
his commanding officer, the fine gallant who is making his mother the
talk of the town!”

The gossip and scandal then waxed fast and furious on the authority of
Mrs. Hunter’s sister, but no one paid any more attention to Aurelia,
except that when there was an adjournment to the next room, she was
treated with such double stiffness and ceremony as to make her feel that
she had given great offence, and was highly disapproved of by all but
Mrs. Hunter. And Aurelia could not like her, for her gossip had been far
broader and coarser than that of the Mistresses Treforth, who, though
more bitter were more of gentlewomen. Happily much of what passed was
perfectly unintelligible to Betty’s carefully shielded pupil, who sat
all the time with the cat on her lap, listening to its purring music,
but feeling much more inclined to believe nothing against my Lady, after
her father’s example, than to agree with those who were so evidently
prejudiced. Tea was brought in delicate porcelain cups, then followed
cards, which made the time pass less drearily till supper. This
consisted of dishes still tinier than those at dinner, and it was
scarcely ended when it was announced that Jumbo had come for Miss
Delavie.

Gladly she departed, after an exchange of curtsies, happily not hearing
the words behind her:--

“An artful young minx.”

“And imagine the impudence of securing Jumbo’s attendance, forsooth!”

“Nay,” said Mrs. Hunter, “she seemed to me a pretty modest young
gentlewoman enough.”

“Pretty! Yes, she comes of my Lady’s own stock, and will be just such
another.”

“Yes; it is quite plain that it is true that my Lady sent her here
because she had been spreading the white apron for the young baronet.”

“And now she is trying her arts on poor cousin Amyas Belamour. You heard
how she would take no advice, and replied with impertinence.”

“Shall you give my Lady a hint?”

“Not I. I have been treated with too much insolence by Lady Belamour
to interfere with her again,” said Mrs. Phoebe, drawing herself up; “I
shall let things take their course unless I can remonstrate with my own
kinsman.”



CHAPTER XIII. THE FLUTTER OF HIS WINGS.


    Then is Love’s hour to stray!
    Oh, how he flies away!--T. MOORE.


Meanwhile Aurelia, mounted on a pair of pattens brought by the negro
to keep her above the dew, was crossing the park by the light of a fine
hunter’s moon, Jumbo marching at a respectful distance in the rear. He
kept on chuckling to himself with glee, and when she looked round at
him, he informed her with great exultation that “Mas’r had not been
alone. His honour had been to see him. Mas’r so glad.”

“Sir Amyas!” exclaimed Aurelia: “Is he there still?”

“No, missie. He went away before supper.”

“Did he see the young ladies?”

“Oh, yes, missie. He came before mas’r up, quite promiskius,” said
Jumbo, who loved a long word. “I tell him, wait till mas’r be dress,
and took him to summer parlour. He see little missies out in garden;
ask what chil’ren it was. His Hounour’s sisters, Miss Fay, Missie Letty,
Missie Amy, I say! His Honour wonder. ‘My sisters,’ he say, ‘my sisters
here,’ and out he goes like a flash of lightning and was in among them.”

Aurelia’s first thought was “Oh, I hope they were clean and neat, and
that they behaved themselves. I wish I had been at home.” Wherewith
followed the recollection that Sir Amyas had been called her beau,
and her cheeks burnt; but the recent disagreeable lecture on etiquette
showed her that it would only have led to embarrassment and vexation
to have had any question of an interview with a young gentleman by so
little her elder. Nor would she have known what to say to him. Old Mr.
Belamour in the dark was a very different matter, and she had probably
had an escape from much awkwardness.

Molly received her with her favourite exclamation: “Lawk, miss, and who
do you think have been here?”

“Jumbo told me, Molly.”

“Ain’t he a perfect pictur of a man? And such a gentleman! He gave me
a whole goolden guinea for my good care of his little sisters, and says
he: ‘Their father shall hear of them, and what little ladies they be.’”

“I am glad they behaved themselves prettily.”

“Yes, that they did, ma’am. It was good luck that they had not been
grubbing in their gardens as you lets ‘em do, ma’am, but they was all as
clean as a whistle, a picking up horse-chestnuts under the big tree
at the corner of the bowling green, when out on the steps we sees him,
looking more like an angel than a man, in his red coat, and the goold
things on his shoulders, and out he comes! Miss Amy, she was afeard at
first: ‘Be the soldiers a coming?’ says she, and runs to me; but Miss
Letty, she holds out her arms, and says “It’s my papa,” and Miss Fay,
she stood looking without a word. Then when his Honour was in among
them: “My little sisters, my dear little sisters,” says he, “don’t you
know me?” and down he goes on one knee in the grass, never heeding his
beautiful white small-clothes, if you’ll believe me, miss, and holds out
his arms, and gets Miss Fay into one arm, and Miss Letty into t’other,
and then Miss Amy runs up, and he kisses them all. Then miss Letty says
again ‘Are you my papa from foreign parts?’ and he laughs and says: ‘No,
little one, I’m your brother. Did you never hear of your brother Amyas?’
and Miss Fay stood off a little and clapped her little hands, and says:
‘O brother Amyas, how beautiful you are!’”

Aurelia could not help longing to know whether she had been mentioned,
but she did not like to inquire, and she was obliged to rest satisfied
with the assurance that her little girls had comported themselves like
jewels, like lambs, like darling lumps of sugar, or whatever metaphors
were suggested by the imagination of Molly, who had, apparently, usurped
the entire credit of their good manners. It was impossible to help
feeling a little aggrieved, or, maugre [in spite of--D.L.] all
inconvenient properties to avoid wishing to have been under the
horse-chestnut tree, even though she might have shown herself just such
a bashful little speechless fool as she had been when Sir Amyas had
danced with her at Carminster.

She was destined to hear a good deal more of the visitor the next day.
The children met her with the cry of “Cousin Aura, our brother”--“our
big beautiful brother--Brother Amyas.”--They were with difficulty calmed
into saying their prayers, and Amoret startled the little congregation
by adding to “bless by father, my mother, my brothers and sisters,”
 “and pray bless big brother Amyas best of all, for I love him very much
indeed!”

All day little facts about “brother Amyas” kept breaking out. Brother
Amyas had beautiful gold lace, brother Amyas had a red and white
feather; brother Amyas had given Fay and Letty each a ride on his
shoulder, but Amy was afraid; brother Amyas said their papa would love
them very much. He had given them each a new silver shilling, and Amoret
had in return presented him with her doll’s beautiful pink back-string
that Cousin Aura had made for her. This wonderful brother had asked
who had taught them to be such pretty little gentlewomen, and at this
Aurelia’s heart beat a little, but provoking Fidelia replied: “I told
him my Mammy Rolfe taught me to be genteel,” and Letty added: “And he
said Fay was a conceited little pussy cat.”

A strange indefinable feeling between self-respect and shyness made
Aurelia shrink from the point-blank question whether the ungrateful
little things had acknowledged their obligations to her. She was
always hoping they would say something of their own accord, and always
disappointed.

Evening came, and she eagerly repaired to the dark room, wondering, yet
half dreading to enter on the subject, and beginning by an apology for
having by no means perfected herself in Priam’s visit to Achilles.

“If you have been making visits,” said Mr. Belamour: “I too have had a
visitor.”

“The children told me so,” she answered.

“He was greatly delighted with them,” said Mr. Belamour.

“While they, poor little things, never were more happy in their lives.
He must have been very kind to them, yet he did not know that they were
here.”

“His mother is not communicative respecting them. Ladies who love power
seek to preserve it by making little mysteries.”

“It was to see you, sir, that he came.”

“Yes. He ingenuously avowed that he had always been urged to do so by
his stepfather, but his mother has always put obstacles in the way, and
assured him that he would not gain admission. I have certainly refused
to see her, but this is a very different matter--my brother’s only
child, my godson, and my ward!”

“I am very glad he has come to see you, sir, and I am sure it has given
you pleasure.”

“Pleasure in seeing that he is a lad of parts, and of an ingenuous,
affectionate, honest nature, but regret in perceiving how I failed in
the confidence that his father reposed in me.”

“But, sir, you could not help it!”

“Once I could not. It was, I know not how long, before I knew that my
brother was no more; and thinking myself dead to the world and the
world to me, I took no heed to what, it now seems to me, I was told of
guardianship to the boy. I was incapable of fulfilling any such charge,
and I shunned the pain of hearing of it,” he continued, rather as if
talking to himself than to his auditor. “When I could, I gave them
my name and they asked no more. Yet what did they tell me of a sealed
letter from my brother, addressed to me? True, I heard of it more than
once, but I could ask no one to read it to me, and I closed my ears. In
Wayland’s hands I knew the youth was well cared for, and only now do I
feel that I have ill requited my brother’s confidence.”

“Indeed, sir, I cannot see how you could have done otherwise,” said
Aurelia, who could not bear to hear his tone of self-reproach.

“My amiable visitor!” he exclaimed, as though recalled to a sense of
her presence. “Excuse the absence of mind which has inflicted on you the
selfish murmurs of the old recluse. Tell me how you prospered with my
cousins, whom I remember as sprightly maidens. Phoebe had somewhat of
the prude, Delia of the coquette.”

“I could imagine what you say of Mistress Phoebe, sir, better than of
Mistress Delia.”

“Had they any guests to meet you?”

“A Mrs. Hunter, sir, from Brentford, a doctor’s wife I suppose.”

“You are right. She was a cousin of theirs on the other side of the
house, a loud-voiced buxom lass, who was thought to have married beneath
here when she took Dr. Hunter; but apparently they have forgiven her.”

Mr. Belamour was evidently much interested and amused by Aurelia’s small
experiences and observations, such as they were. In spite of the sense
of past omission which had been aroused by his nephew’s visit, it had
evidently raised his spirits, for he laughed when Aurelia spiced her
descriptions with a little playful archness, and his voice became more
cheery.

So, too, it was on the ensuing evening when Aurelia, to compensate for
the last day’s neglect, came primed with three or four pages of the
conversation between Priam and Achilles, which she rehearsed with great
feeling, thinking, like Pelides himself, of her own father and home. It
was requited with a murmured “Bravo,” and Mr. Belamour then begged of
her, if she were not weary, to favour him with the Nightingale Song,
Jumbo as usual accompanying her with his violin. At the close there was
again a “Bravo! Truly exquisite!” in a tone as if the hermit were really
finding youth and life again. Once more at his request, she sang, and
was applauded with even more fervour, with a certain tremulous eagerness
in the voice. Yet there was probably a dread of the excitement being
too much, for this was followed by “Thank you, kind songstress, I could
listen for ever, but it is becoming late, and I must not detain you
longer.”

She found herself handed out of the room, with somewhat curtailed good
nights, although nine o’clock, her usual signal, had not yet struck.
When she came into the lamplit hall, Jumbo was grinning and nodding like
a maniac, and when she asked what was the matter, he only rolled his
eyes, and said, “Missie good! Mas’r like music!”

The repressed excitability she had detected made her vaguely nervous
(not that she would have so called herself), and as the next day was the
blank Sunday, she appeased and worked off her restlessness by walking
with the children to Sedhurst church. It was the sixteenth Sunday after
Trinity, and the preacher, who had caught somewhat of the fire of Wesley
and Whitfield, preached a sermon which arrested her attention,
and filled her with new thoughts. Taking the Epistle and Gospel in
connection, he showed the death-in-life of indifference, and the
quickening touch of the Divine Love, awakening the dead spirit into true
life. On that life, with its glow of love, hope, and joy, the preacher
dwelt with enthusiasm such as Aurelia had never heard, and which carried
her quite out of herself. Tears of emotion trembled in her eyes, and she
felt a longing desire to walk on in that path of love to her Maker, whom
she seemed to have never known before.

She talked with a new fervour to the children of the birds and flowers,
and all the fair things they loved, as the gifts of their Father in
Heaven; and when she gathered them round the large pictured Bible, it
was to the Gospel that she turned as she strove to draw their souls to
the appreciation of the Redeeming Love there shown. She saw in Fay’s
deep eyes and thoughtful brow that the child was taking it in, though
differently from Amy, who wanted to kiss the picture, while Letty asked
those babyish material questions about Heaven that puzzle wiser heads
than Aurelia’s to answer.

So full was she of the thought, that she forgot her sense of something
strange and unaccountable in Mr. Belamour’s manner before the evening,
nor was there anything to remind her of it afresh, for he was as calmly
grave and kindly courteous as ever; and he soon led her to pour forth
all her impressions of the day. Indeed she repeated to him great part of
the sermon, with a voice quivering with earnestness and emotion. He
was not stirred in the same way as she had been, saying in his pensive
meditative way, “The preacher is right. Love is life. The misfortune is
when we stake our all on one love alone, and that melts from us. Then
indeed there is death--living death!”

“But there is never-failing love, and new life that never dies!” cried
Aurelia, almost transported out of herself.

“May you ever keep hold of both unobscured, my sweet child,” he
returned, with a sadness that repressed and drove her back into herself
again, feeling far too childish and unworthy to help him to that
new life and love; though her young heart yearned over him in his
desolation, and her soul was full of supplication for him.



CHAPTER XIV. THE CANON OF WINDSOR.


    Turn, gentle hermit of the dale.--GOLDSMITH.


“My child, will you do me a favour?” said Mr. Belamour the next evening,
in a tone no longer formal, but paternal. “Take this packet” (he put
one into the girl’s hand) “to the light and inform me what is the
superscription.”

It was a thick letter, with a large red wax seal, bearing the well known
arms of Belamour and Delavie, and the address was


                To AMYAS BELAMOUR, ESQ., K.C.,

                OF THE INNER TEMPLE, LONDON.
To be opened after my death.]

                                 JOVIAN BELAMOUR.
                                 Dec. 14th, 1727.


“I thought so,” said Mr. Belamour, when she returned to him with
intelligence. “Little did my poor brother guess how long it would be
unopened! Will my gentle friend confer another obligation on me?”

Aurelia made her ready assent, hoping to be asked to read the letter,
when he continued, “I cannot read this myself. Even could I bear the
light, the attempt to fix my eyes sends darts shooting through my
brain, which would take away my very power of comprehension. But,” he
continued, “there are only two men living to whom I could entrust my
brother’s last words to me. One, your own good father, is out of
reach; the other has frequently proffered his good offices and has been
rejected. Would you add to your kindness that of writing to entreat my
old friend, Dr. Godfrey, to favour with a visit one who has too often
and ungratefully refused him admission.”

Feminine curiosity felt balked, but Aurelia was ashamed of the
sensation, and undertook the task. Instructions were given her that she
was to write--


 “If Amyas Belamour’s old Schoolfellow and Friend can overlook and
  pardon the undeserved Rebuffs to His Constancy and Solicitude for
  a lonely and sullen Wretch, and will once more come and spend a
  Night at Bowstead, he will confer an inestimable Favour upon one
  who is more sensible of his Goodness than when it has been
  previously offered.”


This letter, written in Aurelia’s best Italian hand, on a large sheet
of paper, she brought with her the next evening. She was bidden to fold
down the exact place for the signature, which Mr. Belamour proceeded
to affix, and she was then to carry it to the candles in the lobby, and
there fold, seal, and address it to the Reverend Edward Godfrey, D.D.,
Canon of Windsor, Windsor. She found the A. Belamour very fairly written
except that it was not horizontal, and she performed the rest of the
task with ladylike dexterity, sealing it with a ring that had been
supplied for the purpose. It did not, as she expected, bear the Belamour
sheaf of arrows, but was a gem, representing a sleeping Cupid with
folded wings, so beautiful that she asked leave to take another
impression for Harriet, who collected seals, after the fashion of the
day.

“You are welcome,” Mr. Belamour replied. “I doubt its great antiquity,
since the story of Cupid and Psyche cannot be traced beyond Apuleius.
I used it because Dr. Godfrey will remember it. He was with me at Rome
when I purchased it.”

The ring was of the size for a lady’s finger, and Aurelia durst ask no
more.

How the letter was sent she knew not, but Mrs. Aylward was summoned to
Mr. Belamour’s room, and desired to have a room ready at any time for
his friend.

Three days later, towards sunset, a substantial-looking clergyman,
attended by two servants, rode up to the door; and was immediately
appropriated by Jumbo, disappearing into the mysterious apartments;
Aurelia expected no summons that night, but at the usual hour, the negro
brought a special request for the honour of her society; and as she
entered the dark room, Mr. Belamour said, “My fair and charitable
visitor will permit me to present to her my old and valued friend, Dr.
Godfrey.” He laid the hand he had taken on one that returned a little
gentlemanly acknowledgment, while a kind fatherly voice said, “The lady
must pardon me if I do not venture to hand her to her chair.”

“Thank you, sir, I am close to my seat.”

“Your visitors acquire blind eyes, Belamour,” said Dr. Godfrey,
cheerfully.

“More truly they become eyes to the blind,” was the answer. “I feel
myself a man of the world again, since this amiable young lady has
conned the papers on my behalf, and given herself the trouble of
learning the choicest passages of the poets to repeat to me.”

“You are very good, sir,” returned Aurelia; “it is my great pleasure.”

“That I can well believe,” said Dr. Godfrey. “Have these agreeable
recitations made you acquainted with the new poem on the _Seasons_ by
Mr. James Thomson?”

“No,” replied Mr. Belamour, “my acquaintance with the _belles letters_
ceased nine years ago.”

“The descriptions have been thought extremely effective. Those of autumn
were recalled to my mind on my way.”

Dr. Godfrey proceeded to recite some twenty lines of blank verse, for in
those days people had more patience and fewer books, and exercised their
memories much more than their descendants do. Listening was far from
being thought tedious.


            “‘But see the fading many-coloured roads,
              Shade deepening over shade, the country round
              Imbrown; a crowded umbrage, dusk and dim,
              Of every hue, from wan, declining green,
              To sooty dark.’”


The lines had a strange charm to one who had lived in darkness through
so many revolving years. Mr. Belamour eagerly thanked his friend, and on
the offer to lend him the book, begged that it might be ordered for him,
and that any other new and interesting work might be sent to him that
was suitable to the fair lips on which he was dependent.

“You are secure with Mr. Thomson,” said the Doctor. “Hear the conclusion
of his final hymn.”


            “‘When even at last the solemn hour shall come,
              And wing my mystic flight to future worlds,
              I cheerful will obey; there with new powers
              Will rising wonders sing.  I cannot go
              Where Universal Love not smiles around,
              Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their suns,
              From seeming evil still educing good,
              And better thence again, and better still,
              In infinite progression.  But I lose
              Myself in Him, in Light ineffable;
              Come then expressive Silence, mine the praise.’”


“‘Universal Love!’” repeated Mr. Belamour; “the poet sings as you do, my
amiable friend! I can conceive the idea better than I could a few months
ago.”

            “‘From seeming evil, still educing good,’”

quoted Dr. Godfrey earnestly, as if feeling his way.

“More of this another time,” said Mr. Belamour hastily. “What say the
critics respecting this new aspirant?”

The ensuing conversation much interested Aurelia, as it was on the men
of letters whose names had long been familiar to her, and whom the
two gentlemen had personally known. She heard of Pope, still living at
Twickenham, and of his bickerings with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; of
young Horace Walpole, who would never rival his father as a politician,
but who was beginning his course as a _dilettante_, and actually
pretending to prefer the barbarous Gothic to the classic Italian.
However, his taste might be improved, since he was going to make the
grand tour in company with Mr. Gray, a rising young poet, in whom Dr.
Godfrey took interest, as an Etonian and a Cantab.

At nine o’clock Mr. Belamour requested Miss Delavie to let him depute to
her the doing the honours of the supper table to his friend, who would
return to him when she retired for the night.

Then it was that she first saw the guest, a fine, dignified clergyman,
in a large grey wig, with a benignant countenance, reminding her of the
Dean of Carminster. When she was little, the Dean had bestowed on her
comfits and kisses; but since she had outgrown these attentions, he was
wont to notice her only by a condescending nod, and she would no more
have thought of conversing with him at table than in his stall in the
cathedral. Thus it was surprising to find herself talked to, as Betty
might have been, by this reverend personage, who kindly satisfied her
curiosity about the King, Queen, and Princesses, but with a discretion
which did not diminish that blind loyalty which saw no defects in
“our good king,” though he was George II. She likewise answered a
few questions about Mr. Belamour’s tastes and habits, put in a very
different manner from those of the Mistress Treforth, and as soon as
supper was over she rose and retired.

She did not see Dr. Godfrey again until he was ready for a late
breakfast, having been up nearly the whole night with his friend. His
horses were ordered immediately after the meal, as he had an appointment
in London, and he presently looked up, and said,

“Madam, you must excuse me, I was silent from thinking how I can
adequately express my respect and gratitude for you.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” exclaimed Aurelia, thinking her ears mistaken.

“My gratitude,” he repeated, “for the inestimable blessing you have been
to my dear and much valued friend, in rousing him from that wretched
state of despondency in which no one could approach him.”

“You are too good, sir,” returned Aurelia. “It was he who sent for me.”

“I know you did it in all simplicity, my dear child--forgive the
epithet, I have daughters of my own, and thankful should I be if one
of them could have produced such effects. I tell you, madam, my dear
friend, one of the most estimable and brilliant men of his day, was an
utter wreck, both in mind and body, through the cruel machinations of
an unprincipled woman. How much was to the actual injury from his wound,
how much to grief and remorse, Heaven only knows, but the death of his
brother, who alone had authority with him, left him thus to cut himself
off entirely in this utter darkness and despair. I called at first
monthly, then yearly, after the melancholy catastrophe, and held many
consultations with good Mr. Wayland, but all in vain. It was reserved
for your sweet notes to awaken and recall him to what I trust is indeed
new life.”

Tears filled Aurelia’s eyes, and she could only murmur something about
being very glad.

“Yes,” pursued Dr. Godfrey, “it is as if I saw him rising from his
living tomb in all senses of the word. I find that your artless Sunday
evening conversations have even penetrated the inner hopeless gloom,
still more grievous than the outer darkness in which he lived.”

“Indeed, sir, I never meant to be presumptuous.”

“God’s blessing on such presumption, my good child! If you had been
fully aware of his state of mind, you might never have ventured nor
have touched the sealed heart, as you have done, as I perceive, in your
ignorance, out of your obedient reverence to the Lord’s day. Am I not
right?”

“Yes, sir, I thought one _could_ not repeat plays and poems on Sunday,
and I was frightened when I found those other things were strange to
him; but he bade me go on.”

“For the sake of the music of your voice, as he tells me, at first; but
afterwards because you became the messenger of hope to one who had long
lain in the shadow of death, thinking pardon and mercy too much out of
reach to be sought for. You have awakened prayer within him once more.”

She could not speak, and Dr. Godfrey continued, “You will be glad
to hear that I am to see the curate on my way through Brentford, and
arrange with him at times to read prayers in the outer room. What is
it?” he added; “you look somewhat doubtful.”

“Only, sir, perhaps I ought not to say so, but I cannot think Mr.
Belamour well ever care for poor Mr. Greaves. If he could only hear that
gentleman who comes to Sedhurst! I never knew how much fire could be
put into the service itself, and yet I have often been at Carminster
Cathedral.”

“True, my dear young lady. These enthusiasts seem to be kindling a new
fire in the Church, but I am not yet so convinced of their orthodoxy
and wisdom as to trust them unreservedly; and zeal pushed too far might
offend our poor recluse, and alienate him more than ever. He is likely
to profit more by the direct words of the Church herself, read without
personal meaning, than by the individual exhortations of some devout
stranger.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, I never meant to question your judgment. Indeed I
did not.”

The horses were here announced, and Dr. Godfrey said,

“Then I leave him to you with a grateful heart. I am beginning to hope
that there is much hypochondriacism in his condition, and that this may
pass away with his despondency. I hope before many weeks are over to
come and visit him again, before I go to my parish in Dorsetshire.”

Then, with a fatherly blessing, the Canon took his leave.

He was scarcely gone before there was a great rustling in the hall,
and Mrs. Phoebe and Mrs. Delia Treforth were announced. Aurelia was
surprised, for she had been decidedly sensible of their disapproval when
she made her visit of ceremony after her entertainment by them. She,
however, had underrated the force of the magnet of curiosity. They had
come to inquire about the visitor, who had actually spent a night at the
Park. They knew who he was, for “Ned Godfrey” had been a frequent guest
at Bowstead in the youth of all parties, and they were annoyed that he
had not paid his respects to them.

“It would have been only fitting to have sent for us, as relations of
the family, to assist in entertaining him,” said Mrs. Phoebe. “Pray,
miss, did my eccentric cousin place you in the position of hostess?”

“It fell to me, madam,” said Aurelia.

“You could have asked for _our_ support,” said Mrs. Phoebe, severely.
“It would have become you better, above all then Sir Amyas Belamour
himself was here.”

“He has only been here while I was with you, madam, and was gone before
my return.”

“_That_ is true,” but Mrs. Phoebe looked at the girl so inquisitively
that her colour rose in anger, and exclaimed, “Madam, I know not what
you mean!”

“There, sister,” said Mrs. Delia, more kindly. “She is but a child, and
Bet Batley is a gossip. She would not know his Honour in the dark from
the blackamoor going down to visit his sweetheart.”

Very glad was Aurelia when the ladies curtsied themselves out of her
summer parlour, declaring they wished to speak to Mrs. Aylward, who she
knew could assure them of the absurdity of these implied suspicions.

And Mrs. Aylward, who detested the two ladies, and repelled their
meddling, stiffly assured them both of Miss Delavie’s discretion and
her own vigilance, which placed visits from the young baronet beyond
the bounds of possibility. Supposing his Honour should again visit his
uncle, she should take care to be present at any interview with the
young lady. She trusted that she knew her duty, and so did Miss Delavie.



CHAPTER XV. THE QUEEN OF BEAUTY.


    O bright _regina_, who made thee so faire,
    Who made thy colour vermeilie and white?
    Now marveile I nothing that ye do hight
    The quene of love.--CHAUCER.


Only a week had elapsed before the quiet of Bowstead was again disturbed
by the arrival of two grooms, with orders that everything should be made
ready the next day for the arrival of my Lady, who was on her way to
Carminster for a few weeks, and afterwards to Bath. Forthwith Mrs.
Aylward and her subordinates fell into a frenzy of opening shutters,
lighting fires, laying down carpets and uncovering furniture. Scrubbing
was the daily task for the maids, and there was nothing extra possible
in that line, but there was hurry enough to exacerbate the temper, and
when Aurelia offered her services she was tartly told that she could
solely be useful by keeping the children out of the way; for in spite of
all rebuffs, they persisted in haunting the footsteps of the housekeeper
and maids, Fay gazing with delight at the splendours that were revealed,
Amy proffering undesired aid, Letty dancing in the most inconvenient
places, romancing about her mamma and little brother, and making sure
that her big beautiful brother was also coming.

The were very unwilling to let Aurelia call them away to practise them
in bridling, curtseying, and saying “Yes, madam,” according to the laws
of good breeding so carefully inculcated by sister at home. So anxious
was she that she tried them over and over again till they were wearied
out, and became so cross and naughty that nothing restored good-homour
except gathering blackberries to feast brother Archer.

The intelligence produced less apparent excitement in the dark chamber.
When Aurelia, in an eager, awe-stricken voice began, “O sir, have you
heard that my Lady is coming?” He calmly replied,

“The sounds in the house have amply heralded her, to say nothing of
Jumbo.”

“I wonder what she will do!”

“You will not long have known her, my fair friend, without discovering
that she is one of the most inscrutable of her sex. The mere endeavour
to guess at her plans only produces harassing surmises and alarms.”

“Do you think, sir, she can mean to take me away?”

“I suppose that would be emancipation to you, my poor child.”

“I should dance to find myself going home,” said Aurelia, “yet how could
I bear to leave my little girls, or you, sir. Oh! if you could only live
at the Great House, at home, I should be quite happy.”

“Then you would not willingly abandon the recluse?”

“Indeed,” she said with a quivering in her voice, “I cannot endure the
notion. You have been so kind and good to me, sir, and I do so enjoy
coming to you. And you would be all alone again with Jumbo! Oh sir,
could you not drive down if all the coach windows were close shut up?
You would have my papa to talk to!”

“And what would your papa say to having a miserable old hermit inflicted
on him?”

“He would be only too glad.”

“No, no, my gentle friend, there are other reasons. I could not make my
abode in Lady Belamour’s house, while in that of my nephew, my natural
home, I have a right to drag out what remains of the existence of mine.
Nay, are you weeping, my sweet child? That must not be; your young life
must take no darkness from mine. Even should Lady Belamour’s arbitrary
caprice bear you off without another meeting, remember that you have
given me many more happy hours than I ever supposed to be in store for
me, and have opened doors which shall not be closed again.”

“You will get some one to recite to you?” entreated Aurelia, her voice
most unsteady.

“Godfrey shall seek out some poor scholar or exhausted poetaster, with a
proviso that he never inflicts his own pieces on me,” said Mr. Belamour,
in a tone more as if he wished to console her than as it were a pleasing
prospect. “Never fear, gentle monitress, I will not sink into the
stagnation from which your voice awoke me. Neither Godfrey nor my nephew
would allow it. Come, let us put it from our minds. It has always
been my experience, that whatever I expected from my much admired
sister-in-law, that was the exact reverse of what she actually did.
Therefore let us attend to topics, though I wager that you have no fresh
acquisitions for me to-day.”

“I am ashamed, sir, but I could not fix my mind even to a most frightful
description of wolves in Mr. Thomson’s ‘Winter.’”

“That were scarcely a soothing subject; but we might find calm in
something less agitating and more familiar. Perhaps you can recall
something too firmly imprinted on your memory to be disturbed by these
emotions.”

Aurelia bethought herself that she must not disappoint her friend on
what might prove their last evening; she began very unsteadily:--


                 “’ Hence, loathed Melancholy.’”


However by the time “Jonson’s learned sock” was on, her mechanical
repetition had become animated, and she had restored herself to
equanimity. When the clock struck nine, her auditor added his thanks,
“In case we should not meet again thus, let me beg of my kind visitor to
wear this ring in memory of one to whom she has brought a breath indeed
from L’Allegro itself. It will not be too large. It was made for a
lady.”

And amid her tearful thanks she felt a light kiss on her fingers,
revealing to her that the hermit must possess a beard, a fact, which
in the close-shaven Hanoverian days, conveyed a sense of squalor and
neglect almost amounting to horror.

In her own room she dropped many a tear over the ring, which was of
course the Cupid intaglio, and she spent the night in strange mixed
dreams and yearnings, divided between her father, Betty, and Eugene on
the one hand, and Mr. Belamour and the children on the other. Home-sick
as she sometimes felt, dull as Bowstead was, she should be sadly grieved
to leave those to whom she felt herself almost necessary, though her
choice must needs be for her home.

Early the next day arrived an old roomy berlin loaded heavily with
luggage, and so stuffed with men and maids that four stout horses had
much ado to bring it up to the door. The servants, grumbling heartily,
declared that my Lady was only going to lie here for a single night, and
that Sir Amyas was not with her.

Late in the afternoon, a couple of outriders appeared to say that the
great lady was close at hand, and Aurelia, in her best blue sacque,
and India muslin cap, edged with Flanders lace, had her three little
charges, all in white with red shoes, red sashes, and red ribbons in
their caps, drawn up in the hall to welcome their mother.

Up swept the coach with six horses, Mr. Dove behind--runners in fact,
who at times rested themselves by an upright swing on the foot-board.

The door of the gorgeous machine was thrown open, and forth sprang a
pretty little boy. Next descended the friendly form of Mrs. Dove, then
a smart person, who was my Lady’s own woman, and finally something
dazzlingly grand and beautiful in feathers, light blue, and silver.

Aurelia made her reverence, and so did the little triad; the great lady
bent her head, and gave a light kiss to the brow of each child, and the
boy sprang forward, crying: “You are my sisters. You must play with me,
and do whatever I choose.” Amoret and he began kissing on the spot, but
Fidelia, regarding _must_ as a forbidden word, looked up at Aurelia with
an inquiring protest in her eyes; but it was not heeded, in the doubt
whether to follow Lady Belamour, who, with a stately greeting to Mrs.
Aylward, had sailed into the withdrawing-room. The question was decided
by Mrs. Aylward standing back to make room, and motioning her forward,
so she entered, Letty preceding her and Fay clinging to her.

By the hearth stood the magnificent figure, holding out a long,
beautiful, beringed hand, which Aurelia shyly kissed, bending as before
a queen, while her forehead received the same slight salute as had been
given to the little girls. “My cousin Delavie’s own daughter,” said the
lady: “You have the family likeness.”

“So I have been told, madam.”

“Your father is well, I hope.”

“He was pretty well, I thank you Ladyship, when I heard from my sister
ten days ago.”

“I shall see him in a week’s time, and shall report well of his little
daughter,” said Lady Belamour kindly. “I am under obligations to you, my
dear. You seem to have tamed my little savages.”

Aurelia was amazed, for the universal awe of my Lady had made her expect
a harsh and sever Semiramis style of woman, whereas she certainly saw a
majestic beauty, but with none of the terrors that she had anticipated.
The voice was musical and perfectly modulated, the manner more caressing
than imperious towards herself, and studiously polite to the house
keeper. While orders were being given as to arrangements, Aurelia took
in the full details of the person of whom she had heard so much.
It seemed incredible that Lady Belamour could have been mother to
contemporaries of Betty, for she looked younger than Betty herself. Her
symmetry and carriage were admirable, and well shown by the light blue
habit laced richly and embroidered with silver. A small round hat with a
cluster of white ostrich feathers was placed among the slightly frizzed
and powdered masses of mouse-coloured hair, surmounting a long ivory
neck, whose graceful turn, the theme of many a sonnet, was not concealed
by the masculine collar of the habit. The exquisite oval contour of the
cheek, the delicate ear, and Grecian profile were as perfect in moulding
as when she had been Sir Jovian’s bride, and so were the porcelain blue
of the eyes, the pencilled arches of eyebrow, and the curve of the lips,
while even her complexion retained its smooth texture, and tints of the
lily and rose. Often as Aurelia had heard of her beauty, its splendour
dazzled and astonished her, even in this travelling dress.

Archer, who was about a year older than his sisters, was more like
Amoret than the other two, with azure eyes, golden curls, and a plump
rosy face, full of fun and mischief. Tired of the confinement of the
coach, he was rushing round the house with Amoret, opening the doors and
looking into the rooms. The other little sisters remained beside Aurelia
till their mother said, pointing to Fay: “That child seems to mean to
eat me with her eyes. Let all the children be with Nurse Dove, Mrs.
Aylward. Miss Delavie will do me the pleasure of supping with me at
seven. Present my compliments to Mr. Belamour, and let him know that I
will be with him at eight o’clock on particular business.” Then turning
to the two children, she asked their names, and was answered by each
distinctly, with the orthodox “madam” at the end.

“You are improved, little ones,” she said: “Did Cousin Aurelia teach
you?”

“And Mammy Rolfe,” said constant Fay.

“She must teach you next not to stare,” said Lady Belamour. “I intend
to take one to be a companion to my boy, in the country. When I saw
them before, they were rustic little monsters; but they are less
unpresentable now. Call your sister, children.” And, as the two left the
room, she continued: “Which do you recommend, cousin?”

“Fidelia is the most reasonable, madam,” said Aurelia.

“But not the prettiest, I trust. She is too like her father, with those
dark brows, and her eyes have a look deep enough to frighten one. They
will frighten away the men, if she do not grow out of it.”

Here the door burst open, and, without any preliminary bow, Master
Archer flew in, crying out “Mamma, mamma, we _must_ stay here. The
galleries are so long, and it is such a place for whoop-hide!”

His sisters were following his bad example, and rushing in with equal
want of ceremony, but though their mother held the boy unchecked on
her knee, Aurelia saw how she could frown. “You forget yourselves,” she
said.

Amoret looked ready to cry, but at a sign from their young instructress,
they backed and curtsied, and their mother reviewed them; Letitia was
the most like the Delavies, but also the smallest, while Amoret was
on the largest scale and would pair best with her brother, who besides
loudly proclaimed his preference for her, and she was therefore elected
to the honour of being taken home. Aurelia was requested as a favour to
bid the children’s woman have the child’s clothes ready repaired to her
own room.

The little wardrobe could only be prepared by much assistance from
Aurelia herself, and she could attend to nothing else; while the
children were all devoted to Archer, and she only heard their voices
in the distance, till--as she was dressing for her _tete-a-tete_
supper--Fay came to her crying, “Archer is a naughty boy--he said wicked
words--he called her ugly, and had cuffed and pinched her!”

Poor child! she was tired out, and disappointed, and Aurelia could only
comfort her by hearing her little prayers, undressing her, and giving
her the highly-esteemed treat of sleeping in Cousin Aura’s bed; while
the others were staying up as long as it pleased Master Archer. This
actually was the cause of my Lady being kept waiting, and an apology was
needful. “Fidelia was tired out, and was crying.”

“A peevish child! I am glad I did not choose her.”

“She is usually very good, madam,” said Aurelia, eagerly.

“Is she your favourite?”

“I try not to make favourites, madam.”

“Ah! there spoke the true Manor House tone,” said her Ladyship, rather
mockingly. “Maybe she will be a wit, for she will never be a beauty, but
the other little one will come on in due time after Amoret.”

“Your Ladyship will find Amoret a dear, good, affectionate child,” said
Aurelia. “Only---”

“Reserve that for nurse, so please you, my good girl. It is enough for
me to see the brats on their good manners now and then. You have had
other recreations--shall I call them, or cares? I never supposed, when
I sent you here to attend on the children, that the hermit of Bowstead
would summon you! I assure you it is an extraordinary honour.”

“I so esteem it, madam,” said Aurelia, blushing.

“More honour than pleasure, eh?”

“A great pleasure, madam.”

“Say you so?” and the glittering blue eyes were keenly scanning the
modest face. “I should have thought a young maid like you would have had
the dismals at the mere notion of going near his dark chamber. I promise
you it gives me the megrim [migraine--D.L.] to look forward to it.”

“I was affrighted at first, madam,” said Aurelia; “but Mr. Belamour is
so good and kind to me that I exceedingly enjoy the hours I spend with
him.”

“La, child, you speak with warmth! We shall have you enamoured of a
voice like the youth they make sonnets about--what’s his name?”

“Narcissus, madam,” said Aurelia, put out of countenance by the banter.

“Oh, you are learned. Is Mr. Belamour your tutor, pray? And--oh fie! I
have seen that ring before!”

“He gave it to me yesterday,” faltered Aurelia, “in case you should
intend to take me away, and I should not see him again. I hope I was not
wrong in accepting it, madam.”

“Wrong, little fool, assuredly not,” said my Lady, laughing. “It is an
ensign of victory. Why, child, you have made a conquest worthy of--let
me see. You, or the wits, could tell me who it was that stormed the very
den of Cocytus and bore off the spoil!”

Aurelia liked the tone too little to supply the names; yet she felt
flattered; but she said quietly, “I am happy to have been the means of
cheering him.”

The grave artlessness of the manner acted as a kind of check, and Lady
Belamour said in a different tone, “Seriously, child, the family are
truly obliged for your share in rousing the poor creature from his
melancholy. My good man made the attempt, but all in vain. What do you
to divert him?”

In inquires of this kind the supper hour passed, and Lady Belamour was
then to keep her appointment with her brother-in-law. She showed so
much alarm and dread that Aurelia could not but utter assurances and
encouragements, which again awoke that arch manner, partly bantering,
partly flattering, which exercised a sort of pleasant perplexing
fascination on the simple girl.

After being dismissed, Aurelia went in search of Mrs. Dove, whom she
found with Molly, taking stock of Amoret’s little wardrobe. The good
woman rose joyfully. “Oh, my dear missie! I am right thankful to see you
looking so purely. I don’t know how I could have held up my head to Miss
Delavie if I had not seen you!”

“Ah! you will see my sister and all of them,” cried Aurelia, a sudden
rush of home-sickness bringing tears to her eyes, in oblivion alike of
her recluse and her pupils. “Oh! if I were but going with you! But what
folly am I talking? You must not let them think I am not happy, for
indeed I am. Will you kindly come to my room, dear nurse, and I will
give you a packet for them?”

Mrs. Dove willingly availed herself of the opportunity of explaining how
guiltless she had been of the sudden separation at Knightsbridge four
months back. She had been in such haste to ride after and overtake the
coach, that she had even made Dove swear at her for wanting to give the
horses no time to rest, and she had ridden off on her own particular
pillion long before the rest. She had been surprised that she never
succeeded in catching up the carriage, but never suspected the truth
till she had dismounted in Hanover Square and asked whether “Miss” were
with my Lady. Nobody knew anything about Miss Delavie, nor expected her;
and the good woman’s alarm was great until she had had an interview with
her Ladyship, when she was told not to concern herself about the young
lady, who was safely bestowed in the country with the Miss Wayland. “But
that it was here, if you’ll believe me, missie, I was as innocent as the
babe unborn, and so was his Honour, Sir Amyas. Indeed, my Lady gave him
to understand that she had put you to boarding-school with his little
sisters.”

“Oh! nurse, that is impossible!”

“Lawk-a-day, missie, there’s nothing my Lady wouldn’t say to put him off
the scent. Bless you, ‘tis not for us servants to talk, or I could tell
you tales! But there, mum’s the word, as my Dove says, or he wouldn’t
ha’ sat on his box these twenty year!”

“My Lady is very kind to me,” said Aurelia, with a little assumption of
her father’s repressive manner.

“I’m right glad to hear it, Miss Aureely. A sweet lady she can be when
she is in the mood, though nothing like so sweet as his Honour. ‘Tis
ingrain with him down to the bone, as I may say--and I should know,
having had him from the day he was weaned. To see him come up to the
nussery, and toss about his little brother, would do your very heart
good; and then he sits him down, without a bit of pride, and will have
me tell him all about our journey up to Lunnon, and the fair, and the
play and all; and the same with Dove in the stables. He would have the
whole story, and how we was parted at Knightsbridge, I never so much as
guessing where you was--you that your sister had given into my care! At
last, one day when I was sitting a darning of stockings in the window
at the back, where I can see out over to the green fields, up his Honour
comes, and says he, with his finger to his lips, ‘Set your heart at
rest, nurse, I’ve found her!’ Then he told me how he went down to see
his old uncle. Mr. Wayland had been urging him on one side that ‘twas no
more than his duty; and her Ladyship, on the other, would have it that
Mr. Belamour was right down melancholy mad, and would go into a raving
fit if his nevvy did but go near the place.”

“She did not say that!”

“Oh yes, she did, miss, I’ll take my oath of it, for I was in the coach
with Master Wayland on my knee, when she was telling a lady how hard it
was they could have no use of Bowstead, because of Sir Jovian’s brother
being there, who had got the black melancholics, and could not be
removed. The lady says how good she was to suffer it, and she answers,
that there was no being harsh with poor Sir Jovian’s brother, though he
had a strange spleen at her and her son, and always grew worse when they
did but go near the house; but that some measures must be taken when her
son came of age or was married.”

“But he came at last!”

“He said he wanted to see for himself, and thought he could at least
find out from the servants whether his uncle was in the state they
reported. And there he found his three little sisters, and that you was
their tutoress, and they couldn’t say enough about you, nor the poor
gentleman neither. ‘I didn’t see her, nurse,’ says he, ‘but there’s a
bit of her own sweet fingers’ work.’ And sure enough, I knew it, for
it was a knot of the very ribbon you had in your hair the day I came to
talk to your sister about the journey.”

“That was what Amy told me she gave him.”

“Nothing loth would he be to take it, miss! Though says he, ‘Don’t you
let my mother know I have tracked her, nurse,’ says he. ‘It is plain
enough why she gives out that I am not to go near my uncle, and if she
guessed where I had been, she would have some of her fancies.’ ‘Now your
Honour, my dear,’ says I, ‘you’ll excuse your old nurse, but her sister
put her in my charge, and though I bless Heaven that you are no young
rake, yet you will be bringing trouble untold on her and hers if you go
down there a courting of her unbeknownst.’ ‘No danger of that, nurse,’
says he; ‘why there’s a she-dragon down there (meaning Mrs. Aylward)
that was ready to drive me out of my own house when I did but speak of
waiting to see her.’”

“No, I am glad he will not come again. Yet it makes his uncle happy to
see him. I will keep out of the way if he does.”

“Right too, miss. A young lady never loses by discretion.”

“Oh, do not speak in--in that way,” said Aurelia, blushing at
the implication. “Besides, he is going home with my Lady to dear
Carminster.”

“No, no, he remains with his regiment in town, unless he rides down
later when he can have his leave of absence, and my Lady is at the Bath.
He will not if he can help it, for he is dead set against the young lady
they want to marry him to, and she is to be there. What! you have not
heard? It is my Lady Arabella, sister to that there Colonel as is more
about our house than I could wish. She is not by the same mother as him
and my Lord Aresfield. Her father married a great heiress for his second
wife, whose father had made a great fortune by victualling the army in
the war time. Not that this Dowager Countess, as they call her, is a
bit like the real quality, so that it is a marvel how my Lady can put up
with her; only money-bags will make anything go down, more’s the pity,
and my Lady is pressed, you see, with her losses at play. It was about
this match that Sir Amyas was sent down to Battlefield, the Countess’s
place in Monmouthshire, when he came to Carminster last summer, and his
body servant, Mr. Grey, that has been about him from a child, told me
all about it. This Lady Belle, as they call her, is only about fourteen,
and such a spoilt little vixen, that they say nobody has been able to
teach her so much as to read, for her mother, the Dowager, never would
have her crossed in anything, and now she has got too headstrong for any
of ‘em. Mr. Grey said dressing for supper, they heard the most horrid
screams, and thought some one must be killed at least. Sir Amyas was for
running out, but at the door they met a wench who only said, ‘Bless
you! that’s nought. It’s only my young lady in her tantrums!’ So in the
servants’ hall, Grey heard it was all because her mamma wouldn’t let her
put on two suits of pearls and di’monds both together. She lies on her
back, and rolls and kicks till she gets her own way; and by what the
servants say, the Dowager heerself ain’t much better to her servants.
Her woman had got a black eye she had given her with her fan. She has
never had no breeding, you see, and there are uglier stories about her
than I like to tell you, Miss Aureely; and as to the young lady, Sir
Amyas saw her with his own eyes slap the lackey’s face for bringing her
brown sugar instead of white. She is a little dwarfish thing that puts
her finger in her mouth and sulks when she is not flying out into a
rage; but Colonel Mar is going to have her up to a boarding-school to
mend her manners, and he and my lady are as much bent on marrying his
Honour to her as if she was a perfect angel.”

“They never can!”

“Well, miss, they do most things they have a mind to; and they mean to
do this before my Lady’s husband comes home.”

“But Mr. Belamour is his nephew’s guardian.”

“That’s what my Lady is come down here for. Either she will get his
consent out of him, or she will make the poor gentleman out to be _non
compos_, and do without him.”

“Oh, nurse, he is the wisest, cleverest gentleman I ever saw, except my
papa.”

“Do you say do, miss? But you are young, you see. A gentleman to shut
himself up in the dark like that must needs be astray in his wits.”

“That is because of his eyes, and his wound. Nobody could talk to him
and doubt his reason.”

“Well, missie, I hope you are in the right; but what my Lady’s interest
is, that she is apt to carry out, one way or t’other! Bless me, if that
be not Master Archer screaming. I thought he was fast off to sleep.
There never was a child for hating the dark. Yes, yes, I’m coming, my
dearie! Lack a daisy, if his mamma heard!”



CHAPTER XVI. AUGURIES.


    Venus, thy eternal sway
    All the race of man obey.
                      EURIPIDES (Anstice).


Aurelia sat up late to finish her despatches to the beloved ones at
home, and pack the little works she had been able to do for each, though
my Lady’s embroidery took up most of her sedentary hours. Mrs. Dove
undertook the care of the guinea’s worth of presents to the little
sisters from Sir Amyas, which the prudent nurse advised her to
withhold till after Master Archer was gone, as he would certainly break
everything to pieces. He was up betimes, careering about the garden
with all his sisters after him, imperiously ordering them about, but
nevertheless bewitching them all, so that Amoretta was in ecstasies at
her own preferment, scarcely realising that it would divide her from the
others; while Letty made sure that she should soon follow, and Fidelia
gravely said, “I shall always know you are loving me still, Amy, as
Nurse Rolfe does.”

Lady Belamour breakfasted in her own room at about ten o’clock. Her
woman, Mrs. Loveday, a small trim active person, with the worn and
sharpened remains of considerable prettiness of the miniature brunette
style, was sent to summon Miss Delavie to her apartment and inspect the
embroidery she had been desired to execute for my Lady. Three or four
bouquets had been finished, and the maid went into such raptures over
them as somewhat to disgust their worker, who knew that they were not
half so well done as they would have been under Betty’s direction.
However, Mrs. Loveday bore the frame to her Ladyship’s room, following
Aurelia, who was there received with the same stately caressing manner
as before.

“Good morning, child. Your roses bloom well in the forenoon! Pity they
should be wasted in darkness. Not but that you are duly appreciated
there. Ah! I can deepen them by what our unhappy recluse said of you. I
shall make glad hearts at Carminster by his good opinion, and who knows
what preferment may come of it--eh? What is that, Loveday?”

“It is work your Ladyship wished me to execute,” said Aurelia.

“Handsome--yes; but is that all? I thought the notable Mistress Betty
brought you up after her own sort?”

“I am sorry, madam, but I could not do it quickly at first without my
sister’s advice, and I have not very much time between my care of the
children and preparing repetitions for Mr. Belamour.”

“Ha! ha! I understand. There are greater attractions! Go on, child.
Mayhap it may be your own wedding gown you are working at, if you finish
it in time! Heavens! what great wondering eyes the child has! All in
good time, my dear. I must talk to your father.”

It was so much the custom to talk to young maidens about their marriage
that this did not greatly startle Aurelia, and Lady Belamour continued:
“There, child, you have done your duty well by those little plagues of
mine, and it is Mr. Wayland’s desire to make you a recompense. You may
need it in any change of circumstances.”

So saying, she placed in Aurelia’s hand five guineas, the largest sum
that the girl had ever owned; and as visions arose of Christmas gifts
to be bestowed, the thanks were so warm, the curtsey so expressively
graceful, the smile so bright, the soft eyes so sparkling, that the
great lady was touched at the sight of such simple-hearted joy, and
said, “There, there, child, that will do. I could envy one whom a little
makes so happy. Now you will be able to make yourself fine when my
son brings home his bride; or--who knows?--you may be a bride yourself
first!”

That sounds, thought Aurelia, as if Mr. Belamour had made her relinquish
the plan of that cruel marriage, for I am sure I have not yet seen the
man I am to marry.

And with a lighter heart the young tutoress stood between Fay and Letty
on the steps to see the departure, her cheeks still feeling Amoret’s
last fond kisses, and a swelling in her throat bringing tears to her
eyes at the thought how soon that carriage would be at Carminster. Yet
there were sweet chains in the little hands that held her gown, and in
the thought of the lonely old man who depended on her for enlivenment.

The day was long, for Amoret was missed; and the two children were
unusually fretful and quarrelsome without her, disputing over the
new toys which Brother Amyas’s guinea had furnished in demoralising
profusion. It was strange too see the difference made by the loss of the
child who would give up anything rather than meet a look of vexation,
and would coax the others into immediate good humour. There was
reaction, too, after the excitement, for which the inexperienced Aurelia
did not allow. At the twentieth bickering as to which doll should ride
on the spotted hobby-horse, the face of Letty’s painted wooden baby
received a scar, and Fay’s lost a leg, whereupon Aurelia’s endurance
entirely gave way, and she pronounced them both naughty children, and
sent them to bed before supper.

Then her heart smote her for unkindness, and she sat in the firelight
listless and sad, though she hardly knew why, longing to go up and pet
and comfort her charges, but withheld by the remembrance of Betty’s
assurances that leniency, in a like case, would be the ruin of Eugene.

At last Jumbo came to summon her, and hastily recalling a cheerful air,
she entered the room with “Good evening, sir; you see I am still here to
trouble you.”

“I continue to profit by my gentle friend’s banishment. Tell me, was my
Lady in a gracious mood?”

“O sir, how beautiful she is, and how kind! I know now why my father was
so devoted to her, and no one can ever gainsay her!”

“The enchantress knows how to cast her spells. She was then friendly?”

“She gave me five guineas!” said Aurelia exultingly. “She said Mr.
Wayland wished to recompense me.”

“Did he so? If it came from him I should have expected a more liberal
sum.”

“But, oh!” in a tone of infinite surprise and content, “this is more
than I ever thought of. Indeed I never dreamt of her giving me anything.
Sir, may I write to your bookseller, Mr. Tonson, and order a book of Mr.
James Thomson’s _Seasons_ to give to my sister Harriet, who is delighted
with the extracts I have copied for her?”

“Will not that consume a large proportion of the five guineas, my
generous friend?”

“I have enough left. There is a new gown which I never have worn, which
will serve for the new clothes my Lady spoke of to receive her son’s
bride.”

“She entered on that subject then?”

“Only for a moment as she took leave. Oh, sir, is it possible that she
can know all about this young lady?”

“What have you heard of her?”

“Sir, they say she is a dreadful little vixen.”

“Who say? Is she known at Carminster?”

“No, sir,” said Aurelia, disconcerted. “It was from Nurse Dove that I
heard what Sir Amyas’s man said when he came back from Battlefield. I
know my sister would chide me for listening to servants.”

“Nevertheless I should be glad to hear. Was the servant old Grey? Then
he is to be depended on. What did he say?”

Aurelia needed little persuasion to tell all that she had heard from
Mrs. Dove, and he answered, “Thank you, my child, it tallies precisely
with what the poor boy himself told me.”

“Then he has told his mother? Will she not believe him?”

“It does not suit her to do so, and it is easy to say the girl will be
altered by going to a good school. In fact, there are many reasons more
powerful with her than the virtue and happiness of her son,” he added
bitterly. “There’s the connection, forsooth. As if Lady Aresfield were
fit to bring up an honest man’s wife; and there’s the fortune to fill up
the void she has made in the Delavie estates.”

“Can no one hinder it, sir? Cannot you?”

“As a last resource the poor youth came hither to see whether the
guardian whose wardship has hitherto been a dead letter, were indeed so
utterly obdurate and helpless as had been represented.”

“And you have the power?”

“So far as his father’s will and the injunctions of his final letter
to me can give it, I have full power. My consent is necessary to his
marriage while still a minor, and I have told my Lady I will never give
it to his wedding a Mar.”

“I was sure of it; and it is not true that they will be able to do
without it?

“Without it! Have you heard any more? You pause. I see--she wishes to
declare me of unsound mind. Is that what you mean?”

“So Nurse Dove said, sir,” faltered Aurelia; “but it seemed too wicked,
too monstrous, to be possible.”

“I understand,” he said. “I thought there was an implied threat in
my sweet sister-in-law’s soft voice when she spoke of my determined
misanthropy. Well, I think we can guard against that expedient. After
all, it is only till my nephew comes of age, or till his stepfather
returns, that we must keep the enchantress at bay. Then the poor lad
will be safe, providing always that she and her Colonel have not made a
rake of him by that time. Alas, what a wretch am I not to be able to do
more for him! Child, you have seen him?”

“I danced with him, sir, but I was too much terrified to look in his
face. And I saw his cocked hat over the thorn hedge.”

“Fancy free,” muttered Mr. Belamour. “Fair exile for a cocked hat and
diamond shoe-buckles! You would not recognise him again, nor his voice?”

“No, sir. He scarcely spoke, and I was attending to my steps.”

Mr. Belamour laughed, and then asked Aurelia for the passage in the
_Iliad_ where Venus carries off Paris in a cloud. He thanked her
somewhat absently, and then said,

“Dr. Godfrey said something of coming hither before he goes to his
living in Dorsetshire. May I ask of you the favour of writing and
begging him to fix a day not far off, mentioning likewise that my
sister-in-law has been here.”

To this invitation Dr. Godfrey replied that he would deviate from the
slow progress of his family coach, and ride to Bowstead, spending two
nights there the next week; and to Aurelia’s greater amazement, she
was next requested to write a billet to the Mistresses Treforth in Mr.
Belamour’s name, asking them to bestow their company on him for the
second evening of Dr. Godfrey’s visit.

“You, my kind friend, will do the honours,” he said, “and we will ask
Mrs. Aylward to provide the entertainment.”

“They will be quite propitiated by being asked to meet Dr. Godfrey,”
 said Aurelia. “Shall you admit them, sir?”

“Certainly. You do not seem to find them very engaging company, but they
can scarce be worse than I should find in such an asylum as my charming
sister-in-law seems to have in preparation for me.”

“Oh! I wish I had said nothing about that. It is too shocking!”

“Forewarned, forearmed, as the proverb says. Do you not see, my amiable
friend, that we are providing a body of witnesses to the sanity of the
recluse, even though he may ‘in dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell’?”

The visit took place; Dr. Godfrey greeted Miss Delavie as an old
friend, and the next day pronounced Mr. Belamour to be so wonderfully
invigorated and animated, that he thought my Lady’s malignant plan was
really likely to prove the best possible stimulus and cure.

Then the Canon gratified the two old ladies by a morning call, dined
with Aurelia and her pupils, who behaved very well, and with whom he
afterwards played for a whole hour so kindly that they placed him second
in esteem to their big and beautiful brother. Mrs. Phoebe and Mrs. Delia
came dressed in the faded splendours of the Louis XIV. period, just at
twilight, and were regaled with coffee and pound cake. They were a good
deal subdued, though as Aurelia listened to the conversation, it was
plain enough what Mr. Belamour meant when he said that his cousin Delia
was something of the coquette.

Still they asked with evident awe if it were true that their unfortunate
cousin really intended to admit them, and they evidently became more and
more nervous while waiting for Jumbo’s summons. Dr. Godfrey gave his arm
to Mrs. Phoebe, and Mrs. Delia gripped hold of Aurelia’s, trembling all
over, declaring she felt ready to swoon, and marvelling how Miss Delavie
could ever have ventured, all alone too!

After all, things had been made much less formidable than at Aurelia’s
first introduction. The sitting-room was arranged as it was when Mr.
Greaves read prayers, with a very faint light from a shrouded lamp
behind the window curtain. To new comers it seemed pitchy darkness, but
to Aurelia and Dr. Godfrey it was a welcome change, allowing them at
least to perceive the forms of one another, and of the furniture. From
a blacker gulf, being the doorway to the inner room, came Mr. Belamour’s
courteous voice of greeting to his kinswomen, who were led up by their
respective guides to take his hand; after which he begged them to excuse
the darkness, since the least light was painful to him still. If they
would be seated he would remain where he was, and enjoy the society he
was again beginning to be able to appreciate. He was, in fact, sitting
within his own room, with eyes covered from even the feeble glimmer in
the outer room.

It was some minutes before they recovered their self-possession, but
Dr. Godfrey and Mr. Belamour began the conversation, and they gradually
joined in. It was chiefly full of reminiscences of the lively days
when Dr. Godfrey had been a young Cantab visiting his two friends at
Bowstead, and Phoebe and Delia were the belles of the village. Aurelia
scarcely opened her lips, but she was astonished to find how different
the two sisters could be from the censorious, contemptuous beings they
had seemed to her. The conversation lasted till supper-time, and Mr.
Belamour, as they took their leave, made them promise to come and see
him again. Then they were conducted back to the supper-room, Mrs. Phoebe
mysteriously asking “Is he always like this?”

The experiment had been a great success, and Aurelia completed it by
asking Mrs. Phoebe to take the head of the supper-table.



CHAPTER XVII. THE VICTIM DEMANDED.


    And if thou sparest now to do this thing,
    I will destroy thee and thy land also.--MORRIS.


“Well, sir, have you seen my Lady?”

“Not a year older than when I saw her last,” returned Major Delavie,
who had just dismounted from his trusty pony at his garden gate, and
accepted Betty’s arm; “and what think you?” he added, pausing that
Corporal Palmer might hear his news. “She has been at Bowstead, and
brings fresh tidings of our Aura. The darling is as fair and sprightly
as a May morning, and beloved by all who come near her--bless her!”

Palmer echoed a fervent “Amen!” and Betty asked, “Is this my Lady’s
report?”

“Suspicious Betty! You will soon be satisfied,” said the Major in high
glee. “Did not Dove meet me at the front door, and Mrs. Dove waylay me
in the hall to tell me that the child looked blooming and joyous, and
in favour with all, gentle and simple? Come her, Eugene, ay, and Harriet
and Arden too. Let us hear what my little maid says for herself. For
look here!” and he held aloft Aurelia’s packet, at sight of which Eugene
capered high, and all followed into the parlour.

Mr. Arden was constantly about the house. There was no doubt that he
would soon be preferred to a Chapter living in Buckinghamshire, and he
had thus been emboldened to speak out his wishes. It would have been
quite beneath the dignity of a young lady of Miss Harriet’s sensibility
to have consented, and she was in the full swing of her game at coyness
and reluctance, daily vowing that nothing should induce her to resign
her liberty, and that she should be frightened out of her life by Mr.
Arden’s experiments; while her father had cordially received the
minor Canon’s proposals, and already treated him as one of the family.
Simpering had been such a fattening process that Harriet was beginning
to resume more of her good looks than had ever been brought back by
Maydew.

“Open the letter, Betty. Thanks, Arden,” as the minor Canon began to
pull off his boots, “only take care of my knee. My Lady has brought
down her little boy, and one of Aurelia’s pupils; I declare they are a
perfect pair of Loves. What are you fumbling at, Betty?”

“The seal, sir, it is a pity to break it,” said Betty, producing her
scissors from one of her capacious pockets. “It is an antique, is it
not, Mr. Arden?”

“A very beautiful gem, a sleeping Cupid,” he answered.

“How could the child have obtained it?” said Harriet.

“I can tell you,” said the Major. “From old Belamour. My Lady was
laughing about it. The little puss has revived the embers of gallantry
in our poor recluse. Says she, ‘He has actually presented her with a
ring, nay, a ring bearing Love himself.’”

Somehow the speech, even at second hand, jarred upon Betty, but her
father was delighted with my Lady’s description of his favourite, and
the letters were full of contentment. When the two sisters, arrayed in
their stiffest silks, went up to pay their respects to my Lady the next
afternoon, their reception was equally warm. My Lady was more caressing
to her old acquaintance, Betty, than that discreet personage quite
liked, while she complimented and congratulated Harriet on her lover,
laughing at her bashful disclaimers in such a charmingly teasing fashion
as quite to win the damsel’s heart, and convince her that all censure of
Lady Belamour was vile slander. The children were sent for, and Amoret
was called on to show how Cousin Aurelia had taught her to dance,
sing and recite. The tiny minuet performed by her and Archer was an
exceedingly pretty exhibition as far as it went, but the boy had no
patience to conclude, and jumped off into an extemporary _pas seul_,
which was still prettier, and as Amoret was sole exhibitor of the
repetition of Hay’s “Hare and many friends,” he became turbulent after
the first four lines, and put a stop to the whole.

Then came in a tall, large, handsome, dashing-looking man, with the air
of a “_beau sabreur_,” whom Lady Belamour presented to her cousins as
“Colonel Mar, my son’s commandant, you know who has been kind enough to
take Carminster on his way, so as to escort me to the Bath. I am such
a sad coward about highwaymen. And we are to meet dear Lady Aresfield
there to talk over a little matter of business.”

Colonel Mar made a magnificent bow, carelessly, not to say
impertinently, scanned the two ladies, and having evidently decided they
had neither beauty nor fashion to attract him, caught up little Amy in
his arms, and began to play a half teasing, half caressing game with the
children. Betty thought it high time to be gone, and as she took leave,
was requested to send up her little brother to play with his cousins.
This did not prove a success, for Eugene constituted himself champion to
Amoret, of whom Archer was very jealous, though she was his devoted
and submissive slave. Master Delavie’s rustic ways were in consequence
pronounced to be too rude and rough for the dainty little town-bred boy,
the fine ladies’ pet.

The Major dined at the Great House, but came home so much dismayed and
disgusted that he could hardly mention even to Betty what he had seen
and heard. He only groaned out at intervals, “This is what the service
is coming to! That fop to be that poor lad’s commanding officer! That
rake to be always hovering about my cousin!”

Others spoke out more plainly. Stories were afloat or orgies ending
in the gallant Colonel being under the supper table, a thing only too
common, but not in the house of a solitary lady who had only lately
quitted the carousers. Half the dependants on the estate were
complaining of the guest’s swaggering overbearing treatment of
themselves, or of his insolence to their wives or daughters; and
Betty lived in a dreadful unnamed terror lest he should offer some
impertinence to her father which the veteran’s honour might not brook.
However, there was something in the old soldier’s dignity and long
service that kept the arrogance of the younger man in check, and
repressed all bluster towards him.

Demands for money were, as usual, made, but the settlement of accounts
was deferred till the arrival of Hargrave, the family man of business,
who came by coach to Bath, and then rode across to Carminster. The Major
dined that day at the Great House, and came home early, with something
so strange and startled about his looks that Betty feared that her worst
misgivings were realised. It was a relief to hear him say, “Come hither,
Betty, I want a word with you.” At least it was no duel!

“What is it, dear sir?” she asked, as she shut his study door. “Is it
come at last? Must we quit this place?”

“No, I could bear that better, but what do you think she asks of me
now?--to give my little Aurelia, my beautiful darling, to that madman in
the dark!”

“Oh!” exclaimed Betty, in a strange tone of discovery. “May I inquire
what you said?”

“I said--I scarce know what I said. I declared it monstrous, and not
to be thought of for a moment; and then she went on in her fashion that
would wile a bird off a bush, declaring that no doubt the proposal was a
shock, but if I would turn the matter over, I should see it was for the
dear child’s advantage. Belamour dotes on her, and after being an old
man’s darling for a few years, she may be free in her prime, with an
honourable name and fortune.”

“I dare say. As if one could not see through the entire design. My Lady
would call her sister-in-law to prevent her being daughter-in-law!”

“That fancy has had no aliment, and must long ago have died out.”

“Listen to Nurse Dove on that matter.”

“Women love to foster notions of that sort.”

“Nay, sir, you believe, as I do, that the poor child was conveyed to
Bowstead in order that the youth might lose sight of her, and since he
proves refractory to the match intended for him, this further device is
found for destroying any possible hope on his part.”

“I cannot say what may actuate my Lady, but if Amyas Belamour be the man
I knew, and as the child’s own letters paint him, he is not like to lend
himself to any such arrangement.”

“Comes the offer from him, or is it only a scheme of my Lady’s?”

“He never writes more than a signature, but Hargrave is empowered to
make proposals to me, very handsome proposals too, were not the bare
idea intolerable.”

“Aurelia is not aware of it, I am sure,” said Betty, to whom Hargrave
had brought another packet of cheerful innocent despatches, of which, as
usual, the unseen friend in the dark was the hero.

“Certainly not, and I hope she never may be. I declared the notion was
not to be entertained for a moment; but Urania never, in her life, would
take no for an answer, and she talked me nearly out of my senses, then
bade me go home, think it over, and discuss it with my excellent and
prudent daughter; as if all the thinking and talking in the world could
make it anything but more intolerable.”

His prudent daughter understood in the adjective applied to her a
hint which the wily lady would not have dared to make direct to
the high-spirited old soldier, namely, that the continuance of his
livelihood might depend on his consent. Betty knew likewise enough of
the terrible world of the early eighteenth century to be aware that
even such wedlock as this was not the worst to which a woman like Lady
Belamour might compel the poor girl, who was entirely in her power, and
out of reach of all protection; unless--An idea broke in on her--“If we
could but go to Bowstead, sir,” she said, “then we could judge whether
the notion be as repugnant to Aurelia as it is to us, and whether Mr.
Belamour be truly rational and fit to be trusted with her.”

“I tell you, Betty, it is a mere absurdity to think of it. I believe the
child is fond of, and grateful to, the poor man, but if she supposed she
loved him, it would be mere playing on her ignorance.”

“Then we could take her safely home and bear the consequences together,
without leaving her alone exposed to any fresh machination of my Lady.”

“You are right, Betty. You have all your sainted mother’s good sense.
I will tell my cousin that this is not a matter to be done blindly, and
that I withhold my reply till I have seen and spoken with her and this
most preposterous of suitors.”

“Yes, it is the only way,” said Betty. “We can then judge whether it be
a cruel sacrifice, or whether the child have affection and confidence
enough in him to be reasonably happy with him. What is his age, father?”

“Let me see. Poor Sir Jovian was much older than Urania, but he died at
forty years old. His brother was some three years his junior. He cannot
be above forty-six or seven. That is not the objection, but the moody
melancholy--Think of our gay sprightly child!”

“We will see, sir.”

“We! Mistress Betty? The cost will be severe without you!”

“Nay, sir, I cannot rest without going too; you might be taken ill.”

“You cannot trust a couple of old campaigners like Palmer and me? What
did we do without you?”

“Got lamed for life,” said Betty, saucily. “No, I go on a pillion behind
Palmer, and my grandfather’s diamond ring shall pay expenses.”

“Sir Archibald’s ring that he put on two baby fingers of yours when he
went off to Scotland.”

“Better part with that then resign my Aurelia in the dark, uncertain
whether it be for her good.”



CHAPTER XVIII. THE PROPOSAL.


    Love sweetest lies concealed in night.--T. MOORE.


The Major rode up to the Great House to announce that he would only give
his answer after having conferred with both his daughter and the suitor.

With tears in her beautiful blue eyes, Lady Belamour demanded why her
dear cousin Harry could not trust the Urania he had known all her life
to decide what was for the happiness of the sweet child whom she loved
like her own.

She made him actually feel as if it were a cruel and unmerited
suspicion, but she did not over come him. “Madam,” he said, “it would be
against my orders, as father of a family, to give my child away without
doing my poor best for her.”

There, in spite of all obstacles suggested and all displeasure
manifested, he stuck fast, until, without choosing to wait till a shower
of sleet and rain was over. Vexation and perplexity always overset
his health, and the chill, added to them, rendered him so ill the next
morning that Betty knew there was no chance of his leaving his room for
the next month or six weeks; and she therefore sent a polite and formal
note to the Great House explaining that he could not attend to business.

This brought upon her the honour of a visit from the great lady herself.
Down came the coach-and-four, and forth from it came Lady Belamour in
a magnificent hoop, the first seen in those parts, managing it with a
grace that made her an overwhelming spectacle, in contrast with Betty,
in her close-fitting dark-grey homespun, plain white muslin apron, cap,
kerchief, and ruggles, scrupulously neat and fresh, but unadorned. The
visit was graciously designed for “good cousin Harry,” but his daughter
was obliged, not unwillingly, though quite truly, to declare him far too
suffering with pain and fever.

“La, you there, then,” said the lady, “that comes of the dear man’s heat
of temper. I would have kept him till the storm was over but he was far
too much displeased with his poor cousin to listen to me. Come, cousin
Betty, I know you are in all his counsels. You will bring him to hear
reason.”

“The whole affair must wait, madam, till he is able to move.”

“And if this illness be the consequence of one wet ride, how can he be
in a condition to take the journey?”

“You best know, madam whether a father can be expected to bestow his
daughter in so strange a manner without direct communication either with
her or with the other party.”

“I grant you the idea is at first sight startling, but surely he might
trust to me; and he knows Amyas Belamour, poor man, to be the very soul
of honour; yes, and with all his eccentricity to have made no small
impression on our fair Aurelia. Depend upon it, my dear Betty, romance
carried the day; and the damsel is more enamoured of the mysterious
voice in the dark, than she would be of any lusty swain in the ordinary
light of day.”

“All that may be, madam, but she is scarce yet sixteen, and it is
our duty to be assured of her inclinations and of the gentleman’s
condition.”

“You will not trust me, who have watched them both,” said Lady Belamour,
with her most engaging manner. “Now look here, my dear, since we are two
women together, safe out of the hearing of the men, I will be round with
you. I freely own myself imprudent in sending your sister to Bowstead
to take charge of my poor little girls, but if you had seen the little
savages they were, you would not wonder that I could not take them home
at once, nor that I should wish to see them acquire the good manners
that I remembered in the children of this house; I never dreamt of Mr.
Belamour heeding the little nursery. He has always been an obstinate
melancholic lunatic, confined to his chamber by day, and wandering like
a ghost by night, refusing all admission. Moreover my good Aylward
had appeared hitherto a paragon of a duenna for discretion, only over
starched in her precision. Little did I expect to find my young lady
spending all her evenings alone with him, and the solitary hermit
transformed into a gay and gallant bachelor like the Friar of Orders
Gray in the song. And since matters have gone to such a length, I, as a
woman who has seen more of the world than you have, my dear good Betty,
think it expedient that the Friar and his charmer should be made one
without loss of time. _We_ know her to be innocence itself, and him for
a very Sidney for honour, but the world--”

“It is your doing, madam,” exclaimed Betty, passionately, completely
overset by the insinuation; “you bid us trust you, and then confess that
you have exposed my sweet sister to be vilely slandered! Oh my Aurelia,
why did I let you out of my sight?” she cried, while hot tears stood in
her eyes.

“I know your warmth, my dear,” said Lady Belamour with perfect command
of temper; “I tell you I blame myself for not having recollected that
a lovely maiden can tame even a savage brute, or that even in the sweet
rural country walls have ears and trees have tongues. Not that any harm
is done so far, nor ever will be; above all if your good father do not
carry his romantic sentiments so far as to be his ruin a second time.
Credit me, Betty, they will not serve in any world save the imaginary
one that crazed Don Quixote. What advantage can the pretty creature
gain? She is only sixteen, quite untouched by true passion. She will
obtain a name and fortune, and become an old man’s idol for a few years,
after which she will probably be at liberty by the time she is of an age
to enjoy life.”

“He is but five-and-forty!” said Betty.

“Well, if she arouse him to a second spring, there will be few women who
will not envy her.”

“You may colour it over, madam,” said Betty, drawing herself up, “but
nothing can conceal the fact that you confess yourself to have exposed
my innocent helpless sister to malignant slander; and that you assure
me that the only course left is to marry the poor child to a wretched
melancholic who has never so much as seen her face.”

“You are outspoken, Miss Delavie,” said Lady Belamour, softly, but
with a dangerous glitter in her blue eyes. “I pardon your heat for your
father’s sake, and because I ascribe it to the exalted fantastic notions
in which you have been bred; but remember that there are bounds to my
forbearance, and that an agent in his state of health, and with his
stubborn ideas, only remains on sufferance.”

“My father has made up his mind to sacrifice anything rather than his
child,” cried Betty.

“My dear girl, I will hear you no more. You are doing him no service,”
 said Lady Belamour kindly. “You had better be convinced that it is
a sacrifice, or an unwilling one, before you treat me to any more
heroics.”

Betty successfully avoided a parting kiss, and remained pacing up
and down the room to work off her indignation before returning to her
father. She was quite as angry with herself, as with my Lady, for having
lost her temper, and so given her enemy an advantage, more especially as
when her distress became less agitating, her natural shrewdness began to
guess that the hint about scandal was the pure fruit of Lady Belamour’s
invention, as an expedient for obtaining her consent. Yet the mere
breath of such a possibility of evil speaking was horror to her, and she
even revolved the question of going herself to Bowstead to rescue her
sister. But even if the journey had been more possible, her father was
in no condition to be left to Harriet’s care, and there was nothing to
be done except to wait till he could again attend to the matter, calm
herself as best she could, so as not to alarm him, and intercept all
dangerous messages.

Several days had passed, and though the Major had not left his bed, he
had asked whether more had been heard from my Lady, and discussed the
subject with his daughter, when a letter arrived in due course of post.
It was written in a large bold hand, and the signature, across a crease
in the paper, was in the irregular characters that the Major recognised
as those of Mr. Belamour.


“DEAR AND HONOURED SIR,

  “Proposals have been made to you on my Behalf for the Hand of your
fair and amiable Daughter, Miss Aurelia Delavie. I am well aware how
preposterous and even shocking they may well appear to you; yet, let me
assure you, on the Faith of a Man of Honour that if you will entrust
her to me, wretched Recluse though I be, and will permit her to bear my
Name, I will answer for her Happiness and Welfare. Situated as I am,
I cannot enter into further explanations; but we are old Acquaintance,
though we have not met for many Years, and therefore I venture to beg of
you to believe me when I say that if you will repose Confidence in
me, and exercise Patience, I can promise your admirable Daughter such
Preferment as she is far from expecting. She has been the Blessing of
my darkened Life, but I would never have presumed to ask further were it
not that I have no other Means of protecting her, nor of shielding her
from Evils that may threaten her, and that might prove far worse than
bearing the Name of

                   “Your obedient Servant to command,
                            “AMYAS BELAMOUR.

“Bowstead Park, Dec. 3rd, 1737.”


“Enigmatical!” said Betty.

“It could hardly be otherwise if he had to employ a secretary” said her
father. “Who can have written for him?”

“His friend, Dr. Godfrey, most probably,” said Betty. “It is well spelt
as well as indited, and has not the air of being drawn up by a lawyer.”

“No, it is not Hargrave’s hand. It is strange that he says nothing of
the settlements.”

“Here is a postscript, adding, ‘Should you consent, Hargrave will give
you ample satisfaction as to the property which I can settle on your
daughter.’”

“Of that I have no doubt,” said the Major. “Well, Betty, on reflection,
if I were only secure that no force was put on the child’s will, and if
I could exchange a few words face to face with Amyas Belamour, I should
not be so utterly averse as I was at first sight. She is a good child,
and if she like him, and find it not hard to do her duty by him, she
might be as happy as another. And since she is out of our reach it might
save her from worse. What say you, child?”

“That last is the strongest plea with me,” said Betty, with set lips.

They took another evening for deliberation, but there was something in
the tone of the letter that wrought on them, and it ended in a cautious
consent being given, on the condition of the father being fully
satisfied of his daughter’s free and voluntary acquiescence.

“After all,” he said to Betty, “I shall be able to go up to Bowstead for
the wedding, and if I find that her inclinations have been forced, I can
take her away at all risks.”



CHAPTER XIX. WOOING IN THE DARK.


    You may put out my eyes with a ballad-maker’s pen, and hang me
  up for the sign of blind Cupid.--_Much Ado About Nothing_.


Aurelia had been walking in the park with her two remaining charges,
when a bespattered messenger was seen riding up to the door, and Letitia
dropped her hoop in her curiosity and excitement.

Lady Belamour, on obtaining the Major’s partial acquiescence, had felt
herself no longer obliged to vegetate at Carminster, but had started for
Bath, while the roads were still practicable; and had at the same time
sent off a courier with letters to Bowstead. Kind Mrs. Dove had sent
a little packet to each of the children, but they found Cousin Aura’s
sympathy grievously and unwontedly lacking, and she at last replied to
their repeated calls to here to share their delight, that they must run
away, and display their treasures to Molly and Jumbo. She must read her
letters alone.

The first she had opened was Betty’s, telling her of her father’s
illness, which was attributed in great part to the distress and
perplexity caused by Lady Belamour’s proposal. Had it not been for
this indisposition, both father and sister would have come to judge for
themselves before entertaining it for a moment; but since the journey
was impossible, he could only desire Betty to assure her sister that
no constraint should be put on her, and that if she felt the least
repugnance to the match, she need not consider her obliged to submit.
More followed about the religious duty of full consideration and prayer
before deciding on what would fix her destiny for life, but all was
so confusing to the girl, entirely unprepared as she was, that after
hastily glancing on in search of an explanation which she failed
to find, she laid it aside, and opened the other letter. It began
imperially


  “MY COUSIN,

     “No doubt you are already informed of the Honour that has been
done you by the Proposal that Mr. Amyas Belamour has made to your Father
for your Hand. It is no slight Compliment to a young Maid like you, from
one of the most noted Wits about Town in the last Reign; and you will
no doubt shew the Good Sense to esteem yourself fortunate beyond all
reasonable Expectations or Deserts of your own, as well as to act for
the Advantage of your Family. Be assured that I shall permit no foolish
Flightiness nor Reluctance to interfere with you true Welfare. I say
this, because, as you well know, your Father’s Affection is strong and
blind, and you might easily draw him into a Resistance which could but
damage both his Health and his Prospects. On receiving the tidings
of your Marriage, I promise to settle on him the Manor House with an
Annuity of Three hundred Pounds; but if he should support you in any
foolish Refusal, I shall be obliged to inform him that I can dispense
with his Services; therefore you will do wisely to abstain from any
childish expressions of Distaste.

“On your Marriage, you will of course have the enjoyment of the Pin Money
with which Mr. Belamour will liberally endow you, and be treated in all
Respects as a Married Lady. My Daughters shall be sent to School, unless
you wish to make them your Companions a little longer. Expecting to
hear from you that you are fully sensible to the good Fortune and the
Obligations you are under to me,

     “I remain
           “Yours &c.
                “URANIA BELAMOUR.”


It was with a gasp of relief that Aurelia discovered what was required
of her. “Marry Mr. Belamour? Is that all? Then why should they all think
I should so much dislike it, my Lady, and my papa, and sister and all?
Nobody ever was so good to me, and maybe I could make him a little
happier, though it is not what I expected of him, to forget his Mary!
Oh, no, I am not afraid; I might have been afraid six months ago, but
now it is a different thing. I am not so foolish! And my dear papa will
have the Manor House for ever! And Eugene will be able to go to a good
school and have a pair of colours in good time! A fortunate girl! Yes,
of course I am! Then Mrs. Phoebe and Mrs. Delia will not flout me any
more, even if young Sir Amyas should come here! Ah! here are the little
girls returning! Keep them here? Of course I will. What toys and books I
will get for them!”

Yet, when the time for her summons drew nigh, a great dread and shyness
overcame her, lest Mr. Belamour should begin on the subject; and she
only nerved herself by recollecting that he could have had no one to
read to him her father’s letter of reply, and that he was scarcely
likely to speak without knowing the contents. Still, it was only shyness
and embarrassment that made her advance timidly, but in one moment a
new sensation, a strange tremor came over her, as instead of merely her
finger-tips, her whole hand was grasped and fervently pressed, and in
the silence that ensued the throbbing of her heart and the panting of
her breath seemed to find an echo. However, the well-known voice began,
“My fair visitor is very good in honouring me to-night.”

Was it coming? Her heart gave such a throb that she could only murmur
something inarticulate, while there was a hasty repressed movement near
her.

“You have heard from your father?” said Mr. Belamour.

“My father is ill, sir,” she faltered.

“Ah, yes, so I was sorry to understand. Has he not sent a message to you
through your sister?”

“He has, sir,” Aurelia continued, with difficulty, to utter.

There was another silence, another space of tightened breath and
beating heart, absolutely audible, and again a hushed, restless movement
heralded Mr. Belamour’s next words, “Did I no tell you truly that my
Lady devises most unexpected expedients?”

“Then would you not have it so, sir?” asked Aurelia, in a bewildered
voice of perplexity. “Oh!” as again one of those echoes startled her,
“tell me what it all means.”

“Hush! listen to me,” said Mr. Belamour, in a voice that added to her
undefined alarm by what seemed to her imperious displeasure as uncalled
for as it was unusual; but the usual fatherly gentleness immediately
prevailed, “My child, I should never have entertained the thought for a
moment but for--but for Lady Belamour. This sounds like no compliment,”
 he added, catching himself up, and manifesting a certain embarrassment
and confusion very unlike his usual calm dignity of demeanour, and thus
adding to the strange fright that was growing upon Aurelia. “But you
must understand that I would not--even in semblance--have dreamt of
your being apparently linked to age, sorrow, and infirmity, save
that--strange as it may seem--Lady Belamour has herself put into
my hands the best means of protecting you, and finally, as I trust,
securing your happiness.”

“You are very good, sir,” she continued to breathe out, amid the
flutterings of her heart, and the reply produced a wonderful outburst of
ardour in a low but fervent voice. “You will! You will! You sweetest of
angels, you will be mine!”

There was something so irresistibly winning in the sound, that it drew
forth an answer from the maiden’s very heart. “Oh! yes, indeed--” and
before she could utter another word she was snatched into a sudden,
warm, vehement embrace, from which she was only partly released,
as--near, but still not so near as she would have expected--this
extraordinary suitor seemed to remonstrate with his ardent self, saying,
“Now! now! that will do! So be it then, my child,” he continued. “Great
will be the need of faith, patience, trust, ay, and of self-restraint,
but let these be practised for a little space, and all will be well.”

She scarcely heard the latter words. The sense of something irrevocable
and unfathomable was overpowering her. The mystery of these sudden
alterations of voice, now near, now far off, was intolerable. Here were
hands claiming her, fervent, eager breathings close upon her, and
that serious, pensive voice going on all that time. The darkness grew
dreadful to her, dizziness came over her; she dashed aside the hands,
started up with a scream, and amid the strange noises and flashes of a
swoon, knew no more till she heard Mrs. Aylward’s voice over her, found
the horrid smell of burnt feathers under her nose, and water trickling
down her face, dim candlelight was round her, and she perceived that she
was on a low settee in the lobby.

“There, she is coming round. You may tell your master, Jumbo, ‘twas
nothing but the mince pies.”

“Oh, no--” began Aurelia, but her own voice seemed to come from
somewhere else, and being inexperienced in fainting, she was frightened.

“That is right, you are better. Now, a drop of strong waters.”

Aurelia choked, and put them aside, but was made to swallow the draught,
and revived enough to ask, “How came I here?”

“Jumbo must have carried you out, ma’am, and laid you here before ever
he called any one,” said Mrs. Aylward. “Dear, dear, to think of your
being taken like that. But the tins of those mince-pies are over large!
You must halve one next time.”

Aurelia was sensible enough to the reproof of greediness to begin to
protest against the mince-pie theory, but she recollected that she could
not account for her swoon, and thereupon became as red as she had been
pale, thus confirming the housekeeper’s opinion. A sound of footsteps
made her start up and cry, “What’s that?” in nervous fright; but Mrs.
Aylward declared it was fancy, and as she was by this time able to walk,
she was conducted to her own room. There she was examined on her recent
diet, and was compelled to allow the housekeeper to ascribe her illness
to neglect of autumnal blood-letting and medicine; and she only stave
off the send for the barber and his lancet the next morning by promising
to swallow a dose compounded of all that was horrible.

She was altogether much shaken, she dreamed strange dreams by night, was
capable of little by day, was declared by the children to be cross, and
was much inclined to plead indisposition as an excuse for not visiting
that alarming room in the evening. Indeed for the greater part of the
day she felt as if she must avail herself of the pretext, and as if she
neither could nor would encounter that strange double creature in the
dark; but somehow she had been as much fascinated as terrified, and, in
spite of her resolve, she found herself mechanically following Jumbo,
shuddering all over and as cold as ice.

The dark chambers were warmed by German stoves, so that the atmosphere
was always equable, and it seemed to revive her, while a kind, warm hand
led her as usual to her seat, and it was the usual gentle, courteous,
paternal tone that addressed her, “How chill and trembling you are! My
poor child, you were sadly alarmed last night.”

Aurelia murmured some excuse about being very foolish.

“It was not you who was foolish,” was the reply; and though her hand
was retained it was evidently for the sake of warming it, and comforting
her, not of caressing it in the startling mode of yesterday. There was
a pause, during which her composure began to be restored, and some
inquiries whether she were quite recovered; to which she replied with
eager affirmatives, feeling indeed quite herself again, now that all was
in its familiar state around her. Then this strange suitor spoke again.
“It is a hard and cruel fate that my Lady has sought to impose on you.”

“Oh, do not say so, sir I---”

“No,” he interrupted somewhat hastily, “do not try to deny it, my child;
I know better than you can what it would amount to. Believe me, I
only lend myself to her arrangement because I know no better means of
guarding you and preserving you for better days.”

“I know how kind you are, sir.”

“And you trust me?”

“Indeed I do.”

“That is all I ask. I shall never be a husband to you more than in name,
Aurelia, nor ask of you more than you give me now, namely, your sweet
presence for a few hours in the evening, without seeing me. Can you bear
thus to devote your young life, for a time at least?”

“You know, sir, how glad I always am to be with you,” said Aurelia,
relieved yet half regretting that strange fervour. “I will do my very
best to please you.”

“Ah! sweet child,” he began, with a thrill of deep feeling in his voice;
but checking himself he continued, “All I ask is patience and trust for
a time--for a time--you promise it!”

“With all my heart,” said Aurelia.

“I will use my best endeavours to requite that trust, my child,” he
said. “Is not the Christian watchword faith, not sight? It must be yours
likewise.”

“I hope so,” she said, scarcely understanding.

He then interrogated her somewhat closely as to the letters which had
prepared her for the proposal; and as Aurelia was far too simple to
conceal anything under cross-examination, Mr. Belamour soon found out
what her Ladyship’s threats and promises had been.

“The Manor House?” he said. “That is the original nucleus of the
property which had hitherto gone to the heir male?”

“So my sister told me,” said Aurelia.

“That letter, which Dr. Godfrey read to me, spoke of my poor brother’s
discomfort in holding it. It is well if thus tardily she refund it,
though not as your price, my poor child. It should have been as
matter of justice, if not by her husband’s dying wish. So this is
the alternative set before you! Has it been set before your father
likewise?”

“Almost certainly she will have threatened to dismiss him if he do not
consent. It was that which made my sister decide on sending me here, or
what would become of him and Eugene? But I should think my Lady knew my
father better than to seem to offer any kind of price, as you call it,
for me.”

“Precisely. You have heard from this maternal sister of yours? Does he
then give his consent?”

“They say they will not have my inclinations forced, and that they had
rather undergo anything than that I should be driven to--to--”

“To be as much a sacrifice as Iphigenia,” he concluded the sentence.

“Indeed, sir,” said Aurelia, quite restored, “I cannot see why they
should imagine me to have such objections, or want me to be so cautious
and considerate. I shall write to my papa that it is not at all
repugnant to me, for that you are very, very good to me; and if I can
make your time pass ever so little more pleasantly, it is a delight to
me. I am sure I shall like you better than if---”

“Stay, stay, child,” he said, half laughing; “remember, it is as a
father that I ask you to love and trust the old recluse.”

She thought she had been forward, crimsoned in the dark, and retired
into her shell for the rest of the evening. She was glad when with his
usual tact, Mr. Belamour begged for the recitation he knew she could
make with the least effort of memory.

At the end, however, she ventured to ask--“Sir, shall I be permitted
ever to see my father and sister?”

“Certainly, my child. In due time I hope you will enjoy full liberty,
though you may have to wait for it.”

Aurelia durst not ask what was in her mind, whether they would not
come to the wedding, but that one great hope began to outweigh all
the strange future. She began to say something about being too young,
ignorant, and foolish for him, but this was kindly set aside, she hardly
knew how. Mr. Belamour himself suggested the formula in which she might
send her consent to Lady Belamour, begging at the same time to retain
the company of the little Misses Wayland. To her father she wrote such
a letter as might satisfy all doubts as to the absence of all repugnance
to the match, and though the Major had sacrificed all to love and honour
himself, _mariages de convenance_ were still so much the rule, and
wives, bestowed in all passiveness with unawakened hearts, so
often proved loving and happy matrons, that it would have been held
unreasonable to demand more than absence of dislike on the part of the
bride.

Therewith things returned to their usual course, and she was beginning
to feel as if all had been a dream, when one evening, about a week
later, her suitor appeared to have one of those embarrassing fits of
youthful ardour; her hand was passionately seized, caressed, toyed with
by a warm strong hand, and kissed by lips that left a burning impression
and that were no longer hairy. Surely he had been shaving! Was the time
for which he bade her wait, his full recovery, and the resumption of the
youthfulness that seemed to come on him in fits and starts, and then to
ebb away, and leave him the grave courteous old man she had first
known? And why was it always in a whisper that he spoke forth all those
endearments which thrilled her with such strange emotions?

When she came into the light, she found her fourth finger encircled with
an exquisite emerald ring, which seemed to bind her to her fate, and
make her situation tangible. Another time she was entreated to give a
lock of her hair, and she of course did so, though it was strange that
it should confer any pleasure on her suitor in the dark.



CHAPTER XX. THE MUFFLED BRIDEGROOM.


    This old fantastical Duke of dark corners.--
                                       _Measure for Measure._


There was some coming and going of Mr. Hargrave in the ensuing weeks;
and it began to be known that Miss Delavie was to become the wife of
the recluse. Mrs. Aylward evidently knew it, but said nothing; Molly
preferred a petition to be her waiting maid; Jumbo grinned as if
over-powered with inward mirth; the old ladies in the pew looked more
sour and haughty than ever to discourage “the artful minx,” and the
little girls asked all manner of absurd and puzzling questions.

My Lady was still at Bath, and Aurelia supposed that the marriage would
take place on her return; and that the Major and Betty would perhaps
accompany her. The former was quite in his usual health again, and had
himself written to give her his blessing as a good dutiful maiden,
and declare that he hoped to be with her for her wedding, and to give
himself to his honoured friend.

She was the more amazed and startled when, one Sunday evening in spring,
Mr. Hargrave came to her as she sat in her own parlour, saying, “Madam,
you will be amazed, but under the circumstances, the parson and
myself being both here, Mr. Belamour trusts you will not object to the
immediate performance of the ceremony.”

Aurelia took some moments to realise what the ceremony was; and then she
cried, “Oh! but my father meant to have been here.”

“Mr. Belamour thinks it better not to trouble Major Delavie to come
up,” said Mr. Hargrave; and as Aurelia stood in great distress and
disappointment at this disregard of her wishes, he added, “I think Miss
Delavie cannot fail to understand Mr. Belamour’s wishes to anticipate
my Lady’s arrival, so that he may be as little harassed as possible with
display and publicity. You may rely both on his honour and my vigilance
that all is done securely and legally.”

“Oh! I know that,” said Aurelia, blushing; “but it is so sudden! And I
was thinking of my father---”

“Your honoured father has given full consent in writing,” said the
steward. “Your doubts and scruples are most natural, my dear madam, but
under the circumstances they must give way, for it would be impossible
to Mr. Belamour to go through a public wedding.”

That Aurelia well knew, though she had expected nothing so sudden or
so private; but she began to feel that she must allow all to be as he
chose; and she remembered that she had never pressed on him her longing
for her father’s presence, having taken it as a matter of course, and
besides, having been far too shy to enter on the subject of her wedding.
So she rose up as in a dream, saying, “Shall I go as I am?”

“I fear a fuller toilet would be lost upon the bridegroom,” said the
lawyer with some commiseration, as he looked at the beautiful young
creature about to be bound to the heart-broken old hermit. “You will
have to do me the honour of accepting my services in the part of
father.”

He was a man much attached to the family, and especially to Mr.
Belamour, his first patron, and was ready to do anything at his bidding
or for his pleasure. Such private weddings were by no uncommon up to
the middle of the last century. The State Law was so easy as to render
Gretna Green unnecessary, when the presence of any clergyman anywhere,
while the parties plighted their troth before witnesses, was sufficient
to legalise the union; nor did any shame or sense of wrong necessarily
attach to such marriages. Indeed they were often the resource of
persons too bashful or too refined to endure the display and boisterous
merriment by which a public wedding was sure to be attended. Every one
knew of excellent and respectable couples who had not been known to be
married till the knot had been tied for several days or weeks--so that
there was nothing in this to shock the bride. And as usual she did as
she was told, and let Mr. Hargrave lead her by her finger-tips towards
Mr. Belamour’s apartments. Mrs. Aylward was waiting in the lobby, with
a fixed impassive countenance, intended to imply that though obedient
to the summons to serve as a witness, it was no concern of hers. On the
stairs behind her the maids were leaning over the balusters, stuffing
their aprons into their mouths lest their tittering should betray them.

The sitting-room was nearly, but not quite, dark, for a lamp, closely
shaded, cast a dim light on a Prayer-book, placed on a small table,
behind which stood poor Mr. Greaves--a black spectre, whose white bands
were just discernible below a face whose nervous, disturbed expression
was lost in the general gloom. He carefully avoided looking at the
bride, fearing perhaps some appeal on her part such as would make his
situation perplexing. Contempt and poverty had brought his stamp of
clergymen very low, and rendered them abject. He had been taken by
surprise, and though assured that this was according to my Lady’s will,
and with the consent of the maiden’s father, he was in an agony of
fright, shifting awkwardly from leg to leg, and ruffling the leaves
of the book, as a door opened and the bridegroom appeared, followed by
Jumbo.

Aurelia looked up with bashful eagerness, and saw in the imperfect light
a tall figure entirely covered by a long dark dressing-gown, a grey,
tight curled lawyer’s wig on the head, and the upper part of the face
sheltered from the scanty rays of the lamp by a large green shade.

Taking his place opposite to her as Mr. Hargrave arranged them, he bowed
in silence to the clergyman, who, in a trembling voice, began the rite
which was to unite Amyas Belamour to Aurelia Delavie. He intended to
shorten the service, but his nervous terror and the obscurity of the
room made him stumble in finding the essential passages, and blunder in
dictating the vows, thus increasing the confusion and bewilderment of
poor little Aurelia. Somehow her one comfort was in the touch of the
hand that either clasped hers, or held the ring on her finger--a strong,
warm, tender, trustworthy hand, neither as white nor as soft as she
would have expected, but giving her a comfortable sense both of present
support and affection, and of identity with that eager one which had
sought to fondle and caress her. There was a certain tremor about
both, but hers was from bashful fright, his, from scarcely suppressed
eagerness.

The steward had a form of certificate ready for signature. When it was
presented to the bridegroom he put up his hand for a moment as if to
push back the shade, but, in dread of admitting even a feeble ray of
light, gave up the attempt, took the pen and wrote Amyas Belamour where
the clergyman pointed. Aurelia could hardly see what she was doing, and
knew she had written very badly. The lawyer and housekeeper followed as
witnesses; and the bridegroom, laying a fee of ten guineas on the desk,
took his bride by the hand and led her within the door whence he had
issued. It was instantly closed, and at the same moment she was enfolded
in a pair of rapturous arms, and held to a breast whose throbs wakened
response in her own, while passionate kisses rained on her face, mingled
with ecstatic whispers and murmurs of “Mine! mine! my own!”

On a knock at the door she was hastily released, and Mr. Hargrave said,
“Here are the certificates, sir.”--Mr. Belamour put one into her hand,
saying “Keep it always about you; never part with it. And now, my child,
after all the excitement you have gone through, you shall be subjected
to no more to-night. Fare you well, and blessings attend your dreams.”

Strange that while he was uttering this almost peremptory dismissal, she
should feel herself in a clinging grasp, most unwilling to let her go!
What did it all mean? Could she indeed be a wife, when here she was
alone treading the long dark stair, in looks, in habits, in externals,
still only the little governess of my Lady’s children! However, she had
hardly reached her room, before there was a knock at the door, and
the giggling, blushing entrance of Molly with “Please, ma’am, Madam
Belamour, I wishes you joy with all my heart. Please can’t I do nothing
for you? Shall I help you undress, or brush your hair?”

Perhaps she expected a largesse in honour of the occasion, but Aurelia
had spent all her money on Christmas gifts, and had nothing to bestow.
However, she found on the breakfast-table a parcel addressed to Madam
Belamour, containing a purse with a startling amount of golden guineas
in it. She was rather surprised at the title, which was one generally
conferred on dignified matrons whose husbands were below the rank of
knighthood, such as the wives of country squires and of the higher
clergy. The calling her mother Madam Delavie had been treated as an
offence by Lady Belamour; and when the day had gone by, with nothing
else to mark it from others, Aurelia, finding her recluse in what she
mentally called his quiet rational mood, ventured, after thanking him,
modestly to inquire whether that was what she was to be called.

“It is better thus,” hes said. “You have every right to the title.”

She recollected that he was a baronet’s younger son, a distinction in
those days; and that she had been told that his patent of knighthood
had been made out, though he had never been able to appear at court to
receive the accolade, and had never assumed the title; so she only
said “Very well, sir, I merely thought whether my Lady would think it
presuming.”

He laughed a little. “My Lady will soon understand it,” he said.
“Her husband will be at home in a few weeks. And now, my dear Madam
Belamour,” he add playfully, “tell me whether there is any wish that I
can gratify.”

“You are very kind, sir---”

“What does that pause mean, my fair friend?”

“I fear it is too much to ask, sir, but since you inquire what would
please me most, it would be if you could spare me to go to my sister
Harriet’s wedding?”

“My child,” he said, with evident regret, “I fear that cannot be. It
will not be prudent to make any move until Mr. Wayland’s return; but
after that I can assure you of more liberty. Meantime, let us consider
what wedding present you would like to send her.”

Aurelia had felt her request so audacious that she subsided easily;
and modestly suggested a tea-service. She thought of porcelain, but Mr.
Belamour’s views were of silver, and it ended in the lady giving the
cups and saucers, and the gentleman the urn and the tea and coffee
pots and other plate; but it was a drawback to the pleasure of this
munificence that the execution of the order had to be entrusted to Mr.
Hargrave. The daring hope Aurelia had entertained of shopping for a day,
with Mrs. Aylward as an escort, and choosing the last fashions to send
to her sisters was quashed by the grave reply that it was better not for
the present. What was the meaning of all this mystery, and when was it
to end? She felt that it would be ungrateful to murmur, for Mr. Belamour
evidently was full of sorrow whenever he was obliged to disappoint her,
and much was done for her pleasure. A charming little saddle-horse, two
riding-habits, with a groom, and a horse for him, were sent down from
London for her benefit; gifts showered upon her; and whenever she found
her husband in one of those perplexing accesses of tenderness she was
sure to carry away some wonderful present, a beautiful jewelled watch,
an _etui_ case, a fan, a scent-bottle, or patch-box with a charming
enamel of a butterfly. The little girls were always looking for
something pretty that she would show them in the morning, and thought
it must be a fine thing to have a husband who gave such charming things.
Those caressing evenings, however, always frightened Aurelia, and sent
her away vaguely uneasy, often to lie awake full of a vague yearning
and alarm; and several days of restlessness would pass before she could
return to her ordinary enjoyment of her days with the children and her
evenings with Mr. Belamour. Yet when there was any long intermission
of those fits of tender affection, she missed them sorely, and began to
fear she had given offence, especially as this strangely capricious man
seemed sometimes to repel those modest, timid advances which at other
times would fill him with ill-suppressed transport. Then came longings
to see and satisfy herself as to what was indeed the aspect of him whom
she was learning to love.

No wonder there was something unsettled and distressed about her,
overthrowing much of that gentle duteous ness which she had brought from
home. She wrote but briefly and scantily to her sister, not feeling as
if she could give full confidence; she drifted away from some of the
good habits enjoined on her, feeling that, as a married woman, she was
less under authority. She was less thorough in her religious ways, less
scrupulous in attending to the children’s lessons; and the general fret
of her uncertainties told upon her temper with them. They loved her
heartily still, and she returned their affection, but she was not so
uniformly patient and good-humoured. Indeed since Amoret’s departure
some element of harmony was missing, and it could not now be said that
a whine, a quarrel, or a cry was a rare event. Even the giving up my
lady’s wearisome piece of embroidery had scarcely a happy effect,
for Aurelia missed the bracing of the task-work and the attention it
required, and the unoccupied time was spent in idle fretting. A little
self-consequence too began to set in, longing for further recognition of
the dignities of Madam Belamour.

The marriage had been notified to Lady Belamour and to Major Delavie,
and letters had been received from each. My Lady travelled to London
early in April in company with Lady Aresfield, and, to the relief of
the inmates of Bowstead, made no deviation thither. No one else was
officially told that the wedding had taken place, but all the village
knew it; and Mrs. Phoebe and Mrs. Delia so resented it that they
abandoned the state pew to Madam Belamour and the children, made their
curtsies more perpendicularly than ever, and, when formally invited to
supper, sent a pointed and ceremonious refusal, so that Aurelia felt
hurt and angered.



CHAPTER XXI. THE SISTERS’ MEETING.


    By all hope thou hast to see again
    Our aged father and to soothe his pain,
    I charge thee, tell me, hast thou seen the thing
    Thou callst thine husband?--MORRIS.


After numerous delays Mr. Arden had at length been presented to the
living of Rundell Canonicorum, and in one of the last days of April
Harriet Delavie had become his wife. After a fortnight of festivities
amongst their old Carminster friends, the happy couple were to ride,
pillion-wise, to take possession of tier new home, passing through
London, and there spending time enough with some relations of the
bridegroom to show Harriet the wonders of the City.

Thence Mrs. Arden sent an urgent invitation from her hospitable hostess
to Mrs. Belamour, to come and spend some days in Gracechurch Street and
share with her sister the pleasures of the first sight of London.

“I assure you,” wrote Harriet, “that though they be Woolstaplers, it
is all in the Wholesale Line; and they are very genteel, and well-bred
Persons, who have everything handsome about them. Indeed it is upon the
Cards that the Alderman may, ere many years be passed, be my Lord Mayor;
but yet he and his good Wife have a proper Appreciation of Family, and
know how to esteem me as one of the Delavies. They would hold themselves
infinitely honoured by your Visit; and if you were here, we might even
be invited to Lady Belamour’s, and get Tickets for Ranelagh. I called at
my Lady’s Door, but she was not within, nor has she returned my Visit,
though I went in the Alderman’s own Coach; but if you were with me
she would have no Colour for Neglect, you being now her Sister-in-law,
though it makes me laugh to think of it. But as we poor married Ladies
are compelled to obey our Lords and Masters; and as Mr. Belamour may
chance to be too high in his Notions to permit you to be a Guest in this
House (as I told our good Cousin Arden was very like), we intend to lie
a Night at Brentford, and remain there for a Day, trusting that your
Husband will not be so cruel as to prevent a Meeting, either by your
coming to see us, or our coming to see you in your present Abode, which
I long to do. It is a Year since we parted, and I cannot tell you how I
long to clasp my beloved Sister in my Arms.”

Harriet could not long more for such a meeting than did Aurelia, and
there was, it must be owned, a little relief, that it was Harriet, and
not the severer judge, Betty, who thus awaited her. She could hardly
brook the delay until the evening, and even wondered whether it were not
a wife’s privilege to anticipate the hour; but she did not venture, and
only hovered about impatient for Jumbo’s summons. She came in with a
rapid movement that led Mr. Belamour to say, “Ha, my fair visitor, I
perceive that you have some tidings to bring to-day.”

Everything was rapidly poured out, and she anxiously awaited the
decision. She had little hope of being allowed to go to Gracechurch
Street, and did not press for it; but she could not refrain from showing
her earnest desire for the sight of her sister, so that it was plain
that it would have been a cruel disappointment to her, if she had been
prevented from meeting the newly-married couple. She detected a certain
sound of annoyance or perplexity in the tones that replied, and her
accents became almost plaintively imploring as she concluded, “Pray,
pray, sir, do not deny me.”

“No, my child, I could not be cruel enough for a refusal,” he answered;
“I was but considering how most safely the thing may be contrived. I
know it would be your wish, and that it would seem more befitting that
you should act as hostess for your sister, but I fear that must be for
another time. This is not my house, and there are other reasons for
which it would be wiser for you to receive no one here.”

“It will be quite enough for me if I may only go to Brentford to meet my
dear, dear Harriet.”

“Then be it so, my child. Present my compliments to Mrs. Arden, and
entreat her to excuse the seeming inhospitality of the invalid.”

Aurelia was overflowing with joy at the anticipated meeting, wrote a
delighted letter to make the appointment, and skipped about the dark
stairs and passages more like the butterfly she was than like Madam
Belamour; while Fay and Letty found her a more delightful playfellow
than ever, recovering all the animation she had lost during the last
weeks. Her only drawback to the pleasure was that each intervening
evening convinced her more strongly that Mr. Belamour was uneasy and
dissatisfied about the meeting, which he could not prohibit. On the
previous night he asked many questions about her sister, in especial
whether she were of an inquisitive disposition.

“That rather depends on how much she has to say about herself,” returned
Aurelia, after some reflection. “She likes to hear about other people’s
affairs, but she had much rather talk of her own.”

This made Mr. Belamour laugh. “Considering,” he said, “how recently she
has undergone the greatest event of a woman’s life, let us hope that her
imagination and her tongue may be fully occupied by it during the few
hours that you are to pass together. It seems hard to put any restraint
on your ingenuous confidence, my sweet friend; but I trust to your
discretion to say as little as you can contrive of your strange position
here, and of the infirmities and caprices of him whose name you have
deigned to bear.”

“Sir, do you think I could?”

“It is not for my own sake, but for yours, that I would recommend
caution,” he continued. “The situation is unusual, and such disclosures
might impel persons to interfere for what they thought your interest;
but you have promised me your implicit trust, and you will, I hope,
prove it. You can understand how painful would be such well-meaning
interference, though you cannot understand how fatally mischievous it
would be.”

“I had better say I can tell her nothing,” said Aurelia, startled.

“Nay, that would excite still greater suspicion. Reply briefly and
carefully, making no mysteries to excite curiosity, and avert the
conversation from yourself as much as possible.”

Man of the world and brilliant talker as he had been, he had no notion
of the difficulty of the task he had imposed on the simple open-hearted
girl, accustomed to share all her thoughts with her sister; and she was
too gay and joyous to take full note of all his cautions, only replying
sincerely that she hoped that she should say nothing amiss, and that she
would do her best to be heedful of his wishes.

In spite of all such cautions, she was too happy to take in the notion
of anxiety. She rose early in the morning, caring for the first time
to array herself in the insignia of her new rank. Knowing that the
bridle-path lay through parks, woodlands and heaths, so that there was
no fear of dust, she put on a dainty habit of white cloth, trimmed and
faced with blue velvet, and a low-crowned hat with a white feather. On
her pretty grey horse, the young Madam Belamour was a fair and gracious
sight, as she rode into the yard of the Red Lion at Brentford. Harriet
was at the window watching for her, and Mr. Arden received her as she
sprang off her steed, then led her up to the parlour, where breakfast
was spread awaiting her.

“Aurelia, what a sweet figure you make,” cried Harriet, as the sisters
unwound their arms after the first ecstasy of embracing one another
again. “Where did you get that exquisite habit?”

“It came down from London with another, a dark blue,” said Aurelia. “I
suppose Mr. Belamour ordered them, for they came with my horse. It is
the first time I have worn it.”

“Ah! fine things are of little account when there is no one to see
them,” said Mrs. Arden, shaking her head in commiseration.

She was attired in a grey riding-dress with a little silver lace about
it, and looked wonderfully plump and well, full of importance and
complacency, and with such a return of comeliness that Aurelia would
hardly have recognised the lean, haggard, fretful Harriet of the
previous year. Her sentiment and romance, her soft melancholy and little
affectations had departed, and she was already the notable prosperous
wife of a beneficed clergyman, of whose abilities she was very
proud, though she patronised with good-humoured contempt his dreamy,
unpractical, unworldly ways.

The questions poured forth from Aurelia’s heart-hunger about
brother, sister and home, were answered kindly and fully over the
breakfast-table; but as if Harriet had turned that page in her life, and
expected Aurelia to have done the same, every now and then exclaiming:
“La! you have not forgotten that! What a memory you have, child!”

She wanted much more to talk of the parsonage and glebe of Rundell
Canonicorum, and of how many servants and cows she should keep,
and showed herself almost annoyed when Aurelia brought her back to
Carminster by asking whether Eugene had finished his Comenius, and if
the speckled hen had hatched many chickens, whether Palmer had had his
rheumatic attack this spring, or if the Major’s letter to Vienna had
produced any tidings of Nannerl’s relation. Harriet seemed only to
be able to reply by an effort of memory, and was far more desirous of
expatiating on the luxuries at alderman Arden’s, and the deference
with which she had been treated, in contrast to the indignity of Lady
Belamour’s neglect.

It was disappointing to find that her father had heard nothing from my
Lady about the settlement of the Manor House.

“Was the promise in writing?” asked Mr. Arden, who had been silent all
this time.

“Certainly, in a letter to me.”

“I recommend you to keep it carefully until Mr. Wayland’s return,” said
Mr. Arden: “he will see justice done to you.”

“Poor Mr. Wayland! When he does return, I pity him; but it is his own
fault for leaving his lady to herself. Have you ever seen the gallant
colonel, sister?”

“Never.”

“Ah! most like he is not much at Bowstead. But do not folk talk there?”

“My dear,” said Mr. Arden, “you would do well to imitate your honoured
father’s discretion on certain points.”

“Bless me, Mr. Arden, how you startled me. I thought you were in a
brown study.” She winked at Aurelia as if to intimate that she meant to
continue the subject in his absence, and went on; “I assure you, I had
to be on the alert all the way to take care he looked at the sign-posts,
or we might have been at York by this time. And in London, what do you
think was all my gentleman cared to go and see? Why, he must needs go to
some correspondents of his who are Fellows of the Royal Society. I took
it for granted they must be friends of his Majesty or of the Prince of
Wales at the least, and would have had him wait for his new gown and
cassock; but la! it was only a set of old doctors and philosophers, and
he wished to know what musty discoveries they had been making. That was
one thing he desired in London, and the other was to hear that crazy
Parson Wesley preach a sermon hours long!”

“I was well rewarded in both instances,” said Mr. Arden gravely.

Aurelia did not take advantage of the opportunity of shining in the
eyes of her new brother-in-law by showing her acquaintance with the
discussions on electricity which she had studied for Mr. Belamour’s
benefit, nor did she speak of Dr. Godfrey’s views of Wesley and
Whitfield. Had she so ventured, her sister would have pitied her,
and Mr. Arden himself been somewhat shocked at her being admitted to
knowledge unbecoming to a pretty young lady. Intellect in ladies would
have been a startling idea, and though very fond of his wife, he never
thought of her as a companion, but only as the mistress of his house and
guardian of his welfare.

The dinner was ordered at one, and at three Aurelia would ride home,
while Mr. and Mrs. Arden went on about twelve miles to the house of
a great grazier, brother to the Alderman’s wife, where they had been
invited to make their next stage, and spend the next day, Sunday, when
Harriet reckoned on picking up information about cattle, if she were
not actually presented with a cow or a calf. They went out and walked a
little about the town, where presently they met Mrs. Hunter. Aurelia
met her puzzled stare with a curtsey, and she shouted in her hearty tone
“Miss Delavie!--I mean Mrs. Belamour! Who would have thought of seeing
you here!”

“I am here to meet my sister--Mrs. Arden. Let me--let me present you,”
 said Aurelia in obedience to an imperious sign from her sister, going
through the form for the first time, while Harriet volubly declared her
happiness in making Mrs. Hunter’s acquaintance, and explained how they
were on their way to take possession of Mr. Arden’s rectory of Rundell
Canonicorum, the words rolling out of her mouth with magnificent
emphasis. “I congratulate you, ma’am,” said Mrs. Hunter, cordially, “and
you too, my dear,” she added, turning to Aurelia. “I would have been
out long ago to call on you--a sort of relation as you are now, as I may
say--but it was kept all so mum, one never knew the time to drink your
health; and my Cousins Treforth wouldn’t so much as give me a hint. But
la! says I, why should you talk about artfulness? I’m right glad
poor Mr. Amyas should find a sprightly young lady to cure him of his
mopishness. Never mind them, my dear, if they do look sour on you. I’ll
come over one of these days and talk to them. Now, I must have you come
in to take your dinner with us. The Doctor will be right pleased to find
you. I’ll take no excuse. I thank Heaven I’m always ready whoever may
drop in. There’s spring chicken and sparrow-grass.”

However, on hearing their dinner was ordered at the inn, the good lady
was satisfied that to dine with her was impossible; but she insisted on
their coming in to partake of wine and cake in her best parlour.

This, however, was a little more than Mr. Arden could endure, he made an
excuse about seeing to the horse, and escaped; while Mrs. Hunter led the
two sisters to her closely shut-up parlour, wainscoted, and hung with
two staring simpering portraits of herself and her husband, clean as
soap could make it, but smelling like a long closed box. She went to
a cupboard in the wall, and brought out a silver salver, a rich cake,
glasses and wine, and pouring out the wine, touched the glass with her
lips, as she wished health and happiness to the two brides before her.

“We shall soon have another wedding in the family, if report speaks
true,” she added. “They say--but you should be the best informed, Madam
Belamour--

“We hear nothing of the matter, ma’am,” said Aurelia.

“That’s odd, since Mr. Belamour is young Sir Amyas’s guardian; and
they cannot well pass him over now he has begun life again as it were,”
 laughed Mrs. Hunter. “‘Tis said that my Lady is resolved the wedding
shall be within six weeks.”

“There are two words to that question,” said Harriet, oracularly; “I
know from good authority that young Sir Amyas is determined against the
match.”

“But is it true, ma’am,” cried Mrs. Hunter, eagerly, “that my Lady and
the Countess of Aresfield met at Bath, and that my Lady is to have 3,000
pounds down to pay off her debts before her husband comes home, the day
her son is married to Lady Arabella?”

“Every word of it is true, ma’am,” said Harriet, importantly.

“Well now, that folk should sell their own flesh and blood!”

“How have you heard it, sister Harriet?” asked Aurelia.

“From a sure hand, my love. No other than Mrs. Dove. She is wife to my
Lady’s coachman,” explained Mrs. Arden to her hostess, “and nurse to the
two children it is her pleasure to keep with her.”

“Dear good Nurse dove!” cried Aurelia, “did she come to see you?”

“Yes, that did she! So I have it from the fountain-head, as I may say,
that the poor young gentleman’s hand and heart are to be made over
without his will, that so his mother may not have such a schedule of
debts wherewith to face her husband on his return!”

“Her jewels have been all paste long ago, I know very well,” said Mrs.
Hunter, not to be outdone; “though, would you believe it, Doctor Hunter
is like all the men, and will believe nothing against her! But this
beats all the rest! Why, I have it from my maid, who is sister to one of
the servants at the boarding-school in Queen Square, whither they have
sent the Lady Belle, that she is a regular little shrew. She flew at one
of the young ladies like a wild cat, because she did not yield place to
her at once, and scratched her cheeks till the blood ran down, and tore
out whole handfuls of her hair. She was like one possessed, and they
had to call the lackey before they could get her safe tied down in bed,
where they kept her on bread and water, trying to get her to make her
apology; but not a word could be got out of her, till they had to yield
the point lest she should fall sick.”

Aurelia mentally applauded her own discretion in not capping this with
Mrs. Dove’s former tale, and only observing that the marriage could not
take place before the young baronet was of age, without the consent of
his personal guardian, Mr. Belamour.

“You will excuse me, my dear, in speaking of your husband, but he has
so long been incapable of acting, that they say his consent can be
dispensed with.”

“Aye, poor cousin Amyas Belamour!” said Mrs. Hunter. “He was the only
man who ever durst resist my Lady’s will before, and you see to what she
has brought him!”

“Her son is resisting her now,” said Harriet; “and our good Dove says it
makes her blood boil to see the way the poor young gentleman is treated.
He, who was the darling for whom nothing was good enough a while ago,
has now scarce a place in his mother’s own house. She is cold and
stately with him, and Colonel Mar, the Lady Belle’s brother, being his
commanding officer, there is no end to the vexations and annoyances they
give him, both at home and in his quarters. Mrs. Dove says his own man,
Grey, tells her it is a wonder how he stands out against it all! And
a truly well-bred young gentleman he is. He came to pay me his call
in Gracechurch Street only yesterday, knowing our kindred, and most
unfortunate was it that I was stepped out to the office to speak as
to our boxes being duly sent by the Buckingham wain; but he left his
ticket, and a message with the servant, ‘Tell my cousin, Mrs. Arden,’
he said, ‘that I much regret not having seen her, and I should have done
myself the honour of calling sooner to inquire for her good father, if I
had known she was in town.”

“Well, I have never seen the young gentleman since he was a mere child,”
 said Mrs. Hunter. “His mother has bred him to neglect his own home and
relations, but I am sorry for him.”

“They say,” continued Harriet significantly, “that they are sure there
is some cause for his holding out so stiffly--I verily believe My Lady
suspected--”

“O hush, Harriet!” cried Aurelia, colouring painfully.

“Well, it is all over now, so you need not be offended,” said Harriet,
laughing. “Besides, if my Lady had any such notion when she brought
about your marriage, she must be disappointed, for the young spark is as
resolute as ever.”

“And no wonder, if he knows what the lady is like,” said Aurelia.

“Ah! he has admitted as much to the King.”

“To the King!” cried both auditors.

“Oh yes! you know my Lady is very thick with my Lady Suffolk, and she
persuaded the King to speak to him at the levee. ‘_Comment_’, says his
majesty in French, ‘are you a young rebel, sir, that refuse the good
things your mother provides you?’ Not a whit was my young gentleman
moved. He bowed, and answered that he was acting by the desire of
his guardian. Excuse me, sister, but the King answered--‘A raving
melancholic! That will not serve your turn, sir. Come to your senses,
fulfil your mother’s bond, and we’ll put you on the Duke’s staff,
where you may see more of service than of home, or belike get into gay
quarters, where you may follow any other _fantaisie_ if that is making
you commit such _betises!_’ At that Sir Amyas, who is but an innocent
youth, flamed up in his cheeks till they were as red as his coat, and
said his honour was engaged; on which his majesty swore at him for an
idiot, and turned his back. Every word of this Mrs. Dove heard Colonel
Mar tell my Lady--and then they fell to rating the poor youth, and
trying to force out who this secret flame may be; but his is of the
same stuff as his mother, adamantine and impervious. And now the Colonel
keeps him on hard duty continually, and they watch him day and night to
find out what places he haunts. But bless me, Mrs. Hunter, is the church
clock striking? We must be gone, or my good man will be wondering where
we are.”

Mrs. Hunter would fain have kept them, and the last words and
compliments were of long duration, while Aurelia looked on in some
surprise at the transformation of all Harriet’s languishing affected
airs into the bustling self-importance of Mrs. Arden. She was however
much occupied with all she had heard, and was marvelling how her sister
began again as soon as they were in the street again. “You are very
discreet, Aurelia, as it becomes a young married lady, but have you no
notion who this innamorata of the baronet may be?”

“No, indeed, how should I?”

“I thought he might have confided in your husband, since he makes so
sure of his support.”

“He has only once come to visit Mr. Belamour, and that was many months
ago.”

“It is strange,” mused Harriet; “Mrs. Dove says she would have taken her
Bible oath that it was you, and my Lady believed as much, or she would
not have been in such haste to have you wedded. Nay, I’ll never believe
but he made his confidences to Betty when he came to the Manor House the
Sunday after you were gone, though not a word could I get from her.”

“It must have been all a mistake,” said Aurelia, not without a little
twinge at the thought of what might have been. “I wish you would not
talk of it.”

“Well he could have been but a fickle adorer--‘tis the way of men, my
dear, for he must have found some new flame while his mother and the
Colonel were both at the Bath. They have proof positive of his riding
out of town at sundown, but whither he goes is unknown, for he takes
not so much as a groom with him, and he is always in time for morning
parade.”

“Poor young man, it is hard to be so beset with spies and watchers,”
 said Aurelia.

“Most true,” said Harriet, “but I am monstrous glad you are safe married
like me, child, so that no one can accuse us. Such romantic affairs
are well enough to furnish a course of letters to the _Tatler_, or the
_Gentlewomen’s Magazine_, but I am thankful for a comfortable life with
my good man.”

Therewith they reached their inn, where Harriet, having satisfied
herself that the said good man was safe within, and profiting by the
unwonted calm to write his inaugural sermon, took Aurelia to her bedroom
to prepare for dinner, and to indulge in further confidences.

“So, Aurelia, I can report to my father that you are looking well, and
as cheerful as can be expected.”

“Nay, I have always told you I am happy as the day is long.”

“What, when you have never so much as seen your husband?”

“Only at our wedding, and then he was forced to veil his face from the
light.”

“Nor has he ever seen you?”

“Not unless he then saw me.”

“If he were not then charmed enough to repeat the view, you are the most
cruelly wasted and unworthily matched--”

“Hush, sister!” broke out Aurelia in eager indignation.

“What! is a lovely young creature, almost equal to what I was before my
cruel malady, to waste her bloom on a wretched old melancholic, who will
not so much as look at her!”

“Harriet, I cannot hear this--you know not of what you are talking! What
is my poor skin-deep beauty--if beauty it be--compared with the stores
of goodness and wisdom I find in him?”

“La! child, what heat is this? One would really think you loved him.”

“Of course I do! I love and honour him more than any one I ever
met--except my dear father.”

“Come, Aura, you are talking by rote out of the marriage service. You
may be open with me, you know, it will go no further; and I do long to
know whether you can be truly content at heart,” said Harriet with real
affection.

“Dear sister,” said Aurelia, touched, “believe me that indeed I am. Mr.
Belamour is kindness itself. He is all he ever promised to be to me, and
sometimes more.”

“Yet if he loved you, he could never let you live moped up there. Are
you never frighted at the dark chamber? I should die of it!”

“The dark does not fright me,” said Aurelia.

“You have a courage I have not! Come, now, were you never frighted to
talk with a voice in the dark?”

“Scarcely ever!” said aurelia.

“Scarcely--when was that?”

“You will laugh, Harriet, but it is when he is most--most tender and
full of warmth. Then I hardly know him for the same.”

“What! If he be not always tender to my poor dear child, he must be a
wretch indeed.”

“O no, no, Harriet! How shall I ever make you understand?” cried
Aurelia. “Never for a moment is he other than kind and gentle. It
is generally like a father, only more courtly and deferential, but
sometimes something seems to come over him, and he is--oh! I cannot tell
you--what I should think a lover would be,” faltered Aurelia, colouring
crimson, and hiding her face on her sister’s shoulder, as old habits of
confidence, and need of counsel and sympathy were obliterating all the
warnings of last night.

“You silly little chit! Why don’t you encourage these advances? You
ought to be charmed, not frightened.”

“They would ch---I should like it if it were not so like two men in one,
the one holding the other back.”

Harriet laughed at this fancy, and Aurelia was impelled to defend it.
“Indeed, Harriet, it is really so. There will be whispers--oh, such
whispers!”--she sunk her voice and hid her face again--“close to my ear,
and--endearments--while the grave voice sounds at the other end of the
room, and then I long for light. I swooned for fright the first time,
but I am much more used to it now.”

“This is serious,” said Harriet, with unwonted gravity. “Do you really
think that there is another person in the room?”

“I do not feel as if it could be otherwise, and yet it is quite
impossible.”

“I would not bear it,” said her sister. “You ought not to bear it. How
do you know that it is not some vile stratagem? It might even be the
blackamoor!”

“No, no, Harriet! I know better than that. It is quite impossible.
Besides, I am sure of this--that the hands that wedded me are the same
hands that caress me,” she added, with another blushing effort, “strong
but delicate hands, rather hard inside, as with the bridle. I noticed it
because once I thought his hands soft with doing nothing and being shut
up.”

“That convinces me the more, then, there is some strange imposition
practised upon you,” said Harriet, anxiously.

“Oh, no!” said Aurelia, inconsistently; “Mr. Belamour is quite incapable
of doing anything wrong by me. I cannot let you have such shocking
notions. He told me I must be patient and trust him, though I should
meet with much that was strange and inexplicable.”

“This is trusting him much too far. They are playing on your
inexperience, I am sure. If you were not a mere child, you would see
what a shocking situation this is.”

“I wish I had not told you,” said Aurelia, tears rushing into her eyes.
“I ought not! He bade me be cautious how I talked, and you have made me
quite forget!”

“Did he so? Then it is evident that he fears disclosure! Something must
be done. Why not write to our father?”

“I could not! He would call it a silly fancy.”

“And it might embroil him with my Lady,” added Harriet. “We must devise
another mode.”

“You will not--must not tell Mr. Arden,” exclaimed Aurelia,
peremptorily.

“Never fear! He heeds nothing more sublunary than the course of the
planets. But I have it. His device will serve the purpose. Do you
remember Eugene confounding him with Friar Bacon because he was said
to light a candle without flint or steel? It was true. When he was a
bachelor he always lit his own candle and fire, and he always carries
the means. I was frighted the first time he showed me, but now I can do
it as well as he. See,” she said, opening a case, “a drop of this spirit
upon this prepared cotton;” and as a bright flame sprang up and made
Aurelia start, she laughed and applied a taper to it. “There, one
such flash would be quite enough to prove to you whether there be any
deception practised on you.”

“I could never do it! Light is agony to Mr. Belamour, and what would he
think?”

“He would take it for lightning, which I suppose he cannot keep out.”

“One flash did come through everything last summer, but I was not
looking towards him.”

“You will be wiser this time. Here, I can give you this little box, for
Mr. Arden compounded a fresh store in town.”

“I dare not, sister. He has ever bidden me trust without sight; and you
cannot guess how good he is to me, and how noble and generous. I cannot
insult him by a doubt.”

“Then he should not act as no true woman can endure.”

“And it would hurt him.”

“Tut, tut, child; if the lightning did not harm him how can this flash?
I tell you no man has a right to trifle with you in this manner, and it
is your duty to yourself and all of us to find out the truth. Some young
rake may have bribed the black, and be personating him; and some day you
may find yourself carried off you know not where.”

“Harriet, if you only knew either Mr. Belamour or Jumbo, you would know
that you are saying things most shocking!”

“Convince me, then! Look here, Aurelia, if you cannot write to me and
explain this double-faced or double-voiced husband of yours, I vow to
you that I shall speak to Mr. Arden, and write to my father.”

“Oh! do not, do not, sister! Remember, it is of no use unless this
temper of affection be on him, and I have not heard it this fortnight,
no, nor more.”

“Promise me, then, that you will make the experiment. See, here is a
little chain-stitch pouch--poor Peggy Duckworth’s gift to me--with two
pockets. Let me fasten it under your dress, and then you will always
have it about you.”

“If the bottle broke as I rode home!”

“Impossible; it is a scent-bottle of strong glass.”

Here Mr. Arden knocked at the door, regretting to interrupt their
confidences, but dinner awaited them; and as, immediately after, Mrs.
Hunter brought her husband in his best wig to call on Madame Belamour
and her relations, the sisters had no more time together, till the
horses were at the door, and they went to their room together to put on
their hats.

A whole mass of refusals and declarations of perfect confidence were on
Aurelia’s tongue, but Harriet cut them all short by saying, “Remember,
you are bound for your own honour and ours, to clear up this mystery!”

Then they rode off their several ways, Madame Belamour towards Bowstead,
Mr. and Mrs. Arden on their sturdy roadster towards Lea Farm.



CHAPTER XXII. A FATAL SPARK.


    And so it chanced; which in those dark
      And fireless halls was quite amazing,
    Did we not know how small a spark
      Can set the torch of love ablazing.
                                       T. MOORE.


Aurelia rode home in perplexity, much afraid of the combustibles at her
girdle, and hating the task her sister had forced on her. She felt as
if her heedless avowals had been high treason to her husband; and yet
Harriet was her elder, and those assurances that as a true woman she was
bound to clear up the mystery, made her cheeks burn with shame, and her
heart thrill with the determination to vindicate her husband, while the
longing to know the face of one who so loved her was freshly awakened.

She was strongly inclined to tell him all, indeed she knew herself well
enough to be aware that half a dozen searching questions would draw out
the whole confession of her own communication and Harriet’s unworthy
suspicions; and humiliating as this would be, she longed for the
opportunity. Here, however, she was checked in her meditations by a
stumble of her horse, which proved to have lost a shoe. It was necessary
to leave the short cut, and make for the nearest forge, and when the
mischief was repaired, to ride home by the high road.

She thus came home much later than had been expected; Jumbo, Molly, and
the little girls were all watching for her, and greeted her eagerly. The
supper was already on the table for her, and she had only just given
Fay and Letty the cakes and comfits she had bought at Brentford for them
when Jumbo brought the message that his master hoped that madam, if not
too much fatigued, would come to him as soon as her supper was finished.

Accordingly, she came without waiting to change her dress, having only
taken off her hat and arranged her hair.

She felt guilty, and dreaded the being questioned, yet longed to make
her avowal and have all explained. The usual greetings passed, and then
Mr. Belamour said, “I heard your horse hoofs come in late. You were
detained?”

She explained about the shoe, and a few sentences were passing about her
sister when she detected a movement, as if a step were stealing towards
her, together with a hesitation in the remark Mr. Belamour was making
about Mrs. Hunter’s good nature.

Quite irrelevantly came in the whispering voice, “Where is my dearest
life?”

“Sir, sir!” she cried, driven at last to bay, “what is this? Are you one
or two?”

“One with you, my sweetest life! Your own--your husband!”

Therewith there was a kind of groan further off, and as Aurelia felt a
hand on her dress, her fight and distress at the duality were complete.
While, in the dark, the hands were still groping for her, she eluded
them, and succeeded in carrying out Harriet’s manoeuvre so far that
a quick bright flame leapt forth, lighting up the whole room, and
revealing two--yes, two! But it did not die away! In her haste, and in
the darkness, she had poured the whole contents of the bottle on the
phosphoric cotton, and dropped both without knowing it on a chintz
curtain. A fresh evening breeze was blowing in from the window, open
behind the shutters, and in one second the curtain was a flaming, waving
sheet. Some one sprang up to tear it down, leaping on a table in the
window. The table overbalanced, the heavy iron curtain-rod came out
suddenly, and there was a fall, the flaming mass covering the fallen!
The glare shone on a strange white face and head as well as on Jumbo’s
black one, and with a trampling and crushing the fire died down,
quenched as suddenly as it began, and all was obscurity again.

“Nephew, dear boy, speak,” exclaimed Mr. Belamour; and as there was no
answer, “Open the shutters, Jumbo. For Heaven’s sake let us see!”

“Oh! what have I done?” cried poor Aurelia, in horror and misery,
dropping by him on the ground, while the opened shutters admitted the
twilight of a May evening, with a full moon, disclosing a strange scene.
A youth in a livery riding coat lay senseless on the ground, partly
covered by the black fragments of the curtain, the iron rod clenched in
one hand, the other arm doubled under him. A face absolutely white, with
long snowy beard and hair hung over him, and an equally white pair of
hands tried to lift the head. Jumbo had in a second sprung down, removed
the fallen table, and come to his masters help. “Struck head with this,”
 he said, as he tried to unclasp the fingers from the bar, and pointed to
a grazed blow close to the temple.

“We must lay him on my bed,” said Mr. Belamour. Then, seeing the
girl’s horror-stricken countenance, “Ah, child, would that you had been
patient; but it was overtasking you! Call Aylward, I beg of you.
Tell her he is here, badly hurt. What, you do not know him,” as her
bewildered eyes and half-opened lips implied the question she could not
utter, “you do not know him? Sir Amyas--my nephew--your true husband!”

“Oh! and I have killed him!” she cried, with clasped hands.

“Hush, child, no, with God’s mercy! Only call the woman and bring a
light.”

She rushed away, and appeared, a pale terrified figure, with the smell
of fire on her hair and white dress, in the room where Mrs. Aylward was
reading her evening chapter. She could scarcely utter her message as
she stood under the gaze of blank amazement; but Mrs. Aylward understood
enough to make her start up without another word, and hurry away, candle
in hand.

Aurelia took up the other, and followed, trembling. When she reached
the outer room the rush of air almost blew out her light, and pausing,
afraid to pass on, she perceived that Mr. Belamour and Jumbo were
carrying the insensible form between them into the inner apartment,
while a moan or two filled her heart with pangs of self-reproach.

She hung about, in terrible anxiety, but not daring to come forward
while the others were engaged about the sufferer, for what seemed a very
long time before she heard Mrs. Aylward say, “His arm is broke, sir. We
must send for Dr. Hunter. The maids are all in their beds, but I will go
and wake one, and send her to the stables to call the groom.”

“I had best go,” said Mr. Belamour. “You are of more use than I. He
sleeps at the stables, you say?” Then, seeing the waiting, watching form
of Aurelia, he said, “Come in, my poor child. Perhaps your voice may
rouse him.” Every one, including himself, seemed to have forgotten Mr.
Belamour’s horror of the light, for candles were flaring on all the
tables, as he led the you girl in, saying, “Speak to him.”

At the death-like face in its golden hair, Aurelia’s voice choked in her
throat, and it was in an unnatural hoarse tone that she tried to say,
“Sir--Sir Amyas--”

“I trust he will soon be better,” said Mr. Belamour, marking her dismay
and grief with his wonted kindness, “but his arm needs the surgeon, and
I must be going. Let Lady Belamour sit here, Mrs. Aylward. I trust
you with the knowledge. It was my nephew, in disguise, who wedded
her, unknown to her. She is entirely blameless. Let Jumbo fetch her a
cordial. There, my child, take this chair, so that his eyes may fall
on you when he opens them. Bathe his head if you will. I shall return
quickly after having sped the groom on his journey.”

Gloomy and doubtful were the looks cast on Aurelia by the housekeeper,
but all unseen by the wondering, bewildered, remorseful eyes fixed
on the white face on the pillow, heedless of its perfect symmetry of
feature, and knowing only that this was he who had thrilled her heart
with his tender tones, who had loved her so dearly, and dared so much
for her sake, but whom her impatience and distrust had so cruelly
injured. Had she seen him strong, well, and ardent, as she had so
lately heard him, her womanhood would have recoiled indignantly at the
deception which had stolen her vows; but the spectacle of the
young senseless face and prostrate form filled her with compassion,
tenderness, and remorse, for having yielded to her sister’s persuasions.
With intense anxiety she watched, and assisted in the fomentations,
longing for Mr. Belamour’s return; but time passed on and still he
came not. No words passed, only a few faint sighs, and one of the hands
closed tight on Aurelia’s.



CHAPTER XXIII. WRATH AND DESOLATION.


    Straight down she ran
.... and fatally did vow    To wreake her on the mayden messenger
    Whom she had caused be kept as prisonere.
                                          SPENSER.


Hark! there was the trampling of horses and thundering of wheels at the
door! Could the doctor be come already, and in such a fashion?

Jumbo hurried to admit him, and Mrs. Aylward moved to arrange matters,
but the clasp that was on Aurelia’s hand would not let her go.

Presently there came, not Dr. Hunter’s tread, but a crisp, rustling
sound, and the tap of high heels, and in the doorway stood, tall, erect,
and terrible, Lady Belamour, with a blaze of wrath in her blue eyes, and
concentrated rage in her whole form, while in accents low, but coming
from between her teeth, she demanded, “Miserable boy, what means this?”

“Oh! madam, take care! he is sadly hurt!” cried Aurelia, with a gesture
as if to screen him.

“I ask what this means?” repeated Lady Belamour, advancing, and seeming
to fill the room with her majestic figure, in full brocaded dress, with
feathers waving in her hair.

“His Honour cannot answer you, my Lady,” said Mrs. Aylward. “He has had
a bad fall, and Mr. Belamour is gone to send for the doctor.”

“This is the housekeeping in my absence!” said Lady Belamour, showing
less solicitude as to her son’s condition than indignation at the
discovery, and her eyes and her diamonds glittering fearfully.

“My Lady,” said Mrs. Aylward, with stern respectfulness, “I knew nothing
of all this till this lady called me an hour ago telling me Sir Amyas
was hurt. I found him as you see. Please your Ladyship, I must go back
to him.”

“Speak then, you little viper,” said Lady Belamour, turning on Aurelia,
who had risen, but was held fast by the hand upon hers. “By what arts
have you well nigh slain my son? Come here, and tell me.”

“None, madam!” gasped Aurelia, trembling, so that she grasped her
chair-back with her free hand for support. “I never saw him till
to-night.”

“Lies will not serve you, false girl. Come here this instant! I _know_
that you have been shamelessly receiving my son here, night after
night.”

“I never knew!”

“Missie Madam never knew,” chimed in Jumbo. “All in the dark. She
thought it old mas’r.”

Lady Belamour looked contemptuously incredulous; but the negro’s
advocacy gave a kind of courage to Aurelia, and availing herself of
a slight relaxation of the fingers she withdrew her hand, and coming
forward, said, “Indeed, madam, I know nothing, I was entirely deceived.
Only hearing two voices in the dark alarmed me, so that I listened to my
sister, and struck a light to discover the truth. Then all caught fire,
and blazed up, and--”

“Then you are an incendiary as well as a traitor,” said her Ladyship,
with cold, triumphant malignity. “This is work for the constable. Here,
Loveday,” to her own woman, who was waiting in the outer room, “take this
person away, and lock her into her own room till morning, when we can
give her up to justice.”

“Oh, my Lady,” cried Aurelia, crouching at her feet and clinging to her
dress, “do not be so cruel! Oh! let me go home to my father!”

“Madam!” cried a voice from the bed, “let alone my wife! Come, Aurelia.
Oh!”

Then starting up in bed had wrenched his broken arm, and he fell back
senseless again, just as Aurelia would have flown back to him, but his
mother stood between, spurning her away.

Another defender, if she could so be called, spoke for her. “It is true,
please your Ladyship,” said Mrs. Aylward, “that Mr. Belamour called her
the wife of this poor young gentleman.”

Jumbo too exclaimed, “No one knew but Jumbo; His Honour marry pretty
missie in mas’r’s wig and crimson dressing-gown.”

“A new stratagem!” ironically observed the incensed lady. “But your game
is played out, miss, for madam I cannot call you. Such a marriage cannot
stand for a moment; and if a lawyer like Amyas Belamour pretended it
could, either his wits were altogether astray or he grossly deceived
you. Or, as I believe, he trafficked with you to entrap this unhappy
youth, whose person and house you have, between you, almost destroyed.
Remove her, Loveday, and lock her up till we can send for a magistrate
to take depositions in the morning. Go quietly, girl I will not have my
son disturbed with your outcries.”

Poor Aurelia’s voice died in her throat. Oh! why did not Mr. Belamour
come to her rescue? Ah! he had bidden her trust and be patient; she had
transgressed, and he had abandoned her! There was no sign of life or
consciousness in the pallid face on the bed, and with a bleeding heart
she let the waiting-maid lead her through the outer apartment, still
redolent of the burning, reached her own chamber, heard the key turn in
the lock, and fell across her bed in a sort of annihilation.

The threat was unspeakably frightful. Those were days of capital
punishment for half the offences in the calendar, and of what was to her
scarcely less dreadful, of promiscuous imprisonment, fetters, and gaol
fever. Poor Aurelia’s ignorance could hardly enhance these horrors, and
when her perceptions began to clear themselves, her first thought was of
flight from a fate equally dreadful to the guilty or not guilty.

Springing from the bed, she tried the other door of her room, which
was level with the wainscoting, and not readily observed by a person
unfamiliar with the house. It yielded to her hand, and she knew there
was a whole suite of empty rooms thus communicating with one another. It
was one of those summer nights that are never absolutely dark, and
there was a full moon, so that she had light enough to throw off her
conspicuous white habit, all scorched and singed as it was, and to put
on her dark blue cloth one, with her camlet cloak and hood. She made up
a small bundle of clothes, took her purse, which was well filled with
guineas and silver, and moved softly to the door. Hide and seek had
taught her all the modes of eluding observation, and with her walking
shoes in her hand, and her feet slippered, she noiselessly crept through
one empty room after another, and descended the stair into her own
lobby, where she knew how to open the sash door.

One moment the thought that Mr. Belamour would protect her made her
pause, but the white phantom she had seen seemed more unreal than the
voice she was accustomed to, and both alike had vanished and abandoned
her to her fate. Nay, she had been cheated from the first. Everything
had given way with her. My Lady might be coming to send her to prison.
Hark, some one was coming! She darted out, down the steps, along the
path like a wild bird from a cage.



CHAPTER XXIV. THE WANDERER.


    Widowed wife and wedded maid,
    Betrothed, betrayer, and betrayed.--SCOTT.


Aurelia’s first halt was in a moss-grown summer-house at the end of
the garden, where she ventured to sit down to put on her stout leather
shoes. The children’s toys, a ball and a set of ninepins lay on the
floor! How many ages ago was it that she had made that sarcastic reply
to Letty?--perhaps her last!

A nightingale, close overhead, burst into a peal of song, repeating his
one favourite note, which seemed to her to cry out “Although my heart
is broke, broke, broke, broke.” The tears rushed into her eyes, but at
a noise as of opening doors or windows at the house, terror mastered her
again, and she hurried on to hide herself from the dawning light, which
was beginning to increase, as she crossed the park, on turf dank with
Maydew, and plunged deep into the thick woods beyond, causing many a
twittering cry of wondering birds.

Day had fully come, and slanting golden beams were shining through the
tender green foliage, and illuminating the boles of the trees, ere she
was forced by failing strength again to pause and sit on a faggot, while
gathering breath and considering where she should go. Home was her first
thought. Who could shield her but her father and sister? How she longed
for their comfort and guardianship! But how reach them? She had money
but could do little for her. England never less resembled those days
of Brian Boromhe when the maiden with the gems, rich and rare wandered
unscathed form sea to sea in Ireland. Post chaises, though coming into
use, had not dawned on the simple country girl’s imagination. She knew
there was a weekly coach from London to Bath, passing through Brentford,
and that place was also a great starting-place for stage waggons, of
which one went through Carminster, but her bewildered brain could not
recall on what day it started, and there was an additional shock of
despair when she remembered that it was Sunday morning. The chill of the
morning dew was on her limbs, she was exhausted by her fatigues of the
night, a drowsy recollection of the children in the wood came over her,
and she sank into a dreamy state that soon became actual sleep. She was
wakened by a strong bright sunbeam on her eyes, and found that this was
what had warmed her limbs in her sleep. A sound as of singing was also
in her ears, and of calling cows to be milked. She did not in the least
know where she was, for she had wandered into parts of the wood quite
strange to her, but she thought she must be a great way from home, and
quite beyond recognition, so she followed the voice, and soon came out
on a tiny meadow glade, where a stout girl was milking a great sheeted
cow.

She knew now that she was faint with hunger and thirst, and must take
food before she could go much farther, so taking out a groat, her
smallest coin, she accosted the girl, and offered it for a draught
of milk. To her dismay the girl exclaimed “Lawk! It be young Madam!
Sarvice, ma’am!”

“I have lost myself in the wood,” said Aurelia. “I should be much
obliged for a little milk.”

“Well to be sure. Think of that! And have ee been out all night? Ye
looks whisht!” said the girl, readily filling a wooden cup she had
brought with her, for in those days good new milk was a luxury far more
easily accessible than in ours. She added a piece of barley bread, her
own intended breakfast, and was full of respectful wonder, pity, and
curiosity, proposing that young Madam should come and rest in mother’s
cottage in the wood, and offering to guide her home as soon as the cows
were milked and the pigs fed. Aurelia had some difficulty in shaking her
off, finding also that she had gone round and round in the labyrinthine
paths, and was much nearer the village of Bowstead than she had
intended.

Indeed, she was obliged to deceive the kindly girl by walking off in the
direction she pointed out, intending to strike afterwards into another
path, though where to go she had little idea, so long as it was out of
reach of my Lady and her prison.

Oh! if Harriet were only at Brentford, or if it were possible to reach
the Lea Farm where she was! Could she ask her way thither, or could
she find some shelter near or in Brentford till the coach or the waggon
started? This was the most definite idea her brain, refreshed somewhat
by the food, could form; but in the meantime she was again getting
bewildered in the field paths. It was a part she did not know, lying
between the backs of the cottages and their gardens, and the woods
belonging to the great house; and the long sloping meadows, spangled
with cowslips were much alike. The cowslips seemed to strike her with
a pang as she recollected her merry day among them last spring, and how
little she then thought of being a homeless wanderer. At last, scarce
knowing where she was, she sat down on the step of a stile leading to a
little farmyard, leant her head on the top bar and wept bitterly.

Again she startled by hearing a voice saying, “Sister, what is that in
the field?” and starting up, she saw Mrs. Delia in high pattens, and her
Sunday silk tucked up over her quilted petticoat, with a basket of corn
in her hand, surrounded by her poultry, while Mrs. Phoebe was bending
over a coop. She had stumbled unawares on their back premises, and with
a wild hope, founded on their well-known enmity to Lady Belamour, she
sprang over the stile. Mrs. Delia retreated in haste, but Mrs. Phoebe
came to the front.

“Oh! Mrs. Phoebe,” she cried, “I ask your pardon.”

“Mrs. Belamour! Upon my word! To what are we indebted for this visit?”

“Oh! of your kindness listen to me, madam,” said Aurelia. “My Lady is
come, and there is some dreadful mistake, and she is very angry with me;
and if you would only take me in and hide me till the waggon goes and I
can get home!”

“So my Lady has found you out, you artful hussy,” returned Mrs. Phoebe.
“I have long guessed at your tricks! I knew it was no blackamoor that
was stealing into the great house.”

“I do not know what you mean.”

“Oh! it is of no use to try your feigned artlessness on us. I wonder at
your assurance, after playing false with uncle and nephew both at once.”

“If you would but hear me!”

“I have heard enough of you already. I wonder you dare show your face
at a respectable house. Away with you, if you would not have me send the
constable after you!”

The threat renewed Aurelia’s terror, and again she fled, but this time
she fell into a path better known to her, that leading to Sedhurst, and
ultimately to Brentford.

The recollection of Dame Wheatfield’s genial good nature inspired her
with another hope, and she made her way towards the farm. The church
bells were ringing, and she saw the farmer and his children going
towards the church, but not the mistress, and she might therefore hope
to find her at home and alone. As she approached, a great dog began a
formidable barking, and his voice brought out the good woman in person.
“Down, Bouncer! A won’t hurt’ee, my lass. What d’ye lack that you bain’t
at church?”

“May I speak to you, Mrs. Wheatfield?”

“My stars, if it bain’t young Miss--Madam, I mean! Nothing ain’t wrong
with the child?”

“O no, she is quite well, but--”

“What, ye be late for church? Come in and sit ye down a bit and sup
after your walk. We have been and killed Spotty’s calf, though ‘twas but
a staggering Bob, but us couldn’t spare the milk no longer. So we’ve got
the l’in on un for dinner, and you’re kindly welcome if you ain’t too
proud. Only I wish you had brought my little missie.”

“O Mrs. Wheatfield! Shall I ever see the dear little girl again? Oh! can
you help me? Do you know where Lea Farm is? I’d pay anything for a horse
and man to take me there, where my sister is staying.”

“Well, I don’t know as my master would hire a horse out of a Sunday,
unless ‘twere very particler--illness or suchlike. Lea Farm did you say
ma’am? Is it the Lea out by Windmill hill--Master Brown’s; or Lea Farm,
down by the river--Tom Smith’s?”

“No, this is Mr. Meadows’s, a grazier.”

“Never heard tell on him, ma’am, but the master might, when he comes
in. But bless me,” she added, after a moment’s consideration, “what will
your master say? He’ll be asking how it comes that a lady like you, with
a coach and horses of her own, should be coming after a horse here. You
ain’t been and got into trouble with my Lady, my dear?”

“Oh! Dame, indeed I have; pray help me!”

It was no wonder that Mrs. Wheatfield failed to gather more than that
young Madam had almost burnt the house, and had fallen under grievous
displeasure, so as even to fear the constable.

“Bless your poor heart! Think of that now! But I’m afeard we can’t do
nothing for you. My master would be nigh about killing me if I harboured
you and got him into trouble, with the gentry.”

“If you could only hide me in some loft or barn till I could meet the
coach for Bath! Then I should be almost at home.”

“I dare not. The children are routing about everywhere on a Sunday
afternoon; and if so be as there’s a warrant out after you” (Aurelia
shuddered) “my man would be mad with me. He ain’t never forgot how his
grandfather was hanged up there in that very walnut for changing clothes
with a young gentleman in the wars long ago.”

“Then I must go! Oh, what will become of me?”

“Stay a bit! It goes to my heart to turn you from the door, and you so
white and faint. And they won’t be out of church yet a while. You’ve ate
nothing all this time! What was you thinking of doing, my dear?”

“I don’t know. If I could only find out the right Lea Farm, and get
a man and horse to take me there--but my sister goes on Monday, and I
might not find her, and nobody knows where it is. And nobody will take
me in or hide my till the coach goes! Oh, what will become of me?”

“It is bitter hard,” said the Dame. “I wish to my heart I could take
you in, but you see there’s the master! I’ll tell you what: there’s my
cousin, Patty Woodman; she might take you in for a night or two. But
you’d never find your way to her cot; it lies out beyond the spinneys.
I must show you the way. Look you here. Nobody can’t touch you in a
church, they hain’t got no power there, and if you would slip into that
there empty place as opens with the little door, as the ringers goes in
by, afore morning prayers is over I’ll make an excuse to come to evening
prayer alone, or only with little Davy, as is lying asleep there. If
Patty is there I’ll speak, and you can go home with her. If not, I must
e’en walk with you out to the spinney. Hern is a poor place, but her’s a
good sort of body, and won’t let you come to no harm; and her goes into
Brentford with berries and strawberries to meet the coaches, so may be
she’ll know the day.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, dear Mrs. Wheatfield! If I can only get safe
home!”

“Come, don’t be in haste. You’ll take a bit of bread and cheese, and
just a draught of ale to hearten you up a bit.”

Aurelia was too sick at heart for food, and feared to delay, lest she
should meet the congregation, but Mrs. Wheatfield forced on her a little
basket with some provisions, and she gladly accepted another draught of
milk.

No one came out by the little door she was told; all she had to do would
be to keep out of sight when the ringers came in before the afternoon
service. She knew the way, and was soon close to Mary Sedhurst’s grave.
“Ah! why was he not constant to her,” she thought; “and oh! why has he
deserted me in my need?”

The little door easily yielded, and she found herself--after passing the
staircase-turret that led by a gallery to the belfry in the centre of
the church--in an exceedingly dilapidated transept; once, no doubt, it
had been beautiful, before the coloured glass of the floriated window
had been knocked out and its place supplied with bricks. The broken
effigy of a crusading Sedhurst, devoid of arms, feet, and nose was
stowed away in the eastern sepulchre, in company with funeral apparatus,
torn books, and moth-eaten cushions. But this would not have shocked her
even in calmer moments. She only cared to find a corner where she was
entirely sheltered, between a green stained pier and the high wall and
curtain of a gigantic pew, where no doubt sweet Mary Sedhurst had
once worshipped. The lusty voices of the village choir in some exalted
gallery beyond her view were shouting out a familiar tune, and with some
of Betty’s mild superstition about “the singing psalms,” she heard--


                  “Since I have placed my trust in God
                     A refuge always nigh,
                   Why should I, like tim’rous bird
                     To distant mountains fly?

                  “Behold the wicked bend their bow,
                     And ready fix their dart,
                   Lurking in ambush to destroy
                     The man of upright heart.

                  “When once the firm assurance fails
                     Which public faith imparts,
                  ‘Tis time for innocence to flee
                     From such deceitful arts.

                  “The Lord hath both a temple here
                     And righteous throne above,
                   Whence He surveys the sons of men,
                     And how their counsels move.”


Poor timorous bird, whom even the firm assurance of wedded faith had
failed, what was left to her but to flee from the darts levelled against
her? Yet that last verse brought a sense of protection. Ah! did she
deserve it? A prayerless night and prayerless morning had been hers, and
no wonder, since she had never gone to bed nor risen with the ordinary
forms; but it was with a pang that she recollected that the habit of
calling out in her heart for guidance and help had been slipping from
her for a long time past, and she had never asked for heavenly aid when
her judgment was perplexed by Harriet, no, nor for protection in her
flight.

She resolved to say her morning prayers with full attention so soon as
the church was empty, and meantime to follow the service with all her
powers, though her pulses were still throbbing and her head aching.

In the far distance she heard the Commandments, and near to her the
unseen clerk responding, and then followed a gospel of love and comfort.
She could not catch every word, but there was a sense of promised peace
and comfort, which began to soothe the fluttering heart, for the first
time enjoying a respite from the immediate gripe of deadly terror.

The sermon chimed in with these feelings, not that she could have any
account of it, nor preserved any connected memory, but it was full of
the words, Faith, Love, Sacrifice, so that they were borne in on her ear
and thought. Heavenly Love surrounding as with an atmosphere those who
had only faith to “taste and see how gracious the Lord is,” believing
that which cannot be seen, and therefore having it revealed to their
inmost sense, and thus living the only real life.

This was the chief thought that penetrated to her mind as she crouched
on the straw hassock behind the pew, and shared unseen in the blessing
of peace. No one saw her as the hob-nailed shoes trooped out of church,
and soon she was entirely alone, kneeling still in her hiding-place,
and whispering half-aloud the omitted morning prayer, whose heartfelt
signification had, she felt, been neglected for a long, long time.

Since when? Ah! ever since those strange mysterious voices and caresses
had come to charm and terrify her, and when her very perplexity should
have warned her to cling closer to the aid of her Heavenly Father.
Vague yearnings, uplifted feelings, discontents, and little tempers had
usurped the place of higher feelings, and blinded her eyes. And through
it all, her heart began to ache and long for tidings of him on whose
pale features she had gazed so long and who had ventured and suffered
so much for her, nay, who had started into a moment’s life for her
protection! All the tumult of resentment at the deception practised on
her fell on the uncle rather than the nephew; and in spite of this long
year of tender kindness and consideration from the recluse, there was a
certain consideration from the recluse, there was a certain leaping
of heart at finding herself bound not to him but to the youth whose
endearments returned with a flood of tender remembrance. And she had
fled just as he had claimed her as his wife, had fled just as he had
claimed her as his wife, unheeding whether he died of the injury she had
caused him! All that justified her alarm was forgotten, her heartstrings
had wound themselves round him, and began to pull her back.

Then she thought of the danger of directing Lady Belamour’s wrath on her
father, and leading to his expulsion and destitution. She had been sent
from home, and bestowed in marriage to prevent his ruin, and should
she now ensure it? Her return to him or even her disappearance would
no doubt lead to high words from him, and then he would be cast out to
beggary in his old age. No, she could only save him by yielding herself
up, exonerating him from all knowledge of her strange marriage, far more
of the catastrophe, and let my Lady do her worst! She had, as she knew,
not been going on well lately, but she had confessed her faults, and
recovered her confidence that her Heavenly Father would guard her as
long as she resolutely did her duty. And her duty, as daughter and a
wife, if indeed she was one, was surely to return, where her heart was
drawing her. It might be very terrible, but still it was going nearer to
_him_, and it would save her father.

The door was still open; she wrote a few words of gratitude and
explanation to Dame Wheatfield, on a piece of a torn book, wrapped a
couple of guineas in it, and laid it in the basket, then kneeling again
to implore protection and safety, and if it might be, forgiveness and
reconciliation, she set forth. “Love is strong as death,” said Mary
Sedhurst’s tomb. She knew better what that meant than when her childish
eyes first fell upon it. A sense of Divine Love was wrapping her round
with a feeling of support and trust, while the human love drew her
onwards to confront all deadly possibilities in the hope of rejoining
her husband, or at least of averting misfortune from her father.



CHAPTER XXV. VANISHED.


    Where there is no place
      For the glow-worm to lie,
    Where there is no space
      For receipt of a fly,
    Where the midge dares not venture
      Lest herself fast she lay,
    If Love come, he will enter
      And find out the way.--OLD SONG.


Major Delavie and his eldest daughter were sitting down to supper in the
twilight, when a trampling of horses was heard in the lane a carriage
was seen at the gate, and up the pathway came a slender youthful figure,
in a scarlet coat, with an arm in a sling.

“It is!--yes, it is!” exclaimed Betty: “Sir Amyas himself!”

In spite of his lameness, the Major had opened the door before Palmer
could reach it; but his greeting and inquiry were cut short by the young
man’s breathless question: “Is she here?”

“Who?”

“My wife--my love. Your daughter, sweet Aurelia! Ah! it was my one
hope.”

“Come in, come in, sir,” entreated Betty, seeing how fearfully pale he
grew. “What has befallen you, and where is my sister?”

“Would that I knew! I trusted to have found her here; but now, sir, you
will come with me and find her!”

“I do not understand you, sir,” said the Major severely, “nor how you
are concerned in the matter. My daughter is the wife of your uncle, Mr.
Belamour, and if, as I fear, you bear the marks of a duel in consequence
of any levity towards her, I shall not find it easy to forgive.”

“On my word and honour it is no such thing,” said the youth, raising a
face full of frank innocence: “Your daughter is my wife, my most dear
and precious wife, with full consent and knowledge of my uncle. I was
married to her in his clothes, in the darkened room, our names being the
same!”

“Was this your promise?” Betty exclaimed.

“Miss Delavie, to the best of my ability I have kept my promise. Your
sister has never seen me, nor to her knowledge spoken with me.”

“These are riddles, young man,” said the Major sternly. “If all be not
well with my innocent child, I shall know how to demand an account.”

“Sir,” said the youth: “I swear to you that she is the same innocent
maiden as when she left you. Oh!” he added with a gesture of earnest
entreaty, “blame me as you will, only trace her.”

“Sit down, and let us hear,” said Betty kindly, pushing a chair towards
him and pouring out a glass of wine. He sank into the first, but waved
aside the second, becoming however so pale that the Major sprang to hold
the wine to his lips saying: “Drink, boy, I say!”

“Not unless you forgive me,” he replied in a hoarse, exhausted voice.

“Forgive! Of course, I forgive, if you have done no wrong by my child. I
see, I see, ‘tis not wilfully. You have been hurt in her defence.”

“Not exactly,” he said: “I have much to tell,” but the words came
slowly, and there was a dazed weariness about his eye that made Betty
say, in spite of her anxiety--“You cannot till you have eaten and
rested. If only one word to say where she is!”

“Oh! that I could! My hope was to find her here,” and he was choked by a
great strangling sob, which his youthful manhood sought to restrain.

Betty perceived that he was far from being recovered from the injury
he had suffered, and did her best to restrain her own and her father’s
anxiety till she had persuaded him to swallow some of the excellent
coffee which Nannerl always made at sight of a guest. To her father’s
questions meantime, he had answered that he had broken his arm ten days
ago, but he could not wait, he had posted down as soon as he could move.

“You ought to sleep before you tell us farther,” said the Major,
speaking from a strong sense of the duties of a host; but he was
relieved when the youth answered, “You are very good, sir, but I could
not sleep till you know all.”

“Speak, then,” said the Major, “I cannot look at your honest young
countenance and think you guilty of more than disobedient folly; but I
fear it may have cost my poor child very dear! Is it your mother that
you dread?”

“I would be thankful even to know her in my mother’s keeping!” he said.

“Is there no mistake?” said the Major; “my daughter, Mrs. Arden, saw her
at Brentford, safe and blooming.”

“Oh, that was before--before--” said Sir Amyas, “the day before she fled
from my mother at Bowstead, and has been seen no more.”

He put his hand over his face, and bowed it on the table in such
overpowering grief as checked the exclamations of horror and dismay and
the wrathful demands that were rising to the lips of his auditors,
and they only looked at one another in speechless sorrow. Presently
he recovered enough to say, “Have patience with me, and I will try
to explain all. My cousin, Miss Delavie, knows that I loved her sweet
sister from the moment I saw her, and that I hurried to London in the
hope of meeting her at my mother’s house. On the contrary, my mother,
finding it vain to deny all knowledge of her, led me to believe that she
was boarded at a young ladies’ school with my little sisters. I lived
on the vain hope of the holidays, and meantime every effort was made to
drive me into a marriage which my very soul abhorred, the contract
being absolutely made by the two ladies, the mothers, without my
participation, nay, against my protest. I was to be cajoled or else
persecuted into it--sold, in fact, that my mother’s debts might be paid
before her husband’s return! I knew my Uncle Belamour was my sole true
personal guardian, though he had never acted further than by affixing
his signature when needed. I ought to have gone long before to see him,
but as I now understand, obstacles had been purposely placed in my way,
while my neglectful reluctance was encouraged. It was in the forlorn
hope of finding in him a resource that took me to Bowstead at last, and
then it was that I learnt how far my mother could carry deception. There
I found my sisters, and learnt that my own sweetest life had been placed
there likewise. She was that afternoon visiting some old ladies, but my
uncle represented that my meeting her could only cause her trouble
and lead to her being removed. I was forced then to yield, having an
engagement in London that it would have been fatal to break, but I came
again at dark, and having sworn me to silence, he was forced to let
me take advantage of the darkness of his chamber to listen to her
enchanting voice. He promised to help me, as far as he had the power,
in resisting the hateful Aresfield engagement, and he obtained the
assistance of an old friend in making himself acquainted with the terms
of his guardianship, and likewise of a letter my father had left for
him. He has given me leave to show a part of it to you, sir,” he added,
“you will see that my father expressed a strong opinion that you were
wronged in the matter of the estates, and declared that he had hoped to
make some compensation by a contract between one of your daughters and
my brother who died. He charged my uncle if possible to endeavour to
bring about such a match between one of your children and myself. Thus,
you see, I was acting in the strictest obedience. You shall see the
letter at once, if I may bid my fellow Gray bring my pocket-book from my
valise.”

“I doubt not of your words, my young friend; your father was a gentleman
of a high and scrupulous honour. But why all this hide-and-seek work?--I
hate holes and corners!”

“You will see how we were driven, sir. My mother came in her turn to
see my uncle, and obtain his sanction to her cherished plan, and when he
absolutely refused, on account of Lady Aresfield’s notorious character,
if for no other, she made him understand that nothing would be easier
than to get him declared a lunatic and thus to dispense with his
consent. Then, finding how the sweet society of your dear daughter had
restored him to new life and spirit, she devised the notable expedient
of removing what she suspected to be the chief cause of my contumacy,
by marrying the poor child to him. He scouted the idea as a preposterous
and cruel sacrifice, but it presently appeared that Colonel Mar
was ready to find her a debauched old lieutenant who would gladly
marry--what do I say?--it profanes the word--but accept the young lady
for a couple of hundred pounds. Then did I implore my uncle to seem to
yield, and permit me to personate him at the ceremony. Our names being
the same, and all being done in private and in the dark, the whole
was quite possible, and it seemed the only means of saving her from a
terrible fate.”

“He might--or you might, have remembered that she had a father!” said
the Major.

“True. But you were at a distance, and my mother’s displeasure against
you was to be deprecated.”

“I had rather she had been offended fifty times than have had such
practices with my poor little girl!” said Major Delavie. “No wonder the
proposals struck me as strange and ambiguous. Whose writing was it?”

“Mine, at his dictation,” said the youth. “He was unwilling, but
my importunity was backed by my mother’s threats, conveyed through
Hargrave, that unless Aurelia became his wife she should be disposed of
otherwise, and that his sanity might be inquired into. Hargrave, who
is much attached to my uncle, and is in great awe of my Lady, was
thoroughly frightened, and implored him to secure himself and the young
lady by consenting, thinking, too, that anything that would rouse him
would be beneficial.”

“It is strange!” mused the Major. “A clear-headed punctilious man
like your uncle, to lend himself to a false marriage! His ten years of
melancholy must have changed him greatly!”

“Less than you suppose, sir; but you will remember that my mother is
esteemed as a terrible power by all concerned with her. Even when she
seemed to love me tenderly, I was made to know what it was to cross her
will, and alas! she always carries her point.”

“It did seem a mode of protection,” said Betty, more kindly.

“And” added the youth, “my uncle impressed on me from the first that
he only consented on condition the I treated this wedlock as betrothal
alone, never met my sweet love save in his dark room, and never revealed
myself to her. He said it was a mere expedient for guarding her until
I shall come of age, or Mr. Wayland comes home, when I shall woo her
openly, and if needful, repeat the ceremony with her full knowledge.
Meanwhile I wrote the whole to my stepfather, and am amazed that he has
never written nor come home.”

“That is the only rational thing I have heard,” said the Major.
“Though--did your uncle expect your young blood to keep the terms?”

“Indeed, sir, I was frightened enough the first evening that I ventured
on any advances, for they startled her enough to make her swoon away.
I carried her from her room, and my uncle dragged me back before the
colour came back to that lovely face so that the women might come to
her. That was the only time I ever saw her save through the chinks of
the shutters. Judge of the distraction I lived in!”

Betty looked shocked, but her father chuckled a little, though he
maintained his tone of censure “And may I inquire how often these
distracting interviews took place?”

“Cruelly seldom for one to whom they were life itself! Mar is, as you
know, colonel of my corps, and my liberty has been restrained as much
as possible; I believe I have been oftener on guard and on court-martial
than any officer of my standing in the service; but about once in a
fortnight I could contrive to ride down to a little wayside inn where I
kept a fresh horse, also a livery coat and hat. I tied up my horse in
a barn on the borders of the park, and put on a black vizard, so as
to pass for my uncle’s negro in the dark. I could get admittance to my
uncle’s rooms unknown to any servant save faithful Jumbo--who has been
the sole depository of our secret. However, since my mother’s return
from Bath, where the compact with Lady Aresfield was fully determined,
the persecution has been fiercer. I may have aroused suspicion by
failing to act my part when she triumphantly announced my uncle’s
marriage to me, or else by my unabated resistance to the little
termagant who is to be forced on me. At any rate, I have been so
intolerably watched whenever I was not on duty, that my hours of
bliss became rarer than ever. Well, sir, my uncle charges me with
indiscretion, and says my ardour aroused unreasonable suspicions. He
was constantly anxious, and would baulk me in my happiest and most
tantalising moments by making some excuse for breaking up the evening,
and then would drive me frantic by asking whether he was to keep up my
character for consistency in my absence. However, ten days since, the
twelfth of May, after three weeks’ unendurable detention in town on one
pretext or another, I escaped, and made my way to Bowstead at last. My
uncle told me that he had been obliged unwillingly to consent to our
precious charge going to meet her sister at Brentford, and that she was
but newly come home. Presently she entered, but scarcely had I accosted
her before a blaze broke out close to us. The flame caught the dry old
curtains, they flamed up like tinder, and as I leaped up on a table to
tear them down, it gave way with me, I got a blow on the head, and knew
no more. It seems that my uncle, as soon as the fire was out, finding
that my arm was broken, set out to send the groom for the doctor--he
being used to range the park at night. The stupid fellow, coming
home half tipsy from the village, saw his white hair and beard in the
moonlight, took him for a ghost, and ran off headlong. Thereupon my
uncle, with new energy in the time of need, saddled the horse, changed
his dressing-gown with the groom’s coat, and rode off to Brentford.
Then, finding that Dr. Hunter was not within, he actually went on to
London, where Dr. Sandys, who had attended him ever since his would,
forced him to go to bed, and to remain there till his own return. Thus
my darling had no one to protect her, when, an hour or so after the
accident, my mother suddenly appeared. Spies had been set on me by Mar,
and so soon as they had brought intelligence of my movements she had
hurried off from Ranelagh, in full dress, just as she was, to track and
surprise me. My uncle, having gone by the bridle path, had not met
her, and I was only beginning to return to my senses. I have a dim
recollection of hearing my mother threatening and accusing Aurelia, and
striving to interfere, but I was as one bound down, and all after that
is blank to me. When my understanding again became clear, I could only
learn that my mother had locked her into her own room, whence she had
escaped, and”--with a groan--“nothing has been heard of her since!”
 Again he dropped his head on his hand as one in utter dejection.

“Fled! What has been done to trace her?” cried the Major.

“Nothing could be done till my mother was gone and my uncle returned.
The delirium was on me, and whatever I tried to say turned to raving,
all the worse if I saw or heard my mother, till Dr. Sandys forbade
her coming near me. She was invited to the Queen’s Sunday card party
moreover, so she fortunately quitted Bowstead just before Mr. Belamour’s
return.”

“Poor gentleman, he could do nothing,” said Betty.

“Indeed I should have thought so, but it seems that he only needed
a shock to rouse him. His state had become hypochondriacal, and this
strong emotion has caused him to exert himself; and when he came into
the daylight, he found he could bear it. I could scarce believe my eyes
when, on awakening from a sleep, I found him by my bedside, promising
me that if I would only remain still, he would use every endeavour to
recover the dear one. He went first to Brentford, thinking she might
have joined her sister there, but Mr. and Mrs. Arden had left it at the
same time as she did. Then he travelled on to their Rectory at Rundell
Canonicorum, thinking she might have followed them, but they had only
just arrived, and had heard nothing of her; and he next sought her with
his friend the Canon of Windsor, but all in vain. Meantime my mother
had visited me, and denied all knowledge of her, only carrying away my
little sisters, I believe because she found them on either side of my
bed, telling me tales of their dear Cousin Aura’s kindness. When my
uncle returned to Bowstead I could bear inaction no longer, and profited
by my sick leave to travel down hither, trusting that she might have
found her way to her home, and longing to confess all and implore your
pardon, sir,--and, alas! Your aid in seeking her.”

With the large tears in his eyes, the youth rose from his chair as he
spoke, and knelt on one knee before the Major, who exclaimed, extremely
affected--“By all that is sacred, you have it, my dear boy. It is a
wretched affair, but you meant to act honourably throughout, and you
have suffered heavily. May God bless you both, and give us back my dear
child. My Lady must have been very hard with her, to make her thus fly,
all alone.”

“You do not know, I suppose, any cause for so timid a creature
preferring flight to a little restraint?”

“It seems,” said Sir Amyas sadly, “that something the dear girl said
gave colour to the charge of having caused the fire, and that my mother
in her first passion threatened her with the constable!”

“My poor Aurelia! that might well scare her,” cried Betty: “but how
could it be?”

“They say she spoke of using something her sister had given her to
discover what the mystery was that alarmed her.”

“Ah! that gunpowder trick of Mr. Arden’s--I always hated it!” exclaimed
Betty.

“Gunpowder indeed!” growled the old soldier. “Well, if ever there’s
mischief among the children, Harriet is always at the bottom of it. I
hope Mr. Belamour made her confess if she had a hand in it.”

“I believe he did,” said Sir Amyas.

“Just like her to set the match to the train and then run away,” said
the Major.

“Still, sir,” said Betty, her womanhood roused to defence, “though I am
angered and grieved enough that Harriet should have left Aurelia to face
the consequences of the act she instigated, I must confess that even by
Sir Amyas’s own showing, if he will allow me to say so, my sisters were
justified in wishing to understand the truth.”

“That is what my uncle tells me,” said the baronet. “He declares that
if I had attended to his stipulations, restrained my fervour, or kept my
distance, there would have been neither suspicion nor alarm. As if I had
not restrained myself!”

“Ay, I dare say,” said the Major, a little amused.

“Well, sir, what could a man do with most bewitching creature in the
world, his own wife, too, on the next chair to him?”

There was a simplicity about the stripling--for he was hardly
more--which forced them to forgive him; besides, they were touched by
his paleness and fatigue. His own man--a respectable elderly servant
whom the Major recollected waiting on Sir Jovian--came to beg that his
honour would sit up no longer, as he had been travelling since six in
the morning, and was quite worn out. Indeed, so it proved; for when the
Major and Betty not only promised to come with him on the search the
next day, but bade him a kind affectionate good-night, the poor lad,
all unused to kindness, fairly burst into tears, which all his dawning
manhood could not restrain.



CHAPTER XXVI. THE TRACES.


    Oh, if I were an eagle to soar into the sky,
    I’d gaze around with piercing eye when I my love might spy.


The second-best coach, which resided at Bowstead, the same which had
carried Aurelia off from Knightsbridge, had brought Sir Amyas Belamour
to Carminster--an effeminate proceeding of which he was rather ashamed,
though clearly he could not have ridden, and he had hoped to have
brought his bride back in it.

There was plenty of room in it to take back the Major, Betty, and even
Eugene, since he could not well have been left without his sister or
Palmer, who was indispensable to the Major. He was so enchanted at
“riding in a coach,” and going perhaps to see London, that he did not
trouble himself much about sister Aurelia being lost, and was in such
high spirits as to be best disposed of outside, between Palmer and Gray,
where he could at his ease contemplate the horses, generally four in
number, though at some stages only two could be procured, and then at an
extra steep hill a farmer’s horse from the hayfield would be hitched on
in front. Luckily there was no lack of money; Mr. Belamour and Hargrave
had taken care that Sir Amyas should be amply supplied, and thus the
journey was as rapid as posting could be in those days of insufficient
inns, worse roads, and necessary precautions against highwaymen.

The road was not the same as that which the young baronet had come down
by, as it was thought better to take the chance of meeting a different
stage waggon, Sir Amyas and his servant having, of course, examined the
one they had overtaken in coming down. At every possible resting place
on the route was inquiry made, but all in vain; no one had seen such a
young gentlewoman as was described, or if some answer inspired hope for
a moment, it was dashed again at once. The young gentlewoman once turned
out to be the Squire’s fat lady, and another time was actually pursued
into a troop of strolling players, attiring themselves in a barn, whence
she came with cheeks freshly rouged with blood taken from a cat’s tail.

The young baronet had meanwhile become very dear to the Major and his
daughter. He had inherited his mother’s indescribable attractiveness,
and he was so frank, so affectionate, so unspoilt, so grateful for the
little attentions demanded by his maimed condition, so considerate of
the Major, and so regardless of himself, and, above all, so passionately
devoted to his dearest life, as he called Aurelia, that it was
impossible not to take him into their hearts, and let him be, as he
entreated, a son and a brother.

The travellers decided on first repairing to Bowstead, thinking it
probable that the truant might have returned thither, or that Mr.
Belamour might have found her in some one of the cottages around. Hopes
began to rise, and Major Delavie scolded Sir Amyas in quite a paternal
manner whenever he began to despond, though the parts were reversed
whenever the young people’s expectations began to soar beyond his own
spirits at the moment.

“Is yonder Hargrave? No, it is almost like my father!” exclaimed Sir
Amyas, in amazement, as the coach lumbered slowly up the approach, and
a very remarkable figure was before them. The long white beard was gone,
the hair was brushed back, tied up, and the ends disposed of in a square
black silk bag, hanging down behind; and the dark grey coat, with collar
and deep cuffs of black velvet, was such as would be the ordinary wear
of an elderly man of good position; but the face, a fine aquiline one,
as to feature, was of perfectly absolute whiteness, scarcely relieved by
the thin pale lips, or the eyes, which, naturally of a light-grey, had
become almost as colourless as the rest of the face, and Betty felt a
shock as if she had seen a marble statue clothed and animated, bowing
and speaking.

The anxious inquiry and the mournful negative had been mutually
exchanged before the carriage door was opened, and all were standing
together in the avenue.

“I have, however, found a clue, or what may so prove,” said Mr.
Belamour, when the greetings had passed. “I have discovered how our
fugitive passed the early part of the Sunday;” and he related how he had
elicited from the Mistresses Treforth that they had seen her and driven
her away with contumely.

Sir Amyas and the Major were not sparing of interjections, and the
former hoped that his uncle had told them what they deserved.

“Thereby only incurring the more compassion,” said Mr. Belamour, dryly,
and going on to say that he had extended his inquires to Sedhurst, and
had heard of her visit to Dame Wheatfield; also, that the good woman,
going to seek her at the church, had found only the basket with the
guineas in the paper. She had regarded this merely as a wrapper,
and, being unable to read, had never noticed the writing, but she
had fortunately preserved it, and Mr. Belamour thus learnt Aurelia’s
intention of throwing herself on Lady Belamour’s mercy.

“My mother utterly denied all knowledge of her, when I cried out in
anguish when she came to see me!” said Sir Amyas.

“So she does to Hargrave, whom she sent off to interrogate Mrs. Arden,”
 said Mr. Belamour.

“Have you any reason to think the child could have reached my Lady?”
 inquired Betty, seeing that none of the gentlemen regarded my Lady’s
denials as making any difference to their belief, though not one of them
chose to say so.

“Merely negative evidence,” said Mr. Belamour. “I find that no one
in the house actually beheld the departure of my Lady on that Sunday
afternoon. The little girls had been found troublesome, and sent out
into the park with Molly, and my nephew was giving full employment to
Jumbo and Mrs. Aylward in my room. The groom, who was at the horses’
heads, once averred that he saw two women get into the carriage
besides her ladyship; but he is such a sodden confused fellow, and so
contradicts himself, that I can make nothing of him.”

“He would surely know his young mistress,” said Sir Amyas.

“Perhaps not in the camlet hood, which Dame Wheatfield says she wore.”

“Was good old Dove acting as coachman?” said Betty. “We should learn
something from him.”

“It was not her own coach,” said Mr. Belamour. “All the servants were
strangers, the liveries sanguine, and the panels painted with helmets
and trophies.”

“Mar’s,” said Sir Amyas, low and bitterly.

“I guessed as much,” said his uncle. “It was probably chosen on purpose,
if the child has friends in your own household.”

“Then I must demand her,” said the Major. “She cannot be denied to her
father.”

“At any rate we must go to town to-morrow,” said Mr. Belamour. “We have
done all we can here.”

“Let us send for horses and go on at once,” cried Sir Amyas.

“Not so fast, nephew. I see, by her face, that Miss Delavie does not
approve, though our side of the town is safer than Hounslow.”

“I was not thinking of highwaymen, sir, but we set forth at five this
morning, and Sir Amyas always becomes flushed and feverish if he is over
fatigued; nor is my father so strong as he was.”

“Ah, ha! young sir, in adopting Betty for a sister you find you have
adopted a quartermaster-general, eh?” said the Major; “but she is quite
right. We should not get to town before ten or eleven at night, and what
good would that do? No, no, let us sup and have a good night’s rest, and
we will drive into town long enough before fine ladies are astir in the
morning, whatever may be the fashionable hour nowadays.”

“Yes, nephew, you must content yourself with acting host to your father
and sister-in-law in your own house,” said his uncle.

“It seems to me more like yours, sir,” rejoined the youth; but at the
hall door, with all his native grace, he turned and gave his welcome,
kissing Betty on the cheek with the grave ceremony of the host, and
lamenting, poor fellow, that he stood alone without his bride to receive
them.

“Is that Jumbo?” asked Betty. “I must thank him for all his kind service
to my dear sister.”

Faithful Jumbo fairly wept when--infinite condescension for those
days--Major Delavie shook hands with him and thanked him.

“If pretty Missie Madam were but safe and well, Jumbo would wish no
more,” he sobbed out.

“Poor Jumbo,” said Mr. Belamour, “he has never been the same man since
pretty Missie Madam has been lost. I hear his violin mourning for her
till it is enough to break one’s heart!”

However Eugene created a diversion by curious inquiries whether Jumbo
would indeed play the fiddle of which he had heard from Archer and
Amoret, and he ran off most eagerly after the negro to be introduced to
the various curiosities of the place.

Mrs. Aylward attended Miss Delavie to her room, and showed herself much
softened. As a good, conscientious woman, she felt that she had acted
a selfish part towards the lonely maiden, and Betty’s confident belief
that she had been a kind friend was a keen reproach.

“Indeed, madam,” she said, “I would lief you could truly call me such,
but when young Miss came here first I took her for one of that flighty
sort that it is wise not to meddle with more than needful. I have
kept my place here these thirty years by never making or meddling, and
knowing nothing about what don’t concern me, and is out of my province.
Now, I wish I had let the poor young lady be more friendly with me, for
maybe I could have been of use to her in her need.

“You had no suspicion?”

“No, ma’am; though I find there were those who suspected some one
came up here disguised as Jumbo; but I was never one to lend an ear to
gossip, and by that time I trusted the dear young lady altogether, and
knew she would never knowingly do aught that was unbecoming her station,
or her religion.”

“I am glad the dear child won your good opinion,” said Betty.

“Indeed, ma’am, that you may say,” returned Mrs. Aylward, whom anxiety
had made confidential; “for I own I was prejudiced against her from the
first, as, if you’ll excuse me, ma’am, all we Bowstead people are apt
to be set against whatever comes from my Lady’s side. However, one must
have been made of the nether millstone not to feel the difference she
made in the house. She was the very life of it with her pretty ways,
singing and playing with the children, and rousing up the poor gentleman
too that had lived just like a mere heathen in a dungeon, and wouldn’t
so much as hear a godly word in his despair. And now he has a minister
once a fortnight to read prayers, and is quite another man--all through
that blessed young lady, who has brought him back to light and life.”
 And as Betty’s tears flowed at this testimony to her sister, the
housekeeper added, “Never you fear, ma’am; she is one of God’s innocents
and His Hand will be over her.”

Meantime, having dismissed the young lover to take, if he could, a
much needed night’s rest, the Major was listening to Mr. Belamour’s
confession. “I was the most to blame, in as much as an old fool is worse
than a young one; and I would that the penalty fell on me alone.”

“If she be in my cousin’s hands I cannot believe that she will permit
any harm to befall her,” said the good Major, still clinging to his
faith in Urania--the child he had taught to ride, and with whom he had
danced her first minuet.

“What I dread most is her being forced into some low marriage,” said Mr.
Belamour. “The poor child’s faith in the ceremony that passed must have
been overthrown, and who can tell what she may be induced to accept?”

“It was that threat which moved you?” said the Major.

“Yes. Hargrave assured me that my Lady had actually offered her to him,
with a bribe of a farm on easy terms; and when she found that he had
other intentions, there seemed to be some broken-down sycophant of Mar’s
upon the cards, but of course I was preferable, both because my fair
sister-in-law has some lingering respect for the honour of her own
blood, and because the bar between Aurelia and my nephew would be
perpetual. I knew likewise that it was my brother’s earnest desire that
a match should take place between your children and his.

“He did me too much honour. The lad showed me the extract from his
letter.”

“I could not give him the whole. It was fit for no eyes but mine, who
had so long neglected it, and barely understood that it existed. My poor
brother’s eyes were fully opened to his wife’s character, and even while
he loved her to distraction, and yielded to her fascinating mastery
against his better judgment, he left me the charge of trying in some
degree to repair the injustice he believed you to be suffering, and of
counteracting evil influences on her son.”

“That seems at least to have been done.”

“By no efforts of mine; but because the boy was happily permitted to
remain with the worthy tutor his father had chosen for him, and because
Wayland is an excellent man, wise and prudent in all things save in
being bewitched by a fair face. Would that he were returned! When I
first consented to act this fool’s part, I trusted that he would have
been at home soon enough to prevent more than the nominal engagement,
and when my Lady’s threats rendered it needful to secure the poor child
by giving her my name, I still expected him before my young gentleman
should utterly betray himself by his warmth.”

“He tells me that he has written.”

“True. On that I insisted, and I am the more uneasy, for there has been
ample time for a reply. It is only too likely, from what my nephew tells
me of his venturesome explorations, that he may have fallen into the
hands of the Moorish corsairs! Hargrave says it is rumoured; but my Lady
will not be checked in her career of pleasure, and if she is fearful of
his return, she may precipitate matters with the poor girl!”

“Come, come, sir, I cannot have you give way to despondency. You
did your best, and if it did not succeed, it was owing to my foolish
daughter Arden. Why, if she was not satisfied about her sister, could
she not have come here, and demanded an explanation? That would have
been the straightforward way!”

“Would that she had! Or would that I had sooner discovered my own entire
recovery, which I owe in very truth to the sweet being who has brought
new life alike of body and mind to me, and who must think I have
requited her so cruelly.”



CHAPTER XXVII. CYTHEREA’S BOWER.


    There Citherea, goddesse was and quene,
    Honourid highly for her majeste,
    And eke her sonne, the mighty god I weene,
    Cupid the blinde, that for his dignite
    A M lovers worshipp on ther kne.
    There was I bid on pain of dethe to pere,
    By Mercury, the winged messengre.--CHAUCER.


By twelve o’clock on the ensuing day Mr. Belamour, with Eugene and
Jumbo, was set down at a hotel near Whitehall, to secure apartments,
while the Major went on to demand his daughter from Lady Belamour,
taking with him Betty, whom he allowed to be a much better match for my
Lady than he could be. Very little faith in his cousin Urania remained
to him in the abstract, yet even now he could not be sure that she would
not talk him over and hoodwink him in any actual encounter. Sir Amyas
likewise accompanied him, both to gratify his own anxiety and to secure
admission. The young man still looked pale and worn with restless
anxiety; but he had, in spite of remonstrances, that morning discarded
his sling, saying that he should return to his quarters. Let his Colonel
do his worst then; he had still more liberty than if compelled to return
to his mother’s house.

Lady Belamour had, on her second marriage, forsaken her own old
hereditary mansion in the Strand, where Sir Jovian had died, and which,
she said, gave her the vapours. Mr. Wayland, whose wealth far exceeded
her own, had purchased one of the new houses in Hanover Square, the
fashionable quarter and very much admired; but the Major regretted the
gloomy dignity of the separate enclosure and walled court of Delavie
House, whereas the new one, in modern fashion, had only an area and
steps between the front and the pavement.

The hall door stood wide open, with a stately porter within, and lackeys
planted about at intervals. Grey descended from the box, and after some
inquiry, brought word that “her Ladyship was at breakfast,” then, at a
sign from his master, opened the carriage door. Sir Amyas, taking
Betty by the tips of her fingers, led her forward, receiving by the way
greetings and inquiries from the servants, whose countenances showed him
to be a welcome arrival.

“Is it a reception day, Maine?” he asked of a kind of major-domo whom he
met on the top of the broad stairs.

“No, your honour.”

“Is company with her ladyship?”

“No, not company, sir,” with a certain hesitation, which damped Betty’s
satisfaction in the first assurance.

What did she see as Maine opened the door? It was a very spacious
bedroom, the bed in an alcove hung with rose-coloured satin embroidered
with myrtles and white roses, looped up with lace and muslin. Like
draperies hung round the window, fluted silk lined the room, and
beautiful japanned and inlaid cabinets and _etageres_ adorned the walls,
bearing all varieties and devices of new and old porcelain from Chins,
Sevres, Dresden, or Worcester, tokens of Mr. Wayland’s travels. There
was a toilette table before one window covered with lacquer ware, silver
and ivory boxes, and other apparatus, and an exquisite Venetian mirror
with the borders of frosted silver work.

Not far off, but sideways to it, sat Lady Belamour in a loose sacque
of some rich striped silk, in crimson and blue stripes shot with gold
threads. Slippers, embroidered with gold, showed off her dainty feet,
and a French hairdresser stood behind her chair putting the finishing
touches to the imposing fabric of powder, flower, and feather upon her
head. A little hand-mirror, framed in carved ivory inlaid with coral,
and a fan, lay on a tiny spindle-legged table close in front of her,
together with a buff-coloured cup of chocolate. At a somewhat larger
table Mrs. Loveday, her woman, was dispensing the chocolate, whilst a
little negro boy, in a fantastic Oriental costume, waited to carry the
cups about.

On a sofa near at hand, in an easy attitude, reclined Colonel Mar,
holding out to Lady Belamour a snuff-box of tortoiseshell and gold,
and a lady sat near on one of the tall black-and-gold chairs drinking
chocolate, while all were giving their opinions on the laces, feathers,
ribbons, and trinkets which another Frenchman was displaying from a
basket-box placed on the floor, trying to keep aloof a little Maltese
lion-dog, which had been roused from its cushion, and had come to
inspect his wares. A little further off, Archer, in a blue velvet coat,
white satin waistcoat, and breeches and silk stockings, and Amoret,
white-frocked, blue-sashed, and bare-headed (an innovation of fashion),
were admiring the nodding mandarins, grinning nondescript monsters,
and green lions of extraordinary form which an emissary from a
curiosity-shop was unpacking. Near the door, in an attitude weary
yet obsequious, stood, paper in hand, a dejected figure in shabby
plum-colour--_i.e._ a poor author--waiting in hopes that his sonnet in
praise of Cytherea’s triumphant charms would win his the guinea he so
sorely needed, as


            To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
              And heap the shrine of luxury and pride
            With incense kindled at the Muses’ flame.


The scene was completed by a blue and yellow macaw at one window chained
to his perch, and a green monkey tethered in like manner at the other.

Of course Elizabeth Delavie did not perceive all these details at once.
Her first sensation was the shock to the decorum of a modest English
lady at intruding into a bed-room; but her foreign recollections coming
to her aid, she accepted the fashion with one momentary feminine review
of her own appearance, and relief that she had changed her travelling
gear for her Sunday silks, and made her father put on his full uniform.
All this passed while Sir Amyas was leading her into the room, steering
her carefully out of the monkey’s reach. Then he went a step or two
forward and bent before his mother, almost touching the ground with one
knee, as he kissed her hand, and rising, acknowledged the lady with a
circular sweep of his hat, and his Colonel with a military salute, all
rapidly, but with perfect ease and gracefulness. “Ah! my truant, my
runaway invalid!” said Lady Belamour, “you are come to surrender.”

“I am come,” he said gravely, holding out his stronger hand to his
little brother and sister, who sprang to him, “to bring my father-and
sister-in-law, Major and Miss Delavie.”

“Ah! my good cousin, my excellent Mrs. Betty, excuse me that my tyrant
_friseur_ prevents my rising to welcome you. It is so good and friendly
in you to come in this informal way to cheer me under this terrible
anxiety. Let me present you to my kind friend, the Countess of
Aresfield, who has been so good as to come in to-day to sustain
my spirits. Colonel Mar you know already. Pray be seated.
Amyas--Archer--chairs. Let Syphax give you a cup of chocolate.”

“Madam,” said the Major, disregarding all this and standing as if on
parade, “can I see you alone? My business is urgent.”

“No evil news, I trust! I have undergone such frightful shocks of late,
my constitution is well nigh ruined.”

“It is I that have to ask news of you madam.”

She saw that, if she trifled with him, something would break out that
she would not wish to have said publicly. “My time is so little my own,”
 she said, “I am under command to be at the Palace by two o’clock, but in
a few minutes I shall be able to dismiss my tormentor, and then, till
my woman comes to dress me, I shall be at your service. Sit down, I
entreat, and take some chocolate. I know Mrs. Betty is an excellent
housekeeper, and I want her opinion. My dear Lady Aresfield, suffer me
to introduce my estimable cousin, Mrs. Betty Delavie.”

The Countess looking in her feathers and powder like a beetroot in white
sauce, favoured Betty with a broad stare. Vulgarity was very vulgar in
those days, especially when it had purchased rank, and thought manners
might be dispensed with. Betty sat down, and Amoret climbed on her lap,
while a diversion was made by Archer’s imperious entreaty that his mamma
would purchase a mandarin who not only nodded, but waved his hands and
protruded his tongue.

Then ensued what seemed, to the sickening suspense of the two Delavies,
a senseless Babel of tongues on all sides; but it ended in the _friseur_
putting up his implements, the trades-folk leaving the selected goods
unpaid for, and the poor poet bowing himself within reach of the monkey,
who made a clutch at his MS., chattered over it, and tore it into
fragments. There was a peal of mirth--loudest from Lady Aresfield--but
Sir Amyas sprang forward with gentlemanly regrets, apologies, and
excuses, finally opening the door and following the poor man out of the
room to administer the guinea from his own pocket, while Colonel Mar
exclaimed, “Here, Archer, boy, run after him with this. The poor devil
has won it by producing a smile from those divine lips--such as his
jungle might never have done---”

“Fie! fie! Mar,” said the Lady, shaking her fan at him, “the child will
repeat it to him.”

“The better sport if he do,” said Colonel Mar, carelessly; “he may term
himself a very Orpheus charming the beasts, so that they snatch his
poems from him!”

Then, as Sir Amyas returned, Lady Belamour entreated her dear Countess
to allow him to conduct her to the withdrawing room, and there endeavour
to entertain her. The Colonel could not but follow, and the Major and
Betty found themselves at length alone with her Ladyship.

“I trust you have come to relieve my mind as to our poor runaway,” she
began.

“Would to Heaven I could!” said the Major.

“Good Heavens! Then she has never reached you!”

“Certainly not.

“Nor her sister? Oh, surely she is with her sister!”

“No, madam, her sisters knows nothing of her. Cousin, you have children
of your own! I entreat of you to tell me what you have done with her.”

“How should I have done anything with her? I who have been feeding all
this time on the assurance that she had returned to you.”

“How could a child like her do so?”

“We know she had money,” said Lady Belamour.

“And we know,” said Betty, fixing her eyes on the lady, “that though she
escaped, on the first alarm, as far as Sedhurst, and was there seen,
she had decided on returning to Bowstead and giving herself up to you
Ladyship.”

“Indeed? At what time was that?” exclaimed my Lady.

“Some time in the afternoon of Sunday!”

“Ah! then I must have left Bowstead. I was pledged to her Majesty’s
card-table, and royal commands cannot be disregarded, so I had to
go away in grievous anxiety for my poor boy. She meant to return to
Bowstead, did she? Ah. Does not an idea strike you that old Amyas
Belamour may know more than he confesses! He has been playing a double
game throughout.”

“He is as anxious to find the dear girl as we are madam.”

“So he may seem to you and to my poor infatuated boy, but you see those
crazed persons are full of strange devices and secrets, as indeed we
have already experienced. I see what you would say; he may appear sane
and plausible enough to a stranger, but to those who have known him
ever since his misfortunes, the truth is but too plain. He was harmless
enough as long as he was content to remain secluded in his dark chamber,
but now that I hear he has broken loose, Heaven knows what mischief he
may do. My dear cousin Delavie, you are the prop left to me in these
troubles, with my poor good man in the hands of those cruel pirates,
who may be making him work in chains for all I know,” and the tears came
into her beautiful eyes.

“They will not do that,” said Major Delavie, eager to reassure her; “I
have heard enough of their tricks to know that they keep such game as he
most carefully till they can get a ransom.”

“Your are sure of that!”

“Perfectly. I met an Italian fellow at Vienna who told me how it was all
managed by the Genoese bankers.”

“Ah! I was just thinking that you would be the only person who could be
of use--you who know foreign languages and all their ways. If you could
go abroad, and arrange it for me!”

“If my daughter were restored---” began the Major.

“I see what you would say, and I am convinced that the first step
towards the discovery would be to put Mr. Belamour under restraint, and
separate his black from him. Then one or other of them would speak, and
we might know how she has been played upon.”

“What does your Ladyship suppose then?” asked the Major.

“This is what I imagine. The poor silly maid repents herself and comes
back in search of me. Would that she had found me, her best friend! But
instead of that, she falls in with old Belamour, and he, having by this
time perceived the danger of the perilous masquerade in which he had
involved my unlucky boy, a minor, has mewed her up somewhere, till the
cry should be over.”

“That would be the part of a villain, but scarcely of a madman,” said
Betty dryly.

“My dear cousin Betty, there are lunatics endowed with a marvellous
shrewdness to commit senseless villanies, and to put on a specious
seeming. Depend upon it, my unfortunate brother-in-law’s wanderings at
night were not solely spent in communings with the trees and brooks. Who
knows what might be discovered if he were under proper restraint? And it
is to you, the only relation I have, that I must turn for assistance in
my most unhappy circumstances,” she added, wit a glance so full of sweet
helplessness that no man could withstand it. “I am so glad you are here.
You will be acting for me as well as for yourself in endeavouring to
find your poor lovely child, and the first thing I would have done would
be to separate Belamour and his black, put them under restraint, and
interrogate them separately. You could easily get an order from a
magistrate. But ah, here comes my woman. No more now. You will come to
me this evening, and we can talk further on this matter. I shall have
some company, and it will not be a regular rout, only a few card-tables,
and a little dancing for the young people.”

“Your ladyship must excuse me,” said Betty, “I have no dress to appear
in, even if I had spirits for the company.”

“Ah! my dear cousin, how do you think it is with my spirits? Yet I think
it my duty not to allow myself to be moped, but to exert myself for the
interest of my son. While as to dress, my woman can direct you to the
milliner who would equip you in the last mode. What, still obstinate?
Nay, then, Harry, I can take no excuse from you, and I may have been
able to collect some intelligence from the servants.”

Nothing remained but to take leave and walk home, the Major observing--

“Well, what think you of that, Betty?”

“Think, sir?--I think it is not for my lady to talk of villains.”

“She is in absolute error respecting Belamour; but then she has not seen
him since his recovery. Women are prone to those fancies, and in her
unprotected state, poor thing, no wonder she takes alarms.”

“I should have thought her rather over-protected.”

“Now, Betty, you need not take a leaf out of Mrs. Duckworth’s book, and
begin to be censorious. You saw how relieved she was to have me, her own
blood relation, to turn to, instead of that empty braggart of a fellow.
Besides, a man does not bring his step-mother when there’s anything
amiss.”

There was something in this argument, and Betty held her peace, knowing
that to censure my Lady only incited her father to defend her.

For her own part her consternation was great, and she walked on in
silence, only speaking again to acquiesce in her father’s observation
that they must say nothing to Mr. Belamour of my Lady’s plans for his
seclusion.

They found Mr. Belamour in the square parlour of the Royal York, having
sent Eugene out for a walk with Jumbo. The boy’s return in the most
eager state of excitement at the shops, the horses, sedans, and other
wonders, did something, together with dinner, to wile away the weary
time till, about three hours after the Major and his daughter had
returned, they were joined by the young baronet, who came running up the
stairs with a good deal more impetuosity than he would have permitted
himself at home.

“At last I have escaped,” he said. “I fear you have waited long for me?”

“I have been hoping you had discovered some indications,” said the
Major.

“Alas, no! I should imagine my Lady as ignorant as we are, save for one
thing.”

“And that was---?”

“The pains that were taken to prevent my speaking with any of the
servants. I was forced to attend on that harridan, Lady Aresfield, till
my mother sent for me; and then she made Mar absolutely watch me off the
premises. Then I had to go and report myself at head-quarters, and see
the surgeon, so that there may be no colour of irregularity for the
Colonel to take advantage of.”

“Right, right!” said the Major; “do not let him get a handle
against you, though I should not call you fit for duty yet, even for
holiday-work like yours.”

“You still suspect that your mother knows where our Aurelia is?” said
Betty. “When I think of her demeanour, I can hardly believe it! But did
you hear nothing of your little sisters?”

“I did not ask. In truth I was confounded by a proposal that was made to
me. If I will immediately marry my mother’s darling, Lady Belle, I may
have leave of absence from her and my regiment, both at once, and go to
meet Mr. Wayland if I like, or at any rate make the grand tour, while
they try to break in my charming bride for me. Of course I said that,
being a married man, nothing should induce me to break the law, nor to
put any lady in such a position; and equally, of course, I was shown a
lawyer’s opinion that the transaction was invalid.”

“As I always believed,” said his uncle. “The ceremony must be repeated
when we find her: though even if you were willing, the other parties are
very ill-advised to press for a marriage without judgment first being
delivered, how far the present is binding. So she wants to send you off
on your travels, does she?”

“She wishes me to go and arrange for her husband’s ransom,” said the
Major. “I would be ready enough were my child only found, but I believe
government would take it up, he being on his Majesty’s service.”

“It is a mere device for disposing of you--yes, and of my nephew too,”
 said Mr. Belamour. “As for me, we know already her kind plans for
putting me out of reach of interference. I see, she communicated them
to you. Did she ask your cooperation, Major? Ah! certainly, an ingenious
plan for disuniting us. I am the more convinced that she is well aware
of where the poor child is, and that she wishes to be speedy in her
measures.”

There is no need to describe the half-frantic vehemence of the young
lover, nor the way in which the father and sister tried to moderate his
transports, though no less wretched themselves.



CHAPTER XXVIII. THE ROUT.


    Great troups of people travelled thitherward
    Both day and night, of each degree and place.--SPENSER.


Much against their will, Major Delavie and his _soi-disant_ son-in-law
set forth for Lady Belamour’s entertainment, thinking no opportunity of
collecting intelligence was to be despised; while she probably wished to
obviate all reports of a misunderstanding as well as to keep them under
her own eye.

The reception rooms were less adorned than the lady’s private apartment.
There were pictures on the walls, and long ranks of chairs ranged round,
and card-tables were set out in order. The ladies sat in rows, and the
gentlemen stood in knots and talked, all in full dress, resplendent
figures in brilliant velvet, gold lace, and embroidery, with swords by
their sides, cocked hats, edged with gold or silver lace, under their
arms, and gemmed shoe buckles. The order of creation was not yet
reversed; the male creature was quite as gorgeous in colour and ornament
as the female, who sat in her brocade, powder and patches, fan in hand,
to receive the homage of his snuff-box.

Sir Amyas went the round, giving and returning greetings, which were
bestowed on him with an ardour sufficient to prove that he was a general
favourite. His mother, exquisitely dressed in a rich rose-coloured
velvet train, over a creamy satin petticoat, both exquisitely
embroidered, sailed up with a cordial greeting to her good cousin, and
wanted to set him down to loo or ombre; but the veteran knew too well
what the play in her house was, and saw, moreover, Lady Aresfield
sitting like a harpy before the green baize field of her spoils. While
he was refusing, Sir Amyas returned to him, saying, “Sir, here is a
gentleman whom I think you must have known in Flanders;” and the Major
found himself shaking hands with an old comrade. Save for his heavy
heart, he would been extremely happy in the ensuing conversation.

In the meantime Lady Belamour, turning towards a stout, clumsy, short
girl, her intensely red cheeks and huge black eyes staring out of her
powder, while the extreme costliness of her crimson satin dress, and
profusion of her rubies were ridiculous on the unformed person of a
creature scarcely fifteen. If she had been any one else she would have
been a hideous spectacle in the eyes of the exquisitely tasteful Lady
Belamour, who, detecting the expression in her son’s eye, whispered
behind her fan, “We will soon set all that right;” then aloud, “My son
cannot recover from his surprise. He did not imagine that we could steal
you for an evening from Queen’s Square to procure him this delight.”
 Then as Sir Amyas bowed, “The Yellow Room is cleared for dancing. Lady
Belle will favour you, Amyas.”

“You must excuse me, madam,” he said; “I have not yet the free use of my
arm, and could not acquit myself properly in a minuet.”

“I hate minuets,” returned Lady Belle; “the very notion gives me the
spleen.”

“Ah, pretty heretic!” said my Lady, making a playful gesture with her
fan at the peony-coloured cheek. “I meant this wounded knight to have
converted you, but he must amuse you otherwise. What, my Lord I thought
you knew I never meant to dance again. Cannot you open the dance without
me? I, who have no spirits!”

The rest was lost as she sailed away on the arm of a gentleman in a
turquoise-coloured coat, and waistcoat embroidered with gillyflowers;
leaving the Lady Arabella on the hands of her son, who, neither as host
nor gentleman, could escape, until the young lady had found some other
companion. He stiffly and wearily addressed to her the inquiry how she
liked London.

“I should like it monstrously if I were not moped up in school,” she
answered. “So you have come back. How did you hurt your arm?” she said,
in the most provincial of dialects.

“In the fire, madam.”

“What? In snatching your innamorata from the flames?”

“Not precisely,” he said.

“Come, now, tell me; did she set the room a-fire?” demanded the young
lady. “Oh, you need not think to deceive me. My brother Mar’s coachman
told my mamma’s woman all about it, and how she was locked up and ran
away; but they have her fast enough now, after all her tricks!”

“Who have? For pity’s sake tell me, Lady Belle!”

Loving to tease, she exclaimed: “There, now, what a work to make about a
white-faced little rustic!”

“Your ladyship has not seen her.”

“Have I not, though? I don’t admire your taste.”

“Is she in Queen’s Square?”

“Do not you wish me to tell you where you can find your old faded doll,
with a waist just like a wasp, and an old blue sacque--not a bit of
powder in her hair?”

“Lady Belle, if you would have me for ever beholden to you---”

“The cap fits,” she cried, clapping her hands. “Not a word to say for
her! I would not have such a beau for the world.”

“When I have found her it will be time to defend her beauty! If your
ladyship would only tell me where she is, you know not what gratitude I
should feel!”

“I dare say, but that’s my secret. My mamma and yours would be ready to
kill me with rage if they knew I had let out even so much.”

“They would forgive you. Come, Lady Belle, think of her brave old
father, and give some clue to finding her. Where is she?”

“Ah! where you will never get at her!”

“Is she at Queen’s Square?”

“What would you do if you thought she was? Get a constable and come and
search? Oh, what a rage Madam would be in! Goodness me, what sport!”
 and she fell back in a violent giggling fit; but the two matrons were so
delighted to see the young people talking to one another, that there
was no attempt to repress her. Sir Amyas made another attempt to elicit
whether Aurelia were really at the school in Queen’s Square, but Lady
Arabella still refused to answer directly. Then he tried the expedient
of declaring that she was only trying to tease him, and had not really
seen the lady. He pretended not to believe her, but when she insisted,
“Hair just the colour of Lady Belamour’s,” his incredulity vanished; but
on his next entreaty, she put on a sly look imitated from the evil
world in which she lived, and declared she should not encourage naughty
doings. The youth, who though four years older, was by far the more
simple and innocent of the two, replied with great gravity, “It is the
Lady Belamour, my own wife, that I am seeking.”

“That’s just the nonsense she talks!”

“For Heaven’s sake, what did she say?”

But Belle was tired of her game, and threw herself boisterously on a
young lady who had the “sweetest enamel necklace in the world,” and
whose ornaments she began to handle and admire in true spoilt-child
fashion.

Sir Amyas then betook himself to the Major, who saw at once by his
eye and step that something was gained. They took leave together, Lady
Belamour making a hurried lamentation that she had seen so little of her
dear cousin, but accepting her son’s excuse that he must return to his
quarters; and they walked away together escorted by Palmer and Grey, as
well as by two link-boys, summer night though it was.

Sir Amyas repaired first to the hotel, where Mr. Belamour and Betty were
still sitting, for even the fashionable world kept comparatively early
hours, and it was not yet eleven o’clock. The parlor where they sat was
nearly dark, one candle out and the other shaded so as to produce the
dimness which Mr. Belamour still preferred, and they were sitting on
either side of the open window, Betty listening to her companion’s
reminiscences of the evenings enlivened by poor Aurelia, and of the
many traits of her goodness, sweet temper, and intelligence which he had
stored up in his mind. He had, he said, already learned through her to
know Miss Delavie, and he declared that the voices of the sisters were
so much alike that he could have believed himself at Bowstead with the
gentle visitor who had brought him new life.

The tidings of Lady Arabella’s secret were eagerly listened to, and the
token of the mouse-coloured hair was accepted; Sir Amyas comparing, to
every one’s satisfaction, a certain lock that he bore on a chain next
his heart, and a little knot, surrounded with diamonds, in a ring, which
he had been still wearing from force of habit, though he declared he
should never endure to do so again.

It was evident that Lady Belle had really seen Aurelia; and where could
that have been save at the famous boarding-school in Queen’s Square,
where the daughters of “the great” were trained in the accomplishments
of the day? The Major, with rising hopes, declared that he had always
maintained that his cousin meant no ill by his daughter, and though it
had been cruel, not to say worse, in her, to deny all knowledge of the
fugitive, yet women would have their strange ways.

“That is very hard on us women, sir,” said Betty.

“Ah! my dear, poor Urania never had such a mother as you, and she has
lived in the great world besides, and that’s a bad school. You will not
take our Aurelia much into it, my dear boy,” he added, turning wistfully
to Sir Amyas.

“I would not let a breath blow on her that could touch the bloom of her
charming frank innocence,” cried the lad. “But think you she can be in
health? Lady Belle spoke of her being pale!”

“Look at my young lady herself!” said the Major, which made them all
laugh. They were full of hope. The Major and his daughter would go
themselves the next day, and a father’s claim could not be refused even
though not enforced according to Lady Arabella’s desire.

Their coach--for so Sir Amyas insisted on their going--was at the door
at the earliest possible moment that a school for young ladies could be
supposed to be astir; long before Mr. Belamour was up, for he retained
his old habits so much that it was only on great occasions the he rose
before noon; and while Eugene, under the care of Jumbo and Grey, was
going off in great felicity to see the morning parade in St. James’s
Park.

One of the expedients of well-born Huguenot refugees had been tuition,
and Madame d’Elmar had made here boarding-school so popular and
fashionable that a second generation still maintained its fame, and
damsels of the highest rank were sent there to learn French, to play the
spinnet, to embroider, to dance, and to get into a carriage with grace.
It was only countrified misses, bred by old-fashioned scholars,
who attempted to go any farther, such as that _lusus naturae_, Miss
Elizabeth Carter, who knew seven languages, or the Bishop of Oxford’s
niece, Catherine Talbot, who even painted natural flowers and wrote
meditations! The education Aurelia Delavie had received over her Homer
and Racine would be smiled at as quite superfluous.

There was no difficulty about admission. The coach with its Belamour
trappings was a warrant of admittance. The father and daughter were
shown into a parlour with a print of Marshal Schomberg over the
mantelpiece, and wonderful performances in tapestry work and embroidery
on every available chair, as well as framed upon the wainscoted walls.

A little lady, more French than English, moving like a perfectly wound
up piece of mechanism, all but her bright little eyes, appeared at their
request to see Madame. It had been agreed before-hand that the Major
should betray neither doubt nor difficulty, but simply say that he had
come up from the country and wished to see his daughter.

Madame, in perfectly good English, excused herself, but begged to hear
the name again.

There must be some error, no young lady of the name of Delavie was
there.

They looked at one another, then Betty asked, “Has not a young lady been
placed here by Lady Belamour?”

“No, madam, Lady Belamour once requested me to receive her twin
daughters, but they were mere infants; I receive none under twelve year
old.”

“My good lady,” cried the Major, “if you are denying my daughter to me,
pray consider what you are doing. I am her own father, and whatever Lady
Belamour may tell you, I can enforce my claim.”

“I am not in the habit of having my word doubted, sir,” and the little
lady drew herself up like a true Gascon baroness, as she was.

“Madam, forgive me, I am in terrible perplexity and distress. My poor
child, who was under Lady Belamour’s charge, has been lost to us these
three weeks or more, and we have been told that she has been seen here.”

“Thus,” said Betty, seeing that the lady still needed to be appeased,
“we thought Lady Belamour might have deceived you as well as others.”

“May I ask who said the young lady had been seen here?” asked the
mistress coldly.

“It was Lady Arabella Mar,” said Betty, “and, justly speaking, I believe
she did not say it was here that my poor sister was seen, but that she
had seen her, and we drew the conclusion that it was here.”

“My Lady Arabella Mar is too often taken out by my Lady Countess,” said
Madame d’Elmar.

“Could I see her? Perhaps she would tell me where she saw my dear
sister?” said Betty.

“She went to a rout last evening and has not returned,” was the reply.
“Indeed my lady, her mother, spoke as if she might never come back, her
marriage being on the _tapis_. Indeed, sir, indeed, madam, I should
most gladly assist you,” she said as a gesture of bitter grief and
disappointment passed between father and daughter, both of whom were
evidently persons of condition. “If it will be any satisfaction to the
lady to see all my pupils, I will conduct her through my establishment.”

Betty caught at this, though there was no doubt that the mistress was
speaking in good faith. She was led to a large empty room, where a
dozen young ladies were drawn up awaiting the dancing master--girls
from fourteen to seventeen, the elder ones in mob caps, those with more
pretensions to fashion, with loose hair. Their twelve curtsies were
made, their twenty-four eyes peeped more or less through their lashes at
the visitor, but no such soft brown eyes as Aurelia’s were among them.

“Madame,” said Betty, “may I be permitted to ask the ladies a question?”
 She spoke it low, and in French, and her excellent accent won Madame’s
heart at once. Only Madame trusted to Mademoiselle’s discretion not to
put mysteries into their minds, or they would be all _tete montee_.

So, as discretely as the occasion would permit, Betty asked whether any
one had seen or heard Lady Belle speak of having seen any one--a young
lady?

Half-a-dozen tongues broke out, “We thought it all Lady Belle’s
whimsical secrets,” and as many stories were beginning, but Madame’s
awful little hand waved silence, as she said, “Speak then, Miss
Staunton.”

“I know none of Lady Belle’s secrets, ma’am--ask Miss Howard.”

Miss Howard looked sulky; and a little eager, black-eyed thing cried,
“She said it was an odious girl whom Lady Belamour keeps shut up in a
great dungeon of an old house, and is going to send beyond seas, because
she married two men at once in disguise.”

“Fie, Miss Crawford, you know nothing about it.”

“You told me so, yourself, Miss Howard.”

“I never said anything so foolish.”

“Hush, young ladies,” said Madame. “Miss Howard, if you know anything, I
request you to speak.”

“It would be a great kindness,” said Betty. “Might I ask the favour of
seeing Miss Howard in private?”

Madame consented, and Miss Howard followed Betty out of hearing,
muttering that Belle would fly at her for betraying her.

“I do not like asking you to betray your friend’s confidence,” said
Betty.

“Oh, as to that, I’m not her friend, and I believe she has talked to a
half-a-dozen more.”

“I am this poor young lady’s sister,” said Betty. “We are afraid she
has fallen into unkind hands; and I should be very thankful if you could
help me to find her. Where do you think Lady Belle saw her?”

“I thought it was in some old house in Hertfordshire,” said Miss Howard,
more readily, “but I am not sure; for it was last Sunday, which she
spent with her mamma. She came back and made it a great secret that
she had seen the girl that had taken in Sir Amyas Belamour, who was
contracted to herself, to marry him and his uncle both at once in
disguise, and then had set the house a-fire. Belle had got some one to
let her see the girl, and then she went on about her being not pretty.”

“What did she say about sending her beyond seas?”

“Oh! that Miss Crawford made up. She told me that they were going to
find a husband for her such as a low creature like that deserved. And
she protests she is to be married to Sir Amyas very soon, and come back
here while he makes the grand tour. I hope she won’t. She will have more
spiteful ways than ever.”

This was all that Betty could extract. She saw Miss Crawford alone, but
her tiding melted into the vaguest second-hand hearsay. The inquiry had
only produced a fresh anxiety.



CHAPTER XXIX. A BLACK BLONDEL.


    And to the castle gate approached in quiet wise,
    Whereat soft knocking, entrance he desired.
                                          SPENSER.


“Nephew, is Delavie House inhabited?” inquired Mr. Belamour, as the
baffled seekers sat together that evening.

“No, sir,” replied Sir Amyas. “My Lady will only lease it to persons of
quality, on such high terms that she cannot obtain them for a house in
so antiquated a neighbourhood. Oh, you do not think it possible that my
dearest life can be in captivity so near us! An old house! On my soul,
so it must be; I will go thither instantly.”

“And be taken for a Mohock! No, no, sit down, rash youth, and tell me
who keeps the house.”

“One Madge, an old woman as sour as vinegar, who snarled at me like a
toothless cur when I once went there to find an old fowling-piece of my
father’s.”

“Then you ar the last person who should show yourself there, since there
are sure to be strict charges against admitting you, and you would only
put the garrison on the alert. You had better let the reconnoitring
party consist of Jumbo and myself.”

The ensuing day was Sunday. Something was said of St. Paul’s, then in
bloom of youth and the wonder of England; but Betty declared that she
could not run about to see fine churches till her mind was at ease about
her poor sister. Might she only go to the nearest and quietest church?
So she, with her father and Eugene, repaired to St. Clement Danes, where
their landlord possessed a solid oak pew, and they heard a sermon on the
wickedness and presumption of inoculating for the small-pox.

It was not a genteel neighbourhood, and the congregation was therefore
large, for the substantial tradesfolk who had poured into the Strand
since it had been rebuilt were far more religiously disposed than the
fashionable world, retaining either the Puritan zeal, or the High Church
fervour, which were alike discouraged in the godless court. The Major
and his son and daughter were solitary units in the midst of the groups
of portly citizens, with soberly handsome wives, and gay sons and
daughters, who were exchanging greetings; and on their return to their
hotel, the Major betook himself to a pipe in the bar, and Eugene was
allowed to go for a walk in the park with Palmer, while Betty sat in her
own room with her Bible, striving to strengthen her assurance that
the innocent would never be forsaken. Indeed Mr. Belamour had much
strengthened her grounds of hope and comfort by his testimony to poor
Aurelia’s perfect guilelessness and simplicity throughout the affair.
Yet the echo of that girl’s chatter about Lady Belle’s rival being sent
beyond the sea would return upon her ominously, although it might be
mere exaggeration and misapprehension, like so much besides.

A great clock, chiming one, warned her to repair to the sitting-room,
where she met Eugene, full of the unedifying spectacle of a fight
between two street lads. There had been a regular ring, and the boy had
been so much excited that Palmer had had much ado to bring him away.
Betty had scarcely hushed his eager communications and repaired his
toilette for dinner before Sir Amyas came in, having hurried away as
soon as possible after attending his men to and from church.

“Sister,” he said, for so he insisted on calling Betty, “I really think
my uncle’s surmise may be right. I went home past Delavie House last
night, just to look at it, and there was--there really was, a light in
one of the windows on the first floor, which always used to be as black
as Erebus. I had much ado to keep myself from thundering at the gate. I
would have done so before now but for my uncle’s warning. Where can he
be?”

The Major and Mr. Belamour here came in together, and the same torrent
was beginning to be poured forth, when the latter cut it short with,
“They are about to lay the cloth. Restrain yourself, my dear boy, or---”
 and as at that moment the waiter entered, he went on with the utmost
readiness--“or, as it seems, the Queen of Hungary will never make good
her claims. Pray, sir,” turning to Major Delavie, “have you ever seen
these young Archduchesses whose pretensions seem likely to convulse the
continent to its centre?”

The Major, with an effort to gather his attention, replied that he could
not remember; but Betty, with greater presence of mind, described how
she had admired the two sisters of Austria as little girls walking on
the Prater. Indeed she and Mr. Belamour contrived to keep up the ball
till the Major was roused into giving an opinion of Prussian discipline,
and to tell stories of Leopold of Dessau, Eugene, and Marlborough with
sufficient zest to drive the young baronet almost frantic, especially
as Jumbo, behind his master’s chair, was on the broad grin all the time,
and almost dancing in his shoes. Once he contrived to give an absolute
wink with one of his big black eyes; not, however, undetected, for Mr.
Belamour in a grave tone of reprimand ordered him off to fetch an ivory
toothpick-case.

Not till the cloth had been remove, and dishes of early strawberries and
of biscuits, accompanied by bottles of port and claret, placed on the
table, and the servants had withdrawn, did Mr. Belamour observe, “I have
penetrated the outworks.”

There was an outburst of inquiry and explanation, but he was not to be
prevented from telling the story in his own way. “I know the house well,
for my brother lived there the first years of his marriage, before you
came on the stage, young sir. Perhaps you do not know how to open the
door from without?”

“Oh, sir, tell me the trick!”

Mr. Belamour held up a small pass-key. There was a certain tone of
banter about him which almost drove his nephew wild, but greatly
reassured Miss Delavie.

“Why--why keep me in torments, instead of taking me with you?” cried the
youth.

“Because I wished my expedition to be no failure. I could not tell
whether my key, which I found with my watch and seals, would still
serve me. Ah! you look on fire; but remember the outworks are not the
citadel.”

“For Heaven’s sake, sir, torture me not thus!”

“I knew that to make my summons at the out gate would lead to a summary
denial by the sour porteress, so I experimented on the lock of the
little door into the lane, and admitted myself and Jumbo into the court;
but the great hall-door stood before me jealously closed, and the lower
windows were shut with shutters, so that all I could do was to cause
Jumbo to awake the echoes with a lusty peal on the knocker, which he
repeated at intervals, until there hobbled forth to open it a crone as
wrinkled and crabbed as one of Macbeth’s witches. I demanded whether my
Lady Belamour lived there. She croaked forth a negative sound, and had
nearly shut the door in my face, but I kept her in parley by protesting
that I had often visited my Lady there, and offering a crown-piece if
she would direct me to her.”

“A crown! a kingdom, if she would bring us to the right one!” cried Sir
Amyas.

“Of course she directed me to Hanover Square, and then, evidently
supposing there was something amiss with the great gates, she insisted
on coming to let me out, and securing them after me.”

The youth gave a great groan, saying, “Excuse me, sir, but what are we
the better of that?”

“Endure a little while, impatient swain, and you shall hear. I fancy
she recognised the Belamour Livery on Jumbo, for she hobbled by my side
maundering apologies about its being against orders to admit gentle or
simple, beast or body into the court, and that a poor woman could not
lose her place and the roof over her head. But mark me, while this
was passing, Jumbo, who had kept nearer the house whistling ‘The
Nightingale’ just above his breath, heard his name called, and presently
saw two little faces at an up-stairs window.”

“My little sisters!” cried Sir Amyas.

“Even so; and he believes he heard one of them call out, ‘Cousin, cousin
Aura, come and see Jumbo;’ but as the window was high up, I scarce
dare credit his ears rather than his imagination, and we were instantly
hustled away by the old woman, whose evident alarm is a further
presumption that the captive is there, since Faith and Hope scarce have
reached the years of being princesses immured in towers.”

“It must be so,” said Betty; “it would explain Lady Belle’s having had
access to her! And now?”

“Is it impossible to effect an entrance from the court and carry her
away?” asked Sir Amyas.

“Entirely so,” said his uncle. “The only door into the court is fit to
stand a siege, and all the lower windows are barred and fastened with
shutters. The servants’ entrance is at the back towards the river, but
no doubt it is also guarded, and my key will not serve for it.”

“I could get some sprightly fellow of ours to come disguised as Mohocks,
and break in,” proceeded the youth, eagerly. “Once in the court, trust
me for forcing my way to her.”

“And getting lodged in Newgate for your pains, or tried by
court-martial,” said the Major. “No, when right is on our side, do
not let us make it wrong. Hush, Sir Amyas, it is I who must here act.
Whether you are her husband I do not know, I know that I am her father,
and to-morrow morning, as soon as a magistrate can be spoken with,
I shall go and demand a search warrant for the body of my daughter,
Aurelia Delavie.”

“The body! Good Heavens, sir,” cried Betty.

“Not without the sweet soul, my dear Miss Delavie,” said Mr. Belamour.
“Your excellent father has arrived at the only right and safe decision,
and provided no farther alarm is given, I think he may succeed. It is
scarcely probable that my Lady is in constant communication with her
stern porteress, and my person was evidently unknown. For her own
sake, as well as that of the small fee I dropped into her hand, she is
unlikely to report my reconnoissance.”

Sir Amyas was frantic to go with his father-in-law, but both the elder
men justly thought that his ambiguous claims would but complicate the
matter. The landlord was consulted as to the acting magistrates of the
time, and gave two or three addresses.

Another night of prayer, suspense, and hope for Betty’s sick heart.
Then, immediately after breakfast, the Major set forth, attended by
Palmer, long before Mr. Belamour had left his room, or the young baronet
could escape from his military duties. Being outside the City,
the Strand was under the jurisdiction of justices of the peace for
Middlesex, and they had so much more than they could do properly, that
some of them did it as little as possible. The first magistrate would
not see him, because it was too early to attend to business; the second
never heard matters at his private house, and referred him to the office
in Bow Street. In fact he would have been wiser to have gone thither at
first, but he had hoped to have saved time. He had to wait sitting on
a greasy chair when he could no longer stand, till case after case
was gone through, and when he finally had a hearing and applied for
a warrant to search for his daughter in Delavie House, there was much
surprise and reluctance to put such an insult on a lady of quality in
favour at Court. On his giving his reasons on oath for believing the
young lady to be there, the grounds of his belief seemed to shrink away,
so that the three magistrates held consultation whether the warrant
could be granted. Finally, after eying him all over, and asking him
where he had served, one of them, who had the air of having been in the
army, told him that in consideration of his being a gentleman of high
respectability who had served his country, they granted what he asked,
being assured that he would not make the accusation lightly. The reforms
made by Fielding had not yet begun, everybody had too much work, and the
poor Major had still some time to wait before an officer--tipstaff, as
he was called--could accompany him, so that it was past noon when,
off in the Bowstead carriage again, they went along the Strand, to a
high-walled court belonging to one of the old houses of the nobility,
most of which had perished in the fire of London. There was a
double-doored gateway, and after much thundering in vain, at which the
tipstaff, a red-nosed old soldier, waxed very irate, the old woman came
out in curtseying, crying, frightened humility, declaring that they
would find no one there--they might look if they would.

So they drove over the paved road, crossing the pitched pebbles, the
door was unbarred, but no Aurelia sprang into her father’s arms. Only a
little terrier came barking out into the dismal paved hall. Into every
room they looked, the old woman asseverating denials that it was of no
use, they might see for themselves, that no one had been there for years
past. Full of emptiness, indeed, with faded grimy family portraits on
the walls, moth-eaten carpets and cushions, high-backed chairs with
worm-holes; and yet, somehow, there was one room that did look as if
it had recently been sat in. Two little stools were drawn up close to a
chair; the terrier poked and smelt about uneasily as though in search
of some one, and dragged out from under a couch a child’s ball which he
began to worry. On the carpet, too, were some fragments of bright fresh
embroidery silk, which the practiced eye of the constable noticed. “This
here was not left ten or a dozen years ago,” said he; and, extracting
the ball from the fangs of the dog, “No, and this ball ain’t ten year
old, neither. Come, Mother What’s’-name, it’s no good deceiving an
officer of the law; whose is this here ball?”

“It’s the little misses. They’ve a bin here with their maid, but their
nurse have been and fetched ‘em away this morning, and a good riddance
too.”

“Who was the maid?--on your oath!”

“One Deborah Davis, a deaf woman, and pretty nigh a dumb one. She be
gone too.”

Nor could the old woman tell where she was to be found. “My Lady’s woman
sent her in,” she said, “and she was glad enough to be rid of her.”

“Come, now, my good woman, speak out, and it will be better for you,”
 said the Major. “I know my daughter was here yesterday.”

“And what do I know of where she be gone? She went off in a sedan-chair
this morning before seven o’clock, and if you was to put me to the rack
I couldn’t say no more.”

As to which way or with whom she had gone, the old woman was,
apparently, really ignorant.

The poor Major had to return home baffled and despairing, still taking
the tipstaff with him, in case, on consultation with Mr. Belamour, it
should be deemed expedient to storm Hanover Square itself, and examine
Lady Belamour and her servants upon oath.

Behold, the parlour was empty. Even Betty and Eugene were absent. The
Major hastened to knock at Mr. Belamour’s door. There was no answer; and
when he knocked louder it was still in vain. He tried the door and
found it locked. Then he retreated to the sitting-room, rang, and made
inquiries of the waiter who answered the bell.

Mr. Belamour had received a note at about ten o’clock, and had gone out
with him “in great disorder,” said the waiter.

At the same moment there was a knock at the door, and a billet was
brought in from Lady Belamour. The Major tore it open and read:--


  “MY DEAR COUSIN,

      “I grieve for you, but my Suspicions were correct.  We have all
been completely hoodwinked by that old Villain, my Brother-in-law. I
can give him no other Name, for his partial Aberration of Mind has only
sharpened his natural Cunning. Would you believe it? He had obtained
access to Delavie House, and had there hidden the unfortunate Object of
your Search, while he pretended to be assisting you, and this Morning
he carried her off in a Sedan. I have sent the good Doves to Bowstead in
case he should have the Assurance to return to his old Quarters, but I
suspect that they are on the Way to Dover. You had better consult with
Hargrave on the means of confirming the strange Marriage Ceremony that
has passed between them, since that affords the best Security for your
Daughter’s Maintenance and Reputation. Believe me, I share in your
Distress. Indeed I have so frightful a Megrim that I can scarcely tell
what I write, and I dare not admit you to-day.

                 “I remain,
            “Your loving and much-grieved Cousin,
                              “URANIA BELAMOUR.”


Poor Major! His horror, perplexity, and despair were indescribable. He
had one only hope--that Sir Amyas and Betty might be on the track.



CHAPTER XXX. THE FIRST TASK.


    After all these there marcht a most faire dame,
    Led of two gryslie villains, th’ one Despight,
    The other cleped Crueltie by name.
                                      SPENSER.


The traces of occupation had not deceived Major Delavie; Aurelia had
been recently in Delavie House, and we must go back some way in our
narrative to her arrival there.

She had, on her return from Sedhurst on that Sunday, reached Bowstead,
and entered by the lobby door just as Lady Belamour was coming down the
stairs only attended by her woman, and ready to get into the carriage
which waited at the hall door.

Sinking on her knees before her with clasped hands, Aurelia exclaimed,
“O madam, I ought not to have come away. Here I am, do what you will
with me, but spare my father. He knew nothing of it. Only, for pity’s
sake, do not put me among the poor wicked creatures in gaol.”

“Get into that carriage immediately, and you shall know by decision,”
 said Lady Belamour, with icy frigidness, but not the same fierceness
as before; and Aurelia submissively obeyed, silenced by an imperious
gesture when she would have asked, “How is it with _him_?” whom she
durst not name.

Lady Belamour waited a minute or two while sending Loveday on a last
message to the sick room, then entered the large deep carriage, signing
to her captive to take a corner where she could hardly be seen if any
one looked through the window. Loveday followed, the door was shut by a
strange servant, as it was in fact Lady Aresfield’s carriage, borrowed
both for the sake of speed, and of secrecy towards her own household.

A few words passed by which Aurelia gathered something reassuring as
to the state of the patient, and then Lady Belamour turned on her,
demanding, “So, young miss, you tried to escape me! Where have you
been?”

“Only as far as Sedhurst Church, madam. I would have gone home, but I
feared to bring trouble on my father, and I came back to implore you to
forgive.”

There was no softening of the terrible, beautiful face before her, and
she durst put no objective case to her verb. However, the answer was
somewhat less dreadful than she had anticipated.

“I have been shamefully duped,” said Lady Belamour, “but it is well that
it is no worse; nor shall I visit our offences on your father if you
show your penitence by absolute submission. The absurd ceremony you went
through was a mere mockery, and the old fool, Belamour, showed himself
crazed for consenting to such an improper frolic on the part of my son.
Whether your innocence be feigned or not, however, I cannot permit you
to go out of my custody until the foolish youth or yourself be properly
bestowed in marriage elsewhere. Meantime, you will remain where I
place you, and exactly fulfil my commands. Remember that any attempt to
communicate with any person outside the house will be followed by your
Father’s immediate dismissal.”

“May I not let him know that I am safe?”

“Certainly not; I will see to your father.”

It was a period when great ladies did not scruple to scold at the top
of their voices, and sometimes proceed to blows, but Lady Belamour never
raised her low silvery tones, and thus increased the awfulness of her
wrath and the impressiveness of her determination. Face to face with
her, there were few who did not cower under her displeasure; and poor
Aurelia, resolute to endure for her father’s sake, could only promise
implicit obedience.

She only guessed when the entered London by the louder rumbling, and for
one moment the coach paused as a horse was reined up near it, and with
plumed hat in hand the rider bent forward to the window, exclaiming,
“Successful, by all that is lovely! Captured, by Jove!”

“You shall hear all another time,” said lady Belamour. “Let us go on
now.”

They did so, but the horseman continued to flash across the windows, and
when the coach, after considerable delay, had entered the walled court,
rumbled over the pavement, and stopped before a closed door, he was
still there. When, after much thundering, the door was opened, Aurelia
had a moment’s glimpse of a splendid figure in gold and scarlet handing
out Lady Belamour, who stood talking with him on the steps of the house
for some moments. Then, shrugging his shoulders, he remounted, and
cantered off, after which my Lady signed to Aurelia to alight, and
followed her into the hall.

“Madge,” said Lady Belamour to the witch-like old woman who had admitted
her, “this young lady is to remain here. You will open a bedroom and
sitting-room for her at the back of the house. Let her be properly cared
for, and go out in the court behind, but on no account approach the
front gates. Let no one know she is here.”

Madge muttered some demands about supplies and payments, and Lady
Belamour waved her to settle them with Mrs. Loveday, turning meantime to
the prisoner and saying, “There, child, you are to remain here on
your good behaviour. Do your best to merit my good will, so that I may
overlook what is past. Recollect, the least attempt to escape, or to
hold intercourse with the young, or the old, fool, and it shall be the
worse with them and with your father.”

Therewith she departed, followed by Loveday, leaving Aurelia standing in
the middle of the hall, the old hag gazing on her with a malignant
leer. “Ho! ho’! So that’s the way! He has begun that work early, has he?
What’s your name, my lass? Oh, you need give yourself airs! I cry you
mercy,” and she made a derisive curtsey.

Poor Aurelia, pride had less to do with her silence than absolute
uncertainty what to call herself. The wedding ring was on her finger,
and she would not deny her marriage by calling herself Delavie, but
Belamour might be dangerous, and the prefix was likewise a difficulty,
so faltered, “You may call me Madam Aurelia.”

“Madam Really. That’s a queer name, but it will serve while you are
here.”

“Pray let me go to my room,” entreated the poor prisoner, who felt as
ineffable disgust at her jailor, and was becoming sensible to extreme
fatigue.

“Your room, hey? D’ye think I keep rooms and beds as though this were
an inn, single-handed as I am? You must wait, unless you be too fine to
lend a hand.”

“Anything will do,” said Aurelia, “if I may only rest. I would help, but
I am so much tired that I can hardly stand.”

“My Lady has given it to you well, Mistress Really or Mistress Falsely,
which ever you may be,” mumbled Madge, perhaps in soliloquy, fumbling
at the lock of a room which at last she opened. It smelt very close and
fusty, and most of the furniture was heaped together under a cloth in
the midst, dimly visible by the light of a heart-shaped aperture in the
shutters. Unclosing one of the leaves, the old woman admitted enough
daylight to guide Aurelia to a couch against the wall, saying, “You can
wait there till I see to your bed. And you’ll be wanting supper too!”
 she added in a tone of infinite disgust.

“O never mind supper, if I can only go to bed,” sighed Aurelia, sinking
on the couch as the old woman hobbled off. Lassitude and exhaustion had
brought her to a state like annihilation--unable to think or guess, hope
or fear, with shoes hurting her footsore feet, a stiff dress cramping
her too much for sleep, and her weary aching eyes gathering a few
impressions in a passive way. On the walls hung dimly seen portraits
strangely familiar to her. The man in a green dressing gown with
floating hair had a face she knew; so had the lady in the yellow ruff.
And was that not the old crest, the Delavie butterfly, with the motto,
_Ma Vie et ma Mie_, carved on the mantelpiece? Thus she knew that
she must be in Delavie House, and felt somewhat less desolate as she
recognised several portraits as duplicates of those at the Great House
at Carminster, and thought they looked at her in pity with their eyes
like her father’s. The youngest son in the great family group was, as
she knew, an Amyas, and he put her in mind of her own. Oh, was he her
own, when she could not tell whether those great soft, dark-grey eyes
that looked so kindly on her had descended to the young baronet? She
hoped not, for Harriet and she had often agreed that they presaged the
fate of that gallant youth, who had been killed by Sir Bevil Grenville’s
side. He must have looked just as Sir Amyas did, lying senseless after
the hurt she had caused.

No more definite nor useful thought passed through the brain of the
overwearied maiden as she rest on the couch, how long she knew not; but
it was growing dark by the time Madge returned with a guttering candle,
a cracked plate and wedge of greasy-looking pie, a piece of dry bread,
a pewter cup of small beer, and an impaired repulsive steel knife with
a rounded end, and fork with broken prong. The fact of this being steel
was not distressing to one who had never seen a silver fork, but the
condition of both made her shudder, and added to the sick sense of
exhaustion that destroyed her appetite. She took a little of the bread,
and, being parched with thirst, drank some of the beer before Madge came
back again. “Oh ho, you’re nice I see, my fine Dame Really!”

“Thank you, indeed I can’t eat, I am so much tired,” said Aurelia
apologetically.

“You’ll have to put up with what serves your betters, I can tell you,”
 was all the reply she received. “Well be ye coming to your bed?”

So up the creaking stairs she was guided to a room, very unlike that
fresh white bower at Bowstead, large, eerie, ghostly-looking, bare
save for a dark oak chest, and a bed of the same material, the posts
apparently absolute trees, squared and richly carved, and supporting a
solid wooden canopy with an immense boss as big as a cabbage, and carved
something like one, depending from the centre, as if to endanger the
head of the unwary, who should start up in bed. No means of ablution
were provided, and Aurelia felt so grimed and dusty that she ventured to
beg for an ewer and basin; but her amiable hostess snarled out that she
had enough to do without humouring fiddle-faddle whimsies, and that she
might wash at the pump if nothing else would serve her.

Aurelia wished she had known this before going up stairs, and, worn out
as she was, the sense implanted by her mother that it was wicked to go
to sleep dirty, actually made her drag herself down to a grim little
scullery, where she was permitted to borrow a wooden bowl, since she
was too _nice_ forsooth to wash down stairs. She carried it up with a
considerable trouble more than half full, and a bit of yellow soap and
clean towel were likewise vouchsafed to her. The wash--perhaps because
of the infinite trouble it cost her--did her great good,--it gave her
energy to recollect her prayers and bring good angels about her. If this
had been her first plunge from home, when Jumbo’s violin had so scared
her, such a place as this would have almost killed her; but the peace
that had come to her in Sedhurst Church lingered still round her, and
as she climbed up into the lofty bed the verse sang in her ears “Love is
strong as death.” Whether Love Divine or human she did not ask herself,
but with the sense of soothing upon her, she slept--and slept as a
seventeen-years’-old frame will sleep after having been thirty-six hours
awake and afoot.

When she awoke it was with the sense of some one being in the room. “O
gemini!” she heard, and starting up, only just avoiding the knob, she
saw Mrs. Loveday’s well-preserved brunette face gazing at her.

“Your servant, ma’am,” she said. “You’ll excuse me if I speak with you
here, for I must be back by the time my Lady’s bell rings.”

“Is it very late?” said Aurelia, taking from under her pillow her watch,
which had stopped long ago.

“Nigh upon ten o’clock,” said Loveday. “I must not stay, but it is my
Lady’s wish that you should have all that is comformable, and you’ll let
me know how Madge behaves herself.”

“Is there any news from Bowstead?” was all Aurelia could at first
demand.

“Not yet; but bless you, my dear young lady, you had best put all that
matter out of your head for ever and a day. I know what these young
gentlemen are. They are not to be hearkened to one moment, not the best
of them. Let them be ever so much in earnest at the time, their parents
and guardians have the mastery of them sooner or later, and the farther
it has gone, the worse it is. I saw you lying asleep here looking so
innocent that it went to my heart, and I heard you mutter in your sleep
‘Love is strong as death,’ but that’s only a bit of some play-book, and
don’t you trust to it, for I never saw love that was stronger than a
spider’s web.”

“Oh, hush, Mrs. Loveday. It is in the Bible!”

“You don’t say so, ma’am,” the woman said awestruck.

“I would show it you, only all my things are away. God is love, you
know,” said Aurelia, sitting up with clasped hands, “and He gives it, so
it must be strong.”

“Well, all the love I’ve ever seen was more the devil’s,” said Loveday
truly enough; “and you’ll find it so if you mean to trust to these fine
young beaux and what they say.”

Aurelia shook her head a little as she sat up in bed with her clasped
hands; and there was a look on her face that Mrs. Loveday did not
understand, as she went on with her advice.

“So, my dear young lady, you see all that is left for you is to frame
your mind to keep close here, and conform to my Lady’s will till all is
blown over one way or another.”

“I know that,” said Aurelia.

“Don’t’ you do anything to anger her,” added the waiting-woman, “for
there’s no one who can stand against her; and I’ll speak up for you when
I can, for I know how to come round my Lady, if any one does. Tell me
what you want, and I’ll get it for you; but don’t try to get out, and
don’t send Madge, for she is not to be trusted with money. If I were
you, I’d not let her see that watch, and I’d lock my door at night.
You’re too innocent, whatever my Lady may say. Here’s half a pound of
tea and sugar, which you had best keep to yourself, and I’ve seen
to there being things decent down stairs. Tell me, my dear, is there
anything you want? Your clothes, did you say? Oh, yes, you shall have
them--yes, and your books. Here’s some warm water,” as a growling was
heard at the door; “I must not wait till you are dressed, but there’s a
box of shells down in your room that Mr. Wayland sent home for my Lady
to line a grotto with, and she wants them all sorted out. ‘Tell her she
must make herself of use if she wants to be forgiven,’ says my Lady, for
she is in a mighty hurry for them now she has heard of the Duchess of
Portland’s grotto; though she has let them lie here unpacked for this
half year and more. So if they are all done by night, maybe may Lady
will be pleased to let you have a bit more liberty.”

Mrs. Loveday departed, having certainly cheered the captive, and Aurelia
rose, weary-limbed and sad-hearted, with a patient trust in her soul
that Love Divine would not fail her, and that earthly love would do its
best.

She found matters improved in the down-stairs room, the furniture was in
order, a clean cloth on the table, a white roll, butter, and above all
clean bright implements, showing Mrs. Loveday’s influence. She ate and
drank like a hungry girl, washed up for herself rather than let Madge
touch anything she could help, and looked from the window into a
dull court of dreary, blighted-looking turf divided by flagged walks,
radiating from a statue in the middle, representing a Triton blowing a
conch--no doubt intended to spout water, for there was a stone trough
round him, but he had long forgotten his functions, and held a sparrow’s
nest with streaming straws in his hand. This must be the prison-yard,
where alone she might walk, since it lay at the back of the house; and
with a sense of depression she turned to the task that awaited her.

A very large foreign-looking case had been partly opened, and when she
looked in she was appalled at the task to be accomplished in one day.
It was crammed with shells of every size and description, from the
large helmet-conch and Triton’s trumpet, down to the tiny pink cowry
and rice-volute, all stuffed together without arrangement or packing,
forming a mass in which the unbroken shells reposed in a kind of sand,
of _debris_ ground together out of the victims; and when she took up a
tolerably-sized univalve, quantities of little ones came tumbling out
of its inner folds. She took up a handful, and presently picked out
one perfect valve like a rose petal, three fairy cups of limpets, four
ribbed cowries, and a thing like a green pea. Of course she knew no
names, but a kind of interest was awakened by the beauty and variety
before her. A pile of papers had been provided, and the housewife [a
pocket-size container for small articles (as thread)--D.L.] which Betty
made her always carry in her pocket furnished wherewithal to make up a
number of bags for the lesser sorts; and she went to work, her troubles
somewhat beguiled by the novel beauties of each delicate creature
she disinterred, but remembering with a pang how, if she could have
described them to Mr. Belamour, he would have discoursed upon the Order
of Nature.

London noises were not the continuous roar of vehicles of the present
day, but there was sound enough to remind the country girl where she
was, and the street cries “Old Clothes!” “Sprats, oh!” “Sweep!” were
heard over the wall, sometimes with tumultuous voices that seemed
to enhance her loneliness, as she sat on the floor, hour after hour,
sifting out the entire shells, and feeling a languid pleasure in joining
the two halves of a bivalve, especially those lovely sunset shells that
have rosy rays diverging from their crimson hinge over their polished
surface, white, or just tinted with the hues of a daffodil sky. She
never clasped a pair together without a little half-uttered ejaculation,
“Oh, bring me and my dear young love thus together again!” And when she
found a couple making a perfect heart, and holding together through all,
she kissed it tenderly in the hope that thus it might be with her and
with him whose hand and whose voice returned on her, calling her his
dearest life!

She durst only quit the shells to eat the dinner which Madge served at
one o’clock--a tolerable meal of slices of cold beef from a cook’s-shop,
but seasoned with sour looks and a murmur at ladies’ fancies. The
weariness and languor of the former day’s exertions made her for the
present disinclined to explore the house, even had she had time, and
when twilight came there could have been little but fragments at the
bottom of the case, though she could see no more to sort them.

And what were these noises around her making her start? Rats! Yes, here
they were, venturing out from all the corners. They knew there had been
food in the room. This was why Madge had those to gaunt, weird-looking
cats in her kitchen! Aurelia went and sat on the step into the court to
be out of their way, but Madge hunted her in that the door might be shut
and barred; and when she returned trembling to the sitting room, she
heard such a scampering and a scrambling that she durst not enter, and
betook herself to her chamber and to bed.

Alas! that was no refuge. She had been too much tired to hear anything
the night before, but to-night there was scratching, nibbling,
careering, fighting, squeaking, recoil and rally, charge and rout, as
the grey Hanover rat fought his successful battle with his black English
cousin all over the floors and stairs--nay, once or twice came rushing
up and over the bed--frightening its occupant almost out of her senses,
as she cowered under the bed-clothes, not at all sure that they would
not proceed to eating her. Happily daylight came early. Aurelia, at its
first ray, darted across the room, starting in horror when she touched
a soft thing with her bare foot, opened the shutter, and threw open the
casement. Light drove the enemy back to their holes, and she had a few
hours’ sleep, but when Mrs. Loveday came to the room when she was
nearly dressed, she exclaimed, “Why, miss, you look paler than you did
yesterday.”

“The rats!” said Aurelia under her breath.

“Ah! the rats! Of course they are bad enough in an old desolate place
like this. But you’ve done the shells right beautiful, that I will say;
and you may leave this house this very day if you will only give your
consent to what my Lady asks. You shall be sent down this very day to
Carminster, if so be you’ll give up that ring of yours, and sign a paper
giving up all claim to be married to his Honour. See, here it is, all
ready, in my Lady’s letter.”

“I cannot,” said Aurelia, with her hands behind her.

“You can read my Lady’s letter,” said Loveday; “that can do you no
harm.”

Aurelia felt she must do that at least.


  “CHILD,

      “I will overlook your Transgression on the One Condition, that
you sign this Paper and send it with your so-called Wedding Ring back
to me immediately. Otherwise you must take the Consequences, and remain
where you are till after my Son’s Marriage.

                                              “URANIA BELAMOUR.”


The paper was a formal renunciation of all rights or claims from the
fictitious marriage by which she had been deceived, and an absolute
pledge never to renew any contract with Sir Amyas Belamour, Knight
Baronet, who had grossly played on her.

“No, I cannot,” said Aurelia, pushing it from her.

“Indeed, miss, I would not persuade you to it if it were not for your
own good; but you may be sure it is no use holding out against her
Ladyship. If you sign it now, and give it up honourable, she will send
Mr. Dove home with you, and there you’ll be as if nothing had been
amiss, no one knowing nothing about it; but if you persist it will not
make the marriage a bit more true, and you will only be kept moped up in
this dismal place till his Honour is married, and there’s no saying what
worse my Lady may do to you.”

Another night of rats came up before Aurelia’s imagination in contrast
with the tender welcome at home; but the white face and the tones that
had exclaimed, “Madam, what are you doing to my wife?” arose and forbade
her. She would not fail him. So she said firmly once more, “No, Mrs.
Loveday, I cannot. I do not know what lawyers may say, but I feel myself
bound to Sir Amyas, and I will not break my vow--God helping me,” she
added under breath.

“You must write it to her ladyship then. She will never take such a
message through me. Here is paper and pen that I brought, in hopes that
you would be wise and submit for your honoured father’s sake.”

“My father cannot be persecuted for what he has nothing to do with,”
 said Aurelia, with the gentle dignity that had grown on her since her
troubles. And taking the pen, she wrote her simple refusal, signing it
Aurelia Belamour.

“As you please, ma’am,” said Mrs. Loveday, “but I have my Lady’s orders
to bring this paper every day till you sign it, and it would be better
for you if you would do it at once.”

Aurelia only shook her head, and asked if Mrs. Loveday had seen that she
had finished sorting the shells. Yes; and as she was now dressed they
went down together to the sitting-room. The shutters were still closed,
Madge would not put a hand to the room except on the compulsion, and
Aurelia’s enemies had left evidence of their work; not only was the
odour of the room like that of a barn, but the paper bags had in some
cases been bitten through, and the shells scattered about, and of the
loaf and butter which Aurelia had left on a high shelf in the cupboard
nothing remained but a few fragments.

Loveday was very much shocked, all the more when Aurelia quietly said
she should not mind it so much if the rats would only stay down stairs,
and not run over her in bed.

“Yet you will not sign the paper.”

“I cannot,” again said Aurelia.

“My stars, I never could abear rats! Why they fly at one’s throat
sometimes!”

“I hope God will take care of me,” said Aurelia, in a trembling voice.
“He did last night.”

Loveday began a formal leave-taking curtsey, but presently turned back.
“There now,” she said, “I cannot do it, I couldn’t sleep a wink for
thinking of you among the rats! Look here, I shall send a porter to
bring away those shells if you’ll make up their bags again that the
nasty vermin have eaten, and there’s a little terrier dog about the
place that no one will miss, he shall bring it down, and depend upon it,
the rats won’t venture near it.”

“Oh! thank you, Mrs. Loveday, how good you are!”

“Ah, don’t then! If you could say that my dear!”

Mrs. Loveday hurried away, and after breakfasting, Aurelia repaired the
ravages of the rats, and made a last sorting of the residuum of shell
dust, discovering numerous minute beauties, which awoke in her the happy
thought of the Creator’s individual love.

She had not yet finished before Madge’s voice was heard in querulous
anger, and a heavy tread came along with her. A big man, who could have
carried ten times the weight of the box of shells, came in with a little
white dog with black ears, under his arm.

“There,” said the amiable guardian of the house, “that smart madam says
that it’s her ladyship’s pleasure you should have that little beast to
keep down the rats. As if my cats was not enough! But mind you, Madam
Really, if so be he meddles with my cats, it will be the worse for him.”

The porter took up the box, and departed, and Aurelia was left with
her new companion sniffing all round the room, much excited by the
neighbourhood of his natural enemies. However, he obeyed her call, and
let her make friends, and read the name on the brass plate upon his
collar. When she read “Sir A. Belamour, Bart.,” she took the little dog
in her arms and kissed it’s white head.

Being fairly rested, and having no task to accomplish, she felt the day
much longer, though less solitary, in the companionship of the dog, to
whom she whispered many fond compliments, and vain questions as to his
name. With him at her heels and Madge and her cats safely shut into the
kitchen, she took courage to wander about the dull court, and then to
explore the mansion and try to get a view from the higher windows, in
case they were not shuttered up like the lower ones. The emptiness
of Bowstead was nothing to this, and she smiled to herself at having
thought herself a prisoner there.

Most of the rooms were completely dismantled, or had only ghastly rags
of torn leather or tapestry hanging to their walls. The upper windows,
however, were merely obscured by dust and cobwebs. Her own bedroom
windows only showed the tall front of an opposite house, but climbing
to the higher storey, she could see at the back over the garden wall
the broad sheet of the Thames, covered with boats and wherries, and the
banks provided with steps and stairs, at the opening of every street on
the opposite side, where she beheld a confused mass of trees, churches,
and houses. Nearer, the view to the westward was closed in by a stately
edifice which she did not know to be Somerset House; and from another
window on the east side of the house she saw, over numerous tiled
roofs, a gateway which she guessed to be Temple Bar, and a crowded
thoroughfare, where the people looked like ants, toiling towards the
great dome that rose in the misty distance. Was this the way she was to
see London?

Coming down with a lagging step, she met Madge’s face peering up.
“Humph! there you be, my fine miss! No gaping after sweethearts from the
window, or it will be the worse for you.”

The terrier growled, as having already adopted his young lady’s defence,
and Aurelia, dreading a perilous explosion of his zeal in her cause,
hurried him into her parlour.



CHAPTER XXXI. THE SECOND TASK.


                       Hope no more,
    Since thou art furnished with hidden lore,
    To ‘scape thy due reward if any day
    Without some task accomplished passed away.
                                               MOORE.


The little dog’s presence was a comfort, but his night of combat and
scuffling was not a restful one and the poor prisoner’s sickness of
heart and nervous terrors grew upon her every hour, with misgivings
lest she should be clinging to a shadow, and sacrificing her return to
Betty’s arms for a phantom. There were moments when her anguish of
vague terror and utter loneliness impelled her to long to sign her
renunciation that moment; and when she thought of recurring hours and
weeks of such days and such nights her spirit quailed within her, and
Loveday might have found her less calmly steadfast had she come in the
morning.

She did not come, and this in itself was a disappointment, for at least
she brought a human voice and a pitying countenance which, temptress
though she might be, had helped to bear Aurelia through the first days.
Oh! could she but find anything to do! She had dusted her two rooms as
well as she could consistently with care for the dress she could not
change. She blamed herself extremely for having forgotten her Bible and
Prayer-book when hastily making up her bundle of necessaries, and though
there was little chance that Madge should possess either, or be able to
read, she nerved herself to ask. “Bible! what should ye want of a Bible,
unless to play the hypocrite? I hain’t got none!” was the reply.

So Aurelia could only walk up and down the court trying to repeat the
Psalms, and afterwards the poetry she had learnt for Mr. Belamour’s
benefit, sometimes deriving comfort from the promises, but oftener
wondering whether he had indeed deserted her in anger at her distrustful
curiosity. She tried to scrape the mossgrown Triton, she crept up stairs
to the window that looked towards the City, and cleared off some of the
dimness, and she got a needle and thread and tried to darn the holes
in the curtains and cushions, but the rotten stuff crumbled under her
fingers, and would not hold the stitches. At last she found in a dusty
corner a boardless book with neither beginning nor end, being Defoe’s
_Plague of London_. She read and read with a horrid fascination,
believing every word of it, wondering whether this house could have been
infected, and at length feeling for the plague spot!

A great church-clock enabled her to count the hours! Oh, how many there
were of them! How many more would there be? This was only her
second day, and deliverance could not come for weeks, were her young
husband--if husband he were--ever so faithful. How should she find
patience in this dreariness, interspersed with fits of alarm lest he
should be dangerously ill and suffering? She fell on her knees and
prayed for him and for herself!

Here it was getting dark again, and Madge would hunt her in presently
and shut the shutters. Hark! what was that? A bell echoing over the
house! Madge came after her. “Where are you, my fine mistress! Go you
into the parlour, I say,” and she turned the key upon the prisoner,
whose heart beat like a bird fluttering in a cage. Suddenly her door was
opened, and in darted Fidelia and Lettice, who flung themselves upon her
with ecstatic shrieks of “Cousin Aura, dear cousin Aura!” Loveday was
behind, directing the bringing in of trunks from a hackney coach. All
she said was, “My Lady’s daughters are to be with you for the night,
madam; I must not say more, for her ladyship is waiting for me.”

She was gone, while the three were still in the glad tangle of an
embrace beginning again and again, with all sorts of little exclamations
from the children, into which Aurelia broke with the inquiry for their
brother. “He is much better,” said Fay. “He is to get up to-morrow, and
then he will come and find you.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Oh, yes, and he says it is Sister Aura, and not Cousin Aura--”

“My dear, dear little sisters--” and she hugged them again.

“I was sitting upon his bed,” said Letty, “and we were all talking about
you when my Lady mamma came. Are mothers kinder than Lady mammas?”

“Was she angry?” asked Aurelia.

“Oh! she frightened me,” said Fay. “She said we were pert, forward
misses, and we must hold our tongues, for we should be whipped if we
ever said you name, Cousin--Sister Aura, again; and she would not let us
go to wish Brother Amyas good-bye this morning.”

Aurelia’s heart could not but leap with joy that her tyrant should have
failed in carrying to Bowstead the renunciation of the marriage. Whether
Lady Belamour meant it or not, she had made resistance much easier by
the company of Faith and Hope, if only for a single night. She gathered
from their prattle that their mother, having found that their talk with
their brother was all of the one object of his thoughts, had carried
them off summarily, and had been since driving about London in search
of a school at which to leave them; but they were too young for Queen’s
Square, and there was no room at another house at which Lady Belamour
had applied. She would not take them home, being, of course, afraid of
their tongues, and in her perplexity had been reduced to letting them
share Aurelia’s captivity at least for the night.

What joy it was! They said it was an ugly dark house, but Aurelia’s
presence was perfect content to them, and theirs was to her comparative
felicity, assuring her as they did, through their childish talk, of Sir
Amyas’s unbroken love and of Mr. Belamour’s endeavours to find her. What
mattered it that Madge was more offended than ever, and refused to make
the slightest exertion for “the Wayland brats at that time of night”
 without warning. They had enough for supper, and if Aurelia had not,
their company was worth much more to her than a full meal. The terrier’s
rushes after rats were only diversion now, and when all three nestled
together in the big bed, the fun was more delightful than ever. Between
those soft caressing creatures Aurelia heard no rats, and could well
bear some kicks at night, and being drummed awake at some strange hour
in the morning.

Mrs. Loveday arrive soon after the little party had gone down stairs.
She said the children were to remain until her ladyship had decided
where to send them; and she confirmed their report that his Honour
was recovering quickly. As soon as he was sufficiently well to leave
Bowstead he was to be brought to London, and married to Lady Arabella
before going abroad to make the grand tour; and as a true well-wisher,
Mrs. Loveday begged Miss Delavie not to hold out when it was of no use,
for her Ladyship declared that her contumacy would be the worse for
her. Aurelia’s garrison was, however, too well reinforced for any vague
alarms to shake even her out works, and she only smiled her refusal, as
in truth Mrs. Loveday must have expected, for it appeared that she had
secured a maid to attend on the prisoners; an extremely deaf woman, who
only spoke in the broken imperfect mode of those who have never heard
their own voice, deficiencies that made it possible that Madge would
keep the peace with her.

Lady Belamour had also found another piece of work for Aurelia. A dark
cupboard was opened, revealing shelves piled with bundle of old letters
and papers. There was a family tradition that one of the ladies of the
Delavie family had been an attendant of Mary of Scotland for a short
time, and had received from her a recipe for preserving the complexion
and texture of the skin, devised by the French Court perfumer. Nobody
had ever seen this precious prescription; but it was presumed to be
in the archives of the family, and her ladyship sent word that if Miss
Delavie wished to deserve her favour she would put her French to some
account and discover it.

A severe undertaking it was. Piles of yellow letters, files of dusty
accounts, multitudes of receipts, more than one old will had to be
conned it was possible to be certain they were not the nostrum. In the
utter solitude, even this occupation would have been valuable, but with
the little girls about her, and her own and their property, she had
alternative employments enough to make it an effort to apply herself to
this.

Why should she? she asked herself more than once; but then came the
recollection that if she showed herself willing to obey and gratify my
Lady, it might gain her good will, and if Sir Amyas should indeed hold
out till Mr. Wayland came home--Her heart beat wildly at the vision of
hope.

She worked principally at the letters, after the children had gone to
bed, taking a packet up stairs with her, and sitting in the bedroom,
deciphering them as best she might by the light of the candles that
Loveday had brought her.

Every morning Loveday appeared with supplies, and messages from her
Ladyship, that it was time Miss submitted; but she was not at all
substantially unkind, and showed increasing interest in her captive,
though always impressing on her that her obstinacy was all in vain. My
Lady was angered enough at his Honour having got up from his sick bed
and gone off to Carminster, and if Miss did not wish to bring her father
into trouble she must yield. No, this gladdened rather than startled
Aurelia, though her heart sank within her when she was warned that Mr.
Wayland had been taken by the corsairs, so that my Lady would have
the ball at her own foot now. The term of waiting seemed indefinitely
prolonged.

The confinement to the dingy house and courtyard was trying to all
three, who had been used to run about in the green park and breezy
fields; but Aurelia did her best to keep her little companions happy
and busy, and the sense of the insecurity of her tenure of their company
aided her the more to meet with good temper and sweetness the various
rubs incidental to their captivity in this close warm house in the
hottest of summer weather. The pang she had felt at her own fretfulness,
when she thought she had lost them, made her guard the more against
giving way to impatience if they were troublesome or hard to please.
Indeed, she was much more gentle and equable now, in the strength of
her resolution, than she had been when uplifted by her position, yet
doubtful of its mysteries.

Sundays were the most trying time. The lack of occupation in the small
space was wearisome, and Aurelia’s heart often echoed the old strains of
Tate and Brady,

                   I sigh whene’er my musing thoughts
                     Those happy days present,
                   When I with troops of pious friends
                     Thy temple did frequent.

She and her charges climbed up to the window above, which happily had
a broken pane, tried to identify the chimes of the church bells by the
notable nursery rhyme,

                   Oranges and lemons,
                   Say the bells of St. Clements, &c.,

watched the church-goers as far as they could see them, and then came
down to such reading of the service and other Sunday occupations
as Aurelia could devise. On the Sunday of her durance it was such
a broiling day that, unable to bear the heat of her parlour, she
established herself and her charges in a nook of the court, close under
the window, but shaded by the wall, which was covered with an immense
bush of overhanging ivy, and by the elm tree in the court. Here she made
Fay and Letty say their catechism, and the Psalm she had been teaching
them in the week, and then rewarded them with a Bible story, that of
Daniel in the den of lions. Once or twice the terrier (whose name she
had learnt was Bob) had pricked his ears, and the children had thought
there was a noise, but the sparrows in the ivy might be accountable for
a great deal, and the little ones were to much wrapped in her tale to be
attentive to anything else.

“Then it came true!” said Letty. “His God Whom he trusted did deliver
him out of the den of lions?”

“God always does deliver people when they trust Him,” said Fay, with
gleaming eyes.

“Yes, one way or the other,” said Aurelia.

“How do you think He will deliver us?” asked Letty; “for I am sure this
is a den, though there are no lions.”

“I do not know how,” said Aurelia, “but I know He will bear us through
it as long as we trust Him and do nothing wrong,” and she looked up at
the bright sky with hope and strength in her face.

“Hark! what’s that?” cried Letty, and Bob leapt up and barked as a great
sob became plainly audible, and within the room appeared Mrs. Loveday,
her face all over tears, which she was fast wiping away as she rose up
from crouching with her head against the window-sill.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am,” said she, her voice still broken when she
rejoined them, “but I would not interrupt you, so I waited within; and
oh, it was so like my poor old mother at home, it quite overcame me! I
did not think there was anything so near the angels left on earth.”

“Nay, Loveday,” said Fay, apprehending the words in a different sense,
“the angels are just as near us as ever they were to Daniel, only we
cannot see them. Are they not, Cousin Aura?”

“Indeed they are, and we may be as sure that they will shut the lions’
mouths,” said Aurelia.

“Ah! may they,” sighed Loveday, who had by this time mastered her
agitation, and remembered that she must discharge herself of her
messages, and return hastily to my Lady’s toilette.

“I have found the recipe,” said Aurelia. “Here it is.” And she put into
Loveday’s hand a yellow letter, bearing the title in scribbled writing,
“_Poure Embellire et blanchire la Pel, de part de Maistre Raoul,
Parfumeur de la Royne Catherine_.”



CHAPTER XXXII. LIONS.


    The helmet of darkness Pallas donned,
    To hide her presence from the sight of man.
                                           _Derby’s_ HOMER.


The next morning Loveday returned with orders from Lady Belamour that
Miss Delavie should translate the French recipe, and make a fair copy
of it. It was not an easy task, for the MS. was difficult and the French
old; whereas Aurelia lived on the modern side of the _Acadamie_, her
French was that of Fenelon and Racine.

However, she went to work as best she could in her cool corner, guessing
at many of the words by lights derived from _Comenius_, and had just
made out that the chief ingredients were pounded pearls and rubies,
mixed with white of eggs laid by pullets under a year old, during the
waxing of the April moon, when she heard voices chattering in the hall,
and a girlish figure appeared in a light cloak and calash, whom Loveday
seemed to be guiding, and yet keeping as much repressed as she could.

“Gracious Heavens!” were the first words to be distinguished; “what a
frightful old place; enough to make one die of the dismals! I won’t
live here when I’m married, I promise Sir Amyas! Bless me, is this the
wench?”

“Your Ladyship promised to be careful,” entreated Loveday, while Aurelia
rose, with a graceful gesture of acknowledgment, which, however remained
unnoticed, the lady apparently considering herself unseen.

“Who are these little girls?” asked she, in a giggling whisper. “Little
Waylands? Then it is true,” she cried, with a peal of shrill laughter.
“There are three of them, only Lady Belamour shuts them up like
kittens--I wonder she did not. Oh, what sport! Won’t I tease her now
that I know her secret!”

“Your ladyship!” intreated Loveday in distress in an audible aside, “you
will undo me.” Then coming forward, she said, “You did not expect me
at this hour, madam; but if your French copy be finished, my Lady would
like to have it at once.”

“I have written it out once as well as I could,” said Aurelia, “but I
have not translated it; I will find the copy.”

She rose and found the stranger full before her in the doorway, gazing
at her with an enormous pair of sloe-black eyes, under heavy inky brows,
set in a hard, red-complexioned face. She burst into a loud, hoydenish
laugh as Loveday tried to stammer something about a friend of her own.

“Never mind, the murder’s out, good Mrs. Abigail,” she cried, “it is
me. I was determined to see the wench that has made such a fool of young
Belamour. I vow I can’t guess what he means by it. Why, you are a poor
pale tallow-candle, without a bit of colour in your face. Look at me!
Shall you ever have such a complexion as mine, with ever so much rouge?”

“I think not,” said Aurelia, with one look at the peony face.

“Do you know who I am, miss? I am the Lady Bella Mar. The Countess
of Aresfield is my mamma. I shall have Battlefield when she dies, and
twenty thousand pounds on my wedding day. The Earl of Aresfield and
Colonel Mar are my brothers, and a wretched little country girl like
you is not to come between me and what my mamma has fixed for me; so you
must give it up at once, for you see he belongs to me.”

“Not yet, madam,” said Aurelia.

“What do you say? Do you pretend that your masquerade was worth a
button?”

“That is not my part to decide,” said Aurelia. “I am bound by it, and
have no power to break it.”

“You mean the lawyers! Bless you, they will never give it to you against
me! You’d best give it up at once, and if you want a husband, my mamma
has one ready for you.”

“I thank her ladyship,” said Aurelia, with simple dignity, “but I will
not give her the trouble.”

She glanced at her wedding ring, and so did Lady Belle, who screamed,
“You’ve the impudence to wear that! Give it to me.”

“I cannot,” repeated Aurelia.

“You cannot, you insolent, vulgar, low”--

“Hush! hush, my lady,” entreated Loveday. “Come away, I beg of your
ladyship!”

“Not till I have made that impudent hussy give me that ring,” cried
Belle, stamping violently. “What’s that you say?”

“That your ladyship asks what is impossible,” said Aurelia, firmly.

“Take that then, insolent minx!” cried the girl, flying forward and
violently slapping Aurelia’s soft cheeks, and making a snatch at her
hair.

Loveday screamed, Letty cried, but Fidelia and Bob both rushed forward
to Aurelia’s defence, one with her little fists clenched, beating Lady
Belle back, the other tearing at her skirts with his teeth. At that
moment a man’s step was heard, and a tall, powerful officer was among
them, uttering a fierce imprecation. “You little vixen, at your tricks
again,” he said, taking Belle by the waist, while she kicked and
screamed in vain. She was like an angry cat in his arms. “Be quiet,
Belle,” he said, backing into the sitting-room. “Let Loveday compose
your dress. Recover your senses and I shall take you home: I wish it was
to the whipping you deserve.”

He thrust her in, waved aside Loveday’s excuses about her ladyship
not being denied, and stood with his back to the door as she bounced
shrieking against it from within.

“I fear this little devil has hurt you, madam,” he said.

“Not at all, I thank you, sire.” said Aurelia, though one side of her
face still tingled.

“She made at you like a little game-cock,” he said. “I am glad I was in
time. I followed when I found she had slipped away from Lady Belamour’s,
knowing that her curiosity is only equalled by her spite. By Jove, it is
well that her nails did not touch that angel face!”

Aurelia could only curtsey and thank him, hoping within herself that
Lady Belle would soon recover, and wondering how he had let himself in.
There was something in his manner of examining her with his eyes that
made her supremely uncomfortable. He uttered fashionable expletives
of admiration under his breath, and she turned aside in displeasure,
bending down to Fidelia. He went on, “You must be devilishly moped in
this dungeon of a place! Cannot we contrive something better?”

“Thank you, sir, I have no complaint to make. Permit me to see whether
the Lady Arabella is better.”

“I advise you not. Those orbs are too soft and sparkling to be exposed
to her talons. ‘Pon my honour, I pity young Belamour. But there is no
help for it, and such charms ought not to be wasted in solitude on his
account. These young lads are as fickle as the weather-cock, and have
half-a-dozen fancies in as many weeks. Come now, make me your friend,
and we will hit on some device for delivering the enchanted princess
from her durance vile.”

“Thank you, sir, I promised Lady Belamour to make no attempt to escape.”

At that moment out burst Lady Belle, shouting with laughter: “Ho! ho!
Have I caught you, brother, gallanting away with Miss? What will my lady
say? Pretty doings!”

She had no time for more. Her brother fiercely laid hold of her, and
bore her away with a peremptory violence that she could not resist, and
only turning at the hall door to make one magnificent bow.

Loveday was obliged to follow, and the children were left clinging to
Aurelia and declaring that the dreadful young lady was as bad as the
lions; while Aurelia, glowing with shame and resentment at what she felt
as insults, had a misgiving that her protector had been the worse lion
of the two.

She had no explanation of the invasion till the next morning, when
Loveday appeared full of excuses and apologies. From the fact of
Lady Aresfield’s carriage having been used on Aurelia’s arrival, her
imprisonment was known, and Lady Belle, spending a holiday at Lady
Belamour’s, had besieged Loveday with entreaties to take her to see her
rival. As the waiting-woman said, for fear of the young lady’s violent
temper, but more probably in consideration of her bribes, she had
yielded, hoping that Lady Belle would be satisfied with a view from the
window, herself unseen. However, from that moment all had been taken out
of the hands of Loveday, and she verily believed the Colonel had made
following his sister an excuse for catching a sight of Miss Delavie, for
he had been monstrously smitten even with the glimpse he had had of her
in the carriage. And now, as his sister had cut short what he had
to say, he had written her a billet. And Loveday held out a perfumed
letter.

Aurelia’s eyes flashed, and she drew herself up: “You forget, Loveday, I
promised to receive no letters!”

“Bless me, ma’am, they, that are treated as my lady treats you, are not
bound to be so particular as that.”

“O fie, Loveday,” said Aurelia earnestly, “you have been so kind, that I
thought you would be faithful. This is not being faithful to your lady,
nor to me.”

“It is only from my wish to serve you, ma’am,” said Loveday in her
fawning voice. “How can I bear to see a beautiful young lady like you,
that ought to be the star of all the court, mewed up here for the sake
of a young giddy pate like his Honour, when there’s one of the first
gentlemen in the land ready to be at your feet?”

“For shame! for shame!” exclaimed Aurelia, crimson already. “You know I
am married.”

“And you will not take the letter, nor see what the poor gentleman
means? May be he wants to reconcile you with my lady, and he has power
with her.”

Aurelia took the letter, and, strong paper though it was, tore it across
and across till it was all in fragments, no bigger than daisy flowers.
“There,” she said, “you may tell him what I have done to his letter.”

Loveday stared for a minute, then exclaimed, “You are in the right, my
dear lady. Oh, I am a wretch--a wretch--” and she went away sobbing.

Aurelia hoped the matter was ended. It had given her a terrible feeling
of insecurity, but she found to her relief that Madge was really more
trustworthy than Loveday. She overheard from the court a conversation at
the back door in which Madge was strenuously refusing admission to some
one who was both threatening and bribing her, all in vain; but she
was only beginning to breathe freely when Loveday brought, not another
letter, but what was less easy to stop, a personal message from “that
poor gentleman.”

“Loveday, after what you said yesterday, how can you be so--wicked?”
 said Aurelia.

“Indeed, miss, ‘tis only as your true well-wisher.”

Aurelia turned away to leave the room.

“Yes, it is, ma’am! On my bended knees I will swear it,” cried Loveday,
throwing herself on them and catching her dress. “It is because I know
my lady has worse in store for you!”

“Nothing can be worse than wrong-doing,” said Aurelia.

“Ah! you don’t know. Now, listen, one moment. I would not--indeed I
would not--if I did not know that he meant true and honourable--as he
does, indeed he does. He is madder after you then ever he was for my
lady, for he says you have all her beauty, and freshness and simplicity
besides. He is raving. And you should never leave me, indeed you should
not, miss, if you slipped out after me in Deb’s muffler--and we’d go
to the Fleet. I have got a cousin there, poor fellow--he is always in
trouble, but he is a real true parson notwithstanding, and I’d never
leave your side till the knot was tied fast. Then you would laugh at my
lady, and be one of the first ladies in the land, for my Lord Aresfield
is half a fool, and can’t live long, and when you are a countess you
will remember your poor Loveday.”

“Let me go. You have said too much to a married woman,” said Aurelia,
and as the maid began the old demonstrations of the invalidity of the
marriage, and the folly of adhering to it when nobody knew where his
honour was gone, she said resolutely, “I shall write to Lady Belamour to
send me a more trustworthy messenger.”

On this Loveday fairly fell on the floor, grovelling in her wild
entreaty that my Lady might hear nothing of this, declaring that it was
not so much for the sake of the consequences to herself as to the young
lady, for there was no guessing what my lady might not be capable of
if she guessed at Colonel Mar’s admiration of her prisoner. Aurelia,
frightened at her violence, finally promised not to appeal to her
ladyship as long as Loveday abstained from transmitting his messages,
but on the least attempt on her part to refer to him, a complaint should
certainly be made to my lady.

“Very well, madam,” said Loveday, wiping her eyes. “I only hope it will
not be the worse for you in the end, and that you will not wish you had
listened to poor Loveday’s advice.”

“I can never wish to have done what I know to be a great sin,” said
Aurelia gravely.

“Ah! you little know!” said Loveday, shaking her head sadly and
ominously.

Something brought to Aurelia’s lips what she had been teaching the
children last Sunday, and she answered,

“My God, in Whom I have trusted, is able to deliver me out of the mouth
of lions, and He will deliver me out of thy hand.”

“Oh! if ever there were one whom He should deliver!” broke out Loveday,
and again she went away weeping bitterly.

Aurelia could not guess what the danger the woman threatened could
be; so many had been mentioned as possible. A forcible marriage,
incarceration in some lonely country place, a vague threat of being
taken beyond seas to the plantation--all these had been mentioned; but
she was far more afraid of Colonel Mar forcing his way in and
carrying her off, and this kept her constantly in a state of nervous
watchfulness, always listening by day and hardly able to sleep by night.

Once she had a terrible alarm, on a Sunday. Letty came rushing to her,
declaring that Jumbo, dear Jumbo, and a gentleman were in the front
court. Was it really Jumbo? Come and see! No, she durst not, and Fay
almost instantly declared that Madge had shut them out. The children
both insisted that Jumbo it was, but Aurelia would not believe that it
could be anything but an attempt of her enemies. She interrogated
Madge, who had grown into a certain liking for one so submissive and
inoffensive. Madge shook her head, could not guess how such folks had
got into the court, was sure they were after no good, and declared that
my Lady should hear of all the strange doings, and the letters that had
been left with her. Oh, no, she knew better than to give them, but my
Lady should see them.



CHAPTER XXXIII. THE COSMETIC.


    But one more task I charge thee with to-day,
    For unto Proserpine then take thy way,
    And give this golden casket to her hands.
                                               MORRIS.


Late on that Sunday afternoon, a muffled and masked figure came through
the house into the court behind, and after the first shock Aurelia
was relieved to see that it was too tall, and moved too gracefully, to
belong to Loveday.

“Why, child, what a colour you have!” said Lady Belamour, taking off
her mask. “You need no aids to nature at your happy age. That is right,
children,” as they curtsied and kissed her hand. “Go into the house, I
wish to speak with your cousin.”

Lady Belamour’s unfailing self-command gave her such dignity that she
seemed truly a grand and majestic dame dispensing justice, and the
gentle, shrinking Aurelia like a culprit on trial before her.

“You have been here a month, Aurelia Delavie. Have you come to your
senses, and are you ready to sign this paper?”

“No, madam, I cannot.”

“Silly fly; you are as bent as ever on remaining in the web in which a
madman and a foolish boy have involved you?”

“I cannot help it, madam.”

“Oh! I thought,” and her voice became harshly clear, though so low,
“that you might have other schemes, and be spreading your toils at
higher game.”

“Certainly not, madam.”

“Your colour shows that you understand, in spite of all your pretences.”

“I have never used any pretences, my lady,” said Aurelia, looking up in
her face with clear innocent eyes.

“You have had no visitors? None!”

“None, madam, except once when the Lady Arabella Mar forced her way in,
out of curiosity, I believe, and her brother followed to take her away.”

“Her brother? You saw him?” Each word came out edged like a knife from
between her nearly closed lips.

“Yes, madam.”

“How often?”

“That once.”

“That has not hindered a traffic in letters.”

“Not on my side, madam. I tore to fragments unread the only one that I
received. He had no right to send it!”

“Certainly not. You judge discreetly, Miss Delavie. In fact you are too
transcendent a paragon to be retained here.” Then, biting her lip, as if
the bitter phrase had escaped unawares, she smiled blandly and said, “My
good girl, you have merited to be returned to your friends. You may pack
your mails and those of the children!”

Aurelia shuddered with gladness, but Lady Belamour checked her thanks by
continuing, “One service you must first do for me. My perfumer is at a
loss to understand your translation of the recipe for Queen Mary’s wash.
I wish you to read and explain it to her.”

“Certainly, madam.”

“She lives near Greenwich Park,” continued Lady Belamour, “and as I
would not have the secret get abroad, I shall send a wherry to take
you to the place early to-morrow morning. Can you be ready by eight
o’clock?”

Aurelia readily promised, her heart bounding at the notion of a voyage
down the river after her long imprisonment and at the promise of
liberty! She thought her husband must still be true to her, since my
lady would have been the first to inform her of his defection, and as
long as she had her ring and her certificate, she could feel little
doubt that her father would be able to establish her claims. And oh! to
be with him and Betty once more!

She was ready in good time, and had spent her leisure in packing. When
Loveday appeared, she was greeted with a petition that the two little
girls might accompany her; but this was refused at once, and the
waiting-maid added in her caressing, consoling tone that Mrs. Dove was
coming with their little brother and sister to take them a drive into
the country. They skipped about with glee, following Aurelia to the door
of the court, and promising her posies of honeysuckles and roses, and
she left her dear love with them for Amoret and Nurse Dove.

At the door was a sedan chair, in which Aurelia was carried to some
broad stone stairs, beside which lay a smartly-painted, trim-looking
boat with four stout oarsmen. She was handed into the stern, Loveday
sitting opposite to her. The woman was unusually silent, and could
hardly be roused to reply to Aurelia’s eager questions as she passed the
gardens of Lincoln’s Inn, saw St. Paul’s rise above her, shot beneath
the arch of London Bridge, and beheld the massive walls of the Tower
with its low-browed arches opening above their steps. Whenever a scarlet
uniform came in view, how the girl’s eyes strained after it, thinking
of one impossible, improbable chance of a recognition! Once or twice
she thought of a far more terrible chance, and wondered whether Lady
Belamour knew how little confidence could be placed in Loveday; but she
was sure that their expedition was my lady’s own device, and the fresh
air and motion, with all the new scenes, were so delightful to her that
she could not dwell on any alarms.

On, on, Redriffe, as the watermen named Rotherhithe, was on one bank,
the marshes of the Isle of Dogs were gay with white cotton-grass and
red rattle on the other. Then came the wharves and building yards of
Deptford, and beyond them rose the trees of Greenwich Park, while
the river below exhibited a forest of masts. The boat stopped at a
landing-place to a little garden, with a sanded path, between herbs
and flowers. “This is Mistress Darke’s,” said Loveday, and as a little
dwarfish lad came to the gate, she said, “We would speak with your
mistress.”

“On your own part?’

“From the great lady in Hanover Square.”

The lad came down to assist in their landing, and took them up the
path to a little cupboard of a room, scented with a compound of every
imaginable perfume. Bottles of every sort of essence, pomade, and
cosmetic were ranged on shelves, or within glass doors, interspersed
with masks, boxes for patches, bunches of false hair, powder puffs,
curling-irons, and rare feathers. An alembic [a device used in
distillation--D.L.] was in the fireplace, and pen and ink, in a
strangely-shaped standish, were on the table. Altogether there was
something uncanny about the look and air of the room which made Aurelia
tremble, especially as she perceived that Loveday was both frightened
and distressed.

The mistress of the establishment speedily appeared. She had been a
splendid Jewish beauty, and still in middle age, had great owl-like
eyes, and a complexion that did her credit to her arts; but there was
something indescribably repulsive in her fawning, deferential curtsey,
as she said, in a flattering tone, with a slightly foreign accent, “The
pretty lady is come, as our noble dame promised, to explain to the
poor Cora Darke the great queen’s secret! Ah! how good it is to have
learning. What would not my clients give for such a skin as hers! And
I have many more, and greater than you would think, come to poor Cora’s
cottage. There was a countess here but yesterday to ask how to blanch
the complexion of miladi her daughter, who is about to wed a young
baronet, beautiful as Love. Bah! I might as well try to whiten a clove
gillyflower! Yet what has not nature done for this lovely miss?”

“Shall I read you the paper?” said Aurelia, longing to end this part of
the affair.

“Be seated, fair and gracious lady.”

Aurelia tried to wave aside a chair, but Mrs. Darke, on the plea of
looking over the words as she read, got her down upon a low couch,
putting her own stout person and hooked face in unpleasant proximity,
while she asked questions, and Aurelia mentioned her own conjectures on
the obsolete French of the recipe, while she perceived, to her alarm,
that the woman understood the technical terms much better than she did,
and that her ignorance could have been only an excuse.

At last it was finished, and she rose, saying it was time to return to
the boat.

“Nay, madam, that cannot be yet,” said Loveday; “the watermen are gone
to rest and dine, and we must wait for the tide to shoot the bridge.”

“Then pray let us go out and walk in Greenwich Park,” exclaimed Aurelia,
longing to escape from this den.

“The sweet young lady will take something in the meantime?” said Mrs.
Darke.

“I thank you, I have breakfasted,” said Aurelia.

“My Lady intended us to eat here,” said Loveday in an undertone to her
young lady, as their hostess bustled out. “She will make it good to Mrs.
Darke.”

“I had rather go to the inn--I have money--or sit in the park,”
 she added as Loveday looked as if going to the inn were an improper
proposal. “Could we not buy a loaf and eat in the park? I should like it
so much better.”

“One cup of coffee,” said Mrs. Darke, entering; “the excellent Mocha
that I get from the Turkey captains.”

She set down on a small table a wonderful cup of Eastern porcelain, and
some little sugared cakes, and Aurelia, not to be utterly ungracious,
tasted one, and began on the coffee, which was so hot that it had to be
taken slowly. As she sipped a soothing drowsiness came over her, which
at first was accounted for by the warm room after her row on the river;
but it gained upon her, and instead of setting out for her walk she fell
sound asleep in the corner of the couch.

“It has worked. It is well,” said Mrs. Darke, lifting the girl’s feet on
the couch, and producing a large pair of scissors.

Loveday could not repress a little shriek.

“Hush!” as the woman untied the black silk hood, drew it gently off, and
then undid the ribbon that confined the victim’s abundant tresses. “Bah!
it will be grown by the time she arrives, and if not so long as present,
what will they know of it? It will be the more agreeable surprise! Here,
put yonder cloth under her head while I hold it up.”

“I cannot,” sobbed Loveday. “This is too much. I never would have
entered my Lady’s service if I had known I was to be set to such as
this.”

“Come, come, Grace Loveday, I know too much of you for you to come the
Presician over me.”

“Such a sweet innocent! So tender-hearted and civil too.”

“Bless you, woman, you don’t know what’s good for her! She will be a
very queen over the black slaves on the Indies. Captain Karen will tell
you how the wenches thank him for having brought ‘em out. They could
never do any good here, you know, poor lasses; but out there, where
white women are scarce, they are ready to worship the very ground they
tread upon.”

“I tell you she ain’t one of that sort. She is a young lady of birth,
a cousin of my Lady’s own, as innocent as a babe, and there are two
gentlemen, if not three, a dying for her.”

“I lay you anything not one of ‘em is worth old Mr. Van Draagen, who
turns his thousands every month. ‘Send me out a lady lass,’ says he,
‘one that will do me credit with the governor’s lady.’ Why she will have
an estate as big as from here to Dover, and slaves to wait on her, so
as she need never stoop to pick up her glove. He has been married
twice before, and his last used to send orders for the best brocades in
London. He stuck at no expense. The Queen has not finer gowns!”

“But to think of the poor child’s waking up out at sea.”

“Oh! Mrs. Karen will let her know she may think herself well off. I
never let ‘em go unless there’s a married woman aboard to take charge of
them, and that’s why I kept your lady waiting till the _Red Cloud_ was
ready to sail. You may tell her Ladyship she could not have a better
berth, and she’ll want for nothing. I know what is due to the real
quality, and I’ve put aboard all the toilette, and linen, and dresses
as was bespoke for the last Mrs. Van Draagen, and there’s a civil spoken
wench aboard, what will wait on her for a consideration.”

“Nay, but mistress,” said Loveday, whispering: “I know those that would
give more than you will ever get from my Lady if they found her safe
here.”

“Of course there are, or she would not be here now,” said Mrs. Darke,
with a horrid grin; “but that won’t do, my lass. A lady that’s afraid
of exposure will pay you, if she pawns her last diamond, but a
gentleman--why, he gets sick of his fancy, and snaps his fingers at
them that helped him!” Then, looking keenly at Loveday, “You’ve not been
playing me false, eh?”

“O no, no,” hastily exclaimed Loveday, cowering at the malignant look.

“If so be you have, Grace Loveday, two can play at that game,” said Mrs.
Darke composedly. “There, I have left her enough to turn back. What
hair it is! Feel the weight of it! There’s not another head of the
mouse-colour to match your Lady’s in the kingdom,” she added, smoothing
out the severed tresses with the satisfaction of a connoisseur. “No
wonder madame could not let this be wasted on the plantations, when you
and I and M. le Griseur know her own hair is getting thinner than she
would wish a certain Colonel to guess. There! the pretty dear, what a
baby she looks! I will tie her on a cowl, lest she should take cold on
the river. See these rings. Did you Lady give no charge about them?”

“I had forgot!” said the waiting-woman, confused; “she charged me to
bring them back, old family jewels, she said, that must not be carried
off to foreign parts; but I cannot, cannot do it. To rob that pretty
creature in her sleep.”

“Never fear. She’ll soon have a store much finer than these! You fool, I
tell you she will not wake these six or eight hours. Afraid? There,
I’ll do it! Ho! A ruby? A love-token, I wager; and what’s this? A carved
Cupid. I could turn a pretty penny by that, when your lady finds
it convenient, and her luck at play goes against her. Eh! is this a
wedding-ring? Best take that off; Mr. Van Draagen might not understand
it, you see. Here they are. Have you a patch-box handy for them in your
pocket? Why what ails the woman? You may thank your stars there’s some
one here with her wits about her! None of your whimpering, I say, her
comes Captain Karen.”

Two seafaring men here came up the garden path, the foremost small and
dapper, with a ready address and astute countenance. “All right, Mother
Darkness, is our consignment ready? Aye, aye! And the freight?”

“This lady has it,” said Mrs. Darke, pointing to Loveday; “I have been
telling her she need have no fears for her young kinswoman in your
hands, Captain.”

He swore a round oath to that effect, and looking at the sleeping
maiden, again swore that she was the choicest piece of goods ever
confided to him, and that he knew better than let such an article arrive
damaged. Mr. Van Draagen ought to come down handsomely for such an extra
fine sample; but in the meantime he accepted the rouleau of guineas
that Loveday handed to him, the proceeds, as she told Mrs. Darke, of my
Lady’s winnings last night at loo.

All was ready. Poor Aurelia was swathed from head to foot in a large
mantle, like the chrysalis whose name she bore, the two sailors took her
up between them, carried her to their boat, and laid her along in the
stern. Then they pushed off and rowed down the river. Loveday looked up
and looked down, then sank on the steps, convulsed with grief, sobbing
bitterly. “She said He could deliver her from the mouth of lions! And
He has not,” she murmured under her breath, in utter misery and
hopelessness.



CHAPTER XXXIV. DOWN THE RIVER.

    The lioness, ye may move her
    To give o’er her prey,
    But ye’ll ne’er stop a lover,
    He will find out the way.


Elizabeth Delavie and her little brother were standing in the bay window
of their hotel, gazing eagerly along the street in hopes of seeing the
Major return, when Sir Amyas was seen riding hastily up on his charger,
in full accoutrements, with a soldier following. In another moment he
had dashed up stairs, and saying, “Sister, read that!” put into Betty’s
hand a slip of paper on which was written in pencil--

“If Sir A. B. would not have his true love kidnapped to the plantations,
he had best keep watch on the river gate of Mistress Darke’s garden at
Greenwich. No time to lose.”

“Who brought you this?” demanded Betty, as well as she could speak for
horror.

“My mother’s little negro boy, Syphax. He says Mrs. Loveday, her
waiting-woman, gave it to him privately on the stairs, as she was about
to get into a sedan, telling him I would give him a crown if he gave it
me as I came off parade.”

“Noon! Is there time?”

“Barely, but there shall be time. There is no time to seek your father.”

“No, but I must come with you.”

“The water is the quickest way. There are stairs near. I’ll send my
fellow to secure a boat.”

“I will be ready instantly, while you tell your uncle. It might be
better if he came.”

Sir Amyas flew to his uncle’s door, but found him gone out, and, in too
great haste to inquire further, came down again to find Betty in cloak
and hood. He gave her his arm, and, Eugene trotting after them, they
hurried to the nearest stairs, remembering in dire confirmation what
Betty had heard from the school-girl. Both had heard reports that young
women were sometimes thus deported to become wives to the planters in
the southern colonies or the West Indies, but that such a destiny should
be intended for their own Aurelia, and by Lady Belamour, was scarcely
credible. Doubts rushed over Betty, but she remembered what the
school-girl had said of the captive being sent beyond seas; and at any
rate, she must risk the expedition being futile when such issues hung
upon it. And if they failed to meet her father, she felt that her
presence might prevail when the undefined rights of so mere a lad as her
companion might be disregarded.

His soldier servant had secured a boat, and they rapidly descended to
the river; Sir Amyas silent between suspense, dismay and shame for his
mother, and Betty trying to keep Eugene quiet by hurried answers to his
eager questions about all he saw. They had to get out at London Bridge,
and take a fresh boat on the other side, a much larger one, with
two oarsmen, and a grizzled old coxswain, with a pleasant honest
countenance, who presently relieved Betty of all necessity of attending
to, or answering, Eugene’s chatter.

“Do you know where this garden is?” said she, leaning across to Sir
Amyas, who had engaged the boat to go to Greenwich.

He started as if it were a new and sudden thought, and turning to the
steersman demanded whether he knew Mrs. Darke’s garden.

The old man gave a kind of grunt, and eyed the trio interrogatively,
the young officer with his fresh, innocent, boyish face and brilliant
undisguised uniform, the handsome child, the lady neither young, gay,
nor beautiful, but unmistakeably a decorous gentlewoman.

“Do you know Mrs. Darke’s?” repeated Sir Amyas.

“Aye, do I? Mayhap I know more about the place than you do.”

There was that about his face that moved Betty and the young man to
look at one another, and the former said, “She has had to do with--evil
doings?”

“You may say that, ma’am.”

“Then,” they cried in one breath, “you will help us!” And in a very
few words Betty explained their fears for her young sister, and asked
whether he thought the warning possible.

“I’ve heard tell of such things!” said the old man between his teeth,
“and Mother Darkness is one to do ‘em. Help you to bring back the poor
young lass? That we will, if we have to break down the door with our
fists. And who is this young spark? Her brother or her sweetheart?”

“Her husband!” said Sir Amyas. “Her husband from whom she has been
cruelly spirited away. Aid me to bring her back, my good fellow, and
nothing would be too much to reward you.”

“Aye, aye, captain, Jem Green’s not the man to see an English girl
handed over to they slave-driving, outlandish chaps. But I say, I wish
you’d got a cloak or summat to put over that scarlet and gold of yourn.
It’s a regular flag to put the old witch on her guard.”

On that summer’s day, however, no cloak was at hand. They went down the
river very rapidly, for the tide was running out and at length Jem Green
pointed out the neat little garden. On the step sat a woman, apparently
weeping bitterly. Could it be the object of their search? No, but as
they came nearer, and she was roused so as to catch sight of the scarlet
coat, she beckoned and gesticulated with all her might; and as they
approached Sir Amyas recognised her as his mother’s maid.

“You will be in time yet,” she cried breathlessly. “Oh! take me in, or
you won’t know the ship!”

So eager and terrified was she, that but for the old steersman’s
peremptory steadiness, her own life and theirs would have been in much
peril, but she was safely seated at last, gasping out, “The _Red Cloud_,
Captain Karen. They’ve been gone these ten minutes.”

“Aye, aye,” gruffly responded Green, and the oars moved rapidly, while
Loveday with another sob cried, “Oh! sir, I thought you would never
come!”

“You sent the warning?”

Yes, sir, I knew nothing till the morning, when my Lady called me up. I
lie in her room, you know. She had given orders, and I was to take the
sweet lady and go down the river with her to Mrs. Darke, the perfuming
woman my Lady has dealings with about here hair and complexion. There
I was to stay with her till--till this same sea-captain was to come and
carry her off where she would give no more trouble. Oh, sir, it was too
much--and my Lady knew it, for she had tied my hands so that I had but
a moment to scribble down that scrip, and bid Syphax take it to you. The
dear lady! she said, ‘her God could deliver her out of the mouth of the
lion,’ and I could not believe it! I thought it too late!”

“How can we thank you,” began Betty; but she was choked by intense
anxiety, and Jem Green broke in with an inquiry where the ship was
bound for. Loveday only had a general impression of the West Indies, and
believed that the poor lady’s destined spouse was a tobacconist, and as
the boat was soon among a forest of shipping where it could not proceed
so fast, Green had to inquire of neighbouring mariners where the _Red
Cloud_ was lying.

“The _Red Cloud_, Karen, weighs anchor for Carolina at flood tide
to-night. Shipper just going aboard,” they were told.

Their speed had been so rapid that they were in time to see the boat
alongside, and preparations being made to draw up some one or something
on board. “Oh! that is she!” cried Loveday in great agitation. “They’ve
drugged her. No harm done. She don’t know it. But it is she!”

Sir Amyas, with a voice of thunder, called out, “Halt, villain,” at the
same moment as Green shouted “Avast there, mate!” And their boat came
dashing up alongside.

“Yield me up that lady instantly, fellow!” cried Sir Amyas, with his
sword half drawn.

“And who are you, I should like to know,” returned Karen, coolly,
“swaggering at an honest man taking his freight and passengers aboard?”

“I’ll soon show you!”

“Hush, sir,” said Green, who had caught sight of pistols and cutlasses,
“let me speak a moment. Look you here, skipper, this young gentleman
and lady have right on their side. This is her sister, and he is her
husband. They are people of condition, as you see.”

“All’s one to me on the broad seas.”

“That may be,” said Green, “but you see you can’t weigh anchor these
three hours or more; and what’s to hinder the young captain here from
swearing against you before a magistrate, and getting your vessel
searched, eh?”

“I’ve no objection to hear reason if I’m spoke to reasonable,” said
Karen, sulkily; “but I’ll not be bullied like a highwayman, when I’ve my
consignment regularly made out, and the freight down in hand, square.”

“You may keep your accursed passage-money and welcome,” cried Sir Amyas,
“so you’ll only give me my wife!”

“Show him the certificate,” whispered Betty.

Sir Amyas had it ready, and he read it loud enough for all on the Thames
to hear. Karen gave a sneering little laugh. “What’s that to me? My
passenger here has her berth taken in the name of Ann Davis.”

“Like enough,” said Loveday, “but you remember me, captain, and I swear
that this poor young lady is what his Honour Sir Amyas say. He is a
generous young gentleman, and will make it up to you if you are at any
loss in the matter.”

“A hundred times over!” exclaimed Amyas hotly.

“Hardly that,” said Karen. “Van Draagen might have been good for a round
hundred if he’d been pleased with the commission.”

“I’ll give you and order--” began Sir Amyas.

“What have you got about you, sir?” interrupted Karen. “I fancy hard
cash better than your orders.”

The youth pulled out his purse. There was only a guinea or two and some
silver. “One does not go out to parade with much money about one,” he
said, with a trembling endeavour for a smile, “but if you would send up
to my quarters in Whitehall Barracks---”

“Never mind, sir,” said Karen, graciously. “I see you are in earnest,
and I’ll put up with the loss rather than stand in the light of a couple
of true lovers. Here, Jack, lend a hand, and we’ll hoist the young woman
over. She’s quiet enough, thanks to Mother Darkness.”

The sudden change in tone might perhaps be owing to the skipper’s
attention having been called by a sign from one of his men to a boat
coming up from Woolwich, rowed by men of the Royal navy, who were
certain to take part with an officer; but Sir Amyas and Betty were only
intent on receiving the inanimate form wrapped up in its mantle. What a
meeting it was for Betty, and yet what joy to have her at all! They
laid her with her head in her sister’s lap, and Sir Amyas hung over her,
clasping one of the limp gloved hands, while Eugene called “Aura, Aura,”
 and would have impetuously kissed her awake, but Loveday caught hold of
him. “Do not, do not, for pity’s sake, little master,” she said; “the
potion will do her no harm if you let her sleep it off, but she may not
know you if you waken her before the time.”

“Wretch, what have you given her?” cried Sir Amyas.

“It was not me, sir, it was Mrs. Darke, in a cup of coffee. She vowed
it would do no hurt if only she was let to sleep six or eight hours. And
see what a misery it has saved her from!”

“That is true,” said Betty. “Indeed I believe this is a healthy sleep.
See how gently she breathes, how soft and natural her colour is, how
cool and fresh her cheek is. I cannot believe there is serious harm
done.”

“How soon can we reach a physician?” asked Sir Amyas, still anxiously,
of the coxswain.

“I can’t rightly say, sir,” replied he; “but never you fear. They
wouldn’t do aught to damage such as she.”

Patience must perforce be exercised as, now against the tide and the
stream, the wherry worked its way back. Once there was a little stir;
Sir Amyas instantly hovered over Aurelia, and clasped her hand with a
cry of “My dearest life!” The long dark eyelashes slowly rose, the eyes
looked up for one moment from his face to her sister’s, and then to her
brother’s, but the lids sank as if weighed down, and with a murmur,
“Oh, don’t wake me,” she turned her face around on Betty’s lap and slept
again.

“Poor darling, she thinks it a dream,” said Betty. “Eugene, do not. Sir,
I entreat! Brother, yes I _will_ call you so if you will only let her
alone! See how happy and peaceful her dear face is! Do not rouse her
into terror and bewilderment.”

“If I only were sure she was safe,” he sighed, hanging over, with an
intensity of affection and anxiety that brought a dew even to the old
steersman’s eyes; and he kindly engrossed Eugene by telling about the
places they passed, and setting him to watch the smart crew of the boat
from the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, which was gaining on them.

Meanwhile the others interrogated Loveday, who told them of the pretext
on which Lady Belamour had sent her captive down to Mrs. Darke’s. No one
save herself had, in my Lady’s household, she said, an idea of where the
young lady was, Lady Belamour having employed only hired porters except
on that night when Lady Aresfield’s carriage brought her. This had led
to the captivity being know to Lady Belle and her brother, and Loveday
had no doubt that it was the discovery of their being aware of it, as
well as Jumbo’s appearance in the court, that had made her mistress
finally decide on this frightful mode of ridding herself of the poor
girl. The maid was as adroit a dissembler as her mistress, and she held
her peace as to her own part in forwarding Colonel Mar’s suit, whether
her lady guessed it or not, but she owned with floods of tears how the
sight of the young lady’s meek and dutiful submission, her quiet trust,
and her sweet, simple teaching of the children, had wakened into life
again a conscience long dead to all good, and made it impossible to her
to carry out this last wicked commission without an attempt to save the
creature whom she had learnt to reverence as a saint. Most likely her
scruples had been suspected by her mistress, for there had been an
endeavour to put it out of her power to give any warning to the victim.
Yet after all, the waiting-maid had been too adroit for the lady, or,
as she fully owned, Aurelia’s firm trust had not been baulked, and
deliverance from the lions had come.



CHAPTER XXXV. THE RETURN.


    And now the glorious artist, ere he yet
    Had reached the Lemnian Isle, limping, returned;
    With aching heart he sought his home.
                                      _Odyssey_--COWPER.


How were they to get the slumbering maiden home? That was the next
question. Loveday advised carrying her direct to her old prison, where
she would wake without alarm; but Sir Amyas shuddered at the notion,
and Betty said she _could_ not take her again into a house of Lady
Belamour’s.

The watermen, who were enthusiastic in the cause, which they understood
as that of one young sweetheart rescued by the other, declared that they
would carry the sweet lady between them on the cushions of their boat,
laid on stretchers; and as they knew of a land-place near the _Royal
York_, with no need of crossing any great thoroughfare, Betty thought
this the best chance of taking her sister home without a shock.

The boat from Woolwich had shot London Bridge immediately after them,
and stopped at the stairs nearest that where they landed; and just as
Sir Amyas, with an exclamation of annoyance at his unserviceable arm,
had resigned Aurelia to be lifted on to her temporary litter, a hand
was laid on his shoulder, a voice said “Amyas, what means this?” and he
found himself face to face with a small, keen-visaged, pale man, with
thick grizzled brows overhanging searching dark grey eyes, shaded by a
great Spanish hat.

“Sir! oh sir, is it you?” he cried, breathlessly; “now all will be
well!”

“I am very glad you think so, Amyas,” was the grave answer; “for all
this has a strange appearance.”

“It is my dearest wife, sir, my wife, whom I have just recovered
after--Oh, say, sir, if you think all is well with her, and it is only
a harmless sleeping potion. Sister--Betty--this is my good father, Mr.
Wayland. He is as good as a physician. Let him see my sweetest life.”

Mr. Wayland bent over the slumbering figure still in the bottom of
the boat, heard what could be told of the draught by Loveday, whom he
recognized as his wife’s attendant, and feeling Aurelia’s pulse, said,
“I should not think there was need for fear. To the outward eye she is
a model of sleeping innocence.” “Well you may say so,” and “She is
indeed,” broke from the baronet and the waiting-maid at the same
instant; but Mr. Wayland heeded them little as he impatiently asked,
“Where and how is your mother, Amyas?”

“In health sir, at home, I suppose,” said Sir Amyas; “but oh, sir, hear
me, before you see her.”

“I must, if you walk with me,” said Mr. Wayland, turning for a moment
to bid his servant reward and dismiss the boat’s crew, and see to the
transport of his luggage; and in the meantime Aurelia was lifted by her
bearers.

Sir Amyas again uttered a rejoicing, “We feared you were in the hands of
the pirates, sir.”

“So I was; but the governor of Gibraltar obtained my release, and was
good enough to send me home direct in a vessel on the king’s service,”
 said Mr. Wayland, taking the arm his stepson offered to assist his
lameness. “Now for your explanation, Amyas; only let me hear first that
my babes are well.”

“Yes, sir, all well. You had my letter?”

“Telling of that strange disguised wedding? I had, the very day I was
captured.”

By the time they had come to the place where their ways parted, Mr.
Wayland had heard enough to be so perplexed and distressed that he knew
not that he had been drawn out of the way to Hanover Square, till at
the entrance of the _Royal York_, they found Betty asseverating to the
landlady that she was bringing no case of small pox into the house;
and showing, as a passport of admittance, two little dents on the white
wrist and temple.

At that instant the sound brought Major Delavie hurrying from his
sitting-room at his best speed. There was a look of horror on his face
as he saw his daughter’s senseless condition, but Betty sprang to his
side to prevent his wakening her, and Aurelia was safely carried up
stairs and laid upon her sister’s bed, still sleeping, while Betty and
Loveday unloosed her clothes. Her bearers were sent for refreshment
to the bar, and the gentlemen stood looking on one another in the
sitting-room, Mr. Wayland utterly shocked, incredulous of the little he
did understand, and yet unable to go home until he should hear more;
and the Major hardly less horrified, in the midst of his relief. “But
where’s Belamour!” he cried, “Your uncle, I mean.”

“Where?” said Sir Amyas. “They said he was gone out.”

“So they told me! And see here!”

Major Delavie produced Lady Belamour’s note.

“A blind!” cried Sir Amyas, turning away under a strange stroke of pain
and sham. “Oh! mother, mother!” and he dashed out of the room.

Poor Mr. Wayland sat down as one who could stand no longer. “Of what do
they suspect her?” he said hoarsely.

“Sir,” said the good Major, “I grieve sincerely for and with you.
Opposition to this match with my poor child seems to have transported
my poor cousin to strange and frantic lengths, but you may trust me to
shield and guard her from exposure as far as may be.”

Her husband only answered by a groan, and wrung Major Delavie’s hand,
but their words were interrupted by Sir Amyas’s return. He had been to
his uncle’s chamber, and had found on the table a note addressed to the
Major. Within was a inclosure directed to A. Belamour, Esq.

  “If you have found the way to the poor captive, for pity’s sake
   come to her rescue.  Be in the court with your faithful black
   by ten o’clock, and you may yet save on who loves and looks to
   you.”

On the outer sheet was written--

  “I distrust this handwriting, and suspect a ruse.  In case I do
   not return, send for Hargrave, Sandys, Godfrey, as witnesses to
   my sanity, and storm the fair one’s fortress in person.   A. B.”

“It is not my Aurelia’s writing,” said the Major. “Bravest of friends,
what has he not dared on her account!”

“This is too much!” cried Mr. Wayland, striving in horror against
his convictions. “I cannot hear my beloved wife loaded with monstrous
suspicions in her absence!”

“I am sorry to say this is no new threat ever since poor Belamour has
crossed her path,” said the Major.

“What have you done, sir!” asked Sir Amyas.

“I fear I have but wasted time,” said the Major. “I have been to Hanover
Square, and getting no admittance there, I came back in the hope you
might be on the track with Betty--as, thank God, you were! The first
thing to be done now is to find what she has done with Belamour,” he
added, rising up.

“That must fall to my share,” said Mr. Wayland, pale and resolute. “Come
with me, Amyas, your young limbs will easily return before the effect of
the narcotic has passed, and I need fuller explanation.”

Stillness than came on the Delavie party. The Major went up stairs, and
sat by Aurelia’s bed gazing with eyes dazzled with tears at the child he
had so longed to see, and whom he found again in this strange trance.
A doctor came, and quite confirmed Mr. Wayland’s opinion, that the drug
would not prove deleterious, provided the sleep was not disturbed, and
Betty continued her watch, after hearing what her father knew of Mr.
Belamour. She was greatly struck with the self-devotion that had gone
with open eyes into so dreadful a snare as a madhouse of those days
rather than miss the least chance of saving Aurelia.

“If we go by perils dared, the uncle is the true knight-errant,” said
she to her father. “I wonder which our child truly loves the best!”

“Betty!” said her father, scandalised.

“Ay, I know, Sir Amyas is a charming boy, but what a boy he is! And she
has barely spoken with him or seen him, whereas Mr. Belamour has been
kind to her for a whole twelvemonth. I know what I should do if I were
in her place. I would declare that I intended to be married to the
uncle, and would keep it!”

“He would think it base to put the question.”

“He would; but indeed, dear sir, I think it would be but right and due
to the dear child herself that she should have here free choice, and
not be bound for ever by a deception! Yes, I know the poor boy’s despair
would be dreadful, but it would be better for them both than such a
mistake.”

“Hush! I hear him knocking at the door, you cruel woman.”

The bedroom opened into the parlour the party had hired, so that both
could come out and meet Sir Amyas with the door ajar, without relaxing
their watch upon the sleeper. The poor young man looked pale, shocked,
and sorrowful. “Well,” said he, after having read in their looks that
there was no change, “he knows the worst.” Then on a further token of
interrogation, “It may have been my fault; I took him, unannounced,
through the whole suite of rooms, and in the closet at the end, with all
the doors open, she was having an altercation with Mar. He was insisting
on knowing what she had done with”--(he signed towards the other room)
“she, upbraiding him with faithlessness. They were deaf to an approach,
till Mr. Wayland, in a loud voice, ordered me back, saying ‘it was no
scene for a son.’”

“I trust it will not end in a challenge?” asked the Major, gravely.

“No, my father’s infirmity renders him no fighting man, and I--I may not
challenge my superior officer.”

“But your uncle?” said Betty, much fearing that such a scene might have
led to his being forgotten.

“I should have told you. We had not made many steps from hence before
we met poor Jumbo wandering like a dog that had lost his master. Mr.
Belamour had taken the precaution of giving Jumbo the pass-key, and
not taking him into that house (some day I will pull every brick of it
down), so he watched till by and by he saw a coach come out with all the
windows closed, and as his master had bidden him in such a case, he
kept along on the pavement near, and never lost sight of it till he had
tracked it right across the City to a house with iron-barred windows
inside a high wall. There it went in, and he could not follow, but he
asked the people what place it was, and though they jeered at him, he
made out that it was as we feared. Nay, do not be alarmed, sister, he
will soon be with us. My poor father shut me out, and I know not what
passed with my mother, but just as I could wait no longer to return to
my dearest, he came out and told me that he had found out that my uncle
was in a house at Moorfields, and he is gone himself to liberate him.
He is himself a justice of the peace, and he will call for Dr. Sandys
by the way, that there may be no difficulty. He is gone in the
coach-and-four, with Jumbo on the box, so that matters will soon be
righted.”

“And a heroic champion set free,” said Betty moving to return to her
sister, when the others would not be denied having another look at the
sweet slumberer, on whose face there was now a smile as if her dreams
were marvellously lovely; or, as Betty thought, as if she knew their
voices even in her sleep.

Sir Amyas had not seen his mother again. He only knew that Mr. Wayland
had come out with a face as of one stricken to the heart, a sad contrast
to that which had greeted him an hour before, and while the carriage was
coming round, had simply said, “I did wrong to leave her.”

It would not bear being talked over, and both son and kinsman took
refuge in silence. Two hours more of this long day had passed, and
then a coach stopped at the door. Sir Amyas hurried down in his eager
anxiety, and came back with his uncle, holding him by the hand like a
child, in his gladness, and Betty came out to meet them in the outer
room with a face of grateful welcome and outstretched hands.

“Sir! sir! you have done more than all of us.”

“Yet you and your young champion here were the victors,” said Mr.
Belamour.

“Ah, we dared and suffered nothing like you.”

“I hope you did not suffer much,” said the major, looking at the calm
face and neatly-tied white hair, which seemed to have suffered no
disarrangement.

“No,” said Mr. Belamour, smiling, “my little friend Eugene, ay, and my
nephew himself, are hoping to hear I was released from fetters and a
heap of straw, but I took care to give them no opportunity. I merely
told them they were under a mistake, and had better take care. I gave
them a reference or two, but I saw plainly that was of no use, though
they promised to send, and then I did exactly as they bade me, so as to
deprive them of all excuse for meddling with me, letting them know that
I could pay for decent treatment so long as I was in their hands.”

“Did you receive it?”

“I was told in a mild manner, adapted to my intelligence, that if I
behaved well, I might eat at the master’s table, and have a room with
only one inmate. Of the former I have not an engaging experience, either
as to the fare, the hostess, or the company. Of the latter, happily
I know little, as I only know that my comrade was to be a harmless
gibbering idiot; of good birth, poor fellow. However, the sounds I
heard, and the court I looked into, convinced me that my privileges were
worth paying for.”

He spoke very quietly, but he shuddered involuntarily, and Betty, unable
to restrain her tears, retreated to her sister’s side.



CHAPTER XXXVI. WAKING.


    So Love was still the Lord of all.--SCOTT.


The summer sun was sinking and a red glow was on the wall above
Aurelia’s head when she moved again, upon the shutting of the door,
while supper was being taken by the gentlemen in the outer room.

Presently her lips moved, and she said, “Sister,” not in surprise, but
as if she thought herself at home, and as Betty gently answered, “Yes,
my darling child,” the same voice added, “I have had such a dream;
I thought I was a chrysalis, and that I could not break my shell nor
spread my wings.”

“You can now, my sweet,” said Betty, venturing to kiss her.

Recollection came. “Sister Betty, is it you indeed?” and she threw her
arms round Betty’s neck, clinging tight to her in delicious silence,
till she raised her head and said: “No, this is not home. Oh, is it all
true?”

“True that I have you again, my dear, dearest, sweetest child,” said
Betty. “Oh, thank God for it.”

“Thank God,” repeated Aurelia. “Now I have you nothing will be dreadful.
But where am I? I thought once I was in a boat with you and Eugene,
and some one else. Was it a dream? I can’t remember anything since that
terrible old woman made me drink the coffee. You have not come there,
have you?”

“No, dear child, it was no dream that you were in a boat. We had been
searching everywhere for you, and we were bringing you back sound, sound
asleep,” said Betty, in her tenderness speaking as it to a little child.

“I knew you would,” said Aurelia; “I knew God would save me. Love is
strong as death, you know,” she added dreamily: “I think I felt it all
round me in that sleep.”

“That was what you murmured once or twice in your sleep,” said Betty.

“And now, oh! it is so sweet to lie here and know it is you. And wasn’t
_he_ there too?”

“Sir Amyas? Yes, my dear. He came for you. He and my father and the
others are in the other room waiting for you to wake.”

“I hear their voices,” cried Aurelia, with a start, sitting up. “Oh!
that’s my papa’s voice! Oh! how good it is to hear it!”

“I will call him as soon as I have set you a little in order. Are you
sure you are well, my dearest? No headache?”

“Quite, quite well! Why, sister, I have not been ill; and if I had, I
should skip to see you and hear their voices, only I wish they would
speak louder! That’s Eugene! Oh! they are hushing him. Let me make
haste,” and she moved with an alacrity that was most reassuring. “But I
can’t understand. Is it morning or evening?”

“Evening, my dear. They are at supper. Are not you hungry?”

“Oh, yes, I believe I am;” but as she was about to wash her hands: “My
rings, my wedding-ring? Look in my glove!”

“No, they are not there my dear, they must have robbed you! And oh!
Aurelia, what have you done to your hair?”

“My hair? It was all there this morning. Sister, it was that woman, I
remember now, I was not quite sound asleep, but I had no power to move
or cry out, and the woman was snipping and Loveday crying.”

“Vile creature!” burst out Betty.

“My hair will grow!” said Aurelia; “but I had so guarded my
wedding-ring--and what will he, Sir Amyas, think?”

Their voices were at this moment heard, and in another second Aurelia
was held against her father’s breast, as in broken words he sobbed out
thanks for her restoration, and implored her pardon for having trusted
her out of his care.

“Oh! sir, do not speak so! Dear papa, I have tried hard to do you no
harm, and to behave well. Please, sir, give me your blessing.”

“God bless you indeed, my child. He has blessed you in guarding you as
your innocence deserved, though I did not. Ah! others are impatient. The
poor old father comes second now.”

After a few minutes spent in repairing the disorder of her dress, and
her hands in those of her father and little brother, she was led to the
outer room where in the twilight there was a rapturous rush, an embrace,
a fondling of the hand in the manner more familiar to her than the
figure from before whom it proceeded. She only said in her gentle
plaintive tone, “Oh, sir, it was not my fault. They took away your
rings.”

“Nay,” said a voice, new to her, “here are your rings, Lady Belamour. I
must trust to your Christian charity to pardon her who caused you to be
stripped of them.”

The name of Lady Belamour made her start as that of her enemy, but a
truly familiar tone said, “You need not fear, my kind friend. This
is Mr. Wayland, who, to our great joy, has returned, and has come to
restore your jewels.”

“Indeed I am very glad yours is not lost,” said Aurelia, not a little
bewildered.

Mr. Wayland said a few words of explanation that his wife’s agent at
Greenwich had brought them back to her.

“Pray let me have them,” entreated Sir Amyas; “I must put them on
again!”

“Stay,” said Major Delavie; “I can have such things done only under true
colours and in the full light of day. The child is scarcely awake yet,
and does not know one from the other! Why neither of you so much as know
the colour of the eyes of the other! Can you tell me sir?”

“Heavenly,” exclaimed the youth, in an ecstatic tone of self-defence,
which set the Major laughing and saying, “My silly maid knows as little
which gentleman put on the ring.”

“I do, sir,” said Aurelia indignantly; “I know his voice and hand quite
well,” and in the impulse she quitted her father’s arm and put both
hands into those of her young adorer, saying, “Pray sir, pardon me, I
never thought to hurt you so cruelly.”

There was a cry of, “My own, my dearest life,” and she was clasped as
she had been immediately after her strange wedding.

However, the sound of a servant’s step made them separate instantly,
and Betty begged that the supper might not be removed, since it was many
hours since her sister had tasted food.

Sir Amyas and Betty hovered about her, giving her whatever she could
need, in the partial light, while the others stood apart, exchanging
such explanations as they could. Mr. Wayland said he must report himself
to Government on the morrow; but intended afterwards to take his wife
to Bowstead, whither she had sent all her children with Mrs. Dove. There
was a great tenderness in his tone as he spoke of her, and when he took
leave Mr. Belamour shrugged his shoulders saying, “She will come round
him again!”

“It is true enough that he ought not to have left her to herself,” said
the Major.

“You making excuses for her after the diabolical plot of to-day?” said
Mr. Belamour; “I could forgive her all but that letter to you.”

“My Lady loves her will,” quoted the Major; “it amounts to insanity in
some women, I believe.”

“So I might say does men’s infatuation towards women like her,” muttered
Mr. Belamour.

By this time Aurelia had finished her meal, and Betty was anxious to
carry her off without any more excitement, for she was still drowsy and
confused. She bade her father good night, asking his blessing as of old,
but when Mr. Belamour kissed her hand and repeated the good night, she
said, “Sir, I ought to have trusted you; I am so sorry.”

“It is all well now, my child,” he said, soothingly, understanding
Betty’s wish; “Sleep, and we will talk it over.”

So the happy sisters once more slept in each other’s arms, till in the
early summer morning Betty heard the whole story from Aurelia, now
fully herself, though she slumbered again after all was poured into her
sister’s bosom.

Betty had sympathised step by step, and felt even more strongly than
Harriet that the situation had been intolerable for womanhood, and that
only Aurelia’s childishness could have endured it so long. Only the
eldest sister held that it would have been right and honourable to
have spoken before flashing out the flame; but when, with many tears of
contrition, Aurelia owned that she had long thought so, and longed to
confess it, what could the motherly sister do but kiss the tears away,
and rejoice that the penance was over which had been borne with such
constancy and self-devotion.

Then Betty rose quietly, and after giving thanks on her knees that the
gentle spirit had passed through all unscathed, untainted with even the
perception of evil, she applied herself to the adaptation of one of her
morning caps to her poor shorn lamb’s head. Nor did Aurelia wake again
till her father came to the door to make sure that all was well with his
recovered treasure, and to say that Loveday would recover for her the
box of clothes, which old Madge had hidden.

Loveday had gone back to her mistress, who either had not discovered her
betrayal, or, as things had turned out, could not resent it.

So, fresh and blooming, Aurelia came out into the sitting-room, whence
her father held out his arms to her. He would have her all to himself
for a little while, since even Eugene was gone to his daily delight, the
seeing the changing of the guard.

“And now, my child, tell me,” he said, when he had heard a little of her
feelings through these adventures, “what would you have me do? Remember,
such a wedding as yours goes for nothing, and you are still free to
choose either or neither of your swains.”

“Oh, papa!” in a remonstrating tone.

“You were willing to wed your old hermit?”

“I was content _then_. He was very kind to me.”

“Content then, eh? Suppose you were told he was your real husband?”

“Sir, he is not!” cried Aurelia, frightened.

“If he were?”

“I would try to do my duty,” she said, in a choked voice.

“Silly child, don’t cry. And how, if after these fool’s tricks it
turns out that the other young spark is bound to that red-faced little
spitfire and cannot have you?”

“Papa, don’t!” she cried. “You know he is my husband in my heart, and
always will be, and if he cannot come back to me take me home, and I
will try to be a good daughter to you,” and she hid her face on his
shoulder.

“Poor child, it is a shame to tease her,” said her father, raising up
her face; “I only wanted to know which of them you would wish to put on
the ring again. I see. You need not be afraid, you shall have the ruby
one. But as for the little gold one, wait for that till it is put on in
church, my dear. Ah! and there’s the flutter of his wings, or rather the
rattle of his spurs. Now then, young people, you shall not be hindered
from a full view of each others lineaments. It is the first time you
ever had a real sight of each other, neither of you being in a swoon, is
it not? I trust you do not repent upon further acquaintance. Aurelia got
as far as the shoe-buckles once, I believe.”

“She will get no farther this time, sir, if you annihilate her with your
pleasantry,” said Betty, fully convinced by this time.

“Ah! young Love has made himself more dazzling than ever,” continued
the Major, too delighted to be stopped. “The fullest dress uniform, I
declare; M. le Capitaine is bent on doing honour to the occasion.”

“Would that it were on for no other reason, sir,” said Sir Amyas; “but
the King and Queen have taken it into their heads to go off to Kew and
here am I under orders to command the escort. I verily believe it is all
spite on the Colonel’s part, for Russell would have exchanged the turn
with me, but he sent down special orders for me. I have but half an hour
to spend here, and when I shall be able to get back again Heaven only
knows.”

However, he and Aurelia were permitted to improve that half hour to the
utmost in their own way, while the Major and Betty were reading a long
and characteristic letter from Mrs. Arden, inquiring certainly for
her sister’s fate, but showing far more solicitude in proving that she
(Harriet Arden) had acted a wise, prudent, and sisterly part, and that
it was most unreasonable and cruel to treat her as accountable for her
sister’s disappearance. It was really making her quite ill, and Mr.
Arden was like a man--so disagreeable about it.

Betty was very glad this epistle had not come till it was possible to
laugh at it. She would have sat down to reply to it at once, had not a
billet been brought in from the widow of one of her father’s old brother
officers who had heard of his being in town, and begged him to bring his
daughter to see her, excusing herself for not waiting on Miss Delavie,
as she was very feeble and infirm.

It was a request that could not be refused, but Aurelia was not equipped
for such a visit, and shrank timidly from showing herself. So when Mr.
Belamour came down it was agreed that she should remain at home under
his protection, in which she could be very happy, though his person was
as strange to her as his voice was familiar. Indeed she felt as if a
burden was on her mind till she could tell him of her shame at having
failed in the trust and silence that he had enjoined on her.

“My child,” he said, “we have carried it too far. It was more than we
ought to have required of you, and I knew it. I had made up my mind, and
told my nephew that the first time you really asked I should tell the
whole truth, and trust to your discretion, while of course he wished for
nothing more.”

“As my sister said, it was my fault.”

“Nay, I think you had good cause to stand on your defence, and I cannot
have you grieve over it. You have shown an unshaken steadiness under
trial since, such as ought indeed to be compensation.”

“I deserved it all,” said Aurelia; “and I do hope that I am a little
wiser and less foolish for it all; a little more of a woman,” she added,
blushing.

“A soul trained by love and suffering, as in the old legend,” said Mr.
Belamour thoughtfully.

Thoroughly pleasant was here _tete-a-tete_ with him, especially when she
artlessly asked him whether her dear sister were not all she had told
him, and he fervently answered that indeed she was “a perfect lesson to
all so-called beauties of what true loveliness of a countenance can be.”

“Oh, I am so glad,” cried Aurelia. “I never saw a face--a woman’s I
mean--that I like as well as my dear sister’s!”

She was sorry when they were interrupted by a call from Mr. Wayland, who
had reported himself at the Secretary of War, but could do no more that
day, and had come to inquire for her. He and Mr. Belamour drew apart
into a window, and conversed in a low voice, and then they came to her,
and Mr. Wayland desired to know from where she found the recipe for the
cosmetic which had nearly cost her so dearly.

“It was in a shelf in the wainscoting, in a sort of little study at that
house,” said Aurelia.

“Among other papers?”

“Quantities of other papers.”

“Of what kind?”

“Letters, and bills, and wills, and parchments! Oh, so dusty! Some were
on paper tumbling to pieces, and some on tiny slips of parchment.”

“And you read them all?”

“I had to read them to see what they were, as well as I could make out,
and sorted them and tied them up in bundles.”

“Can you tell me whether they were Delavie wills?”

“I should think they were. I know that the oldest of all were Latin,
and I could make nothing out in them but something about _Manoriem_
and Carminster, and what looked like the names of some of the fields at
home.”

“Do you think you could show me those slips?”

“I do not suppose any one has touched them.”

“Then, my dear young lady, you would confer a great favour on me if you
would allow Mr. Belamour and myself to escort you to Delavie and show us
these papers. I fear it may be alarming and distressing.”

“Oh no, sir, I know no harm can happen to me where Mr. Belamour is,” she
said, smiling.

“It may be very important,” he said, and she went to put on her hood.

“Surely,” said Mr. Wayland, “the title-deeds cannot have been left
there?”

“No. The title-deeds to the main body of the property are at Hargrave’s.
I have seen them, at the time of my brother’s marriage; but still this
may be what was wanting.”

“Yet the sending this child to search is presumption that no such
document existed.”

“Of course no one supposed it did,” said Mr. Wayland, on the defence
again.

Aurelia was quickly ready in her little hood and kerchief, and trim
high-heeled shoes. She was greatly surprised to find how near she had
been to her friends during these last few days of her captivity, and
when Madge obeyed the summons to the door, the old woman absolutely
smiled to see her safe, and the little terrier danced about her in such
transports that she begged to take him back with her.

She opened the door of the little empty book room, where nothing stood
except the old bureau. That, she said, had been full of letters, but all
the oldest things had been within a door opening in the wainscot, which
she should never have found had not Bob pushed it open in his search for
rats, and then she found a tin case full of papers and parchments, much
older, she thought, than the letters. She had tied them up together, and
easily produced them.

Mr. Wayland handed them to Mr. Belamour, whose legal eye was better
accustomed to crabbed old documents. A conversation that had begun
on the way about Fay and Letty was resumed, and interested both their
father and Aurelia so much that they forgot to be impatient, until
Mr. Belamour looked up from his examination, saying, “This is what was
wanting. Here is a grant in the 12th year of Henry III. to Guglielmus ab
Vita and the heirs male of his body to the Manor, lying without the city
of Carminster, and here are three wills of successive lords of Delavie
expressly mentioning heirs male. Now the deeds that I have seen do not
go beyond 1539, when Henry Delavie had a grant of the Grange and lands
belonging to Carminster Abbey--the place, in fact, where the Great House
stands, and there is in that no exclusion of female heirs. But the Manor
house can certainly be proved to be entailed in the male line alone,
according to what was, I believe, the tradition of the family.”

“There is no large amount of property involved, I fear,” said Mr.
Wayland.

“There is an old house, much out of repair, and a few farms worth, may
be, 200 pounds a year, a loss that will not be material to you, sir, I
hope.”

“Do you mean--?” said Aurelia, not daring to ask farther.

“I mean, my dear young lady,” said Mr. Wayland, “that your researches
have brought to light the means of doing tardy justice to your good
father.”

“His right to the Manor House is here established,” explained Mr.
Belamour. “It will not be a matter of favour of my Lady’s, but, as my
brother supposed, he ought to have been put in possession on the old
Lord’s death.”

“And Eugene will be a gentleman of estate,” cried Aurelia, joyously.
“Nor will any one be able to drive out my dear father! Oh! how happy I
am.”

Both she and Mr. Belamour spared Mr. Wayland the knowledge of my Lady’s
many broken promises, and indeed she was anxious to get back to the
_Royal York_, lest her father and sister should have returned, and think
her again vanished.

They all met at the door, and much amazed were the Major and Betty to
encounter her with her two squires. Mr. Wayland took the Major to show
him the parchments. Betty had her explanation from her sister and Mr.
Belamour.

“You actually ventured back to that dreadful house,” she said, looking
at them gratefully.

“You see what protectors I had,” said Aurelia, with a happy smile.

“Yes,” said Betty, “I have been longing to say--only I cannot,” for she
was almost choked by a great sob, “how very much we owe to you, sir. I
could say it better if I did not feel it so much.” And she held out her
hand.

“You cannot owe to me a tithe of what I owe to your sister,” said Mr.
Belamour, “and through her to you, madam. Much as nature had done for
her, never would she have been to the miserable recluse the life and
light-bringing creature she was, save for the ‘sister’ she taught me to
know and love, even before I saw her.”

A wonderful revelation here burst on Aurelia, the at least half-married
woman, and she fled precipitately, smiling to herself in ecstasy, behind
her great fan.

Betty, never dreaming of the drift of the words, so utterly out of the
reach of love did she suppose herself, replied, composedly, “Our Aurelia
is a dear good girl, and I am thankful that through all her trials she
has so proved herself. I am glad she has been a comfort to you, sir.
She---”

“And will not you complete the cure, and render the benefit lasting?”
 said Mr. Belamour, who had never let go the hand she had given him in
gratitude, and now gave it a pressure that conveyed, for the first time,
his meaning.

“Oh!” she cried, trying to take it away, “your kindness and gratitude
are leading you too far, sir. A hideous old fright like me, instead of a
lovely young thing like her! It is an absurdity.”

“Stay, Miss Delavie. Remember that your Aurelia’s roses and lilies were
utterly wasted on me; I never thought whether she was beautiful save
when others raved about her. I never saw her till yesterday; but the
voice, the goodness, the amiability, in fact all that I did truly esteem
and prize in her I had already found matured and mellowed together
with that beauty of countenance which is independent of mere skin-deep
complexion and feature. You know my history, and how far I am from
being able to offer you a fresh untouched young heart, such as my nephew
brings to the fair Aurelia; but the devotion of my life will be yours if
you will accept it.”

“Sir, I cannot listen to you. You are very good, but I can never leave
my father. Oh, let me go away!”



CHAPTER XXXVII. MAKING THE BEST OF IT.


    At last the Queen said, “Girl, I bid thee rise,
    For now thou hast found favour in mine eyes,
    And I repent me of the misery
    That in this place thou hast endured me,
    Altho’ because of it the Joy indeed
    Shall now be mine, that pleasure is thy meed.”
                                               MORRIS.


Those were evil times, and the court examples were most corrupting,
so that a splendid and imperious woman like Urania, Lady Belamour, had
found little aid from public opinion when left to herself by the absence
of her second husband. Selfish, unscrupulous, and pleasure-loving she
was by nature, but during Sir Jovian Belamour’s lifetime she had
been kept within bounds. Then came a brief widowhood, when debt
and difficulty hurried her into accepting Mr. Wayland, a thoughtful
scientific man, whose wealth had accumulated without much volition of
his own to an extent that made her covet his alliance. Enthralled by
her charm of manner, he had not awakened to the perception of what she
really was during the few years that had elapsed before he was sent
abroad, and she refused to accompany him.

Then it was that wealth larger than she had before commanded, and a
court appointment, involved her in more dangerous habits. Her debts,
both of extravagance and of the gaming table, were enormous, trenching
hard on the Delavie property, and making severe inroads on Mr. Wayland’s
means; but the Belamour estates being safely tied up, she had only been
able to borrow on her dower. She had sinned with a high hand, after the
fashion of the time, and then, in terror at the approaching return of
her husband, had endeavoured to conceal the ravages of her extravagance
by her bargain for her son’s hand.

The youth, bred up at a distance, and then the companion of his
step-father, had on his return found his home painfully altered in his
two years’ absence, and had been galled and grieved by the state of
things, so that even apart from the clearing of his prospects, the
relief was great. The quarrel with Colonel Mar that Mr. Wayland had
interrupted was not made up. There was no opportunity, for Mr. Wayland
at once removed his family to Bowstead, there to remain while he
transacted his business in London.

Moreover Mr. Belamour and Mr. Wayland agreed in selling the young
baronet’s commission. The Major allowed that it was impossible that he
should remain under the command of his present Colonel, but regretted
that he should not continue in the service, declaring it the best
school for a young man, and that he did not want to see his son-in-law
a muddle-brained sporting country squire. He would have had Sir Amyas
exchange into the line, and see a little service before settling down,
but Maria Theresa had not as yet set Europe in a blaze, and in the
absence of a promising war Sir Amyas did more incline to his uncle’s
representations of duties to tenants and to his county, and was even
ready to prepare himself for them when he should be of sufficient age
to undertake them. However, in the midst of the debates a new scheme was
made. Mr. Belamour had been called upon and welcomed by his old friends,
who, being men of rank and influence, had risen in life while he
was immured at Bowstead. One of these had just received a diplomatic
appointment at Vienna, and in spite of insular ignorance of foreign
manners was at a loss for a capable suite. Mr. Belamour suggested Major
Delavie, as from his long service in Austria likely to be very useful.
The Envoy caught at the idea, and the thought of once more seeing his
old comrades enchanted the Major, whose only regret was that his hero,
Prince Eugene, had been dead three years; but to visit his grave would
be something. Appointments ran in families, so that nothing could be
easier than to obtain one for the young baronet; and though Mr. Belamour
did not depend on his own health enough to accept anything, he was quite
willing to join the party, and to spend a little time abroad, while his
nephew was growing somewhat older, making an essay of his talents, and
at any rate putting off the commencement of stagnation. Thus matters
settled themselves, the only disappointed member of the family being
Mrs. Arden, who thought it very hard that she could not stir any one up
to request an appointment of her husband as chaplain--not even himself!

Mr. Wayland was at once called upon to go out to America to superintend
the defences of the Canadian frontier, and he resolved on taking his
family out, obtaining land, and settling there permanently. He would
pay all my Lady’s debts, but she should never again appear in London
society, and cruel exile as it must seem to her, he trusted that his
affection and tenderness would in time reconcile her to the new way of
life, knowing as she did that he had forgiven much that had made him
look like a crushed and sorrowful man in the midst of all the successes
and the honours he received from his country.

She remained quietly at Bowstead, and none of them saw her except her
son and the Major, to the latter of whom her husband brought a message
that she would esteem it a favour if he would come and visit her there,
the day before he returned to Carminster. Very much affected, the good
Major complied with her request, went down with Mr. Wayland and spent a
night at Bowstead.

He found that she had accepted her fate with the good grace of a woman
whose first instinct was not to make herself disagreeable. She was
rather pale, and not “made up” in any way, but exquisitely though more
simply dressed, and more beautiful than ever, her cousin thought, as
he always did whenever he came into her presence. She was one of those
people whose beauty is always a fresh surprise, and she was far more
self-possessed than he was.

“So, Cousin Harry, where am I to begin my congratulations! I did you and
unwitting service when I sent your daughter to search among those musty
old parchments. I knew my father believed in the existence of some such
document, but I thought all those hoards in Delavie House were devoid
of all legal importance, and had been sifted again and again. Besides, I
always meant to settle that old house upon you.”

“I have always heard so, cousin,” he answered.

“But it was such a mere trifle,” she added, “that it never seemed worth
while to set the lawyers to work about that alone, so I waited for other
work to be in hand.”

“There is a homely Scottish proverb, my Lady, which declares that the
scrapings of the muckle pot are worth the wee pot fu’. A mere trifle to
you is affluence to us.”

“I am sincerely rejoiced at it, Harry” (no doubt she thought she was),
“you will keep up the old name, while my scrupulous lord and master
gives up my poor patrimony to the extortionate creditors for years to
come. It is well that the young lovers have other prospects. So Harry,
you see after all, I kept my word, and your daughter is provided for,”
 she continued with an arch smile. “Pretty creature, I find my son bears
me more malice than she does for the robbery that was perpetrated on
her. It was too tempting, Harry. Nature will repair her loss, but at out
time of life we must beg, borrow, or steal.”

“That was the least matter,” said the Major gravely.

“This is the reason why I wished to see you,” said my Lady, laying her
white hand on his, “I wanted to explain.”

“Cousin, cousin, had not you better leave it alone?” said Major Delavie.
“You know you can always talk a poor man out of his senses at the
moment.”

“Yet listen, Harry, and understand my troubles. Here I was pledged,
absolutely pledged, to give my son to Lady Aresfield’s daughter. I do
not know whether she may not yet sue me for breach of contract, though
Wayland has repaid her the loans she advanced me; and on the other hand,
in spite of all my precautions, Mar had obtained a sight of your
poor daughter, and I knew him well enough to be aware that to put her
entirely and secretly out of his reach was the only chance preserving
her from his pursuit. I had excellent accounts of the worthy man to whom
I meant her to be consigned, and I knew that when she wrote to you as a
West Indian queen you would be able to forgive your poor cousin. I see
what you would say, but sending her to you was impossible, since I had
to secure her both from Amyas and from Mar. It would only have involved
you in perplexities innumerable, and might have led even to bloodshed! I
may not have acted wisely, but weak women in difficulties know not which
path to choose.”

“There is always the straight one,” said he.

“Ah! you strong men can easily says so, but for us poor much-tried
women! However,” she said suddenly changing her tone, “Love has
check-mated us, and I rejoice. Your daughter will support the credit
of the name! I am glad the new Lady Belamour will not be that little
termagant milkmaid Belle, whom circumstances compelled me to inflict
upon my poor boy! The title will be your daughter’s alone. I have
promised my husband that in the New World I will sink into plain Mrs.
Wayland.” Then with a burst of genuine feeling she exclaimed, “He _is_ a
good man, Harry.”

“He is indeed, Urania, I believe you will yet be happier than you have
ever been.”

“What, among barbarians who never saw a loo-table, and get the modes
three months too late! And you are laughing at me, but see I am a poor
frivolous being, not sufficient to myself like your daughters! They say
Aurelia was as sprightly as a spring butterfly all the time she was shut
up at Bowstead with no company save the children and old Belamour!”

“They are lovely children, madam, Aurelia dotes on them, and you will
soon find them all you need.”

“Their father is never weary of telling me so. He is never so happy as
when they hang about him and tell him of Cousin Aura, or Sister Aura as
they love to call her.”

“It was charming to see them dance round her when he brought them to
spend the day with her. Mr. Wayland brought his good kinswoman, who will
take charge of them on the voyage, and Aurelia was a little consoled at
the parting by seeing how tender and kind she is with them.”

“Aye! If I do not hate that woman it will be well, for she is as much a
duenna for me as governess for the children! Heigh-ho! what do not our
follies bring on us? We poor creatures should never be left to the great
world.”

The pretty air of repentance was almost irresistible, well as the Major
knew it for the mood of the moment, assumed as what would best satisfy
him.

“I rejoice,” she went on, “in spite of my lovely daughter-in-law’s
discretion, she will be well surrounded with guardians. Has the
excellent Betty consented?”

“At last, madam. My persuasions were vain till she found that Mr.
Belamour would gladly come with us to Austria, and that she should be
enabled to watch over both her young sister and me.”

“There, again, I give myself credit, Harry. Would the sacred flame ever
have awakened in yonder misanthrope had I not sent your daughter to
restore him to life?” She spoke playfully, but the Major could not help
thinking she had persuaded herself that all his present felicity was
owing to her benevolence, and that she would persuade him of it too, if
she went on much longer looking at him so sweetly. He _would_ not tax
her with the wicked note she had written to account for Mr. Belamour’s
disappearance, and which she had forgotten; he felt that he could not
impel one, whom he could not but still regard with tenderness, to utter
any more untruths and excuses.

“By the by,” she added, “does your daughter take my waiting-maid after
all? I would have forgiven her, for she is an admirable hairdresser,
but Wayland says he cannot have so ingenious person in his house;
though after all I do not see that she is a bit worse than others of
her condition, and she herself insists on trying to become Aurelia’s
attendant, vowing that the sight of her is as good as any Methodist
sermon!”

“Precisely, madam. We were all averse to taking her with us, but Aurelia
said she owed her much gratitude; and she declared so earnestly that the
sight of my dear child brought back all the virtuous and pious thoughts
she had forgotten, that even Betty’s heart was touched, and she is to go
with us, on trial.”

“Oh! she is as honest as regards money and jewels as ever I knew a
waiting-maid, but for the rest!” Lady Belamour shrugged her shoulders.
“However, one is as good as another, and at least she will never let her
lady go a fright! See here, Harry. These are the Delavie jewels: I shall
never need them more: carry them to your daughters.”

“Nay, your own daughters, Urania.”

“Never mind the little wretches. Their father will provide for them, and
they will marry American settlers in the forests. What should they do
with court jewels? It is his desire. See here, this suit of pearls is
what I wore at my wedding with Amyas’s father, I should like Aurelia to
be married in them. Farewell, Harry, you did better for yourself than if
you had taken me. Yet maybe I might been a better woman---” She stopped
short as she looked at his honest face, and eyes full of tears.

“No, Urania,” he said, “man’s love could not have done for you what only
another Love can do. May you yet find that and true Life.”


The sisters were not married at the same time. Neither Mr. Belamour nor
his Elizabeth could endure to make part of the public pageant that it
was thought well should mark the _real_ wedding at Bowstead. So their
banns were put up at St. Clement Danes, and one quiet morning they
slipped out, with no witnesses but the Major, Aurelia, and Eugene, and
were wedded there in the most unobtrusive manner.

As to the great marriage, a month later at Bowstead, there was a certain
bookseller named Richardson, who by favour of Hargrave got a view of it,
and who is thought there to have obtained some ideas for the culminating
wedding of his great novel.

A little later, the following letter was written from the excellent Mrs.
Montagu to her correspondent Mrs. Elizabeth Carter. “There was yesterday
presented, preparatory to leaving England for Vienna, the young Lady
Belamour, incomparably the greatest beauty who has this year appeared
at Court. Every one is running after her, but she appears perfectly
unconscious of the _furore_ she has excited, and is said to have been
bred up in all simplicity in the country, and to be as good as she is
fair. Her young husband, Sir Amyas Belamour, is a youth of much promise,
and they seem absolutely devoted, with eyes only for each other. They
are said to have gone through a series of adventures as curious as they
are romantic; and indeed, when they made their appearance, there was a
general whisper, begun by young Mr. Horace Walpole, of


                        “CUPID AND PSYCHE.”





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Love and Life: An Old Story in Eighteenth Century Costume" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home