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- The Belton Estate - 84/84 -

justified in thinking about his own wife and children; but he had already found it expedient to make arrangements for the autumn, which would prevent that annual visit to Plaistow which Clara had contemplated, and which he had regarded with his characteristic prudence as being subject to possible impediments. He was to be absent himself for the first week in September, but was to return immediately after that. This he did; and before the end of that month he was justified in talking of his wife and family. 'I suppose it wouldn't have done to have been moving now under all the circumstances,' he said to his friend, Mrs Askerton, as he still grumbled about the unfinished house.

'I don't think it would have done at all, under all the circumstances,' said Mrs Askerton.

But in the following spring or early summer they did get into the new house and a very nice house it was, as will, I think, be believed by those who have known Mr William Belton. And when they were well settled, at which time little Will Belton was some seven or eight mouths old little Will, for whom great bonfires had been lit, as though his birth in those parts was a matter not to be regarded lightly; for was he not the first Belton of Belton who had been born there for more than a century? when that time came visitors appeared at the new Belton Castle, visitors of importance, who were entitled to, and who received, great consideration. These were no less than Captain Aylmer, Member for Perivale, and his newly-married bride, Lady Emily Aylmer, ne Tagmaggert. They were then just married, and had come down to Belton Castle immediately after their honeymoon trip. How it had come to pass that such friendship had sprung up or rather how it had been revived it would be bootless here to say. But old affiances, such as that which had existed between the Aylmer and the Amedroz families, do not allow themselves to die out easily, and it is well for us all that they should be long-lived. So Captain Aylmer brought his bride to Belton Park, and a small fatted calf was killed, and the Askertons came to dinner on which occasion Captain Aylmer behaved very well, though we may imagine that he must have had some misgivings on the score of his young wife. The Askertons came to dinner, and the old rector, and the squire from a neighbouring parish, and everything was very handsome and very dull. Captain Aylmer was much pleased with his visit, and declared to Lady Emily that marriage had greatly improved Mi. William Belton. Now Will had been very dull the whole evening, and very unlike the fiery, violent, unreasonable man whom Captain Aylmer remembered to have met at the station hotel of the Great Northern Railway.

'I was as sure of it as possible,' Clara said to her husband that night.

'Sure of what, my dear?'

'That she would have a red nose.'

'Who has got a red nose?'

'Don't be stupid, Will. Who should have it but Lady Emily?'

'Upon my word I didn't observe it.'

'You never observe anything, Will; do you? But don't you think she is very plain?'

'Upon my word I don't know. She isn't as handsome as some people.'

'Don't be a fool, Will. How old do you suppose her to be?' 'How old? Let me see. Thirty, perhaps.'

'If she's not over forty, I'll consent to change noses with her.'

'No we won't do that; not if I know it.'

'I cannot conceive why any man should marry such a woman as that. Not but what she's a very good woman, I dare say; only what can a man get by it? To be sure there's the title, if that's worth anything.' But Will Belton was never good for much conversation at this hour, and was too fast asleep to make any rejoinder to the last remark.

The Belton Estate - 84/84

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