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- Love and Life - 10/60 -
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
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