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- Love and Life - 60/60 -
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."
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