Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
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!"
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.