Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Love and life; an old story in eighteenth century costume (Volume 2) online

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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


2 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

girls asked all manner of absurd and puzzling

My Lady was still at Bath, and Aurelia sup-
posed 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 her himself to his honoured

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 dis-
appointment 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 vigi-
lance 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 ex-
pected 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 pre-
sence, having taken it as a matter of course, and

B 2

4 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

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 com-
miseration, 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
means uncommon up to the middle of the last
century. The State Law was so easy as to
render Gretna Green unnecessary, when the pre-
sence 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 re-
source of persons too bashful or too refined to
endure the display and boisterous merriment by


which a pubHc 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 ]\Ir. 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 obe-
dient 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

6 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

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 ac-
cording 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. Har-
grave 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 bewilder-
ment 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 bride-
groom 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 fol-
lowed as witnesses ; and the bridegroom, laying

8 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

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 gigghng, 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, contain-
ing a purse with a startling amount of golden
guineas in it. She was rather surprised at the
title, which was one generally conferred on digni-
fied 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,

lo LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

after thanking him, modestly to inquire whether
that was what she was to be called.

"It is better thus," he 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 added, 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 i:)lease me most, it would
be if you could spare me to go to my sister
Harriet's wedding ? "


" My child/' he said, witli 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 }'ou of more liberty.
Meantime, let us consider what wedding present
you w^ould 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. Ayhvard 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

12 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

sorrow whenever he was obh'ged to disappoint
her, and much was done for her pleasure. A
charming- httle 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 v/ith 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 duteousness 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

14 LOVE AND LIFE. [ch. i.

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

The marriage had been notified to Lady
Belamour and to ]\lajor 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.



By all the 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 ]\Ir. 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 fort-
night of festivities amongst their old Carminster
friends, the happy couple were to ride, pillion-
wise, to take possession of their new home, passing
through London, and there spending time enough
with some relations of the bridecrroom to show
Harriet the wonders of the City.

Thence ]\Irs. Arden sent an urgent invitation
from her hospitable hostess to ]\Irs. Belamour, to

i6 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

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 re-
turned 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 com-
pelled 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 Hus-
band 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 me to-day."


i8 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

Everything was rapidly poured out, and she
anxiously awaited the decision. She had h'ttle
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
to 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 com-
pliments to Mrs. Ardcn, and entreat her to excuse
the seeming inhospitahty of the invahd."

Aureha was overflowing with joy at the antici-
pated meeting, wrote a deh'ghted 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 plea-
sure 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
aflairs, but she had much rather talk of her own."

This made Mr. Belamour laugh. '' Consider-
ing," he said, " how recently she has undergone

C 2

20 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

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 under-
stand 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, v/oodlands,
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 IMadam Belamour was a fair
and gracious sight, as she rode into the yard of
the Red Lion at Brentford. Harriet was at the

2 2 LOVE AND LIFE. [chap.

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 ? "

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeLove and life; an old story in eighteenth century costume (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 13)