The Belton Estate, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XX

William Belton Does Not Go Out Hunting

WE will now follow the other message which was sent down into Norfolk, and which did not get into Belton’s hands till the Monday morning. He was sitting with his sister at breakfast, and was prepared for hunting, when the paper was brought into the room. Telegraphic messages were not very common at Plaistow Hall, and on the arrival of any that had as yet reached that house, something of that awe had been felt with which such missives were always accompanied in their earliest days. ‘A telegruff message, mum, for Mr William,’ said the maid, looking at her mistress with eyes opened wide, as she handed the important bit of paper to her master. Will opened it rapidly, laying down the knife and fork with which he was about to operate upon a ham before him. He was dressed in boots and breeches, and a scarlet coat in which garb he was, in his sister’s eyes, the most handsome man in Norfolk.

‘Oh, Mary!’ he exclaimed.

‘What is it, Will?’

‘Mr Amedroz is dead.’

Miss Belton put out her hand for the paper before she spoke again, as though she could better appreciate the truth of what she heard when reading it herself on the telegraph slip than she had done from her brother’s words. ‘How sudden! how terribly sudden!’ she said.

‘Sudden indeed. When I left him he was not well, certainly, but I should have said that he might have lived for twenty years. Poor old man! I can hardly say why it was so, but I had taken a liking to him.’

‘You take a liking to everybody, Will.’

‘No I don’t. I know people I don’t like.’ Will Belton as he said this was thinking of Captain Aylmer, and he pressed the heel of his boot hard against the floor.

‘And Mr Amedroz is dead! It seems to be so terribly sudden. What will she do, Will?’

‘That’s what I’m thinking about.’

‘Of course you are, my dear. I can see that. I wish I wish’

‘It’s no good wishing anything, Mary. I don’t think wishing ever did any good yet. If I might have my wish, I shouldn’t know how to have it.’

‘I was wishing that you didn’t think so much about it.’

‘You need not be troubled about me. I shall do very well. But what is to become of her now at once? Might she not come here? You are now the nearest female relation that she has.’

Mary looked at him with her anxious, painful eyes, and he knew by her look that she did not approve of his plan. ‘I could go away,’ he continued. ‘She could come to you without being troubled by seeing me.’

‘And where would you go, Will?’

‘What does it matter? To the devil, I suppose.’

‘Oh, Will, Will!’

‘You know what I mean. I’d go anywhere. Where is she to find a home till till she is married?’ He had paused at the word; but was determined not to shrink from it, and bolted it out in a loud, sharp tone so that both he and she recognized all the meaning of the word all that was conveyed in the idea. He hated himself when he endeavoured to conceal from his own mind any of the misery that was coming upon him. He loved her. He could not get over it. The passion was on him like a palsy, for the shaking off of which no sufficient physical energy was left to him. It clung to him in his goings out and comings in with a painful, wearing tenacity, against which he would now and again struggle, swearing that it should be so no longer but against which he always struggled in vain. It was with him when he was hunting. He was ever thinking of it when the bird rose before his gun. As he watched the furrow, as his men and horses would drive it straight and deep through the ground, he was thinking of her and not of the straightness and depth of the furrow, as had been his wont in former years. Then he would turn away his f toe, and stand alone in his field, blinded by the salt drops in his eyes, weeping at his own weakness. And when he was quite alone, he would stamp his foot on the ground, and throw abroad his arms, and curse himself. What Nessus’s shirt was this that had fallen upon him, and unmanned him from the sole of his foot to the top of his head? He went through the occupations of the week. He hunted, and shot, and gave his orders, and paid his men their wages but he did it all with a palsy of love upon him as he did it. He wanted her, and he could not overcome the want. He could not bear to confess to himself that the thing by which he had set so much store could never belong to him. His sister understood it all, and sometimes he was almost angry with her because of her understanding it. She sympathized with him in all his moods, and sometimes he would shake away her sympathy as though it scalded him. ‘Where is she to find a home till till she is married?’ he said.

Not a word had as yet been said between them about the property which was now his estate. He was now Belton of Belton, and it must be supposed that both he and she had remembered that it was so. But hitherto not a word had been said between them on that point. Now she was compelled to allude to it. ‘Cannot she live at the Castle for the present?

‘What all alone?’

‘Of course she is remaining there now.’

‘Yes,’ said he, ‘of course she is there now. Now! Why, remember what these telegraphic messages are. He died only on yesterday morning. Of course she is there, but I do not think it can be good that she should remain there. There is no one near her where she is but that Mrs Askerton. It can hardly be good for her to have no other female friend at such a time as this.’

‘I do not think that Mrs Askerton will hurt her.’

‘Mrs Askerton will not hurt her at all and as long as Clara does not know the story, Mrs Askerton may serve as well as another. But yet’

‘Can I go to her, Will?’

‘No, dearest. The journey would kill you in winter. And he would not like it. We are bound to think of that for her sake cold-hearted, thankless, meagre-minded creature as I know he is.’

‘I do not know why he should be so bad.’

‘No, nor I. But I know that he is. Never mind. Why should we talk about him? I suppose she’ll have to go there to Aylmer Park. I suppose they will send for her, and keep her there till it’s all finished. I’ll tell you what, Mary I shall give her the place.’

‘What Belton Castle?’

‘Why not? Will it ever be of any good to you or me? Do you want to go and live there?’

‘No, indeed not for myself.’

‘And do you think that I could live there? Besides why should she be turned out of her father’s house?

‘He would not be mean enough to take it.’

‘He would be mean enough for anything. Besides, I should take very good care that it should be settled upon her.’

‘That’s nonsense, Will it is indeed. You are now William Belton of Belton, and you must remain so.’

‘Mary I would sooner be Will Belton with Clara Amedroz by my side to get through the world with me, and not the interest of an acre either at Belton Castle or at Plaistow Hall! And I believe I should be the richer man at the end if there were any good in that.’ Then he went out of the room, and she heard him go through the kitchen, and knew that he passed out into the farm-yard, towards the stable, by the back-door. He intended, it seemed, to go on with his hunting in spite of this death which had occurred. She was sorry for it, but she could not venture to stop him. And she was sorry also that nothing had been settled as to the writing of any letter to Clara. She, however, would take upon herself to write while he was gone.

He went straight out towards the stables, hardly conscious of what he was doing or where he was going, and found his hack ready saddled for him in the stall. Then he remembered that he must either go or come to some decision that he would not go. The horse that he intended to ride had been sent on to the meet, and if he were not to be used, some message must be dispatched as to the animal’s return. But Will was half inclined to go, although he knew that the world would judge him to be heartless if he were to go hunting immediately on the receipt of the tidings which had reached him that morning. He thought that he would like to set the world at defiance in this matter. Let Frederic Aylmer go into mourning for the old man who was dead. Let Frederic Aylmer be solicitous for the daughter who was left lonely in the old house. No doubt. he, Will Belton, had inherited the dead man’s estate, and should, therefore, in accordance with all the ordinary rules of the world on such matters, submit himself at any rate to the decency of funereal reserve. An heir should not be seen out hunting on the day on which such tidings as to his heritage had reached him. But he did not wish, in his present mood, to be recognized as the heir. He did not want the property. He would have preferred to rid himself altogether of any of the obligations which the ownership of the estate entailed upon him. It was not permitted to him to have the custody of the old squire’s daughter, and therefore he was unwilling to meddle with any of the old squire’s concerns.

Belton had gone into the stable, and had himself loosed the animal, leading him out into the yard as though he were about to mount him. Then he had given the reins to a stable boy, and had walked away among the farm buildings, not thinking of what he was doing. The lad stood staring at him with open mouth, not at all understanding his master’s hesitation. The meet, as the boy knew, was fourteen miles off, and Belton had not allowed himself above an hour and a half for the journey. It was his practice to jump into the saddle and bustle out of the place, as though seconds were important to him. He would look at his watch with accuracy, and measure his pace from spot to spot, as though minutes were too valuable to be lost. But now he wandered away like one distraught, and the stable boy knew that something was wrong. ‘I thout he was a thinken of the white cow as choked ‘erself with the tunnup that was skipped in the chopping,’ said the boy, as he spoke of his master afterwards to the old groom. At last, however, a thought seemed to strike Belton. ‘Do you get on Brag,’ he said to the boy, ‘and ride off to Goldingham Corner, and tell Daniel to bring the horse home again. I shan’t hunt today. And I think I shall go away from home. If so, tell him to be sure the horses are out every morning and tell him to stop their beans. I mightn’t hunt again for the next month.’ Then he returned into the house, and went to the parlour in which his sister was sitting. ‘I shan’t go out today,’ he said.

‘I thought you would not, Will,’ she answered.

‘Not that I see any harm in it.’

‘I don’t say that there is any harm, but it is as well on such occasions to do as others do.’

‘That’s humbug, Mary.’

‘No, Will; I do not think that. When any practice has become the fixed rule of the society in which we live, it is always wise to adhere to that rule, unless it call upon us to do something that is actually wrong. One should not offend the prejudices of the world, even if one is quite sure that they are prejudices.’

‘It hasn’t been that that has brought me back, Mary. I’ll tell you what. I think I’ll go down to Belton after all.’

His sister did not know what to say in answer to this. Her chief anxiety was, of course, on behalf of her brother. That he should be made to forget Clara Amedroz, if that were only possible, was her great desire; and his journey at such a time as this down to Belton was not the way to accomplish such forgetting. And then she felt that Clara might very possibly not wish to see him. Had Will simply been her cousin, such a visit might be very well; but he had attempted to be more than her cousin, and therefore it would probably not be well. Captain Aylmer might not like it; and Mary felt herself bound to consider even Captain Aylmer’s likings in such a matter. And yet she could not bear to oppose him in anything. ‘It would be a very long journey,’ she said.

‘What does that signify?’

‘And then it might so probably be for nothing.’

‘Why should it be for nothing?’

‘Because ’

‘Because what? Why don’t you speak out? You need not be afraid of hurting me. Nothing that you can say can make it at all worse than it is.’

‘Dear Will, I wish I could make it better.’

‘But you can’t. Nobody can make it either better or worse. I promised her once before that I would go to her when she might be in trouble, and I will be as good as my word. I said I would be a brother to her and so I will. So help me God, I will!’ Then he rushed out of the room, striding through the door as though he would knock it down, and hurried up. stairs to his own chamber. When there he stripped himself of his hunting things, and dressed himself again with all the expedition in his power; and then he threw a heap of clothes into a large portmanteau, and set himself to work packing as though everything in the world were to depend upon his catching a certain train. And he went to a locked drawer, and taking out a cheque-book, folded it up and put it into his pocket. Then he rang the bell violently; and as he was locking the portmanteau, pressing down the lid with all his weight and all his strength, he ordered that a certain mare should be put into a certain dog-cart and that somebody might be ready to drive over with him to the Downham Station. Within twenty minutes of the time of his rushing upstairs he appeared again before his sister with a greatcoat on, and a railway rug hanging over his arm. ‘Do you mean that you are going today?’ said she.

‘Yes. I’ll catch the 11.40 up-train at Downham. What’s the good of going unless I go at once? If I can be of any use it will be at the first. It may be that she will have nobody there to do anything for her.’

‘There is the clergyman, and Colonel Askerton even if Captain Aylmer has not gone down.’

‘The clergyman and Colonel Askerton are nothing to her. And if that man is there I can come back again.’

‘You will not quarrel with him?’

‘Why should I quarrel with him? What is there to quarrel about? I’m not such a fool as to quarrel with a man because I hate him. If he is there I shall see her for a minute or two, and then I shall come back.’

‘I know it is no good my trying to dissuade you.’

‘None on earth. If you knew it all you would not try to dissuade me. Before I thought of asking her to be my wife and yet I thought of that very soon but before I ever thought of that, I told her that when she wanted a brother’s help I would give it her. Of course I was thinking of the property that she shouldn’t be turned out of her father’s house like a beggar. I hadn’t any settled plan then how could I? But I meant her to understand that when her father died I would be the same to her that I am to you. If you were alone, in distress, would I not go to you?’

‘But I have no one else, Will,’ said she, stretching out her hand to him where he stood.

‘That makes no difference,’ he replied, almost roughly. A promise is a promise, and I resolved from the first that my promise should hold good in spite of my disappointment. Dear, dear it seems but the other day when I made it and now, already, everything is changed.’ As he was speaking the servant entered the room, and told him that the horse and gig were ready for him. ‘I shall just do it nicely,’ said he, looking at his watch. ‘I have over an hour. God bless you, Mary. I shan’t be away long. You may be sure of that.’

‘I don’t suppose you can tell as yet, Will.’

‘What should keep me long? I shall see Green as I go by, and that is half of my errand. I dare say I shan’t stay above a night down in Somersetshire.’

‘You’ll have to give some orders about the estate.’

‘I shall not say a word on the subject to anybody; that is, not to anybody there. I am going to look after her, and not the estate.’ Then he stooped down and kissed his sister, and in another minute was turning the corner out of the farm-yard on to the road at a quick pace, not losing a foot of ground in the turn, in that fashion of rapidity which the horses at Plaistow Hall soon learned from their master. The horse is a closely sympathetic beast, and will make his turns, and do his trottings, and comport himself generally in strict unison with the pulsation of his master’s heart. When a horse won’t jump it is generally the case that the inner man is declining to jump also, let the outer man seem ever so anxious to accomplish the feat.

Belton, who was generally very communicative with his servants, always talking to any man he might have beside him in his dog-cart about the fields and cattle and tillage around him, said not a word to the boy who accompanied him on this occasion. He had a good many things to settle in his mind before he got to London, and he began upon the work as soon as he had turned the corner out of the farm-yard. As regarded this Belton estate, which was now altogether his own, he had always bad doubts and qualms qualms of feeling rather than of conscience; and he had, also, always entertained a strong family ambition. His people, ever so far back, had been Beltons of Belton. They told him that his family could be traced back to very early days before the Plantagenets, as he believed, though on this point of the subject he was very hazy in his information and he liked the idea of being the man by whom the family should be reconstructed in its glory. Worldly circumstances had been so kind to him, that he could take up the Belton estate with more of the prestige of wealth than had belonged to any of the owners of the place for many years past. Should it come to pass that living there would be desirable, he could rebuild the old house, and make new gardens, and fit himself out with all the pleasant braveries of a well-to-do English squire. There need be no pinching and scraping, no question whether a carriage would be possible, no doubt as to the prudence of preserving game. All this had given much that was delightful to his prospects. And he had, too, been instigated by a somewhat weak desire to emerge from that farmer’s rank into which he knew that many connected with him had supposed him to have sunk. It was true that he farmed land that was half his own and that, even at Plaistow, he was a wealthy man; but Plaistow Hall, with all its comforts, was a farm-house; and the ambition to be more than a farmer had been strong upon him.

But then there had been the feeling that in taking the Belton estate he would be robbing his Cousin Clara of all that should have been hers. It must be remembered that he had not been brought up in the belief that he would ever become the owner of Belton. All his high ambition in that matter had originated with the wretched death of Clara’s brother. Could he bring himself to take it all with pleasure, seeing that it came to him by so sad a chance by a catastrophe so deplorable? When he would think of this, his mind would revolt from its own desires, and he would declare to himself that his inheritance would come to him with a stain of blood upon it. He, indeed, would have been guiltless; but how could he take his pleasure in the shades of Belton without thinking of the tragedy which had given him the property? Such had been the thoughts and desires, mixed in their nature and militating against each other, which had induced him to offer his first visit to his cousin’s house. We know what was the effect of that visit, and by what pleasant scheme he had endeavoured to overcome all his difficulties, and so to become master of Belton that Clara Amedroz should also be its mistress. There had been a way which, after two days’ intimacy with Clara, seemed to promise him comfort and happiness on all sides. But he had come too late, and that way was closed against him! Now the estate was his, and what was he to do with it? Clara belonged to his rival, and in what way would it become him to treat her? He was still thinking simply of the cruelty of the circumstances which had thrown Captain Aylmer between him and his cousin, when he drove himself up to the railway station at Downham.

‘Take her back steady, Jem,’ he said to the boy.

‘I’ll be sure to take her wery steady,’ Jem answered, ‘and tell Compton to have the samples of barley ready for me. I may be back any day, and we shall be sowing early this spring.’

Then he left his cart, followed the porter who had taken his luggage eagerly, knowing that Mr Belton was always good for sixpence, and in five minutes’ time he was again in motion.

On his arrival in London he drove at once to the chambers of his friend, Mr Green, and luckily found the lawyer there. Had he missed doing this, it was his intention to go out to his friend’s house; and in that case he could not have gone down to Taunton till the next morning; but now he would be able to say what he wished to say, and hear what he wished to hear, and would travel down by the night — mail train. He was anxious that Clara should feel that he had hurried to her without a moment’s delay. It would do no good. He knew that. Nothing that he could do would alter her, or be of any service to him. She had accepted this man, and had herself no power of making a change, even if she should wish it. But still there was to him something of gratification in the idea that she should be made to feel that he, Belton, was more instant in his affection, more urgent in his good offices, more anxious to befriend her in her difficulties, than the man whom she had consented to take for her husband. Aylmer would probably go down to Belton, but Will was very anxious to be the first on the ground very anxious though his doing so could be of no use. All this was wrong on his part. He knew that it was wrong, and he abused himself for his own selfishness. But such self-abuse gave him no aid in escaping from his own wickedness. He would, if possible, be at Belton before Captain Aylmer; and he would, if possible, make Clara feel that, though he was not a Member of Parliament, though he was not much given to books, though he was only a farmer, yet he had at any rate as much heart and spirit as the fine gentleman whom she preferred to him.

‘I thought I should see you,’ said the lawyer; ‘but I hardly expected you so soon as this.’

‘I ought to have been a day sooner, only we don’t get our telegraphic messages on a Sunday.’

He still kept his greatcoat on; and it seemed by his manner that he had no intention of staying where he was above a minute or two.

‘You’ll come out and dine with me today?’ said Mr Green.

‘I can’t do that, for I shall go down by the mail train.’

‘I never saw such a fellow in my life. What good will that do? It is quite right that you should be there in time for the funeral; but I don’t suppose he will he buried before this day week.’

But Belton had never thought about the funeral. When he had spoken to his sister of saying but a few words to Clara and then returning, he had forgotten that there would be any such ceremony, or that he would be delayed by any such necessity.

‘I was not thinking about the funeral,’ said Belton. ‘You’ll only find yourself uncomfortable there.’

‘Of course I shall be uncomfortable.’

‘You can’t do anything about the property, you know.’

‘What do you mean by doing anything?’ said Belton, in an angry tone.

‘You can’t very well take possession of the place, at any rate, till after the funeral. It would not be considered the proper thing to do.’

‘You think, then, that I’m a bird of prey, smelling the feast from afar off, and hurrying at the dead man’s carcase as soon as the breath is out of his body?’

‘I don’t think anything of the kind, my dear fellow.’

‘Yes, you do, or you wouldn’t talk to me about doing the proper thing! I don’t care a straw about the proper thing! If I find that there’s anything to be done tomorrow that can be of any use, I shall do it, though all Somersetshire should think it improper! But I’m not going to look after my own interests!’

‘Take off your coat and sit down, Will, and don’t look angry at me. I know that you’re not greedy, well enough. Tell me what you are going to do, and let me see if I can help you.’

Belton did as he was told; he pulled off his coat and sat himself down by the fire. ‘I don’t know that you can do anything to help me at least, not as yet. But I must go and see after her. Perhaps she may be all alone.’

‘I suppose she is all alone.’

‘He hasn’t gone down, then?’

‘Who Captain Aylmer? No he hasn’t gone down, certainly. He is in Yorkshire.’

‘I’m glad of that!’

‘He won’t hurry himself. He never does, I fancy. I had a letter from him this morning about Miss Amedroz.’

‘And what did he say?’

‘He desired me to send her seventy-five pounds the interest of her aunt’s money.’

‘Seventy-five pounds!’ said Will Belton, contemptuously.

‘He thought she might want money at once; and I sent her the cheque today. It will go down by the same train that carries you.’

‘Seventy-five pounds! And you are sure that he has not gone himself?’

‘It isn’t likely that he should have written to me, and passed through London himself, at the same time but it is possible, no doubt. I don’t think he even knew the old squire; and there is no reason why he should go to the funeral.’

‘No reason at all,’ said Belton who felt that Captain Aylmer’s presence at the Castle would be an insult to himself. ‘I don’t know what on earth he should do there except that I think him just the fellow to intrude where he is not wanted.’ And yet Will was in his heart despising Captain Aylmer because he had not already hurried down to the assistance of the girl whom he professed to love.

‘He is engaged to her, you know,’ said the lawyer, in a low voice.

‘What difference does that make with such a fellow as he is a cold-blooded fish of a man, who thinks of nothing in the world but being respectable? Engaged to her! Oh, damn him!’

‘I’ve not the slightest objection. I don’t think, however, that you’ll find him at Belton before you. No doubt she will have heard from him; and it strikes me as very possible that she may go to Aylmer Park.’

‘What should she go there for?’

‘Would it not be the best place for her?’

‘No. My house would be the best place for her. I am her nearest relative. Why should she not come to us?’

Mr Green turned round his chair and poked the fire, and fidgeted about for some moments before he answered. ‘My dear fellow, you must know that that wouldn’t do.’ He then said, ‘You ought to feel that it wouldn’t do you ought indeed.’

‘Why shouldn’t my sister receive Miss Amedroz as well as that old woman down in Yorkshire?’

‘If I may tell you, I will.’

‘Of course you may tell me.’

‘Because Miss Amedroz is engaged to be married to that old woman’s son, and is not engaged to be married to your sister’s brother. The thing is done, and what is the good of interfering? As far as she is concerned, a great burden is off your hands.’

‘What do you mean by a burden?’

‘I mean that her engagement to Captain Aylmer makes it unnecessary for you to suppose that she is in want of any pecuniary assistance. You told me once before that you would feel yourself called upon to see that she wanted nothing.’

‘So I do now.’

‘But Captain Aylmer will look after that.’

‘I tell you what it is, Joe; I mean to settle the Belton property in such a way that she shall have it, and that he shan’t be able to touch it. And it shall go to some one who shall have my name William Belton. That’s what I want you to arrange for me.’

‘After you are dead, you mean.’

‘I mean now, at once. I won’t take the estate from her. I hate the place and everything belonging to it. I don’t mean her. There is no reason for hating her.’

‘My dear Will, you are talking nonsense.’

‘Why is it nonsense? I may give what belongs to me to whom I please.’

‘You can do nothing of the kind at any rate, not by my assistance. You talk as though the world were all over with you as though you were never to be married or have any children of your own.’

‘I shall never marry.’

‘Nonsense, Will. Don’t make such an ass of yourself as to suppose that you’ll not get over such a thing as this. You’ll be married and have a dozen children yet to provide for. Let the eldest have Belton Castle, and everything will go on then in the proper way.’

Belton had now got the poker into his hands, and sat silent for some time, knocking the coals about. Then he got up, and took his hat, and put on his coat. Of course I can’t make you understand me,’ he said; at any rate not all at once. I’m not such a fool as to want to give up my property just because a girl is going to be married to a man I don’t like. I’m not such an ass as to give him my estate for such a reason as that for it will be giving it to him, let me tie it up as I may. But I’ve a feeling about it which makes it impossible for me to take it. How would you like to get a thing by another fellow having destroyed himself

‘You can’t help that. It’s yours by law.’

‘Of course it is. I know that. And as it’s mine I can do what I like with it. Well good-bye. When I’ve got anything to say, I’ll write.’ Then he went down to his cab and had himself driven to the Great Western Railway Hotel.

Captain Aylmer had sent to his betrothed seventy. five pounds; the exact interest at five per cent, for one year of the sum which his aunt had left her. This was the first subject of which Belton thought when he found himself again in the railway carriage, and he continued thinking of it half the way down to Taunton. Seventy-five pounds! As though this favoured lover were prepared to give her exactly her due, and nothing more than her due! Had he been so placed, he, Will Belton, what would he have done? Seventy-five pounds might have been more money than she would have wanted, for he would have taken her to his own house to his own bosom as soon as she would have permitted, and would have so laboured on her behalf, taking from her shoulders all money troubles, that there would have been no question as to principal or interest between them. At any rate be would not have confined himself to sending to her the exact sum which was her due. But then Aylmer was a cold-blooded man more like a fish than a man. Belton told himself over and over again that he had discovered that at the single glance which he had had when he saw Captain Aylmer in Green’s chambers. Seventy-five pounds indeed! He himself was prepared to give his whole estate to her, if she would take it even though she would not marry him, even though she was going to throw herself away upon that fish! Then he felt somewhat as Hamlet did when he jumped upon Laertes at the grave of Ophelia. Send her seventy-five pounds indeed, while he was ready to drink up Esil for her, or to make over to her the whole Belton estate, and thus abandon the idea for ever of being Belton of Belton!

He reached Taunton in the middle of the night during the small hours of the morning in a winter night; but yet he could not bring himself to go to bed. So he knocked up an ostler at the nearest inn, and ordered out a gig. He would go down to the village of Redicote, on the Minehead road, and put up at the public-house there. He could not now have himself driven at once to Belton Castle, as he would have done had the old squire been alive. He fancied that his presence would be a nuisance if he did so. So he went to the little inn at Redicote, reaching that place between four and five o’clock in the morning; and very uncomfortable he was when he got there. But in his present frame of mind he preferred discomfort. He liked being tired and cold, and felt, when he was put into a chill room, without fire, and with a sanded floor, that things with him were as they ought to be.

Yes he could have a fly over to Belton Castle after breakfast. Having learned so much, and ordered a dish of eggs and bacon for his morning’s breakfast, be went upstairs to a miserable little bedroom, to dress himself after his night’s journey.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43