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16. CHAPTER XVI: THE HEIR'S SECOND VISIT TO BELTON
Clara began to doubt whether any possible arrangement of the circumstances of her life could be regarded as fortunate. She was very fond, in a different degree and after a different fashion, of both Captain Aylmer and Mr Belton. As regarded both, her position was now exactly what she herself would have wished. The man that she loved was betrothed to her, and the other man, whom she loved indeed also as a brother, was coming to her in that guise with the understanding that that was to be his position. And yet everything was going wrong! Her father, though he did not actually say anything against Captain Aylmer, showed by a hundred little signs, of which he was a skilful master, that the Aylmer alliance was distasteful to him, and that he thought himself to be aggrieved in that his daughter would not marry her cousin; whereas, over at the cottage, there was a still more bitter feeling against Mr Belton a feeling so bitter, that it almost induced Clara to wish that her cousin was not coming to them.
But the cousin did come, and was driven up to the door in the gig from Taunton, just as had been the case on his previous visit. Then, however, he had come in the full daylight, and the hay-carts had been about, and all the prettiness and warmth of summer had been there; now it was mid-winter, and there had been some slight beginnings of snow, and the wind was moaning about the old tower, and the outside of the house looked very unpleasant from the hall-door. As it had become dusk in the afternoon, the old squire had been very careful in his orders as to preparations for Will's comfort as though Clara would have forgotten all those things in the preoccupation of her mind, caused by the constancy of her thoughts towards Will's rival. He even went so far as to creep across the upstairs landing-place to see that the fire was lighted in Will's room, this being the first time that he had left his chamber for many days and bad given special orders as to the food which was to be prepared for Will's dinner in a very different spirit from that which bad dictated some former orders when Will was about to make his first visit, and when his coming had been regarded by the old man as a heartless, indelicate, and almost hostile proceeding.
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