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21. CHAPTER XXI: MRS ASKERTON'S GENEROSITY
The death of the old man at Belton Castle had been very sudden. At three o'clock in the morning Clara had been called into his room, and at five o'clock she was alone in the world having neither father, mother, nor brother; without a home, without a shilling that she could call her own with no hope as to her future life, if as she had so much reason to suppose Captain Aylmer should have chosen to accept her last letter as a ground for permanent separation. But at this moment, on this saddest morning, she did not care much for that chance. It seemed to be almost indifferent to her, that question of Lady Aylmer and her anger. The more that she was absolutely in need of external friendship, the more disposed was she to reject it, and to declare to herself that she was prepared to stand alone in the world.
For the last week she had understood from the doctor that her father was in truth sinking, and that she might hardly hope ever to see him again convalescent. She had therefore in some sort prepared herself for her loneliness, and anticipated the misery of her position. As soon as it was known to the women in the room that life had left the old man, one of them had taken her by the hand and led her back to her own chamber. 'Now, Miss Clara, you had better lie down on the bed again you had indeed; you can do nothing sitting up.' She took the old woman's advice, and allowed them to do with her as they would. It was true that there was no longer any work by which she could make herself useful in that house in that house, or, as far as she could see, in any other. Yes; she would go to bed, and lying there would feel how convenient it would be for many persons if she also could be taken away to her long rest, as her father, and aunt, and brother had been taken before her.
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