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9. CHAPTER IX: CAPTAIN AYLMER'S PROMISE TO HIS AUNT
What had Captain Aylmer meant by telling her that they might be the dearest friends by saying so much as that, and then saying no more? Of course Clara asked herself that question as soon as she was alone in her bedroom, after leaving Captain Aylmer below. And she made two answers to herself two answers which were altogether distinct and contradictory one of the other. At first she decided that he had said so much and no more because he was deceitful because it suited his vanity to raise hopes which he had no intention of fulfilling because he was fond of saying soft things which were intended to have no meaning. This was her first answer to herself. But in her second she accused herself as much as before she had accused him. She had been cold to him, unfriendly, and harsh. As her aunt had told her, she spoke sharp words to him, and repulsed the kindness which he offered her. What right had she to expect from him a declaration of love when she was studious to stop him at every avenue by which he might approach it? A little management on her side would, she almost knew, make things right. But then the idea of any such management distressed her nay, more, disgusted her. The management, if any were necessary, must come from him. And it was manifest enough that if he had any strong wishes in this matter he was not a good manager. Her cousin, Will Belton, knew how to manage much better.
On the next morning, however, all her thoughts respecting Captain Aylmer were dissipated by tidings which Martha brought to her bedside. Her aunt was ill. Martha was afraid that her mistress was very ill. She did not dare to send specially for the doctor on her own responsibility, as Mrs Winterfield had strong and peculiar feelings about doctors' visits, and had on this very morning declined to be so visited. On the next day the doctor would come in the usual course of things, for she had submitted for some years back to such periodical visitings; but she had desired that nothing might be done out of the common way. Martha, however, declared that if she were alone with her mistress the doctor would be sent for; and she now petitioned for aid from Clara. Clara was, of course, by her aunt's bedside in a few minutes, and in a few minutes more the doctor from the other side of the way was there also.
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