Anthony Trollope: The Belton Estate


The next day was necessarily very sad. Clara had declared her determination to follow her aunt to the churchyard, and did so, together with Martha, the old servant. There were three or four mourning coaches, as family friends came over from Taunton, one or two of whom were to be present at the reading of the will. How melancholy was the occasion, and how well the work was done; how substantial and yet how solemn was the luncheon, spread after the funeral for the gentlemen; and how the will was read, without a word of remark, by Mr Palmer, need hardly be told here. The will contained certain substantial legacies to servants the amount to that old handmaid Martha being so great as to produce a fit of fainting, after which the old handmaid declared that if ever there was, by any chance, an angel of light upon the earth, it was her late mistress; and yet Martha had had her troubles with her mistress; and there was a legacy of two hundred pounds to the gentleman who was called upon to act as co-executor with Captain Aylmer. Other clause in the will there was none, except that one substantial clause which bequeathed to her well-beloved nephew, Frederic Folliott Aylmer, everything of which the testatrix died possessed. The will had been made at some moment in which Clara's spirit of independence had offended her aunt, and her name was not mentioned. That nothing should have been left to Clara was the one thing that surprised the relatives from Taunton who were present. The relatives from Taunton, to give them their due, expected nothing for themselves; but as there had been great doubt as to the proportions in which the property would be divided between the nephew and adopted niece, there was aroused a considerable excitement as to the omission of the name of Miss Amedroz an excitement which was not altogether unpleasant. When people complain of some cruel shame, which does not affect themselves personally, the complaint is generally accompanied by an unexpressed and unconscious feeling of satisfaction.

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