Anthony Trollope: The Belton Estate


But it was clearly her duty to make the best of her present circumstances, and she went down-stairs with a smiling face and with pleasant words on her tongue. When she entered the breakfast-room Captain Aylmer was there; but Martha was there also, and her pleasant words were received indifferently in the presence of the servant. When the old woman was gone, Captain Aylmer assumed a grave face, and began a serious little speech which he had prepared. But he broke down in the utterance of it, and was saying things very different from what he had intended before he had completed it.

'Clara,' he began, 'what occurred between us yesterday is a source of great satisfaction to me.'

'I am glad of that, Frederick,' said she, trying to be a little less serious than her lover.

'Of very great satisfaction,' he continued; 'and I cannot but think that we were justified by the circumstances of our position in forgetting for a time the sad solemnity of the occasion. When I remember that it was but the day before yesterday that I followed my dear old aunt to the grave, I am astonished to think that yesterday I should have made an offer of marriage.'

What could be the good of his talking in this strain? Clara, too, had had her own misgivings on the same subject little qualms of conscience that had come to her as she remembered her old friend in the silent watches of the night; but such thoughts were for the silent watches, and not for open expression in the broad daylight. But he had paused, and she must say something.

'One's excuse to oneself is this that she would have wished it so.'

'Exactly. She would have wished it. Indeed she did wish it, and therefore ' He paused in what he was saying, and felt himself to be on difficult ground. Her eye was full upon him, and she waited for a moment or two as though expecting that he would finish his words. But as he did not go on, she finished them for him.

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