Anthony Trollope: The Belton Estate


But the character of a man is not to be judged from the pictures which he may draw or from the antics which he may play in his solitary hours. Those who act generally with the most consummate wisdom in the affairs of the world, often meditate very silly doings before their wiser resolutions form themselves. I beg, therefore, that Mr Belton may be regarded and criticized in accordance with his conduct on the following morning when his midnight rambles, which finally took him even beyond the New Road, had been followed by a few tranquil hours in his Bond Street bedroom for at last he did bring himself to return thither and put himself to bed after the usual fashion. He put himself to bed in a spirit somewhat tranquillized by the exercise of the night, and at last wept himself to sleep like a baby.

But he was by no means like a baby when he took him early on the following morning to the Paddington Station, and booked himself manfully for Taunton. He had had time to recognize the fact that he had no ground of quarrel with his cousin because she had preferred another man to him. This had happened to him as he was recrossing the New Road about two o'clock, and was beginning to find that his legs were weary under him. And, indeed, he had recognized one or two things before he had gone to sleep with his tears dripping on to his pillow. In the first place, he had ill-treated Joe Green, and had made a fool of himself in his friend's presence. As Joe Green was a sensible, kind-hearted fellow, this did not much signify but not on that account did be omit to tell himself of his own fault. Then he discovered that it would ill become him to break his word to Mr Amedroz and to his daughter, and to do so without a word of excuse, because Clara had exercised a right which was indisputably her own. He had undertaken certain work at Belton which required his presence, and he would go down and do his work as though nothing had occurred to disturb him. To remain away because of this misfortune would be to show the white feather. It would be unmanly. All this he recognized as the pictures he had painted faded away from their canvases. As to Captain Aylmer himself, he hoped that he might never be called upon to meet him. He still hoped that, even as he was resolutely cramming his shirts into his portmanteau before he began his journey. His Cousin Clara he thought he could meet, and tender to her some expression of good wishes as to her future life, without giving way under the effort. And to the old squire he could endeavour to make himself pleasant, speaking of the relief from all trouble which this marriage with Captain Aylmer would afford for now, in his cooler moments, be could perceive that Captain Aylmer was not a man apt to ruin himself, or his wife and children. But to Captain Aylmer himself, he could not bring himself to say pleasant things or to express pleasant wishes. She who was to be Captain Aylmer's wife, who loved him, would of course have told him what had occurred up among the rocks in Belton Park; and if that was so, any meeting between Will and Captain Aylmer would be death to the former.

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