Anthony Trollope: The Belton Estate


Clara felt herself to be a coward as the Aylmer Park carriage, which had been sent to meet her at the station, was drawn up at Sir Anthony Aylmer's door. She had made up her mind that she would not bow down to Lady Aylmer, and yet she was afraid of the woman. As she got out of the carriage, she looked up, expecting to see her in the hall; but Lady Aylmer was too accurately acquainted with the weights and measures of society for any such movement as that. Had her son brought Lady Emily to the house as his future bride, Lady Aylmer would probably have been in the hall when the arrival took place; and had Clara possessed ten thousand pounds of her own, she would probably have been met at the drawing-room door; but as she had neither money nor title as she in fact brought with her no advantages of any sort Lady Aylmer was found stitching a bit of worsted, as though she had expected no one to come to her. And Belinda Aylmer was stitching also by special order from her mother. The reader will remember that Lady Aylmer was not without strong hope that the engagement might even yet be broken off. Snubbing, she thought, might probably be efficacious to this purpose, and so Clara was to be snubbed.

Clara, who had just promised to do her best to gain Lady Aylmer's opinion, and who desired to be in some way true to her promise, though she thoroughly believed that her labour would be in vain, put on her pleasantest smile as she entered the room. Belinda, under the pressure of the circumstances, forgetting somewhat of her mother's injunctions, hurried to the door to welcome the stranger. Lady Aylmer kept her chair, and even maintained her stitch, till Clara was half across the room. Then she got up, and with great mastery over her voice, made her little speech.

'We are delighted to see you, Miss Amedroz,' she said, putting out her hand of which Clara, however, felt no more than the finger.

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