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27. CHAPTER XXVII: ONCE MORE BACK TO BELTON (continued)
It could not be, she said to herself, that the property ought to be hers. It would make her miserable, were she once to feel that she had accepted it. Some small allowance out of it, coming to her from the brotherly love of her cousin some moderate stipend sufficient for her livelihood, she thought she could accept from him. It seemed to her that it was her destiny to be dependent on charity to eat bread given to her from the benevolence of a friend; and she thought that she could endure his benevolence better than that of any other. Benevolence from Aylmer Park or from Perivale would be altogether unendurable.
But why should it not be as Colonel Askerton had proposed? That this cousin of hers loved her with all his heart with a constancy for which she had at first given him no credit she was well aware. And, as regarded herself, she loved him better than all the world beside. She had at last become conscious that she could not now marry Captain Aylmer without sin without false vows, and fatal injury to herself and him. To the prospect of that marriage, as her future fate, an end must be put at any rate an end, if that which had already taken place was not to be regarded as end enough. But yet she had been engaged to Captain Aylmer was engaged to him even now. When last her cousin had mentioned to her Captain Aylmer's name she had declared that she loved him still. How then could she turn round now, and so soon accept the love of another man? How could she bring herself to let her cousin assume to himself the place of a lover, when it was but the other day that she had rebuked him for expressing the faintest hope in that direction?
But yet yet ! As for going to Plaistow, that was quite out of the question.
'So you are to be the heiress after all,' said Mrs Askerton to her that night in her bedroom.
'No; I am not to be the heiress after all,' said Clara, rising against her friend impetuously.
'You'll have to be lady of Belton in one way or the other at any rate,' said Mrs Askerton.
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