Anthony Trollope: The Belton Estate


On the first evening of their visit Captain Aylmer was very attentive to his aunt. He was quite alive to the propriety of such attentions, and to their expediency; and Clara was amused as she watched him while he sat by her side, by the hour together, answering little questions and making little remarks suited to the temperament of the old lady's mind. She, herself, was hardly called upon to join in the conversation on that evening, and as she sat and listened, she could not but think that Will Belton would have been less adroit, but that he would also have been more straightforward. And yet why should not Captain Aylmer talk to his mat? Will Belton would also have talked to his aunt if he had one, but then he would have talked his own talk, and not his aunt's talk. Clara could hardly make up her mind whether Captain Aylmer was or was not a sincere man. On the following day Aylmer was out all the morning, paying visits among his constituents, and at three o'clock he was to make his speech in the town-hall. Special places in the gallery were to be kept for Mrs Winterfield and her niece, and the old woman was quite resolved that she would be there. As the day advanced she became very fidgety, and at length she was quite alive to the perils of having to climb up the town-hall stairs; but she persevered, and at ten minutes before three she was seated in her place.

'I suppose they will begin with prayer,' she said to Clara. Clara, who knew nothing of the manner in which things were done at such meetings, said that she supposed so. A town councillor's wife who sat on the other side of Mrs Winterfield here took the liberty of explaining that as the captain was going to talk politics there would be no prayers. 'But they have prayers in the Houses of Parliament,' said Mrs Winterfield, with much anger. To this the town councillor's wife, who was almost silenced by the great lady's wrath, said that indeed she did not know. After this Mrs Winterfield continued to hope for the best, till the platform was filled and the proceedings had commenced. Then she declared the present men of Perivale to be a godless set, and expressed herself very sorry that her nephew had ever had anything to do with them. 'No good can come of it, my dear,' she said. Clara from the beginning had feared that no good would come of her aunt's visit to the town-hall.

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