“You still suspect that your mother knows where our Aurelia is?” said Betty. “When I think of her demeanour, I can hardly believe it! But did you hear nothing of your little sisters?”
“I did not ask. In truth I was confounded by a proposal that was made to me. If I will immediately marry my mother’s darling, Lady Belle, I may have leave of absence from her and my regiment, both at once, and go to meet Mr. Wayland if I like, or at any rate make the grand tour, while they try to break in my charming bride for me. Of course I said that, being a married man, nothing should induce me to break the law, nor to put any lady in such a position; and equally, of course, I was shown a lawyer’s opinion that the transaction was invalid.”
“As I always believed,” said his uncle. “The ceremony must be repeated when we find her: though even if you were willing, the other parties are very ill-advised to press for a marriage without judgment first being delivered, how far the present is binding. So she wants to send you off on your travels, does she?”
“She wishes me to go and arrange for her husband’s ransom,” said the Major. “I would be ready enough were my child only found, but I believe government would take it up, he being on his Majesty’s service.”
“It is a mere device for disposing of you—yes, and of my nephew too,” said Mr. Belamour. “As for me, we know already her kind plans for putting me out of reach of interference. I see, she communicated them to you. Did she ask your cooperation, Major? Ah! certainly, an ingenious plan for disuniting us. I am the more convinced that she is well aware of where the poor child is, and that she wishes to be speedy in her measures.”
There is no need to describe the half-frantic vehemence of the young lover, nor the way in which the father and sister tried to moderate his transports, though no less wretched themselves.
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE ROUT.
Great troups of people travelled
Both day and night, of each degree and place.—SPENSER.
Much against their will, Major Delavie and his soi-disant son-in-law set forth for Lady Belamour’s entertainment, thinking no opportunity of collecting intelligence was to be despised; while she probably wished to obviate all reports of a misunderstanding as well as to keep them under her own eye.
The reception rooms were less adorned than the lady’s private apartment. There were pictures on the walls, and long ranks of chairs ranged round, and card-tables were set out in order. The ladies sat in rows, and the gentlemen stood in knots and talked, all in full dress, resplendent figures in brilliant velvet, gold lace, and embroidery, with swords by their sides, cocked hats, edged with gold or silver lace, under their arms, and gemmed shoe buckles. The order of creation was not yet reversed; the male creature was quite as gorgeous in colour and ornament as the female, who sat in her brocade, powder and patches, fan in hand, to receive the homage of his snuff-box.