“Better part with that then resign my Aurelia in the dark, uncertain whether it be for her good.”
CHAPTER XVIII. THE PROPOSAL.
Love sweetest lies concealed in night.—T. MOORE.
The Major rode up to the Great House to announce that he would only give his answer after having conferred with both his daughter and the suitor.
With tears in her beautiful blue eyes, Lady Belamour demanded why her dear cousin Harry could not trust the Urania he had known all her life to decide what was for the happiness of the sweet child whom she loved like her own.
She made him actually feel as if it were a cruel and unmerited suspicion, but she did not over come him. “Madam,” he said, “it would be against my orders, as father of a family, to give my child away without doing my poor best for her.”
There, in spite of all obstacles suggested and all displeasure manifested, he stuck fast, until, without choosing to wait till a shower of sleet and rain was over. Vexation and perplexity always overset his health, and the chill, added to them, rendered him so ill the next morning that Betty knew there was no chance of his leaving his room for the next month or six weeks; and she therefore sent a polite and formal note to the Great House explaining that he could not attend to business.
This brought upon her the honour of a visit from the great lady herself. Down came the coach-and-four, and forth from it came Lady Belamour in a magnificent hoop, the first seen in those parts, managing it with a grace that made her an overwhelming spectacle, in contrast with Betty, in her close-fitting dark-grey homespun, plain white muslin apron, cap, kerchief, and ruggles, scrupulously neat and fresh, but unadorned. The visit was graciously designed for “good cousin Harry,” but his daughter was obliged, not unwillingly, though quite truly, to declare him far too suffering with pain and fever.
“La, you there, then,” said the lady, “that comes of the dear man’s heat of temper. I would have kept him till the storm was over but he was far too much displeased with his poor cousin to listen to me. Come, cousin Betty, I know you are in all his counsels. You will bring him to hear reason.”
“The whole affair must wait, madam, till he is able to move.”
“And if this illness be the consequence of one wet ride, how can he be in a condition to take the journey?”
“You best know, madam whether a father can be expected to bestow his daughter in so strange a manner without direct communication either with her or with the other party.”
“I grant you the idea is at first sight startling, but surely he might trust to me; and he knows Amyas Belamour, poor man, to be the very soul of honour; yes, and with all his eccentricity to have made no small impression on our fair Aurelia. Depend upon it, my dear Betty, romance carried the day; and the damsel is more enamoured of the mysterious voice in the dark, than she would be of any lusty swain in the ordinary light of day.”