“What a disaster!” exclaimed Harriet, “that my sister and I should have been out of the way, and only a chit like Aura be there to be presented to him.”
“If young ladies will defy Cupid,” began her father;—but at that moment Corporal Palmer knocked at the door, bringing a basin of soup for his master, and announcing “Supper is served, young ladies.”
Each of the three bent her knee to receive her father’s blessing and kiss, then curtseying at the door, departed, Betty lingering behind her two juniors to see her father taste his soup and to make sure that he relished it.
All his Paphian mother fear;
Empress! all thy sway revere!
The parlour where the supper was laid was oak panelled, but painted white. Like a little island in the vast polished slippery floor lay a square much-worn carpet, just big enough to accommodate a moderate-sized table and the surrounding high-backed chairs. There was a tent-stitch rug before the Dutch-tiled fireplace, and on the walls hung two framed prints,—one representing the stately and graceful Duke of Marlborough; the other, the small, dark, pinched, but fiery Prince Eugene. On the spotless white cloth was spread a frugal meal of bread, butter, cheese, and lettuce; a jug of milk, another of water, and a bottle of cowslip wine; for the habits of the family were more than usually frugal and abstemious.
Frugality and health alike obliged Major Delavie to observe a careful regimen. He had served in all Marlborough’s campaigns, and had afterwards entered the Austrian army, and fought in the Turkish war, until he had been disabled before Belgrade by a terrible wound, of which he still felt the effects. Returning home with his wife, the daughter of a Jacobite exile, he had become a kind of agent in managing the family estate for his cousin the heiress, Lady Belamour, who allowed him to live rent-free in this ruinous old Manor-house, the cradle of the family.
This was all that Harriet and Aurelia knew. The latter had been born at the Manor, and young girls, if not brought extremely forward, were treated like children; but Elizabeth, the eldest of the family, who could remember Vienna, was so much the companion and confidante of her father, that she was more on the level of a mother than a sister to her juniors.
“Then you think Aurelia’s beau was really Sir Amyas Belamour,” said Harriet, as they sat down to supper.
“So it appears,” said Betty, gravely.
“Do you think he will come hither, sister? I would give the world to see him,” continued Harriet.
“He said something of hoping for better acquaintance,” softly put in Aurelia.
“Oh, did he so?” cried Harriet. “For demure as you are, Miss Aura, I fancy you looked a little above the diamond shoe-buckles!”