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30. CHAPTER XXX: MARY BELTON (continued)
'Then he is a tyrant at home.'
'A beneficent despot. Some despots, you know, always were beneficent.'
'He won't have his way in this thing.'
'I'll leave you and him to fight about that, my dear. I am so completely under his thumb that I always obey him in everything. You must not, therefore, expect to range me on your side.'
The next day they were at Belton Castle, and in a very few hours Clara felt that she was quite at home with her cousin. On the second day Mrs Askerton came up and called according to an arrangement to that effect made between her and Clara. I'll stay away if you like it,' Mrs Askerton had said. But Clara had urged her to come, arguing with her that she was foolish to be thinking always of her own misfortune. 'Of course I am always thinking of it,' she had replied, and always thinking that other people are thinking of it. Your cousin, Miss Belton, knows all my history, of course, But what matters? I believe it would be better that everybody should know it. I suppose she's very straight-laced and prim.'She is not prim at all,' said Clara. 'Well, I'll come,' said Mrs Askerton, 'but I shall not be a bit surprised if I hear that she goes back to Norfolk the next day.'
So Mrs Askerton came, and Miss Belton did not go back to Norfolk. Indeed, at the end of the visit, Mrs Askerton had almost taught herself to believe that William Belton had kept his secret, even from his sister. 'She's a dear little woman,' Mrs Askerton afterwards said to Clara.
'Is she not?'
'And so thoroughly like a lady.'
'Yes; I think she is a lady.'
'A princess among ladies! What a pretty little conscious way she has of asserting herself when she has an opinion and means to stick to it! I never saw a woman who got more strength out of her weakness. Who would dare to contradict her?'
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