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Twenty eager voices responded at once, each setting forth a distinct and separate charge against the presumed Romanists.
“Papists, are they ?” rejoined the Baronet ; “just let me make them out and I will soon confess them, I will. Where are they? this way? God bless my soul! you cannot mean that it was they !"
This last exclamation was uttered, when he ascertained the most unwelcome fact that the delinquents were no others than his niece and St. Edmunds.
“Ah! Cécile,” added he in a low tone, “I thought it would come to this at last.”
“ When we can explain what has occurred," immediately answered our hero, “you will see that no blame can rest on our side; but now, our only care should be to place Miss Basinstoke as soon as possible in safety."
His uncle implied his tacit assent by offering his arm to Cécile, and leading her at once to the carriage, which was ordered to proceed homewards so soon as all three had taken their seat. But alas ! for the instability of popular favour! Those among the assailants who had most eagerly welcomed, a few minutes before, the magistrate, when they conceived that his intervention would be in accordance with their views, were now the most indignant of all at the countenance shown by him to the opposite party. Scarcely had the carriage moved off when loud groans, intermingled with cries of: “Down with the Papists.”— “He is more than half way to Rome.”—“ He is a Papist too.”-resounded on all sides.
To describe the indignant fury of the little Baronet would be quite beyond our powers. He stamped, he swore, he stamped again, and finally, notwithstanding the expostulations of his nephew, who was now convulsed with suppressed laughter, he actually desired that the carriage should stop, and threw open the door that he might himself address the deluded many-headed. So sharp, however, was their response of shrieks, of stones and of mud, that the oration was forcibly brought to a very premature end, and the speaker borne rapidly away from the scene of the controversy by the imperative orders of St. Edmunds.
The usually joyous dinner-table of Redburn Hall was, on this evening of the 5th of November, 1850, singularly sad and silent. Constance was again confined to her room with a head-ache ; Cécile, exhausted by the proceedings of the day, had not found strength to appear; Edward had stayed on at the Thornhills. The small party was thus reduced to three persons, not one of whom seemed in a very elated or conversable mood; but the sullen asperity of Lady Helen's manner, and the quiescent pensiveness into which our hero was continually relapsing, whether in consequence of the absence of his fair cousin, or of a smart blow on the head, administered to him by our recent acquaintance Bill, showed as nought by the forlorn despondency of the master of the house. Never, in the memory of his oldest servant, had his ruddy countenance revealed any such symptoms of mental prostration, and his sole, but oftmuttered exclamation : "I never could have believed it !” marked that he was no less amazed at the cause, than they were at the traces of his internal anguish. At length the domestics retired, and his over-wrought feelings sought some relief in a freer expression.
“If five thousand pounds had been offered upon it, I would have taken it! To think that for six and fifty years have I been, man and boy, moving backwards and forwards upon that road to Glanford, at every hour of the day or night, and never met with an uncivil look until this blessed day! And now, here am I insulted, and hooted, and pelted in my own carriage, on my own land, almost at my very hall-door ! I could not have believed it if I had read of it in fifty papers !"
“Well but, my dear,” observed Lady Helen, who, by the bye, if she were really anxious to soothe her husband's irritated feelings, was not, on this occasion, peculiarly skilful or successful, “are you quite sure that you were recognised ?”
“Recognised ! of course I was !” retorted he angrily; “I have already told you that I heard my name mentioned twenty times, and who else but me in the county would they hoot as a Papist now-a-days? I verily believe, that one fellow was hailing me as a cardinal, forsooth !"
“Come, Sir Charles,” interposed his nephew, scarcely suppressing a smile, “I was nearer wearing a red cap than you were this afternoon. After all, you came in for the best part of it. If you had had such a rap on the head as I got, you might have some reason to sing out.”
“I will tell you what it is, nephew,” said Sir Charles, by no means responding to St. Edmunds's tone. “It is all a very good joke, I dare say, for you who have your station, and a most honourable one it is, in another part of the country. But mine is here; through life my object has been that it should remain creditable, and I cannot see it forfeited, day by day, with indifference. What appears to divert you so vastly may also amuse others, in a far