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closing fast around her, for, during two whole days, neither a word nor a look did she succeed in exchanging with her uncle or with Lady Helen.
EDWARD BASINSTOKE'S LIBERALISM.
ONE solitary ray of consolation and of hope, would occasionally break in upon the deep gloom of Sir Charles Basinstoke's despondency. He could not but remember that the long-promised County Meeting was even now at hand, and that an opportunity would there be afforded to him for thoroughly and completely vindicating himself from the aspersions so malignantly cast upon him by his adversaries.
The great day came at last. The atmospheric heavens did not, to be sure, peculiarly shine upon it, for it was somewhat wet and drizzly ; still, at the appointed time, the chariot and four drove up, the worthy Baronet entered it, with the determined air of one for whom the avenging hour had struck at last, and he was followed by Edward alone, the habitual serenity of whose mien was in nowise impaired by the anticipation of the forthcoming ordeal.
“Don't wait dinner for us after half past seven, Helen,” were Sir Charles's parting words, “ but I will try and let you know how things are going on."
Her husband was as good as his word, for Lady Helen received, at about five o'clock, a few hurried lines, which she was kind enough to communicate at once to Cécile, informing the family that a very strong expression of his Protestant sentiments had been very rapturously cheered, and that if Edward, who was to speak later, were to be equally successful, the day would be all for the Basinstokes. As Edward was by far the more practised speaker of the two, his mother could have but little doubt that Sir Charles's most sanguine expectations would be realized. Great, therefore, was her astonishment, and that, indeed, of all who had remained at the Hall, when, on being joined by both the gentlemen, a few minutes after they had sat down to dinner, they observed every possible token of irritation and disappointment in the luckless Baronet's countenance and manner. So long as the servants were present, no explanation could of course be elicited, but no sooner had the door closed upon the last of them, than Constance, with her usual aplomb, inquired if anything had gone wrong.
“Gone wrong!” replied the father bitterly. “Oh! dear no, not in the least. I shall have to close up the old house here, and go and live abroad, that's all. I would rather finish my days at Rome, I'll be hanged if I wouldn't, than again pass such a month as the last.”.
“Well, there might be greater misfortunes than that, mightn't there, Cécile ?” resumed Constance. “But how is it, dear Papa ? I thought that your speech had been so well received."
“So it was, and so would anybody's who had spoken out manfully against the Pope and the Papists."
“ Then did Edward break down after all ?”
“Break down ! No. I wish to Heavens that he had, or stayed at home either, sooner than I should have heard him proclaim his milk-and-water rubbish, and bring me also into it, forsooth.”
“Come, come,” interposed Edward, smiling, “I only said that you had voted for the Catholic Emancipation Bill, as I should, had I been in Parliament then.”
“ And a cursed fool I was, too, for my pains, and a proper simpleton you must be for having recalled my folly at such a moment.”
“Well, but what could I say, after all, save what I feel and think. I only told them that, for the honour of the age, and of the country, I had always hoped and held that the Act of 1829 was final—final, at least, as against pains, penalties, and disabilities.”
“And so we are to do nothing, nothing in life, whatever insults or aggressions the Pope may attempt to palm upon us ?”
“I do not say that: I have no objection to any declaration setting forth the opinions and sentiments of the majority. But so long as we insure to our clergy alone all the endowments, with the corresponding legal recognition and privileges, we are unassailable, I should say, from the Ultra Protestant party, to what