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“That she will, I make no doubt, and begin again too,” replied Lady Helen, most reluctantly preparing to follow Sir Charles; “but I have a word more for her yet. You will be pleased to bear in mind, Cécile, that if I expect your future intercourse with Edward to be reserved, as it should be, I shall not countenance, henceforth, over much intimacy with Constance either. I do not at all wish my children's minds to be poisoned with foreign and Popish notions; and the less I see you with them, when I am not present, the better for yourself, as well as for them.”
At this crowning admonition, poor Cécile started up, as if the barbed words had inAlicted no figurative wound, and throwing herself at her uncle's feet, exclaimed, with the native and impetuous eloquence of voice, of gesture, and of look which appertains to her alone :
“ Did you hear that, Sir Charles Basinstoke ? Surely you will not suffer one who bears your name, your own and only brother's child, to be thus trampled upon. As I hope for the mercy of my Heavenly Father, I have never known any other feeling for Edward than those which
inave avowed ; and I can bear, without a sigh, any estrangement from him. But Conny and I are more than sisters—our hearts are one; they cannot be torn asunder. Who will dare to say that I have ever injured that I ever could injure her pure, spotless mind? Let me wander through the wide world, until God calls me to Him again, but do not retain me here, merely that I should be thus branded in the eyes of all your household.”
“No, no, my dear, of course not, to be sure not,” replied the sorely perplexed Baronet, as he well nigh forcibly drew away his most unwilling spouse.
CONNY AND CÉCILE.
It chanced that just as these little family explanations were drawing to a close, St. Edmunds, who had been engaged in less animated, but doubtless more agreeable discourse with his cousin Conny, in the library, suddenly exclaimed:
“By Jove! there is a cat in the shrubbery and an old offender too by his looks. I must go to Sir Charles for a gun.”
To the study, he accordingly proceeded in all haste, but the gun, the cat and the imperilled pheasants vanished from his thoughts in a second, when he beheld the sight which awaited him there.
“Gracious heavens ! Miss Cécile,” cried he, on recognising her still prostrate form, “what has happened? Shall I not call for some assistance ?"
“No, no, it is nothing. Pray, pray, leave me,” replied she, grieved and annoyed in the extreme at being surprised in a moment of such unusual weakness.
We have already seen that our hero's judgment would not entirely forsake him in a sudden emergency, and this he again exemplified, to our mind, on the present occasion, by returning immediately to the library, to summon Constance.
“What is it, what can it be, Cécile dear ?” cried the latter as she rushed into the room, and seated herself on the sofa by her cousin. “Have they been tormenting you again while my back was turned? This is too bad! Come, tell me all about it.”
“ So I will, Conny, presently.”
St. Edmunds here felt the full gist of the proverbial expression that three are bad company, and, with a few muttered words of discretion, accomplished a dignified retreat.
“ Read that article, Conny,” continued Cécile,
when alone with her cousin, “and you will easily guess the rest. Well, what do you think of it? Is it not a pity that such unmeaning falsehoods should make my uncle so wretched.”
Constance fixed her keen blue eye full upon Cécile's face and said:
“The pity to my view, darling, is, that it should be false.”
“And yet,” resumed Cécile, slightly smiling, “ there is no truth in it, happily for all parties.”
“Not for Edward, at all events.”
“ Yes, Conny, for Edward as well as for Sir Charles, for Lady Helen, for me and even for you. Imagine for a moment the ceaseless discord that such a union would introduce into your happy family, and thank God, as I do, that we are spared this trial.”
“You would not attempt to deceive Conny, I do think,” said the latter little personage, again fixing her smiling eyes full upon the Saint.
“ I trust that I should attempt to deceive no one, but when I do make my début in that line, perhaps I had better begin elsewhere. Seriously, darling, however precocious I may be, according to Lady Helen's account, I do not conceive that