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prospects. Nay more, so keenly did the provident aunt feel the absurdity of seeing a superstitious and idolatrous girl, without a penny in the world, saving what might be granted by the charity of her relatives, herself singing, laughing, dancing, and actually noticed by others, as if there were nothing extraordinary and almost revolting in her position, that Lady Helen's excellent health was itself slightly affected, and she was constrained to keep her room for a day or two with a violent migraine. Her absence, however, thanks to the increased assiduity of Lady Templedale, in nowise cast any uncalled-for gloom upon the forsaken party. Indeed, we should be inclined to imagine the very reverse, since their excitement on one of these evenings reached to such a point, that Cécile, ay, the above described Saint Cecilia herself, was seen to join, not only in the quadrilles, but actually in the valse itself.
To be sure, Conny was the first partner, but ere the fair cousins had accomplished a single turn, they were forcibly arrested by Lady Templedale, closely followed by all the young men present.
“ This won't do, you know, this won't do at
all,” exclaimed the former. “Each of you two young ladies will be pleased to accept a proper partner without a moment's delay.”
Conny, who, we are bound to say, is always very docile and obedient when her own inclinations are not interfered with, immediately complied with the behest, but it was not so with the naturally rebellious Cécile. She protested that properly, or perhaps, as some may think, improperly speaking, she never had valsed, and, indeed, could not valse.
“You story-telling little Papist,” rejoined Lady Templedale,“ have we not just had the contrary demonstration under our very eyes ; though, by the bye, in your judgment, this may be no disproof.”
"I can appeal to no supernatural agency in this case," replied Cécile, laughing, and blushing slightly, “yet I can truly affirm that I never have valsed—really—in short, with any one but Conny,”
"You could not give a better reason for beginning this very instant. Is it not exactly the same thing, you silly child, or, at least, the same step? Now, Lord St Edmunds, have you nothing to add ?”
“Most undoubtedly, Lady Templedale,” answered our hero, “I have to solicit, as a personal favour, the compliance which you urge so well.”
“But what do you think Lady Helen would say ?" objected the still irresolute Cécile.
“I am her representative for to-night, Miss Argument, and, as such, I command you to begin at once.”
A second more, and St. Edmunds's arm encompassed the waist of the Saint, his hand closed upon hers, and Lady Templedale's orders were fully carried out. Nor had she any reason to regret their imperious enforcement, for never were two more appropriate partners united in that fascinating dance. Upon St. Edmunds's reputation, which was long before established, we need not dwell ; but it was singular to observe how surpassing was the excellence of Cécile's début. Each shade, and strain, and modulation of the music seemed ever blending, in electric harmony, not only with her step, but with every gentle wave of her hair, of her dress, of her pliant figure, until all present doubted whether Terpsichore herself had not visited, for one fleeting hour, her votive throng.
“ Well, Miss Cécile,” exclaimed the Life
Guardsman, when adjured by his breathless companion to pause for a second, “I have valsed with a pretty considerable number of young ladies, but never with such a partner as you. Is it possible that Conny has been your only instructor ?”
“Yes, or rather, my only accomplice, as Lady Helen does not much approve of valsing.”
“Some people, you know, are six whole months before they can even learn the step."
“Indeed? They must be rather obtuse, I should think,” replied the laughing Cécile. “I never could see the difficulty of learning any dance.”
“You have been to a ball, sometimes, of course ?”
“ Once only."
“Because,” replied Cécile, smiling, “ because Lady Helen thought that I had over-excited myself, and that one who is not stronger than I am, had much better stay at home.”
“I wish we had you out in London for a season, that's all. But I suppose you have never thought of such a thing as that, Miss Cécile ?”
“Oh! no, never,” replied she, laughing. And again they started, and again they moved round as gracefully, even more gracefully than before, until the music ceased, and they were constrained to cease likewise.
Later in the evening, Cécile was obliged to accept another partner from the hands of Lady Templedale, but young Thornhill's rustic aptitude was only such as to convey to her a first impression of the disappointments from which even a ball-room is not wholly exempt. Ere long, she had most unfeignedly to declare that she was too much tired to continue, and her disconsolate danseur had the not very unusual satisfaction of standing by her chair until the music was silenced again.
Our hero, who much to the detriment of his moustache, had been intently scrutinizing these proceedings, now approached her again, and seating himself at her side, entered into a detailed account of the different and conflicting charms attributable to the leading London beauties. Cécile listened with undisguised interest as the varied loveliness of Lady Emily de