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Burgh, Lady Adeliza Howard, or Lady Clementina Villiers was contrasted with the more majestic beauty of Lady Maidstone, Lady Waterford, or Lady Douro; the ever attractive dignity of Lady Ailesbury with the retiring gracefulness of Lady Newport. There is a nameless fascination in the more exalted circles of all society which, while those who have forsaken them, cannot wholly forget, those who are as yet strangers to them, will themselves experience. As St. Edmunds spoke, it seemed to Cécile, the serious, the reflective Saint Cecilia herself, as if a new world were expanding before her, all radiant with the halo of distinction and of fashion ; and so far was she insensibly borne into the dream-land of her fancy, that she scarcely distinguished her neighbour's words as, with a not unfaltering voice, he whispered, in conclusion to his aristocratical synopsis :
“Yes, I have seen the exterior form of beauty often enough in London ; but I had never known its full enchantment until I came to Redburn."
“I am not at all surprised to hear it,” replied his artless neighbour. “Though our Conny is a match for any or all of them in a ball-room, no one can tell half her charm until they have seen her at home.”
“Oh! to be sure, to be sure,” resumed St. Edmunds, hastily recurring to his moustache as if surprised, and yet relieved also by this assent to what, no doubt, may have been the purport of his former observation; “nobody is prettier or better in a way than Constance, and yet-”
“And yet,” interrupted Cécile hastily, her beaming but tremulous eye well denoting that some sudden and startling consciousness had broken upon her absent mind, “and yet, see the infliction which is awaiting her. Lord St. Edmunds, you cannot, you must not allow her to valse with Mr. Thornhill. Surely you have neglected her immoderately to-night.”
“Not so much as you may think, Miss Cécile, for I have received her distinct commands to pay my respects more particularly to you, and you know that my foremost duty is to obey orders.”
“ Then I trust that you will comply with mine, and rescue your luckless cousin at once from her present emergency.”
There was something so earnest in the speaker's voice, that our hero was almost sympathetically constrained to submit; and yet, he could not but urge that most probably the order would be diametrically reversed by Constance.
“Then you must disobey this time,” said Cécile gravely.
“ Why so, Miss Basinstoke ?"
“Because," muttered she, “ because in short, it was surely not to sit so long by a Catholic orphan girl, that Lord St. Edmunds undertook the Lincolnshire pilgrimage."
"I am not aware," replied our astonished hero, “that I had any particular object in coming here, saving a mere visit of courtesy.”
“ Oh ! you know best of course,” said Cécile, rising to join, at the tea-table, her more matronly neighbours.
St. Edmunds also rose at the same time, but so deep was the reflective mood into which the last words of his fair neighbour had cast him, that he remained, for many minutes, an almost unconscious spectator of the gay movement around him. At length, his eyes fell upon the radiant beauty of the laughing Constance. Could it be so indeed ? Had the long expected, the long urged visit some definite object, in the mind of its promoters, if not in his own, and was that object no other than that of his father's recent and most earnest solicitude ? Constance was as amiable as she was lovely ; her fortune, as an only younger child, was considerable ; her birth and station well beseemed her other advantages. Was it surprising that Lord Tewkesbury and his sister, who had always remained faithful to their earlier affection, should have devised a union which boded so much satisfaction to their own feelings, so much happiness to those whose welfare it still more immediately concerned ? Who could have gazed upon Constance Basinstoke as she then stood, smiling in all the guileless consciousness of her youthful charms, and marked her with indifference for his appointed bride ? No wonder that our hero's look so long remained fixed upon her alone. No wonder that when at length it was withdrawn, when it fell once more upon the humble and dependant Cécile, seated as she was again at her allotted place by the tea-table, he should have breathed so deep a sigh! Many a one, less thoughtful than St. Edmunds was in his actual mood, had paid
before and would again pay this fleeting tribute to the contrasted darkness of the poor Papist's promised destiny.
That evening being Saturday, when the clock struck twelve, the noisier pleasures were duly brought to a close, and, soon afterwards, the whole party broke up, the Thornhills and other neighbours retiring to their respective homes.
“Well, it is not for long that we are parting at all events, that is a comfort,” said Lady Templedale, as the farewell compliments were exchanged. “We are all to meet again at Moorlands, on Monday, are we not ?"
“Indeed, we shall most anxiously expect you,” replied young Thornhill.
“Weather permitting, of course,” exclaimed Constance, who on a wet day, likes nothing so well as her fire-side.
“Hold your tongue, you lazy monkey,” interposed Lady Templedale. “Don't anticipate disappointments; it is sure to be fine, isn't it Cécile, you who are weather-wise as well as wise in every other way. Come, give us a favourable augury.”
“ Indeed I do not know what to say,”