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"And well he may," cried Constance, laughing, ,(for he was the first Basinstoke who renounced the Roman Catholic errors."
"And not without very good reasons," observed Ce'cile, "as Sir Charles's rent-roll could tell to this day."
"I hope that I misunderstand you, you most malicious saint;" said Lady Templedale, "but you think, I suppose, that your ancestors should have stood by the St. Edmunds' at the Boyne and at Sheriffmuir."
Though the heir of that respectable and ancient line had been, since the origin of the conversation, ostensibly engrossed in studying a huge volume of engravings, it is not to be supposed that his thoughts and his eyes had never wandered in another direction.
"They were a faithful race, at all events," exclaimed he now, "though they seem to have had a remarkable partiality for the losing side. Our first convert, I believe, was an orphan child, Miss Cecile."
"So I have heard," replied the Saint.
"Well," observed the wise Constance as the small party were ascending the staircase together, "I must make one concluding observation: to what have you been appealing since you were first attacked, dearest Cecile, saving to our reason, whose testimony you so disdainfully reject?"
"I do not entirely reject her testimony, darling Conny," answered Cecile: "I look upon her as the slave who is to bear the torch before the footsteps of Faith, but not to direct her course."
THE VOTIVE OFFERING.
Cecile's atmospheric prognostications turned out to be more accurate than will doubtless prove her religious previsions, for the day which followed the great wrangle was, as she had foreboded, a rainy one. The contemplated expedition to the Thornhills was therefore abandoned, and each party was constrained to shape out for itself some in-door occupation. In similar cases, the ladies, particularly when they are so intellectually gifted as those then assembled at Redburn Hall, have a great and unquestionable advantage over their sterner associates. We may presume then that the two fair cousins, Lady Templedale, and Lady Helen each passed a very pleasant afternoon in their respective apartments, while we reserve our main solicitude for our hero.
What was he to do? He had spent the better part of the morning playing at billiards with Sir Charles, until the green cloth of the table appeared more dreary to him than the rain-clouded expanse without; he had spelt over every syllable of the paper; he had taken down three distinct volumes from the library shelves, none of which had fixed his wandering attention, and, at length, in actual despair, he too had sought the solitude of his room. We will not undertake to say that, when there, he was driven to such an utter extremity as the French servant, who, in the perplexity of an unexpected holiday, propounded to himself the application of leeches as the most appropriate recreation. Certain it is, nevertheless, that the young Viscount must have been in a very unusual frame of mind, for he sat down at his writing-table, and remained there, intently absorbed, for nearly three hours. Gracious Heavens! what would not Comte de Jarnac, or Baron de Brunnow, the first diplomate in Europe, or Lord Foley, the respected chairman himself, have given, could they have detected their young colleague of Coventry House Club engaged as he then was! For, strange as it may seem, when asked, as the dressing-bell rang, whether he had any letters for the post, he answered, after all this writing, that he had none! And yet, when he arose at length, his purpose seemed accomplished, for he destroyed several rough leaves, complacently read over their contents, as re-copied upon half a sheet of letter-paper—and then, having folded the latter, he enclosed it, together with a bright new shilling, in a beautiful little oriental purse which he chanced to have in his possession. This importantbut most secret concern being thus disposed of, St. Edmunds applied himself to the duties of his toilette with so much good will, that, contrary to his accustomed and more dilatory habits, he was enabled to reach the library just as the dinner-bell was ringing.
The first person that joined him there was Cecile, who, well knowing her uncle's punctuality, invariably made the earliest appearance on such occasions. This our hero might have known, as it was notorious at Redburn; and yet, perhaps, he was not aware of the circumstance, for, when the Saint entered, he seemed,