Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

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

[graphic]

S

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 important but 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 Cécile, 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,

[merged small][ocr errors]

if not surprised, at all events more staggered than would beseem one for whom fortitude was an especial duty. Cécile, too, appeared somewhat startled; and, when their attempted conversation began, her laconic answers were by no means delivered in the firm and somewhat authoritative tone which she had assumed on the previous night. Still, our hero did not fail to release the above mentioned purse from the durance of his waistcoat pocket, but while he still held it somewhat dubiously in his hand, Lady Templedale entered, closely followed by Sir Charles, and the purse was restored to its previous confinement.

During the evening, it might have been remarked, as perhaps it was remarked by the all-observing Lady Templedale, that the young Viscount was unusually thoughtful, and Saint Cecilia more than usually silent. To be sure, this might be accounted for by the gloomy influence of the weather, which probably weighed more or less upon the spirits of all present, as, before eleven o'clock had struck, Conny, Lady Helen, and Sir Charles himself had noiselessly retired. Then came Lady Templedale's turn, and no sooner did she

testify a similar purpose than Cécile folded up her work and prepared to follow.

The agitation of the Life-Guardsman now became convulsive. He rose, he sat down, he rose again, he twisted his moustache to an unprecedented degree, and finally, just as the two ladies reached the door, he said :

“Oh! Miss Cécile, I beg your pardon, but you promised to show me where the collection of the Quarterly Review' is to be found.”

“On the second, or third shelf, I believe, of case E, or F, in the print-room,” replied she, dubiously.

“Better say that you are not quite sure at once, my dear,” exclaimed Lady Templedale, “and go and help him to find it—you who know the binding as well as the contents of every book here. I can move quietly on and you will soon catch me up." .

Thus directed, Cécile adjourned with St. Edmunds to the print-room, and was not long in pointing out to him the familiar collection. She was then about to withdraw, when he whispered:

“Dear Miss Cécile, I must not forget my lost wager.”

TECICE.

“ What wager ?” muttered she.

“Don't you remember? the shilling which I was to pay if—if the glass was wrong and the almanac right-"

“Oh! I had forgotten—indeed, I thought it was only a joke.”

“No, no; it was a fair bet—pray accept the shilling - you will find it there, in this little purse.”

“But I cannot take the purse too—it is much too beautiful—"

“ It is not beautiful at all, but it comes from Smyrna : pray don't refuse it.”

“Indeed—I do not know what to say— and there appears to be something besides the shilling in the purse.”

“Oh! it's nothing, Miss Cécile—or something that you are to read, when you are quite alone - "

The Saint was now as pale as death; but our hero, who had well observed her emotion, put an end to all further hesitation by forcibly closing the little trembling hand which held the purse, and then pressing it to his lips.

“Holy Virgin ! Lord St. Edmunds—what can you mean ?” murmured she, in a falter

[graphic]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »