« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
duty again for the present. But, scarcely had her toilette, with this unusual appurtenance, been concluded, than, reversing their usual practice, the fair Conny came tripping in.
“Well, dearest Cécile," exclaimed she, “what has happened ? I have been expecting you for more than ten minutes. You are quite well, I trust.”
“ Indeed, Conny, I am shamefullylate," muttered Cécile, “but the fact is that I have a very bad cold.”
“A cold, in this darling little clever head ?” answered Constance, fondly embracing her cousin. But her hand having rested for an instant upon the empty cap, she started back, in horror full as great as if it had encountered the slimy, scaly back of a boa constrictor. “Your hair !” shrieked she, “ your glorious, beautiful hair! My dear Cécile, what have you done to it ?”
“Well, I have thinned it a little, to be sure,” said the Saint, with a more composed smile.
“ Thinned it! Why it is all gone, all cut off," replied Conny, gazing with undisguised anxiety fully into her cousin's countenance.
“ You must be mad, stark, staring, raving mad !"
“You know, dear Conny, that I have always been reckoned more or less affected in that way."
“That may be, but not to this utmost extremity; you surely must have had some sort of reason for such unheard-of folly.”
“Well, dear Conny, if reason and folly are for once to be yoked together, no doubt several motives might be assigned. Perhaps my long hair was the cause of the many headaches which I have had lately; or perhaps it prevented my sleeping at night ; or it might have been falling to an alarming extent; or it may have offended me, and betrayed me into various errors.”
"Nonsense, nonsense,” interrupted her cousin, “ don't attempt to deceive Conny: you know it is of no earthly use.” But, as she thus spoke, the eyes of the sapient little personage fell, for the first time, upon the votive tresses suspended, as they now were, at the foot of the crucifix. She was silent for a moment, then she waxed amazingly thoughtful, and then again kissing her cousin, she said :
“What is done, Cécile, cannot be prevented now, that's certain, so that we have no choice, but to make the best of it. Shall I go down first to prepare them all a little, that they may not be quite overpowered, nor you either, with their amazement ?”
“ Indeed, it would be just like your kind and wise self.”
“You have mentioned,” continued Conny, “many possible reasons, among which I suppose that I may suggest the most plausible, as having occurred to me. Which shall it be: the headaches ?”
“As you please, dear.”
“ Very well. Then I will mention the headaches, and, at all events, I suppose that you need not contradict me?”
“Well, I presume not.”
When Constance entered the breakfast-room, where the rest of the family was already assembled, she did not fail to premise that she had some very important news to communicate, and to conclude by stating that Cécile had been so foolish as to cut off most of her hair, in the paroxysm of one of her headaches.
“ Cut off her hair!” cried the amazed Baronet. “God bless my soul ! what a pity! Why it was the prettiest thing about her.”
“ You might even say,” added Lady Helen, “ the only thing which could give her the least pretension to good-looks."
Conny, her father, and Lady Templedale did not fail to enter their immediate protest against this sentiment, but they were not joined by Lord St. Edmunds, who remained still gazing upon the first fair speaker with an expression of absolute bewilderment.
“No, no," resumed Lady Templedale; "her hair was very beautiful, certainly; but to impair her greatest attraction, she must put out her speaking eyes, which I dare say she will do some day or other; and even then, there will still be a charm about her, and throughout her, that is not often equalled.”
Scarcely had this opinion been uttered, when the door was gently opened, and the Saint, with a sorely abashed mien, glided to her place. There was one at hand—who it was, we have never positively ascertained — whose heart bounded strangely with the relief afforded by
her appearance, and all present could not but observe that it was far less altered than might have been expected.
“ Headaches — nonsense !" exclaimed the good-natured Lady Templedale. “ We all know that it is Conny who has the headaches, and not she. I'll tell you what it is : the Saint is beginning to discover that Catholic charms are rather at a discount at this moment, and she has hit upon this little device for enhancing hers with that remarkably pretty cap."
" But is the back hair really cut off ?” said Lady Helen, and she was actually proceeding to ascertain the fact, when a very general remonstrance prevailed upon her to desist.
“No, no, dear mamma," cried Constance, very decidedly; “Cécile is under my protection ; nobody is to touch her, nor to torment her, Go on with your breakfast, dear child,” continued she, “and never mind what any one of them thinks.”
“ Well said, Miss Conny !" added the Baronet ; " stand by her like a brave girl as you are ; only mind that she doesn't bite, for I verily believe, now more than ever, that she is madder than any March hare.”