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SAINT CECILIA ONCE MORE REPRIMANDED.
The very important event which we have thus related excited no inconsiderable - wonder throughout the household at Redburn; but the sensation that it produced would have proved doubtless more durable, had not other occurrences closely followed, of even greater historical moment.
The first of these was the departure of Lady Templedale, which, though long delayed in consequence of the most earnest solicitation, finally took place, to the sincere regret of all the forsaken party. It might have been observed that, on the very afternoon so sadly marked by this unwelcome incident, a long letter for Lord
Tewkesbury- was left in the post-box by the migrating visitor. To what the missive may have related, we cannot pretend to insinuate ; but it certainly has not appeared to us entirely unworthy of attention that, by its due return, the same post should have brought Lady Helen a letter from her brother, announcing his speedy arrival at Redburn.
The Earl of Tewkesbury's visits, which were not very frequent, always caused a great sensation at the old Hall. Sir Charles, who respected every peer in England of every degree, entertained an especial reverence for his brotherin-law; and the same feeling was shared, more affectionately, though less deferentially, by Lady Helen and her daughter. In this case, however, so sudden, so unforeseen was the announcement, that, on this account no doubt, it produced a species of perturbation, from the influence of which neither the new-comer's own son and heir, nor the retiring Cécile herself, seemed wholly exempt.
It was late in the evening when the illustrious Peer was deposited, by a modest railway station conveyance, at the hall door, and bitterly did the aristocratic Mr. Collins groan, as we do also
when we contrast these ignoble equipages with the soul-exalting chariot and four of palmier days. Whether from the effects of the journey, or from some other cause, it occurred to more than one present, and especially to Saint Cecilia, that the ever-courteous manners of Lord Tewkesbury were, upon the whole, less cordial and open than on former occasions. But, as we have said, he arrived at so late an hour, that any very lengthened conversation was scarcely practicable. It was not so on the following morning, for no sooner had breakfast been disposed of, than, at the request of her brother, Lady Helen retired with him alone to the library.
“My dear Helen,” said the latter, when he had closed the door upon them, “ you are of course too kind and civil to admit that you are a little surprised at my unforeseen appearance, but I must tell you frankly that I have another motive besides the sincere pleasure of meeting you and yours. St. Edmunds has been with you now for an unusual time; which, should you think, among the many attractions that Redburn offers, has mainly influenced him ?”
“I cannot exactly say; but, I trust, upon the
whole, that matters are progressing according to our wishes."
“Ah !" resumed the Earl, thoughtfully, “I am very happy to hear you say so. None can know better than you do how the case really stands." : “Have you heard anything," anxiously inquired his sister, “which could give you a contrary impression to mine ?”
“Well, I have something. This niece of yours, Cécile-she struck me, last year, as a quiet, unpretending girl enough.”
“Quiet she may be, but unpretending, c'est une autre affuire. How is she concerned with our subject ?”
“ Simply, my dear Helen, because it has been surmised in my ear that Master St. Edmunds' eyes have been fixed upon her of late, rather more than upon any one else.”
“That would be curious enough, ha! ha! ha !" rejoined Lady Helen, with an ironical laugh. But a second afterwards, some new misgiving having doubtless crossed her mind, she added : “ If you wish to have my opinion of the girl, I will tell you that she is just exactly as designing, as dangerous, and as artful a piece of
goods as was ever imported from her native land for the perversion of England.”
“You don't mean to say so. Then, I don't see that we should be over-confident, my dear, that things are going on here exactly according to our wishes."
“My confidence,” replied Lady Helen, "proceeds merely from the notion that St Edmunds, being not quite blind, could not possibly be such a fool as to put the girl for an instant in comparison with Conny. If you have any doubts, however, the sooner the matter is looked into the better, for it would be no joke, indeed, were he to go astray to this extent.”
“Upon my word, it wouldn't,” exclaimed the Earl. “If Conny and he could but take a fancy for each other, nothing would be more satisfactory; but failing this, our common expectation, I would rather that the boy never married at all than see him set his heart upon this Popish girl. In short, the thing cannot be thought of for a moment, and so the sooner that is established the better. How shall we set to work ?”
“Why, you can speak to St. Edmunds yourself."
“To be sure, my dear; but he is a very