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"What is done, Ce'cile, 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 Ce'cile 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; "Cecile 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."
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 Cecile 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