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account that we have interrupted you so soon. My dear Cécile,” continued he, “I trust that you will ere long allow me to say, my dear child, you have already learned, I make no doubt, how truly you have won my son's heart; but you have yet to hear, perhaps, how you have also captivated mine. I will not recall in what very painful circumstances I first ascertained all that St. Edmunds would gain if he were so fortunate as to secure your affections; but you must believe me when I tell you that, even when I have done my utmost for your future happiness, I shall still consider that I have yet much to atone for."
“Oh! do not say so," muttered Cécile. “I am all unworthy of so much kindness! How can I thank you for it ?”
“If thanks are due, Cécile, it is not to me," resumed the Earl. “We are all much indebted to my old friend Fastwell, or Athanasius, as he calls himself now, who has been throughout, I must say, most intelligent, most solicitous, and most discreet ; but he has not been our principal manager. The chief credit decidedly appertains to another little personage, a witch, if ever one
was framed, who, with the most consummate skill, energy, and activity, has smoothed every obstacle, and prepared the way before us."
“Now, Uncle Tewkesbury,” exclaimed the laughing Constance, “no tales out of school, if you please.”
“ You may withdraw, my dear,” playfully answered her uncle, “ if you are too modest to hear the truth; but I must tell it none the less. Well, this same little enchantress, who, it would seem, had, at a very early stage indeed, discovered how matters really stood, succeeded, when the crisis came, in extorting from Fastwell sundry confirmations of her own impressions. Corresponding avowals having been more distinctly obtained from St. Edmunds, the scheme was duly formed, and I was admitted into the secret. She began by declaring to me, that it was perfectly out of the question for me to expect that she could ever take the slightest interest in my son's fate--"
“Oh! my dear uncle,” interrupted Conny, “how can you say such things !"
“We must be precise and literal, must we? I shall try and recall your exact words. 'I thought, at one time,' said she to me, that he would do very well, and I for him also ; but I soon found out that we could never agree. In the first place, his affections are set upon another, which would not suit my book at all; and then, he is a Roman Catholic at heart, which settles the question. Do you recognise the version now, Miss Conny ?”
“No, I cannot say that I do, Lord Tewkesbury—entirely.”
“Well, I have done my best to be faithful, at all events. To proceed, however, as her marriage with her cousin was very much wished for by both her parents, and as she is far too dutiful to withstand their desires, she devised a little plan of her own for insuring their opposition. While pretending to accept Master St. Edmunds's pretended addresses, she effectually raised the most terrific alarms, in her father and mother's mind, respecting her futur's religious tendencies. She no less artfully inculcated the apprehension that Edward would not fail to deliver you, Cécile, from the Convent, and to marry you in everybody's teeth. Ha! ha! ha!” continued the Earl, “ I really cannot help laughing, when I remember the state of agonized terror into which this girl and her
brother—for Edward had a finger in the pie too, I must tell you—finally managed to throw that poor Helen. Both her children married to Papists, and what is more, each of them very likely to be respectively converted by the union ! Ha! ha! ha!”
So contagious was Lord Tewkesbury's laugh, that none present could forbear to join in it; but he soon resumed :
"Well, matters were thus brought to that pitch that almost any alternative seemed preferable to the long wished-for consummation ; and ultimately, the greatest comfort and relief were afforded when it was suggested that, after all, an arrangement might be devised which would leave both Edward and Constance unperverted and free. Another and most important point was still to be gained. I will not conceal from you, Cécile, that I was at first very much grieved and shocked when I ascertained how seriously St. Edmunds's Protestant convictions were shaken, and that I was most unwilling to sanction, in any way, the step which he is about to take. I trust that I resisted so long as resistance could be of any avail; nor did I yield until I was positively assured by this
same Conny, that otherwise I must expect to see my son become a Trappist, or something very extraordinary. With her, with you Cécile, and above all, with himself, as now fully arrived at years of discretion, this grave responsibility must rest."
“I will not shrink from my share of it, at all events,” replied the smiling Conny. “I am very sorry that St. Edmunds should differ from us all, but I do think that such unsettled minds as his are as well away from us as with us; and he must excuse me for saying that I do not imagine our Church will fall, because she loses him and such as him.”
“I trust so, indeed,” resumed Lord Tewkesbury. “And now, dear Cécile, as we are never to hear the fell sound of controversy, either in Cavendish Square or at St. Edmunds, allow me to say one word to you on the subject, and then to dismiss it for ever. Wiser than we are in your own esteem, you unscrupulously condemn all who disagree with you, and mark what is the result. Here is Conny, your more than sister, as you truly call her—she wears no torturing bracelet round her arm; her hair is suffered to retain its natural length; her prayers are to