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have called forth, we shall not attempt to conjecture; for just as other eyes than those of the eloquent defendant were beginning to kindle, though perchance with a less attractive fire, the incipient controversy was, as we humbly deem, most opportunely interrupted by the hasty entrance of the only son and heir of the house.
SAINT CECILIA INTRODUCES HERSELF.
Edward Basinstoke's first care was to cordially welcome his newly-arrived cousin; his next, to recommend his own exhausted frame to the peculiar solicitude of Mr. Collins; and his third, to sit down by his mother, and impart to her, with infinitely less concern than he was about to awaken, sundry details respecting the progress of the requisition, now in process of signature among his constituents, with a view of calling upon him to resign his seat. This intelligence having especially engrossed the attention of all other parties pressnt, St. Edmunds had an opportunity of
renewing the conversation with his fair neighbour.
"How well and gallantly you spoke out!" whispered he. "I like to hear a cause so ably and fervidly vindicated."
For a moment the dark eye rested upon him with an expression of intense and almost haughty inquiry; but it melted at once, as she said, in her softest and most subdued tone:
"Am I to seek out some hidden sting of irony which your words too may conceal, or can 1 trust that they are intended to bear nought with them but sympathy and encouragement?"
"Nothing else, in truth, I assure you."
"They are much wanted. I greatly fear that I have again been sorely betrayed by the infirmity of my disposition."
"How can you say so? You only spoke after manifold and repeated provocations."
"That were a sorry excuse indeed for yielding to any such hasty and dangerous impulse! My poor weak conscience had conjured up for itself a more plausible motive, and had fancied for a moment, I verily believe, that my wretched advocacy was needed."
"Well, I entirely agree with your conscience, and think that it might be not only tranquil, but triumphant; for it appears to me impossible to shed more light than you did, in so few words, upon so abstruse a subject."
"You are jesting, surely, Lord St. Edmunds; but it matters not. I deserve as much, and more, for having ventured to deem that my poor wax-candle— if, indeed, it were of wax— could be required to show you the lustre of the glorious mid-day sun. No, I am well aware that I have spoken unguardedly, perhaps unkindly, to others, and you will but do me justice if you believe that I already truly repent it."
"You almost lead me to think that you mean to do penance for your spirited defence of your faith."
"I shall," answered she, with a gentle smile, "and such penance too, I trust, as will not only atone for the past, but preserve me from any immediate relapse into similar error. I assure you that it is not a very frequent occurrence on my part, and, as to my uncle, you would do him also great injustice if you did not make much allowance for the effects of the very disagreeable intelligence which he has received to-day."
"Your uncle?" said St. Edmunds, evidently much perplexed.
"Yes, my uncle. Surely, you know that, by nature, he is neither unkind nor uncourteous."
"You really must excuse me," observed St. Edmunds; "but I don't exactly understand to whom you are alluding."
"Perhaps to Mr. Collins," was the smiling reply. "But, seriously, are you not aware who I am?"
"Well, I had better own at once that I am not, and that the different terms by which I have already heard you addressed have scarcely enlightened me."
"Oh, yes! I bear many designations. By some I am called 'Miss Cecil;' by others, 'Mademoiselle,' on account of my partly foreign origin; by others again, 'Saint Cecilia,' in token of that very meek and saint-like disposition, of which I have taken care to give you one earnest at least, within the two first hours of our acquaintance. Now, can you say who I am, or shall I guess whom you imagine me to be?"