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“Oh, pray don't do that !” answered St. Edmunds, " for you would give to my earlier conjectures perhaps more consistency than they really ever acquired. You are learned enough, and gifted enough, I am sure, to be the instructress of all present here, saving, may be, Edward Basinstoke, who, as I know, is a great scholar; and yet you are surely too young"
“Too intemperate of speech—"
“No, but far too high-bred and lady-like in manner to be, in short—"
“In short to be, what you still half deem me to be, Constance's governess. Come, I see that I must release you from any further doubts, or that you will think yourself obliged, in atonement for them, to pay me a multitude of compliments, which perchance you credit even less than I deserve them. Did you never hear of poor Cécile Basinstoke before, the only and orphaned niece to whom Sir Charles, her uncle, has so kindly offered the refuge of his hospitable home against all the miseries, not of poverty, but of absolute want ?”
“No, not to my recollection.” " It is very surprising indeed,” replied Cécile,
with her playful, tender smile, “ that her illustrious name should never have been mentioned in London, where they have so little to think of besides her. However, I am she, and I trust that I shall be able to show you, before you leave Redburn, that I do not bear quite so ungrateful a heart or so rebellious a spirit as I have entitled you to give me credit for."
Ere our hero had time to offer any reply, a signal from Lady Helen called upon the ladies to retire, and he was left to muse upon what he had heard, or to listen, at his choice, to the imprecations which the now much-excited Sir Charles was in turns pouring forth upon the Bishop of Rome, the underhand dealings of the rival Angersteins, and the unimaginable credulity of the constituency.
When, at a late hour, they rejoined the party in the drawing-room, St. Edmunds found Lady Helen and her daughter seated, each with a book in her hand, on one side of the chimney-piece, while Cécile, occupying her accustomed seat on the other, seemed entirely absorbed in the important cares of her tapestry work. As a courteous relative, he moved forward towards the two former, not without casting a somewhat wishful
glance at the empty chair next to his more recent acquaintance; but this was immediately taken possession of by Edward Basinstoke, who at once entered into conversation with his pensive cousin.
“Well, Saint Cecilia,” said he, smiling, “ you have heard the great news. What should you think of my losing my seat after all, on account of my Catholic predilections ?”
" That certainly would be one of the strongest possible instances of popular injustice," replied she; “yet I have little doubt but that you will be able to vindicate your fair fame from such very unfounded aspersions."
“We shall see: I must do my best next month at the County-meeting. Do you think that I can in conscience take such pledges of anti-Papism as will confound and silence my antagonists ?”
"I should say that you certainly could, were they to be headed by Spinosa himself.”
“ Come, come, Saint Cecilia, that is not fair ; but we must allow for some little asperity on your part in these days of renewed contentions."
"I am afraid you must, indeed,” replied she sadly: “ I suppose that you have heard how the poor Saint lost her temper towards the end of dinner.”
“ Did she indeed ? How I should like to have been there."
“Well, it might perhaps have inspired an additional paragraph upon the intemperance of the Romanists to your forthcoming tirade. But see, Lady Helen's eye is upon you, and seems to reprove you for neglecting your London cousin. Had you not better join him, for more reasons than one ?”
As Edward Basinstoke did not show the slightest inclination to acquiesce in this gentle admonition, Lady Helen's voice was soon heard, in confirmation of her unheeded glances' true purport.
“ Cécile,” exclaimed she, rather sharply, “ the tea is there."
Her niece immediately arose, and repaired to the tea-table, where she was soon followed by the rest of the party, with the exception of the worthy Baronet, whose cares, sorrows, and resentments all lay buried, for the time, in a state of deep, though by no means noiseless, unconsciousness.
: "Is it your cousin who generally makes tea ?” inquired St. Edmunds of Constance.
“She does of late," was the reply. “You must know that I have been reckoned too careless and indolent to be intrusted with the very responsible office of satisfying each particular taste, while she is so attentive and thoughtful!”
“Ah! it was sharp practice enough on that girl's part, I can tell you," observed her brother ; “ for now poor Cécile has succeeded to all the scolding.”
“And do you get much of that ?” continued the young Viscount, addressing the latter.
“Not half as much as I deserve, most probably.”
“ Then your demerits must be awful, indeed,” resumed Edward ; "for there is hardly a morning or an evening that I do not hear her Ladyship exclaiming, in her most impressive tone :- Cécile, the tea is worse than ever,' or,
Cécile, the water did not boil: you must see yourself that it did not ;' or else, That girl is always in the third heaven; surely you might condescend to give us your attention during two minutes !!”