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“Edward, my dear, how can you talk such nonsense ?” interposed Lady Helen. “I certainly think young ladies would do very wrong to neglect household and practical details, however trivial these may appear to them; and I own, that I do not see anything in Cécile's position or prospects which is peculiarly to exempt her from this general rule, or to render her so supremely indifferent to everything in the world but reading." . . “Ah! you must remember that that is the most important obligation of all to her, as she intends to be a governess.”
“Indeed !” most sarcastically observed Lady Helen; “I was entirely ignorant of any such views on her part.”
“Not more so, I assure you, Lady Helen, than I am myself,” exclaimed Cécile, smiling; “but Edward seems to be in a particularly inventive mood this evening.”
“ Come, come, Saint Cecilia,” resumed he, "you know very well that I have good authority for what I am saying. Who was it that was enlarging so eloquently, not three days ago, upon the merits and inward satisfaction of those who
enter upon that respectable but much maligned profession ?”
“Well, but if I did say something in commendation of those who' shape out for themselves, by their industry, an honest livelihood, without forfeiting what may be due to their birth and original station, I don't remember showing any particular inclination to follow their honourable example myself.”
“Oh! that was all, was it ?” continued Edward. “ There was nothing about your passionate love for children, and your longing to live with them, and to instruct them ?”
“Did I say something of the kind ?" inquired Cécile, not without a slight blush. “I do not remember ever having considered myself qualified for the task.”
“Qualified ! I should like to know who is, if you are not. But I should almost suggest, that instead of following out this vocation, by running away from us into a private family, you should open a school, either in the village, or at Glanford. I say, St. Edmunds, wouldn't we attend ?”
“ Rather," answered the Life-guardsman, twirling his dark moustache with a gravity which threw his fair cousin Constance into a fit of laughter.
“And, gracious Heavens !" resumed Edward Basinstoke, “what emulation and contention there would be for a smile, or for a look of approbation !"
“ Fearful, indeed,” replied St. Edmunds.
“Suppose that in the meantime, Cécile, you were to give us a little music,” interposed Lady Helen, apparently not much pleased at the tone the conversation was assuming.
"Perhaps you will kindly excuse me for tonight, Lady Helen: I have such a shocking head-ache, and I dare say Constance, who plays so well, will be good enough to devote herself for me."
“ That I certainly must decline doing, dear Cécile. Nothing could possibly justify me in inflicting upon our London cousin such wretched performance as mine, instead of your beautiful playing.".
Just then, sundry premonitory exclamations gave warning that Sir Charles's slumbers were coming to a close, and, a moment afterwards, he
had assumed his accustomed seat at the teatable.
“You are uncommon silent and gloomy here it strikes me,” said he: “are we not to have a little music to-night ?”
“I have already requested Cécile to play," answered Lady Helen; “but either my wish does not appear to her a sufficient motive, or she thinks that we are requiring of her more than we are entitled to ask.”
“No, in truth, Lady Helen,” cried Cécile earnestly; "and if you really desire it, you will find me most anxious to obey. What shall I play ?”
“Anything that you will condescend to select ?”
Without noticing the asperity with which these latter words also were utttered, Cécile moved at once towards the piano. At first, no one rose to follow her, but ere many minutes had elapsed, the three younger members of the family had drawn close to her again, as if magically attracted within her sphere. She had chosen merely a simple and plaintive German melody, little known, perchance, in
what is styled the musical world; but so exquisite was her touch, so deeply and perfectly modulated was every tone, both of the motive itself, and of her own self-inspired variations, that each listener remained entranced, as it were, in some heavenly vision, until he was suddenly and rudely cast back into the dreary regions of reality, when the wizard sounds were hushed into cold, lifeless silence.
“Oh! it cannot be over !” exclaimed Edward and St. Edmunds together. “Will you not play it once more ?”
“Certainly, if you wish it; or perhaps you would like to hear another by the same author ?”
“More than I can say,” replied St. Edmunds. “What is his name?”
“His name is Ernest Reinhold, and, if I mistake not, it will soon be well known to fame, for he feels what he composes.”
Notwithstanding more than one effort on her part to escape, it was nearly half an hour ere the fair prisoner could be released from her gentle thraldom at the piano, nor indeed would she have been suffered then to depart, if a signal from Lady Helen had not made all