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but he got a stray shot, poor fellow, and gave me an awful fright at first. Luckily, I was close to your village at the time, and I soon delivered him into the hands of so pretty a nurse that he could not but speedily recover.”
"I wonder who she may be ?” exclaimed Edward : “ Redburn does not boast of many beauties, present company, of course, excepted.”
“I have forgotten her name, though your keeper told it me; but she quite won my heart by her charming appearance and manner, as well as by the tender care which she bestowed upon the poor animal.”
“ Can it have been Mabel Hawthorne ?” inquired Edward.
“Exactly ; that is the very name.”
“Ha! ha! ha!” cried the Baronet, with a very loud laugh. “He was not long in finding his way there, any how. Upon my word, that is capital! Pretty girl ; isn't she ?” added he, with a prolonged wink.
“That she certainly is, Sir Charles, and so mild-looking and gentle.”
“Ah! that's the point, ain't it, eh? Anything but fierce; ha! ha! ha! Perhaps I should
warn you, though, nephew, that she is the only bad character that we have about here; but, hist! I must be careful of what I say, for she is a most particular friend of Mademoiselle here.”
Just then a letter from one of his constituents having been brought to Edward Basinstoke, and handed by him to his father, St. Edmunds was enabled to address a few words, in a lower tone, to his silent neighbour.
“So you know this poor girl, do you, Miss Cécile ?”
“ Yes; very well.”
“Not of late, for I have been forbidden by Lady Helen either to go to her, or to receive her.”
“ Can there be a sufficient reason for such a prohibition ?”
“She has no doubt erred most grievously, though I fully believe that she is truly penitent now.”
“How singularly attractive, and almost ladylike, her manners are.”
“Yes; her mind is superior to her station, and that has been the foremost cause of her ruin. How was she looking in health ?"
“ Very delicate indeed, I thought.”
“Ah! I fear that her days are numbered, nor should I regret it so much, for death would be a happy release to her from much suffering, had she at hand the advice and consolation she most needs now."
“Surely, that cannot be denied to her ?”
" It is a difficult and intricate question enough,” whispered Cécile, looking anxiously around, to assure herself that she would not be overheard. “The fact is, that poor Mabel was
-in short was born and bred a Catholic, and is still one at heart, though she has been prevailed upon outwardly to profess the Protestant faith by her step-mother, and the rest of her family."
“ Her step-mother? I suppose that she is the harsh, ungainly Scotchwoman whom I saw in the house with her.”
“Most probably; and a true step-mother she has proved to poor Mabel, particularly since her father's death."
When the ladies had retired, the subject of Mabel Hawthorne's misconduct having again been introduced, St. Edmunds ascertained that she had been seduced, about a year before, by a steward of Sir Charles', who had since left his service. It struck our hero that the indignation testified by the worthy Baronet at the frailty of the ill-fated girl, was not a little stimulated by the recollection that she had mainly thereby entailed upon him the loss of a most valuable servant; but the matter was dismissed for the present from his thoughts, even before he again found himself in the society of those whose attractions the humbler charms of poor Mabel could never have pretended to rival.
The ensuing day was Sunday, and when the young Viscount entered the breakfast-room, rather late, we fear, he found the remainder of the family already there, with the exception of Cécile.
“I should almost have to apologize, if I had not a fellow-delinquent,” exclaimed he.
“All right, nephew,” replied the Baronet ; "you are in very good time for church ; but Mademoiselle had better take care, or she will be late for her service at Glanford.
“I believe that Miss Cecil is already gone," whispered Mr. Collins to his master.
“Gone, Collins! Why, I didn't hear the carriage !"
“No, Sir Charles ; Miss Cecil started at eight o'clock on foot.”
“ On foot, Collins ! She will find it a stiff walk enough ; four good miles there, and as many back. Why did she not take the carriage? do you know, Constance ?"
“I really do not, dear papa,” replied she ; “ but I am afraid I can guess.”
“Well, then, what is it you guess ?”
“ Never mind,” answered she, exchanging a hasty glance of annoyance with her brother.
Constance is very seldom angry, or what is familiarly called put out. She is far too well satisfied with the world at large, and with her own general appearance ever to betray an infirmity so unbecoming. But when this most rare occurrence does take place, it is a very enchanting and at the same time a very appalling sight, to observe how stern those blue eyes can look, and how closely the smiling lips can be compressed. When it has been our fate to trace some such expression there, we have trembled immoderately at the bare apprehension that we might be the cause or object ; and some such feeling, we presume, took momentary