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possession of St. Edmunds, for he said to her in a whisper :
“I had no conception, Constance, that you could look so fierce. I trust that I have said nothing to produce so sudden a change.”
“You ! no, indeed,” answered she; “but those whom it concerns shall know soon enough."
These, we presume, were none other than her father and Lady Helen, for no sooner was breakfast over, than she drew them aside and, with a look of the most determined authority, expounded to them what seemed to be her own private opinion as opposed to theirs. She was soon joined and seconded by Edward, and the result of the conference appeared to be, that the worthy Baronet was moved to something very like regret, while Lady Helen preserved her outward semblance of calm and almost triumphant self-complacency.
The morning was fine for the progress of the family party to church; but during the service, the autumn rain and sleet set in with great violence, and right happy were all the party to find the family coach awaiting at the door, to reconduct them in comfort, even through the short space which separates the hall from the village sanctuary. When they found themselves in the library, Constance and her cousin's first impulse was to rush for a few minutes to its blazing fire; but so powerful was the heat, that they soon experienced greater satisfaction in sitting down near one of the windows, and musing upon the pleasing contrast which a good shelter and a bright hearth will in such cases afford to the cheerless atmosphere without. They had not been long there when a solitary and weather-worn pilgrim was discerned, treading her weary way towards the house, along the now miry path which led from the lodge across the park, her clothes drenched with rain and her figure drooping under the relentless fury of the storm.
“Gracious heavens !” said Constance, “can that be poor, darling Cécile? I trusted that she would at least have found some conveyance at Glanford.”
In a moment, St. Edmunds was in the hall, where he seized an umbrella and, without even looking for his hat, rushed out to meet the forlorn inaiden. But when, as he approached her, he attempted to open the umbrella, she
pointed to the fragments of her own which she held in her hand and said, with a smile:
" It is perfectly useless with such a wind as this. I really am in despair, Lord St. Edmunds, that you should have come out thus, for I am quite wet through and do not feel the rain now.”
When they reached the house, they found Constance at the very door, who immediately took possession of Cécile and accompanied her to her room from whence they descended, in about half an hour, having repaired all the more disastrous effects of the morning's adventure. By that time, Sir Charles and Lady Helen had both retired from the luncheon table, leaving there St. Edmunds and Edward in close conversation upon the latter's political prospects; but this subject was instantaneously dropped as the two young ladies re-appeared.
“Well, Saint Cecilia,” exclaimed Edward, rushing forward and seizing her hand, “ how do you find yourself now? You have brought back colour enough, at all events, to light up even one of our British skies.”
“Ah! I do not like at all to see her so flushed,” said Constance; “don't be talking to
her, either of you, pray, but rather assist me in persuading her to take something. She has had nothing since seven o'clock this morning, and then it was little more than a cup of tea.”
This injunction was immediately complied with, and when everything most likely to tempt the abstemious Cécile had been placed before her, the incorrigible Edward renewed the interrupted conversation.
“ You have had a morning after your own heart,” said he. “Why, you must have brought back absolution for a forthcoming murder in your pocket from such an expedition.”
“You very much overrate the merits of my effort,” answered she smiling. “I meant to add a charming walk to the satisfaction of accomplishing my Sunday duties, and had no conception that such treachery could lurk behind the cloudless promise of so fair a sunrise.”
“Oh! very pretty and poetical,” resumed Edward ; " but we have a proper reckoning to settle with her, have we not, Constance? And if it is on account of my electioneering interests that you refused the carriage this morning, I shall set the question at rest forthwith by resigning."
“ That would be a notable way of reestablishing me in Lady Helen's good graces,” replied she, “and then, indeed, the sooner I become some unfortunate young lady's companion, the better.”
“Don't mind him, darling,” interposed Constance,“ but do try and eat a little chicken : you promised me that you would, after you had had the warm wine and water. I will not positively allow another syllable to be uttered, until you have kept your word.”
“I am afraid that it was very imprudently pledged, dearest Conny,” whispered Cécile, whose hectic colour had already forsaken her cheek. “I do not know how it is, but I feel very weak— and the heat of the room is, I think, too much for me. I believe that I should breathe more freely in the hall for a moment.”
At these words, the purport of which was painfully illustrated by the increasing paleness of the speaker, Constance urged her at once to follow her impulse of leaving the dining-room, and assisted her accordingly to arise. But ere they had moved on many steps, she exclaimed, in great alarm :
“Edward—St. Edmunds, for Heaven's sake