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anxious glance, she hastily raised her forefinger to her lips, and then depressed it in the direction of her wrist; but saving this slight indication of the silence to be observed upon a somewhat delicate point before the company, no communication of a confidential character could be exchanged with her until the latter end of the evening. Then, Sir Charles having fallen fast asleep, and Lady Helen having gone up to her daughter's room, our hero was enabled to draw near the fair Romanist, and to inquire after the wounded arm.
There was something both haughty and deprecating in the look which she cast upon him, as she coldly answered :
“I was not aware that it was generous, or gentleman-like, to allude to a secre which would never have been willingly im
“ Perhaps you should remember, Miss Basinstoke, before you reprove me so sternly,” replied our hero, “that I might plead some peculiar right to be anxious there, where I must feel that I was myself principally to blame."
“If there was sternness or reproof in my
answer,” said she, somewhat softened, " you must recollect that I am occasionally obliged to enlist them into my system of selfdefence.”
"I was not aware that I have deserved to be reckoned among your aggressors.".
“No, in truth, Lord St. Edmunds,” exclaimed she, evidently moved by the tone, still more than by the words, of the speaker ; " none, I mean no stranger, of course, has ever yet shown me so much—so much courtesy and forbearance, and it would be most ungrateful on my part to forget it.”
“Oh! I am not at all offended," resumed he, smiling at her earnest manner; “ though, God knows, that I have no sort of claim yet upon your consideration, saving that which the strongest sympathy and admiration might venture to urge. You need not, therefore, wear another iron bracelet for the reproof which you administered just now to my indiscretion.”
“ You must expect another and a severer one,” said Cécile, raising her fore-finger, “ if you will again intrude upon the forbidden ground.”
“Don't tell me that it is forbidden, for Heaven's sake, Miss Basinstoke, as it would then be perfectly impossible for me to keep clear of it. The fact is, that there is one little question, one only, that I am dying to put to you."
"I well know what these little questions are, and in what spirit they are made, so let me advise you to set your heart upon some other object, than obtaining an answer from
“Oh! do not refuse me, before you have even heard what I have to ask, Miss Basinstoke, or you will lose all title to the-what is it you said just now?—the courtesy' and
forbearance' wasn't it? which I have condescended to show you as yet.”
“The mere thought of such a penalty," observed the now smiling Cécile, “would be sufficient to insure my submission. You may state your question, providing, of course, that it has no theological bearing whatsoever.”
“That is a restriction, Miss Basinstoke, which would seem to annul the concession; but as such cannot be your intention, I shall at once avail myself of the latter. What I wish to know is, whether you really think that such self-inflicted torture as we accidentally discovered this morning can be acceptable to God ?”
"And I should like to know, Lord St. Edmunds, whether you really think that such inquiries as these can be acceptable to me? I wish I could discover why it is that every most perplexing difficulty that can be raised upon religious matters is invariably here referred to me, who belong to a creed which forbids controversy no less strenuously than it enforces obedience.”
“ Shall I tell you why, Miss Basinstoke ?"
“ Because there is something in your look, in your voice, in your manner, as well as in the few words which fall from you when we are happy enough to hear you speak, which irresistibly persuades us that you have reflected upon these subjects far more deeply than most people, and that we have all much to learn from you."
“Very well pleaded indeed, Lord St. Edmunds; but perhaps you may find, among my innumerable perfections, that I am more proof against flattery than you would suppose.”
" It is not a vain compliment on my part, though you despise it, I fear, as coming from one who is but ill-qualified to form or to express similar opinions.”
“Do not make me responsible, I entreat you, for any such conjectures of your own. Long before I ever saw Lord St. Edmunds, I knew that, though he wears a sword, and has been rather too much led away, as yet, by the temptations which especially beset his age, rank and station, he has a mind fully capable of embracing all that is elevated and generous. Still, he must not be offended if I venture to tell him that the less he, too, trifles with the perilous science of theology the better.”
“I am sure that you are right, Miss Cécile, when you thus so kindly and yet so cruelly reject me, as totally unworthy to converse with you upon the subject which I well know engrosses most of your thoughts. However, you may yet be wrong in denying to me that information which I am anxious to obtain in a very different spirit, I assure you, from that which I regret to see prevailing around you here. Do you believe that I am speaking to you sincerely ?”