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“ Certainly, Lady Helen.”
“And do you conceive, may I ask you, that you are acting in accordance with any such feeling by ostentatiously declining, as you have done just now, to share in our devotions.”
“You must be aware, Lady Helen,” replied Cécile, in a deprecating tone, “ that I had a strong and very evident reason for not concurring in everything Sir Charles said this evening, whereby I trust that I can have given offence to no one.”
“But you have given offence to me and to all true Protestants present—"
“I beg your pardon, Lady Helen,” interposed Cécile, timidly glancing at the servants, who were still lingering near the opposite doorway, arrested by the unusual character of the conversation, “I beg your pardon, but surely this is scarcely the time or the place— ”.
“ Don't presume to dictate to me in my own house, pray. This is precisely the time and the place, and I am very glad that those who may have noticed your conduct to night should hear me tell you, that I consider it impertinent in the extreme.”
“ That will do, I think, my dear," whispered Sir Charles, who from the first had seemed somewhat doubtful as to the expediency of his wife's present sortie, “and now, my good friends,” added he, addressing his domestics in a louder voice, "you may retire.”
"I am very glad that they should have seen how far I, at least, am converted as yet,” responded Lady Helen, “and how I for one am prepared to deal with every insult to our faith and sentiments, whether it proceed from Pope or from Papist."
Poor Cécile! We trust that the recollection of Napoleon, and of Charlemagne, and of Jeanne d'Arc may have been sufficient to sustain her internal equanimity during this little ordeal ; but observing how her dark eye kindled, and how convulsive was the tremor that ran through her whole frame, St. Edmunds could not but fear that her specifics were again failing her at the hour of her utmost need. As yet, the whole occurrence had been so unforeseen, and so rapid, that he had been unable to give any utterance to the feelings which it had aroused within him ; but now, he could not refrain from exclaiming :
“My dear Sir Charles, do you think that it was very necessary to say all that you said just now in the presence of a Catholic, whom it must have offended and wounded ?”
“ You will find nothing ever said in this house, which can wound or offend true Catholics, St. Edmunds,” interposed the still excited Lady Helen ; " and this, for the simple reason that we are all such here, I trust.”
“Well, but my dear aunt, you said that we were Protestants just now, and I wish that I could understand, once for all, how we can be both at the self same time.”
“I will explain it to you in two words, if you wish to know it, St. Edmunds. We are a Protestant nation, as protesting, for ever, I trust, against the fallacy and corruptions of the Romish creed, and we are Catholics as belonging to the Universal Church of Christ. Any one, I should think, can understand that.”
“I shall endeavour to, for my part,” answered St. Edmunds, anxious, above all, to allay the irritation of all parties; “and I shall much rejoice to believe that Miss Basinstoke can no longer reject me as a heretic, when I
am included under the same denomination as herself.”
“Ah!" replied Cécile, “I fear that it is the mere mockery of language to unite, under such forced application of the same expressions, those who are so grievously estranged.”
“I am very much obliged to you for the compliment,” retorted the mistress of the house.
“ Indeed, Lady Helen, I had intended addressing neither compliment nor criticism to you personally, and was only answering Lord St. Edmunds's observation.”
“ So you will not allow our National Church to be Catholic as well as Protestant ?” added he.
"I do not presume to allow or to forbid anything," replied Cécile smiling; “but it certainly does appear to me, that Catholic and National are, as Edward would say, correlative and antagonistic terms, which cannot be sincerely confounded or easily reconciled.”
“I am for reconciling off to bed,” exclaimed the Baronet. “I cannot make out how it is, but I never saw two people yet talking together upon religious matters without falling out.
Ah! you need not look so very knowing, Miss Cécile : it is a positive fact.”
“If my looks conveyed anything, Sir Charles, it must have been unqualified assent to the very Catholic sentiment which you were uttering.”
“Never mind my sentiments, but take care how you misbehave again at our prayers,” said her uncle, playfully pulling one of her silken curls,“ or you will get such a wigging as never you had yet. Now, good-night to you all : I see that the glass is going up again, nephew; so that, please God, we shall be able to show you some pheasants to-morrow."