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The London budget of news was now opened, and gone through by Lord Davenant, including quarrels in the cabinet and all that with fear of change perplexes politicians. But the fears and hopes of different ages are attached to such different subjects, that Helen heard all this as though she heard it not, and went on with her drawing, touching, and retouching it, without ever looking up, till her attention was wakened by the name of Granville Beauclerc; this was the name of the person who had written those interesting letters which she had met with in Lady Davenant's portfolio. "What is he doing in town?" asked the general.
"Amusing himself, I suppose," replied Lord Davenant.
"I believe he forgets that I am his guardian," said the general.
"I am sure he cannot forget that you are his friend," said Lady Cecilia; "for he has the best heart in the world."
"And the worst head for any thing useful," said the general.
"He is a man of genius," said Lady Davenant.
"Did you speak to him, my lord," pursued the general, "about standing for the county?"
"And he said what?"
"That he would have nothing to do with it."
"Something about not being tied to party, and somewhat he said about patriotism," replied Lord Davenant.
"Nonsense!" said the general, "he is a fool."
"Only young," said Lady Davenant,
"Men are not so very young in these days at two-and-twenty," said the general.
"In some," said Lady Davenant, "the classical touch, the romance of political virtue, lasts for months, if not years, after they leave college; even those who, like Granville, go into high life in London, do not sometimes, for a season or two, lose their first enthusiasm of patriotism."
The general's lips became compressed. Lord Davenant, throwing himself back in his easy chair, repeated, "Patriotism! yes, every young man of talent is apt to begin with a fit of that sort."
"My dear lord," cried Lady Davenant, "you, of all men, to speak of patriotism as a disease!"
"And a disease that can be had but once in life, I am afraid," replied her lord laughing; "and yet," as if believing in that at which he laughed, "it evaporates in most men in words, written or spoken, lasts till the first pamphlet is published, or till the maiden-speech in parliament is fairly made, and fairly paid for—in all honour—all honourable men."
Lady Davenant passed over these satirical observations, and somewhat abruptly asked Lord Davenant if he recollected the late Mr. Windham.
"Certainly he was not a man to be easily forgotten: but what in particular?" "The scales of his mind were too fine," said Lady Davenant, "too nicely adjusted for common purposes; diamond scales will not do for weighing wool. Very refined, very ingenious, very philosophical minds, such as Windham, Burke, Bacon, were all too scrupulous weighers; their scales turned with the millionth of a grain, and all from the same cause, subject to the same defect, indecision. They saw too well how much can be said on both sides of the question. There is a sort of philosophical doubt, arising from enlargement of understanding, quite different from that irresolution of character which is caused by infirmity of will; and I have observed," continued Lady Davenant, "in some of these over scrupulous weighers, that when once they come to a balance, that instant they become most wilful; so it will be, you will see, with Beauclerc. After excessive indecision, you will see him start perhaps at once to rash action."
"Rash of wrong, resolute of right," said Lord Davenant.
"He is constitutionally wilful, and metaphysically vacillating," said Lady Davenant.
The general waited till the metaphysics were over, and then said to Lord Davenant that he suspected there was something more than mere want of ambition in Beauclerc's refusal to go into parliament. Some words were here inaudible to Helen, and the general began to walk up and down the room with so strong a tread, that at every step the china shook on the table near which Helen sat, so that she lost most part of what followed, and yet it seemed interesting, about some Lord Beltravers, and a Comtesse de Saint —— something, or a Lady Blanche —— somebody.
Lady Davenant looked anxious, the general's steps became more deliberately, more ominously firm; till lady Cecilia came up to him, and playfully linking her arm in his, the steps were moderated, and when a soothing hand came upon his shoulder, the compressed lips were relaxed—she spoke in a low voice—he answered aloud.
"By all means! write to him yourself, my love; get him down here and he will be safe; he cannot refuse you."
"Tuesday, then?" she would name the earliest day if the general approved.
He approved of every thing she said; "Tuesday let it be." Following him to the door, Lady Cecilia added something which seemed to fill the measure of his contentment. "Always good and kind," said he; "so let it be.
"Then shall I write to your sister, or will you?"
"You," said the general, "let the kindness come from you, as it always does."
Lady Cecilia, in a moment at the writing-table, ran off, as fast as pen could go, two notes, which she put into her mother's hand, who gave an approving nod; and, leaving them with her to seal and have franked, Cecilia darted out on the terrace, carrying Helen along with her, to see some Italian garden she was projecting.
And as she went, and as she stood directing the workmen, at every close of her directions she spoke to Helen. She said she was very glad that she had settled that Beauclerc was to come to them immediately. He was a great favourite of hers.
"Not for any of those grandissimo qualities which my mother sees in him, and which I am not quite clear exist; but just because he is the most agreeable person in nature; and really natural; though he is a man of the world, yet not the least affected. Quite fashionable, of course, but with true feeling. Oh! he is delightful, just—" then she interrupted herself to give directions to the workmen about her Italian garden——
"Oleander in the middle of that bed; vases nearer to the balustrade—-"
"Beauclerc has a very good taste, and a beautiful place he has, Thorndale. He will be very rich. Few very rich young men are agreeable now, women spoil them so.—['Border that bed with something pretty.']—Still he is, and I long to know what you will think of him; I know what I think he will think, but, however, I will say no more; people are always sure to get into scrapes in this world, when they say what they think.—['That fountain looks beautiful.']—I forgot to tell you he is very handsome. The general is very fond of him, and he of the general, except when he considers him as his guardian, for Granville Beauclerc does not particularly like to be controlled—who does? It is a curious story.—['Unpack those vases, and by the time that is done I will be back.']—Take a turn with me, Helen, this way. It is a curious story: Granville Beauclerc's father—but I don't know it perfectly, I only know that he was a very odd man, and left the general, though he was so much younger than himself, guardian to Granville, and settled that he was not to be of age, I mean not to come into possession of his large estates, till he is five-and-twenty: shockingly hard on poor Granville, and enough to make him hate Clarendon, but he does not, and that is charming, that is one reason I like him! So amazingly respectful to his guardian always, considering how impetuous he is, amazingly respectful, though I cannot say I think he is what the gardening books call patient of the knife, I don't think he likes his fancies to be lopped; but then he is so clever. Much more what you would call a reading man than the general, distinguished at college, and all that which usually makes a young man conceited, but Beauclerc is only a little headstrong—all the more agreeable, it keeps one in agitation; one never knows how it will end, but I am sure it will all go on well now. It is curious, too, that mamma knew him also when he was at Eton, I believe—I don't know how, but long before we ever heard of Clarendon, and she corresponded with him, but I never knew him till he came to Florence, just after it was all settled with me and the general; and he was with us there and at Paris, and travelled home with us, and I like him. Now you know all, except what I do not choose to tell you, so come back to the workmen—'That vase will not do there, move it in front of these evergreens; that will do.'"
Then returning to Helen—"After all, I did so right, and I am so glad I thought in time of inviting Esther, now Mr. Beauclerc is coming—the general's sister—half sister. Oh, so unlike him! you would never guess that Miss Clarendon was his sister, except from her pride. But she is so different from other people; she knows nothing, and wishes to know nothing of the world. She lives always at an old castle in Wales, Llan —— something, which she inherited from her mother, and she has always been her own mistress, living with her aunt in melancholy grandeur there, till her brother brought her to Florence, where—oh, how she was out of her element! Come this way and I will tell you more. The fact is, I do not not much like Miss Clarendon, and I will tell you why—I will describe her to you."
"No, no, do not," said Helen; "do not, my dear Cecilia, and I will tell you why."
"Why—why?" cried Cecilia. "Do you recollect the story my uncle told us about the young bride and her old friend, and the bit of advice?"
No, Cecilia did not recollect any thing of it. She should be very glad to hear the anecdote, but as to the advice, she hated advice.
"Still, if you knew who gave it—it was given by a very great man."
"A very great man! now you make me curious. Well, what is it?" said Lady Cecilia.
"That for one year after her marriage, she would not tell to her friends the opinion she had formed, if unfavourable, of any of her husband's relations, as it was probable she might change that opinion on knowing them better, and would afterwards be sorry for having told her first hasty judgment. Long afterwards the lady told her friend that she owed to this advice a great part of the happiness of her life, for she really had, in the course of the year, completely changed her first notions of some of her husband's family, and would have had sorely to repent, if she had told her first thoughts!"
Cecilia listened, and said it was all "Vastly well! excellent! But I had nothing in the world to say of Miss Clarendon, but that she was too good—too sincere for the world we live in. For instance, at Paris, one day a charming Frenchwoman was telling some anecdote of the day in the most amusing manner. Esther Clarendon all the while stood by, grave and black as night, and at last turning upon our charmer at the end of the story, pronounced, 'There is not one word of truth in all you have been saying!' Conceive it, in full salon! The French were in such amazement. 'Inconceivable!' as they might well say to me, as she walked off with her tragedy-queen air; 'Inconcevable—mais, vraiment inconcevable;' and 'Bien Anglaise,' they would have added, no doubt, if I had not been by."
"But there must surely have been some particular reason," said Helen.
"None in the world, only the story was not true, I believe. And then another time, when she was with her cousin, the Duchess of Lisle, at Lisle-Royal, and was to have gone out the next season in London with the Duchess, she came down one morning, just before they were to set off for town, and declared that she bad heard such a quantity of scandal since she had been there, and such shocking things of London society, that she had resolved not to go out with the Duchess, and not to go to town at all? So absurd—so prudish!"
Helen felt some sympathy in this, and was going to have said so, but Cecilia went on with—
"And then to expect that Granville Beauclerc—should—"
Here Cecilia paused, and Helen felt curious, and ashamed of her curiosity; she turned away, to raise the branches of some shrub, which were drooping from the weight of their flowers.
"I know something has been thought of," said Cecilia. "A match has been in contemplation—do you comprehend me, Helen?"
"You mean that Mr. Beauclerc is to marry Miss Clarendon," said Helen, compelled to speak.
"I only say it has been thought of," replied Lady Cecilia; "that is, as every thing in this way is thought of about every couple not within the prohibited degrees, one's grandmother inclusive. And the plainer the woman, the more sure she is to contemplate such things for herself, lest no one else should think of them for her. But, my dear Helen, if you mean to ask—"
"Oh, I don't mean to ask any thing," cried Helen.
"But, whether you ask or not, I must tell you that the general is too proud to own, even to himself, that he could; ever think of any man for his sister who had not first proposed for her."
There was a pause for some minutes.
"But," resumed Lady Cecilia, "I could not do less than ask her here for Clarendon's sake, when I know it pleases him; and she is very—estimable, and so I wish to make her love me if I could! But I do not think she will be nearer her point with Mr. Beauclerc, if it is her point, by coming here just now. Granville has eyes as well as ears, and contrasts will strike. I know who I wish should strike him, as she strikes me—and I think—I hope—"
Helen looked distressed.
"I am as innocent as a dove," pursued Lady Cecilia; "but I suppose even doves may have their own private little thoughts and wishes."
Helen was sure Cecilia had meant all this most kindly, but she was sorry that some things had been said. She was conscious of having been interested by those letters of Mr. Beauclerc's; but a particular thought had now been put into her mind, and she could never more say, never more feel, that such a thought had not come into her head. She was very sorry; it seemed as if somewhat of the freshness, the innocence, of her mind was gone from her. She was sorry, too, that she had heard all that Cecilia had said about Miss Clarendon; it appeared as if she was actually doomed to get into some difficulty with the general about his sister; she felt as if thrown back into a sea of doubts, and she was not clear that she could, even by opposing, end them.
On the appointed Tuesday, late, Miss Clarendon arrived; a fine figure, but ungraceful, as Helen observed, from the first moment when she turned sharply away from Lady Cecilia's embrace to a great dog of her brother's—"Ah, old Neptune! I'm glad you're here still."
And when Lady Cecilia would have put down his paws—Let him alone, let him alone, dear, honest, old fellow."
"But the dear, honest, old fellow's paws are wet, and will ruin your pretty new pelisse."
"It may be new, but you know it is not pretty," said Miss Clarendon, continuing to pat Neptune's head as he jumped up with his paws on her shoulders.
"O my dear Esther, how can you hear him? he is so rough in his love!"
"I like rough better than smooth." The rough paw caught in her lace frill, and it was torn to pieces before "down! down!" and the united efforts of Lady Cecilia and Helen could extricate it.—"Don't distress yourselves about it, pray; it does not signify in the least. Poor Neptune, how really sorry he looks—there, there, wag your tail again—no one shall come between us two old friends."
Her brother came in, and, starting up, her arms were thrown round his neck, and her bonnet falling back, Helen who had thought her quite plain before, was surprised to see that, now her colour was raised, and there was life in her eyes, she was really handsome.
Gone again that expression, when Cecilia spoke to her: whatever she said, Miss Clarendon differed from; if it was a matter of taste, she was always of the contrary opinion; if narrative or assertion, she questioned, doubted, seemed as if she could not believe. Her conversation, if conversation it could be called, was a perpetual rebating and regrating, especially with her sister-in-law; if Lady Cecilia did but say there were three instead of four, it was taken up as "quite a mistake," and marked not only as a mistake, but as "not true." Every, the slightest error, became a crime against majesty, and the first day ended with Helen's thinking her really the most disagreeable, intolerable person she had ever seen.
And the second day went on a little worse. Helen thought Cecilia took too much pains to please, and said it would be better to let her quite alone. Helen did so completely, but Miss Clarendon did not let Helen alone; but watched her with penetrating eyes continually, listened to every word she said, and seeming to weigh every syllable,—"Oh, my words are not worth your weighing," said Helen, laughing.
"Yes they are, to settle my mind."
The first thing that seemed at all to settle it was Helen's not agreeing with Cecilia about the colour of two ribands which Helen said she could not flatter her were good matches. The next was about a drawing of Miss Clarendon's, of Llansillan, her place in Wales; a beautiful drawing indeed, which she had brought for her brother, but one of the towers certainly was out of the perpendicular. Helen was appealed to, and could not say it was upright; Miss Clarendon instantly took up a knife, cut the paper at the back of the frame, and, taking out the drawing, set the tower to rights.
"There's the use of telling the truth."
"Of listening to it," said Helen.
"We shall get on, I see, Miss Stanley, if you can get over the first bitter outside of me;—a hard outside, difficult to crack—stains delicate fingers, may be," she continued, as she replaced her drawing in its frame—"stains delicate fingers, may be, in the opening, but a good walnut you will find it, taken with a grain of salt."
Many a grain seemed necessary, and very strong nut-crackers in very strong hands. Lady Cecilia's evidently were not strong enough, though she strained hard. Helen did not feel inclined to try.
Cecilia invited Miss Clarendon to walk out and see some of the alterations her brother had made. As they passed the new Italian garden, Miss Clarendon asked, "What's all this?—don't like this—how I regret the Old English garden, and the high beech hedges. Every thing is to be changed here, I suppose,—pray do not ask my opinion about any of the alterations."
"I do not wonder," said Cecilia, "that you should prefer the old garden, with all your early associations; warm-hearted, amiable people must always be so fond of what they have loved in childhood."
"I never was here when I was a child, and I am not one of your amiable people."
"Very true, indeed," thought Helen.
"Miss Stanley looks at me as if I had seven heads," said Miss Clarendon, laughing; and, a minute after, overtaking Helen as she walked on, she looked full in her face, and added, "Do acknowledge that you think me a savage." Helen did not deny it, and from that moment Miss Clarendon looked less savagely upon her: she laughed and said, "I am not quite such a bear as I seem, you'll find; at least I never hug people to death. My growl is worse than my bite, unless some one should flatter my classical, bearish passion, and offer to feed me with honey, and when I find it all comb and no honey, who would not growl then?"
Lady Cecilia now came up, and pointed out views to which the general had opened. "Yes, it's well, he has done very well, but pray don't stand on ceremony with me. I can walk alone, you may leave me to my own cogitations, as I like best."
"Surely, as you like best," said Lady Cecilia; "pray consider yourself, as you know you are, at home here."
"No, I never shall be at home here," said Esther.
"Oh! don't say that, let me hope—let me hope—" and she withdrew. Helen just stayed to unlock a gate for Miss Clarendon's 'rambles further,' and, as she unlocked it, she heard Miss Clarendon sigh as she repeated the word, "Hope! I do not like to hope, hope has so often deceived me."
"You will never be deceived in Cecilia," said Helen.
"Take care—stay till you try."
"I have tried," said Helen, "I know her."
"You're scarcely out of childhood yet."
"I am not so very young. I have had trials of my friends—of Cecilia particularly, much more than you could ever have had."
"Well, this is the best thing I ever heard of her, and from good authority too; her friends abroad were all false," said Miss Clarendon.
"It is very extraordinary," said Helen, "to hear such a young person as you are talk so—
"Of false friends—you must have been very unfortunate."
"Pardon me—very fortunate—to find them out in time." She looked at the prospect, and liked all that her brother was doing, and disliked all that she even guessed Lady Cecilia had done. Helen showed her that she guessed wrong here and there, and smiled at her prejudices; and Miss Clarendon smiled again, and admitted that she was prejudiced, "but every body is; only some show and tell, and others smile and fib. I wish that word fib was banished from English language, and white lie drummed out after it. Things by their right names and we should all do much better. Truth must be told, whether agreeable or not."
"But whoever makes truth disagreeable commits high treason against virtue," said Helen.
"Is that yours?" cried Miss Clarendon, stopping short.
"No," said Helen. "It is excellent whoever said it."
"It was from my uncle Stanley I heard it," said Helen.
"Superior man that uncle must have been."
"I will leave you now," said Helen.
"Do, I see we shall like one another in time, Miss Stanley; in time,—I hate sudden friendships."
That evening Miss Clarendon questioned Helen more about her friendship with Cecilia, and how it was she came to hive with her. Helen plainly told her.
"Then it was not an original promise between you?"
"Not at all," said Helen.
"Lady Cecilia told me it was. Just like her,—I knew all the time it was a lie."
Shocked and startled at the word, and at the idea, Helen exclaimed, "Oh! Miss Clarendon, how can you say so? anybody may he mistaken. Cecilia mistook—" Lady Cecilia joined them at this moment. Miss Clarendon's face was flushed. "This room is insufferably hot. What can be the use of a fire at this time of year?"
Cecilia said it was for her mother, who was apt to be chilly in the evenings; and as she spoke, she put a screen between the flushed cheek and the fire. Miss Clarendon pushed it away, saying, "I can't talk, I can't hear, I can't understand with a screen before me. What did you say, Lady Cecilia, to Lady Davenant, as we came out from dinner, about Mr. Beauclerc?"
"That we expect him to-morrow."
"You did not tell me so when you wrote!"
"No, my dear."
"I don't know."
"You don't know, Lady Cecilia! why should people say they do not know, when they do know perfectly well?"
"If I had thought it was of any consequence to you, Esther," said Cecilia, with an arch look——
"Now you expect me to answer that it was not of the least consequence to me—that is the answer you would make; but my answer is, that it was of consequence to me, and you knew it was."
"And if I did?"
"If you did, why say 'If I had thought it of any consequence to you?'—why say so? answer me truly."
"Answer me truly!" repeated Lady Cecilia, laughing. "Oh, my dear Esther, we are not in a court of justice."
"Nor in a court of honour," pursued Miss Clarendon.
"Well, well! let it be a court of love at least," said Lady Cecilia. "What a pretty proverb that was, Helen, that we met with the other day in that book of old English proverbs—'Love rules his kingdom without a sword.'"
"Very likely; but to the point," said Miss Clarendon, "when do you expect Mr. Beauclerc?"
"Then I shall go to-morrow!"
"My dear Esther, why?"
"You know why; you know what reports have been spread; it suits neither my character nor my brother's to give any foundation for such reports. Let me ring the bell and I will give my own orders."
"My dear Esther, but your brother will be so vexed—so surprised."
"My brother is the best judge of his own conduct, he will do what he pleases, or what you please. I am the judge of mine, and certainly shall do what I think right."
She rang accordingly, and ordered that her carriage should be at the door at six o'clock in the morning.
"Nay, my dear Esther," persisted Cecilia, "I wish you would not decide so suddenly; we were so glad to have you come to us—"
"Glad! why you know—"
"I know," interrupted Lady Cecilia, colouring, and she began as fast as possible to urge every argument she could think of to persuade Miss Clarendon; but no arguments, no entreaties of hers or the general's, public or private, were of any avail,—go she would, and go she did at six o'clock.
"I suppose," said Helen to Lady Davenant, "that Miss Clarendon is very estimable, and she seems to be very clever: but I wonder that with all her abilities she does not learn to make her manners more agreeable."
"My dear," said Lady Davenant, "we must take people as they are; you may graft a rose upon an oak, but those who have tried the experiment tell us the graft will last but a short time, and the operation ends in the destruction of both; where the stocks have no common nature, there is ever a want of conformity which sooner or later proves fatal to both."
But Beauclerc, what was become of him?—that day passed, and no Beauclerc; another and another came, and on the third day, only a letter from him, which ought to have come on Tuesday.—But "too late," the shameful brand of procrastination was upon it—and it contained only a few lines blotted in the folding, to say that he could not possibly be at Clarendon Park on Tuesday, but would on Wednesday or Thursday if possible.
Good-natured Lord Davenant observed, "When a young man in London, writing to his friends in the country, names two days for leaving town, and adds an 'if possible' his friends should never expect him till the last of the two named."
The last of the two days arrived—Thursday. The aide-de-camp asked if Mr. Beauclerc was expected to-day. "Yes, I expect to see him to-day," the general answered.
"I hope, but do not expect," said Lady Davenant, "for, as learned authority tells me, 'to expect is to hope with some degree of certainty'—"
The general left the room repeating, "I expect him to-day, Cecilia."
The day passed, however, and he came not—the night came. The general ordered that the gate should be kept open, and that a servant should sit up. The servant sat up all night, cursing Mr. Beauclerc. And in the morning he replied with malicious alacrity to the first question his master asked, "No, Sir, Mr. Beauclerc is not come."
At breakfast, the general, after buttering his bread in silence for some minutes, confessed that he loved punctuality. It might be a military prejudice;—it might be too professional, martinet perhaps,—but still he owned he did love punctuality. He considered it as a part of politeness, a proper attention to the convenience and feelings of others; indispensable between strangers it is usually felt to be, and he did not know why intimate friends should deem themselves privileged to dispense with it.
His eyes met Helen's as he finished these words, and smiling, he complimented her upon her constant punctuality. It was a voluntary grace in a lady, but an imperative duty in a man—and a young man.
"You are fond of this young man, I see general," said Lord Davenant.
"But not of his fault."
Lady Cecilia said something about forgiving a first fault.
"Never!" said Lady Davenant. "Lord Collingwood's rule was—never forgive a first fault, and you will not have a second. You love Beauclerc, I see, as Lord Davenant says."
"Love him!" resumed the general; "with all his faults and follies, I love him as if he were my brother."
At which words Lady Cecilia, with a scarcely perceptible smile, cast a furtive glance at Helen.
The general called for his horses, and, followed by his aide-de-camp, departed, saying that he should be back at luncheon-time, when he hoped to find Beauclerc. In the same hope, Lady Davenant ordered her pony-phaeton earlier than usual; Lady Cecilia further hoped most earnestly that Beauclerc would come this day, for the next the house would be full of company, and she really wished to have him one day at least to themselves, and she gave a most significant glance at Helen.
"The first move often secures the game against the best players," said she.
Helen blushed, because she could not help understanding; she was ashamed, vexed with Cecilia, yet pleased by her kindness, and half amused by her arch look and tone.
They were neither of them aware that Lady Davenant had heard the words that passed, or seen the looks; but immediately afterwards, when they were leaving the breakfast-room, Lady Davenant came between the two friends, laid her hand upon her daughter's arm, and said,
"Before you make any move in a dangerous game, listen to the voice of old experience."
Lady Cecilia startled, looked up, but as if she did not comprehend.
"Cupid's bow, my dear," continued her mother, "is, as the Asiatics tell us, strung with bees, which are apt to sting—sometimes fatally—those who meddle with it."
Lady Cecilia still looked with an innocent air, and still as if she could not comprehend.
"To speak more plainly, then, Cecilia," said her mother, "build no matrimonial castles in the air; standing or falling they do mischief—mischief either to the builder, or to those for whom they may be built."
"Certainly if they fall they disappoint one," said Lady Cecilia, "but if they stand?"
Seeing that she made no impression on her daughter, Lady Davenant turned to Helen, and gravely said,—
"My dear Helen, do not let my daughter inspire you with false, and perhaps vain imaginations, certainly premature, therefore unbecoming."
Helen shrunk back, yet instantly looked up, and her look was ingenuously grateful.
"But, mamma," said Lady Cecilia, "I declare I do not understand what all this is about."
"About Mr. Granville Beauclerc," said her mother.
"How can you, dear mamma, pronounce his name so tout an long?" "Pardon my indelicacy, my dear; delicacy is a good thing, but truth a better. I have seen the happiness of many young women sacrificed by such false delicacy, and by the fear of giving a moment's present pain, which it is sometimes the duty of a true friend to give."
"Certainly, certainly, mamma, only not necessary now; and I am so sorry you have said all this to poor dear Helen."
"If you have said nothing to her, Cecilia, I acknowledge I have said too much."
"I said—I did nothing," cried Lady Cecilia; "I built no castles—never built a regular castle in my life; never had a regular plan in my existence; never mentioned his name, except about another person—"
An appealing look to Helen was however protested.
"To the best of my recollection, at least," Lady Cecilia immediately added.
"Helen seems to be blushing for your want of recollection, Cecilia."
"I am sure I do not know why you blush, Helen. I am certain I never did say a word distinctly."
"Not distinctly certainly," said Helen in a low voice. "It was my fault if I understood——"
"Always true, you are," said Lady Davenant.
"I protest I said nothing but the truth," cried Lady Cecilia hastily.
"But not the whole truth, Cecilia," said her mother.
"I did, upon my word, mamma," persisted Lady Cecilia, repeating "upon my word."
"Upon your word, Cecilia! that is either a vulgar expletive or a most serious asseveration."
She spoke with a grave tone, and with her severe look, and Helen dared not raise her eyes; Lady Cecilia now coloured deeply.
"Shame! Nature's hasty conscience," said Lady Davenant. "Heaven preserve it!"
"Oh, mother!" cried Lady Cecilia, laying her hand on her mother's, "surely you do not think seriously—surely you are not angry—I cannot bear to see you displeased," said she, looking up imploringly in her mother's face, and softly, urgently pressing her hand. No pressure was returned; that hand was slowly and with austere composure withdrawn, and her mother walked away down the corridor to her own room. Lady Cecilia stood still, and the tears came into her eyes.
"My dear friend, I am exceedingly sorry," said Helen. She could not believe that Cecilia meant to say what was not true, yet she felt that she had been to blame in not telling all, and her mother in saying too much.
Lady Cecilia, her tears dispersed, stood looking at the impression which her mother's signet-ring had left in the palm of her hand. It was at that moment a disagreeable recollection that the motto of that ring was "Truth." Rubbing the impress from her hand, she said, half speaking to herself, and half to Helen—"I am sure I did not mean anything wrong; and I am sure nothing can be more true than that I never formed a regular plan in my life. After all, I am sure that so much has been said about nothing, that I do not understand anything: I never do, when mamma goes on in that way, making mountains of molehills, which she always does with me, and did ever since I was a child; but she really forgets that I am not a child. Now, it is well the general was not by; he would never have borne to see his wife so treated. But I would not, for the world, be the cause of any disagreement. Oh! Helen, my mother does not know how I love her, let her be ever so severe to me! But she never loved me; she cannot help it. I believe she does her best to love me—my poor, dear mother!"
Helen seized this opportunity to repeat the warm expressions she had heard so lately from Lady Davenant, and melting they sunk into Cecilia's heart. She kissed Helen again and again, for a dear, good peacemaker, as she always was—and "I'm resolved"—but in the midst of her good resolves she caught a glimpse through the glass door opening on the park, of the general, and a fine horse they were ringing, and she hurried out: all light of heart she went, as though
"Or shake the downy blowball from her stalk."
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