Cecilia Volume 1
Part 3 out of 7
adding, "If you have any thing to complain of, remember to whom you
may appeal." He then asked if she had seen Mr Briggs?
"Yes, sir, I am this moment come from his house."
"I am sorry for it; his house cannot be a proper one for the
reception of a young lady. When the Dean made application that I
would be one of your guardians, I instantly sent him a refusal, as
is my custom upon all such occasions, which indeed occur to me with
a frequency extremely importunate: but the Dean was a man for whom I
had really a regard, and, therefore, when I found my refusal had
affected him, I suffered myself to be prevailed upon to indulge him,
contrary not only to my general rule, but to my inclination."
Here he stopt, as if to receive some compliment, but Cecilia, very
little disposed to pay him any, went no farther than an inclination
of the head.
"I knew not, however," he continued, "at the time I was induced to
give my consent, with whom I was to be associated; nor could I have
imagined the Dean so little conversant with the distinctions of the
world, as to disgrace me with inferior coadjutors: but the moment I
learnt the state of the affair, I insisted upon withdrawing both my
name and countenance."
Here again he paused; not in expectation of an answer from Cecilia,
but merely to give her time to marvel in what manner he had at last
"The Dean," he resumed, "was then very ill; my displeasure, I
believe, hurt him. I was sorry for it; he was a worthy man, and had
not meant to offend me; in the end, I accepted his apology, and was
even persuaded to accept the office. You have a right, therefore, to
consider yourself as _personally_ my ward, and though I do not
think proper to mix much with your other guardians, I shall always
be ready to serve and advise you, and much pleased to see you."
"You do me honour, sir," said Cecilia, extremely wearied of such
graciousness, and rising to be gone.
"Pray sit still," said he, with a smile; "I have not many
engagements for this morning. You must give me some account how you
pass your time. Are you much out? The Harrels, I am told, live at a
great expense. What is their establishment?"
"I don't exactly know, sir."
"They are decent sort of people, I believe; are they not?"
"I hope so, sir!"
"And they have a tolerable acquaintance, I believe: I am told so;
for I know nothing of them."
"They have, at least, a very numerous one, sir."
"Well, my dear," said he, taking her hand, "now you have once
ventured to come, don't be apprehensive of repeating your visits. I
must introduce you to Mrs Delvile; I am sure she will be happy to
shew you any kindness. Come, therefore, when you please, and without
scruple. I would call upon you myself, but am fearful of being
embarrassed by the people with whom you live."
He then rang his bell, and with the same ceremonies which had
attended her admittance, she was conducted back to her carriage.
And here died away all hope of putting into execution, during her
minority, the plan of which the formation had given her so much
pleasure. She found that her present situation, however wide of her
wishes, was by no means the most disagreeable in which she could be
placed; she was tired, indeed, of dissipation, and shocked at the
sight of unfeeling extravagance; but notwithstanding the houses of
each of her other guardians were exempt from these particular vices,
she saw not any prospect of happiness with either of them; vulgarity
seemed leagued with avarice to drive her from the mansion of Mr
Briggs, and haughtiness with ostentation to exclude her from that of
She came back, therefore, to Portman Square, disappointed in her
hopes, and sick both of those whom she quitted and of those to whom
she was returning; but in going to her own apartment Mrs Harrel,
eagerly stopping her, begged she would come into the drawing-room,
where she promised her a most agreeable surprise.
Cecilia, for an instant, imagined that some old acquaintance was
just arrived out of the country; but, upon her entrance, she saw
only Mr Harrel and some workmen, and found that the agreeable
surprise was to proceed from the sight of an elegant Awning,
prepared for one of the inner apartments, to be fixed over a long
desert-table, which was to be ornamented with various devices of cut
"Did you ever see any thing so beautiful in your life?" cried Mrs
Harrel; "and when the table is covered with the coloured ices and
those sort of things, it will be as beautiful again. We shall have
it ready for Tuesday se'nnight.
"I understood you were engaged to go to the Masquerade ?"
"So we shall; only we intend to see masks at home first."
"I have some thoughts," said Mr Harrel, leading the way to another
small room, "of running up a flight of steps and a little light
gallery here, and so making a little Orchestra. What would such a
thing come to, Mr Tomkins?"
"O, a trifle, sir," answered Mr Tomkins, "a mere nothing."
"Well, then, give orders for it, and let it be done directly. I
don't care how slight it is, but pray let it be very elegant. Won't
it be a great addition, Miss Beverley?"
"Indeed, sir, I don't think it seems to be very necessary," said
Cecilia, who wished much to take that moment for reminding him of
the debt he had contracted with Mr Arnott.
"Lord, Miss Beverley is so grave!" cried Mrs Harrel; "nothing of
this sort gives her any pleasure."
"She has indeed," answered Cecilia, trying to smile, "not much taste
for the pleasure of being always surrounded by workmen."
And, as soon as she was able, she retired to her room, feeling, both
on the part of Mr Arnott and the Hills, a resentment at the
injustice of Mr Harrel, which fixed her in the resolution of
breaking through that facility of compliance, which had hitherto
confined her disapprobation to her own breast, and venturing,
henceforward, to mark the opinion she entertained of his conduct by
consulting nothing but reason and principle in her own.
Her first effort towards this change was made immediately, in
begging to be excused from accompanying Mrs Harrel to a large card
assembly that evening.
Mrs Harrel, extremely surprised, asked a thousand times the reason
of her refusal, imagining it to proceed from some very extraordinary
cause; nor was she, without the utmost difficulty, persuaded at last
that she merely meant to pass one evening by herself.
But the next day, when the refusal was repeated, she was still more
incredulous; it seemed to her impossible that any one who had the
power to be encircled with company, could by choice spend a second
afternoon alone: and she was so urgent in her request to be
entrusted with the secret, that Cecilia found no way left to appease
her, but by frankly confessing she was weary of eternal visiting,
and sick of living always in a crowd.
"Suppose, then," cried she, "I send for Miss Larolles to come and
sit with you?"
Cecilia, not without laughing, declined this proposal, assuring her
that no such assistant was necessary for her entertainment: yet it
was not till after a long contention that she was able to convince
her there would be no cruelty in leaving her by herself.
The following day, however, her trouble diminished; for Mrs Harrel,
ceasing to be surprised, thought little more of the matter, and
forbore any earnestness of solicitation: and, from that time, she
suffered her to follow her own humour with very little opposition.
Cecilia was much concerned to find her so unmoved; and not less
disappointed at the indifference of Mr Harrel, who, being seldom of
the same parties with his lady, and seeing her too rarely either to
communicate or hear any domestic occurrences, far from being struck,
as she had hoped, with the new way in which she passed her time, was
scarce sensible of the change, and interfered not upon the subject.
Sir Robert Floyer, who continued to see her when he dined in Portman
Square, often enquired what she did with herself in an evening; but
never obtaining any satisfactory answer, he concluded her
engagements were with people to whom he was a stranger.
Poor Mr Arnott felt the cruellest disappointment in being deprived
of the happiness of attending her in her evening's expeditions,
when, whether he conversed with her or not, he was sure of the
indulgence of seeing and hearing her.
But the greatest sufferer from this new regulation was Mr Monckton,
who, unable any longer to endure the mortifications of which his
morning visits to Portman Square had been productive, determined not
to trust his temper with such provocations in future, but rather to
take his chance of meeting with her elsewhere: for which purpose, he
assiduously frequented all public places, and sought acquaintance
with every family and every person he believed to be known to the
Harrels: but his patience was unrewarded, and his diligence
unsuccessful; he met with her no where, and, while he continued his
search, fancied every evil power was at work to lead him whither he
was sure never to find her.
Meanwhile Cecilia passed her time greatly to her own satisfaction.
Her first care was to assist and comfort the Hills. She went herself
to their lodgings, ordered and paid for whatever the physician
prescribed to the sick man, gave clothes to the children, and money
and various necessaries to the wife. She found that the poor
carpenter was not likely to languish much longer, and therefore, for
the present, only thought of alleviating his sufferings, by
procuring him such indulgences as were authorised by his physician,
and enabling his family to abate so much of their labour as was
requisite for obtaining time to nurse and attend him: but she meant,
as soon as the last duties should be paid him, to assist his
survivors in attempting to follow some better and more profitable
Her next solicitude was to furnish herself with a well-chosen
collection of books: and this employment, which to a lover of
literature, young and ardent in its pursuit, is perhaps the mind's
first luxury, proved a source of entertainment so fertile and
delightful that it left her nothing to wish.
She confined not her acquisitions to the limits of her present
power, but, as she was laying in a stock for future as well as
immediate advantage, she was restrained by no expence from
gratifying her taste and her inclination. She had now entered the
last year of her minority, and therefore had not any doubt that her
guardians would permit her to take up whatever sum she should
require for such a purpose.
And thus, in the exercise of charity, the search of knowledge, and
the enjoyment of quiet, serenely in innocent philosophy passed the
hours of Cecilia.
The first check this tranquillity received was upon the day of the
masquerade, the preparations for which have been already mentioned.
The whole house was then in commotion from various arrangements and
improvements which were planned for almost every apartment that was
to be opened for the reception of masks. Cecilia herself, however
little pleased with the attendant circumstance of wantonly
accumulating unnecessary debts, was not the least animated of the
party: she was a stranger to every diversion of this sort, and from
the novelty of the scene, hoped for uncommon satisfaction.
At noon Mrs Harrel sent for her to consult upon a new scheme which
occurred to Mr Harrel, of fixing in fantastic forms some coloured
lamps in the drawing-room.
While they were all discoursing this matter over, one of the
servants, who had two or three times whispered some message to Mr
Harrel, and then retired, said, in a voice not too low to be heard
by Cecilia, "Indeed, Sir, I can't get him away."
"He's an insolent scoundrel," answered Mr Harrel; "however, if I
must speak to him, I must;" and went out of the room.
Mrs Harrel still continued to exercise her fancy upon this new
project, calling both upon Mr Arnott and Cecilia to admire her taste
and contrivance; till they were all interrupted by the loudness of a
voice from below stairs, which frequently repeated, "Sir, I can wait
no longer! I have been put off till I can be put off no more!"
Startled by this, Mrs Harrel ceased her employment, and they all
stood still and silent. They then heard Mr Harrel with much softness
answer, "Good Mr Rawlins, have a little patience; I shall receive a
large sum of money to-morrow, or next day, and you may then depend
upon being paid."
"Sir," cried the man, "you have so often told me the same, that it
goes just for nothing: I have had a right to it a long time, and I
have a bill to make up that can't be waited for any longer."
"Certainly, Mr Rawlins," replied Mr Harrel, with still increasing
gentleness, "and certainly you shall have it: nobody means to
dispute your right; I only beg you to wait a day, or two days at
furthest, and you may then depend upon being paid. And you shall not
be the worse for obliging me; I will never employ any body else, and
I shall have occasion for you very soon, as I intend to make some
alterations at Violet-Bank that will be very considerable."
"Sir," said the man, still louder, "it is of no use your employing
me, if I can never get my money. All my workmen must be paid whether
I am or no; and so, if I must needs speak to a lawyer, why there's
no help for it."
"Did you ever hear any thing so impertinent?" exclaimed Mrs Harrel;
"I am sure Mr Harrel will be very much to blame, if ever he lets
that man do any thing more for him."
Just then Mr Harrel appeared, and, with an air of affected
unconcern, said, "Here's the most insolent rascal of a mason below
stairs I ever met with in my life; he has come upon me, quite
unexpectedly, with a bill of 400 pounds, and won't leave the house
without the money. Brother Arnott, I wish you would do me the favour
to speak to the fellow, for I could not bear to stay with him any
"Do you wish me to give him a draft for the money upon my own
"That would be vastly obliging," answered Mr Harrel, "and I will
give you my note for it directly. And so we shall get rid of this
fellow at once: and he shall do nothing more for me as long as he
lives. I will run up a new building at Violet-Bank next summer, if
only to shew him what a job he has lost."
"Pay the man at once, there's a good brother," cried Mrs Harrel,
"and let's hear no more of him."
The two gentlemen then retired to another room, and Mrs Harrel,
after praising the extreme good-nature of her brother, of whom she
was very fond, and declaring that the mason's impertinence had quite
frightened her, again returned to her plan of new decorations.
Cecilia, amazed at this indifference to the state of her husband's
affairs, began to think it was her own duty to talk with her upon
the subject: and therefore, after a silence so marked that Mrs
Harrel enquired into its reason, she said, "Will you pardon me, my
dear friend, if I own I am rather surprized to see you continue
"Because any fresh unnecessary expences just now, till Mr Harrel
actually receives the money he talks of--"
"Why, my dear, the expence of such a thing as this is nothing; in Mr
Harrel's affairs I assure you it will not be at all felt. Besides,
he expects money so soon, that it is just the same as if he had it
Cecilia, unwilling to be too officious, began then to express her
admiration of the goodness and generosity of Mr Arnott; taking
frequent occasion, in the course of her praise, to insinuate that
those only can be properly liberal, who are just and economical.
She had prepared no masquerade habit for this evening, as Mrs
Harrel, by whose direction she was guided, informed her it was not
necessary for ladies to be masked at home, and said she should
receive her company herself in a dress which she might wear upon any
other occasion. Mr Harrel, also, and Mr Arnott made not any
alteration in their appearance.
At about eight o'clock the business of the evening began; and before
nine, there were so many masks that Cecilia wished she had herself
made one of the number, as she was far more conspicuous in being
almost the only female in a common dress, than any masquerade habit
could have made her. The novelty of the scene, however, joined to
the general air of gaiety diffused throughout the company, shortly
lessened her embarrassment; and, after being somewhat familiarized
to the abruptness with which the masks approached her, and the
freedom with which they looked at or addressed her, the first
confusion of her situation subsided, and in her curiosity to watch
others, she ceased to observe how much she was watched herself.
Her expectations of entertainment were not only fulfilled but
surpassed; the variety of dresses, the medley of characters, the
quick succession of figures, and the ludicrous mixture of groups,
kept her attention unwearied: while the conceited efforts at wit,
the total thoughtlessness of consistency, and the ridiculous
incongruity of the language with the appearance, were incitements to
surprise and diversion without end. Even the local cant of, _Do
you know me? Who are you?_ and _I know you_; with the sly
pointing of the finger, the arch nod of the head, and the pert
squeak of the voice, though wearisome to those who frequent such
assemblies, were, to her unhackneyed observation, additional
subjects of amusement.
Soon after nine o'clock, every room was occupied, and the common
crowd of regular masqueraders were dispersed through the various
apartments. Dominos of no character, and fancy dresses of no
meaning, made, as is usual at such meetings, the general herd of the
company: for the rest, the men were Spaniards, chimney-sweepers,
Turks, watchmen, conjurers, and old women; and the ladies,
shepherdesses, orange girls, Circassians, gipseys, haymakers, and
Cecilia had, as yet, escaped any address beyond the customary
enquiry of _Do you know me?_ and a few passing compliments; but
when the rooms filled, and the general crowd gave general courage,
she was attacked in a manner more pointed and singular.
The very first mask who approached her seemed to have nothing less
in view than preventing the approach of every other: yet had he
little reason to hope favour for himself, as the person he
represented, of all others least alluring to the view, was the
devil! He was black from head to foot, save that two red horns
seemed to issue from his forehead; his face was so completely
covered that the sight only of his eyes was visible, his feet were
cloven, and in his right hand he held a wand the colour of fire.
Waving this wand as he advanced towards Cecilia, he cleared a semi-
circular space before her chair, thrice with the most profound
reverence bowed to her, thrice. turned himself around with sundry
grimaces, and then fiercely planted himself at her side.
Cecilia was amused by his mummery, but felt no great delight in his
guardianship, and, after a short time, arose, with intention to walk
to another place; but the black gentleman, adroitly moving round
her, held out his wand to obstruct her passage, and therefore,
preferring captivity to resistance, she was again obliged to seat
An Hotspur, who just then made his appearance, was now strutting
boldly towards her; but the devil, rushing furiously forwards,
placed himself immediately between them. Hotspur, putting his arms
a-kimbo with an air of defiance, gave a loud stamp with his right
foot, and then--marched into another room!
The victorious devil ostentatiously waved his wand, and returned to
Mr Arnott, who had never moved two yards from Cecilia, knowing her
too well to suppose she received any pleasure from being thus
distinguished, modestly advanced to offer his assistance in
releasing her from confinement; but the devil, again describing a
circle with his wand, gave him three such smart raps on the head
that his hair was disordered, and his face covered with powder. A
general laugh succeeded, and Mr Arnott, too diffident to brave
raillery, or withstand shame, retired in confusion.
The black gentleman seemed now to have all authority in his own
hands, and his wand was brandished with more ferocity than ever, no
one again venturing to invade the domain he thought fit to
appropriate for his own.
At length, however, a Don Quixote appeared, and every mask in the
room was eager to point out to him the imprisonment of Cecilia.
This Don Quixote was accoutered with tolerable exactness according
to the description of the admirable Cervantes; his armour was rusty,
his helmet was a barber's basin, his shield, a pewter dish, and his
lance, an old sword fastened to a slim cane. His figure, tall and
thin, was well adapted to the character he represented, and his
mask, which depictured a lean and haggard face, worn with care, yet
fiery with crazy passions, exhibited, with propriety the most
striking, the knight of the doleful countenance.
The complaints against the devil with which immediately and from all
quarters he was assailed, he heard with the most solemn taciturnity:
after which, making a motion for general silence, he stalked
majestically towards Cecilia, but stopping short of the limits
prescribed by her guard, he kissed his spear in token of allegiance,
and then, slowly dropping upon one knee, began the following
"Most incomparable Princess!--Thus humbly prostrate at the feet of
your divine and ineffable beauty, graciously permit the most pitiful
of your servitors, Don Quixote De la Mancha, from your high and
tender grace, to salute the fair boards which sustain your corporeal
Then, bending down his head, he kissed the floor; after which,
raising himself upon his feet, he proceeded in his speech.
"Report, O most fair and unmatchable virgin! daringly affirmeth that
a certain discourteous person, who calleth himself the devil, even
now, and in thwart of your fair inclinations, keepeth and detaineth
your irradiant frame in hostile thraldom. Suffer then, magnanimous
and undescribable lady! that I, the most groveling of your unworthy
vassals, do sift the fair truth out of this foul sieve, and
obsequiously bending to your divine attractions, conjure your
highness veritably to inform me, if that honourable chair which
haply supports your terrestrial perfections, containeth the
inimitable burthen with the free and legal consent of your celestial
Here he ceased: and Cecilia, who laughed at this characteristic
address, though she had not courage to answer it, again made an
effort to quit her place, but again by the wand of her black
persecutor was prevented.
This little incident was answer sufficient for the valorous knight,
who indignantly exclaimed,
"Sublime Lady!--I beseech but of your exquisite mercy to refrain
mouldering the clay composition of my unworthy body to impalpable
dust, by the refulgence of those bright stars vulgarly called eyes,
till I have lawfully wreaked my vengeance upon this unobliging
caitiff, for his most disloyal obstruction of your highness's
Then, bowing low, he turned from her, and thus addressed his
"Uncourtly Miscreant,--The black garment which envellopeth thy most
unpleasant person, seemeth even of the most ravishing whiteness, in
compare of the black bile which floateth within thy sable interior.
Behold, then, my gauntlet! yet ere I deign to be the instrument of
thy extirpation, O thou most mean and ignoble enemy! that the honour
of Don Quixote De la Mancha may not be sullied by thy extinction, I
do here confer upon thee the honour of knighthood, dubbing thee, by
my own sword, Don Devil, knight of the horrible physiognomy."
He then attempted to strike his shoulder with his spear, but the
black gentleman, adroitly eluding the blow, defended himself with
his wand: a mock fight ensued, conducted on both sides with
admirable dexterity; but Cecilia, less eager to view it than to
become again a free agent, made her escape into another apartment;
while the rest of the ladies, though they almost all screamed,
jumped upon chairs and sofas to peep at the combat.
In conclusion, the wand of the knight of the horrible physiognomy
was broken against the shield of the knight of the doleful
countenance; upon which Don Quixote called out _victoria_! the
whole room echoed the sound; the unfortunate new knight retired
abruptly into another apartment, and the conquering Don, seizing the
fragments of the weapon of his vanquished enemy went out in search
of the lady for whose releasement he had fought: and the moment he
found her, prostrating both himself and the trophies at her feet, he
again pressed the floor with his lips, and then, slowly arising,
repeated his reverences with added formality, and, without waiting
her acknowledgments, gravely retired.
The moment he departed a Minerva, not stately nor austere, not
marching in warlike majesty, but gay and airy,
"Tripping on light fantastic toe,"
ran up to Cecilia, and squeaked out, "Do you know me?"
"Not," answered she, instantly recollecting Miss Larolles, "by your
_appearance_, I own! but by your _voice_, I think I can guess you."
"I was monstrous sorry," returned the goddess, without understanding
this distinction, "that I was not at home when you called upon me.
Pray, how do you like my dress? I assure you I think it's the
prettiest here. But do you know there's the most shocking thing in
the world happened in the next room! I really believe there's a
common chimney-sweeper got in! I assure you it's enough to frighten
one to death, for every time he moves the soot smells so you can't
think; quite real soot, I assure you! only conceive how nasty! I
declare I wish with all my heart it would suffocate him!"
Here she was interrupted by the re-appearance of _Don Devil_;
who, looking around him, and perceiving that his antagonist was
gone, again advanced to Cecilia: not, however, with the authority of
his first approach, for with his wand he had lost much of his power;
but to recompense himself for this disgrace, he had recourse to
another method equally effectual for keeping his prey to himself,
for he began a growling, so dismal and disagreeable, that while many
of the ladies, and, among the first, the _Goddess of Wisdom and
Courage_, ran away to avoid him, the men all stood aloof to watch
what next was to follow.
Cecilia now became seriously uneasy; for she was made an object of
general attention, yet could neither speak nor be spoken to. She
could suggest no motive for behaviour so whimsical, though she
imagined the only person who could have the assurance to practise it
was Sir Robert Floyer.
After some time spent thus disagreeably, a white domino, who for a
few minutes had been a very attentive spectator, suddenly came
forward, and exclaiming, "_I'll cross him though he blast me!_"
rushed upon the fiend, and grasping one of his horns, called out to
a Harlequin who stood near him, "Harlequin! do you fear to fight the
"Not I truly!" answered Harlequin, whose voice immediately betrayed
young Morrice, and who, issuing from the crowd, whirled himself
round before the black gentleman with yet more agility than he had
himself done before Cecilia, giving him, from time to time, many
smart blows on his shoulders, head, and back, with his wooden sword.
The rage of _Don Devil_ at this attack seemed somewhat beyond
what a masquerade character rendered necessary; he foamed at the
mouth with resentment, and defended himself with so much vehemence,
that he soon drove poor Harlequin into another room: but, when he
would have returned to his prey, the genius of pantomime, curbed,
but not subdued, at the instigation of the white domino, returned to
the charge, and by a perpetual rotation of attack and retreat, kept
him in constant employment, pursuing him from room to room, and
teazing him without cessation or mercy.
Mean time Cecilia, delighted at being released, hurried into a
corner, where she hoped to breathe and look on in quiet; and the
white domino having exhorted Harlequin to torment the tormentor, and
keep him at bay, followed her with congratulations upon her
"It is you," answered she, "I ought to thank for it, which indeed I
do most heartily. I was so tired of confinement, that my mind seemed
almost as little at liberty as my person."
"Your persecutor, I presume," said the domino, "is known to you."
"I hope so," answered she, "because there is one man I suspect, and
I should be sorry to find there was another equally disagreeable."
"O, depend upon it," cried he, "there are many who would be happy to
confine you in the same manner; neither have you much cause for
complaint; you have, doubtless, been the aggressor, and played this
game yourself without mercy, for I read in your face the captivity
of thousands: have you, then, any right to be offended at the spirit
of retaliation which one, out of such numbers has courage to exert
"I protest," cried Cecilia, "I took you for my defender! whence is
it you are become my accuser?"
"From seeing the danger to which my incautious knight-errantry has
exposed me; I begin, indeed, to take you for a very mischievous sort
of person, and I fear the poor devil from whom I rescued you will be
amply revenged for his disgrace, by finding that the first use you
make of your freedom is to doom your deliverer to bondage."
Here they were disturbed by the extreme loquacity of two opposite
parties: and listening attentively, they heard from one side, "My
angel! fairest of creatures! goddess of my heart!" uttered in
accents of rapture; while from the other, the vociferation was so
violent they could distinctly hear nothing.
The white domino satisfied his curiosity by going to both parties;
and then, returning to Cecilia, said, "Can you conjecture who was
making those soft speeches? a Shylock! his knife all the while in
his hand, and his design, doubtless, to _cut as near the heart as
possible!_ while the loud cackling from the other side is owing
to the riotous merriment of a noisy Mentor! when next I hear a
disturbance, I shall expect to see some simpering Pythagoras stunned
by his talkative disciples."
"To own the truth," said Cecilia, "the almost universal neglect of
the characters assumed by these masquers has been the chief source
of my entertainment this evening: for at a place of this sort, the
next best thing to a character well supported is a character
"You cannot, then, have wanted amusement," returned the domino, "for
among all the persons assembled in these apartments, I have seen
only three who have seemed conscious that any change but that of
dress was necessary to disguise them."
"And pray who are those?"
"A Don Quixote, a schoolmaster, and your friend the devil."
"O, call him not my friend," exclaimed Cecilia, "for indeed in or
out of that garb he is particularly my aversion."
"_My_ friend, then, I will call him," said the domino, "for so,
were he ten devils, I must think him, since I owe to him the honour
of conversing with you. And, after all, to give him his due, to
which, you know, he is even proverbially entitled, he has shewn such
abilities in the performance of his part, so much skill in the
display of malice, and so much perseverance in the art of
tormenting, that I cannot but respect his ingenuity and capacity.
And, indeed, if instead of an evil genius, he had represented a
guardian angel, he could not have shewn a more refined taste in his
choice of an object to hover about."
Just then they were approached by a young haymaker, to whom the
white domino called out, "You look as gay and as brisk as if fresh
from the hay-field after only half a day's work. Pray, how is it you
pretty lasses find employment for the winter"
"How?" cried she, pertly, "why, the same as for the summer!" And
pleased with her own readiness at repartee, without feeling the
ignorance it betrayed, she tript lightly on.
Immediately after the schoolmaster mentioned by the white domino
advanced to Cecilia. His dress was merely a long wrapping gown of
green stuff, a pair of red slippers, and a woollen night-cap of the
same colour; while, as the symbol of his profession, he held a rod
in his hand.
"Ah, fair lady," he cried, "how soothing were it to the austerity of
my life, how softening to the rigidity of my manners, might I--
without a _breaking out of bounds_, which I ought to be the
first to discourage, and a "confusion to all order" for which the
school-boy should himself chastise his master--be permitted to cast
at your feet this emblem of my authority! and to forget, in the
softness of your conversation, all the roughness of discipline!"
"No, no," cried Cecilia, "I will not be answerable for such
corruption of taste!"
"This repulse," answered he, "is just what I feared; for alas! under
what pretence could a poor miserable country pedagogue presume to
approach you? Should I examine you in the dead languages, would not
your living accents charm from me all power of reproof? Could I look
at you, and hear a false concord? Should I doom you to water-gruel
as a dunce, would not my subsequent remorse make me want it myself
as a madman? Were your fair hand spread out to me for correction,
should I help applying my lips to it, instead of my rat-tan? If I
ordered you to be _called up_, should I ever remember to have
you sent back? And if I commanded you to stand in a corner, how
should I forbear following you thither myself?"
Cecilia, who had no difficulty in knowing this pretended
schoolmaster for Mr Gosport, was readily beginning to propose
conditions for according him her favour, when their ears were
assailed by a forced phthisical cough, which they found proceeded
from an apparent old woman, who was a young man in disguise, and
whose hobbling gait, grunting voice, and most grievous asthmatic
complaints, seemed greatly enjoyed and applauded by the company.
"How true is it, yet how inconsistent," cried the white domino,
"that while we all desire to live long, we have all a horror of
being old! The figure now passing is not meant to ridicule any
particular person, nor to stigmatize any particular absurdity; its
sole view is to expose to contempt and derision the general and
natural infirmities of age! and the design is not more disgusting
than impolitic; for why, while so carefully we guard from all
approaches of death, should we close the only avenues to happiness
in long life, respect and tenderness?"
Cecilia, delighted both by the understanding and humanity of her new
acquaintance, and pleased at being joined by Mr Gosport, was
beginning to be perfectly satisfied with her situation, when,
creeping softly towards her, she again perceived the black
"Ah!" cried she, with some vexation, "here comes my old tormentor!
screen me from him if possible, or he will again make me his
"Fear not," cried the white domino, "he is an evil spirit, and we
will surely lay him. If one spell fails, we must try another."
Cecilia then perceiving Mr Arnott, begged he would also assist in
barricading her from the fiend who so obstinately pursued her.
Mr Arnott most gratefully acceded to the proposal; and the white
domino, who acted as commanding officer, assigned to each his
station: he desired Cecilia would keep quietly to her seat,
appointed the schoolmaster to be her guard on the left, took
possession himself of the opposite post, and ordered Mr Arnott to
stand centinel in front.
This arrangement being settled, the guards of the right and left
wings instantly secured their places; but while Mr Arnott was
considering whether it were better to face the besieged or the
enemy, the arch-foe rushed suddenly before him, and laid himself
down at the feet of Cecilia!
Mr Arnott, extremely disconcerted, began a serious expostulation
upon the ill-breeding of this behaviour; but the devil, resting all
excuse upon supporting his character, only answered by growling.
The white domino seemed to hesitate for a moment in what manner to
conduct himself, and with a quickness that marked his chagrin, said
to Cecilia, "You told me you knew him,--has he any right to follow
"If he thinks he has," answered she, a little alarmed by his
question, "this is no time to dispute it."
And then, to avoid any hazard of altercation, she discreetly forbore
making further complaints, preferring any persecution to seriously
remonstrating with a man of so much insolence as the Baronet.
The schoolmaster, laughing at the whole transaction, only said, "And
pray, madam, after playing the devil with all mankind, what right
have you to complain that one man plays the devil with you?"
"We shall, at least, fortify you," said the white domino, "from any
other assailant: no three-headed Cerberus could protect you more
effectually: but you will not, therefore, fancy yourself in the
lower regions, for, if I mistake not, the torment of _three
guardians_ is nothing new to you."
"And how," said Cecilia, surprised, "should you know of my three
guardians? I hope I am not quite encompassed with evil spirits!"
"No," answered he; "you will find me as inoffensive as the hue of
the domino I wear;----and would I could add as insensible!"
"This black gentleman," said the schoolmaster, "who, and very
innocently, I was going to call your _black-guard_, has as
noble and fiend-like a disposition as I remember to have seen; for
without even attempting to take any diversion himself, he seems
gratified to his heart's content in excluding from it the lady he
"He does me an honour I could well dispense with," said Cecilia;
"but I hope he has some secret satisfaction in his situation which
pays him for its apparent inconvenience."
Here the black gentleman half-raised himself, and attempted to take
her hand. She started, and with much displeasure drew it back. He
then growled, and again sank prostrate.
"This is a fiend," said the schoolmaster, "who to himself sayeth,
_Budge not!_ let his conscience never so often say _budge!_ Well,
fair lady, your fortifications, however, may now be deemed
impregnable, since I, with a flourish of my rod, can keep off the
young by recollection of the past, and since the fiend, with a jut
of his foot, may keep off the old from dread of the future!"
Here a Turk, richly habited and resplendent with jewels, stalked
towards Cecilia, and, having regarded her some time, called out, "I
have been looking hard about me the whole evening, and, faith, I
have seen nothing handsome before!"
The moment he opened his mouth, his voice, to her utter
astonishment, betrayed Sir Robert Floyer! "Mercy on me," cried she
aloud, and pointing to the fiend, "who, then, can this possibly be?"
"Do you not know?" cried the white domino.
"I thought I had known with certainty," answered she, "but I now
find I was mistaken."
"He is a happy man," said the schoolmaster, sarcastically looking at
the Turk, "who has removed your suspicions only by appearing in
"Why, what the deuce, then," exclaimed the Turk, "have you taken
that black dog there for _me_?"
Before this question could be answered, an offensive smell of soot,
making everybody look around the room, the chimney-sweeper already
mentioned by Miss Larolles was perceived to enter it. Every way he
moved a passage was cleared for him, as the company, with general
disgust, retreated wherever he advanced.
He was short, and seemed somewhat incommoded by his dress; he held
his soot-bag over one arm, and his shovel under the other. As soon
as he espied Cecilia, whose situation was such as to prevent her
eluding him, he hooted aloud, and came stumping up to her; "Ah ha,"
he cried, "found at last;" then, throwing down his shovel, he opened
the mouth of his bag, and pointing waggishly to her head, said,
"Come, shall I pop you?--a good place for naughty girls; in, I say,
poke in!--cram you up the chimney."
And then he put forth his sooty hands to reach her cap.
Cecilia, though she instantly knew the dialect of her guardian Mr
Briggs, was not therefore the more willing to be so handled, and
started back to save herself from his touch; the white domino also
came forward, and spread out his arms as a defence to her, while the
devil, who was still before her, again began to growl.
"Ah ha!" cried the chimney-sweeper, laughing, "so did not know me?
Poor duck! won't hurt you; don't be frightened; nothing but old
guardian; all a joke!" And then, patting her cheek with his dirty
hand, and nodding at her with much kindness, "Pretty dove," he
added, "be of good heart! shan't be meddled with; come to see after
you. Heard of your tricks; thought I'd catch you!--come o' purpose.
--Poor duck! did not know me! ha! ha!--good joke enough!"
"What do you mean, you dirty dog," cried the Turk, "by touching that
"Won't tell!" answered he; "not your business. Got a good right. Who
cares for pearls? Nothing but French beads." Pointing with a sneer
to his turban. Then, again addressing Cecilia, "Fine doings!" he
continued, "Here's a place! never saw the like before! turn a man's
noddle!--All goings out; no comings in; wax candles in every room;
servants thick as mushrooms! And where's the cash? Who's to pay the
piper? Come to more than a guinea; warrant Master Harrel thinks that
"A guinea?" contemptuously repeated the Turk, "and what do you
suppose a guinea will do?"
"What? Why, keep a whole family handsome a week;--never spend so
much myself; no, nor half neither."
"Why then, how the devil do you live? Do you beg?"
"Beg? Who should I beg of? You?--Got anything to give? Are warm?"
"Take the trouble to speak more respectfully, sir!" said the Turk,
haughtily; "I see you are some low fellow, and I shall not put up
with your impudence."
"Shall, shall! I say!" answered the chimneysweeper, sturdily;
"Hark'ee, my duck," chucking Cecilia under the chin, "don't be
cajoled, nick that spark! never mind gold trappings; none of his
own; all a take-in; hired for eighteenpence; not worth a groat.
Never set your heart on a fine outside, nothing within. Bristol
stones won't buy stock: only wants to chouse you."
"What do you mean by that, you little old scrub!" cried the
imperious Turk; "would you provoke me to soil my fingers by pulling
that beastly snub nose?" For Mr Briggs had saved himself any actual
mask, by merely blacking his face with soot.
"Beastly snub nose!" sputtered out the chimneysweeper in much wrath,
"good nose enough; don't want a better; good as another man's.
Where's the harm on't?"
"How could this blackguard get in?" cried the Turk, "I believe he's
a mere common chimneysweeper out of the streets, for he's all over
dirt and filth. I never saw such a dress at a masquerade before in
"All the better," returned the other; "would not change. What do
think it cost?"
"Cost? Why, not a crown."
"A crown? ha! ha!--a pot o' beer! Little Tom borrowed it; had it of
our own sweep. Said 'twas for himself. I bid him a pint; rascal
would not take less."
"Did your late uncle," said the white domino in a low voice to
Cecilia, "chuse for two of your guardians Mr Harrel and Mr Briggs,
to give you an early lesson upon the opposite errors of profusion
"My uncle?" cried Cecilia, starting, "were you acquainted with my
"No," said he, "for my happiness I knew him not."
"You would have owed no loss of happiness to an acquaintance with
him," said Cecilia, very seriously, "for he was one who dispensed to
his friends nothing but good."
"Perhaps so," said the domino; "but I fear I should have found the
good he dispensed through his niece not quite unmixed with evil!"
"What's here?" cried the chimney-sweeper, stumbling over the fiend,
"what's this black thing? Don't like it; looks like the devil. You
shan't stay with it; carry you away; take care of you myself."
He then offered Cecilia his hand; but the black gentleman, raising
himself upon his knees before her, paid her, in dumb shew, the
humblest devoirs, yet prevented her from removing.
"Ah ha!" cried the chimney-sweeper, significantly nodding his head,
"smell a rat! a sweetheart in disguise. No bamboozling! it won't do;
a'n't so soon put upon. If you've got any thing to say, tell
_me_, that's the way. Where's the cash? Got ever a
_rental_? Are warm? That's the point; are warm?"
The fiend, without returning any answer, continued his homage to
Cecilia; at which the enraged chimney-sweeper exclaimed, "Come, come
with me! won't be imposed upon; an old fox,--understand trap!"
He then again held out his hand, but Cecilia, pointing to the fiend,
answered, "How can I come, sir?"
"Shew you the way," cried he, "shovel him off." And taking his
shovel, he very roughly set about removing him.
The fiend then began a yell so horrid, that it disturbed the whole
company; but the chimney-sweeper, only saying, "Aye, aye, blacky,
growl away, blacky,--makes no odds," sturdily continued his work,
and, as the fiend had no chance of resisting so coarse an antagonist
without a serious struggle, he was presently compelled to change his
"Warm work!" cried the victorious chimney-sweeper, taking off his
wig, and wiping his head with the sleeves of his dress, "pure warm
Cecilia, once again freed from her persecutor, instantly quitted her
place, almost equally desirous to escape the haughty Turk, who was
peculiarly her aversion, and the facetious chimney-sweeper, whose
vicinity, either on account of his dress or his conversation, was by
no means desirable. She was not, however, displeased that the white
domino and the schoolmaster still continued to attend her.
"Pray, look," said the white domino, as they entered another
apartment, "at that figure of Hope; is there any in the room half so
expressive of despondency?"
"The reason, however," answered the schoolmaster, "is obvious; that
light and beautiful silver anchor upon which she reclines presents
an occasion irresistible for an attitude of elegant dejection; and
the assumed character is always given up where an opportunity offers
to display any beauty, or manifest any perfection in the dear proper
"But why," said Cecilia, "should she assume the character of
_Hope_? Could she not have been equally dejected and equally
elegant as Niobe, or some tragedy queen?"
"But she does not assume the character," answered the schoolmaster,
"she does not even think of it: the dress is her object, and that
alone fills up all her ideas. Enquire of almost any body in the room
concerning the persons they seem to represent, and you will find
their ignorance more gross than you can imagine; they have not once
thought upon the subject; accident, or convenience, or caprice has
alone directed their choice."
A tall and elegant youth now approached them, whose laurels and harp
announced Apollo. The white domino immediately enquired of him if
the noise and turbulence of the company had any chance of being
stilled into silence and rapture by the divine music of the inspired
"No," answered he, pointing to the room in which was erected the new
gallery, and whence, as he spoke, issued the sound of a
_hautboy_, "there is a flute playing there already."
"O for a Midas," cried the white domino, "to return to this leather-
eared god the disgrace he received from him!"
They now proceeded to the apartment which had been lately fitted up
for refreshments, and which was so full of company that they entered
it with difficulty. And here they were again joined by Minerva, who,
taking Cecilia's hand, said, "Lord, how glad I am you've got away
from that frightful black mask! I can't conceive who he is; nobody
can find out; it's monstrous odd, but he has not spoke a word all
night, and he makes such a shocking noise when people touch him,
that I assure you it's enough to put one in a fright."
"And pray," cried the schoolmaster, disguising his voice, "how
camest thou to take the helmet of Minerva for a fool's cap?"
"Lord, I have not," cried she, innocently, "why, the whole dress is
Minerva's; don't you see?"
"My dear child," answered he, "thou couldst as well with that little
figure pass for a Goliath, as with that little wit for a Pallas."
Their attention was now drawn from the goddess of wisdom to a mad
Edgar, who so vehemently ran about the room calling out "Poor Tom's
a cold!" that, in a short time, he was obliged to take off his mask,
from an effect, not very delicate, of the heat!
Soon after, a gentleman desiring some lemonade whose toga spoke the
consular dignity, though his broken English betrayed a native of
France, the schoolmaster followed him, and, with reverence the most
profound, began to address him in Latin; but, turning quick towards
him, he gaily said, "_Monsieur, j'ai l'honneur de representer
Ciceron, le grand Ciceron, pere de sa patrie! mais quoique j'ai cet
honneur-la, je ne suit pas pedant!--mon dieu, Monsieur, je ne parle
que le Francois dans la bonne compagnie_!" And, politely bowing,
he went on.
Just then Cecilia, while looking about the room for Mrs Harrel,
found herself suddenly pinched by the cheek, and hastily turning
round, perceived again her friend the chimney-sweeper, who,
laughing, cried, "Only me! don't be frightened. Have something to
tell you;--had no luck!--got never a husband yet! can't find one!
looked all over, too; sharp as a needle. Not one to be had! all
"I am glad to hear it, sir," said Cecilia, somewhat vexed by
observing the white domino attentively listening; "and I hope,
therefore, you will give yourself no farther trouble."
"Pretty duck!" cried he, chucking her under the chin; "never mind,
don't be cast down; get one at last. Leave it to me. Nothing under a
plum; won't take up with less. Good-by, ducky, good-by! must go home
now,--begin to be nodding."
And then, repeating his kind caresses, he walked away.
"Do you think, then," said the white domino, "more highly of Mr
Briggs for discernment and taste than of any body?"
"I hope not!" answered she, "for low indeed should I then think of
the rest of the world!"
"The commission with which he is charged," returned the domino, "has
then misled me; I imagined discernment and taste might be necessary
ingredients for making such a choice as your approbation would
sanctify: but perhaps his skill in guarding against any fraud or
deduction in the stipulation he mentioned, may be all that is
requisite for the execution of his trust."
"I understand very well," said Cecilia, a little hurt, "the severity
of your meaning; and if Mr Briggs had any commission but of his own
suggestion, it would fill me with shame and confusion; but as that
is not the case, those at least are sensations which it cannot give
"My meaning," cried the domino, with some earnestness, "should I
express it seriously, would but prove to you the respect and
admiration with which you have inspired me, and if indeed, as Mr
Briggs hinted, such a prize is to be purchased by riches, I know
not, from what I have seen of its merit, any sum I should think
adequate to its value."
"You are determined, I see," said Cecilia, smiling, "to make most
liberal amends for your asperity."
A loud clack of tongues now interrupted their discourse; and the
domino, at the desire of Cecilia, for whom he had procured a seat,
went forward to enquire what was the matter. But scarce had he given
up his place a moment, before, to her great mortification, it was
occupied by the fiend.
Again, but with the same determined silence he had hitherto
preserved, he made signs of obedience and homage, and her perplexity
to conjecture who he could be, or what were his motives for this
persecution, became the more urgent as they seemed the less likely
to be satisfied. But the fiend, who was no other than Mr Monckton,
had every instant less and less encouragement to make himself known:
his plan had in nothing succeeded, and his provocation at its
failure had caused him the bitterest disappointment; he had
intended, in the character of a tormentor, not only to pursue and
hover around her himself, but he had also hoped, in the same
character, to have kept at a distance all other admirers: but the
violence with which he had over-acted his part, by raising her
disgust and the indignation of the company, rendered his views
wholly abortive while the consciousness of an extravagance for
which, if discovered, he could assign no reason not liable to excite
suspicions of his secret motives, reduced him to guarding a painful
and most irksome silence the whole evening. And Cecilia, to whose
unsuspicious mind the idea of Mr Monckton had never occurred, added
continually to the cruelty of his situation, by an undisguised
abhorrence of his assiduity, as well as by a manifest preference to
the attendance of the white domino. All, therefore, that his
disappointed scheme now left in his power, was to watch her motions,
listen to her discourse, and inflict occasionally upon others some
part of the chagrin with which he was tormented himself.
While they were in this situation, Harlequin, in consequence of
being ridiculed by the Turk for want of agility, offered to jump
over the new desert table, and desired to have a little space
cleared to give room for his motions. It was in vain the people who
distributed the refreshments, and who were placed at the other side
of the table, expostulated upon the danger of the experiment;
Morrice had a rage of enterprise untameable, and, therefore, first
taking a run, he attempted the leap.
The consequence was such as might naturally be expected; he could
not accomplish his purpose, but, finding himself falling,
imprudently caught hold of the lately erected Awning, and pulled it
entirely upon his own head, and with it the new contrived lights,
which, in various forms, were fixed to it, and which all came down
The mischief and confusion occasioned by this exploit were very
alarming, and almost dangerous; those who were near the table
suffered most by the crush, but splinters of the glass flew yet
further; and as the room, which was small, had been only lighted up
by lamps hanging from the Awning, it was now in total darkness,
except close to the door, which was still illuminated from the
The clamour of Harlequin, who was covered with glass, papier-machee,
lamps and oil, the screams of the ladies, the universal buz of
tongues, and the struggle between the frighted crowd which was
enclosed to get out, and the curious crowd from the other apartments
to get in, occasioned a disturbance and tumult equally noisy and
confused. But the most serious sufferer was the unfortunate fiend,
who, being nearer the table than Cecilia, was so pressed upon by the
numbers which poured from it, that he found a separation
unavoidable, and was unable, from the darkness and the throng, to
discover whether she was still in the same place, or had made her
escape into another.
She had, however, encountered the white domino, and, under his
protection, was safely conveyed to a further part of the room. Her
intention and desire were to quit it immediately, but at the
remonstrance of her conductor, she consented to remain some time
longer. "The conflict at the door," said he, "will quite overpower
you. Stay here but a few minutes, and both parties will have
struggled themselves tired, and you may then go without difficulty.
Meantime, can you not, by this faint light, suppose me one of your
guardians, Mr Briggs, for example, or, if he is too old for me, Mr
Harrel, and entrust yourself to my care?"
"You seem wonderfully well acquainted with my guardians," said
Cecilia; "I cannot imagine how you have had your intelligence."
"Nor can I," answered the domino, "imagine how Mr Briggs became so
particularly your favourite as to be entrusted with powers to
dispose of you."
"You are mistaken indeed; he is entrusted with no powers but such as
his own fancy has suggested."
"But how has Mr Delvile offended you, that with him only you seem to
have no commerce or communication?"
"Mr Delvile!" repeated Cecilia, still more surprised, "are you also
acquainted with Mr Delvile?"
"He is certainly a man of fashion," continued the domino, "and he is
also a man of honour; surely, then, he would be more pleasant for
confidence and consultation than one whose only notion of happiness
is money, whose only idea of excellence is avarice, and whose only
conception of sense is distrust!" Here a violent outcry again
interrupted their conversation; but not till Cecilia had satisfied
her doubts concerning the white domino, by conjecturing he was Mr
Belfield, who might easily, at the house of Mr Monckton, have
gathered the little circumstances of her situation to which he
alluded, and whose size and figure exactly resembled those of her
The author of the former disturbance was now the occasion of the
present: the fiend, having vainly traversed the room in search of
Cecilia, stumbled accidentally upon Harlequin, before he was freed
from the relicks of his own mischief; and unable to resist the
temptation of opportunity and the impulse of revenge, he gave vent
to the wrath so often excited by the blunders, forwardness, and
tricks of Morrice, and inflicted upon him, with his own wooden
sword, which he seized for that purpose, a chastisement the most
serious and severe.
Poor Harlequin, unable to imagine any reason for this violent
attack, and already cut with the glass, and bruised with the fall,
spared not his lungs in making known his disapprobation of such
treatment: but the fiend, regardless either of his complaints or his
resistance, forbore not to belabour him till compelled by the
entrance of people with lights. And then, after artfully playing
sundry antics under pretence of still supporting his character, with
a motion too sudden for prevention, and too rapid for pursuit, he
escaped out of the room, and hurrying down stairs, threw himself
into an hackney chair, which conveyed him to a place where he
privately changed his dress before he returned home, bitterly
repenting the experiment he had made, and conscious too late that,
had he appeared in a character he might have avowed, he could,
without impropriety, have attended Cecilia the whole evening. But
such is deservedly the frequent fate of cunning, which, while it
plots surprise and detection of others, commonly overshoots its
mark, and ends in its own disgrace.
The introduction of the lights now making manifest the confusion
which the frolic of Harlequin had occasioned, he was seized with
such a dread of the resentment of Mr Harrel, that, forgetting blows,
bruises, and wounds, not one of which were so frightful to him as
reproof, he made the last exhibition of his agility by an abrupt and
He had, however, no reason for apprehension, since, in every thing
that regarded expence, Mr Harrel had no feeling, and his lady had no
The rooms now began to empty very fast, but among the few masks yet
remaining, Cecilia again perceived Don Quixote; and while, in
conjunction with the white domino, she was allowing him the praise
of having supported his character with more uniform propriety than
any other person in the assembly, she observed him taking off his
mask for the convenience of drinking some lemonade, and, looking in
his face, found he was no other than Mr Belfield! Much astonished,
and more than ever perplexed, she again turned to the white domino,
who, seeing in her countenance a surprise of which he knew not the
reason, said, half-laughing, "You think, perhaps, I shall never be
gone? And indeed I am almost of the same opinion; but what can I do?
Instead of growing weary by the length of my stay, my reluctance to
shorten it increases with its duration; and all the methods I take,
whether by speaking to you or looking at you, with a view to be
satiated, only double my eagerness for looking and listening again!
I must go, however; and if I am happy, I may perhaps meet with you
again,--though, if I am wise, I shall never seek you more!"
And then, with the last stragglers that reluctantly disappeared, he
made his exit, leaving Cecilia greatly pleased with his conversation
and his manners, but extremely perplexed to account for his
knowledge of her affairs and situation.
The schoolmaster had already been gone some time.
She was now earnestly pressed by the Harrels and Sir Robert, who
still remained, to send to a warehouse for a dress, and accompany
them to the Pantheon; but though she was not without some
inclination to comply, in the hope of further prolonging the
entertainment of an evening from which she had received much
pleasure, she disliked the attendance of the Baronet, and felt
averse to grant any request that he could make, and therefore she
begged they would excuse her; and having waited to see their
dresses, which were very superb, she retired to her own apartment.
A great variety of conjecture upon all that had passed, now, and
till the moment that she sunk to rest, occupied her mind; the
extraordinary persecution of the fiend excited at once her curiosity
and amazement, while the knowledge of her affairs shown by the white
domino surprised her not less, and interested her more.
The next morning, during breakfast, Cecilia was informed that a
gentleman desired to speak with her. She begged permission of Mrs
Harrel to have him asked upstairs, and was not a little surprized
when he proved to be the same old gentleman whose singular
exclamations had so much struck her at Mr Monckton's, and at the
rehearsal of Artaserse.
Abruptly and with a stern aspect advancing to her, "You are rich,"
he cried; "are you therefore worthless?"
"I hope not," answered she, in some consternation; while Mrs Harrel,
believing his intention was to rob them, ran precipitately to the
bell, which she rang without ceasing till two or three servants
hastened into the room; by which time, being less alarmed, she only
made signs to them to stay, and stood quietly herself to wait what
The old man, without attending to her, continued his dialogue with
"Know you then," he said, "a blameless use of riches? such a use as
not only in the broad glare of day shall shine resplendent, but in
the darkness of midnight, and stillness of repose, shall give you
reflections unembittered, and slumbers unbroken? tell me, know you
"Not so well, perhaps," answered she, "as I ought; but I am very
willing to learn better."
"Begin, then, while yet youth and inexperience, new to the
callousness of power and affluence, leave something good to work
upon: yesterday you saw the extravagance of luxury and folly; to-day
look deeper, and see, and learn to pity, the misery of disease and
He then put into her hand a paper which contained a most affecting
account of the misery to which a poor and wretched family had been
reduced, by sickness and various other misfortunes.
Cecilia, "open as day to melting charity," having hastily perused
it, took out her purse, and offering to him three guineas, said,
"You must direct me, sir, what to give if this is insufficient."
"Hast thou so much heart?" cried he, with emotion, "and has fortune,
though it has cursed thee with the temptation of prosperity, not yet
rooted from thy mind its native benevolence? I return in part thy
liberal contribution; this," taking one guinea, "doubles my
expectations; I will not, by making thy charity distress thee,
accelerate the fatal hour of hardness and degeneracy."
He was then going; but Cecilia, following him, said "No, take it
all! Who should assist the poor if I will not? Rich, without
connections; powerful, without wants; upon whom have they any claim
if not upon me?"
"True," cried he, receiving the rest, "and wise as true. Give,
therefore, whilst yet thou hast the heart to give, and make, in thy
days of innocence and kindness, some interest with Heaven and the
And then he disappeared.
"Why, my dear, cried Mrs Harrel, "what could induce you to give the
man so much money? Don't you see he is crazy? I dare say he would
have been just as well contented with sixpence."
"I know not what he is," said Cecilia, "but his manners are not more
singular than his sentiments are affecting; and if he is actuated by
charity to raise subscriptions for the indigent, he can surely apply
to no one who ought so readily to contribute as myself."
Mr Harrel then came in, and his lady most eagerly told him the
"Scandalous!" he exclaimed; "why, this is no better than being a
housebreaker! Pray give orders never to admit him again. Three
guineas! I never heard so impudent a thing in my life! Indeed, Miss
Beverley, you must be more discreet in future, you will else be
ruined before you know where you are."
"Thus it is," said Cecilia, half smiling, "that we can all lecture
one another! to-day you recommend economy to me; yesterday I with
difficulty forbore recommending it to you."
"Nay," answered he, "that was quite another matter; expence incurred
in the common way of a man's living is quite another thing to an
extortion of this sort."
"It is another thing indeed," said she, "but I know not that it is
therefore a better."
Mr Harrel made no answer: and Cecilia, privately moralizing upon the
different estimates of expence and economy made by the dissipated
and the charitable, soon retired to her own apartment, determined
firmly to adhere to her lately adopted plan, and hoping, by the
assistance of her new and very singular monitor, to extend her
practice of doing good, by enlarging her knowledge of distress.
Objects are, however, never wanting for the exercise of benevolence;
report soon published her liberality, and those who wished to
believe it, failed not to enquire into its truth. She was soon at
the head of a little band of pensioners, and, never satisfied with
the generosity of her donations, found in a very short time that the
common allowance of her guardians was scarce adequate to the calls
of her munificence.
And thus, in acts of goodness and charity, passed undisturbed
another week of the life of Cecilia: but when the fervour of self-
approbation lost its novelty, the pleasure with which her new plan
was begun first subsided into tranquillity, and then sunk into
languor. To a heart formed for friendship and affection the charms
of solitude are very short-lived; and though she had sickened of the
turbulence of perpetual company, she now wearied of passing all her
time by herself, and sighed for the comfort of society and the
relief of communication. But she saw with astonishment the
difficulty with which this was to be obtained: the endless
succession of diversions, the continual rotation of assemblies, the
numerousness of splendid engagements, of which, while every one
complained, every one was proud to boast, so effectually impeded
private meetings and friendly intercourse, that, whichever way she
turned herself, all commerce seemed impracticable, but such as
either led to dissipation, or accidentally flowed from it.
Yet, finding the error into which her ardour of reformation had
hurried her, and that a rigid seclusion from company was productive
of a lassitude as little favourable to active virtue as dissipation
itself, she resolved to soften her plan, and by mingling amusement
with benevolence, to try, at least, to approach that golden mean,
which, like the philosopher's stone, always eludes our grasp, yet
always invites our wishes.
For this purpose she desired to attend Mrs Harrel to the next Opera
that should be represented.
The following Saturday, therefore, she accompanied that lady and Mrs
Mears to the Haymarket, escorted by Mr Arnott.
They were very late; the Opera was begun, and even in the lobby the
crowd was so great that their passage was obstructed. Here they were
presently accosted by Miss Larolles, who, running up to Cecilia and
taking her hand, said, "Lord, you can't conceive how glad I am to
see you! why, my dear creature, where have you hid yourself these
twenty ages? You are quite in luck in coming to-night, I assure you;
it's the best Opera we have had this season: there's such a
monstrous crowd there's no stirring. We shan't get in this half
hour. The coffee-room is quite full; only come and see; is it not
This intimation was sufficient for Mrs Harrel, whose love of the
Opera was merely a love of company, fashion, and shew; and therefore
to the coffee-room she readily led the way.
And here Cecilia found rather the appearance of a brilliant assembly
of ladies and gentlemen, collected merely to see and to entertain
one another, than of distinct and casual parties, mixing solely from
necessity, and waiting only for room to enter a theatre.
The first person that addressed them was Captain Aresby, who, with
his usual delicate languishment, smiled upon Cecilia, and softly
whispering, "How divinely you look to-night!" proceeded to pay his
compliments to some other ladies.
"Do, pray, now," cried Miss Larolles, "observe Mr Meadows! only just
see where he has fixed himself! in the very best place in the room,
and keeping the fire from every body! I do assure you that's always
his way, and it's monstrous provoking, for if one's ever so cold, he
lollops so, that one's quite starved. But you must know there's
another thing he does that is quite as bad, for if he gets a seat,
he never offers to move, if he sees one sinking with fatigue. And
besides, if one is waiting for one's carriage two hours together, he
makes it a rule never to stir a step to see for it. Only think how
"These are heavy complaints, indeed," said Cecilia, looking at him
attentively; "I should have expected from his appearance a very
different account of his gallantry, for he seems dressed with more
studied elegance than anybody here."
"O yes," cried Miss Larolles, "he is the sweetest dresser in the
world; he has the most delightful taste you can conceive, nobody has
half so good a fancy. I assure you it's a great thing to be spoke to
by him: we are all of us quite angry when he won't take any notice
"Is your anger," said Cecilia, laughing, "in honour of himself or of
"Why, Lord, don't you know all this time that he is an
"I know, at least," answered Cecilia, "that he would soon make one
"O, but one is never affronted with an _ennuye_, if he is ever
so provoking, because one always knows what it means."
"Is he agreeable?"
"Why, to tell you the truth,--but pray now, don't mention it,--I
think him most excessive disagreeable! He yawns in one's face every
time one looks at him. I assure you sometimes I expect to see him
fall fast asleep while I am talking to him, for he is so immensely
absent he don't hear one half that one says; only conceive how
"But why, then, do you encourage him? why do you take any notice of
"O, every body does, I assure you, else I would not for the world;
but he is so courted you have no idea. However, of all things let me
advise you never to dance with him; I did once myself, and I declare
I was quite distressed to death the whole time, for he was taken
with such a fit of absence he knew nothing he was about, sometimes
skipping and jumping with all the violence in the world, just as if
he only danced for exercise, and sometimes standing quite still, or
lolling against the wainscoat and gaping, and taking no more notice
of me than if he had never seen me in his life!"
The Captain now, again advancing to Cecilia, said, "So you would not
do us the honour to try the masquerade at the Pantheon? however, I
hear you had a very brilliant spectacle at Mr Harrel's. I was quite
_au desespoir_ that I could not get there. I did _mon
possible_, but it was quite beyond me."
"We should have been very happy," said Mrs Harrel, "to have seen
you; I assure you we had some excellent masks."
"So I have heard _partout_, and I am reduced to despair that I
could not have the honour of sliding in. But I was _accable_
with affairs all day. Nothing could be so mortifying."
Cecilia now, growing very impatient to hear the Opera, begged to
know if they might not make a trial to get into the pit?
"I fear," said the Captain, smiling as they passed him, without
offering any assistance, "you will find it extreme petrifying; for
my part, I confess I am not upon the principle of crowding."
The ladies, however, accompanied by Mr Arnott, made the attempt, and
soon found, according to the custom of report, that the difficulty,
for the pleasure of talking of it, had been considerably
exaggerated. They were separated, indeed, but their accommodation
was tolerably good.
Cecilia was much vexed to find the first act of the Opera almost
over; but she was soon still more dissatisfied when she discovered
that she had no chance of hearing the little which remained: the
place she had happened to find vacant was next to a party of young
ladies, who were so earnestly engaged in their own discourse, that
they listened not to a note of the Opera, and so infinitely diverted
with their own witticisms, that their tittering and loquacity
allowed no one in their vicinity to hear better than themselves.
Cecilia tried in vain to confine her attention to the singers; she
was distant from the stage, and to them she was near, and her
fruitless attempts all ended in chagrin and impatience.
At length she resolved to make an effort for entertainment in
another way, and since the expectations which brought her to the
Opera were destroyed, to try by listening to her fair neighbours,
whether those who occasioned her disappointment could make her any
For this purpose she turned to them wholly; yet was at first in no
little perplexity to understand what was going forward, since so
universal was the eagerness for talking, and so insurmountable the
antipathy to listening, that every one seemed to have her wishes
bounded by a continual utterance of words, without waiting for any
answer, or scarce even desiring to be heard.
But when, somewhat more used to their dialect and manner, she began
better to comprehend their discourse, wretchedly indeed did it
supply to her the loss of the Opera. She heard nothing but
descriptions of trimmings, and complaints of hair-dressers, hints of
conquest that teemed with vanity, and histories of engagements which
were inflated with exultation.
At the end of the act, by the crowding forward of the gentlemen to
see the dance, Mrs Harrel had an opportunity of making room for her
by herself, and she had then some reason to expect hearing the rest
of the Opera in peace, for the company before her, consisting
entirely of young men, seemed, even during the dance, fearful of
speaking, lest their attention should be drawn for a moment from the
But to her infinite surprize, no sooner was the second act begun,
than their attention ended! they turned from the performers to each
other, and entered into a whispering but gay conversation, which,
though not loud enough to disturb the audience in general, kept in
the ears of their neighbours a buzzing which interrupted all
pleasure from the representation. Of this effect of their gaiety it
seemed uncertain whether they were conscious, but very evident that
they were totally careless.
The desperate resource which she had tried during the first act, of
seeking entertainment from the very conversation which prevented her
enjoying it, was not now even in her power: for these gentlemen,
though as negligent as the young ladies had been whom they
disturbed, were much more cautious whom they instructed: their
language was ambiguous, and their terms, to Cecilia, were
unintelligible: their subjects, indeed, required some discretion,
being nothing less than a ludicrous calculation of the age and
duration of jointured widows, and of the chances and expectations of
unmarried young ladies.
But what more even than their talking provoked her, was finding that
the moment the act was over, when she cared not if their
vociferation had been incessant, one of them called out, "Come, be
quiet, the dance is begun;" and then they were again all silent
In the third act, however, she was more fortunate; the gentlemen
again changed their places, and they were succeeded by others who
came to the Opera not to hear themselves but the performers: and as
soon as she was permitted to listen, the voice of Pacchierotti took
from her all desire to hear any thing but itself.
During the last dance she was discovered by Sir Robert Floyer, who,
sauntering down fop's alley, stationed himself by her side, and
whenever the _figurante_ relieved the principal dancers, turned
his eyes from the stage to her face, as better worth his notice, and
equally destined for his amusement.
Mr Monckton, too, who for some time had seen and watched her, now
approached; he had observed with much satisfaction that her whole
mind had been intent upon the performance, yet still the familiarity
of Sir Robert Floyer's admiration disturbed and perplexed him; he
determined, therefore, to make an effort to satisfy his doubts by
examining into his intentions: and, taking him apart, before the
dance was quite over, "Well," he said, "who is so handsome here as
"Yes," answered he, calmly, "she is handsome, but I don't like her
"No? why, what is the fault of it?"
"Proud, cursed proud. It is not the sort of woman I like. If one
says a civil thing to her, she only wishes one at the devil for
"O, you have tried her, then, have you? why, you are not, in
general, much given to say civil things."
"Yes, you know, I said something of that sort to her once about
Juliet, at the rehearsal. Was not you by?"
"What, then, was that all? and did you imagine one compliment would
do your business with her?"
"O, hang it, who ever dreams of complimenting the women now? that's
all at an end."
"You won't find she thinks so, though; for, as you well say, her
pride is insufferable, and I, who have long known her, can assure
you it does not diminish upon intimacy."
"Perhaps not,--but there's very pretty picking in 3000 pounds per
annum! one would not think much of a little encumbrance upon such
"Are you quite sure the estate is so considerable? Report is
mightily given to magnify."
"O, I have pretty good intelligence: though, after all, I don't know
but I may be off; she'll take a confounded deal of time and
Monckton, too much a man of interest and of the world to cherish
that delicacy which covets universal admiration for the object of
its fondness, then artfully enlarged upon the obstacles he already
apprehended, and insinuated such others as he believed would be most
likely to intimidate him. But his subtlety was lost upon the
impenetrable Baronet, who possessed that hard insensibility which
obstinately pursues its own course, deaf to what is said, and
indifferent to what is thought.
Meanwhile the ladies were now making way to the coffee-room, though
very slowly on account of the crowd; and just as they got near the
lobby, Cecilia perceived Mr Belfield, who, immediately making
himself known to her, was offering his service to hand her out of
the pit, when Sir Robert Floyer, not seeing or not heeding him,
pressed forward, and said, "Will you let me have the honour, Miss
Beverley, of taking care of you?"
Cecilia, to whom he grew daily more disagreeable, coldly declined
his assistance, while she readily accepted that which had first been
offered her by Mr Belfield.
The haughty Baronet, extremely nettled, forced his way on, and
rudely stalking up to Mr Belfield, motioned with his hand for room
to pass him, and said, "Make way, sir!"
"Make way for _me_, Sir!" cried Belfield, opposing him with one
hand, while with the other he held Cecilia.
"You, Sir? and who are you, Sir?" demanded the Baronet,
"Of that, Sir, I shall give you an account whenever you please,"
answered Belfield, with equal scorn.
"What the devil do you mean, Sir?"
"Nothing very difficult to be understood," replied Belfield, and
attempted to draw on Cecilia, who, much alarmed, was shrinking back.
Sir Robert then, swelling with rage, reproachfully turned to her,
and said, "Will you suffer such an impertinent fellow as that, Miss
Beverley, to have the honour of taking your hand?"
Belfield, with great indignation, demanded what he meant by the term
impertinent fellow; and Sir Robert yet more insolently repeated it:
Cecilia, extremely shocked, earnestly besought them both to be
quiet; but Belfield, at the repetition of this insult, hastily let
go her hand and put his own upon his sword, whilst Sir Robert,
taking advantage of his situation in being a step higher than his
antagonist, fiercely pushed him back, and descended into the lobby.
Belfield, enraged beyond endurance, instantly drew his sword, and
Sir Robert was preparing to follow his example, when Cecilia, in an
agony of fright, called out, "Good Heaven! will nobody interfere?"
And then a young man, forcing his way through the crowd, exclaimed,
"For shame, for shame, gentlemen! is this a place for such
Belfield, endeavouring to recover himself, put up his sword, and,
though in a voice half choaked with passion, said, "I thank you,
Sir! I was off my guard. I beg pardon of the whole company."
Then, walking up to Sir Robert, he put into his hand a card with his
name and direction, saying, "With you, Sir, I shall be happy to
settle what apologies are necessary at your first leisure;" and
Sir Robert, exclaiming aloud that he should soon teach him to whom
he had been so impertinent, was immediately going to follow him,
when the affrighted Cecilia again called out aloud, "Oh, stop him!--
good God! will nobody stop him!"
The rapidity with which this angry scene had passed had filled her
with amazement, and the evident resentment of the Baronet upon her
refusing his assistance, gave her an immediate consciousness that
she was herself the real cause of the quarrel; while the manner in
which he was preparing to follow Mr Belfield convinced her of the
desperate scene which was likely to succeed; fear, therefore,
overcoming every other feeling, forced from her this exclamation
before she knew what she said.
The moment she had spoken, the young man who had already interposed
again rushed forward, and seizing Sir Robert by the arm, warmly
remonstrated against the violence of his proceedings, and being
presently seconded by other gentlemen, almost compelled him to give
up his design.
Then, hastening to Cecilia, "Be not alarmed, madam," he cried, "all
is over, and every body is safe."
Cecilia, finding herself thus addressed by a gentleman she had never
before seen, felt extremely ashamed of having rendered her interest
in the debate so apparent; she courtsied to him in some confusion,
and taking hold of Mrs Harrel's arm, hurried her back into the pit,
in order to quit a crowd, of which she now found herself the
Curiosity, however, was universally excited, and her retreat served
but to inflame it: some of the ladies, and most of the gentlemen,
upon various pretences, returned into the pit merely to look at her,
and in a few minutes the report was current that the young lady who
had been the occasion of the quarrel, was dying with love for Sir
Mr Monckton, who had kept by her side during the whole affair, felt
thunderstruck by the emotion she had shewn; Mr Arnott too, who had
never quitted her, wished himself exposed to the same danger as Sir
Robert, so that he might be honoured with the same concern: but they
were both too much the dupes of their own apprehensions and
jealousy, to perceive that what they instantly imputed to fondness,
proceeded simply from general humanity, accidentally united with the
consciousness of being accessary to the quarrel.
The young stranger who had officiated as mediator between the
disputants, in a few moments followed her with a glass of water,
which he had brought from the coffee-room, begging her to drink it
and compose herself.
Cecilia, though she declined his civility with more vexation than
gratitude, perceived, as she raised her eyes to thank him, that her
new friend was a young man very strikingly elegant in his address
Miss Larolles next, who, with her party, came back into the pit, ran
up to Cecilia, crying, "O my dear creature, what a monstrous
shocking thing! You've no Idea how I am frightened; do you know I
happened to be quite at the further end of the coffee-room when it
began, and I could not get out to see what was the matter for ten
ages; only conceive what a situation!"
"Would your fright, then, have been less," said Cecilia, "had you
been nearer the danger?"
"O Lord no, for when I came within sight I was fifty times worse! I
gave such a monstrous scream, that it quite made Mr Meadows start. I
dare say he'll tell me of it these hundred years: but really when I
saw them draw their swords I thought I should have died; I was so
amazingly surprized you've no notion."
Here she was interrupted by the re-appearance of the active
stranger, who again advancing to Cecilia, said, "I am in doubt
whether the efforts I make to revive will please or irritate you,
but though you rejected the last cordial I ventured to present you,
perhaps you will look with a more favourable eye towards that of
which I am now the herald."
Cecilia then, casting her eyes around, saw that he was followed by
Sir Robert Floyer. Full of displeasure both at this introduction and
at his presence, she turned hastily to Mr Arnott, and entreated him
to enquire if the carriage was not yet ready.
Sir Robert, looking at her with all the exultation of new-raised
vanity, said, with more softness than he had ever before addressed
her, "Have you been frightened?"
"Every body, I believe was frightened," answered Cecilia, with an
air of dignity intended to check his rising expectations.
"There was no sort of cause," answered he; "the fellow did not know
whom he spoke [to], that was all."
"Lord, Sir Robert," cried Miss Larolles, "how could you be so
shocking as to draw your sword? you can't conceive how horrid it
"Why I did not draw my sword," cried he, "I only had my hand on the
"Lord, did not you, indeed! well, every body said you did, and I'm
sure I thought I saw five-and-twenty swords all at once. I thought
one of you would be killed every moment. It was horrid disagreeable,
I assure you."
Sir Robert was now called away by some gentlemen; and Mr Monckton,
earnest to be better informed of Cecilia's real sentiments, said,
with affected concern, "At present this matter is merely ridiculous;
I am sorry to think in how short a time it may become more
"Surely," cried Cecilia with quickness, "some of their friends will
interfere! surely upon so trifling a subject they will not be so
mad, so inexcusable, as to proceed to more serious resentment!"
"Whichever of them," said the stranger, "is most honoured by this
anxiety, will be mad indeed to risk a life so valued!"
"Cannot you, Mr Monckton," continued Cecilia, too much alarmed to
regard this insinuation, "speak with Mr Belfield? You are acquainted
with him, I know; is it impossible you can follow him?"
"I will with pleasure do whatever you wish; but still if Sir
"O, as to Sir Robert, Mr Harrel, I am very sure, will undertake him;
I will try to see him to-night myself, and entreat him to exert all
"Ah, madam," cried the stranger, archly, and lowering his voice,
"those _French beads_ and _Bristol stones_ have not, I
find, shone in vain!"
At these words Cecilia recognised her white domino acquaintance at
the masquerade; she had before recollected his voice, but was too
much perturbed to consider where or when she had heard it.
"If Mr Briggs," continued he, "does not speedily come forth with his
plum friend, before the glittering of swords and spears is joined to
that of jewels, the glare will be so resplendent, that he will fear
to come within the influence of its rays. Though, perhaps, he may
only think the stronger the light, the better he shall see to count
his guineas: for as
'---in ten thousand pounds
Ten thousand charms are centred,'
in an hundred thousand, the charms may have such magic power, that
he may defy the united efforts of tinsel and knight-errantry to
deliver you from the golden spell."
Here the Captain, advancing to Cecilia, said, "I have been looking
for you in vain _partout_, but the crowd has been so
_accablant_ I was almost reduced to despair. Give me leave to
hope you are now recovered from the _horreur_ of this little
Mr Arnott then brought intelligence that the carriage was ready.
Cecilia, glad to be gone, instantly hastened to it; and, as she was
conducted by Mr Monckton, most earnestly entreated him to take an
active part, in endeavouring to prevent the fatal consequences with
which the quarrel seemed likely to terminate.
A FASHIONABLE FRIEND.
As soon as they returned home, Cecilia begged Mrs Harrel not to lose
a moment before she tried to acquaint Mr Harrel with the state of
the affair. But that lady was too helpless to know in what manner to
set about it; she could not tell where he was, she could not
conjecture where he might be.
Cecilia then rang for his own man, and upon enquiry, heard that he
was, in all probability, at Brookes's in St James's-Street.
She then begged Mrs Harrel would write to him.
Mrs Harrel knew not what to say.
Cecilia therefore, equally quick in forming and executing her
designs, wrote to him herself, and entreated that without losing an
instant he would find out his friend Sir Robert Floyer, and
endeavour to effect an accommodation between him and Mr Belfield,
with whom he had had a dispute at the Opera-house.
The man soon returned with an answer that Mr Harrel would not fail
to obey her commands.
She determined to sit up till he came home in order to learn the
event of the negociation. She considered herself as the efficient
cause of the quarrel, yet scarce knew how or in what to blame
herself; the behaviour of Sir Robert had always been offensive to
her; she disliked his manners, and detested his boldness; and she
had already shewn her intention to accept the assistance of Mr
Belfield before he had followed her with an offer of his own. She
was uncertain, indeed, whether he had remarked what had passed, but
she had reason to think that, so circumstanced, to have changed her
purpose, would have been construed into an encouragement that might
have authorised his future presumption of her favour. All she could
find to regret with regard to herself, was wanting the presence of
mind to have refused the civilities of both.
Mrs Harrel, though really sorry at the state of the affair, regarded
herself as so entirely unconcerned in it, that, easily wearied when
out of company, she soon grew sleepy, and retired to her own room.
The anxious Cecilia, hoping every instant the return of Mr Harrel,
sat up by herself: but it was not till near four o'clock in the
morning that he made his appearance.
"Well, sir," cried she, the moment she saw him, "I fear by your
coming home so late you have had much trouble, but I hope it has
Great, however, was her mortification when he answered that he had
not even seen the Baronet, having been engaged himself in so
particular a manner, that he could not possibly break from his party
till past three o'clock, at which time he drove to the house of Sir
Robert, but heard that he was not yet come home.
Cecilia, though much disgusted by such a specimen of insensibility
towards a man whom he pretended to call his friend, would not leave
him till he had promised to arise as soon as it was light, and make
an effort to recover the time lost.
She was now no longer surprised either at the debts of Mr Harrel, or
at his _particular occasions_ for money. She was convinced he
spent half the night in gaming, and the consequences, however
dreadful, were but natural. That Sir Robert Floyer also did the same
was a matter of much less importance to her, but that the life of
any man should through her means be endangered, disturbed her
She went, however, to bed, but arose again at six o'clock, and
dressed herself by candle light. In an hour's time she sent to
enquire if Mr Harrel was stirring, and hearing he was asleep, gave
orders to have him called. Yet he did not rise till eight o'clock,
nor could all her messages or expostulations drive him out of the
house till nine.
He was scarcely gone before Mr Monckton arrived, who now for the
first time had the satisfaction of finding her alone.
"You are very good for coming so early," cried she; "have you seen
Mr Belfield? Have you had any conversation with him?"
Alarmed at her eagerness, and still more at seeing by her looks the
sleepless night she had passed, he made at first no reply; and when,
with increasing impatience, she repeated her question, he only said,
"Has Belfield ever visited you since he had the honour of meeting
you at my house?"
"Have you seen him often in public?"
"No, I have never seen him at all but the evening Mrs Harrel
received masks, and last night at the Opera."
"Is it, then, for the safety of Sir Robert you are so extremely
"It is for the safety of both; the cause of their quarrel was so
trifling, that I cannot bear to think its consequence should be
"But do you not wish better to one of them than to the other?"
"As a matter of justice I do, but not from any partiality: Sir
Robert was undoubtedly the aggressor, and Mr Belfield, though at
first too fiery, was certainly ill-used."
The candour of this speech recovered Mr Monckton from his
apprehensions; and, carefully observing her looks while he spoke, he
gave her the following account.
That he had hastened to Belfield's lodgings the moment he left the
Opera-house, and, after repeated denials, absolutely forced himself
into his room, where he was quite alone, and in much agitation: he
conversed with him for more than an hour upon the subject of the
quarrel, but found he so warmly resented the personal insult given
him by Sir Robert, that no remonstrance had any effect in making him
alter his resolution of demanding satisfaction.
"And could you bring him to consent to no compromise before you left
him?" cried Cecilia.
"No; for before I got to him--the challenge had been sent."
"The challenge! good heaven!--and do you know the event?"
"I called again this morning at his lodgings, but he was not
"And was it impossible to follow him? Were there no means to
discover whither he was gone?"
"None; to elude all pursuit, he went out before any body in the
house was stirring, and took his servant with him."
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