Cecilia Volume 1
Part 6 out of 7
The very morning that the destined fortnight was elapsed, she
received a note from Mrs Harrel, with information of her arrival in
town, and an entreaty that she would return to Portman-square.
Cecilia, who, thus happy, had forgot to mark the progress of time,
was now all amazement to find the term of her absence so soon past.
She thought of going back with the utmost reluctance, and of
quitting her new abode with the most lively regret. The
representations of Mr Monckton daily lost their force, and
notwithstanding her dislike of Mr Delvile, she had no wish so
earnest as that of being settled in his family for the rest of her
To effect this was her next thought; yet she knew not how to make
the proposal, but from the uncommon partiality of Mrs Delvile, she
hoped, with a very little encouragement, she would lead to it
Here, however, she was disappointed; Mrs Delvile, when she heard of
the summons from the Harrels, expressed her sorrow at losing her in
terms of the most flattering regret, yet seemed to think the parting
indispensable, and dropt not the most distant hint of attempting to
Cecilia, vexed and disconcerted, then made arrangements for her
departure, which she fixed for the next morning.
The rest of this day, unlike every other which for the last
fortnight had preceded it, was passed with little appearance, and no
reality of satisfaction: Mrs Delvile was evidently concerned, her
son openly avowed his chagrin, and Cecilia felt the utmost
mortification; yet, though every one was discontented, no effort was
made towards obtaining any delay.
The next morning during breakfast, Mrs Delvile very elegantly
thanked her for granting to her so much of her time, and earnestly
begged to see her in future whenever she could be spared from her
other friends; protesting she was now so accustomed to her society,
that she should require both long and frequent visits to soften the
separation. This request was very eagerly seconded by young Delvile,
who warmly spoke his satisfaction that his mother had found so
charming a friend, and unaffectedly joined in her entreaties that
the intimacy might be still more closely cemented.
Cecilia had no great difficulty in according her compliance to those
demands, of which the kindness and cordiality somewhat lessened her
disturbance at the parting.
When Mrs Harrel's carriage arrived, Mrs Delvile took a most
affectionate leave of her, and her son attended her to the coach.
In her way down stairs, he stopt her for a few moments, and in some
confusion said "I wish much to apologize to Miss Beverley, before
her departure, for the very gross mistake of which I have been
guilty. I know not if it is possible she can pardon me, and I hardly
know myself by what perversity and blindness I persisted so long in
"O," cried Cecilia, much rejoiced at this voluntary explanation, "if
you are but convinced you were really in an error, I have nothing
more to wish. Appearances, indeed, were so strangely against me,
that I ought not, perhaps, to wonder they deceived you."
"This is being candid indeed," answered he, again leading her on:
"and in truth, though your anxiety was obvious, its cause was
obscure, and where any thing is left to conjecture, opinion
interferes, and the judgment is easily warped. My own partiality,
however, for Mr Belfield, will I hope plead my excuse, as from that,
and not from any prejudice against the Baronet, my mistake arose: on
the contrary, so highly I respect your taste and your discernment,
that your approbation, when known, can scarcely fail of securing
Great as was the astonishment of Cecilia at the conclusion of this
speech; she was at the coach door before she could make any answer:
but Delvile, perceiving her surprise, added, while he handed her in,
"Is it possible--but no, it is _not_ possible I should be again
mistaken. I forbore to speak at all, till I had information by which
I could not be misled."
"I know not in what unaccountable obscurity," cried Cecilia, "I, or
my affairs, may be involved, but I perceive that the cloud which I
had hoped was dissipated, is thicker and more impenetrable than
Delvile then bowed to her with a look that accused her of
insincerity, and the carriage drove away.
Teazed by these eternal mistakes, and provoked to find that though
the object of her supposed partiality was so frequently changed, the
notion of her positive engagement with one of the duelists was
invariable, she resolved with all the speed in her power, to
commission Mr Monckton to wait upon Sir Robert Floyer, and in her
own name give a formal rejection to his proposals, and desire him
thenceforward to make known, by every opportunity, their total
independence of each other: for sick of debating with Mr Harrel, and
detesting all intercourse with Sir Robert, she now dropt her design
of seeking an explanation herself.
She was received by Mrs Harrel with the same coldness with which she
had parted from her. That lady appeared now to have some uneasiness
upon her mind, and Cecilia endeavoured to draw from her its cause;
but far from seeking any alleviation in friendship, she studiously
avoided her, seeming pained by her conversation, and reproached by
her sight. Cecilia perceived this encreasing reserve with much
concern, but with more indignation, conscious that her good offices
had merited a better reception, and angry to find that her advice
had not merely failed of success, but even exposed her to aversion.
Mr Harrel, on the contrary, behaved to her with unusual civility,
seemed eager to oblige her, and desirous to render his house more
agreeable to her than ever. But in this he did not prosper; for
Cecilia, immediately upon her return, looking in her apartment for
the projected alterations, and finding none had been made, was so
disgusted by such a detection of duplicity, that he sunk yet lower
than before in her opinion, and she repined at the necessity she was
under of any longer continuing his guest.
The joy of Mr Arnott at again seeing her, was visible and sincere;
and not a little was it encreased by finding that Cecilia, who
sought not more to avoid Mr Harrel and Sir Robert, than she was
herself avoided by Mrs Harrel, talked with pleasure to nobody else
in the house, and scarcely attempted to conceal that he was the only
one of the family who possessed any portion of her esteem.
Even Sir Robert appeared now to have formed a design of paying her
rather more respect than he had hitherto thought necessary; but the
violence he did himself was so evident, and his imperious nature
seemed so repugnant to the task, that his insolence, breaking forth
by starts, and checked only by compulsion, was but the more
conspicuous from his inadequate efforts to disguise it.
As Cecilia now found herself cleared, at least, of all suspicions of
harbouring too tender a regard for Mr Belfield, her objections to
visiting his sister were removed, and the morning after her return
to Mr Harrel's, she went in a chair to Swallow-street.
She sent her servant up stairs to enquire if she might be admitted,
and was immediately taken into the room where she had twice before
In a few minutes Miss Belfield, softly opening and shutting the door
of the next apartment, made her appearance. She looked thin and
pale, but much gratified by the sight of Cecilia. "Ah madam!" she
cried, "you are good indeed not to forget us! and you can little
think how it cheers and consoles me, that such a lady as you can
condescend to be kind to me. It is quite the only pleasure that I
have now in the whole world."
"I grieve that you have no greater;" cried Cecilia, "you seem much
fatigued and harassed. How is your brother? I fear you neglect your
own health, by too much attention to his."
"No, indeed, madam; my mother does everything for him herself, and
hardly suffers anybody else to go near him."
"What, then, makes you so melancholy?" said Cecilia, taking her
hand; "you do not look well; your anxiety, I am sure, is too much
for your strength."
"How should I look well, madam," answered she, "living as I live?
However, I will not talk of myself, but of my brother,--O he is so
ill! Indeed I am sadly, sadly afraid he will never be well again!"
"What does his surgeon say? You are too tender, and too much
frightened to be any judge."
"It is not that I think myself he will die of his wound, for Mr
Rupil says the wound is almost nothing; but he is in a constant
fever, and so thin, and so weak, that indeed it is almost impossible
he should recover!"
"You are too apprehensive," said Cecilia, "you know not what effect
the country air may have upon him; there are many, many expedients
that with so young a man may yet be successful."
"O no, the country air can do nothing for him! for I will not
deceive you, madam, for that would be doubly a fault when I am so
ready in blaming other people for wearing false appearances:
besides, you are so good and so gentle, that it quite composes me to
talk with you. So I will honestly speak the truth, and the whole
truth at once; my poor brother is lost--O I fear for ever lost!--all
by his own unhappy pride! He forgets his father was a tradesman, he
is ashamed of all his family, and his whole desire is to live among
the grandest people, as if he belonged to no other. And now that he
can no longer do that, he takes the disappointment so to heart that
he cannot get the better of it; and he told me this morning that he
wished he was dead, for he did not know why he should live only to
see his own ruin! But when he saw how I cried at his saying so, he
was very sorry indeed, for he has always been the kindest brother in
the world, when he has been away from the great folks who have
spoilt him: 'But why,' said he, 'Henrietta, why would you have me
live, when instead of raising you and my poor mother into an higher
station, I am sunk so low, that I only help to consume your own poor
pittances to support me in my disgrace!'"
"I am sorry indeed," said Cecilia, "to find he has so deep a sense
of the failure of his expectations: but how happens it that you are
so much wiser? Young and inexperienced as you are, and early as you
must have been accustomed, from your mother as well as from Mr
Belfield, to far other doctrine, the clearness of your judgment, and
the justness of your remarks, astonish as much as they charm me."
"Ah madam! Brought up as I have been brought up, there is little
wonder I should see the danger of an high education, let me be ever
so ignorant of everything else; for I, and all my sisters, have been
the sufferers the whole time: and while we were kept backward, that
he might be brought forward, while we were denied comforts, that he
might have luxuries, how could we help seeing the evil of so much
vanity, and wishing we had all been brought up according to our
proper station? instead of living in continual inconvenience, and
having one part of a family struggling with distress, only to let
another part of it appear in a way he had no right to!"
"How rationally," said Cecilia, "have you considered this subject!
and how much do I honour you for the affection you retain for your
brother, notwithstanding the wrongs you have suffered to promote his
"Indeed he deserves it; take but from him that one fault, pride, and
I believe he has not another: and humoured and darling child as from
his infancy he has always been, who at that can wonder, or be
"And he has still no plan, no scheme for his future destination?"
"No, madam, none at all; and that it is makes him so miserable, and
being so miserable makes him so ill, for Mr Rupil says that with
such uneasiness upon his mind, he can never, in his present low
state, get well. O it is melancholy to see how he is altered! and
how he has lost all his fine spirits! he that used to be the life of
us all!--And now he hardly ever speaks a word, or if he does, he
says something so sorrowful that it cuts us to the soul! But
yesterday, when my mother and I thought he was asleep, he lifted up
his head, and looked at us both with the tears in his eyes, which
almost broke our hearts to see, and then, in a low voice, he said
'What a lingering illness is this! Ah, my dear mother, you and poor
Henrietta ought to wish it quicker over! for should I recover, my
life, hereafter, will but linger like this illness.' And afterwards
he called out, 'what on earth is to become of me? I shall never have
health for the army, nor interest, nor means; what am I to do?
subsist in the very prime of my life upon the bounty of a widowed
mother! or, with such an education, such connections as mine, enter
at last into some mean and sordid business?'"
"It seems, then," said Cecilia, "he now less wants a physician than
"He has a friend, madam, a noble friend, would he but accept his
services; but he never sees him without suffering fresh vexation,
and his fever encreases after every visit he pays him."
"Well," said Cecilia, rising, "I find we shall not have an easy task
to manage him; but keep up your spirits, and assure yourself he
shall not be lost, if it be possible to save him."
She then, though with much fearfulness of offending, once more made
an offer of her purse. Miss Belfield no longer started at the
proposal; yet, gratefully thanking her, said she was not in any
immediate distress, and did not dare risk the displeasure of her
brother, unless driven to it by severer necessity. Cecilia, however,
drew from her a promise that she would apply to her in any sudden
difficulty, and charged her never to think herself without a banker
while her direction was known to her.
She then bid her adieu, and returned home; meditating the whole way
upon some plan of employment and advantage for Mr Belfield, which by
clearing his prospects, might revive his spirits, and facilitate his
recovery: for since his mind was so evidently the seat of his
disease, she saw that unless she could do more for him, she had yet
Her meditation, however, turned to no account; she could suggest
nothing, for she was ignorant what was eligible to suggest. The
stations and employments of men she only knew by occasionally
hearing that such were their professions, and such their situations
in life; but with the means and gradations by which they arose to
them she was wholly unacquainted.
Mr Monckton, her constant resource in all cases of difficulty,
immediately occurred to her as her most able counsellor, and she
determined by the first opportunity to consult with him upon the
subject, certain of advice the most judicious from his experience,
and knowledge of the world.
But though she rested upon him her serious expectations of
assistance, another idea entered her mind not less pleasant, though
less promising of utility: this was to mention her views to young
Delvile. He was already, she knew, well informed of the distress of
Mr Belfield, and she hoped, by openly asking his opinion, to confirm
to him her freedom from any engagement with that gentleman, and
convince him, at the same time, by her application to himself, that
she was equally clear of any tie with the Baronet.
The next day Cecilia had appointed to spend in St James'-square; and
she knew by experience that in its course, she should in all
probability find some opportunity of speaking with Delvile alone.
This accordingly happened; for in the evening Mrs Delvile quitted
the room for a few moments to answer a letter. Cecilia then, left
with her son, said, after a little hesitation, "Will you not think
me very strange if I should take the liberty to consult you upon
"I already think you very strange," answered he; "so strange that I
know not any one who at all resembles you. But what is this
consultation in which you will permit me to have a voice?"
"You are acquainted, I believe, with the distress of Mr Belfield?"
"I am; and I think his situation the most melancholy that can be
imagined. I pity him with my whole soul, and nothing would give me
greater joy than an opportunity of serving him."
"He is, indeed, much to be compassionated," returned Cecilia; "and
if something is not speedily done for him, I fear he will be utterly
lost. The agitation of his mind baffles all the power of medicine,
and till that is relieved, his health can never be restored. His,
spirit, probably always too high for his rank in life, now struggles
against every attack of sickness and of poverty, in preference to
yielding to his fate, and applying to his friends for their interest
and assistance. I mean not to vindicate his obduracy, yet I wish it
were possible it could be surmounted. Indeed I dread to think what
may become of him! feeling at present nothing but wretchedness and
pain, looking forward in future to nothing but ruin and despair!"
"There is no man," cried young Delvile, with emotion, "who might not
rather envy than pity sufferings which give rise to such
"Pecuniary assistance he will not accept," she continued, "and,
indeed, his mind is superior to receiving consolation from such
temporary relief; I wish him, therefore, to be put into some way of
life by which his own talents, which have long enough amused the
world, may at length become serviceable to himself. Do you think,
Sir, this is possible?"
"How do I rejoice," cried Delvile, colouring with pleasure while he
spoke, "in this flattering concurrence of our opinions! see, madam,"
taking from his pocket a letter, "how I have been this very morning
occupied, in endeavouring to procure for Mr Belfield some employment
by which his education might be rendered useful, and his parts
redound to his own credit and advantage."
He then broke the seal, and put into her hand a letter to a
nobleman, whose son was soon going abroad, strongly recommending
Belfield to him in capacity of a tutor.
A sympathy of sentiment so striking impressed them at the same
moment with surprise and esteem; Delvile earnestly regarded her with
eyes of speaking admiration, while the occasion of his notice
rendered it too pleasant to distress her, and filled her with an
inward satisfaction which brightened her whole countenance.
She had only time, in a manner that strongly marked her approbation,
to return the letter, before Mrs Delvile again made her appearance.
During the rest of the evening but little was said; Cecilia was not
talkative, and young Delvile was so absent, that three times his
mother reminded him of an engagement to meet his father, who that
night was expected at the Duke of Derwent's house in town, before he
heard that she spoke to him, and three times more before, when he
had heard, he obeyed.
Cecilia, when she came back to Mr Barrel's, found the house full of
company. She went into the drawing-room, but did not remain there
long: she was grave and thoughtful, she wished to be alone, and by
the earliest opportunity, stole away to her own apartment.
Her mind was now occupied by new ideas, and her fancy was busied in
the delineation of new prospects. She had been struck from her first
meeting young Delvile with an involuntary admiration of his manners
and conversation; she had found upon every succeeding interview
something further to approve, and felt for him a rising partiality
which made her always see him with pleasure, and never part from him
without a wish to see him again. Yet, as she was not of that
inflammable nature which is always ready to take fire, as her
passions were under the controul of her reason, and she suffered not
her affections to triumph over her principles, she started at her
danger the moment she perceived it, and instantly determined to give
no weak encouragement to a prepossession which neither time nor
intimacy had justified. She denied herself the deluding satisfaction
of dwelling upon the supposition of his worth, was unusually
assiduous to occupy all her time, that her heart might have less
leisure for imagination; and had she found that his character
degenerated from the promise of his appearance, the well regulated
purity of her mind would soon have enabled her to have driven him
wholly from her thoughts.
Such was her situation when the circumstances of her affairs
occasioned her becoming an inmate of his house; and here she grew
less guarded, because less clear-sighted to the danger of
negligence, for the frequency of their conversation allowed her
little time to consider their effects. If at first she had been
pleased with his deportment and elegance, upon intimacy she was
charmed with his disposition and his behaviour; she found him manly,
generous, open-hearted and amiable, fond of literature, delighting
in knowledge, kind in his temper, and spirited in his actions.
Qualities such as these, when recommended by high birth, a striking
figure, and polished manners, formed but a dangerous companion for a
young woman, who, without the guard of any former prepossession, was
so fervent an admirer of excellence as Cecilia. Her heart made no
resistance, for the attack was too gentle and too gradual to alarm
her vigilance, and therefore, though always sensible of the pleasure
she received from his society, it was not till she returned to
Portman-square, after having lived under the same roof with him for
a fortnight, that she was conscious her happiness was no longer in
her own power.
Mr Harrel's house, which had never pleased her, now became utterly
disgustful; she was wearied and uncomfortable, yet, willing to
attribute her uneasiness to any other than the true cause, she
fancied the house itself was changed, and that all its inhabitants
and visitors were more than unusually disagreeable: but this idle
error was of short duration, the moment of self-conviction was at
hand, and when Delvile presented her the letter he had written for
Mr Belfield, it flashed in her eyes!
This detection of the altered state of her mind opened to her views
and her hopes a scene entirely new, for neither the exertion of the
most active benevolence, nor the steady course of the most virtuous
conduct, sufficed any longer to wholly engage her thoughts, or
constitute her felicity; she had purposes that came nearer home, and
cares that threatened to absorb in themselves that heart and those
faculties which hitherto had only seemed animated for the service of
Yet this loss of mental freedom gave her not much uneasiness, since
the choice of her heart, though involuntary, was approved by her
principles, and confirmed by her judgment. Young Delvile's situation
in life was just what she wished, more elevated than her own, yet
not so exalted as to humble her with a sense of inferiority; his
connections were honourable, his mother appeared to her the first of
women, his character and disposition seemed formed to make her
happy, and her own fortune was so large, that to the state of his
she was indifferent.
Delighted with so flattering a union of inclination with propriety,
she now began to cherish the partiality she at first had repressed,
and thinking the future destination of her life already settled,
looked forward with grateful joy to the prospect of ending her days
with the man she thought most worthy to be entrusted with the
disposal of her fortune.
She had not, indeed, any certainty that the regard of young Delvile
was reciprocal, but she had every reason to believe he greatly
admired her, and to suspect that his mistaken notion of her prior
engagement, first with Mr Belfield, and afterwards with Sir Robert
Floyer, made him at present check those sentiments in her favour
which, when that error was removed, she hoped to see I encouraged.
Her purpose, therefore, was quietly to wait an explanation, which
she rather wished retarded than forwarded, that her leisure and
opportunity might be more for investigating his character, and
saving herself from repentance.
The day following this happy intellectual arrangement, Cecilia was
visited by Mr Monckton. That gentleman, who had enquired for her
immediately after the Harrels went to their villa, and who had
flattered himself with reaping much advantage from their absence, by
frequent meetings and confidential discourses, suffered the severest
mortification when he found that her stay in town rendered her not
the less inaccessible to him, since he had no personal acquaintance
with the Delviles, and could not venture to present himself at their
He was now received by her with more than usual pleasure; the time
had seemed long to her since she had conversed with him, and she was
eager to ask his counsel and assistance in her affairs. She related
to him the motives which had induced her to go to St James'-square,
and the incorrigible obstinacy with which Mr Harrel still continued
to encourage the addresses of Sir Robert Floyer; she earnestly
entreated him to become her agent in a business to which she was
unequal, by expostulating in her cause with Mr Harrel, and by
calling upon Sir Robert himself to insist upon his foregoing his
Mr Monckton listened eagerly to her account and request, and when
she had finished, assured her he would deliberate upon each
circumstance of the affair, and then maturely weigh every method he
could devise, to extricate her from an embarrassment which now grew
far too serious to be safely neglected.
"I will not, however," continued he, "either act or give my opinion
without further enquiry, as I am confident there is a mystery in
this business which lies deeper than we can at present fathom. Mr
Harrel has doubtless purposes of his own to answer by this pretended
zeal for Sir Robert; nor is it difficult to conjecture what they may
be. Friendship, in a man of his light cast, is a mere cover, a mere
name, to conceal a connection which has its basis solely in the
licentious convenience of borrowing money, going to the same gaming
house, and mutually communicating and boasting their mutual vices
and intrigues, while, all the time, their regard for each other is
equally hollow with their regard for truth and integrity."
He then cautioned her to be extremely careful with respect to any
money transactions with Mr Harrel, whose splendid extravagance he
assured her was universally known to exceed his fortune.
The countenance of Cecilia during this exhortation was testimony
sufficient to the penetrating eyes of Mr Monckton that his advice
came not too soon: a suspicion of the real state of the case
speedily occurred to him, and he questioned her minutely upon the
subject. She endeavoured to avoid making him any answer, but his
discernment was too keen for her inartificial evasion, and he very
soon gathered all the particulars of her transactions with Mr
He was less alarmed at the sum she had lent him, which was rather
within his expectations, than at the method she had been induced to
take to procure it. He represented to her in the strongest manner
the danger of imposition, nay of ruin, from the extortions and the
craft of money-lenders; and he charged her upon no consideration to
be tempted or persuaded again to have recourse to such perilous
She promised the most attentive observance of his advice: and then
told him the acquaintance she had made with Miss Belfield, and her
sorrow for the situation of her brother; though, satisfied for the
present with the plan of young Delvile, she now gave up her design
of soliciting his counsel.
In the midst of this conversation, a note was delivered to her from
Mr Delvile senior, acquainting her with his return to town, and
begging the favour of her to call in St James's-square the next
morning, as he wished to speak to her upon some business of
The eager manner in which Cecilia accepted this invitation, and her
repeated and earnest exclamation of wonder at what Mr Delvile could
have to say, past not unnoticed by Mr Monckton; he instantly turned
the discourse from the Belfields, the Harrels, and the Baronet, to
enquire how she had spent her time during her visit in St James's-
square, and what was her opinion of the family after her late
opportunities of intimacy?
Cecilia answered that she had yet seen nothing more of Mr Delvile,
who had been absent the whole time, but with equal readiness and
pleasure she replied to all his questions concerning his lady,
expatiating with warmth and fervour upon her many rare and estimable
But when the same interrogatories were transferred to the son, she
spoke no longer with the same ease, nor with her usual promptitude
of sincerity; she was embarrassed, her answers were short, and she
endeavoured to hasten from the subject.
Mr Monckton remarked this change with the most apprehensive
quickness, but, forcing a smile, "Have you yet," he said, "observed
the family compact in which those people are bound to besiege you,
and draw you into their snares?"
"No, indeed," cried Cecilia, much hurt by the question, "I am sure
no such compact has been formed; and I am sure, too, that if you
knew them better, you would yourself be the first to admire and do
"My dear Miss Beverley," cried he, "I know them already; I do not,
indeed, visit them, but I am perfectly acquainted with their
characters, which have been drawn to me by those who are most
closely connected with them, and who have had opportunities of
inspection which I hope will never fall to your share, since I am
satisfied the trial would pain, though the proof would convince
"What then have you heard of them?" cried Cecilia, with much
earnestness: "It is, at least, not possible any ill can be said of
"I beg your pardon," returned he. "Mrs Delvile is not nearer
perfection than the rest of her family, she has only more art in
disguising her foibles; because, tho' she is the daughter of pride,
she is the slave of interest."
"I see you have been greatly misinformed," said Cecilia warmly; "Mrs
Delvile is the noblest of women! she may, indeed, from her very
exaltation, have enemies, but they are the enemies of envy, not of
resentment, enemies raised by superior merit, not excited by injury
"You will know her better hereafter;" said Mr Monckton calmly, "I
only hope your knowledge will not be purchased by the sacrifice of
"And what knowledge of her, Sir," cried Cecilia, starting, "can have
power to put my happiness in any danger?"
"I will tell you," answered he, "with all the openness you have a
claim to from my regard, and then leave to time to shew if I am
mistaken. The Delvile family, notwithstanding its ostentatious
magnificence, I can solemnly assure you, is poor in every branch,
alike lineal and collateral."
"But is it therefore the less estimable?"
"Yes, because the more rapacious. And while they count on each side
Dukes, Earls and Barons in their genealogy, the very wealth with
which, through your means, they project the support of their
insolence, and which they will grasp with all the greediness of
avarice, they will think honoured by being employed in their
service, while the instrument, all amiable as she is, by which they
attain it, will be constantly held down as the disgrace of their
Cecilia, stung to the soul by this speech, rose from her chair,
unwilling to answer it, yet unable to conceal how much it shocked
her. Mr Monckton, perceiving her emotion, followed her, and taking
her hand, said, "I would not give this warning to one I thought too
weak to profit from it; but as I am well informed of the use that is
meant to be made of your fortune, and the abuse that will follow of
yourself, I think it right to prepare you for their artifices, which
merely to point out, may render abortive."
Cecilia, too much disturbed to thank him, drew back her hand, and
continued silent. Mr Monckton, reading through her displeasure the
state of her affections, saw with terror the greatness of the danger
which threatened him. He found, however, that the present was no
time for enforcing objections, and perceiving he had already gone
too far, though he was by no means disposed to recant, he thought it
most prudent to retreat, and let her meditate upon his exhortation
while its impression was yet strong in her mind.
He would now, therefore, have taken leave; but Cecilia, endeavouring
to recollect herself, and fully persuaded that however he had
shocked her, he had only her interest in view, stopt him, saying,
"You think me, perhaps, ungrateful, but believe me I am not; I must,
however, acknowledge that your censure of Mrs Delvile hurts me
extremely. Indeed I cannot doubt her worthiness, I must still,
therefore, plead for her, and I hope the time may come when you will
allow I have not pleaded unjustly."
"Justly or unjustly," answered Mr Monckton, "I am at least sure you
can never plead vainly. I give up, therefore, to your opinion my
attack of Mrs Delvile, and am willing from your commendations to
suppose her the best of the race. Nay, I will even own that perhaps
Mr Delvile himself, as well as his lady, might pass through life and
give but little offence, had they only themselves to think of, and
no son to stimulate their arrogance."
"Is the son, then," said Cecilia faintly, "so much the most
"The son, I believe," answered he, "is at least the chief incentive
to insolence and ostentation in the; parents, since it is for his
sake they covet with such avidity honours and riches, since they
plume themselves upon regarding him as the support of their name
and, family, and since their pride in him even surpasses their pride
in their lineage and themselves."
"Ah!" thought Cecilia, "and of such a son who could help being
"Their purpose, therefore," he continued, "is to, secure through his
means your fortune, which they will no sooner obtain, than, to my
certain knowledge, they mean instantly, and most unmercifully, to
employ it in repairing all their dilapidated estates."
And then he quitted the subject; and, with that guarded warmth which
accompanied all his expressions, told her he would carefully watch
for her honour and welfare, and, repeating his promise of
endeavouring to discover the tie by which Mr Harrel seemed bound to
the Baronet, he left her--a prey himself to an anxiety yet more
severe than that with which he had filled her! He now saw all his
long cherished hopes in danger of final destruction, and suddenly
cast upon the brink of a precipice, where, while he struggled to
protect them from falling, his eyes were dazzled by beholding them
Mean while Cecilia, disturbed from the calm of soft serenity to
which she had yielded every avenue of her soul, now looked forward
with distrust and uneasiness, even to the completion of the views
which but a few minutes before had comprised all her notions of
felicity. The alliance which so lately had seemed wholly
unexceptionable, now appeared teeming with objections, and
threatening with difficulties. The representations of Mr Monckton
had cruelly mortified her; well acquainted with his knowledge of the
world, and wholly unsuspicious of his selfish motives, she gave to
his assertions involuntary credit, and even while she attempted to
combat them, they made upon her mind an impression scarce ever to be
Full, therefore, of doubt and inquietude, she passed the night in
discomfort and irresolution, now determining to give way to her
feelings, and now to be wholly governed by the counsel of Mr
In this disposition of mind Cecilia the next morning obeyed the
summons of Mr Delvile, and for the first time went to St James'-
square in a humour to look for evil instead of good, and meanness
instead of nobleness.
She was shewn into an apartment where she found Mr Delvile alone,
and was received by him, as usual, with the most stately solemnity.
When she was seated, "I have given you, Miss Beverley," said he,
"the trouble of calling, in order to discuss with you the internal
state of your affairs; a duty which, at this juncture, I hold to be
incumbent upon my character. The delicacy due to your sex would
certainly have induced me to wait upon you myself for this purpose,
but for the reasons I have already hinted to you, of fearing the
people with whom you live might think it necessary to return my
visit. Persons of low origin are commonly in those matters the most
forward. Not, however, that I would prejudice you against them;
though, for myself, it is fit I remember that a general and
indiscriminate acquaintance, by levelling all ranks, does injury to
the rites of society."
Ah! thought Cecilia, how infallible is Mr Monckton! and how
inevitably, in a family of which Mr Delvile is the head, should I be
cruelly _held down, as the disgrace of their alliance_!
"I have applied," continued he, "to Mrs Delvile, to know if the
communication which I had recommended to you, and to which she had
promised her attention, had yet passed; but I am informed you have
not spoken to her upon the subject."
"I had nothing, Sir, to communicate," answered Cecilia, "and I had
hoped, as Mrs Delvile made no enquiries, she was satisfied she had
nothing to hear."
"With respect to enquiries," said Mr Delvile, "I fear you are not
sufficiently aware of the distance between a lady of Mrs Delvile's
rank, both by birth and alliance, and such a young woman as Mrs
Harrel, whose ancestors, but a short time since, were mere Suffolk
farmers. But I beg your pardon;--I mean not any reflection upon
yours: I have always heard they were very worthy people. And a
farmer is certainly a very respectable person. Your father, I think,
no more than the Dean your uncle, did nothing in that way himself?"
"No, Sir," said Cecilia, drily, and much provoked by this
"I have always been told he was a very good sort of man: I knew none
of the family myself, but the Dean. His connections with the Bishop
of ------, my relation, put him often in my way. Though his naming
me for one of his trustees, I must own, was rather extraordinary;
but I mean not to hurt you; on the contrary, I should be much
concerned to give you any uneasiness."
Again Mr Monckton arose in the mind of Cecilia, and again she
acknowledged the truth of his strictures; and though she much
wondered in what an harangue so pompous was to end, her disgust so
far conquered her curiosity, that without hearing it, she wished
"To return," said he, "to my purpose. The present period of your
life is such as to render advice particularly seasonable; I am
sorry, therefore, as I before said, you have not disclosed your
situation to Mrs Delvile. A young lady on the point of making an
establishment, and with many engagements in her power, is extremely
liable to be mistaken in her judgment, and therefore should solicit
instruction from those who are able to acquaint her what connection
would be most to her advantage. One thing, however, I am happy to
commend, the young man who was wounded in the duel--I cannot
recollect his name--is, I hear, totally out of the question."
What next? thought Cecilia; though still she gave him no
interruption, for the haughtiness of his manner was repulsive to
"My design, therefore, is to speak to you of Sir Robert Floyer. When
I had last the pleasure of addressing you upon this subject, you may
probably remember my voice was in his favour; but I then regarded
him merely as the rival of an inconsiderable young man, to rescue
you from whom he appeared an eligible person. The affair is now
altered, that young man is thought of no more, and another rival
comes forward, to whom Sir Robert is as inconsiderable as the first
rival was to Sir Robert."
Cecilia started at this information, livelier sensations stimulated
her curiosity, and surmises in which she was most deeply interested
quickened her attention.
"This rival," proceeded he, "I should imagine no young lady would a
moment hesitate in electing; he is every way the superior of Sir
Robert except in fortune, and the deficiencies of that the splendour
of your own may amply supply."
The deepest crimson now tinged the cheeks of Cecilia; the prophecy
of Mr Monckton seemed immediately fulfilling, and she trembled with
a rising conflict between her approbation of the offer, and her
dread of its consequences.
"I know not, indeed," continued he, "in what estimation you may have
been accustomed to hold rank and connection, nor whether you are
impressed with a proper sense of their superiority and value; for
early prejudices are not easily rooted out, and those who have lived
chiefly with monied people, regard even birth itself as unimportant
when compared with wealth."
The colour which first glowed in the cheeks of Cecilia from
expectation, now rose yet higher from resentment: she thought
herself already insulted by a prelude so ostentatious and
humiliating to the proposals which were to follow; and she angrily
determined, with whatever pain to her heart, to assert her own
dignity by refusing them at once, too well satisfied by what she now
saw of the present, that Mr Monckton had been just in his prediction
of the future.
"Your rejection, therefore," continued he, "of this honourable
offer, may perhaps have been merely the consequence of the
principles in which you have been educated.--"
"Rejection?" interrupted Cecilia, amazed, "what rejection, Sir?"
"Have you not refused the proposals of my Lord Ernolf for his son?"
"Lord Ernolf? never! nor have I ever seen either his Lordship or his
son but in public."
"That," replied Mr Delvile, "is little to the purpose; where the
connexion is a proper one, a young lady of delicacy has only to
accede to it. But though this rejection came not immediately from
yourself, it had doubtless your concurrence."
"It had not, Sir, even my knowledge."
"Your alliance then with Sir Robert Floyer is probably nearer a
conclusion than I had imagined, for otherwise Mr Harrel would not,
without consulting you, have given the Earl so determinate an
"No, Sir," said Cecilia, impatiently, "my alliance with him was
never more distant, nor do I mean it should ever approach more
She was now little disposed for further conversation. Her heroic
design of refusing young Delvile by no means reconciled her to the
discovery she now made that he had not meant to address her; and
though she was provoked and fretted at this new proof that Mr Harrel
scrupled neither assertions nor actions to make her engagement with
Sir Robert credited, her disappointment in finding that Mr Delvile,
instead of pleading the cause of his son, was exerting his interest
for another person, affected her so much more nearly, that
notwithstanding he still continued his parading harangue, she
scarcely knew even the subject of his discourse, and seized the
first opportunity of a cessation to rise and take her leave.
He asked her if she would not call upon Mrs Delvile; but desirous to
be alone, she declined the invitation; he then charged her to
proceed no further with Sir Robert till he had made some enquiries
concerning Lord Ernolf, and graciously promising his protection and
counsel, suffered her to depart.
Cecilia now perceived she might plan her rejections, or study her
dignity at her leisure, for neither Mr Delvile nor his son seemed in
any haste to put her fortitude to the proof. With regard, therefore,
to their plots and intentions, Mr Monckton she found was wrong, but
with respect to their conduct and sentiments, she had every reason
to believe him right: and though her heart refused to rejoice in
escaping a trial of its strength, her judgment was so well convinced
that his painting was from the life, that she determined to conquer
her partiality for young Delvile, since she looked forward to
nothing but mortification in a connexion with his family.
With this intention, and every faculty of her mind absorbed in
reflecting upon the reasons which gave rise to it, she returned to
As her chair was carried into the hall, she observed, with some
alarm, a look of consternation among the servants, and an appearance
of confusion in the whole house. She was proceeding to her own room,
intending to enquire of her maid if any evil had happened, when she
was crossed upon the stairs by Mr Harrel, who passed her with an air
so wild and perturbed, that he hardly seemed to know her.
Frightened and amazed, she stopt short, irresolute which way to go;
but, hastily returning, he beckoned her to follow him.
She obeyed, and he led her to the library. He then shut the door,
and abruptly seizing her hand, called out, "Miss Beverley, I am
ruined!--I am undone!--I am blasted for ever!"
"I hope not, Sir!" said Cecilia, extremely terrified, "I hope not!
Where is Mrs Harrel?"
"O I know not! I know not!" cried he, in a frantic manner, "but I
have not seen her,--I cannot see her,--I hope I shall never see her
"O fie! fie!" said Cecilia, "let me call her, I beg; you should
consult with her in this distress, and seek comfort from her
"From her affection?" repeated he, fiercely, "from her hatred you
mean! do you not know that she, too, is ruined? Oh past redemption
ruined!--and yet that I should hesitate, that I should a moment
hesitate to conclude the whole business at once!"
"How dreadful!" cried Cecilia, "what horrible thing has happened?"
"I have undone Priscilla!" cried he, "I have blasted my credit! I
have destroyed--no, not yet quite destroyed myself!"
"O yet nor ever!" cried Cecilia, whose agitation now almost equalled
his own, "be not so desperate, I conjure you! speak to me more
intelligibly,--what does all this mean? How has it come to pass?"
"My debts!--my creditors!--one way only," striking his hand upon his
forehead, "is left for me!"
"Do not say so, Sir!" said Cecilia, "you shall find many ways; pray
have courage! pray speak calmly; and if you will but be more
prudent, will but, in future, better regulate your affairs, I will
She stopt; checked in the full career of her overflowing compassion,
by a sense of the worthlessness of its object; and by the
remembrance of the injunctions of Mr Monckton.
"What will you undertake?" cried he, eagerly, "I know you are an
angel!--tell me, what will you undertake?"
"I will,--" said Cecilia, hesitating, "I will speak to Mr Monckton,
--I will consult--"
"You may as well consult with every cursed creditor in the house!"
interrupted he; "but do so, if you please; my disgrace must perforce
reach him soon, and a short anticipation is not worth begging off."
"Are your creditors then actually in the house?"
"O yes, yes! and therefore it is high time I should be out of it!--
Did you not see them?--Do they not line the hall?--They threaten me
with three executions before night!--three executions unless I
satisfy their immediate demands!--"
"And to what do their demands amount?"
"I know not!--I dare not ask!--to some thousand pounds, perhaps,--
and I have not, at this minute, forty guineas in the house!"
"Nay, then," cried Cecilia, retreating, "I can indeed do nothing! if
their demands are so high, I _ought_ to do nothing."
She would then have quitted him, not more shocked at his situation,
than indignant at the wilful extravagance which had occasioned it.
"Stay," cried he, "and hear me!" then, lowering his voice, "seek
out," he continued, "your unfortunate friend,--go to the poor ruined
Priscilla,--prepare her for tidings of horror! and do not, though
you renounce Me, do not abandon Her!"
Then, fiercely passing her, he was himself leaving the room; but
Cecilia, alarmed by the fury of his manner, called out, "What is it
you mean? what tidings of horror? whither are you going?"
"To hell!" cried he, and rushed out of the apartment.
Cecilia screamed aloud, and conjuring him to hear her, ran after
him; he paid her no regard, but, flying faster than she had power to
pursue, reached his own dressing-room, shut himself into it with
violence, and just as she arrived at the door, turned the key, and
Her terror was now inexpressible; she believed him in the very act
of suicide, and her refusal of assistance seemed the signal for the
deed: her whole fortune, at that moment, was valueless and
unimportant to her, compared with the preservation of a fellow-
creature: she called out with all the vehemence of agony to beg he
would open the door, and eagerly promised by all that was sacred to
do everything in her power to save him.
At these words he opened it; his face was totally without colour,
and he grasped a razor in his hand.
"You have stopt me," said he, in a voice scarce audible, "at the
very moment I had gathered courage for the blow: but if indeed you
will assist me, I will shut this up,--if not, I will steep it in my
"I will! I will!" cried Cecilia, "I will do every thing you desire!"
"Before my disgrace is known? and while all may yet be hushed up?"
"Yes, yes! all--any--every thing you wish!"
Here Cecilia drew back; her recollection returned as her terror
abated, and her repugnance to entering into an engagement for she
knew not what, with a man whose actions she condemned, and whose
principles she abhorred, made all her fright now give way to
indignation, and, after a short pause, she angrily answered, "No,
Sir, I will not swear!--but yet, all that is reasonable, all that is
"Hear me swear, then!" interrupted he, furiously, "which at this
moment I do, by every thing eternal, and by every thing infernal,
that I will not outlive the seizure of my property, and that the
moment I am informed there is an execution in my house, shall be the
last of my existence!"
"What cruelty! what compulsion! what impiety!" cried Cecilia: "give
me, however, that horrible instrument, and prescribe to me what
conditions you please."
A noise was now heard below stairs, at which Cecilia, who had not
dared call for help lest he should quicken his desperation, was
secretly beginning to rejoice, when, starting at the sound, he
exclaimed, "I believe you are too late!--the ruffians have already
seized my house!" then, endeavouring to force her out of the room,
"Go," he cried, "to my wife;--I want to be alone!"
"Oh give me first," cried she, "that weapon, and I will take what
oath you please!"
"No, no!--go,--leave me,--" cried he, almost breathless with
emotion, "I must not now be trifled with."
"I do not trifle! indeed I do not!" cried Cecilia, holding by his
arm: "try, put me to the proof!"
"Swear, solemnly swear, to empty my house of these creditors this
"I do swear," cried she, with energy, "and Heaven prosper me as I am
"I see, I see you are an angel!" cried he, rapturously, "and as such
I worship and adore you! O you have restored me to life, and rescued
me from perdition!"
"Give me, then, that fatal instrument!"
"That instrument," returned he, "is nothing, since so many others
are in my power; but you have now taken from me all desire of using
them. Go, then, and stop those wretches from coming to me,--send
immediately for the Jew!--he will advance what money you please,--my
man knows where to find him; consult with Mr Arnott,--speak a word
of comfort to Priscilla,--but do nothing, nothing at all, till you
have cleared my house of those cursed scoundrels!"
Cecilia, whose heart sunk within her at the solemn promise she had
given, the mention of the Jew, and the arduous task she had
undertaken, quitted him without reply, and was going to her own
room, to compose her hurried spirits, and consider what steps she
had to take, when hearing the noise in the hall grow louder, she
stopt to listen, and catching some words that greatly alarmed her,
went half way down stairs, when she was met by Davison, Mr Harrel's
man, of whom she enquired into the occasion of the disturbance.
He answered that he must go immediately to his master, for the
bailiffs were coming into the house.
"Let him not know it if you value his life!" cried she, with new
terror. "Where is Mr Arnott? call him to me,--beg him to come this
moment;--I will wait for him here."
The man flew to obey her; and Cecilia, finding she had time neither
for deliberation nor regret, and dreading lest Mr Harrel, by hearing
of the arrival of the bailiffs, should relapse into despair,
determined to call to her aid all the courage, prudence, and
judgment she possessed, and, since to act she was compelled,
endeavour with her best ability, to save his credit, and retrieve
The moment Mr Arnott came, she ordered Davison to hasten to his
master, and watch his motions.
Then, addressing Mr Arnott, "Will you. Sir," she said, "go and tell
those people that if they will instantly quit the house, every thing
shall be settled, and Mr Harrel will satisfy their demands?"
"Ah madam!" cried Mr Arnott, mournfully, "and how? he has no means
to pay them, and I have none--without ruin to myself,--to help him!"
"Send them but away," said Cecilia, "and I will myself be your
security that your promise shall not be disgraced."
"Alas, madam," cried he, "what are you doing? well as I wish to Mr
Harrel, miserable as I am for my unfortunate sister, I yet cannot
bear that such goodness, such beneficence should be injured!"
Cecilia, however, persisted, and with evident reluctance he obeyed
While she waited his return, Davison came from Mr Harrel, who had
ordered him to run instantly for the Jew.
Good Heaven, thought Cecilia, that a man so wretchedly selfish and
worldly, should dare, with all his guilt upon his head,
To rush unlicenced on eternity! [Footnote: Mason's Elfrida]
Mr Arnott was more than half an hour with the people; and when, at
last, he returned, his countenance immediately proclaimed the ill
success of his errand. The creditors, he said, declared they had so
frequently been deceived, that they would not dismiss the bailiffs,
or retire themselves, without actual payment.
"Tell them, then, Sir," said Cecilia," to send me their accounts,
and, if it be possible, I will discharge them directly."
Mr Arnott's eyes were filled with tears at this declaration, and he
protested, be the consequence to himself what it might, he would pay
away every shilling he was worth, rather than witness such
"No," cried Cecilia, exerting more spirit, that she might shock him
less, "I did not save Mr Harrel, to destroy so much better a man!
you have suffered but too much oppression already; the present evil
is mine; and from me, at least, none I hope will ever spread to Mr
Mr Arnott could not bear this; he was struck with grief, with
admiration, and with gratitude, and finding his tears now refused to
be restrained, he went to execute her commission in silent
The dejection, however, was encreased, though his tears were
dispersed, when he returned; "Oh madam!" he cried, "all your
efforts, generous as they are, will be of no avail! the bills even
now in the house amount to more than L7000!"
Cecilia, amazed and confounded, started and clasped her hands,
calling out, "What must I do! to what have I bound myself! and how
can I answer to my conscience,--to my successors, such a disposal,
such an abuse of so large a part of my fortune!"
Mr Arnott could make no answer; and they stood looking at each other
in silent irresolution, till Davison brought intelligence that the
Jew was already come, and waited to speak with her.
"And what can I say to him?" cried she, more and more agitated; "I
understand nothing of usury; how am I to deal with him?"
Mr Arnott then confessed that he should himself have instantly been
bail for his brother, but that his fortune, originally not large,
was now so much impaired by the many debts which from time to time
he had paid for him, that as he hoped some day to have a family of
his own, he dare not run a risk by which he might be utterly ruined,
and the less, as his sister had at Violet Bank been prevailed upon
to give up her settlement.
This account, which explained the late uneasiness of Mrs Harrel,
still encreased the distress of Cecilia; and every moment she
obtained for reflection, augmented her reluctance to parting with
_so_ large a sum of money for so worthless an object, and added
strength to her resentment for the unjustifiable menaces which had
extorted from her such a promise. Yet not an instant would she
listen to Mr Arnott's offer of fulfilling her engagement, and
charged him, as he considered her own self-esteem worth her keeping,
not to urge to her a proposal so ungenerous and selfish.
Davison now came again to hasten her, and said that the Jew was with
his master, and they both impatiently expected her.
Cecilia, half distracted with her uncertainty how to act, changed
colour at this message, and exclaimed "Oh Mr Arnott, run I beseech
you for Mr Monckton! bring him hither directly,--if any body can
save me it is him; but if I go back to Mr Harrel, I know it will be
"Certainly," said Mr Arnott, "I will run to him this moment."
"Yet no!--stop!--" cried the trembling Cecilia, "he can now do me no
good,--his counsel will arrive too late to serve me,--it cannot call
back the oath I have given! it cannot, compulsatory as it was, make
me break it, and not be miserable for ever!"
This idea sufficed to determine her; and the apprehension of self-
reproach, should the threat of Mr Harrel be put in execution, was
more insupportable to her blameless and upright mind, than any loss
or diminution which her fortune could sustain.
Slowly however, with tardy and unwilling steps, her judgment
repugnant, and her spirit repining, she obeyed the summons of Mr
Harrel, who, impatient of her delay, came forward to meet her.
"Miss Beverley," he cried, "there is not a moment to be lost; this
good man will bring you any sum of money, upon a proper
consideration, that you will command; but if he is not immediately
commissioned, and these cursed fellows are not got out of my house,
the affair will be blown,"---"and what will follow," added he,
lowering his voice, "I will not again frighten you by repeating,
though I shall never recant."
Cecilia turned from him in horror; and, with a faltering voice and
heavy heart, entreated Mr Arnott to settle for her with the Jew.
Large as was the sum, she was so near being of age, and her security
was so good, that the transaction was soon finished: 7500 pounds was
received of the Jew, Mr Harrel gave Cecilia his bond for the
payment, the creditors were satisfied, the bailiffs were dismissed,
and the house was soon restored to its customary appearance of
Mrs Harrel, who during this scene had shut herself up in her own
room to weep and lament, now flew to Cecilia, and in a transport of
joy and gratitude, thanked her upon her knees for thus preserving
her from utter ruin: the gentle Mr Arnott seemed uncertain whether
most to grieve or rejoice; and Mr Harrel repeatedly protested she
should have the sole guidance of his future conduct.
This promise, the hope of his amendment, and the joy she had
expanded, somewhat revived the spirits of Cecilia; who, however,
deeply affected by what had passed, hastened from them all to her
She had now parted with 8050 pounds to Mr Harrel, without any security
when or how it was to be paid; and that ardour of benevolence which
taught her to value her riches merely as they enabled her to do good
and generous actions, was here of no avail to console or reward her,
for her gift was compelled, and its receiver was all but detested.
"How much better," cried she, "would this have been bestowed upon
the amiable Miss Belfield! or upon her noble-minded, though proud-
spirited brother! and how much less a sum would have made the
virtuous and industrious Hills easy and happy for life! but here, to
become the tool of the extravagance I abhor! to be made responsible
for the luxury I condemn! to be liberal in opposition to my
principles, and lavish in defiance of my judgment!--Oh that my much-
deceived Uncle had better known to what dangerous hands he committed
me! and that my weak and unhappy friend had met with a worthier
protector of her virtue and safety!"
As soon, however, as she recovered from the first shock of her
reflections, she turned her thoughts from herself to the formation
of some plan that might, at least, render her donation of serious
and lasting use. The signal service she had just done them gave her
at present an ascendency over the Harrels, which she hoped, if
immediately exerted, might prevent the return of so calamitous a
scene, by engaging them both to an immediate change of conduct. But
unequal herself to contriving expedients for this purpose that might
not easily be controverted, she determined to send the next morning
a petition to Mr Monckton to call upon her, reveal to him the whole
transaction, and entreat him to suggest to her what, with most
probability of success, she might offer to their consideration.
While this was passing in her mind, on the evening of the day in
which she had so dearly purchased the right of giving counsel, she
was summoned to tea.
She found Mr Harrel and his lady engaged in earnest discourse; as
soon as she appeared, the former said, "My dear Miss Beverley, after
the extraordinary kindness you have shewn me this morning, you will
not, I am sure, deny me one trifling favour which I mean to ask this
"No," said Mrs Harrel, "that I am sure she will not, when she knows
that our future appearance in the world depends upon her granting
"I hope, then," said Cecilia, "I shall not wish to refuse it."
"It is nothing in the world," said Mr Harrel, "but to go with us to-
night to the Pantheon."
Cecilia was struck with the utmost indignation at this proposal;
that the man who in the morning had an execution in his house,
should languish in the evening for the amusement of a public place,
--that he who but a few hours before was plunging uncalled into
eternity, should, while the intended instrument of death was yet
scarce cold from the grasp of his hand, deliberately court a return
of his distress, by instantly recurring to the methods which had
involved him in it, irritated and shocked her beyond even a wish of
disguising her displeasure, and therefore, after an expressive
silence, she gave a cold, but absolute denial.
"I see," said Mr Harrel, somewhat confused, "you do not understand
the motives of our request. The unfortunate affair of this morning
is very likely to spread presently all over the town; the only
refutation that can be given to it, is by our all appearing in
public before any body knows whether to believe it or not."
"Do, my dearest friend," cried his lady, "oblige me by your
compliance; indeed our whole reputation depends upon it. I made an
engagement yesterday to go with Mrs Mears, and if I disappoint her,
every body will be guessing the reason."
"At least," answered Cecilia, "my going can answer no purpose to
you: pray, therefore, do not ask me; I am ill disposed for such sort
of amusement, and have by no means your opinion of its necessity."
"But if we do not _all_ go," said Mr Harrel, "we do almost
nothing: you are known to live with us, and, your appearance at this
critical time is important to our credit. If this misfortune gets
wind, the consequence is that every dirty tradesman in town to whom
I owe a shilling, will be forming the same cursed combination those
scoundrels formed this morning, of coming in a body, and waiting for
their money, or else bringing an execution into my house.. The only
way to silence report is by putting a good face upon the matter at
once, and shewing ourselves to the world as if nothing had happened.
Favour us, therefore, to-night with your company, which is really
important to us, or ten to one, but in another fortnight, I shall be
just in the same scrape."
Cecilia, however incensed at this intelligence that his debts were
still so numerous, felt now so much alarmed at the mention of an
execution, as if she was in actual danger of ruin herself.
Terrified, therefore, though not convinced, she yielded to their
persuasions, and consented to accompany them.
They soon after separated to make some alteration in their dress,
and then, calling in their way for Mrs Mears, they proceeded to the
A MAN OF THE TON.
At the door of the Pantheon they were joined by Mr Arnott and Sir
Robert Floyer, whom Cecilia now saw with added aversion: they
entered the great room during the second apt of the Concert, to
which as no one of the party but herself had any desire to listen,
no sort of attention was paid; the ladies entertaining themselves as
if no Orchestra was in the room, and the gentlemen, with an equal
disregard to it, struggling for a place by the fire, about which
they continued hovering till the music was over.
Soon after they were seated, Mr Meadows, sauntering towards them,
whispered something to Mrs Mears, who, immediately rising,
introduced him to Cecilia; after which, the place next to her being
vacant, he cast himself upon it, and lolling as much at his ease as
his situation would permit, began something like a conversation with
"Have you been long in town, ma'am?"
"This is not your first winter?"
"Of being in town, it is."
"Then you have something new to see; O charming! how I envy you!--
Are you pleased with the Pantheon?"
"Very much; I have seen no building at all equal to it."
"You have not been abroad. Travelling is the ruin of all happiness!
There's no looking at a building here after seeing Italy."
"Does all happiness, then, depend upon the sight of buildings?" said
Cecilia, when, turning towards her companion, she perceived him
yawning, with such evident inattention to her answer, that not
chusing to interrupt his reverie, she turned her head another way.
For some minutes he took no notice of this; and then, as if suddenly
recollecting himself, he called out hastily, "I beg your pardon,
ma'am, you were saying something?"
"No, Sir, nothing worth repeating." "O pray don't punish me so
severely as not to let me hear it!"
Cecilia, though merely not to seem offended at his negligence, was
then again beginning an answer, when, looking at him as she spoke,
she perceived that he was biting his nails with so absent an air,
that he appeared not to know he had asked any question. She
therefore broke off, and left him to his cogitation.
Sometime after he addressed her again, saying, "Don't you find this
place extremely tiresome, ma'am?"
"Yes, Sir," said she, half laughing, "it is, indeed, not very
"Nothing is entertaining," answered he, "for two minutes together.
Things are so little different one from another, that there is no
making pleasure out of any thing. We go the same dull round for
ever; nothing new, no variety! all the same thing over again! Are
you fond of public places, ma'am?"
"Yes, Sir, _soberly_, as Lady Grace says."
"Then I envy you extremely, for you have some amusement always in
your own power. How desirable that is!"
"And have not you the same resources?"
"O no! I am tired to death! tired of every thing! I would give the
universe for a disposition less difficult to please. Yet, after all,
what is there to give pleasure? When one has seen one thing, one has
seen every thing. O, 'tis heavy work! Don't you find it so, ma'am?"
This speech was ended with so violent a fit of yawning, that Cecilia
would not trouble herself to answer it: but her silence, as before,
passed wholly unnoticed, exciting neither question nor comment.
A long pause now succeeded, which he broke at last, by saying, as he
writhed himself about upon his seat, "These forms would be much more
agreeable if there were backs to them. "Tis intolerable to be forced
to sit like a school-boy. The first study of life is ease. There is,
indeed, no other study that pays the trouble of attainment. Don't
you think so, ma'am?"
"But may not even that," said Cecilia, "by so much study, become
"I am vastly happy you think so."
"I beg your pardon, ma'am, but I thought you said--I really beg your
pardon, but I was thinking of something else."
"You did very right, Sir," said Cecilia, laughing, "for what I said
by no means merited any attention."
"Will you do me the favour to repeat it?" cried he, taking out his
glass to examine some lady at a distance.
"O no," said Cecilia, "that would be trying your patience too
"These glasses shew one nothing but defects," said he; "I am sorry
they were ever invented. They are the ruin of all beauty; no
complexion can stand them. I believe that solo will never be over; I
hate a solo; it sinks, it depresses me intolerably."
"You will presently, Sir," said Cecilia, looking at the bill of the
concert, "have a full piece; and that, I hope, will revive you."
"A full piece! oh insupportable! it stuns, it fatigues, it
overpowers me beyond endurance! no taste in it, no delicacy, no room
for the smallest feeling."
"Perhaps, then, you are only fond of singing?"
"I should be, if I could hear it; but we are now so miserably off in
voices, that I hardly ever attempt to listen to a song, without
fancying myself deaf from the feebleness of the performers. I hate
every thing that requires attention. Nothing gives pleasure that
does not force its own way."
"You only, then, like loud voices, and great powers?"
"O worse and worse!--no, nothing is so disgusting to me. All my
amazement is that these people think it worth while to give Concerts
at all; one is sick to death of music."
"Nay," cried Cecilia, "if it gives no pleasure, at least it takes
none away; for, far from being any impediment to conversation, I
think every body talks more during the performance than between the
acts. And what is there better you could substitute in its place?"
Cecilia, receiving no answer to this question, again looked round to
see if she had been heard; when she observed her new acquaintance,
with a very thoughtful air, had turned from her to fix his eyes upon
the statue of Britannia.
Very soon after, he hastily arose, and seeming entirely to forget
that he had spoke to her, very abruptly walked away.
Mr Gosport, who was advancing to Cecilia, and had watched part of
this scene, stopt him as he was retreating, and said "Why Meadows,
how's this? are you caught at last?"
"O worn to death! worn to a thread!" cried he, stretching himself,
and yawning; "I have been talking with a young lady to entertain
her! O such heavy work! I would not go through it again for
"What, have you talked yourself out of breath?"
"No; but the effort! the effort!--O, it has unhinged me for a
fortnight!--Entertaining a young lady!--one had better be a galley-
slave at once!"
"Well but, did she not pay your toils? She is surely a sweet
"Nothing can pay one for such insufferable exertion! though she's
well enough, too--better than the common run,--but shy, quite too
shy; no drawing her out"
"I thought that was to your taste. You commonly hate much
volubility. How have I heard you bemoan yourself when attacked by
"Larolles? O distraction! She talks me into a fever in two minutes.
But so it is for ever! nothing but extremes to be met with! common
girls are too forward, this lady is too reserved--always some fault!
always some drawback! nothing ever perfect!"
"Nay, nay," cried Mr Gosport, "you do not know her; she is perfect
enough in all conscience."
"Better not know her, then," answered he, again yawning, "for she
cannot be pleasing. Nothing perfect is natural;--I hate every thing
out of nature."
He then strolled on, and Mr Gosport approached Cecilia.
"I have been wishing," cried he, "to address you this half hour, but
as you were engaged with Mr Meadows, I did not dare advance."
"O, I see your malice!" cried Cecilia; "you were determined to add
weight to the value of your company, by making me fully sensible
where the balance would preponderate."
"Nay, if you do not admire Mr Meadows," cried he, "you must not even
whisper it to the winds."
"Is he, then, so very admirable?"
"O, he is now in the very height of fashionable favour: his dress is
a model, his manners are imitated, his attention is courted, and his
notice is envied."
"Are you not laughing?"
"No, indeed; his privileges are much more extensive than I have
mentioned: his decision fixes the exact limits between what is
vulgar and what is elegant, his praise gives reputation, and a word
from him in public confers fashion!"
"And by what wonderful powers has he acquired such influence?"
"By nothing but a happy art in catching the reigning foibles of the
times, and carrying them to an extreme yet more absurd than any one
had done before him. Ceremony, he found, was already exploded for
ease, he, therefore, exploded ease for indolence; devotion to the
fair sex, had given way to a more equal and rational intercourse,
which, to push still farther, he presently exchanged for rudeness;
joviality, too, was already banished for philosophical indifference,
and that, therefore, he discarded, for weariness and disgust."
"And is it possible that qualities such as these should recommend
him to favour and admiration?"
"Very possible, for qualities such as these constitute the present
taste of the times. A man of the _Ton_, who would now be
conspicuous in the gay world, must invariably be insipid, negligent,
"Admirable requisites!" cried Cecilia; "and Mr Meadows, I
acknowledge, seems to have attained them all."
"He must never," continued Mr Gosport, "confess the least pleasure
from any thing, a total apathy being the chief ingredient of his
character: he must, upon no account, sustain a conversation with any
spirit, lest he should appear, to his utter disgrace, interested in
what is said: and when he is quite tired of his existence, from a
total vacuity of ideas, he must affect a look of absence, and
pretend, on the sudden, to be wholly lost in thought."
"I would not wish," said Cecilia, laughing, "a more amiable
"If he is asked his opinion of any lady," he continued, "he must
commonly answer by a grimace; and if he is seated next to one, he
must take the utmost pains to shew by his listlessness, yawning, and
inattention, that he is sick of his situation; for what he holds of
all things to be most gothic, is gallantry to the women. To avoid
this is, indeed, the principal solicitude of his life. If he sees a
lady in distress for her carriage, he is to enquire of her what is
the matter, and then, with a shrug, wish her well through her
fatigues, wink at some bye-stander, and walk away. If he is in a
room where there is a crowd of company, and a scarcity of seats, he
must early ensure one of the best in the place, be blind to all
looks of fatigue, and deaf to all hints of assistance, and seeming
totally to forget himself, lounge at his ease, and appear an
unconscious spectator of what is going forward. If he is at a ball
where there are more women than men, he must decline dancing at all,
though it should happen to be his favourite amusement, and smiling
as he passes the disengaged young ladies, wonder to see them sit
still, and perhaps ask them the reason!"
"A most alluring character indeed!" cried Cecilia; "and pray how
long have these been the accomplishments of a fine gentleman?"
"I am but an indifferent chronologer of the modes," he answered,
"but I know it has been long enough to raise just expectations that
some new folly will be started soon, by which the present race of
INSENSIBLISTS may be driven out. Mr Meadows is now at the head of
this sect, as Miss Larolles is of the VOLUBLE, and Miss Leeson of
the SUPERCILIOUS. But this way comes another, who, though in a
different manner, labours with the same view, and aspires at the
same reward, which stimulate the ambition of this happy
_Triplet_, that of exciting wonder by peculiarity, and envy by
This description announced Captain Aresby; who, advancing from the
fire-place, told Cecilia how much he rejoiced in seeing her, said he
had been _reduced to despair_ by so long missing that honour,
and that he had feared she _made it a principle_ to avoid
coming in public, having sought her in vain _partout_.
He then smiled, and strolled on to another party.
"And pray of what sect," said Cecilia, "is this gentleman?"
"Of the sect of JARGONISTS," answered Mr Gosport; "he has not an
ambition beyond paying a passing compliment, nor a word to make use
of that he has not picked up at public places. Yet this dearth of
language, however you may despise it, is not merely owing to a
narrow capacity: foppery and conceit have their share in the
limitation, for though his phrases are almost always ridiculous or
misapplied, they are selected with much study, and introduced with
"Poor man!" cried Cecilia, "is it possible it can cost him any
trouble to render himself so completely absurd?"
"Yes; but not more than it costs his neighbours to keep him in
countenance. Miss Leeson, since she has presided over the sect of
the SUPERCILIOUS, spends at least half her life in wishing the
annihilation of the other half; for as she must only speak in her
own Coterie, she is compelled to be frequently silent, and
therefore, having nothing to think of, she is commonly gnawn with
self-denial, and soured with want of amusement: Miss Larolles,
indeed, is better off, for in talking faster than she thinks, she
has but followed the natural bent of her disposition: as to this
poor JARGONIST, he has, I must own, rather a hard task, from the
continual restraint of speaking only out of his own [Lilliputian]
vocabulary, and denying himself the relief of ever uttering one word
by the call of occasion but what hardship is that, compared with
what is borne by Mr Meadows? who, since he commenced INSENSIBLIST,
has never once dared to be pleased, nor ventured for a moment to
look in good humour!"
"Surely, then," said Cecilia, "in a short time, the punishment of
this affectation will bring its cure."
"No; for the trick grows into habit, and habit is a second nature. A
secret idea of fame makes his forbearance of happiness supportable
to him: for he has now the self-satisfaction of considering himself
raised to that highest pinnacle of fashionable refinement which is
built upon apathy and scorn, and from which, proclaiming himself
superior to all possibility of enjoyment, he views the whole world
with contempt! holding neither beauty, virtue, wealth, nor power of
importance sufficient to kindle the smallest emotion!"
"O that they could all round listen to you!" cried Cecilia; "they
would soon, I think, sicken of their folly, if they heard it thus
"No; they would but triumph that it had obtained them so much
notice!--But pray do you see that gentleman, or don't you chuse to
know him, who has been bowing to you this half hour?"
"Where?" cried Cecilia, and, looking round, perceived Mr Morrice;
who, upon her returning his salutation, instantly approached her,
though he had never ventured to shew himself at Mr Harrel's, since
his unfortunate accident on the evening of the masquerade.
Entirely casting aside the easy familiarity at which he had latterly
arrived, he enquired after her health with the most fearful
diffidence, and then, bowing profoundly, was modestly retiring; when
Mrs Harrel perceiving him, smiled with so much good-humour, that he
gathered courage to return and address her, and found her, to his
infinite delight, as obliging and civil as ever.
The Concert was now over; the ladies arose, and the gentlemen joined
them. Morrice, at sight of Mr Harrel, was again shrinking; but Mr
Harrel, immediately shaking hands with him, enquired what had kept
him so long from Portman-Square? Morrice then, finding, to his great
surprise, that no one had thought more of the mischief but himself
who had committed it, joyously discarded his timidity, and became as
sprightly as before his mortification.
A motion was now made for going to the tea-room; and as they walked
on, Cecilia, in looking up to examine the building, saw in one of
the galleries young Delvile, and almost at the same time caught his
Scarcely now did a moment elapse before he joined her. The sight of
him, strongly reviving in her mind the painful contrariety of
opinion with which she had lately thought of him, the sentiments so
much in his favour which but a few days before she had encouraged,
and which it was only that morning she had endeavoured to crush,
made her meet him with a kind of melancholy that almost induced her
to lament he was amiable, and repine that she knew none like him.
His appearance, meantime, was far different; he seemed enchanted at
the sight of her, he flew eagerly to meet her, and his eyes sparkled
with pleasure as he approached her; a pleasure neither moderate nor
disguised, but lively, unrestrained, and expressive.
Cecilia, whose plans since she had last seen him had twice varied,
who first had looked forward to being united with him for ever, and
afterwards had determined to avoid with him even a common
acquaintance, could not, while these thoughts were all recurring to
her memory, receive much delight from observing his gaiety, or feel
at all gratified by his unembarrassed manners. The openness of his
attentions, and the frankness of his admiration, which hitherto had
charmed her as marks of the sincerity of his character, now shocked
her as proofs of the indifference of his heart, which feeling for
her a mere common regard, that affected neither his spirits nor his
peace, he manifested without scruple, since it was not accompanied
with even a wish beyond the present hour.
She now, too, recollected that such had always been his conduct, one
single and singular moment excepted, when, as he gave to her his
letter for Mr Belfield, he seemed struck as she was herself by the
extraordinary co-incidence of their ideas and proceedings: that
emotion, however, she now regarded as casual and transitory, and
seeing him so much happier than herself, she felt ashamed of her
delusion, and angry at her easy captivation.
Reflections such as these, though they added fresh motives to her
resolution of giving up all thoughts of his alliance, were yet so
humiliating, that they robbed her of all power of receiving pleasure
from what was passing, and made her forget that the place she was in
was even intended for a place of entertainment.
Young Delvile, after painting in lively colours the loss his house
had sustained by her quitting it, and dwelling with equal force upon
the regret of his mother and his own, asked in a low voice if she
would do him so much honour as to introduce him to Mr Harrel; "As
the son," added he, "of a brother guardian, I think I have a kind of
claim to his acquaintance."
Cecilia could not refuse, though as the request was likely to
occasion more frequent meetings, she persuaded herself she was
unwilling to comply. The ceremony therefore past, and was again
repeated with Mrs Harrel, who, though she had several times seen
him, had never been formally made known to him.
The Harrels were both of them much pleased at this mark of civility
in a young man whose family had prepared them rather to expect his
scorn, and expressed their wishes that he would drink his tea in
their party; he accepted their invitation with alacrity, and turning
to Cecilia, said, "Have I not skilfully timed my introduction! But
though you have done me this honour with Mr and Mrs Harrel, I must
not yet, I presume, entreat you to extend it to a certain happy
gentleman of this company;" glancing his eyes toward Sir Robert
"No, Sir," answered she, with quickness, "yet, nor ever!"
They were now at the door leading down stairs to the tea-room.
Cecilia saw that Sir Robert, who had hitherto been engaged with some
gentlemen, seemed to be seeking her; and the remembrance of the
quarrel which had followed her refusal of his assistance at the
Opera-house, obliged her to determine, should he offer it again, to
accept it: but the same brutality which forced this intention,
contributed to render it repugnant to her, and she resolved if
possible to avoid him, by hurrying down stairs before he reached
her. She made, therefore, a sudden attempt to slip through the
crowd, and as she was light and active, she easily succeeded; but
though her hasty motion separated her from the rest of her party,
Delvile, who was earnestly looking at her, to discover her meaning
in the disclaiming speech she made about Sir Robert, saw into her
design, but suffered her not to go alone; he contrived in a moment
to follow and join her, while she was stopping at the foot of the
stairs for Mrs Harrel.
"Why what a little thief you are," cried he, "to run away from us
thus! what do you think Sir Robert will say? I saw him looking for
you at the very instant of your flight."
"Then you saw at the same time," said Cecilia, "the reason of it."
"Will you give me leave," cried he, laughing, "to repeat this to my
"You may repeat it, Sir, if you please," said Cecilia, piqued that
he had not rather thought of himself than of Lord Ernolf, "to the
"And if I should, "cried he, "half of it, at least, would thank me;
and to obtain the applause of so noble an assembly, what would it
signify that Sir Robert should cut my throat?"
"I believe," said Cecilia, deeply mortified by a raillery that
shewed so little interest in her avowal of indifference, "you are
determined to make me as sick of that man's name, as I am of his
"And is it possible," exclaimed Delvile, in a tone of surprise,
"that such can be your opinion, and yet, situated as you are, the
whole world at your command, and all mankind at your devotion--but I
am answering you seriously, when you are only speaking by rule."
"What rule, Sir?"
"That which young ladies, upon certain occasions, always prescribe
Here they were interrupted by the arrival of the rest of the
company; though not before Cecilia had received some little
consolation for her displeasure, by finding that young Delvile still
supposed she was engaged, and flattering herself his language would
be different were he informed of the contrary.
Morrice now undertook to procure them a table for tea, which, as the
room was very full, was not easily done; and while they were waiting
his success, Miss Larolles, who from the stairs had perceived
Cecilia, came running up to her, and taking her hand, called out
"Lord, my dear creature, who'd have thought of seeing you here? I
was never so surprised in my life! I really thought you was gone
into a convent, it's so extreme long since I've seen you. But of all
things in the world, why was you not at Lady Nyland's last assembly?
I thought of asking Mrs Harrel fifty times why you did not come, but
it always went out of my head. You've no notion how excessively I
"You are very obliging," said Cecilia laughing, "but I hope, since
you so often forgot it, the disappointment did [not] much lessen
"O Lord no! I was never so happy in my life. There was such a crowd,
you could not move a finger. Every body in the world was there.
You've no idea how delightful it was. I thought verily I should have
fainted with the heat."
"That was delightful indeed! And how long did you stay?"
"Why we danced till three in the morning. We began with Cotillons,
and finished with country dances. It was the most elegant thing you
ever saw in your life; every thing quite in a style. I was so
monstrously fatigued, I could hardly get through the last dance. I
really thought I should have dropt down dead. Only conceive dancing
five hours in such a monstrous crowd! I assure you when I got home
my feet were all blisters. You have no idea how they smarted."
"And whence comes it," cried young Delvile, "that _you_ partake
so little of these delights?"
"Because I fear," answered Cecilia, "I came too late into the school
of fashion to be a ductile pupil."
"Do you know," continued Miss Larolles, "Mr Meadows has not spoke
one word to me all the evening! Though I am sure he saw me, for I
sat at the outside on purpose to speak to a person or two, that I
knew would be strolling about; for if one sits on the inside,
there's no speaking to a creature, you know, so I never do it at the
Opera, nor in the boxes at Ranelagh, nor any where. It's the
shockingest thing you can conceive to be made sit in the middle of
those forms; one might as well be at home, for nobody can speak to
"But you don't seem to have had much better success," said Cecilia,
"in keeping at the outside."
"O yes I have, for I got a little chat with two or three people as
they were passing, for, you know, when one sits there, they can't
help saying something; though I assure you all the men are so
exceedingly odd they don't care whether they speak to one or no. As
to Mr Meadows, he's really enough to provoke one to death. I suppose
he's in one of his absent fits. However, I assure you I think it's
extreme impertinent of him, and so I shall tell Mr Sawyer, for I
know he'll make a point of telling him of it again."
"I rather think," said Cecilia, "the best would be to return the
compliment in kind, and when he next recollects you, appear to have
"O Lord, that's a very good notion! so I will, I declare. But you
can't conceive how glad I am the Concert's over; for I assure you,
though I sat as near the fire as possible, I was so extreme cold
you've no idea, for Mr Meadows never would let me have the least
peep at it. I declare I believe he does it on purpose to plague one,
for he grows worse and worse every day. You can't think how I hate
"Not easily, I believe indeed!" said Cecilia, archly.
"O do but look!" resumed the fair VOLUBLE, "if there is not Mrs
Mears in her old red gown again! I begin to think she'll never have
another. I wish she was to have an execution in her house, if it was
only to get rid of it! I am so fatigued with the sight of it you
Mr Morrice now brought intelligence that he had secured one side of
a table which would very well accommodate the ladies; and that the
other side was only occupied by one gentleman, who, as he was not
drinking tea himself, would doubtless give up his place when the
Miss Larolles then ran back to her own set, and the rest followed Mr
Morrice; Mrs Harrell, Mrs Mears and Cecilia took their places. The
gentleman opposite to them proved to be Mr Meadows: Morrice,
therefore, was much deceived in his expectations, for, far from
giving up his place, he had flung himself all along upon the form in
such a lounging posture, while he rested one arm upon the table,
that, not contented with merely keeping his own seat, he filled up a
space meant for three.
Mr Harrel had already walked off to another party: Delvile stood
aloof for some minutes, expecting Sir Robert Floyer would station
himself behind Cecilia; but Sir Robert, who would scarce have
thought such a condescension due to a princess, disdained any
appearance of assiduity, even while he made it his care to publish
his pretensions: and therefore, finding no accommodation to please
him, he stalked towards some gentlemen in another part of the room.
Delvile then took the post he had neglected, and Mr Arnott, who had
not had courage to make any effort in his own favour, modestly stood
near him. Cecilia contrived to make room for Mr Gosport next to
herself, and Morrice was sufficiently happy in being allowed to call
the waiters, superintend, the provisions, and serve the whole party.
The task of making tea fell upon Cecilia, who being somewhat
incommoded by the vicinity of her neighbours, Mrs Mears called out
to Mr Meadows "Do pray, Sir, be so good as to make room for one of
us at your side."
Mr Meadows, who was indolently picking his teeth, and examining them
with a tooth pick case glass, did not, at first, seem to hear her;
and when she repeated her request, he only looked at her, and said
"Now really, Mr Meadows," said she, "when you see any ladies in such
distress, I wonder how you can forbear helping them."
"In distress, are you?" cried he, with a vacant smile, "pray, what's
"Don't you see? we are so crowded we can hardly sit."
"Can't you?" cried he, "upon my honour it's very shameful that these
people don't contrive some seats more convenient"
"Yes," said Mrs Mears; "but if you would be so kind as to let
somebody else sit by you we should not want any contrivance."
Here Mr Meadows was seized with a furious fit of yawning, which as
much diverted Cecilia and Mr Gosport, as it offended Mrs Mears, who
with great displeasure added, "Indeed, Mr Meadows, it's very strange
that you never hear what's said to you."
"I beg your pardon," said he, "were you speaking to me?" and again
began picking his teeth.
Morrice, eager to contrast his civility with the inattention of Mr
Meadows, now flew round to the other side of the table, and calling
out "let _me_ help you, Miss Beverley, I can make tea better
than anybody," he lent over that part of the form which Mr Meadows
had occupied with one of his feet, in order to pour it out himself:
but Mr Meadows, by an unfortunate removal of his foot, bringing him
forwarder than he was prepared to go, the tea pot and its contents
were overturned immediately opposite to Cecilia.
Young Delvile, who saw the impending evil, from an impetuous impulse
to prevent her suffering by it, hastily drew her back, and bending
down before her, secured her preservation by receiving himself the
mischief with which she was threatened.
Mrs Mears and Mrs Harrel vacated their seats in a moment, and Mr
Gosport and Mr Arnott assisted in clearing the table, and removing
Cecilia, who was very slightly hurt, and at once surprised, ashamed,
and pleased at the manner in which she had been saved.
Young Delvile, though a sufferer from his gallantry, the hot water
having penetrated through his coat to his arm and shoulder, was at
first insensible to his situation, from an apprehension that Cecilia
had not wholly escaped; and his enquiries were so eager and so
anxious, made with a look of such solicitude, and a voice of such
alarm, that, equally astonished and gratified, she secretly blest
the accident which had given birth to his uneasiness, however she
grieved for its consequence to himself.
But no sooner was he satisfied of her safety, than he felt himself
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