Cecilia vol. 2
Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d'Arblay)
Part 3 out of 7
"Sir," answered Mr Hobson, very hotly, "I sha'n't put up with abuse
from no man! I've got a fair character in the world, and wherewithal
to live by my own liking. And what I have is my own, and all I say is,
let every one say the same, for that's the way to fear no man, and
face the d----l."
"What do you mean by that, fellow?" cried Sir Robert.
"Fellow, Sir! this is talking no how. Do you think a man of substance,
that's got above the world, is to be treated like a little scrubby
apprentice? Let every man have his own, that's always my way of
thinking; and this I can say for myself, I have as good a right to
shew my head where I please as ever a member of parliament in all
England: and I wish every body here could say as much."
Sir Robert, fury starting into his eyes, was beginning an answer; but
Mrs Harrel with terror, and Cecilia with dignity, calling upon them
both to forbear, the Baronet desired Morrice to relinquish his place
to him, and seating himself next to Mrs Harrel, gave over the contest.
Meanwhile Mr Simkins, hoping to ingratiate himself with the company,
advanced to Mr Hobson, already cooled by finding himself unanswered,
and reproachfully said "Mr Hobson, if I may make so free, I must needs
be bold to say I am quite ashamed of you! a person of your standing
and credit for to talk so disrespectful! as if a gentleman had not a
right to take a little pleasure, because he just happens to owe you a
little matters of money: fie, fie, Mr Hobson! I did not expect you to
behave so despiseable!"
"Despiseable!" answered Mr Hobson, "I'd scorn as much to do anything
despiseable as yourself, or any thing misbecoming of a gentleman; and
as to coming to such a place as this may be, why I have no objection
to it. All I stand to is this, let every man have his due; for as to
taking a little pleasure, here I am, as one may say, doing the same
myself; but where's the harm of that? who's a right to call a man to
account that's clear of the world? Not that I mean to boast, nor
nothing like it, but, as I said before; five times five is fifteen;
[Footnote: I hardly know whether the authoress has here forgotten her
arithmetic, or intentionally suffered Mr Hobson to forget his, from
the effects of champagne.--Ed.]--that's my calculation."
Mr Harrel, who, during this debate, had still continued drinking,
regardless of all opposition from his wife and Cecilia, now grew more
and more turbulent: he insisted that Mr Simkins should return to his
seat, ordered him another bumper of champagne, and saying he had not
half company enough to raise his spirits, desired Morrice to go and
Morrice, always ready to promote a frolic, most chearfully consented;
but when Cecilia, in a low voice, supplicated him to bring no one
back, with still more readiness he made signs that he understood and
would obey her.
Mr Harrel then began to sing, and in so noisy and riotous a manner,
that nobody approached the box without stopping to stare at him; and
those who were new to such scenes, not contented with merely looking
in, stationed themselves at some distance before it, to observe what
was passing, and to contemplate with envy and admiration an appearance
of mirth and enjoyment which they attributed to happiness and
pleasure! Mrs Harrel, shocked to be seen in such mixed company, grew
every instant more restless and miserable; and Cecilia, half
distracted to think how they were to get home, had passed all her time
in making secret vows that if once again she was delivered from Mr
Harrel she would never see him more.
Sir Robert Floyer perceiving their mutual uneasiness, proposed to
escort them home himself; and Cecilia, notwithstanding her aversion to
him, was listening to the scheme, when Mr Marriot, who had been
evidently provoked and disconcerted since the junction of the Baronet,
suspecting what was passing, offered his services also, and in a tone
of voice that did not promise a very quiet acquiescence in a refusal.
Cecilia, who, too easily, in their looks, saw all the eagerness of
rivalry, now dreaded the consequence of her decision, and therefore
declined the assistance of either: but her distress was unspeakable,
as there was not one person in the party to whose care she could
commit herself, though the behaviour of Mr Harrel, which every moment
grew more disorderly, rendered the necessity of quitting him urgent
When Morrice returned, stopping in the midst of his loud and violent
singing, he vehemently demanded what company he had brought him?
"None at all, sir," answered Morrice, looking significantly at
Cecilia; "I have really been so unlucky as not to meet with any body
who had a mind to come."
"Why then," answered he, starting up, "I will seek some for myself."
"O no, pray, Mr Harrel, bring nobody else," cried his wife. "Hear us
in pity," cried Cecilia, "and distress us no further."
"Distress you?" cried he, with quickness, "what shall I not bring you
those pretty girls? Yes, one more glass, and I will teach you to
And he poured out another bumper.
"This is so insupportable!" cried Cecilia, rising, "[that] I can
remain here no longer."
"This is cruel indeed," cried Mrs. Harrel, bursting into tears; "did
you only bring me here to insult me?"
"No!" cried he, suddenly embracing her, "by this parting kiss!" then
wildly jumping upon his seat, he leapt over the table, and was out of
sight in an instant.
Amazement seized all who remained; Mrs Harrel and Cecilia, indeed,
doubted not but he was actually gone to the chaise he had ordered; but
the manner of his departure affrighted them, and his preceding
behaviour had made them cease to expect it: Mrs Harrel, leaning upon
Cecilia, continued to weep, while she, confounded and alarmed, scarce
knew whether she should stay and console her, or fly after Mr Harrel,
whom she feared had incapacitated himself from finding his chaise, by
the very method he had taken to gather courage for seeking it.
This, however, was but the apprehension of a moment; another and a far
more horrible one drove it from her imagination: for scarcely had Mr
Harrel quitted the box and their sight, before their ears were
suddenly struck with the report of a pistol.
Mrs Harrel gave a loud scream, which was involuntarily echoed by,
Cecilia: everybody arose, some with officious zeal to serve the
ladies, and others to hasten to the spot whence the dreadful sound
Sir Robert Floyer again offered his services in conducting them home;
but they could listen to no such proposal: Cecilia, with difficulty
refrained from rushing out herself to discover what was passing; but
her dread of being followed by Mrs Harrel prevented her; they both,
therefore, waited, expecting every instant some intelligence, as all
but the Baronet and Mr Marriot were now gone to seek it.
Nobody, however, returned; and their terrors encreased every moment:
Mrs Harrel wanted to run out herself, but Cecilia, conjuring her to
keep still, begged Mr Marriot to bring them some account. Mr Marriot,
like the messengers who had preceded him, came not back: an instant
seemed an age, and Sir Robert Floyer was also entreated to procure
Mrs Harrel and Cecilia were now left to themselves, and their horror
was too great for speech or motion: they stood close to each other,
listening to every sound and receiving every possible addition to
their alarm, by the general confusion which they observed in the
gardens, in which, though both gentlemen and waiters were running to
and fro, not a creature was walking, and all amusement seemed
From this dreadful state they were at length removed, though not
relieved, by the sight of a waiter, who, as he was passing shewed
himself almost covered with blood! Mrs Harrel vehemently called after
him, demanding whence it came? "From the gentleman, ma'am," answered
he in haste, "that has shot himself," and then ran on.
Mrs Harrel uttered a piercing scream, and sunk on the ground; for
Cecilia, shuddering with horror, lost all her own strength, and could
no longer lend her any support.
So great at this time was the general confusion of the place, that for
some minutes their particular distress was unknown, and their
situation unnoticed; till at length an elderly gentleman came up to
the box, and humanely offered his assistance.
Cecilia, pointing to her unfortunate friend, who had not fallen into a
fainting fit, but merely from weakness and terror, accepted his help
in raising her. She was lifted up, however, without the smallest
effort on her own part, and was only kept upon her seat by being held
there by the stranger, for Cecilia, whose whole frame was shaking,
tried in vain to sustain her.
This gentleman, from the violence of their distress, began now to
suspect its motive, and addressing himself to Cecilia, said, "I am
afraid, madam, this unfortunate gentleman was some Relation to you?"
Neither of them spoke, but their silence was sufficiently expressive.
"It is pity, madam," he continued, "that some friend can't order him
out of the crowd, and have him kept quiet till a surgeon can be
"A surgeon!" exclaimed Cecilia, recovering from one surprize by the
effect of another; "is it then possible he may be saved?"
And without waiting to have her question answered, she ran out of the
box herself, flying wildly about the garden, and calling for help as
she flew, till she found the house by the entrance; and then, going up
to the bar, "Is a surgeon sent for?" she exclaimed, "let a surgeon be
fetched instantly!" "A surgeon, ma'am," she was answered, "is not the
gentleman dead?" "No, no, no!" she cried; "he must be brought in; let
some careful people go and bring him in." Nor would she quit the bar,
till two or three waiters were called, and received her orders. And
then, eager to see them executed herself, she ran, fearless of being
alone, and without thought of being lost, towards the fatal spot
whither the crowd guided her. She could not, indeed, have been more
secure from insult or molestation if surrounded by twenty guards; for
the scene of desperation and horror which many had witnessed, and of
which all had heard the signal, engrossed the universal attention, and
took, even from the most idle and licentious, all spirit for gallantry
Here, while making vain attempts to penetrate through the multitude,
that she might see and herself judge the actual situation of Mr
Harrel, and give, if yet there was room for hope, such orders as would
best conduce to his safety and recovery, she was met by Mr Marriot,
who entreated her not to press forward to a sight which he had found
too shocking for himself, and insisted upon protecting her through the
"If he is alive," cried she, refusing his aid, "and if there is any
chance he may be saved, no sight shall be too shocking to deter me
from seeing him properly attended."
"All attendance," answered he, "will be in vain: he is not indeed, yet
dead, but his recovery is impossible. There is a surgeon with him
already; one who happened to be in the gardens, and he told me himself
that the wound was inevitably mortal."
Cecilia, though greatly disappointed, still determined to make way to
him, that she might herself enquire if, in his last moments, there was
any thing he wished to communicate, or desired to have done: but, as
she struggled to proceed, she was next met and stopt by Sir Robert
Floyer, who, forcing her back, acquainted her that all was over!
The shock with which she received this account, though unmixed with
any tenderness of regret, and resulting merely from general humanity,
was yet so violent as almost to overpower her. Mr Harrel, indeed, had
forfeited all right to her esteem, and the unfeeling selfishness of
his whole behaviour had long provoked her resentment and excited her
disgust; yet a catastrophe so dreadful, and from which she had herself
made such efforts to rescue him, filled her with so much horror, that,
turning extremely sick, she was obliged to be supported to the nearest
box, and stop there for hartshorn and water.
A few minutes, however, sufficed to divest her of all care for
herself, in the concern with which she recollected the situation of
Mrs Harrel; she hastened, therefore, back to her, attended by the
Baronet and Mr Marriot, and found her still leaning upon the stranger,
and weeping aloud.
The fatal news had already reached her; and though all affection
between Mr Harrel and herself had mutually subsided from the first two
or three months of their marriage, a conclusion so horrible to all
connection between them could not be heard without sorrow and
distress. Her temper, too, naturally soft, retained not resentment,
and Mr Harrel, now separated from her for ever, was only remembered as
the Mr Harrel who first won her heart.
Neither pains nor tenderness were spared on the part of Cecilia to
console her; who finding her utterly incapable either of acting or
directing for herself, and knowing her at all times to be extremely
helpless, now summoned to her own aid all the strength of mind she
possessed, and determined upon this melancholy occasion, both to think
and act for her widowed friend to the utmost stretch of her abilities
As soon, therefore, as the first effusions of her grief were over, she
prevailed with her to go to the house, where she was humanely offered
the use of a quiet room till she should be better able to set off for
town. Cecilia, having seen her thus safely lodged, begged Mr Marriot
to stay with her, and then, accompanied by the Baronet, returned
herself to the bar, and desiring the footman who had attended them to
be called, sent him instantly to his late master, and proceeded next
with great presence of mind, to inquire further into the particulars
of what had passed, and to consult upon what was immediately to be
done with the deceased: for she thought it neither decent nor right to
leave to chance or to strangers the last duties which could be paid
He had lingered, she found, about a quarter of an hour, but in a
condition too dreadful for description, quite speechless, and, by all
that could be judged, out of his senses; yet so distorted with pain,
and wounded so desperately beyond any power of relief, that the
surgeon, who every instant expected his death, said it would not be
merely useless but inhuman, to remove him till he had breathed his
last. He died, therefore, in the arms of this gentleman and a waiter.
"A waiter!" cried Cecilia, reproachfully looking at Sir Robert, "and
was there no friend who for the few poor moments that remained had
patience to support him?"
"Where would be the good," said Sir Robert, "of supporting a man in
his last agonies?"
This unfeeling speech she attempted not to answer, but, suffering
neither her dislike to him, nor her scruples for herself, to interfere
with the present occasion, she desired to have his advice what was now
best to be done.
Undertaker's men must immediately, he said, be sent for, to remove the
She then gave orders for that purpose, which were instantly executed.
Whither the body was to go was the next question: Cecilia wished the
removal to be directly to the townhouse, but Sir Robert told her it
must be carried to the nearest undertaker's, and kept there till it
could be conveyed to town in a coffin.
For this, also, in the name of Mrs Harrel, she gave directions. And
then addressing herself to Sir Robert, "You will now Sir, I hope," she
said, "return to the fatal spot, and watch by your late unfortunate
friend till the proper people arrive to take charge of him?"
"And what good will that do?" cried he; "had I not better watch by
"It will do good," answered she, with some severity, "to decency and
to humanity; and surely you cannot refuse to see who is with him, and
in what situation he lies, and whether he has met, from the strangers
with whom he was left, the tenderness and care which his friends ought
to have paid him."
"Will you promise, then," he answered, "not to go away till I come
back? for I have no great ambition to sacrifice the living for the
"I will promise nothing, Sir," said she, shocked at his callous
insensibility; "but if you refuse this last poor office, I must apply
elsewhere; and firmly I believe there is no other I can ask who will a
moment hesitate in complying."
She then went back to Mrs Harrel, leaving, however, an impression upon
the mind of Sir Robert, that made him no longer dare dispute her
Her next solicitude was how they should return to town; they had no
equipage of their own, and the only servant who came with them was
employed in performing the last duties for his deceased master. Her
first intention was to order a hackney coach, but the deplorable state
of Mrs Harrel made it almost impossible she could take the sole care
of her, and the lateness of the night, and their distance from home,
gave her a dread invincible to going so far without some guard or
assistant. Mr Marriot earnestly desired to have the honour of
conveying them to Portman-square in his own carriage, and
notwithstanding there were many objections to such a proposal, the
humanity of his behaviour upon the present occasion, and the evident
veneration which accompanied his passion, joined to her encreasing
aversion to the Baronet, from whom she could not endure to receive the
smallest obligation, determined her, after much perplexity and
hesitation, to accept his offer.
She begged him, therefore, to immediately order his coach, and, happy
to obey her, he went out with that design; but, instantly coming back,
told her, in a low voice, that they must wait some time longer, as the
Undertaker's people were then entering the garden, and if they stayed
not till the removal had taken place, Mrs Harrel might be shocked with
the sight of some of the men, or perhaps even meet the dead body.
Cecilia, thanking him for this considerate precaution, readily agreed
to defer setting out; devoting, mean time, all her attention to Mrs
Harrel, whose sorrow, though violent, forbad not consolation. But
before the garden was cleared, and the carriage ordered, Sir Robert
returned; saying to Cecilia, with an air of parading obedience which
seemed to claim some applause, "Miss Beverley, your commands have been
Cecilia made not any answer, and he presently added, "Whenever you
chuse to go I will order up my coach."
"_My_ coach, Sir," said Mr Marriot, "will be ordered when the
ladies are ready, and I hope to have the honour myself of conducting
them to town."
"No, Sir," cried the Baronet, "that can never be; my long acquaintance
with Mrs Harrel gives me a prior right to attend her, and I can by no
means suffer any other person to rob me of it."
"I have nothing," said Mr Marriot, "to say to that, Sir, but Miss
Beverley herself has done me the honour to consent to make use of my
"Miss Beverley, I think," said Sir Robert, extremely piqued, "can
never have sent me out of the way in order to execute her own
commands, merely to deprive me of the pleasure of attending her and
Mrs Harrel home."
Cecilia, somewhat alarmed, now sought to lessen the favour of her
decision, though she adhered to it without wavering.
"My intention," said she, "was not to confer, but to receive an
obligation; and I had hoped, while Mr. Marriot assisted us, Sir Robert
would be far more humanely employed in taking charge of what we cannot
superintend, and yet are infinitely more anxious should not be
"That," said Sir Robert, "is all done; and I hope, therefore, after
sending me upon such an errand, you don't mean to refuse me the
pleasure of seeing you to town?"
"Sir Robert," said Cecilia, greatly displeased, "I cannot argue with
you now; I have already settled my plan, and I am not at leisure to
Sir Robert bit his lips for a moment in angry silence; but not
enduring to lose the victory to a young rival he despised, he
presently said, "If I must talk no more about it to you, madam, I must
at least beg leave to talk of it to this gentleman, and take the
liberty to represent to him--"
Cecilia now, dreading how his speech might be answered, prevented its
being finished, and with an air of the most spirited dignity, said,
"Is it possible, sir, that at a time such as this, you should not be
wholly indifferent to a matter so frivolous? little indeed will be the
pleasure which our society can afford! your dispute however, has given
it some importance, and therefore Mr Marriot must accept my thanks for
his civility, and excuse me for retracting my consent."
Supplications and remonstrances were, however, still poured upon her
from both, and the danger, the impossibility that two ladies could go
to town alone, in a hackney coach, and without even a servant, at near
four o'clock in the morning, they mutually urged, vehemently
entreating that she would run no such hazard.
Cecilia was far other than insensible to these representations: the
danger, indeed, appeared to her so formidable, that her inclination
the whole time opposed her refusal; yet her repugnance to giving way
to the overbearing Baronet, and her fear of his resentment if she
listened to Mr Marriot, forced her to be steady, since she saw that
her preference would prove the signal of a quarrel.
Inattentive, therefore, to their joint persecution, she again
deliberated by what possible method she could get home in safety; but
unable to devise any, she at last resolved to make enquiries of the
people in the bar, who had been extremely humane and civil, whether
they could assist or counsel her. She therefore desired the two
gentlemen to take care of Mrs Harrel, to which neither dared dissent,
as both could not refuse, and hastily arising, went out of the room:
but great indeed was her surprize when, as she was walking up to the
bar, she was addressed by young Delvile!
Approaching her with that air of gravity and distance which of late he
had assumed in her presence, he was beginning some speech about his
mother; but the instant the sound of his voice reached Cecilia, she
joyfully clasped her hands, and eagerly exclaimed, "Mr Delvile!--O now
we are safe!--this is fortunate indeed!"
"Safe, Madam," cried he astonished, "yes I hope so!--has any thing
endangered your safety?"
"O no matter for danger," cried she, "we will now trust ourselves with
you, and I am sure you will protect us."
"Protect you!" repeated he again, and with warmth, "yes, while I
live!--but what is the matter?--why are you so pale?--are you ill?--
are you frightened?--what is the matter?"
And losing all coldness and reserve, with the utmost earnestness he
begged her to explain herself.
"Do you not know," cried she, "what has happened? Can you be here and
not have heard it?"
"Heard what?" cried he, "I am but this moment arrived: my mother grew
uneasy that she did not see you, she sent to your house, and was told
that you were not returned from Vauxhall; some other circumstances
also alarmed her, and therefore, late as it was, I came hither myself.
The instant I entered this place, I saw you here. This is all my
history; tell me now yours. Where is your party? where are Mr and Mrs
Harrel?--Why are you alone?"
"O ask not!" cried she, "I cannot tell you!--take us but under your
care, and you will soon know all."
She then hurried from him, and returning to Mrs Harrel, said she had
now a conveyance at once safe and proper, and begged her to rise and
The gentlemen, however, rose first, each of them declaring he would
himself attend them.
"No," said Cecilia, steadily, "that trouble will now be superfluous:
Mrs Delvile herself has sent for me, and her son is now waiting till
we join him."
Amazement and disappointment at this intelligence were visible in the
faces of them both: Cecilia waited not a single question, but finding
she was unable to support Mrs Harrel, who rather suffered herself to
be carried than led, she entrusted her between them, and ran forward
to enquire of Delvile if his carriage was ready.
She found him with a look of horror that told the tale he had been
hearing, listening to one of the waiters: the moment she appeared, he
flew to her, and with the utmost emotion exclaimed, "Amiable Miss
Beverley! what a dreadful scene have you witnessed! what a cruel task
have you nobly performed! such spirit with such softness! so much
presence of mind with such feeling!--but you are all excellence!
human nature can rise no higher! I believe indeed you are its most
Praise such as this, so unexpected, and delivered with such energy,
Cecilia heard not without pleasure, even at a moment when her whole
mind was occupied by matters foreign to its peculiar interests. She
made, however, her enquiry about the carriage, and he told her that he
had come in a hackney coach, which was waiting for him at the door.
Mrs Harrel was now brought in, and little was the recompense her
assistants received for their aid, when they saw Cecilia so
contentedly engaged with young Delvile, whose eyes were rivetted on
her face, with an expression of the most lively admiration: each,
however, then quitted the other, and hastened to the fair mourner; no
time was now lost, Mrs Harrel was supported to the coach, Cecilia
followed her, and Delvile, jumping in after them, ordered the man to
drive to Portman-square.
Sir Robert and Mr Marriot, confounded though enraged, saw their
departure in passive silence: the right of attendance they had so
tenaciously denied to each other, here admitted not of dispute:
Delvile upon this occasion, appeared as the representative of his
father, and his authority seemed the authority of a guardian. Their
only consolation was that neither had yielded to the other, and all
spirit of altercation or revenge was sunk in their mutual
mortification. At the petition of the waiters, from sullen but proud
emulation, they paid the expences of the night, and then throwing
themselves into their carriages, returned to their respective houses.
During the ride to town, not merely Cecilia, but Delvile himself
attended wholly to Mrs Harrel, whose grief as it became less violent,
was more easy to be soothed.
The distress of this eventful night was however not yet over; when
they came to Portman-square, Delvile eagerly called to the coachman
not to drive up to the house, and anxiously begged Cecilia and Mrs
Harrel to sit still, while he went out himself to make some enquiries.
They were surprised at the request, yet immediately consented; but
before he had quitted them, Davison, who was watching their return,
came up to them with information that an execution was then in the
Fresh misery was now opened for Mrs Harrel, and fresh horror and
perplexity for Cecilia: she had no longer, however, the whole weight
either of thought or of conduct upon herself: Delvile in her cares
took the most animated interest, and beseeching her to wait a moment
and appease her friend, he went himself into the house to learn the
state of the affair.
He returned in a few minutes, and seemed in no haste to communicate
what he had heard, but entreated them both to go immediately to St
Cecilia felt extremely fearful of offending his father by the
introduction of Mrs Harrel: yet she had nothing better to propose, and
therefore, after a short and distressed argument, she complied.
Delvile then told her that the alarm of his mother, at which he had
already hinted, proceeded from a rumour of this very misfortune, to
which, though they knew not whether they might give credit, was owing
the anxiety which at so late an hour, had induced him to go to
Vauxhall in search of her. They gained admittance without any
disturbance, as the servant of young Delvile had been ordered to sit
up for his master. Cecilia much disliked thus taking possession of the
house in the night-time, though Delvile, solicitous to relieve her,
desired she would not waste a thought upon the subject, and making his
servant shew her the room which had been prepared for her reception,
he begged her to compose her spirits, and to comfort her friend, and
promised to acquaint his father and mother when they arose with what
had happened, that she might be saved all pain from surprise or
curiosity when they met.
This service she thankfully accepted, for she dreaded, after the
liberty she had taken, to encounter the pride of Mr Delvile without
some previous apology, and she feared still more to see his lady
without the same preparation, as her frequent breach of appointment.
might reasonably have offended her, and as her displeasure would
affect her more deeply.
It was now near six o'clock, yet the hours seemed as long as they were
melancholy till the family arose. They settled to remain quiet till
some message was sent to them, but before any arrived, Mrs Harrel, who
was seated upon the bed, wearied by fatigue and sorrow, cried herself
to sleep like a child.
Cecilia rejoiced in seeing this reprieve from affliction, though her
keener sensations unfitted her from partaking of it; much indeed was
the uneasiness which kept her awake; the care of Mrs Harrel seemed to
devolve upon herself, the reception she might meet from the Delviles
was uncertain, and the horrible adventures of the night, refused for a
moment to quit her remembrance.
At ten o'clock, a message was brought from Mrs Delvile, to know
whether they were ready for breakfast. Mrs Harrel was still asleep,
but Cecilia carried her own answer by hastening down stairs.
In her way she was met by young Delvile, whose air upon first
approaching her spoke him again prepared to address her with the most
distant gravity: but almost the moment he looked at her, he forgot
his purpose; her paleness, the heaviness of her eyes, and the fatigue
of long watching betrayed by her whole face, again, surprised him into
all the tenderness of anxiety, and he enquired after her health not as
a compliment of civility, but as a question in which his whole heart
was most deeply interested.
Cecilia thanked him for his attention to her friend the night before,
and then proceeded to his mother.
Mrs Delvile, coming forward to meet her, removed at once all her fears
of displeasure, and banished all necessity of apology, by instantly
embracing her, and warmly exclaiming "Charming Miss Beverley! how
shall I ever tell you half the admiration with which I have heard of
your conduct! The exertion of so much fortitude at a juncture when a
weaker mind would have been overpowered by terror, and a heart less
under the dominion of well-regulated principles, would have sought
only its own relief by flying from distress and confusion, shews such
_propriety of mind_ as can only result from the union of good
sense with virtue. You are indeed a noble creature! I thought so from
the moment I beheld you; I shall think so, I hope, to the last that I
Cecilia, penetrated with joy and gratitude, felt in that instant the
amplest recompense for all that she had suffered, and for all that she
had lost. Such praise from Mrs Delvile was alone sufficient to make
her happy; but when she considered whence it sprung, and that the
circumstances with which she was so much struck, must have been
related to her by her son, her delight was augmented to an emotion the
most pleasing she could experience, from seeing how high she was held
in the esteem of those who were highest in her own.
Mrs Delvile then, with the utmost cordiality, began to talk of her
affairs, saving her the pain of proposing the change of habitation
that now seemed unavoidable, by an immediate invitation to her house,
which she made with as much delicacy as if Mr Harrel's had still been
open to her, and choice, not necessity, had directed her removal. The
whole family, she told her, went into the country in two days, and she
hoped that a new scene, with quietness and early hours, would restore
both the bloom and sprightliness which her late cares and restlessness
had injured. And though she very seriously lamented the rash action of
Mr Harrel, she much rejoiced in the acquisition which her own house
and happiness would receive from her society.
She next discussed the situation of her widowed friend, and Cecilia
produced the packet which had been entrusted to her by her late
husband. Mrs Delvile advised her to open it in the presence of Mr
Arnott, and begged her to send for any other of her friends she might
wish to see or consult, and to claim freely from herself whatever
advice or assistance she could bestow.
And then, without waiting for Mr Delvile, she suffered her to swallow
a hasty breakfast, and return to Mrs Harrel, whom she had desired the
servants to attend, as she concluded that in her present situation she
would not chuse to make her appearance.
Cecilia, lightened now from all her cares, more pleased than ever with
Mrs Delvile, and enchanted that at last she was settled under her
roof, went back with as much ability as inclination to give comfort to
Mrs Harrel. She found her but just awaking, and scarce yet conscious
where she was, or why not in her own house.
As her powers of recollection returned, she was soothed with the
softest compassion by Cecilia, who in pursuance of Mrs Delvile's
advice, sent her servant in search of Mr Arnott, and in consequence of
her permission, wrote a note of invitation to Mr Monckton.
Mr Arnott, who was already in town, soon arrived: his own man, whom he
had left to watch the motions of Mr Harrel, having early in the
morning rode to the place of his retreat, with the melancholy tidings
of the suicide and execution.
Cecilia instantly went down stairs to him. The meeting was extremely
painful to them both. Mr Arnott severely blamed himself for his
flight, believing it had hastened the fatal blow, which some further
sacrifices might perhaps have eluded: and Cecilia half repented the
advice she had given him, though the failure of her own efforts proved
the situation of Mr Harrel too desperate for remedy.
He then made the tenderest enquiries about his sister, and entreated
her to communicate to him the minutest particulars of the dreadful
transaction: after which, she produced the packet, but neither of them
had the courage to break the seal; and concluding the contents would
be no less than his last will, they determined some third person
should be present when they opened it. Cecilia wished much for Mr
Monckton, but as his being immediately found was uncertain, and the
packet might consist of orders which ought not to be delayed, she
proposed, for the sake of expedition, to call in Mr Delvile.
Mr Arnott readily agreed, and she sent to beg a moment's audience with
She was desired to walk into the breakfast-room, where he was sitting
with his lady and his son.
Not such was now her reception as when she entered that apartment
before; Mr Delvile looked displeased and out of humour, and, making
her a stiff bow, while his son brought her a chair, coldly said, "If
you are hurried, Miss Beverley, I will attend you directly; if not, I
will finish my breakfast, as I shall have but little time the rest of
the morning, from the concourse of people upon business, who will
crowd upon me till dinner, most of whom will be extremely distressed
if I leave town without contriving to see them."
"There is not the least occasion, Sir," answered Cecilia, "that I
should trouble you to quit the room I merely came to beg you would
have the goodness to be present while Mr Arnott opens a small packet
which was last night put into my hands by Mr Harrel."
"And has Mr Arnott," answered he, somewhat sternly, "thought proper to
send me such a request?"
"No, Sir," said Cecilia, "the request is mine; and if, as I now fear,
it is impertinent, I must entreat you to forget it."
"As far as relates merely to yourself," returned Mr Delvile, "it is
another matter; but certainly Mr Arnott can have no possible claim
upon my time or attention; and I think it rather extraordinary, that a
young man with whom I have no sort of connection or commerce, and
whose very name is almost unknown to me, should suppose a person in my
style of life so little occupied as to be wholly at his command."
"He had no such idea, Sir," said Cecilia, greatly disconcerted; "the
honour of your presence is merely solicited by myself, and simply from
the apprehension that some directions may be contained in the papers
which, perhaps, ought immediately to be executed."
"I am not, I repeat," said Mr Delvile, more mildly, "displeased at
your part of this transaction; your want of experience and knowledge
of the world makes you not at all aware of the consequences which may
follow my compliance: the papers you speak of may perhaps be of great
importance, and hereafter the first witness to their being read may be
publickly called upon. You know not the trouble such an affair may
occasion, but Mr Arnott ought to be better informed."
Cecilia, making another apology for the error which she had committed,
was in no small confusion, quitting the room; but Mr Delvile,
perfectly appeased by seeing her distress, stopt her, to say, with
much graciousness, "For your sake, Miss Beverley, I am sorry I cannot
act in this business; but you see how I am situated! overpowered with
affairs of my own, and people who can do nothing without my orders.
Besides, should there hereafter be any investigation into the matter,
my name might, perhaps, be mentioned, and it would be superfluous to
say how ill I should think it used by being brought into such
Cecilia then left the rooms secretly vowing that no possible exigence
should in future tempt her to apply for assistance to Mr Delvile,
which, however ostentatiously offered, was constantly withheld when
She was beginning to communicate to Mr Arnott her ill success, when
young Delvile, with an air of eagerness, followed her into the room.
"Pardon me," he cried, "for this intrusion,--but, tell me, is it
impossible that in this affair I can represent my father? may not the
office you meant for him, devolve upon me? remember how near we are to
each other, and honour me for once with supposing us the same!"
Ah who, or what, thought Cecilia, can be so different? She thanked
him, with much sweetness, for his offer, but declined accepting it,
saying "I will not, now I know the inconveniencies of my request, be
so selfish as even to suffer it should be granted."
"You must not deny me," cried he; "where is the packet? why should you
lose a moment?"
"Rather ask," answered she, "why I should permit _you_ to lose a
moment in a matter that does not concern you? and to risk, perhaps,
the loss of many moments hereafter, from a too incautious politeness."
"And what can I risk," cried he, "half so precious as your smallest
satisfaction? do you suppose I can flatter myself with a possibility
of contributing to it, and yet have the resolution to refuse myself so
much pleasure? no, no, the heroic times are over, and self-denial is
no longer in fashion!"
"You are very good," said Cecilia; "but indeed after what has passed--"
"No matter for what has passed," interrupted he, "we are now to think
of what is to come. I know you too well to doubt your impatience in
the execution of a commission which circumstances have rendered
sacred; and should any thing either be done or omitted contrary to the
directions in your packet, will you not be apt, blameless as you are,
to disturb yourself with a thousand fears that you took not proper
methods for the discharge of your trust?"
There was something in this earnestness so like his former behaviour,
and so far removed from his late reserve, that Cecilia, who perceived
it with a pleasure she could hardly disguise, now opposed him no
longer, but took up the packet, and broke the seal.
And then, to her no small amazement, instead of the expected will, she
found a roll of enormous bills, and a collection of letters from
various creditors, threatening the utmost severity of the law if their
demands were longer unanswered.
Upon a slip of paper which held these together, was written, in Mr
Harrel's hand, _To be all paid to-night with a_ BULLET.
Next appeared two letters of another sort; the first of which was from
Sir Robert Floyer, and in these words:
Sir,--As all prospects are now over of the alliance, I hope you will
excuse my reminding you of the affair at Brookes's of last Christmas.
I have the honour to be, Sir, yours
The other was from Mr Marriot.
Sir,--Though I should think £2000 nothing for the smallest hope, I
must take the liberty to say I think it a great deal for only ten
minutes: you can't have forgot, Sir, the terms of our agreement, but
as I find you cannot keep to them, I must beg to be off also on my
side, and I am persuaded you are too much a man of honour to take
advantage of my over-eagerness in parting with my money without better
security. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
What a scene of fraud, double-dealing, and iniquity was here laid
open! Cecilia, who at first meant to read every thing aloud, found the
attempt utterly vain, for so much was she shocked, that she could
hardly read on to herself.
Last of all appeared a paper in Mr Harrel's own hand-writing,
containing these words.
For Mrs Harrel, Miss Beverley, and Mr Arnott.
I can struggle no longer, the last blow must now be struck! another
day robs me of my house and my liberty, and blasts me by the fatal
discovery of my double attempts.
This is what I have wished; wholly to be freed, or ruined past all
resource, and driven to the long-projected remedy.
A burthen has my existence been these two years, gay as I have
appeared; not a night have I gone to bed, but heated and inflamed from
a gaming table; not a morning have I awaked, but to be soured with a
I would not lead such a life again, if the slave who works hardest at
the oar would change with me.
Had I a son, I would bequeath him a plough; I should then leave him
happier than my parents left me.
Idleness has been my destruction; the want of something to do led me
into all evil.
A good wife perhaps might have saved me,--mine, I thank her! tried
not. Disengaged from me and my affairs, her own pleasures and
amusements have occupied her solely. Dreadful will be the catastrophe
she will see to-night; let her bring it home, and live better!
If any pity is felt for me, it will be where I have least deserved it!
Mr Arnott--Miss Beverley! it will come from you!
To bring myself to this final resolution, hard, I confess, have been
my conflicts: it is not that I have feared death, no, I have long
wished it, for shame and dread have embittered my days; but something
there is within me that causes a deeper horror, that asks my
preparation for another world! that demands my authority for quitting
this!--what may hereafter--O terrible!--Pray for me, generous Miss
Beverley!--kind, gentle Mr Arnott, pray for me!--
Wretch as Mr Harrel appeared, without religion, principle, or honour,
this incoherent letter, evidently written in the desperate moment of
determined suicide, very much affected both Cecilia and Mr Arnott, and
in spite either of abhorrence or resentment, they mutually shed tears
over the address to themselves.
Delvile, to whom 'every part of the affair was new, could only
consider these papers as so many specimens of guilt and infamy; he
read them, therefore, with astonishment and detestation, and openly
congratulated Cecilia upon having escaped the double snares that were
spread for her.
While this was passing, Mr Monckton arrived; who felt but little
satisfaction from beholding the lady of his heart in confidential
discourse with two of his rivals, one of whom had long attacked her by
the dangerous flattery of perseverance, and the other, without any
attack, had an influence yet more powerful.
Delvile, having performed the office for which he came, concluded,
upon the entrance of Mr Monckton, that Cecilia had nothing further to
wish from him; for her long acquaintance with that gentleman, his
being a _married man_, and her neighbour in the country, were
circumstances well known to him: he merely, therefore, enquired if she
would honour him with any commands, and upon her assuring him she had
none, he quietly withdrew.
This was no little relief to Mr Monckton, into whose hands Cecilia
then put the fatal packet: and while he was reading it, at the desire
of Mr Arnott, she went up stairs to prepare Mrs Harrel for his
Mrs Harrel, unused to solitude, and as eager for company when unhappy
to console, as when easy to divert her, consented to receive him with
pleasure: they both wept at the meeting, and Cecilia, after some words
of general comfort, left them together.
She had then a very long and circumstantial conversation with Mr
Monckton, who explained whatever had appeared dark in the writings
left by Mr Harrel, and who came to her before he saw them, with full
knowledge of what they contained.
Mr Harrel had contracted with Sir Robert Floyer a large debt of honour
before the arrival in town of Cecilia; and having no power to
discharge it, he promised that the prize he expected in his ward
should fall to his share, upon condition that the debt was cancelled.
Nothing was thought more easy than to arrange this business, for the
Baronet was always to be in her way, and the report of the intended
alliance was to keep off all other pretenders. Several times, however,
her coldness made him think the matter hopeless; and when he received
her letter, he would have given up the whole affair: but Mr Harrel,
well knowing his inability to satisfy the claims that would follow
such a defection, constantly persuaded him the reserve was affected,
and that his own pride and want of assiduity occasioned all her
But while thus, by amusing the Baronet with false hopes, he kept off
his demands, those of others were not less clamorous: his debts
increased, his power of paying them diminished; he grew sour and
desperate, and in one night lost £3000 beyond what he could produce,
or offer any security for.
This, as he said, _was what he wished_; and now he was, for the
present, to extricate himself by doubling stakes and winning, or to
force himself into suicide by doubling such a loss. For though, with
tolerable ease, he could forget accounts innumerable with his
tradesmen, one neglected _debt of honour_ rendered his existence
For this last great effort, his difficulty was to raise the £3000
already due, without which the proposal could not be made: and,
after various artifices and attempts, he at length contrived a meeting
with Mr Marriot, intreated him to lend him £2000 for only two days,
and offered his warmest services in his favour with Cecilia.
The rash and impassioned young man, deceived by his accounts into
believing that his ward was wholly at his disposal, readily advanced
the money, without any other condition than that of leave to visit
freely at his house, to the exclusion of Sir Robert Floyer. "The other
£1000," continued Mr Monckton, "I know not how he obtained, but he
certainly had three. You, I hope, were not so unguarded--"
"Ah, Mr Monckton," said Cecilia, "blame me not too severely! the
attacks that were made,--the necessity of otherwise betraying the
worthy and half ruined Mr. Arnott--"
"Oh fie," cried he, "to suffer your understanding to be lulled asleep,
because the weak-minded Mr Arnott's could not be kept awake! I
thought, after such cautions from me, and such experience of your own,
you could not again have been thus duped."
"I thought so too," answered she, "but yet when the trial came on,--
indeed you know not how I was persecuted."
"Yet you see," returned he, "the utter inutility of the attempt; you
see, and I told you beforehand, that nothing could save him."
"True; but had I been firmer in refusal, I might not so well have
known it; I might then have upbraided myself with supposing that my
compliance would have rescued him."
"You have indeed," cried Mr Monckton, "fallen into most worthless
hands, and the Dean was much to blame for naming so lightly a guardian
to a fortune such as yours."
"Pardon me," cried Cecilia, "he never entrusted him with my fortune,
he committed it wholly to Mr Briggs."
"But if he knew not the various subterfuges by which such a caution
might be baffled, he ought to have taken advice of those who were
better informed. Mr Briggs, too! what a wretch! mean, low, vulgar,
sordid!--the whole city of London, I believe, could not produce such
another! how unaccountable to make you the ward of a man whose house
you cannot enter without disgust!"
"His house," cried Cecilia, "my uncle never wished me to enter; he
believed, and he was right, that my fortune would be safe in his
hands; but for myself, he concluded I should always reside at Mr
Harrel's." "But does not the city at this time," said Mr Monckton,
"abound in families where, while your fortune was in security, you
might yourself have lived with propriety? Nothing requires
circumspection so minute as the choice of a guardian to a girl of
large fortune, and in general one thing only is attended to, an
appearance of property. Morals, integrity, character, are either not
thought of, or investigated so superficially, that the enquiry were as
well wholly omitted." He then continued his relation.
Mr Harrel hastened with his £3000 to the gaming table; one
throw of the dice settled the business, he lost, and ought immediately
to have doubled the sum. That, however, was never more likely to be in
his power; he knew it; he knew, too, the joint claims of Cecilia's
deceived admirers, and that his house was again threatened with
executions from various quarters:--he went home, loaded his pistols,
and took the methods already related to work himself into courage for
The means by which Mr Monckton had procured these particulars were
many and various, and not all such as he could avow: since in the
course of his researches, he had tampered with servants and waiters,
and scrupled at no methods that led but to discovery.
Nor did his intelligence stop here; he had often, he said, wondered at
the patience of Mr Harrel's creditors, but now even that was cleared
up by a fresh proof of infamy: he had been himself at the house in
Portmansquare, where he was informed that Mr Harrel had kept them
quiet, by repeated assurances that his ward, in a short time, meant to
lend him money for discharging them all.
Cecilia saw now but too clearly the reason her stay in his house was
so important to him; and wondered less at his vehemence upon that
subject, though she detested it more.
"Oh how little," cried she, "are the gay and the dissipated to be
known upon a short acquaintance! expensive, indeed, and thoughtless
and luxurious he appeared to me immediately; but fraudulent, base,
designing, capable of every pernicious art of treachery and
duplicity,--such, indeed, I expected not to find him, his very
flightiness and levity seemed incompatible with such hypocrisy."
"His flightiness," said Mr Monckton, "proceeded not from gaiety of
heart, it was merely the effect of effort; and his spirits were as
mechanical as his taste for diversion. He had not strong parts, nor
were his vices the result of his passions; had oeconomy been as much
in fashion as extravagance, he would have been equally eager to
practice it; he was a mere time-server, he struggled but to be
_something_, and having neither talents nor sentiment to know
_what_, he looked around him for any pursuit, and seeing distinction
was more easily attained in the road to ruin than in any other, he
gallopped along it, thoughtless of being thrown when he came to
the bottom, and sufficiently gratified in shewing his horsemanship
by the way."
And now, all that he had either to hear or to communicate upon this
subject being told, he enquired, with a face strongly expressive of
his disapprobation, why he found her at Mr Delvile's, and what had
become of her resolution to avoid his house?
Cecilia, who, in the hurry of her mind and her affairs, had wholly
forgotten that such a resolution had been taken, blushed at the
question, and could not, at first, recollect what had urged her to
break it: but when he proceeded to mention Mr Briggs, she was no
longer distressed; she gave a circumstantial account of her visit to
him, related the mean misery in which he lived, and told him the
impracticability of her residing in such a house.
Mr Monckton could now in decency make no further opposition, however
painful and reluctant was his acquiescence: yet before he quitted her,
he gave himself the consolation of considerably obliging her, and
softened his chagrin by the sweetness of her acknowledgments.
He enquired how much money in all she had now taken up of the Jew; and
hearing it was £9050, he represented to her the additional loss she
must suffer by paying an exorbitant interest for so large a sum, and
the almost certainty with which she might be assured of very gross
imposition: he expatiated, also, upon the injury which her character
might receive in the world, were it known that she used such methods
to procure money, since the circumstances which had been her
inducement would probably either be unnoticed or misrepresented: and
when he had awakened in her much uneasiness and regret upon this
subject, he offered to pay the Jew without delay, clear her wholly
from his power, and quietly receive the money when she came of age
A proposal so truly friendly made her look upon the regard of Mr
Monckton in a higher and nobler point of view than her utmost esteem
and reverence had hitherto placed it: yet she declined at first
accepting the offer, from an apprehension it might occasion him
inconvenience; but when he assured her he had a yet larger sum lying
at present useless in a Banker's hands, and promised to receive the
same interest for his money he should be paid from the funds, she
joyfully listened to him; and it was settled that they should send for
the Jew, take his discharge, and utterly dismiss him.
Mr Monckton, however, fearful of appearing too officious in her
affairs, wished not to have his part in the transaction published, and
advised Cecilia not to reveal the matter to the Delviles. But great as
was his [ascendancy] over her mind, her aversion to mystery and
hypocrisy were still greater; she would not, therefore, give him this
promise, though her own desire to wait some seasonable opportunity for
disclosing it, made her consent that their meeting with the Jew should
be at the house of Mrs Roberts in Fetter-lane, at twelve o'clock the
next morning; where she might also see Mrs Hill and her children
before she left town.
They now parted, Cecilia charmed more than ever with her friend, whose
kindness, as she suspected not his motives, seemed to spring from the
most disinterested generosity.
That, however, was the smallest feature in the character of Mr
Monckton, who was entirely a man of the world, shrewd, penetrating,
attentive to his interest, and watchful of every advantage to improve
it. In the service he now did Cecilia, he was gratified by giving her
pleasure, but that was by no means his only gratification; he still
hoped her fortune would one day be his own, he was glad to transact
any business with her, and happy in making her owe to him an
obligation: but his principal inducement was yet stronger: he saw with
much alarm the facility of her liberality; and he feared while she
continued in correspondence with the Jew, that the easiness with which
she could raise money would be a motive with her to continue the
practice whenever she was softened by distress, or subdued by
entreaty: but he hoped, by totally concluding the negociation, the
temptation would be removed: and that the hazard and inconvenience of
renewing it, would strengthen her aversion to such an expedient, till,
between difficulties and disuse, that dangerous resource would be
thought of no more.
Cecilia then returned to Mrs Harrel, whom she found as she had left,
weeping in the arms of her brother. They consulted upon what was best
to be done, and agreed that she ought instantly to leave town; for
which purpose a chaise was ordered directly. They settled also that Mr
Arnott, when he had conveyed her to his country house, which was in
Suffolk, should hasten back to superintend the funeral, and see if
anything could be saved from the creditors for his sister.
Yet this plan, till Cecilia was summoned to dinner, they had not the
resolution to put in practice. They were then obliged to be gone, and
their parting was very melancholy. Mrs Harrel wept immoderately, and
Mr Arnott felt a concern too tender for avowal, though too sincere for
concealment. Cecilia, however glad to change her situation, was
extremely depressed by their sorrow, and entreated to have frequent
accounts of their proceedings, warmly repeating her offers of service,
and protestations of faithful regard.
She accompanied them to the chaise, and then went to the dining
parlour, where she found Mr and Mrs Delvile, but saw nothing more of
their son the whole day.
The next morning after breakfast, Mrs Delvile set out upon some leave-
taking visits, and Cecilia went in a chair to Fetter-lane: here,
already waiting for her, she met the punctual Mr Monckton, and the
disappointed Jew, who most unwillingly was paid off, and relinquished
his bonds; and who found in the severe and crafty Mr Monckton, another
sort of man to deal with than the necessitous and heedless Mr Harrel.
As soon as he was dismissed, other bonds were drawn and signed, the
old ones were destroyed; and Cecilia, to her infinite satisfaction,
had no creditor but Mr Monckton. Her bookseller, indeed, was still
unpaid, but her debt with him was public, and gave her not any
She now, with the warmest expressions of gratitude, took leave of Mr
Monckton, who suffered the most painful struggles in repressing the
various apprehensions to which the parting, and her establishment at
the Delviles gave rise.
She then enquired briefly into the affairs of Mrs Hill, and having
heard a satisfactory account of them, returned to St James's-square.
It was still early, and Mrs Delvile was not expected till late.
Cecilia, therefore, determined to make a visit to Miss Belfield, to
whom she had been denied during the late disorders at Mr Harrel's, and
whom she could not endure to mortify by quitting town without seeing,
since whatever were her doubts about Delvile, of her she had none.
To Portland-street, therefore, she ordered her chair, deliberating as
she went whether it were better to adhere to the reserve she had
hitherto maintained, or to satisfy her perplexity at once by an
investigation into the truth. And still were these scruples undecided,
when, looking in at the windows as she passed them to the door of the
house, she perceived Miss Belfield standing in the parlour with a
letter in her hand, which she was fervently pressing to her lips.
Struck by this sight, a thousand painful conjectures occurred to her,
all representing that the letter was from Delvile, and all explaining
to his dishonour the mystery of his late conduct. And far were her
suspicions from diminishing, when, upon being shown into the parlour,
Miss Belfield, trembling with her eagerness to hide it, hastily forced
the letter into her pocket.
Cecilia, surprised, dismayed, alarmed, stopt involuntarily at the
door; but Miss Belfield, having secured what was so evidently precious
to her, advanced, though not without blushing, and taking her hand,
said "How good this is of you, madam, to come to me! when I did not
know where to find you, and when I was almost afraid I should have
found you no more!"
She then told her, that the first news she had heard the preceding
morning, was the violent death of Mr Harrel, which had been related to
her, with all its circumstances, by the landlord of their lodgings,
who was himself one of his principal creditors, and had immediately
been at Portman-square to put in his claims: where he had learnt that
all the family had quitted the house, which was entirely occupied by
bailiffs. "And I was so sorry," she continued, "that you should meet
with any hardships, and not know where to go, and have another home to
seek, when I am sure the commonest beggar would never want an
habitation, if you had one in your power to give him!--But how sad and
melancholy you look! I am afraid this bad action of Mr Harrel has made
you quite unhappy? Ah madam! you are too good for this guilty world!
your own compassion and benevolence will not suffer you to rest in
Cecilia, touched by this tender mistake of her present uneasiness,
embraced her, and with much kindness, answered, "No, sweet Henrietta!
it is _you_ who are good, who are innocent, who are guileless!--
_you_, too, I hope are happy!"
"And are not you, madam?" cried Henrietta, fondly returning her
caress. "Oh if you are not, who will ever deserve to be! I think I
should rather be unhappy myself, than see you so; at least I am sure I
ought, for the whole world may be the better for your welfare, and as
to me,--who would care what became of me!"
"Ah Henrietta!" cried Cecilia, "do you speak sincerely? do you indeed
think yourself so little valued?"
"Why I don't say," answered she, "but that I hope there are some who
think a little kindly of me, for if I had not that hope, I should wish
to break my heart and die! but what is that to the love and reverence
so many have for you?"
"Suppose," said Cecilia, with a forced smile, "I should put your love
and reverence to the proof? do you think they would stand it?"
"O yes, indeed I do! and I have wished a thousand and a thousand times
that I could but shew you my affection, and let you see that I did not
love you because you were a great lady, and high in the world, and
full of power to do me service, but because you were so good and so
kind, so gentle to the unfortunate, and so sweet to every body!"
"Hold, hold," cried Cecilia, "and let me try if indeed, fairly and
truly, you will answer what I mean to ask."
"O yes," cried she warmly, "if it is the dearest secret I have in the
world! there is nothing I will not tell you; I will open my whole
heart to you, and I shall be proud to think you will let me trust you,
for I am sure if you did not care a little for me, you would not take
such a trouble."
"You are indeed a sweet creature!" said Cecilia, hesitating whether or
not to take advantage of her frankness, "and every time I see you, I
love you better. For the world would I not injure you,--and perhaps
your confidence--I know not, indeed, if it is fair or right to exact
it--" she stopt, extremely perplext, and while Henrietta waited her
further enquiries, they were interrupted by the entrance of Mrs
"Sure, Child," cried she, to her daughter, "you might have let me know
before now who was here, when you knew so well how much I wished an
opportunity to see the young lady myself: but here you come down upon
pretence to see your brother, and then stay away all the morning,
doing nobody knows what." Then, turning to Cecilia, "Ma'am," she
continued, "I have been in the greatest concern in the world for the
little accident that happened when I saw you before; for to be sure I
thought, and indeed nobody will persuade me to the contrary, that it
was rather an odd thing for such a young lady as you to come so often
after Henny, without so much as thinking of any other reason;
especially when, to be sure, there's no more comparison between her
and my son, than between anything in the world; however, if it is so,
it is so, and I mean to say no more about it, and to be sure he's as
contented to think so as if he was as mere an insignificant animal as
"This matter, madam," said Cecilia, "has so long been settled, that I
am sorry you should trouble yourself to think of it again."
"O, ma'am, I only mention it by the way of making the proper apology,
for as to taking any other notice of it, I have quite left it off;
though to be sure what I think I think; but as to my son, he has so
got the upper hand of me, that it all goes for nothing, and I might
just as well sing to him. Not that I mean to find fault with him
neither; so pray, ma'am, don't let what I say be to his prejudice, for
I believe all the time, there's nobody like him, neither at this end
of the town nor the other; for as to the other, he has more the look
of a lord, by half, than of a shopman, and the reason's plain, for
that's the sort of company he's always kept, as I daresay a lady such
as you must have seen long ago. But for all that, there's some little
matters that we mothers fancy we can see into as well as our children;
however, if they don't think so, why it answers no purpose to dispute;
for as to a better son, to be sure there never was one, and that, as I
always say, is the best sign I know for making a good husband."
During this discourse, Henrietta was in the utmost confusion, dreading
lest the grossness of her mother should again send off Cecilia in
anger: but Cecilia, who perceived her uneasiness, and who was more
charmed with her character than ever, from the simplicity of her
sincerity, determined to save her that pain, by quietly hearing her
harangue, and then quietly departing: though she was much provoked to
find from the complaining hints every instant thrown out, that Mrs
Belfield was still internally convinced her son's obstinate
bashfulness was the only obstacle to his chusing whom he pleased: and
that though she no longer dared speak her opinion with openness, she
was fully persuaded Cecilia was at his service.
"And for that reason," continued Mrs Belfield, "to be sure any lady
that knew her own true advantage, could do nothing better than to take
the recommendation of a mother, who must naturally know more of her
own children's disposition than can be expected from a stranger: and
as to such a son as mine, perhaps there a'n't two such in the world,
for he's had a gentleman's education, and turn him which way he will,
he'll see never a handsomer person than his own; though, poor dear
love, he was always of the thinnest. But the misfortunes he's had to
struggle with would make nobody fatter."
Here she was interrupted, and Cecilia not a little surprised, by the
entrance of Mr Hobson and Mr Simkins.
"Ladies," cried Mr Hobson, whom she soon found was Mrs Belfield's
landlord: "I would not go up stairs without just stopping to let you
know a little how the world goes."
Then perceiving and recollecting Cecilia, he exclaimed "I am proud to
see you again, ma'am,--Miss, I believe I should say, for I take it you
are too young a lady to be entered into matrimony yet."
"Matrimony?" cried Mr Simkins, "no, to be sure, Mr Hobson, how can you
be so out of the way? the young lady looks more like to a Miss from a
boarding-school, if I might take the liberty for to say so."
"Ay, more's the pity," cried Mrs Belfield, "for as to young ladies
waiting and waiting, I don't see the great good of it; especially if a
proper match offers; for as to a good husband, I think no lady should
be above accepting him, if he's modest and well-behaved, and has been
brought up with a genteel education."
"Why as to that, ma'am," said Mr Simkins, "it's another guess matter,
for as to the lady's having a proper spouse, if I may be so free, I
think as it's no bad thing."
Cecilia now, taking Henrietta's hand, was wishing her good morning;
but hearing Mr Hobson say he was just come from Portman-square, her
curiosity was excited, and she stayed a little longer.
"Sad work, ma'am," said he; "who'd have thought Mr Harrel asked us all
to supper for the mere purpose of such a thing as that! just to serve
for a blind, as one may say. But when a man's conscience is foul, what
I say is it's ten to one but he makes away with himself. Let every man
keep clear of the world, that's my notion, and then he will be in no
such hurry to get out of it."
"Why indeed, ma'am," said Mr Simkins, advancing with many bows to
Cecilia, "humbly craving pardon for the liberty, I can't pretend for
to say I think Mr Harrel did quite the honourable thing by us; for as
to his making us drink all that champagne, and the like, it was a
sheer take in, so that if I was to speak my mind, I can't say as I
esteem it much of a favour."
"Well," said Mrs Belfield, "nothing's to me so surprising as a
person's being his own executioner, for as to me, if I was to die for
it fifty times, I don't think I could do it."
"So here," resumed Mr Hobson, "we're all defrauded of our dues!
nobody's able to get his own, let him have worked for it ever so hard.
Sad doings in the square, Miss! all at sixes and sevens; for my part I
came off from Vauxhall as soon as the thing had happened, hoping to
get the start of the others, or else I should have been proud to wait
upon you, ladies, with the particulars: but a man of business never
stands upon ceremony, for when money's at stake, that's out of the
question. However, I was too late, for the house was seized before
ever I could get nigh it."
"I hope, ma'am, if I may be so free," said Mr Simkins, again
profoundly bowing, "that you and the other lady did not take it much
amiss my not coming back to you, for it was not out of no disrespect,
but only I got so squeezed in by the ladies and gentlemen that was
looking on, that I could not make my, way out, do what I could. But by
what I see, I must needs say if one's never in such genteel company,
people are always rather of the rudest when one's in a crowd, for if
one begs and prays never so, there's no making 'em conformable."
"Pray," said Cecilia, "is it likely any thing will remain for Mrs
"Remain, ma'am?" repeated Mr Hobson, "Yes, a matter of a hundred bills
without a receipt to 'em! To be sure, ma'am, I don't want to affront
you, that was his intimate acquaintance, more especially as you've
done nothing disrespectful by me, which is more than I can say for Mrs
Harrel, who seemed downright ashamed of me, and of Mr Simkins too,
though all things considered, it would have been as well for her not
to have been quite so high. But of that in its proper season!"
"Fie, Mr Hobson fie," cried the supple Mr Simkins, "how can you be so
hard? for my share, I must needs own I think the poor lady's to be
pitied; for it must have been but a melancholy sight to her, to see
her spouse cut off so in the flower of his youth, as one may say: and
you ought to scorn to take exceptions at a lady's proudness when she's
in so much trouble. To be sure, I can't say myself as she was over-
complaisant to make us welcome; but I hope I am above being so
unpitiful as for to owe her a grudge for it now she's so down in the
"Let everybody be civil!" cried Mr Hobson, "that's my notion; and then
I shall be as much above being unpitiful as anybody else."
"Mrs Harrel," said Cecilia, "was then too unhappy, and is now, surely,
too unfortunate, to make it possible any resentment should be
harboured against her."
"You speak, ma'am, like a lady of sense," returned Mr Hobson, "and,
indeed, that's the character I hear of you; but for all that, ma'am,
every body's willing to stand up for their own friends, for which
reason, ma'am, to be sure you'll be making the best of it, both for
the Relict, and the late gentleman himself; but, ma'am, if I was to
make bold to speak my mind in a fair manner, what I should say would
be this: a man here to go shooting himself with all his debts unpaid,
is a mere piece of scandal, ma'am! I beg pardon, but what I say is,
the truth's the truth, and I can't call it by no other nomination."
Cecilia now, finding she had not any chance of pacifying him, rang for
her servant and chair.
Mr Simkins then, affecting to lower his voice, said reproachfully to
his friend "Indeed, Mr Hobson, to speak ingenusly, I must needs say I
don't think it over and above pelite in you to be so hard upon the
young lady's acquaintance that was, now he's defunct. To be sure I
can't pretend for to deny but he behaved rather comical; for not
paying of nobody, nor so much as making one a little compliment, or
the like, though he made no bones of taking all one's goods, and
always chused to have the prime of every thing, why it's what I can't
pretend to stand up for. But that's neither here nor there, for if he
had behaved as bad again, poor Miss could not tell how to help it; and
I dares to say she had no more hand in it than nobody at all."
"No, to be sure," cried Mrs Belfield, "what should she have to do with
it? Do you suppose a young lady of her fortune would want to take
advantage of a person in trade? I am sure it would be both a shame and
a sin if she did, for if she has not money enough, I wonder who has.
And for my part, I think when a young lady has such a fine fortune as
that, the only thing she has to do, is to be thinking of making a good
use of it, by dividing it, as one may say, with a good husband. For as
to keeping it all for herself, I dare say she's a lady of too much
generosity; and as to only marrying somebody that's got as much of his
own, why it is not half so much a favour: and if the young lady would
take my advice, she'd marry for love, for as to lucre, she's enough in
"As to all that," said Mr Hobson, "it makes no alteration in my
argument; I am speaking to the purpose, and not for the matter of
complaisance: and therefore I'm bold to say Mr Harrel's action had
nothing of the gentleman in it. A man has a right to his own life,
you'll tell me; but what of that? that's no argument at all, for it
does not give him a bit the more right to my property; and a man's
running in debt, and spending other people's substances, for no reason
in the world but just because he can blow out his own brains when he's
done,--though it's a thing neither lawful nor religious to do,--why
it's acting quite out of character, and a great hardship to trade into
"I heartily wish it had been otherwise," said Cecilia; "but I still
hope, if any thing can be done for Mrs Harrel, you will not object to
such a proposal."
"Ma'am, as I said before," returned Mr Hobson, "I see you're a lady of
sense, and for that I honour you: but as to any thing being done, it's
what I call a distinct thing. What's mine is mine, and what's another
man's is his; that's my way of arguing; but then if he takes what's
mine, where's the law to hinder my taking what's his? This is what I
call talking to the purpose. Now as to a man's cutting his throat, or
the like of that, for blowing out his own brains may be called the
self-same thing, what are his creditors the better for that? nothing
at all, but so much the worse it's a false notion to respect it, for
there's no respect in it; it's contrary to law, and a prejudice
"I agree entirely in your opinion," said Cecilia, "but still Mrs
"I know your argument, ma'am," interrupted Mr Hobson; "Mrs Harrel
i'n't the worse for her husband's being shot through the head, because
she was no accessory to the same, and for that reason, it's a hardship
she should lose all her substance; this, ma'am, is what I say,
speaking to your side of the argument. But now, ma'am, please to take
notice what I argue upon the reply; what have we creditors to do with
a man's family? Suppose I am a cabinet-maker? When I send in my
chairs, do I ask who is to sit upon them? No; it's all one to me
whether it's the gentleman's progeny or his friends, I must be paid
for the chairs the same, use them who may. That's the law, ma'am, and
no man need be ashamed to abide by it."
The truth of this speech palliating its sententious absurdity, made
Cecilia give up her faint attempt to soften him; and her chair being
ready, she arose to take leave.
"Lack-a-day, ma'am," cried Mrs Belfield, "I hope you won't go yet, for
I expect my son home soon, and I've a heap of things to talk to you
about besides, only Mr Hobson having so much to say stopt my mouth.
But I should take it as a great favour, ma'am, if you would come some
afternoon and drink a dish of tea with me, for then we should have
time to say all our say. And I'm sure, ma'am, if you would only let
one of your footmen just take a run to let me know when you'd come, my
son would be very proud to give you the meeting; and the servants
can't have much else to do at your house, for where there's such a
heap of 'em, they commonly think of nothing all day long but standing
and gaping at one another."
"I am going out of town to-morrow," said Cecilia, "and therefore
cannot have the pleasure of calling upon Miss Belfield again."
She then slightly courtsied, and left the room.
The gentle Henrietta, her eyes swimming in tears, followed her to her
chair; but she followed her not alone, Mrs Belfield also attended,
repining very loudly at the unlucky absence of her son: and the
cringing Mr Simkins, creeping after her and bowing, said in a low
voice, "I humbly crave pardon, ma'am, for the liberty, but I hope you
won't think as I have any share in Mr Hobson's behaving so rude, for I
must needs say, I don't think it over genteel in no shape." And Mr
Hobson himself, bent upon having one more sentence heard, called out,
even after she was seated in her chair, "All I say, ma'am, is this:
let every man be honest; that's what I argue, and that's my notion of
Cecilia still reached home before Mrs Delvile; but most uneasy were
her sensations, and most unquiet was her heart: the letter she had
seen in the hands of Henrietta seemed to corroborate all her former
suspicions, since if it came not from one infinitely dear to her she
would not have shewn such fondness for it, and if that one was not
dear to her in secret, she would not have concealed it.
Where then was the hope that any but Delvile could have written it? in
_secret_ she could not cherish _two_, and that Delvile was cherished
most fondly, the artlessness of her character unfitted her for disguising.
And why should he write to her? what was his pretence? That he loved
her she could now less than ever believe, since his late conduct to
herself, though perplexing and inconsistent, evinced at least a
partiality incompatible with a passion for another. What then, could
she infer, but that he had seduced her affections, and ruined her
peace, for the idle and cruel gratification of temporary vanity?
"And if such," cried she, "is the depravity of this accomplished
hypocrite, if such is the littleness of soul that a manner so noble
disguises, shall he next, urged, perhaps, rather by prudence than
preference, make _me_ the object of his pursuit, and the food of
his vain-glory? And shall _I_, warned and instructed as I am, be
as easy a prey and as wretched a dupe? No, I will be better satisfied
with his conduct, before I venture to trust him, and since I am richer
than Henrietta and less likely to be deserted, when won, I will be
more on my guard to know why I am addressed, and vindicate the rights
of innocence, if I find she has been thus deluded, by forgetting his
talents in his treachery, and renouncing him for ever!"
Such were the reflections and surmises that dampt all the long-sought
pleasure of her change of residence, and made her habitation in St
James's-square no happier than it had been at Mr Harrel's!
She dined again with only Mr and Mrs Delvile, and did not see their
son all day; which, in her present uncertainty what to think of him,
was an absence she scarcely regretted.
When the servants retired, Mr Delvile told her that he had that
morning received two visits upon her account, both from admirers, who
each pretended to having had leave to wait upon her from Mr Harrel.
He then named Sir Robert Floyer and Mr Marriot.
"I believe, indeed," said Cecilia, "that neither of them were treated
perfectly well; to me, however, their own behaviour has by no means
been strictly honourable. I have always, when referred to, been very
explicit; and what other methods they were pleased to take, I cannot
wonder should fail."
"I told them," said Mr Delvile, "that, since you were now under my
roof, I could not refuse to receive their proposals, especially as
there would be no impropriety in your alliance with either of them but
I told them, at the same time, that I could by no means think of
pressing their suit, as that was an office which, however well it
might do for Mr Harrel, would be totally improper and unbecoming for
"Certainly;" said Cecilia, "and permit me, Sir, to entreat that,
should they again apply to you, they may be wholly discouraged from
repeating their visits, and assured that far from having trifled with
them hitherto, the resolutions. I have declared will never be varied."
"I am happy," said Mrs Delvile, "to see so much spirit and discernment
where arts of all sorts will be practised to ensnare and delude.
Fortune and independence were never so securely lodged as in Miss
Beverley, and I doubt not but her choice, whenever it is decided, will
reflect as much honour upon her heart, as her difficulty in making it
does upon her understanding."
Mr Delvile then enquired whether she had fixed upon any person to
choose as a guardian in the place of Mr Harrel. No, she said, nor
should she, unless it were absolutely necessary.
"I believe, indeed," said Mrs Delvile, "your affairs will not much
miss him! Since I have heard of the excess of his extravagance, I have
extremely rejoiced in the uncommon prudence and sagacity of his fair
ward, who, in such dangerous hands, with less penetration and sound
sense, might have been drawn into a thousand difficulties, and perhaps
defrauded of half her fortune."
Cecilia received but little joy from this most unseasonable
compliment, which, with many of the same sort that were frequently,
though accidentally made, intimidated her from the confession she had
planned and finding nothing but censure was likely to follow the
discovery, she at length determined to give it up wholly, unless any
connection should take place which might render necessary its avowal.
Yet something she could not but murmur, that an action so detrimental
to her own interest, and which, at the time, appeared indispensable to
her benevolence, should now be considered as a mark of such folly and
imprudence that she did not dare own it.
The next morning the family purposed setting off as soon as breakfast
was over: young Delvile, however, waited not so long; the fineness of
the weather tempted him, he said, to travel on horse-back, and
therefore he had risen very early, and was already gone. Cecilia could
not but wonder, yet did not repine.
Just as breakfast was over, and Mr and Mrs Delvile and Cecilia were
preparing to depart, to their no little surprise, the door was opened,
and, out of breath with haste and with heat, in stumpt Mr Briggs!
"So," cried he to Cecilia, "what's all this? hay?--where are you
going?--a coach at the door! horses to every wheel! Servants fine as
lords! what's in the wind now? think to chouse me out of my
"I thought, Sir," said Cecilia, who instantly understood him, though
Mr and Mrs Delvile stared at him in utter astonishment, "I had
explained before I left you that I should not return."
"Didn't, didn't!" answered he, angrily; "waited for you three days,
dressed a breast o' mutton o' purpose; got in a lobster, and two
crabs; all spoilt by keeping; stink already; weather quite muggy,
forced to souse 'em in vinegar; one expense brings on another; never
begin the like agen."
"I am very sorry, indeed," said Cecilia, much disconcerted, "if there
has been any mistake through my neglect; but I had hoped I was
understood, and I have been so much occupied--"
"Ay, ay," interrupted he, "fine work! rare doings! a merry
Vauxhalling, with pistols at all your noddles! thought as much!
thought he'd tip the perch; saw he wasn't stanch; knew he'd go by his
company,--a set of jackanapes! all blacklegs! nobody warm among 'em:
fellows with a month's good living upon their backs, and not sixpence
for the hangman in their pockets!"
Mrs Delvile now, with a look of arch congratulation at Cecilia as the
object of this agreeable visit, finding it not likely to be
immediately concluded, returned to her chair: but Mr Delvile, leaning
sternly upon his cane, moved not from the spot where he stood at his
entrance, but surveyed him from head to foot, with the most astonished
contempt at his undaunted vulgarity.
"Well I'd all your cash myself; seized that, else!--run out the
constable for you, next, and made you blow out your brains for
company. Mind what I say, never give your mind to a gold lace hat!
many a one wears it don't know five farthings from twopence. A good
man always wears a bob wig; make that your rule. Ever see Master
Harrel wear such a thing? No, I'll warrant! better if he had; kept his
head on his own shoulders. And now, pray, how does he cut up? what has
he left behind him? a _twey_-case, I suppose, and a bit of a hat
won't go on a man's head!"
Cecilia, perceiving, with great confusion, that Mr Delvile, though
evidently provoked by this intrusion, would not deign to speak, that
Mr Briggs might be regarded as belonging wholly to herself, hastily
said "I will not, Sir, as your time is precious, detain you here, but,
as soon as it is in my power, I will wait upon you in the city."
Mr Briggs, however, without listening to her, thought proper to
continue his harangue.
"Invited me once to his house; sent me a card, half of it printed like
a book! t'other half a scrawl could not read; pretended to give a
supper; all a mere bam; went without my dinner, and got nothing to
eat; all glass and shew: victuals painted all manner of colours;
lighted up like a pastry-cook on twelfth-day; wanted something solid,
and got a great lump of sweetmeat; found it as cold as a stone, all
froze in my mouth like ice; made me jump again, and brought the tears
in my eyes; forced to spit it out; believe it was nothing but a snowball,
just set up for show, and covered over with a little sugar. Pretty way
to spend money! Stuffing, and piping, and hopping! never could rest
till every farthing was gone; nothing left but his own fool's pate, and
even that he could not hold together."
"At present, Sir," said Cecilia, "we are all going out of town; the
carriage is waiting at the door, and therefore--"
"No such thing," cried he; "Sha'n't go; come for you myself; take you
to my own house. Got every thing ready, been to the broker's, bought a
nice blanket, hardly a brack in it. Pick up a table soon; one in my
"I am sorry you have so totally mistaken me, Sir; for I am now going
into the country with Mr and Mrs Delvile."
"Won't consent, won't consent! what will you go there for? hear of
nothing but dead dukes; as well visit an old tomb."
Here Mr Delvile, who felt himself insulted in a manner he could least
support, after looking at him very disdainfully, turned to Cecilia,
and said "Miss Beverley, if this person wishes for a longer conference
with you, I am sorry you did not appoint a more seasonable hour for
your interview." "Ay, ay," cried the impenetrable Mr Briggs; "want to
hurry her off! see that! But 't won't do; a'n't to be nicked; chuse to
come in for my thirds; won't be gulled, sha'n't have more than your
"Sir!" cried Mr Delvile, with a look meant to be nothing less than
"What!" cried he, with an arch leer; "all above it, hay? warrant your
Spanish Don never thinks of such a thing! don't believe 'em my duck!
great cry and little wool; no more of the ready than other folks; mere
puff and go one."
"This is language, Sir," said Mr Delvile, "so utterly
incomprehensible, that I presume you do not even intend it should be
understood: otherwise, I should very little scruple to inform you,
that no man of the name of Delvile brooks the smallest insinuation of
"Don't he?" returned Mr Briggs, with a grin; "why how will he help it?
will the old grandees jump up out of their graves to frighten us?"
"What old grandees, Sir? to whom are you pleased to allude?"
"Why all them old grandfathers and aunts you brag of; a set of poor
souls you won't let rest in their coffins; mere clay and dirt! fine
things to be proud of! a parcel of old mouldy rubbish quite departed
this life! raking up bones and dust, nobody knows for what! ought to
be ashamed; who cares for dead carcases? nothing but [carrion]. My
little Tom's worth forty of 'em!"
"I can so ill make out, Miss Beverley," said the astonished Mr
Delvile, "what this person is pleased to dive at, that I cannot
pretend to enter into any sort of conversation with him; you will
therefore be so good as to let me know when he has finished his
discourse, and you are at leisure to set off."
And then, with a very stately air, he was quitting the room; but was
soon stopt, upon Mr Briggs calling out "Ay, ay, Don Duke, poke in the
old charnel houses by yourself, none of your defunct for me! didn't
care if they were all hung in a string. Who's the better for 'em?'
"Pray, Sir," cried Mr Delvile, turning round, "to whom were you
pleased to address that speech?"
"To one Don Puffendorff," replied Mr Briggs; "know ever such a person,
"Don who? Sir!" said Mr Delvile, stalking nearer to him, "I must
trouble you to say that name over again."
"Suppose don't chuse it? how then?"
"I am to blame," said Mr Delvile, scornfully waving his hand with a
repulsive motion, "to suffer myself to be irritated so unworthily; and
I am sorry, in my own house, to be compelled to hint that the sooner I
have it to myself, the better I shall be contented with it."
"Ay, ay, want to get me off; want to have her to yourself! won't be so
soon choused; who's the better man? hay? which do you think is
warmest? and all got by myself; obliged to never a grandee for a
penny; what do you say to that? will you cast an account with me?"
"Very extraordinary this!" cried Mr Delvile; "the most extraordinary
circumstance of the kind I ever met with! a person to enter my house
in order to talk in this incomprehensible manner! a person, too, I
hardly know by sight!"
"Never mind, old Don," cried Briggs, with a facetious nod, "Know me
better another time!"
"Old who, Sir!--what!"
"Come to a fair reckoning," continued Mr Briggs; "suppose you were in
my case, and had never a farthing but of your own getting; where would
you be then? What would become of your fine coach and horses? you
might stump your feet off before you'd ever get into one. Where would
be all this fine crockery work for your breakfast? you might pop your
head under a pump, or drink out of your own paw; what would you do for
that fine jemmy tye? Where would you get a gold head to your stick?--
You might dig long enough in them cold vaults before any of your old
grandfathers would pop out to give you one."
Mr Delvile, feeling more enraged than he thought suited his dignity,
restrained himself from making any further answer, but going up to the
bell, rang it with great violence.
"And as to ringing a bell," continued Mr Briggs, "you'd never know
what it was in your life, unless could make interest to be a dust-man."
"A dust-man!"--repeated Mr Delvile, unable to command his silence
longer, "I protest"--and biting his lips, he stopt short.
"Ay, love it, don't you? suits your taste; why not one dust as well as
another? Dust in a cart good as dust of a charnel-house; don't smell
half so bad."
A servant now entering, Mr Delvile called out "Is everything ready?"
He then begged Mrs Delvile to go into the coach, and telling Cecilia
to follow when at leisure, left the room.
"I will come immediately, Sir," said Cecilia; "Mr Briggs, I am sorry
to leave you, and much concerned you have had this trouble; but I can
detain Mr Delvile no longer."
And then away she ran, notwithstanding he repeatedly charged her to
stay. He followed them, however, to the coach, with bitter revilings
that every body was to make more of his ward than himself, and with
the most virulent complaints of his losses from the blanket, the
breast of mutton, the crabs and the lobster!
Nothing, however, more was said to him; Cecilia, as if she had not
heard him, only bowed her head, and the coach driving off, they soon
lost sight of him.
This incident by no means rendered the journey pleasant, or Mr Delvile
gracious: his own dignity, that constant object of his thoughts and
his cares, had received a wound from this attack which he had not the
sense to despise; and the vulgarity and impudence of Mr Briggs, which
ought to have made his familiarity and boldness equally contemptible
and ridiculous, served only with a man whose pride out-ran his
understanding, to render them doubly mortifying and stinging. He could
talk, therefore, of nothing the whole way that they went, but the
extreme impropriety of which the Dean of had been guilty, in exposing
him to scenes and situations so much beneath his rank, by leaguing him
with a person so coarse and disgraceful.
They slept one night upon the road, and arrived the next day at
AN ANTIQUE MANSION.
Delvile Castle was situated in a large and woody park, and surrounded
by a moat. A drawbridge which fronted the entrance was every night, by
order of Mr Delvile, with the same care as if still necessary for the
preservation of the family, regularly drawn up. Some fortifications
still remained entire, and vestiges were every where to be traced of
more; no taste was shown in the disposition of the grounds, no
openings were contrived through the wood for distant views or
beautiful objects: the mansion-house was ancient, large and
magnificent, but constructed with as little attention to convenience
and comfort, as to airiness and elegance; it was dark, heavy and
monastic, equally in want of repair and of improvement. The grandeur
of its former inhabitants was every where visible, but the decay into
which it was falling rendered such remains mere objects for meditation
and melancholy; while the evident struggle to support some appearance
of its ancient dignity, made the dwelling and all in its vicinity wear
an aspect of constraint and austerity. Festivity, joy and pleasure,
seemed foreign to the purposes of its construction; silence, solemnity
and contemplation were adapted to it only.
Mrs Delvile, however, took all possible care to make the apartments
and situation of Cecilia commodious and pleasant, and to banish by her
kindness and animation the gloom and formality which her mansion
inspired. Nor were her efforts ungratefully received; Cecilia, charmed
by every mark of attention from a woman she so highly admired,
returned her solicitude by encreasing affection, and repaid all her
care by the revival of her spirits. She was happy, indeed, to have
quitted the disorderly house of Mr Harrel, where terror, so
continually awakened, was only to be lulled by the grossest
imposition; and though her mind, depressed by what was passed, and in
suspence with what was to come, was by no means in a state for
uninterrupted enjoyment, yet to find herself placed, at last, without
effort or impropriety, in the very mansion she had so long considered
as her road to happiness, rendered her, notwithstanding her remaining
sources of inquietude, more contented than she had yet felt herself
since her departure from Suffolk.
Even the imperious Mr Delvile was more supportable here than in
London: secure in his own castle, he looked around him with a pride of
power and of possession which softened while it swelled him. His
superiority was undisputed, his will was without controul. He was not,
as in the great capital of the kingdom, surrounded by competitors; no
rivalry disturbed his peace, no equality mortified his greatness; all
he saw were either vassals of his power, or guests bending to his
pleasure; he abated therefore, considerably, the stern gloom of his
haughtiness, and soothed his proud mind by the courtesy of
Little, however, was the opportunity Cecilia found, for evincing that
spirit and forbearance she had planned in relation to Delvile; he
breakfasted by himself every morning, rode or walked out alone till
driven home by the heat of the day, and spent the rest of his time
till dinner in his own study. When he then appeared, his conversation
was always general, and his attention not more engaged by Cecilia than
by his mother. Left by them with his father, sometimes he appeared
again at tea-time, but more commonly he rode or strolled out to some
neighbouring family, and it was always uncertain whether he was again
seen before dinner the next day.
By this conduct, reserve on her part was rendered totally unnecessary;
she could give no discouragement where she met with no assiduity; she
had no occasion to fly where she was never pursued.
Strange, however, she thought such behaviour, and utterly impossible
to be the effect of accident; his desire to avoid her seemed
scrupulous and pointed, and however to the world it might wear the
appearance of chance, to her watchful anxiety a thousand circumstances
marked it for design. She found that his friends at home had never
seen so little of him, complaints were continually made of his
frequent absences, and much surprise was expressed at his new manner
of life, and what might be the occupations which so strangely
engrossed his time.
Had her heart not interfered in this matter, she might now have been
perfectly at rest, since she was spared the renunciation she had
projected, and since, without either mental exertion or personal
trouble, the affair seemed totally dropt, and Delvile, far from
manifesting any design of conquest, shunned all occasions of
gallantry, and sedulously avoided even common conversation with her.
If he saw her preparing to walk out in an evening, he was certain to
stay at home; if his mother was with her, and invited him to join
them, he was sure to be ready with some other engagement; and if by
accident he met her in the park, he merely stopt to speak of the
weather, bowed, and hurried on.
How to reconcile a coldness so extraordinary with a fervour so
animated as that which he had lately shewn, was indeed not easy;
sometimes she fancied he had entangled not only the poor Henrietta but
himself, at other times she believed him merely capricious; but that
he studied to avoid her she was convinced invariably, and such a
conviction was alone sufficient to determine her upon forwarding his
purpose. And, when her first surprise was over, and first chagrin
abated, her own pride came to her aid, and she resolved to use every
method in her power to conquer a partiality so un gratefully bestowed.
She rejoiced that in no instance she had ever betrayed it, and she saw
that his own behaviour prevented all suspicion of it in the family.
Yet, in the midst of her mortification and displeasure, she found some
consolation in seeing that those mercenary views of which she had once
been led to accuse him, were farthest from his thoughts, and that
whatever was the state of his mind, she had no artifice to apprehend,
nor design to guard against. All therefore that remained was to
imitate his example, be civil and formal, shun all interviews that
were not public, and decline all discourse but what good breeding
occasionally made necessary.
By these means their meetings became more rare than ever, and of
shorter duration, for if one by any accident was detained, the other
retired; till, by their mutual diligence, they soon only saw each
other at dinner: and though neither of them knew the motives or the
intentions of the other, the best concerted agreement could not more
effectually have separated them.
This task to Cecilia was at first extremely painful; but time and
constancy of mind soon lessened its difficulty. She amused herself
with walking and reading, she commissioned Mr Monckton to send her a
Piano Forte of Merlin's, she was fond of fine work, and she found in
the conversation of Mrs Delvile a never-failing resource against
languor and sadness. Leaving therefore to himself her mysterious son,
she wisely resolved to find other employment for her thoughts, than
conjectures with which she could not be satisfied, and doubts that
might never be explained.
Very few families visited at the castle, and fewer still had their
visits returned. The arrogance of Mr Delvile had offended all the
neighbouring gentry, who could easily be better entertained than by
receiving instructions of their own inferiority, which however readily
they might allow, was by no means so pleasant a subject as to
recompense them for hearing no other. And if Mr Delvile was shunned
through hatred, his lady no less was avoided through fear; high-
spirited and fastidious, she was easily wearied and disgusted, she
bore neither with frailty nor folly--those two principal ingredients
in human nature! She required, to obtain her favour, the union of
virtue and abilities with elegance, which meeting but rarely, she was
rarely disposed to be pleased; and disdaining to conceal either
contempt or aversion, she inspired in return nothing but dread or
resentment; making thus, by a want of that lenity which is the _milk
of human kindness_, and the bond of society, enemies the most
numerous and illiberal by those very talents which, more _meekly
borne_, would have rendered her not merely admired, but adored!
In proportion, however, as she was thus at war with the world in
general, the chosen few who were honoured with her favour, she loved
with a zeal all her own; her heart, liberal, open, and but too
daringly sincere, was fervent in affection, and enthusiastic in
admiration; the friends who were dear to her, she was devoted to
serve, she magnified their virtues till she thought them of an higher
race of beings, she inflamed her generosity with ideas of what she
owed to them, till her life seemed too small a sacrifice to be refused
for their service.
Such was the love which already she felt for Cecilia; her countenance
had struck, her manners had charmed her, her understanding was
displayed by the quick intelligence of her eyes, and every action and
every notion spoke her mind the seat of elegance. In secret she
sometimes regretted that she was not higher born, but that regret
always vanished when she saw and conversed with her.
Her own youth had been passed in all the severity of affliction: she
had been married to Mr Delvile by her relations, without any
consultation of her heart or her will. Her strong mind disdained
useless complaints, yet her discontent, however private, was deep.
Ardent in her disposition, and naturally violent in her passions, her
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