Cecilia vol. 2
Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d'Arblay)
Part 4 out of 7
feelings were extremely acute, and to curb them by reason and
principle had been the chief and hard study of her life. The effort
had calmed, though it had not made her happy. To love Mr Delvile she
felt was impossible; proud without merit, and imperious without
capacity, she saw with bitterness the inferiority of his faculties,
and she found in his temper no qualities to endear or attract: yet she
respected his birth and his family, of which her own was a branch, and
whatever was her misery from the connection, she steadily behaved to
him with the strictest propriety.
Her son, however, when she was blessed with his presence, had a power
over her mind that mitigated all her sorrows, and almost lulled even
her wishes to sleep: she rather idolised than loved him, yet her
fondness flowed not from relationship, but from his worth and his
character, his talents and his disposition. She saw in him, indeed,
all her own virtues and excellencies, with a toleration for the
imperfections of others to which she was wholly a stranger. Whatever
was great or good she expected him to perform; occasion alone she
thought wanting to manifest him the first of human beings.
Nor here was Mr Delvile himself less sanguine in his hopes: his son
was not only the first object of his affection, but the chief idol of
his pride, and he did not merely cherish but reverence him as his
successor, the only support of his ancient name and family, without
whose life and health the whole race would be extinct. He consulted
him in all his affairs, never mentioned him but with distinction, and
expected the whole world to bow down before him.
Delvile in his behaviour to his father imitated the conduct of his
mother, who opposed him in nothing when his pleasure was made known,
but who forbore to enquire into his opinion except in cases of
necessity. Their minds, indeed, were totally dissimilar; and Delvile
well knew that if he submitted to his directions, he must demand such
respect as the world would refuse with indignation, and scarcely speak
to a man whose genealogy was not known to him.
But though duty and gratitude were the only ties that bound him to his
father, he loved his mother not merely with filial affection, but with
the purest esteem and highest reverence; he knew, too, that while
without him her existence would be a burthen, her tenderness was no
effusion of weak partiality, but founded on the strongest assurances
of his worth; and however to maternal indulgence its origin might be
owing, the rectitude of his own conduct could alone save it from
Such was the house in which Cecilia was now settled, and with which
she lived almost to the exclusion of the sight of any other; for
though she had now been three weeks at the castle, she had only at
church seen any family but the Delviles.
Nor did any thing in the course of that time occur to her, but the
reception of a melancholy letter from Mrs Harrel, filled with
complaints of her retirement and misery; and another, from Mr Arnott,
with an account of the funeral, the difficulties he had had to
encounter with the creditors, who had even seized the dead body, and
the numerous expences in which he had been involved, by petitions he
could not withstand, from the meaner and more clamorous of those whom
his late brother-in-law had left unpaid. He concluded with a pathetic
prayer for her happiness, and a declaration that his own was lost for
ever, since now he was even deprived of her sight. Cecilia wrote an
affectionate answer to Mrs Harrel, promising, when fully at liberty,
that she would herself fetch her to her own house in Suffolk: but she
could only send her compliments to Mr Arnott, though her compassion
urged a kinder message; as she feared even a shadow of encouragement
to so serious, yet hopeless a passion.
At this time, the house was much enlivened by a visit from Lady
Honoria Pemberton, who came to spend a month with Mrs Delvile.
Cecilia had now but little leisure, for Lady Honoria would hardly rest
a moment away from her; she insisted upon walking with her, sitting
with her, working with her, and singing with her; whatever she did,
she chose to do also; wherever she went, she was bent upon
accompanying her; and Mrs Delvile, who wished her well, though she had
no patience with her foibles, encouraged this intimacy from the hope
it might do her service.
It was not, however, that Lady Honoria had conceived any regard for
Cecilia; on the contrary, had she been told she should see her no
more, she would have heard it with the same composure as if she had
been told she should meet with her daily: she had no motive for
pursuing her but that she had nothing else to do, and no fondness for
her society but, what resulted from aversion to solitude.
Lady Honoria had received a fashionable education, in which her
proficiency had been equal to what fashion made requisite; she sung a
little; played the harpsichord a little, painted a little, worked a
little, and danced a great deal. She had quick parts and high spirits,
though her mind was uncultivated, and she was totally void of judgment
or discretion: she was careless of giving offence, and indifferent to
all that was thought of her; the delight of her life was to create
wonder by her rattle, and whether that wonder was to her advantage or
discredit, she did not for a moment trouble herself to consider.
A character of so much levity with so little heart had no great chance
of raising esteem or regard in Cecilia, who at almost any other period
of her life would have been wearied of her importunate attendance; but
at present, the unsettled state of her own mind made her glad to give
it any employment, and the sprightliness of Lady Honoria served
therefore to amuse her. Yet she could not forbear being hurt by
finding that the behaviour of Delvile was so exactly the same to them
both, that any common observer would with difficulty have pronounced
which he preferred.
One morning about a week after her ladyship's arrival at the castle,
she came running into Cecilia's room, saying she had very good news
"A charming opening!" cried Cecilia, "pray tell it me."
"Why my Lord Derford is coming!"
"O what a melancholy dearth of incident," cried Cecilia, "if this is
your best intelligence!"
"Why it's better than nothing: better than going to sleep over a
family party; and I vow I have sometimes such difficulty to keep
awake, that I am frightened to death lest I should be taken with a
sudden nap, and affront them all. Now pray speak the truth without
squeamishness, don't you find it very terrible?"
"No, I find nothing very terrible with Mrs Delvile."
"O, I like Mrs Delvile, too, of all things, for I believe she's the
cleverest woman in the world; but then I know she does not like me, so
there's no being very fond of her. Besides, really, if I admired her
as much again, I should be, dreadfully tired of seeing nothing else.
She never stirs out, you know, and has no company at home, which is an
extremely tiresome plan, for it only serves to make us all doubly sick
of one another: though you must know it's one great reason why my
father likes I should come; for he has some very old-fashioned
notions, though I take a great deal of pains to make him get the
better of them. But I am always excessively rejoiced when the visit
has been paid, for I am obliged to come every year. I don't mean
_now_, indeed, because your being here makes it vastly more
"You do me much honour," cried Cecilia, laughing.
"But really, when my Lord Derford comes, it can't possibly be quite so
bad, for at least there will be something else to look at; and you
must know my eyes tire extremely of always seeing the same objects.
And we can ask him, too, for a little news, and that will put Mrs
Delvile in a passion, which will help to give us a little spirit:
though I know we shall not get the smallest intelligence from him, for
he knows nothing in the world that's going forward. And, indeed,
that's no great matter, for if he did, he would not know how to tell
it, he's so excessively silly. However, I shall ask him all sort of
things, for the less he can answer, the more it will plague him; and I
like to plague a fool amazingly, because he can never plague one
again.--Though really I ought to beg your pardon, for he is one of
"Oh pray make no stranger of me! you have my free consent to say
whatever you please of him."
"I assure you, then, I like my old Lord Ernolf the best of the two,
for he has a thousand times more sense than his son, and upon my word
I don't think he is much uglier. But I wonder vastly you would not
marry him, for all that, for you might have done exactly what you
pleased with him, which, altogether, would have been no inconvenient
"When I want a pupil," answered Cecilia, "I shall think that an
admirable recommendation: but were I to marry, I would rather find a
tutor, of the two."
"I am sure I should not," cried Lady Honoria, carelessly, "for one has
enough to do with tutors before hand, and the best thing I know of
marrying is to get rid of them. I fancy you think so too, only it's a
pretty speech to make. Oh how my sister Euphrasia would adore you!--
Pray are you always as grave as you are now?"
"No,--yes,--indeed I hardly know."
"I fancy it's this dismal place that hurts your spirits. I remember
when I saw you in St James's-square I thought you very lively. But
really these thick walls are enough to inspire the vapours if one
never had them before."
"I don't think they have had a very bad effect upon your ladyship!"
"O yes they have; if Euphrasia was here she would hardly know me. And
the extreme want of taste and entertainment in all the family is quite
melancholy: for even if by chance one has the good fortune to hear any
intelligence, Mrs Delvile will hardly let it be repeated, for fear it
should happen to be untrue, as if that could possibly signify! I am
sure I had as lieve the things were false as not, for they tell as
well one way as the other, if she would but have patience to hear
them. But she's extremely severe, you know, as almost all those very
clever women are; so that she keeps a kind of restraint upon me
whether I will or no. However, that's nothing compared to her _caro
sposo_, for he is utterly insufferable; so solemn, and so dull! so
stately and so tiresome! Mortimer, too, gets worse and worse; O 'tis a
sad tribe! I dare say he will soon grow quite as horrible as his
father. Don't you think so?"
"Why indeed,--no,--I don't think there's much resemblance," said
Cecilia, with some hesitation.
"He is the most altered creature," continued her ladyship, "I ever saw
in my life. Once I thought him the most agreeable young man in the
world: but if you observe, that's all over now, and he is getting just
as stupid and dismal as the rest of them. I wish you had been here
last summer; I assure you, you would quite have fallen in love with
"Should I?" said Cecilia, with a conscious smile.
"Yes, for he was quite delightful; all spirit and gaiety, but now, if
it was not for you, I really think I should pretend to lose my way,
and instead of going over that old draw-bridge, throw myself into the
moat. I wish Euphrasia was here. It's just the right place for her.
She'll fancy herself in a monastery as soon as she comes, and nothing
will make her half so happy, for she is always wishing to be a Nun,
poor little simpleton.
"Is there any chance that Lady Euphrasia may come?"
"O no, she can't at present, because it would not be proper: but I
mean if ever she is married to Mortimer."
"Married to him!" repeated Cecilia, in the utmost consternation.
"I believe, my dear," cried Lady Honoria, looking at her very archly,
"you intend to be married to him yourself?"
"Me? no, indeed!"
"You look very guilty, though," cried she laughing, "and indeed when
you came hither, every body said that the whole affair was arranged."
"For shame, Lady Honoria!" said Cecilia, again changing colour, "I am
sure this must be your own fancy,--invention,--"
"No, I assure you; I heard it at several places; and every body said
how charmingly your fortune would build up all these old
fortifications: but some people said they knew Mr Harrel had sold you
to Mr Marriot, and that if you married Mortimer, there would be a lawsuit
that would take away half your estate; and others said you had promised
your hand to Sir Robert Floyer, and repented when you heard of his
mortgages, and he gave it out every where that he would fight any man
that pretended to you; and then again some said that you were all the
time privately married to Mr Arnott, but did not dare own it, because he
was so afraid of fighting with Sir Robert."
"O Lady Honoria!" cried Cecilia, half laughing, "what wild inventions
are these! and all I hope, your own?"
"No, indeed, they were current over the whole town. But don't take any
notice of what I told you about Euphrasia, for perhaps, it may never
"Perhaps," said Cecilia, reviving by believing it all fiction, "it has
never been in agitation?"
"O yes; it is negociating at this very moment, I believe, among the
higher powers; only Mr Delvile does not yet know whether Euphrasia has
fortune enough for what he wants."
Ah, thought Cecilia, how do I rejoice that my independent situation
exempts me from being disposed of for life, by thus being set up to
"They thought of me, once, for Mortimer," continued Lady Honoria, "but
I'm vastly glad that's over, for I never should have survived being
shut up in this place; it's much fitter for Euphrasia. To tell you the
truth, I believe they could not make out money enough; but Euphrasia
has a fortune of her own, besides what we shall have together, for
Grandmama left her every thing that was in her own power."
"Is Lady Euphrasia your elder sister?"
"O no, poor little thing, she's two years younger. Grandmama brought
her up, and` she has seen nothing at all of the world, for she has
never been presented yet, so she is not _come out_, you know: but
she's to come out next year. However, she once saw Mortimer, but she
did not like him at all."
"Not like him!" cried Cecilia, greatly surprised.
"No, she thought him too gay,--Oh dear, I wish she could see him now!
I am sure I hope she would find him sad enough! she is the most formal
little grave thing you ever beheld: she'll preach to you sometimes for
half an hour together. Grandmama taught her nothing in the world but
to say her prayers, so that almost every other word you say, she
thinks is quite wicked."
The conversation was now interrupted by their separating to dress for
dinner. It left Cecilia in much perplexity; she knew not what wholly
to credit, or wholly to disbelieve; but her chief concern arose from
the unfortunate change of countenance which Lady Honoria had been so
quick in observing.
The next time she was alone with Mrs Delvile, "Miss Beverley," she
said, "has your little rattling tormentor acquainted you who is
"Lord Derford, do you mean, ma'am?"
"Yes, with his father; shall you dislike to see them?"
"Not if, as I hope, they come merely to wait upon you and Mr Delvile."
"Mr Delvile and myself," answered she smiling, "will certainly have
the honour of _receiving_ them."
"Lord Ernolf," said Cecilia, "can never suppose his visit will make
any change in me; I have been very explicit with him, and he seemed
equally rational and well bred in forbearing any importunity upon the
"It has however been much believed in town," said Mrs Delvile, "that
you were strangely shackled by Mr Harrel, and therefore his lordship
may probably hope that a change in your situation may be followed by a
change in his favour."
"I shall be sorry if he does," said Cecilia, "for he will then find
himself much deceived."
"You are right, very right," cried Mrs Delvile, "to be difficult in
your choice, and to take time for looking around you before you make
any. I have forborn all questions upon this subject, lest you should
find any reluctance in answering them; but I am now too deeply
interested in your welfare to be contented in total ignorance of your
designs: will you, then, suffer me to make a few enquiries?"
Cecilia gave a ready, but blushing assent.
"Tell me, then, of the many admirers who have graced your train, which
there is you have distinguished with any intention of future
"Not one, madam!"
"And, out of so many, is there not one that, hereafter, you mean to
"Ah madam!" cried Cecilia, shaking her head, "many as they may seem, I
have little reason to be proud of them; there is one only who, had my
fortune been smaller, would, I believe, ever have thought of me, and
there is one only, who, were it now diminished, would ever think of me
"This sincerity," cried Mrs Delvile, "is just what I expected from
you. There is, then, _one_?"
"I believe there is,--and the worthy Mr Arnott is the man; I am much
indeed deceived, if his partiality for me is not truly disinterested,
and I almost wish"--
"What, my love?"
"That I could return it more gratefully!"
"And do you not?"
"No!--I cannot! I esteem him, I have the truest regard for his
character, and were I now by any fatal necessity, compelled to belong
to any one of those who have been pleased to address me, I should not
hesitate a moment in shewing him my gratitude; but yet, for some time
at least, such a proof of it would render me very miserable."
"You may perhaps think so now," returned Mrs Delvile; "but with
sentiments so strongly in his favour, you will probably be led
hereafter to pity--and accept him."
"No, indeed, madam; I pretend not, I own, to open my whole heart to
you;--I know not that you would have patience, for so uninteresting a
detail; but though there are some things I venture not to mention,
there is nothing, believe me, in which I will deceive you."
"I _do_ believe you," cried Mrs Delvile, embracing her; "and the
more readily because, not merely among your avowed admirers, but among
the whole race of men, I scarce know one to whom I should think you
Ah! thought Cecilia, that scarce! who may it mean to except?
"To shew you," she continued, "that I will deserve your confidence in
future, I will refrain from distressing you by any further questions
at present: you will not, I think, act materially without consulting
me, and for your thoughts--it were tyranny, not friendship, to
investigate them more narrowly."
Cecilia's gratitude for this delicacy, would instantly have induced
her to tell every secret of her soul, had she not apprehended such a
confession would have seemed soliciting her interest and assistance,
in the only affair in which she would have disdained even to receive
She thanked her, therefore, for her kindness, and the conversation was
dropt; she much wished to have known whether these enquiries sprung
simply from friendly curiosity, or whether she was desirous from any
nearer motive to be satisfied with respect to her freedom or
engagements. This, however, she had no method of discovering, and was
therefore compelled to wait quietly till time should make it clear.
One evening about this time, which was the latter end of July, Lady
Honoria and Cecilia deferred walking out till very late, and then
found it so pleasant, that they had strolled into the Park two miles
from the house, when they were met by young Delvile; who, however,
only reminded them how far they had to return, and walked on.
"He grows quite intolerable!" cried Lady Honoria, when he was gone;
"it's really a melancholy thing to see a young man behave so like an
old Monk. I dare say in another week he won't take off his hat to us;
and, in about a fortnight, I suppose he'll shut himself up in one of
those little round towers, and shave his head, and live upon roots,
and howl if any body comes near him. I really half wonder he does not
think it too dissipated to let Fidel run after him so. A thousand to
one but he shoots him some day for giving a sudden bark when he's in
one of these gloomy fits. Something, however, must certainly be the
matter with him. Perhaps he is in love."
"Can nothing be the matter with him but that?" cried Cecilia.
"Nay, I don't know; but I am sure if he is, his Mistress has not much
occasion to be jealous of you or me, for never, I think, were two poor
Damsels so neglected!"
The utmost art of malice could not have furnished speech more truly
mortifying to Cecilia than this thoughtless and accidental sally of
Lady Honoria's: particularly, however, upon her guard, from the
raillery she had already endured, she answered, with apparent
indifference, "he is meditating, perhaps, upon Lady Euphrasia."
"O no," cried Lady Honoria, "for he did not take any notice of her
when he saw her; I am sure if he marries her, it will only be because
he cannot help it."
"Poor Lady Euphrasia!"
"O no, not at all; he'll make her two or three fine speeches, and then
she'll be perfectly contented especially if he looks as dismally at
her as he does at us! and that probably he will do the more readily
for not liking to look at her at all. But she's such a romantic little
thing, she'll never suspect him."
Here they were somewhat alarmed by a sudden darkness in the air, which
was presently succeeded by a thunder storm; they instantly turned
back, and began running home, when a violent shower of rain obliged
them to take shelter under a large tree; where in two minutes they
were joined by Delvile, who came to offer his assistance in hurrying
them home; and finding the thunder and lightning continue, begged them
to move on, in defiance of the rain, as their present situation
exposed them to more danger than a wet hat and cloak, which might be
changed in a moment.
Cecilia readily assented; but Lady Honoria, extremely frightened,
protested she would not stir till the storm was over. It was in vain
he represented her mistake in supposing herself in a place of
security; she clung to the tree, screamed at every flash of lightning,
and all her gay spirits were lost in her apprehensions.
Delvile then earnestly proposed to Cecilia conducting her home by
herself, and returning again to Lady Honoria; but she thought it wrong
to quit her companion, and hardly right to accept his assistance
separately. They waited, therefore, some time all together; but the
storm increasing with great violence, the thunder growing louder, and
the lightning becoming stronger, Delvile grew impatient even to anger
at Lady Honoria's resistance, and warmly expostulated upon its folly
and danger. But the present was no season for lessons in philosophy;
prejudices she had never been taught to surmount made her think
herself in a place of safety, and she was now too much terrified to
give argument fair play.
Finding her thus impracticable, Delvile eagerly said to Cecilia, "Come
then, Miss Beverley, let us wait no longer; I will see you home, and
then return to Lady Honoria."
"By no means," cried she, "my life is not more precious than either of
yours, and therefore it may run the same risk."
"It is more precious," cried he with vehemence, "than the air I
breathe!" and seizing her hand, he drew it under his arm, and, without
waiting her consent, almost forced her away with him, saying as they
ran, "How could a thousand Lady Honoria's recompense the world for the
loss of one Miss Beverley? we may, indeed, find many thousand such as
Lady Honoria, but such as Miss Beverley--where shall we ever find
Cecilia, surprised, yet gratified, could not speak, for the speed with
which they ran almost took away her breath; and before they were near
home, slackening her pace, and panting, she confessed her strength was
exhausted, and that she could go so fast no further.
"Let us then stop and rest," cried he; "but why will you not lean upon
me? surely this is no time for scruples, and for idle and unnecessary
scruples, Miss Beverley can never find a time."
Cecilia then, urged equally by shame at his speech and by weakness
from fatigue, leant upon his arm but she soon repented her
condescension; for Delvile, with an emotion he seemed to find wholly
irrepressible, passionately exclaimed "sweet lovely burthen! O why not
thus for ever!"
The strength of Cecilia was now instantly restored, and she hastily
withdrew from his hold; he suffered her to disengage herself, but said
in a faultering voice, "pardon me, Cecilia!--Madam!--Miss Beverley, I
Cecilia, without making any answer, walked on by herself, as quick a
pace as she was able; and Delvile, not venturing to oppose her,
They had gone but a few steps, before there came a violent shower of
hail; and the wind, which was very high, being immediately in their
faces, Cecilia was so pelted and incommoded, that she was frequently
obliged to stop, in defiance of her utmost efforts to force herself
forward. Delvile then approaching her, proposed that she should again
stand under a tree, as the thunder and lightning for the present
seemed over, and wait there till the fury of the hail was past: and
Cecilia, though never before so little disposed to oblige him, was so
much distressed by the violence of the wind and hail, that she was
forced to comply.
Every instant now seemed an age; yet neither hail nor wind abated:
mean time they were both silent, and both, though with different
feelings, equally comfortless.
Delvile, however, who took care to place himself on the side whence
the wind blew hardest, perceived, in spite of his endeavours to save
her, some hail-stones lodged upon her thin summer cloak: he then took
off his own hat, and, though he ventured not to let it touch her, held
it in such a manner as to shelter her better.
Cecilia now could no longer be either silent or unmoved, but turning
to him with much emotion, said, "Why will you do this, Mr Delvile?"
"What would I _not_ do," answered he, "to obtain forgiveness from
"Well, well,--pray put on your hat."
"Do you command it?"
"No, certainly!--but I wish it."
"Ah!" cried he, instantly putting it on, "whose are the commands that
would have half the weight with your wishes?"
And then, after another pause, he added, "do you forgive me?"
Cecilia, ashamed of the cause of their dissension, and softened by the
seriousness of his manner, answered very readily, "yes, yes,--why will
you make me remember such nonsense?"
"All sweetness," cried he warmly, and snatching her hand, "is Miss
Beverley!--O that I had power--that it were not utterly impossible--
that the cruelty of my situation--"
"I find," cried she, greatly agitated, and forcibly drawing away her
hand, "you will teach me, for another time, the folly of fearing bad
And she hurried from beneath the tree; and Delvile perceiving one of
the servants approach with an umbrella, went forward to take it from
him, and directed him to hasten instantly to Lady Honoria.
Then returning to Cecilia, he would have held it over her head, but
with an air of displeasure, she took it into her own hand.
"Will you not let me carry it for you?" he cried.
"No, Sir, there is not any occasion."
They then proceeded silently on.
The storm was now soon over; but it grew very dark, and as they had
quitted the path while they ran, in order to get home by a shorter
cut, the walk was so bad from the height of the grass, and the
unevenness of the ground, that Cecilia had the utmost difficulty to
make her way; yet she resolutely refused any assistance from Delvile,
who walked anxiously by her side, and seemed equally fearful upon his
own account and upon hers, to trust himself with being importunate.
At length they came to a place which Cecilia in vain tried to pass;
Delvile then grew more urgent to help her; firm, however, in declining
all aid, she preferred going a considerable way round to another part
of the park which led to the house. Delvile, angry as well as
mortified, proposed to assist her no more, but followed without saying
Cecilia, though she felt not all the resentment she displayed, still
thought it necessary to support it, as she was much provoked with the
perpetual inconsistency of his behaviour, and deemed it wholly
improper to suffer, without discouragement, occasional sallies of
tenderness from one who, in his general conduct, behaved with the most
They now arrived at the castle; but entering by a back way, came to a
small and narrow passage which obstructed the entrance of the
umbrella: Delvile once more, and almost involuntarily, offered to help
her; but, letting down the spring, she coldly said she had no further
use for it.
He then went forward to open a small gate which led by another long
passage into the hall: but hearing the servants advance, he held it
for an instant in his hand, while, in a tone of voice the most
dejected, he said "I am grieved to find you thus offended; but were it
possible you could know half the wretchedness of my heart, the
generosity of your own would make you regret this severity!" and then,
opening the gate, he bowed, and went another way.
Cecilia was now in the midst of servants; but so much shocked and
astonished by the unexpected speech of Delvile, which instantly
changed all her anger into sorrow, that she scarce knew what they said
to her, nor what she replied; though they all with one voice enquired
what was become of Lady Honoria, and which way they should run to seek
Mrs Delvile then came also, and she was obliged to recollect herself.
She immediately proposed her going to bed, and drinking white wine
whey to prevent taking cold: cold, indeed, she feared not; yet she
agreed to the proposal, for she was confounded and dismayed by what
had passed, and utterly unable to hold any conversation.
Her perplexity and distress were, however, all attributed to fatigue
and fright; and Mrs Delvile, having assisted in hurrying her to bed,
went to perform the same office for Lady Honoria, who arrived at that
Left at length by herself, she revolved in her mind the adventure of
the evening, and the whole behaviour of Delvile since first she was
acquainted with him. That he loved her with tenderness, with fondness
loved her, seemed no longer to admit of any doubt, for however distant
and cold he appeared, when acting with circumspection and design, the
moment he was off his guard from surprise, terror, accident of any
sort, the moment that he was betrayed into acting from nature and
inclination, he was constantly certain to discover a regard the most
animated and flattering.
This regard, however, was not more evident than his desire to conceal
and to conquer it: he seemed to dread even her sight, and to have
imposed upon himself the most rigid forbearance of all conversation or
intercourse with her.
Whence could this arise? what strange and unfathomable cause could
render necessary a conduct so mysterious? he knew not, indeed, that
she herself wished it changed, but he could not be ignorant that his
chance with almost any woman would at least be worth trying.
Was the obstacle which thus discouraged him the condition imposed by
her uncle's will of giving her own name to the man she married? this
she herself thought was an unpleasant circumstance, but yet so common
for an heiress, that it could hardly out-weigh the many advantages of
such a connection.
Henrietta again occurred to her; the letter she had seen in her hands
was still unexplained: yet her entire conviction that Henrietta was
not loved by him, joined to a certainty that affection alone could
ever make him think of her, lessened upon this subject her suspicions
Lady Euphrasia Pemberton, at last, rested most upon her mind, and she
thought it probable some actual treaty was negociating with the Duke
Mrs Delvile she had every reason to believe was her friend, though she
was scrupulously delicate in avoiding either raillery or observation
upon the subject of her son, whom she rarely mentioned, and never but
upon occasions in which Cecilia could have no possible interest.
The Father, therefore, notwithstanding all Mr Monckton had represented
to the contrary, appeared to be the real obstacle; his pride might
readily object to her birth, which though not contemptible, was merely
decent, and which, if traced beyond her grandfather, lost all title
even to that epithet.
"If this, however," she cried, "is at last his situation, how much
have I been to blame in censuring his conduct! for while to me he has
appeared capricious, he has, in fact, acted wholly from necessity: if
his father insists upon his forming another connection, has he not
been honourable, prudent and just, in flying an object that made him
think of disobedience, and endeavouring to keep her ignorant of a
partiality it is his duty to curb?"
All, therefore, that remained for her to do or to resolve, was to
guard her own secret with more assiduous care than ever, and since she
found that their union was by himself thought impossible, to keep from
his knowledge that the regret was not all his own.
For two days, in consequence of violent colds caught during the storm,
Lady Honoria Pemberton and Cecilia were confined to their rooms.
Cecilia, glad by solitude and reflection to compose her spirits and
settle her plan of conduct, would willingly have still prolonged her
retirement, but the abatement of her cold affording her no pretence,
she was obliged on the third day to make her appearance.
Lady Honoria, though less recovered, as she had been more a sufferer,
was impatient of any restraint, and would take no denial to quitting
her room at the same time; at dinner, therefore, all the family met at
Mr Delvile, with his accustomed solemnity of civility, made various
enquiries and congratulations upon their danger and their security,
carefully in both, addressing himself first to Lady Honoria, and then
with more stateliness in his kindness, to Cecilia. His lady, who had
frequently visited them both, had nothing new to hear.
Delvile did not come in till they were all seated, when, hastily
saying he was glad to see both the ladies so well again, he instantly
employed himself in carving, with the agitation of a man who feared
trusting himself to sit idle.
Little, however, as he said, Cecilia was much struck by the melancholy
tone of his voice, and the moment she raised her eyes, she observed
that his countenance was equally sad.
"Mortimer," cried Mr Delvile, "I am sure you are not well: I cannot
imagine why you will not have some advice."
"Were I to send for a physician, Sir," cried Delvile, with affected
chearfulness, "he would find it much more difficult to imagine what
advice to give me."
"Permit me however, Mr Mortimer," cried Lady Honoria, "to return you
my humble thanks for the honour of your assistance in the thunder
storm! I am afraid you made yourself ill by attending _me_!"
"Your ladyship," returned Delvile, colouring very high, yet pretending
to laugh; "made so great a coward of me, that I ran away from shame at
my own inferiority of courage."
"Were you, then, with Lady Honoria during the storm?" cried Mrs
"No, Madam!" cried Lady Honoria very quick; "but he was so good as to
_leave_ me during the storm."
"Mortimer," said Mr Delvile, "is this possible?"
"O Lady Honoria was such a Heroine," answered Delvile, "that she
wholly disdained receiving any assistance; her valour was so much more
undaunted than mine, that she ventured to brave the lightning under an
"Now, dear Mrs Delvile," exclaimed Lady Honoria, "think what a
simpleton he would have made of me! he wanted to persuade me that in
the open air I should be less exposed to danger than under the shelter
of a thick tree!"
"Lady Honoria," replied Mrs Delvile, with a sarcastic smile, "the next
tale of scandal you oblige me to hear, I will insist for your
punishment that you shall read one of Mr Newbury's little books! there
are twenty of them that will explain this matter to you, and such
reading will at least employ your time as usefully as such tales!"
"Well, ma'am," said Lady Honoria, "I don't know whether you are
laughing at me or not, but really I concluded Mr Mortimer only chose
to amuse himself in a _tête-à-tête_ with Miss Beverley."
"He was not with Miss Beverley," cried Mrs Delvile with quickness;
"she was alone,--I saw her myself the moment she came in."
"Yes, ma'am,--but not then,-he was gone;"--said Cecilia, endeavouring,
but not very successfully, to speak with composure.
"I had the honour," cried Delvile, making, with equal success, the
same attempt, "to wait upon Miss Beverley to the little gate; and I
was then returning to Lady Honoria when I met her ladyship just coming
"Very extraordinary, Mortimer," said Mr Delvile, staring, "to attend
Lady Honoria the last!"
"Don't be angry in earnest, Sir," cried Lady Honoria, gaily, "for I
did not mean to turn tell-tale."
Here the subject was dropt: greatly to the joy both of Delvile and
Cecilia, who mutually exerted themselves in talking upon what next was
started, in order to prevent its being recurred to again.
That fear, however, over, Delvile said little more; sadness hung
heavily on his mind; he was absent, disturbed, uneasy; yet he
endeavoured no longer to avoid Cecilia; on the contrary, when she
arose to quit the room, he looked evidently disappointed.
The ladies' colds kept them at home all the evening, and Delvile, for
the first time since their arrival at the castle, joined them at tea:
nor when it was over, did he as usual retire; he loitered, pretended
to be caught by a new pamphlet, and looked as anxiously eager to speak
with Cecilia, as he had hitherto appeared to shun her.
With new emotion and fresh distress Cecilia perceived this change;
what he might have to say she could not conjecture, but all that
foreran his communication convinced her it was nothing she could wish;
and much as she had desired some explanation of his designs, when the
long-expected moment seemed arriving, prognostications the most cruel
of the event, repressed her impatience, and deadened her curiosity.
She earnestly lamented her unfortunate residence in his house, where
the adoration of every inhabitant, from his father to the lowest
servant, had impressed her with the strongest belief of his general
worthiness, and greatly, though imperceptibly, encreased her regard
for him, since she had now not a doubt remaining but that some cruel,
some fatal obstacle, prohibited their union.
To collect fortitude to hear it with composure, was now her whole
study; but though, when alone, she thought any discovery preferable to
suspence, all her courage failed her when Delvile appeared, and if she
could not detain Lady Honoria, she involuntarily followed her.
Thus passed four or five days; during which the health of Delvile
seemed to suffer with his mind, and though be refused to acknowledge
he was ill, it was evident to every body that he was far from well.
Mr Delvile frequently urged him to consent to have some advice; but he
always revived, though with forced and transitory spirits, at the
mention of a physician, and the proposal ended in nothing.
Mrs Delvile, too, at length grew alarmed; her enquiries were more
penetrating and pointed, but they were not more successful; every
attack of this sort was followed by immediate gaiety, which, however
constrained, served, for the time, to change the subject. Mrs Delvile,
however, was not soon to be deceived; she watched her son incessantly,
and seemed to feel an inquietude scarce less than his own.
Cecilia's distress was now augmented every moment, and the difficulty
to conceal it grew every hour more painful; she felt herself the cause
of the dejection of the son, and that thought made her feel guilty in
the presence of the mother; the explanation she expected threatened
her with new misery, and the courage to endure it she tried in vain to
acquire; her heart was most cruelly oppressed, apprehension and
suspence never left it for an instant; rest abandoned her at night,
and chearfulness by day.
At this time the two lords, Ernolf and Derford, arrived; and Cecilia,
who at first had lamented their design, now rejoiced in their
presence, since they divided the attention of Mrs Delvile, which she
began to fear was not wholly directed to her son, and since they saved
her from having the whole force of Lady Honoria's high spirits and gay
rattle to herself.
Their immediate observations upon the ill looks of Delvile, startled
both Cecilia and the mother even more than their own fears, which they
had hoped were rather the result of apprehension than of reason.
Cecilia now severely reproached herself with having deferred the
conference he was evidently seeking, not doubting but she had
contributed to his indisposition by denying him the relief he might
expect from concluding the affair.
Melancholy as was this idea, it was yet a motive to overpower her
reluctance, and determine her no longer to shun what it seemed
necessary to endure.
Deep reasoners, however, when they are also nice casuists, frequently
resolve with a tardiness which renders their resolutions of no effect:
this was the case with Cecilia; the same morning that she came down
stairs prepared to meet with firmness the blow which she believed
awaited her, Delvile, who, since the arrival of the two lords, had
always appeared at the general breakfast, acknowledged in answer to
his mother's earnest enquiries, that he had a cold and head-ache: and
had he, at the same time, acknowledged a pleurisy and fever, the alarm
instantly spread in the family could not have been greater; Mr
Delvile, furiously ringing the bell, ordered a man and horse to go
that moment to Dr Lyster, the physician to the family, and not to
return without him if he was himself alive; and Mrs Delvile, not less
distressed, though more quiet, fixed her eyes upon her son, with an
expression of anxiety that shewed her whole happiness was bound in his
Delvile endeavoured to laugh away their fears, assuring them he should
be well the next day, and representing in ridiculous terms the
perplexity of Dr Lyster to contrive some prescription for him.
Cecilia's behaviour, guided by prudence and modesty, was steady and
composed; she believed his illness and his uneasiness were the same,
and she hoped the resolution she had taken would bring relief to them
both while the terrors of Mr and Mrs Delvile seemed so greatly beyond
the occasion, that her own were rather lessened than increased by
Dr Lyster soon arrived; he was a humane and excellent physician, and a
man of sound judgment.
Delvile, gaily, shaking hands with him, said "I believe, Dr Lyster,
you little expected to meet a patient, who, were he as skilful, would
be as able to do business as yourself."
"What, with such a hand as this?" cried the Doctor; "come, come, you
must not teach me my own profession. When I attend a patient, I come
to tell how he is myself, not to be told."
"He is, then ill!" cried Mrs Delvile; "oh Mortimer, why have you thus
"What is his disorder?" cried Mr Delvile; "let us call in more help;
who shall we send for, doctor?"
And again he rang the bell.
"What now?" said Dr Lyster, coolly; "must a man be dying if he is not
in perfect health? we want nobody else; I hope I can prescribe: for a
cold without demanding a consultation?"
"But are you sure it is merely a cold?" cried Mr Delvile; "may not
some dreadful malady"--
"Pray, Sir, have patience," interrupted the doctor; "Mr Mortimer and I
will have some discourse together presently; mean time, let us all sit
down, and behave like Christians: I never talk of my art before
company. 'Tis hard you won't let me be a gentleman at large for two
Lady Honoria and Cecilia would then have risen, but neither Dr Lyster
nor Delvile would permit them to go; and a conversation tolerably
lively took place, after which, the party in general separating, the
doctor accompanied Delvile to his own apartment.
Cecilia then went up stairs, where she most impatiently waited some
intelligence: none, however, arriving, in about half an hour she
returned to the parlour; she found it empty, but was soon joined by
Lady Honoria and Lord Ernolf.
Lady Honoria, happy in having something going forward, and not much
concerning herself whether it were good or evil, was as eager to
communicate what she had gathered, as Cecilia was to hear it.
"Well, my dear," she cried, "so I don't find at last but that all this
prodigious illness will be laid to your account."
"To my account?" cried Cecilia, "how is that possible?"
"Why this tender chicken caught cold in the storm last week, and not
being put to bed by its mama, and nursed with white-wine whey, the
poor thing has got a fever."
"He is a fine young man," said Lord Ernolf; "I should be sorry any
harm happened to him."
"He _was_ a fine young man, my lord," cried Lady Honoria, "but he
is grown intolerably stupid lately; however, it's all the fault of his
father and mother. Was ever any thing half so ridiculous as their
behaviour this morning? it was with the utmost difficulty I forbore
laughing in their faces: and really, I believe if I was to meet with
such an unfortunate accident with Mr Delvile, it would turn him to
marble at once! indeed he is little better now, but such an affront as
that would never let him move from the spot where he received it."
"I forgive him, however," returned Lord Ernolf, "for his anxiety about
his son, since he is the last of so ancient a family."
"That is his great misfortune, my lord," answered Lady Honoria,
"because it is the very reason they make such a puppet of him. If
there were but a few more little masters to dandle and fondle, I'll
answer for it this precious Mortimer would soon be left to himself:
and then, really, I believe he would be a good tolerable sort of young
man. Don't you think he would, Miss Beverley?"
"O yes!" said Cecilia, "I believe--I think so!"
"Nay, nay, I did not ask if you thought him tolerable _now_, so
no need to be frightened."
Here they were interrupted by the entrance of Dr Lyster.
"Well, Sir," cried Lady Honoria, "and when am I to go into mourning
for my cousin Mortimer?"
"Why very soon," answered he, "unless you take better care of him. He
has confessed to me that after being out in the storm last Wednesday,
he sat in his wet cloaths all the evening."
"Dear," cried Lady Honoria, "and what would that do to him? I have no
notion of a man's always wanting a cambric handkerchief about his
"Perhaps your ladyship had rather make him apply it to his eyes?"
cried the doctor: "however, sitting inactive in wet cloaths would
destroy a stouter man than Mr Delvile; but he _forgot_ it, he
says! which of you two young ladies could not have given as good
"Your most obedient," said Lady Honoria and why should not a lady give
as good a reason as a gentleman?"
"I don't know," answered he, drily, "but from want of practice, I
"O worse and worse!" cried Lady Honoria; you shall never be my
physician; if I was to be attended by you, you'd make me sick instead
"All the better," answered he, "for then I must have the honour of
attending you till I made you well instead of sick." And with a good-
humoured smile, he left them; and Lord Derford, at the same time,
coming into the room, Cecilia contrived to stroll out into the park.
The account to which she had been listening redoubled her uneasiness;
she was conscious that whatever was the indisposition of Delvile, and
whether it was mental or bodily, she was herself its occasion: through
her he had been negligent, she had rendered him forgetful, and in
consulting her own fears in preference to his peace, she had avoided
an explanation, though he had vigilantly sought one. _She knew
not_, he told her, _half the wretchedness of his heart_.--
Alas! thought she, he little conjectures the state of mine!
Lady Honoria suffered her not to be long alone; in about half an hour
she ran after her, gaily calling out, "O Miss Beverley, you have lost
the delightfullest diversion in the world! I have just had the most
ridiculous scene with my Lord Derford that you ever heard in your
life! I asked him what put it in his head to be in love with you,--and
he had the simplicity to answer, quite seriously, his father!"
"He was very right," said Cecilia, "if the desire of uniting two
estates is to be denominated being in love; for that, most certainly,
was put into his head by his father."
"O but you have not heard half. I told him, then, that, as a friend,
in confidence I must acquaint him, I believed you intended to marry
"Good heaven, Lady Honoria!"
"O, you shall hear the reason; because, as I assured him, it was
proper he should immediately call him to account."
"Are you mad, Lady Honoria?"
"For you know, said I, Miss Beverley has had one duel fought for her
already, and a lady who has once had that compliment paid her, always
expects it from every new admirer; and I really believe your not
observing that form is the true cause of her coldness to you."
"Is it possible you can have talked so wildly?"
"Yes, and what is much better, he believed every word I said!"
"Much better?--No, indeed, it is much worse! and if, in fact, he is so
uncommonly weak, I shall really be but little indebted to your
ladyship for giving him such notions."
"O I would not but have done it for the world! for I never laughed so
immoderately in my life. He began assuring me he was not afraid, for
he said he had practised fencing more than any thing: so I made him
promise to send a challenge to Mortimer as soon as he is well enough
to come down again: for Dr Lyster has ordered him to keep his room."
Cecilia, smothering her concern for this last piece of intelligence by
pretending to feel it merely for the former, expostulated with Lady
Honoria upon so mischievous a frolic, and earnestly entreated her to
go back and contradict it all.
"No, no, not for the world!" cried she; "he has not the least spirit,
and I dare say he would not fight to save the whole nation from
destruction; but I'll make him believe that it's necessary, in order
to give him something to think of, for really his poor head is so
vacant, that I am sure if one might but play upon it with sticks, it
would sound just like a drum."
Cecilia, finding it vain to combat with her fantasies, was at length
obliged to submit.
The rest of the day she passed very unpleasantly; Delvile appeared
not; his father was restless and disturbed, and his mother, though
attentive to her guests, and, for their sakes rallying her spirits,
was visibly ill disposed to think or to talk but of her son.
One diversion, however, Cecilia found for herself; Delvile had a
favourite spaniel, which, when he walked followed him, and when he
rode, ran by his horse; this dog, who was not admitted into the house,
she now took under her own care; and spent almost the whole day out of
doors, chiefly for the satisfaction of making him her companion.
The next morning, when Dr Lyster came again, she kept in the way, in
order to hear his opinion; and was sitting with Lady Honoria in the
parlour, when he entered it to write a prescription.
Mrs Delvile, in a few moments, followed him, and with a face and voice
of the tenderest maternal apprehensions, said "Doctor, one thing
entrust me with immediately; I can neither bear imposition nor
suspense;--you know what I would say!--tell me if I have any thing to
fear, that my preparations may be adequate!"
"Nothing, I believe, in the world."
"You believe!" repeated Mrs Delvile, starting; "Oh doctor!"
"Why you would not have me say I am _certain_, would you? these
are no times for Popery and infallibility; however, I assure you I
think him perfectly safe. He has done a foolish and idle trick, but no
man is wise always. We must get rid of his fever, and then if his cold
remains, with any cough, he may make a little excursion to Bristol."
"To Bristol! nay then,--I understand you too well!"
"No, no, you don't understand me at all; I don't send him to Bristol
because he is in a bad way, but merely because I mean to put him in a
"Let him, then, go immediately; why should he increase the danger by
waiting a moment? I will order--"
"Hold, hold! I know what to order myself! 'Tis a strange thing people
will always teach me my own duty! why should I make a man travel such
weather as this in a fever? do you think I want to confine him in a
mad-house, or be confined in one myself?"
"Certainly you know best--but still if there is any danger--"
"No, no, there is not! only we don't chuse there should be any. And
how will he entertain himself better than by going to Bristol? I send
him merely on a jaunt of pleasure; and I am sure he will be safer
there than shut up in a house with two such young ladies as these."
And then he made off. Mrs Delvile, too anxious for conversation, left
the room, and Cecilia, too conscious for silence, forced herself into
discourse with Lady Honoria.
Three days she passed in this uncertainty what she had to expect;
blaming those fears which had deferred an explanation, and tormented
by Lady Honoria, whose raillery and levity now grew very unseasonable.
Fidel, the favourite spaniel, was almost her only consolation, and she
pleased herself not inconsiderably by making a friend of the faithful
On the fourth day the house wore a better aspect; Delvile's fever was
gone, and Dr Lyster permitted him to leave his room: a cough, however,
remained, and his journey to Bristol was settled to take place in
three days. Cecilia, knowing he was now expected down stairs, hastened
out of the parlour the moment she had finished her breakfast; for
affected by his illness, and hurt at the approaching separation, she
dreaded the first meeting, and wished to fortify her mind for bearing
it with propriety.
In a very few minutes, Lady Honoria, running after her, entreated that
she would come down; "for Mortimer," she cried, "is in the parlour,
and the poor child is made so much of by its papa and mama, that I
wish they don't half kill him by their ridiculous fondness. It is
amazing to me he is so patient with them, for if they teized me half
as much, I should be ready to jump up and shake them. But I wish you
would come down, for I assure you it's a comical scene."
"Your ladyship is soon diverted! but what is there so comical in the
anxiety of parents for an only son?"
"Lord, they don't care a straw for him all the time! it's merely that
he may live to keep up this old castle, which I hope in my heart he
will pull down the moment they are dead! But do pray come; it will
really give you spirits to see them all. The father keeps ringing the
bell to order half a hundred pair of boots for him, and all the
greatcoats in the county; and the mother sits and looks as if a hearse
and mourning coach were already coming over the drawbridge: but the
most diverting object among them is my Lord Derford! O, it is really
too entertaining to see him! there he sits, thinking the whole time of
his challenge! I intend to employ him all this afternoon in practising
to shoot at a mark."
And then again she pressed her to join the group, and Cecilia, fearing
her opposition might seem strange, consented.
Delvile arose at her entrance, and, with tolerable steadiness, she
congratulated him on his recovery: and then, taking her usual seat,
employed herself in embroidering a screen. She joined too,
occasionally, in the conversation, and observed, not without surprise,
that Delvile seemed much less dejected than before his confinement.
Soon after, he ordered his horse, and, accompanied by Lord Derford,
rode out. Mr Delvile then took Lord Ernolf to shew him some intended
improvements in another part of the castle, and Lady Honoria walked
away in search of any entertainment she could find.
Mrs Delvile, in better spirits than she had been for many days, sent
for her own work, and sitting by Cecilia, conversed with her again as
in former times; mixing instruction with entertainment, and general
satire with particular kindness, in a manner at once so lively and so
flattering, that Cecilia herself reviving, found but little difficulty
in bearing her part in the conversation.
And thus, with some gaiety, and tolerable ease, was spent the greatest
part of the morning; but just as they were talking of changing their
dress for dinner, Lady Honoria with an air of the utmost exultation,
came flying into the room. "Well, ma'am," she cried, "I have some news
now that I _must_ tell you, because it will make you believe me
another time though I know it will put you in a passion."
"That's sweetly designed, at least!" said Mrs Delvile, laughing;
"however, I'll trust you, for my passions will not, just now, be
irritated by straws."
"Why, ma'am, don't you remember I told you when you were in town that
Mr Mortimer kept a mistress--"
"Yes!" cried Mrs Delvile, disdainfully, "and you may remember, Lady
Honoria, I told you--"
"O, you would not believe a word of it! but it's all true, I assure
you! and now he has brought her down here; he sent for her about three
weeks ago, and he has boarded her at a cottage, about half a mile from
Cecilia, to whom Henrietta Belfield was instantly present, changed
colour repeatedly, and turned so extremely sick, she could with
difficulty keep her seat. She forced herself, however, to continue her
work, though she knew so little what she was about, that she put her
needle in and out of the same place without ceasing.
Meanwhile Mrs Delvile, with a countenance of the utmost indignation,
exclaimed, "Lady Honoria, if you think a tale of scandal such as this
reflects no disgrace upon its relater, you must pardon me for
entreating you to find an auditor more of the same opinion than
"Nay, ma'am, since you are so angry, I'll tell you the whole affair,
for this is but half of it. He has a child here, too,--I vow I long to
see it!--and he is so fond of it that he spends half his time in
nursing it;--and that, I suppose, is the thing that takes him out so
much; and I fancy, too, that's what has made him grow so grave, for
may be he thinks it would not be pretty to be very frisky, now he's a
Not only Cecilia, but Mrs Delvile herself was now overpowered, and she
sat for some time wholly silent and confounded; Lady Honoria then,
turning to Cecilia exclaimed, "Bless me, Miss Beverley, what are you
about! why that flower is the most ridiculous thing I ever saw! you
have spoilt your whole work."
Cecilia, in the utmost confusion, though pretending to laugh, then
began to unpick it; and Mrs Delvile, recovering, more calmly, though
not less angrily, said "And has this tale the honour of being invented
solely by your ladyship, or had it any other assistant?"
"O no, I assure you, it's no invention of mine; I had it from very
good authority upon my word. But only look at Miss Beverley! would not
one think I had said that she had a child herself? She looks as pale
as death. My dear, I am sure you can't be well?"
"I beg your pardon," cried Cecilia, forcing a smile, though extremely
provoked with her; "I never was better."
And then, with the hope of appearing unconcerned, she raised her head;
but meeting the eyes of Mrs Delvile fixed upon her face with a look of
penetrating observation, abashed and guilty, she again dropt it, and
resumed her work.
"Well, my dear," said Lady Honoria, "I am sure there is no occasion to
send for Dr Lyster to _you_, for you recover yourself in a
moment: you have the finest colour now I ever saw: has not she, Mrs
Delvile? did you ever see anybody blush so becomingly?"
"I wish, Lady Honoria," said Mrs Delvile, with severity, "it were
possible to see you blush!"
"O but I never do! not but what it's pretty enough too; but I don't
know how it is, it never happens. Now Euphrasia can blush from morning
to night. I can't think how she contrives it. Miss Beverley, too,
plays at it vastly well; she's red and white, and white and red half a
dozen times in a minute. Especially," looking at her archly, and
lowering her voice, "if you talk to her of Mortimer!"
"No, indeed! no such thing!" cried Cecilia with some resentment, and
again looking up; but glancing her eyes towards Mrs Delvile, and again
meeting hers, filled with the strongest expression of enquiring
solicitude, unable to sustain their inquisition, and shocked to find
herself thus watchfully observed, she returned in hasty confusion to
"Well, my dear," cried Lady Honoria, again, "but what are you about
now? do you intend to unpick the whole screen?"
"How can she tell what she is doing," said Mrs Delvile, with
quickness, "if you torment her thus incessantly? I will take you away
from her, that she may have a little peace. You shall do me the honour
to attend my toilette, and acquaint me with some further particulars
of this extraordinary discovery."
Mrs Delvile then left the room, but Lady Honoria, before she followed
her, said in a low voice "Pity me, Miss Beverley, if you have the
least good-nature! I am now going to hear a lecture of two hours
Cecilia, left to herself was in a perturbation almost insupportable:
Delvile's mysterious conduct seemed the result of some entanglement of
vice; Henrietta Belfield, the artless Henrietta Belfield, she feared
had been abused, and her own ill-fated partiality, which now more than
ever she wished unknown even to herself, was evidently betrayed where
most the dignity of her mind made her desire it to be concealed!
In this state of shame, regret and resentment, which made her forget
to change her dress, or her place, she was suddenly surprised by
Starting and colouring, she busied herself with collecting her work,
that she might hurry out of the room. Delvile, though silent himself,
endeavoured to assist her; but when she would have gone, he attempted
to stop her, saying "Miss Beverley, for three minutes only."
"No, sir," cried she, indignantly, "not for an instant!" and leaving
him utterly astonished, she hastened to her own apartment.
She was then sorry she had been so precipitate; nothing had been
clearly proved against him; no authority was so likely to be
fallacious as that of Lady Honoria; neither was he under any
engagement to herself that could give her any right to manifest such
displeasure. These reflections, however, came too late, and the quick
feelings of her agitated mind were too rapid to wait the dictates of
cool reason. At dinner she attended wholly to Lord Ernolf, whose
assiduous politeness, profiting by the humour, saved her the painful
effort of forcing conversation, or the guilty consciousness of giving
way to silence, and enabled her to preserve her general tenor between
taciturnity and loquaciousness. Mrs Delvile she did not once dare look
at; but her son, she saw, seemed greatly hurt; yet it was proudly, not
sorrowfully, and therefore she saw it with less uneasiness.
During the rest of the day, which was passed in general society, Mrs
Delvile, though much occupied, frequently leaving the room, and
sending for Lady Honoria, was more soft, kind and gentle with Cecilia
than ever, looking at her with the utmost tenderness, often taking her
hand, and speaking to her with even unusual sweetness. Cecilia with
mingled sadness and pleasure observed this encreasing regard, which
she could not but attribute to the discovery made through Lady
Honoria's mischievous intelligence, and which, while it rejoiced her
with the belief of her approbation, added fresh force to her regret in
considering it was fruitless. Delvile, mean-time, evidently offended
himself, conversed only with the gentlemen, and went very early into
his own room.
When they were all retiring, Mrs Delvile, following Cecilia, dismissed
her maid to talk with her alone.
"I am not, I hope, often," she cried, "solicitous or importunate to
speak about my son: his character, I believe, wants no vindication;
clear and unsullied, it has always been its own support: yet the
aspersion cast upon it this morning by Lady Honoria, I think myself
bound to explain, not partially as his mother, but simply as his
Cecilia, who knew not whither such an explanation might lead, nor
wherefore it was made, heard this opening with much emotion, but gave
neither to that nor to what followed any interruption.
Mrs Delvile then continued: she had taken the trouble, she said, to
sift the whole affair, in order to shame Lady Honoria by a pointed
conviction of what she had invented, and to trace from the foundation
the circumstances whence her surmises or report had sprung.
Delvile, it seems, about a fortnight before the present time, in one
of his morning walks, had observed a gipsey sitting by the side of the
high road, who seemed extremely ill, and who had a very beautiful
child tied to her back.
Struck with the baby, he stopt to enquire to whom it belonged; to
herself, she said, and begged his charity with the most pitiable cries
of distress; telling him that she was travelling to join some of her
fraternity, who were in a body near Bath, but was so ill with an ague
and fever that she feared she should die on the road.
Delvile desired her to go to the next cottage, and promised to pay for
her board there till she was better. He then spoke to the man and his
wife who owned it to take them in, who, glad to oblige his Honour,
instantly consented, and he had since called twice to see in what
manner they went on.
"How simple," continued Mrs Delvile, "is a matter of fact in itself,
and how complex when embellished! This tale has been told by the
cottagers to our servants; it has travelled, probably gaining
something from every mouth, to Lady Honoria's maid, and, having
reached her ladyship, was swelled in a moment into all we heard! I
think, however, that, for some time at least, her levity will be
rather less daring. I have not, in this affair, at all spared her; I
made her hear from Mortimer himself the little story as it happened; I
then carried her to the cottage, where we had the whole matter
confirmed; and I afterwards insisted upon being told myself by her
maid all she had related to her lady, that she might thus be
unanswerably convicted of inventing whatever she omitted. I have
occasioned her some confusion, and, for the moment, a little
resentment; but she is so volatile that neither will last; and though,
with regard to my own family, I may perhaps have rendered her more
cautious, I fear, with regard to the world in general, she is utterly
incorrigible, because it has neither pleasure nor advantage to offer,
that can compensate for the deprivation of relating one staring story,
or ridiculous anecdote."
And then, wishing her good night, she added, "I make not any apology
for this detail, which you owe, not, believe me, to a mother's folly,
but, if I [know] myself at all, to a love of truth and justice.
Mortimer, independent of all connection with me, cannot but to every
body appear of a character which may be deemed even exemplary;
calumny, therefore, falling upon such a subject, injures not only
himself but society, since it weakens all confidence in virtue, and
strengthens the scepticism of depravity."
She then left her.
"Ah!" thought Cecilia, "to me, at least, this solicitude for his fame
needs no apology! humane and generous Delvile! never, again, will I a
moment doubt your worthiness!" And then, cherishing that darling idea,
she forgot all her cares and apprehensions, her quarrel, her
suspicions, and the approaching separation, and, recompensed for every
thing by this refutation of his guilt, she hastened to bed, and
composed herself to rest.
Early the next morning Cecilia had a visit from Lady Honoria, who came
to tell her story her own way, and laugh at the anxiety of Mrs
Delvile, and the trouble she had taken; "for, after all," continued
she, "what did the whole matter signify? and how could I possibly help
the mistake? when I heard of his paying for a woman's board, what was
so natural as to suppose she must be his mistress? especially as there
was a child in the case. O how I wish you had been with us! you never
saw such a ridiculous sight in your life; away we went in the chaise
full drive to the cottage, frightening all the people almost into
fits; out came the poor woman, away ran the poor man,--both of them
thought the end of the world at hand! The gipsey was best off, for she
went to her old business, and began begging. I assure you, I believe
she would be very pretty if she was not so ill, and so I dare say
Mortimer thought too, or I fancy he would not have taken such care of
"Fie, fie, Lady Honoria! will nothing bring conviction to you?"
"Nay, you know, there's no harm in that, for why should not pretty
people live as well as ugly ones? There's no occasion to leave nothing
in the world but frights. I looked hard at the baby, to see if it was
like Mortimer, but I could not make it out; those young things are
like nothing. I tried if it would talk, for I wanted sadly to make it
call Mrs Delvile grandmama; however, the little urchin could say
nothing to be understood. O what a rage would Mrs Delvile have been
in! I suppose this whole castle would hardly have been thought heavy
enough to crush such an insolent brat, though it were to have fallen
upon it all at a blow!"
Thus rattled this light-hearted lady till the family was assembled to
breakfast; and then Cecilia, softened towards Delvile by newly-excited
admiration, as well as by the absence which would separate them the
following day, intended, by every little courteous office in her
power, to make her peace with him before his departure: but she
observed, with much chagrin, that Mrs Delvile never ceased to watch
her, which, added to an air of pride in the coldness of Delvile, that
he had never before assumed, discouraged her from making the attempt,
and compelled her to seem quiet and unconcerned.
As soon as breakfast was over, the gentlemen all rode or walked out;
and when the ladies were by themselves, Lady Honoria suddenly
exclaimed, "Mrs Delvile, I can't imagine for what reason you send Mr
Mortimer to Bristol."
"For a reason, Lady Honoria, that with all your wildness, I should be
very sorry you should know better by experience."
"Why then, ma'am; had we not better make a party, and all go? Miss
Beverley, should you like to join it? I am afraid it would be vastly
disagreeable to you."
Cecilia, now again was _red and white, and white and red a dozen
times in a minute_; and Mrs Delvile, rising and taking her hand,
expressively said, "Miss Beverley, you have a thousand times too much
sensibility for this mad-cap of a companion. I believe I shall punish
her by taking you away from her all this morning; will you come and
sit with me in the dressing-room?"
Cecilia assented without daring to look at her, and followed in
trembling, up stairs. Something of importance, she fancied, would
ensue, her secret she saw was revealed, and therefore she could form
no conjecture but that Delvile would be the subject of their discourse
yet whether to explain his behaviour, or plead his cause, whether to
express her separate approbation, or communicate some intelligence
from himself, she had neither time, opportunity nor clue to unravel.
All that was undoubted seemed the affection of Mrs Delvile, all that,
on her own part, could be resolved, was to suppress her partiality
till she knew if it might properly be, avowed.
Mrs Delvile, who saw her perturbation, led immediately to subjects of
indifference, and talked upon them so long, and with so much ease,
that Cecilia, recovering her composure, began to think she had been
mistaken, and that nothing was intended but a tranquil conversation.
As soon, however, as she had quieted her apprehensions, she sat silent
herself, with a look that Cecilia easily construed into thoughtful
perplexity in what manner she should introduce what she meant to
This pause was succeeded by her speaking of Lady Honoria; "how wild,
how careless, how incorrigible she is! she lost her mother early; and
the Duke, who idolizes her, and who, marrying very late, is already an
old man, she rules entirely; with him, and a supple governess, who has
neither courage to oppose her, nor heart to wish well but to her own
interest, she has lived almost wholly. Lately, indeed, she has come
more into the world, but without even a desire of improvement, and
with no view and no thought but to gratify her idle humour by laughing
at whatever goes forward."
"She certainly neither wants parts nor discernment," said Cecilia;
"and, when my mind is not occupied by other matters, I find her
conversation entertaining and agreeable."
"Yes," said Mrs Delvile, "but that light sort of wit which attacks,
with equal alacrity, what is serious or what is gay, is twenty times
offensive, to once that it is exhilarating; since it shews that while
its only aim is self-diversion, it has the most insolent negligence
with respect to any pain it gives to others. The rank of Lady Honoria,
though it has not rendered her proud, nor even made her conscious she
has any dignity to support, has yet given her a saucy indifference
whom she pleases or hurts, that borders upon what in a woman is of all
things the most odious, a daring defiance of the world and its
Cecilia, never less disposed to enter upon her defence, made but
little answer; and, soon after, Mrs Delvile added, "I heartily wish
she were properly established; and yet, according to the pernicious
manners and maxims of the present age, she is perhaps more secure from
misconduct while single, than she will be when married. Her father, I
fear, will leave her too much to herself, and in that case I scarce
know what may become of her; she has neither judgment nor principle to
direct her choice, and therefore, in all probability, the same whim
which one day will guide it, will the next lead her to repent it."
Again they were both silent; and then Mrs Delvile, gravely, yet with
energy exclaimed, "How few are there, how very few, who marry at once
upon principles rational, and feelings pleasant! interest and
inclination are eternally at strife, and where either is wholly
sacrificed, the other is inadequate to happiness. Yet how rarely do
they divide the attention! the young are rash, and the aged are
mercenary; their deliberations are never in concert, their views are
scarce ever blended; one vanquishes, and the other submits; neither
party temporizes, and commonly each is unhappy."
"The time," she continued, "is now arrived when reflections of this
sort cannot too seriously occupy me; the errors I have observed in
others, I would fain avoid committing; yet such is the blindness of
self-love, that perhaps, even at the moment I censure them, I am
falling, without consciousness, into the same! nothing, however, shall
through negligence be wrong; for where is the son who merits care and
attention, if Mortimer from his parents deserves not to meet them?"
The expectations of Cecilia were now again awakened, and awakened with
fresh terrors lest Mrs Delvile, from compassion, meant to offer her
services; vigorously, therefore, she determined to exert herself, and
rather give up Mortimer and all thoughts of him for ever, than submit
to receive assistance in persuading him to the union.
"Mr Delvile," she continued, "is most earnest and impatient that some
alliance should take place without further delay; and for myself,
could I see him with propriety and with happiness disposed of, what a
weight of anxiety would be removed from my heart!"
Cecilia now made an effort to speak, attempting to say "Certainly, it
is a matter of great consequence;" but so low was her voice, and so
confused her manner, that Mrs Delvile, though attentively listening,
heard not a word. She forbore, however, to make her repeat what she
said, and went on herself as if speaking in answer.
"Not only his own, but the peace of his whole family will depend upon
his election, since he is the last of his race. This castle and
estate, and another in the north, were entailed upon him by the late
Lord Delvile, his grandfather, who, disobliged by his eldest son, the
present lord, left every thing he had power to dispose of to his
second son, Mr Delvile, and at his death, to his grandson, Mortimer.
And even the present lord, though always at variance with his brother,
is fond of his nephew, and has declared him his heir. I, also, have
one sister, who is rich, who has no children, and who has made the
same declaration. Yet though with such high expectations, he must not
connect himself imprudently; for his paternal estate wants repair, and
he is well entitled with a wife to expect what it requires."
Most true! thought Cecilia, yet ashamed of her recent failure, she
applied herself to her work, and would not again try to speak.
"He is amiable, accomplished, well educated, and well born; far may we
look, and not meet with his equal; no woman need disdain, and few
women would refuse him."
Cecilia blushed her concurrence; yet could well at that moment have
spared hearing the eulogy.
"Yet how difficult," she continued, "to find a proper alliance! there
are many who have some recommendations, but who is there wholly
This question seemed unanswerable; nor could Cecilia devise what it
"Girls of high family have but seldom large fortunes, since the heads
of their house commonly require their whole wealth for the support of
their own dignity; while on the other hand, girls of large fortune are
frequently ignorant, insolent, or low born; kept up by their friends
lest they should fall a prey to adventurers, they have no acquaintance
with the world, and little enlargement from education; their
instructions are limited to a few merely youthful accomplishments; the
first notion they imbibe is of their own importance, the first lesson
they are taught is the value of riches, and even from their cradles,
their little minds are narrowed, and their self-sufficiency is
excited, by cautions to beware of fortune-hunters, and assurances that
the whole world will be at their feet. Among such should we seek a
companion for Mortimer? surely not. Formed for domestic happiness, and
delighting in elegant society, his mind would disdain an alliance in
which its affections had no share."
Cecilia colouring and trembling, thought now the moment of her trial
was approaching, and half mortified and half frightened prepared
herself to sustain it with firmness.
"I venture, therefore, my dear Miss Beverley, to speak to you upon
this subject as a friend who will have patience to hear my
perplexities; you see upon what they hang,--where the birth is such as
Mortimer Delvile may claim, the fortune generally fails; and where the
fortune is adequate to his expectations, the birth yet more frequently
would disgrace us."
Cecilia, astonished by this speech, and quite off her guard from
momentary surprize, involuntarily raised her head to look at Mrs
Delvile, in whose countenance she observed the most anxious concern,
though her manner of speaking had seemed placid and composed.
"Once," she continued, without appearing to remark the emotion of her
auditor, "Mr Delvile thought of uniting him with his cousin Lady
Honoria; but he never could endure the proposal; and who shall blame
his repugnance? her sister, indeed, Lady Euphrasia, is much
preferable, her education has been better, and her fortune is much
more considerable. At present, however, Mortimer seems greatly averse
to her, and who has a right to be difficult, if we deny it to him?"
Wonder, uncertainty, expectation and suspence now all attacked
Cecilia, and all harassed her with redoubled violence; why she was
called to this conference she knew not; the approbation she had
thought so certain, she doubted, and the proposal of assistance she
had apprehended, she ceased to think would be offered some fearful
mystery, some cruel obscurity, still clouded all her prospects, and
not merely obstructed her view of the future, but made what was
immediately before her gloomy and indistinct.
The state of her mind seemed read by Mrs Delvile, who examined her
with eyes of such penetrating keenness, that they rather made
discoveries than enquiries. She was silent some time, and looked
irresolute how to proceed; but at length, she arose, and taking
Cecilia by the hand, who almost drew it back from her dread of what
would follow, she said "I will torment you no more, my sweet young
friend, with perplexities which you cannot relieve: this only I will
say, and then drop the subject for ever; when my solicitude for
Mortimer is removed, and he is established to the satisfaction of us
all, no care will remain in the heart of his mother, half so fervent,
so anxious and so sincere as the disposal of my amiable Cecilia, for
whose welfare and happiness my wishes are even maternal."
She then kissed her glowing cheek, and perceiving her almost stupified
with astonishment, spared her any effort to speak, by hastily leaving
her in possession of her room.
Undeceived in her expectations and chilled in her hopes, the heart of
Cecilia no longer struggled to sustain its dignity, or conceal its
tenderness; the conflict was at an end, Mrs Delvile had been open,
though her son was mysterious; but, in removing her doubts, she had
bereft her of her peace. She now found her own mistake in building
upon her approbation; she saw nothing was less in her intentions, and
that even when most ardent in affectionate regard, she separated her
interest from that of her son as if their union was a matter of utter
impossibility. "Yet why," cried Cecilia, "oh why is it deemed so! that
she loves me, she is ever eager to proclaim, that my fortune would be,
peculiarly useful, she makes not a secret, and that I, at least,
should start no insuperable objections, she has, alas! but too
obviously discovered! Has she doubts of her son?--no, she has too much
discernment; the father, then, the haughty, impracticable father, has
destined him for some woman of rank, and will listen to no other
This notion somewhat soothed her in the disappointment she suffered;
yet to know herself betrayed to Mrs Delvile, and to see no other
consequence ensue but that of exciting a tender compassion, which led
her to discourage, from benevolence, hopes too high to be indulged,
was a mortification so severe, that it caused her a deeper depression
of spirits than any occurrence of her life had yet occasioned.
"What Henrietta Belfield is to me," she cried, "I am to Mrs Delvile! but
what in her is amiable and artless, in me is disgraceful and unworthy.
And this is the situation which so long I have desired! This is the
change of habitation which I thought would make me so happy! oh who
can chuse, who can judge for himself? who can point out the road to
his own felicity, or decide upon the spot where his peace will be
Still, however, she had something to do, some spirit to exert, and some
fortitude to manifest: Mortimer, she was certain, suspected not his own
power; his mother, she knew, was both too good and too wise to reveal it
to him, and she determined, by caution and firmness upon his leave-
taking and departure, to retrieve, if possible, that credit with Mrs
Delvile, which she feared her betrayed susceptibility had weakened.
As soon, therefore, as she recovered from her consternation, she
quitted Mrs Delvile's apartment, and seeking Lady Honoria herself,
determined not to spend even a moment alone, till Mortimer was gone;
lest the sadness of her reflections should overpower her resolution,
and give a melancholy to her air and manner which he might attribute,
with but too much justice, to concern upon his own account.
At dinner, with the assistance of Lord Ernolf, who was most happy to
give it, Cecilia seemed tolerably easy. Lord Derford, too, encouraged
by his father, endeavoured to engage some share of her attention; but
he totally failed; her mind was superior to little arts of coquetry,
and her pride had too much dignity to evaporate in pique; she
determined, therefore, at this time, as at all others, to be
consistent in shewing him he had no chance of her favour.
At tea, when they were again assembled, Mortimer's journey was the
only subject of discourse, and it was agreed that he should set out
very early in the morning, and, as the weather was extremely hot, not
travel at all in the middle of the day.
Lady Honoria then, in a whisper to Cecilia, said, "I suppose, Miss
Beverley, you will rise with the lark to-morrow morning? for your
health, I mean. Early rising, you know, is vastly good for you."
Cecilia, affecting not to understand her, said she should rise, she
supposed, at her usual time.
"I'll tell Mortimer, however," returned her ladyship, "to look up at
your window before he goes off; for if he will play Romeo, you, I dare
say, will play Juliet, and this old castle is quite the thing for the
musty family of the Capulets: I dare say Shakespeare thought of it
when he wrote of them."
"Say to him what you please for yourself," cried Cecilia, "but let me
entreat you to say nothing for me."
"And my Lord Derford," continued she, "will make an excessive pretty
Paris, for he is vastly in love, though he has got nothing to say; but
what shall we do for a Mercutio? we may find five hundred whining
Romeos to one gay and charming Mercutio. Besides, Mrs Delvile, to do
her justice, is really too good for the old Nurse, though Mr Delvile
himself may serve for all the Capulets and all the Montagues at once,
for he has pride enough for both their houses, and twenty more
besides. By the way, if I don't take care, I shall have this Romeo run
away before I have made my little dainty country Paris pick a quarrel
She then walked up to one of the windows, and motioning Lord Derford
to follow her, Cecilia heard her say to him, "Well, my lord, have you
writ your letter? and have you sent it? Miss Beverley, I assure you,
will be charmed beyond measure by such a piece of gallantry."
"No, ma'am," answered the simple young lord, "I have not sent it yet,
for I have only writ a foul copy."
"O my lord," cried she, "that is the very thing you ought to send! a
foul copy of a challenge is always better than a fair one, for it
looks written with more agitation. I am vastly glad you mentioned
Cecilia then, rising and joining them, said, "What mischief is Lady
Honoria about now? we must all be upon our guards, my lord, for she
has a spirit of diversion that will not spare us."
"Pray why do you interfere?" cried Lady Honoria, and then, in a lower
voice, she added, "what do you apprehend? do you suppose Mortimer
cannot manage such a poor little ideot as this?"
"I don't suppose any thing about the matter!"
"Well, then, don't interrupt my operations. Lord Derford, Miss
Beverley has been whispering me, that if you put this scheme in
execution, she shall find you, ever after, irresistible."
"Lord Derford, I hope," said Cecilia, laughing, is too well acquainted
with your ladyship to be in any danger of credulity."
"Vastly well!" cried she, "I see you are determined to provoke me, so
if you spoil my schemes, I will spoil yours, and tell a certain
gentleman your tender terrors for his safety."
Cecilia now, extremely alarmed, most earnestly entreated her to be
quiet; but the discovery of her fright only excited her ladyship's
laughter, and, with a look the most mischievously wicked, she called
out "Pray Mr Mortimer, come hither!"
Mortimer instantly obeyed; and Cecilia at the same moment would with
pleasure have endured almost any punishment to have been twenty miles
"I have something," continued her ladyship, "of the utmost consequence
to communicate to you. We have been settling an admirable plan for
you; will you promise to be guided by us if I tell it you?"
"O certainly!" cried he; "to doubt that would disgrace us all round."
"Well, then,--Miss Beverley, have you any objection to my proceeding?"
"None at all!" answered Cecilia, who had the understanding to know
that the greatest excitement to ridicule is opposition.
"Well, then, I must tell you," she continued, "it is the advice of us
all, that as soon as you come to the possession of your estate, you
make some capital alterations in this antient castle."
Cecilia, greatly relieved, could with gratitude have embraced her: and
Mortimer, very certain that such rattle was all her own, promised the
utmost submission to her orders, and begged her further directions,
declaring that he could not, at least, desire a fairer architect.
"What we mean," said she, "may be effected with the utmost ease; it is
only to take out these old windows, and fix some thick iron grates in
their place, and so turn the castle into a gaol for the county."
Mortimer laughed heartily at this proposition; but his father,
unfortunately hearing it, sternly advanced, and with great austerity
said, "If I thought my son capable of putting such an insult upon his
ancestors, whatever may be the value I feel for him, I would banish
him my presence for ever."
"Dear Sir," cried Lady Honoria, "how would his ancestors ever know
"How?--why--that is a very extraordinary question, Lady Honoria!"
"Besides, Sir, I dare say the sheriff, or the mayor and corporation,
or some of those sort of people, would give him money enough, for the
use of it, to run him up a mighty pretty neat little box somewhere
"A box!" exclaimed he indignantly; "a neat little box for the heir of
an estate such as this!"
"I only mean," cried she, giddily, "that he might have some place a
little more pleasant to live in, for really that old moat and draw-bridge
are enough to vapour him to death; I cannot for my life imagine
any use they are of: unless, indeed, to frighten away the deer, for
nothing else offer to come over. But, if you were to turn the house
into a gaol--"
"A gaol?" cried Mr Delvile, still more angrily, "your ladyship must
pardon me if I entreat you not to mention that word again when you are
pleased to speak of Delvile Castle."
"Dear Sir, why not?"
"Because it is a term that, in itself, from a young lady, has a sound
peculiarly improper; and which, applied to any gentleman's antient
family seat,--a thing, Lady Honoria, always respectable, however
lightly spoken of!--has an effect the least agreeable that can be
devised: for it implies an idea either that the family, or the
mansion, is going into decay."
"Well, Sir, you know, with regard to the mansion, it is certainly very
true, for all that other side, by the old tower, looks as if it would
fall upon one's head every time one is forced to pass it."
"I protest, Lady Honoria," said Mr Delvile, "that old tower, of which
you are pleased to speak so slightingly, is the most honourable
testimony to the antiquity of the castle of any now remaining, and I
would not part with it for all the new boxes, as you style them, in
"I am sure I am very glad of it, Sir, for I dare say nobody would give
even one of them for it."
"Pardon me, Lady Honoria, you are greatly mistaken; they would give a
thousand; such a thing, belonging to a man from his own ancestors, is
"Why, dear Sir, what in the world could they do with it? unless,
indeed, they were to let some man paint it for an opera scene."
"A worthy use indeed!" cried Mr Delvile, more and more affronted: "and
pray does your ladyship talk thus to my Lord Duke?"
"O yes; and he never minds it at all."
"It were strange if he did!" cried Mrs Delvile; "my only astonishment
is that anybody can be found who _does_ mind it."
"Why now, Mrs Delvile," she answered, "pray be sincere; can you
possibly think this Gothic ugly old place at all comparable to any of
the new villas about town?"
"Gothic ugly old place!" repeated Mr Delvile, in utter amazement at
her dauntless flightiness; "your ladyship really does my humble
dwelling too much honour!"
"Lord, I beg a thousand pardons!" cried she, "I really did not think
of what I was saying. Come, dear Miss Beverley, and walk out with me,
for I am too much shocked to stay a moment longer."
And then, taking Cecilia by the arm, she hurried her into the park,
through a door which led thither from the parlour.
"For heaven's sake, Lady Honoria," said Cecilia, "could you find no
better entertainment for Mr Delvile than ridiculing his own house?"
"O," cried she, laughing, "did you never hear us quarrel before? why
when I was here last summer, I used to affront him ten times a day."
"And was that a regular ceremony?"
"No, really, I did not do it purposely; but it so happened; either by
talking of the castle, or the tower, or the draw-bridge, or the
fortifications; or wishing they were all employed to fill up that
odious moat; or something of that sort; for you know a small matter
will put him out of humour."
"And do you call it so small a matter to wish a man's whole habitation
"Lord, I don't wish anything about it! I only say so to provoke him."
"And what strange pleasure can that give you?"
"O the greatest in the world! I take much delight in seeing anybody in
a passion. It makes them look so excessively ugly!"
"And is that the way you like every body should look, Lady Honoria?"
"O my dear, if you mean _me_, I never was in a passion twice in
my life: for as soon as ever I have provoked the people, I always run
away. But sometimes I am in a dreadful fright lest they should see me
laugh, for they make such horrid grimaces it is hardly possible to
look at them. When my father has been angry with me, I have sometimes
been obliged to pretend I was crying, by way of excuse for putting my
handkerchief to my face: for really he looks so excessively hideous,
you would suppose he was making mouths, like the children, merely to
"Amazing!" exclaimed Cecilia, "your ladyship can, indeed, never want
diversion, to find it in the anger of your father. But does it give
you no other sensation? are you not afraid?"
"O never! O what can he do to me, you know? he can only storm a
little, and swear a little, for he always swears when he is angry; and
perhaps order me to my own room; and ten to one but that happens to be
the very thing I want; for we never quarrel but when we are alone, and
then it's so dull, I am always wishing to run away."
"And can you take no other method of leaving him?"
"Why I think none so easily: and it can do him no harm, you know; I
often tell him, when we make friends, that if it were not for a
postilion and his daughter, he would be quite out of practice in
scolding and swearing: for whenever he is upon the road he does
nothing else: though why he is in such a hurry, nobody can divine, for
go whither he will he has nothing to do."
Thus ran on this flighty lady, happy in high animal spirits, and
careless who was otherwise, till, at some distance, they perceived
Lord Derford, who was approaching to join them.
"Miss Beverley," cried she, "here comes your adorer: I shall therefore
only walk on till we arrive at that large oak, and then make him
prostrate himself at your feet, and leave you together."
"Your ladyship is extremely good! but I am glad to be apprized of your
intention, as it will enable me to save you that trouble."
She then turned quick back, and passing Lord Derford, who still walked
on towards Lady Honoria, she returned to the house; but, upon entering
the parlour, found all the company dispersed, Delvile alone excepted,
who was walking about the room, with his tablets in his hand, in which
he had been writing.
From a mixture of shame and surprize, Cecilia, at the sight of him,
was involuntarily retreating; but, hastening to the door, he called
out in a reproachful tone, "Will you not even enter the same room with
"O yes," cried she, returning; "I was only afraid I disturbed you."
"No, madam," answered he, gravely; "you are the only person who could
_not_ disturb me, since my employment was making memorandums for
a letter to yourself: with which, however, I did not desire to
importune you, but that you have denied me the honour of even a five
Cecilia, in the utmost confusion at this attack, knew not whether to
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