Cecilia vol. 2
Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d'Arblay)
Part 5 out of 7
stand still or proceed; but, as he presently continued his speech, she
found she had no choice but to stay.
"I should be sorry to quit this place, especially as the length of my
absence is extremely uncertain, while I have the unhappiness to be
under your displeasure, without making some little attempt to
apologize for the behaviour which incurred it. Must I, then, finish my
letter, or will you at last deign to hear me?"
"My displeasure, Sir," said Cecilia, "died with its occasion; I beg,
therefore, that it may rest no longer in your remembrance."
"I meant not, madam, to infer, that the subject or indeed that the
object merited your deliberate attention; I simply wish to explain
what may have appeared mysterious in my conduct, and for what may have
seemed still more censurable, to beg your pardon."
Cecilia now, recovered from her first apprehensions, and calmed,
because piqued, by the calmness with which he spoke himself, made no
opposition to his request, but suffering him to shut both the door
leading into the garden, and that which led into the hall, she seated
herself at one of the windows, determined to listen with intrepidity
to this long expected explanation.
The preparations, however, which he made to obviate being overheard,
added to the steadiness with which Cecilia waited his further
proceedings, soon robbed him of the courage with which he began the
assault, and evidently gave him a wish of retreating himself.
At length, after much hesitation, he said "This indulgence, madam,
deserves my most grateful acknowledgments; it is, indeed, what I had
little right, and still less reason, after the severity I have met
with from you, to expect."
And here, at the very mention of severity, his courage, called upon by
his pride, instantly returned, and he went on with the same spirit he
"That severity, however, I mean not to lament; on the contrary, in a
situation such as mine, it was perhaps the first blessing I could
receive: I have found from it, indeed, more advantage and relief than
from all that philosophy, reflection or fortitude could offer. It has
shewn me the vanity of bewailing the barrier, placed by fate to my
wishes, since it has shewn me that another, less inevitable, but
equally insuperable, would have opposed them. I have determined,
therefore, after a struggle I must confess the most painful, to deny
myself the dangerous solace of your society, and endeavour, by joining
dissipation to reason, to forget the too great pleasure which hitherto
it has afforded me."
"Easy, Sir," cried Cecilia, "will be your task: I can only wish the
re-establishment of your health may be found no more difficult."
"Ah, madam," cried he, with a reproachful smile, "_he jests at scars
who never felt a wound!_--but this is a strain in which I have no
right to talk, and I will neither offend your delicacy, nor my own
integrity, by endeavouring to work upon the generosity of your
disposition in order to excite your compassion. Not such was the
motive with which I begged this audience; but merely a desire, before
I tear myself away, to open to you my heart, without palliation or
He paused a few moments; and Cecilia finding her suspicions just that
this interview was meant to be final, considered that her trial,
however severe, would be short, and called forth all her resolution to
sustain it with spirit.
"Long before I had the honour of your acquaintance," he continued,
"your character and your accomplishments were known to me: Mr Biddulph
of Suffolk, who was my first friend at Oxford, and with whom my
intimacy is still undiminished, was early sensible of your
excellencies: we corresponded, and his letters were filled with your
praises. He confessed to me, that his admiration had been
unfortunate:--alas! I might now make the same confession to him!"
Mr Biddulph, among many of the neighbouring gentlemen, had made
proposals to the Dean for Cecilia, which, at her desire, were
"When Mr Harrel saw masks in Portman-square, my curiosity to behold a
lady so adored, and so cruel, led me thither; your dress made you
easily distinguished.--Ah Miss Beverley! I venture not to mention
what I then felt for my friend! I will only say that something which I
felt for myself, warned me instantly to avoid you, since the clause in
your uncle's will was already well known to me."
Now, then, at last, thought Cecilia, all perplexity is over!--the
change of name is the obstacle; he inherits all the pride of his
family,--and therefore to that family will I unrepining leave him!
"This warning," he continued, "I should not have disregarded, had I
not, at the Opera, been deceived into a belief you were engaged; I
then wished no longer to shun you; bound in honour to forbear all
efforts at supplanting a man, to whom I thought you almost united, I
considered you already as married, and eagerly as I sought your
society, I sought it not with more pleasure than innocence. Yet even
then, to be candid, I found in myself a restlessness about your
affairs that kept me in eternal perturbation: but I flattered myself
it was mere curiosity, and only excited by the perpetual change of
opinion to which occasion gave rise, concerning which was the happy
"I am sorry," said Cecilia, coolly, "there was any such mistake."
"I will not, madam, fatigue you," he returned, "by tracing the
progress of my unfortunate admiration; will endeavour to be more
brief, for I see you are already wearied." He stopt a moment, hoping
for some little encouragement; but Cecilia, in no humour to give it,
assumed an air of unconcern, and sat wholly quiet.
"I knew not," he then went on, with a look of extreme mortification,
"the warmth with which I honoured your virtues, till you deigned to
plead to me for Mr Belfield,--but let me not recollect the feelings of
that moment!--yet were they nothing,--cold, languid, lifeless to what
I afterwards experienced, when you undeceived me finally with respect
to your situation, and informed me the report concerning Sir Robert
Floyer was equally erroneous with that which concerned Belfield! O
what was the agitation of my whole soul at that instant!--to know you
disengaged,--to see you before me,--by the disorder of my whole frame
to discover the mistake I had cherished--"
Cecilia then, half rising, yet again seating herself, looked extremely
impatient to be gone.
"Pardon me, madam," he cried; "I will have done, and trace my feelings
and my sufferings no longer, but hasten, for my own sake as well as
yours, to the reason why I have spoken at all. From the hour that my
ill-destined passion was fully known to myself, I weighed all the
consequences of indulging it, and found, added to the extreme hazard
of success, an impropriety even in the attempt. My honour in the
honour of my family is bound; what to that would seem wrong, in me
would be unjustifiable: yet where inducements so numerous were opposed
by one single objection!--where virtue, beauty, education and family
were all unexceptionable,--Oh cruel clause! barbarous and repulsive
clause! that forbids my aspiring to the first of women, but by an
action that with my own family would degrade me for ever!"
He stopt, overpowered by his own emotion, and Cecilia arose. "I see,
madam," he cried, "your eagerness to be gone, and however at this
moment I may lament it, I shall recollect it hereafter with advantage.
But to conclude: I determined to avoid you, and, by avoiding, to
endeavour to forget you: I determined, also, that no human being, and
yourself least of all, should know, should even suspect the situation
of my mind: and though upon various occasions, my prudence and
forbearance have suddenly yielded to surprise and to passion, the
surrender has been short, and almost, I believe, unnoticed.
"This silence and this avoidance I sustained with decent constancy,
till during the storm, in an ill-fated moment, I saw, or thought I saw
you in some danger, and then, all caution off guard, all resolution
surprised, every passion awake, and tenderness triumphant--"
"Why, Sir," cried Cecilia, angrily, "and for what purpose all this?"
"Alas, I know not!" said he, with a deep sigh, "I thought myself
better qualified for this conference, and meant to be firm and
concise. I have told my story ill, but as your own understanding will
point out the cause, your own benevolence will perhaps urge some
"Too certain, since that unfortunate accident, that all disguise was
vain, and convinced by your displeasure of the impropriety of which I
had been guilty, I determined, as the only apology I could offer, to
open to you my whole heart, and then fly you perhaps for ever.
"This, madam, incoherently indeed, yet with sincerity, I have now
done: my sufferings and my conflicts I do not mention, for I dare not!
O were I to paint to you the bitter struggles of a mind all at war
with itself,--Duty, spirit, and fortitude, combating love, happiness
and inclination,--each conquering alternately, and alternately each
vanquished,--I could endure it no longer, I resolved by one effort to
finish the strife, and to undergo an instant of even exquisite
torture, in preference to a continuance of such lingering misery!"
"The restoration of your health, Sir, and since you fancy it has been
injured, of your happiness," said Cecilia, "will, I hope, be as
speedy, as I doubt not they are certain."
"_Since I fancy it has been injured!_" repeated he; "what a
phrase, after an avowal such as mine! But why should I wish to
convince you of my sincerity, when to you it cannot be more
indifferent, than to myself it is unfortunate! I have now only to
entreat your pardon for the robbery I have committed upon your time,
and to repeat my acknowledgments that you have endeavoured to hear me
"If you honour me, Sir, with some portion of your esteem," said the
offended Cecilia, "these acknowledgments, perhaps, should be mine;
suppose them, however made, for I have a letter to write, and can
therefore stay no longer."
"Nor do I presume, madam," cried he proudly, "to detain you: hitherto
you may frequently have thought me mysterious, sometimes strange and
capricious, and perhaps almost always, unmeaning; to clear myself from
these imputations, by a candid confession of the motives which have
governed me, is all that I wished. Once, also--I hope but once,--you
thought me impertinent,--there, indeed, I less dare vindicate myself--"
"There is no occasion, Sir," interrupted she, walking towards the
door, "for further vindication in any thing; I am perfectly satisfied,
and if my good wishes are worth your acceptance, assure yourself you
"Barbarous, and insulting!" cried he, half to himself; and then, with
a quick motion hastening to open the door for her, "Go, madam," he
added, almost breathless with conflicting emotions, "go, and be your
happiness unalterable as your inflexibility!"
Cecilia was turning back to answer this reproach, but the sight of
Lady Honoria, who was entering at the other door, deterred her, and
she went on'.
When she came to her own room, she walked about it some time in a
state so unsettled, between anger and disappointment, sorrow and
pride, that she scarce knew to which emotion to give way, and felt
almost bursting with each.
"The die," she cried, "is at last thrown; and this affair is concluded
for ever! Delvile himself is content to relinquish me; no father has
commanded, no mother has interfered, he has required no admonition,
full well enabled to act for himself by the powerful instigation of
hereditary arrogance! Yet my family, he says,--unexpected
condescension! my family and every other circumstance is
unexceptionable; how feeble, then, is that regard which yields to one
only objection! how potent that haughtiness which to nothing will give
way! Well, let him keep his name! since so wondrous its properties, so
all-sufficient its preservation, what vanity, what presumption in me,
to suppose myself an equivalent for its loss!"
Thus, deeply offended, her spirits were supported by resentment, and
not only while in company, but when alone, she found herself scarce
averse to the approaching separation, and enabled to endure it without
The next morning Cecilia arose late, not only to avoid the raillery of
Lady Honoria, but to escape seeing the departure of Delvile; she knew
that the spirit with which she had left him, made him, at present,
think her wholly insensible, and she was at least happy to be spared
the mortification of a discovery, since she found him thus content,
without even solicitation, to resign her.
Before she was dressed, Lady Honoria ran into her room, "A new scheme
of politics!" she cried; "our great statesman intends to leave us: he
can't trust his baby out of his sight, so he is going to nurse him
while upon the road himself. Poor pretty dear Mortimer! what a puppet
do they make of him! I have a vast inclination to get a pap-boat
myself, and make him a present of it."
Cecilia then enquired further particulars, and heard that Mr Delvile
purposed accompanying his son to Bristol, whose journey, therefore,
was postponed for a few hours to give time for new preparations.
Mr Delvile, who, upon this occasion, thought himself overwhelmed with
business, because, before his departure, he had some directions to
give to his domestics, chose to breakfast in his own apartment: Mrs
Delvile, also, wishing for some private conversation with her son,
invited him to partake of hers in her dressing-room, sending an
apology to her guests, and begging they would order their breakfasts
when they pleased.
Mr Delvile, scrupulous in ceremony, had made sundry apologies to Lord
Ernolf for leaving him; but his real anxiety for his son overpowering
his artificial character, the excuses he gave to that nobleman were
such as could not possibly offend; and the views of his lordship
himself in his visit, being nothing interrupted, so long as Cecilia
continued at the castle, he readily engaged, as a proof that he was
not affronted, to remain with Mrs Delvile till his return.
Cecilia, therefore, had her breakfast with the two lords and Lady
Honoria; and when it was over, Lord Ernolf proposed to his son riding
the first stage with the two Mr Delviles on horseback. This was agreed
upon, and they left the room: and then Lady Honoria, full of frolic
and gaiety, seized one of the napkins, and protested she would send it
to Mortimer for a _slabbering-bib_: she therefore made it up in a
parcel, and wrote upon the inside of the paper with which she
enveloped it, "A _pin-a fore_ for Master Mortimer Delvile, lest
he should daub his pappy when he is feeding him." Eager to have this
properly conveyed, she then ran out, to give it in charge to her own
man, who was to present him with it as he got into the chaise.
She had but just quitted the room, when the door of it was again
opened, and by Mortimer himself, booted, and equipped for his journey.
"Miss Beverley here! and alone!" cried he, with a look, and in a
voice, which skewed that all the pride of the preceding evening was
sunk into the deepest dejection; "and does she not fly as I approach
her? can she patiently bear in her sight one so strange, so fiery, so
inconsistent? But she is too wise to resent the ravings of a madman;--
and who, under the influence of a passion at once hopeless and
violent, can boast, but at intervals, full possession of his reason?"
Cecilia, utterly astonished by a gentleness so humble, looked at him
in silent surprise; he advanced to her mournfully, and added, "I am
ashamed, indeed, of the bitterness of spirit with which I last night
provoked your displeasure, when I should have supplicated your lenity:
but though I was prepared for your coldness, I could not endure it,
and though your indifference was almost friendly, it made me little
less than frantic; so strangely may justice be blinded by passion, and
every faculty of reason be warped by selfishness!"
"You have no apology to make, Sir," cried Cecilia, "since, believe me,
I require none."
"You may well," returned he, half-smiling, "dispense with my
apologies, since under the sanction of that word, I obtained your
hearing yesterday. But, believe me, you will now find me far more
reasonable; a whole night's reflections--reflections which no repose
interrupted!--have brought me to my senses. Even lunatics, you know,
have lucid moments!"
"Do you intend, Sir, to set off soon?"
"I believe so; I wait only for my father. But why is Miss Beverley so
impatient? I shall not soon _return_; that, at least, is certain,
and, for a few instants delay, may surely offer some palliation;--See!
if I am not ready to again accuse you of severity!--I must run, I
find, or all my boasted reformation will end but in fresh offence,
fresh disgrace, and fresh contrition! Adieu, madam!--and may all
prosperity attend you! That will be ever my darling wish, however long
my absence, however distant the climates which may part us!" He was
then hurrying away, but Cecilia, from an impulse of surprise too
sudden to be restrained, exclaimed "The climates?--do you, then, mean
to leave England?"
"Yes," cried he, with quickness, "for why should I remain in it? a few
weeks only could I fill up in any tour so near home, and hither in a
few weeks to return would be folly and madness: in an absence so
brief, what thought but that of the approaching meeting would occupy
me? and what, at that meeting, should I feel, but joy the most
dangerous, and delight which I dare not think of!--every conflict
renewed, every struggle re-felt, again all this scene would require to
be acted, again I must tear myself away, and every tumultuous passion
now beating in my heart would be revived, and, if possible, be revived
with added misery!--No!--neither my temper nor my constitution will
endure such another shock, one parting shall suffice, and the
fortitude with which I will lengthen my self-exile, shall atone to
myself for the weakness which makes it requisite!"
And then, with a vehemence that seemed fearful of the smallest delay,
he was again, and yet more hastily going, when Cecilia, with much
emotion, called out, "Two moments, Sir!"
"Two thousand! two million!" cried he, impetuously, and returning,
with a look of the most earnest surprise, he added, "What is it Miss
Beverley will condescend to command?"
"Nothing," cried she, recovering her presence of mind, "but to beg you
will by no means, upon my account, quit your country and your friends,
since another asylum can be found for myself, and since I would much
sooner part from Mrs Delvile, greatly and sincerely as I reverence
her, than be instrumental to robbing her, even for a month, of her
"Generous and humane is the consideration," cried he; "but who half so
generous, so humane as Miss Beverley? so soft to all others, so noble
in herself? Can my mother have a wish, when I leave her with you? No;
she is sensible of your worth, she adores you, almost as I adore you
myself! you are now under her protection, you seem, indeed, born for
each other; let me not, then, deprive her of so honourable a charge--
Oh, why must he, who sees in such colours the excellencies of both,
who admires with such fervour the perfections you unite, be torn with
this violence from the objects he reveres, even though half his life
he would sacrifice, to spend in their society what remained!"--
"Well, then, Sir," said Cecilia, who now felt her courage decline, and
the softness of sorrow steal fast upon her spirits, "if you will not
give up your scheme, let me no longer detain you."
"Will you not wish me a good journey?"
"And will you pardon the unguarded errors which have offended you?"
"I will think of them, Sir, no more."
"Farewell, then, most amiable of women, and may every blessing you
deserve light on your head! I leave to you my mother, certain of your
sympathetic affection for a character so resembling your own. When
_you_, madam, leave her, may the happy successor in your favour--
" He paused, his voice faultered, Cecilia, too, turned away from him,
and, uttering a deep sigh, he caught her hand, and pressing it to his
lips, exclaimed, "O great be your felicity, in whatever way you
receive it!--pure as your virtues, and warm as your benevolence!--Oh
too lovely Miss Beverley!--why, why must I quit you!"
Cecilia, though she trusted not her voice to reprove him, forced away
her hand, and then, in the utmost perturbation, he rushed out of the
This scene for Cecilia, was the most unfortunate that could have
happened; the gentleness of Delvile was alone sufficient to melt her,
since her pride had no subsistence when not fed by his own; and while
his mildness had blunted her displeasure, his anguish had penetrated
her heart. Lost in thought and in sadness, she continued fixed to her
seat; and looking at the door through which he had passed, as if, with
himself, he had shut out all for which she existed.
This pensive dejection was not long uninterrupted; Lady Honoria came
running back, with intelligence, in what manner she had disposed of
her napkin, and Cecilia in listening, endeavoured to find some
diversion; but her ladyship, though volatile not undiscerning, soon
perceived that her attention was constrained, and looking at her with
much archness, said, I believe, my dear, I must find another napkin
for _you!_ not, how ever, for your _mouth_, but for your _eyes!_
Has Mortimer been in to take leave of you?"
"Take leave of me?--No,--is he gone?"
"O no, Pappy has a world of business to settle first; he won't be
ready these two hours. But don't look so sorrowful, for I'll run and
bring Mortimer to console you."
Away she flew, and Cecilia, who had no power to prevent her, finding
her spirits unequal either to another parting, or to the raillery of
Lady Honoria, should Mortimer, for his own sake, avoid it, took refuge
in flight, and seizing an umbrella, escaped into the park; where, to
perplex any pursuers, instead of chusing her usual walk, she directed
her steps to a thick and unfrequented wood, and never rested till she
was more than two miles from the house. Fidel, however, who now always
accompanied her, ran by her side, and, when she thought herself
sufficiently distant and private to be safe, she sat down under a
tree, and caressing her faithful favourite, soothed her own tenderness
by lamenting that _he_ had lost his master; and, having now no
part to act, and no dignity to support, no observation to fear, and no
inference to guard against, she gave vent to her long smothered
emotions, by weeping without caution or restraint.
She had met with an object whose character answered all her wishes for
him with whom she should entrust her fortune, and whose turn of mind,
so similar to her own, promised her the highest domestic felicity: to
this object her affections had involuntarily bent, they were seconded
by esteem, and unchecked by any suspicion of impropriety in her
choice: she had found too, in return, that his heart was all her own:
her birth, indeed, was inferior, but it was not disgraceful; her
disposition, education and temper seemed equal to his fondest wishes:
yet, at the very time when their union appeared most likely, when they
mixed with the same society, and dwelt under the same roof, when the
father to one, was the guardian to the other, and interest seemed to
invite their alliance even more than affection, the young man himself,
without counsel or command, could tear himself from her presence by an
effort all his own, forbear to seek her heart, and almost charge her
not to grant it, and determining upon voluntary exile, quit his
country and his connections with no view, and for no reason, but
merely that he might avoid the sight of her he loved!
Though the motive for this conduct was now no longer unknown to her,
she neither thought it satisfactory nor necessary; yet, while she
censured his flight, she bewailed his loss, and though his inducement
was repugnant to her opinion, his command over his passions she
admired and applauded.
Cecilia continued in this private spot, happy at least to be alone,
till she was summoned by the dinner bell to return home.
As soon as she entered the parlour, where every body was assembled
before her, she observed, by the countenance of Mrs Delvile, that she
had passed the morning as sadly as herself.
"Miss Beverley," cried Lady Honoria, before she was seated, "I insist
upon your taking my place to-day." "Why so, madam?"
"Because I cannot suffer you to sit by a window with such a terrible
"Your ladyship is very good, but indeed I have not any cold at all."
"O my dear, I must beg your pardon there; your eyes are quite
bloodshot; Mrs Delvile, Lord Ernolf, are not her eyes quite red?--
Lord, and so I protest are her cheeks! now do pray look in the glass,
I assure you you will hardly know yourself."
Mrs Delvile, who regarded her with the utmost kindness, affected to
understand Lady Honoria's speech literally, both to lessen her
apparent confusion, and the suspicious surmises of Lord Ernolf; she
therefore said, "you have indeed a bad cold, my love; but shade your
eyes with your hat, and after dinner you shall bathe them in rose
water, which will soon take off the inflammation."
Cecilia, perceiving her intention, for which she felt the utmost
gratitude, no longer denied her cold, nor refused the offer of Lady
Honoria: who, delighting in mischief, whencesoever it proceeded,
presently added, "This cold is a judgment upon you for leaving me
alone all this morning; but I suppose you chose a tête-à-tête with
your favourite, without the intrusion of any third person."
Here every body stared, and Cecilia very seriously declared she had
been quite alone.
"Is it possible you can so forget yourself?" cried Lady Honoria; "had
you not your dearly beloved with you?"
Cecilia, who now comprehended that she meant Fidel, coloured more
deeply than ever, but attempted to laugh, and began eating her dinner.
"Here seems some matter of much intricacy," cried Lord Ernolf, "but,
to me, wholly unintelligible."
"And to me also," cried Mrs Delvile, "but I am content to let it
remain so; for the mysteries of Lady Honoria are so frequent, that
they deaden curiosity."
"Dear madam, that is very unnatural," cried Lady Honoria, "for I am
sure you must long to know who I mean."
"_I_ do, at least," said Lord Ernolf.
"Why then, my lord, you must know, Miss Beverley has two companions,
and I am one, and Fidel is the other; but Fidel was with her all this
morning, and she would not admit me to the conference. I suppose she
had something private to say to him of his master's journey."
"What rattle is this?" cried Mrs Delvile; "Fidel is gone with my son,
is he not?" turning to the servants.
"No, madam, Mr Mortimer did not enquire for him."
"That's very strange," said she, "I never knew him quit home without
"Dear ma'am, if he had taken him," cried Lady Honoria, "what could
poor Miss Beverley have done? for she has no friend here but him and
me, and really he's so much the greater favourite, that it is well if
I do not poison him some day for very spite."
Cecilia had no resource but in forcing a laugh, and Mrs Delvile, who
evidently felt for her, contrived soon to change the subject: yet not
before Lord Ernolf, with infinite chagrin, was certain by all that
passed of the hopeless state of affairs for his son.
The rest of the day, and every hour of the two days following, Cecilia
passed in the most comfortless constraint, fearful of being a moment
alone, lest the heaviness of her heart should seek relief in tears,
which consolation, melancholy as it was, she found too dangerous for
indulgence: yet the gaiety of Lady Honoria lost all power of
entertainment, and even the kindness of Mrs Delvile, now she imputed
it to compassion, gave her more mortification than pleasure.
On the third day, letters arrived from Bristol: but they brought with
them nothing of comfort, for though Mortimer wrote gaily, his father
sent word that his fever seemed threatening to return.
Mrs Delvile was now in the extremest anxiety; and the task of Cecilia
in appearing chearful and unconcerned, became more and more difficult
to perform. Lord Ernolf's efforts to oblige her grew as hopeless to
himself, as they were irksome to her; and Lady Honoria alone, of the
whole house, could either find or make the smallest diversion. But
while Lord Derford remained, she had still an object for ridicule, and
while Cecilia could colour and be confused, she had still a subject
Thus passed a week, during which the news from Bristol being every day
less and less pleasant, Mrs Delvile skewed an earnest desire to make a
journey thither herself, and proposed, half laughing and half
seriously, that the whole party should accompany her.
Lady Honoria's time, however, was already expired, and her father
intended to send for her in a few days.
Mrs Delvile, who knew that such a charge would occupy all her time,
willingly deferred setting out till her ladyship should be gone, but
wrote word to Bristol that she should shortly be there, attended by
the two lords, who insisted upon escorting her.
Cecilia now was in a state of the utmost distress; her stay at the
castle she knew kept Delvile at a distance; to accompany his mother to
Bristol, was forcing herself into his sight, which equally from
prudence and pride she wished to avoid; and even Mrs Delvile evidently
desired her absence, since whenever the journey was talked of, she
preferably addressed herself to any one else who was present.
All she could devise to relieve herself from a situation so painful,
was begging permission to make a visit without delay to her old friend
Mrs Charlton in Suffolk.
This resolution taken, she put it into immediate execution, and
seeking Mrs Delvile, enquired if she might venture to make a petition
"Undoubtedly," answered she; "but let it not be very disagreeable,
since I feel already that I can refuse you nothing."
"I have an old friend, ma'am," she then cried, speaking fast, and in
much haste to have done, "who I have not for many months seen, and, as
_my_ health does not require a Bristol journey,--if you would
honour me with mentioning my request to Mr Delvile, I think I might
take the present opportunity of making Mrs Charlton a visit."
Mrs Delvile looked at her some time without speaking, and then,
fervently embracing her, "sweet Cecilia!" she cried, "yes, you are all
that I thought you! good, wise, discreet, tender, and noble at once!--
how to part with you, indeed, I know not,--but you shall do as you
please, for that I am sure will be right, and therefore I will make no
Cecilia blushed and thanked her, yet saw but too plainly that all the
motives of her scheme were clearly comprehended. She hastened,
therefore, to write to Mrs Charlton, and prepare for her reception.
Mr Delvile, though with his usual formality, sent his permission: and
Mortimer at the same time, begged his mother would bring with her
Fidel, whom he had unluckily forgotten.
Lady Honoria, who was present when Mrs Delvile mentioned this
commission, said in a whisper to Cecilia, "Miss Beverley, don't let
"O, you had a great deal better take him slyly into Suffolk."
"I would as soon," answered Cecilia, "take with me the side-board of
plate, for I should scarcely think it more a robbery."
"Oh, I beg your pardon, I am sure they might all take such a theft for
an honour; and if I was going to Bristol, I would bid Mortimer send
him to you immediately. However, if you wish it, I will write to him.
He's my cousin, you know, so there will be no great impropriety in
Cecilia thanked her for so courteous an offer, but entreated that she
might by no means draw her into such a condescension.
She then made immediate preparations for her journey into Suffolk,
which she saw gave equal surprize and chagrin to Lord Ernolf, upon
whose affairs Mrs Delvile herself now desired to speak with her.
"Tell me, Miss Beverley," she cried, "briefly and positively your
opinion of Lord Derford?"
"I think of him so little, madam," she answered, "that I cannot say of
him much; he appears, however, to be inoffensive; but, indeed, were I
never to see him again, he is one of those I should forget I had ever
seen at all."
"That is so exactly the case with myself also," cried Mrs Delvile,
"that to plead for him, I find utterly impossible, though my Lord
Ernolf has strongly requested me: but to press such an alliance, I
should think an indignity to your understanding."
Cecilia was much gratified by this speech; but she soon after added,
"There is one reason, indeed, which would render such a connection
desirable, though that is only one."
"What is it, madam?"
"And why so? I am sure I have no ambition of that sort."
"No, my love," said Mrs Delvile, smiling, "I mean not by way of
gratification to _your_ pride, but to _his_; since a title,
by taking place of a family name, would obviate the _only_
objection that _any_ man could form to an alliance with Miss
Cecilia, who too well understood her, suppressed a sigh, and changed
the subject of conversation.
One day was sufficient for all the preparations she required, and, as
she meant to set out very early the next morning, she took leave of
Lady Honoria, and the Lords Ernolf and Derford, when they separated
for the night; but Mrs Delvile followed her to her room.
She expressed her concern at losing her in the warmest and most
flattering terms, yet said nothing of her coming back, nor of the
length of her stay; she desired, however, to hear from her frequently,
and assured her that out of her own immediate family, there was nobody
in the world she so tenderly valued.
She continued with her till it grew so late that they were almost
necessarily parted: and then rising to be gone, "See," she cried,
"with what reluctance I quit you! no interest but so dear a one as
that which calls me away, should induce me, with my own consent, to
bear your absence scarcely an hour: but the world is full of
mortifications, and to endure, or to sink under them, makes all the
distinction between the noble or the weak-minded. To _you_ this
may be said with safety; to most young women it would pass for a
"You are very good," said Cecilia, smothering the emotions to which
this speech gave rise, "and if indeed you honour me with an opinion so
flattering, I will endeavour, if it is possibly in my power, not to
"Ah, my love!" cried Mrs Delvile warmly, "if upon my opinion of you
alone depended our residence with each other, when should we ever
part, and how live a moment asunder? But what title have I to
monopolize two such blessings? the mother of Mortimer Delvile should
at nothing repine; the mother of Cecilia Beverley had alone equal
reason to be proud."
"You are determined, madam," said Cecilia, forcing a smile, "that I
_shall_ be worthy, by giving me the sweetest of motives, that of
deserving such praise." And then, in a faint voice, she desired her
respects to Mr Delvile, and added, "you will find, I hope, every body
at Bristol better than you expect."
"I hope so," returned she; "and that you too, will find your Mrs
Charlton well, happy, and good as you left her: but suffer her not to
drive me from your remembrance, and never fancy that because she has
known you longer, she loves you more; my acquaintance with you, though
short, has been critical, and she must hear from you a world of
anecdotes, before she can have reason to love you as much."
"Ah, madam," cried Cecilia, tears starting into her eyes, "let us part
now!--where will be that strength of mind you expect from me, if I
listen to you any longer!"
"You are right, my love," answered Mrs Delvile, "since all tenderness
enfeebles fortitude." Then affectionately embracing her, "Adieu," she
cried, "sweetest Cecilia, amiable and most excellent creature, adieu!--
you, carry with you my highest approbation, my love, my esteem, my
fondest wishes!--and shall I--yes, generous girl! I _will_ add my
This last word she spoke almost in a whisper, again kissed her, and
hastened out of the room.
Cecilia, surprised and affected, gratified and depressed, remained
almost motionless, and could not, for a great length of time, either
ring for her maid, or persuade herself to go to rest. She saw
throughout the whole behaviour of Mrs Delvile, a warmth of regard
which, though strongly opposed by family pride, made her almost
miserable to promote the very union she thought necessary to
discountenance; she saw, too, that it was with the utmost difficulty
she preserved the steadiness of her opposition, and that she had a
conflict perpetual with herself, to forbear openly acknowledging the
contrariety of her wishes, and the perplexity of her distress; but
chiefly she was struck with her expressive use of the word gratitude.
"Wherefore should she be grateful," thought Cecilia, "what have I
done, or had power to do? infinitely, indeed, is she deceived, if she
supposes that her son has acted by my directions; my influence with
him is nothing, and he could not be more his own master, were he
utterly indifferent to me. To conceal my own disappointment has, been
all I have attempted; and perhaps she may think of me thus highly,
from supposing that the firmness of her son is owing to my caution and
reserve: ah, she knows him not!--were my heart at this moment laid
open to him,--were all its weakness, its partiality, its ill-fated
admiration displayed, he would but double his vigilance to avoid and
forget me, and find the task all the easier by his abatement of
esteem. Oh strange infatuation of unconquerable prejudice! his very
life will he sacrifice in preference to his name, and while the
conflict of his mind threatens to level him with the dust, he disdains
to unite himself where one wish is unsatisfied!"
These reflections, and the uncertainty if she should ever in Delvile
Castle sleep again, disturbed her the whole night, and made all
calling in the morning unnecessary: she arose at five o'clock, dressed
herself with the utmost heaviness of heart, and in going through a
long gallery which led to the staircase, as she passed the door of
Mortimer's chamber, the thought of his ill health, his intended long
journey, and the probability that she might never see him more, so
deeply impressed and saddened her, that scarcely could she force
herself to proceed, without stopping to weep and to pray for him; she
was surrounded, however, by servants, and compelled therefore to
hasten to the chaise; she flung herself in, and, leaning back, drew
her hat over her eyes, and thought, as the carriage drove off, her
last hope of earthly happiness extinguished.
Cecilia was accompanied by her maid in the chaise, and her own servant
and one of Mrs Delvile's attended her on horseback.
The quietness of her dejection was soon interrupted by a loud cry
among the men of "home! home! home!" She then looked out of one of the
windows, and perceived Fidel, running after the carriage, and barking
at the servants, who were all endeavouring to send him back.
Touched by this proof of the animal's gratitude for her attention to
him, and conscious she had herself occasioned his master's leaving
him, the scheme of Lady Honoria occurred to her, and she almost wished
to put it in execution, but this was the thought of a moment, and
motioning him with her hand to go back, she desired Mrs Delvile's man
to return with him immediately, and commit him to the care of somebody
in the castle.
This little incident, however trifling, was the most important of her
journey, for she arrived at the house of Mrs Charlton without meeting
The sight of that lady gave her a sensation of pleasure to which she
had long been a stranger, pleasure pure, unmixed, unaffected and
unrestrained: it revived all her early affection, and with it,
something resembling at least her early tranquility: again she was in
the house where it had once been undisturbed, again she enjoyed the
society which was once all she had wished, and again saw the same
scene, the same faces, and same prospects she had beheld while her
heart was all devoted to her friends.
Mrs Charlton, though old and infirm, preserved an understanding,
which, whenever unbiassed by her affections, was sure to direct her
unerringly; but the extreme softness of her temper frequently misled
her judgment, by making it, at the pleasure either of misfortune or of
artifice, always yield to compassion, and pliant to entreaty. Where
her counsel and opinion were demanded, they were certain to reflect
honour on her capacity and discernment; but where her assistance or
her pity were supplicated, her purse and her tears were immediately
bestowed, and in her zeal to alleviate distress she forgot if the
object were deserving her solicitude, and stopt not to consider
propriety or discretion, if happiness, however momentary, were in her
power to grant.
This generous foible was, however, kept somewhat in subjection by the
watchfulness of two grand-daughters, who, fearing the injury they
might themselves receive from it, failed not to point out both its
inconvenience and its danger.
These ladies were daughters of a deceased and only son of Mrs
Charlton; they were single, and lived with their grand-mother, whose
fortune, which was considerable, they expected to share between them,
and they waited with eagerness for the moment of appropriation;
narrow-minded and rapacious, they wished to monopolize whatever she
possessed, and thought themselves aggrieved by her smallest donations.
Their chief employment was to keep from her all objects of distress,
and in this though they could not succeed, they at least confined her
liberality to such as resembled themselves; since neither the spirited
could brook, nor the delicate support the checks and rebuffs from the
granddaughters, which followed the gifts of Mrs Charlton. Cecilia, of
all her acquaintance, was the only one whose intimacy they encouraged,
for they knew her fortune made her superior to any mercenary views,
and they received from her themselves more civilities than they paid.
Mrs Charlton loved Cecilia with an excess of fondness, that not only
took place of the love she bore her other friends, but to which even
her regard for the Miss Charltons was inferior and feeble. Cecilia
when a child had reverenced her as a mother, and, grateful for her
tenderness and care, had afterwards cherished her as a friend. The
revival of this early connection delighted them both, it was balm to
the wounded mind of Cecilia, it was renovation to the existence of Mrs
Early the next morning she wrote a card to Mr Monckton and Lady
Margaret, acquainting them with her return into Suffolk, and desiring
to know when she might pay her respects to her Ladyship. She received
from the old lady a verbal answer, _when she pleased_, but Mr
Monckton came instantly himself to Mrs Charlton's.
His astonishment, his rapture at this unexpected incident were almost
boundless; he thought it a sudden turn of fortune in his own favour,
and concluded, now she had escaped the danger of Delvile Castle, the
road was short and certain that led to his own security.
Her satisfaction in the meeting was as sincere, though not so animated
as his own: but this similarity in their feelings was of short
duration, for when he enquired into what had passed at the castle,
with the reasons of her quitting it, the pain she felt in giving even
a cursory and evasive account, was opposed on his part by the warmest
delight in hearing it: he could not obtain from her the particulars of
what had happened, but the reluctance with which she spoke, the air of
mortification with which she heard his questions, and the evident
displeasure which was mingled in her chagrin, when he forced her to
mention Delvile, were all proofs the most indisputable and
satisfactory, that they had either parted without any explanation, or
with one by which Cecilia had been hurt and offended.
He now readily concluded that since the fiery trial he had most
apprehended was over; and she had quitted in anger the asylum she had
sought in extacy, Delvile himself did not covet the alliance, which,
since they were separated, was never likely to take place. He had
therefore little difficulty in promising all success to himself.
She was once more upon the spot where she had regarded him as the
first of men, he knew that during her absence no one had settled in
the neighbourhood who had any pretensions to dispute with him that
pre-eminence, he should again have access to her, at pleasure, and so
sanguine grew his hopes, that he almost began to rejoice even in the
partiality to Delvile that had hitherto been his terror, from
believing it would give her for a time, that sullen distaste of all
other connections, to which those who at once are delicate and fervent
are commonly led by early disappointment. His whole solicitude
therefore now was to preserve her esteem, to seek her confidence, and
to regain whatever by absence might be lost of the [ascendancy] over
her mind which her respect for his knowledge and capacity had for many
years given him. Fortune at this time seemed to prosper all his views,
and, by a stroke the most sudden and unexpected, to render more
rational his hopes and his plans than he had himself been able to
effect by the utmost craft of worldly wisdom.
The day following Cecilia, in Mrs Charlton's chaise, waited upon Lady
Margaret. She was received by Miss Bennet, her companion, with the
most fawning courtesy; but when conducted to the lady of the house,
she saw herself so evidently unwelcome, that she even regretted the
civility which had prompted her visit.
She found with her nobody but Mr Morrice, who was the only young man
that could persuade himself to endure her company in the absence of
her husband, but who, in common with most young men who are assiduous
in their attendance upon old ladies, doubted not but he ensured
himself a handsome legacy for his trouble.
Almost the first speech which her ladyship made, was "So you are not
married yet, I find; if Mr Monckton had been a real friend, he would
have taken care to have seen for some establishment for you."
"I was by no means," cried Cecilia, with spirit, "either in so much
haste or distress as to require from Mr Monckton any such exertion of
"Ma'am," cried Morrice, "what a terrible night we had of it at
Vauxhall! poor Harrel! I was really excessively sorry for him. I had
not courage to see you or Mrs Harrel after it. But as soon as I heard
you were in St James's-square, I tried to wait upon you; for really
going to Mr Harrel's again would have been quite too dismal. I would
rather have run a mile by the side of a race-horse."
"There is no occasion for any apology," said Cecilia, "for I was very
little disposed either to see or think of visitors."
"So I thought, ma'am;" answered he, with quickness, "and really that
made me the less alert in finding you out. However, ma'am, next winter
I shall be excessively happy to make up for the deficiency; besides, I
shall be much obliged to you to introduce me to Mr Delvile, for I have
a great desire to be acquainted with him."
Mr Delvile, thought Cecilia, would be but too proud to hear it!
However, she merely answered that she had no present prospect of
spending any time at Mr. Delvile's next winter.
"True, ma'am, true," cried he, "now I recollect, you become your own
mistress between this and then; and so I suppose you will naturally
chuse a house of your own, which will be much more eligible."
"I don't think that," said Lady Margaret, "I never saw anything
eligible come of young women's having houses of their own; she will do
a much better thing to marry, and have some proper person to take care
"Nothing more right, ma'am!" returned he; "a young lady in a house by
herself must be subject to a thousand dangers. What sort of place,
ma'am, has Mr Delvile got in the country? I hear he has a good deal of
ground there, and a large house."
"It is an old castle, Sir, and situated in a park."
"That must be terribly forlorn: I dare say, ma'am, you were very happy
to return into Suffolk."
"I did not find it forlorn; I was very well satisfied with it."
"Why, indeed, upon second thoughts, I don't much wonder; an old castle
in a large park must make a very romantic appearance; something noble
in it, I dare say."
"Aye," cried Lady Margaret, "they said you were to become mistress of
it, and marry Mr Delvile's son and I cannot, for my own part, see any
objection to it."
"I am told of so many strange reports," said Cecilia, "and all, to
myself so unaccountable, that I begin now to hear of them without much
"That's a charming young man, I believe," said Morrice; "I had the
pleasure once or twice of meeting him at poor Harrel's, and he seemed
mighty agreeable. Is not he so, ma'am?"
"Yes,--I believe so."
"Nay, I don't mean to speak of him as any thing very extraordinary,"
cried Morrice, imagining her hesitation proceeded from dislike, "I
merely meant as the world goes,--in a common sort of a way."
Here they were joined by Mr Monckton and some gentlemen who were on a
visit at his house; for his anxiety was not of a sort to lead him to
solitude, nor his disposition to make him deny himself any kind of
enjoyment which he had power to attain. A general conversation ensued,
which lasted till Cecilia ended her visit; Mr Monckton then took her
hand to lead her to the chaise, but told her, in their way out, of
some alterations in his grounds, which he desired to shew her: his
view of detaining her was to gather what she thought of her reception,
and whether she had yet any suspicions of the jealousy of Lady
Margaret; well knowing, from the delicacy of her character, that if
once she became acquainted with it, she would scrupulously avoid all
intercourse with him, from the fear of encreasing her uneasiness.
He began, therefore, with talking of the pleasure which Lady Margaret
took in the plantations, and of his hope that Cecilia would often
favour her by visiting them, without waiting to have her visits
returned, as she was entitled by her infirmities to particular
indulgencies. He was continuing in this strain, receiving from Cecilia
hardly any answer, when suddenly from behind a thick laurel bush,
jumpt up Mr Morrice; who had run out of the house by a shorter cut,
and planted himself there to surprise them.
"So ho!" cried he with a loud laugh, "I have caught you! This will be
a fine anecdote for Lady Margaret; I vow I'll tell her."
Mr Monckton, never off his guard, readily answered "Aye, prithee do,
Morrice; but don't omit to relate also what we said of yourself."
"Of me?" cried he, with some eagerness; "why you never mentioned me."
"O that won't pass, I assure you; we shall tell another tale at table
by and by; and bring the old proverb of the ill luck of listeners upon
you in its full force."
"Well, I'll be hanged if I know what you mean!"
"Why you won't pretend you did not hear Miss Beverley say you were the
truest Ouran Outang, or man-monkey, she ever knew?"
"No, indeed, that I did not!
"No?--Nor how much she admired your dexterity in escaping being horse-
whipt three times a day for your incurable impudence?"
"Not a word on't! Horse-whipt!--Miss Beverley, pray did you say any
"Ay," cried Monckton, again, "and not only horse-_whipt_, but
horse-_ponded_, for she thought when, one had heated, the other
might cool you; and then you might be fitted again for your native
woods, for she insists upon it you was brought from Africa, and are
not yet half tamed."
"O Lord!" cried Morrice, amazed, "I should not have suspected Miss
Beverley would have talked so!"
"And do you suspect she did now?" cried Cecilia.
"Pho, pho," cried Monckton, coolly, "why he heard it himself the whole
time! and so shall all our party by and bye, if I can but remember to
Cecilia then returned to the chaise, leaving Mr Monckton to settle the
matter with his credulous guest as he pleased; for supposing he was
merely gratifying a love of sport, or taking this method of checking
the general forwardness of the young man, she forbore any interference
that might mar his intention. But Mr Monckton loved not to be rallied
concerning Cecilia, though he was indifferent to all that could be
said to him of any other woman; he meant, therefore, to intimidate
Morrice from renewing the subject; and he succeeded to his wish; poor
Morrice, whose watching and whose speech were the mere blunders of
chance, made without the slightest suspicion of Mr Monckton's designs,
now apprehended some scheme to render himself ridiculous, and though
he did not believe Cecilia had made use of such expressions, he
fancied Mr Monckton meant to turn the laugh against him, and
determined, therefore, to say nothing that might remind him of what
Mr Monckton had at this time admitted him to his house merely from an
expectation of finding more amusement in his blundering and giddiness,
than he was capable, during his anxiety concerning Cecilia, of
receiving from conversation of an higher sort. The character of
Morrice was, indeed, particularly adapted for the entertainment of a
large house in the country; eager for sport, and always ready for
enterprize; willing to oblige, yet tormented with no delicacy about
offending; the first to promote mischief for any other, and the last
to be offended when exposed to it himself; gay, thoughtless, and
volatile,-a happy composition of levity and good-humour.
Cecilia, however, to quitting the house, determined not to visit it
again very speedily; for she was extremely disgusted with Lady
Margaret, though she suspected no particular motives of enmity,
against which she was guarded alike by her own unsuspicious innocence,
and by an high esteem of Mr Monckton, which she firmly believed he
returned with equal honesty of undesigning friendship.
Her next excursion was to visit Mrs Harrel; she found that unhappy
lady a prey to all the misery of unoccupied solitude: torn from
whatever had, to her, made existence seem valuable, her mind was as
listless as her person was inactive, and she was at a loss how to
employ even a moment of the day: she had now neither a party to form,
nor an entertainment to plan, company to arrange, nor dress to
consider; and these, with visits and public places, had filled all her
time since her marriage, which, as it had 'happened very early in her
life, had merely taken place of girlish amusements, masters and
This helplessness of insipidity, however, though naturally the effect
of a mind devoid of all genuine resources, was dignified by herself
with the appellation of sorrow: nor was this merely a screen to the
world; unused to investigate her feelings or examine her heart, the
general compassion she met for the loss of her husband, persuaded her
that indeed she lamented his destiny; though had no change in her life
been caused by his suicide, she would scarcely, when the first shock
was over, have thought of it again.
She received Cecilia with great pleasure; and with still greater,
heard the renewal of her promises to fit up a room for her in her
house, as soon as she came of age; a period which now was hardly a,
month distant. Far greater, however, as well as infinitely purer, was
'the joy which her presence bestowed upon Mr Arnott; she saw it
herself with a sensation of regret, not only at the constant passion
which occasioned it, but even at her own inability to participate in
or reward it for with him an alliance would meet with no opposition;
his character was amiable, his situation in life unexceptionable: he
loved her with the tenderest affection, and no pride, she well knew,
would interfere to overpower it; yet, in return, to grant him her
love, she felt as utterly impossible as to refuse him her esteem: and
the superior attractions of Delvile, of which neither displeasure nor
mortification could rob him, shut up her heart, for the present, more
firmly than ever, as Mr Monckton had well imagined, to all other
assailants. Yet she by no means weakly gave way to repining or regret:
her suspence was at an end, her hopes and her fears were subsided
into certainty; Delvile, in quitting her, had acquainted her that he
had left her for ever, and even, though not, indeed, with much
steadiness, had prayed for her happiness in union with some other;
she held it therefore as essential to her character as to her peace,
to manifest equal fortitude in subduing her partiality; she forbore
to hint to Mrs Charlton what had passed, that the subject might never
be started; allowed herself no time for dangerous recollection;
strolled in her old walks, and renewed her old acquaintance, and by a
vigorous exertion of active wisdom, doubted not compleating, before
long, the subjection of her unfortunate tenderness. Nor was her task
so difficult as she had feared; resolution, in such cases, may act
the office of time, and anticipate by reason and self-denial, what
that, much leas nobly, effects through forgetfulness and inconstancy.
One week only, however, had yet tried the perseverance of Cecilia,
when, while she was working with Mrs Charlton in her dressing-room,
her maid hastily entered it, and with a smile that seemed announcing
welcome news, said, "Lord, ma'am, here's Fidel!" and, at the same
moment, she was followed by the dog, who jumpt upon Cecilia in a
transport of delight.
"Good heaven," cried she, all amazement, "who has brought him? whence
does he come?"
"A country man brought him, ma'am; but he only put him in, and would
not stay a minute."
"But whom did he enquire for?--who saw him?--what did he say?"
"He saw Ralph, ma'am."
Ralph, then, was instantly called: and these questions being repeated,
he said, "Ma'am, it was a man I never saw before; but he only bid me
take care to deliver the dog into your own hands, and said you would
have a letter about him soon, and then went away: I wanted him to stay
till I came up stairs, but he was off at once."
Cecilia, quite confounded by this account, could make neither comment
nor answer; but, as soon as the servants had left the room, Mrs
Charlton entreated to know to whom the dog had belonged, convinced by
her extreme agitation, that something interesting and uncommon must
relate to him.
This was no time for disguise; astonishment and confusion bereft
Cecilia of all power to attempt it; and, after a very few evasions,
she briefly communicated her situation with respect to Delvile, his
leaving her, his motives, and his mother's evident concurrence: for
these were all so connected with her knowledge of Fidel, that she led
to them unavoidably in telling what she knew of him.
Very little penetration was requisite, to gather from her manner all
that was united in her narrative of her own feelings and
disappointment in the course of this affair: and Mrs Charlton, who had
hitherto believed the whole world at her disposal, and that she
continued single from no reason but her own difficulty of choice, was
utterly amazed to find that any man existed who could withstand the
united allurements of so much beauty, sweetness, and fortune. She felt
herself sometimes inclined to hate, and at other times to pity him;
yet concluded that her own extreme coldness was the real cause of his
flight, and warmly blamed a reserve which had thus ruined her
Cecilia was in the extremest perplexity and distress to conjecture the
meaning of so unaccountable a present, and so strange a message.
Delvile, she knew, had desired the dog might follow him to Bristol;
his mother, always pleased to oblige him, would now less than ever
neglect any opportunity; she could not, therefore, doubt that she had
sent or taken him thither, and thence, according to all appearances,
he must now come. But was it likely Delvile would take such a liberty?
Was it probable, when so lately he had almost exhorted her to forget
him, he would even wish to present her with such a remembrance of
himself? And what was the letter she was bid to expect? Whence and
from what was it to come?
All was inexplicable! the only thing she could surmise, with any
semblance of probability, was that the whole was some frolic of Lady
Honoria Pemberton, who had persuaded Delvile to send her the dog, and
perhaps assured him she had herself requested to have him.
Provoked by this suggestion, her first thought was instantly having
him conveyed to the castle; but uncertain what the whole affair meant,
and hoping some explanation in the letter she was promised, she
determined to wait till it came, or at least till she heard from Mrs
Delvile, before she took any measures herself in the business. Mutual
accounts of their safe arrivals at Bristol and in Suffolk, had already
passed between them, and she expected very soon to have further
intelligence: though she was now, by the whole behaviour of Mrs
Delvile, convinced she wished not again to have her an inmate of her
house, and that the rest of her minority might pass, without
opposition; in the house of Mrs Charlton.
Day after day, however, passed, and yet she heard nothing more; a
week, a fortnight elapsed, and still no letter came. She now concluded
the promise was a deception, and repented that she had waited a moment
with any such expectation. Her peace, during this time, was greatly
disturbed; this present made her fear she was thought meanly of by Mr
Delvile; the silence of his mother gave her apprehensions for his
health, and her own irresolution how to act, kept her in perpetual
inquietude. She tried in vain to behave as if this incident had not
happened; her mind was uneasy, and the same actions produced not the
same effects; when she now worked or read, the sight of Fidel by her
side distracted her attention; when she walked, it was the same, for
Fidel always followed her; and though, in visiting her old
acquaintance, she forbore to let him accompany her, she was secretly
planning the whole time the contents of some letter, which she
expected to meet with, on returning to Mrs Charlton's.
Those gentlemen in the country who, during the life-time of the Dean,
had paid their addresses to Cecilia, again waited upon her at Mrs
Charlton's, and renewed their proposals. They had now, however, still
less chance of success, and their dismission was brief and decisive.
Among these came Mr Biddulph; and to him Cecilia was involuntarily
most civil, because she knew him to be the friend of Delvile. Yet his
conversation encreased the uneasiness of her suspence; for after
speaking of the family in general which she had left, he enquired more
particularly concerning Delvile, and then added, "I am, indeed,
greatly grieved to find, by all the accounts I receive of him, that he
is now in a very bad state of health."
This speech gave her fresh subject for apprehension; and in proportion
as the silence of Mrs Delvile grew more alarming, her regard for her
favourite Fidel became more partial. The affectionate animal seemed to
mourn the loss of his master, and while sometimes she indulged herself
in fancifully telling him her fears, she imagined she read in his
countenance the faithfullest sympathy.
One week of her minority was now all that remained, and she was soon
wholly occupied in preparations for coming of age. She purposed taking
possession of a large house that had belonged to her uncle, which was
situated only three miles from that of Mrs Charlton; and she employed
herself in giving orders for fitting it up, and in hearing complaints,
and promising indulgencies, to various of her tenants.
At this time, while she was at breakfast one morning, a letter arrived
from Mrs Delvile. She apologised for not writing sooner, but added
that various family occurrences, which had robbed her of all leisure,
might easily be imagined, when she acquainted her that Mortimer had
determined upon again going abroad.... They were all, she said,
returned to Delvile Castle, but mentioned nothing either of the health
of her son, or of her own regret, and filled up the rest of her
letter, with general news and expressions of kindness: though, in a
postscript, was inserted, "We have lost our poor Fidel."
Cecilia was still meditating upon this letter, by which her perplexity
how to act was rather encreased than diminished, when, to her great
surprise, Lady Honoria Pemberton was announced. She hastily begged one
of the Miss Charltons to convey Fidel out of sight, from a dread of
her raillery, should she, at last, be unconcerned in the transaction,
and then went to receive her.
Lady Honoria, who was with her governess, gave a brief history of her
quitting Delvile Castle, and said she was now going with her father to
visit a noble family in Norfolk: but she had obtained his permission
to leave him at the inn where they had slept, in order to make a short
excursion to Bury, for the pleasure of seeing Miss Beverley.
"And therefore," she continued, "I can stay but half an hour; so you
must give me some account of yourself as fast as possible."
"What account does your ladyship require?"
"Why, who you live with here, and who are your companions, and what
you do with yourself."
"Why, I live with Mrs Charlton; and for companions, I have at least a
score; here are her two grand-daughters, and Mrs and Miss--."
"Pho, pho," interrupted Lady Honoria, "but I don't mean such hum-drum
companions as those; you'll tell me next, I suppose, of the parson and
his wife and three daughters, with all their cousins and aunts: I hate
those sort of people. What I desire to hear of is, who are your
particular favourites; and whether you take long walks here, as you
used to do at the Castle, and who you have to accompany you?" And
then, looking at her very archly, she added, "A pretty little dog,
now, I should think, would be vastly agreeable in such a place as
this.--Ah, Miss Beverley! you have not left off that trick of
colouring, I see!"
"If I colour now," said Cecilia, fully convinced of the justness of
her suspicions, "I think it must be for your ladyship, not myself;
for, if I am not much mistaken, either in person, or by proxy, a blush
from Lady Honoria Pemberton would not, just now, be wholly out of
"Lord," cried she, "how like that is to a speech of Mrs Delvile's! She
has taught you exactly her manner of talking. But do you know I am
informed you have got Fidel with you here? O fie, Miss Beverley! What
will papa and mamma say, when they find you have taken away poor
little master's plaything?"
"And O fie, Lady Honoria! what shall _I_ say, when I find you
guilty of this mischievous frolic! I must beg, however, since you have
gone thus far, that you will proceed a little farther, and send back
the dog to the person from whom you received him."
"No, not I! manage him all your own way: if you chuse to accept dogs
from gentlemen, you know, it is your affair, and not mine."
"If you really will not return him yourself, you must at least pardon
me should you hear that _I_ do in your ladyship's name."
Lady Honoria for some time only laughed and rallied, without coming to
any explanation; but when she had exhausted all the sport she could
make, she frankly owned that she had herself ordered the dog to be
privately stolen, and then sent a man with him to Mrs Charlton's.
"But you know," she continued, "I really owed you a spite for being so
ill-natured as to run away after sending me to call Mortimer to
comfort and take leave of you."
"Do you dream, Lady Honoria? when did I send you?"
"Why you know you looked as if you wished it, and that was the same
thing. But really it made me appear excessively silly, when I had
forced him to come back with me, and told him you were waiting for
him,--to see nothing of you at all, and not be able to find or trace
you. He took it all for my own invention."
"And was it _not_ your own invention?"
"Why that's nothing to the purpose; I wanted him to believe you sent
me, for I knew else he would not come."
"Your ladyship was a great deal too good!"
"Why now suppose I had brought you together, what possible harm could
have happened from it? It would merely have given each of you some
notion of a fever and ague; for first you would both have been hot,
and then you would both have been cold, and then you would both have
turned red, and then you would both have turned white, and then you
would both have pretended to simper at the trick; and then there would
have been an end of it."
"This is a very easy way of settling it all," cried Cecilia laughing;
"however, you must be content to abide by your own theft, for you
cannot in conscience expect I should take it upon myself."
"You are terribly ungrateful, I see," said her ladyship, "for all the
trouble and contrivance and expence I have been at merely to oblige
you, while the whole time, poor Mortimer, I dare say, has had his
sweet Pet advertised in all the newspapers, and cried in every market-
town in the kingdom. By the way, if you do send him back, I would
advise you to let your man demand the reward that has been offered for
him, which may serve in part of payment for his travelling expenses."
Cecilia could only shake her head, and recollect Mrs Delvile's
expression, that her levity was incorrigible.
"O if you had seen," she continued, "how sheepish Mortimer looked when
I told him you were dying to see him before he set off! he coloured
so!--just as you do now!--but I think you're vastly alike."
"I fear, then," cried Cecilia, not very angry at this speech, "there
is but little chance your ladyship should like either of us."
"O yes, I do! I like odd people of all things."
"Odd people? and in what are we so very odd?"
"O, in a thousand things. You're so good, you know, and so grave, and
"Why, you know, you never laugh at the old folks, and never fly at
your servants, nor smoke people before their faces, and are so civil
to the old _fograms_, you would make one imagine you liked nobody
so well. By the way, I could do no good with my little Lord Derford;
he pretended to find out I was only laughing at him, and so he minded
nothing I told him. I dare say, however, his father made the
detection, for I am sure he had not wit enough to discover it
Cecilia then, very seriously began to entreat that she would return
the dog herself, and confess her frolic, remonstrating in strong terms
upon the mischievous tendency and consequences of such inconsiderate
"Well," cried she, rising, "this is all vastly true; but I have no
time to hear any more of it just now; besides, it's only forestalling
my next lecture from Mrs Delvile, for you talk so much alike, that it
is really very perplexing to me to remember which is which."
She then hurried away, protesting she had already outstayed her
father's patience, and declaring the delay of another minute would
occasion half a dozen expresses to know whether she was gone towards
Scotland or Flanders.
This visit, however, was both pleasant and consolatory to Cecilia; who
was now relieved from her suspence, and revived in her spirits by the
intelligence that Delvile had no share in sending her a present,
which, from him, would have been humiliating and impertinent. She
regretted, indeed, that she had not instantly returned it to the
castle, which she was now convinced was the measure she ought to have
pursued; but to make all possible reparation, she determined that her
own servant should set out with him the next morning to Bristol, and
take a letter to Mrs Delvile to explain what had happened, since to
conceal it from any delicacy to Lady Honoria, would be to expose
herself to suspicions the most mortifying, for which that gay and
careless young lady would never thank her.
She gave orders, therefore, to her servant to get ready for the
When she communicated these little transactions to Mrs Charlton, that
kind-hearted old lady, who knew her fondness for Fidel, advised her
not yet to part with him, but merely to acquaint Mrs Delvile where he
was, and what Lady Honoria had done, and, by leaving to herself the
care of settling his restoration, to give her, at least, an
opportunity of offering him to her acceptance.
Cecilia, however, would listen to no such proposal; she saw the
firmness of Delvile in his resolution to avoid her, and knew that
policy, as well as propriety, made it necessary she should part with
what she could only retain to remind her of one whom she now most
wished to forget.
The spirits of Cecilia, however, internally failed her: she considered
her separation from Delvile to be now, in all probability, for life,
since she saw that no struggle either of interest, inclination, or
health, could bend him from his purpose; his mother, too, seemed to
regard his name and his existence as equally valuable, and the
scruples of his father she was certain would be still more
insurmountable. Her own pride, excited by theirs, made her, indeed,
with more anger than sorrow, see this general consent to abandon her;
but pride and anger both failed when she considered the situation of
his health; sorrow, there, took the lead, and admitted no partner: it
represented him to her not only as lost to herself, but to the world;
and so sad grew her reflections, and so heavy her heart, that, to
avoid from Mrs Charlton observations which pained her, she stole into
a summer-house in the garden the moment she had done tea, declining
any companion but her affectionate Fidel.
Her tenderness and her sorrow found here a romantic consolation, in
complaining to him of the absence of his master, his voluntary exile,
and her fears for his health: calling upon him to participate in her
sorrow, and lamenting that even this little relief would soon be
denied her; and that in losing Fidel no vestige of Mortimer, but in
her own breast, would remain; "Go, then, dear Fidel," she cried,
"carry back to your master all that nourishes his remembrance! Bid him
not love you the less for having some time belonged to Cecilia; but
never may his proud heart be fed with the vain glory of knowing how
fondly for his sake she has cherished you! Go, dear Fidel, guard him
by night, and follow him by day; serve him with zeal, and love him
with fidelity;--oh that his health were invincible as his pride!--
there, alone, is he vulnerable--"
Here Fidel, with a loud barking, suddenly sprang away from her, and,
as she turned her eyes towards the door to see what had thus startled
him, she beheld standing there, as if immoveable, young Delvile
Her astonishment at this sight almost bereft her of her understanding;
it appeared to her supernatural, and she rather believed it was his
ghost than himself. Fixed in mute wonder, she stood still though
terrified, her eyes almost bursting from their sockets to be satisfied
if what they saw was real.
Delvile, too, was some time speechless; he looked not at her, indeed,
with any doubt of her existence, but as if what he had heard was to
him as amazing as to her what she saw. At length, however, tormented
by the dog, who jumpt up to him, licked his hands, and by his
rapturous joy forced himself into notice, he was moved to return his
caresses, saying, "Yes, _dear Fidel!_ you have a claim indeed to
my attention, and with the fondest gratitude will I cherish you ever!"
At the sound of his voice, Cecilia again began to breathe; and Delvile
having quieted the dog, now entered the summer-house, saying, as he
advanced, "Is this possible!--am I not in a dream?--Good God! is it
The consternation of doubt and astonishment which had seized every
faculty of Cecilia, now changed into certainty that Delvile indeed was
present, all her recollection returned as she listened, to this
question, and the wild rambling of fancy with which she had
incautiously indulged her sorrow, rushing suddenly upon her mind, she
felt herself wholly overpowered by consciousness and shame, and sunk,
almost fainting, upon a window-seat.
Delvile instantly flew to her, penetrated with gratitude, and filled
with wonder and delight, which, however internally combated by
sensations less pleasant, were too potent for controul, and he poured
forth at her feet the most passionate acknowledgments.
Cecilia, surprised, affected, and trembling with a thousand emotions,
endeavoured to break from him and rise; but, eagerly detaining her,
"No, loveliest Miss Beverley," he cried, "not thus must we now part!
this moment only have I discovered what a treasure I was leaving; and,
but for Fidel, I had quitted it in ignorance for ever."
"Indeed," cried Cecilia, in the extremest agitation, "indeed you may
believe me Fidel is here quite by accident.--Lady Honoria took him
away,--I knew nothing of the matter,--she stole him, she sent him, she
did every thing herself."
"O kind Lady Honoria!" cried Delvile, more and more delighted, "how
shall I ever thank her!--And did she also tell you to caress and to
cherish him?--to talk to him of his master--"
"O heaven!" interrupted Cecilia, in an agony of mortification and
shame, "to what has my unguarded folly reduced me!" Then again
endeavouring to break from him, "Leave me, Mr Delvile," she cried,
"leave me, or let me pass!--never can I see you more!--never bear you
again in my sight!"
"Come, _dear Fidel!_" cried he, still detaining her, "come and
plead for your master! come and ask in his name who _now_ has a
proud heart, whose pride _now_ is invincible!"
"Oh go!" cried Cecilia, looking away from him while she spoke, "repeat
not those hateful words, if you wish me not to detest myself
"Ever-lovely Miss Beverley," cried he, more seriously, "why this
resentment? why all this causeless distress? Has not _my_ heart
long since been known to you? have you not witnessed its sufferings,
and been assured of its tenderness? why, then, this untimely reserve?
this unabating coldness? Oh why try to rob me of the felicity you have
inadvertently given me! and to sour the happiness of a moment that
recompenses such exquisite misery!"
"Oh Mr Delvile!" cried she, impatiently, though half softened, "was
this honourable or right? to steal upon me thus privately--to listen
to me thus secretly--"
"You blame me," cried he, "too soon; your own friend, Mrs Charlton,
permitted me to come hither in search of you;--then, indeed, when I
heard the sound of your voice--when I heard that voice talk of
_Fidel_--of his _master_--"
"Oh stop, stop!" cried she; "I cannot support the recollection! there
is no punishment, indeed, which my own indiscretion does not merit,--
but I shall have sufficient in the bitterness of self-reproach!"
"Why will you talk thus, my beloved Miss Beverley? what have you
done,--what, let me ask, have _I_ done, that such infinite
disgrace and depression should follow this little sensibility to a
passion so fervent? Does it not render you more dear to me than ever?
does it not add new life, new vigour, to the devotion by which I am
bound to you?"
"No, no," cried the mortified Cecilia, who from the moment she found
herself betrayed, believed herself to be lost, "far other is the
effect it will have! and the same mad folly by which I am ruined in my
own esteem, will ruin me in yours!--I cannot endure to think of it!--
why will you persist in detaining me?--You have filled me with anguish
and mortification,--you have taught me the bitterest of lessons, that
of hating and contemning myself!"
"Good heaven," cried he, much hurt, "what strange apprehensions thus
terrify you? are you with me less safe than with yourself? is it my
honour you doubt? is it my integrity you fear? Surely I cannot be so
little known to you; and to make protestations now, would but give a
new alarm to a delicacy already too agitated.--Else would I tell you
that more sacred than my life will I hold what I have heard, that the
words just now graven on my heart, shall remain there to eternity
unseen; and that higher than ever, not only in my love, but my esteem,
is the beautiful speaker."--
"Ah no!" cried Cecilia, with a sigh, "that, at least, is impossible,
for lower than ever is she sunk from deserving it!"
"No," cried he, with fervour, "she is raised, she is exalted! I find
her more excellent and perfect than I had even dared believe her; I
discover new virtues in the spring of every action; I see what I took
for indifference, was dignity; I perceive what I imagined the most
rigid insensibility, was nobleness, was propriety, was true greatness
Cecilia was somewhat appeased by this speech; and, after a little
hesitation, she said, with a half smile, "Must I thank you for this
good-nature in seeking to reconcile me with myself?--or shall I
quarrel with you for flattery, in giving me praise you can so little
think I merit?"
"Ah!" cried he, "were I to praise as I think of you! were my language
permitted to accord with my opinion of your worth, you would not then
simply call me a flatterer, you would tell me I was an idolater, and
fear at least for my principles, if not for my understanding."
"I shall have but little right, however," said Cecilia, again rising,
"to arraign your understanding while I act as if bereft of my own.
Now, at least, let me pass; indeed you will greatly displease me by
any further opposition."
"Will you suffer me, then, to see you early to-morrow morning?"
"No, Sir; nor the next morning, nor the morning after that! This
meeting has been wrong, another would be worse; in this I have
accusation enough for folly,--in another the charge would be far more
"Does Miss Beverley, then," cried he gravely, "think me capable of
desiring to see her for mere selfish gratification? of intending to
trifle either with her time or her feelings? no; the conference I
desire will be important and decisive. This night I shall devote
solely to deliberation; to-morrow shall be given to action. Without
some thinking I dare venture at no plan;--I presume not to communicate
to you the various interests that divide me, but the result of them
all I can take no denial to your hearing."
Cecilia, who felt when thus stated the justice of his request, now
opposed it no longer, but insisted upon his instantly departing.
"True," cried he, "I must go!--the longer I stay, the more I am
fascinated, and the weaker are those reasoning powers of which I now
want the strongest exertion." He then repeated his professions of
eternal regard, besought her not to regret the happiness she had given
him, and after disobeying her injunctions of going till she was
seriously displeased, he only stayed to obtain her pardon, and
permission to be early the next morning, and then, though still slowly
and reluctantly, he left her.
Scarce was Cecilia again alone, but the whole of what had passed
seemed a vision of her imagination. That Delvile should be at Bury,
that he should visit her at Mrs Charlton's, surprise her by herself,
and discover her most secret thoughts, appeared so strange and so
incredible, that, occupied rather by wonder than, thinking, she
continued almost motionless in the place where he had left her, till
Mrs Charlton sent to request that she would return to the house. She
then enquired if any body was with her, and being answered in the
negative, obeyed the summons.
Mrs Charlton, with a smile of much meaning, hoped she had had a
pleasant walk: but Cecilia seriously remonstrated on the dangerous
imprudence she had committed in suffering her to be so unguardedly
surprised. Mrs Charlton, however, more anxious for her future and
solid happiness, than for her present apprehensions and delicacy,
repented not the step she had taken; and when she gathered from
Cecilia the substance of what had past, unmindful of the
expostulations which accompanied it, she thought with exultation that
the sudden meeting she had permitted, would now, by making known to
each their mutual affection, determine them to defer no longer a union
upon which their mutual peace of mind so much depended. And Cecilia,
finding she had been thus betrayed designedly, not inadvertently,
could hardly reproach her zeal, though she lamented its indiscretion.
She then asked by what means he had obtained admission, and made
himself known; and heard that he had enquired at the door for Miss
Beverley, and, having sent in his name, was shewn into the parlour,
where Mrs Charlton, much pleased with his appearance, had suddenly
conceived the little plan which she had executed, of contriving a
surprise for Cecilia, from which she rationally expected the very
consequences that ensued, though the immediate means she had not
The account was still unsatisfactory to Cecilia, who could frame to
herself no possible reason for a visit so extraordinary, and so
totally inconsistent with his declarations and resolutions.
This, however, was a matter of but little moment, compared with the
other subjects to which the interview had given rise; Delvile, upon
whom so long, though secretly, her dearest hopes of happiness had
rested, was now become acquainted with his power, and knew himself the
master of her destiny; he had quitted her avowedly to decide what it
should be, since his present subject of deliberation included her fate
in his own: the next morning he was to call, and acquaint her with his
decree, not doubting her concurrence which ever way be resolved.
A subjection so undue, and which she could not but consider as
disgraceful, both shocked and afflicted her; and the reflection that
the man who of all men she preferred, was acquainted with her
preference, yet hesitated whether to accept or abandon her, mortified
and provoked her, alternately, occupied her thoughts the whole night,
and kept her from peace and from rest.
Early the next morning, Delvile again made his appearance. Cecilia,
who was at breakfast with Mrs and Miss Charltons, received him with
the most painful confusion, and he was evidently himself in a state of
the utmost perturbation. Mrs Charlton made a pretence almost
immediately for sending away both her grand-daughters, and then,
without taking the trouble of devising one for herself, arose and
followed them, though Cecilia made sundry signs of solicitation that
she would stay.
Finding herself now alone with him, she hastily, and without knowing
what she said, cried, "How is Mrs Delvile, Sir? Is she still at
"At Bristol? no; have you never heard she is returned to Delvile
"O, true!--I meant Delvile Castle,--but I hope she found some benefit
from the waters?"
"She had not, I believe, any occasion to try them."
Cecilia, ashamed of these two following mistakes, coloured high; but
ventured not again to speak: and Delvile, who seemed big with
something he feared to utter, arose, and walked for a few instants
about the room; after which, exclaiming aloud "How vain is every plan
which passes the present hour!" He advanced to Cecilia, who pretended
to be looking at some work, and seating himself next her, "when we
parted yesterday," he cried, "I presumed to say one night alone should
be given to deliberation,--and to-day, this very day to action!--but I
forgot that though in deliberating I had only myself to consult, in
acting I was not so independent; and that when my own doubts were
satisfied, and my own resolutions taken, other doubts and other
resolutions must be considered, by which my purposed proceedings might
be retarded, might perhaps be wholly prevented!"
He paused, but Cecilia, unable to conjecture to what he was leading,
made not any answer.
"Upon you, madam," he continued, "all that is good or evil of my
future life, as far as relates to its happiness or misery, will, from
this very hour, almost solely depend: yet much as I rely upon your
goodness, and superior as I know you to trifling or affectation, what
I now come to propose--to petition--to entreat--I cannot summon
courage to mention, from a dread of alarming you!"
What next, thought Cecilia, trembling at this introduction, is
preparing for me! does he mean to ask _me_ to solicit Mrs
Delvile's consent! or from myself must he receive commands that we
should never meet more!
"Is Miss Beverley," cried he, "determined not to, speak to me? Is she
bent upon silence only to intimidate me? Indeed if she knew how
greatly I respect her, she would honour me with more confidence."
"When, Sir," cried she, "do you mean to make your tour?"
"Never!" cried he, with fervour, "unless banished by _you_,
never!--no, loveliest Miss Beverley, I can now quit you no more!
Fortune, beauty, worth and sweetness I had power to relinquish, and
severe as was the task, I compelled myself to perform it,--but when to
these I find joined so attractive a softness,--a pity for my
sufferings so unexpectedly gentle no! sweetest Miss Beverley, I can
quit you no more!" And then, seizing her hand, with yet greater
energy, he went on, "I here," he cried, "offer you my vows, I here own
you sole arbitress of my fate! I give you not merely the possession of
my heart,--that, indeed, I had no power to withhold from you,--but I
give you the direction of my conduct, I entreat you to become my
counsellor and guide. Will Miss Beverley accept such an office? Will
she deign to listen to such a prayer?"
"Yes," cried Cecilia, involuntarily delighted to find that such was
the result of his night's deliberation, "I am most ready to give you
my counsel; which I now do,--that you set off for the Continent
"O how malicious!" cried he, half laughing, "yet not so immediately do
I even request your counsel; something must first be done to qualify
you for giving it: penetration, skill and understanding, however amply
you possess them, are not sufficient to fit you for the charge;
something still more is requisite, you must be invested with fuller
powers, you must have a right less disputable, and a title, that not
alone, inclination, not even judgment alone must sanctify, but which
law must enforce, and rites the most solemn support!"
"I think, then," said Cecilia, deeply blushing, "I must be content to
forbear giving any counsel at all, if the qualifications for it are so
difficult of acquirement."
"Resent not my presumption," cried he, "my beloved Miss Beverley, but
let the severity of my recent sufferings palliate my present temerity;
for where affliction has been deep and serious, causeless and
unnecessary misery will find little encouragement; and mine has been
serious indeed! Sweetly, then, permit me, in proportion to its
bitterness, to rejoice in the soft reverse which now flatters me with
Cecilia, abashed and uneasy, uncertain of what was to follow, and
unwilling to speak till more assured, paused, and then abruptly
exclaimed "I am afraid Mrs Charlton is waiting for me," and would have
hurried away: but Delvile, almost forcibly preventing her, compelled
her to stay; and, after a short conversation, on his side the most
impassioned, and on hers the most confused, obtained from her, what,
indeed, after the surprise of the preceding evening she could but ill
deny, a frank confirmation of his power over her heart, and an
ingenuous, though reluctant acknowledgment, how long he had possessed
This confession, made, as affairs now stood, wholly in opposition to
her judgment, was torn from her by an impetuous urgency which she had
not presence of mind to resist, and with which Delvile, when
particularly animated, had long been accustomed to overpower all
opposition. The joy with which he heard it, though but little mixed
with wonder, was as violent as the eagerness with which he had sought
it; yet it was not of long duration, a sudden, and most painful
recollection presently quelled it, and even in the midst of his
rapturous acknowledgment, seemed to strike him to the heart.
Cecilia, soon perceiving both in his countenance and manner an
alteration that shocked her, bitterly repented an avowal she could
never recall, and looked aghast with expectation and dread.
Delvile, who with quickness saw a change of expression in her of which
in himself he was unconscious, exclaimed, with much emotion, "O how
transient is human felicity! How rapidly fly those rare and exquisite
moments in which it is perfect! Ah! sweetest Miss Beverley, what words
shall I find to soften what I have now to reveal! to tell you that,
after goodness, candour, generosity such as yours, a request, a
supplication remains yet to be uttered that banishes me, if refused,
from your presence for ever!"
Cecilia, extremely dismayed, desired to know what it was: an evident
dread of offending her kept him some time from proceeding, but at
length, after repeatedly expressing his fears of her disapprobation,
and a repugnance even on his own part to the very measure he was
obliged to urge, he acknowledged that all his hopes of being ever
united to her, rested upon obtaining her consent to an immediate and
Cecilia, thunderstruck by this declaration, remained for a few
instants too much confounded to speak; but when he was beginning an
explanatory apology, she started up, and glowing with indignation,
said, "I had flattered myself, Sir, that both my character and my
conduct, independent of my situation in life, would have exempted me
at all times from a proposal which I shall ever think myself degraded
by having heard."
And then she was again going, but Delvile still preventing her, said
"I knew too well how much you would be alarmed, and such was my dread
of your displeasure that it had power even to embitter the happiness I
sought with so much earnestness, and to render your condescension
insufficient to ensure it. Yet wonder not at my scheme; wild as it may
appear, it is the result of deliberation, and censurable as it may
seem, it springs not from unworthy motives."
"Whatever may be your motives with respect to yourself, Sir," said
Cecilia, "with respect to me they must certainly be disgraceful; I
will not, therefore, listen to them."
"You wrong me cruelly," cried he, with warmth, "and a moment's
reflection must tell you that however distinct may be our honour or
our disgrace in every other instance, in that by which we should be
united, they must inevitably be the same: and far sooner would I
voluntarily relinquish you, than be myself accessory to tainting that
delicacy of which the unsullied purity has been the chief source of my
"Why, then," cried Cecilia, reproachfully, "have you mentioned to me
such a project?"
"Circumstances the most singular, and necessity the most unavoidable,"
he answered, "should alone have ever tempted me to form it. No longer
ago than yesterday morning, I believed myself incapable of even
wishing it; but extraordinary situations call for extraordinary
resolutions, and in private as well as public life, palliate, at
least, extraordinary actions. Alas! the proposal which so much offends
you is my final resource! it is the sole barrier between myself and
perpetual misery!--the only expedient in my power to save me from
eternally parting from you!--for I am compelled now cruelly to
confess, that my family, I am certain, will never consent to our
"Neither, then, Sir," cried Cecilia, with great spirit, "will I! The
disdain I may meet with I pretend not to retort, but wilfully to
encounter, were meanly to deserve it. I will enter into no family in
opposition to its wishes, I will consent to no alliance that may
expose me to indignity. Nothing is so contagious as contempt!--The
example of your friends might work powerfully upon yourself, and who
shall dare assure me you would not catch the infection?"
"_I_ dare assure you!" cried he; "hasty you may perhaps think me,
and somewhat impetuous I cannot deny myself; but believe me not of so
wretched a character as to be capable, in any affair of moment, of
fickleness or caprice."
"But what, Sir, is my security to the contrary? Have you not this
moment avowed that but yesterday you held in abhorrence the very plan
that to-day you propose? And may you not to-morrow resume again the
"Cruel Miss Beverley! how unjust is this inference! If yesterday I
disapproved what to-day I recommend, a little recollection must surely
tell you why: and that not my opinion, but my situation is changed."
The conscious Cecilia here turned away her head; too certain he
alluded to the discovery of her partiality.
"Have you not yourself," he continued, "witnessed the steadiness of my
mind? Have you not beheld me fly, when I had power to pursue, and
avoid, when I had opportunity to seek you? After witnessing my
constancy upon such trying occasions, is it equitable, is it right to
suspect me of wavering?"
"But what," cried she, "was the constancy which brought you into
Suffolk?--When all occasion was over for our meeting any more, when
you told me you were going abroad, and took leave of me for ever,--
where, then, was your steadiness in this unnecessary journey?"
"Have a care," cried he, half smiling, and taking a letter from his
pocket, "have a care, upon this point, how you provoke me to spew my
"Ah!" cried Cecilia, blushing, "'tis some trick of Lady Honoria!"
"No, upon my honour. The authority is less doubtful: I believe I
should hardly else have regarded it."
Cecilia, much alarmed, held out her hand for the letter; and looking
first at the end was much astonished to see the name of Biddulph. She
then cast her eye over the beginning, and when she saw her own name,
read the following paragraph.
"Miss Beverley, as you doubtless know, is returned into Suffolk; every
body here saw her with the utmost surprize; from the moment I had
heard of her residence in Delvile Castle, I had given her up for lost:
but, upon her unexpected appearance among us again, I was weak enough
once more to make trial of her heart. I soon found, however, that the
pain of a second rejection _you_ might have spared me, and that
though she had quitted Delvile Castle, she had not for nothing entered
it: at the sound of your name, she blushes; at the mention of your
illness, she turns pale; and the dog you have given her, which I
recollected immediately, is her darling companion. Oh happy Delvile!
yet so lovely a conquest you abandon.--"
Cecilia could read no more; the letter dropt from her hand: to find
herself thus by her own emotions betrayed, made her instantly conclude
she was universally discovered: and turning sick at the supposition,
all her spirit forsook her, and she burst into tears.
"Good heaven," cried Delvile, extremely shocked, "what has thus
affected you? Can the jealous surmises of an apprehensive rival--"
"Do not talk to me," interrupted she, impatiently, "and do not detain
me,--I am extremely disturbed,--I wish to be alone,--I beg, I even
entreat you would leave me."
"I will go, I will obey you in every thing!" cried he, eagerly, "tell
me but when I may return, and when you will suffer me to explain to
you all the motives of my proposal?"
"Never, never!" cried she, with earnestness, "I am sufficiently
lowered already, but never will I intrude myself into a family that
"Disdains? No, you are revered in it! who could disdain you! That
fatal clause alone--"
"Well, well, pray leave me; indeed I cannot hear you; I am unfit for
argument, and all reasoning now is nothing less than cruelty."
"I am gone," cried he, "this moment! I would not even wish to take
advantage of your agitation in order to work upon your sensibility. My
desire is not to surprize, but to reconcile you to my plan. What is it
I seek in Miss Beverley? An Heiress? No, as such she has seen I could
resist her; nor yet the light trifler of a spring or two, neglected
when no longer a novelty; no, no!--it is a companion for ever, it is a
solace for every care, it is a bosom friend through every period of
life that I seek in Miss Beverley! Her esteem, therefore, to me is as
precious as her affection, for how can I hope her friendship in the
winter of my days, if their brighter and gayer season is darkened by
doubts of my integrity? All shall be clear and explicit; no latent
cause of uneasiness shall disturb our future quiet: we will now be
sincere, that hereafter we may be easy; and sweetly in unclouded
felicity, time shall glide away imperceptibly, and we will make an
interest with each other in the gaiety of youth, to bear with the
infirmities of age, and alleviate them by kindness and sympathy. And
then shall my soothing Cecilia--"
"O say no more!" interrupted she, softened in her own despite by a
plan so consonant to her wishes, "what language is this! how improper
for you to use, or me to hear!"
She then very earnestly insisted upon his going; and after a thousand
times taking leave and returning, promising obedience, yet pursuing
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