Cecilia vol. 2
Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d'Arblay)
Part 6 out of 7
his own way, he at length said if she would consent to receive a
letter from him, he would endeavour to commit what he had to
communicate to paper, since their mutual agitation made him unable to
explain himself with clearness, and rather hurt his cause than
assisted it, by leaving all his arguments unfinished and obscure.
Another dispute now arose; Cecilia protesting she would receive no
letter, and hear nothing upon the subject; and Delvile impetuously
declaring he would submit to no award without being first heard. At
length he conquered, and at length he departed.
Cecilia then felt her whole heart sink within her at the unhappiness
of her situation. She considered herself now condemned to refuse
Delvile herself, as the only condition upon which he even solicited
her favour, neither the strictness of her principles, nor the delicacy
of her mind, would suffer her to accept. Her displeasure at the
proposal had been wholly unaffected, and she regarded it as an injury
to her character ever to have received it; yet that Delvile's pride of
heart should give way to his passion, that he should love her with so
much fondness as to relinquish for her the ambitious schemes of his
family, and even that darling name which so lately seemed annexed to
his existence, were circumstances to which she was not insensible, and
proofs of tenderness and regard which she had thought incompatible
with the general spirit of his disposition. Yet however by these she
was gratified, she resolved never to comply with so humiliating a
measure, but to wait the consent of his friends, or renounce him for
As soon as Mrs Charlton was acquainted with the departure of young
Delvile, she returned to Cecilia, impatient to be informed what had
passed. The narration she heard both hurt and astonished her; that
Cecilia, the Heiress of such a fortune, the possessor of so much
beauty, descended of a worthy family, and formed and educated to grace
a noble one, should be rejected by people to whom her wealth would be
most useful, and only in secret have their alliance proposed to her,
she deemed an indignity that called for nothing but resentment, and
approved and enforced the resolution of her young friend to resist all
solicitations which Mr and Mrs Delvile did not second themselves.
About, two hours after Delvile was gone, his letter arrived. Cecilia
opened it with trepidation, and read as follows.
_To Miss Beverley.
September_ 20, 1779.
What could be the apprehensions, the suspicions of Miss Beverley when
so earnestly she prohibited my writing? From a temper so unguarded as
mine could she fear any subtlety of doctrine? Is my character so
little known to her that she can think me capable of craft or
duplicity? Had I even the desire, I have neither the address nor the
patience to practice them; no, loveliest Miss Beverley, though
sometimes by vehemence I may incautiously offend, by sophistry,
believe me, I never shall injure: my ambition, as I have told you, is
to convince, not beguile, and my arguments shall be simple as my
professions shall be sincere.
Yet how again may I venture to mention a proposal which so lately
almost before you had heard you rejected? Suffer me, however, to
assure you it resulted neither from insensibility to your delicacy,
nor to my own duty; I made it, on the contrary, with that reluctance
and timidity which were given me by an apprehension that both seemed
to be offended by it:--but alas! already I have said what with grief I
must repeat, I have no resource, no alternative, between receiving the
honour of your hand in secret or foregoing you for ever.
You will wonder, you may well wonder at such a declaration; and again
that severe renunciation with which you wounded me, will tremble on
your lips,--Oh there let it stop! nor let the air again be agitated
with sounds so discordant!
In that cruel and heart-breaking moment when I tore myself from you at
Delvile Castle, I confessed to you the reason of my flight, and I
determined to see you no more. I named not to you, then, my family,
the potency of my own objections against daring to solicit your favour
rendering theirs immaterial: my own are now wholly removed, but theirs
remain in full force.
My father, descended of a race which though decaying in wealth, is
unsubdued in pride, considers himself as the guardian of the honour of
his house, to which he holds the name of his ancestors inseparably
annexed my mother, born of the same family, and bred to the same
ideas, has strengthened this opinion by giving it the sanction of her
Such being their sentiments; you will not, madam, be surprised that
their only son, the sole inheritor of their fortune, and sole object
of their expectations, should early have admitted the same. Indeed
almost the first lesson I was taught was that of reverencing the
family from which I am descended, and the name to which I am born. I
was bid consider myself as its only remaining support, and sedulously
instructed neither to act nor think but with a view to its
aggrandizement and dignity.
Thus, unchecked by ourselves, and uncontrouled by the world, this
haughty self-importance acquired by time a strength, and by mutual
encouragement a firmness, which Miss Beverley alone could possibly, I
believe, have shaken! What, therefore, was my secret alarm, when first
I was conscious of the force of her attractions, and found my mind
wholly occupied with admiration of her excellencies! All that pride
could demand, and all to which ambition could aspire, all that
happiness could covet, or the most scrupulous delicacy exact, in her I
found united; and while my heart was enslaved by her charms, my
understanding exulted in its fetters. Yet to forfeit my name, to give
up for-ever a family which upon me rested its latest expectations,--
Honour, I thought forbad it, propriety and manly spirit revolted at
the sacrifice. The renunciation of my birth-right seemed a desertion
of the post in which I was stationed: I forbore, therefore, even in my
wishes, to solicit your favour, and vigorously determined to fly you
as dangerous to my peace, because unattainable without dishonour.
Such was the intended regulation of my conduct at the time I received
Biddulph's letter; in three days I was to leave England; my father,
with much persuasion, had consented to my departure; my mother, who
penetrated into my motives, had never opposed it: but how great was
the change wrought upon my mind by reading that letter! my steadiness
forsook me, my resolution wavered; yet I thought him deceived, and
attributed his suspicions to jealousy: but still, Fidel I knew was
missing--and to hear he was your darling companion--was it possible to
quit England in a state of such uncertainty? to be harassed in distant
climates with conjectures I might then never satisfy? No; I told my
friends I must visit Biddulph before I left the kingdom, and promising
to return to them in three or four days, I hastily set out for
Suffolk, and rested not till I arrived at Mrs Charlton's.
What a scene there awaited me! to behold the loved mistress of my
heart, the opposed, yet resistless object of my fondest admiration,
caressing an animal she knew to be mine, mourning over him his
master's ill health, and sweetly recommending to him fidelity,--Ah!
forgive the retrospection, I will dwell on it no longer. Little,
indeed, had I imagined with what softness the dignity of Miss Beverley
was blended, though always conscious that her virtues, her
attractions, and her excellencies, would reflect lustre upon the
highest station to which human grandeur could raise her, and would
still be more exalted than her rank, though that were the most eminent
upon earth.--And had there been a thousand, and ten thousand obstacles
to oppose my addressing her, vigorously and undauntedly would I have
combated with them all, in preference to yielding to this single
Let not the frankness of this declaration irritate you, but rather let
it serve to convince you of the sincerity of what follows: various as
are the calamities of life which may render me miserable, YOU only,
among even its chosen felicities, have power to make me happy. Fame,
honours, wealth, ambition, were insufficient without you; all chance
of internal peace, and every softer hope is now centered in your
favour, and to lose you, from whatever cause, ensures me wretchedness
unmitigated. With respect therefore to myself, the die is finally
cast, and the conflict between bosom felicity and family pride is
deliberately over. This name which so vainly I have cherished and so
painfully supported, I now find inadequate to recompense me for the
sacrifice which its preservation requires. I part with it, I own, with
regret that the surrender is necessary; yet is it rather an imaginary
than an actual evil, and though a deep wound to pride, no offence to
Thus have I laid open to you my whole heart, confessed my
perplexities, acknowledged my vain-glory, and exposed with equal
sincerity the sources of my doubts, and the motives of my decision:
but now, indeed, how to proceed I know not; the difficulties which are
yet to encounter I fear to enumerate, and the petition I have to urge
I have scarce courage to mention.
My family, mistaking ambition for honour, and rank for dignity, have
long planned a splendid connection for me, to which though my
invariable repugnance has stopt any advances, their wishes and their
views immovably adhere. I am but too certain they will now listen to
no other. I dread, therefore, to make a trial where I despair of
success, I know not how to risk a prayer with those who may silence me
by a command.
In a situation so desperate, what then remains? Must I make an
application with a certainty of rejection, and then mock all authority
by acting in defiance of it? Or, harder task yet! relinquish my
dearest hopes when no longer persuaded of their impropriety? Ah!
sweetest Miss Beverley, end the struggle at once! My happiness, my
peace, are wholly in your power, for the moment of our union secures
them for life.
It may seem to you strange that I should thus purpose to brave the
friends whom I venture not to entreat; but from my knowledge of their
characters and sentiments I am certain I have no other resource. Their
favourite principles were too early imbibed to be now at this late
season eradicated. Slaves that we all are to habits, and dupes to
appearances, jealous guardians of our pride, to which our comfort is
sacrificed, and even our virtue made subservient, what conviction can
be offered by reason, to notions that exist but by prejudice? They
have been cherished too long for rhetorick to remove them, they can
only be expelled by all-powerful Necessity. Life is, indeed, too
brief, and success too precarious, to trust, in any case where
happiness is concerned, the extirpation of deep-rooted and darling
opinions, to the slow-working influence of argument and disquisition.
Yet bigotted as they are to rank and family, they adore Miss Beverley,
and though their consent to the forfeiture of their name might forever
be denied, when once they beheld her the head and ornament of
their house, her elegance and accomplishments joined to the splendour
of her fortune, would speedily make them forget the plans which now
wholly absorb them. Their sense of honour is in nothing inferior to
their sense of high birth; your condescension, therefore, would be
felt by them in its fullest force, and though, during their first
surprize, they might be irritated against their son, they would make
it the study of their lives that the lady who for him had done so
much, should never, through their means, repine for herself.
With regard to settlements, the privacy of our union would not affect
them: one Confident we must unavoidably trust, and I would deposit in
the hands of whatever person you would name, a bond by which I would
engage myself to settle both your fortune and my own, according to the
arbitration of our mutual friends. The time for secrecy though painful
would be short, and even from the altar, if you desired it, I would
hasten to Delvile Castle. Not one Of my friends should you see till
they waited upon you themselves to solicit your presence at their
house, till our residence elsewhere was fixed.
Oh loveliest Cecilia, from a dream Of happiness so sweet awaken me
not! from a plan Of felicity so attractive turn not away! If one part
of it is unpleasant, reject not therefore all; and since without some
drawback no earthly bliss is attainable, do not, by a refinement too
scrupulous for the short period of our existence, deny yourself that
delight which your benevolence will afford you, in snatching from the
pangs of unavailing regret and misery, the gratefullest of men in the
humblest and most devoted of your servants,
Cecilia read and re-read this letter, but with a perturbation of mind
that made her little able to weigh its contents. Paragraph by
paragraph her sentiments varied, and her determination was changed:
the earnestness of his supplication now softened her into compliance,
the acknowledged pride of his family now irritated her into
resentment, and the confession of his own regret now sickened her into
despondence. She meant in an immediate answer, to have written a final
dismission; but though proof against his entreaties, because not
convinced by his arguments, there was something in the conclusion of
his letter that staggered her resolution.
Those scruples and that refinement against which he warned her, she
herself thought might be overstrained, and to gratify unnecessary
punctilio, the short period of existence be rendered causelessly
unhappy. He had truly said that their union would be no offence to
morality, and with respect merely to pride, why should that be spared?
He knew he possessed her heart, she had long been certain of his, her
character had early gained the affection of his mother, and the
essential service which an income such as hers must do the family,
would soon be felt too powerfully to make her connection with it
These reflections were so pleasant she knew not how to discard them;
and the consciousness that her secret was betrayed not only to
himself, but to Mr Biddulph, Lord Ernolf, Lady Honoria Pemberton, and
Mrs Delvile, gave them additional force, by making it probable she was
yet more widely suspected. But still her delicacy and her principles
revolted against a conduct of which the secrecy seemed to imply the
impropriety. "How shall I meet Mrs Delvile," cried she, "after an
action so clandestine? How, after praise such as she has bestowed upon
me, bear the severity of her eye, when she thinks I have seduced from
her the obedience of her son! A son who is the sole solace and first
hope of her existence, whose virtues make all her happiness, and whose
filial piety is her only glory!--And well may she glory in a son such
as Delvile! Nobly has he exerted himself in situations the most
difficult, his family and his ideas of honour he has preferred to his
peace and health, he has fulfilled with spirit and integrity the
various, the conflicting duties of life. Even now, perhaps, in his
present application, he may merely think himself bound by knowing me
no longer free, and his generous sensibility to the weakness he has
discovered, without any of the conviction to which he pretends, may
have occasioned this proposal!"
A suggestion so mortifying again changed her determination; and the
tears of Henrietta Belfield, with the letter which she had surprized
in her hand recurring to her memory, all her thoughts turned once more
upon rejecting him for-ever.
In this fluctuating state of mind she found writing impracticable;
while uncertain what to wish, to decide was impossible. She disdained
coquetry, she was superior to trifling, the candour and openness of
Delvile had merited all her sincerity, and therefore while any doubt
remained, with herself, she held it unworthy her character to tell him
she had none.
Mrs Charlton, upon reading the letter, became again the advocate of
Delvile; the frankness with which he had stated his difficulties
assured her of his probity, and by explaining his former conduct,
satisfied her with the rectitude of his future intentions. "Do not,
therefore, my dear child," cried she, "become the parent of your own
misery by refusing him; he deserves you alike from his principles and
his affection, and the task would both be long and melancholy to
disengage him from your heart. I see not, however, the least occasion
for the disgrace of a private marriage; I know not any family to which
you would not be an honour, and those who feel not your merit, are
little worth pleasing. Let Mr Delvile, therefore, apply openly to his
friends, and if they refuse their consent, be their prejudices their
reward. You are freed from all obligations where caprice only can
raise objections, and you may then, in the face of the world,
vindicate your choice."
The wishes of Cecilia accorded with this advice, though the general
tenour of Delvile's letter gave her little reason to expect he would
The day past away, and Cecilia had yet written no answer; the evening
came, and her resolution was still unfixed. Delvile, at length, was
again announced; and though she dreaded trusting herself to his
entreaties, the necessity of hastening some decision deterred her from
refusing to see him.
Mrs Charlton was with her when he entered the room; he attempted at
first some general conversation, though the anxiety of his mind was
strongly pictured upon his face. Cecilia endeavoured also to talk upon
common topics, though her evident embarrassment spoke the absence of
Delvile at length, unable any longer to bear suspence, turned to Mrs
Charlton, and said, "You are probably acquainted, madam, with the
purport of the letter I had the honour of sending to Miss Beverley
"Yes, Sir," answered the old lady, "and you need desire little more
than that her opinion of it may be as favourable as mine."
Delvile bowed and thanked her; and looking at Cecilia, to whom he
ventured not to speak, he perceived in her countenance a mixture of
dejection and confusion, that told him whatever might be her opinion,
it had by no means encreased her happiness.
"But why, Sir," said Mrs Charlton, "should you be thus sure of the
disapprobation of your friends? had you not better hear what they have
"I _know_, madam, what they have to say," returned he; "for
their language and their principles have been invariable from my
birth: to apply to them, therefore, for a concession which I am
certain they will not grant, were only a cruel device to lay all my
misery to their account."
"And if they are so perverse, they deserve from you nothing better,"
said Mrs Charlton; "speak to them, however; you will then have done
your duty; and if they are obstinately unjust, you will have acquired
a right to act for yourself."
"To mock their authority," answered Delvile, "would be more offensive
than to oppose it: to solicit their approbation, and then act in
defiance of it, might justly provoke their indignation.--No; if at
last I am reduced to appeal to them, by their decision I must abide."
To this Mrs Charlton could make no answer, and in a few minutes she
left the room.
"And is such, also," said Delvile, "the opinion of Miss Beverley? has
she doomed me to be wretched, and does she wish that doom to be signed
by my nearest friends!"
"If your friends, Sir," said Cecilia, "are so undoubtedly inflexible,
it were madness, upon any plan, to risk their displeasure."
"To entreaty," he answered, "they will be inflexible, but not to
forgiveness. My father, though haughty, dearly, even passionately
loves me; my mother, though high-spirited, is just, noble, and
generous. She is, indeed, the most exalted of women, and her power
over my mind I am unaccustomed to resist. Miss Beverley alone seems
born to be her daughter--"
"No, no," interrupted Cecilia, "as her daughter she rejects me!"
"She loves, she adores you!" cried he warmly; and were I not certain
she feels your excellencies as they ought to be felt, my veneration
for you _both_ should even yet spare you my present supplication.
But you would become, I am certain, the first blessing of her life; in
you she would behold all the felicity of her son,--his restoration to
health, to his country, to his friends!"
"O Sir," cried Cecilia, with emotion, "how deep a trench of real
misery do you sink, in order to raise this pile of fancied happiness!
But I will not be responsible for your offending such a mother;
scarcely can you honour her yourself more than I do; and I here
declare most solemnly--"
"O stop!" interrupted Delvile, "and resolve not till you have heard
me. Would you, were she no more, were my father also no more, would
you yet persist in refusing me?"
"Why should you ask me?" said Cecilia, blushing; "you would then be
your own agent, and perhaps--"
She hesitated, and Delvile vehemently exclaimed, "Oh make me not a
monster! force me not to desire the death of the very beings by whom I
live! weaken not the bonds of affection by which they are endeared to
me, and compel me not to wish them no more as the sole barriers to my
"Heaven forbid!" cried Cecilia, "could I believe you so impious, I
should suffer little indeed in desiring your eternal absence."
"Why then only upon their extinction must I rest my hope of your
Cecilia, staggered and distressed by this question, could make no
answer. Delvile, perceiving her embarrassment, redoubled his urgency;
and before she had power to recollect herself, she had almost
consented to his plan, when Henrietta Belfield rushing into her
memory, she hastily exclaimed, "One doubt there is, which I know not
how to mention, but ought to have cleared up;--you are acquainted
with--you remember Miss Belfield?"
"Certainly; but what of Miss Belfield that can raise a doubt in the
mind of Miss Beverley?"
Cecilia coloured, and was silent.
"Is it possible," continued he, "you could ever for an instant
suppose--but I cannot even name a supposition so foreign to all
"She is surely very amiable?"
"Yes," answered he, "she is innocent, gentle, and engaging; and I
heartily wish she were in a better situation."
"Did you ever occasionally, or by any accident, correspond with her?"
"Never in my life."
"And were not your visits to the brother _sometimes_--"
"Have a care," interrupted he, laughing, "lest I reverse the question,
and ask if your visits to the sister were not _sometimes_ for the
brother! But what does this mean? Could Miss Beverley imagine that
_after_ knowing her, the charms of Miss Belfield could put me in
Cecilia, bound in delicacy and friendship not to betray the tender and
trusting Henrietta, and internally satisfied of his innocence by his
frankness, evaded any answer; and would now have done with the
subject; but Delvile, eager wholly to exculpate himself, though by no
means displeased at an enquiry which shewed so much interest in his
affections, continued his explanation.
"Miss Belfield has, I grant, an attraction in the simplicity of her
manners which charms by its singularity: her heart, too, seems all
purity, and her temper all softness. I have not, you find, been blind
to her merit; on the contrary, I have both admired and pitied her. But
far indeed is she removed from all chance of rivalry in my heart! A
character such as hers for a while is irresistibly alluring; but when
its novelty is over, simplicity uninformed becomes wearisome, and
softness without dignity is too indiscriminate to give delight. We
sigh for entertainment, when cloyed by mere sweetness; and heavily
drags on the load of life when the companion of our social hours wants
spirit, intelligence, and cultivation. With Miss Beverley all these--"
"Talk not of all these," cried Cecilia, "when one single obstacle has
power to render them valueless."
"But now," cried he, "that obstacle is surmounted."
"Surmounted only for a moment! for even in your letter this morning
you confess the regret with which it fills you."
"And why should I deceive you? Why pretend to think with pleasure, or
even with indifference, of an obstacle which has had thus long the
power to make me miserable? But where is happiness without allay? Is
perfect bliss the condition of humanity? Oh if we refuse to taste it
till in its last state of refinement, how shall the cup of evil be
ever from our lips?"
"How indeed!" said Cecilia, with a sigh; "the regret, I believe, will
remain eternally upon your mind, and she, perhaps, who should cause,
might soon be taught to partake of it."
"O Miss Beverley! how have I merited this severity? Did I make my
proposals lightly? Did I suffer my eagerness to conquer my reason?
Have I not, on the contrary, been steady and considerate? neither
biassed by passion nor betrayed by tenderness?"
"And yet in what," said Cecilia, "consists this boasted steadiness? I
perceived it indeed, at Delvile Castle, but here--"
"The pride of heart which supported me there," cried he, "will support
me no longer; what sustained my firmness, but your apparent seventy?
What enabled me to fly you, but your invariable coldness? The rigour
with which I trampled upon my feelings I thought fortitude and
spirit,--but I knew not then the pitying sympathy of Cecilia!"
"O that you knew it not yet!" cried she, blushing; "before that fatal
accident you thought of me, I believe, in a manner far more
"Impossible! differently, I thought of you, but never, better, never
so well as now. I then represented you all lovely in beauty, all
perfect in goodness and virtue; but it was virtue in its highest
majesty, not, as now, blended with the softest sensibility."
"Alas!" said Cecilia, "how the portrait is faded!"
"No, it is but more from the life: it is the sublimity of an angel,
mingled with all that is attractive in woman. But who is the friend we
may venture to trust? To whom may I give my bond? And from whom may I
receive a treasure which for the rest of my life will constitute all
"Where can _I_," cried Cecilia, "find a friend, who, in this
critical moment will instruct me how to act!"
"You will find one," answered he, "in your own bosom: ask but yourself
this plain question; will any virtue be offended by your honouring me
with your hand?"
"Yes; duty will be offended, since it is contrary to the will of your
"But is there no time for emancipation? Am not I of an age to chuse
for myself the partner of my life? Will not you in a few days be the
uncontrolled mistress of your actions? Are we not both independent?
Your ample fortune all your own, and the estates of my father so
entailed they must unavoidably be mine?"
"And are these," said Cecilia, "considerations to set us free from our
"No, but they are circumstances to relieve us from slavery. Let me not
offend you if I am still more explicit. When no law, human or divine,
can be injured by our union, when one motive of pride is all that can
be opposed to a thousand motives of convenience and happiness, why
should we _both_ be made unhappy, merely lest that pride should
lose its gratification?"
This question, which so often and so angrily she had revolved in her
own mind, again silenced her; and Delvile, with the eagerness of
approaching success, redoubled his solicitations.
"Be mine," he cried, "sweetest Cecilia, and all will go well. To refer
me to my friends is, effectually, to banish me for ever. Spare me,
then, the unavailing task; and save me from the resistless entreaties
of a mother, whose every desire I have held sacred, whose wish has
been my law, and whose commands I have implicitly, invariably obeyed!
Oh generously save me from the dreadful alternative of wounding her
maternal heart by a peremptory refusal, or of torturing my own with
pangs to which it is unequal by an extorted obedience!"
"Alas!" cried Cecilia, "how utterly impossible I can relieve you!"
"And why? once mine, irrevocably mine---."
"No, that would but irritate,--and irritate past hope of pardon."
"Indeed you are mistaken: to your merit they are far from insensible,
and your fortune is just what they wish. Trust me, therefore, when I
assure you that their displeasure, which both respect and justice will
guard them from ever shewing _you_, will soon die wholly away. I
speak not merely from my hopes; in judging my own friends, I consider
human nature in general. Inevitable evils are ever best supported. It
is suspence, it is hope that make the food of misery; certainty is
always endured, because known to be past amendment, and felt to give
defiance to struggling."
"And can you," cried Cecilia, "with reasoning so desperate be
"In a situation so extraordinary as ours," answered he, "there is no
other. The voice of the world at large will be all in our favour. Our
union neither injures our fortunes, nor taints our morality: with the
character of each the other is satisfied, and both must be alike
exculpated from mercenary views of interest, or romantic contempt of
poverty; what right have we, then, to repine at an objection which,
however potent, is single? Surely none. Oh if wholly unchecked were
the happiness I now have in view, if no foul storm sometimes lowered
over the prospect, and for the moment obscured its brightness, how
could my heart find room for joy so superlative? The whole world might
rise against me as the first man in it who had nothing left to wish!"
Cecilia, whose own hopes aided this reasoning, found not much to
oppose to it; and with little more of entreaty, and still less of
argument, Delvile at length obtained her consent to his plan.
Fearfully, indeed, and with unfeigned reluctance she gave it, but it
was the only alternative with a separation for-ever, to which she held
not the necessity adequate to the pain.
The thanks of Delvile were as vehement as had been his entreaties,
which yet, however, were not at an end; the concession she had made
was imperfect, unless its performance were immediate, and he now
endeavoured to prevail with her to be his before the expiration of a
Here, however, his task ceased to be difficult; Cecilia, as ingenuous
by nature as she was honourable from principle, having once brought
her mind to consent to his proposal, sought not by studied
difficulties to enhance the value of her compliance: the great point
resolved upon, she held all else of too little importance for a
Mrs Charlton was now called in, and acquainted with the result of
their conference. Her approbation by no means followed the scheme of
privacy; yet she was too much rejoiced in seeing her young friend near
the period of her long suspence and uneasiness, to oppose any plan
which might forward their termination.
Delvile then again begged to know what male confidant might be
entrusted with their project.
Mr Monckton immediately occurred to Cecilia, though the certainty of
his ill-will to the cause made all application to him disagreeable:
but his long and steady friendship for her, his readiness to counsel
and assist her, and the promises she had occasionally made, not to act
without his advice, all concurred to persuade her that in a matter of
such importance, she owed to him her confidence, and should be
culpable to proceed without it. Upon him, therefore, she fixed; yet
finding in herself a repugnance insuperable to acquainting him with
her situation, she agreed that Delvile, who instantly proposed to be
her messenger, should open to him the affair, and prepare him for
Delvile then, rapid in thought and fertile in expedients, with a
celerity and vigour which bore down all objections, arranged the whole
conduct of the business. To avoid suspicion, he determined instantly
to quit her, and, as soon as he had executed his commission with Mr
Monckton, to hasten to London, that the necessary preparations for
their marriage might be made with dispatch and secrecy. He purposed,
also, to find out Mr Belfield; that he might draw up the bond with
which he meant to entrust Mr Monckton. This measure Cecilia would have
opposed, but he refused to listen to her. Mrs Charlton herself, though
her age and infirmities had long confined her to her own house,
gratified Cecilia upon this critical occasion with consenting to
accompany her to the altar. Mr Monckton was depended upon for giving
her away, and a church in London was the place appointed for the
performance of the ceremony. In three days the principal difficulties
to the union would be removed by Cecilia's coming of age, and in five
days it was agreed that they should actually meet in town. The moment
they were married Delvile promised to set off for the castle, while in
another chaise, Cecilia returned to Mrs Charlton's. This settled, he
conjured her to be punctual, and earnestly recommending himself to her
fidelity and affection, he bid her adieu.
Left now to herself, sensations unfelt before filled the heart of
Cecilia. All that had passed for a while appeared a dream; her ideas
were indistinct, her memory was confused, her faculties seemed all out
of order, and she had but an imperfect consciousness either of the
transaction in which she had just been engaged, or of the promise she
had bound herself to fulfil: even truth from imagination she scarcely
could separate; all was darkness and doubt, inquietude and disorder!
But when at length her recollection more clearly returned, and her
situation appeared to her such as it really was, divested alike of
false terrors or delusive expectations, she found herself still
further removed from tranquility.
Hitherto, though no stranger to sorrow, which the sickness and early
loss of her friends had first taught her to feel, and which the
subsequent anxiety of her own heart had since instructed her to bear,
she had yet invariably possessed the consolation of self-approving
reflections: but the step she was now about to take, all her
principles opposed; it terrified her as undutiful, it shocked her as
clandestine, and scarce was Delvile out of sight, before she regretted
her consent to it as the loss of her self-esteem, and believed, even
if a reconciliation took place, the remembrance of a wilful fault
would still follow her, blemish in her own eyes the character she had
hoped to support, and be a constant allay to her happiness, by telling
her how unworthily she had obtained it.
Where frailty has never been voluntary, nor error stubborn, where the
pride of early integrity is unsubdued, and the first purity of
innocence is inviolate, how fearfully delicate, how "tremblingly
alive," is the conscience of man! strange, that what in its first
state is so tender, can in its last become so callous!
Compared with the general lot of human misery, Cecilia had suffered
nothing; but compared with the exaltation of ideal happiness, she had
suffered much; willingly, however, would she again have borne all that
had distressed her, experienced the same painful suspence, endured the
same melancholy parting, and gone through the same cruel task of
combating inclination with reason, to have relieved her virtuous mind
from the new-born and intolerable terror of conscientious reproaches.
The equity of her notions permitted her not from the earnestness of
Delvile's entreaties to draw any palliation for her consent to his
proposal; she was conscious that but for her own too great facility
those entreaties would have been ineffectual, since she well knew how
little from any other of her admirers they would have availed.
But chiefly her affliction and repentance hung upon Mrs Delvile, whom
she loved, reverenced and honoured, whom she dreaded to offend, and
whom she well knew expected from her even exemplary virtue. Her
praises, her partiality, her confidence in her character, which
hitherto had been her pride, she now only recollected with shame and
with sadness. The terror of the first interview never ceased to be
present to her; she shrunk even in imagination from her wrath-darting
eye, she felt stung by pointed satire, and subdued by cold contempt.
Yet to disappoint Delvile so late, by forfeiting a promise so
positively accorded; to trifle with a man who to her had been
uniformly candid, to waver when her word was engaged, and retract when
he thought himself secure,--honour, justice and shame told her the
time was now past.
"And yet is not this," cried she, "placing nominal before actual evil?
Is it not studying appearance at the expence of reality? If agreeing
to wrong is criminal, is not performing it worse? If repentance for
ill actions calls for mercy, has not repentance for ill intentions a
yet higher claim?--And what reproaches from Delvile can be so bitter
as my own? What separation, what sorrow, what possible calamity can
hang upon my mind with such heaviness, as the sense of committing
This thought so much affected her, that, conquering all regret either
for Delvile or herself, she resolved to write to him instantly, and
acquaint him of the alteration in her sentiments.
This, however, after having so deeply engaged herself, was by no means
easy; and many letters were begun, but not one of them was finished,
when a sudden recollection obliged her to give over the attempt,--for
she knew not whither to direct to him.
In the haste with which their plan had been formed and settled, it had
never once occurred to them that any, occasion for writing was likely
to happen. Delvile, indeed, knew that her address would still be the
same; and with regard to his own, as his journey to London was to be
secret, he purposed not having any fixed habitation. On the day of
their marriage, and not before, they had appointed to meet at the
house of Mrs Roberts, in Fetter-Lane, whence they were instantly to
proceed to the church.
She might still, indeed, enclose a letter for him in one to Mrs Hill,
to be delivered to him on the destined morning when he called to claim
her; but to fail him at the last moment, when Mr Belfield would have
drawn up the bond, when a licence was procured, the clergyman waiting
to perform the ceremony, and Delvile without a suspicion but that the
next moment would unite them for ever, seemed extending prudence into
treachery, and power into tyranny. Delvile had done nothing to merit
such treatment, he had practised no deceit, he had been guilty of no
perfidy, he had opened to her his whole heart, and after shewing it
without any disguise, the option had been all her own to accept or
A ray of joy now broke its way through the gloom of her apprehensions.
"Ah!" cried she, "I have not, then, any means to recede! an unprovoked
breach of promise at the very moment destined for its performance,
would but vary the mode of acting wrong, without approaching nearer to
This idea for a while not merely calmed but delighted her; to be the
wife of Delvile seemed now a matter of necessity, and she soothed
herself with believing that to struggle against it were vain.
The next morning during breakfast Mr Monckton arrived.
Not greater, though winged with joy, had been the expedition of
Delvile to open to him his plan, than was his own, though only goaded
by desperation, to make some effort with Cecilia for rendering it
abortive. Nor could all his self-denial, the command which he held
over his passions, nor the rigour with which his feelings were made
subservient to his interest, in this sudden hour of trial, avail to
preserve his equanimity. The refinements of hypocrisy, and the arts of
insinuation, offered advantages too distant, and exacted attentions
too subtle, for a moment so alarming; those arts and those attentions
he had already for many years practised, with an address the most
masterly, and a diligence the most indefatigable: success had of late
seemed to follow his toils; the encreasing infirmities of his wife,
the disappointment and retirement of Cecilia, uniting to promise him a
conclusion equally speedy and happy; when now, by a sudden and
unexpected stroke, the sweet solace of his future cares, the long-
projected recompence of his past sufferings, was to be snatched from
him for ever, and by one who, compared with himself, was but the
acquaintance of a day.
Almost wholly off his guard from the surprise and horror of this
apprehension, he entered the room with such an air of haste and
perturbation, that Mrs Charlton and her grand-daughters demanded what
was the matter.
"I am come," he answered abruptly, yet endeavouring to recollect
himself, "to speak with Miss Beverley upon business of some
"My dear, then," said Mrs Charlton, "you had better go with Mr
Monckton into your dressing-room."
Cecilia, deeply blushing, arose and led the way: slowly, however, she
proceeded, though urged by Mr Monckton to make speed. Certain of his
disapprobation, and but doubtfully relieved from her own, she dreaded
a conference which on his side, she foresaw, would be all exhortation
and reproof, and on hers all timidity and shame.
"Good God," cried he, "Miss Beverley, what is this you have done?
bound yourself to marry a man who despises, who scorns, who refuses to
Shocked by this opening, she started, but could make no answer.
"See you not," he continued, "the indignity which is offered you? Does
the loose, the flimsy veil with which it is covered, hide it from your
understanding, or disguise it from your delicacy?"
"I thought not,--I meant not," said she, more and more confounded, "to
submit to any indignity, though my pride, in an exigence so peculiar,
may give way, for a while, to convenience."
"To convenience?" repeated he, "to contempt, to derision, to
"O Mr Monckton!" interrupted Cecilia, "make not use of such
expressions! they are too cruel for me to hear, and if I thought they
were just, would make me miserable for life!"
"You are deceived, grossly deceived," replied he, "if you doubt their
truth for a moment: they are not, indeed, even decently concealed from
you; they are glaring as the day, and wilful blindness can alone
"I am sorry, Sir," said Cecilia, whose confusion, at a charge so
rough, began now to give way to anger, "if this is your opinion; and I
am sorry, too, for the liberty I have taken in troubling you upon such
An apology so full of displeasure instantly taught Mr Monckton the
error he was committing, and checking, therefore, the violence of
those emotions to which his sudden and desperate disappointment gave
rise, and which betrayed him into reproaches so unskilful, he
endeavoured to recover his accustomed equanimity, and assuming an air
of friendly openness, said, "Let me not offend you, my dear Miss
Beverley, by a freedom which results merely from a solicitude to serve
you, and which the length and intimacy of our acquaintance had, I
hoped, long since authorised. I know not how to see you on the brink
of destruction without speaking, yet, if you are averse to my
sincerity, I will curb it, and have done."
"No, do not have done," cried she, much softened; "your sincerity does
me nothing but honour, and hitherto, I am sure, it has done me nothing
but good. Perhaps I deserve your utmost censure; I feared it, indeed,
before you came, and ought, therefore, to have better prepared myself
for meeting with it."
This speech completed Mr Monckton's self-victory; it skewed him not
only the impropriety of his turbulence, but gave him room to hope that
a mildness more crafty would have better success.
"You cannot but be certain," he answered, "that my zeal proceeds
wholly from a desire to be of use to you: my knowledge of the world
might possibly, I thought, assist your inexperience, and the
disinterestedness of my regard, might enable me to see and to point
out the dangers to which you are exposed, from artifice and duplicity
in those who have other purposes to answer than what simply belong to
"Neither artifice nor duplicity," cried Cecilia, jealous for the
honour of Delvile, "have been practised against me. Argument, and not
persuasion, determined me, and if I have done wrong--those who
prompted me have erred as unwittingly as myself."
"You are too generous to perceive the difference, or you would find
nothing less alike. If, however, my plainness will not offend you,
before it is quite too late, I will point out to you a few of the
evils,--for there are some I cannot even mention, which at this
instant do not merely threaten, but await you."
Cecilia started at this terrifying offer, and afraid to accept, yet
ashamed to refuse, hung back irresolute.
"I see," said Mr Monckton, after a pause of some continuance, "your
determination admits no appeal. The consequence must, indeed, be all
your own, but I am greatly grieved to find how little you are aware of
its seriousness. Hereafter you will wish, perhaps, that the friend of
your earliest youth had been permitted to advise you; at present you
only think him officious and impertinent, and therefore he can do
nothing you will be so likely to approve as quitting you. I wish you,
then, greater happiness than seems prepared to follow you, and a
counsellor more prosperous in offering his assistance."
He would then have taken his leave: but Cecilia called out, "Oh, Mr
Monckton! do you then give me up?"
"Not unless you wish it."
"Alas, I know not what to wish! except, indeed, the restoration of
that security from self-blame, which till yesterday, even in the midst
of disappointment, quieted and consoled me."
"Are you, then, sensible you have gone wrong, yet resolute not to turn
back?" "Could I tell, could I see," cried she, with energy, "which
way I _ought_ to turn, not a moment would I hesitate how to act!
my heart should have no power, my happiness no choice,--I would
recover my own esteem by any sacrifice that could be made!"
"What, then, can possibly be your doubt? To be as you were yesterday
what is wanting but your own inclination?"
"Every thing is wanting; right, honour, firmness, all by which the
just are bound, and all which the conscientious hold sacred!" "These
scruples are merely romantic; your own good sense, had it fairer play,
would contemn them; but it is warped at present by prejudice and
"No, indeed!" cried she, colouring at the charge, "I may have entered
too precipitately into an engagement I ought to have avoided, but it
is weakness of judgment, not of heart, that disables me from
retrieving my error."
"Yet you will neither hear whither it may lead you, nor which way you
may escape from it?"
"Yes, Sir," cried she, trembling, "I am now ready to hear both."
"Briefly, then, I will tell you. It will lead you into a family of
which every individual will disdain you; it will make you inmate of a
house of which no other inmate will associate with you; you will be
insulted as an inferior, and reproached as an intruder; your birth
will be a subject of ridicule, and your whole race only named with
derision: and while the elders of the proud castle treat you with open
contempt, the man for whom you suffer will not dare to support you."
"Impossible! impossible!" cried Cecilia, with the most angry emotion;
"this whole representation is exaggerated, and the latter part is
utterly without foundation."
"The latter part," said Mr Monckton, "is of all other least
disputable: the man who now dares not own, will then never venture to
defend you. On the contrary, to make peace for himself, he will be the
first to neglect you. The ruined estates of his ancestors will be
repaired by your fortune, while the name which you carry into his
family will be constantly resented as an injury: you will thus be
plundered though you are scorned, and told to consider yourself
honoured that they condescend to make use of you! nor here rests the
evil of a forced connection with so much arrogance,--even your
children, should you have any, will be educated to despise you!"
"Dreadful and horrible!" cried Cecilia;--"I can hear no more,--Oh, Mr
Monckton, what a prospect have you opened to my view!"
"Fly from it, then, while it is yet in your power,--when two paths are
before you, chuse not that which leads to destruction; send instantly
after Delvile, and tell him you have recovered your senses."
"I would long since have sent,--I wanted not a representation such as
this,--but I know not how to direct to him, nor whither he is gone."
"All art and baseness to prevent your recantation!"
"No, Sir, no," cried she, with quickness; "whatever may be the truth
of your painting in general, all that concerns--"
Ashamed of the vindication she intended, which yet in her own mind was
firm and animated, she stopt, and left the sentence unfinished.
"In what place were you to meet?" said Mr Monckton; "you can at least
send to him there."
"We were only to have met," answered she, in much confusion, "at the
last moment,--and that would be too late--it would be too--I could
not, without some previous notice, break a promise which I gave
without any restriction."
"Is this your only objection?"
"It is: but it is one which I cannot conquer."
"Then you would give up this ill-boding connection, but from notions
of delicacy with regard to the time?"
"Indeed I meant it, before you came."
"_I_, then, will obviate this objection: give me but the
commission, either verbally or in writing, and I will undertake to
find him out, and deliver it before night."
Cecilia, little expecting this offer, turned extremely pale, and after
pausing some moments, said in a faultering voice, "What, then, Sir, is
your advice, in what manner--"
"I will say to him all that is necessary; trust the matter with me."
"No,--he deserves, at least, an apology from myself,--though how to
She stopt, she hesitated, she went out of the room for pen and ink,
she returned without them, and the agitation of her mind every instant
encreasing, she begged him, in a faint voice, to excuse her while she
consulted with Mrs Charlton, and promising to wait upon him again, was
Mr Monckton, however, saw too great danger in so much emotion to trust
her out of his sight: he told her, therefore, that she would only
encrease her perplexity, without reaping any advantage, by an
application to Mrs Charlton, and that if she was really sincere in
wishing to recede, there was not a moment to be lost, and Delvile
should immediately be pursued.
Cecilia, sensible of the truth of this speech, and once more
recollecting the unaffected earnestness with which but an hour or two
before, she had herself desired to renounce this engagement, now
summoned her utmost courage to her aid, and, after a short, but
painful struggle, determined to act consistently with her professions
and her character, and, by one great and final effort, to conclude all
her doubts, and try to silence even her regret, by completing the
triumph of fortitude over inclination.
She called, therefore, for pen and ink, and without venturing herself
from the room, wrote the following letter.
_To Mortimer Delvile, Esq._
Accuse me not of caprice, and pardon my irresolution, when you find me
shrinking with terror from the promise I have made, and no longer
either able or willing to perform it. The reproaches of your family I
should very ill endure; but the reproaches of my own heart for an
action I can neither approve nor defend, would be still more
oppressive. With such a weight upon the mind length of life would be
burthensome; with a sensation of guilt early death would be terrific!
These being my notions of the engagement into which we have entered,
you cannot wonder, and you have still less reason to repine, that I
dare not fulfil it. Alas! where would be your chance of happiness with
one who in the very act of becoming yours would forfeit her own!
I blush at this tardy recantation, and I grieve at the disappointment
it may occasion you: but I have yielded to the exhortations of an
inward monitor, who is never to be neglected with impunity. Consult
him yourself, and I shall need no other advocate. Adieu, and may all
felicity attend you! if to hear of the almost total privation of mine,
will mitigate the resentment with which you will probably read this
letter, it may be mitigated but too easily! Yet my consent to a
clandestine action shall never be repeated; and though I confess to
you I am not happy, I solemnly declare my resolution is unalterable. A
little reflection will tell you I am right, though a great deal of
lenity may scarce suffice to make you pardon my being right no sooner.
This letter, which with trembling haste, resulting from a fear of her
own steadiness, she folded and sealed, Mr Monckton, from the same
apprehension yet more eagerly received, and scarce waiting to bid her
good morning, mounted his horse, and pursued his way to London.
Cecilia returned to Mrs Charlton to acquaint her with what had passed:
and notwithstanding the sorrow she felt in apparently injuring the man
whom, in the whole world she most wished to oblige, she yet found a
satisfaction in the sacrifice she had made, that recompensed her for
much of her sufferings, and soothed her into something like
tranquility; the true power of virtue she had scarce experienced
before, for she found it a resource against the cruellest dejection,
and a supporter in the bitterest disappointment.
The day passed on without any intelligence; the next day, also, passed
in the same manner, and on the third, which was her birthday, Cecilia
became of age.
The preparations which had long been making among her tenants to
celebrate this event, Cecilia appeared to take some share, and
endeavoured to find some pleasure in. She gave a public dinner to all
who were willing to partake of it, she promised redress to those who
complained of hard usage, she pardoned many debts, and distributed
money, food, and clothing to the poor. These benevolent occupations
made time seem less heavy, and while they freed her from solitude,
diverted her suspense. She still, however, continued at the house of
Mrs Charlton, the workmen having disappointed her in finishing her
But, in defiance of her utmost exertion, towards the evening of this
day the uneasiness of her uncertainty grew almost intolerable. The
next morning she had promised Delvile to set out for London, and he
expected the morning after to claim her for his wife; yet Mr Monckton
neither sent nor came, and she knew not if her letter was delivered,
or if still he was unprepared for the disappointment by which he was
awaited. A secret regret for the unhappiness she must occasion him,
which silently yet powerfully reproached her, stole fast upon her
mind, and poisoned its tranquility; for though her opinion was
invariable in holding his proposal to be wrong, she thought too highly
of his character to believe he would have made it but from a mistaken
notion it was right. She painted him, therefore, to herself, as
glowing with indignation, accusing her of inconsistency, and perhaps
suspecting her of coquetry, and imputing her change of conduct to
motives the most trifling and narrow, till with resentment and
disdain, he drove her wholly from his thoughts.
In a few minutes, however, the picture was reversed; Delvile no more
appeared storming nor unreasonable; his face wore an aspect of sorrow,
and his brow was clouded with disappointment: he forbore to reproach
her, but the look which her imagination delineated was more piercing
than words of severest import.
These images pursued and tormented her, drew tears from her eyes, and
loaded her heart with anguish. Yet, when she recollected that her
conduct had had in view an higher motive than pleasing Delvile, she
felt that it ought to offer her an higher satisfaction: she tried,
therefore, to revive her spirits, by reflecting upon her integrity,
and refused all indulgence to this enervating sadness, beyond what the
weakness of human nature demands, as some relief to its sufferings
upon every fresh attack of misery.
A conduct such as this was the best antidote against affliction, whose
arrows are never with so little difficulty repelled, as when they
light upon a conscience which no self-reproach has laid bare to their
Before six o'clock the next morning, her maid came to her bedside with
the following letter, which she told; her had been brought by an
_To Miss Beverley_.
May this letter, with one only from Delvile Castle, be the last that
_Miss Beverley_ may ever receive!
Yet sweet to me as is that hope, I write in the utmost uneasiness; I
have just heard that a gentleman, whom, by the description that is
given of him, I imagine is Mr Monckton, has been in search of me with
a letter which he was anxious to deliver immediately.
Perhaps this letter is from Miss Beverley, perhaps it contains
directions which ought instantly to be followed: could I divine what
they are, with what eagerness would I study to anticipate their
execution! It will not, I hope, be too late to receive them on
Saturday, when her power over my actions will be confirmed, and when
every wish she will communicate, shall be gratefully, joyfully, and
with delight fulfilled.
I have sought Belfield in vain; he has left Lord Vannelt, and no one
knows whither he is gone. I have been obliged, therefore, to trust a
stranger to draw up the bond; but he is a man of good character, and
the time of secrecy will be too short to put his discretion in much
danger. To-morrow, Friday, I shall spend solely in endeavouring to
discover. Mr Monckton; I have leisure sufficient for the search, since
so prosperous has been my diligence, that _every thing is
I have seen some lodgings in Pall-Mall, which I think are commodious
and will suit you: send a servant, therefore, before you to secure
them. If upon your arrival I should venture to meet you there, be not,
I beseech you, offended or alarmed; I shall take every possible
precaution neither to be known nor seen, and I will stay with you only
three minutes. The messenger who carries this is ignorant from whom it
comes, for I fear his repeating my name among your servants, and he
could scarce return to me with an answer before you will yourself be
in town. Yes, loveliest Cecilia! at the very moment you receive this
letter, the chaise will, I flatter myself, be at the door, which is to
bring to me a treasure that will enrich every future hour of my life!
And oh as to me it will be exhaustless, may but its sweet dispenser
experience some share of the happiness she bestows, and then what,
save her own purity, will be so perfect, so unsullied, as the felicity
The perturbation of Cecilia upon reading this letter was unspeakable:
Mr Monckton, she found, had been wholly unsuccessful, all her heroism
had answered no purpose, and the transaction was as backward as before
she had exerted it.
She was, now, therefore, called upon to think and act entirely for
herself. Her opinion was still the same, nor did her resolution waver,
yet how to put it in execution she could not discern. To write to him
was impossible, since she was ignorant where he was to be found; to
disappoint him at the last moment she could not resolve, since such a
conduct appeared to her unfeeling and unjustifiable; for a few
instants she thought of having him waited for at night in London, with
a letter; but the danger of entrusting any one with such a commission,
and the uncertainty of finding him, should he disguise himself, made
the success of this scheme too precarious for trial.
One expedient alone occurred to her, which, though she felt to be
hazardous, she believed was without an alternative: this was no other
than hastening to London herself, consenting to the interview he had
proposed in Pall-Mall, and then, by strongly stating her objections,
and confessing the grief they occasioned her, to pique at once his
generosity and his pride upon releasing her himself from the
engagement into which he had entered.
She had no time to deliberate; her plan, therefore, was decided almost
as soon as formed, and every moment being precious, she was obliged to
awaken Mrs Charlton, and communicate to her at once the letter from
Delvile, and the new resolution she had taken.
Mrs Charlton, having no object in view but the happiness of her young
friend, with a facility that looked not for objections, and scarce saw
them when presented, agreed to the expedition, and kindly consented to
accompany her to London; for Cecilia, however concerned to hurry and
fatigue her, was too anxious for the sanction of her presence to
hesitate in soliciting it.
A chaise, therefore, was ordered; and with posthorses for speed, and
two servants on horseback, the moment Mrs Charlton was ready, they set
out on their journey.
Scarce had they proceeded two miles on their way, when they were met
by Mr Monckton, who was hastening to their house.
Amazed and alarmed at a sight so unexpected, he stopt the chaise to
enquire whither they were going.
Cecilia, without answering, asked if her letter had yet been received?
"I could not," said Mr Monckton, "deliver it to a man who was not to
be found: I was at this moment coming to acquaint how vainly I had
sought him; but still that your journey is unnecessary unless
voluntary, since I have left it at the house where you told me you
should meet to-morrow morning, and where he must then unavoidably
"Indeed, Sir," cried Cecilia, "to-morrow morning will be too late,--in
conscience, in justice, and even in decency too late! I _must_,
therefore, go to town; yet I go not, believe me, in' opposition to
your injunctions, but to enable myself, without treachery or
dishonour, to fulfil them."
Mr Monckton, aghast and confounded, made not any answer, till Cecilia
gave orders to the postilion to drive on: he then hastily called to
stop him, and began the warmest expostulations; but Cecilia, firm when
she believed herself right, though wavering when fearful she was
wrong, told him it was now too late to change her plan, and repeating
her orders to the postilion, left him to his own reflections: grieved
herself to reject his counsel, yet too intently occupied by her own
affairs and designs, to think long of any other.
At----they stopt for dinner; Mrs Charlton being too much fatigued to
go on without some rest, though the haste of Cecilia to meet Delvile
time enough for new arranging their affairs, made her regret every
moment that was spent upon the road.
Their meal was not long, and they were returning to their chaise, when
they were suddenly encountered by Mr Morrice, who was just alighted
from his horse.
He congratulated himself upon the happiness of meeting them with the
air of a man who nothing doubted that happiness being mutual; then
hastening to speak of the Grove, "I could hardly," he cried, "get
away; my friend Monckton won't know what to do without me, for Lady
Margaret, poor old soul, is in a shocking bad way indeed; there's
hardly any staying in the room with her; her breathing is just like
the grunting of a hog. She can't possibly last long, for she's quite
upon her last legs, and tumbles about so when she walks alone, one
would swear she was drunk."
"If you take infirmity," said Mrs Charlton, who was now helped into
the chaise, "for intoxication, you must suppose no old person sober."
"Vastly well said, ma'am," cried he; "I really forgot your being an
old lady yourself, or I should not have made the observation. However,
as to poor Lady Margaret, she may do as well as ever by and bye, for
she has an excellent constitution, and I suppose she has been hardly
any better than she is now these forty years, for I remember when I
was quite a boy hearing her called a limping old puddle."
"Well, we'll discuss this matter, if you please," said Cecilia, "some
other time." And ordered the postilion to drive on. But before they
came to their next stage, Morrice having changed his horse, joined
them, and rode on by their side, begging them to observe what haste he
had made on purpose to have the pleasure of escorting, them.
This forwardness was very offensive to Mrs Charlton, whose years and
character had long procured her more deference and respect: but
Cecilia, anxious only to hasten her journey, was indifferent to every
thing, save what retarded it.
At the same Inn they both again changed horses, and he still continued
riding with them, and occasionally talking, till they were within
twenty miles of London, when a disturbance upon the road exciting his
curiosity, he hastily rode away from them to enquire into its cause.
Upon coming up to the place whence it proceeded, they saw a party of
gentlemen on horseback surrounding a chaise which had been just
overturned; and while the confusion in the road obliged the postilion
to stop Cecilia heard a lady's voice exclaiming, "I declare I dare say
I am killed!" and instantly recollecting Miss Larolles, the fear of
discovery and delay made her desire the man to drive on with all
speed. He was preparing to obey her, but Morrice, gallopping after
them, called out, "Miss Beverley, one of the ladies that has been
overturned, is an acquaintance of yours. I used to see her with you at
"Did you?" said Cecilia, much disconcerted, "I hope she is not hurt?'
"No, not at all; but the lady with her is bruised to death; won't you
come and see her?"
"I am too much in haste at present,--and I can do them no good; but
Mrs Charlton I am sure will spare her servant, if he can be of any
"O but the young lady wants to speak to you; she is coming up to the
chaise as fast as ever she can."
"And how should she know me?" cried Cecilia, with much surprise; "I am
sure she could not see me."
"O, I told her,", answered Morrice, with a nod of self-approbation for
what he had done, "I told her it was you, for I knew I could soon
Displeasure at this officiousness was unavailing, for looking out of
the window, she perceived Miss Larolles, followed by half her party,
not three paces from the chaise.
"O my dear creature," she called out, "what a terrible accident! I
assure you I am so monstrously frightened you've no idea. It's the
luckiest thing in the world that you were going this way. Never any
thing happened so excessively provoking; you've no notion what a fall
we've had. It's horrid shocking, I assure you. How have you been all
this time? You can't conceive how glad I am to see you."
"And to which will Miss Beverley answer first," cried a voice which
announced Mr Gosport, "the joy or the sorrow? For so adroitly are they
blended, that a common auditor could with difficulty decide, whether
condolence, or congratulation should have the precedency."
"How can you be so excessive horrid," cried Miss Larolles, "to talk of
congratulation, when one's in such a shocking panic that one does not
know if one's dead or alive!"
"Dead, then, for any wager," returned he, "if we may judge by your
"I desire, now, you won't begin joking," cried she, "for I assure you
it's an excessive serious affair. I was never so rejoiced in my life
as when I found I was not killed. I've been so squeezed you've no
notion. I thought for a full hour I had broke both my arms."
"And my heart at the same time," said Mr Gosport; "I hope you did not
imagine that the least fragile of the three?"
"All our hearts, give me leave to add," said Captain Aresby--just then
advancing, "all our hearts must have been _abimés_, by the
indisposition of Miss Larolles, had not their doom been fortunately
revoked by the sight of Miss Beverley."
"Well, this is excessive odd,", cried Miss Larolles, "that every body
should run away so from poor Mrs Mears; she'll be so affronted you've
no idea. I thought, Captain Aresby, you would have stayed to take care
"I'll run and see how she is myself," cried Morrice, and away he
"Really, ma'am," said the Captain, "I am quite _au desespoir_ to
have failed in any of my devoirs; but I make it a principle to be a
mere looker on upon these occasions, lest I should be so unhappy as to
commit any _faux pas_ by too much _empressement_."
"An admirable caution!" said Mr Gosport, "and, to so ardent a temper,
a, necessary check!"
Cecilia, whom the surprise and vexation of so unseasonable a meeting,
when she particularly wished to have escaped all notice, had hitherto
kept in painful silence, began now to recover some presence of mind;
and making her compliments to Miss Larolles and Mr Gosport, with a
slight bow to the Captain, she apologized for hurrying away, but told
them she had an engagement in London which could not be deferred, and
was then giving orders to the postilion to drive on, when Morrice
returning full speed, called out "The poor lady's so bad she is not
able to stir a step; she can't put a foot to the ground, and she says
she's quite black and blue; so I told her I was sure Miss Beverley
would not refuse to make room for her in her chaise, till the other
can be put to rights; and she says she shall take it as a great
favour. Here, postilion, a little more to the right! come, ladies and
gentlemen, get out of the way." This impertinence, however
extraordinary, Cecilia could not oppose; for Mrs Charlton, ever
compassionate and complying where there was any appearance of
distress, instantly seconded the proposal: the chaise, therefore, was
turned back, and she was obliged to offer a place in it to Mrs Mears,
who, though more frightened than hurt, readily accepted it,
notwithstanding, to make way for her without incommoding Mrs Charlton,
she was forced to get out herself.
She failed not, however, to desire that all possible expedition might
be used in refitting the other chaise for their reception; and all the
gentlemen but one, dismounted their horses, in order to assist, or
seem to assist in getting it ready.
This only unconcerned spectator in the midst of the apparent general
bustle, was Mr Meadows; who viewed all that passed without troubling
himself to interfere, and with an air of the most evident carelessness
whether matters went well or went ill.
Miss Larolles, now returning to the scene of action, suddenly screamed
out, "O dear, where's my little dog! I never thought of him, I
declare! I love him better than any thing in the world. I would not
have him hurt for a hundred thousand pounds. Lord, where is he?"
"Crushed or suffocated in the overturn, no doubt," said Mr Gosport;
"but as you must have been his executioner, what softer death could he
die? If you will yourself inflict the punishment, I will submit to the
"Lord, how you love to plague one!" cried she and then enquired among
the servants what was become of her dog. The poor little animal,
forgotten by its mistress, and disregarded by all others, was now
discovered by its yelping; and soon found to have been the most
material sufferer by the overturn, one of its fore legs being broken.
Could screams or lamentations, reproaches to the servants, or
complaints against the Destinies, have abated his pain, or made a
callus of the fracture, but short would have been the duration of his
misery; for neither words were saved, nor lungs were spared, the very
air was rent with cries, and all present were upbraided as if
accomplices in the disaster.
The postilion, at length, interrupted this vociferation with news that
the chaise was again fit for use; and Cecilia, eager to be gone,
finding him little regarded, repeated what he said to Miss Larolles.
"The chaise?" cried she, "why you don't suppose I'll ever get into
that horrid chaise any more? I do assure you I would not upon any
"Not get into it?" said Cecilia, "for what purpose, then, have we all
waited till it was ready?"
"O, I declare I would not go in it for forty thousand worlds. I would
rather walk to an inn, if it's a hundred and fifty miles off."
"But as it happens," said Mr Gosport, "to be only seven miles, I fancy
you will condescend to ride."
"Seven miles! Lord, how shocking! you frighten me so you have no idea.
Poor Mrs Mears! She'll have to go quite alone. I dare say the chaise
will be down fifty times by the way. Ten to one but she breaks her
neck! only conceive how horrid! I assure you I am excessive glad I am
out of it."
"Very friendly, indeed!" said Mr Gosport. "Mrs Mears, then, may break
her bones at her leisure!"
Mrs Mears, however, when applied to, professed an equal aversion to
the carriage in which she had been so unfortunate, and declared she
would rather walk than return to it, though one of her ancles was
already so swelled that she could hardly stand.
"Why then the best way, ladies," cried Morrice, with the look of a man
happy in vanquishing all difficulties, "will be for Mrs Charlton, and
that poor lady with the bruises, to go together in that sound chaise,
and then for us gentlemen to escort this young lady and Miss Beverley
on foot, till we all come to the next inn. Miss Beverley, I know, is
an excellent walker, for I have heard Mr Monckton say so."
Cecilia, though in the utmost consternation at a proposal, which must
so long retard a journey she had so many reasons to wish hastened,
knew not how either in decency or humanity to oppose it: and the fear
of raising suspicion, from a consciousness how much there was to
suspect, forced her to curb her impatience, and reduced her even to
repeat the offer which Morrice had made, though she could scarce look
at him for anger at his unseasonable forwardness.
No voice dissenting, the troop began to be formed. The foot consisted
of the two young ladies, and Mr Gosport, who alighted to walk with
Cecilia; the cavalry, of Mr Meadows, the Captain, and Morrice, who
walked their horses a foot pace, while the rest of the party rode on
with the chaise, as attendants upon Mrs Mears.
Just before they set off, Mr Meadows, riding negligently up to the
carriage, exerted himself so far as to say to Mrs Mears, "Are you
hurt, ma'am?" and, at the same instant, seeming to recollect Cecilia,
he turned about, and yawning while he touched his hat, said, "O, how
d'ye do, ma'am?" and then, without waiting an answer to either of his
questions, flapped it over his eyes, and joined the cavalcade, though
without appearing to have any consciousness that he belonged to it.
Cecilia would most gladly have used the rejected chaise herself, but
could not make such a proposal to Mrs Charlton, who was past the age
and the courage for even any appearance of enterprize. Upon enquiry,
however, she had the satisfaction to hear that the distance to the
next stage was but two miles, though multiplied to seven by the malice
of Mr Gosport.
Miss Larolles carried her little dog in her arms, declaring she would
never more trust him a moment away from her. She acquainted Cecilia
that she had been for some time upon a visit to Mrs Mears, who, with
the rest of the party, had taken her to see--house and gardens, where
they had made an early dinner, from which they were just returning
home when the chaise broke down.
She then proceeded, with her usual volubility, to relate the little
nothings that had passed since the winter, flying from subject to
subject, with no meaning but to be heard, and no wish but to talk,
ever rapid in speech, though minute in detail. This loquacity met not
with any interruption, save now and then a sarcastic remark, from Mr
Gosport; for Cecilia was too much occupied by her own affairs, to
answer or listen to such uninteresting discourse.
Her silence, however, was at length forcibly broken; Mr Gosport,
taking advantage of the first moment Miss Larolles stopt for breath,
said, "Pray what carries you to town, Miss Beverley, at this time of
Cecilia, whose thoughts had been wholly employed upon what would pass
at her approaching meeting with Delvile, was so entirely unprepared
for this question, that she could make to it no manner of answer, till
Mr Gosport, in a tone of some surprise, repeated it, and then, not
without hesitation, she said, "I have some business, Sir, in London,--
pray how long have you been in the country?"
"Business, have you?" cried he, struck by her evasion; "and pray what
can you and business have in common?"
"More than you may imagine," answered she, with greater steadiness;
"and perhaps before long I may even have enough to teach me the
enjoyment of leisure."
"Why you don't pretend to play my Lady Notable, and become your own
"And what can I do better?"
"What? Why seek one ready made to take the trouble off your hands.
There are such creatures to be found, I promise you: beasts of
burthen, who will freely undertake the management of your estate, for
no other reward than the trifling one of possessing it. Can you no
where meet with such an animal?"
"I don't know," answered she, laughing, "I have not been looking out."
"And have none such made application to you?"
"Why no,--I believe not."
"Fie, fie! no register-office keeper has been pestered with more
claimants. You know they assault you by dozens."
"You must pardon me, indeed, I know not any such thing."
"You know, then, why they do not, and that is much the same."
"I may conjecture why, at least: the place, I suppose, is not worth
"No, no; the place, they conclude, is already seized, and the fee--
simple of the estate is the heart of the owner. Is it not so?"
"The heart of the owner," answered she, a little confused, "may,
indeed, be simple, but not, perhaps, so easily seized as you imagine."
"Have you, then, wisely saved it from a storm, by a generous
surrender? you have been, indeed, in an excellent school for the study
both of attack and defence; Delvile-Castle is a fortress which, even
in ruins, proves its strength by its antiquity: and it teaches, also,
an admirable lesson, by displaying the dangerous, the infallible power
of time, which defies all might, and undermines all strength; which
breaks down every barrier, and shews nothing endurable but itself."
Then looking at her with an arch earnestness, "I think," he added,
"you made a long visit there; did this observation never occur to you?
did you never perceive, never _feel_, rather, the insidious
properties of time?"
"Yes, certainly," answered she, alarmed at the very mention of Delvile
Castle, yet affecting to understand literally what was said
metaphorically, "the havoc of time upon the place could not fail
"And was its havoc," said he, yet more archly, "merely external? is
all within safe? sound and firm? and did the length of your residence
shew its power by no new mischief?"
"Doubtless, not," answered she, with the same pretended ignorance,
"the place is not in so desperate a condition as to exhibit any
visible marks of decay in the course of three or four months."
"And, do you not know," cried he, "that the place to which I allude
may receive a mischief in as many minutes which double the number of
years cannot rectify? The internal parts of a building are not less
vulnerable to accident than its outside; and though the evil may more
easily be concealed, it will with greater difficulty be remedied. Many
a fair structure have I seen, which, like that now before me" (looking
with much significance at Cecilia), "has to the eye seemed perfect in
all its parts, and unhurt either by time or casualty, while within,
some lurking evil, some latent injury, has secretly worked its way
into the very _heart_ of the edifice, where it has consumed its
strength, and laid waste its powers, till, sinking deeper and deeper,
it has sapped its very foundation, before the superstructure has
exhibited any token of danger. Is such an accident among the things
you hold to be possible?"
"Your language," said she, colouring very high, "is so florid, that I
must own it renders your meaning rather obscure."
"Shall I illustrate it by an example? Suppose, during your abode in
"No, no," interrupted she, with involuntary quickness, "why should I
trouble you to make illustrations?"
"O pray, my dear creature," cried Miss Larolles, "how is Mrs Harrel? I
was never so sorry for any body in my life. I quite forgot to ask
"Ay, poor Harrel!" cried Morrice, "he was a great loss to his friends.
I had just begun to have a regard for him: we were growing extremely
intimate. Poor fellow! he really gave most excellent dinners."
"Harrel?" suddenly exclaimed Mr Meadows, who seemed just then to first
hear what was going forward, "who was he?"
"O, as good-natured a fellow as ever I knew in my life," answered
Morrice; "he was never out of humour: he was drinking and singing and
dancing to the very last moment. Don't you remember him, Sir, that
night at Vauxhall?"
Mr Meadows made not any answer, but rode languidly on.
Morrice, ever more flippant than sagacious, called out, "I really
believe the gentleman's deaf! he won't so much as say _umph_, and
_hay_, now; but I'll give him such a hallow in his ears, as shall
make him hear me, whether he will or no. Sir! I say!" bawling aloud,
"have you forgot that night at Vauxhall?"
Mr Meadows, starting at being thus shouted at, looked towards Morrice
with some surprise, and said, "Were you so obliging, Sir, as to speak
"Lord, yes, Sir," said Morrice, amazed; "I thought you had asked
something about Mr Harrel, so I just made an answer to it;--that's
"Sir, you are very good," returned he, slightly bowing, and then
looking another way, as if thoroughly satisfied with what had passed.
"But I say, Sir," resumed Morrice, "don't you remember how Mr Harrel"--
"Mr who, Sir?"
"Mr Harrel, Sir; was not you just now asking me who he was?"
"O, ay, true," cried Meadows, in a tone of extreme weariness, "I am.
much obliged to you. Pray give my respects to him." And, touching his
hat, he was riding away; but the astonished Morrice called out, "Your
respects to him? why lord! Sir, don't you know he's dead?"
"Why Mr Harrel, Sir."
"Harrel?--O, very true," cried Meadows, with a face of sudden
recollection; "he shot himself, I think, or was knocked down, or
something of that sort. I remember it perfectly."
"O pray," cried Miss Larolles, "don't let's talk about it, it's the
cruellest thing I ever knew in my life. I assure you I was so shocked,
I thought I should never have got the better of it. I remember the
next night at Ranelagh I could talk of nothing else. I dare say I told
it to 500 people. I assure you I was tired to death; only conceive how
"An excellent method," cried Mr Gosport, "to drive it out of your own
head, by driving it into the heads of your neighbours! But were you
not afraid, by such an ebullition of pathos, to burst as many hearts
as you had auditors?"
"O I assure you," cried she, "every body was so excessive shocked
you've no notion; one heard of nothing else; all the world was raving
mad about it."
"Really yes," cried the Captain; "the subject was _obsedé_ upon
one _partout_. There was scarce any breathing for it: it poured
from all directions; I must confess I was _aneanti_ with it to a
"But the most shocking thing in nature," cried Miss Larolles, "was
going to the sale. I never missed a single day. One used to meet the
whole world there, and every body was so sorry you can't conceive. It
was quite horrid. I assure you I never suffered so much before; it
made me so unhappy you can't imagine."
"That I am most ready to grant," said Mr Gosport, "be the powers of
imagination ever so eccentric."
"Sir Robert Floyer and Mr Marriot," continued Miss Larolles, "have
behaved so ill you've no idea, for they have done nothing ever since
but say how monstrously Mr Harrel had cheated them, and how they lost
such immense sums by him;--only conceive how ill-natured!"
"And they complain," cried Morrice, "that old Mr Delvile used them
worse; for that when they had been defrauded of all that money on
purpose to pay their addresses to Miss Beverley, he would never let
them see her, but all of a sudden took her off into the country, on
purpose to marry her to his own son."
The cheeks of Cecilia now glowed with the deepest blushes; but finding
by a general silence that she was expected to make some answer, she
said, with what unconcern she could assume, "They were very much
mistaken; Mr Delvile had no such view."
"Indeed?" cried Mr Gosport, again perceiving her change of
countenance; "and is it possible you have actually escaped a siege,
while every body concluded you taken by assault? Pray where is young
Delvile at present?"
"I don't--I can't tell, Sir."
"Is it long since you have seen him?"
"It is two months," answered she, with yet more hesitation, "since I
was at Delvile Castle."
"O, but," cried Morrice, "did not you see him while he was in Suffolk?
I believe, indeed, he is there now, for it was only yesterday I heard
of his coming down, by a gentleman who called upon Lady Margaret, and
told us he had seen a stranger, a day or two ago, at Mrs Charlton's
door, and when he asked who he was, they told him his name was
Delvile, and said he was on a visit at Mr Biddulph's."
Cecilia was quite confounded by this speech; to have it known that
Delvile had visited her, was in itself alarming, but to have her own
equivocation thus glaringly exposed, was infinitely more dangerous.
The just suspicions to which it must give rise filled her with dread,
and the palpable evasion in which she had been discovered,
overwhelmed, her with confusion.
"So you had forgotten," said Mr Gosport, looking at her with much
archness, "that you had seen him _within_ the two months? but no
wonder; for where is the lady who having so many admirers, can be at
the trouble to remember which of them she saw last? or who, being so
accustomed to adulation, can hold it worth while to enquire whence it
comes? A thousand Mr Delviles are to Miss Beverley but as one; used
from them all to the same tale, she regards them not individually as
lovers, but collectively as men; and to gather, even from herself,
which she is most inclined to favour, she must probably desire, like
Portia in the Merchant of Venice, that their names may be run over one
by one, before she can distinctly tell which is which."
The gallant gaiety of this speech was some relief to Cecilia, who was
beginning a laughing reply, when Morrice called out, "That man looks
as if he was upon the scout." And, raising her eyes, she perceived a
man on horseback, who, though much muffled up, his hat flapped, and a
handkerchief held to his mouth and chin, she instantly, by his air and
figure, recognized to be Delvile.
In much consternation at this sight, she forgot what she meant to say,
and dropping her eyes, walked silently on. Mr Gosport, attentive to
her motions, looked from her to the horseman, and after a short
examination, said, "I think I have seen that man before; have
_you_, Miss Beverley?"
"Me?--no,"--answered she, "I believe not,--I hardly indeed, see him
"_I_ have, I am pretty sure," said Morrice; "and if I could see
his face, I dare say I should recollect him."
"He seems very willing to know if he can recollect any of _us_,"
said Mr Gosport, "and, if I am not mistaken, he sees much better than
he is seen."
He was now come up to them, and though a glance sufficed to
discover the object of his search, the sight of the party with which
she was surrounded made him not dare stop or speak to her, and
therefore, clapping spurs to his horse, he galloped past them.
"See," cried Morrice, looking after him, "how he turns round to
examine us! I wonder who he is."
"Perhaps some highwayman!" cried Miss Larolles; "I assure you I am in
a prodigious fright: I should hate to be robbed so you can't think."
"I was going to make much the same conjecture," said Mr Gosport, "and,
if I am not greatly deceived, that man is a robber of no common sort.
What think you, Miss Beverley, can you discern a thief in disguise?"
"No, indeed; I pretend to no such extraordinary knowledge."
"That's true; for all that you pretend to is extraordinary ignorance."
"I have a good mind," said Morrice, "to ride after him, and see what
he is about."
"What for?" exclaimed Cecilia, greatly alarmed "there can certainly be
"No, pray don't," cried Miss Larolles, "for I assure you if he should
come back to rob us, I should die upon the spot. Nothing could be so
disagreeable I should scream so, you've no idea."
Morrice then gave up the proposal, and they walked quietly on; but
Cecilia was extremely disturbed by this accident; she readily
conjectured that, impatient for her arrival, Delvile had ridden that
way, to see what had retarded her, and she was sensible that nothing
could be so desirable as an immediate explanation of the motive of her
journey. Such a meeting, therefore, had she been alone, was just what
she could have wished, though, thus unluckily encompassed, it only
added to her anxiety.
Involuntarily, however, she quickened her pace, through her eagerness
to be relieved from so troublesome a party: but Miss Larolles, who was
in no such haste, protested she could not keep up with her; saying,
"You don't consider that I have got this sweet little dog to carry,
and he is such a shocking plague to me you've no notion. Only conceive
what a weight he is!"
"Pray, ma'am," cried Morrice, "let me take him for you; I'll be very
careful of him, I promise you; and you need not be afraid to trust me,
for I understand more about dogs than about any thing."
Miss Larolles, after many fond caresses, being really weary,
consented, and Morrice placed the little animal before him on
horseback: but while this matter was adjusting, and Miss Larolles was
giving directions how she would have it held, Morrice exclaimed,
"Look, look! that man is coming back! He is certainly watching us.
There! now he's going off again!--I suppose he saw me remarking him."
"I dare say he's laying in wait to rob us," said Miss Larolles; "so
when we turn off the high road, to go to Mrs Mears, I suppose he'll
come galloping after us. It's excessive horrid, I assure you."
"'Tis a petrifying thing," said the captain, "that one must always be
_degouté_ by some wretched being or other of this sort; but pray
be not deranged, I will ride after him, if you please, and do _mon
possible_ to get rid of him."
"Indeed I wish you would," answered Miss Larolles, "for I assure you
he has put such shocking notions into my head, it's quite
"I shall make it a principle," said the captain, "to have the honour
of obeying you." And was riding off, when Cecilia, in great agitation,
called out "Why should you go, Sir?--he is not in our way,--pray let
him alone,--for what purpose should you pursue him?"
"I hope," said Mr Gosport, "for the purpose of making him join our
company, to some part of which I fancy he would be no very intolerable
This speech again silenced Cecilia, who perceived, with the utmost
confusion, that both Delvile and herself were undoubtedly suspected by
Mr Gosport, if not already actually betrayed to him. She was obliged,
therefore, to let the matter take its course, though quite sick with
apprehension lest a full discovery should follow the projected
The Captain, who wanted not courage, however deeply in vanity and
affectation he had buried common sense, stood suspended, upon the
request of Cecilia, that he would not go, and, with a shrug of
distress, said, "Give me leave to own I am _parfaitment_ in a
state the most _accablant_ in the world: nothing could give me
greater pleasure than to profit of the occasion to accommodate either
of these ladies; but as they proceed upon different principles, I am
_indecidé_ to a degree which way to turn myself!"
"Put it to the vote, then," said Morrice; "the two ladies have both
spoke; now, then, for the gentlemen. Come, Sir," to Mr Gosport, "what
"O, fetch the culprit back, by all means," answered he; "and then let
us all insist upon his opening his cause, by telling us in what he has
offended us; for there is no part of his business, I believe, with
which we are less acquainted."
"Well," said Morrice, "I'm for asking him a few questions too; so is
the Captain; so every body has spoke but you, Sir," addressing himself
to Mr Meadows, "So now, Sir, let's hear your opinion."
Mr Meadows, appearing wholly inattentive, rode on.
"Why, Sir, I say!" cried Morrice, louder, "we are all waiting for your
vote. Pray what is the gentleman's name? it's deuced hard to make him
"His name is Meadows," said Miss Larolles, in a low voice, "and I
assure you sometimes he won't hear people by the hour together. He's
so excessive absent you've no notion. One day he made me so mad, that
I could not help crying; and Mr Sawyer was standing by the whole time!
and I assure you I believe he laughed at me. Only conceive how
"May be," said Morrice, "it's out of bashfulness perhaps he thinks we
shall cut him up."
"Bashfulness," repeated Miss Larolles; "Lord, you don't conceive the
thing at all. Why he's at the very head of the _ton_. There's
nothing in the world so fashionable as taking no notice of things, and
never seeing people, and saying nothing at all, and never hearing a
word, and not knowing one's own acquaintance. All the _ton_
people do so, and I assure you as to Mr Meadows, he's so excessively
courted by every body, that if he does but say a syllable, he thinks
it such an immense favour, you've no idea."
This account, however little alluring in itself, of his celebrity, was
yet sufficient to make Morrice covet his further acquaintance: for
Morrice was ever attentive to turn his pleasure to his profit, and
never negligent of his interest, but when ignorant how to pursue it.
He returned, therefore, to the charge, though by no means with the
same freedom he had begun it, and lowering his voice to a tone of
respect and submission, he said, "Pray, Sir, may we take the liberty
to ask your advice, whether we shall go on, or take a turn back?"
Mr Meadows made not any answer; but when Morrice was going to repeat
his question, without appearing even to know that he was near him, he
abruptly said to Miss Larolles, "Pray what is become of Mrs Mears? I
don't see her amongst us."
"Lord, Mr Meadows," exclaimed she, "how can you be so odd? Don't you
remember she went on in a chaise to the inn?"
"O, ay, true," cried he; "I protest I had quite forgot it; I beg your
pardon, indeed. Yes, I recollect now,--she fell off her horse."
"Her horse? Why you know she was in her chaise."
"Her chaise, was it?--ay, true, so it was. Poor thing!--I am glad she
was not hurt."
"Not hurt? Why she's so excessively bruised, she can't stir a step!
Only conceive what a memory you've got!"
"I am most extremely sorry for her indeed," cried he, again stretching
himself and yawning; "poor soul!--I hope she won't die. Do you think
"Die!" repeated Miss Larolles, with a scream, "Lord, how shocking! You
are really enough to frighten one to hear you."
"But, Sir," said Morrice, "I wish you would be so kind as to give us
your vote; the man will else be gone so far, we sha'n't be able to
overtake him.--Though I do really believe that is the very fellow
coming back to peep at us again!"
"I am _ennuyé_ to a degree," cried the Captain; "he is certainly
set upon us as a spy, and I must really beg leave to enquire of him
upon what principle he incommodes us."--And instantly he rode after
"And so will I too," cried Morrice, following.
Miss Larolles screamed after him to give her first her little dog; but
with a schoolboy's eagerness to be foremost, he galloped on without
The uneasiness of Cecilia now encreased every moment; the discovery of
Delvile seemed unavoidable, and his impatient and indiscreet
watchfulness must have rendered the motives of his disguise but too
glaring. All she had left to hope was arriving at the inn before the
detection was announced, and at least saving herself the cruel
mortification of hearing the raillery which would follow it.
Even this, however, was not allowed her; Miss Larolles, whom she had
no means to quit, hardly stirred another step, from her anxiety for
her dog, and the earnestness of her curiosity about the stranger. She
loitered, stopt now to talk, and now to listen, and was scarce moved a
yard from the spot where she had been left, when the Captain and
"We could not for our lives overtake the fellow," said Morrice; "he
was well mounted, I promise you, and I'll warrant he knows what he's
about, for he turned off so short at a place where there were two
narrow lanes, that we could not make out which way he went."
Cecilia, relieved and delighted by this unexpected escape, now
recovered her composure, and was content to saunter on without
"But though we could not seize his person," said the Captain, "we have
debarrassed ourselves _tout à fait_ from his pursuit; I hope,
therefore, Miss Larolles will make a revoke of her apprehensions."
The answer to this was nothing but a loud scream, with an exclamation,
"Lord, where's my dog?"
"Your dog!" cried Morrice, looking aghast, "good stars! I never
thought of him!"
"How excessive barbarous!" cried Miss Larolles, "you've killed him, I
dare say. Only think how shocking! I had rather have seen any body
served so in the world. I shall never forgive it, I assure you."
"Lord, ma'am," said Morrice, "how can you suppose I've killed him?
Poor, pretty creature, I'm sure I liked him prodigiously. I can't
think for my life where he can be: but I have a notion he must have
dropt down some where while I happened to be on the full gallop. I'll
go look [for] him, however, for we went at such a rate that I never
Away again rode Morrice.
"I am _abimé_ to the greatest degree," said the Captain, "that
the poor little sweet fellow should be lost if I had thought him in
any danger, I would have made it a principle to have had a regard to
his person myself. Will you give me leave, ma'am, to have the honour
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