Cecilia vol. 2
Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d'Arblay)
Part 7 out of 7
of seeking him _partout?_"
"O, I wish you would with all my heart; for I assure you if I don't
find him, I shall think it so excessive distressing you can't
The Captain touched his hat, and was gone.
These repeated impediments almost robbed Cecilia of all patience; yet
her total inability of resistance obliged her to submit, and compelled
her to go, stop, or turn, according to their own motions.
"Now if Mr Meadows had the least good-nature in the world," said Miss
Larolles, "he would offer to help us; but he's so excessive odd, that
I believe if we were all of us to fall down and break our necks, he
would be so absent he would hardly take the trouble to ask us how we
"Why in so desperate a case," said Mr Gosport, "the trouble would be
rather superfluous. However, don't repine that one of the cavaliers
stays with us by way of guard, lest your friend the spy should take us
by surprize while our troop is dispersed."
"O Lord," cried Miss Larolles, "now you put it in my head, I dare say
that wretch has got my dog! only think how horrid!"
"I saw plainly," said Mr Gosport, looking significantly at Cecilia,
"that he was feloniously inclined, though I must confess I took him
not for a dog-stealer."
Miss Larolles then, running up to Mr Meadows, called out, "I have a
prodigious immense favour to ask of you, Mr Meadows."
"Ma'am!" cried Mr Meadows, with his usual start.
"It's only to know, whether if that horrid creature should come back,
you could not just ride up to him and shoot him, before he gets to us?
Now will you promise me to do it?"
"You are vastly good," said he, with a vacant smile; "what a charming
evening! Do you love the country?"
"Yes, vastly; only I'm so monstrously tired, I can hardly stir a step.
Do _you_ like it?"
"The country? O no! I detest it! Dusty hedges, and chirping sparrows!
'Tis amazing to me any body can exist upon such terms."
"I assure you," cried Miss Larolles, "I'm quite of your opinion. I
hate the country so you've no notion. I wish with all my heart it was
all under ground. I declare, when I first go into it for the summer, I
cry so you can't think. I like nothing but London.--Don't you?"
"London!" repeated Mr Meadows, "O melancholy! the sink of all vice and
depravity. Streets without light! Houses without air! Neighbourhood
without society! Talkers without listeners!--'Tis astonishing any
rational being can endure to be so miserably immured."
"Lord, Mr Meadows," cried she, angrily, "I believe you would have one
live no where!"
"True, very true, ma'am," said he, yawning, "one really lives no
where; one does but vegetate, and wish it all at an end. Don't you
find it so, ma'am?"
"Me? no indeed; I assure you I like living of all things. Whenever I'm
ill, I'm in such a fright you've no idea. I always think I'm going to
die, and it puts me so out of spirits you can't think. Does not it
Here Mr Meadows, looking another way, began to whistle.
"Lord," cried Miss Larolles, "how excessive distressing! to ask one
questions, and then never hear what one answers!"
Here the Captain returned alone; and Miss Larolles, flying to meet
him, demanded where was her dog?
"I have the _malbeur_ to assure you," answered he, "that I never
was more _aneanti_ in my life! the pretty little fellow has broke
Miss Larolles, in a passion of grief, then declared she was certain
that Morrice had maimed him thus on purpose, and desired to know where
the vile wretch was?
"He was so much discomposed at the incident," replied the Captain,
"that he rode instantly another way. I took up the pretty fellow
therefore myself, and have done _mon possible_ not to derange
The unfortunate little animal was then delivered to Miss Larolles; and
after much lamentation, they at length continued their walk; and,
without further adventure, arrived at the inn.
But here, instead of finding, as she expected, Mrs Charlton, and fresh
horses in readiness, Cecilia saw neither chaise nor preparation; Mrs
Charlton was quietly seated in a parlour, and drinking tea with Mrs
Vexed and disappointed, she ordered horses immediately to the chaise,
and entreated Mrs Charlton to lose no more time. But the various
delays which had already retarded them, had made it now so late that
it was impossible to get into London by daylight, and Mrs Charlton not
having courage to be upon the road after dark, had settled to sleep at
the inn, and purposed not to proceed till the next morning.
Half distracted at this new difficulty, Cecilia begged to speak with
her alone, and then represented in the most earnest manner, the
absolute necessity there was for her being in London that night:
"Every thing," said she, "depends upon it, and the whole purpose of my
journey will otherwise be lost, for Mr Delvile will else think himself
extremely ill used, and to make him reparation, I may be compelled to
submit to almost whatever terms he shall propose."
Mrs Charlton, kind and yielding, withstood not this entreaty, which
Cecilia made with infinite pain to herself, from the reluctance she
felt to pursuing her own interest and inclination in opposition to
those of her worthy old friend: but as she was now circumstanced, she
considered the immediate prosecution of her journey as her only
resource against first irritating Delvile by an abrupt disappointment,
and appeasing him next by a concession which would make that
disappointment end in nothing.
The chaise was soon ready, and Mrs Charlton and Cecilia were rising to
take leave of the company, when a man and horse galloped full speed
into the inn-yard, and in less than a minute, Morrice bounced into the
"Ladies and gentlemen," cried he, quite out of breath with haste, "I
have got some news for you! I've just found out who that person is
that has been watching us."
Cecilia, starting at this most unwelcome intelligence, would now have
run into the chaise without hearing him proceed; but Mrs Charlton, who
knew neither whom nor what he meant, involuntarily stopt, and Cecilia,
whose arm she leant upon, was compelled to stay.
Every one else eagerly desired to know who he was.
"Why I'll tell you," said he, "how I found him out. I was thinking in
my own mind what I could possibly do to make amends for that unlucky
accident about the dog, and just then I spied the very man that had
made me drop him; so I thought at least I'd find out who he was. I
rode up to him so quick that he could not get away from me, though I
saw plainly it was the thing he meant. But still he kept himself
muffled up, just as he did before. Not so snug, thought I, my friend,
I shall have you yet! It's a fine evening, Sir, says I; but he took no
notice: so then I came more to the point; Sir, says I, I think, I have
had the pleasure of seeing you, though I quite forget where. Still he
made no answer: if you have no objection, Sir, says I, I shall be glad
to ride with you, for the night's coming on, and we have neither of us
a servant. But then, without a word speaking, he rode on the quicker.
However, I jogged by his side, as fast as he, and said, Pray Sir, did
you know anything of that company you were looking at so hard just
now? And at this he could hold out no longer; he turned to me in a
most fierce passion, and said Pray, Sir, don't be troublesome. And
then he got off; for when I found by his voice who he was, I let him
Cecilia, who could bear to hear no more, again hastened Mrs Charlton,
who now moved, on; but Morrice, stepping between them both and the
door, said Now do pray, Miss Beverley, guess who it was."
"No indeed, I cannot," said she, in the utmost confusion, "Nor have I
any time to hear. Come, dear madam, we shall be very late indeed."
"O but I must tell you before you go;--why it was young Mr Delvile!
the same that I saw with you one night at the Pantheon, and that I
used to meet last spring at Mr Harrel's."
"Mr Delvile!" repeated every one; "very strange he should not speak."
"Pray, ma'am," continued Morrice, "is it not the same gentleman that
was at Mr Biddulph's?"
Cecilia, half dead with shame and vexation, stammered out "No, no,--I
believe not,--I can't tell;--I have not a moment to spare."
And then, at last, got Mrs Charlton out of the room, and into the
chaise. But thither, before she could drive off, she was followed by
Mr Gosport, who gravely came to offer his advice that she would
immediately lodge an information at the Public Office at Bow Street,
that a very suspicious looking man had been observed loitering in
those parts, who appeared to harbour most dangerous designs against
her person and property.
Cecilia was too much confounded to rally or reply, and Mr Gosport
returned to his party with his speech unanswered.
The rest of the journey was without any new casualty, for late as it
was, they escaped being robbed: but neither robbers nor new casualties
were wanting to make it unpleasant to Cecilia; the incidents which had
already happened sufficed for that purpose; and the consciousness of
being so generally betrayed, added to the delay of her recantation,
prepared her for nothing but mortifications to herself, and conflicts
with Delvile the most bitter and severe.
It was near ten o'clock before they arrived in Pall-Mall. The house to
which Delvile had given directions was easily found, and the servant
sent forward had prepared the people of it for their reception.
In the cruellest anxiety and trepidation, Cecilia then counted every
moment till Delvile came. She planned an apology for her conduct with
all the address of which she was mistress, and determined to bear his
disappointment and indignation with firmness: yet the part she had to
act was both hard and artificial; she sighed to have it over, and
repined she must have it at all.
The instant there was a knock at the door, she flew out upon the
stairs to listen; and hearing his well-known voice enquiring for the
ladies who had just taken the lodgings, she ran back to Mrs Charlton,
saying, "Ah, madam, assist me I entreat! for now must I merit, or
forfeit your esteem for ever!"
"Can you pardon," cried Delvile, as he entered the room, "an intrusion
which was not in _our bond?_ But how could I wait till to-morrow,
when I knew you were in town to-night?"
He then made his compliments to Mrs Charlton, and, after enquiring how
she had borne her journey, turned again to Cecilia, whose uneasy
sensations he saw but too plainly in her countenance: "Are you angry,"
cried he, anxiously, "that I have ventured to come hither to-night?"
"No," answered she, struggling with all her feelings for composure;
"what we wish is easily excused; and I am glad to see you to-night,
She hesitated; and Delvile, little imagining why, thanked her in the
warmest terms for her condescension. He then related how he had been
tormented by Morrice, enquired why Mr Monckton had not accompanied
her, and what could possibly have induced her to make her journey so
late, or, with so large a party, to be walking upon the high road
instead of hastening to London.
"I wonder not," answered she, more steadily, "at your surprise, though
I have now no time to lessen it. You have never, I find, received my
"No," cried he, much struck by her manner; "was it to forbid our
meeting till to-morrow?"
"To-morrow!" she repeated expressively, "no; it was to forbid--"
Here the door was suddenly opened, and Morrice burst into the room.
The dismay and astonishment of Delvile at sight of him could only be
equalled by the confusion and consternation of Cecilia; but Morrice,
perceiving neither, abruptly called out "Miss Beverley, I quite beg
your pardon for coming so late, but you must know" then stopping short
upon seeing Delvile, "Good lord," he exclaimed, "if here is not our
_gentleman spy!_ Why, Sir, you have not spared the spur! I left
you galloping off quite another way."
"However that may be Sir," cried Delvile, equally enraged at the
interruption and the observation, "you did not, I presume, wait upon
Miss Beverley to talk of _me_?"
"No, Sir," answered he, lightly, "for I had told her all about you at
the inn. Did not I, Miss Beverley? Did not I tell you I was sure it
was Mr Delvile that was dodging us about so? Though I believe, Sir,
you thought I had not found you out?"
"And pray, young man," said Mrs Charlton, much offended by this
familiar intrusion, "how did you find _us_ out?"
"Why, ma'am, by the luckiest accident in the world! Just as I was
riding into town, I met the returned chaise that brought you; and I
knew the postilion very well, as I go that road pretty often: so, by
the merest chance in the world, I saw him by the light of the moon.
And then he told me where he had set you down."
"And pray, Sir," again asked Mrs Charlton, "what was your reason for
making the enquiry?"
"Why, ma'am, I had a little favour to ask of Miss Beverley, that made
me think I would take the liberty to call."
"And was this time of night, Sir," she returned, "the only one you
could chase for that purpose?"
"Why, ma'am, I'll tell you how that was; I did not mean to have called
till to-morrow morning; but as I was willing to know if the postilion
had given me a right direction, I knocked one soft little knock at the
door, thinking you might be gone to bed after your journey, merely to
ask if it was the right house; but when the servant told me there was
a gentleman with you already, I thought there would be no harm in just
stepping for a moment up stairs."
"And what, Sir," said Cecilia, whom mingled shame and vexation had
hitherto kept silent, "is your business with me?"
"Why, ma'am, I only just called to give you a direction to a most
excellent dog-doctor, as we call him, that lives at the comer of--"
"A dog-doctor, Sir?" repeated Cecilia, "and what have I to do with any
"Why you must know, ma'am, I have been in the greatest concern
imaginable about that accident which happened to me with the poor
little dog, and so--"
"What little dog, Sir?" cried Delvile, who now began to conclude he
was not sober, "do you know what you are talking of?"
"Yes, Sir, for it was that very little dog you made me drop out of my
arms, by which means he broke his other leg."
"_I_ made you drop him?" cried Delvile, angrily, "I believe, Sir,
you had much better call some other time; it does not appear to me
that you are in a proper situation for remaining here at present."
"Sir, I shall be gone in an instant," answered Morrice, "I merely
wanted to beg the favour of Miss Beverley to tell that young lady that
owned the dog, that if she will carry him to this man, I am sure he
will make a cure of him."
"Come, Sir," said. Delvile, convinced now of his inebriety, "if you
please we will walk away together."
"I don't mean to take _you_ away, Sir," said Morrice, looking
very significantly, "for I suppose you have not rode so hard to go so
soon; but as to me, I'll only write the direction, and be off."
Delvile, amazed and irritated at so many following specimens of
ignorant assurance, would not, in his present eagerness, have scrupled
turning him out of the house, had he not thought it imprudent, upon
such an occasion, to quarrel with him, and improper, at so late an
hour, to be left behind; he therefore only, while he was writing the
direction, told Cecilia, in a low voice, that he would get rid of him
and return in an instant.
They then went together; leaving Cecilia in an agony of distress
surpassing all she had hitherto experienced. "Ah, Mrs Charlton," she
cried, "what refuge have I now from ridicule, or perhaps disgrace! Mr
Delvile has been detected watching me in disguise! he has been
discovered at this late hour meeting me in private! The story will
reach his family with all the hyperbole of exaggeration;--how will his
noble mother disdain me! how cruelly shall I sink before the severity
of her eye!"
Mrs Charlton tried to comfort her, but the effort was vain, and she
spent her time in the bitterest repining till eleven o'clock.
Delvile's not returning then added wonder to her sadness, and the
impropriety of his returning at all so late, grew every instant more
At last, though in great disturbance, and evidently much ruffled in
his temper, he came: "I feared," he cried, "I had passed the time for
admittance, and the torture I have suffered from being detained has
almost driven me wild. I have been in misery to see you again,--your
looks, your manner,--the letter you talk of,--all have filled me with
alarm; and though I know not what it is I have to dread, I find it
impossible to rest a moment without some explanation. Tell me, then,
why you seem thus strange and thus depressed? Tell me what that letter
was to forbid? Tell me any thing, and every thing, but that you repent
"That letter," said Cecilia, "would have explained to you all. I
scarce know how to communicate its contents: yet I hope you will hear
with patience what I acknowledge I have resolved upon only from
necessity. That letter was to tell you that to-morrow we must not
meet;--it was to prepare you, indeed, for our meeting, perhaps, never
"Gracious heaven!" exclaimed he, starting, "what is it you mean?"
"That I have made a promise too rash to be kept; that you must pardon
me if, late as it is, I retract, since I am convinced it was wrong,
and must be wretched in performing it."
Confounded and dismayed, for a moment he continued silent, and then
passionately called out, "Who has been with you to defame me in your
opinion? Who has barbarously wronged my character since I left you
Monday? Mr Monckton received me coldly,--has he injured me in your
esteem? Tell, tell me but to whom I owe this change, that my
vindication, if it restores not your favour, may at least make you
cease to that once I was honoured with some share of it!"
"It wants not to be restored," said Cecilia, with much softness,
"since it has never been alienated. Be satisfied that I think of you
as I thought when we last parted, and generously forbear to reproach
me, when I assure you I am actuated by principles which you ought not
"And are you then, unchanged?" cried he, more gently, "and is your
esteem for me still--"
"I thought it justice to say so once," cried she, hastily interrupting
him, "but exact from me nothing more. It is too late for us now to
talk any longer; to-morrow you may find my letter at Mrs Robert's, and
that, short as it is, contains my resolution and its cause."
"Never," cried he vehemently, "can I quit you without knowing it! I
would not linger till to-morrow in this suspence to be master of the
"I have told it you, Sir, already: whatever is clandestine carries a
consciousness of evil, and so repugnant do I find it to my disposition
and opinions, that till you give me back the promise I so unworthily
made, I must be a stranger to peace, because at war with my own
actions and myself."
"Recover, then, your peace," cried Delvile with much emotion, "for I
here acquit you of all promise!--to fetter, to compel you, were too
inhuman to afford me any happiness. Yet hear me, dispassionately hear
me, and deliberate a moment before you resolve upon my exile. Your
scruples I am not now going to combat, I grieve that they are so
powerful, but I have no new arguments with which to oppose them; all I
have to say, is, that it is now too late for a retreat to satisfy
"True, Sir, and far too true! yet is it always best to do right,
however tardily; always better to repent, than to grow callous in
"Suffer not, however, your delicacy for my family to make you forget
what is due to yourself as well as to me: the fear of shocking you led
me just now to conceal what a greater fear now urges me to mention.
The honour I have had in view is already known to many, and in a very
short time there are none will be ignorant of it. That impudent young
man, Morrice, had the effrontery to rally me upon my passion for you,
and though I reproved him with great asperity, he followed me into a
coffee-house, whither I went merely to avoid him. There I forced
myself to stay, till I saw him engaged with a news-paper, and then,
through various private streets and alleys, I returned hither; but
judge my indignation, when the moment I knocked at the door, I
perceived him again at my side!"
"Did he, then, see you come in?"
"I angrily demanded what he meant by thus pursuing me; he very
submissively begged my pardon, and said he had had a notion I should
come back, and had therefore only followed, me to see if he was right!
I hesitated for an instant whether to chastise, or confide in him; but
believing a few hours would make his impertinence immaterial, I did
neither,--the door opened, and I came in."
He stopt; but Cecilia was too much shocked to answer him.
"Now, then," said he, "weigh your objections against the consequences
which must follow. It is discovered I attended you in town; it will be
presumed I had your permission for such attendance: to separate,
therefore, now, will be to no purpose with respect to that delicacy
which makes you wish it. It will be food for conjecture, for enquiry,
for wonder, almost while both our names are remembered, and while to
me it will bring the keenest misery in the severity of my
disappointment, it will cast over your own conduct a veil of mystery
and obscurity wholly subversive of that unclouded openness, that fair,
transparent ingenuousness, by which it has hitherto been
"Alas, then," said she, "how dreadfully have I erred, that whatever
path I now take must lead me wrong!"
"You overwhelm me with grief," cried Delvile, "by finding you thus
distressed, when I had hoped--Oh cruel Cecilia! how different to this
did I hope to have met you!--all your doubts settled, all your fears
removed, your mind perfectly composed, and ready, unreluctantly, to
ratify the promise with so much sweetness accorded me!--where now are
those hopes!--where now.--"
"Why will you not begone?" cried Cecilia, uneasily, "indeed it is too
late to stay."
"Tell me first," cried he, with great energy, "and let good Mrs
Charlton speak too,--ought not every objection to our union, however
potent, to give way, without further hesitation, to the certainty that
our intending it must become public? Who that hears of our meeting in
London, at such a season, in such circumstances, and at such hours,--"
"And why," cried Cecilia, angrily, "do you mention them, and yet
"I _must_ speak now," answered he with quickness, "or lose
forever all that is dear to me, and add to the misery of that loss, the
heart-piercing reflection of having injured her whom of all the world
I most love, most value, and most revere!"
"And how injured?" cried Cecilia, half alarmed and half displeased:
"Surely I must strangely have lived to fear now the voice of calumny?"
"If any one has ever," returned he, "so lived as to dare defy it, Miss
Beverley is she: but though safe by the established purity of your
character from calumny, there are other, and scarce less invidious
attacks, from which no one is exempt, and of which the refinement, the
sensibility of your mind, will render you but the more susceptible:
ridicule has shafts, and impertinence has arrows, which though against
innocence they may be levelled in vain, have always the power of
Struck with a truth which she could not controvert, Cecilia sighed
deeply, but spoke not.
"Mr Delvile is right," said Mrs Charlton, "and though your plan, my
dear Cecilia, was certainly virtuous and proper, when you set out from
Bury, the purpose of your journey must now be made so public, that it
will no longer be judicious nor rational."
Delvile poured forth his warmest thanks for this friendly
interposition, and then, strengthened by such an advocate, re-urged
all his arguments with redoubled hope and spirit.
Cecilia, disturbed, uncertain, comfortless, could frame her mind to no
resolution; she walked about the room, deliberated,--determined,--
wavered and deliberated again. Delvile then grew more urgent, and
represented so strongly the various mortifications which must follow
so tardy a renunciation of their intentions, that, terrified and
perplexed, and fearing the breach of their union would now be more
injurious to her than its ratification, she ceased all opposition to
his arguments, and uttered no words but of solicitation that he would
"I will," cried he, "I will begone this very moment. Tell me but first
you will think of what I have said, and refer me not to your letter,
but deign yourself to pronounce my doom, when you have considered if
it may not be softened."
To this she tacitly consented; and elated with fresh rising hope, he
recommended his cause to the patronage of Mrs Charlton, and then,
taking leave of Cecilia, "I go," he said, "though I have yet a
thousand things to propose and to supplicate, and though still in a
suspense that my temper knows ill how to endure; but I should rather
be rendered miserable than happy, in merely overpowering your reason
by entreaty. I leave you, therefore, to your own reflections; yet
remember,--and refuse not to remember with some compunction, that all
chance, all possibility of earthly happiness for _me_ depends
upon your decision."
He then tore himself away.
Cecilia, shocked at the fatigue she had occasioned her good old
friend, now compelled her to go to rest, and dedicated the remaining
part of the night to uninterrupted deliberation.
It seemed once more in her power to be mistress of her destiny; but
the very liberty of choice she had so much coveted, now attained,
appeared the most heavy of calamities; since, uncertain even what she
ought to do, she rather wished to be drawn than to lead, rather
desired to be guided than to guide. She was to be responsible not only
to the world but to herself for the whole of this momentous
transaction, and the terror of leaving either dissatisfied, made
independence burthensome, and unlimited power a grievance.
The happiness or misery which awaited her resolution were but
secondary considerations in the present state of her mind; her consent
to a clandestine action she lamented as an eternal blot to her
character, and the undoubted publication of that consent as equally
injurious to her fame. Neither retracting nor fulfilling her
engagement could now retrieve what was past, and in the bitterness of
regret for the error she had committed she thought happiness
unattainable for the remainder of her life.
In this gloomy despondence passed the night, her eyes never closed,
her determination never formed. Morning, however, came, and upon
something to fix was indispensable.
She now, therefore, finally employed herself in briefly, comparing the
good with the evil of giving Delvile wholly up, or becoming his for
In accepting him, she was exposed to all the displeasure of his
relations, and, which affected her most, to the indignant severity of
his mother: but not another obstacle could be found that seemed of any
weight to oppose him.
In refusing him she was liable to the derision of the world, to sneers
from strangers, and remonstrances from her friends, to becoming a
topic for ridicule, if not for slander, and an object of curiosity if
not of contempt.
The ills, therefore, that threatened her marriage, though most
afflicting, were least disgraceful, and those which awaited its
breach, if less serious, were more mortifying.
At length, after weighing every circumstance as well as her perturbed
spirits would permit, she concluded that so late to reject him must
bring misery without any alleviation, while accepting him, though
followed by wrath and reproach, left some opening for future hope, and
some prospect of better days.
To fulfil, therefore, her engagement was her final resolution.
Back to Full Books