Cecilia vol. 3
Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d'Arblay)
Part 2 out of 7
much more propriety, urge, nay enjoin you to accept me!--You hesitate
at least,--O Miss Beverley!--I see in that hesitation--"
"Nothing, nothing!" cried she, hastily, and checking her rising
irresolution; "there is nothing for you to see, but that every way I
now turn I have rendered myself miserable!"
"Mortimer," said Mrs Delvile, seized with terror as she penetrated into
the mental yielding of Cecilia, "you have now spoken to Miss Beverley;
and unwilling as I am to obtrude upon her our difference of sentiment,
it is necessary, since she has heard you, that I, also, should claim
"First let her speak!" cried Delvile, who in her apparent wavering
built new hopes, "first let her answer what she has already deigned to
"No, first let her hear!" cried Mrs Delvile, "for so only can she judge
what answer will reflect upon her most honour."
Then, solemnly turning to Cecilia, she continued: "You see here, Miss
Beverley, a young man who passionately adores you, and who forgets in
his adoration friends, family, and connections, the opinions in which
he has been educated, the honour of his house, his own former views,
and all his primitive sense of duty, both public and private!--A
passion built on such a defalcation of principle renders him unworthy
your acceptance; and not more ignoble for him would be a union which
would blot his name from the injured stock whence he sprung, than
indelicate for you, who upon such terms ought to despise him."
"Heavens, madam," exclaimed Delvile, "what a speech!"
"O never," cried Cecilia, rising, "may I hear such another! Indeed,
madam, there is no occasion to probe me so deeply, for I would not now
enter your family, for all that the whole world could offer me!"
"At length, then, madam," cried Delvile, turning reproachfully to his
mother, "are you satisfied? is your purpose now answered? and is the
dagger you have transfixed in my heart sunk deep enough to appease
"O could I draw it out," cried Mrs Delvile, "and leave upon it no stain
of ignominy, with what joy should my own bosom receive it, to heal the
wound I have most compulsatorily inflicted!--Were this excellent young
creature portionless, I would not hesitate in giving my consent; every
claim of interest would be overbalanced by her virtues, and I would not
grieve to see you poor, where so conscious you were happy; but here to
concede, would annihilate every hope with which hitherto I have looked
up to my son."
"Let us now, then, madam," said Cecilia, "break up this conference. I
have spoken, I have heard, the decree is past, and therefore,"--
"You are indeed an angel!" cried Mrs Delvile, rising and embracing her;
"and never can I reproach my son with what has passed, when I consider
for what an object the sacrifice was planned. _You_ cannot be unhappy,
you have purchased peace by the exercise of virtue, and the close of
every day will bring to you a reward, in the sweets of a self-approving
mind.--But we will part, since you think it right; I do wrong to
occasion any delay."
"No, we will _not_ part!" cried Delvile, with encreasing vehemence; "if
you force me, madam, from her, you will drive me to distraction! What
is there in this world that can offer me a recompense? And what can
pride even to the proudest afford as an equivalent? Her perfections you
acknowledge, her greatness of mind is like your own; she has generously
given me her heart,--Oh sacred and fascinating charge! Shall I, after
such a deposite, consent to an eternal separation? Repeal, repeal your
sentence, my Cecilia! let us live to ourselves and our consciences, and
leave the vain prejudices of the world to those who can be paid by them
for the loss of all besides!"
"Is this conflict, then," said Mrs Delvile, "to last for-ever? Oh end
it, Mortimer, finish it, and make me happy! she is just, and will
forgive you, she is noble-minded, and will honour you. Fly, then, at
this critical moment, for in flight alone is your safety; and then will
your father see the son of his hopes, and then shall the fond blessings
of your idolizing mother soothe all your affliction, and soften all
"Oh madam!" cried Delvile, "for mercy, for humanity, forbear this cruel
"Nay, more than supplication, you have my commands; commands you have
never yet disputed, and misery, ten-fold misery, will follow their
disobedience. Hear me, Mortimer, for I speak prophetically; I know your
heart, I know it to be formed for rectitude and duty, or destined by
their neglect to repentance and horror."
Delvile, struck by these words, turned suddenly from them both, and in
gloomy despondence walked to the other end of the room. Mrs Delvile
perceived the moment of her power, and determined to pursue the blow:
taking, therefore, the hand of Cecilia, while her eyes sparkled with
the animation of reviving hope, "See," she cried, pointing to her son,
"see if I am deceived! can he bear even the suggestion of future
contrition! Think you when it falls upon him, he will support it
better? No; he will sink under it. And you, pure as you are of mind,
and steadfast in principle, what would your chance be of happiness with
a man who never erring till he knew you, could never look at you
without regret, be his fondness what it might?"
"Oh madam," cried the greatly shocked Cecilia, "let him, then, see me
no more!--take, take him all to yourself! forgive, console him! I will
not have the misery of involving him in repentance, nor of incurring
the reproaches of the mother he so much reverences!"
"Exalted creature!" cried Mrs Delvile; "tenderness such as this would
confer honour upon a monarch." Then, calling out exultingly to her son,
"See," she added, "how great a woman can act, when stimulated by
generosity, and a just sense of duty! Follow then, at least, the
example you ought to have led, and deserve my esteem and love, or be
content to forego them."
"And can I only deserve them," said Delvile, in a tone of the deepest
anguish, "by a compliance to which not merely my happiness, but my
reason must be sacrificed? What honour do I injure that is not
factitious? What evil threatens our union, that is not imaginary? In
the general commerce of the world it may be right to yield to its
prejudices, but in matters of serious importance, it is weakness to be
shackled by scruples so frivolous, and it is cowardly to be governed by
the customs we condemn. Religion and the laws of our country should
then alone be consulted, and where those are neither opposed nor
infringed, we should hold ourselves superior to all other
"Mistaken notions!" said Mrs Delvile; "and how long do you flatter
yourself this independent happiness would endure? How long could you
live contented by mere self-gratification, in defiance of the censure
of mankind, the renunciation of your family, and the curses of your
"The curses of my father!" repeated he, starting and shuddering, "O no,
he could never be so barbarous!"
"He could," said she, steadily, "nor do I doubt but he would. If now,
however, you are affected by the prospect of his disclaiming you, think
but what you will feel when first forbid to appear before either of us!
and think of your remorse for involving Miss Beverley in such
"O speak not such words!" cried he, with agonizing earnestness, "to
disgrace her,--to be banished by you,--present not, I conjure you, such
scenes to my imagination!"
"Yet would they be unavoidable," continued she; "nor have I said to you
all; blinded as you now are by passion, your nobler feelings are only
obscured, not extirpated; think, then, how they will all rise in
revenge of your insulted dignity, when your name becomes a stranger to
your ears, and you are first saluted by one so meanly adopted!--"
"Hold, hold, madam," interrupted he, "this is more than I can bear!"
"Heavens!" still continued she, disregarding his entreaty, "what in the
universe can pay you for that first moment of indignity! Think of it
well ere you proceed, and anticipate your sensations, lest the shock
should wholly overcome you. How will the blood of your wronged
ancestors rise into your guilty cheeks, and how will your heart throb
with secret shame and reproach, when wished joy upon your marriage by
the name of _Mr Beverley_!"
Delvile, stung to the soul, attempted not any answer, but walked about
the room in the utmost disorder of mind. Cecilia would have retired,
but feared irritating him to some extravagance; and Mrs Delvile,
looking after him, added "For myself, I would still see, for I should
pity your wife,--but NEVER would I behold my son when sunk into an
object of compassion!"
"It shall not be!" cried he, in a transport of rage; "cease, cease to
distract me!--be content, madam,--you have conquered!"
"Then you are my son!" cried she, rapturously embracing him; "now I
know again my Mortimer! now I see the fair promise of his upright
youth, and the flattering completion of my maternal expectations!"
Cecilia, finding all thus concluded, desired nothing so much as to
congratulate them on their reconciliation; but having only said "Let
_me_, too,--" her voice failed her, she stopt short, and hoping she had
been unheard, would have glided out of the room.
But Delvile, penetrated and tortured, yet delighted at this
sensibility, broke from his mother, and seizing her hand, exclaimed,
"Oh Miss Beverley, if _you_ are not happy---"
"I am! I am!" cried she, with quickness; "let me pass,--and think no
more of me."
"That voice,--those looks,--" cried he, still holding her, "they speak
not serenity!--Oh if I have injured your peace,--if that heart, which,
pure as angels, deserves to be as sacred from sorrow, through my means,
or for my sake, suffers any diminution of tranquility--"
"None, none!" interrupted she, with precipitation.
"I know well," cried he, "your greatness of soul; and if this dreadful
sacrifice gives lasting torture only to myself,--if of _your_ returning
happiness I could be assured,--I would struggle to bear it."
"You _may_, be assured of it," cried she, with reviving dignity, "I
have no right to expect escaping all calamity, but while I share the
common lot, I will submit to it without repining."
"Heaven then bless, and hovering angels watch you!" cried he, and
letting go her hand, he ran hastily out of the room.
"Oh Virtue, how bright is thy triumph!" exclaimed Mrs Delvile, flying
up to Cecilia, and folding her in her arms; "Noble, incomparable young
creature! I knew not that so much worth was compatible with human
But the heroism of Cecilia, in losing its object, lost its force; she
sighed, she could not speak, tears gushed into her eyes, and kissing
Mrs Delvile's hand with a look that shewed her inability to converse
with her, she hastened, though scarce able to support herself, away,
with intention to shut herself up in her own apartment: and Mrs
Delvile, who perceived that her utmost fortitude was exhausted, opposed
not her going, and wisely forbore to encrease her emotion, by following
her even with her blessings.
But when she came into the hall, she started, and could proceed no
further; for there she beheld Delvile, who in too great agony to be
seen, had stopt to recover some composure before he quitted the house.
At the first sound of an opening door, he was hastily escaping; but
perceiving Cecilia, and discerning her situation, he more hastily
turned back, saying, "Is it possible?--To _me_ were you coming?"
She shook her head, and made a motion with her hand to say no, and
would then have gone on.
"You are weeping!" cried he, "you are pale!--Oh Miss Beverley! is this
"I am very well,--" cried she, not knowing what she answered, "I am
quite well,--pray go,--I am very--" her words died away inarticulated.
"O what a voice is that!" exclaimed he, "it pierces my very soul!"
Mrs Delvile now came to the parlour door, and looked aghast at the
situation in which she saw them: Cecilia again moved on, and reached
the stairs, but tottered, and was obliged to cling to the banisters.
"O suffer me to support you," cried he; "you are not able to stand,--
whither is it you would go?"
"Any where,--I don't know,--" answered she, in faltering accents, "but
if you would leave me, I should be well."
And, turning from him, she walked again towards the parlour, finding by
her shaking frame, the impossibility of getting unaided up the stairs.
"Give me your hand, my love," said Mrs Delvile, cruelly alarmed by this
return; and the moment they re-entered the parlour, she said
impatiently to her son, "Mortimer, why are you not gone?"
He heard her not, however; his whole attention was upon Cecilia, who,
sinking into a chair, hid her face against Mrs Delvile: but, reviving
in a few moments, and blushing at the weakness she had betrayed, she
raised her head, and, with an assumed serenity, said, "I am better,--
much better,--I was rather sick,--but it is over; and now, if you will
excuse me, I will go to my own room."
She then arose, but her knees trembled, and her head was giddy, and
again seating herself, she forced a faint smile, and said, "Perhaps I
had better keep quiet."
"Can I bear this!" cried Delvile, "no, it shakes all my resolution!--
loveliest and most beloved Cecilia! forgive my rash declaration, which
I hear retract and forswear, and which no false pride, no worthless
vanity shall again surprise from me!--raise, then, your eyes--"
"Hot-headed young man!" interrupted Mrs Delvile, with an air of haughty
displeasure, "if you cannot be rational, at least be silent. Miss
Beverley, we will both leave him."
Shame, and her own earnestness, how restored some strength to Cecilia,
who read with terror in the looks of Mrs Delvile the passions with
which she was agitated, and instantly obeyed her by rising; but her
son, who inherited a portion of her own spirit, rushed between them
both and the door, and exclaimed, "Stay, madam, stay! I cannot let you
go: I see your intention, I see your dreadful purpose; you will work
upon the feelings of Miss Beverley, you will extort from her a promise
to see me no more!"
"Oppose not my passing!" cried Mrs Delvile, whose voice, face and
manner spoke the encreasing disturbance of her soul; "I have but too
long talked to you in vain; I must now take some better method for the
security of the honour of my family."
This moment appeared to Delvile decisive; and casting off in
desperation all timidity and restraint, he suddenly sprang forward, and
snatching the hand of Cecilia from his mother, he exclaimed, "I cannot,
I will not give her up!--nor now, madam, nor ever!--I protest it most
solemnly! I affirm it by my best hopes! I swear it by all that I hold
Grief and horror next to frenzy at a disappointment thus unexpected,
and thus peremptory, rose in the face of Mrs Delvile, who, striking her
hand upon her forehead, cried, "My brain is on fire!" and rushed out of
Cecilia had now no difficulty to disengage herself from Delvile, who,
shocked at the exclamation, and confounded by the sudden departure of
his mother, hastened eagerly to pursue her: she had only flown into the
next parlour; but, upon following her thither, what was his dread and
his alarm, when he saw her extended, upon the floor, her face, hands
and neck all covered with blood! "Great Heaven!" he exclaimed,
prostrating himself by her side, "what is it you have done!--where are
you wounded?--what direful curse have you denounced against your son?"
Not able to speak, she angrily shook her head, and indignantly made a
motion with her hand, that commanded him from her sight.
Cecilia, who had followed, though half dead with terror, had yet the
presence of mind to ring the bell. A servant came immediately; and
Delvile, starting up from his mother, ordered him to fetch the first
surgeon or physician he could find.
The alarm now brought the rest of the servants into the room, and Mrs
Delvile suffered herself to be raised from the ground, and seated in a
chair; she was still silent, but shewed a disgust to any assistance
from her son, that made him deliver her into the hands of the servants,
while, in speechless agony, he only looked on and watched her.
Neither did Cecilia, though forgetting her own sorrow, and no longer
sensible of personal weakness, venture to approach her: uncertain what
had happened, she yet considered herself as the ultimate cause of this
dreadful scene, and feared to risk the effect of the smallest
The servant returned with a surgeon in a few minutes: Cecilia, unable
to wait and hear what he would say, glided hastily out of the room; and
Delvile, in still greater agitation, followed her quick into the next
parlour; but having eagerly advanced to speak to her, he turned
precipitately about, and hurrying into the hall, walked in hasty steps
up and down it, without courage to enquire what was passing.
At length the surgeon came out: Delvile flew to him, and stopt him, but
could ask no question. His countenance, however, rendered words
unnecessary; the surgeon understood him, and said, "The lady will do
very well; she has burst a blood vessel, but I think it will be of no
consequence. She must be kept quiet and easy, and upon no account
suffered to talk, or to use any exertion."
Delvile now let him go, and flew himself into a corner to return thanks
to heaven that the evil, however great, was less than he had at first
apprehended. He then went into the parlour to Cecilia, eagerly calling
out, "Heaven be praised, my mother has not voluntarily cursed me!"
"O now then," cried Cecilia, "once more make her bless you! the
violence of her agitation has already almost destroyed her, and her
frame is too weak for this struggle of contending passions;--go to her,
then, and calm the tumult of her spirits, by acquiescing wholly in her
will, and being to her again the son she thinks she has lost!"
"Alas!" said he, in a tone of the deepest dejection; "I have been
preparing myself for that purpose, and waited but your commands to
finally determine me."
"Let us both go to her instantly," said Cecilia; "the least delay may
She now led the way, and approaching Mrs Delvile, who, faint and weak,
was seated upon an arm chair, and resting her head upon the shoulder of
a maid servant, said, "Lean, dearest madam, upon _me_, and speak not,
but hear us!"
She then took the place of the maid, and desired her and the other
servants to go out of the room. Delvile advanced, but his mother's eye,
recovering, at his sight, its wonted fire, darted upon him a glance of
such displeasure, that, shuddering with the apprehension of inflaming
again those passions which threatened her destruction, he hastily sank
on one knee, and abruptly exclaimed, "Look at me with less abhorrence,
for I come but to resign myself to your will."
"Mine, also," cried Cecilia, "that will shall be; you need not speak
it, we know it, and here solemnly we promise that we will separate for
"Revive, then, my mother," said Delvile, "rely upon our plighted
honours, and think only of your health, for your son will never more
Mrs Delvile, much surprised, and strongly affected, held out her hand
to him, with a look of mingled compassion and obligation, and dropping
her head upon the bosom of Cecilia, who with her other arm she pressed
towards her, she burst into an agony of tears.
"Go, go, Sir!" said Cecilia, cruelly alarmed, "you have said all that
is necessary; leave Mrs Delvile now, and she will be more composed."
Delvile instantly obeyed, and then his mother, whose mouth still
continued to fill with blood, though it gushed not from her with the
violence it had begun, was prevailed upon by the prayers of Cecilia to
consent to be conveyed into her room; and, as her immediate removal to
another house might be dangerous, she complied also, though very
reluctantly, with her urgent entreaties, that she would take entire
possession of it till the next day.
This point gained, Cecilia left her, to communicate what had passed to
Mrs Charlton; but was told by one of the servants that Mr Delvile
begged first to speak with her in the next room.
She hesitated for a moment whether to grant this request; but
recollecting it was right to acquaint him with his mother's intention
of staying all night, she went to him.
"How indulgent you are," cried he, in a melancholy voice, as she opened
the door; "I am now going post to Dr Lyster, whom I shall entreat to
come hither instantly; but I am fearful of again disturbing my mother,
and must therefore rely upon you to acquaint her what is become of me."
"Most certainly; I have begged her to remain here to-night, and I hope
I shall prevail with her to continue with me till Dr Lyster's arrival;
after which she will, doubtless, be guided either in staying longer, or
removing elsewhere, by his advice."
"You are all goodness," said he, with a deep sigh; "and how I shall
support--but I mean not to return hither, at least not to this house,
--unless, indeed, Dr Lyster's account should be alarming. I leave my
mother, therefore, to your kindness, and only hope, only entreat, that
your own health,--your own peace of mind--neither by attendance upon
her--by anxiety--by pity for her son--"
He stopt, and seemed gasping for breath; Cecilia turned from him to
hide her emotion, and he proceeded with a rapidity of speech that
shewed his terror of continuing with her any longer, and his struggle
with himself to be gone: "The promise you have made in both our names
to my mother, I shall hold myself bound to observe. I see, indeed, that
her reason or her life would fall the sacrifice of further opposition:
of myself, therefore, it is no longer time to think.--I take of you no
leave--I cannot! yet I would fain tell you the high reverence--but it
is better to say nothing--"
"Much better," cried Cecilia, with a forced and faint smile; "lose not,
therefore, an instant, but hasten to this good Dr Lyster."
"I will," answered he, going to the door; but there, stopping and
turning round, "one thing I should yet," he added, "wish to say,--I
have been impetuous, violent, unreasonable,--with shame and with regret
I recollect how impetuous, and how unreasonable: I have persecuted,
where I ought in silence to have submitted; I have reproached, where I
ought in candour to have approved; and in the vehemence with which I
have pursued you, I have censured that very dignity of conduct which
has been the basis of my admiration, my esteem, my devotion! but never
can I forget, and never without fresh wonder remember, the sweetness
with which you have borne with me, even when most I offended you. For
this impatience, this violence, this inconsistency, I now most
sincerely beg your pardon; and if, before I go, you could so far
condescend as to pronounce my forgiveness, with a lighter heart, I
think, I should quit you."
"Do not talk of forgiveness," said Cecilia, "you have never offended
me; I always knew--always was sure--always imputed--" she stopt, unable
Deeply penetrated by her apparent distress, he with difficulty
restrained himself from falling at her feet; but after a moment's pause
and recollection, he said, "I understand the generous indulgence you
have shewn me, an indulgence I shall ever revere, and ever grieve to
have abused. I ask you not to remember me,--far, far happier do I wish
you than such a remembrance could make you; but I will pain the
humanity of your disposition no longer. You will tell my mother--but no
matter!--Heaven preserve you, my angelic Cecilia!--Miss Beverley, I
mean, Heaven guide, protect, and bless you! And should I see you no
more, should this be the last sad moment---"
He paused, but presently recovering himself, added, "May I hear, at
least, of your tranquillity, for that alone can have any chance to
quiet or repress the anguish I feel here!"
He then abruptly retreated, and ran out of the house.
Cecilia for a while remained almost stupified with sorrow; she forgot
Mrs Delvile, she forgot Mrs Charlton, she forgot her own design of
apologizing to one, or assisting the other: she continued in the
posture in which he had left her, quite without motion, and almost
From this lethargy of sadness Cecilia was soon, however, awakened by
the return of the surgeon, who had brought with him a physician to
consult upon Mrs Delvile's situation. Terror for the mother once more
drove the son from her thoughts, and she waited with the most
apprehensive impatience to hear the result of the consultation. The
physician declined giving any positive opinion, but, having written a
prescription, only repeated the injunction of the surgeon, that she
should be kept extremely quiet, and on no account be suffered to talk.
Cecilia, though shocked and frightened at the occasion, was yet by no
means sorry at an order which thus precluded all conversation; unfitted
for it by her own misery, she was glad to be relieved from all
necessity of imposing upon herself the irksome task of finding subjects
for discourse to which she was wholly indifferent, while obliged with
sedulity to avoid those by which alone her mind was occupied.
The worthy Mrs Charlton heard the events of the morning with the utmost
concern, but charged her grand-daughters to assist her young friend in
doing the honours of her house to Mrs Delvile, while she ordered
another apartment to be prepared for Cecilia, to whom she administered
all the consolation her friendly zeal could suggest.
Cecilia, however unhappy, had too just a way of thinking to indulge in
selfish grief, where occasion called her to action for the benefit of
others: scarce a moment, therefore now did she allow to sorrow and
herself, but assiduously bestowed the whole of her time upon her two
sick friends, dividing her attention according to their own desire or
convenience, without consulting or regarding any choice of her own.
Choice, indeed, she had none; she loved Mrs Charlton, she revered Mrs
Delvile; the warmest wish with which her heart glowed, was the recovery
of both, but too deep was her affliction to receive pleasure from
Two days passed thus, during which the constancy of her attendance,
which at another time would have fatigued her, proved the only relief
she was capable of receiving. Mrs Delvile was evidently affected by her
vigilant tenderness, but seemed equally desirous with herself to make
use of the prohibition to speech as an excuse for uninterrupted
silence. She enquired not even after her son, though the eagerness of
her look towards the door whenever it was opened, shewed either a hope,
or an apprehension that he might enter. Cecilia wished to tell her
whither he was gone, but dreaded trusting her voice with his name; and
their silence, after a while, seemed so much by mutual consent, that
she had soon as little courage as she had inclination to break it.
The arrival of Dr Lyster gave her much satisfaction, for upon him
rested her hopes of Mrs Delvile's re-establishment. He sent for her
down stairs, to enquire whether he was expected; and hearing that he
was not, desired her to announce him, as the smallest emotion might do
She returned up stairs, and after a short preparation, said, "Your
favourite Dr Lyster, madam, is come, and I shall be much the happier
for having you under his care."
"Dr Lyster?" cried she, "who sent for him?"
"I believe--I fancy--Mr Delvile fetched him."
"My son?--is he here, then?"
"No,--he went, the moment he left you, for Dr Lyster,--and Dr Lyster is
come by himself."
"Does he write to you?"
"No, indeed!--he writes not--he comes not--dearest madam be satisfied,
he will do neither to me ever more!"
"Exemplary young man!" cried she, in a voice hardly audible, "how great
is his loss!--unhappy Mortimer!--ill-fated, and ill-rewarded!"
She sighed, and said no more; but this short conversation, the only one
which had passed between them since her illness, agitated her so much,
that Dr Lyster, who now came up stairs, found her in a state of
trembling and weakness that both alarmed and surprised him. Cecilia,
glad of an opportunity to be gone, left the room, and sent, by Dr
Lyster's desire, for the physician and surgeon who had already
After they had been some time with their patient, they retired to a
consultation, and when it was over, Dr Lyster waited upon Cecilia in
the parlour, and assured her he had no apprehension of danger for Mrs
Delvile, "Though, for another week," he added, "I would have her
continue your _patient_, as she is not yet fit to be removed. But pray
mind that she is kept quiet; let nobody go near her, not even her own
son. By the way he is waiting for me at the inn, so I'll just speak
again to his mother, and be gone."
Cecilia was well pleased by this accidental information, to learn both
the anxiety of Delvile for his mother, and the steadiness of his
forbearance for himself. When Dr Lyster came down stairs again, "I
shall stay," he said, "till to-morrow, but I hope she will be able in
another week to get to Bristol. In the mean time I shall leave her, I
see, with an excellent nurse. But, my good young lady, in your care of
her, don't neglect yourself; I am not quite pleased with your looks,
though it is but an old fashioned speech to tell you so.--What have you
been doing to yourself?"
"Nothing;" said she, a little embarrassed; "but had you not better have
"Why yes, I think I had;--but what shall I do with my young man?"
Cecilia understood the hint, but coloured, and made no answer.
"He is waiting for me," he continued, "at the inn; however, I never yet
knew the young man I would prefer to a young woman, so if you will give
me some tea here, I shall certainly jilt him."
Cecilia instantly rang the bell, and ordered tea.
"Well now," said he, "remember the sin of this breach of appointment
lies wholly at your door. I shall tell him you laid violent hands on
me; and if that is not, enough to excuse me, I shall desire he will try
whether he could be more of a stoic with you himself."
"I think I must unorder the tea," said she, with what gaiety she could
assume, "if I am to be responsible for any mischief from your drinking
"No, no, you shan't be off now; but pray would it be quite out of rule
for you to send and ask him to come to us?"
"Why I believe--I think--" said she, stammering, "it's very likely he
may be engaged."
"Well, well, I don't mean to propose any violent incongruity. You must
excuse my blundering; I understand but little of the etiquette of young
ladies. 'Tis a science too intricate to be learned without more study
than we plodding men of business can well spare time for. However, when
I have done _writing_ prescriptions, I will set about _reading_ them,
provided you will be my instructress."
Cecilia, though ashamed of a charge in which prudery and affectation
were implied, was compelled to submit to it, as either to send for
Delvile, or explain her objections, was equally impossible. The Miss
Charltons, therefore, joined them, and they went to tea.
Just as they had done, a note was delivered to Dr Lyster; "see here,"
cried he, when he had read it, "what a fine thing it is to be a _young_
man! Why now, Mr Mortimer understands as much of all this _etiquette_
as you ladies do yourselves; for he only writes a note even to ask how
his mother does."
He then put it into Cecilia's hand.
_To Dr Lyster_.
Tell me, my dear Sir, how you have found my mother? I am uneasy at your
long stay, and engaged with my friend Biddulph, or I should have
followed you in person.
"So you see," continued the doctor, "I need not do penance for engaging
myself to you, when this young gentleman can find such good
entertainment for himself."
Cecilia who well knew the honourable motive of Delvile's engagement,
with difficulty forbore speaking in his vindication. Dr Lyster
immediately began an answer, but before he had finished it, called out,
"Now as I am told you are a very good young woman, I think you can do
no less than assist me to punish this gay spark, for playing the
macaroni, when he ought to visit his sick mother."
Cecilia, much hurt for Delvile, and much confused for herself, looked
abashed, but knew not what to answer.
"My scheme," continued the doctor, "is to tell him, that as he has
found one engagement for tea, he may find another for supper; but that
as to me, I am better disposed of, for you insist upon keeping me to
yourself. Come, what says _etiquette_? may I treat myself with this
"Certainly," said Cecilia, endeavouring to look pleased, "if you will
favour us with your company, Miss Charltons and myself will think the
_puffing_ should rather be ours than yours."
"That, then," said the doctor, "will not answer my purpose, for I mean
the puff to be my own, or how do I punish him? So, suppose I tell him
I shall not only sup with three young ladies, but be invited to a
_tete-a-tete_ with one of them into the bargain?"
The young ladies only laughed, and the doctor finished his note, and
sent it away; and then, turning gaily to Cecilia, "Come," he said, "why
don't you give me this invitation? surely you don't mean to make me
guilty of perjury?"
Cecilia, but little disposed for pleasantry, would gladly now have
dropt the subject; but Dr Lyster, turning to the Miss Charltons, said,
"Young ladies, I call you both to witness if this is not very bad
usage: this young woman has connived at my writing a downright
falsehood, and all the time took me in to believe it was a truth. The
only way I can think of to cure her of such frolics, is for both of you
to leave us together, and so make her keep her word whether she will or
The Miss Charltons took the hint, and went away; while Cecilia, who had
not at all suspected he meant seriously to speak with her, remained
extremely perplexed to think what he had to say.
"Mrs Delvile," cried he, continuing the same air of easy good humour,
"though I allowed her not to speak to me above twenty words, took up
near ten of them to tell me that you had behaved to her like an angel.
Why so she ought, cried I; what else was she sent for here to look so
like one? I charged her, therefore, to take all that as a thing of
course; and to prove that I really think what I say, I am now going to
make a trial of you, that, if you are any thing less, will induce you
to order some of your men to drive me into the street. The truth is, I
have had a little commission given me, which in the first place I know
not how to introduce, and which, in the second, as far as I can judge,
appears to be absolutely superfluous."
Cecilia now felt uneasy and alarmed, and begged him to explain himself.
He then dropt the levity with which he had begun the discourse, and
after a grave, yet gentle preparation, expressive of his unwillingness
to distress her, and his firm persuasion of her uncommon worthiness, he
acquainted her that he was no stranger to her situation with respect to
the Delvile family.
"Good God!" cried she, blushing and much amazed; "and who"---
"I knew it," said he, "from the moment I attended Mr Mortimer in his
illness at Delvile Castle. He could not conceal from me that the seat
of his disorder was his mind; and I could not know that, without
readily conjecturing the cause, when I saw who was his father's guest,
and when I knew what was his father's character. He found he was
betrayed to me, and upon my advising a journey, he understood me
properly. His openness to counsel, and the manly firmness with which he
behaved in quitting you, made me hope the danger was blown over. But
last week, when I was at the Castle, where I have for some time
attended Mr Delvile, who has had a severe fit of the gout, I found him
in an agitation of spirits that made me apprehend it would be thrown
into his stomach. I desired Mrs Delvile to use her influence to calm
him; but she was herself in still greater emotion, and acquainting me
she was obliged to leave him, desired I would spend with him every
moment in my power. I have therefore almost lived at the Castle during
her absence, and, in the course of our many conversations, he has
acknowledged to me the uneasiness under which he has laboured, from the
intelligence concerning his son, which he had just received."
Cecilia wished here to enquire _how_ received, and from whom, but had
not the courage, and therefore he proceeded.
"I was still with the father when Mr Mortimer arrived post at my house
to fetch me hither. I was sent for home; he informed me of his errand
without disguise, for he knew I was well acquainted with the original
secret whence all the evil arose. I told him my distress in what manner
to leave his father; and he was extremely shocked himself when
acquainted with his situation. We agreed that it would be vain to
conceal from him the indisposition of Mrs Delvile, which the delay of
her return, and a thousand other accidents, might in some unfortunate
way make known to him. He commissioned me, therefore, to break it to
him, that he might consent to my journey, and at the same time to quiet
his own mind, by assuring him all he had apprehended was wholly at an
He stopt, and looked to see how Cecilia bore these words.
"It is all at an end, Sir;" said she, with firmness; "but I have not
yet heard your commission; what, and from whom is that?"
"I am thoroughly satisfied it is unnecessary;" he answered, "since the
young man can but submit, and you can but give him up."
"But still, if there is a message, it is fit I should hear it."
"If you chase it, so it is. I told Mr Delvile whither I was coming, and
I repeated to him his son's assurances. He was relieved, but not
satisfied; he would not see him, and gave me for him a prohibition of
extreme severity, and to _you_ he bid me say--"
"From _him_, then, is my message?" cried Cecilia, half frightened, and
"Yes," said he, understanding her immediately, "for the son, after
giving me his first account, had the wisdom and forbearance not once to
"I am very glad," said she, with a mixture of admiration and regret,
"to hear it. But, what, Sir, said Mr Delvile?"
"He bid me tell you that either _he_, or _you_ must see his son never
"It was indeed unnecessary," cried she, colouring with resentment, "to
send me such a message. I meant not to see him again, he meant not to
desire it. I return him, however, no answer, and I will make him no
promise; to Mrs Delvile alone I hold myself bound; to him, send what
messages he may, I shall always hold myself free. But believe me, Dr
Lyster, if with his name, his son had inherited his character, his
desire of our separation would be feeble, and trifling, compared with
"I am sorry, my good young lady," said he, "to have given you this
disturbance; yet I admire your spirit, and doubt not but it will enable
you to forget any little disappointment you may have suffered. And
what, after all, have you to regret? Mortimer Delvile is, indeed, a
young man that any woman might wish to attach; but every woman cannot
have him, and you, of all women, have least reason to repine in missing
him, for scarcely is there another man you may not chuse or reject at
Little as was the consolation Cecilia could draw from this speech, she
was sensible it became not her situation to make complaints, and
therefore, to end the conversation she proposed calling in the Miss
"No, no," said he, "I must step up again to Mrs Delvile, and then be-
gone. To-morrow morning I shall but call to see how she is, and leave
some directions, and set off. Mr Mortimer Delvile accompanies me back:
but he means to return hither in a week, in order to travel with his
mother to Bristol. Mean time, I purpose to bring about a reconciliation
between him and his father, whose prejudices are more intractable than
any man's I ever met with."
"It will be strange indeed," said Cecilia, "should a reconciliation
_now_ be difficult!"
"True; but it is long since he was young himself, and the softer
affections he never was acquainted with, and only regards them in his
son as derogatory to his whole race. However, if there were not some
few such men, there would hardly be a family in the kingdom that could
count a great grand-father. I am not, I must own, of his humour myself,
but I think it rather peculiarly stranger, than peculiarly worse than
most other peoples; and how, for example, was that of _your_ uncle a
whit the better? He was just as fond of _his_ name, as if, like Mr
Delvile, he could trace it from the time of the Saxons."
Cecilia strongly felt the truth of this observation, but not chusing to
discuss it, made not any answer, and Dr Lyster, after a few good-
natured apologies, both for his friends the Delviles and himself, went
"What continual disturbance," cried she, when left alone, "keeps me
thus for-ever from rest! no sooner is one wound closed, but another is
opened; mortification constantly succeeds distress, and when my heart
is spared; my pride is attacked, that not a moment of tranquility may
ever be allowed me! Had the lowest of women won the affections of Mr
Delvile, could his father with less delicacy or less decency have
acquainted her with his inflexible disapprobation? To send with so
little ceremony a message so contemptuous and so peremptory!--but
perhaps it is better, for had he, too, like Mrs Delvile, joined
kindness with rejection, I might still more keenly have felt the
perverseness of my destiny."
The next morning Dr Lyster called early, and having visited Mrs
Delvile, and again met the two gentlemen of the faculty in whose care
she was to remain, he took his leave. But not without contriving first
to speak a few words to Cecilia in private, in which he charged her to
be careful of her health, and re-animate her spirits. "Don't suppose,"
said he, "that because I am a friend of the Delvile family, I am either
blind to your merits, or to their foibles, far from it; but then why
should they interfere with one another? Let them keep their prejudices,
which, though different, are not worse than their neighbours, and do
you retain your excellencies, and draw from them the happiness they
ought to give you. People reason and refine themselves into a thousand
miseries, by chusing to settle that they can only be contented one way;
whereas, there are fifty ways, if they would but look about them, that
would commonly do as well." "I believe, indeed, you are right,"
answered Cecilia, "and I thank you for the admonition; I will do what I
can towards studying your scheme of philosophy, and it is always one
step to amendment, to be convinced that we want it."
"You are a sensible and charming girl," said Dr Lyster, "and Mr
Delvile, should he find a daughter-in-law descended in a right line
from Egbert, first king of all England, won't be so well off as if he
had satisfied himself with you. However, the old gentleman has a fair
right, after all, to be pleased his own way, and let us blame him how
we will, we shall find, upon sifting, it is for no other reason but
because his humour happens to clash with our own."
"That, indeed," said Cecilia, smiling, "is a truth incontrovertible!
and a truth to which, for the future, I will endeavour to give more
weight. But will you permit me now to ask one question?--Can you tell
me from whom, how, or when the intelligence which has caused all this
She hesitated, but, comprehending her readily, he answered "How they
got at it, I never heard, for I never thought it worth while to
enquire, as it is so generally known, that nobody I meet with seems
ignorant of it."
This was another, and a cruel shock to Cecilia, and Dr Lyster,
perceiving it, again attempted to comfort her. "That the affair is
somewhat spread," said he, "is now not to be helped, and therefore
little worth thinking of; every body will agree that the choice of both
does honour to both, and nobody need be ashamed to be successor to
either, whenever the course of things leads Mr Mortimer and yourself to
make another election. He wisely intends to go abroad, and will not
return till he is his own man again. And as to you, my good young lady,
what, after a short time given to vexation, need interrupt your
happiness? You have the whole world before you, with youth, fortune,
talents, beauty and independence; drive, therefore, from your head this
unlucky affair, and remember there can hardly be a family in the
kingdom, this one excepted, that will not rejoice in a connection with
He then good-humouredly shook hands with her, and went into his chaise.
Cecilia, though not slow in remarking the ease and philosophy with
which every one can argue upon the calamities, and moralize upon the
misconduct of others, had still the candour and good sense to see that
there was reason in what he urged, and to resolve upon making the best
use in her power of the hints for consolation she might draw from his
During the following week, she devoted herself almost wholly to Mrs
Delvile, sharing with the maid, whom she had brought with her from the
Castle, the fatigue of nursing her, and leaving to the Miss Charltons
the chief care of their grandmother. For Mrs Delvile appeared every
hour more sensible of her attention, and more desirous of her presence,
and though neither of them spoke, each was endeared to the other by the
tender offices of friendship which were paid and received.
When this week was expired, Dr Lyster was prevailed upon to return
again to Bury, in order to travel himself with Mrs Delvile to Bristol.
"Well," cried he, taking Cecilia by the first opportunity aside, "how
are you? Have you studied my scheme of philosophy, as you promised me?"
"O yes," said she, "and made, I flatter myself, no little proficiency."
"You are a good girl," cried he, "a very extraordinary girl! I am sure
you are; and upon my honour I pity poor Mortimer with all my soul! But
he is a noble young fellow, and behaves with a courage and spirit that
does me good to behold. To have obtained you, he would have moved
heaven and earth, but finding you out of his reach, he submits to his
fate like a man."
Cecilia's eyes glistened at this speech; "Yes," said she, "he long
since said 'tis suspence, 'tis hope, that make the misery of life,--
for there the Passions have all power, and Reason has none. But when
evils are irremediable, and we have neither resources to plan, nor
castle-building to delude us, we find time for the cultivation of
philosophy, and flatter ourselves, perhaps, that we have found
"Why you have considered this matter very deeply," said he; "but I must
not have you give way to these serious reflections. Thought, after all,
has a cruel spite against happiness; I would have you, therefore, keep
as much as you conveniently can, out of its company. Run about and
divert yourself, 'tis all you have for it. The true art of happiness in
this most whimsical world, seems nothing more nor less than this--Let
those who have leisure, find employment, and those who have business,
He then told her that Mr Delvile senior was much better, and no longer
confined to his room: and that he had had the pleasure of seeing an
entire reconciliation take place between him and his son, of whom he
was more fond and more proud than any other father in the universe."
"Think of him, however, my dear young lady," he continued, "no more,
for the matter I see is desperate: you must pardon my being a little
officious, when I confess to you I could not help proposing to the old
gentleman an expedient of my own; for as I could not drive you out of
my head, I employed myself in thinking what might be done by way of
accommodation. Now my scheme was really a very good one, only when
people are prejudiced, all reasoning is thrown away upon them. I
proposed sinking _both_ your names, since they are so at variance with
one another, and so adopting a third, by means of a title. But Mr
Delvile angrily declared, that though such a scheme might do very well
for the needy Lord Ernolf, a Peer of twenty years, his own noble
ancestors should never, by his consent, forfeit a name which so many
centuries had rendered honourable. His son Mortimer, he added, must
inevitably inherit the title of his grandfather, his uncle being old
and unmarried; but yet he would rather see him a beggar, than lose his
dearest hope that _Delvile_, Lord _Delvile_, would descend, both name
and title, from generation to generation unsullied and uninterrupted."
"I am sorry, indeed," said Cecilia, "that such a proposal was made, and
I earnestly entreat that none of any sort may be repeated."
"Well, well," said he, "I would not for the world do any mischief, but
who would not have supposed such a proposal would have done good?"
"Mr Mortimer," he then added, "is to meet us at--for he would not, he
said, come again to this place, upon such terms as he was here last
week, for the whole worth of the king's dominions."
The carriage was now ready, and Mrs Delvile was prepared to depart.
Cecilia approached to take leave of her, but Dr Lyster following, said
"No talking! no thanking! no compliments of any sort! I shall carry off
my patient without permitting one civil speech, and for all the
rudeness I make her guilty of, I am willing to be responsible."
Cecilia would then have retreated, but Mrs Delvile, holding out both
her hands, said "To every thing else, Dr Lyster, I am content to
submit; but were I to die while uttering the words, I cannot leave this
inestimable creature without first saying how much I love her, how I
honour, and how I thank her! without entreating her to be careful of
her health, and conjuring her to compleat the greatness of her conduct,
by not suffering her spirits to sink from the exertion of her virtue.
And now my love, God bless you!"
She then embraced her, and went on; Cecilia, at a motion of Dr
Lyster's, forbearing to follow her.
"And thus," cried she, when they were gone, "thus ends all my
connection with this family! which it seems as if I was only to have
known for the purpose of affording a new proof of the insufficiency of
situation to constitute happiness. Who looks not upon mine as the
perfection of human felicity?--And so, perhaps, it is, for it may be
that Felicity and Humanity are never permitted to come nearer."
And thus, in philosophic sadness, by reasoning upon the universality of
misery, she restrained, at least, all violence of sorrow, though her
spirits were dejected, and her heart was heavy.
But the next day brought with it some comfort that a little lightened
her sadness; Mrs Charlton, almost wholly recovered, was able to go down
stairs, and Cecilia had at least the satisfaction of seeing an happy
conclusion to an illness of which, with the utmost concern and regret,
she considered herself as the cause. She attended her with the most
unremitting assiduity, and being really very thankful, endeavoured to
appear happy, and flattered herself that, by continual effort, the
appearance in a short time would become reality.
Mrs Charlton retired early, and Cecilia accompanied her up stairs: and
while she was with her, was informed that Mr Monckton was in the
The various, afflicting, and uncommon scenes in which she had been
engaged since she last saw him, had almost wholly driven him from her
remembrance, or when at any time he recurred to it, it was only to
attribute the discontinuance of his visits to the offence she had given
him, in refusing to follow his advice by relinquishing her London
Full, therefore, of the mortifying transactions which had passed since
their parting, and fearful of his enquiries into disgraces he had
nearly foretold, she heard him announced with chagrin, and waited upon
him in the most painful confusion.
Far different were the feelings of Mr Monckton; he read in her
countenance the dejection of disappointment, which impressed upon his
heart the vivacity of hope: her evident shame was to him secret
triumph, her ill-concealed sorrow revived all his expectations.
She hastily began a conversation by mentioning her debt to him, and
apologising for not paying it the moment she was of age. He knew but
too well how her time had been occupied, and assured her the delay was
He then led to an enquiry into the present situation of her affairs;
but unable to endure a disquisition, which could only be productive of
censure and mortification, she hastily stopt it, exclaiming, "Ask me
not, I entreat you, Sir, any detail of what has passed,--the event has
brought me sufferings that may well make blame be dispensed with;--I
acknowledge all your wisdom, I am sensible of my own error, but the
affair is wholly dropt, and the unhappy connection I was forming is
broken off for-ever!"
Little now was Mr Monckton's effort in repressing his further
curiosity, and he started other subjects with readiness, gaiety and
address. He mentioned Mrs Charlton, for whom he had not the smallest
regard; he talked to her of Mrs Harrel, whose very existence was
indifferent to him; and he spoke of their common acquaintance in the
country, for not one of whom he would have grieved, if assured of
meeting no more. His powers of conversation were enlivened by his
hopes; and his exhilarated spirits made all subjects seem happy to him.
A weight was removed from his mind which had nearly borne down even his
remotest hopes; the object of his eager pursuit seemed still within his
reach, and the rival into whose power he had so lately almost beheld
her delivered, was totally renounced, and no longer to be dreaded. A
revolution such as this, raised expectations more sanguine than ever;
and in quitting the house, he exultingly considered himself released
from every obstacle to his views--till, just as he arrived home, he
recollected his wife!
A week passed, during which Cecilia, however sad, spent her time as
usual with the family, denying to herself all voluntary indulgence of
grief, and forbearing to seek consolation from solitude, or relief from
tears. She never named Delvile, she begged Mrs Charlton never to
mention him; she called to her aid the account she had received from Dr
Lyster of his firmness, and endeavoured, by an emulous ambition, to
fortify her mind from the weakness of depression and regret.
This week, a week of struggle with all her feelings, was just elapsed,
when she received by the post the following letter from Mrs Delvile.
_To Miss Beverley_.
BRISTOL, _Oct_. 21.
My sweet young friend will not, I hope, be sorry to hear of my safe
arrival at this place: to me every account of her health and welfare,
will ever be the intelligence I shall most covet to receive. Yet I mean
not to ask for it in return; to chance I will trust for information,
and I only write now to say I shall write no more.
Too much for thanks is what I owe you, and what I think of you is
beyond all power of expression. Do not, then, wish me ill, ill as I
have seemed to merit of you, for my own heart is almost broken by the
tyranny I have been compelled to practise upon yours. And now let me
bid a long adieu to you, my admirable Cecilia; you shall not be
tormented with a useless correspondence, which can only awaken painful
recollections, or give rise to yet more painful new anxieties.
Fervently will I pray for the restoration of your happiness, to which
nothing can so greatly contribute as that wise, that uniform command,
so feminine, yet so dignified, you maintain over your passions; which
often I have admired, though never so feelingly as at this conscious
moment! when my own health is the sacrifice of emotions most fatally
Send to me no answer, even if you have the sweetness to wish it; every
new proof of the generosity of your nature is to me but a new wound.
Forget us, therefore, wholly,--alas! you have only known us for sorrow!
forget us, dear and invaluable Cecilia! though, ever, as you have nobly
deserved, must you be fondly and gratefully remembered by AUGUSTA
The attempted philosophy, and laboured resignation of Cecilia, this
letter destroyed: the struggle was over, the apathy was at an end, and
she burst into an agony of tears, which finding the vent they had long
sought, now flowed unchecked down her cheeks, sad monitors of the
weakness of reason opposed to the anguish of sorrow!
A letter at once so caressing, yet so absolute, forced its way to her
heart, in spite of the fortitude she had flattered herself was its
guard. In giving up Delvile she was satisfied of the propriety of
seeing him no more, and convinced that even to talk of him would be
folly and imprudence; but to be told that for the future they must
remain strangers to the existence of each other--there seemed in this a
hardship, a rigour, that was insupportable.
"Oh what," cried she, "is human nature! in its best state how
imperfect! that a woman such as this, so noble in character, so
elevated in sentiment, with heroism to sacrifice to her sense of duty
the happiness of a son, whom with joy she would die to serve, can
herself be thus governed by prejudice, thus enslaved, thus subdued by
opinion!" Yet never, even when miserable, unjust or irrational; her
grief was unmixed with anger, and her tears streamed not from
resentment, but affliction. The situation of Mrs Delvile, however
different, she considered to be as wretched as her own. She read,
therefore, with sadness, but not bitterness, her farewell, and received
not with disdain, but with gratitude, her sympathy. Yet though her
indignation was not irritated, her sufferings were doubled, by a
farewell so kind, yet so despotic, a sympathy so affectionate, yet so
In this first indulgence of grief which she had granted to her
disappointment, she was soon interrupted by a summons down stairs to a
Unfit and unwilling to be seen, she begged that he might leave his
name, and appoint a time for calling again.
Her maid brought for answer, that he believed his name was unknown to
her, and desired to see her now, unless she was employed in some matter
of moment. She then put up her letter, and went into the parlour; and
there, to her infinite amazement, beheld Mr Albany.
"How little, Sir," she cried, "did I expect this pleasure."
"This pleasure," repeated he, "do you call it?--what strange abuse of
words! what causeless trifling with honesty! is language of no purpose
but to wound the ear with untruths? is the gift of speech only granted
us to pervert the use of understanding? I can give you no pleasure, I
have no power to give it any one; you can give none to me-the whole
world could not invest you with the means!"
"Well, Sir," said Cecilia, who had little spirit to defend herself, "I
will not vindicate the expression, but of this I will unfeignedly
assure you, I am at least as glad to see you just now, as I should be
to see anybody."
"Your eyes," cried he, "are red, your voice is inarticulate;--young,
rich, and attractive, the world at your feet; that world yet untried,
and its falsehood unknown, how have you thus found means to anticipate
misery? which way have you uncovered the cauldron of human woes? Fatal
and early anticipation! that cover once removed, can never be replaced;
those woes, those boiling woes, will pour out upon you continually, and
only when your heart ceases to beat, will their ebullition cease to
"Alas!" cried Cecilia, shuddering, "how cruel, yet how true!"
"Why went you," cried he, "to the cauldron? it came not to you. Misery
seeks not man, but man misery. He walks out in the sun, but stops not
for a cloud; confident, he pursues his way, till the storm which,
gathering, he might have avoided, bursts over his devoted head. Scared
and amazed, he repents his temerity; he calls, but it is then too late;
he runs, but it is thunder which follows him! Such is the presumption
of man, such at once is the arrogance and shallowness of his nature!
And thou, simple and blind! hast thou, too, followed whither Fancy has
led thee, unheeding that thy career was too vehement for tranquility,
nor missing that lovely companion of youth's early innocence, till,
adventurous and unthinking, thou hast lost her for ever!"
In the present weak state of Cecilia's spirits, this attack was too
much for her; and the tears she had just, and with difficulty
restrained, again forced their way down her cheeks, as she answered,
"It is but too true,--I have lost her for ever!"
"Poor thing," said he, while the rigour of his countenance was softened
into the gentlest commiseration, "so young!--looking, too, so innocent--
'tis hard!--And is nothing left thee? no small remaining hope, to
cheat, humanely cheat thy yet not wholly extinguished credulity?"
Cecilia wept without answering.
"Let me not," said he, "waste my compassion upon nothing; compassion is
with me no effusion of affectation; tell me, then, if thou deservest
it, or if thy misfortunes are imaginary, and thy grief is factitious?"
"Factitious," repeated she, "Good heaven!"
"Answer me, then, these questions, in which I shall comprise the only
calamities for which sorrow has no controul, or none from human
motives. Tell me, then, have you lost by death the friend of your
"Is your fortune dissipated by extravagance, and your power of
relieving the distressed at an end?"
"No; the power and the will are I hope equally undiminished."
"O then, unhappy girl! have you been guilty of some vice, and hangs
remorse thus heavy on your conscience?"
"No, no; thank heaven, to that misery, at least, I am a stranger!"
His countenance now again resumed its severity, and, in the sternest
manner, "Whence then," he said, "these tears? and what is this caprice
you dignify with the name of sorrow?--strange wantonness of indolence
and luxury! perverse repining of ungrateful plenitude!--oh hadst thou
known what _I_ have suffered!"--
"Could I lessen what you have suffered," said Cecilia, "I should
sincerely rejoice; but heavy indeed must be your affliction, if mine in
its comparison deserves to be styled caprice!"
"Caprice!" repeated he, "'tis joy! 'tis extacy compared with mine!--
Thou hast not in licentiousness wasted thy inheritance! thou hast not
by remorse barred each avenue to enjoyment! nor yet has the cold grave
seized the beloved of thy soul!"
"Neither," said Cecilia, "I hope, are the evils you have yourself
sustained so irremediable?"
"Yes, I have borne them all!--_have_ borne? I bear them still; I shall
bear them while I breathe! I may rue them, perhaps, yet longer."
"Good God!" cried Cecilia, shrinking, "what a world is this! how full
of woe and wickedness!" "Yet thou, too, canst complain," cried he,
"though happy in life's only blessing, Innocence! thou, too, canst
murmur, though stranger to death's only terror, Sin! Oh yet if thy
sorrow is unpolluted with guilt, be regardless of all else, and rejoice
in thy destiny!" "But who," cried she, deeply sighing, "shall teach me
such a lesson of joy, when all within rises to oppose it?"
"I," cried he, "will teach it thee, for I will tell thee my own sad
story. Then wilt thou find how much happier is thy lot, then wilt thou
raise thy head in thankful triumph."
"O no! triumph comes not so lightly! yet if you will venture to trust
me with some account of yourself, I shall be glad to hear it, and much
obliged by the communication."
"I will," he answered, "whatever I may suffer: to awaken thee from this
dream of fancied sorrow, I will open all my wounds, and thou shalt
probe them with fresh shame."
"No, indeed," cried Cecilia with quickness, "I will not hear you, if
the relation will be so painful."
"Upon _me_ this humanity is lost," said he, "since punishment and
penitence alone give me comfort. I will tell thee, therefore, my
crimes, that thou mayst know thy own felicity, lest, ignorant it means
nothing but innocence, thou shouldst lose it, unconscious of its value.
Listen then to me, and learn what Misery is! Guilt is alone the basis
of lasting unhappiness;--Guilt is the basis of mine, and therefore I am
a wretch for ever!"
Cecilia would again have declined hearing him, but he refused to be
spared: and as her curiosity had long been excited to know something of
his history, and the motives of his extraordinary conduct, she was glad
to have it satisfied, and gave him the utmost attention.
"I will not speak to you of my family," said he; "historical accuracy
would little answer to either of us. I am a native of the West Indies,
and I was early sent hither to be educated. While I was yet at the
University, I saw, I adored, and I pursued the fairest flower that ever
put forth its sweet buds, the softest heart that ever was broken by
ill-usage! She was poor and unprotected, the daughter of a villager;
she was untaught and unpretending, the child of simplicity! But fifteen
summers had she bloomed, and her heart was an easy conquest; yet, once
made mine, it resisted all allurement to infidelity. My fellow students
attacked her; she was assaulted by all the arts of seduction; flattery,
bribery, supplication, all were employed, yet all failed; she was
wholly my own; and with sincerity so attractive, I determined to marry
her in defiance of all worldly objections.
"The sudden death of my father called me hastily to Jamaica; I feared
leaving this treasure unguarded, yet in decency could neither marry nor
take her directly; I pledged my faith, therefore, to return to her, as
soon as I had settled my affairs, and I left to a bosom friend the
inspection of her conduct in my absence.
"To leave her was madness,--to trust in man was madness,--Oh hateful
race! how has the world been abhorrent to me since that time! I have
loathed the light of the sun, I have shrunk from the commerce of my
fellow creatures; the voice of man I have detested, his sight I have
abominated!--but oh, more than all should I be abominated myself!
"When I came to my fortune, intoxicated with sudden power, I forgot
this fair blossom, I revelled in licentiousness and vice, and left it
exposed and forlorn. Riot succeeded riot, till a fever, incurred by my
own intemperance, first gave me time to think. Then was she revenged,
for then first remorse was my portion: her image was brought back to my
mind with frantic fondness, and bitterest contrition. The moment I
recovered, I returned to England; I flew to claim her,--but she was
lost! no one knew whither she was gone; the wretch I had trusted
pretended to know least of all; yet, after a furious search, I traced
her to a cottage, where he had concealed her himself!
"When she saw me, she screamed and would have flown; I stopt her, and
told her I came faithfully and honourably to make her my wife:--her own
faith and honour, though sullied, were not extinguished, for she
instantly acknowledged the fatal tale of her undoing!
"Did I recompense this ingenuousness? this unexampled, this beautiful
sacrifice to intuitive integrity? Yes! with my curses!--I loaded her
with execrations, I reviled her in language the most opprobrious, I
insulted her even for her confession! I invoked all evil upon her from
the bottom of my heart--She knelt at my feet, she implored my
forgiveness and compassion, she wept with the bitterness of despair,--
and yet I spurned her from me!--Spurned?--let me not hide my shame! I
barbarously struck her!--nor single was the blow!--it was doubled, it
was reiterated!--Oh wretch, unyielding and unpitying! where shall
hereafter be clemency for thee!--So fair a form! so young a culprit! so
infamously seduced! so humbly penitent!
"In this miserable condition, helpless and deplorable, mangled by these
savage hands, and reviled by this inhuman tongue, I left her, in search
of the villain who had destroyed her: but, cowardly as treacherous, he
had absconded. Repenting my fury, I hastened to her again; the
fierceness of my cruelty shamed me when I grew calmer, the softness of
her sorrow melted me upon recollection: I returned, therefore, to
soothe her,--but again she was gone! terrified with expectation of
insult, she hid herself from all my enquiries. I wandered in search of
her two long years to no purpose, regardless of my affairs, and of all
things but that pursuit. At length, I thought I saw her--in London,
alone, and walking in the streets at midnight,--I fearfully followed
her,--and followed her into an house of infamy!
"The wretches by whom she was surrounded were noisy and drinking, they
heeded me little,--but she saw and knew me at once! She did not speak,
nor did I,--but in two moments she fainted and fell.
"Yet did I not help her; the people took their own measures to recover
her, and when she was again able to stand, would have removed her to
"I then went forward, and forcing them away from her with all the
strength of desperation, I turned to the unhappy sinner, who to chance
only seemed to leave what became of her, and cried, From this scene of
vice and horror let me yet rescue you! you look still unfit for such
society, trust yourself, therefore, to me. I seized her hand, I drew, I
almost dragged her away. She trembled, she could scarce totter, but
neither consented nor refused, neither shed a tear, nor spoke a word,
and her countenance presented a picture of affright, amazement, and
"I took her to a house in the country, each of us silent the whole way.
I gave her an apartment and a female attendant, and ordered for her
every convenience I could suggest. I stayed myself in the same house,
but distracted with remorse for the guilt and ruin into which I had
terrified her, I could not bear her sight.
"In a few days her maid assured me the life she led must destroy her;
that she would taste nothing but bread and water, never spoke, and
"Alarmed by this account, I flew into her apartment; pride and
resentment gave way to pity and fondness, and I besought her to take
comfort. I spoke, however, to a statue, she replied not, nor seemed to
hear me. I then humbled myself to her as in the days of her innocence
and first power, supplicating her notice, entreating even her
commiseration! all was to no purpose; she neither received nor repulsed
me, and was alike inattentive to exhortation and to prayer.
"Whole hours did I spend at her feet, vowing never to arise till she
spoke to me,--all, all, in vain! she seemed deaf, mute, insensible; her
face unmoved, a settled despair fixed in her eyes,--those eyes that had
never looked at me but with dove-like softness and compliance!--She sat
constantly in one chair, she never changed her dress, no persuasions
could prevail with her to lie down, and at meals she just swallowed so
much dry bread as might save her from dying for want of food.
"What was the distraction of my soul, to find her bent upon this course
to her last hour!--quick came that hour, but never will it be
forgotten! rapidly it was gone, but eternally it will be remembered!
"When she felt herself expiring, she acknowledged she had made a vow,
upon entering the house, to live speechless and motionless, as a
pennance for her offences!
"I kept her loved corpse till my own senses failed me,--it was then
only torn from me,--and I have lost all recollection of three years of
Cecilia shuddered at this hint, yet was not surprised by it; Mr Gosport
had acquainted her he had been formerly confined; and his flightiness,
wildness, florid language, and extraordinary way of life, bad long led
her to suspect his reason had been impaired.
"The scene to which my memory first leads me back," he continued, "is
visiting her grave; solemnly upon it I returned her vow, though not by
one of equal severity. To her poor remains did I pledge myself, that
the day should never pass in which I would receive nourishment, nor the
night come in which I would take rest, till I had done, or zealously
attempted to do, some service to a fellow-creature.
"For this purpose have I wandered from city to city, from the town to
the country, and from the rich to the poor. I go into every house where
I can gain admittance, I admonish all who will hear me, I shame even
those who will not. I seek the distressed where ever they are hid, I
follow the prosperous to beg a mite to serve them. I look for the
Dissipated in public, where, amidst their licentiousness, I check them;
I pursue the Unhappy in private, where I counsel and endeavour to
assist them. My own power is small; my relations, during my sufferings,
limiting me to an annuity; but there is no one I scruple to solicit,
and by zeal I supply ability.
"Oh life of hardship and pennance! laborious, toilsome, and restless!
but I have merited no better, and I will not repine at it; I have vowed
that I will endure it, and I will not be forsworn.
"One indulgence alone from time to time I allow myself,--'tis Music!
which has power to delight me even to rapture! it quiets all anxiety,
it carries me out of myself, I forget through it every calamity, even
the bitterest anguish.
"Now then, that thou hast heard me, tell me, hast _thou_ cause of
"Alas," cried Cecilia, "this indeed is a Picture of Misery to make _my_
lot seem all happiness!"
"Art thou thus open to conviction?" cried he, mildly; "and dost thou
not fly the voice of truth! for truth and reproof are one."
"No, I would rather seek it; I feel myself wretched, however inadequate
may be the cause; I wish to be more resigned, and if you can instruct
me how, I shall thankfully attend to you."
"Oh yet uncorrupted creature!" cried he, "with joy will I be thy
monitor,--joy long untasted! Many have I wished to serve, all,
hitherto, have rejected my offices; too honest to flatter them, they
had not the fortitude to listen to me; too low to advance them, they
had not the virtue to bear with me. You alone have I yet found pure
enough not to fear inspection, and good enough to wish to be better.
Yet words alone will not content me; I must also have deeds. Nor will
your purse, however readily opened, suffice, you must give to me also
your time and your thoughts; for money sent by others, to others only
will afford relief; to enlighten your own cares, you must distribute it
"You shall find me," said she, "a docile pupil, and most glad to be
instructed how my existence may be useful."
"Happy then," cried he, "was the hour that brought me to this country;
yet not in search of you did I come, but of the mutable and ill-fated
Belfield. Erring, yet ingenious young man! what a lesson to the vanity
of talents, to the gaiety, the brilliancy of wit, is the sight of that
green fallen plant! not sapless by age, nor withered by disease, but
destroyed by want of pruning, and bending, breaking by its own
"And where, Sir, is he now?
"Labouring wilfully in the field, with those who labour compulsatorily;
such are we all by nature, discontented, perverse, and changeable;
though all have not courage to appear so, and few, like Belfield, are
worth watching when they do. He told me he was happy; I knew it could
not be: but his employment was inoffensive, and I left him without
reproach. In this neighbourhood I heard of you, and found your name was
coupled with praise. I came to see if you deserved it; I have seen, and
"You are not, then, very difficult, for I have yet done nothing. How
are we to begin these operations you propose? You have awakened me by
them to an expectation of pleasure, which nothing else, I believe,
could just now have given me."
"We will work," cried he, "together, till not a woe shall remain upon
your mind. The blessings of the fatherless, the prayers of little
children, shall heal all your wounds with balm of sweetest fragrance.
When sad, they shall cheer, when complaining, they shall soothe you. We
will go to their roofless houses, and see them repaired; we will
exclude from their dwellings the inclemency of the weather; we will
clothe them from cold, we will rescue them from hunger. The cries of
distress shall be changed to notes of joy: your heart shall be
enraptured, mine, too, shall revive--oh whither am I wandering? I am
painting an Elysium! and while I idly speak, some fainting object dies
for want of succour! Farewell; I will fly to the abodes of
wretchedness, and come to you to-morrow to render them the abodes of
He then went away.
This singular visit was for Cecilia most fortunately timed: it almost
surprised her out of her peculiar grief, by the view which it opened to
her of general calamity; wild, flighty, and imaginative as were his
language and his counsels, their morality was striking, and their
benevolence was affecting. Taught by him to compare her state with that
of at least half her species, she began more candidly to weigh what was
left with what was withdrawn, and found the balance in her favour. The
plan he had presented to her of good works was consonant to her
character and inclinations; and the active charity in which he proposed
to engage her, re-animated her fallen hopes, though to far different
subjects from those which had depressed them. Any scheme of worldly
happiness would have sickened and disgusted her; but her mind was just
in the situation to be impressed with elevated piety, and to adopt any
design in which virtue humoured melancholy.
Cecelia passed the rest of the day in fanciful projects of beneficence;
she determined to wander with her romantic new ally whither-so-ever he
would lead her, and to spare neither fortune, time, nor trouble, in
seeking and relieving the distressed. Not all her attempted philosophy
had calmed her mind like this plan; in merely refusing indulgence to
grief, she had only locked it up in her heart, where eternally
struggling for vent, she was almost overpowered by restraining it; but
now her affliction had no longer her whole faculties to itself; the
hope of doing good, the pleasure of easing pain, the intention of
devoting her time to the service of the unhappy, once more delighted
her imagination,--that source of promissory enjoyment, which though
often obstructed, is never, in youth, exhausted.
She would not give Mrs Charlton the unnecessary pain of hearing the
letter with which she had been so, much affected, but she told her of
the visit of Albany, and pleased her with the account of their scheme.
At night, with less sadness than usual, she retired to rest. In her
sleep she bestowed riches, and poured plenty upon the land; she humbled
the oppressor, she exalted the oppressed; slaves were raised to
dignities, captives restored to liberty; beggars saw smiling abundance,
and wretchedness was banished the world. From a cloud in which she was
supported by angels, Cecilia beheld these wonders, and while enjoying
the glorious illusion, she was awakened by her maid, with news that Mrs
Charlton was dying!
She started up, and, undressed, was running to her apartment,--when the
maid, calling to stop her, confessed she was already dead!
She had made her exit in the night, but the time was not exactly known;
her own maid, who slept in the room with her, going early to her
bedside to enquire how she did, found her cold and motionless, and
could only conclude that a paralytic stroke had taken her off.
Happily and in good time had Cecilia been somewhat recruited by one
night of refreshing slumbers and flattering dreams, for the shock she
now received promised her not soon another.
She lost in Mrs Charlton a friend, whom nearly from her infancy she had
considered as a mother, and by whom she had been cherished with
tenderness almost unequalled. She was not a woman of bright parts, or
much cultivation, but her heart was excellent, and her disposition was
amiable. Cecilia had known her longer than her memory could look back,
though the earliest circumstances she could trace were kindnesses
received from her. Since she had entered into life, and found the
difficulty of the part she had to act, to this worthy old lady alone
had she unbosomed her secret cares. Though little assisted by her
counsel, she was always certain of her sympathy; and while her own
superior judgment directed her conduct, she had the relief of
communicating her schemes, and weighing her perplexities, with a friend
to whom nothing that concerned her was indifferent, and whose greatest
wish and chief pleasure was the enjoyment of her conversation.
If left to herself, in the present period of her life, Mrs Charlton had
certainly not been the friend of her choice. The delicacy of her mind,
and the refinement of her ideas, had now rendered her fastidious, and
she would have looked out for elegancies and talents to which Mrs
Charlton had no pretensions: but those who live in the country have
little power of selection; confined to a small circle, they must be
content with what it offers; and however they may idolize extraordinary
merit when they meet with it, they must not regard it as essential to
friendship, for in their circumscribed rotation, whatever may be their
discontent, they can make but little change.
Such had been the situation to which Mrs Charlton and Mrs Harrel owed
the friendship of Cecilia. Greatly their superior in understanding and
intelligence, had the candidates for her favour been more numerous, the
election had not fallen upon either of them. But she became known to
both before discrimination made her difficult, and when her enlightened
mind discerned their deficiencies, they had already an interest in her
affections, which made her see them with lenity: and though sometimes,
perhaps, conscious she should not have chosen them from many, she
adhered to them with sincerity, and would have changed them for none.
Mrs Harrel, however, too weak for similar sentiments, forgot her when
out of sight, and by the time they met again, was insensible to
everything but shew and dissipation. Cecilia, shocked and surprised,
first grieved from disappointed affection, and then lost that affection
in angry contempt. But her fondness for Mrs Charlton had never known
abatement, as the kindness which had excited it had never known allay.
She had loved her first from childish gratitude; but that love,
strengthened and confirmed by confidential intercourse, was now as
sincere and affectionate as if it had originated from sympathetic
admiration. Her loss, therefore, was felt with the utmost severity, and
neither seeing nor knowing any means of replacing it, she considered it
as irreparable, and mourned it with bitterness.
When the first surprize of this cruel stroke was somewhat lessened, she
sent an express to Mr Monckton with the news, and entreated to see him
immediately. He came without delay, and she begged his counsel what
step she ought herself to take in consequence of this event. Her own
house was still unprepared for her; she had of late neglected to hasten
the workmen, and almost forgotten her intention of entering it. It was
necessary, however, to change her abode immediately; she was no longer
in the house of Mrs Charlton, but of her grand-daughters and co-
heiresses, each of whom she disliked, and upon neither of whom she had
Mr Monckton then, with the quickness of a man who utters a thought at
the very moment of its projection, mentioned a scheme upon which during
his whole ride he had been ruminating; which was that she would
instantly remove to his house, and remain there till settled to her
Cecilia objected her little right of surprising Lady Margaret; but,
without waiting to discuss it, lest new objections should arise, he
quitted her, to fetch himself from her ladyship an invitation he meant
to insist upon her sending.
Cecilia, though heartily disliking this plan, knew not at present what
better to adopt, and thought anything preferable to going again to Mrs
Harrel, since that only could be done by feeding the anxiety of Mr
Mr Monckton soon returned with a message of his own fabrication; for
his lady, though obliged to receive whom he pleased, took care to guard
inviolate the independence of speech, sullenly persevering in refusing
to say anything, or perversely saying only what he least wished to
Cecilia then took a hasty leave of Miss Charltons, who, little affected
by what they had lost, and eager to examine what they had gained,
parted from her gladly, and, with a heavy heart and weeping eyes,
borrowed for the last time the carriage of her late worthy old friend,
and for-ever quitting her hospitable house, sorrowfully set out for the
Lady Margaret Monckton received Cecilia with the most gloomy coldness:
she apologised for the liberty she had taken in making use of her
ladyship's house, but, meeting no return of civility, she withdrew to
the room which had been prepared for her, and resolved as much as
possible to keep out of her sight.
It now became necessary without further delay to settle her plan of
life, and fix her place of residence. The forbidding looks of Lady
Margaret made her hasten her resolves, which otherwise would for a
while have given way to grief for her recent misfortune.
She sent for the surveyor who had the superintendance of her estates,
to enquire how soon her own house would be fit for her reception; and
heard there was yet work for near two months.
This answer made her very uncomfortable. To continue two months under
the roof with Lady Margaret was a penance she could not enjoin herself,
nor was she at all sure Lady Margaret would submit to it any better:
she determined, therefore, to release herself from the conscious
burthen of being an unwelcome visitor, by boarding with some creditable
family at Bury, and devoting the two months in which she was to be kept
from her house, to a general arrangement of her affairs, and a final
settling with her guardians.
For these purposes it would be necessary she should go to London: but
with whom, or in what manner, she could not decide. She desired,
therefore, another conference with Mr Monckton, who met her in the
She then communicated to him her schemes; and begged his counsel in her
He was delighted at the application, and extremely well pleased with
her design of boarding at Bury, well knowing, he could then watch and
visit her at his pleasure, and have far more comfort in her society
than even in his own house, where all the vigilance with which he
observed her, was short of that with which he was himself observed by
Lady Margaret. He endeavoured, however, to dissuade her from going to
town, but her eagerness to pay the large sum she owed him, was now too
great to be conquered. Of age, her fortune wholly in her power, and all
attendance upon Mrs Charlton at an end, she had no longer any excuse
for having a debt in the world, and would suffer no persuasion to make
her begin her career in life, with a negligence in settling her
accounts which she had so often censured in others. To go to London
therefore she was fixed, and all that she desired was his advice
concerning the journey.
He then told her that in order to settle with her guardians, she must
write to them in form, to demand an account of the sums that had been
expended during her minority, and announce her intention for the future
to take the management of her fortune into her own hands.
She immediately followed his directions, and consented to remain at the
Grove till their answers arrived.
Being now, therefore, unavoidably fixed for some time at the house, she
thought it proper and decent to attempt softening Lady Margaret in her
favour. She exerted all her powers to please and to oblige her; but the
exertion was necessarily vain, not only from the disposition, but the
situation of her ladyship, since every effort made for this
conciliatory purpose, rendered her doubly amiable in the eyes of her
husband, and consequently to herself more odious than ever. Her
jealousy, already but too well founded, received every hour the
poisonous nourishment of fresh conviction, which so much soured and
exasperated a temper naturally harsh, that her malignity and ill-
humour grew daily more acrimonious. Nor would she have contented
herself with displaying this irascibility by general moroseness, had
not the same suspicious watchfulness which discovered to her the
passion of her husband, served equally to make manifest the
indifference and innocence of Cecilia; to reproach her therefore, she
had not any pretence, though her knowledge how much she had to dread
her, past current in her mind for sufficient reason to hate her. The
Angry and the Violent use little discrimination; whom they like, they
enquire not if they approve; but whoever, no matter how unwittingly,
stands in their way, they scruple not to ill use, and conclude they may
Cecilia, though much disgusted, gave not over her attempt, which she
considered but as her due while she continued in her house. Her general
character, also, for peevishness and haughty ill-breeding, skilfully,
from time to time, displayed, and artfully repined at by Mr Monckton,
still kept her from suspecting any peculiar animosity to herself, and
made her impute all that passed to the mere rancour of ill-humour. She
confined herself, however, as much as possible to her own apartment,
where her sorrow for Mrs Charlton almost hourly increased, by the
comparison she was forced upon making of her house with the Grove.
That worthy old lady left her grand-daughters her co-heiresses and sole
executrixes. She bequeathed from them nothing considerable, though she
left some donations for the poor, and several of her friends were
remembered by small legacies. Among them Cecilia had her picture, and
favourite trinkets, with a paragraph in her will, that as there was no
one she so much loved, had her fortune been less splendid, she should
have shared with her grand-daughters whatever she had to bestow.
Cecilia was much affected by this last and solemn remembrance. She more
than ever coveted to be alone, that she might grieve undisturbed, and
she lamented without ceasing the fatigue and the illness which, in so
late a period, as it proved, of her life, she had herself been the
means of occasioning to her.
Mr Monckton had too much prudence to interrupt this desire of solitude,
which indeed cost him little pain, as he considered her least in danger
when alone. She received in about a week answers from both her
guardians. Mr Delvile's letter was closely to the purpose, without a
word but of business, and couched in the haughtiest terms. As he had
never, he said, acted, he had no accounts to send in; but as he was
going to town in a few days, he would see her for a moment in the
presence of Mr Briggs, that a joint release might be signed, to prevent
any future application to him.
Cecilia much lamented there was any necessity for her seeing him at
all, and looked forward to the interview as the greatest mortification
she could suffer.
Mr Briggs, though still more concise, was far kinder in his language:
but he advised her to defer her scheme of taking the money into her own
hands, assuring her she would be cheated, and had better leave it to
When she communicated these epistles to Mr Monckton, he failed not to
read, with an emphasis, by which his arrogant meaning was still more
arrogantly enforced, the letter of Mr Delvile aloud. Nor was he sparing
in comments that might render it yet more offensive. Cecilia neither
concurred in what he said, nor opposed it, but contented herself, when
he was silent, with producing the other letter.
Mr Monckton read not this with more favour. He openly attacked the
character of Briggs, as covetous, rapacious, and over-reaching, and
warned her by no means to abide by his counsel, without first taking
the opinion of some disinterested person. He then stated the various
arts which might be practised upon her inexperience, enumerated the
dangers to which her ignorance of business exposed her, and annotated
upon the cheats, double dealings, and tricks of stock jobbing, to which
he assured her Mr Briggs owed all he was worth, till, perplexed and
confounded, she declared herself at a loss how to proceed, and
earnestly regretted that she could not have his counsel upon the spot.
This was his aim: to draw the wish from her, drew all suspicion of
selfish views from himself: and he told her that he considered her
present situation as so critical, the future confusion or regularity of
her money transactions seeming to depend upon it, that he would
endeavour to arrange his affairs for meeting her in London.
Cecilia gave him many thanks for the kind intention, and determined to
be totally guided by him in the disposal and direction of her fortune.
Mean time he had now another part to act; he saw that with Cecilia
nothing more remained to be done, and that, harbouring not a doubt of
his motives, she thought his design in her favour did her nothing but
honour; but he had too much knowledge of the world to believe it would
judge him in the same manner, and too much consciousness of duplicity
to set its judgment at defiance.
To parry, therefore, the conjectures which might follow his attending
her, he had already prepared Lady Margaret to wish herself of the
party: for however disagreeable to him was her presence and her
company, he had no other means to be under the same roof with Cecilia.
Miss Bennet, the wretched tool of his various schemes, and the mean
sycophant of his lady, had been employed by him to work upon her
jealousy, by secretly informing her of his intention to go to town, at
the same time that Cecilia went thither to meet her guardians. She
pretended to have learned this intelligence by accident, and to
communicate it from respectful regard; and advised her to go to London
herself at the same time, that she might see into his designs, and be
some check upon his pleasure.
The encreasing infirmities of Lady Margaret made this counsel by no
means palatable: but Miss Bennet, following the artful instructions
which she received, put in her way so strong a motive, by assuring her
how little her company was wished, that in the madness of her spite she
determined upon the journey. And little heeding how she tormented
herself while she had any view of tormenting Mr Monckton, she was led
on by her false confident to invite Cecilia to her own house.
Mr Monckton, in whom by long practice, artifice was almost nature, well
knowing his wife's perverseness, affected to look much disconcerted at
the proposal; while Cecilia, by no means thinking it necessary to
extend her compliance to such a punishment, instantly made an apology,
and declined the invitation.
Lady Margaret, little versed in civility, and unused to the arts of
persuasion, could not, even for a favourite project, prevail upon
herself to use entreaty, and therefore, thinking her scheme defeated,
looked gloomily disappointed, and said nothing more.
Mr Monckton saw with delight how much this difficulty inflamed her,
though the moment he could speak alone with Cecilia he made it his care
to remove it.
He represented to her that, however privately she might live, she was
too young to be in London lodgings by herself, and gave an hint which
she could not but understand, that in going or in staying with only
servants, suspicions might soon be raised, that the plan and motive of
her journey were different to those given out.
She knew he meant to insinuate that it would be conjectured she
designed to meet Delvile, and though colouring, vext and provoked at
the suggestion, the idea was sufficient to frighten her into his plan.
In a few days, therefore, the matter was wholly arranged, Mr Monckton,
by his skill and address, leading every one whither he pleased, while,
by the artful coolness of his manner, he appeared but to follow
himself. He [set] out the day before, though earnestly wishing to
accompany them, but having as yet in no single instance gone to town in
the same carriage with Lady Margaret, he dared trust neither the
neighbourhood nor the servants with so dangerous a subject for their
Cecilia, compelled thus to travel with only her Ladyship and Miss
Bennet, had a journey the most disagreeable, and determined, if
possible, to stay in London but two days. She had already fixed upon a
house in which she could board at Bury when she returned, and there she
meant quietly to reside till she could enter her own.
Lady Margaret herself, exhilarated by a notion of having outwitted her
husband, was in unusual good spirits, and almost in good humour. The
idea of thwarting his designs, and being in the way of his
entertainment, gave to her a delight she had seldom received from any
thing; and the belief that this was effected by the superiority of her
cunning, doubled her contentment, and raised it to exultation. She owed
him, indeed, much provocation and uneasiness, and was happy in this
opportunity of paying her arrears.
Mean while that consummate master in every species of hypocrisy,
indulged her in this notion, by the air of dissatisfaction with which
he left the house. It was not that she meant by her presence to obviate
any impropriety: early and long acquainted with the character of
Cecilia, she well knew, that during her life the passion of her husband
must be confined to his own breast: but conscious of his aversion to
herself, which she resented with the bitterest ill-will, and knowing
how little, at any time, he desired her company, she consoled herself
for her inability to give pleasure by the power she possessed of giving
pain, and bore with the fatigue of a journey disagreeable and
inconvenient to her, with no other view than the hope of breaking into
his plan of avoiding her. Little imagining that the whole time she was
forwarding his favourite pursuit, and only acting the part which he had
appointed her to perform.
Lady Margaret's town house was in Soho Square; and scarcely had Cecilia
entered it, before her desire to speed her departure, made her send a
note to each of her guardians, acquainting them of her arrival, and
begging, if possible, to see them the next day.
She had soon the two following answers:
_To Miss Cecilia Beverley,----These
November_ 8, 1779. Miss,--Received yours of the same date; can't come
tomorrow. Will, Wednesday the 10th.--Am, &c., Jno. Briggs.
Miss Cecilia Beverley
_To Miss Beverley_.
Mr Delvile has too many affairs of importance upon his hands, to make
any appointment till he has deliberated how to arrange them. Mr Delvile
will acquaint Miss Beverley when it shall be in his power to see her.
St James's-square, _Nov_ 8.
These characteristic letters, which at another time might have diverted
Cecilia, now merely served to torment her. She was eager to quit town,
she was more eager to have her meeting with Mr Delvile over, who,
oppressive to her even when he meant to be kind, she foresaw, now he
was in wrath, would be imperious even to rudeness. Desirous, however,
to make one interview suffice for both, and to settle whatever business
might remain unfinished by letters, she again wrote to Mr Briggs, whom
she had not spirits to encounter without absolute necessity, and
informing him of Mr Delvile's delay, begged he would not trouble
himself to call till he heard from her again.
Two days passed without any message from them; they were spent chiefly
alone, and very uncomfortably, Mr Monckton being content to see little
of her, while he knew she saw nothing of any body else. On the third
morning, weary of her own thoughts, weary of Lady Margaret's ill-
humoured looks, and still more weary of Miss Bennet's parasitical
conversation, she determined, for a little relief to the heaviness of
her mind, to go to her bookseller, and look over and order into the
country such new publications as seemed to promise her any pleasure.
She sent therefore, for a chair, and glad to have devised for herself
any amusement, set out in it immediately.
Upon entering the shop, she saw the Bookseller engaged in close
conference with a man meanly dressed, and much muffled up, who seemed
talking to him with uncommon earnestness, and just as she was
approaching, said, "To terms I am indifferent, for writing is no labour
to me; on the contrary, it is the first delight of my life, and
therefore, and not for dirty pelf, I wish to make it my profession."
The speech struck Cecilia, but the voice struck her more, it was
Belfield's! and her amazement was so great, that she stopt short to
look at him, without heeding a man who attended her, and desired to
know her commands.
The bookseller now perceiving her, came forward, and Belfield, turning
to see who interrupted them, started as if a spectre had crossed his
eyes, slapped his hat over his face, and hastily went out of the shop.
Cecilia checking her inclination to speak to him, from observing his
eagerness to escape her, soon recollected her own errand, and employed
herself in looking over new books.
Her surprize, however, at a change so sudden in the condition of this
young man, and at a declaration of a passion for writing, so opposite
to all the sentiments which he had professed at their late meeting in
the cottage, awakened in her a strong curiosity to be informed of his
situation; and after putting aside some books which she desired to have
packed up for her, she asked if the gentleman who had just left the
shop, and who, she found by what he had said, was an Author, had
written anything that was published with his name?
"No, ma'am," answered the Bookseller, "nothing of any consequence; he
is known, however, to have written several things that have appeared as
anonymous; and I fancy, now, soon, we shall see something considerable
"He is about some great work, then?"
"Why no, not exactly that, perhaps, at present; we must feel our way,
with some little smart _jeu d'esprit_ before we undertake a great work.
But he is a very great genius, and I doubt not will produce something
"Whatever he produces," said Cecilia, "as I have now chanced to see
him, I shall be glad you will, at any time, send to me."
"Certainly, ma'am; but it must be among other things, for he does not
chuse, just now to be known; and it is a rule in our business never to
tell people's names when they desire to be secret. He is a little out
of cash, just now, as you may suppose by his appearance, so instead of
buying books, he comes to sell them. However, he has taken a very good
road to bring himself home again, for we pay very handsomely for things
of any merit, especially if they deal smartly in a few touches of the
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