Cecilia vol. 3
Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d'Arblay)
Part 4 out of 7
"that we shall be able by and bye to do something better for him; for
he has got one friend in the world, yet; thank God, and such a noble
friend!--indeed I believe he can do whatever he pleases for him,--that
is I mean I believe if he was to ask any thing for him, there's nobody
would deny him. And this is what I wanted to talk to you about."--
Cecilia, who doubted not but she meant Delvile, scarce knew how to
press the subject, though she came with no other view: Henrietta,
however, too eager to want solicitation, went on.
"But the question is whether we shall be able to prevail upon my
brother to accept any thing, for he grows more and more unwilling to be
obliged, and the reason is, that being poor, he is afraid, I believe,
people should think he wants to beg of them: though if they knew him as
well as I do, they would not long think that, for I am sure he would a
great deal rather be starved to death. But indeed, to say the truth, I
am afraid he has been sadly to blame in this affair, and quarrelled
when there was no need to be affronted; for I have seen a gentleman who
knows a great deal better than my brother what people should do, and he
says he took every thing wrong that was done, all the time he was at
"And how does this gentleman know it?"
"O because he went himself to enquire about it; for he knows Lord
Vannelt very well, and it was by his means my brother came acquainted
with him. And this gentleman would not have wished my brother to be
used ill any more than I should myself, so I am sure I may believe what
he says. But my poor brother, not being a lord himself, thought every
body meant to be rude to him, and because he knew he was poor, he
suspected they all behaved disrespectfully to him. But this gentleman
gave me his word that every body liked him and esteemed him, and if he
would not have been so suspicious, they would all have done any thing
for him in the world."
"You know this gentleman very well, then?"
"O no, madam!" she answered hastily, "I don't know him at all! he only
comes here to see my brother; it would be very impertinent for me to
call him an acquaintance of mine."
"Was it before your brother, then, he held this conversation with you?"
"O no, my brother would have been affronted with him, too, if he had!
but he called here to enquire for him at the time when he was lost to
us, and my mother quite went down upon her knees to him to beg him to
go to Lord Vannelt's, and make excuses for him, if he had not behaved
properly: but if my brother was to know this, he would hardly speak to
her again! so when this gentleman came next, I begged him not to
mention it, for my mother happened to be out, and so I saw him alone."
"And did he stay with you long?"
"No, ma'am, a very short time indeed; but I asked him questions all the
while, and kept him as long as I could, that I might hear all he had to
say about my brother."
"Have you never seen him since?"
"No, ma'am, not once! I suppose he does not know my brother is come
back to us. Perhaps when he does, he will call."
"Do you wish him to call?"
"Me?" cried she, blushing, "a little;--sometimes I do;--for my
"For your brother's sake! Ah my dear Henrietta! but tell me,--or
_don't_ tell me if you had rather not,--did I not once see you kissing
a letter? perhaps it was from this same noble friend?"
"It was not a letter, madam," said she, looking down, "it was only the
cover of one to my brother."
"The cover of a letter only!--and that to your brother!--is it possible
you could so much value it?"
"Ah madam! _You_, who are always used to the good and the wise, who see
no other sort of people but those in high life, _you_ can have no
notion how they strike those that they are new to!--but I who see them
seldom, and who live with people so very unlike them--Oh you cannot
guess how sweet to _me_ is every thing that belongs to them! whatever
has but once been touched by their hands, I should like to lock up, and
keep for ever! though if I was used to them, as you are, perhaps I
might think less of them."
Alas! thought Cecilia, who by _them_ knew she only meant _him_, little
indeed would further intimacy protect you!
"We are all over-ready," continued Henrietta, "to blame others, and
that is the way I have been doing all this time myself; but I don't
blame my poor brother now for living so with the great as I used to do,
for now I have seen a little more of the world, I don't wonder any
longer at his behaviour: for I know how it is, and I see that those who
have had good educations, and kept great company, and mixed with the
world,--O it is another thing!--they seem quite a different species!--
they are so gentle, so soft-mannered! nothing comes from them but what
is meant to oblige! they seem as if they only lived to give pleasure to
other people, and as if they never thought at all of themselves!"
"Ah Henrietta!" said Cecilia, shaking her head, "you have caught the
enthusiasm of your brother, though you so long condemned it! Oh have a
care lest, like him also, you find it as pernicious as it is alluring!"
"There, is no danger for _me_, madam," answered she, "for the people I
so much admire are quite out of my reach. I hardly ever even see them;
and perhaps it may so happen I may see them no more!"
"The people?" said Cecilia, smiling, "are there, then, many you so much
"Oh no indeed!" cried she, eagerly, "there is only one! there _can_ be
--I mean there are only a few--" she checked herself, and stopt.
"Whoever you admire," cried Cecilia, "your admiration cannot but
honour: yet indulge it not too far, lest it should wander from your
heart to your peace, and make you wretched for life."
"Ah madam!--I see you know who is the particular person I was thinking
of! but indeed you are quite mistaken if you suppose any thing bad of
"Bad of you!" cried Cecilia, embracing her, "I scarce think so well of
"But I mean, madam, if you think I forget he is so much above me. But
indeed I never do; for I only admire him for his goodness to my
brother, and never think of him at all, but just by way of comparing
him, sometimes, to the other people that I see, because he makes me
hate them so, that I wish I was never to see them again."
"His acquaintance, then," said Cecilia, "has done you but an ill
office, and happy it would be for you could you forget you had ever
"O, I shall never do that! for the more I think of him, the more I am
out of humour with every body else! O Miss Beverley! we have a sad
acquaintance indeed! I'm sure I don't wonder my brother was so ashamed
of them. They are all so rude, and so free, and put one so out of
countenance,--O how different is this person you are thinking of! he
would not distress anybody, or make one ashamed for all the world!
_You_ only are like him! always gentle, always obliging!--sometimes I
think you must be his sister--once, too, I heard--but that was
A deep sigh escaped Cecilia at this speech; she guessed too well what
she might have heard, and she knew too well how it might be
"Surely, _you_ cannot be unhappy, Miss Beverley!" said Henrietta, with
a look of mingled surprise and concern.
"I have much, I own," cried Cecilia, assuming more chearfulness, "to be
thankful for, and I endeavour not to forget it."
"O how often do I think," cried Henrietta, "that you, madam, are the
happiest person in the world! with every thing at your own disposal,--
with every body in love with you, with all the money that you can wish
for, and so much sweetness that nobody can envy you it! with power to
keep just what company you please, and every body proud to be one of
the number!--Oh if I could chuse who I would be, I should sooner say
Miss Beverley than any princess in the world!"
Ah, thought Cecilia, if such is my situation,--how cruel that by one
dreadful blow all its happiness should be thrown away!
"Were I a rich lady, like you," continued Henrietta, "and quite in my
own power, then, indeed, I might soon think of nothing but those people
that I admire! and that makes me often wonder that _you_, madam, who
are just such another as himself--but then, indeed, you may see so many
of the same sort, that just this one may not so much strike you: and
for that reason I hope with all my heart that he will never be married
as long as he lives, for as he must take some lady in just such high
life as his own, I should always be afraid that she would never love
him as she ought to do!"
He need not now be single, thought Cecilia, were that all he had cause
"I often think," added Henrietta, "that the rich would be as much
happier for marrying the poor, as the poor for marrying the rich, for
then they would take somebody that would try to deserve their kindness,
and now they only take those that know they have a right to it. Often
and often have I thought so about this very gentleman! and sometimes
when I have been in his company, and seen his civility and his
sweetness, I have fancied I was rich and grand myself, and it has quite
gone out of my head that I was nothing but poor Henrietta Belfield!"
"Did he, then," cried Cecilia a little alarmed, "ever seek to
ingratiate himself into your favour?"
"No, never! but when treated with so much softness, 'tis hard always to
remember one's meanness! You, madam, have no notion of that task: no
more had I myself till lately, for I cared not who was high, nor who
was low: but now, indeed, I must own I have some times wished myself
richer! yet he assumes so little, that at other times, I have almost
forgot all distance between us, and even thought--Oh foolish thought!--
"Tell it, sweet Henrietta, however!"
"I will tell you, madam, every thing! for my heart has been bursting to
open itself, and nobody have I dared trust. I have thought, then, I
have sometimes thought,--my true affection, my faithful fondness, my
glad obedience,--might make him, if he did but know them, happier in me
than in a greater lady!"
"Indeed," cried Cecilia, extremely affected by this plaintive
tenderness, "I believe it--and were I him, I could not, I think,
hesitate a moment in my choice!"
Henrietta now, hearing her mother coming in, made a sign to her to be
silent; but Mrs Belfield had not been an instant in the passage, before
a thundering knocking at the street-door occasioned it to be instantly
re-opened. A servant then enquired if Mrs Belfield was at home, and
being answered by herself in the affirmative, a chair was brought into
But what was the astonishment of Cecilia, when, in another moment, she
heard from the next parlour the voice of Mr Delvile senior, saying,
"Your servant, ma'am; Mrs Belfield, I presume?"
There was no occasion, now, to make a sign to her of silence, for her
own amazement was sufficient to deprive her of speech.
"Yes, Sir," answered Mrs Belfield; "but I suppose, Sir, you are some
gentleman to my son."
"No, madam," he returned, "my business is with yourself."
Cecilia now recovering from her surprise, determined to hasten
unnoticed out of the house, well knowing that to be seen in it would be
regarded as a confirmation of all that he had asserted. She whispered,
therefore, to Henrietta, that she must instantly run away, but, upon
softly opening the door leading to the passage, she found Mr Delvile's
chairmen, and a footman there in waiting.
She closed it again, irresolute what to do: but after a little
deliberation, she concluded to out-stay him, as she was known to all
his servants, who would not fail to mention seeing her; and a retreat
so private was worse than any other risk. A chair was also in waiting
for herself, but it was a hackney one, and she could not be known by
it; and her footman she had fortunately dismissed, as he had business
to transact for her journey next day.
Mean-while the thinness of the partition between the two parlours made
her hearing every word that was said unavoidable.
"I am sure, Sir, I shall be very willing to oblige you," Mrs Belfield
answered; "but pray, Sir, what's your name?"
"My name, ma'am," he replied, in a rather elevated voice, "I am seldom
obliged to announce myself; nor is there any present necessity I should
make it known. It is sufficient I assure you, you are speaking to no
very common person, and probably to one you will have little chance to
meet with again."
"But how can I tell your business, Sir, if I don't so much as know your
"My business, madam, I mean to tell myself; your affair is only to hear
it. I have some questions, indeed, to ask, which I must trouble you to
answer, but they will sufficiently explain themselves to prevent any
difficulty upon your part. There is no need, therefore, of any
"Well, Sir," said Mrs Belfield, wholly insensible of this ambiguous
greatness, "if you mean to make your name a secret."
"Few names, I believe, ma'am," cried he, haughtily, "have less the
advantage of secrecy than mine! on the contrary, this is but one among
a very few houses in this town to which my person would not immediately
announce it. That, however, is immaterial; and you will be so good as
to rest satisfied with my assurances, that the person with whom you are
now conversing, will prove no disgrace to your character."
Mrs Belfield, overpowered, though hardly knowing, with what, only said
_he was very welcome_, and begged him to sit down.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he answered, "My business is but of a moment, and
my avocations are too many to suffer my infringing that time. You say
you have a son; I have heard of him, also, somewhere before; pray will
you give me leave to enquire--I don't mean to go deep into the matter,
--but particular family occurrences make it essential for me to know,--
whether there is not a young person of rather a capital fortune, to
whom he is supposed to make proposals?"
"Lack-a-day, no, Sir!" answered Mrs Belfield, to the infinite relief of
Cecilia, who instantly concluded this question referred to herself.
"I beg your pardon, then; good morning to you, ma'am," said Mr Delvile,
in a tone that spoke his disappointment; but added "And there is no
such young person, you say, who favours his pretensions?"
"Dear Sir," cried she, "why there's nobody he'll so much as put the
question to! there's a young lady at this very time, a great fortune,
that has as much a mind to him, I tell him, as any man need desire to
see; but there's no making him think it! though he has been brought up
at the university, and knows more about all the things, or as much, as
any body in the king's dominions."
"O, then," cried Mr Delvile, in a voice of far more complacency, "it is
not on the side of the young woman that the difficulty seems to rest?"
"Lord, no, Sir! he might have had her again and again only for asking!
She came after him ever so often; but being brought up, as I said, at
the university, he thought he knew better than me, and so my preaching
was all as good as lost upon him."
The consternation of Cecilia at these speeches could by nothing be
equalled but by the shame of Henrietta, who, though she knew not to
whom her mother made them, felt all the disgrace and the shock of them
"I suppose, Sir," continued Mrs Belfield, "you know my son?"
"No, ma'am, my acquaintance is--not very universal."
"Then, Sir, you are no judge how well he might make his own terms. And
as to this young lady, she found him out, Sir, when not one of his own
natural friends could tell where in the world he was gone! She was the
first, Sir, to come and tell me news of him though I was his own
mother! Love, Sir, is prodigious for quickness! it can see, I sometimes
think, through bricks and mortar. Yet all this would not do, he was so
obstinate not to take the hint!"
Cecilia now felt so extremely provoked, she was upon the point of
bursting in upon them to make her own vindication; but as her passions,
though they tried her reason never conquered it, she restrained herself
by considering that to issue forth from a room in that house, would do
more towards strengthening what was thus boldly asserted, than all her
protestations could have chance to destroy.
"And as to young ladies themselves," continued Mrs Belfield, "they know
no more how to make their minds known than a baby does: so I suppose
he'll shilly shally till somebody else will cry snap, and take her. It
is but a little while ago that it was all the report she was to have
young Mr Delvile, one of her guardian's sons."
"I am sorry report was so impertinent," cried Mr Delvile, with much
displeasure; "young Mr Delvile is not to be disposed of with so little
ceremony; he knows better what is due to his family."
Cecilia here blushed from indignation, and Henrietta sighed from
"Lord, Sir," answered Mrs Belfield, "what should his family do better?
I never heard they were any so rich, and I dare say the old gentleman,
being her guardian, took care to put his son enough in her way, however
it came about that they did not make a match of it: for as to old Mr
Delvile, all the world says---"
"All the world takes a very great liberty," angrily interrupted Mr
Delvile, "in saying any thing about him: and you will excuse my
informing you that a person of his rank and consideration, is not
lightly to be mentioned upon every little occasion that occurs."
"Lord, Sir," cried Mrs Belfield, somewhat surprised at this unexpected
prohibition, "I don't care for my part if I never mention the old
gentleman's name again! I never heard any good of him in my life, for
they say he's as proud as Lucifer, and nobody knows what it's of, for
"_They_ say?" cried he, firing with rage, "and who are _they_? be so
good as inform me that?"
"Lord, every body, Sir! it's his common character."
"Then every body is extremely indecent," speaking very loud, "to pay no
more respect to one of the first families in England. It is a
licentiousness that ought by no means to be suffered with impunity."
Here, the street-door being kept open by the servants in waiting, a new
step was heard in the passage, which Henrietta immediately knowing,
turned, with uplifted hands to Cecilia, and whispered, "How unlucky!
it's my brother! I thought he would not have returned till night!"
"Surely he will not come in here?" re-whispered Cecilia.
But, at the same moment, he opened the door, and entered the room. He
was immediately beginning an apology, and starting back, but Henrietta
catching him by the arm, told him in a low voice, that she had made use
of his room because she had thought him engaged for the day, but begged
him to keep still and quiet, as the least noise would discover them.
Belfield then stopt; but the embarrassment of Cecilia was extreme; to
find herself in his room after the speeches she had heard from his
mother, and to continue with him in it by connivance, when she knew she
had been represented as quite at his service, distressed and provoked
her immeasurably; and she felt very angry with Henrietta for not sooner
informing her whose apartment she had borrowed. Yet now to remove, and
to be seen, was not to be thought of; she kept, therefore, fixed to her
seat, though changing colour every moment from the variety of her
During this painful interruption she lost Mrs Belfield's next answer,
and another speech or two from Mr Delvile, to whose own passion and
loudness was owing Belfield's entering his room unheard: but the next
voice that called their attention was that of Mr Hobson, who just then
walked into the parlour.
"Why what's to do here?" cried he, facetiously, "nothing but chairs and
livery servants! Why, ma'am, what is this your rout day? Sir your most
humble servant. I ask pardon, but I did not know you at first. But
come, suppose we were all to sit down? Sitting's as cheap as standing,
and what I say is this; when a man's tired, it's more agreeable."
"Have you any thing further, ma'am," said Mr Delvile, with great
solemnity, "to communicate to me?"
"No, Sir," said Mrs Belfield, rather angrily, "it's no business of mine
to be communicating myself to a gentleman that I don't know the name
of. Why, Mr Hobson, how come you to know the gentleman?"
"To know _me_!" repeated Mr Delvile, scornfully.
"Why I can't say much, ma'am," answered Mr Hobson, "as to my knowing
the gentleman, being I have been in his company but once; and what I
say is, to know a person if one leaves but a quart in a hogshead, it's
two pints too much. That's my notion. But, Sir, that was but an ungain
business at 'Squire Monckton's t'other morning. Every body was no-how,
as one may say. But, Sir, if I may be so free, pray what is your
private opinion of that old gentleman that talked so much out of the
"My private opinion, Sir?"
"Yes, Sir; I mean if it's no secret, for as to a secret, I hold it's
what no man has a right to enquire into, being of its own nature it's a
thing not to be told. Now as to what I think myself, my doctrine is
this; I am quite of the old gentleman's mind about some things, and
about others I hold him to be quite wide of the mark. But as to talking
in such a whisky frisky manner that nobody can understand him, why its
tantamount to not talking at all, being he might as well hold his
tongue. That's what _I_ say. And then as to that other article, of
abusing a person for not giving away all his lawful gains to every
cripple in the streets, just because he happens to have but one leg, or
one eye, or some such matter, why it's knowing nothing of business!
it's what _I_ call talking at random."
"When you have finished, Sir," said Mr Delvile, "you will be so good to
let me know."
"I don't mean to intrude, Sir; that's not my way, so if you are upon
"What else, Sir, could you suppose brought me hither? However, I by no
means purpose any discussion. I have only a few words more to say to
this gentlewoman, and as my time is not wholly inconsequential, I
should not be sorry to have an early opportunity of being heard."
"I shall leave you with the lady directly, Sir; for I know business
better than to interrupt it: but seeing chairs in the entry, my notion
was I should see ladies in the parlour, not much thinking of
gentlemen's going about in that manner, being I never did it myself.
But I have nothing to offer against that; let every man have his own
way; that's what _I_ say. Only just let me ask the lady before I go,
what's the meaning of my seeing two chairs in the entry, and only a
person for one in the parlour? The gentleman, I suppose, did not come
in _both_; ha! ha! ha!"
"Why now you put me in mind," said Mrs Belfield, "I saw a chair as soon
as I come in; and I was just going to say who's here, when this
gentleman's coming put it out of my head."
"Why this is what I call Hocus Pocus work!" said Mr Hobson; "but I
shall make free to ask the chairmen who they are waiting for."
Mrs Belfield, however, anticipated him; for running into the passage,
she angrily called out, "What do you do here, Misters? do you only come
to be out of the rain? I'll have no stand made of my entry, I can tell
"Why we are waiting for the lady," cried one of them.
"Waiting for a fiddlestick!" said Mrs Belfield; "here's no lady here,
nor no company; so if you think I'll have my entry filled up by two
hulking fellows for nothing, I shall shew you the difference. One's
dirt enough of one's own, without taking people out of the streets to
help one. Who do you think's to clean after you?"
"That's no business of ours; the lady bid us wait," answered the man.
Cecilia at this dispute could with pleasure have cast herself out of
the window to avoid being discovered; but all plan of escape was too
late; Mrs Belfield called aloud for her daughter, and then, returning
to the front parlour, said, "I'll soon know if there's company come to
my house without my knowing it!" and opened a door leading to the next
Cecilia, who had hitherto sat fixed to her chair, now hastily arose,
but in a confusion too cruel for speech: Belfield, wondering even at
his own situation, and equally concerned and surprised at her evident
distress, had himself the feeling of a culprit, though without the
least knowledge of any cause: and Henrietta, terrified at the prospect
of her mother's anger, retreated as much as possible out of sight.
Such was the situation of the discovered, abashed, perplexed, and
embarrassed! while that of the discoverers, far different, was bold,
delighted, and triumphant!
"So!" cried Mrs Belfield, "why here's Miss Beverley!--in my son's back
room!" winking at Mr Delvile.
"Why here's a lady, sure enough!" said Mr Hobson, "and just where she
should be, and that is with a gentleman. Ha! ha! that's the right way,
according to my notion! that's the true maxim for living agreeable."
"I came to see Miss Belfield," cried Cecilia, endeavouring, but vainly,
to speak with composure, "and she brought me into this room."
"I am but this moment," cried Belfield, with eagerness, "returned home;
and unfortunately broke into the room, from total ignorance of the
honour which Miss Beverley did my sister."
These speeches, though both literally true, sounded, in the
circumstances which brought them out, so much as mere excuses, that
while Mr Delvile haughtily marked his incredulity by a motion of his
chin, Mrs Belfield continued winking at him most significantly, and Mr
Hobson, with still less ceremony, laughed aloud.
"I have nothing more, ma'am," said Mr Delvile to Mrs Belfield, "to
enquire, for the few doubts with which I came to this house are now
entirely satisfied. Good morning to you, ma'am."
"Give me leave, Sir," said Cecilia, advancing with more spirit, "to
explain, in presence of those who can best testify my veracity, the
"I would by no means occasion you such unnecessary trouble, ma'am,"
answered he, with an air at once exulting and pompous, "the situation
in which I see you abundantly satisfies my curiosity, and saves me from
the apprehension I was under of being again convicted of a _mistake_!"
He then made her a stiff bow, and went to his chair.
Cecilia, colouring deeply at this contemptuous treatment, coldly took
leave of Henrietta, and courtsying to Mrs Belfield, hastened into the
passage, to get into her own.
Henrietta was too much intimidated to speak, and Belfield was too
delicate to follow her; Mr Hobson only said "The young lady seems quite
dashed;" but Mrs Belfield pursued her with entreaties she would stay.
She was too angry, however, to make any answer but by a distant bow of
the head, and left the house with a resolution little short of a vow
never again to enter it.
Her reflections upon this unfortunate visit were bitter beyond measure;
the situation in which she had been surprised,--clandestinely concealed
with only Belfield and his sister--joined to the positive assertions of
her partiality for him made by his mother, could not, to Mr Delvile,
but appear marks irrefragable that his charge in his former
conversation was rather mild than over-strained, and that the
connection he had mentioned, for whatever motives denied, was
The apparent conviction of this part of the accusation, might also
authorise, to one but too happy in believing ill of her, an implicit
faith in that which regarded her having run out her fortune. His
determination not to hear her shewed the inflexibility of his
character; and it was evident, notwithstanding his parading pretensions
of wishing her welfare, that his inordinate pride was inflamed, at the
very supposition he could be mistaken or deceived for a moment.
Even Delvile himself, if gone abroad, might now hear this account with
exaggerations that would baffle all his confidence: his mother, too,
greatly as she esteemed and loved her, might have the matter so
represented as to stagger her good opinion;--these were thoughts the
most afflicting she could harbour, though their probability was such
that to banish them was impossible.
To apply again to Mr Delvile to hear her vindication, was to subject
herself to insolence, and almost to court indignity. She disdained even
to write to him, since his behaviour called for resentment, not
concession; and such an eagerness to be heard, in opposition to all
discouragement, would be practising a meanness that would almost merit
Her first inclination was to write to Mrs Delvile, but what now, to
her, was either her defence or accusation? She had solemnly renounced
all further intercourse with her, she had declared against writing
again, and prohibited her letters: and, therefore, after much
fluctuation of opinion, her delicacy concurred with her judgment, to
conclude it would be most proper, in a situation so intricate, to leave
the matter to chance, and commit her character to time.
In the evening, while she was at tea with Lady Margaret and Miss
Bennet, she was suddenly called out to speak to a young woman; and
found, to her great surprise, she was no other than Henrietta.
"Ah madam!" she cried, "how angrily did you go away this morning! it
has made me miserable ever since, and if you go out of town without
forgiving me, I shall fret myself quite ill! my mother is gone out to
tea, and I have run here all alone, and in the dark, and in the wet, to
beg and pray you will forgive me, for else I don't know what I shall
"Sweet, gentle girl!" cried Cecilia, affectionately embracing her, "if
you had excited all the anger I am capable of feeling, such softness as
this would banish it, and make me love you more than ever!"
Henrietta then said, in her excuse, that she had thought herself quite
sure of her brother's absence, who almost always spent the whole day at
the bookseller's, as in writing himself he perpetually wanted to
consult other authors, and had very few books at their lodgings: but
she would not mention that the room was his, lest Cecilia should object
to making use of it, and she knew she had no other chance of having the
conversation with her she had so very long wished for. She then again
begged her pardon, and hoped the behaviour of her mother would not
induce her to give her up, as she was shocked at it beyond measure, and
as her brother, she assured her, was as innocent of it as herself.
Cecilia heard her with pleasure, and felt for her an encreasing regard.
The openness of her confidence in the morning had merited all her
affection, and she gave her the warmest protestations of a friendship
which she was certain would be lasting as her life.
Henrietta then, with a countenance that spoke the lightness of her
heart, hastily took her leave, saying she did not dare be out longer,
lest her mother should discover her excursion. Cecilia insisted,
however, upon her going in a chair, which she ordered her servant to
attend, and take care himself to discharge.
This visit, joined to the tender and unreserved conversation of the
morning, gave Cecilia the strongest desire to invite her to her house
in the country; but the terror of Mrs Belfield's insinuations, added to
the cruel interpretations she had to expect from Mr Delvile, forbid her
indulging this wish, though it was the only one that just now she could
Cecilia took leave over night of the family, as she would not stay
their rising in the morning: Mr Monckton, though certain not to sleep
when she was going, forbearing to mark his solicitude by quitting his
apartment at any unusual hour. Lady Margaret parted from her with her
accustomed ungraciousness, and Miss Bennet, because in her presence, in
a manner scarcely less displeasing.
The next morning, with only her servants, the moment it was light, she
set out. Her journey was without incident or interruption, and she went
immediately to the house of Mrs Bayley, where she had settled to board
till her own was finished.
Mrs Bayley was a mere good sort of woman, who lived decently well with
her servants, and tolerably well with her neighbours, upon a small
annuity, which made her easy and comfortable, though by no means
superior to such an addition to her little income as an occasional
boarder might produce.
Here Cecilia continued a full month: which time had no other employment
than what she voluntarily gave to herself by active deeds of
At Christmas, to the no little joy of the neighbourhood, she took
possession of her own house, which was situated about three miles from
The better sort of people were happy to see her thus settled amongst
them, and the poorer, who by what they already had received, knew well
what they still might expect, regarded the day in which she fixed
herself in her mansion, as a day to themselves of prosperity and
As she was no longer, as hitherto, repairing to a temporary habitation,
which at pleasure she might quit, and to which, at a certain period,
she could have no possible claim, but to a house which was her own for
ever, or, at least, could solely by her own choice be transferred, she
determined, as much as was in her power, in quitting her desultory
dwellings, to empty her mind of the transactions which had passed in
them, and upon entering a house where she was permanently to reside, to
make the expulsion of her past sorrows, the basis upon which to
establish her future serenity.
And this, though a work of pain and difficulty, was not impracticable;
her sensibility, indeed, was keen, and she had suffered from it the
utmost torture; but her feelings were not more powerful than her
understanding was strong, and her fortitude was equal to her trials.
Her calamities had saddened, but not weakened her mind, and the words
of Delvile in speaking of his mother occurred to her now with all the
conviction of experience, that "evils inevitable are always best
supported, because known to be past amendment, and felt to give
defiance to struggling." [Footnote: See Vol. ii. p. 317.]
A plan by which so great a revolution was to be wrought in her mind,
was not to be effected by any sudden effort of magnanimity, but by a
regular and even tenour of courage mingled with prudence. Nothing,
therefore, appeared to her so indispensable as constant employment, by
which a variety of new images might force their way in her mind to
supplant the old ones, and by which no time might be allowed for
brooding over melancholy retrospections.
Her first effort, in this work of mental reformation, was to part with
Fidel, whom hitherto she had almost involuntarily guarded, but whom she
only could see to revive the most dangerous recollections. She sent
him, therefore, to the castle, but without any message; Mrs Delvile,
she was sure, would require none to make her rejoice in his
Her next step was writing to Albany, who had given her his direction,
to acquaint him she was now ready to put in practice their long
concerted scheme. Albany instantly hastened to her, and joyfully
accepted the office of becoming at once her Almoner and her Monitor. He
made it his business to seek objects of distress, and always but too
certain to find them, of conducting her himself to their habitations,
and then leaving to her own liberality the assistance their several
cases demanded: and, in the overflowing of his zeal upon these
occasions, and the rapture of his heart in thus disposing, almost at
his pleasure, of her noble fortune, he seemed, at times, to feel an
extasy that, from its novelty and its excess, was almost too exquisite
to be borne. He joined with the beggars in pouring blessings upon her
head, he prayed for her with the poor, and he thanked her with the
The pew-opener and her children failed not to keep their appointment,
and Cecilia presently contrived to settle them in her neighbourhood:
where the poor woman, as she recovered her strength, soon got a little
work, and all deficiencies in her power of maintaining herself were
supplied by her generous patroness. The children, however, she ordered
to be coarsely brought up, having no intention to provide for them but
by helping them to common employments.
The promise, also, so long made to Mrs Harrel of an apartment in her
house, was now performed. That lady accepted it with the utmost
alacrity, glad to make any change in her situation, which constant
solitude had rendered wholly insupportable. Mr Arnott accompanied her
to the house, and spent one day there; but receiving from Cecilia,
though extremely civil and sweet to him, no hint of any invitation for
repeating his visit, he left it in sadness, and returned to his own in
deep dejection. Cecilia saw with concern how he nourished his hopeless
passion, but knew that to suffer his visits would almost authorise his
feeding it; and while she pitied unaffectedly the unhappiness she
occasioned, she resolved to double her own efforts towards avoiding
This action, however, was a point of honour, not of friendship, the
time being long since past that the society of Mrs Harrel could afford
her any pleasure; but the promises she had so often made to Mr Harrel
in his distresses, though extorted from her merely by the terrors of
the moment, still were promises, and, therefore, she held herself bound
to fulfil them.
Yet far from finding comfort in this addition to her family, Mrs Harrel
proved to her nothing more than a trouble and an incumbrance; with no
inherent resources, she was continually in search of occasional
supplies; she fatigued Cecilia with wonder at the privacy of her life,
and tormented her with proposals of parties and entertainments. She was
eternally in amazement that with powers so large, she had wishes so
confined, and was evidently disappointed that upon coming to so ample
an estate, she lived, with respect to herself and her family, with no
more magnificence or shew than if Heiress to only ú500 a year.
But Cecilia was determined to think and to live for herself, without
regard to unmeaning wonder or selfish remonstrances; she had neither
ambition for splendour, nor spirits for dissipation; the recent sorrow
of her heart had deadened it for the present to all personal taste of
happiness, and her only chance for regaining it, seemed through the
medium of bestowing it upon others. She had seen, too, by Mr Harrel,
how wretchedly external brilliancy could cover inward woe, and she had
learned at Delvile Castle to grow sick of parade and grandeur. Her
equipage, therefore, was without glare, though not without elegance,
her table was plain, though hospitably plentiful, her servants were for
use, though too numerous to be for labour. The system of her oeconomy,
like that of her liberality, was formed by rules of reason, and her own
ideas of right, and not by compliance with example, nor by emulation
with the gentry in her neighbourhood.
But though thus deviating in her actions from the usual customs of the
young and rich, she was peculiarly careful not to offend them by
singularity of manners. When she mixed with them, she was easy,
unaffected, and well bred, and though she saw them but seldom, her good
humour and desire of obliging kept them always her friends. The plan
she had early formed at Mrs Harrel's she now studied daily to put in
practice; but that part by which the useless or frivolous were to be
excluded her house, she found could only be supported by driving from
her half her acquaintance.
Another part, also, of that project she found still less easy of
adoption, which was solacing herself with the society of the wise,
good, and intelligent. Few answered this description, and those few
were with difficulty attainable. Many might with joy have sought out
her liberal dwelling, but no one had idly waited till the moment it was
at her disposal. All who possessed at once both talents and wealth,
were so generally courted they were rarely to be procured; and all who
to talents alone owed their consequence, demanded, if worth acquiring,
time and delicacy to be obtained. Fortune she knew, however, was so
often at war with Nature, that she doubted not shortly meeting those
who would gladly avail themselves of her offered protection.
Yet, tired of the murmurs of Mrs Harrel, she longed for some relief
from her society, and her desire daily grew stronger to owe that relief
to Henrietta Belfield. The more she meditated upon this wish, the less
unattainable it appeared to her, till by frequently combating its
difficulties, she began to consider them imaginary: Mrs Belfield, while
her son was actually with herself, might see she took not Henrietta as
his appendage; and Mr Delvile, should he make further enquiries, might
hear that her real connection was with the sister, since she received
her in the country, where the brother made no pretence to follow her.
She considered, too, how ill she should be rewarded in giving up
Henrietta for Mr Delvile, who was already determined to think ill of
her, and whose prejudices no sacrifice would remove.
Having hesitated, therefore, some time between the desire of present
alleviation, and the fear of future mischief, the consciousness of her
own innocence at length vanquished all dread of unjust censure, and she
wrote an invitation to Henrietta enclosed in a letter to her mother.
The answer of Henrietta expressed her rapture at the proposal; and that
of Mrs Belfield made no objection but to the expence.
Cecilia, therefore, sent her own maid to travel with her into Suffolk,
with proper directions to pay for the journey.
The gratitude of the delighted Henrietta at the meeting was boundless;
and her joy at so unexpected a mark of favour made her half wild.
Cecilia suffered it not to languish for want of kindness to support it;
she took her to her bosom, became the soother of all her cares, and
reposed in her, in return, every thought that led not to Delvile.
There, however, she was uniformly silent; solemnly and eternally parted
from him, far from trusting the secret of her former connexion to
Henrietta, the whole study of her life was to drive the remembrance of
it from herself.
Henrietta now tasted a happiness to which as yet her whole life had
been a stranger; she was suddenly removed from turbulent vulgarity to
the enjoyment of calm elegance; and the gentleness of her disposition,
instead of being tyrannically imposed upon, not only made her loved
with affection, but treated with the most scrupulous delicacy. Cecilia
had her share in all the comfort she bestowed; she had now a friend to
oblige, and a companion to converse with. She communicated to her all
her schemes, and made her the partner of her benevolent excursions; she
found her disposition as amiable upon trial, as her looks and her
manners had been engaging at first sight; and her constant presence and
constant sweetness, imperceptibly revived her spirits, and gave a new
interest to her existence.
Meantime Mr Monckton, who returned in about a fortnight to the Grove,
observed the encreasing influence of Albany with the most serious
concern. The bounties of Cecilia, extensive, magnificent, unlimited,
were the theme of every tongue, and though sometimes censured and
sometimes admired, they were wondered at universally. He suffered her
for a while to go on without remonstrance, hoping her enthusiasm would
abate, as its novelty wore out: but finding that week following week
was still distinguished by some fresh act of beneficence, he grew so
alarmed and uneasy, he could restrain himself no longer. He spoke to
her with warmth, he represented her conduct as highly dangerous in its
consequence; he said she would but court impostors from every corner of
the kingdom, called Albany a lunatic, whom she should rather avoid than
obey; and insinuated that if a report was spread of her proceedings, a
charity so prodigal, would excite such alarm, that no man would think
even her large and splendid fortune, would ensure him from ruin in
seeking her alliance.
Cecilia heard this exhortation without either terror or impatience, and
answered it with the utmost steadiness. His influence over her mind was
no longer uncontrolled, for though her suspicions were not
strengthened, they had never been removed, and friendship has no foe so
dangerous as distrust! She thanked him, however, for his zeal, but
assured him his apprehensions were groundless, since though she acted
from inclination, she acted not without thought. Her income was very
large, and she was wholly without family or connection; to spend it
merely upon herself would be something still worse than extravagance,
it must result from wilfulness the most inexcusable, as her disposition
was naturally averse to luxury and expence. She might save indeed, but
for whom? not a creature had such a claim upon her; and with regard to
herself, she was so provided for it would be unnecessary. She would
never, she declared, run in debt even for a week, but while her estate
was wholly clear, she would spend it without restriction.
To his hint of any future alliance, she only said that those who
disapproved her conduct, would probably be those she should disapprove
in her turn; should such an event however take place, the retrenching
from that time all her present peculiar expences, would surely, in a
clear ú3000 a-year, leave her rich enough for any man, without making
it incumbent upon her at present, to deny herself the only pleasure she
could taste, in bestowing that money which to her was superfluous, upon
those who received it as the prolongation of their existence.
A firmness so deliberate in a system he so much dreaded, greatly
shocked Mr Monckton, though it intimidated him from opposing it; he saw
she was too earnest, and too well satisfied she was right, to venture
giving her disgust by controverting her arguments; the conversation,
therefore, ended with new discontent to himself, and with an impression
upon the mind of Cecilia, that though he was zealous and friendly, he
was somewhat too worldly and suspicious.
She went on, therefore, as before, distributing with a lavish hand all
she could spare from her own household; careful of nothing but of
guarding against imposition, which, though she sometimes unavoidably
endured, her discernment, and the activity of her investigating
diligence, saved her from suffering frequently. And the steadiness with
which she repulsed those whom she detected in deceit, was a check upon
tricks and fraud, though it could not wholly put a stop to them.
Money, to her, had long appeared worthless and valueless; it had failed
to procure her the establishment for which she once flattered herself
it seemed purposely designed; it had been disdained by the Delviles,
for the sake of whose connection she had alone ever truly rejoiced in
possessing it; and after such a conviction of its inefficacy to secure
her happiness, she regarded it as of little importance to herself, and
therefore thought it almost the due of those whose distresses gave it a
consequence to which with her it was a stranger.
In this manner with Cecilia passed the first winter of her majority.
She had sedulously filled it with occupations, and her occupations had
proved fertile in keeping her mind from idleness, and in restoring it
to chearfulness. Calls upon her attention so soothing, and avocations
so various for her time, had answered the great purpose for which
originally she had planned them, in almost forcing from her thoughts
those sorrows which, if indulged, would have rested in them
The spring was now advancing, and the weather was remarkably fine; when
one morning, while Cecilia was walking with Mrs Harrel and Henrietta on
the lawn before her house, to which the last dinner bell was just
summoning them, to return, Mrs Harrel looked round and stopt at sight
of a gentleman galloping towards them, who in less than a minute
approached, and dismounting and leaving his horse to his servant,
struck them all at the same instant to be no other than young Delvile!
A sight so unexpected, so unaccountable, so wonderful, after an absence
so long, and to which they were mutually bound, almost wholly over-
powered Cecilia from surprise and a thousand other feelings, and she
caught Mrs Harrel by the arm, not knowing what she did, as if for
succour; while Henrietta with scarce less, though much more glad
emotion, suddenly exclaimed, "'tis Mr Delvile!" and sprang forward to
He had reached them, and in a voice that spoke hurry and perturbation,
respectfully made his compliments to them all, before Cecilia recovered
even the use of her feet: but no sooner were they restored to her, than
she employed them with the quickest motion in her power, still leaning
upon Mrs Harrel, to hasten into the house. Her solemn promise to Mrs
Delvile became uppermost in her thoughts, and her surprise was soon
succeeded by displeasure, that thus, without any preparation, he forced
her to break it by an interview she had no means to prevent.
Just as they reached the entrance into the house, the Butler came to
tell Cecilia that dinner was upon the table. Delvile then went up to
her, and said, "May I wait upon you for one instant before--or after
"I am engaged, Sir," answered she, though hardly able to speak, "for
the whole day."
"You will not, I hope, refuse to hear me," cried he, eagerly, "I cannot
write what I have to say,--"
"There is no occasion that you should, Sir," interrupted she, "since I
should scarcely find time to read it."
She then courtsied, though without looking at him, and went into the
house; Delvile remaining in utter dismay, not daring, however wishing,
to follow her. But when Mrs Harrel, much surprised at behaviour so
unusual from Cecilia, approached him with some civil speeches, he
started, and wishing her good day, bowed, and remounted his horse:
pursued by the soft eyes of Henrietta till wholly out of sight.
They then both followed Cecilia to the dining-parlour.
Had not Mrs Harrel been of this small party, the dinner would have been
served in vain; Cecilia, still trembling with emotion, bewildered with
conjecture, angry with Delvile for thus surprising her, angry with
herself for so severely receiving him, amazed what had tempted him to
such a violation of their joint agreement, and irresolute as much what
to wish as what to think, was little disposed for eating, and with
difficulty compelled herself to do the honours of her table.
Henrietta, whom the sight of Delvile had at once delighted and
disturbed, whom the behaviour of Cecilia had filled with wonder and
consternation, and whom the evident inquietude and disappointment which
that behaviour had given to Delvile, had struck with grief and terror,
could not swallow even a morsel, but having cut her meat about her
plate, gave it, untouched, to a servant.
Mrs Harrel, however, though she had had her share in the surprise, had
wholly escaped all other emotion; and only concluded in her own mind,
that Cecilia could sometimes be out of humour and ill bred, as well as
the rest of the world.
While the dessert was serving, a note was brought to Henrietta, which a
servant was waiting in great haste to have answered.
Henrietta, stranger to all forms of politeness, though by nature soft,
obliging and delicate, opened it immediately; she started as she cast
her eye over it, but blushed, sparkled, and looked enchanted, and
hastily rising, without even a thought of any apology, ran out of the
room to answer it.
Cecilia, whose quick eye, by a glance unavoidable, had seen the hand of
Delvile, was filled with new amazement at the sight. As soon as the
servants were gone, she begged Mrs Harrel to excuse her, and went to
her own apartment.
Here, in a few minutes, she was followed by Henrietta, whose
countenance beamed with pleasure, and whose voice spoke tumultuous
delight. "My dear, dear Miss Beverley!" she cried, "I have such a thing
to tell you!--you would never guess it,--I don't know how to believe it
myself,--but Mr Delvile has written to me!--he has indeed! that note
was from him.--I have been locking it up, for fear of accidents, but
I'll run and fetch it, that you may see it yourself."
She then ran away; leaving Cecilia much perplexed, much uneasy for
herself, and both grieved and alarmed for the too tender, too
susceptible Henrietta, who was thus easily the sport of every airy and
"If I did not shew it you," cried Henrietta, running back in a moment,
"you would never think it possible, for it is to make such a request--
that it has frightened me almost out of my wits!"
Cecilia then read the note.
_To Miss Belfield_.
Mr Delvile presents his compliments to Miss Belfield, and begs to be
permitted to wait upon her for a few minutes, at any time in the
afternoon she will be so good as to appoint.
"Only think," cried the rapturous Henrietta, "it was _me_, poor simple
_me_, of all people, that he wanted so to speak with!--I am sure I
thought a different thought when he went away! but do, dearest Miss
Beverley, tell me this one thing, what do you think he can have to say
"Indeed," replied Cecilia, extremely embarrassed, it is impossible for
me to conjecture."
"If _you_ can't, I am sure, then, it is no wonder _I_ can't! and I have
been thinking of a million of things in a minute. It can't be about any
business, because I know nothing in the world of any business; and it
can't be about my brother, because he would go to our house in town
about him, and there he would see him himself; and it can't be about my
dear Miss Beverley, because then he would have written the note to her
and it can't be about any body else, because I know nobody else of his
Thus went on the sanguine Henrietta, settling whom and what it could
_not_ be about, till she left but the one thing to which her wishes
pointed that it _could_ be about. Cecilia heard her with true
compassion, certain that she was deceiving herself with imaginations
the most pernicious; yet unable to know how to quell them, while in
such doubt and darkness herself.
This conversation was soon interrupted, by a message that a gentleman
in the parlour begged to speak with Miss Belfield.
"O dearest, dearest Miss Beverley!" cried Henrietta, with encreasing
agitation, "what in the world shall I say to him, advise me, pray
advise me, for I can't think of a single word!"
"Impossible, my dear Henrietta, unless I knew what he would say to
"O but I can guess, I can guess!"--cried she, her cheeks glowing, while
her whole frame shook, "and I sha'n't know what in the whole world to
answer him! I know I shall behave like a fool,--I know I shall disgrace
Cecilia, truly sorry Delvile should see her in such emotion,
endeavoured earnestly to compose her, though never less tranquil
herself. But she could not succeed, and she went down stairs with
expectations of happiness almost too potent for her reason.
Not such were those of Cecilia; a dread of some new conflict took
possession of her mind, that mind so long tortured with struggles, so
lately restored to serenity!
Henrietta soon returned, but not the same Henrietta she went;--the
glow, the hope, the flutter were all over; she looked pale and wan, but
attempting, as she entered the room, to call up a smile, she failed,
and burst into tears.
Cecilia threw her arms round her neck, and tried to console her; but,
happy to hide her face in her bosom, she only gave the freer indulgence
to her grief, and rather melted than comforted by her tenderness,
Cecilia too easily conjectured the disappointment she had met, to pain
her by asking it; she forbore even to gratify her own curiosity by
questions that could not but lead to her mortification, and suffering
her therefore to take her own time for what she had to communicate, she
hung over her in silence with the most patient pity.
Henrietta was very sensible of this kindness, though she knew not half
its merit: but it was a long time before she could articulate, for
sobbing, that _all_ Mr Delvile wanted, at last, was only to beg she
would acquaint Miss Beverley, that he had done himself the honour of
waiting upon her with a message from Mrs Delvile.
"From Mrs Delvile?" exclaimed Cecilia, all emotion in her turn, "good
heaven! how much, then, have I been to blame? where is he now?--where
can I send to him?--tell me, my sweet Henrietta, this instant!"
"Oh madam!" cried Henrietta, bursting into a fresh flood of tears, "how
foolish have I been to open my silly heart to you!--he is come to pay
his addresses to you!--I am sure he is!--"
"No, no, no!" cried Cecilia, "indeed he is not!--but I must, I ought to
see him,--where, my love, is he?",
"In the parlour,--waiting for an answer.--"
Cecilia, who at any other time would have been provoked at such a delay
in the delivery of a message so important, felt now nothing but concern
for Henrietta, whom she hastily kissed, but instantly, however,
quitted, and hurried to Delvile, with expectations almost equally
sanguine as those her poor friend but the moment before had crushed.
"Oh now," thought she, "if at last Mrs Delvile herself has relented,
with what joy will I give up all reserve, all disguise, and frankly
avow the faithful affection of my heart!"
Delvile received her not with the eagerness with which he had first
addressed her; he looked extremely disturbed, and, even after her
entrance, undetermined how to begin.
She waited, however, his explanation in silence; and, after an
irresolute pause, he said, with a gravity not wholly free from
resentment, "I presumed, madam, to wait upon you from the permission of
my mother; but I believe I have obtained it so late, that the influence
I hoped from it is past!"
"I had no means, Sir," answered she, chearfully, "to know that you came
from her: I should else have received her commands without any
"I would thank you for the honour you do her, were it less pointedly
exclusive. I have, however, no right of reproach! yet suffer me to ask,
could you, madam, after such a parting, after a renunciation so
absolute of all future claim upon you, which though extorted from me by
duty, I was bound, having promised, to fulfil by principle,-could you
imagine me so unsteady, so dishonourable, as to obtrude myself into
your presence while that promise was still in force?"
"I find," cried Cecilia, in whom a secret hope every moment grew
stronger, "I have been too hasty; I did indeed believe Mrs Delvile
would never authorise such a visit; but as you have so much surprised
me, I have a right to your pardon for a little doubt."
"There spoke Miss Beverley!" cried Delvile, reanimating at this little
apology, "the same, the unaltered Miss Beverley I hoped to find!--yet
_is_ she unaltered? am I not too precipitate? and is the tale I have
heard about Belfield a dream? an error? a falsehood?"
"But that so quick a succession of quarrels," said Cecilia, half
smiling, "would be endless perplexity, I, now, would be affronted that
you can ask me such a question."
"Had I, indeed, _thought_ it a question," cried he, "I would not have
asked it: but never for a moment did I credit it, till the rigour of
your repulse alarmed me. You have condescended, now, to account for
that, and I am therefore encouraged to make known to you the purpose of
my venturing this visit. Yet not with confidence shall I speak if,
scarce even with hope!--it is a purpose that is the offspring of
"One thing, Sir," cried Cecilia, who now became frightened again, "let
me say before you proceed; if your purpose has not the sanction of Mrs
Delvile, as well as your visit, I would gladly be excused hearing it,
since I shall most certainly refuse it."
"I would mention nothing," answered he, "without her concurrence; she
has given it me: and my father himself has permitted my present
"Good Heaven!" cried Cecilia, "is it possible!" clasping her hands
together in the eagerness of her surprise and delight.
"_Is it possible_!" repeated Delvile, with a look of rapture; "ah Miss
Beverley!--once my own Cecilia!--do you, can you _wish_ it possible?"
"No, No!" cried she, while pleasure and expectation sparkled in her
eyes, "I wish nothing about it.--Yet tell me how it has happened,--I am
_curious_," added she, smiling, "though not interested in it."
"What hope would this sweetness give me," cried he, "were my scheme
almost any other than it is!--but you cannot,--no, it would be
unreasonable, it would be madness to expect your compliance!--it is
next to madness even in me to wish it,--but how shall a man who is
desperate be prudent and circumspect?"
"Spare, spare yourself," cried the ingenuous Cecilia, "this,
unnecessary pain!--you will find from me no unnecessary scruples."
"You know not what you say!--all noble as you are, the sacrifice I have
"Speak it," cried she, "with confidence! speak it even with certainty
of success! I will be wholly undisguised, and openly, honestly own to
you, that no proposal, no sacrifice can be mentioned, to which I will
not instantly agree, if first it has had the approbation of Mrs
Delvile's gratitude and thanks for a concession never before so
voluntarily made to him, interrupted for a while, even his power of
explaining himself. And now, for the first time, Cecilia's sincerity
was chearful, since now, for the first time, it seemed opposed by no
When still, therefore, he hesitated, she herself held out her hand to
him, saying, "what must I do more? must I offer this pledge to you?"
"For my life would I not resign it!" cried he, delightedly receiving
it; "but oh, how soon will you withdraw it, when the only terms upon
which I can hold it, are those of making it sign from itself its
natural right and inheritance?"
Cecilia, not comprehending him, only looked amazed, and he proceeded.
"Can you, for my sake, make such a sacrifice as this? can you for a man
who for yours is not permitted to give up his name, give up yourself
the fortune of your late uncle? consent to such settlements as I can
make upon you from my own? part with so splendid an income wholly and
for-ever?--and with only your paternal L10,000 condescend to become
mine, as if your uncle had never existed, and you had been Heiress to
no other wealth?"
This, indeed, was a stroke to Cecilia unequalled by any she had met,
and more cruel than any she could have in reserve. At the proposal of
parting with her uncle's fortune, which, desirable as it was, had as
yet been only productive to her of misery, her heart, disinterested,
and wholly careless of money, was prompt to accede to the condition;
but at the mention of her paternal fortune, that fortune, of which,
now, not the smallest vestige remained, horror seized all her
faculties! she turned pale, she trembled, she involuntarily drew back
her hand, and betrayed, by speechless agitation, the sudden agonies of
Delvile, struck by this evident dismay, instantly concluded his plan
had disgusted her. He waited some minutes in anxious expectation of an
answer, but finding her silence continued while her emotion encreased,
the deepest crimson dyed his face, and unable to check his chagrin,
though not daring to confess his disappointment, he suddenly quitted
her, and walked, in much disorder, about the room. But soon recovering
some composure, from the assistance of pride, "Pardon, madam," he said,
"a trial such as no man can be vindicated in making. I have indulged a
romantic whim, which your better judgment disapproves, and I receive
but the mortification my presumption deserved."
"You know not then," said Cecilia, in a faint voice, "my inability to
"Your ability or inability, I presume, are elective?"
"Oh no!--my power is lost--my fortune itself is gone!"
"Impossible! utterly impossible!" cried he with vehemence.
"Oh that it were!--your father knows it but too well."
"Did he, then, never hint it to you?"
"Oh distraction!" cried Delvile, "what horrible confirmation is
coming!" and again he walked away, as if wanting courage to hear her.
Cecilia was too much shocked to force upon him her explanation; but
presently returning to her, he said, "_you_, only, could have made this
"Had you, then, actually heard it?"
"Oh I had heard it as the most infamous of falsehoods! my heart swelled
with indignation at so villainous a calumny, and had it not come from
my father, my resentment at it had been inveterate!"
"Alas!" cried Cecilia, "the fact is undeniable! yet the circumstances
you may have heard with it, are I doubt not exaggerated."
"Exaggerated indeed!" he answered; "I was told you had been surprised
concealed with Belfield in a back room, I was told that your parental
fortune was totally exhausted, and that during your minority you had
been a dealer with Jews!--I was told all this by my father; you may
believe I had else not easily been made hear it!"
"Yet thus far," said she, "he told you but what is true; though--"
"True!" interrupted Delvile, with a start almost frantic. "Oh never,
then, was truth so scandalously wronged!--I denied the whole charge!-I
disbelieved every syllable!--I pledged my own honour to prove every
"Generous Delvile!" cried Cecilia, melting into tears, "this is what I
expected from you! and, believe me, in _your_ integrity my reliance had
"Why does Miss Beverley weep?" cried he, softened, and approaching her,
"and why has she given me this alarm? these things must at least have
been misrepresented, deign, then, to clear up a mystery in which
suspense is torture!"
Cecilia, then, with what precision and clearness her agitation allowed
her, related the whole history of her taking up the money of the Jew
for Mr Harrel, and told, without reserve, the reason of her trying to
abscond from his father at Mrs Belfield's. Delvile listened to her
account with almost an agony of attention, now admiring her conduct;
now resenting her ill usage; now compassionating her losses; but though
variously moved by different parts, receiving from the whole the
delight he most coveted in the establishment of her innocence.
Thanks and applause the warmest, both accompanied and followed her
narration; and then, at her request, he related in return the several
incidents and circumstances to which he had owed the permission of this
He had meant immediately to have gone abroad; but the indisposition of
his mother made him unwilling to leave the kingdom till her health
seemed in a situation less precarious. That time, however, came not;
the Winter advanced, and she grew evidently worse. He gave over,
therefore, his design till the next Spring, when, if she were able, it
was her desire to try the South of France for her recovery, whither he
meant to conduct her.
But, during his attendance upon her, the plan he had just mentioned
occurred to him, and he considered how much greater would be his chance
of happiness in marrying Cecilia with scarce any fortune at all, than
in marrying another with the largest. He was convinced she was far
other than expensive, or a lover of shew, and soon flattered himself
she might be prevailed upon to concur with him, that in living
together, though comparatively upon little, they should mutually be
happier than in living asunder upon much.
When he started this scheme to his mother, she heard it with mingled
admiration of his disinterestedness, and regret at its occasion: yet
the loftiness of her own mind, her high personal value for Cecilia, her
anxiety to see her son finally settled while she lived, lest his
disappointment should keep him single from a lasting disgust, joined to
a dejection of spirits from an apprehension that her interference had
been cruel, all favoured his scheme, and forbid her resistance. She had
often protested, in their former conflicts, that had Cecilia been
portionless, her objections had been less than to an estate so
conditioned; and that to give to her son a woman so exalted in herself,
she would have conquered the mere opposition of interest, though that
of family honour she held invincible. Delvile now called upon her to
remember those words, and ever strict in fidelity, she still promised
to abide by them.
Ah! thought Cecilia, is virtue, then, as inconsistent as vice? and can
the same character be thus high-souled, thus nobly disinterested with
regard to riches, whose pride is so narrow and so insurmountable, with
respect to family prejudice!
Yet such a sacrifice from Cecilia herself, whose income intitled her to
settlements the most splendid, Mrs Delvile thought scarcely to be
solicited; but as her son was conscious he gave up in expectation no
less than she would give up in possession, he resolved upon making the
experiment, and felt an internal assurance of success.
This matter being finally settled with his mother, the harder task
remained of vanquishing the father, by whom, and before whom the name
of Cecilia was never mentioned, not even after his return from town,
though loaded with imaginary charges against her. Mr Delvile held it a
diminution of his own in the honour of his son, to suppose he wanted
still fresh motives for resigning her. He kept, therefore, to himself
the ill opinion he brought down, as a resource in case of danger, but a
resource he disdained to make use of, unless driven to it by absolute
But, at the new proposal of his son, the accusation held in reserve
broke out; he called Cecilia a dabler with Jews, and said she had been
so from the time of her uncle's death; he charged her with the grossest
general extravagance, to which he added a most insidious attack upon
her character, drawn from her visits at Belfield's of long standing, as
well as the particular time when he had himself surprised her concealed
with the young man in a back parlour: and he asserted, that most of the
large sums she was continually taking up from her fortune, were
lavished without scruple upon this dangerous and improper favourite.
Delvile had heard this accusation with a rage scarce restrained from
violence; confident in her innocence, he boldly pronounced the whole a
forgery, and demanded the author of such cruel defamation. Mr Delvile,
much offended, refused to name any authority, but consented, with an
air of triumph, to abide by the effect of his own proposal, and gave
him a supercilious promise no longer to oppose the marriage, if the
terms he meant to offer to Miss Beverley, of renouncing her uncle's
estate, and producing her father's fortune, were accepted.
"O little did I credit," said Delvile in conclusion, "that he knew
indeed so well this last condition was impracticable! his assertions
were without proof; I thought them prejudiced surmises; and I came in
the full hope I should convict him of his error. My mother, too, who
warmly and even angrily defended you, was as firmly satisfied as myself
that the whole was a mistake, and that enquiry would prove your fortune
as undiminished as your purity. How will she be shocked at the tale I
have now to unfold! how irritated at your injuries from Harrel! how
grieved that your own too great benevolence should be productive of
such black aspersions upon your character!"
"I have been," cried Cecilia, "too facile and too unguarded; yet
always, at the moment, I seemed but guided by common humanity. I have
ever thought myself secure of more wealth than I could require, and
regarded the want of money as an evil from which I was unavoidably
exempted. My own fortune, therefore, appeared to me of small
consequence, while the revenue of my uncle insured me perpetual
prosperity.--Oh had I foreseen this moment--"
"Would you, then, have listened to my romantic proposal?"
"Would I have listened?--do you not see too plainly I could not have
"Oh yet, then, most generous of human beings, yet then be mine! By our
own oeconomy we will pay off our mortgages; by living a while abroad,
we will clear all our estates; I will still keep the name to which my
family is bigotted, and my gratitude for your compliance shall make you
forget what you lose by it!"
"Speak not to me such words!" cried Cecilia, hastily rising; "your
friends will not listen to them, neither, therefore, must I."
"My friends," cried he with energy, "are henceforth out of the
question: my father's concurrence with a proposal he _knew_ you had not
power to grant, was in fact a mere permission to insult you; for if,
instead of dark charges, he had given any authority for your losses, I
had myself spared you the shock you have so undeservedly received from
hearing it.--But to consent to a plan which _could_ not be accepted!--
to make me a tool to offer indignity to Miss Beverley!--He has released
me from his power by so erroneous an exertion of it, and my own honour
has a claim to which his commands must give place. That honour binds me
to Miss Beverley as forcibly as my admiration, and no voice but her own
shall determine my future destiny."
"That voice, then," said Cecilia, "again refers you to your mother. Mr
Delvile, indeed, has not treated me kindly; and this last mock
concession was unnecessary cruelty; but Mrs Delvile merits my utmost
respect, and I will listen to nothing which has not her previous
"But will her sanction be sufficient? and may I hope, in obtaining it,
the security of yours?"
"When I have said I will hear nothing without it, may you not almost
infer--I will refuse nothing with it!"
The acknowledgments he would now have poured forth, Cecilia would not
hear, telling him, with some gaiety, they were yet unauthorized by Mrs
Delvile. She insisted upon his leaving her immediately, and never again
returning, without his mother's express approbation. With regard to his
father, she left him totally to his own inclination; she had received
from him nothing but pride and incivility, and determined to skew
publicly her superior respect for Mrs Delvile, by whose discretion and
decision she was content to abide.
"Will you not, then, from time to time," cried Delvile, "suffer me to
consult with you?"
"No, no," answered she, "do not ask it! I have never been insincere
with you, never but from motives not to be overcome, reserved even for
a moment; I have told you I will put every thing into the power of Mrs
Delvile, but I will not a second time risk my peace by any action
unknown to her."
Delvile gratefully acknowledged her goodness, and promised to require
nothing more. He then obeyed her by taking leave, eager himself to put
an end to this new uncertainty, and supplicating only that her good
wishes might follow his enterprise.
And thus, again, was wholly broken the tranquility of Cecilia; new
hopes, however faint, awakened all her affections, and strong fears,
but too reasonable, interrupted her repose. Her destiny, once more, was
as undecided as ever, and the expectations she had crushed, retook
possession of her heart.
The suspicions she had conceived of Mr Monckton again occurred to her;
though unable to ascertain and unwilling to believe them, she tried to
drive them from her thoughts. She lamented, however, with bitterness,
her unfortunate connexion with Mr Harrel, whose unworthy impositions
upon her kindness of temper and generosity, now proved to her an evil
far more serious and extensive, than in the midst of her repugnance to
them she had ever apprehended.
Delvile had been gone but a short time, before Henrietta, her eyes
still red, though no longer streaming, opened the parlour door, and
asked if she might come in?
Cecilia wished to be alone, yet could not refuse her.
"Well, madam," cried she, with a forced smile, and constrained air of
bravery, "did not I guess right?"
"In what?" said Cecilia, unwilling to understand her.
"In what I said would happen?--I am sure you know what I mean."
Cecilia, extremely embarrassed, made no answer; she much regretted the
circumstances which had prevented an earlier communication, and was
uncertain whether, now, it would prove most kind or most cruel to
acquaint her with what was in agitation, which, should it terminate in
nothing, was unnecessarily wounding her delicacy for the openness of
her confidence, and which, however serviceable it might prove to her in
the end, was in the means so rough and piercing she felt the utmost
repugnance to the experiment.
"You think me, madam, too free," said Henrietta, "in asking such a
question; and indeed your kindness has been so great, it may well make
me forget myself: but if it does, I am sure I deserve you should send
me home directly, and then there is not much fear I shall soon he
brought to my senses!"
"No, my dear Henrietta, I can never think you too free; I have told you
already every thing I thought you would have pleasure in hearing;
whatever I have concealed, I have been fearful would only pain you."
"I have _deserved_, madam," said she, with spirit, "to be pained, for I
have behaved with the folly of a baby. I am very angry with myself
indeed! I was old enough to have known better,--and I ought to have
been wise enough."
"You must then be angry with yourself, next," said Cecilia, anxious to
re-encourage her, "for all the love that I bear you; since to your
openness and frankness it was entirely owing."
"But there are some things that people should _not_ be frank in;
however, I am only come now to beg you will tell me, madam, when it is
to be;--and don't think I ask out of nothing but curiosity, for I have a
very great reason for it indeed."
"What be, my dear Henrietta?--you are very rapid in your ideas!"
"I will tell you, madam, what my reason is; I shall go away to my own
home,--and so I would if it were ten times a worse home than it is!--
just exactly the day before. Because afterwards I shall never like to
look that gentleman in the face,--never, never!--for married ladies I
know are not to be trusted!"
"Be not apprehensive; you have no occasion. Whatever may be my fate, I
will never be so treacherous as to betray my beloved Henrietta to _any_
"May I ask you, madam, one question?"
"Why did all this never happen before?"
"Indeed," cried Cecilia, much distressed, "I know not that it will
"Why what, dear madam, can hinder it?"
"A thousand, thousand things! nothing can be less secure."
"And then I am still as much puzzled as ever. I heard, a good while
ago, and we all heard that it was to be; and I thought that it was no
wonder, I am sure, for I used often to think it was just what was most
likely; but afterwards we heard it was no such thing, and from that
moment I always believed there had been nothing at all in it."
"I must speak to you, I find, with sincerity; my affairs have long been
in strange perplexity: I have not known myself what to expect; one day
has perpetually reversed the prospect of another, and my mind has been
in a state of uncertainty and disorder, that has kept it--that still
keeps it from comfort and from rest!"
"This surprises me indeed, madam! I thought _you_ were all happiness!
but I was sure you deserved it, and I thought you had it for that
reward. And this has been the thing that has made me behave so wrong;
for I took it into my head I might tell you every thing, because I
concluded it could be nothing to you; for if great people loved one
another, I always supposed they married directly; poor people, indeed,
must stay till they are able to settle; but what in the whole world,
thought I, if they like one another, should hinder such a rich lady as
Miss Beverley from marrying such a rich gentleman at once?"
Cecilia now, finding there was no longer any chance for concealment,
thought it better to give the poor Henrietta at least the gratification
of unreserved confidence, which might somewhat sooth her uneasiness by
proving her reliance in her faith. She frankly, therefore, confessed to
her the whole of her situation. Henrietta wept at the recital with
bitterness, thought Mr Delvile a monster, and Mrs Delvile herself
scarce human; pitied Cecilia with unaffected tenderness, and wondered
that the person could exist who had the heart to give grief to young
Delvile! She thanked her most gratefully for reposing such trust in
her; and Cecilia made use of this opportunity, to enforce the necessity
of her struggling more seriously to recover her indifferency.
She promised she would not fail; and forbore steadily from that time to
name Delvile any more: but the depression of her spirits shewed she had
suffered a disappointment such as astonished even Cecilia. Though
modest and humble, she had conceived hopes the most romantic, and
though she denied, even to herself, any expectations from Delvile, she
involuntarily nourished them with the most sanguine simplicity. To
compose and to strengthen her became the whole business of Cecilia;
who, during her present suspense, could find no other employment in
which she could take any interest.
Mr Monckton, to whom nothing was unknown that related to Cecilia, was
soon informed of Delvile's visit, and hastened in the utmost alarm, to
learn its event. She had now lost all the pleasure she had formerly
derived from confiding in him, but though averse and confused, could
not withstand his enquiries.
Unlike the tender Henrietta's was his disappointment at this relation,
and his rage at such repeated trials was almost more than he could
curb. He spared neither the Delviles for their insolence of mutability
in rejecting or seeking her at their pleasure, nor herself for her
easiness of submission in being thus the dupe of their caprices. The
subject was difficult for Cecilia to dilate upon; she wished to clear,
as he deserved, Delvile himself from any share in the censure, and she
felt hurt and offended at the charge of her own improper readiness; yet
shame and pride united in preventing much vindication of either, and
she heard almost in silence what with pain she bore to hear at all.
He now saw, with inexpressible disturbance, that whatever was his power
to make her uneasy, he had none to make her retract, and that the
conditional promise she had given Delvile to be wholly governed by his
mother, she was firm in regarding to be as sacred as one made at the
Perceiving this, he dared trust his temper with no further debate; he
assumed a momentary calmness for the purpose of taking leave of her,
and with pretended good wishes for her happiness, whatever might be her
determination, he stifled the reproaches with which his whole heart was
swelling, and precipitately left her.
Cecilia, affected by his earnestness, yet perplexed in all her
opinions, was glad to be relieved from useless exhortations, and not
sorry, in her present uncertainty, that his visit was not repeated.
She neither saw nor heard from Delvile for a week, and augured nothing
but evil from such delay. The following letter then came by the post.
_To Miss Beverley. April 2d_, 1780
I must write without comments, for I dare not trust myself with making
any; I must write without any beginning address, for I know not how you
will permit me to address you.
I have lived a life of tumult since last compelled to leave you, and
when it may subside, I am still in utter ignorance.
The affecting account of the losses you have suffered through your
beneficence to the Harrels, and the explanatory one of the calumnies
you have sustained from your kindness to the Belfields, I related with
the plainness which alone I thought necessary to make them felt. I then
told the high honour I had received, in meeting with no other repulse
to my proposal, than was owing to an inability to accede to it; and
informed my mother of the condescending powers with which you had
invested her. In conclusion I mentioned my new scheme, and firmly,
before I would listen to any opposition, I declared that though wholly
to their decision I left the relinquishing my own name or your fortune,
I was not only by your generosity more internally yours than ever, but
that since again I had ventured, and with permission to apply to you, I
should hold myself hence forward unalterably engaged to you.
And so I do, and so I shall! nor, after a renewal so public, will any
prohibition but yours have force to keep me from throwing myself at
My father's answer I will not mention; I would I could forget it! his
prejudices are irremediable, his resolutions are inflexible. Who or
what has worked him into an animosity so irreclaimable, I cannot
conjecture, nor will he tell; but something darkly mysterious has part
in his wrath and his injustice.
My mother was much affected by your reference to herself. Words of the
sweetest praise broke repeatedly from her; no other such woman, she
said, existed; no other such instance could be found of fidelity so
exalted! her son must have no heart but for low and mercenary
selfishness, if, after a proof of regard so unexampled, he could bear
to live without her! Oh how did such a sentence from lips so highly
reverenced, animate, delight, confirm, and oblige me at once!
The displeasure of my father at this declaration was dreadful; his
charges, always as improbable as injurious, now became too horrible for
my ears; he disbelieved you had taken up the money for Harrel, he
discredited that you visited the Belfields for Henrietta: passion not
merely banished his justice, but, clouded his reason, and I soon left
the room, that at least I might not hear the aspersions he forbid me to
I left not, however, your fame to a weak champion: my mother defended
it with all the spirit of truth, and all the confidence of similar
virtue! yet they parted without conviction, and so mutually irritated
with each other, that they agreed to meet no more.
This was too terrible! and I instantly consolidated my resentment to my
father, and my gratitude to my mother, into concessions and
supplications to both; I could not, however, succeed; my mother was
deeply offended, my father was sternly inexorable: nor here rests the
evil of their dissention, for the violence of the conflict has
occasioned a return more alarming than ever of the illness of my
All her faith in her recovery is now built upon going abroad; she is
earnest to set off immediately; but Dr Lyster has advised her to make
London in her way, and have a consultation of physicians before she
To this she has agreed; and we are now upon the road thither.
Such is, at present, the melancholy state of my affairs. My mother
_advised_ me to write; forgive me, therefore, that I waited not
something more decisive to say. I could prevail upon neither party to
meet before the journey; nor could I draw from my father the base
fabricator of the calumnies by which he has been thus abused.
Unhappily, I have nothing more to add: and whether intelligence, such
as this, or total suspense, would be least irksome, I know not. If my
mother bears her journey tolerably well, I have yet one more effort to
make; and of that the success or the failure will be instantly
communicated to Miss Beverley, by her eternally devoted, but half
Scarcely could Cecilia herself decide whether this comfortless letter
or none at all were preferable. The implacability of Mr Delvile was
shocking, but his slandering her character was still more intolerable;
yet the praises of the mother, and her generous vindication, joined to
the invariable reliance of Delvile upon her innocence, conferred upon
her an honour that offered some alleviation.
The mention of a fabricator again brought Mr Monckton to her mind, and
not all her unwillingness to think him capable of such treachery, could
now root out her suspicions. Delvile's temper, however, she knew was
too impetuous to be trusted with this conjecture, and her fear of
committing injustice being thus seconded by prudence, she determined to
keep to herself doubts that could not without danger be divulged.
She communicated briefly to Henrietta, who looked her earnest
curiosity, the continuance of her suspense; and to her own fate
Henrietta became somewhat more reconciled, when she saw that no station
in life rendered happiness certain or permanent.
Another week past still without any further intelligence. Cecilia was
then summoned to the parlour, and to Delvile himself.
He looked hurried and anxious; yet the glow of his face, and the
animation of his eyes, immediately declared he at least came not to
take leave of her.
"Can you forgive," cried he, "the dismal and unsatisfactory letter I
wrote you? I would not disobey you twice in the same manner, and I
could not till now have written in any other."
"The consultation with the physicians, then," said Cecilia, "is over?"
"Alas, yes; and the result is most alarming; they all agree my mother
is in a dangerous way, and they rather forbear to oppose, than advise
her going abroad: but upon that she is earnestly bent, and intends to
set out without delay. I shall return to her, therefore, with all
speed, and mean not to take any rest till I have seen her."
Cecilia expressed with tenderness her sorrow for Mrs Delvile: nor were
her looks illiberal in including her son in her concern.
"I must hasten," he cried, "to the credentials by which I am authorised
for coming, and I must hasten to prove if Miss Beverley has not
flattered my mother in her appeal."
He then informed her that Mrs Delvile, apprehensive for herself, and
softened for him by the confession of her danger, which she had
extorted from her physicians, had tenderly resolved upon making one
final effort for his happiness, and ill and impatient as she was, upon
deferring her journey to wait its effect.
Generously, therefore, giving up her own resentment, she wrote to Mr
Delvile in terms of peace and kindness, lamenting their late
dissention, and ardently expressing her desire to be reconciled to him
before she left England. She told him the uncertainty of her recovery
which had been acknowledged by her physicians, who had declared a
calmer mind was more essential to her than a purer air. She then added,
that such serenity was only to be given her, by the removal of her
anxiety at the comfortless state of her son. She begged him, therefore,
to make known the author of Miss Beverley's defamation, assuring him,
that upon enquiry, he would find her character and her fame as
unsullied as his own; and strongly representing, that after the
sacrifice to which she had consented, their son would be utterly
dishonourable in thinking of any other connexion. She then to this
reasoning joined the most earnest supplication, protesting, in her
present disordered state, of health, her life might pay the forfeiture
of her continual uneasiness.
"I held out," she concluded, "while his personal dignity, and the
honour of his name and family were endangered; but where interest alone
is concerned, and that interest is combated by the peace of his mind,
and the delicacy of his word, my opposition is at an end. And though
our extensive and well founded views for a splendid alliance are
abolished, you will agree with me hereafter, upon a closer inspection,
that the object for whom he relinquishes them, offers in herself the
Cecilia felt gratified, humbled, animated and depressed at once by this
letter, of which Delvile brought her a copy. "And what," cried she,
"was the answer?"
"I cannot in decency," he replied, "speak my opinion of it: read it
yourself,--and let me hear yours."
_To the Honourable Mrs Delvile_.
Your extraordinary letter, madam, has extremely surprised me. I had
been willing to hope the affair over from the time my disapprobation of
it was formally announced. I am sorry you are so much indisposed, but I
cannot conclude your health would be restored by my acceding to a plan
so derogatory to my house. I disapprove it upon every account, not only
of the name and the fortune, but the lady herself. I have reasons more
important than those I assign, but they are such as I am bound in
honour not to mention. After such a declaration, nobody, I presume,
will affront me by asking them. Her defence you have only from herself,
her accusation I have received from authority less partial. I command,
therefore, that my son, upon pain of my eternal displeasure, may never
speak to me on the subject again, and I hope, madam, from you the same
complaisance to my request. I cannot explain myself further, nor is it
necessary; it is no news, I flatter myself, to Mortimer Delvile or his
mother, that I do nothing without reason, and I believe nothing upon
A few cold compliments concerning her journey, and the re-
establishment of her health, concluded the letter.
Cecilia, having read, hastily returned it, and indignantly said, "My
opinion, Sir, upon this letter, must surely be yours; that we had done
wiser, long since, to have spared your mother and ourselves, those vain
and fruitless conflicts which we ought better to have foreseen were
liable to such a conclusion. Now, at least, let them be ended, and let
us not pursue disgrace wilfully, after suffering from it with so much
"O no," cried Delvile, "rather let us now spurn it for ever! those
conflicts must indeed be ended, but not by a separation still more
bitter than all of them."
He then told her, that his mother, highly offended to observe by the
extreme coldness of this letter, the rancour he still nourished for the
contest preceding her leaving him, no longer now refused even her
separate consent, for a measure which she thought her son absolutely
engaged to take.
"Good heaven!" cried Cecilia, much amazed, "this from Mrs Delvile!--a
"She has always maintained," he answered, "an independent mind, always
judged for herself, and refused all other arbitration: when so
impetuously she parted us, my father's will happened to be her's, and
thence their concurrence: my father, of a temper immoveable and stern,
retains stubbornly the prejudices which once have taken possession of
him; my mother, generous as fiery, and noble as proud, is open to
conviction, and no sooner convinced, than ingenuous in acknowledging
it: and thence their dissention. From my father I may hope forgiveness,
but must never expect concession; from my mother I may hope all she
ought to grant, for pardon but her vehemence,--and she has every great
quality that can dignify human nature!"
Cecilia, whose affection and reverence for Mrs Delvile were unfeigned,
and who loved in her son this filial enthusiasm, readily concurred with
him in praising her, and sincerely esteemed her the first among women.
"Now, then," cried he, with earnestness, "now is the time when your
generous admiration of her is put to the test; see what she writes to
you;--she has left to me all explanation: but I insisted upon some
credential, lest you should believe I only owed her concurrence to a
Cecilia in much trepidation took the letter, and hastily run it over.
_To Miss Beverley_.
Misery, my sweet young friend, has long been busy with us all; much
have we owed to the clash of different interests, much to that rapacity
which to enjoy any thing, demands every thing, and much to that general
perverseness which labours to place happiness in what is with-held.
Thus do we struggle on till we can struggle no longer; the felicity
with which we trifle, at best is but temporary; and before reason and
reflection shew its value, sickness and sorrow are commonly become
Be it yours, my love, and my son's, to profit by the experience, while
you pity the errors, of the many who illustrate this truth. Your mutual
partiality has been mutually unfortunate, and must always continue so
for the interests of both: but how blind is it to wait, in our own
peculiar lots, for that perfection of enjoyment we can all see wanting
in the lot of others! My expectations for my son had "outstepped the
modesty of" probability. I looked for rank and high birth, with the
fortune of Cecilia, and Cecilia's rare character. Alas! a new
constellation in the heavens might as rationally have been looked for!
My extravagance, however, has been all for his felicity, dearer to me
than life,--dearer to me than all things but his own honour! Let us but
save that, and then let wealth, ambition, interest, grandeur and pride,
since they cannot constitute his happiness, be removed from destroying
it. I will no longer play the tyrant that, weighing good and evil by my
own feelings and opinions, insists upon his acting by the notions I
have formed, whatever misery they may bring him by opposing all his
I leave the kingdom with little reason to expect I shall return to it;
I leave it--Oh blindness of vanity and passion!--from the effect of
that violence with which so lately I opposed what now I am content to
advance! But the extraordinary resignation to which you have agreed,
shews your heart so wholly my son's, and so even more than worthy the
whole possession of his, that it reflects upon him an honour more
bright and more alluring, than any the most illustrious other alliance
could now confer.
I would fain see you ere I go, lest I should see you no more; fain
ratify by word of mouth the consent that by word of mouth I so
absolutely refused! I know not how to come to Suffolk,--is it not
possible you can come to London? I am told you leave to me the
arbitration of your fate, in giving you to my son, I best shew my sense
of such an honour.
Hasten then, my love, to town, that I may see you once more! wait no
longer a concurrence thus unjustly with-held, but hasten, that I may
bless the daughter I have so often wished to own! that I may entreat
her forgiveness for all the pain I have occasioned her, and committing
to her charge the future happiness of my son, fold to my maternal heart
the two objects most dear to it!
Cecilia wept over this letter with tenderness, grief and alarm; but
declared, had it even summoned her to follow her abroad, she could not,
after reading it, have hesitated in complying.
"O now, then," cried Delvile, "let our long suspenses end! hear me with
the candour; my mother has already listened to me--be mine, my Cecilia,
at once,--and force me not, by eternal scruples, to risk another
"Good heaven, Sir!" cried Cecilia, starting, "in such a state as Mrs
Delvile thinks herself, would you have her journey delayed?"
"No, not a moment! I would but ensure you mine, and go with her all
over the world!"
"Wild and impossible!--and what is to be done with Mr Delvile?"
"It is on his account wholly I am thus earnestly precipitate. If I do
not by an immediate marriage prevent his further interference, all I
have already suffered may again be repeated, and some fresh contest
with my mother may occasion another relapse."
Cecilia, who now understood him, ardently protested she would not
listen for a moment to any clandestine expedient.
He besought her to be patient; and then anxiously represented to her
their peculiar situations. All application to his father he was
peremptorily forbid making, all efforts to remove his prejudices their
impenetrable mystery prevented; a public marriage, therefore, with such
obstacles, would almost irritate him to phrenzy, by its daring defiance
of his prohibition and authority.
"Alas!" exclaimed Cecilia, "we can never do right but in parting!"
"Say it not," cried he, "I conjure you! we shall yet live, I hope, to
prove the contrary." "And can you, then," cried she, reproachfully, "Oh
Mr Delvile! can you again urge me to enter your family in secret?"
"I grieve, indeed," he answered, "that your goodness should so severely
be tried; yet did you not condescend to commit the arbitration to my
"True; and I thought her approbation would secure my peace of mind; but
how could I have expected Mrs Delvile's consent to such a scheme!"
"She has merely accorded it from a certainty there is no other
resource. Believe me, therefore, my whole hope rests upon your present
compliance. My father, I am certain, by his letter, will now hear
neither petition nor defence; on the contrary, he will only enrage at
the temerity of offering to confute him. But when he knows you are his
daughter, his honour will then be concerned in yours, and it will be as
much his desire to have it cleared, as it is now to have it censured."
"Wait at least your return, and let us try what can be done with him."
"Oh why," cried Delvile, with much earnestness, "must I linger out
month after month in this wretched uncertainty! If I wait I am undone!
my father, by the orders I must unavoidably leave, will discover the
preparations making without his consent, and he will work upon you in
my absence, and compel you to give me up!"
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