Every hour she spent with Mrs Delvile, contributed to raise in her esteem the mind and understanding of that lady. She found, indeed, that it was not for nothing she was accused of pride, but she found at the same time so many excellent qualities, so much true dignity of mind, and so noble a spirit of liberality, that however great was the respect she seemed to demand, it was always inferior to what she felt inclined to pay.
Nor was young Delvile less rapid in the progress he made in her favour; his character, upon every opportunity of shewing it, rose in her opinion, and his disposition and manners had a mingled sweetness and vivacity that rendered his society attractive, and his conversation spirited.
Here, therefore, Cecilia experienced that happiness she so long had coveted in vain: her life was neither public nor private, her amusements were neither dissipated nor retired; the company she saw were either people of high rank or strong parts, and their visits were neither frequent nor long. The situation she quitted gave a zest to that into which she entered, for she was now no longer shocked by extravagance or levity, no longer tormented with addresses which disgusted her, nor mortified by the ingratitude of the friend she had endeavoured to serve. All was smooth and serene, yet lively and interesting.
Her plan, however, of clearing to young Delvile his mistakes concerning Belfield, she could not put in execution; for he now never led to the subject, though he was frequently alone with her, nor seemed at all desirous to renew his former raillery, or repeat his enquiries. She wondered at this change in him, but chose rather to wait the revival of his own curiosity, than to distress or perplex herself by contriving methods of explanation.
Situated thus happily, she had now one only anxiety, which was to know whether, and in what manner, Mr Belfield had received his surgeon, as well as the actual state of his own and his sister's affairs: but the fear of again encountering young Delvile in suspicious circumstances, deterred her at present from going to their house. Yet her natural benevolence, which partial convenience never lulled to sleep, impressing her with an apprehension that her services might be wanted, she was induced to write to Miss Belfield, though she forbore to visit her.
Her letter was short, but kind and to the purpose: she apologized for her officiousness, desiring to know if her brother was better, and entreated her, in terms the most delicate, to acquaint her if yet she would accept from her any assistance.
She sent this letter by her servant, who, after waiting a considerable time, brought her the following answer.
To Miss Beverley.
Ah madam! your goodness quite melts me! we want nothing, however, yet, though I fear we shall not say so much longer. But though I hope I shall never forget myself so as to be proud and impertinent, I will rather struggle with any hardship than beg, for I will not disoblige my poor brother by any fault that I can help, especially now he is fallen so low. But, thank heaven, his wound has at last been dressed, for the surgeon has found him out, and he attends him for nothing; though my brother is willing to part with every thing he is worth in the world, rather than owe that obligation to him: yet I often wonder why he hates so to be obliged, for when he was rich himself he was always doing something to oblige other people. But I fear the surgeon thinks him very bad! for he won't speak to us when we follow him down stairs.
I am sadly ashamed to send this bad writing, but I dare not ask my brother for any help, because he would only be angry that I wrote any thing about him at all; but indeed I have seen too little good come of pride to think of imitating it; and as I have not his genius, I am sure there is no need I should have his defects: ill, therefore, as I write, you, madam, who have so much goodness and gentleness, would forgive it, I believe, if it was worse, almost. And though we are not in need of your kind offers, it is a great comfort to me to think there is a lady in the world that, if we come to be quite destitute, and if the proud heart of my poor unhappy brother should be quite broke down, will look upon our distress with pity, and generously help us from quite sinking under it.—I remain, Madam, with the most humble respect, your ever most obliged humble servant, HENRIETTA BELFIELD.
Cecilia, much moved by the simplicity of this letter, determined that her very first visit from Portman-square should be to its fair and innocent writer. And having now an assurance that she was in no immediate distress, and that her brother was actually under Mr Rupil's care, she dismissed from her mind the only subject of uneasiness that at present had endeavoured to disturb it, and gave herself wholly up to the delightful serenity of [unalloyed] happiness.
Few are the days of felicity unmixed which we acknowledge while we experience, though many are those we deplore, when by sorrow taught their value, and by misfortune, their loss. Time with Cecilia now glided on with such rapidity, that before she thought the morning half over, the evening was closed, and ere she was sensible the first week was past, the second was departed for ever. More and more pleased with the inmates of her new habitation, she found in the abilities of Mrs Delvile sources inexhaustible of entertainment, and, in the disposition and sentiments of her son something so concordant to her own, that almost every word he spoke shewed the sympathy of their minds, and almost every look which caught her eyes was a reciprocation of intelligence. Her heart, deeply wounded of late by unexpected indifference, and unreserved mortification, was now, perhaps, more than usually susceptible of those penetrating and exquisite pleasures which friendship and kindness possess the highest powers of bestowing. Easy, gay, and airy, she only rose to happiness, and only retired to rest; and not merely heightened was her present enjoyment by her past disappointment, but, carrying her retrospection to her earliest remembrance, she still found her actual situation more peculiarly adapted to her taste and temper, than any she had hitherto at any time experienced.
The very morning that the destined fortnight was elapsed, she received a note from Mrs Harrel, with information of her arrival in town, and an entreaty that she would return to Portman-square.
Cecilia, who, thus happy, had forgot to mark the progress of time, was now all amazement to find the term of her absence so soon past. She thought of going back with the utmost reluctance, and of quitting her new abode with the most lively regret. The representations of Mr Monckton daily lost their force, and notwithstanding her dislike of Mr Delvile, she had no wish so earnest as that of being settled in his family for the rest of her minority.
To effect this was her next thought; yet she knew not how to make the proposal, but from the uncommon partiality of Mrs Delvile, she hoped, with a very little encouragement, she would lead to it herself.
Here, however, she was disappointed; Mrs Delvile, when she heard of the summons from the Harrels, expressed her sorrow at losing her in terms of the most flattering regret, yet seemed to think the parting indispensable, and dropt not the most distant hint of attempting to prevent it.
Cecilia, vexed and disconcerted, then made arrangements for her departure, which she fixed for the next morning.
The rest of this day, unlike every other which for the last fortnight had preceded it, was passed with little appearance, and no reality of satisfaction: Mrs Delvile was evidently concerned, her son openly avowed his chagrin, and Cecilia felt the utmost mortification; yet, though every one was discontented, no effort was made towards obtaining any delay.
The next morning during breakfast, Mrs Delvile very elegantly thanked her for granting to her so much of her time, and earnestly begged to see her in future whenever she could be spared from her other friends; protesting she was now so accustomed to her society, that she should require both long and frequent visits to soften the separation. This request was very eagerly seconded by young Delvile, who warmly spoke his satisfaction that his mother had found so charming a friend, and unaffectedly joined in her entreaties that the intimacy might be still more closely cemented.
Cecilia had no great difficulty in according her compliance to those demands, of which the kindness and cordiality somewhat lessened her disturbance at the parting.
When Mrs Harrel's carriage arrived, Mrs Delvile took a most affectionate leave of her, and her son attended her to the coach.
In her way down stairs, he stopt her for a few moments, and in some confusion said "I wish much to apologize to Miss Beverley, before her departure, for the very gross mistake of which I have been guilty. I know not if it is possible she can pardon me, and I hardly know myself by what perversity and blindness I persisted so long in my error."
"O," cried Cecilia, much rejoiced at this voluntary explanation, "if you are but convinced you were really in an error, I have nothing more to wish. Appearances, indeed, were so strangely against me, that I ought not, perhaps, to wonder they deceived you."
"This is being candid indeed," answered he, again leading her on: "and in truth, though your anxiety was obvious, its cause was obscure, and where any thing is left to conjecture, opinion interferes, and the judgment is easily warped. My own partiality, however, for Mr Belfield, will I hope plead my excuse, as from that, and not from any prejudice against the Baronet, my mistake arose: on the contrary, so highly I respect your taste and your discernment, that your approbation, when known, can scarcely fail of securing mine."
Great as was the astonishment of Cecilia at the conclusion of this speech; she was at the coach door before she could make any answer: but Delvile, perceiving her surprise, added, while he handed her in, "Is it possible—but no, it is not possible I should be again mistaken. I forbore to speak at all, till I had information by which I could not be misled."
"I know not in what unaccountable obscurity," cried Cecilia, "I, or my affairs, may be involved, but I perceive that the cloud which I had hoped was dissipated, is thicker and more impenetrable than ever."
Delvile then bowed to her with a look that accused her of insincerity, and the carriage drove away.
Teazed by these eternal mistakes, and provoked to find that though the object of her supposed partiality was so frequently changed, the notion of her positive engagement with one of the duelists was invariable, she resolved with all the speed in her power, to commission Mr Monckton to wait upon Sir Robert Floyer, and in her own name give a formal rejection to his proposals, and desire him thenceforward to make known, by every opportunity, their total independence of each other: for sick of debating with Mr Harrel, and detesting all intercourse with Sir Robert, she now dropt her design of seeking an explanation herself.
She was received by Mrs Harrel with the same coldness with which she had parted from her. That lady appeared now to have some uneasiness upon her mind, and Cecilia endeavoured to draw from her its cause; but far from seeking any alleviation in friendship, she studiously avoided her, seeming pained by her conversation, and reproached by her sight. Cecilia perceived this encreasing reserve with much concern, but with more indignation, conscious that her good offices had merited a better reception, and angry to find that her advice had not merely failed of success, but even exposed her to aversion.
Mr Harrel, on the contrary, behaved to her with unusual civility, seemed eager to oblige her, and desirous to render his house more agreeable to her than ever. But in this he did not prosper; for Cecilia, immediately upon her return, looking in her apartment for the projected alterations, and finding none had been made, was so disgusted by such a detection of duplicity, that he sunk yet lower than before in her opinion, and she repined at the necessity she was under of any longer continuing his guest.
The joy of Mr Arnott at again seeing her, was visible and sincere; and not a little was it encreased by finding that Cecilia, who sought not more to avoid Mr Harrel and Sir Robert, than she was herself avoided by Mrs Harrel, talked with pleasure to nobody else in the house, and scarcely attempted to conceal that he was the only one of the family who possessed any portion of her esteem.
Even Sir Robert appeared now to have formed a design of paying her rather more respect than he had hitherto thought necessary; but the violence he did himself was so evident, and his imperious nature seemed so repugnant to the task, that his insolence, breaking forth by starts, and checked only by compulsion, was but the more conspicuous from his inadequate efforts to disguise it.
As Cecilia now found herself cleared, at least, of all suspicions of harbouring too tender a regard for Mr Belfield, her objections to visiting his sister were removed, and the morning after her return to Mr Harrel's, she went in a chair to Swallow-street.
She sent her servant up stairs to enquire if she might be admitted, and was immediately taken into the room where she had twice before been received.
In a few minutes Miss Belfield, softly opening and shutting the door of the next apartment, made her appearance. She looked thin and pale, but much gratified by the sight of Cecilia. "Ah madam!" she cried, "you are good indeed not to forget us! and you can little think how it cheers and consoles me, that such a lady as you can condescend to be kind to me. It is quite the only pleasure that I have now in the whole world."
"I grieve that you have no greater;" cried Cecilia, "you seem much fatigued and harassed. How is your brother? I fear you neglect your own health, by too much attention to his."
"No, indeed, madam; my mother does everything for him herself, and hardly suffers anybody else to go near him."
"What, then, makes you so melancholy?" said Cecilia, taking her hand; "you do not look well; your anxiety, I am sure, is too much for your strength."
"How should I look well, madam," answered she, "living as I live? However, I will not talk of myself, but of my brother,—O he is so ill! Indeed I am sadly, sadly afraid he will never be well again!"
"What does his surgeon say? You are too tender, and too much frightened to be any judge."
"It is not that I think myself he will die of his wound, for Mr Rupil says the wound is almost nothing; but he is in a constant fever, and so thin, and so weak, that indeed it is almost impossible he should recover!"
"You are too apprehensive," said Cecilia, "you know not what effect the country air may have upon him; there are many, many expedients that with so young a man may yet be successful."
"O no, the country air can do nothing for him! for I will not deceive you, madam, for that would be doubly a fault when I am so ready in blaming other people for wearing false appearances: besides, you are so good and so gentle, that it quite composes me to talk with you. So I will honestly speak the truth, and the whole truth at once; my poor brother is lost—O I fear for ever lost!—all by his own unhappy pride! He forgets his father was a tradesman, he is ashamed of all his family, and his whole desire is to live among the grandest people, as if he belonged to no other. And now that he can no longer do that, he takes the disappointment so to heart that he cannot get the better of it; and he told me this morning that he wished he was dead, for he did not know why he should live only to see his own ruin! But when he saw how I cried at his saying so, he was very sorry indeed, for he has always been the kindest brother in the world, when he has been away from the great folks who have spoilt him: 'But why,' said he, 'Henrietta, why would you have me live, when instead of raising you and my poor mother into an higher station, I am sunk so low, that I only help to consume your own poor pittances to support me in my disgrace!'"
"I am sorry indeed," said Cecilia, "to find he has so deep a sense of the failure of his expectations: but how happens it that you are so much wiser? Young and inexperienced as you are, and early as you must have been accustomed, from your mother as well as from Mr Belfield, to far other doctrine, the clearness of your judgment, and the justness of your remarks, astonish as much as they charm me."
"Ah madam! Brought up as I have been brought up, there is little wonder I should see the danger of an high education, let me be ever so ignorant of everything else; for I, and all my sisters, have been the sufferers the whole time: and while we were kept backward, that he might be brought forward, while we were denied comforts, that he might have luxuries, how could we help seeing the evil of so much vanity, and wishing we had all been brought up according to our proper station? instead of living in continual inconvenience, and having one part of a family struggling with distress, only to let another part of it appear in a way he had no right to!"
"How rationally," said Cecilia, "have you considered this subject! and how much do I honour you for the affection you retain for your brother, notwithstanding the wrongs you have suffered to promote his elevation!"
"Indeed he deserves it; take but from him that one fault, pride, and I believe he has not another: and humoured and darling child as from his infancy he has always been, who at that can wonder, or be angry?"
"And he has still no plan, no scheme for his future destination?"
"No, madam, none at all; and that it is makes him so miserable, and being so miserable makes him so ill, for Mr Rupil says that with such uneasiness upon his mind, he can never, in his present low state, get well. O it is melancholy to see how he is altered! and how he has lost all his fine spirits! he that used to be the life of us all!—And now he hardly ever speaks a word, or if he does, he says something so sorrowful that it cuts us to the soul! But yesterday, when my mother and I thought he was asleep, he lifted up his head, and looked at us both with the tears in his eyes, which almost broke our hearts to see, and then, in a low voice, he said 'What a lingering illness is this! Ah, my dear mother, you and poor Henrietta ought to wish it quicker over! for should I recover, my life, hereafter, will but linger like this illness.' And afterwards he called out, 'what on earth is to become of me? I shall never have health for the army, nor interest, nor means; what am I to do? subsist in the very prime of my life upon the bounty of a widowed mother! or, with such an education, such connections as mine, enter at last into some mean and sordid business?'"
"It seems, then," said Cecilia, "he now less wants a physician than a friend."
"He has a friend, madam, a noble friend, would he but accept his services; but he never sees him without suffering fresh vexation, and his fever encreases after every visit he pays him."
"Well," said Cecilia, rising, "I find we shall not have an easy task to manage him; but keep up your spirits, and assure yourself he shall not be lost, if it be possible to save him."
She then, though with much fearfulness of offending, once more made an offer of her purse. Miss Belfield no longer started at the proposal; yet, gratefully thanking her, said she was not in any immediate distress, and did not dare risk the displeasure of her brother, unless driven to it by severer necessity. Cecilia, however, drew from her a promise that she would apply to her in any sudden difficulty, and charged her never to think herself without a banker while her direction was known to her.
She then bid her adieu, and returned home; meditating the whole way upon some plan of employment and advantage for Mr Belfield, which by clearing his prospects, might revive his spirits, and facilitate his recovery: for since his mind was so evidently the seat of his disease, she saw that unless she could do more for him, she had yet done nothing.
Her meditation, however, turned to no account; she could suggest nothing, for she was ignorant what was eligible to suggest. The stations and employments of men she only knew by occasionally hearing that such were their professions, and such their situations in life; but with the means and gradations by which they arose to them she was wholly unacquainted.
Mr Monckton, her constant resource in all cases of difficulty, immediately occurred to her as her most able counsellor, and she determined by the first opportunity to consult with him upon the subject, certain of advice the most judicious from his experience, and knowledge of the world.
But though she rested upon him her serious expectations of assistance, another idea entered her mind not less pleasant, though less promising of utility: this was to mention her views to young Delvile. He was already, she knew, well informed of the distress of Mr Belfield, and she hoped, by openly asking his opinion, to confirm to him her freedom from any engagement with that gentleman, and convince him, at the same time, by her application to himself, that she was equally clear of any tie with the Baronet.
The next day Cecilia had appointed to spend in St James'-square; and she knew by experience that in its course, she should in all probability find some opportunity of speaking with Delvile alone.
This accordingly happened; for in the evening Mrs Delvile quitted the room for a few moments to answer a letter. Cecilia then, left with her son, said, after a little hesitation, "Will you not think me very strange if I should take the liberty to consult you upon some business?"
"I already think you very strange," answered he; "so strange that I know not any one who at all resembles you. But what is this consultation in which you will permit me to have a voice?"
"You are acquainted, I believe, with the distress of Mr Belfield?"
"I am; and I think his situation the most melancholy that can be imagined. I pity him with my whole soul, and nothing would give me greater joy than an opportunity of serving him."
"He is, indeed, much to be compassionated," returned Cecilia; "and if something is not speedily done for him, I fear he will be utterly lost. The agitation of his mind baffles all the power of medicine, and till that is relieved, his health can never be restored. His, spirit, probably always too high for his rank in life, now struggles against every attack of sickness and of poverty, in preference to yielding to his fate, and applying to his friends for their interest and assistance. I mean not to vindicate his obduracy, yet I wish it were possible it could be surmounted. Indeed I dread to think what may become of him! feeling at present nothing but wretchedness and pain, looking forward in future to nothing but ruin and despair!"
"There is no man," cried young Delvile, with emotion, "who might not rather envy than pity sufferings which give rise to such compassion!"
"Pecuniary assistance he will not accept," she continued, "and, indeed, his mind is superior to receiving consolation from such temporary relief; I wish him, therefore, to be put into some way of life by which his own talents, which have long enough amused the world, may at length become serviceable to himself. Do you think, Sir, this is possible?"
"How do I rejoice," cried Delvile, colouring with pleasure while he spoke, "in this flattering concurrence of our opinions! see, madam," taking from his pocket a letter, "how I have been this very morning occupied, in endeavouring to procure for Mr Belfield some employment by which his education might be rendered useful, and his parts redound to his own credit and advantage."
He then broke the seal, and put into her hand a letter to a nobleman, whose son was soon going abroad, strongly recommending Belfield to him in capacity of a tutor.
A sympathy of sentiment so striking impressed them at the same moment with surprise and esteem; Delvile earnestly regarded her with eyes of speaking admiration, while the occasion of his notice rendered it too pleasant to distress her, and filled her with an inward satisfaction which brightened her whole countenance.
She had only time, in a manner that strongly marked her approbation, to return the letter, before Mrs Delvile again made her appearance.
During the rest of the evening but little was said; Cecilia was not talkative, and young Delvile was so absent, that three times his mother reminded him of an engagement to meet his father, who that night was expected at the Duke of Derwent's house in town, before he heard that she spoke to him, and three times more before, when he had heard, he obeyed.
Cecilia, when she came back to Mr Barrel's, found the house full of company. She went into the drawing-room, but did not remain there long: she was grave and thoughtful, she wished to be alone, and by the earliest opportunity, stole away to her own apartment.
Her mind was now occupied by new ideas, and her fancy was busied in the delineation of new prospects. She had been struck from her first meeting young Delvile with an involuntary admiration of his manners and conversation; she had found upon every succeeding interview something further to approve, and felt for him a rising partiality which made her always see him with pleasure, and never part from him without a wish to see him again. Yet, as she was not of that inflammable nature which is always ready to take fire, as her passions were under the controul of her reason, and she suffered not her affections to triumph over her principles, she started at her danger the moment she perceived it, and instantly determined to give no weak encouragement to a prepossession which neither time nor intimacy had justified. She denied herself the deluding satisfaction of dwelling upon the supposition of his worth, was unusually assiduous to occupy all her time, that her heart might have less leisure for imagination; and had she found that his character degenerated from the promise of his appearance, the well regulated purity of her mind would soon have enabled her to have driven him wholly from her thoughts.
Such was her situation when the circumstances of her affairs occasioned her becoming an inmate of his house; and here she grew less guarded, because less clear-sighted to the danger of negligence, for the frequency of their conversation allowed her little time to consider their effects. If at first she had been pleased with his deportment and elegance, upon intimacy she was charmed with his disposition and his behaviour; she found him manly, generous, open-hearted and amiable, fond of literature, delighting in knowledge, kind in his temper, and spirited in his actions.
Qualities such as these, when recommended by high birth, a striking figure, and polished manners, formed but a dangerous companion for a young woman, who, without the guard of any former prepossession, was so fervent an admirer of excellence as Cecilia. Her heart made no resistance, for the attack was too gentle and too gradual to alarm her vigilance, and therefore, though always sensible of the pleasure she received from his society, it was not till she returned to Portman-square, after having lived under the same roof with him for a fortnight, that she was conscious her happiness was no longer in her own power.
Mr Harrel's house, which had never pleased her, now became utterly disgustful; she was wearied and uncomfortable, yet, willing to attribute her uneasiness to any other than the true cause, she fancied the house itself was changed, and that all its inhabitants and visitors were more than unusually disagreeable: but this idle error was of short duration, the moment of self-conviction was at hand, and when Delvile presented her the letter he had written for Mr Belfield, it flashed in her eyes!
This detection of the altered state of her mind opened to her views and her hopes a scene entirely new, for neither the exertion of the most active benevolence, nor the steady course of the most virtuous conduct, sufficed any longer to wholly engage her thoughts, or constitute her felicity; she had purposes that came nearer home, and cares that threatened to absorb in themselves that heart and those faculties which hitherto had only seemed animated for the service of others.
Yet this loss of mental freedom gave her not much uneasiness, since the choice of her heart, though involuntary, was approved by her principles, and confirmed by her judgment. Young Delvile's situation in life was just what she wished, more elevated than her own, yet not so exalted as to humble her with a sense of inferiority; his connections were honourable, his mother appeared to her the first of women, his character and disposition seemed formed to make her happy, and her own fortune was so large, that to the state of his she was indifferent.
Delighted with so flattering a union of inclination with propriety, she now began to cherish the partiality she at first had repressed, and thinking the future destination of her life already settled, looked forward with grateful joy to the prospect of ending her days with the man she thought most worthy to be entrusted with the disposal of her fortune.
She had not, indeed, any certainty that the regard of young Delvile was reciprocal, but she had every reason to believe he greatly admired her, and to suspect that his mistaken notion of her prior engagement, first with Mr Belfield, and afterwards with Sir Robert Floyer, made him at present check those sentiments in her favour which, when that error was removed, she hoped to see I encouraged.
Her purpose, therefore, was quietly to wait an explanation, which she rather wished retarded than forwarded, that her leisure and opportunity might be more for investigating his character, and saving herself from repentance.
The day following this happy intellectual arrangement, Cecilia was visited by Mr Monckton. That gentleman, who had enquired for her immediately after the Harrels went to their villa, and who had flattered himself with reaping much advantage from their absence, by frequent meetings and confidential discourses, suffered the severest mortification when he found that her stay in town rendered her not the less inaccessible to him, since he had no personal acquaintance with the Delviles, and could not venture to present himself at their house.
He was now received by her with more than usual pleasure; the time had seemed long to her since she had conversed with him, and she was eager to ask his counsel and assistance in her affairs. She related to him the motives which had induced her to go to St James'-square, and the incorrigible obstinacy with which Mr Harrel still continued to encourage the addresses of Sir Robert Floyer; she earnestly entreated him to become her agent in a business to which she was unequal, by expostulating in her cause with Mr Harrel, and by calling upon Sir Robert himself to insist upon his foregoing his unauthorised pretensions.
Mr Monckton listened eagerly to her account and request, and when she had finished, assured her he would deliberate upon each circumstance of the affair, and then maturely weigh every method he could devise, to extricate her from an embarrassment which now grew far too serious to be safely neglected.
"I will not, however," continued he, "either act or give my opinion without further enquiry, as I am confident there is a mystery in this business which lies deeper than we can at present fathom. Mr Harrel has doubtless purposes of his own to answer by this pretended zeal for Sir Robert; nor is it difficult to conjecture what they may be. Friendship, in a man of his light cast, is a mere cover, a mere name, to conceal a connection which has its basis solely in the licentious convenience of borrowing money, going to the same gaming house, and mutually communicating and boasting their mutual vices and intrigues, while, all the time, their regard for each other is equally hollow with their regard for truth and integrity."
He then cautioned her to be extremely careful with respect to any money transactions with Mr Harrel, whose splendid extravagance he assured her was universally known to exceed his fortune.
The countenance of Cecilia during this exhortation was testimony sufficient to the penetrating eyes of Mr Monckton that his advice came not too soon: a suspicion of the real state of the case speedily occurred to him, and he questioned her minutely upon the subject. She endeavoured to avoid making him any answer, but his discernment was too keen for her inartificial evasion, and he very soon gathered all the particulars of her transactions with Mr Harrel.
He was less alarmed at the sum she had lent him, which was rather within his expectations, than at the method she had been induced to take to procure it. He represented to her in the strongest manner the danger of imposition, nay of ruin, from the extortions and the craft of money-lenders; and he charged her upon no consideration to be tempted or persuaded again to have recourse to such perilous expedients.
She promised the most attentive observance of his advice: and then told him the acquaintance she had made with Miss Belfield, and her sorrow for the situation of her brother; though, satisfied for the present with the plan of young Delvile, she now gave up her design of soliciting his counsel.
In the midst of this conversation, a note was delivered to her from Mr Delvile senior, acquainting her with his return to town, and begging the favour of her to call in St James's-square the next morning, as he wished to speak to her upon some business of importance.
The eager manner in which Cecilia accepted this invitation, and her repeated and earnest exclamation of wonder at what Mr Delvile could have to say, past not unnoticed by Mr Monckton; he instantly turned the discourse from the Belfields, the Harrels, and the Baronet, to enquire how she had spent her time during her visit in St James's- square, and what was her opinion of the family after her late opportunities of intimacy?
Cecilia answered that she had yet seen nothing more of Mr Delvile, who had been absent the whole time, but with equal readiness and pleasure she replied to all his questions concerning his lady, expatiating with warmth and fervour upon her many rare and estimable qualities.
But when the same interrogatories were transferred to the son, she spoke no longer with the same ease, nor with her usual promptitude of sincerity; she was embarrassed, her answers were short, and she endeavoured to hasten from the subject.
Mr Monckton remarked this change with the most apprehensive quickness, but, forcing a smile, "Have you yet," he said, "observed the family compact in which those people are bound to besiege you, and draw you into their snares?"
"No, indeed," cried Cecilia, much hurt by the question, "I am sure no such compact has been formed; and I am sure, too, that if you knew them better, you would yourself be the first to admire and do them justice."
"My dear Miss Beverley," cried he, "I know them already; I do not, indeed, visit them, but I am perfectly acquainted with their characters, which have been drawn to me by those who are most closely connected with them, and who have had opportunities of inspection which I hope will never fall to your share, since I am satisfied the trial would pain, though the proof would convince you."
"What then have you heard of them?" cried Cecilia, with much earnestness: "It is, at least, not possible any ill can be said of Mrs Delvile."
"I beg your pardon," returned he. "Mrs Delvile is not nearer perfection than the rest of her family, she has only more art in disguising her foibles; because, tho' she is the daughter of pride, she is the slave of interest."
"I see you have been greatly misinformed," said Cecilia warmly; "Mrs Delvile is the noblest of women! she may, indeed, from her very exaltation, have enemies, but they are the enemies of envy, not of resentment, enemies raised by superior merit, not excited by injury or provocation!"
"You will know her better hereafter;" said Mr Monckton calmly, "I only hope your knowledge will not be purchased by the sacrifice of your happiness."
"And what knowledge of her, Sir," cried Cecilia, starting, "can have power to put my happiness in any danger?"
"I will tell you," answered he, "with all the openness you have a claim to from my regard, and then leave to time to shew if I am mistaken. The Delvile family, notwithstanding its ostentatious magnificence, I can solemnly assure you, is poor in every branch, alike lineal and collateral."
"But is it therefore the less estimable?"
"Yes, because the more rapacious. And while they count on each side Dukes, Earls and Barons in their genealogy, the very wealth with which, through your means, they project the support of their insolence, and which they will grasp with all the greediness of avarice, they will think honoured by being employed in their service, while the instrument, all amiable as she is, by which they attain it, will be constantly held down as the disgrace of their alliance."
Cecilia, stung to the soul by this speech, rose from her chair, unwilling to answer it, yet unable to conceal how much it shocked her. Mr Monckton, perceiving her emotion, followed her, and taking her hand, said, "I would not give this warning to one I thought too weak to profit from it; but as I am well informed of the use that is meant to be made of your fortune, and the abuse that will follow of yourself, I think it right to prepare you for their artifices, which merely to point out, may render abortive."
Cecilia, too much disturbed to thank him, drew back her hand, and continued silent. Mr Monckton, reading through her displeasure the state of her affections, saw with terror the greatness of the danger which threatened him. He found, however, that the present was no time for enforcing objections, and perceiving he had already gone too far, though he was by no means disposed to recant, he thought it most prudent to retreat, and let her meditate upon his exhortation while its impression was yet strong in her mind.
He would now, therefore, have taken leave; but Cecilia, endeavouring to recollect herself, and fully persuaded that however he had shocked her, he had only her interest in view, stopt him, saying, "You think me, perhaps, ungrateful, but believe me I am not; I must, however, acknowledge that your censure of Mrs Delvile hurts me extremely. Indeed I cannot doubt her worthiness, I must still, therefore, plead for her, and I hope the time may come when you will allow I have not pleaded unjustly."
"Justly or unjustly," answered Mr Monckton, "I am at least sure you can never plead vainly. I give up, therefore, to your opinion my attack of Mrs Delvile, and am willing from your commendations to suppose her the best of the race. Nay, I will even own that perhaps Mr Delvile himself, as well as his lady, might pass through life and give but little offence, had they only themselves to think of, and no son to stimulate their arrogance."
"Is the son, then," said Cecilia faintly, "so much the most culpable?"
"The son, I believe," answered he, "is at least the chief incentive to insolence and ostentation in the; parents, since it is for his sake they covet with such avidity honours and riches, since they plume themselves upon regarding him as the support of their name and, family, and since their pride in him even surpasses their pride in their lineage and themselves."
"Ah!" thought Cecilia, "and of such a son who could help being proud!"
"Their purpose, therefore," he continued, "is to, secure through his means your fortune, which they will no sooner obtain, than, to my certain knowledge, they mean instantly, and most unmercifully, to employ it in repairing all their dilapidated estates."
And then he quitted the subject; and, with that guarded warmth which accompanied all his expressions, told her he would carefully watch for her honour and welfare, and, repeating his promise of endeavouring to discover the tie by which Mr Harrel seemed bound to the Baronet, he left her—a prey himself to an anxiety yet more severe than that with which he had filled her! He now saw all his long cherished hopes in danger of final destruction, and suddenly cast upon the brink of a precipice, where, while he struggled to protect them from falling, his eyes were dazzled by beholding them totter.
Mean while Cecilia, disturbed from the calm of soft serenity to which she had yielded every avenue of her soul, now looked forward with distrust and uneasiness, even to the completion of the views which but a few minutes before had comprised all her notions of felicity. The alliance which so lately had seemed wholly unexceptionable, now appeared teeming with objections, and threatening with difficulties. The representations of Mr Monckton had cruelly mortified her; well acquainted with his knowledge of the world, and wholly unsuspicious of his selfish motives, she gave to his assertions involuntary credit, and even while she attempted to combat them, they made upon her mind an impression scarce ever to be erased.
Full, therefore, of doubt and inquietude, she passed the night in discomfort and irresolution, now determining to give way to her feelings, and now to be wholly governed by the counsel of Mr Monckton.
In this disposition of mind Cecilia the next morning obeyed the summons of Mr Delvile, and for the first time went to St James'- square in a humour to look for evil instead of good, and meanness instead of nobleness.
She was shewn into an apartment where she found Mr Delvile alone, and was received by him, as usual, with the most stately solemnity.
When she was seated, "I have given you, Miss Beverley," said he, "the trouble of calling, in order to discuss with you the internal state of your affairs; a duty which, at this juncture, I hold to be incumbent upon my character. The delicacy due to your sex would certainly have induced me to wait upon you myself for this purpose, but for the reasons I have already hinted to you, of fearing the people with whom you live might think it necessary to return my visit. Persons of low origin are commonly in those matters the most forward. Not, however, that I would prejudice you against them; though, for myself, it is fit I remember that a general and indiscriminate acquaintance, by levelling all ranks, does injury to the rites of society."
Ah! thought Cecilia, how infallible is Mr Monckton! and how inevitably, in a family of which Mr Delvile is the head, should I be cruelly held down, as the disgrace of their alliance!
"I have applied," continued he, "to Mrs Delvile, to know if the communication which I had recommended to you, and to which she had promised her attention, had yet passed; but I am informed you have not spoken to her upon the subject."
"I had nothing, Sir, to communicate," answered Cecilia, "and I had hoped, as Mrs Delvile made no enquiries, she was satisfied she had nothing to hear."
"With respect to enquiries," said Mr Delvile, "I fear you are not sufficiently aware of the distance between a lady of Mrs Delvile's rank, both by birth and alliance, and such a young woman as Mrs Harrel, whose ancestors, but a short time since, were mere Suffolk farmers. But I beg your pardon;—I mean not any reflection upon yours: I have always heard they were very worthy people. And a farmer is certainly a very respectable person. Your father, I think, no more than the Dean your uncle, did nothing in that way himself?"
"No, Sir," said Cecilia, drily, and much provoked by this contemptuous courtesy.
"I have always been told he was a very good sort of man: I knew none of the family myself, but the Dean. His connections with the Bishop of ———, my relation, put him often in my way. Though his naming me for one of his trustees, I must own, was rather extraordinary; but I mean not to hurt you; on the contrary, I should be much concerned to give you any uneasiness."
Again Mr Monckton arose in the mind of Cecilia, and again she acknowledged the truth of his strictures; and though she much wondered in what an harangue so pompous was to end, her disgust so far conquered her curiosity, that without hearing it, she wished herself away.
"To return," said he, "to my purpose. The present period of your life is such as to render advice particularly seasonable; I am sorry, therefore, as I before said, you have not disclosed your situation to Mrs Delvile. A young lady on the point of making an establishment, and with many engagements in her power, is extremely liable to be mistaken in her judgment, and therefore should solicit instruction from those who are able to acquaint her what connection would be most to her advantage. One thing, however, I am happy to commend, the young man who was wounded in the duel—I cannot recollect his name—is, I hear, totally out of the question."
What next? thought Cecilia; though still she gave him no interruption, for the haughtiness of his manner was repulsive to reply.
"My design, therefore, is to speak to you of Sir Robert Floyer. When I had last the pleasure of addressing you upon this subject, you may probably remember my voice was in his favour; but I then regarded him merely as the rival of an inconsiderable young man, to rescue you from whom he appeared an eligible person. The affair is now altered, that young man is thought of no more, and another rival comes forward, to whom Sir Robert is as inconsiderable as the first rival was to Sir Robert."
Cecilia started at this information, livelier sensations stimulated her curiosity, and surmises in which she was most deeply interested quickened her attention.
"This rival," proceeded he, "I should imagine no young lady would a moment hesitate in electing; he is every way the superior of Sir Robert except in fortune, and the deficiencies of that the splendour of your own may amply supply."
The deepest crimson now tinged the cheeks of Cecilia; the prophecy of Mr Monckton seemed immediately fulfilling, and she trembled with a rising conflict between her approbation of the offer, and her dread of its consequences.
"I know not, indeed," continued he, "in what estimation you may have been accustomed to hold rank and connection, nor whether you are impressed with a proper sense of their superiority and value; for early prejudices are not easily rooted out, and those who have lived chiefly with monied people, regard even birth itself as unimportant when compared with wealth."
The colour which first glowed in the cheeks of Cecilia from expectation, now rose yet higher from resentment: she thought herself already insulted by a prelude so ostentatious and humiliating to the proposals which were to follow; and she angrily determined, with whatever pain to her heart, to assert her own dignity by refusing them at once, too well satisfied by what she now saw of the present, that Mr Monckton had been just in his prediction of the future.
"Your rejection, therefore," continued he, "of this honourable offer, may perhaps have been merely the consequence of the principles in which you have been educated.—"
"Rejection?" interrupted Cecilia, amazed, "what rejection, Sir?"
"Have you not refused the proposals of my Lord Ernolf for his son?"
"Lord Ernolf? never! nor have I ever seen either his Lordship or his son but in public."
"That," replied Mr Delvile, "is little to the purpose; where the connexion is a proper one, a young lady of delicacy has only to accede to it. But though this rejection came not immediately from yourself, it had doubtless your concurrence."
"It had not, Sir, even my knowledge."
"Your alliance then with Sir Robert Floyer is probably nearer a conclusion than I had imagined, for otherwise Mr Harrel would not, without consulting you, have given the Earl so determinate an answer."
"No, Sir," said Cecilia, impatiently, "my alliance with him was never more distant, nor do I mean it should ever approach more near."
She was now little disposed for further conversation. Her heroic design of refusing young Delvile by no means reconciled her to the discovery she now made that he had not meant to address her; and though she was provoked and fretted at this new proof that Mr Harrel scrupled neither assertions nor actions to make her engagement with Sir Robert credited, her disappointment in finding that Mr Delvile, instead of pleading the cause of his son, was exerting his interest for another person, affected her so much more nearly, that notwithstanding he still continued his parading harangue, she scarcely knew even the subject of his discourse, and seized the first opportunity of a cessation to rise and take her leave.
He asked her if she would not call upon Mrs Delvile; but desirous to be alone, she declined the invitation; he then charged her to proceed no further with Sir Robert till he had made some enquiries concerning Lord Ernolf, and graciously promising his protection and counsel, suffered her to depart.
Cecilia now perceived she might plan her rejections, or study her dignity at her leisure, for neither Mr Delvile nor his son seemed in any haste to put her fortitude to the proof. With regard, therefore, to their plots and intentions, Mr Monckton she found was wrong, but with respect to their conduct and sentiments, she had every reason to believe him right: and though her heart refused to rejoice in escaping a trial of its strength, her judgment was so well convinced that his painting was from the life, that she determined to conquer her partiality for young Delvile, since she looked forward to nothing but mortification in a connexion with his family.
With this intention, and every faculty of her mind absorbed in reflecting upon the reasons which gave rise to it, she returned to Portman-square.
As her chair was carried into the hall, she observed, with some alarm, a look of consternation among the servants, and an appearance of confusion in the whole house. She was proceeding to her own room, intending to enquire of her maid if any evil had happened, when she was crossed upon the stairs by Mr Harrel, who passed her with an air so wild and perturbed, that he hardly seemed to know her.
Frightened and amazed, she stopt short, irresolute which way to go; but, hastily returning, he beckoned her to follow him.
She obeyed, and he led her to the library. He then shut the door, and abruptly seizing her hand, called out, "Miss Beverley, I am ruined!—I am undone!—I am blasted for ever!"
"I hope not, Sir!" said Cecilia, extremely terrified, "I hope not! Where is Mrs Harrel?"
"O I know not! I know not!" cried he, in a frantic manner, "but I have not seen her,—I cannot see her,—I hope I shall never see her more!—"
"O fie! fie!" said Cecilia, "let me call her, I beg; you should consult with her in this distress, and seek comfort from her affection."
"From her affection?" repeated he, fiercely, "from her hatred you mean! do you not know that she, too, is ruined? Oh past redemption ruined!—and yet that I should hesitate, that I should a moment hesitate to conclude the whole business at once!"
"How dreadful!" cried Cecilia, "what horrible thing has happened?"
"I have undone Priscilla!" cried he, "I have blasted my credit! I have destroyed—no, not yet quite destroyed myself!"
"O yet nor ever!" cried Cecilia, whose agitation now almost equalled his own, "be not so desperate, I conjure you! speak to me more intelligibly,—what does all this mean? How has it come to pass?"
"My debts!—my creditors!—one way only," striking his hand upon his forehead, "is left for me!"
"Do not say so, Sir!" said Cecilia, "you shall find many ways; pray have courage! pray speak calmly; and if you will but be more prudent, will but, in future, better regulate your affairs, I will myself undertake—"
She stopt; checked in the full career of her overflowing compassion, by a sense of the worthlessness of its object; and by the remembrance of the injunctions of Mr Monckton.
"What will you undertake?" cried he, eagerly, "I know you are an angel!—tell me, what will you undertake?"
"I will,—" said Cecilia, hesitating, "I will speak to Mr Monckton, —I will consult—"
"You may as well consult with every cursed creditor in the house!" interrupted he; "but do so, if you please; my disgrace must perforce reach him soon, and a short anticipation is not worth begging off."
"Are your creditors then actually in the house?"
"O yes, yes! and therefore it is high time I should be out of it!— Did you not see them?—Do they not line the hall?—They threaten me with three executions before night!—three executions unless I satisfy their immediate demands!—"
"And to what do their demands amount?"
"I know not!—I dare not ask!—to some thousand pounds, perhaps,— and I have not, at this minute, forty guineas in the house!"
"Nay, then," cried Cecilia, retreating, "I can indeed do nothing! if their demands are so high, I ought to do nothing."
She would then have quitted him, not more shocked at his situation, than indignant at the wilful extravagance which had occasioned it.
"Stay," cried he, "and hear me!" then, lowering his voice, "seek out," he continued, "your unfortunate friend,—go to the poor ruined Priscilla,—prepare her for tidings of horror! and do not, though you renounce Me, do not abandon Her!"
Then, fiercely passing her, he was himself leaving the room; but Cecilia, alarmed by the fury of his manner, called out, "What is it you mean? what tidings of horror? whither are you going?"
"To hell!" cried he, and rushed out of the apartment.
Cecilia screamed aloud, and conjuring him to hear her, ran after him; he paid her no regard, but, flying faster than she had power to pursue, reached his own dressing-room, shut himself into it with violence, and just as she arrived at the door, turned the key, and bolted it.
Her terror was now inexpressible; she believed him in the very act of suicide, and her refusal of assistance seemed the signal for the deed: her whole fortune, at that moment, was valueless and unimportant to her, compared with the preservation of a fellow- creature: she called out with all the vehemence of agony to beg he would open the door, and eagerly promised by all that was sacred to do everything in her power to save him.
At these words he opened it; his face was totally without colour, and he grasped a razor in his hand.
"You have stopt me," said he, in a voice scarce audible, "at the very moment I had gathered courage for the blow: but if indeed you will assist me, I will shut this up,—if not, I will steep it in my blood!"
"I will! I will!" cried Cecilia, "I will do every thing you desire!"
"Before my disgrace is known? and while all may yet be hushed up?"
"Yes, yes! all—any—every thing you wish!"
Here Cecilia drew back; her recollection returned as her terror abated, and her repugnance to entering into an engagement for she knew not what, with a man whose actions she condemned, and whose principles she abhorred, made all her fright now give way to indignation, and, after a short pause, she angrily answered, "No, Sir, I will not swear!—but yet, all that is reasonable, all that is friendly—"
"Hear me swear, then!" interrupted he, furiously, "which at this moment I do, by every thing eternal, and by every thing infernal, that I will not outlive the seizure of my property, and that the moment I am informed there is an execution in my house, shall be the last of my existence!"
"What cruelty! what compulsion! what impiety!" cried Cecilia: "give me, however, that horrible instrument, and prescribe to me what conditions you please."
A noise was now heard below stairs, at which Cecilia, who had not dared call for help lest he should quicken his desperation, was secretly beginning to rejoice, when, starting at the sound, he exclaimed, "I believe you are too late!—the ruffians have already seized my house!" then, endeavouring to force her out of the room, "Go," he cried, "to my wife;—I want to be alone!"
"Oh give me first," cried she, "that weapon, and I will take what oath you please!"
"No, no!—go,—leave me,—" cried he, almost breathless with emotion, "I must not now be trifled with."
"I do not trifle! indeed I do not!" cried Cecilia, holding by his arm: "try, put me to the proof!"
"Swear, solemnly swear, to empty my house of these creditors this moment!"
"I do swear," cried she, with energy, "and Heaven prosper me as I am sincere!"
"I see, I see you are an angel!" cried he, rapturously, "and as such I worship and adore you! O you have restored me to life, and rescued me from perdition!"
"Give me, then, that fatal instrument!"
"That instrument," returned he, "is nothing, since so many others are in my power; but you have now taken from me all desire of using them. Go, then, and stop those wretches from coming to me,—send immediately for the Jew!—he will advance what money you please,—my man knows where to find him; consult with Mr Arnott,—speak a word of comfort to Priscilla,—but do nothing, nothing at all, till you have cleared my house of those cursed scoundrels!"
Cecilia, whose heart sunk within her at the solemn promise she had given, the mention of the Jew, and the arduous task she had undertaken, quitted him without reply, and was going to her own room, to compose her hurried spirits, and consider what steps she had to take, when hearing the noise in the hall grow louder, she stopt to listen, and catching some words that greatly alarmed her, went half way down stairs, when she was met by Davison, Mr Harrel's man, of whom she enquired into the occasion of the disturbance.
He answered that he must go immediately to his master, for the bailiffs were coming into the house.
"Let him not know it if you value his life!" cried she, with new terror. "Where is Mr Arnott? call him to me,—beg him to come this moment;—I will wait for him here."
The man flew to obey her; and Cecilia, finding she had time neither for deliberation nor regret, and dreading lest Mr Harrel, by hearing of the arrival of the bailiffs, should relapse into despair, determined to call to her aid all the courage, prudence, and judgment she possessed, and, since to act she was compelled, endeavour with her best ability, to save his credit, and retrieve his affairs.
The moment Mr Arnott came, she ordered Davison to hasten to his master, and watch his motions.
Then, addressing Mr Arnott, "Will you. Sir," she said, "go and tell those people that if they will instantly quit the house, every thing shall be settled, and Mr Harrel will satisfy their demands?"
"Ah madam!" cried Mr Arnott, mournfully, "and how? he has no means to pay them, and I have none—without ruin to myself,—to help him!"
"Send them but away," said Cecilia, "and I will myself be your security that your promise shall not be disgraced."
"Alas, madam," cried he, "what are you doing? well as I wish to Mr Harrel, miserable as I am for my unfortunate sister, I yet cannot bear that such goodness, such beneficence should be injured!"
Cecilia, however, persisted, and with evident reluctance he obeyed her.
While she waited his return, Davison came from Mr Harrel, who had ordered him to run instantly for the Jew.
Good Heaven, thought Cecilia, that a man so wretchedly selfish and worldly, should dare, with all his guilt upon his head,
To rush unlicenced on eternity! [Footnote: Mason's Elfrida]
Mr Arnott was more than half an hour with the people; and when, at last, he returned, his countenance immediately proclaimed the ill success of his errand. The creditors, he said, declared they had so frequently been deceived, that they would not dismiss the bailiffs, or retire themselves, without actual payment.
"Tell them, then, Sir," said Cecilia," to send me their accounts, and, if it be possible, I will discharge them directly."
Mr Arnott's eyes were filled with tears at this declaration, and he protested, be the consequence to himself what it might, he would pay away every shilling he was worth, rather than witness such injustice.
"No," cried Cecilia, exerting more spirit, that she might shock him less, "I did not save Mr Harrel, to destroy so much better a man! you have suffered but too much oppression already; the present evil is mine; and from me, at least, none I hope will ever spread to Mr Arnott."
Mr Arnott could not bear this; he was struck with grief, with admiration, and with gratitude, and finding his tears now refused to be restrained, he went to execute her commission in silent dejection.
The dejection, however, was encreased, though his tears were dispersed, when he returned; "Oh madam!" he cried, "all your efforts, generous as they are, will be of no avail! the bills even now in the house amount to more than L7000!"
Cecilia, amazed and confounded, started and clasped her hands, calling out, "What must I do! to what have I bound myself! and how can I answer to my conscience,—to my successors, such a disposal, such an abuse of so large a part of my fortune!"
Mr Arnott could make no answer; and they stood looking at each other in silent irresolution, till Davison brought intelligence that the Jew was already come, and waited to speak with her.
"And what can I say to him?" cried she, more and more agitated; "I understand nothing of usury; how am I to deal with him?"
Mr Arnott then confessed that he should himself have instantly been bail for his brother, but that his fortune, originally not large, was now so much impaired by the many debts which from time to time he had paid for him, that as he hoped some day to have a family of his own, he dare not run a risk by which he might be utterly ruined, and the less, as his sister had at Violet Bank been prevailed upon to give up her settlement.
This account, which explained the late uneasiness of Mrs Harrel, still encreased the distress of Cecilia; and every moment she obtained for reflection, augmented her reluctance to parting with so large a sum of money for so worthless an object, and added strength to her resentment for the unjustifiable menaces which had extorted from her such a promise. Yet not an instant would she listen to Mr Arnott's offer of fulfilling her engagement, and charged him, as he considered her own self-esteem worth her keeping, not to urge to her a proposal so ungenerous and selfish.
Davison now came again to hasten her, and said that the Jew was with his master, and they both impatiently expected her.
Cecilia, half distracted with her uncertainty how to act, changed colour at this message, and exclaimed "Oh Mr Arnott, run I beseech you for Mr Monckton! bring him hither directly,—if any body can save me it is him; but if I go back to Mr Harrel, I know it will be all over!"
"Certainly," said Mr Arnott, "I will run to him this moment."
"Yet no!—stop!—" cried the trembling Cecilia, "he can now do me no good,—his counsel will arrive too late to serve me,—it cannot call back the oath I have given! it cannot, compulsatory as it was, make me break it, and not be miserable for ever!"
This idea sufficed to determine her; and the apprehension of self- reproach, should the threat of Mr Harrel be put in execution, was more insupportable to her blameless and upright mind, than any loss or diminution which her fortune could sustain.
Slowly however, with tardy and unwilling steps, her judgment repugnant, and her spirit repining, she obeyed the summons of Mr Harrel, who, impatient of her delay, came forward to meet her.
"Miss Beverley," he cried, "there is not a moment to be lost; this good man will bring you any sum of money, upon a proper consideration, that you will command; but if he is not immediately commissioned, and these cursed fellows are not got out of my house, the affair will be blown,"—-"and what will follow," added he, lowering his voice, "I will not again frighten you by repeating, though I shall never recant."
Cecilia turned from him in horror; and, with a faltering voice and heavy heart, entreated Mr Arnott to settle for her with the Jew.
Large as was the sum, she was so near being of age, and her security was so good, that the transaction was soon finished: 7500 pounds was received of the Jew, Mr Harrel gave Cecilia his bond for the payment, the creditors were satisfied, the bailiffs were dismissed, and the house was soon restored to its customary appearance of splendid gaiety.
Mrs Harrel, who during this scene had shut herself up in her own room to weep and lament, now flew to Cecilia, and in a transport of joy and gratitude, thanked her upon her knees for thus preserving her from utter ruin: the gentle Mr Arnott seemed uncertain whether most to grieve or rejoice; and Mr Harrel repeatedly protested she should have the sole guidance of his future conduct.
This promise, the hope of his amendment, and the joy she had expanded, somewhat revived the spirits of Cecilia; who, however, deeply affected by what had passed, hastened from them all to her own room.
She had now parted with 8050 pounds to Mr Harrel, without any security when or how it was to be paid; and that ardour of benevolence which taught her to value her riches merely as they enabled her to do good and generous actions, was here of no avail to console or reward her, for her gift was compelled, and its receiver was all but detested. "How much better," cried she, "would this have been bestowed upon the amiable Miss Belfield! or upon her noble-minded, though proud- spirited brother! and how much less a sum would have made the virtuous and industrious Hills easy and happy for life! but here, to become the tool of the extravagance I abhor! to be made responsible for the luxury I condemn! to be liberal in opposition to my principles, and lavish in defiance of my judgment!—Oh that my much- deceived Uncle had better known to what dangerous hands he committed me! and that my weak and unhappy friend had met with a worthier protector of her virtue and safety!"
As soon, however, as she recovered from the first shock of her reflections, she turned her thoughts from herself to the formation of some plan that might, at least, render her donation of serious and lasting use. The signal service she had just done them gave her at present an ascendency over the Harrels, which she hoped, if immediately exerted, might prevent the return of so calamitous a scene, by engaging them both to an immediate change of conduct. But unequal herself to contriving expedients for this purpose that might not easily be controverted, she determined to send the next morning a petition to Mr Monckton to call upon her, reveal to him the whole transaction, and entreat him to suggest to her what, with most probability of success, she might offer to their consideration.
While this was passing in her mind, on the evening of the day in which she had so dearly purchased the right of giving counsel, she was summoned to tea.
She found Mr Harrel and his lady engaged in earnest discourse; as soon as she appeared, the former said, "My dear Miss Beverley, after the extraordinary kindness you have shewn me this morning, you will not, I am sure, deny me one trifling favour which I mean to ask this evening."
"No," said Mrs Harrel, "that I am sure she will not, when she knows that our future appearance in the world depends upon her granting it."
"I hope, then," said Cecilia, "I shall not wish to refuse it."
"It is nothing in the world," said Mr Harrel, "but to go with us to- night to the Pantheon."
Cecilia was struck with the utmost indignation at this proposal; that the man who in the morning had an execution in his house, should languish in the evening for the amusement of a public place, —that he who but a few hours before was plunging uncalled into eternity, should, while the intended instrument of death was yet scarce cold from the grasp of his hand, deliberately court a return of his distress, by instantly recurring to the methods which had involved him in it, irritated and shocked her beyond even a wish of disguising her displeasure, and therefore, after an expressive silence, she gave a cold, but absolute denial.
"I see," said Mr Harrel, somewhat confused, "you do not understand the motives of our request. The unfortunate affair of this morning is very likely to spread presently all over the town; the only refutation that can be given to it, is by our all appearing in public before any body knows whether to believe it or not."
"Do, my dearest friend," cried his lady, "oblige me by your compliance; indeed our whole reputation depends upon it. I made an engagement yesterday to go with Mrs Mears, and if I disappoint her, every body will be guessing the reason."
"At least," answered Cecilia, "my going can answer no purpose to you: pray, therefore, do not ask me; I am ill disposed for such sort of amusement, and have by no means your opinion of its necessity."
"But if we do not all go," said Mr Harrel, "we do almost nothing: you are known to live with us, and, your appearance at this critical time is important to our credit. If this misfortune gets wind, the consequence is that every dirty tradesman in town to whom I owe a shilling, will be forming the same cursed combination those scoundrels formed this morning, of coming in a body, and waiting for their money, or else bringing an execution into my house.. The only way to silence report is by putting a good face upon the matter at once, and shewing ourselves to the world as if nothing had happened. Favour us, therefore, to-night with your company, which is really important to us, or ten to one, but in another fortnight, I shall be just in the same scrape."
Cecilia, however incensed at this intelligence that his debts were still so numerous, felt now so much alarmed at the mention of an execution, as if she was in actual danger of ruin herself. Terrified, therefore, though not convinced, she yielded to their persuasions, and consented to accompany them.
They soon after separated to make some alteration in their dress, and then, calling in their way for Mrs Mears, they proceeded to the Pantheon.
A MAN OF THE TON.
At the door of the Pantheon they were joined by Mr Arnott and Sir Robert Floyer, whom Cecilia now saw with added aversion: they entered the great room during the second apt of the Concert, to which as no one of the party but herself had any desire to listen, no sort of attention was paid; the ladies entertaining themselves as if no Orchestra was in the room, and the gentlemen, with an equal disregard to it, struggling for a place by the fire, about which they continued hovering till the music was over.
Soon after they were seated, Mr Meadows, sauntering towards them, whispered something to Mrs Mears, who, immediately rising, introduced him to Cecilia; after which, the place next to her being vacant, he cast himself upon it, and lolling as much at his ease as his situation would permit, began something like a conversation with her.
"Have you been long in town, ma'am?"
"This is not your first winter?"
"Of being in town, it is."
"Then you have something new to see; O charming! how I envy you!— Are you pleased with the Pantheon?"
"Very much; I have seen no building at all equal to it."
"You have not been abroad. Travelling is the ruin of all happiness! There's no looking at a building here after seeing Italy."
"Does all happiness, then, depend upon the sight of buildings?" said Cecilia, when, turning towards her companion, she perceived him yawning, with such evident inattention to her answer, that not chusing to interrupt his reverie, she turned her head another way.
For some minutes he took no notice of this; and then, as if suddenly recollecting himself, he called out hastily, "I beg your pardon, ma'am, you were saying something?"
"No, Sir, nothing worth repeating." "O pray don't punish me so severely as not to let me hear it!"
Cecilia, though merely not to seem offended at his negligence, was then again beginning an answer, when, looking at him as she spoke, she perceived that he was biting his nails with so absent an air, that he appeared not to know he had asked any question. She therefore broke off, and left him to his cogitation.
Sometime after he addressed her again, saying, "Don't you find this place extremely tiresome, ma'am?"
"Yes, Sir," said she, half laughing, "it is, indeed, not very entertaining!"
"Nothing is entertaining," answered he, "for two minutes together. Things are so little different one from another, that there is no making pleasure out of any thing. We go the same dull round for ever; nothing new, no variety! all the same thing over again! Are you fond of public places, ma'am?"
"Yes, Sir, soberly, as Lady Grace says."
"Then I envy you extremely, for you have some amusement always in your own power. How desirable that is!"
"And have not you the same resources?"
"O no! I am tired to death! tired of every thing! I would give the universe for a disposition less difficult to please. Yet, after all, what is there to give pleasure? When one has seen one thing, one has seen every thing. O, 'tis heavy work! Don't you find it so, ma'am?"
This speech was ended with so violent a fit of yawning, that Cecilia would not trouble herself to answer it: but her silence, as before, passed wholly unnoticed, exciting neither question nor comment.
A long pause now succeeded, which he broke at last, by saying, as he writhed himself about upon his seat, "These forms would be much more agreeable if there were backs to them. "Tis intolerable to be forced to sit like a school-boy. The first study of life is ease. There is, indeed, no other study that pays the trouble of attainment. Don't you think so, ma'am?"
"But may not even that," said Cecilia, "by so much study, become labour?"
"I am vastly happy you think so."
"I beg your pardon, ma'am, but I thought you said—I really beg your pardon, but I was thinking of something else."
"You did very right, Sir," said Cecilia, laughing, "for what I said by no means merited any attention."
"Will you do me the favour to repeat it?" cried he, taking out his glass to examine some lady at a distance.
"O no," said Cecilia, "that would be trying your patience too severely."
"These glasses shew one nothing but defects," said he; "I am sorry they were ever invented. They are the ruin of all beauty; no complexion can stand them. I believe that solo will never be over; I hate a solo; it sinks, it depresses me intolerably."
"You will presently, Sir," said Cecilia, looking at the bill of the concert, "have a full piece; and that, I hope, will revive you."
"A full piece! oh insupportable! it stuns, it fatigues, it overpowers me beyond endurance! no taste in it, no delicacy, no room for the smallest feeling."
"Perhaps, then, you are only fond of singing?"
"I should be, if I could hear it; but we are now so miserably off in voices, that I hardly ever attempt to listen to a song, without fancying myself deaf from the feebleness of the performers. I hate every thing that requires attention. Nothing gives pleasure that does not force its own way."
"You only, then, like loud voices, and great powers?"
"O worse and worse!—no, nothing is so disgusting to me. All my amazement is that these people think it worth while to give Concerts at all; one is sick to death of music."
"Nay," cried Cecilia, "if it gives no pleasure, at least it takes none away; for, far from being any impediment to conversation, I think every body talks more during the performance than between the acts. And what is there better you could substitute in its place?"
Cecilia, receiving no answer to this question, again looked round to see if she had been heard; when she observed her new acquaintance, with a very thoughtful air, had turned from her to fix his eyes upon the statue of Britannia.
Very soon after, he hastily arose, and seeming entirely to forget that he had spoke to her, very abruptly walked away.
Mr Gosport, who was advancing to Cecilia, and had watched part of this scene, stopt him as he was retreating, and said "Why Meadows, how's this? are you caught at last?"
"O worn to death! worn to a thread!" cried he, stretching himself, and yawning; "I have been talking with a young lady to entertain her! O such heavy work! I would not go through it again for millions!
"What, have you talked yourself out of breath?"
"No; but the effort! the effort!—O, it has unhinged me for a fortnight!—Entertaining a young lady!—one had better be a galley- slave at once!"
"Well but, did she not pay your toils? She is surely a sweet creature."
"Nothing can pay one for such insufferable exertion! though she's well enough, too—better than the common run,—but shy, quite too shy; no drawing her out"
"I thought that was to your taste. You commonly hate much volubility. How have I heard you bemoan yourself when attacked by Miss Larolles!"
"Larolles? O distraction! She talks me into a fever in two minutes. But so it is for ever! nothing but extremes to be met with! common girls are too forward, this lady is too reserved—always some fault! always some drawback! nothing ever perfect!"
"Nay, nay," cried Mr Gosport, "you do not know her; she is perfect enough in all conscience."
"Better not know her, then," answered he, again yawning, "for she cannot be pleasing. Nothing perfect is natural;—I hate every thing out of nature."
He then strolled on, and Mr Gosport approached Cecilia.
"I have been wishing," cried he, "to address you this half hour, but as you were engaged with Mr Meadows, I did not dare advance."
"O, I see your malice!" cried Cecilia; "you were determined to add weight to the value of your company, by making me fully sensible where the balance would preponderate."
"Nay, if you do not admire Mr Meadows," cried he, "you must not even whisper it to the winds."
"Is he, then, so very admirable?"
"O, he is now in the very height of fashionable favour: his dress is a model, his manners are imitated, his attention is courted, and his notice is envied."
"Are you not laughing?"
"No, indeed; his privileges are much more extensive than I have mentioned: his decision fixes the exact limits between what is vulgar and what is elegant, his praise gives reputation, and a word from him in public confers fashion!"
"And by what wonderful powers has he acquired such influence?"
"By nothing but a happy art in catching the reigning foibles of the times, and carrying them to an extreme yet more absurd than any one had done before him. Ceremony, he found, was already exploded for ease, he, therefore, exploded ease for indolence; devotion to the fair sex, had given way to a more equal and rational intercourse, which, to push still farther, he presently exchanged for rudeness; joviality, too, was already banished for philosophical indifference, and that, therefore, he discarded, for weariness and disgust."
"And is it possible that qualities such as these should recommend him to favour and admiration?"
"Very possible, for qualities such as these constitute the present taste of the times. A man of the Ton, who would now be conspicuous in the gay world, must invariably be insipid, negligent, and selfish."
"Admirable requisites!" cried Cecilia; "and Mr Meadows, I acknowledge, seems to have attained them all."
"He must never," continued Mr Gosport, "confess the least pleasure from any thing, a total apathy being the chief ingredient of his character: he must, upon no account, sustain a conversation with any spirit, lest he should appear, to his utter disgrace, interested in what is said: and when he is quite tired of his existence, from a total vacuity of ideas, he must affect a look of absence, and pretend, on the sudden, to be wholly lost in thought."
"I would not wish," said Cecilia, laughing, "a more amiable companion!"
"If he is asked his opinion of any lady," he continued, "he must commonly answer by a grimace; and if he is seated next to one, he must take the utmost pains to shew by his listlessness, yawning, and inattention, that he is sick of his situation; for what he holds of all things to be most gothic, is gallantry to the women. To avoid this is, indeed, the principal solicitude of his life. If he sees a lady in distress for her carriage, he is to enquire of her what is the matter, and then, with a shrug, wish her well through her fatigues, wink at some bye-stander, and walk away. If he is in a room where there is a crowd of company, and a scarcity of seats, he must early ensure one of the best in the place, be blind to all looks of fatigue, and deaf to all hints of assistance, and seeming totally to forget himself, lounge at his ease, and appear an unconscious spectator of what is going forward. If he is at a ball where there are more women than men, he must decline dancing at all, though it should happen to be his favourite amusement, and smiling as he passes the disengaged young ladies, wonder to see them sit still, and perhaps ask them the reason!"
"A most alluring character indeed!" cried Cecilia; "and pray how long have these been the accomplishments of a fine gentleman?"
"I am but an indifferent chronologer of the modes," he answered, "but I know it has been long enough to raise just expectations that some new folly will be started soon, by which the present race of INSENSIBLISTS may be driven out. Mr Meadows is now at the head of this sect, as Miss Larolles is of the VOLUBLE, and Miss Leeson of the SUPERCILIOUS. But this way comes another, who, though in a different manner, labours with the same view, and aspires at the same reward, which stimulate the ambition of this happy Triplet, that of exciting wonder by peculiarity, and envy by wonder."
This description announced Captain Aresby; who, advancing from the fire-place, told Cecilia how much he rejoiced in seeing her, said he had been reduced to despair by so long missing that honour, and that he had feared she made it a principle to avoid coming in public, having sought her in vain partout.
He then smiled, and strolled on to another party.
"And pray of what sect," said Cecilia, "is this gentleman?"
"Of the sect of JARGONISTS," answered Mr Gosport; "he has not an ambition beyond paying a passing compliment, nor a word to make use of that he has not picked up at public places. Yet this dearth of language, however you may despise it, is not merely owing to a narrow capacity: foppery and conceit have their share in the limitation, for though his phrases are almost always ridiculous or misapplied, they are selected with much study, and introduced with infinite pains."
"Poor man!" cried Cecilia, "is it possible it can cost him any trouble to render himself so completely absurd?"
"Yes; but not more than it costs his neighbours to keep him in countenance. Miss Leeson, since she has presided over the sect of the SUPERCILIOUS, spends at least half her life in wishing the annihilation of the other half; for as she must only speak in her own Coterie, she is compelled to be frequently silent, and therefore, having nothing to think of, she is commonly gnawn with self-denial, and soured with want of amusement: Miss Larolles, indeed, is better off, for in talking faster than she thinks, she has but followed the natural bent of her disposition: as to this poor JARGONIST, he has, I must own, rather a hard task, from the continual restraint of speaking only out of his own [Lilliputian] vocabulary, and denying himself the relief of ever uttering one word by the call of occasion but what hardship is that, compared with what is borne by Mr Meadows? who, since he commenced INSENSIBLIST, has never once dared to be pleased, nor ventured for a moment to look in good humour!"
"Surely, then," said Cecilia, "in a short time, the punishment of this affectation will bring its cure."
"No; for the trick grows into habit, and habit is a second nature. A secret idea of fame makes his forbearance of happiness supportable to him: for he has now the self-satisfaction of considering himself raised to that highest pinnacle of fashionable refinement which is built upon apathy and scorn, and from which, proclaiming himself superior to all possibility of enjoyment, he views the whole world with contempt! holding neither beauty, virtue, wealth, nor power of importance sufficient to kindle the smallest emotion!"
"O that they could all round listen to you!" cried Cecilia; "they would soon, I think, sicken of their folly, if they heard it thus admirably exposed."
"No; they would but triumph that it had obtained them so much notice!—But pray do you see that gentleman, or don't you chuse to know him, who has been bowing to you this half hour?"
"Where?" cried Cecilia, and, looking round, perceived Mr Morrice; who, upon her returning his salutation, instantly approached her, though he had never ventured to shew himself at Mr Harrel's, since his unfortunate accident on the evening of the masquerade.
Entirely casting aside the easy familiarity at which he had latterly arrived, he enquired after her health with the most fearful diffidence, and then, bowing profoundly, was modestly retiring; when Mrs Harrel perceiving him, smiled with so much good-humour, that he gathered courage to return and address her, and found her, to his infinite delight, as obliging and civil as ever.
The Concert was now over; the ladies arose, and the gentlemen joined them. Morrice, at sight of Mr Harrel, was again shrinking; but Mr Harrel, immediately shaking hands with him, enquired what had kept him so long from Portman-Square? Morrice then, finding, to his great surprise, that no one had thought more of the mischief but himself who had committed it, joyously discarded his timidity, and became as sprightly as before his mortification.
A motion was now made for going to the tea-room; and as they walked on, Cecilia, in looking up to examine the building, saw in one of the galleries young Delvile, and almost at the same time caught his eye.
Scarcely now did a moment elapse before he joined her. The sight of him, strongly reviving in her mind the painful contrariety of opinion with which she had lately thought of him, the sentiments so much in his favour which but a few days before she had encouraged, and which it was only that morning she had endeavoured to crush, made her meet him with a kind of melancholy that almost induced her to lament he was amiable, and repine that she knew none like him.
His appearance, meantime, was far different; he seemed enchanted at the sight of her, he flew eagerly to meet her, and his eyes sparkled with pleasure as he approached her; a pleasure neither moderate nor disguised, but lively, unrestrained, and expressive.
Cecilia, whose plans since she had last seen him had twice varied, who first had looked forward to being united with him for ever, and afterwards had determined to avoid with him even a common acquaintance, could not, while these thoughts were all recurring to her memory, receive much delight from observing his gaiety, or feel at all gratified by his unembarrassed manners. The openness of his attentions, and the frankness of his admiration, which hitherto had charmed her as marks of the sincerity of his character, now shocked her as proofs of the indifference of his heart, which feeling for her a mere common regard, that affected neither his spirits nor his peace, he manifested without scruple, since it was not accompanied with even a wish beyond the present hour.
She now, too, recollected that such had always been his conduct, one single and singular moment excepted, when, as he gave to her his letter for Mr Belfield, he seemed struck as she was herself by the extraordinary co-incidence of their ideas and proceedings: that emotion, however, she now regarded as casual and transitory, and seeing him so much happier than herself, she felt ashamed of her delusion, and angry at her easy captivation.
Reflections such as these, though they added fresh motives to her resolution of giving up all thoughts of his alliance, were yet so humiliating, that they robbed her of all power of receiving pleasure from what was passing, and made her forget that the place she was in was even intended for a place of entertainment.
Young Delvile, after painting in lively colours the loss his house had sustained by her quitting it, and dwelling with equal force upon the regret of his mother and his own, asked in a low voice if she would do him so much honour as to introduce him to Mr Harrel; "As the son," added he, "of a brother guardian, I think I have a kind of claim to his acquaintance."
Cecilia could not refuse, though as the request was likely to occasion more frequent meetings, she persuaded herself she was unwilling to comply. The ceremony therefore past, and was again repeated with Mrs Harrel, who, though she had several times seen him, had never been formally made known to him.
The Harrels were both of them much pleased at this mark of civility in a young man whose family had prepared them rather to expect his scorn, and expressed their wishes that he would drink his tea in their party; he accepted their invitation with alacrity, and turning to Cecilia, said, "Have I not skilfully timed my introduction! But though you have done me this honour with Mr and Mrs Harrel, I must not yet, I presume, entreat you to extend it to a certain happy gentleman of this company;" glancing his eyes toward Sir Robert Floyer.
"No, Sir," answered she, with quickness, "yet, nor ever!"
They were now at the door leading down stairs to the tea-room. Cecilia saw that Sir Robert, who had hitherto been engaged with some gentlemen, seemed to be seeking her; and the remembrance of the quarrel which had followed her refusal of his assistance at the Opera-house, obliged her to determine, should he offer it again, to accept it: but the same brutality which forced this intention, contributed to render it repugnant to her, and she resolved if possible to avoid him, by hurrying down stairs before he reached her. She made, therefore, a sudden attempt to slip through the crowd, and as she was light and active, she easily succeeded; but though her hasty motion separated her from the rest of her party, Delvile, who was earnestly looking at her, to discover her meaning in the disclaiming speech she made about Sir Robert, saw into her design, but suffered her not to go alone; he contrived in a moment to follow and join her, while she was stopping at the foot of the stairs for Mrs Harrel.
"Why what a little thief you are," cried he, "to run away from us thus! what do you think Sir Robert will say? I saw him looking for you at the very instant of your flight."
"Then you saw at the same time," said Cecilia, "the reason of it."
"Will you give me leave," cried he, laughing, "to repeat this to my Lord Ernolf?"
"You may repeat it, Sir, if you please," said Cecilia, piqued that he had not rather thought of himself than of Lord Ernolf, "to the whole Pantheon."
"And if I should, "cried he, "half of it, at least, would thank me; and to obtain the applause of so noble an assembly, what would it signify that Sir Robert should cut my throat?"
"I believe," said Cecilia, deeply mortified by a raillery that shewed so little interest in her avowal of indifference, "you are determined to make me as sick of that man's name, as I am of his conversation."
"And is it possible," exclaimed Delvile, in a tone of surprise, "that such can be your opinion, and yet, situated as you are, the whole world at your command, and all mankind at your devotion—but I am answering you seriously, when you are only speaking by rule."
"What rule, Sir?"
"That which young ladies, upon certain occasions, always prescribe themselves."
Here they were interrupted by the arrival of the rest of the company; though not before Cecilia had received some little consolation for her displeasure, by finding that young Delvile still supposed she was engaged, and flattering herself his language would be different were he informed of the contrary.
Morrice now undertook to procure them a table for tea, which, as the room was very full, was not easily done; and while they were waiting his success, Miss Larolles, who from the stairs had perceived Cecilia, came running up to her, and taking her hand, called out "Lord, my dear creature, who'd have thought of seeing you here? I was never so surprised in my life! I really thought you was gone into a convent, it's so extreme long since I've seen you. But of all things in the world, why was you not at Lady Nyland's last assembly? I thought of asking Mrs Harrel fifty times why you did not come, but it always went out of my head. You've no notion how excessively I was disappointed."
"You are very obliging," said Cecilia laughing, "but I hope, since you so often forgot it, the disappointment did [not] much lessen your entertainment."
"O Lord no! I was never so happy in my life. There was such a crowd, you could not move a finger. Every body in the world was there. You've no idea how delightful it was. I thought verily I should have fainted with the heat."
"That was delightful indeed! And how long did you stay?"
"Why we danced till three in the morning. We began with Cotillons, and finished with country dances. It was the most elegant thing you ever saw in your life; every thing quite in a style. I was so monstrously fatigued, I could hardly get through the last dance. I really thought I should have dropt down dead. Only conceive dancing five hours in such a monstrous crowd! I assure you when I got home my feet were all blisters. You have no idea how they smarted."
"And whence comes it," cried young Delvile, "that you partake so little of these delights?"
"Because I fear," answered Cecilia, "I came too late into the school of fashion to be a ductile pupil."
"Do you know," continued Miss Larolles, "Mr Meadows has not spoke one word to me all the evening! Though I am sure he saw me, for I sat at the outside on purpose to speak to a person or two, that I knew would be strolling about; for if one sits on the inside, there's no speaking to a creature, you know, so I never do it at the Opera, nor in the boxes at Ranelagh, nor any where. It's the shockingest thing you can conceive to be made sit in the middle of those forms; one might as well be at home, for nobody can speak to one,"