Part 7 out of 7
obliged to retire; yet attributing to inconvenience what was really
the effect of pain, he hurried away with an appearance of sport,
saying, "There is something I must own, rather _unknightly_ in
quitting the field for a wet jacket, but the company, I hope, will
only give me credit for flying away to Ranelagh. So
"Like a brave general after being beat,
I'll exult and rejoice in a prudent retreat." [Footnote: Smart]
He then hastened to his carriage: and poor Morrice, frightened and
confounded at the disaster he had occasioned, sneaked after him with
much less ceremony. While Mr Meadows, wholly unconcerned by the
distress and confusion around him, sat quietly picking his teeth,
and looking on, during the whole transaction, with an unmeaning
stare, that made it doubtful whether he had even perceived it.
Order being now soon restored, the ladies finished their tea, and
went up stairs. Cecilia, to whom the late accident had afforded much
new and interesting matter for reflection, wished immediately to
have returned home, but she was not the leader of the party, and
therefore could not make the proposal.
They then strolled through all the apartments, and having walked
about till the fashionable time of retiring, they were joined by Sir
Robert Floyer, and proceeded to the little room near the entrance to
the great one, in order to wait for their carriages.
Here Cecilia again met Miss Larolles, who came to make various
remarks, and infinite ridicule, upon sundry unfashionable or
uncostly articles in the dresses of the surrounding company; as well
as to complain, with no little resentment, that Mr Meadows was again
standing before the fire!
Captain Aresby also advanced, to tell her he was quite _abattu_
by having so long lost sight of her, to hope she _would make a
renounce_ of mortifying the world by discarding it, and to
protest he had waited for his carriage till he was actually upon the
point of being [_accable_.]
In the midst of this _jargon_, to which the fulness of
Cecilia's mind hardly permitted her to listen, there suddenly
appeared at the door of the apartment, Mr Albany, who, with his
usual austerity of countenance, stopt to look round upon the
"Do you see," cried Mr Gosport to Cecilia, "who approaches? your
poor _sycophants_ will again be taken to task, and I, for one,
tremble at the coming storm!"
"O Lord," cried Miss Larolles, "I wish I was safe in my chair! that
man always frightens me out of my senses. You've no notion what
disagreeable things he says to one. I assure you I've no doubt but
he's crazy; and I'm always in the shockingest fright in the world
for fear he should be taken with a fit while I'm near him."
"It is really a petrifying thing," said the Captain, "that one can
go to no _spectacle_ without the _horreur_ of being
_obsede_ by that person! if he comes this way, I shall
certainly make a renounce, and retire."
"Why so?" said Sir Robert, "what the d---l do you mind him for?"
"O he is the greatest bore in nature!" cried the Captain, "and I
always do _mon possible_ to avoid him; for he breaks out in
such barbarous phrases, that I find myself _degoute_ with him
in a moment."
"O, I assure you," said Miss Larolles, "he attacks one sometimes in
a manner you've no idea. One day he came up to me all of a sudden,
and asked me what good I thought I did by dressing so much? Only
conceive how shocking!"
"O, I have had the _horreur_ of questions of that sort from him
_sans fin_," said the Captain; "once he took the liberty to ask
me, what service I was of to the world! and another time, he desired
me to inform him whether I had ever made any poor person pray for
me! and, in short, he has so frequently inconvenienced me by his
impertinences, that he really bores me to a degree."
"That's just the thing that makes him hunt you down," said Sir
Robert; "if he were to ask me questions for a month together, I
should never trouble myself to move a muscle."
"The matter of his discourse," said Mr Gosport, "is not more
singular than the manner, for without any seeming effort or
consciousness, he runs into blank verse perpetually. I have made
much enquiry about him, but all I am able to learn, is that he was
certainly confined, at one part of his life, in a private mad-house:
and though now, from not being mischievous, he is set at liberty,
his looks, language, and whole behaviour, announce the former injury
of his intellects."
"O Lord," cried Miss Larolles, half-screaming, "what shocking
notions you put in one's head! I declare I dare say I sha'n't get
safe home for him, for I assure you I believe he's taken a spite to
me! and all because one day, before I knew of his odd ways, I
happened to fall a laughing at his going about in that old coat. Do
you know it put him quite in a passion! only conceive how ill-
"O he has distressed me," exclaimed the Captain, with a shrug,
"_partout_! and found so much fault with every thing I have
done, that I should really be glad to have the honour to cut, for
the moment he comes up to me, I know what I have to expect!"
"But I must tell you," cried Miss Larolles, "how monstrously he put
me in a fright one evening when I was talking with Miss Moffat. Do
you know, he came up to us, and asked what we were saying! and
because we could not think in a minute of something to answer him,
he said he supposed we were only talking some scandal, and so we had
better go home, and employ ourselves in working for the poor! only
think how horrid! and after that, he was so excessive impertinent in
his remarks, there was quite no bearing him. I assure you he cut me
up so you've no notion."
Here Mr Albany advanced; and every body but Sir Robert moved out of
Fixing his eyes upon Cecilia, with an expression _more in sorrow
than in anger_, after contemplating her some time in silence, he
exclaimed, "Ah lovely, but perishable flower! how long will that
ingenuous countenance, wearing, because wanting no disguise, look
responsive of the whiteness of the region within? How long will that
air of innocence irradiate your whole appearance? unspoilt by
prosperity, unperverted by power! pure in the midst of surrounding
depravity! unsullied in the tainted air of infectious perdition!"
The confusion of Cecilia at this public address, which drew upon her
the eyes and attention of all the company, was inexpressible; she
arose from her seat, covered with blushes, and saying, "I fancy the
carriage must be ready," pressed forward to quit the room, followed
by Sir Robert, who answered, "No, no, they'll call it when it comes
up. Arnott, will you go and see where it is?"
Cecilia stopt, but whispered Mrs Harrel to stand near her.
"And whither," cried Albany indignantly, "whither wouldst thou go?
Art thou already disdainful of my precepts? and canst thou not one
short moment spare from the tumultuous folly which encircles thee?
Many and many are the hours thou mayst spend with such as these; the
world, alas! is full of them; weary not then, so soon, of an old man
that would admonish thee,--he cannot call upon thee long, for soon
he will be called upon himself!"
This solemn exhortation extremely distressed her; and fearing to
still further offend him by making another effort to escape, she
answered in a low voice, "I will not only hear, but thank you for
your precepts, if you will forbear to give them before so many
"Whence," cried he sternly, "these vain and superficial
distinctions? Do you not dance in public? What renders you more
conspicuous? Do you not dress to be admired, and walk to be
observed? Why then this fantastical scruple, unjustified by reason,
unsupported by analogy? Is folly only to be published? Is vanity
alone to be exhibited? Oh slaves of senseless contradiction! Oh
feeble followers of yet feebler prejudice! daring to be wicked, yet
fearing to be wise; dauntless in levity, yet shrinking from the name
The latter part of this speech, during which he turned with energy
to the whole company, raised such a general alarm, that all the
ladies hastily quitted the room, and all the gentlemen endeavoured
to enter it, equally curious to see the man who made the oration,
and the lady to whom it was addressed. Cecilia, therefore, found her
situation unsupportable; "I must go," she cried, "whether there is a
carriage or not! pray, Mrs Harrel, let us go!"
Sir Robert then offered to take her hand, which she was extremely
ready to give him; but while the crowd made their passage difficult,
Albany, following and stopping her, said, "What is it you fear? a
miserable old man, worn out by the sorrows of that experience from
which he offers you counsel? What, too, is it you trust? a libertine
wretch, coveting nothing but your wealth, for the gift of which he
will repay you by the perversion of your principles!"
"What the d--l do you mean by that?" cried the Baronet.
"To shew," answered he, austerely, "the inconsistency of false
delicacy; to show how those who are too timid for truth, can
fearless meet licentiousness."
"For Heaven's sake, Sir," cried Cecilia, "say no more to me now:
call upon me in Portman-square when you please,--reprove me in
whatever you think me blameable, I shall be grateful for your
instructions, and bettered, perhaps, by your care;--but lessons and
notice thus public can do me nothing but injury."
"How happy," cried he, "were no other injury near thee! spotless
were then the hour of thy danger, bright, fair and refulgent thy
passage to security! the Good would receive thee with praise, the
Guilty would supplicate thy prayers, the Poor would follow thee with
blessings, and Children would be taught by thy example!"
He then quitted her, every body making way as he moved, and
proceeded into the great room. Mrs Harrel's carriage being announced
at the same time, Cecilia lost not an instant in hastening away.
Sir Robert, as he conducted her, disdainfully laughed at the
adventure, which the general licence allowed to Mr Albany prevented
his resenting, and which therefore he scorned to appear moved at.
Miss Harrel could talk of nothing else, neither was Cecilia disposed
to change the subject, for the remains of insanity which seemed to
hang upon him were affecting without being alarming, and her desire
to know more of him grew every instant stronger.
This desire, however, outlived not the conversation to which it gave
rise; when she returned to her own room, no vestige of it remained
upon her mind, which a nearer concern and deeper interest wholly
The behaviour of young Delvile had pained, pleased, and disturbed
her; his activity to save her from mischief might proceed merely
from gallantry or good nature; upon that, therefore, she dwelt
little: but his eagerness, his anxiety, his insensibility to
himself, were more than good breeding could claim, and seemed to
spring from a motive less artificial.
She now, therefore, believed that her partiality was returned; and
this belief had power to shake all her resolves, and enfeeble all
her objections. The arrogance of Mr Delvile lessened in her
reflections, the admonitions of Mr Monckton abated in their
influence. With the first she considered that though connected she
need not live, and for the second, though she acknowledged the
excellence of his judgment, she concluded him wholly ignorant of her
sentiments of Delvile; which she imagined, when once revealed, would
make every obstacle to the alliance seem trifling, when put in
competition with mutual esteem and affection.
The attention of Cecilia to her own affairs, did not make her
forgetful of those of the Harrels: and the morning after the busy
day which was last recorded, as soon as she quitted the breakfast-
room, she began a note to Mr Monckton, but was interrupted with
information that he was already in the house.
She went to him immediately, and had the satisfaction of finding him
alone: but desirous as she was to relate to him the transactions of
the preceding day, there was in his countenance a gravity so
unusual, that her impatience was involuntarily checked, and she
waited first to hear if he had himself any thing to communicate.
He kept her not long in suspence; "Miss Beverley," he said, "I bring
you intelligence which though I know you will be very sorry to hear,
it is absolutely necessary should be told you immediately: you may
otherwise, from however laudable motives, be drawn into some action
which you may repent for life."
"What now!" cried Cecilia, much alarmed.
"All that I suspected," said he, "and more than I hinted to you, is
true; Mr Harrel is a ruined man! he is not worth a groat, and he is
in debt beyond what he ever possessed."
Cecilia made no answer: she knew but too fatally the desperate state
of his affairs, yet that _his debts were more than he had ever
possessed_, she had not thought possible.
"My enquiries," continued he, "have been among principals, and such
as would not dare deceive me. I hastened, therefore, to you, that
this timely notice might enforce the injunctions I gave you when I
had the pleasure of seeing you last, and prevent a misjudging
generosity from leading you into any injury of your own fortune, for
a man who is past all relief from it, and who cannot be saved, even
though you were to be destroyed for his sake."
"You are very good," said Cecilia, "but your counsel is now too
late!" She then briefly acquainted him with what passed, and with
how large a sum she had parted.
He heard her with rage, amazement, and horror: and after inveighing
against Mr Harrel in the bitterest terms, he said, "But why, before
you signed your name to so base an imposition, could you not send
"I wished, I meant to have done it," cried she, "but I thought the
time past when you could help me: how, indeed, could you have saved
me? my word was given, given with an oath the most solemn, and the
first I have ever taken in my life."
"An oath so forced," answered he, "the most delicate conscience
would have absolved you from performing. You have, indeed, been
grossly imposed upon, and pardon me if I add unaccountably to blame.
Was it not obvious that relief so circumstanced must be temporary?
If his ruin had been any thing less than certain, what tradesmen
would have been insolent? You have therefore deprived yourself of
the power of doing good to a worthier object, merely to grant a
longer date to extravagance and villainy."
"Yet how," cried Cecilia, deeply touched by this reproof, "how could
I do otherwise! Could I see a man in the agonies of despair, hear
him first darkly hint his own destruction, and afterwards behold him
almost in the very act of suicide, the instrument of self-murder in
his desperate hand--and yet, though he put his life in my power,
though he told me I could preserve him, and told me he had no other
reliance or resource, could I leave him to his dreadful despondence,
refuse my assisting hand to raise him from perdition, and, to save
what, after all, I am well able to spare, suffer a fellow-creature,
who flung himself upon my mercy, to offer up his last accounts with
an action blacker than any which had preceded it?--No, I cannot
repent what I have done, though I lament, indeed, that the object
was not more deserving."
"Your representation," said Mr Monckton, "like every thing else that
I ever heard you utter, breathes nothing but benevolence and
goodness: but your pity has been abused, and your understanding
imposed upon. Mr Harrel had no intention to destroy himself; the
whole was an infamous trick, which, had not your generosity been too
well known, would never have been played."
"I cannot think quite so ill of him," said Cecilia, "nor for the
world would I have risked my own future reproaches by trusting to
such a suspicion, which, had it proved wrong, and had Mr Harrel,
upon my refusal committed the fatal deed, would have made his murder
upon my own conscience rest for ever! surely the experiment would
have been too hazardous, when the consequence had all my future
peace in its power.
"It is impossible not to revere your scruples," said Mr Monckton,
"even while I consider them as causeless; for causeless they
undoubtedly were: the man who could act so atrocious a part, who
could so scandalously pillage a young lady who was his guest and his
ward, take advantage of her temper for the plunder of her fortune,
and extort her compliance by the basest and most dishonourable arts,
meant only to terrify her into compliance, for he can be nothing
less than a downright and thorough scoundrel, capable of every
species of mean villainy."
He then protested he would at least acquaint her other guardians
with what had passed, whose business it would be to enquire if there
was any chance of redress.
Cecilia, however, had not much trouble in combating this proposal;
for though her objections, which were merely those of punctilious
honour and delicacy, weighed nothing with a man who regarded them as
absurdities, yet his own apprehensions of appearing too officious in
her affairs, forced him, after a little deliberation, to give up the
"Besides," said Cecilia, "as I have his bond for what I have parted
with, I have, at least, no right to complain, unless, after he
receives his rents, he refuses to pay me."
"His bonds! his rents!" exclaimed Mr Monckton, "what is a man's bond
who is not worth a guinea? and what are his rents, when all he ever
owned must be sold before they are due, and when he will not himself
receive a penny from the sale, as he has neither land, house, nor
possession of any sort that is not mortgaged?"
"Nay, then," said Cecilia, "if so, it is indeed all, over! I am
sorry, I am grieved!--but it is past, and nothing, therefore,
remains, but that I try to forget I ever was richer!"
"This is very youthful philosophy," said Mr Monckton; "but it will
not lessen your regret hereafter, when the value of money is better
known to you."
"If I shall dearly buy my experience," said Cecilia, "let me be the
more attentive to making good use of it; and, since my loss seems
irremediable to myself, let me at least endeavour to secure its
utility to Mr Harrel."
She then told him her wish to propose to that gentleman some scheme
of reformation, while yesterday's events were yet recent in his
mind: but Mr Monckton, who had hardly patience to hear her,
exclaimed, "He is a wretch, and deserves the full force of the
disgrace he is courting. What is now most necessary is to guard you
from his further machinations, for you may else be involved in ruin
as deep as his own. He now knows the way to frighten you, and he
will not fail to put it in practice."
"No, Sir," answered Cecilia, "he would vainly apply to me in future:
I cannot repent that I ventured not yesterday to brave his menaces,
but too little is the comfort I feel from what I have bestowed, to
suffer any consideration to make me part with more."
"Your resolution," answered he, "will be as feeble as your
generosity will be potent: depend nothing upon yourself, but
instantly quit his house. You will else be made responsible for
every debt that he contracts; and whatever may be his difficulties
hereafter, he will know that to extricate himself from them, he has
but to talk of dying, and to shew you a sword or a pistol."
"If so, then," said Cecilia, looking down while she spoke, "I
suppose I must again go to Mr Delvile's."
This was by no means the purpose of Mr Monckton, who saw not more
danger to her fortune with one of her guardians, than to her person
with the other. He ventured, therefore, to recommend to her a
residence with Mr Briggs, well knowing that his house would be a
security against her seeing any man equal to himself, and hoping
that under his roof he might again be as unrivalled in her opinion
and esteem, as he formerly was in the country.
But here the opposition of Cecilia was too earnest for any hope that
it might be surmounted; for, added to her dislike of Mr Briggs, her
repugnance to such an habitation was strongly, though silently
increased, by her secret inclination to return to St James's-square.
"I mention not Mr Briggs as an eligible host," said Mr Monckton,
after listening to her objections, "but merely as one more proper
for you than Mr Delvile, with whom your fixing at present would but
be ill thought of in the world."
"Ill thought of, Sir? Why so?"
"Because he has a son; for whose sake alone it would be universally
concluded you changed your abode: and to give any pretence for such
a report, would by no means accord with the usual delicacy of your
Cecilia was confounded by this speech: the truth of the charge she
felt, and the probability of the censure she did not dare dispute.
He then gave her a thousand exhortations to beware of the schemes
and artifices of Mr Harrel, which he foresaw would be innumerable.
He told her, too, that with respect to Sir Robert Floyer, he thought
she had better suffer the report to subside of itself, which in time
it must necessarily do, than give to it so much consequence as to
send a message to the Baronet, from which he might pretend to infer
that hitherto she had been wavering, or she would have sent to him
But the real motive of this advice was, that as he found Sir Robert
by no means to be dreaded, he hoped the report, if generally
circulated and credited, might keep off other pretenders, and
intimidate or deceive young Delvile.
The purport for which Cecilia had wished this conference was,
however, wholly unanswered; Mr Monckton, enraged by the conduct of
Mr Harrel, refused to talk of his affairs, and could only mention
him with detestation: but Cecilia, less severe in her judgment, and
more tender in her heart, would not yet give up the hope of an
amendment she so anxiously wished; and having now no other person to
whom she could apply, determined to consult with Mr Arnott, whose
affection for his sister would give him a zeal in the affair that
might somewhat supply the place of superior abilities. There was,
indeed, no time to be lost in making the projected attempt, for no
sooner was the immediate danger of suffering removed, than the alarm
wore away, and the penitence was forgotten; every thing went on as
usual, no new regulations were made, no expences abated, no
pleasures forborn, not a thought of hereafter admitted: and ruinous
and terrible as had been the preceding storm, no trace of it was
visible in the serenity of the present calm.
An occasion of discussion with Mr Arnott very speedily offered. Mr
Harrel said he had observed in the looks of his friends at the
Pantheon much surprise at the sight of him, and declared he should
take yet another measure for removing all suspicion. This was to
give a splendid entertainment at his own house to all his
acquaintance, to which he meant to invite every body of any
consequence he had ever seen, and almost every body he had ever
heard of, in his life.
Levity so unfeeling, and a spirit of extravagance so irreclaimable,
were hopeless prognostics; yet Cecilia would not desist from her
design. She therefore took the earliest opportunity of speaking with
Mr Arnott upon the subject, when she openly expressed her uneasiness
at the state of his brother's affairs, and warmly acknowledged her
displeasure at his dissipated way of life.
Mr Arnott soon shewed that example was all he wanted to declare the
same sentiments. He owned he had long disapproved the conduct of Mr
Harrel, and trembled at the situation of his sister. They then
considered what it was possible to propose that might retrieve their
affairs, and concluded that entirely to quit London for some years,
was the only chance that remained of saving them from absolute
Mr Arnott, therefore, though fearfully, and averse to the talk, told
his sister their mutual advice. She thanked him, said she was much
obliged to him, and would certainly consider his proposal, and
mention it to Mr Harrel.--Parties of pleasure, however, intervened,
and the promise was neglected.
Cecilia then again spoke herself. Mrs Harrel, much softened by her
late acts of kindness, was no longer offended by her interference,
but contented herself with confessing that she quite hated the
country, and could only bear to live in it in summer time. And when
Cecilia very earnestly expostulated on the weakness of such an
objection to a step absolutely necessary for her future safety and
happiness, she said, _she could do no worse than that if already
ruined_, and therefore that she thought _it would be very hard
to expect from her such a sacrifice before-hand_.
It was in vain Cecilia remonstrated: Mrs Harrel's love of pleasure
was stronger than her understanding, and therefore, though she
listened to her with patience, she concluded with the same answer
she had begun.
Cecilia then, though almost heartless, resolved upon talking with Mr
Harrel himself: and therefore, taking an opportunity which he had
not time to elude, she ingenuously told him her opinion of his
danger, and of the manner in which it might be avoided.
He paid unusual attention to her advice, but said she was much
mistaken with respect to his affairs, which he believed he should
now very speedily retrieve, as he had had the preceding night an
uncommon _run of luck_, and flattered himself with being able
very shortly to pay all his debts, and begin the world again upon a
This open confession of gaming was but a new shock to Cecilia, who
scrupled not to represent to him the uncertainty of so hazardous a
reliance, and the inevitable evils of so destructive a practice.
She made not, however, the least impression upon his mind; he
assured her he doubted not giving her shortly a good account of
himself, and that living in the country was a resource of
desperation which need not be anticipated.
Cecilia, though grieved and provoked by their mutual folly and
blindness, could proceed no further: advice and admonition she
spared not, but authority she had none to use. She regretted her
ineffectual attempt to Mr Arnott, who was yet more cruelly afflicted
at it; but though they conversed upon the subject by every
opportunity, they were equally unable to relate any success from
their efforts, or to devise any plan more likely to ensure it.
Mean time young Delvile failed not to honour Cecilia's introduction
of him to Mr Harrel, by waiting upon that gentleman as soon as the
ill effects of his accident at the Pantheon permitted him to leave
his own house. Mr Harrel, though just going out when he called, was
desirous of being upon good terms with his family, and therefore
took him up stairs to present him to his lady, and invited him to
tea and cards the next evening.
Cecilia, who was with Mrs Harrel, did not see him without emotion;
which was not much lessened by the task of thanking him for his
assistance at the Pantheon, and enquiring how he had himself fared.
No sign, however, of emotion appeared in return, either when he
first addressed, or afterwards answered her: the look of solicitude
with which she had been so much struck when they last parted was no
longer discernible, and the voice of sensibility which had removed
all her doubts, was no longer to be heard. His general ease, and
natural gaiety were again unruffled, and though he had never seemed
really indifferent to her, there was not the least appearance of any
Cecilia felt an involuntary mortification as she observed this
change: yet, upon reflection, she still attributed his whole
behaviour to his mistake with respect to her situation, and
therefore was but the more gratified by the preference he
The invitation for the next evening was accepted, and Cecilia, for
once, felt no repugnance to joining the company. Young Delvile again
was in excellent spirits; but though his chief pleasure was
evidently derived from conversing with her, she had the vexation to
observe that he seemed to think her the undoubted property of the
Baronet, always retreating when he approached, and as careful, when
next her, to yield his place if he advanced, as, when he was
distant, to guard it from all others.
But when Sir Robert was employed at cards, all scruples ceasing, he
neglected not to engross her almost wholly. He was eager to speak to
her of the affairs of Mr Belfield, which he told her wore now a
better aspect. The letter, indeed, of recommendation which he had
shewn to her, had failed, as the nobleman to whom it was written had
already entered into an engagement for his son; but he had made
application elsewhere which he believed would be successful, and he
had communicated his proceedings to Mr Belfield, whose spirits he
hoped would recover by this prospect of employment and advantage.
"It is, however, but too true," he added, "that I have rather
obtained his consent to the steps I am taking, than his approbation
of them: nor do I believe, had I previously consulted him, I should
have had even that. Disappointed in his higher views, his spirit is
broken, and he is heartless and hopeless, scarce condescending to
accept relief, from the bitter remembrance that he expected
preferment. Time, however, will blunt this acute sensibility, and
reflection will make him blush at this unreasonable delicacy. But we
must patiently soothe him till he is more himself, or while we mean
to serve, we shall only torment him. Sickness, sorrow, and poverty
have all fallen heavily upon him, and they have all fallen at once:
we must not, therefore, wonder to find him intractable, when his
mind is as much depressed, as his body is enervated."
Cecilia, to whom his candour and generosity always gave fresh
delight, strengthened his opinions by her concurrence, and confirmed
his designs by the interest which she took in them.
From this time, he found almost daily some occasion for calling in
Portman-square. The application of Cecilia in favour of Mr Belfield
gave him a right to communicate to her all his proceedings
concerning him; and he had some letter to shew, some new scheme to
propose, some refusal to lament, or some hope to rejoice over,
almost perpetually: or even when these failed, Cecilia had a cold,
which he came to enquire after, or Mrs Harrel gave him an
invitation, which rendered any excuse unnecessary. But though his
intimacy with Cecilia was encreased, though his admiration of her
was conspicuous, and his fondness for her society seemed to grow
with the enjoyment of it, he yet never manifested any doubt of her
engagement with the Baronet, nor betrayed either intention or desire
to supplant him. Cecilia, however, repined not much at the mistake,
since she thought it might be instrumental to procuring her a more
impartial acquaintance with his character, than she could rationally
expect, if, as she hoped, the explanation of his error should make
him seek her good opinion with more study and design.
To satisfy herself not only concerning the brother but the sister,
she again visited Miss Belfield, and had the pleasure of finding her
in better spirits, and hearing that the _noble friend_ of her
brother, whom she had already mentioned, and whom Cecilia had before
suspected to be young Delvile, had now pointed out to him a method
of conduct by which his affairs might be decently retrieved, and
himself creditably employed. Miss Belfield spoke of the plan with
the highest satisfaction; yet she acknowledged that her mother was
extremely discontented with it, and that her brother himself was
rather led by shame than inclination to its adoption. Yet he was
evidently easier in his mind, though far from happy, and already so
much better, that Mr Rupil said he would very soon be able to leave
Such was the quiet and contented situation of Cecilia, when one
evening, which was destined for company at home, while she was alone
in the drawing-room, which Mrs Harrel had just left to answer a
note, Sir Robert Floyer accidentally came up stairs before the other
"Ha!" cried he, the moment he saw her, "at last have I the good
fortune to meet with you alone! this, indeed, is a favour I thought
I was always to be denied."
He was then approaching her; but Cecilia, who shrunk involuntarily
at the sight of him, was retreating hastily to quit the room, when
suddenly recollecting that no better opportunity might ever offer
for a final explanation with him, she irresolutely stopt; and Sir
Robert, immediately following, took her hand, and pressing it to his
lips as she endeavoured to withdraw it, exclaimed, "You are a most
charming creature!" when the door was opened, and young Delvile at
the same moment was announced and appeared.
Cecilia, colouring violently, and extremely chagrined, hastily
disengaged herself from his hold. Delvile seemed uncertain whether
he ought not to retire, which Sir Robert perceiving, bowed to him
with an air of mingled triumph and vexation, and said, "Sir your
The doubt, however, in which every one appeared of what was next to
be done, was immediately removed by the return of Mrs Harrel, and
the arrival at almost the same moment of more company.
The rest of the evening was spent, on the part of Cecilia, most
painfully: the explanation she had planned had ended in worse than
nothing, for by suffering the Baronet to detain her, she had rather
shewn a disposition to oblige, than any intention to discard him;
and the situation in which she had been surprised by young Delvile,
was the last to clear the suspicions she so little wished him to
harbour: while, on his part, the accident seemed to occasion no
other alteration than that of rendering him more than usually
assiduous to give way to Sir Robert whenever he approached her.
Nor was Sir Robert slack in taking advantage of this attention: he
was highly in spirits, talked to her with more than common freedom,
and wore the whole evening an air of exulting satisfaction.
Cecilia, provoked by this presumption, hurt by the behaviour of
young Delvile, and mortified by the whole affair, determined to
leave this mistake no longer in the power of accident, but to apply
immediately to Mr Delvile senior, and desire him, as her guardian,
to wait upon Sir Robert himself, and acquaint him that his
perseverance in pursuing her was both useless and offensive: and by
this method she hoped at once to disentangle herself for ever from
the Baronet, and to discover more fully the sentiments of young
Delvile: for the provocation she had just endured, robbed her of all
patience for waiting the advice of Mr Monckton.
The following morning, therefore, Cecilia went early to St James's-
square: and, after the usual ceremonies of messages and long
waiting, she was shewn into an apartment where she found Mr Delvile
and his son.
She rejoiced to see them together, and determined to make known to
them both the purport of her visit: and therefore, after some
apologies and a little hesitation, she told Mr Delvile, that
encouraged by his offers of serving her, she had taken the liberty
to call upon him with a view to entreat his assistance.
Young Delvile, immediately arising, would have quitted the room; but
Cecilia, assuring him she rather desired what she had to say should
be known than kept secret, begged that he would not disturb himself.
Delvile, pleased with this permission to hear her, and curious to
know what would follow, very readily returned to his seat.
"I should by no means," she continued, "have thought of proclaiming
even to the most intimate of my friends, the partiality which Sir
Robert Floyer has been pleased to shew me, had he left to me the
choice of publishing or concealing it: but, on the contrary, his own
behaviour seems intended not merely to display it, but to insinuate
that it meets with my approbation. Mr Harrel, also, urged by too
much warmth of friendship, has encouraged this belief; nor, indeed,
do I know at present where the mistake stops, nor what it is report
has not scrupled to affirm. But I think I ought no longer to neglect
it, and therefore I have presumed to solicit your advice in what
manner I may most effectually contradict it."
The extreme surprise of young Delvile at this speech was not more
evident than pleasant to Cecilia, to whom it accounted for all that
had perplext her in his conduct, while it animated every expectation
she wished to encourage."
"The behaviour of Mr Harrel," answered Mr Delvile, "has by no means
been such as to lead me to forget that his father was the son of a
steward of Mr Grant, who lived in the neighbourhood of my friend and
relation the Duke of Derwent: nor can I sufficiently congratulate
myself that I have always declined acting with him. The late Dean,
indeed, never committed so strange an impropriety as that of
nominating Mr Harrel and Mr Briggs coadjutors with Mr Delvile. The
impropriety, however, though extremely offensive to me, has never
obliterated from my mind the esteem I bore the Dean: nor can I
possibly give a greater proof of it than the readiness I have always
shewn to offer my counsel and instruction to his niece. Mr Harrel,
therefore, ought certainly to have desired Sir Robert Floyer to
acquaint me with his proposals before he gave to him any answer."
"Undoubtedly, Sir," said Cecilia, willing to shorten this parading
harangue, "but as he neglected that intention, will you think me too
impertinent should I entreat the favour of you to speak with Sir
Robert yourself, and explain to him the total inefficacy of his
pursuit, since my determination against him is unalterable?"
Here the conference was interrupted by the entrance of a servant who
said something to Mr Delvile, which occasioned his apologizing to
Cecilia for leaving her for a few moments, and ostentatiously
assuring her that no business, however important, should prevent his
thinking of her affairs, or detain him from returning to her as soon
The astonishment of young Delvile at the strength of her last
expression kept him silent some time after his father left the room;
and then, with a countenance that still marked his amazement, he
said "Is it possible, Miss Beverley, that I should twice have been
thus egregiously deceived? or rather, that the whole town, and even
the most intimate of your friends, should so unaccountably have
persisted in a mistake."
"For the town," answered Cecilia, "I know not how it can have had
any concern in so small a matter; but for my intimate friends, I
have too few to make it probable they should ever have been so
"Pardon me," cried he, "it was from one who ought to know, that I
had myself the intelligence."
"I entreat you, then," said Cecilia, "to acquaint me who it was?"
"Mr Harrel himself; who communicated it to a lady in my hearing, and
at a public place."
Cecilia cast up her eyes in wonder and indignation at a proof so
incontrovertible of his falsehood, but made not any answer.
"Even yet," continued he, "I can scarcely feel undeceived; your
engagement seemed so positive, your connection so irretrievable,--
so,--so _fixed_, I mean.--"
He hesitated, a little embarrassed; but then suddenly exclaimed,
"Yet whence, if to _neither_ favourable, if indifferent alike
to Sir Robert and to Belfield, whence that animated apprehension for
their safety at the Opera-house? whence that never to be forgotten
_oh stop him! good God! will nobody stop him!_--Words of
anxiety so tender! and sounds that still vibrate in my ear!"
Cecilia, struck with amazement in her turn at the strength of his
own expressions, blushed, and for a few minutes hesitated how to
answer him: but then, to leave nothing that related to so
disagreeable a report in any doubt, she resolved to tell him
ingenuously the circumstances that had occasioned her alarm: and
therefore, though with some pain to her modesty, she confessed her
fears that she had herself provoked the affront, though her only
view had been to discountenance Sir Robert, without meaning to shew
any distinction to Mr Belfield.
Delvile, who seemed charmed with the candour of this explanation,
said, when she had finished it, "You are then at liberty?---Ah
madam!--how many may rue so dangerous a discovery!"
"Could you think," said Cecilia, endeavouring to speak with her
usual ease, "that Sir Robert Floyer would be found so irresistible?"
"Oh no!" cried he, "far otherwise; a thousand times I have wondered
at his happiness; a thousand times, when I have looked at you, and
listened to you, I have thought it impossible!--yet my authority
seemed indisputable. And how was I to discredit what was not uttered
as a conjecture, but asserted as a fact? asserted, too, by the
guardian with whom you lived? and not hinted as a secret, but
affirmed as a point settled?"
"Yet surely," said Cecilia, "you have heard me make use of
expressions that could not but lead you to suppose there was some
mistake, whatever might be the authority which had won your belief."
"No," answered he, "I never supposed any mistake, though sometimes I
thought you repented your engagement. I concluded, indeed, you had
been unwarily drawn in, and I have even, at times, been tempted to
acknowledge my suspicions to you, state your independence, and
exhort you--as a _friend_, exhort you--to use it with spirit,
and, if you were shackled unwillingly, incautiously, or unworthily,
to break the chains by which you were confined, and restore to
yourself that freedom of choice upon the use of which all your
happiness must ultimately depend. But I doubted if this were
honourable to the Baronet,--and what, indeed, was my right to such a
liberty? none that every man might not be proud of, a wish to do
honour to myself, under the officious pretence of serving the most
amiable of women."
"Mr Harrel," said Cecilia, "has been so strangely bigoted to his
friend, that in his eagerness to manifest his regard for him, he
seems to have forgotten every other consideration; he would not,
else, have spread so widely a report that could so ill stand
"If Sir Robert," returned he, "is himself deceived while he deceives
others, who can forbear to pity him? for my own part, instead of
repining that hitherto I have been mistaken, ought I not rather to
bless an error that may have been my preservative from danger?"
Cecilia, distressed in what manner to support her part in the
conversation, began now to wish the return of Mr Delvile; and, not
knowing what else to say, she expressed her surprise at his long
"It is not, indeed, well timed," said young Delvile, "just now,--at
the moment when--" he stopt, and presently exclaiming "Oh dangerous
interval!" he arose from his seat in manifest disorder.
Cecilia arose too, and hastily ringing the bell, said, "Mr Delvile I
am sure is detained, and therefore I will order my chair, and call
"Do I frighten you away?" said he, assuming an appearance more
"No," answered she, "but I would not hasten Mr Delvile."
A servant then came, and said the chair was ready.
She would immediately have followed him, but young Delvile again
speaking, she stopt a moment to hear him. "I fear," said he, with
much hesitation, "I have strangely exposed myself--and that you
cannot--but the extreme astonishment--" he stopt again in the utmost
confusion, and then adding, "you will permit me to attend you to the
chair," he handed her down stairs, and in quitting her, bowed
without saying a word more.
Cecilia, who was almost wholly indifferent to every part of the
explanation but that which had actually passed, was now in a state
of felicity more delightful than any she had ever experienced. She
had not a doubt remaining of her influence over the mind of young
Delvile, and the surprise which had made him rather betray than
express his regard, was infinitely more flattering and satisfactory
to her than any formal or direct declaration. She had now convinced
him she was disengaged, and in return, though without seeming to
intend it, he had convinced her of the deep interest which he took
in the discovery. His perturbation, the words which escaped him, and
his evident struggle to say no more, were proofs just such as she
wished to receive of his partial admiration, since while they
satisfied her heart, they also soothed her pride, by shewing a
diffidence of success which assured her that her own secret was
still sacred, and that no weakness or inadvertency on her part had
robbed her of the power of mingling dignity with the frankness with
which she meant to receive his addresses. All, therefore, that now
employed her care, was to keep off any indissoluble engagement till
each should be better known to the other.
For this reserve, however, she had less immediate occasion than she
expected; she saw no more of young Delvile that day; neither did he
appear the next. The third she fully expected him,--but still he
came not. And while she wondered at an absence so uncommon, she
received a note from Lord Ernolf, to beg permission to wait upon her
for two minutes, at any time she would appoint.
She readily sent word that she should be at home for the rest of the
day, as she wished much for an opportunity of immediately finishing
every affair but one, and setting her mind at liberty to think only
of that which she desired should prosper.
Lord Ernolf was with her in half an hour. She found him sensible and
well bred, extremely desirous to promote her alliance with his son,
and apparently as much pleased with herself as with her fortune. He
acquainted her that he had addressed himself to Mr Harrel long
since, but had been informed that she was actually engaged to Sir
Robert Floyer: he should, therefore, have forborn taking up any part
of her time, had he not, on the preceding day, while on a visit at
Mr Delvile's, been assured that Mr Harrel was mistaken, and that she
had not yet declared for any body. He hoped, therefore, that she
would allow his son the honour of waiting upon her, and permit him
to talk with Mr Briggs, who he understood was her acting guardian,
upon such matters as ought to be speedily adjusted.
Cecilia thanked him for the honour he intended her, and confirmed
the truth of the account he had heard in St James'-square, but at
the same time told him she must decline receiving any visits from
his lordship's son, and entreated him to take no measure towards the
promotion of an affair which never could succeed.
He seemed much concerned at her answer, and endeavoured for some
time to soften her, but found her so steady, though civil in her
refusal, that he was obliged, however unwillingly, to give up his
Cecilia, when he was gone, reflected with much vexation on the
readiness of the Delviles to encourage his visit; she considered,
however, that the intelligence he had heard might possibly be
gathered in general conversation; but she blamed herself that she
had not led to some enquiry what part of the family he had seen, and
who was present when the information was given him.
Mean while she found that neither coldness, distance, nor aversion
were sufficient to repress Sir Robert Floyer, who continued to
persecute her with as much confidence of success as could have
arisen from the utmost encouragement. She again, though with much
difficulty, contrived to speak with Mr Harrel upon the subject, and
openly accused him of spreading a report abroad, as well as
countenancing an expectation at home, that had neither truth nor
justice to support them.
Mr Harrel, with his usual levity and carelessness, laughed at the
charge, but denied any belief in her displeasure, and affected to
think she was merely playing the coquet, while Sir Robert was not
the less her decided choice.
Provoked and wearied, Cecilia resolved no longer to depend upon any
body but herself for the management of her own affairs, and
therefore, to conclude the business without any possibility of
further cavilling, she wrote the following note to Sir Robert
_To Sir Robert Floyer, Bart._
Miss BEVERLEY presents her compliments to Sir Robert Floyer, and as
she has some reason to fear Mr Harrel did not explicitly acquaint
him with her answer to the commission with which he was entrusted,
she thinks it necessary, in order to obviate any possible
misunderstanding, to take this method of returning him thanks for
the honour of his good opinion, but of begging at the same time that
he would not lose a moment upon her account, as her thanks are all
she can now, or ever, offer in return.
_Portman-square,_ _May_ 11th, 1779.
To this note Cecilia received no answer: but she had the pleasure to
observe that Sir Robert forbore his usual visit on the day she sent
it, and, though he appeared again the day following, he never spoke
to her and seemed sullen and out of humour.
Yet still young Delvile came not, and still, as her surprise
encreased, her tranquillity was diminished. She could form no excuse
for his delay, nor conjecture any reason for his absence. Every
motive seemed to favour his seeking, and not one his shunning her:
the explanation which had so lately passed had informed him he had
no rival to fear, and the manner in which he had heard it assured
her the information was not indifferent to him; why, then, so
assiduous in his visits when he thought her engaged, and so slack in
all attendance when he knew she was at liberty?