Part 3 out of 7
Cecilia chose not to risk any further questions, lest her knowledge of
him should be suspected, but got into her chair, and returned to Lady
The sight of Belfield reminded her not only of himself; the gentle
Henrietta again took her place in her memory, whence her various
distresses and suspences had of late driven from it everybody but
Delvile, and those whom Delvile brought into it. But her regard for
that amiable girl, though sunk in the busy scenes of her calamitous
uncertainties, was only sunk in her own bosom, and ready, upon their
removal, to revive with fresh vigour. She was now indeed more unhappy
than even in the period of her forgetfulness, yet her mind, was no
longer filled with the restless turbulence of hope, which still more
than despondency unfitted it for thinking of others.
This remembrance thus awakened, awakened also a desire of renewing the
connection so long neglected. All scruples concerning Delvile had now
lost their foundation, since the doubts from which they arose were both
explained and removed: she was certain alike of his indifference to
Henrietta, and his separation from herself; she knew that nothing was
to be feared from painful or offensive rivalry, and she resolved,
therefore, to lose no time in seeking the first pleasure to which since
her disappointment she had voluntarily looked forward.
Early in the evening, she told Lady Margaret she was going out for an
hour or two, and sending again for a chair, was carried to Portland-
She enquired for Miss Belfield, and was shewn into a parlour, where she
found her drinking tea with her mother, and Mr Hobson, their landlord.
Henrietta almost screamed at her sight, from a sudden impulse of joy
and surprize, and, running up to her, flung her arms round her neck,
and embraced her with the most rapturous emotion: but then, drawing
back with a look of timidity and shame, she bashfully apologized for
her freedom, saying, "Indeed, dearest Miss Beverley, it is no want of
respect, but I am so very glad to see you it makes me quite forget
Cecilia, charmed at a reception so ingenuously affectionate, soon
satisfied her doubting diffidence by the warmest thanks that she had
preserved so much regard for her, and by doubling the kindness with
which she returned her caresses.
"Mercy on me, madam," cried Mrs Belfield, who during this time had been
busily employed in sweeping the hearth, wiping some slops upon the
table, and smoothing her handkerchief and apron, "why the girl's enough
to smother you. Henny, how can you be so troublesome? I never saw you
behave in this way before."
"Miss Beverley, madam," said Henrietta, again retreating, "is so kind
as to pardon me, and I was so much surprised at seeing her, that I
hardly knew what I was about."
"The young ladies, ma'am," said Mr Hobson, "have a mighty way of
saluting one another till such time as they get husbands: and then I'll
warrant you they can meet without any salutation at all. That's my
remark, at least, and what I've seen of the world has set me upon
This speech led Cecilia to check, however artless, the tenderness of
her fervent young friend, whom she was much teized by meeting in such
company, but who seemed not to dare understand the frequent looks which
she gave her expressive of a wish to be alone with her.
"Come, ladies," continued the facetious Mr Hobson, "what if we were all
to sit down, and have a good dish of tea? and suppose, Mrs Belfield,
you was to order us a fresh round of toast and butter? do you think the
young ladies here would have any objection? and what if we were to have
a little more water in the tea-kettle? not forgetting a little more tea
in the teapot. What I say is this, let us all be comfortable; that's my
notion of things."
"And a very good notion too," said Mrs Belfield, "for you who have
nothing to vex you. Ah, ma'am, you have heard, I suppose, about my son?
gone off! nobody knows where! left that lord's house, where he might
have lived like a king, and gone out into the wide world nobody knows
"Indeed?" said Cecilia, who, from seeing him in London concluded he was
again with his family, "and has he not acquainted you where he is?"
"No, ma'am, no," cried Mrs Belfield, "he's never once told me where he
is gone, nor let me know the least about the matter, for if I did I
would not taste a dish of tea again for a twelvemonth till I saw him
get back again to that lord's! and I believe in my heart there's never
such another in the three kingdoms, for he has sent here after him I
dare say a score of times. And no wonder, for I will take upon me to
say he won't find his fellow in a hurry, Lord as he is."
"As to his being a Lord," said Mr Hobson, "I am one of them that lay no
great stress upon that, unless he has got a good long purse of his own,
and then, to be sure, a Lord's no bad thing. But as to the matter of
saying Lord such a one, how d'ye do? and Lord such a one, what do you
want? and such sort of compliments, why in my mind, it's a mere
nothing, in comparison of a good income. As to your son, ma'am, he did
not go the right way to work. He should have begun with business, and
gone into pleasure afterwards and if he had but done that, I'll be bold
to say we might have had him at this very minute drinking tea with us
over this fireside."
"My son, Sir," said Mrs Belfield, rather angrily, "was another sort of
a person than a person of business: he always despised it from a child,
and come of it what may, I am sure he was born to be a gentleman."
"As to his despising business," said Mr Hobson, very contemptuously,
"why so much the worse, for business is no such despiseable thing. And
if he had been brought up behind a counter, instead of dangling after
these same Lords, why he might have had a house of his own over his
head, and been as good a man as myself."
"A house over his head?" said Mrs Belfield, "why he might have had what
he would, and have done what he would, if he had but followed my
advice, and put himself a little forward. I have told him a hundred
times to ask some of those great people he lived amongst for a place at
court, for I know they've so many they hardly know what to do with
them, and it was always my design from the beginning that he should be
something of a great man; but I never could persuade him, though, for
anything I know, as I have often told him, if he had but had a little
courage he might have been an Ambassador by this time. And now, all of
a sudden, to be gone nobody knows where!"--
"I am sorry, indeed," said Cecilia, who knew not whether most to pity
or wonder at her blind folly; "but I doubt not you will hear of him
"As to being an Ambassador, ma'am," said Mr Hobson, "it's talking quite
out of character. Those sort of great people keep things of that kind
for their own poor relations and cousins. What I say is this; a man's
best way is to take care of himself. The more those great people see
you want them, the less they like your company. Let every man be
brought up to business, and then when he's made his fortune, he may
walk with his hat on. Why now there was your friend, ma'am," turning to
Cecilia, "that shot out his brains without paying any body a souse;
pray how was that being more genteel than standing behind a counter,
and not owing a shilling?"
"Do you think a young lady," cried Mrs Belfield warmly, "can bear to
hear of such a thing as standing behind a counter? I am sure if my son
had ever done it, I should not expect any lady would so much as look at
him, And yet, though I say it, she might look a good while, and not see
many such persons, let her look where she pleased. And then he has such
a winning manner into the bargain, that I believe in my heart there's
never a lady in the land could say no to him. And yet he has such a
prodigious shyness, I never could make him own he had so much as asked
the question. And what lady can begin first?"
"Why no," said Mr Hobson, "that would be out of character another way.
Now my notion is this; let every man be agreeable! and then he may ask
what lady he pleases. And when he's a mind of a lady, he should look
upon a frown or two as nothing; for the ladies frown in courtship as a
thing of course; it's just like a man swearing at a coachman; why he's
not a bit more in a passion, only he thinks he sha'n't be minded
"Well, for my part," said Mrs Belfield, "I am sure if I was a young
lady, and most especially if I was a young lady of fortune, and all
that, I should like a modest young gentleman, such as my son, for
example, better by half than a bold swearing young fellow, that would
make a point to have me whether I would or no."
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" cried Mr Hobson; "but the young ladies are not of that
way of thinking; they are all for a little life and spirit. Don't I say
right, young ladies?"
Cecilia, who could not but perceive that these speeches was levelled at
herself, felt offended and tired; and finding she had no chance of any
private conversation with Henrietta, arose to take leave: but while she
stopped in the passage to enquire when she could see her alone, a
footman knocked at the door, who, having asked if Mr Belfield lodged
there, and been answered in the affirmative; begged to know whether
Miss Beverley was then in the house?
Cecilia, much surprised, went forward, and told him who she was.
"I have been, madam," said he, "with a message to you at Mr Monckton's,
in Soho-Square: but nobody knew where you was; and Mr Monckton came out
and spoke to me himself, and said that all he could suppose was that
you might be at this house. So he directed me to come here."
"And from whom, Sir, is your message?"
"From the honourable Mr Delvile, madam, in St James's-Square. He
desires to know if you shall be at home on Saturday morning, the day
after to-morrow, and whether you can appoint Mr Briggs to meet him by
twelve o'clock exactly, as he sha'n't be able to stay above three
Cecilia gave an answer as cold as the message; that she would be in
Soho-Square at the time he mentioned, and acquaint Mr Briggs of his
The footman then went away; and Henrietta told her, that if she could
call some morning she might perhaps contrive to be alone with her, and
added, "indeed I wish much to see you, if you could possibly do me so
great an honour; for I am very miserable, and have nobody to tell so!
Ah, Miss Beverley! you that have so many friends, and that deserve as
many again, you little know what a hard thing it is to have none!--but
my brother's strange disappearing has half broke our hearts!"
Cecilia was beginning a consolatory speech, in which she meant to give
her private assurances of his health and safety, when she was
interrupted by Mr Albany, who came suddenly into the passage.
Henrietta received him with a look of pleasure, and enquired why he had
so long been absent; but, surprised by the sight of Cecilia, he
exclaimed, without answering her, "why didst thou fail me? why appoint
me to a place thou wert quitting thyself?--thou thing of fair
professions! thou inveigler of esteem! thou vain, delusive promiser of
"You condemn me too hastily," said Cecilia; if I failed in my promise,
it was not owing to caprice or insincerity, but to a real and bitter
misfortune which incapacitated me from keeping it. I shall soon,
however,--nay, I am already at your disposal, if you have any commands
"I have always," answered he, "commands for the rich, for I have always
compassion for the poor."
"Come to me, then, at Mr Monckton's in Soho-Square," cried she, and
hastened into her chair, impatient to end a conference which she saw
excited the wonder of the servants, and which also now drew out from
the parlour Mr Hobson and Mrs Belfield. She then kissed her hand to
Henrietta, and ordered the chairmen to carry her home.
It had not been without difficulty that she had restrained herself from
mentioning what she knew of Belfield, when she found his mother and
sister in a state of such painful uncertainty concerning him. But her
utter ignorance of his plans, joined to her undoubted knowledge of his
wish of concealment, made her fear doing mischief by officiousness, and
think it wiser not to betray what she had seen of him, till better
informed of his own views and intentions. Yet, willing to shorten a
suspence so uneasy to them, she determined to entreat Mr Monckton would
endeavour to find him out, and acquaint him with their anxiety.
That gentleman, when she returned to his house, was in a state of mind
by no means enviable. Missing her at tea, he had asked Miss Bennet
where she was, and hearing she had not left word, he could scarce
conceal his chagrin. Knowing, however, how few were her acquaintances
in town, he soon concluded she was with Miss Belfield, but, not
satisfied with sending Mr Delvile's messenger after her, he privately
employed one in whom he trusted for himself, to make enquiries at the
house without saying whence he came.
But though this man was returned, and he knew her safety, he still felt
alarmed; he had flattered himself, from the length of time in which she
had now done nothing without consulting him, she would scarce even
think of any action without his previous concurrence. And he had hoped,
by a little longer use, to make his counsel become necessary, which he
knew to be a very short step from rendering it absolute.
Nor was he well pleased to perceive, by this voluntary excursion, a
struggle to cast off her sadness, and a wish to procure herself
entertainment: it was not that he desired her misery, but he was
earnest that all relief from it should spring from himself: and though
far from displeased that Delvile should lose his sovereignty over her
thoughts, he was yet of opinion that, till his own liberty was
restored, he had less to apprehend from grief indulged, than grief
allayed; one could but lead her to repining retirement, the other might
guide her to a consolatory rival.
He well knew, however, it was as essential to his cause to disguise his
disappointments as his expectations, and, certain that by pleasing
alone he had any chance of acquiring power, he cleared up when Cecilia
returned, who as unconscious of feeling, as of owing any subjection to
him, preserved uncontrolled the right of acting for herself, however
desirous and glad of occasional instruction.
She told him where she had been, and related her meeting Belfield, and
the unhappiness of his friends, and hinted her wish that he could be
informed what they suffered. Mr Monckton, eager to oblige her, went
instantly in search of him, and returning to supper, told her he had
traced him through the Bookseller, who had not the dexterity to parry
his artful enquiries, and had actually appointed him to breakfast in
Soho-Square the next morning.
He had found him, he said, writing, but in high spirits and good
humour. He had resisted, for a while, his invitation on account of his
dress, all his clothes but the very coat which he had on being packed
up and at his mother's: but, when laughed at by Mr Monckton for still
retaining some foppery, he gaily protested what remained of it should
be extinguished; and acknowledging that his shame was no part of his
philosophy, declared he would throw it wholly aside, and, in spite of
his degradation, renew his visits at his house.
"I would not tell him," Mr Monckton continued, "of the anxiety of his
family; I thought it would come more powerfully from yourself, who,
having seen, can better enforce it."
Cecilia was very thankful for this compliance with her request, and
anticipated the pleasure she hoped soon to give Henrietta, by the
restoration of a brother so much loved and so regretted.
She sent, mean time, to Mr Briggs the message she had received from Mr
Delvile, and had the satisfaction of an answer that he would observe
The next morning, while the family was at breakfast, Belfield,
according to his promise, made his visit.
A high colour overspread his face as he entered the room, resulting
from a sensation of grief at his fallen fortune, and shame at his
altered appearance, which though he endeavoured to cover under an air
of gaiety and unconcern, gave an awkwardness to his manners, and a
visible distress to his countenance: Mr Monckton received him with
pleasure, and Cecilia, who saw the conflict of his philosophy with his
pride, dressed her features once more in smiles, which however faint
and heartless, shewed her desire to reassure him. Miss Bennet, as usual
when not called upon by the master or lady of the house, sat as a
cypher; and Lady Margaret, always disagreeable and repulsive to the
friends of her husband, though she was not now more than commonly
ungracious, struck the quick-feeling and irritable Belfield, to wear an
air of rude superiority meant to reproach him with his disgrace.
This notion, which strongly affected him, made him, for one instant,
hesitate whether he should remain another in the same room with her:
but the friendliness of Mr Monckton, and the gentleness and good
breeding of Cecilia, seemed so studious to make amends for her
moroseness, that he checked his too ready indignation, and took his
seat at the table. Yet was it some time before he could recover even
the assumed vivacity which this suspected insult had robbed him of,
sufficiently to enter into conversation with any appearance of ease or
pleasure. But, after a while, soothed by the attentions of Cecilia and
Mr Monckton, his uneasiness wore off, and the native spirit and
liveliness of his character broke forth with their accustomed energy.
"This good company, I hope," said he, addressing himself, however, only
to Cecilia, "will not so much _mistake the thing_ as to criticise my
dress of this morning; since it is perfectly according to rule, and to
rule established from time immemorial: but lest any of you should so
much err as to fancy shabby what is only characteristic, I must
endeavour to be beforehand with the malice of conjecture, and have the
honour to inform you, that I am enlisted in the Grub-street regiment,
of the third story, and under the tattered banner of scribbling
volunteers! a race which, if it boasts not the courage of heroes, at
least equals them in enmity. This coat, therefore, is merely the
uniform of my corps, and you will all, I hope, respect it as
emblematical of wit and erudition."
"We must at least respect you," said Cecilia, "who thus gaily can sport
"Ah, madam!" said he, more seriously, "it is not from you I ought to
look for respect! I must appear to you the most unsteady and coward-
hearted of beings. But lately I blushed to see you from poverty, though
more worthily employed than when I had been seen by you in affluence;
that shame vanquished, another equally narrow took its place, and
yesterday I blushed again that you detected me in a new pursuit, though
I had only quitted my former one from a conviction it was ill chosen.
There seems in human nature a worthlessness not to be conquered! yet I
will struggle with it to the last, and either die in the attempt, or
dare seem that which I am, without adding to the miseries of life, the
sting, the envenomed sting of dastardly false shame!"
"Your language is wonderfully altered within this twelvemonth," said Mr
Monckton; "_the worthlessness of human nature_! the _miseries of life_!
this from you! so lately the champion of human nature, and the
panegyrist of human life!"
"Soured by personal disappointment," answered he, "I may perhaps speak
with too much acrimony; yet, ultimately, my opinions have not much
changed. Happiness is given to us with more liberality than we are
willing to confess; it is judgment only that is dealt us sparingly, and
of that we have so little, that when felicity is before us, we turn to
the right or left, or when at the right or left, we proceed strait
forward. It has been so with me; I have sought it at a distance, amidst
difficulty and danger, when all that I could wish has been immediately
within my grasp."
"It must be owned," said Mr Monckton, "after what you have suffered
from this world you were wont to defend, there is little reason to
wonder at some change in your opinion."
"Yet whatever have been my sufferings," he answered, "I have generally
been involved in them by my own rashness or caprice. My last enterprise
especially, from which my expectations were highest, was the most ill-
judged of any. I considered not how little my way of life had fitted me
for the experiment I was making, how irreparably I was enervated by
long sedentary habits, and how insufficient for bodily strength was
mental resolution. We may fight against partial prejudices, and by
spirit and fortitude we may overcome them; but it will not do to war
with the general tenor of education. We may blame, despise, regret as
we please, but customs long established, and habits long indulged,
assume an empire despotic, though their power is but prescriptive.
Opposing them is vain; Nature herself, when forced aside, is not more
elastic in her rebound."
"Will you not then," said Cecilia, "since your experiment has failed,
return again to your family, and to the plan of life you formerly
"You speak of them together," said he, with a smile, "as if you thought
them inseparable; and indeed my own apprehension they would be deemed
so, has made me thus fear to see my friends, since I love not
resistance, yet cannot again attempt the plan of life they would have
me pursue. I have given up my cottage, but my independence is as dear
to me as ever; and all that I have gathered from experience, is to
maintain it by those employments for which my education has fitted me,
instead of seeking it injudiciously by the very road for which it has
"And what is this independence," cried Mr Monckton, "which has thus
bewitched your imagination? a mere idle dream of romance and
enthusiasm; without existence in nature, without possibility in life.
In uncivilised countries, or in lawless times, independence, for a
while, may perhaps stalk abroad; but in a regular government, 'tis only
the vision of a heated brain; one part of a community must inevitably
hang upon another, and 'tis a farce to call either independent, when to
break the chain by which they are linked would prove destruction to
both. The soldier wants not the officer more than the officer the
soldier, nor the tenant the landlord, more than the landlord the
tenant. The rich owe their distinction, their luxuries, to the poor, as
much as the poor owe their rewards, their necessaries, to the rich."
"Man treated as an Automaton," answered Belfield, "and considered
merely with respect to his bodily operations, may indeed be called
dependent, since the food by which he lives, or, rather, without which
he dies, cannot wholly be cultivated and prepared by his own hands: but
considered in a nobler sense, he deserves not the degrading epithet;
speak of him, then, as a being of feeling and understanding, with pride
to alarm, with nerves to tremble, with honour to satisfy, and with a
soul to be immortal!--as such, may he not claim the freedom of his own
thoughts? may not that claim be extended to the liberty of speaking,
and the power of being governed by them? and when thoughts, words, and
actions are exempt from controul, will you brand him with dependency
merely because the Grazier feeds his meat, and the Baker kneads his
"But who is there in the whole world," said Mr Monckton, "extensive as
it is, and dissimilar as are its inhabitants, that can pretend to
assert, his thoughts, words, and actions, are exempt from controul?
even where interest, which you so much disdain, interferes not,--
though where that is I confess I cannot tell!--are we not kept silent
where we wish to reprove by the fear of offending? and made speak where
we wish to be silent by the desire of obliging? do we not bow to the
scoundrel as low as to the man of honour? are we not by mere forms kept
standing when tired? made give place to those we despise? and smiles to
those we hate? or if we refuse these attentions, are we not regarded as
savages, and shut out of society?"
"All these," answered Belfield, "are so merely matters of ceremony,
that the concession can neither cost pain to the proud, nor give
pleasure to the vain. The bow is to the coat, the attention is to the
rank, and the fear of offending ought to extend to all mankind. Homage
such as this infringes not our sincerity, since it is as much a matter
of course as the dress that we wear, and has as little reason to
flatter a man as the shadow which follows him. I no more, therefore,
hold him deceitful for not opposing this pantomimical parade, than I
hold him to be dependent for eating corn he has not sown."
"Where, then, do you draw the line? and what is the boundary beyond
which your independence must not step?"
"I hold that man," cried he, with energy, "to be independent, who
treats the Great as the Little, and the Little as the Great, who
neither exults in riches nor blushes in poverty, who owes no man a
groat, and who spends not a shilling he has not earned."
"You will not, indeed, then, have a very numerous acquaintance, if this
is the description of those with whom you purpose to associate! but is
it possible you imagine you can live by such notions? why the
Carthusian in his monastery, who is at least removed from temptation,
is not mortified so severely as a man of spirit living in the world,
who would prescribe himself such rules."
"Not merely have I prescribed," returned Belfield, "I have already put
them in practice; and far from finding any pennance, I never before
found happiness. I have now adopted, though poor, the very plan of life
I should have elected if rich; my pleasure, therefore, is become my
business, and my business my pleasure."
"And is this plan," cried Monckton, "nothing more than turning Knight-
errant to the Booksellers?"
"'Tis a Knight-errantry," answered Belfield, laughing, "which, however
ludicrous it may seem to you, requires more soul and more brains than
any other. Our giants may, indeed, be only windmills, but they must be
attacked with as much spirit, and conquered with as much bravery, as
any fort or any town, in time of war [to] be demolished; and though the
siege, I must confess, may be of less national utility, the assailants
of the quill have their honour as much at heart as the assailants of
"I suppose then," said Monckton, archly, "if a man wants a biting
lampoon, or an handsome panegyric, some newspaper scandal, or a sonnet
for a lady--"
"No, no," interrupted Belfield eagerly, "if you imagine me a hireling
scribbler for the purposes of defamation or of flattery, you as little
know my situation as my character. My subjects shall be my own, and my
satire shall be general. I would as much disdain to be personal with an
anonymous pen, as to attack an unarmed man in the dark with a dagger I
had kept concealed."
A reply of rallying incredulity was rising to the lips of Mr Monckton,
when reading in the looks of Cecilia an entire approbation of this
sentiment, he checked his desire of ridicule, and exclaimed, "spoken
like a man of honour, and one whose works may profit the world!"
"From my earliest youth to the present hour," continued Belfield,
"literature has been the favourite object of my pursuit, my recreation
in leisure, and my hope in employment. My propensity to it, indeed, has
been so ungovernable, that I may properly call it the source of my
several miscarriages throughout life. It was the bar to my preferment,
for it gave me a distaste to other studies; it was the cause of my
unsteadiness in all my undertakings, because to all I preferred it. It
has sunk me to distress, it has involved me in difficulties; it has
brought me to the brink of ruin by making me neglect the means of
living, yet never, till now, did I discern it might itself be my
"I am heartily glad, Sir," said Cecilia, "your various enterprizes and
struggles have at length ended in a project which promises you so much
satisfaction. But you will surely suffer your sister and your mother to
partake of it? for who is there that your prosperity will make so
"You do them infinite honour, madam, by taking any interest in their
affairs; but to own to you the truth, what to me appears prosperity,
will to them wear another aspect. They have looked forward to my
elevation with expectations the most improbable, and thought everything
within my grasp, with a simplicity incredible. But though their hopes
were absurd, I am pained by their disappointment, and I have not
courage to meet their tears, which I am sure will not be spared when
they see me."
"'Tis from tenderness, then," said Cecilia, half smiling, "that you are
cruel, and from affection to your friends that you make them believe
you have forgotten them?"
There was a delicacy in this reproach exactly suited to work upon
Belfield, who feeling it with quickness, started up, and cried, "I
believe I am wrong!--I will go to them this moment!"
Cecilia felt eager to second the generous impulse; but Mr Monckton,
laughing at his impetuosity, insisted he should first finish his
"Your friends," said Cecilia, "can have no mortification so hard to
bear as your voluntary absence; and if they see but that you are happy,
they will soon be reconciled to whatever situation you may chuse."
"Happy!" repeated he, with animation, "Oh I am in Paradise! I am come
from a region in the first rude state of nature, to civilization and
refinement! the life I led at the cottage was the life of a savage; no
intercourse with society, no consolation from books; my mind locked up,
every source dried of intellectual delight, and no enjoyment in my
power but from sleep and from food. Weary of an existence which thus
levelled me with a brute, I grew ashamed of the approximation, and
listening to the remonstrance of my understanding, I gave up the
precipitate plan, to pursue one more consonant to reason. I came to
town, hired a room, and sent for pen, ink and paper: what I have
written are trifles, but the Bookseller has not rejected them. I was
settled, therefore, in a moment, and comparing my new occupation with
that I had just quitted, I seemed exalted on the sudden from a mere
creature of instinct, to a rational and intelligent being. But when
first I opened a book, after so long an abstinence from all mental
nourishment,--Oh it was rapture! no half-famished beggar regaled
suddenly with food, ever seized on his repast with more hungry
"Let fortune turn which way it will," cried Monckton, "you may defy all
its malice, while possessed of a spirit of enjoyment which nothing can
"But were you not, Sir," said Cecilia, "as great an enthusiast the
other day for your cottage, and for labour?"
"I was, madam; but there my philosophy was erroneous: in my ardour to
fly from meanness and from dependence, I thought in labour and
retirement I should find freedom and happiness; but I forgot that my
body was not seasoned for such work, and considered not that a mind
which had once been opened by knowledge, could ill endure the
contraction of dark and perpetual ignorance. The approach, however, of
winter, brought me acquainted with my mistake. It grew cold, it grew
bleak; little guarded against the inclemency of the ----, I felt its
severity in every limb, and missed a thousand indulgencies which in
possession I had never valued. To rise at break of day, chill,
freezing, and comfortless! no sun abroad, no fire at home! to go out in
all weather to work, that work rough, coarse, and laborious!--unused
to such hardships, I found I could not bear them, and, however
unwillingly, was compelled to relinquish the attempt."
Breakfast now being over, he again arose to take leave.
"You are going, then, Sir," said Cecilia, "immediately to your
"No, madam," answered he hesitating, "not just this moment; to-morrow
morning perhaps,--but it is now late, and I have business for the rest
of the day."
"Ah, Mr Monckton!" cried Cecilia, "what mischief have you done by
occasioning this delay!"
"This goodness, madam," said Belfield, "my sister can never
sufficiently acknowledge. But I will own, that though, just now, in a
warm moment, I felt eager to present myself to her and my mother, I
rather wish, now I am cooler, to be saved the pain of telling them in
person my situation. I mean, therefore, first to write to them."
"You will not fail, then, to see them to-morrow?"
"Certainly--I think not."
"Nay, but certainly you _must_ not, for I shall call upon them to-day,
and assure them they may expect you. Can I soften your task of writing
by giving them any message from you?"
"Ah, madam, have a care!" cried he; "this condescension to a poor
author may be more dangerous than you have any suspicion! and before
you have power to help yourself, you may see your name prefixed to the
Dedication of some trumpery pamphlet!"
"I will run," cried she, "all risks; remember, therefore, you will be
responsible for the performance of my promise."
"I will be sure," answered he, "not to forget what reflects so much
honour upon myself."
Cecilia was satisfied by this assent, and he then went away.
"A strange flighty character!" cried Mr Monckton, "yet of uncommon
capacity, and full of genius. Were he less imaginative, wild and
eccentric, he has abilities for any station, and might fix and
distinguish himself almost where-ever he pleased."
"I knew not," said Cecilia, "the full worth of steadiness and prudence
till I knew this young man; for he has every thing else; talents the
most striking, a love of virtue the most elevated, and manners the most
pleasing; yet wanting steadiness and prudence, he can neither act with
consistency nor prosper with continuance."
"He is well enough," said Lady Margaret, who had heard the whole
argument in sullen taciturnity, "he is well enough, I say; and there
comes no good from young women's being so difficult."
Cecilia, offended by a speech which implied a rude desire to dispose of
her, went up stairs to her own room; and Mr Monckton, always enraged
when young men and Cecilia were alluded to in the same sentence,
retired to his library.
She then ordered a chair, and went to Portland-street, to fulfil what
she had offered to Belfield, and to revive his mother and sister by the
pleasure of the promised interview.
She found them together: and her intelligence being of equal
consequence to both, she did not now repine at the presence of Mrs
Belfield. She made her communication with the most cautious attention
to their characters, softening the ill she had to relate with respect
to Belfield's present way of living, by endeavouring to awaken
affection and joy from the prospect of the approaching meeting. She
counselled them as much as possible to restrain their chagrin at his
misfortunes, which he would but construe into reproach of his ill
management; and she represented that when once he was restored to his
family, he might almost imperceptibly be led into some less wild and
more profitable scheme of business.
When she had told all she thought proper to relate, kindly
interspersing her account with the best advice and best comfort she
could suggest, she made an end of her visit; for the affliction of Mrs
Belfield upon hearing the actual situation of her son, was so clamorous
and unappeaseable, that, little wondering at Belfield's want of courage
to encounter it, and having no opportunity in such a storm to console
the soft Henrietta, whose tears flowed abundantly that her brother
should thus be fallen, she only promised before she left town to see
her again, and beseeching Mrs Belfield to moderate her concern, was
glad to leave the house, where her presence had no power to quiet their
She passed the rest of the day in sad reflections upon the meeting she
was herself to have the next morning with Mr Delvile. She wished
ardently to know whether his son was gone abroad, and whether Mrs
Delvile was recovered, whose health, in her own letter, was mentioned
in terms the most melancholy: yet neither of these enquiries could she
even think of making, since reasonably, without them, apprehensive of
Mr Monckton, the next day, as soon as breakfast was over, went out, to
avoid showing, even to Cecilia, the anxiety he felt concerning the
regulation of her fortune, and arrangement of her affairs. He strongly,
however, advised her not to mention her large debt, which, though
contracted in the innocence of the purest benevolence, would incur
nothing but reproof and disapprobation, from all who only heard of it,
when they heard of its inutility.
At eleven o'clock, though an hour before the time appointed, while
Cecilia was sitting in Lady Margaret's dressing room, "with sad
civility and an aching head," she was summoned to Mr Briggs in the
He immediately began reproaching her with having eloped from him, in
the summer, and with the various expences she had caused him from
useless purchases and spoilt provisions. He then complained of Mr
Delvile, whom he charged with defrauding him of his dues; but observing
in the midst of his railing her dejection of countenance, he suddenly
broke off, and looking at her with some concern, said, "what's the
matter, Ducky? a'n't well? look as if you could not help it."
"O yes," cried Cecilia, "I thank you, Sir, I am very well."
"What do you look so blank for, then?" said he, "bay? what are fretting
for?--crossed in love?--lost your sweetheart?"
"No, no, no," cried she, with quickness.
"Never mind, my chick, never mind," said he, pinching her cheek, with
resumed good humour, "more to be had; if one won't snap, another will;
put me in a passion by going off from me with that old grandee, or
would have got one long ago. Hate that old Don; used me very ill; wish
I could trounce him. Thinks more of a fusty old parchment than the
price of stocks. Fit for nothing but to be stuck upon an old monument
for a Death's head."
He then told her that her accounts were all made out, and he was ready
at any time to produce them; he approved much of her finishing wholly
with the _old Don_, who had been a mere cypher in the executorship; but
he advised her not to think of taking her money into her own hands, as
he was willing to keep the charge of it himself till she was married.
Cecilia, thanking him for the offer, said she meant now to make her
acknowledgments for all the trouble he had already taken, but by no
means purposed to give him any more.
He debated the matter with her warmly, told her she had no chance to
save herself from knaves and cheats, but by trusting to nobody but
himself, and informing her what interest he had already made of her
money, enquired how she would set about getting more?
Cecilia, though prejudiced against him by Mr Monckton, knew not how to
combat his arguments; yet conscious that scarce any part of the money
to which he alluded was in fact her own, she could not yield to them.
He was, however, so stubborn and so difficult to deal with, that she at
length let him talk without troubling herself to answer, and privately
determined to beg Mr Monckton would fight her battle.
She was not, therefore, displeased by his interruption, though very
much surprised by the sight of his person, when, in the midst of Mr
Briggs's oratory, Mr Hobson entered the parlour.
"I ask pardon, ma'am," cried he, "if I intrude; but I made free to call
upon the account of two ladies that are acquaintances of yours, that
are quite, as one may say, at their wit's ends."
"What is the matter with them, Sir?"
"Why, ma'am, no great matter, but mothers are soon frightened, and when
once they are upon the fret, one may as well talk to the boards! they
know no more of reasoning and arguing, than they do of a shop ledger!
however, my maxim is this; every body in their way; one has no more
right to expect courageousness from a lady in them cases, than one has
from a child in arms; for what I say is, they have not the proper use
of their heads, which makes it very excusable."
"But what has occasioned any alarm? nothing, I hope, is the matter with
"No, ma'am; thank God, the young lady enjoys her health very well: but
she is taking on just in the same way as her mamma, as what can be more
natural? Example, ma'am, is apt to be catching, and one lady's crying
makes another think she must do the same, for a little thing serves for
a lady's tears, being they can cry at any time: but a man is quite of
another nature, let him but have a good conscience, and be clear of the
world, and I'll engage he'll not wash his face without soap! that's
what I say!"
"Will, will!" cried Mr Briggs, "do it myself! never use soap; nothing
but waste; take a little sand; does as well."
"Let every man have his own proposal;" answered Hobson; "for my part, I
take every morning a large bowl of water, and souse my whole head in
it; and then when I've rubbed it dry, on goes my wig, and I am quite
fresh and agreeable: and then I take a walk in Tottenham Court Road as
far as the Tabernacle, or thereabouts, and snuff in a little fresh
country air, and then I come back, with a good wholesome appetite, and
in a fine breathing heat, asking the young lady's pardon; and I enjoy
my pot of fresh tea, and my round of hot toast and butter, with as good
a relish as if I was a Prince."
"Pot of fresh tea," cried Briggs, "bring a man to ruin; toast and
butter! never suffer it in my house. Breakfast on water-gruel, sooner
done; fills one up in a second. Give it my servants; can't eat much of
it. Bob 'em there!" nodding significantly.
"Water-gruel!" exclaimed Mr Hobson, "why I could not get it down if I
might have the world for it! it would make me quite sick, asking the
young lady's pardon, by reason I should always think I was preparing
for the small-pox. My notion is quite of another nature; the first
thing I do is to have a good fire; for what I say is this, if a man is
cold in his fingers, it's odds if ever he gets warm in his purse! ha!
ha! warm, you take me, Sir? I mean a pun. Though I ought to ask pardon,
for I suppose the young lady don't know what I am a saying."
"I should indeed be better pleased, Sir," said Cecilia, "to hear what
you have to say about Miss Belfield."
"Why, ma'am, the thing is this; we have been expecting the young
'Squire, as I call him, all the morning, and he has never come; so Mrs
Belfield, not knowing where to send after him, was of opinion he might
be here, knowing your kindness to him, and that."
"You make the enquiry at the wrong place, Sir," said Cecilia, much
provoked by the implication it conveyed; "if Mr Belfield is in this
house, you must seek him with Mr Monckton."
"You take no offence, I hope, ma'am, at my just asking of the question?
for Mrs Belfield crying, and being in that dilemma, I thought I could
do no less than oblige her by coming to see if the young gentleman was
"What's this? what's this?" cried Mr Briggs eagerly; "who are talking
of? hay?--who do mean? is this the sweet heart? eh, Duck?"
"No, no, Sir," cried Cecilia.
"No tricks! won't be bit! who is it? will know; tell me, I say!"
"_I'll_ tell Sir," cried Mr Hobson; "it's a very handsome young
gentleman, with as fine a person, and as genteel a way of behaviour,
and withal, as pretty a manner of dressing himself, and that, as any
lady need desire. He has no great head for business, as I am told, but
the ladies don't stand much upon that topic, being they know nothing of
"Has got the ready?" cried Mr Briggs, impatiently; "can cast an
account? that's the point; can come down handsomely? eh?"
"Why as to that, Sir, I'm not bound to speak to a gentleman's private
affairs. What's my own, is my own, and what is another person's, is
another person's; that's my way of arguing, and that's what I call
talking to the purpose."
"Dare say he's a rogue! don't have him, chick. Bet a wager i'n't worth
two shillings; and that will go for powder and pomatum; hate a
plaistered pate; commonly a numscull: love a good bob-jerom."
"Why this is talking quite wide of the mark," said Mr Hobson, "to
suppose a young lady of fortunes would marry a man with a bob-jerom.
What I say is, let every body follow their nature; that's the way to be
comfortable; and then if they pay every one his own, who's a right to
call 'em to account, whether they wear a bob-jerom, or a pig-tail down
to the calves of their legs?"
"Ay, ay," cried Briggs, sneeringly, "or whether they stuff their
gullets with hot rounds of toast and butter."
"And what if they do, Sir?" returned Hobson, a little angrily; "when a
man's got above the world, where's the harm of living a little genteel?
as to a round of toast and butter, and a few oysters, fresh opened, by
way of a damper before dinner, no man need be ashamed of them, provided
he pays as he goes: and as to living upon water-gruel, and scrubbing
one's flesh with sand, one might as well be a galley-slave at once.
You don't understand life, Sir, I see that."
"Do! do!" cried Briggs, speaking through his shut teeth; "you're out
there! oysters!--come to ruin, tell you! bring you to jail!"
"To jail, Sir?" exclaimed Hobson, "this is talking quite ungenteel! let
every man be civil; that's what I say, for that's the way to make every
thing agreeable but as to telling a man he'll go to jail, and that,
it's tantamount to affronting him."
A rap at the street-door gave now a new relief to Cecilia, who began to
grow very apprehensive lest the delight of spending money, thus warmly
contested with that of hoarding it, should give rise to a quarrel,
which, between two such sturdy champions for their own opinions, might
lead to a conclusion rather more rough and violent than she desired to
witness: but when the parlour-door opened, instead of Mr Delvile, whom
she now fully expected, Mr Albany made his entrance.
This was rather distressing, as her real business with her guardians
made it proper her conference with them should be undisturbed: and
Albany was not a man with whom a hint that she was engaged could be
risked: but she had made no preparation to guard against interruption,
as her little acquaintance in London had prevented her expecting any
He advanced with a solemn air to Cecilia, and, looking as if hardly
determined whether to speak with severity or gentleness, said, "once
more I come to prove thy sincerity; now wilt thou go with me where
sorrow calls thee? sorrow thy charity can mitigate?"
"I am very much concerned," she answered, "but indeed at present it is
"Again," cried he, with a look at once stern and disappointed, "again
thou failest me? what wanton trifling! why shouldst thou thus elate a
worn-out mind, only to make it feel its lingering credulity? or why,
teaching me to think I had found an angel, so unkindly undeceive me?"
"Indeed," said Cecilia, much affected by this reproof, "if you knew how
heavy a loss I had personally suffered--"
"I do know it," cried he, "and I grieved for thee when I heard it. Thou
hast lost a faithful old friend, a loss which with every setting sun
thou mayst mourn, for the rising sun will never repair it! but was that
a reason for shunning the duties of humanity? was the sight of death a
motive for neglecting the claims of benevolence? ought it not rather to
have hastened your fulfilling them? and should not your own suffering
experience of the brevity of life, have taught you the vanity of all
things but preparing for its end?"
"Perhaps so, but my grief at that time made me think only of myself."
"And of what else dost thou think now?"
"Most probably of the same person still!" said she, half smiling, "but
yet believe me, I have real business to transact."
"Frivolous, unmeaning, ever-ready excuses! what business is so
important as the relief of a fellow-creature?"
"I shall not, I hope, there," answered she, with alacrity, "be
backward; but at least for this morning I must beg to make you my
She then took out her purse.
Mr Briggs and Mr Hobson, whose quarrel had been suspended by the
appearance of a third person, and who had stood during this short
dialogue in silent amazement, having first lost their anger in their
mutual consternation, now lost their consternation in their mutual
displeasure Mr. Hobson felt offended to hear business spoken of
slightly, and Mr Briggs felt enraged at the sight of Cecilia's ready
purse. Neither of them, however, knew which way to interfere, the stem
gravity of Albany, joined to a language too lofty for their
comprehension, intimidating them both. They took, however, the relief
of communing with one another, and Mr Hobson said in a whisper "This,
you must know, is, I am told, a very particular old gentleman; quite
what I call a genius. He comes often to my house, to see my lodger Miss
Henny Belfield, though I never happen to light upon him myself, except
once in the passage: but what I hear of him is this; he makes a
practice, as one may say, of going about into people's houses, to do
nothing but find fault."
"Shan't get into mine!" returned Briggs, "promise him that! don't half
like him; be bound he's an old sharper."
Cecilia, mean time, enquired what he desired to have.
"Half a guinea," he answered.
"Will that do?"
"For those who have nothing," said he, "it is much. Hereafter, you may
assist them again. Go but and see their distresses, and you will wish
to give them every thing."
Mr Briggs now, when actually between her fingers he saw the half
guinea, could contain no longer; he twitched the sleeve of her gown,
and pinching her arm, with a look of painful eagerness, said in a
whisper "Don't give it! don't let him have it! chouse him, chouse him!
nothing but an old bite!"
"Pardon me, Sir," said Cecilia, in a low voice, "his character is very
well known to me." And then, disengaging her arm from him, she
presented her little offering.
At this sight, Mr Briggs was almost outrageous, and losing in his
wrath, all fear of the stranger, he burst forth with fury into the
following outcries, "Be ruined! see it plainly; be fleeced! be stript!
be robbed! won't have a gown to your back! won't have a shoe to your
foot! won't have a rag in the world! be a beggar in the street! come to
the parish! rot in a jail!--half a guinea at a time!--enough to break
the Great Mogul!"
"Inhuman spirit of selfish parsimony!" exclaimed Albany, "repinest thou
at this loan, given from thousands to those who have worse than
nothing? who pay to-day in hunger for bread they borrowed yesterday
from pity? who to save themselves from the deadly pangs of famine,
solicit but what the rich know not when they possess, and miss not when
"Anan!" cried Briggs, recovering his temper from the perplexity of his
understanding, at a discourse to which his ears were wholly
unaccustomed, "what d'ye say?"
"If to thyself distress may cry in vain," continued Albany, "if thy own
heart resists the suppliant's prayer, callous to entreaty, and hardened
in the world, suffer, at least, a creature yet untainted, who melts at
sorrow, and who glows with charity, to pay from her vast wealth a
generous tax of thankfulness, that fate has not reversed her doom, and
those whom she relieves, relieve not her!"
"Anan!" was again all the wondering Mr Briggs could say.
"Pray, ma'am," said Mr Hobson, to Cecilia, "if it's no offence, was the
Gentleman ever a player?"
"I fancy not, indeed!"
"I ask pardon, then, ma'am; I mean no harm; but my notion was the
gentleman might be speaking something by heart."
"Is it but on the stage, humanity exists?" cried Albany, indignantly;
"Oh thither hasten, then, ye monopolizers of plenty! ye selfish,
unfeeling engrossers of wealth, which ye dissipate without enjoying,
and of abundance, which ye waste while ye refuse to distribute!
thither, thither haste, if there humanity exists!"
"As to engrossing," said Mr Hobson, happy to hear at last a word with
which he was familiar, "it's what I never approved myself. My maxim is
this; if a man makes a fair penny, without any underhand dealings, why
he has as much a title to enjoy his pleasure as the Chief Justice, or
the Lord Chancellor: and it's odds but he's as happy as a greater man.
Though what I hold to be best of all, is a clear conscience, with a
neat income of 2 or 3000 a year. That's my notion; and I don't think
it's a bad one."
"Weak policy of short-sighted ignorance!" cried Albany, "to wish for
what, if used, brings care, and if neglected, remorse! have you not now
beyond what nature craves? why then still sigh for more?"
"Why?" cried Mr Briggs, who by dint of deep attention began now better
to comprehend him, "why to buy in, to be sure! ever hear of stocks, eh?
know any thing of money?"
"Still to make more and more," cried Albany, "and wherefore? to spend
in vice and idleness, or hoard in chearless misery! not to give succour
to the wretched, not to support the falling; all is for self, however
little wanted, all goes to added stores, or added luxury; no fellow-
creature served, nor even one beggar relieved!"
"Glad of it!" cried Briggs, "glad of it; would not have 'em relieved;
don't like 'em; hate a beggar; ought to be all whipt; live upon
"Why as to a beggar, I must needs say," cried Mr Hobson, "I am by no
means an approver of that mode of proceeding; being I take 'em all for
cheats: for what I say is this, what a man earns, he earns, and it's no
man's business to enquire what he spends, for a free-born Englishman is
his own master by the nature of the law, and as to his being a subject,
why a duke is no more, nor a judge, nor the Lord High Chancellor, and
the like of those; which makes it tantamount to nothing, being he is
answerable to nobody by the right of Magna Charta: except in cases of
treason, felony, and that. But as to a beggar, it's quite another
thing; he comes and asks me for money; but what has he to shew for it?
what does he bring me in exchange? why a long story that he i'n't worth
a penny! what's that to me? nothing at all. Let every man have his own;
that's my way of arguing."
"Ungentle mortals!" cried Albany, "in wealth exulting; even in
inhumanity! think you these wretched outcasts have less sensibility
than yourselves? think you, in cold and hunger, they lose those
feelings which even in voluptuous prosperity from time to time disturb
you? you say they are all cheats? 'tis but the niggard cant of avarice,
to lure away remorse from obduracy. Think you the naked wanderer begs
from choice? give him your wealth and try."
"Give him a whip!" cried Briggs, "sha'n't have a souse! send him to
Bridewell! nothing but a pauper; hate 'em; hate 'em all! full of
tricks; break their own legs, put out their arms, cut off their
fingers, snap their own ancles,--all for what? to get at the chink! to
chouse us of cash! ought to be well flogged; have 'em all sent to the
Thames; worse than the Convicts."
"Poor subterfuge of callous cruelty! you cheat yourselves, to shun the
fraud of others! and yet, how better do you use the wealth so guarded?
what nobler purpose can it answer to you, than even a chance to snatch
some wretch from sinking? think less how _much_ ye save, and more for
_what_; and then consider how thy full coffers may hereafter make
reparation, for the empty catalogue of thy virtues."
"Anan!" said Mr Briggs, again lost in perplexity and wonder.
"Oh yet," continued Albany, turning towards Cecilia, "preach not here
the hardness which ye practice; rather amend yourselves than corrupt
her; and give with liberality what ye ought to receive with gratitude!"
"This is not my doctrine," cried Hobson; "I am not a near man, neither,
but as to giving at that rate, it's quite out of character. I have as
good a right to my own savings, as to my own gettings; and what I say
is this, who'll give to _me_? let me see that, and it's quite another
thing: and begin who will, I'll be bound to go on with him, pound for
pound, or pence for pence. But as to giving to them beggars, it's what
I don't approve; I pay the poor's rate, and that's what I call charity
enough for any man. But for the matter of living well, and spending
one's money handsomely, and having one's comforts about one, why it's a
thing of another nature, and I can say this for myself, and that is, I
never grudged myself any thing in my life. I always made myself
agreeable, and lived on the best. That's my way."
"Bad way too," cried Briggs, "never get on with it, never see beyond
your nose; won't be worth a plum while your head wags!" then, taking
Cecilia apart, "hark'ee, my duck," he added, pointing to Albany, "who
is that Mr Bounce, eh? what is he?"
"I have known him but a short time, Sir; but I think of him very
"Is he a _good_ man? that's the point, is he a _good_ man?"
"Indeed he appears to me uncommonly benevolent and charitable."
"But that i'n't the thing; is he _warm_? that's the point, is he
"If you mean _passionate_," said Cecilia, "I believe the energy of his
manner is merely to enforce what he says."
"Don't take me, don't take me," cried he, impatiently; "can come down
with the ready, that's the matter; can chink the little gold boys? eh?"
"Why I rather fear not by his appearance; but I know nothing of his
"What does come for? eh? come a courting?"
"Mercy on me, no!"
"What for then? only a spunging?"
"No, indeed. He seems to have no wish but to assist and plead for
"All fudge! think he i'n't touched? ay, ay; nothing but a trick! only
to get at the chink: see he's as poor as a rat, talks of nothing but
giving money; a bad sign! if he'd got any, would not do it. Wanted to
make us come down; warrant thought to bam us all! out there! a'n't so
A knock at the street door gave now a new interruption, and Mr Delvile
at length appeared.
Cecilia, whom his sight could not fail to disconcert, felt doubly
distressed by the unnecessary presence of Albany and Hobson; she
regretted the absence of Mr Monckton, who could easily have taken them
away; for though without scruple she could herself have acquainted Mr
Hobson she had business, she dreaded offending Albany, whose esteem she
was ambitious of obtaining.
Mr Delvile entered the room with an air stately and erect; he took off
his hat, but deigned not to make the smallest inclination of his head,
nor offered any excuse to Mr Briggs for being past the hour of his
appointment: but having advanced a few paces, without looking either to
the right or left, said, "as I have never acted, my coming may not,
perhaps, be essential; but as my name is in the Dean's Will, and I have
once or twice met the other executors mentioned in it, I think it a
duty I owe to my own heirs to prevent any possible future enquiry or
trouble to them."
This speech was directly addressed to no one, though meant to be
attended to by every one, and seemed proudly uttered as a mere apology
to himself for not having declined the meeting.
Cecilia, though she recovered from her confusion by the help of her
aversion to this self-sufficiency, made not any answer. Albany retired
to a corner of the room; Mr Hobson began to believe it was time for him
to depart; and Mr Briggs thinking only of the quarrel in which he had
separated with Mr Delvile in the summer, stood swelling with venom,
which he longed for an opportunity to spit out.
Mr Delvile, who regarded this silence as the effect of his awe-
inspiring presence, became rather more complacent; but casting his eyes
round the room, and perceiving the two strangers, he was visibly
surprised, and looking at Cecilia for some explanation, seemed to stand
suspended from the purpose of his visit till he heard one.
Cecilia, earnest to have the business concluded, turned to Mr Briggs,
and said, "Sir, here is pen and ink: are you to write, or am I? or what
is to be done?"
"No, no," said he, with a sneer, "give it t'other; all in our turn;
don't come before his Grace the Right Honourable Mr Vampus."
"Before whom, Sir?" said Mr Delvile, reddening.
"Before my Lord Don Pedigree," answered Briggs, with a spiteful grin,
"know him? eh? ever hear of such a person?"
Mr Delvile coloured still deeper, but turning contemptuously from him,
disdained making any reply.
Mr Briggs, who now regarded him as a defeated man, said exultingly to
Mr Hobson, "what do stand here for?--hay?--fall o' your marrowbones;
don't see 'Squire High and Mighty?"
"As to falling on my marrowbones," answered Mr Hobson, "it's what I
shall do to no man, except he was the King himself, or the like of
that, and going to make me Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Commissioner
of Excise. Not that I mean the gentleman any offence; but a man's a
man, and for one man to worship another is quite out of law."
"Must, must!" cried Briggs, "tell all his old grand-dads else: keeps
'em in a roll; locks 'em in a closet; says his prayers to 'em; can't
live without 'em: likes 'em better than cash!--wish had 'em here! pop
'em all in the sink!"
"If your intention, Sir," cried Mr Delvile, fiercely, "is only to
insult me, I am prepared for what measures I shall take. I declined
seeing you in my own house, that I might not be under the same
restraint as when it was my unfortunate lot to meet you last."
"Who cares?" cried Briggs, with an air of defiance, "what can do, eh?
poke me into a family vault? bind me o' top of an old monument? tie me
to a stinking carcase? make a corpse of me, and call it one of your
"For heaven's sake, Mr Briggs," interrupted Cecilia, who saw that Mr
Delvile, trembling with passion, scarce refrained lifting up his stick,
"be appeased, and let us finish our business!"
Albany now, hearing in Cecilia's voice the alarm with which she was
seized, came forward and exclaimed, "Whence this unmeaning dissension?
to what purpose this irritating abuse? Oh vain and foolish! live ye so
happily, last ye so long, that time and peace may thus be trifled
"There, there!" cried Briggs, holding up his finger at Mr Delvile,
"have it now! got old Mr Bounce upon you! give you enough of it;
promise you that!"
"Restrain," continued Albany, "this idle wrath; and if ye have ardent
passions, employ them to nobler uses; let them stimulate acts of
virtue, let them animate deeds of beneficence! Oh waste not spirits
that may urge you to good, lead you to honour, warm you to charity, in
poor and angry words, in unfriendly, unmanly debate!"
Mr Delvile, who from the approach of Albany, had given him his whole
attention, was struck with astonishment at this address, and almost
petrified with wonder at his language and exhortations.
"Why I must own," said Mr Hobson, "as to this matter I am much of the
same mind myself; for quarreling's a thing I don't uphold; being it
advances one no way; for what I say is this, if a man gets the better,
he's only where he was before, and if he gets worsted, why it's odds
but the laugh's against him: so, if I may make bold to give my verdict,
I would have one of these gentlemen take the other by the hand, and so
put an end to bad words. That's my maxim, and that's what I call being
Mr Delvile, at the words _one of these gentlemen take the other by the
hand_, looked scornfully upon Mr Hobson, with a frown that expressed
his highest indignation, at being thus familiarly coupled with Mr
Briggs. And then, turning from him to Cecilia, haughtily said, "Are
these two persons," pointing towards Albany and Hobson, "waiting here
to be witnesses to any transaction?"
"No, Sir, no," cried Hobson, "I don't mean to intrude, I am going
directly. So you can give me no insight, ma'am," addressing Cecilia,
"as to where I might light upon Mr Belfield?"
"Me? no!" cried she, much provoked by observing that Mr Delvile
suddenly looked at her.
"Well, ma'am, well, I mean no harm: only I hold it that the right way
to hear of a young gentleman, is to ask for him of a young lady: that's
my maxim. Come, Sir," to Mr Briggs, "you and I had like to have fallen
out, but what I say is this; let no man bear malice; that's my way: so
I hope we part without ill blood?"
"Ay, ay;" said Mr Briggs, giving him a nod.
"Well, then," added Hobson, "I hope the good-will may go round, and
that not only you and I, but these two good old gentlemen will also
lend a hand."
Mr Delvile now was at a loss which way to turn for very rage; but after
looking at every one with a face flaming with ire, he said to Cecilia,
"If you have collected together these persons for the purpose of
affronting me, I must beg you to remember I am not one to be affronted
Cecilia, half frightened, was beginning an answer that disclaimed any
such intention, when Albany, with the most indignant energy, called
out, "Oh pride of heart, with littleness of soul! check this vile
arrogance, too vain for man, and spare to others some part of that
lenity thou nourishest for thyself, or justly bestow on thyself that
contempt thou nourishest for others!"
And with these words he sternly left the house.
The thunderstruck Mr Delvile began now to fancy that all the demons of
torment were designedly let loose upon him, and his surprise and
resentment operated so powerfully that it was only in broken sentences
he could express either. "Very extraordinary!--a new method of
conduct!--liberties to which I am not much used!--impertinences I shall
not hastily forget,--treatment that would scarce be pardonable to a
person wholly unknown!--"
"Why indeed, Sir," said Hobson, "I can't but say it was rather a cut
up; but the old gentleman is what one may call a genius, which makes it
a little excusable; for he does things all his own way, and I am told
it's the same thing who he speaks to, so he can but find fault, and
"Sir," interrupted the still more highly offended Mr Delvile, "what
_you_ may be told is extremely immaterial to _me_; and I must take the
liberty to hint to you, a conversation of this easy kind is not what I
am much in practice in hearing."
"Sir, I ask pardon," said Hobson, "I meant nothing but what was
agreeable; however, I have done, and I wish you good day. Your humble
servant, ma'am, and I hope, Sir," to Mr Briggs, "you won't begin bad
"No, no," said Briggs, "ready to make up; all at end; only don't much
like _Spain_, that's all!" winking significantly, "nor a'n't over fond
of a _skeleton_!"
Mr Hobson now retired; and Mr Delvile and Mr Briggs, being both wearied
and both in haste to have done, settled in about five minutes all for
which they met, after passing more than an hour in agreeing what that
Mr Briggs then, saying he had an engagement upon business, declined
settling his own accounts till another time, but promised to see
Cecilia again soon, and added, "be sure take care of that old Mr
Bounce! cracked in the noddle; see that with half an eye! better not
trust him! break out some day: do you a mischief!"
He then went away: but while the parlour-door was still open, to the no
little surprise of Cecilia, the servant announced Mr Belfield. He
hardly entered the room, and his countenance spoke haste and eagerness.
"I have this moment, madam," he said, "been informed a complaint has
been lodged against me here, and I could not rest till I had the honour
of assuring you, that though I have been rather dilatory, I have not
neglected my appointment, nor has the condescension of your
interference been thrown away."
He then bowed, shut the door, and ran off Cecilia, though happy to
understand by this speech that he was actually restored to his family,
was sorry at these repeated intrusions in the presence of Mr Delvile,
who was now the only one that remained.
She expected every instant that he would ring for his chair, which he
kept in waiting; but, after a pause of some continuance, to her equal
surprise and disturbance, he made the following speech. "As it is
probable I am now for the last time alone with you, ma'am, and as it is
certain we shall meet no more upon business, I cannot, in justice to my
own character, and to the respect I retain for the memory of the Dean,
your uncle, take a final leave of the office with which he was pleased
to invest me, without first fulfilling my own ideas of the duty it
requires from me, by giving you some counsel relating to your future
This was not a preface much to enliven Cecilia; it prepared her for
such speeches as she was least willing to hear, and gave to her the
mixt and painful sensation of spirits depressed, with ride alarmed.
"My numerous engagements," he continued, "and the appropriation of my
time, already settled, to their various claims, must make me brief in
what I have to represent, and somewhat, perhaps, abrupt in coming to
the purpose. But that you will excuse."
Cecilia disdained to humour this arrogance by any compliments or
concessions: she was silent, therefore; and when they were both seated,
he went on.
"You are now at a time of life when it is natural for young women to
wish for some connection: and the largeness of your fortune will remove
from you such difficulties as prove bars to the pretensions, in this
expensive age, of those who possess not such advantages. It would have
been some pleasure to me, while I yet considered you as my Ward, to
have seen you properly disposed of: but as that time is past, I can
only give you some general advice, which you may follow or neglect as
you think fit. By giving it, I shall satisfy myself; for the rest, I am
He paused; but Cecilia felt less and less inclination to make use of
the opportunity by speaking in her turn.
"Yet though, as I just now hinted, young women of large fortunes may
have little trouble in finding themselves establishments, they ought
not, therefore, to trifle when proper ones are in their power, nor to
suppose themselves equal to any they may chance to desire."
Cecilia coloured high at this pointed reprehension; but feeling her
disgust every moment encrease, determined to sustain herself with
dignity, and at least not suffer him to perceive the triumph of his
ostentation and rudeness.
"The proposals," he continued, "of the Earl of Ernolf had always my
approbation; it was certainly an ill-judged thing to neglect such an
opportunity of being honourably settled. The clause of the name was, to
_him_, immaterial; since his own name half a century ago was unheard
of, and since he is himself only known by his title. He is still,
however, I have authority to acquaint you, perfectly well disposed to
renew his application to you."
"I am sorry, Sir," said Cecilia coldly, "to hear it."
"You have, perhaps, some other better offer in view?"
"No, Sir," cried she, with spirit, "nor even in desire."
"Am I, then, to infer that some inferior offer has more chance of your
"There is no reason, Sir, to infer any thing; I am content with my
actual situation, and have, at present, neither prospect nor intention
of changing it."
"I perceive, but without surprise, your unwillingness to discuss the
subject; nor do I mean to press it: I shall merely offer to your
consideration one caution, and then relieve you from my presence. Young
women of ample fortunes, who are early independent, are sometimes apt
to presume they may do every thing with impunity; but they are
mistaken; they are as liable to censure as those who are wholly
"I hope, Sir," said Cecilia, staring, "this at least is a caution
rather drawn from my situation than my behaviour?"
"I mean not, ma'am, narrowly to go into, or investigate the subject;
what I have said you may make your own use of; I have only to observe
further, that when young women, at your time of life, are at all
negligent of so nice a thing as reputation, they commonly live to
He then arose to go, but Cecilia, not more offended than amazed, said,
"I must beg, Sir, you will explain yourself!"
"Certainly this matter," he answered, "must be immaterial to _me_: yet,
as I have once been your guardian by the nomination of the Dean your
uncle, I cannot forbear making an effort towards preventing any
indiscretion: and frequent visits to a young man--"
"Good God! Sir," interrupted Cecilia, "what is it you mean?"
"It can certainly, as I said before, be nothing to _me_, though I
should be glad to see you in better hands: but I cannot suppose you
have been led to take such steps without some serious plan; and I would
advise you, without loss of time, to think better of what you are
"Should I think, Sir, to eternity," cried Cecilia, "I could never
conjecture what you mean!"
"You may not chuse," said he, proudly, "to understand me; but I have
done. If it had been in my power to have interfered in your service
with my Lord Derford, notwithstanding my reluctance to being involved
in any fresh employment, I should have made a point of not refusing it:
but this young man is nobody,--a very imprudent connection--"
"What young man, Sir?"
"Nay, _I_ know nothing of him! it is by no means likely I should: but
as I had already been informed of your attention to him, the
corroborating incidents of my servant's following you to his house, his
friend's seeking him at yours, and his own waiting upon you this
morning; were not well calculated to make me withdraw my credence to
"Is it, then, Mr Belfield, Sir, concerning whom you draw these
inferences, from circumstances the most accidental and unmeaning?"
"It is by no means my practice," cried he, haughtily, and with evident
marks of high displeasure at this speech, "to believe any thing
lightly, or without even unquestionable authority; what once,
therefore, I have credited, I do not often find erroneous. Mistake not,
however, what I have said into supposing I have any objection to your
marrying; on the contrary, it had been for the honour of my family had
you been married a year ago I should not then have suffered the
degradation of seeing a son of the first expectations in the kingdom
upon the point of renouncing his birth, nor a woman of the first
distinction ruined in her health, and broken for ever in her
The emotions of Cecilia at this speech were too powerful for
concealment; her colour varied, now reddening with indignation, now
turning pale with apprehension; she arose, she trembled and sat down,
she arose again, but not knowing what to say or what to do, again sat
Mr Delvile then, making a stiff bow, wished her good morning.
"Go not so, Sir!" cried she, in faltering accents; "let me at least
convince you of the mistake with regard to Mr Belfield--"
"My mistakes, ma'am," said he, with a contemptuous smile, "are perhaps
not easily convicted: and I may possibly labour under others that would
give you no less trouble: it may therefore be better to avoid any
"No, not better," answered she, again recovering her courage from this
fresh provocation; "I fear no disquisition; on the contrary, it is my
interest to solicit one."
"This intrepidity in a young woman," said he, ironically, "is certainly
very commendable; and doubtless, as you are your own mistress, your
having run out great part of your fortune, is nothing beyond what you
have a right to do."
"Me!" cried Cecilia, astonished, "run out great part of my fortune!"
"Perhaps that is another _mistake_! I have not often been so
unfortunate; and you are not, then, in debt?"
"In debt, Sir?"
"Nay, I have no intention to inquire into your affairs. Good morning to
"I beg, I entreat, Sir, that you will stop!--make me, at least,
understand what you mean, whether you deign to hear my justification or
"O, I am mistaken, it seems! misinformed, deceived; and you have
neither spent more than you have received, nor taken up money of Jews?
your minority has been clear of debts? and your fortune, now you are of
age, will be free from incumbrances?"
Cecilia, who now began to understand him, eagerly answered, "do you
mean, Sir, the money which I took up last spring?"
"O no; by no means, I conceive the whole to be a _mistake_!"
And he went to the door.
"Hear me but a moment, Sir!" cried she hastily, following him; "since
you know of that transaction, do not refuse to listen to its occasion;
I took up the money for Mr Harrel; it was all, and solely for him."
"For Mr Harrel, was it?" said he, with an air of supercilious
incredulity; "that was rather an unlucky step. Your servant, ma'am."
And he opened the door.
"You will not hear me, then? you will not credit me?" cried she in the
"Some other time, ma'am; at present my avocations are too numerous to
And again, stiffly bowing, he called to his servants, who were waiting
in the hall, and put himself into his chair.
Cecilia was now left in a state of perturbation that was hardly to be
endured. The contempt with which she had been treated during the whole
visit was nothing short of insult, but the accusations with which it
was concluded did not more irritate than astonish her.
That some strange prejudice had been taken against her, even more than
belonged to her connection with young Delvile, the message brought her
by Dr Lyster had given her reason to suppose: what that prejudice was
she now knew, though how excited she was still ignorant; but she found
Mr Delvile had been informed she had taken up money of a Jew, without
having heard it was for Mr Harrel, and that he had been acquainted with
her visits in Portland-street, without seeming to know Mr Belfield had
a sister. Two charges such as these, so serious in their nature, and so
destructive of her character, filled her with horror and consternation,
and even somewhat served to palliate his illiberal and injurious
But how reports thus false and thus disgraceful should be raised, and
by what dark work of slander and malignity they had been spread,
remained a doubt inexplicable. They could not, she was certain, be the
mere rumour of chance, since in both the assertions there was some
foundation of truth, however cruelly perverted, or basely over-
This led her to consider how few people there were not only who had
interest, but who had power to propagate such calumnies; even her
acquaintance with the Belfields she remembered not ever mentioning, for
she knew none of their friends, and none of her own knew them. How,
then, should it be circulated, that she "visited often at the house?"
however be invented that it was from her "attention to the young man?"
Henrietta, she was sure, was too good and too innocent to be guilty of
such perfidy; and the young man himself had always shewn a modesty and
propriety that manifested his total freedom from the vanity of such a
suspicion, and an elevation of sentiment that would have taught him to
scorn the boast, even if he believed the partiality.
The mother, however, had neither been so modest nor so rational; she
had openly avowed her opinion that Cecilia was in love with her son;
and as that son, by never offering himself, had never been refused, her
opinion had received no check of sufficient force, for a mind so gross
and literal, to change it.
This part, therefore, of the charge she gave to Mrs Belfield, whose
officious and loquacious forwardness she concluded had induced her to
narrate her suspicions, till, step by step, they had reached Mr
But though able, by the probability of this conjecture, to account for
the report concerning Belfield, the whole affair of the debt remained a
difficulty not to be solved. Mr Harrel, his wife, Mr Arnott, the Jew
and Mr Monckton, were the only persons to whom the transaction was
known; and though from five, a secret, in the course of so many months,
might easily be supposed likely to transpire, those five were so
particularly bound to silence, not only for her interest but their own,
that it was not unreasonable to believe it as safe among them all, as
if solely consigned to one. For herself, she had revealed it to no
creature but Mr Monckton; not even to Delvile; though, upon her
consenting to marry him, he had an undoubted right to be acquainted
with the true state of her affairs; but such had been the hurry,
distress, confusion and irresolution of her mind at that period, that
this whole circumstance had been driven from it entirely, and she had,
since, frequently blamed herself for such want of recollection. Mr
Harrel, for a thousand reasons, she was certain had never named it; and
had the communication come from his widow or from Mr Arnott, the
motives would have been related as well as the debt, and she had been
spared the reproach of contracting it for purposes of her own
extravagance. The Jew, indeed, was, to her, under no obligation of
secrecy, but he had an obligation far more binding,--he was tied to
A suspicion now arose in her mind which made it thrill with horror;
"good God! she exclaimed, can Mr Monckton---"
She stopt, even to herself;--she checked the idea;--she drove it
hastily from her;--she was certain it was false and cruel,--she hated
herself for having started it.
"No," cried she, "he is my friend, the confirmed friend of many years,
my well-wisher from childhood, my zealous counsellor and assistant
almost from my birth to this hour:--such perfidy from him would not
even be human!"
Yet still her perplexity was undiminished; the affair was undoubtedly
known, and it only could be known by the treachery of some one
entrusted with it: and however earnestly her generosity combated her
rising suspicions, she could not wholly quell them; and Mr Monckton's
strange aversion to the Delviles, his earnestness to break off her
connexion with them, occurred to her remembrance, and haunted her
perforce with surmises to his disadvantage.
That gentleman, when he came home, found her in this comfortless and
fluctuating state, endeavouring to form conjectures upon what had
happened, yet unable to succeed, but by suggestions which one moment
excited her abhorrence of him, and the next of herself.
He enquired, with his usual appearance of easy friendliness, into what
had passed with her two guardians, and how she had settled her affairs.
She answered without hesitation all his questions, but her manner was
cold and reserved, though her communication was frank.
This was not unheeded by Mr Monckton, who, after a short time, begged
to know if any thing had disturbed her.
Cecilia, ashamed of her doubts, though unable to get rid of them, then
endeavoured to brighten up, and changed the subject to the difficulties
she had had to encounter from the obstinacy of Mr Briggs.
Mr Monckton for a while humoured this evasion; but when, by her own
exertion, her solemnity began to wear off, he repeated his
interrogatory, and would not be satisfied without an answer.
Cecilia, earnest that surmises so injurious should be removed, then
honestly, but without comments, related the scene which had just past
between Mr Delvile and herself.
No comments were, however, wanting to explain to Mr Monckton the change
of her behaviour. "I see," he cried hastily, "what you cannot but
suspect; and I will go myself to Mr Delvile, and insist upon his
Cecilia, shocked to have thus betrayed what was passing within her,
assured him his vindication required not such a step, and begged he
would counsel her how to discover this treachery, without drawing from
her concern at it a conclusion so offensive to himself.
He was evidently, however, and greatly disturbed; he declared his own
wonder equal to hers how the affair had been betrayed, expressed the
warmest indignation at the malevolent insinuations against her conduct,
and lamented with mingled acrimony and grief, that there should exist
even the possibility of casting the odium of such villainy upon
Cecilia, distressed, perplexed, and ashamed at once, again endeavoured
to appease him, and though a lurking doubt obstinately clung to her
understanding, the purity of her own principles, and the softness of
her heart, pleaded strongly for his innocence, and urged her to detest
her suspicion, though to conquer it they were unequal.
"It is true," said he, with an air ingenuous though mortified, "I
dislike the Delviles, and have always disliked them; they appear to me
a jealous, vindictive, and insolent race, and I should have thought I
betrayed the faithful regard I professed for you, had I concealed my
opinion when I saw you in danger of forming an alliance with them; I
spoke to you, therefore, with honest zeal, thoughtless of any enmity I
might draw upon myself; but though it was an interference from which I
hoped, by preventing the connection, to contribute to your happiness,
it was not with a design to stop it at the expence of your character,
--a design black, horrible, and diabolic! a design which must be formed
by a Daemon, but which even a Daemon could never, I think, execute!"
The candour of this speech, in which his aversion to the Delviles was
openly acknowledged, and rationally justified, somewhat quieted the
suspicions of Cecilia, which far more anxiously sought to be confuted
than confirmed: she began, therefore, to conclude that some accident,
inexplicable as unfortunate, had occasioned the partial discovery to Mr
Delvile, by which her own goodness proved the source of her defamation:
and though something still hung upon her mind that destroyed that firm
confidence she had hitherto felt in the friendship of Mr Monckton, she
held it utterly unjust to condemn him without proof, which she was not
more unable to procure, than to satisfy herself with any reason why so
perfidiously he should calumniate her.
Comfortless, however, and tormented with conjectures equally vague and
afflicting, she could only clear him to be lost in perplexity, she
could only accuse him to be penetrated with horror. She endeavoured to
suspend her judgment till time should develop the mystery, and only for
the present sought to finish her business and leave London.
She renewed, therefore, again, the subject of Mr Briggs, and told him
how vain had been her effort to settle with him. Mr Monckton instantly
offered his services in assisting her, and the next morning they went
together to his house, where, after an obstinate battle, they gained a
complete victory: Mr Briggs gave up all his accounts, and, in a few
days, by the active interference of Mr Monckton, her affairs were
wholly taken out of his hands. He stormed, and prophesied all ill to
Cecilia, but it was not to any purpose; he was so disagreeable to her,
by his manners, and so unintelligible to her in matters of business,
that she was happy to have done with him; even though, upon inspecting
his accounts, they were all found clear and exact, and his desire to
retain his power over her fortune, proved to have no other motive than
a love of money so potent, that to manage it, even for another, gave
him a satisfaction he knew not how to relinquish.
Mr Monckton, who, though a man of pleasure, understood business
perfectly well, now instructed and directed her in making a general
arrangement of her affairs. The estate which devolved to her from her
uncle, and which was all in landed property, she continued to commit to
the management of the steward who was employed in his life-time; and
her own fortune from her father, which was all in the stocks, she now
diminished to nothing by selling out to pay Mr Monckton the principal
and interest which she owed him, and by settling with her Bookseller.
While these matters were transacting, which, notwithstanding her
eagerness to leave town, could not be brought into such a train as to
permit her absence in less than a week, she passed her time chiefly
alone. Her wishes all inclined her to bestow it upon Henrietta, but the
late attack of Mr Delvile had frightened her from keeping up that
connection, since however carefully she might confine it to the
daughter, Mrs Belfield, she was certain, would impute it all to the
That attack rested upon her mind, in defiance of all her endeavours to
banish it; the contempt with which it was made seemed intentionally
offensive, as if he had been happy to derive from her supposed ill
conduct, a right to triumph over as well as reject her. She concluded,
also, that Delvile would be informed of these calumnies, yet she judged
his generosity by her own, and was therefore convinced he would not
credit them: but what chiefly at this time encreased her sadness and
uneasiness, was the mention of Mrs Delvile's broken constitution and
ruined health. She had always preserved for that lady the most
affectionate respect, and could not consider herself as the cause of
her sufferings, without feeling the utmost concern, however conscious
she had not wilfully occasioned them.
Nor was this scene the only one by which her efforts to forget this
family were defeated; her watchful monitor, Albany, failed not again to
claim her promise; and though Mr Monckton earnestly exhorted her not to
trust herself out with him, she preferred a little risk to the keenness
of his reproaches, and the weather being good on the morning that he
called, she consented to accompany him in his rambles: only charging
her footman to follow where-ever they went, and not to fail enquiring
for her if she stayed long out of his sight. These precautions were
rather taken to satisfy Mr Monckton than herself, who, having now
procured intelligence of the former disorder of his intellects, was
fearful of some extravagance, and apprehensive for her safety.
He took her to a miserable house in a court leading into Piccadilly,
where, up three pair of stairs, was a wretched woman ill in bed, while
a large family of children were playing in the room.
"See here," cried he, "what human nature can endure! look at that poor
wretch, distracted with torture, yet lying in all this noise! unable to
stir in her bed, yet without any assistant! suffering the pangs of
acute disease, yet wanting the necessaries of life!"
Cecilia went up to the bed-side, and enquired more particularly into
the situation of the invalid; but finding she could hardly speak from
pain, she sent for the woman of the house, who kept a Green Grocer's
shop on the ground floor, and desired her to hire a nurse for her sick
lodger, to call all the children down stairs, and to send for an
apothecary, whose bill she promised to pay. She then gave her some
money to get what necessaries might be wanted, and said she would come
again in two days to see how they went on.
Albany, who listened to these directions with silent, yet eager
attention, now clasped both his hands with a look of rapture, and
exclaimed "Virtue yet lives,--and I have found her?"
Cecilia, proud of such praise, and ambitious to deserve it, chearfully
said, "where, Sir, shall we go now?"
"Home;" answered he with an aspect the most benign; "I will not wear
out thy pity by rendering woe familiar to it."
Cecilia, though at this moment more disposed for acts of charity than
for business or for pleasure, remembered that her fortune however large
was not unlimited, and would not press any further bounty for objects
she knew not, certain that occasions and claimants, far beyond her
ability of answering, would but too frequently arise among those with
whom she was more connected, she therefore yielded herself to his
direction, and returned to Soho-Square.
Again, however, he failed not to call the time she had appointed for
re-visiting the invalid, to whom, with much gladness, he conducted her.
The poor woman, whose disease was a rheumatic fever, was already much
better; she had been attended by an apothecary who had given her some
alleviating medicine; she had a nurse at her bedside, and the room
being cleared of the children, she had had the refreshment of some
She was now able to raise her head, and make her acknowledgments to her
benefactress; but not a little was the surprise of Cecilia, when, upon
looking in her face, she said, "Ah, madam, I have seen you before!"
Cecilia, who had not the smallest recollection of her, in return
desired to know when, or where?
"When you were going to be married, madam, I was the Pew-Opener at----
Cecilia started with secret horror, and involuntarily retreated from
the bed; while Albany with a look of astonishment exclaimed, "Married!
--why, then, is it unknown?"
"Ask me not!" cried she, hastily; "it is all a mistake."
"Poor thing!" cried he, "this, then, is the string thy nerves endure
not to have touched! sooner will I expire than a breath of mine shall
make it vibrate! Oh sacred be thy sorrow, for thou canst melt at that
of the indigent!"
Cecilia then made a few general enquiries, and heard that the poor
woman, who was a widow, had been obliged to give up her office, from
the frequent attacks which she suffered of the rheumatism; that she had
received much assistance both from the Rector and the Curate of ----
Church, but her continual illness, with the largeness of her family,
kept her distressed in spite of all help.
Cecilia promised to consider what she could do for her, and then giving
her more money, returned to Lady Margaret's.
Albany, who found that the unfortunate recollection of the Pew-Opener
had awakened in his young pupil a melancholy train of reflections,
seemed now to compassionate the sadness which hitherto he had reproved,
and walking silently by her side till she came to Soho-Square, said in
accents of kindness, "Peace light upon thy head, and dissipate thy
woes!" and left her.
"Ah when!" cried she to herself, "if thus they are to be revived for-
Mr Monckton, who observed that something had greatly affected her, now
expostulated warmly against Albany and his wild schemes; "You trifle
with your own happiness," he cried, "by witnessing these scenes of
distress, and you will trifle away your fortune upon projects you can
never fulfil: the very air in those miserable houses is unwholesome for
you to breathe; you will soon be affected with some of the diseases to
which you so uncautiously expose yourself, and while not half you give
in charity will answer the purpose you wish, you will be plundered by
cheats and sharpers till you have nothing left to bestow. You must be
more considerate for yourself, and not thus governed by Albany, whose
insanity is but partially cured, and whose projects are so boundless,
that the whole capital of the East India Company would not suffice to
Cecilia, though she liked not the severity of this remonstrance,
acknowledged there was some truth in it, and promised to be discreet,
and take the reins into her own hands.
There remained for her, however, no other satisfaction; and the path
which had thus been pointed out to her, grew more and more alluring
every step. Her old friends, the poor Hills, now occurred to her
memory, and she determined to see herself in what manner they went on.
The scene which this enquiry presented to her, was by no means
calculated to strengthen Mr Monckton's doctrine, for the prosperity in
which she found this little family, amply rewarded the liberality she
had shewn to it, and proved an irresistible encouragement to similar
actions. Mrs Hill wept for joy in recounting how well she succeeded,
and Cecilia, delighted by the power of giving such pleasure, forgot all
cautions and promises in the generosity which she displayed. She paid
Mrs Roberts the arrears that were due to her, she discharged all that
was owing for the children who had been put to school, desired they
might still be sent to it solely at her expense, and gave the mother a
sum of money to be laid out in presents for them all.
To perform her promise with the Pew Opener was however more difficult;
her ill health, and the extreme youth of her children making her
utterly helpless: but these were not considerations for Cecilia to
desert her, but rather motives for regarding her as more peculiarly an
object of charity. She found she had once been a clear starcher, and
was a tolerable plain work-woman; she resolved, therefore, to send her
into the country, where she hoped to be able to get her some business,
and knew that at least, she could help her, if unsuccessful, and see
that her children were brought up to useful employments. The, woman
herself was enchanted at the plan, and firmly persuaded the country air
would restore her health. Cecilia told her only to wait till she was
well enough to travel, and promised, in the mean time, to look out some
little habitation for her. She then gave her money to pay her bills,
and for her journey, and writing a full direction where she would hear
of her at Bury, took leave of her till that time.
These magnificent donations and designs, being communicated to Albany,
seemed a renovation to him of youth, spirit, and joy! while their
effect upon Mr Monckton resembled an annihilation of all three! to see
money thus sported away, which he had long considered as his own, to
behold those sums which he had destined for his pleasures, thus
lavishly bestowed upon beggars, excited a rage he could with difficulty
conceal, and an uneasiness he could hardly endure; and he languished,
he sickened for the time, when he might put a period to such romantic
Such were the only occupations which interrupted the solitude of
Cecilia, except those which were given to her by actual business; and
the moment her affairs were in so much forwardness that they could be
managed by letters, she prepared for returning into the country. She
acquainted Lady Margaret and Mr Monckton with her design, and gave
orders to her servants to be ready to set off the next day.
Mr Monckton made not any opposition, and refused himself the
satisfaction of accompanying her: and Lady Margaret, whose purpose was
now answered, and who wished to be in the country herself, determined
to follow her.
This matter being settled at breakfast, Cecilia, having but one day
more to spend in London, knew not how to let it pass without taking
leave of Henrietta, though she chose not again to expose herself to the
forward insinuations of her mother; she sent her, therefore, a short
note, begging to see her at Lady Margaret's, and acquainting her that
the next day she was going out of town.
Henrietta returned the following answer.
_To Miss Beverley_.
Madam,--My mother is gone to market, and I must not go out without her
leave; I have run to the door at every knock this whole week in hopes
you were coming, and my heart has jumpt at every coach that has gone
through the street. Dearest lady, why did you tell me you would come? I
should not have thought of such a great honour if you had not put it in
my head. And now I have got the use of a room where I can often be
alone for two or three hours together. And so I shall this morning, if
it was possible my dear Miss Beverley could come. But I don't mean to
be teasing, and I would not be impertinent or encroaching for the
world; but only the thing is I have a great deal to say to you, and if
you was not so rich a lady, and so much above me, I am sure I should
love you better than any body in the whole world, almost; and now I
dare say I shan't see you at all; for it rains very hard, and my
mother, I know, will be sadly angry if I ask to go in a coach. O dear!
I don't know what I can do! for it will half break my heart, if my dear
Miss Beverley should go out of town, and I not see her!--I am, Madam,
with the greatest respectfulness, your most humble servant,
This artless remonstrance, joined to the intelligence that she could
see her alone, made Cecilia instantly order a chair, and go herself to
Portland-street: for she found by this letter there was much doubt if
she could otherwise see her, and the earnestness of Henrietta made her
now not endure to disappoint her. "She has much," cried she, "to say to
me, and I will no longer refuse to hear her; she shall unbosom to me
her gentle heart, for we have now nothing to fear from each other. She
promises herself pleasure from the communication, and doubtless it must
be some relief to her. Oh were there any friendly bosom, in which I
might myself confide!--happier Henrietta! less fearful of thy pride,
less tenacious of thy dignity! thy sorrows at least seek the
consolation of sympathy,--mine, alas! fettered by prudence, must fly
She was shewn into the parlour, which she had the pleasure to find
empty; and, in an instant, the warm-hearted Henrietta was in her arms.
"This is sweet of you indeed," cried she, "for I did not know how to
ask it, though it rains so hard I could not have walked to you, and I
don't know what I should have done, if you had gone away and quite
She then took her into the back parlour, which she said they had lately
hired, and, as it was made but little use of, she had it almost
entirely to herself.
There had passed a sad scene, she told her, at the meeting with her
brother, though now they were a little more comfortable; yet, her
mother, she was sure, would never be at rest till he got into some
higher way of life; "And, indeed, I have some hopes," she continued,