Part 5 out of 7
"Are you sure," said she, half smiling, "he would have so much power?"
"I am but too sure, that the least intimation, in his present irritable
state of mind, reaching him of my intentions, would make him not
scruple, in his fury, pronouncing some malediction upon my disobedience
that _neither_ of us, I must own, could tranquilly disregard."
This was an argument that came home to Cecilia, whose deliberation upon
it, though silent, was evidently not unfavourable.
He then told her that with respect to settlements, he would instantly
have a bond drawn up, similar to that prepared for their former
intended union, which should be properly signed and sealed, and by
which he would engage himself to make, upon coming to his estate, the
same settlement upon her that was made upon his mother.
"And as, instead of keeping up three houses," he continued, "in the
manner my father does at present, I mean to put my whole estate _out to
nurse_, while we reside for a while abroad, or in the country, I doubt
not but in a very few years we shall be as rich and as easy as we shall
He told her, also, of his well-founded expectations from the Relations
already mentioned; which the concurrence of his mother with his
marriage would thence forward secure to him.
He then, with more coherence, stated his plan at large. He purposed,
without losing a moment, to return to London; he conjured her, in the
name of his mother, to set out herself early the next day, that the
following evening might be dedicated wholly to Mrs Delvile: through her
intercession he might then hope Cecilia's compliance, and every thing
on the morning after should be prepared for their union. The long-
desired ceremony over, he would instantly ride post to his father, and
pay him, at least, the respect of being the first to communicate it. He
would then attend his mother to the Continent, and leave the
arrangement of everything to his return. "Still, therefore, as a single
man," he continued, "I mean to make the journey, and I shall take care,
by the time I return, to have all things in readiness for claiming my
sweet Bride. Tell me, then, now, if you can reasonably oppose this
"Indeed," said Cecilia, after some hesitation, "I cannot see the
necessity of such violent precipitancy."
"Do you not try me too much," cried Delvile, impatiently, "to talk now
of precipitancy! after such painful waiting, such wearisome
expectation! I ask you not to involve your own affairs in confusion by
accompanying me abroad; sweet to me as would be such an indulgence, I
would not make a run-away of you in the opinion of the world. All I
wish is the secret certainty I cannot be robbed of you, that no cruel
machinations may again work our separation, that you are mine,
unalterably mine, beyond the power of caprice or ill fortune."
Cecilia made no answer; tortured with irresolution, she knew not upon
what to determine.
"We might then, according to the favour or displeasure of my father,
settle wholly abroad for the present, or occasionally visit him in
England; my mother would be always and openly our friend--Oh be firm,
then, I conjure you, to the promise you have given her, and deign to be
mine on the conditions she prescribes. She will be bound to you for
ever by so generous a concession, and even her health may be restored
by the cessation of her anxieties. With such a wife, such a mother,
what will be wanting for _me_! Could I lament not being richer, I must
be rapacious indeed!--Speak, then, my Cecilia! relieve me from the
agony of this eternal uncertainty, and tell me your word is invariable
as your honour, and tell me my mother gives not her sanction in vain!"
Cecilia sighed deeply, but, after some hesitation, said, "I little knew
what I had promised, nor know I now what to perform!--there must ever,
I find, be some check to human happiness! yet, since upon these terms,
Mrs Delvile herself is content to wish me of her family--"
She stopt; but, urged earnestly by Delvile, added "I must not, I think,
withdraw the powers with which I entrusted her."
Delvile, grateful and enchanted, now forgot his haste and his business,
and lost every wish but to re-animate her spirits: she compelled him,
however, to leave her, that his visit might less be wondered at, and
sent by him a message to Mrs. Delvile, that, wholly relying upon her
wisdom, she implicitly submitted to her decree.
Cecilia now had no time for afterthoughts or anxious repentance, since
notwithstanding the hurry of her spirits, and the confusion of her
mind, she had too much real business, to yield to pensive indulgence.
Averse to all falsehood, she invented none upon this occasion; she
merely told her guests she was summoned to London upon an affair of
importance; and though she saw their curiosity, not being at liberty to
satisfy it with the truth, she attempted not to appease it by fiction,
but quietly left it to its common fare, conjecture. She would gladly
have made Henrietta the companion of her journey, but Henrietta was the
last to whom that journey could give pleasure. She only, therefore,
took her maid in the chaise, and, attended by one servant on horseback,
at six o'clock the next morning, she quitted her mansion, to enter into
an engagement by which soon she was to resign it for ever.
Disinterested as she was, she considered her situation as peculiarly
perverse, that from the time of her coming to a fortune which most
others regarded as enviable, she had been a stranger to peace, a
fruitless seeker of happiness, a dupe to the fraudulent, and a prey to
the needy! the little comfort she had received, had been merely from
dispensing it, and now only had she any chance of being happy herself,
when upon the point of relinquishing what all others built their
happiness upon obtaining!
These reflections only gave way to others still more disagreeable; she
was now a second time engaged in a transaction she could not approve,
and suffering the whole peace of her future life to hang upon an action
dark, private and imprudent: an action by which the liberal kindness of
her late uncle would be annulled, by which the father of her intended
husband would be disobeyed, and which already, in a similar instance,
had brought her to affliction and disgrace. These melancholy thoughts
haunted her during the whole journey, and though the assurance of Mrs
Delvile's approbation was some relief to her uneasiness, she
involuntarily prepared herself for meeting new mortifications, and was
tormented with an apprehension that this second attempt made her merit
She drove immediately, by the previous direction of Delvile, to a
lodging-house in Albemarle Street, which he had taken care to have
prepared for her reception. She then sent for a chair, and went to Mrs
Delvile's. Her being seen by the servants of that house was not very
important, as their master was soon to be acquainted with the real
motive of her journey.
She was shewn into a parlour, while Mrs Delvile was informed of her
arrival, and there flown to by Delvile with the most grateful
eagerness. Yet she saw in his countenance that all was not well, and
heard upon enquiry that his mother was considerably worse. Extremely
shocked by this intelligence, she already began to lament her
unfortunate enterprise. Delvile struggled, by exerting his own spirits,
to restore hers, but forced gaiety is never exhilarating; and, full of
care and anxiety, he was ill able to appear sprightly and easy.
They were soon summoned upstairs into the apartment of Mrs Delvile, who
was lying upon a couch, pale, weak, and much altered. Delvile led the
way, saying, "Here, madam, comes one whose sight will bring peace and
pleasure to you!"
"This, indeed," cried Mrs Delvile, half rising and embracing her, "is
the form in which they are most welcome to me! virtuous, noble Cecilia!
what honour you do my son! with what joy, should I ever recover, shall
I assist him in paying the gratitude he owes you!"
Cecilia, grieved at her situation, and affected by her kindness, could
only answer with her tears; which, however, were not shed alone; for
Delvile's eyes were full, as he passionately exclaimed, "This, this is
the sight my heart has thus long desired! the wife of my choice taken
to the bosom of the parent I revere! be yet but well, my beloved
mother, and I will be thankful for every calamity that has led to so
sweet a conclusion!"
"Content yourself, however, my son, with one of us," cried Mrs Delvile,
smiling; "and content yourself, if you can, though your hard lot should
make that one this creature of full bloom, health, and youth! Ah, my
love," added she, more seriously, and addressing the still weeping
Cecilia, "should now Mortimer, in losing me, lose those cares by which
alone, for some months past, my life has been rendered tolerable, how
peaceably shall I resign him to one so able to recompense his filial
patience and services!"
This was not a speech to stop the tears of Cecilia, though such warmth
of approbation quieted her conscientious scruples. Delvile now
earnestly interfered; he told her that his mother had been ordered not
to talk or exert herself, and entreated her to be composed, and his
mother to be silent.
"Be it _your_ business, then," said Mrs Delvile, more gaily, "to find
us entertainment. We will promise to be very still if you will take
that trouble upon yourself."
"I will not," answered he, "be rallied from my purpose; if I cannot
entertain, it will be something to weary you, for that may incline you
to take rest, which will he answering a better purpose."
"Mortimer," returned she, "is this the ingenuity of duty or of love?
and which are you just now thinking of, my health, or a conversation
uninterrupted with Miss Beverley?"
"Perhaps a little of both!" said he, chearfully, though colouring.
"But you rather meant it should pass," said Mrs Delvile, "you were
thinking only of me? I have always observed, that where one scheme
answers two purposes, the ostensive is never the purpose most at
"Why it is but common prudence," answered Delvile, "to feel our way a
little before we mention what we most wish, and so cast the hazard of
the refusal upon something rather less important."
"Admirably settled!" cried Mrs Delvile: "so my rest is but to prove
Miss Beverley's disturbance!--Well, it is only anticipating our future
way of life, when her disturbance, in taking the management of you to
herself, will of course prove my rest."
She then quietly reposed herself, and Delvile discoursed with Cecilia
upon their future plans, hopes and actions.
He meant to set off from the church-door to Delvile Castle, to acquaint
his father with his marriage, and then to return instantly to London:
there he entreated Cecilia to stay with his mother, that, finding them
both together, he might not exhaust her patience, by making his parting
visit occasion another journey to Suffolk.
But here Cecilia resolutely opposed him; saying, her only chance to
escape discovery, was going instantly to her own house; and
representing so earnestly her desire that their marriage should be
unknown till his return to England, upon a thousand motives of
delicacy, propriety, and fearfulness, that the obligation he owed
already to a compliance which he saw grew more and more reluctant,
restrained him both in gratitude and pity from persecuting her further.
Neither would she consent to seeing him in Suffolk; which could but
delay his mother's journey, and expose her to unnecessary suspicions;
she promised, however, to write to him often, and as, from his mother's
weakness, he must travel very slowly, she took a plan of his route, and
engaged that he should find a letter from her at every great town.
The bond which he had already had altered, he insisted upon leaving in
her own custody, averse to applying to Mr Monckton, whose behaviour to
him had before given him disgust, and in whom Cecilia herself no longer
wished to confide. He had again applied to the same lawyer, Mr
Singleton, to give her away; for though to his secrecy he had no tie,
he had still less to any entire stranger. Mrs Delvile was too ill to
attend them to church, nor would Delvile have desired from her such
absolute defiance of his father.
Cecilia now gave another sigh to her departed friend Mrs Charlton,
whose presence upon this awful occasion would else again have soothed
and supported her. She had no female friend in whom she could rely; but
feeling a repugnance invincible to being accompanied only by men, she
accepted the attendance of Mrs Delvile's own woman, who had lived many
years in the family, and was high in the favour and confidence of her
The arrangement of these and other articles, with occasional
interruptions from Mrs Delvile, fully employed the evening. Delvile
would not trust again to meeting her at the church; but begged her to
send out her servants between seven and eight o'clock in the morning,
at which time he would himself call for her with a chair.
She went away early, that Mrs Delvile might go to rest, and it was
mutually agreed they should risk no meeting the next day. Delvile
conjured them to part with firmness and chearfulness, and Cecilia,
fearing her own emotion, would have retired without bidding her adieu.
But Mrs Delvile, calling after her, said, "Take with you my blessing!"
and tenderly embracing her, added, "My son, as my chief nurse, claims a
prescriptive right to govern me, but I will break from his control to
tell my sweet Cecilia what ease and what delight she has already given
to my mind! my best hope of recovery is founded on the pleasure I
anticipate to witnessing your mutual happiness: but should my illness
prove fatal, and that felicity be denied me, my greatest earthly care
is already removed by the security I feel of Mortimer's future peace.
Take with you, then, my blessing, for you are become one to me! long
daughter of my affection, now wife of my darling son! love her,
Mortimer, as she merits, and cherish her with tenderest gratitude!--
banish, sweetest Cecilia, every apprehension that oppresses you, and
receive in Mortimer Delvile a husband that will revere your virtues,
and dignify your choice!"
She then embraced her again, and seeing that her heart was too full for
speech, suffered her to go without making any answer. Delvile attended
her to her chair, scarce less moved than herself, and found only
opportunity to entreat her punctuality the next morning.
She had, indeed, no inclination to fail in her appointment, or risk the
repetition of scenes so affecting, or situations so alarming. Mrs
Delvile's full approbation somewhat restored to her her own, but
nothing could remove the fearful anxiety, which still privately
tormented her with expectations of another disappointment.
The next morning she arose with the light, and calling all her courage
to her aid, determined to consider this day as decisive of her destiny
with regard to Delvile, and, rejoicing that at least all suspense would
be over, to support herself with fortitude, be that destiny what it
At the appointed time she sent her maid to visit Mrs Hill, and gave
some errands to her man that carried him to a distant part of the town:
but she charged them both to return to the lodgings by nine o'clock, at
which hour she ordered a chaise for returning into the country.
Delvile, who was impatiently watching for their quitting the house,
only waited till they were out of sight, to present himself at the
door. He was shewn into a parlour, where she instantly attended him;
and being told that the clergyman, Mr Singleton, and Mrs Delvile's
woman, were already in the church, she gave him her hand in silence,
and he led her to the chair.
The calmness of stifled hope had now taken place in Cecilia of quick
sensations and alarm. Occupied with a firm belief she should never be
the wife of Delvile, she only waited, with a desperate sort of
patience, to see when and by whom she was next to be parted from him.
When they arrived near the church, Delvile stopt the chair. He handed
Cecilia out of it, and discharging the chairmen, conducted her into the
church. He was surprised himself at her composure, but earnestly
wishing it to last, took care not to say to her a word that should make
any answer from her necessary.
He gave her, as before, to Mr Singleton, secretly praying that not, as
before, she might be given him in vain: Mrs Delvile's woman attended
her; the clergyman was ready, and they all proceeded to the altar.
The ceremony was begun; Cecilia, rather mechanically than with
consciousness, appearing to listen to it but at the words, _If any man
can shew any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together_,
Delvile himself shook with terror, lest some concealed person should
again answer it, and Cecilia, with a sort of steady dismay in her
countenance, cast her eyes round the church, with no other view than
that of seeing from what comer the prohibiter would start.
She looked, however, to no purpose; no prohibiter appeared, the
ceremony was performed without any interruption, and she received the
thanks of Delvile, and the congratulations of the little set, before
the idea which had so strongly pre-occupied her imagination, was
sufficiently removed from it to satisfy her she was really married.
They then went to the vestry, where their business was not long; and
Delvile again put Cecilia into a chair, which again he accompanied on
Her sensibility now soon returned, though still attended with
strangeness and a sensation of incredulity. But the sight of Delvile at
her lodgings, contrary to their agreement, wholly recovered her senses
from the stupor which had dulled them. He came, however, but to
acknowledge how highly she had obliged him, to see her himself restored
to the animation natural to her, character, and to give her a million
of charges, resulting from anxiety and tenderness. And then, fearing
the return of her servants, he quitted her, and set out for Delvile
The amazement of Cecilia was still unconquerable; to be actually united
with Delvile! to be his with the full consent of his mother,--to have
him her's, beyond the power of his father,--she could not reconcile it
with possibility; she fancied it a dream,--but a dream from which she
wished not to wake.
Cecilia's journey back to the country was as safe and free from
interruption as her journey had been to town, and all that
distinguished them was what passed in her own mind: the doubts,
apprehensions, and desponding suspense which had accompanied her
setting out, were now all removed, and certainty, ease, the expectation
of happiness, and the cessation of all perplexity, had taken their
place. She had nothing left to dread but the inflexibility of Mr
Delvile, and hardly any thing even to hope but the recovery of his
Her friends at her return expressed their wonder at her expedition, but
their wonder at what occasioned it, though still greater, met no
satisfaction. Henrietta rejoiced in her sight, though her absence had
been so short; and Cecilia, whose affection with her pity increased,
intimated to her the event for which she wished her to prepare herself,
and frankly acknowledged she had reason to expect it would soon take
Henrietta endeavoured with composure to receive this intelligence, and
to return such a mark of confidence with chearful congratulations: but
her fortitude was unequal to an effort so heroic, and her character was
too simple to assume a greatness she felt not: she sighed and changed
colour; and hastily quitted the room that she might sob aloud in
Warm-hearted, tender, and susceptible, her affections were all
undisguised: struck with the elegance of Delvile, and enchanted by his
services to her brother, she had lost to him her heart at first without
missing it, and, when missed, without seeking to reclaim it. The
hopelessness of such a passion she never considered, nor asked herself
its end, or scarce suspected its aim; it was pleasant to her at the
time, and she looked not to the future, but fed it with visionary
schemes, and soothed it with voluntary fancies. Now she knew all was
over, she felt the folly she had committed, but though sensibly and
candidly angry at her own error, its conviction offered nothing but
sorrow to succeed it.
The felicity of Cecilia, whom she loved, admired and revered, she
wished with the genuine ardour of zealous sincerity; but that Delvile,
the very cause and sole subject of her own personal unhappiness, should
himself constitute that felicity, was too much for her spirits, and
seemed to her mortified mind too cruel in her destiny.
Cecilia, who in the very vehemence of her sorrow saw its innocence, was
too just and too noble to be offended by it, or impute to the bad
passions of envy or jealousy, the artless regret of an untutored mind.
To be penetrated too deeply with the merit of Delvile, with her wanted
no excuse, and she grieved for her situation with but little mixture of
blame, and none of surprise. She redoubled her kindness and caresses
with the hope of consoling her, but ventured to trust her no further,
till reflection, and her natural good sense, should better enable her
to bear an explanation.
Nor was this friendly exertion any longer a hardship to her; the sudden
removal, in her own feelings and affairs, of distress and expectation,
had now so much lightened her heart, that she could spare without
repining, some portion of its spirit to her dejected young friend.
But an incident happened two mornings after which called back, and most
unpleasantly, her attention to herself. She was told that Mrs Matt, the
poor woman she had settled in Bury, begged an audience, and upon
sending for her up stairs, and desiring to know what she could do for
her, "Nothing, madam, just now," she answered, "for I don't come upon
my own business, but to tell some news to you, madam. You bid me never
take notice of the wedding, that was to be, and I'm sure I never opened
my mouth about it from that time to this; but I have found out who it
was put a stop to it, and so I come to tell you."
Cecilia, extremely amazed, eagerly desired her to go on.
"Why, madam, I don't know the gentlewoman's name quite right yet, but I
can tell you where she lives, for I knew her as soon as I set eyes on
her, when I see her at church last Sunday, and I would have followed
her home, but she went into a coach, and I could not walk fast enough;
but I asked one of the footmen where she lived, and he said at the
great house at the Grove: and perhaps, madam, you may know where that
is: and then he told me her name, but that I can't just now think of."
"Good heaven!" cried Cecilia,--"it could not be Bennet?"
"Yes, ma'am, that's the very name; I know it again now I hear it."
Cecilia then hastily dismissed her, first desiring her not to mention
the circumstance to any body.
Shocked and dismayed, she now saw, but saw with horror, the removal of
all her doubts, and the explanation of all her difficulties, in the
full and irrefragable discovery of the perfidy of her oldest friend and
Miss Bennet herself she regarded in the affair as a mere tool, which,
though in effect it did the work, was innocent of its mischief, because
powerless but in the hand of its employer.
"That employer," cried she, "must be Mr Monckton! Mr Monckton whom so
long I have known, who so willingly has been my counsellor, so ably my
instructor! in whose integrity I have confided, upon whose friendship I
have relied! my succour in all emergencies, my guide in all
perplexities!--Mr _Monckton_ thus dishonourably, thus barbarously to
betray me! to turn against me the very confidence I had reposed in his
regard for me! and make use of my own trust to furnish the means to
She was now wholly confirmed that he had wronged her with Mr Delvile;
she could not have two enemies so malignant without provocation, and he
who so unfeelingly could dissolve a union at the very altar, could
alone have the baseness to calumniate her so cruelly.
Evil thoughts thus awakened, stopt not merely upon facts; conjecture
carried her further, and conjecture built upon probability. The
officiousness of Morrice in pursuing her to London, his visiting her
when there, and his following and watching Delvile, she now reasonably
concluded were actions directed by Mr Monckton, whose house he had but
just left, and whose orders, whatever they might be, she was almost
certain he would obey. Availing himself, therefore, of the forwardness
and suppleness which met in this young man, she doubted not but his
intelligence had contributed to acquaint him with her proceedings.
The motive of such deep concerted and accumulated treachery was next to
be sought: nor was the search long; one only could have tempted him to
schemes so hazardous and costly; and, unsuspicious as she was, she now
saw into his whole design.
Long accustomed to regard him as a safe and disinterested old friend,
the respect with which, as a child, she had looked up to him, she had
insensibly preserved when a woman. That respect had taught her to
consider his notice as a favour, and far from suspiciously shunning,
she had innocently courted it: and his readiness in advising and
tutoring her, his frank and easy friendliness of behaviour, had kept
his influence unimpaired, by preventing its secret purpose from being
But now the whole mystery was revealed; his aversion to the Delviles,
to which hitherto she had attributed all she disapproved in his
behaviour, she was convinced must be inadequate to stimulate him to
such lengths. That aversion itself was by this late surmise accounted
for, and no sooner did it occur to her, than a thousand circumstances
The first among these was the evident ill will of Lady Margaret, which
though she had constantly imputed to the general irascibility for which
her character was notorious, she had often wondered to find
impenetrable to all endeavours to please or soften her. His care of her
fortune, his exhortations against her expences, his wish to make her
live with Mr Briggs, all contributed to point out the selfishness of
his attentions, which in one instance rendered visible, became obvious
in every other.
Yet various as were the incidents that now poured upon her memory to
his disgrace, not one among them took its rise from his behaviour to
herself, which always had been scrupulously circumspect, or if for a
moment unguarded, only at a season when her own distress or confusion
had prevented her from perceiving it. This recollection almost
staggered her suspicions; yet so absolute seemed the confirmation they
received from every other, that her doubt was overpowered, and soon
She was yet ruminating on this subject, when, word was brought her that
Mr Monckton was in the parlour.
Mingled disgust and indignation made her shudder at his name, and
without pausing a moment, she sent him word she was engaged, and could
not possibly leave her room.
Astonished by such a dismission, he left the house in the utmost
confusion. But Cecilia could not endure to see him, after a discovery
of such hypocrisy and villainy.
She considered, however, that the matter could not rest here: he would
demand an explanation, and perhaps, by his unparalleled address, again
contrive to seem innocent, notwithstanding appearances were at present
so much against him. Expecting, therefore, some artifice, and
determined not to be duped by it, she sent again for the Pew-opener, to
examine her more strictly.
The woman was out at work in a private family, and could not come till
the evening: but, when further questioned, the description she gave of
Miss Bennet was too exact to be disputed.
She then desired her to call again the next morning and sent a servant
to the Grove, with her compliments to Miss Bennet, and a request that
she might send her carriage for her the next day, at any time she
pleased, as she wished much to speak with her.
This message, she was aware, might create some suspicion, and put her
upon her guard; but she thought, nevertheless, a sudden meeting with
the Pew-opener, whom she meant abruptly to confront with her, would
baffle the security of any previously settled scheme.
To a conviction such as this even Mr Monckton must submit, and since he
was lost to her as a friend, she might at least save herself the pain
of keeping up his acquaintance.
The servant did not return till it was dark; and then, with a look of
much dismay, said he had been able to meet with nobody who could either
give or take a message; that the Grove was all in confusion, and the
whole country in an uproar, for Mr Monckton, just as he arrived, had
been brought home dead!
Cecilia screamed with involuntary horror; a pang like remorse seized
her mind, with the apprehension she had some share in this catastrophe,
and innocent as she was either of his fall or his crimes, she no sooner
heard he was no more, than she forgot he had offended her, and
reproached herself with severity for the shame to which she meant to
expose him the next morning.
Dreadfully disturbed by this horrible incident, she entreated Mrs
Harrel and Henrietta to sup by themselves, and going into her own room,
determined to write the whole affair to Delvile, in a letter she should
direct to be left at the post-office for him at Margate.
And here strongly she felt the happiness of being actually his wife;
she could now without reserve make him acquainted with all her affairs,
and tell to the master of her heart every emotion that entered it.
While engaged in this office, the very action of which quieted her, a
letter was brought her from Delvile himself. She received it with
gratitude and opened it with joy; he had promised to write soon, but so
soon she had thought impossible.
The reading took not much time; the letter contained but the following
_To Miss Beverley_.
MY CECILIA!--Be alone, I conjure you; dismiss every body, and admit me
Great was her astonishment at this note! no name to it, no conclusion,
the characters indistinct, the writing crooked, the words so few, and
those few scarce legible!
He desired to see her, and to see her alone; she could not hesitate in
her compliance,--but whom could she dismiss?--her servants, if ordered
away, would but be curiously upon the watch,--she could think of no
expedient, she was all hurry and amazement.
She asked if any one waited for an answer? The footman said no; that
the note was given in by somebody who did not speak, and who ran out of
sight the moment he had delivered it.
She could not doubt this was Delvile himself,--Delvile who should now
be just returned from the castle to his mother, and whom she had
thought not even a letter would reach if directed any where nearer than
All she could devise in obedience to him, was to go and wait for him
alone in her dressing-room, giving orders that if any one called they
might be immediately brought up to her, as she expected somebody upon
business, with whom she must not be interrupted.
This was extremely disagreeable to her; yet, contrary as it was to
their agreement, she felt no inclination to reproach Delvile; the
abruptness of his note, the evident hand-shaking with which it had been
written, the strangeness of the request in a situation such as theirs,
--all concurred to assure her he came not to her idly, and all led her
to apprehend he came to her with evil tidings.
What they might be, she had no time to conjecture; a servant, in a few
minutes, opened the dressing-room door, and said, "Ma'am, a gentleman;"
and Delvile, abruptly entering, shut it himself, in his eagerness to
get rid of him.
At his sight, her prognostication of ill became stronger! she went
forward to meet him, and he advanced to her smiling and in haste; but
that smile did not well do its office; it concealed not a pallid
countenance, in which every feature spoke horror; it disguised not an
aching heart, which almost visibly throbbed with intolerable emotion!
Yet he addressed her in terms of tenderness and peace; but his
tremulous voice counteracted his words, and spoke that all within was
tumult and war!
Cecilia, amazed, affrighted, had no power to hasten an explanation,
which, on his own part, he seemed unable, or fearful to begin. He
talked to her of his happiness in again seeing her before he left the
kingdom, entreated her to write to him continually, said the same thing
two and three times in a breath, began with one subject, and seemed
unconscious he wandered presently into another, and asked her questions
innumerable about her health, journey, affairs, and ease of mind,
without hearing from her any answer, or seeming to miss that she had
Cecilia grew dreadfully terrified; something strange and most alarming
she was sure must have happened, but _what_, she had no means to know,
nor courage, nor even words to enquire.
Delvile, at length, the first hurry of his spirits abating, became more
coherent and considerate: and looking anxiously at her, said, "Why this
silence, my Cecilia?"
"I know not!" said she, endeavouring to recover herself, "but your
coming was unexpected: I was just writing to you at Margate."
"Write still, then; but direct to Ostend; I shall be quicker than the
post; and I would not lose a letter--a line--a word from you, for all
the world can offer me!"
"Quicker than the post?" cried Cecilia; "but how can Mrs Delvile--" she
stopt; not knowing what she might venture to ask.
"She is now on the road to Margate; I hope to be there to receive her.
I mean but to bid you adieu, and be gone."
Cecilia made no answer; she was more and more astonished, more and more
"You are thoughtful?" said he, with tenderness; "are you unhappy?--
sweetest Cecilia! most excellent of human creatures! if I have made you
unhappy--and I must!--it is inevitable!--"
"Oh Delvile!" cried she, now assuming more courage, "why will you not
speak to me openly?--something, I see, is wrong; may I not hear it? may
I not tell you, at least, my concern that any thing has distressed
"You are too good!" cried he; "to deserve you is not possible, but to
afflict you is inhuman!" "Why so?" cried she, more chearfully; "must I
not share the common lot? or expect the whole world to be new modelled,
lest I should meet in it any thing but happiness?"
"There is not, indeed, much danger! Have you pen and ink here?"
She brought them to him immediately, with paper.
You have been writing to me, you say?--I will begin a letter myself."
"To me?" cried she.
He made no answer, but took up the pen, and wrote a few words, and
then, flinging it down, said, "Fool!--I could have done this without
"May I look at it?" said she; and, finding he made no opposition,
advanced and read.
_I fear to alarm you by rash precipitation,--I fear to alarm you by
lingering suspense,--but all is not well--_
"Fear nothing!" cried she, turning to him with the kindest earnestness;
"tell me, whatever it may be!--Am I not your wife? bound by every tie
divine and human to share in all your sorrows, if, unhappily, I cannot
"Since you allow me," cried he, gratefully, "so sweet a claim, a claim
to which all others yield, and which if you repent not giving me, will
make all others nearly immaterial to me,--I will own to you that all,
indeed, is not well! I have been hasty,--you will blame me; I deserve,
indeed, to be blamed!--entrusted with your peace and happiness, to
suffer rage, resentment, violence, to make me forego what I owed to
such a deposite!--If your blame, however, stops short of repentance--
but it cannot!"
"What, then," cried she with warmth, "must you have done? for there is
not an action of which I believe you capable, there is not an event
which I believe to be possible, that can ever make me repent belonging
to you wholly!"
"Generous, condescending Cecilia!" cried he; "Words such as these, hung
there not upon me an evil the most depressing, would be almost more
than I could bear--would make me too blest for mortality!"
"But words such as these," said she more gaily, "I might long have
coquetted ere I had spoken, had you not drawn them from me by this
alarm. Take, therefore, the good with the ill, and remember, if all
does not go right, you have now a trusty friend, as willing to be the
partner of your serious as your happiest hours."
"Shew but as much firmness as you have shewn sweetness," cried he, "and
I will fear to tell you nothing."
She reiterated her assurances; they then both sat down, and he began
"Immediately from your lodgings I went where I had ordered a chaise,
and stopped only to change horses till I reached Delvile Castle. My
father saw me with surprise, and received me with coldness. I was
compelled by my situation to be abrupt, and told him I came, before I
accompanied my mother abroad, to make him acquainted with an affair
which I thought myself bound in duty and respect to suffer no one to
communicate to him but myself. He then sternly interrupted me, and
declared in high terms, that if this affair concerned _you_, he would
not listen to it. I attempted to remonstrate upon this injustice, when
he passionately broke forth into new and horrible charges against you,
affirming that he had them from authority as indisputable as ocular
demonstration. I was then certain of some foul play."--
"Foul play indeed!" cried Cecilia, who now knew but too well by whom
she had been injured. "Good heaven, how have I been deceived, where
most I have trusted!"
"I told him," continued Delvile, "some gross imposition had been
practiced upon him, and earnestly conjured him no longer to conceal
from me by whom. This, unfortunately, encreased his rage; imposition,
he said, was not so easily played upon him, he left that for _me_ who
so readily was duped; while for himself, he had only given credit to a
man of much consideration in Suffolk, who had known you from a child,
who had solemnly assured him he had repeatedly endeavoured to reclaim
you, who had rescued you from the hands of Jews at his own hazard and
loss, and who actually shewed him bonds acknowledging immense debts,
which were signed with your own hand."
"Horrible!" exclaimed Cecilia, "I believed not such guilt and perfidy
"I was scarce myself," resumed Delvile, "while I heard him: I demanded
even with fierceness his author, whom I scrupled not to execrate as he
deserved; he coldly answered he was bound by an oath never to reveal
him, nor should he repay his honourable attention to his family by a
breach of his own word, were it even less formally engaged. I then lost
all patience; to mention honour, I cried, was a farce, where such
infamous calumnies were listened to;--but let me not shock you
unnecessarily, you may readily conjecture what passed."
"Ah me!" cried Cecilia, "you have then quarrelled with your father!"
"I have!" said he; "nor does he yet know I am married: in so much wrath
there was no room for narration; I only pledged myself by all I held
sacred, never to rest till I had cleared your fame, by the detection of
this villainy, and then left him without further explanation."
"Oh return, then, to him directly!" cried Cecilia, "he is your father,
you are bound to bear with his displeasure;--alas! had you never known
me, you had never incurred it!"
"Believe me," he answered, "I am ill at ease under it: if you wish it,
when you have heard me, I will go to him immediately; if not, I will
write, and you shall yourself dictate what."
Cecilia thanked him, and begged he would continue his account.
"My first step, when I left the Castle, was to send a letter to my
mother, in which I entreated her to set out as soon as possible for
Margate, as I was detained from her unavoidably, and was unwilling my
delay should either retard our journey, or oblige her to travel faster.
At Margate I hoped to be as soon as herself, if not before her."
"And why," cried Cecilia, "did you not go to town as you had promised,
and accompany her?"
"I had business another way. I came hither."
"No; but soon."
"Where did you go first?"
"My Cecilia, it is now you must summon your fortitude: I left my father
without an explanation on my part;--but not till, in his rage of
asserting his authority, he had unwarily named his informant."
"That informant--the most deceitful of men!--was your long pretended
friend, Mr Monckton!"
"So I feared!" said Cecilia, whose blood now ran cold through her veins
with sudden and new apprehensions.
"I rode to the Grove, on hack-horses, and on a full gallop the whole
way. I got to him early in the evening. I was shewn into his library. I
told him my errand.--You look pale, my love? You are not well?--"
Cecilia, too sick for speech, leant her head upon a table. Delvile was
going to call for help; but she put her hand upon his arm to stop him,
and, perceiving she was only mentally affected, he rested, and
endeavoured by every possible means to revive her.
After a while, she again raised her head, faintly saying, "I am sorry I
interrupted you; but the conclusion I already know,--Mr Monckton is
"Not dead," cried he; "dangerously, indeed, wounded, but thank heaven,
not actually dead!"
"Not dead?" cried Cecilia, with recruited strength and spirits, "Oh
then all yet may be well!--if he is not dead; he may recover!"
"He may; I hope he will!"
"Now, then," she cried, "tell me all: I can bear any intelligence but
of death by human means."
"I meant not to have gone such lengths; far from it; I hold duels in
abhorrence, as unjustifiable acts of violence, and savage devices of
revenge. I have offended against my own conviction,--but, transported
with passion at his infamous charges, I was not master of my reason; I
accused hum of his perfidy; he denied it; I told him I had it from my
father,--he changed the subject to pour abuse upon him; I insisted on a
recantation to clear you; he asked by what right? I fiercely answered;
by a husband's! His countenance, then, explained at least the motives
of his treachery,--he loves you himself! he had probably schemed to
keep you free till his wife died, and then concluded his machinations
would secure you his own. For this purpose, finding he was in danger of
losing you, he was content even to blast your character, rather than
suffer you to escape him! But the moment I acknowledged my marriage he
grew more furious than myself; and, in short-for why relate the
frenzies of rage? we walked out together; my travelling pistols were
already charged; I gave him his choice of them, and, the challenge
being mine, for insolence joined with guilt had robbed me of all
forbearance, he fired first, but missed me: I then demanded whether he
would clear your fame? he called out 'Fire! I will make no terms,'--I
did fire,--and unfortunately aimed better! We had neither of us any
second, all was the result of immediate passion; but I soon got people
to him, and assisted in conveying him home. He was at, first believed
to be dead, and I was seized by his servants; but he afterwards shewed
signs of life, and by sending for my friend Biddulph, I was released.
Such is the melancholy transaction I came to relate to you, flattering
myself it would something less shock you from me than from another: yet
my own real concern for the affair, the repentance with which from the
moment the wretch fell, I was struck in being his destroyer, and the
sorrow, the remorse, rather, which I felt, in coming to wound you with
such black, such fearful intelligence,--you to whom all I owe is peace
and comfort!--these thoughts gave me so much disturbance, that, in
fact, I knew less than any other how to prepare you for such a tale."
He stopt; but Cecilia could say nothing: to censure him now would both
be cruel and vain; yet to pretend she was satisfied with his conduct,
would be doing violence to her judgment and veracity. She saw, too,
that his error had sprung wholly from a generous ardor in her defence,
and that his confidence in her character, had resisted, without
wavering, every attack that menaced it. For this she felt truly
grateful; yet his quarrel with his father,--the danger of his mother,--
his necessary absence,--her own clandestine situation,--and more than
all, the threatened death of Mr Monckton by his hands, were
circumstances so full of dread and sadness, she knew not upon which to
speak,--how to offer him comfort,--how to assume a countenance that
looked able to receive any, or by what means to repress the emotions
which to many ways assailed her. Delvile, having vainly waited some
reply, then in a tone the most melancholy, said, "If it is yet possible
you can be sufficiently interested in my fate to care what becomes of
me, aid me now with your counsel, or rather with your instructions; I
am scarce able to think for myself, and to be thought for by you, would
yet be a consolation that would give me spirit for any thing."
Cecilia, starting from her reverie, repeated, "To care what becomes of
you-? Oh Delvile!--make not my heart bleed by words of such
"Forgive me," cried he, "I meant not a reproach; I meant but to state
my own consciousness how little I deserve from you. You talked to me of
going to my father? do you still wish it?"
"I think so!" cried she; too much disturbed to know what she said, yet
fearing again to hurt him by making him wait her answer.
"I will go then," said he, "without doubt: too happy to be guided by
you, which-ever way I steer. I have now, indeed much to tell him; but
whatever may be his wrath, there is little fear, at this time, that my
own temper cannot bear it! what next shall I do?"
"What next?" repeated she; "indeed I know not!"
"Shall I go immediately to Margate? or shall I first ride hither?"
"If you please," said she, much perturbed, and deeply sighing.
"I please nothing but by your direction, to follow that is my only
chance of pleasure. Which, then, shall I do?-you will not, now, refuse
to direct me?"
"No, certainly, not for the world!"
"Speak to me, then, my love, and tell me;--why are you thus silent?--
is it painful to you to counsel me?"
"No, indeed!" said she, putting her hand to her head, "I will speak to
you in a few minutes."
"Oh my Cecilia!" cried he, looking at her with much alarm, "call back
your recollection! you know not what you say, you take no interest in
what you answer."
"Indeed I do!" said she, sighing deeply, and oppressed beyond the power
of thinking, beyond any power but an internal consciousness of
"Sigh not so bitterly," cried he, "if you have any compassion! sigh not
so bitterly,--I cannot bear to hear you!"
"I am very sorry indeed!" said she, sighing again, and not seeming
sensible she spoke.
"Good Heaven!" cried he, rising, "distract me not with this horror!--
speak not to me in such broken sentences!--Do you hear me, Cecilia?--
why will you not answer me?"
She started and trembled, looked pale and affrighted, and putting both
her hands upon her heart, said, "Oh yes!--but I have an oppression
here,--a tightness, a fulness,--I have not room for breath!"
"Oh beloved of my heart!" cried he, wildly casting himself at her feet,
"kill me not with this terror!--call back your faculties,--awake from
this dreadful insensibility! tell me at least you know me!--tell me I
have not tortured you quite to madness!--sole darling of my affections!
my own, my wedded Cecilia!--rescue me from this agony! it is more than
I can support!"---
This energy of distress brought back her scattered senses, scarce more
stunned by the shock of all this misery, than by the restraint of her
feelings in struggling to conceal it. But these passionate exclamations
restoring her sensibility, she burst into tears, which happily relieved
her mind from the conflict with which it was labouring, and which, not
thus effected, might have ended more fatally.
Never had Delvile more rejoiced in her smiles than now in these
seasonable tears, which he regarded and blest as the preservers of her
reason. They flowed long without any intermission, his soothing and
tenderness but melting her to more sorrow: after a while, however, the
return of her faculties, which at first seemed all consigned over to
grief, was manifested by the returning strength of her mind: she blamed
herself severely for the little fortitude she had shewn, but having now
given vent to emotions too forcible to be wholly stiffed, she assured
him he might depend upon her' better courage for the future, and
entreated him to consider and settle his affairs.
Not speedily, however, could Delvile himself recover. The torture he
had suffered in believing, though only for a few moments, that the
terror he had given to Cecilia had affected her intellects, made even a
deeper impression upon his imagination, than the scene of fury and
death, which had occasioned that terror: and Cecilia, who now strained
every nerve to repair by her firmness, the pain which by her weakness
she had given him, was sooner in a condition for reasoning and
deliberation than himself.
"Ah Delvile!" she cried, comprehending what passed within him, "do you
allow nothing for surprize? and nothing for the hard conflict of
endeavouring to suppress it? do you think me still as unfit to advise
with, and as worthless, as feeble a counsellor, as during the first
confusion of my mind?"
"Hurry not your tender spirits, I beseech you," cried he, "we have time
enough; we will talk about business by and by."
"What time?" cried she, "what is it now o'clock?"
"Good Heaven!" cried he, looking at his watch, "already past ten! you
must turn me out, my Cecilia, or calumny will still be busy, even
though poor Monckton is quiet."
"I _will_ turn you out," cried she, "I am indeed most earnest to have
you gone. But tell me your plan, and which way you mean to go?"
"That;" he answered, "you shall decide for me yourself: whether to
Delvile Castle, to finish one tale, and wholly communicate another, or
to Margate, to hasten my mother abroad, before the news of this
calamity reaches her."
"Go to Margate," cried she, eagerly, "set off this very moment! you can
write to your father from Ostend. But continue, I conjure you, on the
continent, till we see if this unhappy man lives, and enquire, of those
who can judge, what must follow if he should not!"
"A trial," said he, "must follow, and it will go, I fear, but hardly
with me! the challenge was mine; his servants can all witness I went to
him, not he to me,--Oh my Cecilia! the rashness of which I have been
guilty, is so opposite to my principles, and, all generous as is your
silence, I know it so opposite to yours, that never, should his blood
be on my hands, wretch as he was, never will my heart be quiet more."
"He will live, he will live!" cried Cecilia, repressing her horror,
"fear nothing, for he will live;--and as to his wound and his
sufferings, his perfidy has deserved them. Go, then, to Margate; think
only of Mrs Delvile, and save her, if possible, from hearing what has
"I will go,--stay,--do which and whatever you bid me: but, should what
I fear come to pass, should my mother continue ill, my father
inflexible, should this wretched man die, and should England no longer
be a country I shall love to dwell in,--could you, then, bear to own,
--would you, then, consent to follow me?"
"Could I?--am I not yours? may you not command me? tell me, then, you
have only to say,--shall I accompany you at once?"
Delvile, affected by her generosity, could scarce utter his thanks; yet
he did not hesitate in denying to avail himself of it; "No, my
Cecilia," he cried, "I am not so selfish. If we have not happier days,
we will at least wait for more desperate necessity. With the
uncertainty if I have not this man's life to answer for at the hazard
of my own, to take my wife--my bride,--from the kingdom I must fly!--
to make her a fugitive and an exile in the first publishing that she is
mine! No, if I am not a destined alien for life I can never permit it.
Nothing less, believe me, shall ever urge my consent to wound the
chaste propriety of your character, by making you an eloper with a
They then again consulted upon their future plans; and concluded that
in the present disordered state of their affairs, it would be best not
to acknowledge even to Mr Delvile their marriage, to whom the news of
the duel, and Mr Monckton's danger, would be a blow so severe, that, to
add to it any other might half distract him.
To the few people already acquainted with it, Delvile therefore
determined to write from Ostend, re-urging his entreaties for their
discretion and secrecy. Cecilia promised every post to acquaint him how
Mr Monckton went on, and she then besought him to go instantly, that he
might out-travel the ill news to his mother.
He complied, and took leave of her in the tenderest manner, conjuring
her to support her spirits, and be careful of her health. "Happiness,"
said he, "is much in arrears with us, and though my violence may have
frightened it away, your sweetness and gentleness will yet attract it
back: all that for me is in store must be received at your hands,--
what is offered in any other way, I shall only mistake for evil! droop
not, therefore, my generous Cecilia, but in yourself preserve me!"
"I will not droop," said she; "you will find, I hope, you have not
intrusted yourself in ill hands."
"Peace then be with you, my love!--my comforting, my soul-reviving
Cecilia! Peace, such as angels give, and such as may drive from your
mind the remembrance of this bitter hour!"
He then tore himself away.
Cecilia, who to his blessings could almost, like the tender Belvidera,
O do not leave me!--stay with me and curse me!
listened to his steps till she could hear them no longer, as if the
remaining moments of her life were to be measured by them: but then,
remembering the danger both to herself and him of his stay, she
endeavoured to rejoice that he was gone, and, but that her mind was in
no state for joy, was too rational not to have succeeded.
Grief and horror for what was past, apprehension and suspense for what
was to come, so disordered her whole frame, so confused even her
intellects, that when not all the assistance of fancy could persuade
her she still heard the footsteps of Delvile, she went to the chair
upon which he had been seated, and taking possession of it, sat with
her arms crossed, silent, quiet, and erect, almost vacant of all
thought, yet with a secret idea she was doing something right.
Here she continued till Henrietta came to wish her good night; whose
surprise and concern at the strangeness of her look and attitude, once
more recovered her. But terrified herself at this threatened wandering
of her reason, and certain she must all night be a stranger to rest,
she accepted the affectionate offer of the kind-hearted girl to stay
with her, who was too much grieved for her grief to sleep any more than
She told her not what had passed; that, she knew, would be fruitless
affliction to her: but she was soothed by her gentleness, and her
conversation was some security from the dangerous rambling of her
Henrietta herself found no little consolation in her own private
sorrows, that she was able to give comfort to her beloved Miss
Beverley, from whom she had received favours and kind offices
innumerable. She quitted her not night nor day, and in the honest pride
of a little power to skew the gratefulness of her heart, she felt a
pleasure and self-consequence she had never before experienced.
Cecilia's earliest care, almost at break of day, was to send to the
Grove; from thence she heard nothing but evil; Mr Monckton was still
alive, but with little or no hope of recovery, constantly delirious,
and talking of Miss Beverley, and of her being married to young
Cecilia, who knew well this, at least, was no delirium, though shocked
that he talked of it, hoped his danger less than was apprehended.
The next day, however, more fatal news was brought her, though not from
the quarter she expected it: Mr Monckton, in one of his raving fits,
had sent for Lady Margaret to his bed side, and used her almost
inhumanly: he had railed at her age and her infirmities with incredible
fury, called her the cause of all his sufferings, and accused her as
the immediate agent of Lucifer in his present wound and danger. Lady
Margaret, whom neither jealousy nor malignity had cured of loving him,
was dismayed and affrighted; and in hurrying out of the room upon his
attempting, in his frenzy, to strike her, she dropt down dead in an
"Good Heaven!" thought Cecilia, "what an exemplary punishment has this
man! he loses his hated wife at the very moment when her death could no
longer answer his purposes! Poor Lady Margaret! her life has been as
bitter as her temper! married from a view of interest, ill used as a
bar to happiness, and destroyed from the fruitless ravings of despair!"
She wrote all this intelligence to Ostend, whence she received a letter
from Delvile, acquainting her he was detained from proceeding further
by the weakness and illness of his mother, whose sufferings from
seasickness had almost put an end to her existence.
Thus passed a miserable week; Monckton still merely alive, Delvile
detained at Ostend, and Cecilia tortured alike by what was recently
passed, actually present, and fearfully expected; when one morning she
was told a gentleman upon business desired immediately to speak with
She hastily obeyed the summons; the constant image of her own mind,
Delvile, being already present to her, and a thousand wild conjectures
upon what had brought him back, rapidly occurring to her.
Her expectations, however, were ill answered, for she found an entire
stranger; an elderly man, of no pleasant aspect or manners.
She desired to know his business.
"I presume, madam, you are the lady of this house?"
She bowed an assent.
"May I take the liberty, madam, to ask your name?'
"My name, sir?"
"You will do me a favour, madam, by telling it me."
"Is it possible you are come hither without already knowing it?"
"I know it only by common report, madam."
"Common report, sir, I believe is seldom wrong in a matter where to be
right is so easy."
"Have you any objection, madam, to telling me your name?"
"No, sir; but your business can hardly be very important, if you are
yet to learn whom you are to address. It will be time enough,
therefore, for us to meet when you are elsewhere satisfied in this
She would then have left the room.
"I beg, madam," cried the stranger, "you will have patience; it is
necessary, before I can open my business, that I should hear your name
"Well, sir," cried she with some hesitation, "you can scarce have come
to this house, without knowing that its owner is Cecilia Beverley."
"That, madam, is your maiden name."
"My maiden name?" cried she, starting.
"Are you not married, madam?"
"Married, sir?" she repeated, while her cheeks were the colour of
"It is, properly, therefore, madam, the name of your husband that I
mean to ask."
"And by what authority, sir," cried she, equally astonished and
offended, "do you make these extraordinary enquiries?"
"I am deputed, madam, to wait upon you by Mr Eggleston, the next heir
to this estate, by your uncle's will, if you die without children, or
change your name when you marry. His authority of enquiry, madam, I
presume you will allow, and he has vested it in me by a letter of
Cecilia's distress and confusion were now unspeakable; she knew not
what to own or deny, she could not conjecture how she had been
betrayed, and she had never made the smallest preparation against such
"Mr Eggleston, madam," he continued, "has been pretty credibly informed
that you are actually married: he is very desirous, therefore, to know
what are your intentions, for your continuing to be called _Miss_
Beverley, as if still single, leaves him quite in the dark: but, as he
is so deeply concerned in the affair, he expects, as a lady of honour,
you will deal with him without prevarication."
"This demand, sir," said Cecilia, stammering, "is so extremely--so--so
"The way, madam, in these cases, is to keep pretty closely to the
point; are you married or are you not?"
Cecilia, quite confounded, made no answer: to disavow her marriage,
when thus formally called upon, was every way unjustifiable; to
acknowledge it in her present situation, would involve her in
"This is not, madam, a slight thing; Mr Eggleston has a large family
and a small fortune, and that, into the bargain, very much encumbered;
it cannot, therefore, be expected that he will knowingly connive at
cheating himself, by submitting to your being actually married, and
still enjoying your estate though your husband does not take your
Cecilia, now, summoning more presence of mind, answered, "Mr Eggleston,
sir, has, at least, nothing to fear from imposition: those with whom he
has, or may have any transactions in this affair, are not accustomed to
"I am far from meaning any offence, madam; my commission from Mr
Eggleston is simply this, to beg you will satisfy him upon what grounds
you now evade the will of your late uncle, which, till cleared up,
appears a point manifestly to his prejudice."
"Tell him, then, sir, that whatever he wishes to know shall be
explained to him in about a week. At present I can give no other
"Very well, madam; he will wait that time, I am sure, for he does not
wish to put you to any inconvenience. But when he heard the gentleman
was gone abroad without owning his marriage, he thought it high time to
take some notice of the matter."
Cecilia, who by this speech found she was every way discovered, was
again in the utmost confusion, and with much trepidation, said, "since
you seem so well, sir, acquainted with this affair, I should be glad
you would inform me by what means you came to the knowledge of it?"
"I heard it, madam, from Mr Eggleston himself, who has long known it."
"Long, sir?--impossible! when it is not yet a fortnight--not ten days,
or no more, that---"
She stopt, recollecting she was making a confession better deferred.
"That, madam," he answered, "may perhaps bear a little contention: for
when this business comes to be settled, it will be very essential to be
exact as to the time, even to the very hour; for a large income per
annum, divides into a small one per diem: and if your husband keeps his
own name, you must not only give up your uncle's inheritance from the
time of relinquishing yours, but refund from the very day of your
"There is not the least doubt of it," answered she; nor will the
smallest difficulty be made."
"You will please, then, to recollect, madam, that this sum is every
hour encreasing; and has been since last September, which made half a
year accountable for last March. Since then there is now added---"
"Good Heaven, Sir," cried Cecilia, "what calculation are you making
out? do you call last week last September?"
"No, madam; but I call last September the month in which you were
"You will find yourself, then, sir, extremely mistaken; and Mr
Eggleston is preparing himself for much disappointment, if he supposes
me so long in arrears with him."
"Mr Eggleston, madam, happens to be well informed of this transaction,
as, if there is any dispute in it, you will find. He was your immediate
successor in the house to which you went last September in Pall-Mall;
the woman who kept it acquainted his servants that the last lady who
hired it stayed with her but a day, and only came to town, she found,
to be married: and hearing, upon enquiry, this lady was Miss Beverley,
the servants, well knowing that their master was her conditional heir,
told him the circumstance."
"You will find all this, sir, end in nothing."
"That, madam, as I said before, remains to be proved. If a young lady
at eight o'clock in the morning, is seen,--and she was seen, going into
a church with a young gentleman, and one female friend; and is
afterwards observed to come out of it, followed by a clergyman and
another person, supposed to have officiated as father, and is seen get
into a coach with same young gentleman, and same female friend, why the
circumstances are pretty strong!--"
"They may seem so, Sir; but all conclusions drawn from them will be
erroneous. I was not married then, upon my honour!"
"We have little, madam, to do with professions; the circumstances are
strong enough to bear a trial, and--"
"We have traced, madam, many witnesses able to stand to divers
particulars; and eight months share of such an estate as this, is well
worth a little trouble."
"I am amazed, sir! surely Mr Eggleston never desired you to make use of
this language to me?"
"Mr Eggleston, madam, has behaved very honourably; though he knew the
whole affair so long ago, he was persuaded Mr Delvile had private
reasons for a short concealment; and expecting every day when they
would be cleared up by his taking your name, he never interfered: but
being now informed he set out last week for the continent, he has been
advised by his friends to claim his rights."
"That claim, sir, he need not fear will be satisfied; and without any
occasion for threats of enquiries or law suits."
"The truth, madam, is this; Mr Eggleston is at present in a little
difficulty about some money matters, which makes it a point with him of
some consequence to have the affair settled speedily: unless you could
conveniently compromise the matter, by advancing a particular sum, till
it suits you to refund the whole that is due to him, and quit the
"Nothing, sir, is due to him! at least, nothing worth mentioning. I
shall enter into no terms, for I have no compromise to make. As to the
premises, I will quit them with all the expedition in my power."
"You will do well, madam; for the truth is, it will not be convenient
to him to wait much longer."
He then went away.
"When, next," cried Cecilia, "shall I again be weak, vain, blind enough
to form any plan with a hope of secresy? or enter, with _any_ hope,
into a clandestine scheme! betrayed by those I have trusted, discovered
by those I have not thought of, exposed to the cruellest alarms, and
defenceless from the most shocking attacks!--Such has been the life I
have led since the moment I first consented to a private engagement!--
Ah Delvile! your mother, in her tenderness, forgot her dignity, or she
would not have concurred in an action which to such disgrace made me
It was necessary, however, not to moralize, but to act; Cecilia had
undertaken to give her answer in a week, and the artful attorney had
drawn from her an acknowledgment of her situation, by which he might
claim it yet sooner.
The law-suit with which she was threatened for the arrears of eight
months, alarmed her not, though it shocked her, as she was certain she
could prove her marriage so much later.
It was easy to perceive that this man had been sent with a view of
working from her a confession, and terrifying from her some money; the
confession, indeed, in conscience and honesty she could not wholly
elude, but she had suffered too often by a facility in parting with
money to be there easily duped.
Nothing, however, was more true, than that she now lived upon an estate
of which she no longer was the owner, and that all she either spent or
received was to be accounted for and returned, since by the will of her
uncle, unless her husband took her name, her estate on the very day of
her marriage was to be forfeited, and entered upon by the Egglestons.
Delvile's plan and hope of secresy had made them little weigh this
matter, though this premature discovery so unexpectedly exposed her to
The first thought that occurred to her, was to send an express to
Delvile, and desire his instructions how to proceed; but she dreaded
his impetuosity of temper, and was almost certain that the instant he
should hear she was in any uneasiness or perplexity, he would return to
her, at all hazards, even though Mr Monckton were dead, and his mother
herself dying. This step, therefore, she did not dare risk, preferring
any personal hardship, to endangering the already precarious life of
Mrs Delvile, or to hastening her son home while Mr Monckton was in so
desperate a situation.
But though what to avoid was easy to settle, what to seek was difficult
to devise. She bad now no Mrs Charlton to receive her, not a creature
in whom she could confide. To continue her present way of living was
deeply involving Delvile in debt, a circumstance she had never
considered, in the confusion and hurry attending all their plans and
conversations, and a circumstance which, though to him it might have
occurred, he could not in common delicacy mention.
Yet to have quitted her house, and retrenched her expences, would have
raised suspicions that must have anticipated the discovery she so much
wished to have delayed. That wish, by the present danger of its
failure, was but more ardent; to have her affairs and situation become
publicly known at the present period, she felt would half distract
her.--Privately married, parted from her husband at the very moment of
their union, a husband by whose hand the apparent friend of her
earliest youth was all but killed, whose father had execrated the
match, whose mother was now falling a sacrifice to the vehemence with
which she had opposed it, and who himself, little short of an exile,
knew not yet if, with personal safety, he might return to his native
land! To circumstances so dreadful, she had now the additional shock of
being uncertain whether her own house might not be seized, before any
other could be prepared for her reception!
Yet still whither to go, what to do, or what to resolve, she was wholly
unable to determine; and after meditating almost to madness in the
search of some plan or expedient, she was obliged to give over the
attempt, and be satisfied with remaining quietly where she was, till
she had better news from Delvile of his mother, or better news to send
him of Mr Monckton; carefully, mean time, in all her letters avoiding
to alarm him by any hint of her distress.
Yet was she not idle, either from despair or helplessness: she found
her difficulties encreased, and she called forth more resolution to
combat them: she animated herself by the promise she had made Delvile,
and recovering from the sadness to which she had at first given way,
she now exerted herself with vigour to perform it as she ought.
She began by making an immediate inspection into her affairs, and
endeavouring, where expence seemed unnecessary, to lessen it. She gave
Henrietta to understand she feared they must soon part; and so
afflicted was the unhappy girl at the news, that she found it the most
cruel office she had to execute. The same intimation she gave to Mrs
Harrel, who repined at it more openly, but with a selfishness so
evident that it blunted the edge of pity. She then announced to Albany
her inability to pursue, at present, their extensive schemes of
benevolence; and though he instantly left her, to carry on his
laborious plan elsewhere, the reverence she had now excited in him of
her character, made him leave her with no sensation but of regret, and
readily promise to return when her affairs were settled, or her mind
These little preparations, which were all she could make, with
enquiries after Mr Monckton, and writing to Delvile, sufficiently
filled up her time, though her thoughts were by no means confined to
them. Day after day passed, and Mr Monckton continued to linger rather
than live; the letters of Delvile, still only dated from Ostend,
contained the most melancholy complaints of the illness of his mother;
and the time advanced when her answer would be claimed by the attorney.
The thought of such another visit was almost intolerable; and within
two days of the time that she expected it, she resolved to endeavour
herself to prevail with Mr Eggleston to wait longer.
Mr Eggleston was a gentleman whom she knew little more than by sight;
he was no relation to her family, nor had any connection with the Dean,
but by being a cousin to a lady he had married, and who had left him no
children. The dean had no particular regard for him, and had rather
mentioned him in his will as the successor of Cecilia, in case she died
unmarried or changed her name, as a mark that he approved of her doing
neither, than as a matter he thought probable, if even possible, to
turn out in his favour.
He was a man of a large family, the sons of which, who were extravagant
and dissipated, had much impaired his fortune by prevailing with him to
pay their debts, and much distressed him in his affairs by successfully
teasing him for money.
Cecilia, acquainted with these circumstances, knew but too well with
what avidity her estate would be seized by them, and how little the
sons would endure delay, even if the father consented to it. Yet since
the sacrifice to which she had agreed must soon make it indisputably
their own, she determined to deal with them openly; and acknowledged,
therefore, in her letter, her marriage without disguise, but begged
their patience and secresy, and promised, in a short time, the most
honourable retribution and satisfaction.
She sent this letter by a man and horse, Mr Eggleston's habitation
being within fifteen miles of her own.
The answer was from his eldest son, who acquainted her that his father
was very ill, and had put all his affairs into the hands of Mr Carn,
his attorney, who was a man of great credit, and would see justice done
on all sides.
If this answer, which she broke open the instant she took it into her
hand, was in itself a cruel disappointment to her, how was that
disappointment embittered by shame and terror, when, upon again folding
it up, she saw it was directed to Mrs Mortimer Delvile!
This was a decisive stroke; what they wrote to her, she was sure they
would mention to all others; she saw they were too impatient for her
estate to be moved by any representations to a delay, and that their
eagerness to publish their right, took from them all consideration of
what they might make her suffer. Mr Eggleston, she found, permitted
himself to be wholly governed by his son; his son was a needy and
profligate spendthrift, and by throwing the management of the affair
into the hands of an attorney, craftily meant to shield himself from
the future resentment of Delvile, to whom, hereafter, he might affect,
at his convenience, to disapprove Mr Carn's behaviour, while Mr Carn
was always secure, by averring he only exerted himself for the interest
of his client.
The discerning Cecilia, though but little experienced in business, and
wholly unsuspicious by nature, yet saw into this management, and
doubted not these excuses were already arranged. She had only,
therefore, to save herself an actual ejectment, by quitting a house in
which she was exposed to such a disgrace.
But still whither to go she knew not! One only attempt seemed in her
power for an honourable asylum, and that was more irksomely painful to
her than seeking shelter in the meanest retreat: it was applying to Mr
The action of leaving her house, whether quietly or forcibly, could not
but instantly authenticate the reports spread by the Egglestons of her
marriage: to hope therefore for secresy any longer would be folly, and
Mr Delvile's rage at such intelligence might be still greater to hear
it by chance than from herself. She now lamented that Delvile had not
at once told the tale, but, little foreseeing such a discovery as the
present, they had mutually concluded to defer the communication till
Her own anger at the contemptuous ill treatment she had repeatedly met
from him, she was now content not merely to suppress but to dismiss,
since, as the wife of his son without his consent, she considered
herself no longer as wholly innocent of incurring it. Yet, such was her
dread of his austerity and the arrogance of his reproaches, that, by
choice, she would have preferred an habitation with her own pensioner,
the pew-opener, to the grandest apartment in Delvile Castle while he
continued its lord.
In her present situation, however, her choice was little to be
consulted: the honour of Delvile was concerned in her escaping even
temporary disgrace, and nothing, she knew, would so much gratify him,
as any attention from her to his father. She wrote to him, therefore,
the following letter, which she sent by an express.
_To the Hon. Compton Delvile.
April 29th_, 1780.
SIR,--I should not, even by letter, presume thus to force myself upon
your remembrance, did I not think it a duty I now owe your son, both to
risk and to bear the displeasure it may unhappily occasion. After such
an acknowledgment, all other confession would be superfluous; and
uncertain as I am if you will ever deign to own me, more words than are
necessary would be merely impertinent.
It was the intention of your son, Sir, when he left the kingdom, to
submit wholly to your arbitration, at his return, which should be
resigned, his own name or my fortune: but his request for your
decision, and his supplication for your forgiveness, are both, most
unfortunately, prevented, by a premature and unforeseen discovery of
our situation, which renders an immediate determination absolutely
At this distance from him, I cannot, in time, receive his directions
upon the measures I have to take; pardon me then, Sir, if well knowing
my reference to him will not be more implicit than his own to you, I
venture, in the present important crisis of my affairs, to entreat
those commands instantly, by which I am certain of being guided
I would commend myself to your favour but that I dread exciting your
resentment. I will detain you, therefore, only to add, that the father
of Mr Mortimer Delvile, will ever meet the most profound respect from
her who, without his permission, dare sign no name to the honour she
now has in declaring herself his most humble, and most obedient
* * * * *
Her mind was somewhat easier when this letter was written, because she
thought it a duty, yet felt reluctance in performing it. She wished to
have represented to him strongly the danger of Delvile's hearing her
distress, but she knew so well his inordinate self-sufficiency, she
feared a hint of that sort might be construed into an insult, and
concluded her only chance that he would do any thing, was by leaving
wholly to his own suggestions the weighing and settling what.
But though nothing was more uncertain than whether she should be
received at Delvile Castle, nothing was more fixed than that she must
quit her own house, since the pride of Mr Delvile left not even a
chance that his interest would conquer it. She deferred not, therefore,
any longer making preparations for her removal, though wholly unsettled
Her first, which was also her most painful task, was to acquaint
Henrietta with her situation: she sent, therefore, to desire to speak
with her, but the countenance of Henrietta shewed her communication
would not surprise her.
"What is the matter with my dear Henrietta?" cried Cecilia; "who is it
has already afflicted that kind heart which I am now compelled to
afflict for myself?"
Henrietta, in whom anger appeared to be struggling with sorrow,
answered, "No, madam, not afflicted for _you_! it would be strange if I
were, thinking as I think!"
"I am glad," said Cecilia, calmly, "if you are not, for I would give to
you, were it possible, nothing but pleasure and joy."
"Ah madam!" cried Henrietta, bursting into tears, "why will you say so
when you don't care what becomes of me! when you are going to cast me
off!--and when you will soon be too happy ever to think of me more!"
"If I am never happy till then," said Cecilia, "sad, indeed, will be my
life! no, my gentlest friend, you will always have your share in my
heart; and always, to me, would have been the welcomest guest in my
house, but for those unhappy circumstances which make our separating
"Yet you suffered me, madam, to hear from any body that you was married
and going away; and all the common servants in the house knew it before
"I am amazed!" said Cecilia; "how and which way can they have heard
"The man that went to Mr Eggleston brought the first news of it, for he
said all the servants there talked of nothing else, and that their
master was to come and take possession here next Thursday."
Cecilia started at this most unwelcome intelligence; "Yet you envy me,"
she cried, "Henrietta, though I am forced from my house! though in
quitting it, I am unprovided with any other, and though him for whom I
relinquish it, is far off, without means of protecting, or power of
returning to me!"
"But you are married to him, madam!" cried she, expressively.
"True, my love; but, also, I am parted from him!"
"Oh how differently," exclaimed Henrietta, "do the great think from the
little! were _I_ married,--and _so_ married, I should want neither
house, nor fine cloaths, nor riches, nor any thing;--I should not care
where I lived,--every place would be paradise! I would walk to him
barefoot if he were a thousand miles off, and I should mind nobody else
in the world while I had him to take care of me!"
Ah Delvile! thought Cecilia, what powers of fascination are yours!
should I be tempted to repine at what I have to bear, I will think of
this heroick girl and blush!
Mrs Harrel now broke in upon them, eager to be informed of the truth or
falsehood of the reports which were buzzed throughout the house.
Cecilia briefly related to them both the state of her affairs,
earnestly expressing her concern at the abrupt separation which must
take place, and for which she had been unable to prepare them, as the
circumstances which led to it had been wholly unforeseen by herself.
Mrs Harrel listened to the account with much curiosity and surprize;
but Henrietta wept incessantly in hearing it: the object of a passion
ardent as it was romantic, lost to her past recovery; torn herself,
probably for ever, from the best friend she had in the world; and
obliged to return thus suddenly to an home she detested,--Henrietta
possessed not the fortitude to hear evils such as these, which, to her
inexperienced heart, appeared the severest that could be inflicted.
This conversation over, Cecilia sent for her Steward, and desired him,
with the utmost expedition, to call in all her bills, and instantly to
go round to her tenants within twenty miles, and gather in, from those
who were able to pay, the arrears now due to her; charging him,
however, upon no account, to be urgent with such as seemed distressed.
The bills she had to pay were collected without difficulty; she never
owed much, and creditors are seldom hard of access; but the money she
hoped to receive fell very short of her expectations, for the
indulgence she had shewn to her tenants had ill prepared them for so
sudden a demand.
This business effectually occupied the present and following day; the
third, Cecilia expected her answer from Delvile Castle, and the visit
she so much dreaded from the attorney.
The answer arrived first.
_To Miss Beverley_.
MADAM,--As my son has never apprized me of the extraordinary step which
your letter intimates, I am too unwilling to believe him capable of so
far forgetting what he owes his family, to ratify any such intimation
by interfering with my counsel or opinion.--I am, Madam, &c.,
DELVILE CASTLE, _May 1st, 1780_.
Cecilia had little right to be surprised by this letter, and she had
not a moment to comment upon it, before the attorney arrived.
"Well, madam," said the man, as he entered the parlour, "Mr Eggleston
has stayed your own time very patiently: he commissions me now to
enquire if it is convenient to you to quit the premises."
"No, Sir, it is by no means convenient to me; and if Mr Eggleston will
wait some time longer, I shall be greatly obliged to him."
"No doubt, madam, but he will, upon proper considerations."
"What, Sir, do you call proper?"
"Upon your advancing to him, as I hinted before, an immediate
particular sum from what must, by and bye, be legally restituted."
"If this is the condition of his courtesy, I will quit the house
without giving him further trouble."
"Just as it suits you, madam. He will be glad to take possession to-
morrow or next day."
"You did well, Sir, to commend his patience! I shall, however, merely
discharge my servants, and settle my accounts, and be ready to make way
"You will not take it amiss, madam, if I remind you that the account
with Mr Eggleston must be the first that is settled."
"If you mean the arrears of this last fortnight or three weeks, I
believe I must desire him to wait Mr Delvile's return, as I may
otherwise myself be distressed for ready money."
"That, madam, is not likely, as it is well known you have a fortune
that was independent of your late uncle; and as to distress for ready
money, it is a plea Mr Eggleston can urge much more strongly."
"This is being strangely hasty, Sir!--so short a time as it is since Mr
Eggleston could expect _any_ of this estate!"
"That, madam, is nothing to the purpose; from the moment it is his, he
has as many wants for it as any other gentleman. He desired me,
however, to acquaint you, that if you still chose an apartment in this
house, till Mr Delvile returns, you shall have one at your service."
"To be a _guest_ in this house, Sir," said Cecilia, drily, "might
perhaps seem strange to me; I will not, therefore, be so much in his
Mr Carn then informed her she might put her seal upon whatever she
meant hereafter to claim or dispute, and took his leave.
Cecilia now shut herself up in her own room, to meditate without
interruption, before she would proceed to any action. She felt much
inclination to send instantly for some lawyer; but when she considered
her peculiar situation, the absence of her husband, the renunciation of
his father, the loss of her fortune, and her ignorance upon the
subject, she thought it better to rest quiet till Delvile's own fate,
and own opinion could be known, than to involve herself in a lawsuit
she was so little able to superintend.
In this cruel perplexity of her mind and her affairs, her first thought
was to board again with Mrs Bayley; but that was soon given up, for she
felt a repugnance unconquerable to continuing in her native county,
when deprived of her fortune, and cast out of her dwelling.
Her situation, indeed, was singularly unhappy, since, by this
unforeseen vicissitude of fortune, she was suddenly, from being an
object of envy and admiration, sunk into distress, and threatened with
disgrace; from being every where caressed, and by every voice praised,
she blushed to be seen, and expected to be censured; and, from being
generally regarded as an example of happiness, and a model of virtue,
she was now in one moment to appear to the world, an outcast from her
own house, yet received into no other! a bride, unclaimed by a husband!
an HEIRESS, dispossessed of all wealth!
To be first acknowledged as _Mrs Delvile_ in a state so degrading, she
could not endure; and to escape from it, one way alone remained, which
was going instantly abroad.
Upon this, therefore, she finally determined: her former objections to
such a step being now wholly, though unpleasantly removed, since she
had neither estate nor affairs to demand her stay, and since all hopes
of concealment were totally at an end. Her marriage, therefore, and its
disgraceful consequences being published to the world, she resolved
without delay to seek the only asylum which was proper for her, in the
protection of the husband for whom she had given up every other.
She purposed, therefore, to go immediately and privately to London,
whence she could best settle her route for the continent: where she
hoped to arrive before the news of her distress reached Delvile, whom
nothing, she was certain, but her own presence, could keep there for a
moment after hearing it.
Thus decided, at length, in her plan, she proceeded to put it in
execution with calmness and intrepidity; comforting herself that the
conveniencies and indulgencies with which she was now parting, would
soon be restored to her, and though not with equal power, with far more
satisfaction. She told her steward her design of going the next morning
to London, bid him pay instantly all her debts, and discharge all her
servants, determining to keep no account open but that with Mr
Eggleston, which he had made so intricate by double and undue demands,
that she thought it most prudent and safe to leave him wholly to
She then packed up all her papers and letters, and ordered her maid to
pack up her clothes.
She next put her own seal upon her cabinets, draws, and many other
things, and employed almost all her servants at once, in making
complete inventories of what every room contained.
She advised Mrs Harrel to send without delay for Mr Arnott, and return
to his house. She had first purposed to carry Henrietta home to her
mother herself; but another scheme for her now occurred, from which she
hoped much future advantage to the amiable and dejected girl.
She knew well, that deep as was at present her despondency, the removal
of all possibility of hope, by her knowledge of Delvile's marriage,
must awaken her before long from the delusive visions of her romantic
fancy; Mr Arnott himself was in a situation exactly similar, and the
knowledge of the same event would probably be productive of the same
effect. When Mrs Harrel, therefore, began to repine at the solitude to
which she was returning, Cecilia proposed to her the society of
Henrietta, which, glad to catch at any thing that would break into her
loneliness, she listened to with pleasure, and seconded by an
Henrietta, to whom all houses appeared preferable to her own home,
joyfully accepted the offer, committing to Cecilia the communication of
the change of her abode to Mrs Belfield.
Cecilia, who in the known and tried honour of Mr Arnott would
unreluctantly have trusted a sister, was much pleased by this little
arrangement, from which should no good ensue, no evil, at least, was
probable. But she hoped, through the mutual pity their mutual
melancholy might inspire, that their minds, already not dissimilar,
would be softened in favour of each other, and that, in conclusion,
each might be happy in receiving the consolation each could give, and a
union would take place, in which their reciprocal disappointment might,
in time, be nearly forgotten.
There was not, indeed, much promise of such an event in the countenance
of Mr Arnott, when, late at night, he came for his sister, nor in the
unbounded sorrow of Henrietta, when the moment of leave-taking
arrived. Mr Arnott looked half dead with the shock his sister's
intelligence had given him, and Henrietta's heart, torn asunder between
friendship and love, was scarce able to bear a parting, which from
Cecilia, she regarded as eternal, added to the consciousness it was
occasioned by her going to join Delvile for life!
Cecilia, who both read and pitied these conflicting emotions, was
herself extremely hurt by this necessary separation. She tenderly loved
Henrietta, she loved her even the more for the sympathy of their
affections, which called forth the most forcible commiseration,--that
which springs from fellow-feeling!
"Farewell," she cried, "my Henrietta, be but happy as you are innocent,
and be both as I love you, and nothing will your friends have to wish
for you, or yourself to regret."
"I must always regret," cried the sobbing Henrietta, "that I cannot
live with you for ever! I should regret it if I were queen of all the
world, how much more then, when I am nothing and nobody! I do not wish
_you_ happy, madam, for I think happiness was made on purpose for you,
and nobody else ever had it before; I only wish you health and long
life, for the sake of those who will be made as happy as you,--for you
will spoil them,--as you have spoilt me,--from being ever happy without
Cecilia re-iterated her assurances of a most faithful regard, embraced
Mrs Harrel, spoke words of kindness to the drooping Mr Arnott, and then
parted with them all.
Having still many small matters to settle, and neither company nor
appetite, she would eat no supper; but, in passing thro' the hall, in
her way to her own room, she was much surprised to see all her
domestics assembled in a body. She stopt to enquire their intention,
when they eagerly pressed forward, humbly and earnestly entreating to
know why they were discharged? "For no reason in the world," cried
Cecilia, "but because it is at present out of my power to keep you any
"Don't part with _me_, madam, for that," cried one of them, "for I will
serve you for nothing!"
"So will I!" cried another, "And I!" "And I!" was echoed by them all;
while "no other such mistress is to be found!" "We can never bear any
other place!" and "keep _me_, madam, at least!" was even clamorously
urged by each of them.
Cecilia, distressed and flattered at once by their unwillingness to
quit her, received this testimony of gratitude for the kind and liberal
treatment they had received, with the warmest thanks both for their
services and fidelity, and assured them that when again she was
settled, all those who should be yet unprovided with places, should be
preferred in her house before any other claimants.
Having, with difficulty, broken from them, she sent for her own man,
Ralph, who had lived with her many years before the death of the Dean,
and told him she meant still to continue him in her service. The man
heard it with great delight, and promised to re-double his diligence to
deserve her favour. She then communicated the same news to her maid,
who had also resided with her some years, and by whom with the same, or
more pleasure it was heard.
These and other regulations employed her almost all night; yet late and
fatigued as she went to bed, she could not close her eyes: fearful
something was left undone, she robbed herself of the short time she had
allowed to rest, by incessant meditation upon what yet remained to be
executed. She could recollect, however, one only thing that had escaped
her vigilance, which was acquainting the pew-opener, and two or three
other poor women who had weekly pensions from her, that they must, at
least for the present, depend no longer upon her assistance.
Nothing indeed could be more painful to her than giving them such
information, yet not to be speedy with it would double the barbarity of
their disappointment. She even felt for these poor women, whose loss in
her she knew would be irreparable, a compassion that drove from her
mind almost every other subject, and determined her, in order to soften
to them this misfortune, to communicate it herself, that she might
prevent them from sinking under it, by reviving them with hopes of her
She had ordered at seven o'clock in the morning an hired chaise at the
door, and she did not suffer it long to wait for her. She quitted her
house with a heart full of care and anxiety, grieving at the necessity
of making such a sacrifice, uncertain how it would turn out, and
labouring under a thousand perplexities with respect to the measures
she ought immediately to take. She passed, when she reached the hall,
through a row of weeping domestics, not one of whom with dry eyes could
see the house bereft of such a mistress. She spoke to them all with
kindness, and as much as was in her power with chearfulness: but the
tone of her voice gave them little reason to think the concern at this
journey was all their own.
She ordered her chaise to drive round to the pew-opener's and thence to
the rest of her immediate dependents. She soon, however, regretted that
she had given herself this task; the affliction of these poor
pensioners was clamorous, was almost heart-breaking; they could live,
they said, no longer, they were ruined for ever; they should soon be
without bread to eat, and they might cry for help in vain, when their
generous, their only benefactress was far away!
Cecilia made the kindest efforts, to comfort and encourage them,
assuring them the very moment her own affairs were arranged, she would
remember them all, visit them herself, and contribute to their relief,
with all the power she should have left. Nothing, however, could
console them; they clung about her, almost took the horses from the
chaise, and conjured her not to desert those who were solely cherished
by her bounty!
Nor was this all she had to suffer; the news of her intention to quit
the county was now reported throughout the neighbourhood, and had
spread the utmost consternation among the poor in general, and the
lower close of her own tenants in particular, and the road was soon
lined with women and children, wringing their hands and crying. They
followed her carriage with supplications that she would return to them,
mixing blessings with their lamentations, and prayers for her happiness
with the bitterest repinings at their own loss!
Cecilia was extremely affected; her liberal and ever-ready hand was
every other instant involuntarily seeking her purse, which her many
immediate expences, made her prudence as often check: and now first she
felt the capital error she had committed, in living constantly to the
utmost extent of her income, without ever preparing, though so able to
have done it, against any unfortunate contingency.
When she escaped, at last, from receiving any longer this painful
tribute to her benevolence, she gave orders to her man to ride forward
and stop at the Grove, that a precise and minute account of Mr
Monckton, might be the last, as it was now become the most important,
news she should hear in Suffolk. This he did, when to her equal
surprise and delight, she heard that he was suddenly so much better,
there were hopes of his recovery.
Intelligence so joyful made her amends for almost every thing; yet she