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“that we shall be able by and bye to do something better for him; for he has got one friend in the world, yet; thank God, and such a noble friend!–indeed I believe he can do whatever he pleases for him,–that is I mean I believe if he was to ask any thing for him, there’s nobody would deny him. And this is what I wanted to talk to you about.”–

Cecilia, who doubted not but she meant Delvile, scarce knew how to press the subject, though she came with no other view: Henrietta, however, too eager to want solicitation, went on.

“But the question is whether we shall be able to prevail upon my brother to accept any thing, for he grows more and more unwilling to be obliged, and the reason is, that being poor, he is afraid, I believe, people should think he wants to beg of them: though if they knew him as well as I do, they would not long think that, for I am sure he would a great deal rather be starved to death. But indeed, to say the truth, I am afraid he has been sadly to blame in this affair, and quarrelled when there was no need to be affronted; for I have seen a gentleman who knows a great deal better than my brother what people should do, and he says he took every thing wrong that was done, all the time he was at Lord Vannelt’s.”

“And how does this gentleman know it?”

“O because he went himself to enquire about it; for he knows Lord Vannelt very well, and it was by his means my brother came acquainted with him. And this gentleman would not have wished my brother to be used ill any more than I should myself, so I am sure I may believe what he says. But my poor brother, not being a lord himself, thought every body meant to be rude to him, and because he knew he was poor, he suspected they all behaved disrespectfully to him. But this gentleman gave me his word that every body liked him and esteemed him, and if he would not have been so suspicious, they would all have done any thing for him in the world.”

“You know this gentleman very well, then?”

“O no, madam!” she answered hastily, “I don’t know him at all! he only comes here to see my brother; it would be very impertinent for me to call him an acquaintance of mine.”

“Was it before your brother, then, he held this conversation with you?”

“O no, my brother would have been affronted with him, too, if he had! but he called here to enquire for him at the time when he was lost to us, and my mother quite went down upon her knees to him to beg him to go to Lord Vannelt’s, and make excuses for him, if he had not behaved properly: but if my brother was to know this, he would hardly speak to her again! so when this gentleman came next, I begged him not to mention it, for my mother happened to be out, and so I saw him alone.”

“And did he stay with you long?”

“No, ma’am, a very short time indeed; but I asked him questions all the while, and kept him as long as I could, that I might hear all he had to say about my brother.”

“Have you never seen him since?”

“No, ma’am, not once! I suppose he does not know my brother is come back to us. Perhaps when he does, he will call.”

“Do you wish him to call?”

“Me?” cried she, blushing, “a little;–sometimes I do;–for my brother’s sake.”

“For your brother’s sake! Ah my dear Henrietta! but tell me,–or _don’t_ tell me if you had rather not,–did I not once see you kissing a letter? perhaps it was from this same noble friend?”

“It was not a letter, madam,” said she, looking down, “it was only the cover of one to my brother.”

“The cover of a letter only!–and that to your brother!–is it possible you could so much value it?”

“Ah madam! _You_, who are always used to the good and the wise, who see no other sort of people but those in high life, _you_ can have no notion how they strike those that they are new to!–but I who see them seldom, and who live with people so very unlike them–Oh you cannot guess how sweet to _me_ is every thing that belongs to them! whatever has but once been touched by their hands, I should like to lock up, and keep for ever! though if I was used to them, as you are, perhaps I might think less of them.”

Alas! thought Cecilia, who by _them_ knew she only meant _him_, little indeed would further intimacy protect you!

“We are all over-ready,” continued Henrietta, “to blame others, and that is the way I have been doing all this time myself; but I don’t blame my poor brother now for living so with the great as I used to do, for now I have seen a little more of the world, I don’t wonder any longer at his behaviour: for I know how it is, and I see that those who have had good educations, and kept great company, and mixed with the world,–O it is another thing!–they seem quite a different species!– they are so gentle, so soft-mannered! nothing comes from them but what is meant to oblige! they seem as if they only lived to give pleasure to other people, and as if they never thought at all of themselves!”

“Ah Henrietta!” said Cecilia, shaking her head, “you have caught the enthusiasm of your brother, though you so long condemned it! Oh have a care lest, like him also, you find it as pernicious as it is alluring!”

“There, is no danger for _me_, madam,” answered she, “for the people I so much admire are quite out of my reach. I hardly ever even see them; and perhaps it may so happen I may see them no more!”

“The people?” said Cecilia, smiling, “are there, then, many you so much distinguish?”

“Oh no indeed!” cried she, eagerly, “there is only one! there _can_ be –I mean there are only a few–” she checked herself, and stopt.

“Whoever you admire,” cried Cecilia, “your admiration cannot but honour: yet indulge it not too far, lest it should wander from your heart to your peace, and make you wretched for life.”

“Ah madam!–I see you know who is the particular person I was thinking of! but indeed you are quite mistaken if you suppose any thing bad of me!”

“Bad of you!” cried Cecilia, embracing her, “I scarce think so well of any one!”

“But I mean, madam, if you think I forget he is so much above me. But indeed I never do; for I only admire him for his goodness to my brother, and never think of him at all, but just by way of comparing him, sometimes, to the other people that I see, because he makes me hate them so, that I wish I was never to see them again.”

“His acquaintance, then,” said Cecilia, “has done you but an ill office, and happy it would be for you could you forget you had ever made it.”

“O, I shall never do that! for the more I think of him, the more I am out of humour with every body else! O Miss Beverley! we have a sad acquaintance indeed! I’m sure I don’t wonder my brother was so ashamed of them. They are all so rude, and so free, and put one so out of countenance,–O how different is this person you are thinking of! he would not distress anybody, or make one ashamed for all the world! _You_ only are like him! always gentle, always obliging!–sometimes I think you must be his sister–once, too, I heard–but that was contradicted.”

A deep sigh escaped Cecilia at this speech; she guessed too well what she might have heard, and she knew too well how it might be contradicted.

“Surely, _you_ cannot be unhappy, Miss Beverley!” said Henrietta, with a look of mingled surprise and concern.

“I have much, I own,” cried Cecilia, assuming more chearfulness, “to be thankful for, and I endeavour not to forget it.”

“O how often do I think,” cried Henrietta, “that you, madam, are the happiest person in the world! with every thing at your own disposal,– with every body in love with you, with all the money that you can wish for, and so much sweetness that nobody can envy you it! with power to keep just what company you please, and every body proud to be one of the number!–Oh if I could chuse who I would be, I should sooner say Miss Beverley than any princess in the world!”

Ah, thought Cecilia, if such is my situation,–how cruel that by one dreadful blow all its happiness should be thrown away!

“Were I a rich lady, like you,” continued Henrietta, “and quite in my own power, then, indeed, I might soon think of nothing but those people that I admire! and that makes me often wonder that _you_, madam, who are just such another as himself–but then, indeed, you may see so many of the same sort, that just this one may not so much strike you: and for that reason I hope with all my heart that he will never be married as long as he lives, for as he must take some lady in just such high life as his own, I should always be afraid that she would never love him as she ought to do!”

He need not now be single, thought Cecilia, were that all he had cause to apprehend!

“I often think,” added Henrietta, “that the rich would be as much happier for marrying the poor, as the poor for marrying the rich, for then they would take somebody that would try to deserve their kindness, and now they only take those that know they have a right to it. Often and often have I thought so about this very gentleman! and sometimes when I have been in his company, and seen his civility and his sweetness, I have fancied I was rich and grand myself, and it has quite gone out of my head that I was nothing but poor Henrietta Belfield!”

“Did he, then,” cried Cecilia a little alarmed, “ever seek to ingratiate himself into your favour?”

“No, never! but when treated with so much softness, ’tis hard always to remember one’s meanness! You, madam, have no notion of that task: no more had I myself till lately, for I cared not who was high, nor who was low: but now, indeed, I must own I have some times wished myself richer! yet he assumes so little, that at other times, I have almost forgot all distance between us, and even thought–Oh foolish thought!–

“Tell it, sweet Henrietta, however!”

“I will tell you, madam, every thing! for my heart has been bursting to open itself, and nobody have I dared trust. I have thought, then, I have sometimes thought,–my true affection, my faithful fondness, my glad obedience,–might make him, if he did but know them, happier in me than in a greater lady!”

“Indeed,” cried Cecilia, extremely affected by this plaintive tenderness, “I believe it–and were I him, I could not, I think, hesitate a moment in my choice!”

Henrietta now, hearing her mother coming in, made a sign to her to be silent; but Mrs Belfield had not been an instant in the passage, before a thundering knocking at the street-door occasioned it to be instantly re-opened. A servant then enquired if Mrs Belfield was at home, and being answered by herself in the affirmative, a chair was brought into the house.

But what was the astonishment of Cecilia, when, in another moment, she heard from the next parlour the voice of Mr Delvile senior, saying, “Your servant, ma’am; Mrs Belfield, I presume?”

There was no occasion, now, to make a sign to her of silence, for her own amazement was sufficient to deprive her of speech.

“Yes, Sir,” answered Mrs Belfield; “but I suppose, Sir, you are some gentleman to my son.”

“No, madam,” he returned, “my business is with yourself.”

Cecilia now recovering from her surprise, determined to hasten unnoticed out of the house, well knowing that to be seen in it would be regarded as a confirmation of all that he had asserted. She whispered, therefore, to Henrietta, that she must instantly run away, but, upon softly opening the door leading to the passage, she found Mr Delvile’s chairmen, and a footman there in waiting.

She closed it again, irresolute what to do: but after a little deliberation, she concluded to out-stay him, as she was known to all his servants, who would not fail to mention seeing her; and a retreat so private was worse than any other risk. A chair was also in waiting for herself, but it was a hackney one, and she could not be known by it; and her footman she had fortunately dismissed, as he had business to transact for her journey next day.

Mean-while the thinness of the partition between the two parlours made her hearing every word that was said unavoidable.

“I am sure, Sir, I shall be very willing to oblige you,” Mrs Belfield answered; “but pray, Sir, what’s your name?”

“My name, ma’am,” he replied, in a rather elevated voice, “I am seldom obliged to announce myself; nor is there any present necessity I should make it known. It is sufficient I assure you, you are speaking to no very common person, and probably to one you will have little chance to meet with again.”

“But how can I tell your business, Sir, if I don’t so much as know your name?”

“My business, madam, I mean to tell myself; your affair is only to hear it. I have some questions, indeed, to ask, which I must trouble you to answer, but they will sufficiently explain themselves to prevent any difficulty upon your part. There is no need, therefore, of any introductory ceremonial.”

“Well, Sir,” said Mrs Belfield, wholly insensible of this ambiguous greatness, “if you mean to make your name a secret.”

“Few names, I believe, ma’am,” cried he, haughtily, “have less the advantage of secrecy than mine! on the contrary, this is but one among a very few houses in this town to which my person would not immediately announce it. That, however, is immaterial; and you will be so good as to rest satisfied with my assurances, that the person with whom you are now conversing, will prove no disgrace to your character.”

Mrs Belfield, overpowered, though hardly knowing, with what, only said _he was very welcome_, and begged him to sit down.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he answered, “My business is but of a moment, and my avocations are too many to suffer my infringing that time. You say you have a son; I have heard of him, also, somewhere before; pray will you give me leave to enquire–I don’t mean to go deep into the matter, –but particular family occurrences make it essential for me to know,– whether there is not a young person of rather a capital fortune, to whom he is supposed to make proposals?”

“Lack-a-day, no, Sir!” answered Mrs Belfield, to the infinite relief of Cecilia, who instantly concluded this question referred to herself.

“I beg your pardon, then; good morning to you, ma’am,” said Mr Delvile, in a tone that spoke his disappointment; but added “And there is no such young person, you say, who favours his pretensions?”

“Dear Sir,” cried she, “why there’s nobody he’ll so much as put the question to! there’s a young lady at this very time, a great fortune, that has as much a mind to him, I tell him, as any man need desire to see; but there’s no making him think it! though he has been brought up at the university, and knows more about all the things, or as much, as any body in the king’s dominions.”

“O, then,” cried Mr Delvile, in a voice of far more complacency, “it is not on the side of the young woman that the difficulty seems to rest?”

“Lord, no, Sir! he might have had her again and again only for asking! She came after him ever so often; but being brought up, as I said, at the university, he thought he knew better than me, and so my preaching was all as good as lost upon him.”

The consternation of Cecilia at these speeches could by nothing be equalled but by the shame of Henrietta, who, though she knew not to whom her mother made them, felt all the disgrace and the shock of them herself.

“I suppose, Sir,” continued Mrs Belfield, “you know my son?”

“No, ma’am, my acquaintance is–not very universal.”

“Then, Sir, you are no judge how well he might make his own terms. And as to this young lady, she found him out, Sir, when not one of his own natural friends could tell where in the world he was gone! She was the first, Sir, to come and tell me news of him though I was his own mother! Love, Sir, is prodigious for quickness! it can see, I sometimes think, through bricks and mortar. Yet all this would not do, he was so obstinate not to take the hint!”

Cecilia now felt so extremely provoked, she was upon the point of bursting in upon them to make her own vindication; but as her passions, though they tried her reason never conquered it, she restrained herself by considering that to issue forth from a room in that house, would do more towards strengthening what was thus boldly asserted, than all her protestations could have chance to destroy.

“And as to young ladies themselves,” continued Mrs Belfield, “they know no more how to make their minds known than a baby does: so I suppose he’ll shilly shally till somebody else will cry snap, and take her. It is but a little while ago that it was all the report she was to have young Mr Delvile, one of her guardian’s sons.”

“I am sorry report was so impertinent,” cried Mr Delvile, with much displeasure; “young Mr Delvile is not to be disposed of with so little ceremony; he knows better what is due to his family.”

Cecilia here blushed from indignation, and Henrietta sighed from despondency.

“Lord, Sir,” answered Mrs Belfield, “what should his family do better? I never heard they were any so rich, and I dare say the old gentleman, being her guardian, took care to put his son enough in her way, however it came about that they did not make a match of it: for as to old Mr Delvile, all the world says—“

“All the world takes a very great liberty,” angrily interrupted Mr Delvile, “in saying any thing about him: and you will excuse my informing you that a person of his rank and consideration, is not lightly to be mentioned upon every little occasion that occurs.”

“Lord, Sir,” cried Mrs Belfield, somewhat surprised at this unexpected prohibition, “I don’t care for my part if I never mention the old gentleman’s name again! I never heard any good of him in my life, for they say he’s as proud as Lucifer, and nobody knows what it’s of, for they say–“

“_They_ say?” cried he, firing with rage, “and who are _they_? be so good as inform me that?”

“Lord, every body, Sir! it’s his common character.”

“Then every body is extremely indecent,” speaking very loud, “to pay no more respect to one of the first families in England. It is a licentiousness that ought by no means to be suffered with impunity.”

Here, the street-door being kept open by the servants in waiting, a new step was heard in the passage, which Henrietta immediately knowing, turned, with uplifted hands to Cecilia, and whispered, “How unlucky! it’s my brother! I thought he would not have returned till night!”

“Surely he will not come in here?” re-whispered Cecilia.

But, at the same moment, he opened the door, and entered the room. He was immediately beginning an apology, and starting back, but Henrietta catching him by the arm, told him in a low voice, that she had made use of his room because she had thought him engaged for the day, but begged him to keep still and quiet, as the least noise would discover them.

Belfield then stopt; but the embarrassment of Cecilia was extreme; to find herself in his room after the speeches she had heard from his mother, and to continue with him in it by connivance, when she knew she had been represented as quite at his service, distressed and provoked her immeasurably; and she felt very angry with Henrietta for not sooner informing her whose apartment she had borrowed. Yet now to remove, and to be seen, was not to be thought of; she kept, therefore, fixed to her seat, though changing colour every moment from the variety of her emotions.

During this painful interruption she lost Mrs Belfield’s next answer, and another speech or two from Mr Delvile, to whose own passion and loudness was owing Belfield’s entering his room unheard: but the next voice that called their attention was that of Mr Hobson, who just then walked into the parlour.

“Why what’s to do here?” cried he, facetiously, “nothing but chairs and livery servants! Why, ma’am, what is this your rout day? Sir your most humble servant. I ask pardon, but I did not know you at first. But come, suppose we were all to sit down? Sitting’s as cheap as standing, and what I say is this; when a man’s tired, it’s more agreeable.”

“Have you any thing further, ma’am,” said Mr Delvile, with great solemnity, “to communicate to me?”

“No, Sir,” said Mrs Belfield, rather angrily, “it’s no business of mine to be communicating myself to a gentleman that I don’t know the name of. Why, Mr Hobson, how come you to know the gentleman?”

“To know _me_!” repeated Mr Delvile, scornfully.

“Why I can’t say much, ma’am,” answered Mr Hobson, “as to my knowing the gentleman, being I have been in his company but once; and what I say is, to know a person if one leaves but a quart in a hogshead, it’s two pints too much. That’s my notion. But, Sir, that was but an ungain business at ‘Squire Monckton’s t’other morning. Every body was no-how, as one may say. But, Sir, if I may be so free, pray what is your private opinion of that old gentleman that talked so much out of the way?”

“My private opinion, Sir?”

“Yes, Sir; I mean if it’s no secret, for as to a secret, I hold it’s what no man has a right to enquire into, being of its own nature it’s a thing not to be told. Now as to what I think myself, my doctrine is this; I am quite of the old gentleman’s mind about some things, and about others I hold him to be quite wide of the mark. But as to talking in such a whisky frisky manner that nobody can understand him, why its tantamount to not talking at all, being he might as well hold his tongue. That’s what _I_ say. And then as to that other article, of abusing a person for not giving away all his lawful gains to every cripple in the streets, just because he happens to have but one leg, or one eye, or some such matter, why it’s knowing nothing of business! it’s what _I_ call talking at random.”

“When you have finished, Sir,” said Mr Delvile, “you will be so good to let me know.”

“I don’t mean to intrude, Sir; that’s not my way, so if you are upon business–“

“What else, Sir, could you suppose brought me hither? However, I by no means purpose any discussion. I have only a few words more to say to this gentlewoman, and as my time is not wholly inconsequential, I should not be sorry to have an early opportunity of being heard.”

“I shall leave you with the lady directly, Sir; for I know business better than to interrupt it: but seeing chairs in the entry, my notion was I should see ladies in the parlour, not much thinking of gentlemen’s going about in that manner, being I never did it myself. But I have nothing to offer against that; let every man have his own way; that’s what _I_ say. Only just let me ask the lady before I go, what’s the meaning of my seeing two chairs in the entry, and only a person for one in the parlour? The gentleman, I suppose, did not come in _both_; ha! ha! ha!”

“Why now you put me in mind,” said Mrs Belfield, “I saw a chair as soon as I come in; and I was just going to say who’s here, when this gentleman’s coming put it out of my head.”

“Why this is what I call Hocus Pocus work!” said Mr Hobson; “but I shall make free to ask the chairmen who they are waiting for.”

Mrs Belfield, however, anticipated him; for running into the passage, she angrily called out, “What do you do here, Misters? do you only come to be out of the rain? I’ll have no stand made of my entry, I can tell you!”

“Why we are waiting for the lady,” cried one of them.

“Waiting for a fiddlestick!” said Mrs Belfield; “here’s no lady here, nor no company; so if you think I’ll have my entry filled up by two hulking fellows for nothing, I shall shew you the difference. One’s dirt enough of one’s own, without taking people out of the streets to help one. Who do you think’s to clean after you?”

“That’s no business of ours; the lady bid us wait,” answered the man.

Cecilia at this dispute could with pleasure have cast herself out of the window to avoid being discovered; but all plan of escape was too late; Mrs Belfield called aloud for her daughter, and then, returning to the front parlour, said, “I’ll soon know if there’s company come to my house without my knowing it!” and opened a door leading to the next room!

Cecilia, who had hitherto sat fixed to her chair, now hastily arose, but in a confusion too cruel for speech: Belfield, wondering even at his own situation, and equally concerned and surprised at her evident distress, had himself the feeling of a culprit, though without the least knowledge of any cause: and Henrietta, terrified at the prospect of her mother’s anger, retreated as much as possible out of sight.

Such was the situation of the discovered, abashed, perplexed, and embarrassed! while that of the discoverers, far different, was bold, delighted, and triumphant!

“So!” cried Mrs Belfield, “why here’s Miss Beverley!–in my son’s back room!” winking at Mr Delvile.

“Why here’s a lady, sure enough!” said Mr Hobson, “and just where she should be, and that is with a gentleman. Ha! ha! that’s the right way, according to my notion! that’s the true maxim for living agreeable.”

“I came to see Miss Belfield,” cried Cecilia, endeavouring, but vainly, to speak with composure, “and she brought me into this room.”

“I am but this moment,” cried Belfield, with eagerness, “returned home; and unfortunately broke into the room, from total ignorance of the honour which Miss Beverley did my sister.”

These speeches, though both literally true, sounded, in the circumstances which brought them out, so much as mere excuses, that while Mr Delvile haughtily marked his incredulity by a motion of his chin, Mrs Belfield continued winking at him most significantly, and Mr Hobson, with still less ceremony, laughed aloud.

“I have nothing more, ma’am,” said Mr Delvile to Mrs Belfield, “to enquire, for the few doubts with which I came to this house are now entirely satisfied. Good morning to you, ma’am.”

“Give me leave, Sir,” said Cecilia, advancing with more spirit, “to explain, in presence of those who can best testify my veracity, the real circumstances–“

“I would by no means occasion you such unnecessary trouble, ma’am,” answered he, with an air at once exulting and pompous, “the situation in which I see you abundantly satisfies my curiosity, and saves me from the apprehension I was under of being again convicted of a _mistake_!”

He then made her a stiff bow, and went to his chair.

Cecilia, colouring deeply at this contemptuous treatment, coldly took leave of Henrietta, and courtsying to Mrs Belfield, hastened into the passage, to get into her own.

Henrietta was too much intimidated to speak, and Belfield was too delicate to follow her; Mr Hobson only said “The young lady seems quite dashed;” but Mrs Belfield pursued her with entreaties she would stay.

She was too angry, however, to make any answer but by a distant bow of the head, and left the house with a resolution little short of a vow never again to enter it.

Her reflections upon this unfortunate visit were bitter beyond measure; the situation in which she had been surprised,–clandestinely concealed with only Belfield and his sister–joined to the positive assertions of her partiality for him made by his mother, could not, to Mr Delvile, but appear marks irrefragable that his charge in his former conversation was rather mild than over-strained, and that the connection he had mentioned, for whatever motives denied, was incontestably formed.

The apparent conviction of this part of the accusation, might also authorise, to one but too happy in believing ill of her, an implicit faith in that which regarded her having run out her fortune. His determination not to hear her shewed the inflexibility of his character; and it was evident, notwithstanding his parading pretensions of wishing her welfare, that his inordinate pride was inflamed, at the very supposition he could be mistaken or deceived for a moment.

Even Delvile himself, if gone abroad, might now hear this account with exaggerations that would baffle all his confidence: his mother, too, greatly as she esteemed and loved her, might have the matter so represented as to stagger her good opinion;–these were thoughts the most afflicting she could harbour, though their probability was such that to banish them was impossible.

To apply again to Mr Delvile to hear her vindication, was to subject herself to insolence, and almost to court indignity. She disdained even to write to him, since his behaviour called for resentment, not concession; and such an eagerness to be heard, in opposition to all discouragement, would be practising a meanness that would almost merit repulsion.

Her first inclination was to write to Mrs Delvile, but what now, to her, was either her defence or accusation? She had solemnly renounced all further intercourse with her, she had declared against writing again, and prohibited her letters: and, therefore, after much fluctuation of opinion, her delicacy concurred with her judgment, to conclude it would be most proper, in a situation so intricate, to leave the matter to chance, and commit her character to time.

In the evening, while she was at tea with Lady Margaret and Miss Bennet, she was suddenly called out to speak to a young woman; and found, to her great surprise, she was no other than Henrietta.

“Ah madam!” she cried, “how angrily did you go away this morning! it has made me miserable ever since, and if you go out of town without forgiving me, I shall fret myself quite ill! my mother is gone out to tea, and I have run here all alone, and in the dark, and in the wet, to beg and pray you will forgive me, for else I don’t know what I shall do!”

“Sweet, gentle girl!” cried Cecilia, affectionately embracing her, “if you had excited all the anger I am capable of feeling, such softness as this would banish it, and make me love you more than ever!”

Henrietta then said, in her excuse, that she had thought herself quite sure of her brother’s absence, who almost always spent the whole day at the bookseller’s, as in writing himself he perpetually wanted to consult other authors, and had very few books at their lodgings: but she would not mention that the room was his, lest Cecilia should object to making use of it, and she knew she had no other chance of having the conversation with her she had so very long wished for. She then again begged her pardon, and hoped the behaviour of her mother would not induce her to give her up, as she was shocked at it beyond measure, and as her brother, she assured her, was as innocent of it as herself.

Cecilia heard her with pleasure, and felt for her an encreasing regard. The openness of her confidence in the morning had merited all her affection, and she gave her the warmest protestations of a friendship which she was certain would be lasting as her life.

Henrietta then, with a countenance that spoke the lightness of her heart, hastily took her leave, saying she did not dare be out longer, lest her mother should discover her excursion. Cecilia insisted, however, upon her going in a chair, which she ordered her servant to attend, and take care himself to discharge.

This visit, joined to the tender and unreserved conversation of the morning, gave Cecilia the strongest desire to invite her to her house in the country; but the terror of Mrs Belfield’s insinuations, added to the cruel interpretations she had to expect from Mr Delvile, forbid her indulging this wish, though it was the only one that just now she could form.

CHAPTER vii.

A CALM.

Cecilia took leave over night of the family, as she would not stay their rising in the morning: Mr Monckton, though certain not to sleep when she was going, forbearing to mark his solicitude by quitting his apartment at any unusual hour. Lady Margaret parted from her with her accustomed ungraciousness, and Miss Bennet, because in her presence, in a manner scarcely less displeasing.

The next morning, with only her servants, the moment it was light, she set out. Her journey was without incident or interruption, and she went immediately to the house of Mrs Bayley, where she had settled to board till her own was finished.

Mrs Bayley was a mere good sort of woman, who lived decently well with her servants, and tolerably well with her neighbours, upon a small annuity, which made her easy and comfortable, though by no means superior to such an addition to her little income as an occasional boarder might produce.

Here Cecilia continued a full month: which time had no other employment than what she voluntarily gave to herself by active deeds of benevolence.

At Christmas, to the no little joy of the neighbourhood, she took possession of her own house, which was situated about three miles from Bury.

The better sort of people were happy to see her thus settled amongst them, and the poorer, who by what they already had received, knew well what they still might expect, regarded the day in which she fixed herself in her mansion, as a day to themselves of prosperity and triumph.

As she was no longer, as hitherto, repairing to a temporary habitation, which at pleasure she might quit, and to which, at a certain period, she could have no possible claim, but to a house which was her own for ever, or, at least, could solely by her own choice be transferred, she determined, as much as was in her power, in quitting her desultory dwellings, to empty her mind of the transactions which had passed in them, and upon entering a house where she was permanently to reside, to make the expulsion of her past sorrows, the basis upon which to establish her future serenity.

And this, though a work of pain and difficulty, was not impracticable; her sensibility, indeed, was keen, and she had suffered from it the utmost torture; but her feelings were not more powerful than her understanding was strong, and her fortitude was equal to her trials. Her calamities had saddened, but not weakened her mind, and the words of Delvile in speaking of his mother occurred to her now with all the conviction of experience, that “evils inevitable are always best supported, because known to be past amendment, and felt to give defiance to struggling.” [Footnote: See Vol. ii. p. 317.]

A plan by which so great a revolution was to be wrought in her mind, was not to be effected by any sudden effort of magnanimity, but by a regular and even tenour of courage mingled with prudence. Nothing, therefore, appeared to her so indispensable as constant employment, by which a variety of new images might force their way in her mind to supplant the old ones, and by which no time might be allowed for brooding over melancholy retrospections.

Her first effort, in this work of mental reformation, was to part with Fidel, whom hitherto she had almost involuntarily guarded, but whom she only could see to revive the most dangerous recollections. She sent him, therefore, to the castle, but without any message; Mrs Delvile, she was sure, would require none to make her rejoice in his restoration.

Her next step was writing to Albany, who had given her his direction, to acquaint him she was now ready to put in practice their long concerted scheme. Albany instantly hastened to her, and joyfully accepted the office of becoming at once her Almoner and her Monitor. He made it his business to seek objects of distress, and always but too certain to find them, of conducting her himself to their habitations, and then leaving to her own liberality the assistance their several cases demanded: and, in the overflowing of his zeal upon these occasions, and the rapture of his heart in thus disposing, almost at his pleasure, of her noble fortune, he seemed, at times, to feel an extasy that, from its novelty and its excess, was almost too exquisite to be borne. He joined with the beggars in pouring blessings upon her head, he prayed for her with the poor, and he thanked her with the succoured.

The pew-opener and her children failed not to keep their appointment, and Cecilia presently contrived to settle them in her neighbourhood: where the poor woman, as she recovered her strength, soon got a little work, and all deficiencies in her power of maintaining herself were supplied by her generous patroness. The children, however, she ordered to be coarsely brought up, having no intention to provide for them but by helping them to common employments.

The promise, also, so long made to Mrs Harrel of an apartment in her house, was now performed. That lady accepted it with the utmost alacrity, glad to make any change in her situation, which constant solitude had rendered wholly insupportable. Mr Arnott accompanied her to the house, and spent one day there; but receiving from Cecilia, though extremely civil and sweet to him, no hint of any invitation for repeating his visit, he left it in sadness, and returned to his own in deep dejection. Cecilia saw with concern how he nourished his hopeless passion, but knew that to suffer his visits would almost authorise his feeding it; and while she pitied unaffectedly the unhappiness she occasioned, she resolved to double her own efforts towards avoiding similar wretchedness.

This action, however, was a point of honour, not of friendship, the time being long since past that the society of Mrs Harrel could afford her any pleasure; but the promises she had so often made to Mr Harrel in his distresses, though extorted from her merely by the terrors of the moment, still were promises, and, therefore, she held herself bound to fulfil them.

Yet far from finding comfort in this addition to her family, Mrs Harrel proved to her nothing more than a trouble and an incumbrance; with no inherent resources, she was continually in search of occasional supplies; she fatigued Cecilia with wonder at the privacy of her life, and tormented her with proposals of parties and entertainments. She was eternally in amazement that with powers so large, she had wishes so confined, and was evidently disappointed that upon coming to so ample an estate, she lived, with respect to herself and her family, with no more magnificence or shew than if Heiress to only ú500 a year.

But Cecilia was determined to think and to live for herself, without regard to unmeaning wonder or selfish remonstrances; she had neither ambition for splendour, nor spirits for dissipation; the recent sorrow of her heart had deadened it for the present to all personal taste of happiness, and her only chance for regaining it, seemed through the medium of bestowing it upon others. She had seen, too, by Mr Harrel, how wretchedly external brilliancy could cover inward woe, and she had learned at Delvile Castle to grow sick of parade and grandeur. Her equipage, therefore, was without glare, though not without elegance, her table was plain, though hospitably plentiful, her servants were for use, though too numerous to be for labour. The system of her oeconomy, like that of her liberality, was formed by rules of reason, and her own ideas of right, and not by compliance with example, nor by emulation with the gentry in her neighbourhood.

But though thus deviating in her actions from the usual customs of the young and rich, she was peculiarly careful not to offend them by singularity of manners. When she mixed with them, she was easy, unaffected, and well bred, and though she saw them but seldom, her good humour and desire of obliging kept them always her friends. The plan she had early formed at Mrs Harrel’s she now studied daily to put in practice; but that part by which the useless or frivolous were to be excluded her house, she found could only be supported by driving from her half her acquaintance.

Another part, also, of that project she found still less easy of adoption, which was solacing herself with the society of the wise, good, and intelligent. Few answered this description, and those few were with difficulty attainable. Many might with joy have sought out her liberal dwelling, but no one had idly waited till the moment it was at her disposal. All who possessed at once both talents and wealth, were so generally courted they were rarely to be procured; and all who to talents alone owed their consequence, demanded, if worth acquiring, time and delicacy to be obtained. Fortune she knew, however, was so often at war with Nature, that she doubted not shortly meeting those who would gladly avail themselves of her offered protection.

Yet, tired of the murmurs of Mrs Harrel, she longed for some relief from her society, and her desire daily grew stronger to owe that relief to Henrietta Belfield. The more she meditated upon this wish, the less unattainable it appeared to her, till by frequently combating its difficulties, she began to consider them imaginary: Mrs Belfield, while her son was actually with herself, might see she took not Henrietta as his appendage; and Mr Delvile, should he make further enquiries, might hear that her real connection was with the sister, since she received her in the country, where the brother made no pretence to follow her. She considered, too, how ill she should be rewarded in giving up Henrietta for Mr Delvile, who was already determined to think ill of her, and whose prejudices no sacrifice would remove.

Having hesitated, therefore, some time between the desire of present alleviation, and the fear of future mischief, the consciousness of her own innocence at length vanquished all dread of unjust censure, and she wrote an invitation to Henrietta enclosed in a letter to her mother.

The answer of Henrietta expressed her rapture at the proposal; and that of Mrs Belfield made no objection but to the expence.

Cecilia, therefore, sent her own maid to travel with her into Suffolk, with proper directions to pay for the journey.

The gratitude of the delighted Henrietta at the meeting was boundless; and her joy at so unexpected a mark of favour made her half wild. Cecilia suffered it not to languish for want of kindness to support it; she took her to her bosom, became the soother of all her cares, and reposed in her, in return, every thought that led not to Delvile.

There, however, she was uniformly silent; solemnly and eternally parted from him, far from trusting the secret of her former connexion to Henrietta, the whole study of her life was to drive the remembrance of it from herself.

Henrietta now tasted a happiness to which as yet her whole life had been a stranger; she was suddenly removed from turbulent vulgarity to the enjoyment of calm elegance; and the gentleness of her disposition, instead of being tyrannically imposed upon, not only made her loved with affection, but treated with the most scrupulous delicacy. Cecilia had her share in all the comfort she bestowed; she had now a friend to oblige, and a companion to converse with. She communicated to her all her schemes, and made her the partner of her benevolent excursions; she found her disposition as amiable upon trial, as her looks and her manners had been engaging at first sight; and her constant presence and constant sweetness, imperceptibly revived her spirits, and gave a new interest to her existence.

Meantime Mr Monckton, who returned in about a fortnight to the Grove, observed the encreasing influence of Albany with the most serious concern. The bounties of Cecilia, extensive, magnificent, unlimited, were the theme of every tongue, and though sometimes censured and sometimes admired, they were wondered at universally. He suffered her for a while to go on without remonstrance, hoping her enthusiasm would abate, as its novelty wore out: but finding that week following week was still distinguished by some fresh act of beneficence, he grew so alarmed and uneasy, he could restrain himself no longer. He spoke to her with warmth, he represented her conduct as highly dangerous in its consequence; he said she would but court impostors from every corner of the kingdom, called Albany a lunatic, whom she should rather avoid than obey; and insinuated that if a report was spread of her proceedings, a charity so prodigal, would excite such alarm, that no man would think even her large and splendid fortune, would ensure him from ruin in seeking her alliance.

Cecilia heard this exhortation without either terror or impatience, and answered it with the utmost steadiness. His influence over her mind was no longer uncontrolled, for though her suspicions were not strengthened, they had never been removed, and friendship has no foe so dangerous as distrust! She thanked him, however, for his zeal, but assured him his apprehensions were groundless, since though she acted from inclination, she acted not without thought. Her income was very large, and she was wholly without family or connection; to spend it merely upon herself would be something still worse than extravagance, it must result from wilfulness the most inexcusable, as her disposition was naturally averse to luxury and expence. She might save indeed, but for whom? not a creature had such a claim upon her; and with regard to herself, she was so provided for it would be unnecessary. She would never, she declared, run in debt even for a week, but while her estate was wholly clear, she would spend it without restriction.

To his hint of any future alliance, she only said that those who disapproved her conduct, would probably be those she should disapprove in her turn; should such an event however take place, the retrenching from that time all her present peculiar expences, would surely, in a clear ú3000 a-year, leave her rich enough for any man, without making it incumbent upon her at present, to deny herself the only pleasure she could taste, in bestowing that money which to her was superfluous, upon those who received it as the prolongation of their existence.

A firmness so deliberate in a system he so much dreaded, greatly shocked Mr Monckton, though it intimidated him from opposing it; he saw she was too earnest, and too well satisfied she was right, to venture giving her disgust by controverting her arguments; the conversation, therefore, ended with new discontent to himself, and with an impression upon the mind of Cecilia, that though he was zealous and friendly, he was somewhat too worldly and suspicious.

She went on, therefore, as before, distributing with a lavish hand all she could spare from her own household; careful of nothing but of guarding against imposition, which, though she sometimes unavoidably endured, her discernment, and the activity of her investigating diligence, saved her from suffering frequently. And the steadiness with which she repulsed those whom she detected in deceit, was a check upon tricks and fraud, though it could not wholly put a stop to them.

Money, to her, had long appeared worthless and valueless; it had failed to procure her the establishment for which she once flattered herself it seemed purposely designed; it had been disdained by the Delviles, for the sake of whose connection she had alone ever truly rejoiced in possessing it; and after such a conviction of its inefficacy to secure her happiness, she regarded it as of little importance to herself, and therefore thought it almost the due of those whose distresses gave it a consequence to which with her it was a stranger.

In this manner with Cecilia passed the first winter of her majority. She had sedulously filled it with occupations, and her occupations had proved fertile in keeping her mind from idleness, and in restoring it to chearfulness. Calls upon her attention so soothing, and avocations so various for her time, had answered the great purpose for which originally she had planned them, in almost forcing from her thoughts those sorrows which, if indulged, would have rested in them incessantly.

CHAPTER viii.

AN ALARM.

The spring was now advancing, and the weather was remarkably fine; when one morning, while Cecilia was walking with Mrs Harrel and Henrietta on the lawn before her house, to which the last dinner bell was just summoning them, to return, Mrs Harrel looked round and stopt at sight of a gentleman galloping towards them, who in less than a minute approached, and dismounting and leaving his horse to his servant, struck them all at the same instant to be no other than young Delvile!

A sight so unexpected, so unaccountable, so wonderful, after an absence so long, and to which they were mutually bound, almost wholly over- powered Cecilia from surprise and a thousand other feelings, and she caught Mrs Harrel by the arm, not knowing what she did, as if for succour; while Henrietta with scarce less, though much more glad emotion, suddenly exclaimed, “’tis Mr Delvile!” and sprang forward to meet him.

He had reached them, and in a voice that spoke hurry and perturbation, respectfully made his compliments to them all, before Cecilia recovered even the use of her feet: but no sooner were they restored to her, than she employed them with the quickest motion in her power, still leaning upon Mrs Harrel, to hasten into the house. Her solemn promise to Mrs Delvile became uppermost in her thoughts, and her surprise was soon succeeded by displeasure, that thus, without any preparation, he forced her to break it by an interview she had no means to prevent.

Just as they reached the entrance into the house, the Butler came to tell Cecilia that dinner was upon the table. Delvile then went up to her, and said, “May I wait upon you for one instant before–or after you dine?”

“I am engaged, Sir,” answered she, though hardly able to speak, “for the whole day.”

“You will not, I hope, refuse to hear me,” cried he, eagerly, “I cannot write what I have to say,–“

“There is no occasion that you should, Sir,” interrupted she, “since I should scarcely find time to read it.”

She then courtsied, though without looking at him, and went into the house; Delvile remaining in utter dismay, not daring, however wishing, to follow her. But when Mrs Harrel, much surprised at behaviour so unusual from Cecilia, approached him with some civil speeches, he started, and wishing her good day, bowed, and remounted his horse: pursued by the soft eyes of Henrietta till wholly out of sight.

They then both followed Cecilia to the dining-parlour.

Had not Mrs Harrel been of this small party, the dinner would have been served in vain; Cecilia, still trembling with emotion, bewildered with conjecture, angry with Delvile for thus surprising her, angry with herself for so severely receiving him, amazed what had tempted him to such a violation of their joint agreement, and irresolute as much what to wish as what to think, was little disposed for eating, and with difficulty compelled herself to do the honours of her table.

Henrietta, whom the sight of Delvile had at once delighted and disturbed, whom the behaviour of Cecilia had filled with wonder and consternation, and whom the evident inquietude and disappointment which that behaviour had given to Delvile, had struck with grief and terror, could not swallow even a morsel, but having cut her meat about her plate, gave it, untouched, to a servant.

Mrs Harrel, however, though she had had her share in the surprise, had wholly escaped all other emotion; and only concluded in her own mind, that Cecilia could sometimes be out of humour and ill bred, as well as the rest of the world.

While the dessert was serving, a note was brought to Henrietta, which a servant was waiting in great haste to have answered.

Henrietta, stranger to all forms of politeness, though by nature soft, obliging and delicate, opened it immediately; she started as she cast her eye over it, but blushed, sparkled, and looked enchanted, and hastily rising, without even a thought of any apology, ran out of the room to answer it.

Cecilia, whose quick eye, by a glance unavoidable, had seen the hand of Delvile, was filled with new amazement at the sight. As soon as the servants were gone, she begged Mrs Harrel to excuse her, and went to her own apartment.

Here, in a few minutes, she was followed by Henrietta, whose countenance beamed with pleasure, and whose voice spoke tumultuous delight. “My dear, dear Miss Beverley!” she cried, “I have such a thing to tell you!–you would never guess it,–I don’t know how to believe it myself,–but Mr Delvile has written to me!–he has indeed! that note was from him.–I have been locking it up, for fear of accidents, but I’ll run and fetch it, that you may see it yourself.”

She then ran away; leaving Cecilia much perplexed, much uneasy for herself, and both grieved and alarmed for the too tender, too susceptible Henrietta, who was thus easily the sport of every airy and credulous hope.

“If I did not shew it you,” cried Henrietta, running back in a moment, “you would never think it possible, for it is to make such a request– that it has frightened me almost out of my wits!”

Cecilia then read the note.

_To Miss Belfield_.

Mr Delvile presents his compliments to Miss Belfield, and begs to be permitted to wait upon her for a few minutes, at any time in the afternoon she will be so good as to appoint.

“Only think,” cried the rapturous Henrietta, “it was _me_, poor simple _me_, of all people, that he wanted so to speak with!–I am sure I thought a different thought when he went away! but do, dearest Miss Beverley, tell me this one thing, what do you think he can have to say to me?”

“Indeed,” replied Cecilia, extremely embarrassed, it is impossible for me to conjecture.”

“If _you_ can’t, I am sure, then, it is no wonder _I_ can’t! and I have been thinking of a million of things in a minute. It can’t be about any business, because I know nothing in the world of any business; and it can’t be about my brother, because he would go to our house in town about him, and there he would see him himself; and it can’t be about my dear Miss Beverley, because then he would have written the note to her and it can’t be about any body else, because I know nobody else of his acquaintance.”

Thus went on the sanguine Henrietta, settling whom and what it could _not_ be about, till she left but the one thing to which her wishes pointed that it _could_ be about. Cecilia heard her with true compassion, certain that she was deceiving herself with imaginations the most pernicious; yet unable to know how to quell them, while in such doubt and darkness herself.

This conversation was soon interrupted, by a message that a gentleman in the parlour begged to speak with Miss Belfield.

“O dearest, dearest Miss Beverley!” cried Henrietta, with encreasing agitation, “what in the world shall I say to him, advise me, pray advise me, for I can’t think of a single word!”

“Impossible, my dear Henrietta, unless I knew what he would say to you!”

“O but I can guess, I can guess!”–cried she, her cheeks glowing, while her whole frame shook, “and I sha’n’t know what in the whole world to answer him! I know I shall behave like a fool,–I know I shall disgrace myself sadly!”

Cecilia, truly sorry Delvile should see her in such emotion, endeavoured earnestly to compose her, though never less tranquil herself. But she could not succeed, and she went down stairs with expectations of happiness almost too potent for her reason.

Not such were those of Cecilia; a dread of some new conflict took possession of her mind, that mind so long tortured with struggles, so lately restored to serenity!

Henrietta soon returned, but not the same Henrietta she went;–the glow, the hope, the flutter were all over; she looked pale and wan, but attempting, as she entered the room, to call up a smile, she failed, and burst into tears.

Cecilia threw her arms round her neck, and tried to console her; but, happy to hide her face in her bosom, she only gave the freer indulgence to her grief, and rather melted than comforted by her tenderness, sobbed aloud.

Cecilia too easily conjectured the disappointment she had met, to pain her by asking it; she forbore even to gratify her own curiosity by questions that could not but lead to her mortification, and suffering her therefore to take her own time for what she had to communicate, she hung over her in silence with the most patient pity.

Henrietta was very sensible of this kindness, though she knew not half its merit: but it was a long time before she could articulate, for sobbing, that _all_ Mr Delvile wanted, at last, was only to beg she would acquaint Miss Beverley, that he had done himself the honour of waiting upon her with a message from Mrs Delvile.

“From Mrs Delvile?” exclaimed Cecilia, all emotion in her turn, “good heaven! how much, then, have I been to blame? where is he now?–where can I send to him?–tell me, my sweet Henrietta, this instant!”

“Oh madam!” cried Henrietta, bursting into a fresh flood of tears, “how foolish have I been to open my silly heart to you!–he is come to pay his addresses to you!–I am sure he is!–“

“No, no, no!” cried Cecilia, “indeed he is not!–but I must, I ought to see him,–where, my love, is he?”,

“In the parlour,–waiting for an answer.–“

Cecilia, who at any other time would have been provoked at such a delay in the delivery of a message so important, felt now nothing but concern for Henrietta, whom she hastily kissed, but instantly, however, quitted, and hurried to Delvile, with expectations almost equally sanguine as those her poor friend but the moment before had crushed.

“Oh now,” thought she, “if at last Mrs Delvile herself has relented, with what joy will I give up all reserve, all disguise, and frankly avow the faithful affection of my heart!”

Delvile received her not with the eagerness with which he had first addressed her; he looked extremely disturbed, and, even after her entrance, undetermined how to begin.

She waited, however, his explanation in silence; and, after an irresolute pause, he said, with a gravity not wholly free from resentment, “I presumed, madam, to wait upon you from the permission of my mother; but I believe I have obtained it so late, that the influence I hoped from it is past!”

“I had no means, Sir,” answered she, chearfully, “to know that you came from her: I should else have received her commands without any hesitation.”

“I would thank you for the honour you do her, were it less pointedly exclusive. I have, however, no right of reproach! yet suffer me to ask, could you, madam, after such a parting, after a renunciation so absolute of all future claim upon you, which though extorted from me by duty, I was bound, having promised, to fulfil by principle,-could you imagine me so unsteady, so dishonourable, as to obtrude myself into your presence while that promise was still in force?”

“I find,” cried Cecilia, in whom a secret hope every moment grew stronger, “I have been too hasty; I did indeed believe Mrs Delvile would never authorise such a visit; but as you have so much surprised me, I have a right to your pardon for a little doubt.”

“There spoke Miss Beverley!” cried Delvile, reanimating at this little apology, “the same, the unaltered Miss Beverley I hoped to find!–yet _is_ she unaltered? am I not too precipitate? and is the tale I have heard about Belfield a dream? an error? a falsehood?”

“But that so quick a succession of quarrels,” said Cecilia, half smiling, “would be endless perplexity, I, now, would be affronted that you can ask me such a question.”

“Had I, indeed, _thought_ it a question,” cried he, “I would not have asked it: but never for a moment did I credit it, till the rigour of your repulse alarmed me. You have condescended, now, to account for that, and I am therefore encouraged to make known to you the purpose of my venturing this visit. Yet not with confidence shall I speak if, scarce even with hope!–it is a purpose that is the offspring of despair,–

“One thing, Sir,” cried Cecilia, who now became frightened again, “let me say before you proceed; if your purpose has not the sanction of Mrs Delvile, as well as your visit, I would gladly be excused hearing it, since I shall most certainly refuse it.”

“I would mention nothing,” answered he, “without her concurrence; she has given it me: and my father himself has permitted my present application.”

“Good Heaven!” cried Cecilia, “is it possible!” clasping her hands together in the eagerness of her surprise and delight.

“_Is it possible_!” repeated Delvile, with a look of rapture; “ah Miss Beverley!–once my own Cecilia!–do you, can you _wish_ it possible?”

“No, No!” cried she, while pleasure and expectation sparkled in her eyes, “I wish nothing about it.–Yet tell me how it has happened,–I am _curious_,” added she, smiling, “though not interested in it.”

“What hope would this sweetness give me,” cried he, “were my scheme almost any other than it is!–but you cannot,–no, it would be unreasonable, it would be madness to expect your compliance!–it is next to madness even in me to wish it,–but how shall a man who is desperate be prudent and circumspect?”

“Spare, spare yourself,” cried the ingenuous Cecilia, “this, unnecessary pain!–you will find from me no unnecessary scruples.”

“You know not what you say!–all noble as you are, the sacrifice I have to propose–“

“Speak it,” cried she, “with confidence! speak it even with certainty of success! I will be wholly undisguised, and openly, honestly own to you, that no proposal, no sacrifice can be mentioned, to which I will not instantly agree, if first it has had the approbation of Mrs Delvile.”

Delvile’s gratitude and thanks for a concession never before so voluntarily made to him, interrupted for a while, even his power of explaining himself. And now, for the first time, Cecilia’s sincerity was chearful, since now, for the first time, it seemed opposed by no duty.

When still, therefore, he hesitated, she herself held out her hand to him, saying, “what must I do more? must I offer this pledge to you?”

“For my life would I not resign it!” cried he, delightedly receiving it; “but oh, how soon will you withdraw it, when the only terms upon which I can hold it, are those of making it sign from itself its natural right and inheritance?”

Cecilia, not comprehending him, only looked amazed, and he proceeded.

“Can you, for my sake, make such a sacrifice as this? can you for a man who for yours is not permitted to give up his name, give up yourself the fortune of your late uncle? consent to such settlements as I can make upon you from my own? part with so splendid an income wholly and for-ever?–and with only your paternal L10,000 condescend to become mine, as if your uncle had never existed, and you had been Heiress to no other wealth?”

This, indeed, was a stroke to Cecilia unequalled by any she had met, and more cruel than any she could have in reserve. At the proposal of parting with her uncle’s fortune, which, desirable as it was, had as yet been only productive to her of misery, her heart, disinterested, and wholly careless of money, was prompt to accede to the condition; but at the mention of her paternal fortune, that fortune, of which, now, not the smallest vestige remained, horror seized all her faculties! she turned pale, she trembled, she involuntarily drew back her hand, and betrayed, by speechless agitation, the sudden agonies of her soul!

Delvile, struck by this evident dismay, instantly concluded his plan had disgusted her. He waited some minutes in anxious expectation of an answer, but finding her silence continued while her emotion encreased, the deepest crimson dyed his face, and unable to check his chagrin, though not daring to confess his disappointment, he suddenly quitted her, and walked, in much disorder, about the room. But soon recovering some composure, from the assistance of pride, “Pardon, madam,” he said, “a trial such as no man can be vindicated in making. I have indulged a romantic whim, which your better judgment disapproves, and I receive but the mortification my presumption deserved.”

“You know not then,” said Cecilia, in a faint voice, “my inability to comply?”

“Your ability or inability, I presume, are elective?”

“Oh no!–my power is lost–my fortune itself is gone!”

“Impossible! utterly impossible!” cried he with vehemence.

“Oh that it were!–your father knows it but too well.”

“My father!”

“Did he, then, never hint it to you?”

“Oh distraction!” cried Delvile, “what horrible confirmation is coming!” and again he walked away, as if wanting courage to hear her.

Cecilia was too much shocked to force upon him her explanation; but presently returning to her, he said, “_you_, only, could have made this credible!”

“Had you, then, actually heard it?”

“Oh I had heard it as the most infamous of falsehoods! my heart swelled with indignation at so villainous a calumny, and had it not come from my father, my resentment at it had been inveterate!”

“Alas!” cried Cecilia, “the fact is undeniable! yet the circumstances you may have heard with it, are I doubt not exaggerated.”

“Exaggerated indeed!” he answered; “I was told you had been surprised concealed with Belfield in a back room, I was told that your parental fortune was totally exhausted, and that during your minority you had been a dealer with Jews!–I was told all this by my father; you may believe I had else not easily been made hear it!”

“Yet thus far,” said she, “he told you but what is true; though–“

“True!” interrupted Delvile, with a start almost frantic. “Oh never, then, was truth so scandalously wronged!–I denied the whole charge!-I disbelieved every syllable!–I pledged my own honour to prove every assertion false!”

“Generous Delvile!” cried Cecilia, melting into tears, “this is what I expected from you! and, believe me, in _your_ integrity my reliance had been similar!”

“Why does Miss Beverley weep?” cried he, softened, and approaching her, “and why has she given me this alarm? these things must at least have been misrepresented, deign, then, to clear up a mystery in which suspense is torture!”

Cecilia, then, with what precision and clearness her agitation allowed her, related the whole history of her taking up the money of the Jew for Mr Harrel, and told, without reserve, the reason of her trying to abscond from his father at Mrs Belfield’s. Delvile listened to her account with almost an agony of attention, now admiring her conduct; now resenting her ill usage; now compassionating her losses; but though variously moved by different parts, receiving from the whole the delight he most coveted in the establishment of her innocence.

Thanks and applause the warmest, both accompanied and followed her narration; and then, at her request, he related in return the several incidents and circumstances to which he had owed the permission of this visit.

He had meant immediately to have gone abroad; but the indisposition of his mother made him unwilling to leave the kingdom till her health seemed in a situation less precarious. That time, however, came not; the Winter advanced, and she grew evidently worse. He gave over, therefore, his design till the next Spring, when, if she were able, it was her desire to try the South of France for her recovery, whither he meant to conduct her.

But, during his attendance upon her, the plan he had just mentioned occurred to him, and he considered how much greater would be his chance of happiness in marrying Cecilia with scarce any fortune at all, than in marrying another with the largest. He was convinced she was far other than expensive, or a lover of shew, and soon flattered himself she might be prevailed upon to concur with him, that in living together, though comparatively upon little, they should mutually be happier than in living asunder upon much.

When he started this scheme to his mother, she heard it with mingled admiration of his disinterestedness, and regret at its occasion: yet the loftiness of her own mind, her high personal value for Cecilia, her anxiety to see her son finally settled while she lived, lest his disappointment should keep him single from a lasting disgust, joined to a dejection of spirits from an apprehension that her interference had been cruel, all favoured his scheme, and forbid her resistance. She had often protested, in their former conflicts, that had Cecilia been portionless, her objections had been less than to an estate so conditioned; and that to give to her son a woman so exalted in herself, she would have conquered the mere opposition of interest, though that of family honour she held invincible. Delvile now called upon her to remember those words, and ever strict in fidelity, she still promised to abide by them.

Ah! thought Cecilia, is virtue, then, as inconsistent as vice? and can the same character be thus high-souled, thus nobly disinterested with regard to riches, whose pride is so narrow and so insurmountable, with respect to family prejudice!

Yet such a sacrifice from Cecilia herself, whose income intitled her to settlements the most splendid, Mrs Delvile thought scarcely to be solicited; but as her son was conscious he gave up in expectation no less than she would give up in possession, he resolved upon making the experiment, and felt an internal assurance of success.

This matter being finally settled with his mother, the harder task remained of vanquishing the father, by whom, and before whom the name of Cecilia was never mentioned, not even after his return from town, though loaded with imaginary charges against her. Mr Delvile held it a diminution of his own in the honour of his son, to suppose he wanted still fresh motives for resigning her. He kept, therefore, to himself the ill opinion he brought down, as a resource in case of danger, but a resource he disdained to make use of, unless driven to it by absolute necessity.

But, at the new proposal of his son, the accusation held in reserve broke out; he called Cecilia a dabler with Jews, and said she had been so from the time of her uncle’s death; he charged her with the grossest general extravagance, to which he added a most insidious attack upon her character, drawn from her visits at Belfield’s of long standing, as well as the particular time when he had himself surprised her concealed with the young man in a back parlour: and he asserted, that most of the large sums she was continually taking up from her fortune, were lavished without scruple upon this dangerous and improper favourite.

Delvile had heard this accusation with a rage scarce restrained from violence; confident in her innocence, he boldly pronounced the whole a forgery, and demanded the author of such cruel defamation. Mr Delvile, much offended, refused to name any authority, but consented, with an air of triumph, to abide by the effect of his own proposal, and gave him a supercilious promise no longer to oppose the marriage, if the terms he meant to offer to Miss Beverley, of renouncing her uncle’s estate, and producing her father’s fortune, were accepted.

“O little did I credit,” said Delvile in conclusion, “that he knew indeed so well this last condition was impracticable! his assertions were without proof; I thought them prejudiced surmises; and I came in the full hope I should convict him of his error. My mother, too, who warmly and even angrily defended you, was as firmly satisfied as myself that the whole was a mistake, and that enquiry would prove your fortune as undiminished as your purity. How will she be shocked at the tale I have now to unfold! how irritated at your injuries from Harrel! how grieved that your own too great benevolence should be productive of such black aspersions upon your character!”

“I have been,” cried Cecilia, “too facile and too unguarded; yet always, at the moment, I seemed but guided by common humanity. I have ever thought myself secure of more wealth than I could require, and regarded the want of money as an evil from which I was unavoidably exempted. My own fortune, therefore, appeared to me of small consequence, while the revenue of my uncle insured me perpetual prosperity.–Oh had I foreseen this moment–“

“Would you, then, have listened to my romantic proposal?”

“Would I have listened?–do you not see too plainly I could not have hesitated!”

“Oh yet, then, most generous of human beings, yet then be mine! By our own oeconomy we will pay off our mortgages; by living a while abroad, we will clear all our estates; I will still keep the name to which my family is bigotted, and my gratitude for your compliance shall make you forget what you lose by it!”

“Speak not to me such words!” cried Cecilia, hastily rising; “your friends will not listen to them, neither, therefore, must I.”

“My friends,” cried he with energy, “are henceforth out of the question: my father’s concurrence with a proposal he _knew_ you had not power to grant, was in fact a mere permission to insult you; for if, instead of dark charges, he had given any authority for your losses, I had myself spared you the shock you have so undeservedly received from hearing it.–But to consent to a plan which _could_ not be accepted!– to make me a tool to offer indignity to Miss Beverley!–He has released me from his power by so erroneous an exertion of it, and my own honour has a claim to which his commands must give place. That honour binds me to Miss Beverley as forcibly as my admiration, and no voice but her own shall determine my future destiny.”

“That voice, then,” said Cecilia, “again refers you to your mother. Mr Delvile, indeed, has not treated me kindly; and this last mock concession was unnecessary cruelty; but Mrs Delvile merits my utmost respect, and I will listen to nothing which has not her previous sanction.”

“But will her sanction be sufficient? and may I hope, in obtaining it, the security of yours?”

“When I have said I will hear nothing without it, may you not almost infer–I will refuse nothing with it!”

The acknowledgments he would now have poured forth, Cecilia would not hear, telling him, with some gaiety, they were yet unauthorized by Mrs Delvile. She insisted upon his leaving her immediately, and never again returning, without his mother’s express approbation. With regard to his father, she left him totally to his own inclination; she had received from him nothing but pride and incivility, and determined to skew publicly her superior respect for Mrs Delvile, by whose discretion and decision she was content to abide.

“Will you not, then, from time to time,” cried Delvile, “suffer me to consult with you?”

“No, no,” answered she, “do not ask it! I have never been insincere with you, never but from motives not to be overcome, reserved even for a moment; I have told you I will put every thing into the power of Mrs Delvile, but I will not a second time risk my peace by any action unknown to her.”

Delvile gratefully acknowledged her goodness, and promised to require nothing more. He then obeyed her by taking leave, eager himself to put an end to this new uncertainty, and supplicating only that her good wishes might follow his enterprise.

And thus, again, was wholly broken the tranquility of Cecilia; new hopes, however faint, awakened all her affections, and strong fears, but too reasonable, interrupted her repose. Her destiny, once more, was as undecided as ever, and the expectations she had crushed, retook possession of her heart.

The suspicions she had conceived of Mr Monckton again occurred to her; though unable to ascertain and unwilling to believe them, she tried to drive them from her thoughts. She lamented, however, with bitterness, her unfortunate connexion with Mr Harrel, whose unworthy impositions upon her kindness of temper and generosity, now proved to her an evil far more serious and extensive, than in the midst of her repugnance to them she had ever apprehended.

CHAPTER ix.

A SUSPENSE.

Delvile had been gone but a short time, before Henrietta, her eyes still red, though no longer streaming, opened the parlour door, and asked if she might come in?

Cecilia wished to be alone, yet could not refuse her.

“Well, madam,” cried she, with a forced smile, and constrained air of bravery, “did not I guess right?”

“In what?” said Cecilia, unwilling to understand her.

“In what I said would happen?–I am sure you know what I mean.”

Cecilia, extremely embarrassed, made no answer; she much regretted the circumstances which had prevented an earlier communication, and was uncertain whether, now, it would prove most kind or most cruel to acquaint her with what was in agitation, which, should it terminate in nothing, was unnecessarily wounding her delicacy for the openness of her confidence, and which, however serviceable it might prove to her in the end, was in the means so rough and piercing she felt the utmost repugnance to the experiment.

“You think me, madam, too free,” said Henrietta, “in asking such a question; and indeed your kindness has been so great, it may well make me forget myself: but if it does, I am sure I deserve you should send me home directly, and then there is not much fear I shall soon he brought to my senses!”

“No, my dear Henrietta, I can never think you too free; I have told you already every thing I thought you would have pleasure in hearing; whatever I have concealed, I have been fearful would only pain you.”

“I have _deserved_, madam,” said she, with spirit, “to be pained, for I have behaved with the folly of a baby. I am very angry with myself indeed! I was old enough to have known better,–and I ought to have been wise enough.”

“You must then be angry with yourself, next,” said Cecilia, anxious to re-encourage her, “for all the love that I bear you; since to your openness and frankness it was entirely owing.”

“But there are some things that people should _not_ be frank in; however, I am only come now to beg you will tell me, madam, when it is to be;–and don’t think I ask out of nothing but curiosity, for I have a very great reason for it indeed.”

“What be, my dear Henrietta?–you are very rapid in your ideas!”

“I will tell you, madam, what my reason is; I shall go away to my own home,–and so I would if it were ten times a worse home than it is!– just exactly the day before. Because afterwards I shall never like to look that gentleman in the face,–never, never!–for married ladies I know are not to be trusted!”

“Be not apprehensive; you have no occasion. Whatever may be my fate, I will never be so treacherous as to betray my beloved Henrietta to _any_ body.”

“May I ask you, madam, one question?”

“Certainly.”

“Why did all this never happen before?”

“Indeed,” cried Cecilia, much distressed, “I know not that it will happen now.”

“Why what, dear madam, can hinder it?”

“A thousand, thousand things! nothing can be less secure.”

“And then I am still as much puzzled as ever. I heard, a good while ago, and we all heard that it was to be; and I thought that it was no wonder, I am sure, for I used often to think it was just what was most likely; but afterwards we heard it was no such thing, and from that moment I always believed there had been nothing at all in it.”

“I must speak to you, I find, with sincerity; my affairs have long been in strange perplexity: I have not known myself what to expect; one day has perpetually reversed the prospect of another, and my mind has been in a state of uncertainty and disorder, that has kept it–that still keeps it from comfort and from rest!”

“This surprises me indeed, madam! I thought _you_ were all happiness! but I was sure you deserved it, and I thought you had it for that reward. And this has been the thing that has made me behave so wrong; for I took it into my head I might tell you every thing, because I concluded it could be nothing to you; for if great people loved one another, I always supposed they married directly; poor people, indeed, must stay till they are able to settle; but what in the whole world, thought I, if they like one another, should hinder such a rich lady as Miss Beverley from marrying such a rich gentleman at once?”

Cecilia now, finding there was no longer any chance for concealment, thought it better to give the poor Henrietta at least the gratification of unreserved confidence, which might somewhat sooth her uneasiness by proving her reliance in her faith. She frankly, therefore, confessed to her the whole of her situation. Henrietta wept at the recital with bitterness, thought Mr Delvile a monster, and Mrs Delvile herself scarce human; pitied Cecilia with unaffected tenderness, and wondered that the person could exist who had the heart to give grief to young Delvile! She thanked her most gratefully for reposing such trust in her; and Cecilia made use of this opportunity, to enforce the necessity of her struggling more seriously to recover her indifferency.

She promised she would not fail; and forbore steadily from that time to name Delvile any more: but the depression of her spirits shewed she had suffered a disappointment such as astonished even Cecilia. Though modest and humble, she had conceived hopes the most romantic, and though she denied, even to herself, any expectations from Delvile, she involuntarily nourished them with the most sanguine simplicity. To compose and to strengthen her became the whole business of Cecilia; who, during her present suspense, could find no other employment in which she could take any interest.

Mr Monckton, to whom nothing was unknown that related to Cecilia, was soon informed of Delvile’s visit, and hastened in the utmost alarm, to learn its event. She had now lost all the pleasure she had formerly derived from confiding in him, but though averse and confused, could not withstand his enquiries.

Unlike the tender Henrietta’s was his disappointment at this relation, and his rage at such repeated trials was almost more than he could curb. He spared neither the Delviles for their insolence of mutability in rejecting or seeking her at their pleasure, nor herself for her easiness of submission in being thus the dupe of their caprices. The subject was difficult for Cecilia to dilate upon; she wished to clear, as he deserved, Delvile himself from any share in the censure, and she felt hurt and offended at the charge of her own improper readiness; yet shame and pride united in preventing much vindication of either, and she heard almost in silence what with pain she bore to hear at all.

He now saw, with inexpressible disturbance, that whatever was his power to make her uneasy, he had none to make her retract, and that the conditional promise she had given Delvile to be wholly governed by his mother, she was firm in regarding to be as sacred as one made at the altar.

Perceiving this, he dared trust his temper with no further debate; he assumed a momentary calmness for the purpose of taking leave of her, and with pretended good wishes for her happiness, whatever might be her determination, he stifled the reproaches with which his whole heart was swelling, and precipitately left her.

Cecilia, affected by his earnestness, yet perplexed in all her opinions, was glad to be relieved from useless exhortations, and not sorry, in her present uncertainty, that his visit was not repeated.

She neither saw nor heard from Delvile for a week, and augured nothing but evil from such delay. The following letter then came by the post.

_To Miss Beverley. April 2d_, 1780

I must write without comments, for I dare not trust myself with making any; I must write without any beginning address, for I know not how you will permit me to address you.

I have lived a life of tumult since last compelled to leave you, and when it may subside, I am still in utter ignorance.

The affecting account of the losses you have suffered through your beneficence to the Harrels, and the explanatory one of the calumnies you have sustained from your kindness to the Belfields, I related with the plainness which alone I thought necessary to make them felt. I then told the high honour I had received, in meeting with no other repulse to my proposal, than was owing to an inability to accede to it; and informed my mother of the condescending powers with which you had invested her. In conclusion I mentioned my new scheme, and firmly, before I would listen to any opposition, I declared that though wholly to their decision I left the relinquishing my own name or your fortune, I was not only by your generosity more internally yours than ever, but that since again I had ventured, and with permission to apply to you, I should hold myself hence forward unalterably engaged to you.

And so I do, and so I shall! nor, after a renewal so public, will any prohibition but yours have force to keep me from throwing myself at your feet.

My father’s answer I will not mention; I would I could forget it! his prejudices are irremediable, his resolutions are inflexible. Who or what has worked him into an animosity so irreclaimable, I cannot conjecture, nor will he tell; but something darkly mysterious has part in his wrath and his injustice.

My mother was much affected by your reference to herself. Words of the sweetest praise broke repeatedly from her; no other such woman, she said, existed; no other such instance could be found of fidelity so exalted! her son must have no heart but for low and mercenary selfishness, if, after a proof of regard so unexampled, he could bear to live without her! Oh how did such a sentence from lips so highly reverenced, animate, delight, confirm, and oblige me at once!

The displeasure of my father at this declaration was dreadful; his charges, always as improbable as injurious, now became too horrible for my ears; he disbelieved you had taken up the money for Harrel, he discredited that you visited the Belfields for Henrietta: passion not merely banished his justice, but, clouded his reason, and I soon left the room, that at least I might not hear the aspersions he forbid me to answer.

I left not, however, your fame to a weak champion: my mother defended it with all the spirit of truth, and all the confidence of similar virtue! yet they parted without conviction, and so mutually irritated with each other, that they agreed to meet no more.

This was too terrible! and I instantly consolidated my resentment to my father, and my gratitude to my mother, into concessions and supplications to both; I could not, however, succeed; my mother was deeply offended, my father was sternly inexorable: nor here rests the evil of their dissention, for the violence of the conflict has occasioned a return more alarming than ever of the illness of my mother.

All her faith in her recovery is now built upon going abroad; she is earnest to set off immediately; but Dr Lyster has advised her to make London in her way, and have a consultation of physicians before she departs.

To this she has agreed; and we are now upon the road thither.

Such is, at present, the melancholy state of my affairs. My mother _advised_ me to write; forgive me, therefore, that I waited not something more decisive to say. I could prevail upon neither party to meet before the journey; nor could I draw from my father the base fabricator of the calumnies by which he has been thus abused.

Unhappily, I have nothing more to add: and whether intelligence, such as this, or total suspense, would be least irksome, I know not. If my mother bears her journey tolerably well, I have yet one more effort to make; and of that the success or the failure will be instantly communicated to Miss Beverley, by her eternally devoted, but half distracted.

Mortimer Delvile.

Scarcely could Cecilia herself decide whether this comfortless letter or none at all were preferable. The implacability of Mr Delvile was shocking, but his slandering her character was still more intolerable; yet the praises of the mother, and her generous vindication, joined to the invariable reliance of Delvile upon her innocence, conferred upon her an honour that offered some alleviation.

The mention of a fabricator again brought Mr Monckton to her mind, and not all her unwillingness to think him capable of such treachery, could now root out her suspicions. Delvile’s temper, however, she knew was too impetuous to be trusted with this conjecture, and her fear of committing injustice being thus seconded by prudence, she determined to keep to herself doubts that could not without danger be divulged.

She communicated briefly to Henrietta, who looked her earnest curiosity, the continuance of her suspense; and to her own fate Henrietta became somewhat more reconciled, when she saw that no station in life rendered happiness certain or permanent.

CHAPTER x.

A RELATION.

Another week past still without any further intelligence. Cecilia was then summoned to the parlour, and to Delvile himself.

He looked hurried and anxious; yet the glow of his face, and the animation of his eyes, immediately declared he at least came not to take leave of her.

“Can you forgive,” cried he, “the dismal and unsatisfactory letter I wrote you? I would not disobey you twice in the same manner, and I could not till now have written in any other.”

“The consultation with the physicians, then,” said Cecilia, “is over?”

“Alas, yes; and the result is most alarming; they all agree my mother is in a dangerous way, and they rather forbear to oppose, than advise her going abroad: but upon that she is earnestly bent, and intends to set out without delay. I shall return to her, therefore, with all speed, and mean not to take any rest till I have seen her.”

Cecilia expressed with tenderness her sorrow for Mrs Delvile: nor were her looks illiberal in including her son in her concern.

“I must hasten,” he cried, “to the credentials by which I am authorised for coming, and I must hasten to prove if Miss Beverley has not flattered my mother in her appeal.”

He then informed her that Mrs Delvile, apprehensive for herself, and softened for him by the confession of her danger, which she had extorted from her physicians, had tenderly resolved upon making one final effort for his happiness, and ill and impatient as she was, upon deferring her journey to wait its effect.

Generously, therefore, giving up her own resentment, she wrote to Mr Delvile in terms of peace and kindness, lamenting their late dissention, and ardently expressing her desire to be reconciled to him before she left England. She told him the uncertainty of her recovery which had been acknowledged by her physicians, who had declared a calmer mind was more essential to her than a purer air. She then added, that such serenity was only to be given her, by the removal of her anxiety at the comfortless state of her son. She begged him, therefore, to make known the author of Miss Beverley’s defamation, assuring him, that upon enquiry, he would find her character and her fame as unsullied as his own; and strongly representing, that after the sacrifice to which she had consented, their son would be utterly dishonourable in thinking of any other connexion. She then to this reasoning joined the most earnest supplication, protesting, in her present disordered state, of health, her life might pay the forfeiture of her continual uneasiness.

“I held out,” she concluded, “while his personal dignity, and the honour of his name and family were endangered; but where interest alone is concerned, and that interest is combated by the peace of his mind, and the delicacy of his word, my opposition is at an end. And though our extensive and well founded views for a splendid alliance are abolished, you will agree with me hereafter, upon a closer inspection, that the object for whom he relinquishes them, offers in herself the noblest reparation.”

Cecilia felt gratified, humbled, animated and depressed at once by this letter, of which Delvile brought her a copy. “And what,” cried she, “was the answer?”

“I cannot in decency,” he replied, “speak my opinion of it: read it yourself,–and let me hear yours.”

_To the Honourable Mrs Delvile_.

Your extraordinary letter, madam, has extremely surprised me. I had been willing to hope the affair over from the time my disapprobation of it was formally announced. I am sorry you are so much indisposed, but I cannot conclude your health would be restored by my acceding to a plan so derogatory to my house. I disapprove it upon every account, not only of the name and the fortune, but the lady herself. I have reasons more important than those I assign, but they are such as I am bound in honour not to mention. After such a declaration, nobody, I presume, will affront me by asking them. Her defence you have only from herself, her accusation I have received from authority less partial. I command, therefore, that my son, upon pain of my eternal displeasure, may never speak to me on the subject again, and I hope, madam, from you the same complaisance to my request. I cannot explain myself further, nor is it necessary; it is no news, I flatter myself, to Mortimer Delvile or his mother, that I do nothing without reason, and I believe nothing upon slight grounds.

A few cold compliments concerning her journey, and the re- establishment of her health, concluded the letter.

Cecilia, having read, hastily returned it, and indignantly said, “My opinion, Sir, upon this letter, must surely be yours; that we had done wiser, long since, to have spared your mother and ourselves, those vain and fruitless conflicts which we ought better to have foreseen were liable to such a conclusion. Now, at least, let them be ended, and let us not pursue disgrace wilfully, after suffering from it with so much rigour involuntarily.”

“O no,” cried Delvile, “rather let us now spurn it for ever! those conflicts must indeed be ended, but not by a separation still more bitter than all of them.”

He then told her, that his mother, highly offended to observe by the extreme coldness of this letter, the rancour he still nourished for the contest preceding her leaving him, no longer now refused even her separate consent, for a measure which she thought her son absolutely engaged to take.

“Good heaven!” cried Cecilia, much amazed, “this from Mrs Delvile!–a separate consent?”–

“She has always maintained,” he answered, “an independent mind, always judged for herself, and refused all other arbitration: when so impetuously she parted us, my father’s will happened to be her’s, and thence their concurrence: my father, of a temper immoveable and stern, retains stubbornly the prejudices which once have taken possession of him; my mother, generous as fiery, and noble as proud, is open to conviction, and no sooner convinced, than ingenuous in acknowledging it: and thence their dissention. From my father I may hope forgiveness, but must never expect concession; from my mother I may hope all she ought to grant, for pardon but her vehemence,–and she has every great quality that can dignify human nature!”

Cecilia, whose affection and reverence for Mrs Delvile were unfeigned, and who loved in her son this filial enthusiasm, readily concurred with him in praising her, and sincerely esteemed her the first among women.

“Now, then,” cried he, with earnestness, “now is the time when your generous admiration of her is put to the test; see what she writes to you;–she has left to me all explanation: but I insisted upon some credential, lest you should believe I only owed her concurrence to a happy dream.”

Cecilia in much trepidation took the letter, and hastily run it over.

_To Miss Beverley_.

Misery, my sweet young friend, has long been busy with us all; much have we owed to the clash of different interests, much to that rapacity which to enjoy any thing, demands every thing, and much to that general perverseness which labours to place happiness in what is with-held. Thus do we struggle on till we can struggle no longer; the felicity with which we trifle, at best is but temporary; and before reason and reflection shew its value, sickness and sorrow are commonly become stationary.

Be it yours, my love, and my son’s, to profit by the experience, while you pity the errors, of the many who illustrate this truth. Your mutual partiality has been mutually unfortunate, and must always continue so for the interests of both: but how blind is it to wait, in our own peculiar lots, for that perfection of enjoyment we can all see wanting in the lot of others! My expectations for my son had “outstepped the modesty of” probability. I looked for rank and high birth, with the fortune of Cecilia, and Cecilia’s rare character. Alas! a new constellation in the heavens might as rationally have been looked for!

My extravagance, however, has been all for his felicity, dearer to me than life,–dearer to me than all things but his own honour! Let us but save that, and then let wealth, ambition, interest, grandeur and pride, since they cannot constitute his happiness, be removed from destroying it. I will no longer play the tyrant that, weighing good and evil by my own feelings and opinions, insists upon his acting by the notions I have formed, whatever misery they may bring him by opposing all his own.

I leave the kingdom with little reason to expect I shall return to it; I leave it–Oh blindness of vanity and passion!–from the effect of that violence with which so lately I opposed what now I am content to advance! But the extraordinary resignation to which you have agreed, shews your heart so wholly my son’s, and so even more than worthy the whole possession of his, that it reflects upon him an honour more bright and more alluring, than any the most illustrious other alliance could now confer.

I would fain see you ere I go, lest I should see you no more; fain ratify by word of mouth the consent that by word of mouth I so absolutely refused! I know not how to come to Suffolk,–is it not possible you can come to London? I am told you leave to me the arbitration of your fate, in giving you to my son, I best shew my sense of such an honour.

Hasten then, my love, to town, that I may see you once more! wait no longer a concurrence thus unjustly with-held, but hasten, that I may bless the daughter I have so often wished to own! that I may entreat her forgiveness for all the pain I have occasioned her, and committing to her charge the future happiness of my son, fold to my maternal heart the two objects most dear to it!

AUGUSTA DELVILE.

Cecilia wept over this letter with tenderness, grief and alarm; but declared, had it even summoned her to follow her abroad, she could not, after reading it, have hesitated in complying.

“O now, then,” cried Delvile, “let our long suspenses end! hear me with the candour; my mother has already listened to me–be mine, my Cecilia, at once,–and force me not, by eternal scruples, to risk another separation.”

“Good heaven, Sir!” cried Cecilia, starting, “in such a state as Mrs Delvile thinks herself, would you have her journey delayed?”

“No, not a moment! I would but ensure you mine, and go with her all over the world!”

“Wild and impossible!–and what is to be done with Mr Delvile?”

“It is on his account wholly I am thus earnestly precipitate. If I do not by an immediate marriage prevent his further interference, all I have already suffered may again be repeated, and some fresh contest with my mother may occasion another relapse.”

Cecilia, who now understood him, ardently protested she would not listen for a moment to any clandestine expedient.

He besought her to be patient; and then anxiously represented to her their peculiar situations. All application to his father he was peremptorily forbid making, all efforts to remove his prejudices their impenetrable mystery prevented; a public marriage, therefore, with such obstacles, would almost irritate him to phrenzy, by its daring defiance of his prohibition and authority.

“Alas!” exclaimed Cecilia, “we can never do right but in parting!”

“Say it not,” cried he, “I conjure you! we shall yet live, I hope, to prove the contrary.” “And can you, then,” cried she, reproachfully, “Oh Mr Delvile! can you again urge me to enter your family in secret?”

“I grieve, indeed,” he answered, “that your goodness should so severely be tried; yet did you not condescend to commit the arbitration to my mother?”

“True; and I thought her approbation would secure my peace of mind; but how could I have expected Mrs Delvile’s consent to such a scheme!”

“She has merely accorded it from a certainty there is no other resource. Believe me, therefore, my whole hope rests upon your present compliance. My father, I am certain, by his letter, will now hear neither petition nor defence; on the contrary, he will only enrage at the temerity of offering to confute him. But when he knows you are his daughter, his honour will then be concerned in yours, and it will be as much his desire to have it cleared, as it is now to have it censured.”

“Wait at least your return, and let us try what can be done with him.”

“Oh why,” cried Delvile, with much earnestness, “must I linger out month after month in this wretched uncertainty! If I wait I am undone! my father, by the orders I must unavoidably leave, will discover the preparations making without his consent, and he will work upon you in my absence, and compel you to give me up!”