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“Are you sure,” said she, half smiling, “he would have so much power?”

“I am but too sure, that the least intimation, in his present irritable state of mind, reaching him of my intentions, would make him not scruple, in his fury, pronouncing some malediction upon my disobedience that _neither_ of us, I must own, could tranquilly disregard.”

This was an argument that came home to Cecilia, whose deliberation upon it, though silent, was evidently not unfavourable.

He then told her that with respect to settlements, he would instantly have a bond drawn up, similar to that prepared for their former intended union, which should be properly signed and sealed, and by which he would engage himself to make, upon coming to his estate, the same settlement upon her that was made upon his mother.

“And as, instead of keeping up three houses,” he continued, “in the manner my father does at present, I mean to put my whole estate _out to nurse_, while we reside for a while abroad, or in the country, I doubt not but in a very few years we shall be as rich and as easy as we shall desire.”

He told her, also, of his well-founded expectations from the Relations already mentioned; which the concurrence of his mother with his marriage would thence forward secure to him.

He then, with more coherence, stated his plan at large. He purposed, without losing a moment, to return to London; he conjured her, in the name of his mother, to set out herself early the next day, that the following evening might be dedicated wholly to Mrs Delvile: through her intercession he might then hope Cecilia’s compliance, and every thing on the morning after should be prepared for their union. The long- desired ceremony over, he would instantly ride post to his father, and pay him, at least, the respect of being the first to communicate it. He would then attend his mother to the Continent, and leave the arrangement of everything to his return. “Still, therefore, as a single man,” he continued, “I mean to make the journey, and I shall take care, by the time I return, to have all things in readiness for claiming my sweet Bride. Tell me, then, now, if you can reasonably oppose this plan?”

“Indeed,” said Cecilia, after some hesitation, “I cannot see the necessity of such violent precipitancy.”

“Do you not try me too much,” cried Delvile, impatiently, “to talk now of precipitancy! after such painful waiting, such wearisome expectation! I ask you not to involve your own affairs in confusion by accompanying me abroad; sweet to me as would be such an indulgence, I would not make a run-away of you in the opinion of the world. All I wish is the secret certainty I cannot be robbed of you, that no cruel machinations may again work our separation, that you are mine, unalterably mine, beyond the power of caprice or ill fortune.”

Cecilia made no answer; tortured with irresolution, she knew not upon what to determine.

“We might then, according to the favour or displeasure of my father, settle wholly abroad for the present, or occasionally visit him in England; my mother would be always and openly our friend–Oh be firm, then, I conjure you, to the promise you have given her, and deign to be mine on the conditions she prescribes. She will be bound to you for ever by so generous a concession, and even her health may be restored by the cessation of her anxieties. With such a wife, such a mother, what will be wanting for _me_! Could I lament not being richer, I must be rapacious indeed!–Speak, then, my Cecilia! relieve me from the agony of this eternal uncertainty, and tell me your word is invariable as your honour, and tell me my mother gives not her sanction in vain!”

Cecilia sighed deeply, but, after some hesitation, said, “I little knew what I had promised, nor know I now what to perform!–there must ever, I find, be some check to human happiness! yet, since upon these terms, Mrs Delvile herself is content to wish me of her family–“

She stopt; but, urged earnestly by Delvile, added “I must not, I think, withdraw the powers with which I entrusted her.”

Delvile, grateful and enchanted, now forgot his haste and his business, and lost every wish but to re-animate her spirits: she compelled him, however, to leave her, that his visit might less be wondered at, and sent by him a message to Mrs. Delvile, that, wholly relying upon her wisdom, she implicitly submitted to her decree.

CHAPTER xi.

AN ENTERPRISE.

Cecilia now had no time for afterthoughts or anxious repentance, since notwithstanding the hurry of her spirits, and the confusion of her mind, she had too much real business, to yield to pensive indulgence.

Averse to all falsehood, she invented none upon this occasion; she merely told her guests she was summoned to London upon an affair of importance; and though she saw their curiosity, not being at liberty to satisfy it with the truth, she attempted not to appease it by fiction, but quietly left it to its common fare, conjecture. She would gladly have made Henrietta the companion of her journey, but Henrietta was the last to whom that journey could give pleasure. She only, therefore, took her maid in the chaise, and, attended by one servant on horseback, at six o’clock the next morning, she quitted her mansion, to enter into an engagement by which soon she was to resign it for ever.

Disinterested as she was, she considered her situation as peculiarly perverse, that from the time of her coming to a fortune which most others regarded as enviable, she had been a stranger to peace, a fruitless seeker of happiness, a dupe to the fraudulent, and a prey to the needy! the little comfort she had received, had been merely from dispensing it, and now only had she any chance of being happy herself, when upon the point of relinquishing what all others built their happiness upon obtaining!

These reflections only gave way to others still more disagreeable; she was now a second time engaged in a transaction she could not approve, and suffering the whole peace of her future life to hang upon an action dark, private and imprudent: an action by which the liberal kindness of her late uncle would be annulled, by which the father of her intended husband would be disobeyed, and which already, in a similar instance, had brought her to affliction and disgrace. These melancholy thoughts haunted her during the whole journey, and though the assurance of Mrs Delvile’s approbation was some relief to her uneasiness, she involuntarily prepared herself for meeting new mortifications, and was tormented with an apprehension that this second attempt made her merit them.

She drove immediately, by the previous direction of Delvile, to a lodging-house in Albemarle Street, which he had taken care to have prepared for her reception. She then sent for a chair, and went to Mrs Delvile’s. Her being seen by the servants of that house was not very important, as their master was soon to be acquainted with the real motive of her journey.

She was shewn into a parlour, while Mrs Delvile was informed of her arrival, and there flown to by Delvile with the most grateful eagerness. Yet she saw in his countenance that all was not well, and heard upon enquiry that his mother was considerably worse. Extremely shocked by this intelligence, she already began to lament her unfortunate enterprise. Delvile struggled, by exerting his own spirits, to restore hers, but forced gaiety is never exhilarating; and, full of care and anxiety, he was ill able to appear sprightly and easy.

They were soon summoned upstairs into the apartment of Mrs Delvile, who was lying upon a couch, pale, weak, and much altered. Delvile led the way, saying, “Here, madam, comes one whose sight will bring peace and pleasure to you!”

“This, indeed,” cried Mrs Delvile, half rising and embracing her, “is the form in which they are most welcome to me! virtuous, noble Cecilia! what honour you do my son! with what joy, should I ever recover, shall I assist him in paying the gratitude he owes you!”

Cecilia, grieved at her situation, and affected by her kindness, could only answer with her tears; which, however, were not shed alone; for Delvile’s eyes were full, as he passionately exclaimed, “This, this is the sight my heart has thus long desired! the wife of my choice taken to the bosom of the parent I revere! be yet but well, my beloved mother, and I will be thankful for every calamity that has led to so sweet a conclusion!”

“Content yourself, however, my son, with one of us,” cried Mrs Delvile, smiling; “and content yourself, if you can, though your hard lot should make that one this creature of full bloom, health, and youth! Ah, my love,” added she, more seriously, and addressing the still weeping Cecilia, “should now Mortimer, in losing me, lose those cares by which alone, for some months past, my life has been rendered tolerable, how peaceably shall I resign him to one so able to recompense his filial patience and services!”

This was not a speech to stop the tears of Cecilia, though such warmth of approbation quieted her conscientious scruples. Delvile now earnestly interfered; he told her that his mother had been ordered not to talk or exert herself, and entreated her to be composed, and his mother to be silent.

“Be it _your_ business, then,” said Mrs Delvile, more gaily, “to find us entertainment. We will promise to be very still if you will take that trouble upon yourself.”

“I will not,” answered he, “be rallied from my purpose; if I cannot entertain, it will be something to weary you, for that may incline you to take rest, which will he answering a better purpose.”

“Mortimer,” returned she, “is this the ingenuity of duty or of love? and which are you just now thinking of, my health, or a conversation uninterrupted with Miss Beverley?”

“Perhaps a little of both!” said he, chearfully, though colouring.

“But you rather meant it should pass,” said Mrs Delvile, “you were thinking only of me? I have always observed, that where one scheme answers two purposes, the ostensive is never the purpose most at heart.”

“Why it is but common prudence,” answered Delvile, “to feel our way a little before we mention what we most wish, and so cast the hazard of the refusal upon something rather less important.”

“Admirably settled!” cried Mrs Delvile: “so my rest is but to prove Miss Beverley’s disturbance!–Well, it is only anticipating our future way of life, when her disturbance, in taking the management of you to herself, will of course prove my rest.”

She then quietly reposed herself, and Delvile discoursed with Cecilia upon their future plans, hopes and actions.

He meant to set off from the church-door to Delvile Castle, to acquaint his father with his marriage, and then to return instantly to London: there he entreated Cecilia to stay with his mother, that, finding them both together, he might not exhaust her patience, by making his parting visit occasion another journey to Suffolk.

But here Cecilia resolutely opposed him; saying, her only chance to escape discovery, was going instantly to her own house; and representing so earnestly her desire that their marriage should be unknown till his return to England, upon a thousand motives of delicacy, propriety, and fearfulness, that the obligation he owed already to a compliance which he saw grew more and more reluctant, restrained him both in gratitude and pity from persecuting her further. Neither would she consent to seeing him in Suffolk; which could but delay his mother’s journey, and expose her to unnecessary suspicions; she promised, however, to write to him often, and as, from his mother’s weakness, he must travel very slowly, she took a plan of his route, and engaged that he should find a letter from her at every great town.

The bond which he had already had altered, he insisted upon leaving in her own custody, averse to applying to Mr Monckton, whose behaviour to him had before given him disgust, and in whom Cecilia herself no longer wished to confide. He had again applied to the same lawyer, Mr Singleton, to give her away; for though to his secrecy he had no tie, he had still less to any entire stranger. Mrs Delvile was too ill to attend them to church, nor would Delvile have desired from her such absolute defiance of his father.

Cecilia now gave another sigh to her departed friend Mrs Charlton, whose presence upon this awful occasion would else again have soothed and supported her. She had no female friend in whom she could rely; but feeling a repugnance invincible to being accompanied only by men, she accepted the attendance of Mrs Delvile’s own woman, who had lived many years in the family, and was high in the favour and confidence of her lady.

The arrangement of these and other articles, with occasional interruptions from Mrs Delvile, fully employed the evening. Delvile would not trust again to meeting her at the church; but begged her to send out her servants between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, at which time he would himself call for her with a chair.

She went away early, that Mrs Delvile might go to rest, and it was mutually agreed they should risk no meeting the next day. Delvile conjured them to part with firmness and chearfulness, and Cecilia, fearing her own emotion, would have retired without bidding her adieu. But Mrs Delvile, calling after her, said, “Take with you my blessing!” and tenderly embracing her, added, “My son, as my chief nurse, claims a prescriptive right to govern me, but I will break from his control to tell my sweet Cecilia what ease and what delight she has already given to my mind! my best hope of recovery is founded on the pleasure I anticipate to witnessing your mutual happiness: but should my illness prove fatal, and that felicity be denied me, my greatest earthly care is already removed by the security I feel of Mortimer’s future peace. Take with you, then, my blessing, for you are become one to me! long daughter of my affection, now wife of my darling son! love her, Mortimer, as she merits, and cherish her with tenderest gratitude!– banish, sweetest Cecilia, every apprehension that oppresses you, and receive in Mortimer Delvile a husband that will revere your virtues, and dignify your choice!”

She then embraced her again, and seeing that her heart was too full for speech, suffered her to go without making any answer. Delvile attended her to her chair, scarce less moved than herself, and found only opportunity to entreat her punctuality the next morning.

She had, indeed, no inclination to fail in her appointment, or risk the repetition of scenes so affecting, or situations so alarming. Mrs Delvile’s full approbation somewhat restored to her her own, but nothing could remove the fearful anxiety, which still privately tormented her with expectations of another disappointment.

The next morning she arose with the light, and calling all her courage to her aid, determined to consider this day as decisive of her destiny with regard to Delvile, and, rejoicing that at least all suspense would be over, to support herself with fortitude, be that destiny what it might.

At the appointed time she sent her maid to visit Mrs Hill, and gave some errands to her man that carried him to a distant part of the town: but she charged them both to return to the lodgings by nine o’clock, at which hour she ordered a chaise for returning into the country.

Delvile, who was impatiently watching for their quitting the house, only waited till they were out of sight, to present himself at the door. He was shewn into a parlour, where she instantly attended him; and being told that the clergyman, Mr Singleton, and Mrs Delvile’s woman, were already in the church, she gave him her hand in silence, and he led her to the chair.

The calmness of stifled hope had now taken place in Cecilia of quick sensations and alarm. Occupied with a firm belief she should never be the wife of Delvile, she only waited, with a desperate sort of patience, to see when and by whom she was next to be parted from him.

When they arrived near the church, Delvile stopt the chair. He handed Cecilia out of it, and discharging the chairmen, conducted her into the church. He was surprised himself at her composure, but earnestly wishing it to last, took care not to say to her a word that should make any answer from her necessary.

He gave her, as before, to Mr Singleton, secretly praying that not, as before, she might be given him in vain: Mrs Delvile’s woman attended her; the clergyman was ready, and they all proceeded to the altar.

The ceremony was begun; Cecilia, rather mechanically than with consciousness, appearing to listen to it but at the words, _If any man can shew any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together_, Delvile himself shook with terror, lest some concealed person should again answer it, and Cecilia, with a sort of steady dismay in her countenance, cast her eyes round the church, with no other view than that of seeing from what comer the prohibiter would start.

She looked, however, to no purpose; no prohibiter appeared, the ceremony was performed without any interruption, and she received the thanks of Delvile, and the congratulations of the little set, before the idea which had so strongly pre-occupied her imagination, was sufficiently removed from it to satisfy her she was really married.

They then went to the vestry, where their business was not long; and Delvile again put Cecilia into a chair, which again he accompanied on foot.

Her sensibility now soon returned, though still attended with strangeness and a sensation of incredulity. But the sight of Delvile at her lodgings, contrary to their agreement, wholly recovered her senses from the stupor which had dulled them. He came, however, but to acknowledge how highly she had obliged him, to see her himself restored to the animation natural to her, character, and to give her a million of charges, resulting from anxiety and tenderness. And then, fearing the return of her servants, he quitted her, and set out for Delvile Castle.

The amazement of Cecilia was still unconquerable; to be actually united with Delvile! to be his with the full consent of his mother,–to have him her’s, beyond the power of his father,–she could not reconcile it with possibility; she fancied it a dream,–but a dream from which she wished not to wake.

BOOK X.

CHAPTER i

A DISCOVERY.

Cecilia’s journey back to the country was as safe and free from interruption as her journey had been to town, and all that distinguished them was what passed in her own mind: the doubts, apprehensions, and desponding suspense which had accompanied her setting out, were now all removed, and certainty, ease, the expectation of happiness, and the cessation of all perplexity, had taken their place. She had nothing left to dread but the inflexibility of Mr Delvile, and hardly any thing even to hope but the recovery of his lady.

Her friends at her return expressed their wonder at her expedition, but their wonder at what occasioned it, though still greater, met no satisfaction. Henrietta rejoiced in her sight, though her absence had been so short; and Cecilia, whose affection with her pity increased, intimated to her the event for which she wished her to prepare herself, and frankly acknowledged she had reason to expect it would soon take place.

Henrietta endeavoured with composure to receive this intelligence, and to return such a mark of confidence with chearful congratulations: but her fortitude was unequal to an effort so heroic, and her character was too simple to assume a greatness she felt not: she sighed and changed colour; and hastily quitted the room that she might sob aloud in another.

Warm-hearted, tender, and susceptible, her affections were all undisguised: struck with the elegance of Delvile, and enchanted by his services to her brother, she had lost to him her heart at first without missing it, and, when missed, without seeking to reclaim it. The hopelessness of such a passion she never considered, nor asked herself its end, or scarce suspected its aim; it was pleasant to her at the time, and she looked not to the future, but fed it with visionary schemes, and soothed it with voluntary fancies. Now she knew all was over, she felt the folly she had committed, but though sensibly and candidly angry at her own error, its conviction offered nothing but sorrow to succeed it.

The felicity of Cecilia, whom she loved, admired and revered, she wished with the genuine ardour of zealous sincerity; but that Delvile, the very cause and sole subject of her own personal unhappiness, should himself constitute that felicity, was too much for her spirits, and seemed to her mortified mind too cruel in her destiny.

Cecilia, who in the very vehemence of her sorrow saw its innocence, was too just and too noble to be offended by it, or impute to the bad passions of envy or jealousy, the artless regret of an untutored mind. To be penetrated too deeply with the merit of Delvile, with her wanted no excuse, and she grieved for her situation with but little mixture of blame, and none of surprise. She redoubled her kindness and caresses with the hope of consoling her, but ventured to trust her no further, till reflection, and her natural good sense, should better enable her to bear an explanation.

Nor was this friendly exertion any longer a hardship to her; the sudden removal, in her own feelings and affairs, of distress and expectation, had now so much lightened her heart, that she could spare without repining, some portion of its spirit to her dejected young friend.

But an incident happened two mornings after which called back, and most unpleasantly, her attention to herself. She was told that Mrs Matt, the poor woman she had settled in Bury, begged an audience, and upon sending for her up stairs, and desiring to know what she could do for her, “Nothing, madam, just now,” she answered, “for I don’t come upon my own business, but to tell some news to you, madam. You bid me never take notice of the wedding, that was to be, and I’m sure I never opened my mouth about it from that time to this; but I have found out who it was put a stop to it, and so I come to tell you.”

Cecilia, extremely amazed, eagerly desired her to go on.

“Why, madam, I don’t know the gentlewoman’s name quite right yet, but I can tell you where she lives, for I knew her as soon as I set eyes on her, when I see her at church last Sunday, and I would have followed her home, but she went into a coach, and I could not walk fast enough; but I asked one of the footmen where she lived, and he said at the great house at the Grove: and perhaps, madam, you may know where that is: and then he told me her name, but that I can’t just now think of.”

“Good heaven!” cried Cecilia,–“it could not be Bennet?”

“Yes, ma’am, that’s the very name; I know it again now I hear it.”

Cecilia then hastily dismissed her, first desiring her not to mention the circumstance to any body.

Shocked and dismayed, she now saw, but saw with horror, the removal of all her doubts, and the explanation of all her difficulties, in the full and irrefragable discovery of the perfidy of her oldest friend and confident.

Miss Bennet herself she regarded in the affair as a mere tool, which, though in effect it did the work, was innocent of its mischief, because powerless but in the hand of its employer.

“That employer,” cried she, “must be Mr Monckton! Mr Monckton whom so long I have known, who so willingly has been my counsellor, so ably my instructor! in whose integrity I have confided, upon whose friendship I have relied! my succour in all emergencies, my guide in all perplexities!–Mr _Monckton_ thus dishonourably, thus barbarously to betray me! to turn against me the very confidence I had reposed in his regard for me! and make use of my own trust to furnish the means to injure me!”–

She was now wholly confirmed that he had wronged her with Mr Delvile; she could not have two enemies so malignant without provocation, and he who so unfeelingly could dissolve a union at the very altar, could alone have the baseness to calumniate her so cruelly.

Evil thoughts thus awakened, stopt not merely upon facts; conjecture carried her further, and conjecture built upon probability. The officiousness of Morrice in pursuing her to London, his visiting her when there, and his following and watching Delvile, she now reasonably concluded were actions directed by Mr Monckton, whose house he had but just left, and whose orders, whatever they might be, she was almost certain he would obey. Availing himself, therefore, of the forwardness and suppleness which met in this young man, she doubted not but his intelligence had contributed to acquaint him with her proceedings.

The motive of such deep concerted and accumulated treachery was next to be sought: nor was the search long; one only could have tempted him to schemes so hazardous and costly; and, unsuspicious as she was, she now saw into his whole design.

Long accustomed to regard him as a safe and disinterested old friend, the respect with which, as a child, she had looked up to him, she had insensibly preserved when a woman. That respect had taught her to consider his notice as a favour, and far from suspiciously shunning, she had innocently courted it: and his readiness in advising and tutoring her, his frank and easy friendliness of behaviour, had kept his influence unimpaired, by preventing its secret purpose from being detected.

But now the whole mystery was revealed; his aversion to the Delviles, to which hitherto she had attributed all she disapproved in his behaviour, she was convinced must be inadequate to stimulate him to such lengths. That aversion itself was by this late surmise accounted for, and no sooner did it occur to her, than a thousand circumstances confirmed it.

The first among these was the evident ill will of Lady Margaret, which though she had constantly imputed to the general irascibility for which her character was notorious, she had often wondered to find impenetrable to all endeavours to please or soften her. His care of her fortune, his exhortations against her expences, his wish to make her live with Mr Briggs, all contributed to point out the selfishness of his attentions, which in one instance rendered visible, became obvious in every other.

Yet various as were the incidents that now poured upon her memory to his disgrace, not one among them took its rise from his behaviour to herself, which always had been scrupulously circumspect, or if for a moment unguarded, only at a season when her own distress or confusion had prevented her from perceiving it. This recollection almost staggered her suspicions; yet so absolute seemed the confirmation they received from every other, that her doubt was overpowered, and soon wholly extinguished.

She was yet ruminating on this subject, when, word was brought her that Mr Monckton was in the parlour.

Mingled disgust and indignation made her shudder at his name, and without pausing a moment, she sent him word she was engaged, and could not possibly leave her room.

Astonished by such a dismission, he left the house in the utmost confusion. But Cecilia could not endure to see him, after a discovery of such hypocrisy and villainy.

She considered, however, that the matter could not rest here: he would demand an explanation, and perhaps, by his unparalleled address, again contrive to seem innocent, notwithstanding appearances were at present so much against him. Expecting, therefore, some artifice, and determined not to be duped by it, she sent again for the Pew-opener, to examine her more strictly.

The woman was out at work in a private family, and could not come till the evening: but, when further questioned, the description she gave of Miss Bennet was too exact to be disputed.

She then desired her to call again the next morning and sent a servant to the Grove, with her compliments to Miss Bennet, and a request that she might send her carriage for her the next day, at any time she pleased, as she wished much to speak with her.

This message, she was aware, might create some suspicion, and put her upon her guard; but she thought, nevertheless, a sudden meeting with the Pew-opener, whom she meant abruptly to confront with her, would baffle the security of any previously settled scheme.

To a conviction such as this even Mr Monckton must submit, and since he was lost to her as a friend, she might at least save herself the pain of keeping up his acquaintance.

CHAPTER ii.

AN INTERVIEW.

The servant did not return till it was dark; and then, with a look of much dismay, said he had been able to meet with nobody who could either give or take a message; that the Grove was all in confusion, and the whole country in an uproar, for Mr Monckton, just as he arrived, had been brought home dead!

Cecilia screamed with involuntary horror; a pang like remorse seized her mind, with the apprehension she had some share in this catastrophe, and innocent as she was either of his fall or his crimes, she no sooner heard he was no more, than she forgot he had offended her, and reproached herself with severity for the shame to which she meant to expose him the next morning.

Dreadfully disturbed by this horrible incident, she entreated Mrs Harrel and Henrietta to sup by themselves, and going into her own room, determined to write the whole affair to Delvile, in a letter she should direct to be left at the post-office for him at Margate.

And here strongly she felt the happiness of being actually his wife; she could now without reserve make him acquainted with all her affairs, and tell to the master of her heart every emotion that entered it.

While engaged in this office, the very action of which quieted her, a letter was brought her from Delvile himself. She received it with gratitude and opened it with joy; he had promised to write soon, but so soon she had thought impossible.

The reading took not much time; the letter contained but the following words:

_To Miss Beverley_.

MY CECILIA!–Be alone, I conjure you; dismiss every body, and admit me this moment!

Great was her astonishment at this note! no name to it, no conclusion, the characters indistinct, the writing crooked, the words so few, and those few scarce legible!

He desired to see her, and to see her alone; she could not hesitate in her compliance,–but whom could she dismiss?–her servants, if ordered away, would but be curiously upon the watch,–she could think of no expedient, she was all hurry and amazement.

She asked if any one waited for an answer? The footman said no; that the note was given in by somebody who did not speak, and who ran out of sight the moment he had delivered it.

She could not doubt this was Delvile himself,–Delvile who should now be just returned from the castle to his mother, and whom she had thought not even a letter would reach if directed any where nearer than Margate!

All she could devise in obedience to him, was to go and wait for him alone in her dressing-room, giving orders that if any one called they might be immediately brought up to her, as she expected somebody upon business, with whom she must not be interrupted.

This was extremely disagreeable to her; yet, contrary as it was to their agreement, she felt no inclination to reproach Delvile; the abruptness of his note, the evident hand-shaking with which it had been written, the strangeness of the request in a situation such as theirs, –all concurred to assure her he came not to her idly, and all led her to apprehend he came to her with evil tidings.

What they might be, she had no time to conjecture; a servant, in a few minutes, opened the dressing-room door, and said, “Ma’am, a gentleman;” and Delvile, abruptly entering, shut it himself, in his eagerness to get rid of him.

At his sight, her prognostication of ill became stronger! she went forward to meet him, and he advanced to her smiling and in haste; but that smile did not well do its office; it concealed not a pallid countenance, in which every feature spoke horror; it disguised not an aching heart, which almost visibly throbbed with intolerable emotion! Yet he addressed her in terms of tenderness and peace; but his tremulous voice counteracted his words, and spoke that all within was tumult and war!

Cecilia, amazed, affrighted, had no power to hasten an explanation, which, on his own part, he seemed unable, or fearful to begin. He talked to her of his happiness in again seeing her before he left the kingdom, entreated her to write to him continually, said the same thing two and three times in a breath, began with one subject, and seemed unconscious he wandered presently into another, and asked her questions innumerable about her health, journey, affairs, and ease of mind, without hearing from her any answer, or seeming to miss that she had none.

Cecilia grew dreadfully terrified; something strange and most alarming she was sure must have happened, but _what_, she had no means to know, nor courage, nor even words to enquire.

Delvile, at length, the first hurry of his spirits abating, became more coherent and considerate: and looking anxiously at her, said, “Why this silence, my Cecilia?”

“I know not!” said she, endeavouring to recover herself, “but your coming was unexpected: I was just writing to you at Margate.”

“Write still, then; but direct to Ostend; I shall be quicker than the post; and I would not lose a letter–a line–a word from you, for all the world can offer me!”

“Quicker than the post?” cried Cecilia; “but how can Mrs Delvile–” she stopt; not knowing what she might venture to ask.

“She is now on the road to Margate; I hope to be there to receive her. I mean but to bid you adieu, and be gone.”

Cecilia made no answer; she was more and more astonished, more and more confounded.

“You are thoughtful?” said he, with tenderness; “are you unhappy?– sweetest Cecilia! most excellent of human creatures! if I have made you unhappy–and I must!–it is inevitable!–“

“Oh Delvile!” cried she, now assuming more courage, “why will you not speak to me openly?–something, I see, is wrong; may I not hear it? may I not tell you, at least, my concern that any thing has distressed you?”

“You are too good!” cried he; “to deserve you is not possible, but to afflict you is inhuman!” “Why so?” cried she, more chearfully; “must I not share the common lot? or expect the whole world to be new modelled, lest I should meet in it any thing but happiness?”

“There is not, indeed, much danger! Have you pen and ink here?”

She brought them to him immediately, with paper.

You have been writing to me, you say?–I will begin a letter myself.”

“To me?” cried she.

He made no answer, but took up the pen, and wrote a few words, and then, flinging it down, said, “Fool!–I could have done this without coming!”

“May I look at it?” said she; and, finding he made no opposition, advanced and read.

_I fear to alarm you by rash precipitation,–I fear to alarm you by lingering suspense,–but all is not well–_

“Fear nothing!” cried she, turning to him with the kindest earnestness; “tell me, whatever it may be!–Am I not your wife? bound by every tie divine and human to share in all your sorrows, if, unhappily, I cannot mitigate them!”

“Since you allow me,” cried he, gratefully, “so sweet a claim, a claim to which all others yield, and which if you repent not giving me, will make all others nearly immaterial to me,–I will own to you that all, indeed, is not well! I have been hasty,–you will blame me; I deserve, indeed, to be blamed!–entrusted with your peace and happiness, to suffer rage, resentment, violence, to make me forego what I owed to such a deposite!–If your blame, however, stops short of repentance– but it cannot!”

“What, then,” cried she with warmth, “must you have done? for there is not an action of which I believe you capable, there is not an event which I believe to be possible, that can ever make me repent belonging to you wholly!”

“Generous, condescending Cecilia!” cried he; “Words such as these, hung there not upon me an evil the most depressing, would be almost more than I could bear–would make me too blest for mortality!”

“But words such as these,” said she more gaily, “I might long have coquetted ere I had spoken, had you not drawn them from me by this alarm. Take, therefore, the good with the ill, and remember, if all does not go right, you have now a trusty friend, as willing to be the partner of your serious as your happiest hours.”

“Shew but as much firmness as you have shewn sweetness,” cried he, “and I will fear to tell you nothing.”

She reiterated her assurances; they then both sat down, and he began his account.

“Immediately from your lodgings I went where I had ordered a chaise, and stopped only to change horses till I reached Delvile Castle. My father saw me with surprise, and received me with coldness. I was compelled by my situation to be abrupt, and told him I came, before I accompanied my mother abroad, to make him acquainted with an affair which I thought myself bound in duty and respect to suffer no one to communicate to him but myself. He then sternly interrupted me, and declared in high terms, that if this affair concerned _you_, he would not listen to it. I attempted to remonstrate upon this injustice, when he passionately broke forth into new and horrible charges against you, affirming that he had them from authority as indisputable as ocular demonstration. I was then certain of some foul play.”–

“Foul play indeed!” cried Cecilia, who now knew but too well by whom she had been injured. “Good heaven, how have I been deceived, where most I have trusted!”

“I told him,” continued Delvile, “some gross imposition had been practiced upon him, and earnestly conjured him no longer to conceal from me by whom. This, unfortunately, encreased his rage; imposition, he said, was not so easily played upon him, he left that for _me_ who so readily was duped; while for himself, he had only given credit to a man of much consideration in Suffolk, who had known you from a child, who had solemnly assured him he had repeatedly endeavoured to reclaim you, who had rescued you from the hands of Jews at his own hazard and loss, and who actually shewed him bonds acknowledging immense debts, which were signed with your own hand.”

“Horrible!” exclaimed Cecilia, “I believed not such guilt and perfidy possible!”

“I was scarce myself,” resumed Delvile, “while I heard him: I demanded even with fierceness his author, whom I scrupled not to execrate as he deserved; he coldly answered he was bound by an oath never to reveal him, nor should he repay his honourable attention to his family by a breach of his own word, were it even less formally engaged. I then lost all patience; to mention honour, I cried, was a farce, where such infamous calumnies were listened to;–but let me not shock you unnecessarily, you may readily conjecture what passed.”

“Ah me!” cried Cecilia, “you have then quarrelled with your father!”

“I have!” said he; “nor does he yet know I am married: in so much wrath there was no room for narration; I only pledged myself by all I held sacred, never to rest till I had cleared your fame, by the detection of this villainy, and then left him without further explanation.”

“Oh return, then, to him directly!” cried Cecilia, “he is your father, you are bound to bear with his displeasure;–alas! had you never known me, you had never incurred it!”

“Believe me,” he answered, “I am ill at ease under it: if you wish it, when you have heard me, I will go to him immediately; if not, I will write, and you shall yourself dictate what.”

Cecilia thanked him, and begged he would continue his account.

“My first step, when I left the Castle, was to send a letter to my mother, in which I entreated her to set out as soon as possible for Margate, as I was detained from her unavoidably, and was unwilling my delay should either retard our journey, or oblige her to travel faster. At Margate I hoped to be as soon as herself, if not before her.”

“And why,” cried Cecilia, “did you not go to town as you had promised, and accompany her?”

“I had business another way. I came hither.”

“Directly?”

“No; but soon.”

“Where did you go first?”

“My Cecilia, it is now you must summon your fortitude: I left my father without an explanation on my part;–but not till, in his rage of asserting his authority, he had unwarily named his informant.”

“Well!”

“That informant–the most deceitful of men!–was your long pretended friend, Mr Monckton!”

“So I feared!” said Cecilia, whose blood now ran cold through her veins with sudden and new apprehensions.

“I rode to the Grove, on hack-horses, and on a full gallop the whole way. I got to him early in the evening. I was shewn into his library. I told him my errand.–You look pale, my love? You are not well?–“

Cecilia, too sick for speech, leant her head upon a table. Delvile was going to call for help; but she put her hand upon his arm to stop him, and, perceiving she was only mentally affected, he rested, and endeavoured by every possible means to revive her.

After a while, she again raised her head, faintly saying, “I am sorry I interrupted you; but the conclusion I already know,–Mr Monckton is dead!”

“Not dead,” cried he; “dangerously, indeed, wounded, but thank heaven, not actually dead!”

“Not dead?” cried Cecilia, with recruited strength and spirits, “Oh then all yet may be well!–if he is not dead; he may recover!”

“He may; I hope he will!”

“Now, then,” she cried, “tell me all: I can bear any intelligence but of death by human means.”

“I meant not to have gone such lengths; far from it; I hold duels in abhorrence, as unjustifiable acts of violence, and savage devices of revenge. I have offended against my own conviction,–but, transported with passion at his infamous charges, I was not master of my reason; I accused hum of his perfidy; he denied it; I told him I had it from my father,–he changed the subject to pour abuse upon him; I insisted on a recantation to clear you; he asked by what right? I fiercely answered; by a husband’s! His countenance, then, explained at least the motives of his treachery,–he loves you himself! he had probably schemed to keep you free till his wife died, and then concluded his machinations would secure you his own. For this purpose, finding he was in danger of losing you, he was content even to blast your character, rather than suffer you to escape him! But the moment I acknowledged my marriage he grew more furious than myself; and, in short-for why relate the frenzies of rage? we walked out together; my travelling pistols were already charged; I gave him his choice of them, and, the challenge being mine, for insolence joined with guilt had robbed me of all forbearance, he fired first, but missed me: I then demanded whether he would clear your fame? he called out ‘Fire! I will make no terms,’–I did fire,–and unfortunately aimed better! We had neither of us any second, all was the result of immediate passion; but I soon got people to him, and assisted in conveying him home. He was at, first believed to be dead, and I was seized by his servants; but he afterwards shewed signs of life, and by sending for my friend Biddulph, I was released. Such is the melancholy transaction I came to relate to you, flattering myself it would something less shock you from me than from another: yet my own real concern for the affair, the repentance with which from the moment the wretch fell, I was struck in being his destroyer, and the sorrow, the remorse, rather, which I felt, in coming to wound you with such black, such fearful intelligence,–you to whom all I owe is peace and comfort!–these thoughts gave me so much disturbance, that, in fact, I knew less than any other how to prepare you for such a tale.”

He stopt; but Cecilia could say nothing: to censure him now would both be cruel and vain; yet to pretend she was satisfied with his conduct, would be doing violence to her judgment and veracity. She saw, too, that his error had sprung wholly from a generous ardor in her defence, and that his confidence in her character, had resisted, without wavering, every attack that menaced it. For this she felt truly grateful; yet his quarrel with his father,–the danger of his mother,– his necessary absence,–her own clandestine situation,–and more than all, the threatened death of Mr Monckton by his hands, were circumstances so full of dread and sadness, she knew not upon which to speak,–how to offer him comfort,–how to assume a countenance that looked able to receive any, or by what means to repress the emotions which to many ways assailed her. Delvile, having vainly waited some reply, then in a tone the most melancholy, said, “If it is yet possible you can be sufficiently interested in my fate to care what becomes of me, aid me now with your counsel, or rather with your instructions; I am scarce able to think for myself, and to be thought for by you, would yet be a consolation that would give me spirit for any thing.”

Cecilia, starting from her reverie, repeated, “To care what becomes of you-? Oh Delvile!–make not my heart bleed by words of such unkindness!”

“Forgive me,” cried he, “I meant not a reproach; I meant but to state my own consciousness how little I deserve from you. You talked to me of going to my father? do you still wish it?”

“I think so!” cried she; too much disturbed to know what she said, yet fearing again to hurt him by making him wait her answer.

“I will go then,” said he, “without doubt: too happy to be guided by you, which-ever way I steer. I have now, indeed much to tell him; but whatever may be his wrath, there is little fear, at this time, that my own temper cannot bear it! what next shall I do?”

“What next?” repeated she; “indeed I know not!”

“Shall I go immediately to Margate? or shall I first ride hither?”

“If you please,” said she, much perturbed, and deeply sighing.

“I please nothing but by your direction, to follow that is my only chance of pleasure. Which, then, shall I do?-you will not, now, refuse to direct me?”

“No, certainly, not for the world!”

“Speak to me, then, my love, and tell me;–why are you thus silent?– is it painful to you to counsel me?”

“No, indeed!” said she, putting her hand to her head, “I will speak to you in a few minutes.”

“Oh my Cecilia!” cried he, looking at her with much alarm, “call back your recollection! you know not what you say, you take no interest in what you answer.”

“Indeed I do!” said she, sighing deeply, and oppressed beyond the power of thinking, beyond any power but an internal consciousness of wretchedness.

“Sigh not so bitterly,” cried he, “if you have any compassion! sigh not so bitterly,–I cannot bear to hear you!”

“I am very sorry indeed!” said she, sighing again, and not seeming sensible she spoke.

“Good Heaven!” cried he, rising, “distract me not with this horror!– speak not to me in such broken sentences!–Do you hear me, Cecilia?– why will you not answer me?”

She started and trembled, looked pale and affrighted, and putting both her hands upon her heart, said, “Oh yes!–but I have an oppression here,–a tightness, a fulness,–I have not room for breath!”

“Oh beloved of my heart!” cried he, wildly casting himself at her feet, “kill me not with this terror!–call back your faculties,–awake from this dreadful insensibility! tell me at least you know me!–tell me I have not tortured you quite to madness!–sole darling of my affections! my own, my wedded Cecilia!–rescue me from this agony! it is more than I can support!”—

This energy of distress brought back her scattered senses, scarce more stunned by the shock of all this misery, than by the restraint of her feelings in struggling to conceal it. But these passionate exclamations restoring her sensibility, she burst into tears, which happily relieved her mind from the conflict with which it was labouring, and which, not thus effected, might have ended more fatally.

Never had Delvile more rejoiced in her smiles than now in these seasonable tears, which he regarded and blest as the preservers of her reason. They flowed long without any intermission, his soothing and tenderness but melting her to more sorrow: after a while, however, the return of her faculties, which at first seemed all consigned over to grief, was manifested by the returning strength of her mind: she blamed herself severely for the little fortitude she had shewn, but having now given vent to emotions too forcible to be wholly stiffed, she assured him he might depend upon her’ better courage for the future, and entreated him to consider and settle his affairs.

Not speedily, however, could Delvile himself recover. The torture he had suffered in believing, though only for a few moments, that the terror he had given to Cecilia had affected her intellects, made even a deeper impression upon his imagination, than the scene of fury and death, which had occasioned that terror: and Cecilia, who now strained every nerve to repair by her firmness, the pain which by her weakness she had given him, was sooner in a condition for reasoning and deliberation than himself.

“Ah Delvile!” she cried, comprehending what passed within him, “do you allow nothing for surprize? and nothing for the hard conflict of endeavouring to suppress it? do you think me still as unfit to advise with, and as worthless, as feeble a counsellor, as during the first confusion of my mind?”

“Hurry not your tender spirits, I beseech you,” cried he, “we have time enough; we will talk about business by and by.”

“What time?” cried she, “what is it now o’clock?”

“Good Heaven!” cried he, looking at his watch, “already past ten! you must turn me out, my Cecilia, or calumny will still be busy, even though poor Monckton is quiet.”

“I _will_ turn you out,” cried she, “I am indeed most earnest to have you gone. But tell me your plan, and which way you mean to go?”

“That;” he answered, “you shall decide for me yourself: whether to Delvile Castle, to finish one tale, and wholly communicate another, or to Margate, to hasten my mother abroad, before the news of this calamity reaches her.”

“Go to Margate,” cried she, eagerly, “set off this very moment! you can write to your father from Ostend. But continue, I conjure you, on the continent, till we see if this unhappy man lives, and enquire, of those who can judge, what must follow if he should not!”

“A trial,” said he, “must follow, and it will go, I fear, but hardly with me! the challenge was mine; his servants can all witness I went to him, not he to me,–Oh my Cecilia! the rashness of which I have been guilty, is so opposite to my principles, and, all generous as is your silence, I know it so opposite to yours, that never, should his blood be on my hands, wretch as he was, never will my heart be quiet more.”

“He will live, he will live!” cried Cecilia, repressing her horror, “fear nothing, for he will live;–and as to his wound and his sufferings, his perfidy has deserved them. Go, then, to Margate; think only of Mrs Delvile, and save her, if possible, from hearing what has happened.”

“I will go,–stay,–do which and whatever you bid me: but, should what I fear come to pass, should my mother continue ill, my father inflexible, should this wretched man die, and should England no longer be a country I shall love to dwell in,–could you, then, bear to own, –would you, then, consent to follow me?”

“Could I?–am I not yours? may you not command me? tell me, then, you have only to say,–shall I accompany you at once?”

Delvile, affected by her generosity, could scarce utter his thanks; yet he did not hesitate in denying to avail himself of it; “No, my Cecilia,” he cried, “I am not so selfish. If we have not happier days, we will at least wait for more desperate necessity. With the uncertainty if I have not this man’s life to answer for at the hazard of my own, to take my wife–my bride,–from the kingdom I must fly!– to make her a fugitive and an exile in the first publishing that she is mine! No, if I am not a destined alien for life I can never permit it. Nothing less, believe me, shall ever urge my consent to wound the chaste propriety of your character, by making you an eloper with a duelist.”

They then again consulted upon their future plans; and concluded that in the present disordered state of their affairs, it would be best not to acknowledge even to Mr Delvile their marriage, to whom the news of the duel, and Mr Monckton’s danger, would be a blow so severe, that, to add to it any other might half distract him.

To the few people already acquainted with it, Delvile therefore determined to write from Ostend, re-urging his entreaties for their discretion and secrecy. Cecilia promised every post to acquaint him how Mr Monckton went on, and she then besought him to go instantly, that he might out-travel the ill news to his mother.

He complied, and took leave of her in the tenderest manner, conjuring her to support her spirits, and be careful of her health. “Happiness,” said he, “is much in arrears with us, and though my violence may have frightened it away, your sweetness and gentleness will yet attract it back: all that for me is in store must be received at your hands,– what is offered in any other way, I shall only mistake for evil! droop not, therefore, my generous Cecilia, but in yourself preserve me!”

“I will not droop,” said she; “you will find, I hope, you have not intrusted yourself in ill hands.”

“Peace then be with you, my love!–my comforting, my soul-reviving Cecilia! Peace, such as angels give, and such as may drive from your mind the remembrance of this bitter hour!”

He then tore himself away.

Cecilia, who to his blessings could almost, like the tender Belvidera, have exclaimed

O do not leave me!–stay with me and curse me!

listened to his steps till she could hear them no longer, as if the remaining moments of her life were to be measured by them: but then, remembering the danger both to herself and him of his stay, she endeavoured to rejoice that he was gone, and, but that her mind was in no state for joy, was too rational not to have succeeded.

Grief and horror for what was past, apprehension and suspense for what was to come, so disordered her whole frame, so confused even her intellects, that when not all the assistance of fancy could persuade her she still heard the footsteps of Delvile, she went to the chair upon which he had been seated, and taking possession of it, sat with her arms crossed, silent, quiet, and erect, almost vacant of all thought, yet with a secret idea she was doing something right.

Here she continued till Henrietta came to wish her good night; whose surprise and concern at the strangeness of her look and attitude, once more recovered her. But terrified herself at this threatened wandering of her reason, and certain she must all night be a stranger to rest, she accepted the affectionate offer of the kind-hearted girl to stay with her, who was too much grieved for her grief to sleep any more than herself.

She told her not what had passed; that, she knew, would be fruitless affliction to her: but she was soothed by her gentleness, and her conversation was some security from the dangerous rambling of her ideas.

Henrietta herself found no little consolation in her own private sorrows, that she was able to give comfort to her beloved Miss Beverley, from whom she had received favours and kind offices innumerable. She quitted her not night nor day, and in the honest pride of a little power to skew the gratefulness of her heart, she felt a pleasure and self-consequence she had never before experienced.

CHAPTER iii.

A SUMMONS.

Cecilia’s earliest care, almost at break of day, was to send to the Grove; from thence she heard nothing but evil; Mr Monckton was still alive, but with little or no hope of recovery, constantly delirious, and talking of Miss Beverley, and of her being married to young Delvile.

Cecilia, who knew well this, at least, was no delirium, though shocked that he talked of it, hoped his danger less than was apprehended.

The next day, however, more fatal news was brought her, though not from the quarter she expected it: Mr Monckton, in one of his raving fits, had sent for Lady Margaret to his bed side, and used her almost inhumanly: he had railed at her age and her infirmities with incredible fury, called her the cause of all his sufferings, and accused her as the immediate agent of Lucifer in his present wound and danger. Lady Margaret, whom neither jealousy nor malignity had cured of loving him, was dismayed and affrighted; and in hurrying out of the room upon his attempting, in his frenzy, to strike her, she dropt down dead in an apoplectic fit.

“Good Heaven!” thought Cecilia, “what an exemplary punishment has this man! he loses his hated wife at the very moment when her death could no longer answer his purposes! Poor Lady Margaret! her life has been as bitter as her temper! married from a view of interest, ill used as a bar to happiness, and destroyed from the fruitless ravings of despair!”

She wrote all this intelligence to Ostend, whence she received a letter from Delvile, acquainting her he was detained from proceeding further by the weakness and illness of his mother, whose sufferings from seasickness had almost put an end to her existence.

Thus passed a miserable week; Monckton still merely alive, Delvile detained at Ostend, and Cecilia tortured alike by what was recently passed, actually present, and fearfully expected; when one morning she was told a gentleman upon business desired immediately to speak with her.

She hastily obeyed the summons; the constant image of her own mind, Delvile, being already present to her, and a thousand wild conjectures upon what had brought him back, rapidly occurring to her.

Her expectations, however, were ill answered, for she found an entire stranger; an elderly man, of no pleasant aspect or manners.

She desired to know his business.

“I presume, madam, you are the lady of this house?”

She bowed an assent.

“May I take the liberty, madam, to ask your name?’

“My name, sir?”

“You will do me a favour, madam, by telling it me.”

“Is it possible you are come hither without already knowing it?”

“I know it only by common report, madam.”

“Common report, sir, I believe is seldom wrong in a matter where to be right is so easy.”

“Have you any objection, madam, to telling me your name?”

“No, sir; but your business can hardly be very important, if you are yet to learn whom you are to address. It will be time enough, therefore, for us to meet when you are elsewhere satisfied in this point.”

She would then have left the room.

“I beg, madam,” cried the stranger, “you will have patience; it is necessary, before I can open my business, that I should hear your name from yourself.”

“Well, sir,” cried she with some hesitation, “you can scarce have come to this house, without knowing that its owner is Cecilia Beverley.”

“That, madam, is your maiden name.”

“My maiden name?” cried she, starting.

“Are you not married, madam?”

“Married, sir?” she repeated, while her cheeks were the colour of scarlet.

“It is, properly, therefore, madam, the name of your husband that I mean to ask.”

“And by what authority, sir,” cried she, equally astonished and offended, “do you make these extraordinary enquiries?”

“I am deputed, madam, to wait upon you by Mr Eggleston, the next heir to this estate, by your uncle’s will, if you die without children, or change your name when you marry. His authority of enquiry, madam, I presume you will allow, and he has vested it in me by a letter of attorney.”

Cecilia’s distress and confusion were now unspeakable; she knew not what to own or deny, she could not conjecture how she had been betrayed, and she had never made the smallest preparation against such an attack.

“Mr Eggleston, madam,” he continued, “has been pretty credibly informed that you are actually married: he is very desirous, therefore, to know what are your intentions, for your continuing to be called _Miss_ Beverley, as if still single, leaves him quite in the dark: but, as he is so deeply concerned in the affair, he expects, as a lady of honour, you will deal with him without prevarication.”

“This demand, sir,” said Cecilia, stammering, “is so extremely–so–so little expected–“

“The way, madam, in these cases, is to keep pretty closely to the point; are you married or are you not?”

Cecilia, quite confounded, made no answer: to disavow her marriage, when thus formally called upon, was every way unjustifiable; to acknowledge it in her present situation, would involve her in difficulties innumerable.

“This is not, madam, a slight thing; Mr Eggleston has a large family and a small fortune, and that, into the bargain, very much encumbered; it cannot, therefore, be expected that he will knowingly connive at cheating himself, by submitting to your being actually married, and still enjoying your estate though your husband does not take your name.”

Cecilia, now, summoning more presence of mind, answered, “Mr Eggleston, sir, has, at least, nothing to fear from imposition: those with whom he has, or may have any transactions in this affair, are not accustomed to practice it.”

“I am far from meaning any offence, madam; my commission from Mr Eggleston is simply this, to beg you will satisfy him upon what grounds you now evade the will of your late uncle, which, till cleared up, appears a point manifestly to his prejudice.”

“Tell him, then, sir, that whatever he wishes to know shall be explained to him in about a week. At present I can give no other answer.”

“Very well, madam; he will wait that time, I am sure, for he does not wish to put you to any inconvenience. But when he heard the gentleman was gone abroad without owning his marriage, he thought it high time to take some notice of the matter.”

Cecilia, who by this speech found she was every way discovered, was again in the utmost confusion, and with much trepidation, said, “since you seem so well, sir, acquainted with this affair, I should be glad you would inform me by what means you came to the knowledge of it?”

“I heard it, madam, from Mr Eggleston himself, who has long known it.”

“Long, sir?–impossible! when it is not yet a fortnight–not ten days, or no more, that—“

She stopt, recollecting she was making a confession better deferred.

“That, madam,” he answered, “may perhaps bear a little contention: for when this business comes to be settled, it will be very essential to be exact as to the time, even to the very hour; for a large income per annum, divides into a small one per diem: and if your husband keeps his own name, you must not only give up your uncle’s inheritance from the time of relinquishing yours, but refund from the very day of your marriage.”

“There is not the least doubt of it,” answered she; nor will the smallest difficulty be made.”

“You will please, then, to recollect, madam, that this sum is every hour encreasing; and has been since last September, which made half a year accountable for last March. Since then there is now added—“

“Good Heaven, Sir,” cried Cecilia, “what calculation are you making out? do you call last week last September?”

“No, madam; but I call last September the month in which you were married.”

“You will find yourself, then, sir, extremely mistaken; and Mr Eggleston is preparing himself for much disappointment, if he supposes me so long in arrears with him.”

“Mr Eggleston, madam, happens to be well informed of this transaction, as, if there is any dispute in it, you will find. He was your immediate successor in the house to which you went last September in Pall-Mall; the woman who kept it acquainted his servants that the last lady who hired it stayed with her but a day, and only came to town, she found, to be married: and hearing, upon enquiry, this lady was Miss Beverley, the servants, well knowing that their master was her conditional heir, told him the circumstance.”

“You will find all this, sir, end in nothing.”

“That, madam, as I said before, remains to be proved. If a young lady at eight o’clock in the morning, is seen,–and she was seen, going into a church with a young gentleman, and one female friend; and is afterwards observed to come out of it, followed by a clergyman and another person, supposed to have officiated as father, and is seen get into a coach with same young gentleman, and same female friend, why the circumstances are pretty strong!–“

“They may seem so, Sir; but all conclusions drawn from them will be erroneous. I was not married then, upon my honour!”

“We have little, madam, to do with professions; the circumstances are strong enough to bear a trial, and–“

“A trial!–“

“We have traced, madam, many witnesses able to stand to divers particulars; and eight months share of such an estate as this, is well worth a little trouble.”

“I am amazed, sir! surely Mr Eggleston never desired you to make use of this language to me?”

“Mr Eggleston, madam, has behaved very honourably; though he knew the whole affair so long ago, he was persuaded Mr Delvile had private reasons for a short concealment; and expecting every day when they would be cleared up by his taking your name, he never interfered: but being now informed he set out last week for the continent, he has been advised by his friends to claim his rights.”

“That claim, sir, he need not fear will be satisfied; and without any occasion for threats of enquiries or law suits.”

“The truth, madam, is this; Mr Eggleston is at present in a little difficulty about some money matters, which makes it a point with him of some consequence to have the affair settled speedily: unless you could conveniently compromise the matter, by advancing a particular sum, till it suits you to refund the whole that is due to him, and quit the premises.”

“Nothing, sir, is due to him! at least, nothing worth mentioning. I shall enter into no terms, for I have no compromise to make. As to the premises, I will quit them with all the expedition in my power.”

“You will do well, madam; for the truth is, it will not be convenient to him to wait much longer.”

He then went away.

“When, next,” cried Cecilia, “shall I again be weak, vain, blind enough to form any plan with a hope of secresy? or enter, with _any_ hope, into a clandestine scheme! betrayed by those I have trusted, discovered by those I have not thought of, exposed to the cruellest alarms, and defenceless from the most shocking attacks!–Such has been the life I have led since the moment I first consented to a private engagement!– Ah Delvile! your mother, in her tenderness, forgot her dignity, or she would not have concurred in an action which to such disgrace made me liable!”

CHAPTER iv.

A DELIBERATION.

It was necessary, however, not to moralize, but to act; Cecilia had undertaken to give her answer in a week, and the artful attorney had drawn from her an acknowledgment of her situation, by which he might claim it yet sooner.

The law-suit with which she was threatened for the arrears of eight months, alarmed her not, though it shocked her, as she was certain she could prove her marriage so much later.

It was easy to perceive that this man had been sent with a view of working from her a confession, and terrifying from her some money; the confession, indeed, in conscience and honesty she could not wholly elude, but she had suffered too often by a facility in parting with money to be there easily duped.

Nothing, however, was more true, than that she now lived upon an estate of which she no longer was the owner, and that all she either spent or received was to be accounted for and returned, since by the will of her uncle, unless her husband took her name, her estate on the very day of her marriage was to be forfeited, and entered upon by the Egglestons. Delvile’s plan and hope of secresy had made them little weigh this matter, though this premature discovery so unexpectedly exposed her to their power.

The first thought that occurred to her, was to send an express to Delvile, and desire his instructions how to proceed; but she dreaded his impetuosity of temper, and was almost certain that the instant he should hear she was in any uneasiness or perplexity, he would return to her, at all hazards, even though Mr Monckton were dead, and his mother herself dying. This step, therefore, she did not dare risk, preferring any personal hardship, to endangering the already precarious life of Mrs Delvile, or to hastening her son home while Mr Monckton was in so desperate a situation.

But though what to avoid was easy to settle, what to seek was difficult to devise. She bad now no Mrs Charlton to receive her, not a creature in whom she could confide. To continue her present way of living was deeply involving Delvile in debt, a circumstance she had never considered, in the confusion and hurry attending all their plans and conversations, and a circumstance which, though to him it might have occurred, he could not in common delicacy mention.

Yet to have quitted her house, and retrenched her expences, would have raised suspicions that must have anticipated the discovery she so much wished to have delayed. That wish, by the present danger of its failure, was but more ardent; to have her affairs and situation become publicly known at the present period, she felt would half distract her.–Privately married, parted from her husband at the very moment of their union, a husband by whose hand the apparent friend of her earliest youth was all but killed, whose father had execrated the match, whose mother was now falling a sacrifice to the vehemence with which she had opposed it, and who himself, little short of an exile, knew not yet if, with personal safety, he might return to his native land! To circumstances so dreadful, she had now the additional shock of being uncertain whether her own house might not be seized, before any other could be prepared for her reception!

Yet still whither to go, what to do, or what to resolve, she was wholly unable to determine; and after meditating almost to madness in the search of some plan or expedient, she was obliged to give over the attempt, and be satisfied with remaining quietly where she was, till she had better news from Delvile of his mother, or better news to send him of Mr Monckton; carefully, mean time, in all her letters avoiding to alarm him by any hint of her distress.

Yet was she not idle, either from despair or helplessness: she found her difficulties encreased, and she called forth more resolution to combat them: she animated herself by the promise she had made Delvile, and recovering from the sadness to which she had at first given way, she now exerted herself with vigour to perform it as she ought.

She began by making an immediate inspection into her affairs, and endeavouring, where expence seemed unnecessary, to lessen it. She gave Henrietta to understand she feared they must soon part; and so afflicted was the unhappy girl at the news, that she found it the most cruel office she had to execute. The same intimation she gave to Mrs Harrel, who repined at it more openly, but with a selfishness so evident that it blunted the edge of pity. She then announced to Albany her inability to pursue, at present, their extensive schemes of benevolence; and though he instantly left her, to carry on his laborious plan elsewhere, the reverence she had now excited in him of her character, made him leave her with no sensation but of regret, and readily promise to return when her affairs were settled, or her mind more composed.

These little preparations, which were all she could make, with enquiries after Mr Monckton, and writing to Delvile, sufficiently filled up her time, though her thoughts were by no means confined to them. Day after day passed, and Mr Monckton continued to linger rather than live; the letters of Delvile, still only dated from Ostend, contained the most melancholy complaints of the illness of his mother; and the time advanced when her answer would be claimed by the attorney.

The thought of such another visit was almost intolerable; and within two days of the time that she expected it, she resolved to endeavour herself to prevail with Mr Eggleston to wait longer.

Mr Eggleston was a gentleman whom she knew little more than by sight; he was no relation to her family, nor had any connection with the Dean, but by being a cousin to a lady he had married, and who had left him no children. The dean had no particular regard for him, and had rather mentioned him in his will as the successor of Cecilia, in case she died unmarried or changed her name, as a mark that he approved of her doing neither, than as a matter he thought probable, if even possible, to turn out in his favour.

He was a man of a large family, the sons of which, who were extravagant and dissipated, had much impaired his fortune by prevailing with him to pay their debts, and much distressed him in his affairs by successfully teasing him for money.

Cecilia, acquainted with these circumstances, knew but too well with what avidity her estate would be seized by them, and how little the sons would endure delay, even if the father consented to it. Yet since the sacrifice to which she had agreed must soon make it indisputably their own, she determined to deal with them openly; and acknowledged, therefore, in her letter, her marriage without disguise, but begged their patience and secresy, and promised, in a short time, the most honourable retribution and satisfaction.

She sent this letter by a man and horse, Mr Eggleston’s habitation being within fifteen miles of her own.

The answer was from his eldest son, who acquainted her that his father was very ill, and had put all his affairs into the hands of Mr Carn, his attorney, who was a man of great credit, and would see justice done on all sides.

If this answer, which she broke open the instant she took it into her hand, was in itself a cruel disappointment to her, how was that disappointment embittered by shame and terror, when, upon again folding it up, she saw it was directed to Mrs Mortimer Delvile!

This was a decisive stroke; what they wrote to her, she was sure they would mention to all others; she saw they were too impatient for her estate to be moved by any representations to a delay, and that their eagerness to publish their right, took from them all consideration of what they might make her suffer. Mr Eggleston, she found, permitted himself to be wholly governed by his son; his son was a needy and profligate spendthrift, and by throwing the management of the affair into the hands of an attorney, craftily meant to shield himself from the future resentment of Delvile, to whom, hereafter, he might affect, at his convenience, to disapprove Mr Carn’s behaviour, while Mr Carn was always secure, by averring he only exerted himself for the interest of his client.

The discerning Cecilia, though but little experienced in business, and wholly unsuspicious by nature, yet saw into this management, and doubted not these excuses were already arranged. She had only, therefore, to save herself an actual ejectment, by quitting a house in which she was exposed to such a disgrace.

But still whither to go she knew not! One only attempt seemed in her power for an honourable asylum, and that was more irksomely painful to her than seeking shelter in the meanest retreat: it was applying to Mr Delvile senior.

The action of leaving her house, whether quietly or forcibly, could not but instantly authenticate the reports spread by the Egglestons of her marriage: to hope therefore for secresy any longer would be folly, and Mr Delvile’s rage at such intelligence might be still greater to hear it by chance than from herself. She now lamented that Delvile had not at once told the tale, but, little foreseeing such a discovery as the present, they had mutually concluded to defer the communication till his return.

Her own anger at the contemptuous ill treatment she had repeatedly met from him, she was now content not merely to suppress but to dismiss, since, as the wife of his son without his consent, she considered herself no longer as wholly innocent of incurring it. Yet, such was her dread of his austerity and the arrogance of his reproaches, that, by choice, she would have preferred an habitation with her own pensioner, the pew-opener, to the grandest apartment in Delvile Castle while he continued its lord.

In her present situation, however, her choice was little to be consulted: the honour of Delvile was concerned in her escaping even temporary disgrace, and nothing, she knew, would so much gratify him, as any attention from her to his father. She wrote to him, therefore, the following letter, which she sent by an express.

_To the Hon. Compton Delvile.

April 29th_, 1780.

SIR,–I should not, even by letter, presume thus to force myself upon your remembrance, did I not think it a duty I now owe your son, both to risk and to bear the displeasure it may unhappily occasion. After such an acknowledgment, all other confession would be superfluous; and uncertain as I am if you will ever deign to own me, more words than are necessary would be merely impertinent.

It was the intention of your son, Sir, when he left the kingdom, to submit wholly to your arbitration, at his return, which should be resigned, his own name or my fortune: but his request for your decision, and his supplication for your forgiveness, are both, most unfortunately, prevented, by a premature and unforeseen discovery of our situation, which renders an immediate determination absolutely unavoidable.

At this distance from him, I cannot, in time, receive his directions upon the measures I have to take; pardon me then, Sir, if well knowing my reference to him will not be more implicit than his own to you, I venture, in the present important crisis of my affairs, to entreat those commands instantly, by which I am certain of being guided ultimately.

I would commend myself to your favour but that I dread exciting your resentment. I will detain you, therefore, only to add, that the father of Mr Mortimer Delvile, will ever meet the most profound respect from her who, without his permission, dare sign no name to the honour she now has in declaring herself his most humble, and most obedient servant.

* * * * *

Her mind was somewhat easier when this letter was written, because she thought it a duty, yet felt reluctance in performing it. She wished to have represented to him strongly the danger of Delvile’s hearing her distress, but she knew so well his inordinate self-sufficiency, she feared a hint of that sort might be construed into an insult, and concluded her only chance that he would do any thing, was by leaving wholly to his own suggestions the weighing and settling what.

But though nothing was more uncertain than whether she should be received at Delvile Castle, nothing was more fixed than that she must quit her own house, since the pride of Mr Delvile left not even a chance that his interest would conquer it. She deferred not, therefore, any longer making preparations for her removal, though wholly unsettled whither.

Her first, which was also her most painful task, was to acquaint Henrietta with her situation: she sent, therefore, to desire to speak with her, but the countenance of Henrietta shewed her communication would not surprise her.

“What is the matter with my dear Henrietta?” cried Cecilia; “who is it has already afflicted that kind heart which I am now compelled to afflict for myself?”

Henrietta, in whom anger appeared to be struggling with sorrow, answered, “No, madam, not afflicted for _you_! it would be strange if I were, thinking as I think!”

“I am glad,” said Cecilia, calmly, “if you are not, for I would give to you, were it possible, nothing but pleasure and joy.”

“Ah madam!” cried Henrietta, bursting into tears, “why will you say so when you don’t care what becomes of me! when you are going to cast me off!–and when you will soon be too happy ever to think of me more!”

“If I am never happy till then,” said Cecilia, “sad, indeed, will be my life! no, my gentlest friend, you will always have your share in my heart; and always, to me, would have been the welcomest guest in my house, but for those unhappy circumstances which make our separating inevitable.”

“Yet you suffered me, madam, to hear from any body that you was married and going away; and all the common servants in the house knew it before me.”

“I am amazed!” said Cecilia; “how and which way can they have heard it?”

“The man that went to Mr Eggleston brought the first news of it, for he said all the servants there talked of nothing else, and that their master was to come and take possession here next Thursday.”

Cecilia started at this most unwelcome intelligence; “Yet you envy me,” she cried, “Henrietta, though I am forced from my house! though in quitting it, I am unprovided with any other, and though him for whom I relinquish it, is far off, without means of protecting, or power of returning to me!”

“But you are married to him, madam!” cried she, expressively.

“True, my love; but, also, I am parted from him!”

“Oh how differently,” exclaimed Henrietta, “do the great think from the little! were _I_ married,–and _so_ married, I should want neither house, nor fine cloaths, nor riches, nor any thing;–I should not care where I lived,–every place would be paradise! I would walk to him barefoot if he were a thousand miles off, and I should mind nobody else in the world while I had him to take care of me!”

Ah Delvile! thought Cecilia, what powers of fascination are yours! should I be tempted to repine at what I have to bear, I will think of this heroick girl and blush!

Mrs Harrel now broke in upon them, eager to be informed of the truth or falsehood of the reports which were buzzed throughout the house. Cecilia briefly related to them both the state of her affairs, earnestly expressing her concern at the abrupt separation which must take place, and for which she had been unable to prepare them, as the circumstances which led to it had been wholly unforeseen by herself.

Mrs Harrel listened to the account with much curiosity and surprize; but Henrietta wept incessantly in hearing it: the object of a passion ardent as it was romantic, lost to her past recovery; torn herself, probably for ever, from the best friend she had in the world; and obliged to return thus suddenly to an home she detested,–Henrietta possessed not the fortitude to hear evils such as these, which, to her inexperienced heart, appeared the severest that could be inflicted.

This conversation over, Cecilia sent for her Steward, and desired him, with the utmost expedition, to call in all her bills, and instantly to go round to her tenants within twenty miles, and gather in, from those who were able to pay, the arrears now due to her; charging him, however, upon no account, to be urgent with such as seemed distressed.

The bills she had to pay were collected without difficulty; she never owed much, and creditors are seldom hard of access; but the money she hoped to receive fell very short of her expectations, for the indulgence she had shewn to her tenants had ill prepared them for so sudden a demand.

CHAPTER v.

A DECISION.

This business effectually occupied the present and following day; the third, Cecilia expected her answer from Delvile Castle, and the visit she so much dreaded from the attorney.

The answer arrived first.

_To Miss Beverley_.

MADAM,–As my son has never apprized me of the extraordinary step which your letter intimates, I am too unwilling to believe him capable of so far forgetting what he owes his family, to ratify any such intimation by interfering with my counsel or opinion.–I am, Madam, &c.,

COMPTON DELVILE.

DELVILE CASTLE, _May 1st, 1780_.

Cecilia had little right to be surprised by this letter, and she had not a moment to comment upon it, before the attorney arrived.

“Well, madam,” said the man, as he entered the parlour, “Mr Eggleston has stayed your own time very patiently: he commissions me now to enquire if it is convenient to you to quit the premises.”

“No, Sir, it is by no means convenient to me; and if Mr Eggleston will wait some time longer, I shall be greatly obliged to him.”

“No doubt, madam, but he will, upon proper considerations.”

“What, Sir, do you call proper?”

“Upon your advancing to him, as I hinted before, an immediate particular sum from what must, by and bye, be legally restituted.”

“If this is the condition of his courtesy, I will quit the house without giving him further trouble.”

“Just as it suits you, madam. He will be glad to take possession to- morrow or next day.”

“You did well, Sir, to commend his patience! I shall, however, merely discharge my servants, and settle my accounts, and be ready to make way for him.”

“You will not take it amiss, madam, if I remind you that the account with Mr Eggleston must be the first that is settled.”

“If you mean the arrears of this last fortnight or three weeks, I believe I must desire him to wait Mr Delvile’s return, as I may otherwise myself be distressed for ready money.”

“That, madam, is not likely, as it is well known you have a fortune that was independent of your late uncle; and as to distress for ready money, it is a plea Mr Eggleston can urge much more strongly.”

“This is being strangely hasty, Sir!–so short a time as it is since Mr Eggleston could expect _any_ of this estate!”

“That, madam, is nothing to the purpose; from the moment it is his, he has as many wants for it as any other gentleman. He desired me, however, to acquaint you, that if you still chose an apartment in this house, till Mr Delvile returns, you shall have one at your service.”

“To be a _guest_ in this house, Sir,” said Cecilia, drily, “might perhaps seem strange to me; I will not, therefore, be so much in his way.”

Mr Carn then informed her she might put her seal upon whatever she meant hereafter to claim or dispute, and took his leave.

Cecilia now shut herself up in her own room, to meditate without interruption, before she would proceed to any action. She felt much inclination to send instantly for some lawyer; but when she considered her peculiar situation, the absence of her husband, the renunciation of his father, the loss of her fortune, and her ignorance upon the subject, she thought it better to rest quiet till Delvile’s own fate, and own opinion could be known, than to involve herself in a lawsuit she was so little able to superintend.

In this cruel perplexity of her mind and her affairs, her first thought was to board again with Mrs Bayley; but that was soon given up, for she felt a repugnance unconquerable to continuing in her native county, when deprived of her fortune, and cast out of her dwelling.

Her situation, indeed, was singularly unhappy, since, by this unforeseen vicissitude of fortune, she was suddenly, from being an object of envy and admiration, sunk into distress, and threatened with disgrace; from being every where caressed, and by every voice praised, she blushed to be seen, and expected to be censured; and, from being generally regarded as an example of happiness, and a model of virtue, she was now in one moment to appear to the world, an outcast from her own house, yet received into no other! a bride, unclaimed by a husband! an HEIRESS, dispossessed of all wealth!

To be first acknowledged as _Mrs Delvile_ in a state so degrading, she could not endure; and to escape from it, one way alone remained, which was going instantly abroad.

Upon this, therefore, she finally determined: her former objections to such a step being now wholly, though unpleasantly removed, since she had neither estate nor affairs to demand her stay, and since all hopes of concealment were totally at an end. Her marriage, therefore, and its disgraceful consequences being published to the world, she resolved without delay to seek the only asylum which was proper for her, in the protection of the husband for whom she had given up every other.

She purposed, therefore, to go immediately and privately to London, whence she could best settle her route for the continent: where she hoped to arrive before the news of her distress reached Delvile, whom nothing, she was certain, but her own presence, could keep there for a moment after hearing it.

Thus decided, at length, in her plan, she proceeded to put it in execution with calmness and intrepidity; comforting herself that the conveniencies and indulgencies with which she was now parting, would soon be restored to her, and though not with equal power, with far more satisfaction. She told her steward her design of going the next morning to London, bid him pay instantly all her debts, and discharge all her servants, determining to keep no account open but that with Mr Eggleston, which he had made so intricate by double and undue demands, that she thought it most prudent and safe to leave him wholly to Delvile.

She then packed up all her papers and letters, and ordered her maid to pack up her clothes.

She next put her own seal upon her cabinets, draws, and many other things, and employed almost all her servants at once, in making complete inventories of what every room contained.

She advised Mrs Harrel to send without delay for Mr Arnott, and return to his house. She had first purposed to carry Henrietta home to her mother herself; but another scheme for her now occurred, from which she hoped much future advantage to the amiable and dejected girl.

She knew well, that deep as was at present her despondency, the removal of all possibility of hope, by her knowledge of Delvile’s marriage, must awaken her before long from the delusive visions of her romantic fancy; Mr Arnott himself was in a situation exactly similar, and the knowledge of the same event would probably be productive of the same effect. When Mrs Harrel, therefore, began to repine at the solitude to which she was returning, Cecilia proposed to her the society of Henrietta, which, glad to catch at any thing that would break into her loneliness, she listened to with pleasure, and seconded by an invitation.

Henrietta, to whom all houses appeared preferable to her own home, joyfully accepted the offer, committing to Cecilia the communication of the change of her abode to Mrs Belfield.

Cecilia, who in the known and tried honour of Mr Arnott would unreluctantly have trusted a sister, was much pleased by this little arrangement, from which should no good ensue, no evil, at least, was probable. But she hoped, through the mutual pity their mutual melancholy might inspire, that their minds, already not dissimilar, would be softened in favour of each other, and that, in conclusion, each might be happy in receiving the consolation each could give, and a union would take place, in which their reciprocal disappointment might, in time, be nearly forgotten.

There was not, indeed, much promise of such an event in the countenance of Mr Arnott, when, late at night, he came for his sister, nor in the unbounded sorrow of Henrietta, when the moment of leave-taking arrived. Mr Arnott looked half dead with the shock his sister’s intelligence had given him, and Henrietta’s heart, torn asunder between friendship and love, was scarce able to bear a parting, which from Cecilia, she regarded as eternal, added to the consciousness it was occasioned by her going to join Delvile for life!

Cecilia, who both read and pitied these conflicting emotions, was herself extremely hurt by this necessary separation. She tenderly loved Henrietta, she loved her even the more for the sympathy of their affections, which called forth the most forcible commiseration,–that which springs from fellow-feeling!

“Farewell,” she cried, “my Henrietta, be but happy as you are innocent, and be both as I love you, and nothing will your friends have to wish for you, or yourself to regret.”

“I must always regret,” cried the sobbing Henrietta, “that I cannot live with you for ever! I should regret it if I were queen of all the world, how much more then, when I am nothing and nobody! I do not wish _you_ happy, madam, for I think happiness was made on purpose for you, and nobody else ever had it before; I only wish you health and long life, for the sake of those who will be made as happy as you,–for you will spoil them,–as you have spoilt me,–from being ever happy without you!”

Cecilia re-iterated her assurances of a most faithful regard, embraced Mrs Harrel, spoke words of kindness to the drooping Mr Arnott, and then parted with them all.

Having still many small matters to settle, and neither company nor appetite, she would eat no supper; but, in passing thro’ the hall, in her way to her own room, she was much surprised to see all her domestics assembled in a body. She stopt to enquire their intention, when they eagerly pressed forward, humbly and earnestly entreating to know why they were discharged? “For no reason in the world,” cried Cecilia, “but because it is at present out of my power to keep you any longer.”

“Don’t part with _me_, madam, for that,” cried one of them, “for I will serve you for nothing!”

“So will I!” cried another, “And I!” “And I!” was echoed by them all; while “no other such mistress is to be found!” “We can never bear any other place!” and “keep _me_, madam, at least!” was even clamorously urged by each of them.

Cecilia, distressed and flattered at once by their unwillingness to quit her, received this testimony of gratitude for the kind and liberal treatment they had received, with the warmest thanks both for their services and fidelity, and assured them that when again she was settled, all those who should be yet unprovided with places, should be preferred in her house before any other claimants.

Having, with difficulty, broken from them, she sent for her own man, Ralph, who had lived with her many years before the death of the Dean, and told him she meant still to continue him in her service. The man heard it with great delight, and promised to re-double his diligence to deserve her favour. She then communicated the same news to her maid, who had also resided with her some years, and by whom with the same, or more pleasure it was heard.

These and other regulations employed her almost all night; yet late and fatigued as she went to bed, she could not close her eyes: fearful something was left undone, she robbed herself of the short time she had allowed to rest, by incessant meditation upon what yet remained to be executed. She could recollect, however, one only thing that had escaped her vigilance, which was acquainting the pew-opener, and two or three other poor women who had weekly pensions from her, that they must, at least for the present, depend no longer upon her assistance.

Nothing indeed could be more painful to her than giving them such information, yet not to be speedy with it would double the barbarity of their disappointment. She even felt for these poor women, whose loss in her she knew would be irreparable, a compassion that drove from her mind almost every other subject, and determined her, in order to soften to them this misfortune, to communicate it herself, that she might prevent them from sinking under it, by reviving them with hopes of her future assistance.

She had ordered at seven o’clock in the morning an hired chaise at the door, and she did not suffer it long to wait for her. She quitted her house with a heart full of care and anxiety, grieving at the necessity of making such a sacrifice, uncertain how it would turn out, and labouring under a thousand perplexities with respect to the measures she ought immediately to take. She passed, when she reached the hall, through a row of weeping domestics, not one of whom with dry eyes could see the house bereft of such a mistress. She spoke to them all with kindness, and as much as was in her power with chearfulness: but the tone of her voice gave them little reason to think the concern at this journey was all their own.

She ordered her chaise to drive round to the pew-opener’s and thence to the rest of her immediate dependents. She soon, however, regretted that she had given herself this task; the affliction of these poor pensioners was clamorous, was almost heart-breaking; they could live, they said, no longer, they were ruined for ever; they should soon be without bread to eat, and they might cry for help in vain, when their generous, their only benefactress was far away!

Cecilia made the kindest efforts, to comfort and encourage them, assuring them the very moment her own affairs were arranged, she would remember them all, visit them herself, and contribute to their relief, with all the power she should have left. Nothing, however, could console them; they clung about her, almost took the horses from the chaise, and conjured her not to desert those who were solely cherished by her bounty!

Nor was this all she had to suffer; the news of her intention to quit the county was now reported throughout the neighbourhood, and had spread the utmost consternation among the poor in general, and the lower close of her own tenants in particular, and the road was soon lined with women and children, wringing their hands and crying. They followed her carriage with supplications that she would return to them, mixing blessings with their lamentations, and prayers for her happiness with the bitterest repinings at their own loss!

Cecilia was extremely affected; her liberal and ever-ready hand was every other instant involuntarily seeking her purse, which her many immediate expences, made her prudence as often check: and now first she felt the capital error she had committed, in living constantly to the utmost extent of her income, without ever preparing, though so able to have done it, against any unfortunate contingency.

When she escaped, at last, from receiving any longer this painful tribute to her benevolence, she gave orders to her man to ride forward and stop at the Grove, that a precise and minute account of Mr Monckton, might be the last, as it was now become the most important, news she should hear in Suffolk. This he did, when to her equal surprise and delight, she heard that he was suddenly so much better, there were hopes of his recovery.

Intelligence so joyful made her amends for almost every thing; yet she