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- Cecilia Volume 1 - 30/65 -
mad, so inexcusable, as to proceed to more serious resentment!"
"Whichever of them," said the stranger, "is most honoured by this anxiety, will be mad indeed to risk a life so valued!"
"Cannot you, Mr Monckton," continued Cecilia, too much alarmed to regard this insinuation, "speak with Mr Belfield? You are acquainted with him, I know; is it impossible you can follow him?"
"I will with pleasure do whatever you wish; but still if Sir Robert--"
"O, as to Sir Robert, Mr Harrel, I am very sure, will undertake him; I will try to see him to-night myself, and entreat him to exert all his influence."
"Ah, madam," cried the stranger, archly, and lowering his voice, "those _French beads_ and _Bristol stones_ have not, I find, shone in vain!"
At these words Cecilia recognised her white domino acquaintance at the masquerade; she had before recollected his voice, but was too much perturbed to consider where or when she had heard it.
"If Mr Briggs," continued he, "does not speedily come forth with his plum friend, before the glittering of swords and spears is joined to that of jewels, the glare will be so resplendent, that he will fear to come within the influence of its rays. Though, perhaps, he may only think the stronger the light, the better he shall see to count his guineas: for as
'---in ten thousand pounds Ten thousand charms are centred,'
in an hundred thousand, the charms may have such magic power, that he may defy the united efforts of tinsel and knight-errantry to deliver you from the golden spell."
Here the Captain, advancing to Cecilia, said, "I have been looking for you in vain _partout_, but the crowd has been so _accablant_ I was almost reduced to despair. Give me leave to hope you are now recovered from the _horreur_ of this little _fracas_?"
Mr Arnott then brought intelligence that the carriage was ready. Cecilia, glad to be gone, instantly hastened to it; and, as she was conducted by Mr Monckton, most earnestly entreated him to take an active part, in endeavouring to prevent the fatal consequences with which the quarrel seemed likely to terminate.
A FASHIONABLE FRIEND.
As soon as they returned home, Cecilia begged Mrs Harrel not to lose a moment before she tried to acquaint Mr Harrel with the state of the affair. But that lady was too helpless to know in what manner to set about it; she could not tell where he was, she could not conjecture where he might be.
Cecilia then rang for his own man, and upon enquiry, heard that he was, in all probability, at Brookes's in St James's-Street.
She then begged Mrs Harrel would write to him.
Mrs Harrel knew not what to say.
Cecilia therefore, equally quick in forming and executing her designs, wrote to him herself, and entreated that without losing an instant he would find out his friend Sir Robert Floyer, and endeavour to effect an accommodation between him and Mr Belfield, with whom he had had a dispute at the Opera-house.
The man soon returned with an answer that Mr Harrel would not fail to obey her commands.
She determined to sit up till he came home in order to learn the event of the negociation. She considered herself as the efficient cause of the quarrel, yet scarce knew how or in what to blame herself; the behaviour of Sir Robert had always been offensive to her; she disliked his manners, and detested his boldness; and she had already shewn her intention to accept the assistance of Mr Belfield before he had followed her with an offer of his own. She was uncertain, indeed, whether he had remarked what had passed, but she had reason to think that, so circumstanced, to have changed her purpose, would have been construed into an encouragement that might have authorised his future presumption of her favour. All she could find to regret with regard to herself, was wanting the presence of mind to have refused the civilities of both.
Mrs Harrel, though really sorry at the state of the affair, regarded herself as so entirely unconcerned in it, that, easily wearied when out of company, she soon grew sleepy, and retired to her own room.
The anxious Cecilia, hoping every instant the return of Mr Harrel, sat up by herself: but it was not till near four o'clock in the morning that he made his appearance.
"Well, sir," cried she, the moment she saw him, "I fear by your coming home so late you have had much trouble, but I hope it has been successful?"
Great, however, was her mortification when he answered that he had not even seen the Baronet, having been engaged himself in so particular a manner, that he could not possibly break from his party till past three o'clock, at which time he drove to the house of Sir Robert, but heard that he was not yet come home.
Cecilia, though much disgusted by such a specimen of insensibility towards a man whom he pretended to call his friend, would not leave him till he had promised to arise as soon as it was light, and make an effort to recover the time lost.
She was now no longer surprised either at the debts of Mr Harrel, or at his _particular occasions_ for money. She was convinced he spent half the night in gaming, and the consequences, however dreadful, were but natural. That Sir Robert Floyer also did the same was a matter of much less importance to her, but that the life of any man should through her means be endangered, disturbed her inexpressibly.
She went, however, to bed, but arose again at six o'clock, and dressed herself by candle light. In an hour's time she sent to enquire if Mr Harrel was stirring, and hearing he was asleep, gave orders to have him called. Yet he did not rise till eight o'clock, nor could all her messages or expostulations drive him out of the house till nine.
He was scarcely gone before Mr Monckton arrived, who now for the first time had the satisfaction of finding her alone.
"You are very good for coming so early," cried she; "have you seen Mr Belfield? Have you had any conversation with him?"
Alarmed at her eagerness, and still more at seeing by her looks the sleepless night she had passed, he made at first no reply; and when, with increasing impatience, she repeated her question, he only said, "Has Belfield ever visited you since he had the honour of meeting you at my house?"
"Have you seen him often in public?"
"No, I have never seen him at all but the evening Mrs Harrel received masks, and last night at the Opera."
"Is it, then, for the safety of Sir Robert you are so extremely anxious?"
"It is for the safety of both; the cause of their quarrel was so trifling, that I cannot bear to think its consequence should be serious."
"But do you not wish better to one of them than to the other?"
"As a matter of justice I do, but not from any partiality: Sir Robert was undoubtedly the aggressor, and Mr Belfield, though at first too fiery, was certainly ill-used."
The candour of this speech recovered Mr Monckton from his apprehensions; and, carefully observing her looks while he spoke, he gave her the following account.
That he had hastened to Belfield's lodgings the moment he left the Opera-house, and, after repeated denials, absolutely forced himself into his room, where he was quite alone, and in much agitation: he conversed with him for more than an hour upon the subject of the quarrel, but found he so warmly resented the personal insult given him by Sir Robert, that no remonstrance had any effect in making him alter his resolution of demanding satisfaction.
"And could you bring him to consent to no compromise before you left him?" cried Cecilia.
"No; for before I got to him--the challenge had been sent."
"The challenge! good heaven!--and do you know the event?"
"I called again this morning at his lodgings, but he was not returned home."
"And was it impossible to follow him? Were there no means to discover whither he was gone?"
"None; to elude all pursuit, he went out before any body in the house was stirring, and took his servant with him."
"Have you, then, been to Sir Robert?"
"I have been to Cavendish-Square, but there, it seems, he has not appeared all night; I traced him, through his servants, from the Opera to a gaminghouse, where I found he had amused himself till this morning."
The uneasiness of Cecilia now encreased every moment; and Mr
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