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- Cecilia Volume 1 - 37/65 -
them about it: but which ever of you lends the money, Mr Harrel has assured me he shall pay it very soon."
She then returned with the proposition. Mr Arnott strongly opposed it, but Mr Harrel seemed rather to prefer it, yet spoke so confidently of his speedy payment, that he appeared to think it a matter of little importance from which he accepted it. A generous contest ensued between Mr Arnott and Cecilia, but as she was very earnest, she at length prevailed, and settled to go herself the next morning into the city, in order to have the money advanced by Mr Briggs, who had the management of her fortune entirely to himself, her other guardians never interfering in the executive part of her affairs.
This arranged, they all retired.
And then, with encreasing astonishment, Cecilia reflected upon the ruinous levity of Mr Harrel, and the blind security of his wife; she saw in their situation danger the most alarming, and in the behaviour of Mr Harrel selfishness the most inexcusable; such glaring injustice to his creditors, such utter insensibility to his friends, took from her all wish of assisting him, though the indignant compassion with which she saw the easy generosity of Mr Arnott so frequently abused, had now, for his sake merely, induced her to relieve him.
She resolved, however, as soon as the present difficulty was surmounted, to make another attempt to open the eyes of Mrs Harrel to the evils which so apparently threatened her, and press her to exert all her influence with her husband, by means both of example and advice, to retrench his expences before it should be absolutely too late to save him from ruin.
She determined also at the same time dial she applied for the money requisite for this debt, to take up enough for discharging her own bill at the bookseller's, and putting in execution her plan of assisting the Hills.
The next morning she arose early, and attended by her servant, set out for the house of Mr Briggs, purposing, as the weather was clear and frosty, to walk through Oxford Road, and then put herself into a chair; and hoping to return to Mr Harrel's by the usual hour of breakfast.
She had not proceeded far, before she saw a mob gathering, and the windows of almost all the houses filling with spectators. She desired her servant to enquire what this meant, and was informed that the people were assembling to see some malefactors pass by in their way to Tyburn.
Alarmed at this intelligence from the fear of meeting the unhappy criminals, she hastily turned down die next street, but found that also filling with people who were running to the scene she was trying to avoid: encircled thus every way, she applied to a maidservant who was standing at the door of a large house, and begged leave to step in till the mob was gone by. The maid immediately consented, and she waited here while she sent her man for a chair.
He soon arrived with one; but just as she returned to the street door, a gentleman, who was hastily entering the house, standing back to let her pass, suddenly exclaimed, "Miss Beverley!" and looking at him, she perceived young Delvile.
"I cannot stop an instant," cried she, running down the steps, "lest the crowd should prevent the chair from going on."
"Will you not first," said he, handing her in, "tell me what news you have heard?"
"News?" repeated she. "No, I have heard none!"
"You will only, then, laugh at me for those officious offers you did so well to reject?"
"I know not what offers you mean!"
"They were indeed superfluous, and therefore I wonder not you have forgotten them. Shall I tell the chairmen whither to go?"
"To Mr Briggs. But I cannot imagine what you mean."
"To Mr Briggs!" repeated he, "O live for ever French beads and Bristol stones! fresh offers may perhaps be made there, impertinent, officious, and useless as mine!"
He then told her servant the direction, and, making his bow, went into the house she had just quitted.
Cecilia, extremely amazed by this short, but unintelligible conversation, would again have called upon him to explain his meaning, but found the crowd encreasing so fast that she could not venture to detain the chair, which with difficulty made its way to the adjoining streets: but her surprize at what had passed so entirely occupied her, that when she stopt at the house of Mr Briggs, she had almost forgotten what had brought her thither.
The foot-boy, who came to the door, told her that his master was at home, but not well.
She desired he might be acquainted that she wished to speak to him upon business, and would wait upon him again at any hour when he thought he should be able to see her.
The boy returned with an answer that she might call again the next week.
Cecilia, knowing that so long a delay would destroy all the kindness of her intention, determined to write to him for the money, and therefore went into the parlour, and desired to have pen and ink.
The boy, after making her wait some time in a room without any fire, brought her a pen and a little ink in a broken tea-cup, saying "Master begs you won't spirt it about, for he's got no more; and all our blacking's as good as gone."
"Blacking?" repeated Cecilia.
"Yes, Miss; when Master's shoes are blacked, we commonly gets a little drap of fresh ink."
Cecilia promised to be careful, but desired him to fetch her a sheet of paper.
"Law, Miss," cried the boy, with a grin, "I dare say master'd as soon give you a bit of his nose! howsever, I'll go ax."
In a few minutes he again returned, and brought in his hand a slate and a black lead pencil; "Miss," cried he, "Master says how you may write upon this, for he supposes you've no great matters to say."
Cecilia, much astonished at this extreme parsimony, was obliged to consent, but as the point of the pencil was very blunt, desired the boy to get her a knife that she might cut it. He obeyed, but said "Pray Miss, take care it ben't known, for master don't do such a thing once in a year, and if he know'd I'd got you the knife, he'd go nigh to give me a good polt of the head."
Cecilia then wrote upon the slate her desire to be informed in what manner she should send him her receipt for 600 pounds, which she begged to have instantly advanced.
The boy came back grinning, and holding up his hands, and said, "Miss, there's a fine piece of work upstairs! Master's in a peck of troubles; but he says how he'll come down, if you'll stay till he's got his things on."
"Does he keep his bed, then? I hope I have not made him rise?"
"No, Miss, he don't keep his bed, only he must get ready, for he wears no great matters of cloaths when he's alone. You are to know, Miss," lowering his voice, "that that day as he went abroad with our sweep's cloaths on, he comed home in sich a pickle you never see! I believe somebody'd knocked him in the kennel; so does Moll; but don't you say as I told you! He's been special bad ever since. Moll and I was as glad as could be, because he's so plaguy sharp; for, to let you know, Miss, he's so near, it's partly a wonder how he lives at all: and yet he's worth a power of money, too."
"Well, well," said Cecilia, not very desirous to encourage his forwardness, "if I want any thing, I'll call for you."
The boy, however, glad to tell his tale, went on.
"Our Moll won't stay with him above a week longer, Miss, because she says how she can get nothing to eat, but just some old stinking salt meat, that's stayed in the butcher's shop so long, it would make a horse sick to look at it. But Moll's pretty nice; howsever, Miss, to let you know, we don't get a good meal so often as once a quarter! why this last week we ha'n't had nothing at all but some dry musty red herrings; so you may think, Miss, we're kept pretty sharp!"
He was now interrupted by hearing Mr Briggs coming down the stairs, upon which, abruptly breaking off his complaints, he held up his finger to his nose in token of secrecy, and ran hastily into the kitchen.
The appearance of Mr Briggs was by no means rendered more attractive by illness and negligence of dress. He had on a flannel gown and night cap; his black beard, of many days' growth, was long and grim, and upon his nose and one of his cheeks was a large patch of brown paper, which, as he entered the room, he held on with both his hands.
Cecilia made many apologies for having disturbed him, and some civil enquiries concerning his health.
"Ay, ay," cried he, pettishly, "bad enough: all along of that trumpery masquerade; wish I had not gone! Fool for my pains."
"When were you taken ill, Sir?"
"Met with an accident; got a fall, broke my head, like to have lost my wig. Wish the masquerade at old Nick! thought it would cost nothing, or would not have gone. Warrant sha'n't get me so soon to another!"
"Did you fall in going home, Sir?"
"Ay, ay, plump in the kennel; could hardly get out of it; felt
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