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- Cecilia Volume 1 - 40/65 -
"No, no," answered he, "the old curmudgeon would but the rather refuse. I know his reason, and therefore am sure all pleas will be vain. He has dealings in the alley, and I dare say games with your money as if it were his own. There is, indeed, one way--but I do not think you would like it--though I protest I hardly know why not-- however, 'tis as well let alone."
Cecilia insisted upon hearing what he meant, and, after some hesitation, he hinted that there were means by which, with very little inconvenience, she might borrow the money.
Cecilia, with that horror natural to all unpractised minds at the first idea of contracting a voluntary debt, started at this suggestion, and seemed very ill disposed to listen to it. Mr Harrel, perceiving her repugnance, turned to Mr Arnott, and said, "Well, my good brother, I hardly know how to suffer you to sell out at such a loss, but yet, my present necessity is so urgent--"
"Don't mention it," cried Mr Arnott, "I am very sorry I let you know it; be certain, however, that while I have anything, it is yours and my sister's."
The two gentlemen we then retiring together; but Cecilia, shocked for Mr Arnott, though unmoved by Mr Harrel, stopt them to enquire what was the way by which it was meant she could borrow the money?
Mr Harrel seemed averse to answer, but she would not be refused; and then he mentioned a Jew, of whose honesty he had made undoubted trial, and who, as she was so near being of age, would accept very trifling interest for whatever she should like to take up.
The heart of Cecilia recoiled at the very mention of a _Jew_, and _taking up money upon interest_; but, impelled strongly by her own generosity to emulate that of Mr Arnott, she agreed, after some hesitation, to have recourse to this method.
Mr Harrel then made some faint denials, and Mr Arnott protested he had a thousand times rather sell out at any discount, than consent to her taking such a measure; but, when her first reluctance was conquered, all that he urged served but to shew his worthiness in a stronger light, and only increased her desire of saving him from such repeated imposition.
Her total ignorance in what manner to transact this business, made her next put it wholly into the hands of Mr Harrel, whom she begged to take up 600 pounds, upon such terms as he thought equitable, and to which, what ever they might be, she would sign her name.
He seemed somewhat surprised at the sum, but without any question or objection undertook the commission: and Cecilia would not lessen it, because unwilling to do more for the security of the luxurious Mr Harrel, than for the distresses of the laborious Hills.
Nothing could be more speedy than the execution of this affair, Mr Harrel was diligent and expert, the whole was settled that morning, and, giving to the Jew her bond for the payment at the interest he required, she put into the hands of Mr Harrel L350, for which he gave his receipt, and she kept the rest for her own purposes.
She intended the morning after this transaction to settle her account with the bookseller. When she went into the parlour to breakfast, she was somewhat surprised to see Mr Harrel seated there, in earnest discourse with his wife. Fearful of interrupting a _tete-a-tete_ so uncommon, she would have retired, but Mr Harrel, calling after her, said, "O pray come in! I am only telling Priscilla a piece of my usual ill luck. You must know I happen to be in immediate want of L200, though only for three or four days, and I sent to order honest old Aaron to come hither directly with the money, but it so happens that he went out of town the moment he had done with us yesterday, and will not be back again this week. Now I don't believe there is another Jew in the kingdom who will let me have money upon the same terms; they are such notorious rascals, that I hate the very thought of employing them."
Cecilia, who could not but understand what this meant, was too much displeased both by his extravagance and his indelicacy, to feel at all inclined to change the destination of the money she had just received; and therefore coolly agreed that it was unfortunate, but added nothing more.
"O, it is provoking indeed," cried he, "for the extra-interest I must pay one of those extortioners is absolutely so much money thrown away."
Cecilia, still without noticing these hints, began her breakfast. Mr Harrel then said he would take his tea with them: and, while he was buttering some dry toast, exclaimed, as if from sudden recollection, "O Lord, now I think of it, I believe, Miss Beverley, you can lend me this money yourself for a day or two. The moment old Aaron comes to town, I will pay you."
Cecilia, whose generosity, however extensive, was neither thoughtless nor indiscriminate, found something so repulsive in this gross procedure, that instead of assenting to his request with her usual alacrity, she answered very gravely that the money she had just received was already appropriated to a particular purpose, and she knew not how to defer making use of it.
Mr Harrel was extremely chagrined by this reply, which was by no means what he expected; but, tossing down a dish of tea, he began humming an air, and soon recovered his usual unconcern.
In a few minutes, ringing his bell, he desired a servant to go to Mr Zackery, and inform him that he wanted to speak with him immediately.
"And now," said he, with a look in which vexation seemed struggling with carelessness, "the thing is done! I don't like, indeed, to get into such hands, for 'tis hard ever to get out of them when once one begins,--and hitherto I have kept pretty clear. But there's no help for it--Mr Arnott cannot just now assist me--and so the thing must take its course. Priscilla, why do you look so grave?"
"I am thinking how unlucky it is my Brother should happen to be unable to lend you this money."
"O, don't think about it; I shall get rid of the man very soon I dare say--I hope so, at least--I am sure I mean it."
Cecilia now grew a little disturbed; she looked at Mrs. Harrel, who seemed also uneasy, and then, with some hesitation, said "Have you really never, Sir, employed this man before?"
"Never in my life: never any but old Aaron. I dread the whole race; I have a sort of superstitious notion that if once I get into their clutches, I shall never be my own man again; and that induced me to beg your assistance. However, 'tis no great matter."
She then began to waver; she feared there might be future mischief as well as present inconvenience, in his applying to new usurers, and knowing she had now the power to prevent him, thought herself half cruel in refusing to exert it. She wished to consult Mr. Monckton, but found it necessary to take her measures immediately, as the Jew was already sent for, and must in a few moments be either employed or discarded.
Much perplext how to act, between a desire of doing good, and a fear of encouraging evil, she weighed each side hastily, but while still uncertain which ought to preponderate, her kindness for Mrs. Harrel interfered, and, in the hope of rescuing her husband from further bad practices, she said she would postpone her own business for the few days he mentioned, rather than see him compelled to open any new account with so dangerous a set of men.
He thanked her in his usual negligent manner, and accepting the 200 pounds, gave her his receipt for it, and a promise she should be paid in a week.
Mrs. Harrel, however, seemed more grateful, and with many embraces spoke her sense of this friendly good nature. Cecilia, happy from believing she had revived in her some spark of sensibility, determined to avail herself of so favourable a symptom, and enter at once upon the disagreeable task she had set herself, of representing to her the danger of her present situation.
As soon, therefore, as breakfast was done, and Mr Arnott, who came in before it was over, was gone, with a view to excite her attention by raising her curiosity, she begged the favour of a private conference in her own room, upon matters of some importance.
She began with hoping that the friendship in which they had so long lived would make her pardon the liberty she was going to take, and which nothing less than their former intimacy, joined to strong apprehensions for her future welfare, could authorise; "But oh Priscilla!" she continued, "with open eyes to see your danger, yet not warn you of it, would be a reserve treacherous in a friend, and cruel even in a fellow-creature."
"What danger?" cried Mrs Harrel, much alarmed, "do you think me ill? do I look consumptive?"
"Yes, consumptive indeed!" said Cecilia, "but not, I hope, in your constitution."
And then, with all the tenderness in her power, she came to the point, and conjured her without delay to retrench her expences, and change her thoughtless way of life for one more considerate and domestic.
Mrs Harrel, with much simplicity, assured her _she did nothing but what every body else did_, and that it was quite impossible for her to _appear in the world_ in any other manner.
"But how are you to appear hereafter?" cried Cecilia, "if now you live beyond your income, you must consider that in time your income by such depredations will be exhausted."
"But I declare to you," answered Mrs Harrel, "I never run in debt for more than half a year, for as soon as I receive my own money, I generally pay it away every shilling: and so borrow what I want till pay day comes round again."
"And that," said Cecilia, "seems a method expressly devised for keeping you eternally comfortless: pardon me, however, for speaking so openly, but I fear Mr Harrel himself must be even still less attentive and accurate in his affairs, or he could not so frequently be embarrassed. And what is to be the result? look but, my dear Priscilla, a little forward, and you will tremble at the prospect before you!"
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