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- Cecilia Volume 1 - 41/65 -
Mrs Harrel seemed frightened at this speech, and begged to know what she would have them do?
Cecilia then, with equal wisdom and friendliness, proposed a general reform in the household, the public and private expences of both; she advised that a strict examination might be made into the state of their affairs, that all their bills should be called in, and faithfully paid, and that an entire new plan of life should be adopted, according to the situation of their fortune and income when cleared of all incumbrances.
"Lord, my dear!" exclaimed Mrs Harrel, with a look of astonishment, "why Mr Harrel would no more do all this than fly! If I was only to make such a proposal, I dare say he would laugh in my face."
"Why?--why because it would seem such an odd thing--it's what nobody thinks of--though I am sure I am very much obliged to you for mentioning it. Shall we go down stairs? I think I heard somebody come in.
"No matter who comes in," said Cecilia, "reflect for a moment upon my proposal, and, at least, if you disapprove it, suggest something more eligible."
"Oh, it's a very good proposal, that I agree," said Mrs Harrel, looking very weary, "but only the thing is it's quite impossible."
"Why so? why is it impossible?"
"Why because--dear, I don't know--but I am sure it is."
"But what is your reason? What makes you sure of it?"
"Lord, I can't tell--but I know it is--because--I am very certain it is."
Argument such as this, though extremely fatiguing to the understanding of Cecilia, had yet no power to _blunt her purpose_: she warmly expostulated against the weakness of her defence, strongly represented the imprudence of her conduct, and exhorted her by every tie of justice, honour and discretion to set about a reformation.
"Why what can I do?" cried Mrs Harrel, impatiently, "one must live a little like other people. You would not have me stared at, I suppose; and I am sure I don't know what I do that every body else does not do too."
"But were it not better," said Cecilia, with more energy, "to think less of _other people_, and more of _yourself?_ to consult your own fortune, and your own situation in life, instead of being blindly guided by those of _other people_? If, indeed, _other people_ would be responsible for your losses, for the diminution of your wealth, and for the disorder of your affairs, then might you rationally make their way of life the example of yours: but you cannot flatter yourself such will be the case; you know better; your losses, your diminished fortune, your embarrassed circumstances will be all your own! pitied, perhaps, by some, but blamed by more, and assisted by none!"
"Good Lord, Miss Beverley!" cried Mrs Harrel, starting, "you talk just as if we were ruined!"
"I mean not that," replied Cecilia, "but I would fain, by pointing out your danger, prevail with you to prevent in time so dreadful a catastrophe."
Mrs Harrel, more affronted than alarmed, heard this answer with much displeasure, and after a sullen hesitation, peevishly said, "I must own I don't take it very kind of you to say such frightful things to me; I am sure we only live like the rest of the world, and I don't see why a man of Mr Harrel's fortune should live any worse. As to his having now and then a little debt or two, it is nothing but what every body else has. You only think it so odd, because you a'n't used to it: but you are quite mistaken if you suppose he does not mean to pay, for he told me this morning that as soon as ever he receives his rents, he intends to discharge every bill he has in the world."
"I am very glad to hear it," answered Cecilia, "and I heartily wish he may have the resolution to adhere to his purpose. I feared you would think me impertinent, but you do worse in believing me unkind: friendship and good-will could alone have induced me to hazard what I have said to you. I must, however, have done; though I cannot forbear adding that I hope what has already passed will sometimes recur to you."
They then separated; Mrs Harrel half angry at remonstrances she thought only censorious, and Cecilia offended at her pettishness and folly, though grieved at her blindness.
She was soon, however, recompensed for this vexation by a visit from Mrs Delvile, who, finding her alone, sat with her some time, and by her spirit, understanding and elegance, dissipated all her chagrin.
From another circumstance, also, she received much pleasure, though a little perplexity; Mr Arnott brought her word that Mr Belfield, almost quite well, had actually left his lodgings, and was gone into the country.
She now half suspected that the account of his illness given her by young Delvile, was merely the effect of his curiosity to discover her sentiments of him; yet when she considered how foreign to his character appeared every species of artifice, she exculpated him from the design, and concluded that the impatient spirit of Belfield had hurried him away, when really unfit for travelling. She had no means, however, to hear more of him now he had quitted the town, and therefore, though uneasy, she was compelled to be patient.
In the evening she had again a visit from Mr Monckton, who, though he was now acquainted how much she was at home, had the forbearance to avoid making frequent use of that knowledge, that his attendance might escape observation.
Cecilia, as usual, spoke to him of all her affairs with the utmost openness; and as her mind was now chiefly occupied by her apprehensions for the Harrels, she communicated to him the extravagance of which they were guilty, and hinted at the distress that from time to time it occasioned; but the assistance she had afforded them her own delicacy prevented her mentioning.
Mr Monckton scrupled not from this account instantly to pronounce Harrel a _ruined man_; and thinking Cecilia, from her connection with him, in much danger of being involved in his future difficulties, he most earnestly exhorted her to suffer no inducement to prevail with her to advance him any money, confidently affirming she would have little chance of being ever repaid.
Cecilia listened to this charge with much alarm, but readily promised future circumspection. She confessed to him the conference she had had in the morning with Mrs Harrel, and after lamenting her determined neglect of her affairs, she added, "I cannot but own that my esteem for her, even more than my affection, has lessened almost every day since I have been in her house; but this morning, when I ventured to speak to her with earnestness, I found her powers of reasoning so weak, and her infatuation to luxury and expence so strong, that I have ever since felt ashamed of my own discernment in having formerly selected her for my friend."
"When you gave her that title," said Mr Monckton, "you had little choice in your power; her sweetness and good-nature attracted you; childhood is never troubled with foresight, and youth is seldom difficult: she was lively and pleasing, you were generous and affectionate; your acquaintance with her was formed while you were yet too young to know your own worth, your fondness of her grew from habit, and before the inferiority of her parts had weakened your regard, by offending your judgment, her early marriage separated you from her entirely. But now you meet again the scene is altered; three years of absence spent in the cultivation of an understanding naturally of the first order, by encreasing your wisdom, has made you more fastidious; while the same time spent by her in mere idleness and shew, has hurt her disposition, without adding to her knowledge, and robbed her of her natural excellencies, without enriching her with acquired ones. You see her now with impartiality, for you see her almost as a stranger, and all those deficiencies which retirement and inexperience had formerly concealed, her vanity, and her superficial acquaintance with the world, have now rendered glaring. But folly weakens all bands: remember, therefore, if you would form a solid friendship, to consult not only the heart but the head, not only the temper, but the understanding."
"Well, then," said Cecilia, "at least it must be confessed I have judiciously chosen _you_!"
"You have, indeed, done me the highest honour," he answered.
They then talked of Belfield, and Mr Monckton confirmed the account of Mr Arnott, that he had left London in good health. After which, he enquired if she had seen any thing more of the Delviles?
"Yes," said Cecilia, "Mrs. Delvile called upon me this morning. She is a delightful woman; I am sorry you know her not enough to do her justice."
"Is she civil to you?"
"Civil? she is all kindness!"
"Then depend upon it she has something in view: whenever that is not the case she is all insolence. And Mr Delvile,--pray what do you think of him?"
"O, I think him insufferable! and I cannot sufficiently thank you for that timely caution which prevented my change of habitation. I would not live under the same roof with him for the world!"
"Well, and do you not now begin also to see the son properly?"
"Properly? I don't understand you."
"Why as the very son of such parents, haughty and impertinent."
"No, indeed; he has not the smallest resemblance [to] his father, and if he resembles his mother, it is only what every one must wish who impartially sees her."
"You know not that family. But how, indeed, should you, when they
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