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- Cecilia vol. 2 - 3/63 -
"Those who are most silent to strangers," answered Mr Gosport, "commonly talk most fluently to their intimates, for they are deeply in arrears, and eager to pay off their debts. Miss Leeson now is in her proper set, and therefore appears in her natural character: and the poor girl's joy in being able to utter all the nothings she has painfully hoarded while separated from her coterie, gives to her now the wild transport of a bird just let loose from a cage. I rejoice to see the little creature at liberty, for what can be so melancholy as a forced appearance of thinking, where there are no materials for such an occupation?"
Soon after, Miss Larolles, who was laughing immoderately, contrived to crowd herself into their party, calling out to them, "O you have had the greatest loss in the world! if you had but been in the next room just now!--there's the drollest figure there you can conceive: enough to frighten one to look at him." And presently she added "O Lord, if you stoop a little this way, you may see him!"
Then followed a general tittering, accompanied with exclamations of "Lord, what a fright!" "It's enough to kill one with laughing to look at him!" "Did you ever see such a horrid creature in your life?" And soon after, one of them screamed out "O Lord, see!--he's grinning at Miss Beverley!"
Cecilia then turned her head towards the door, and there, to her own as well as her neighbours' amazement, she perceived Mr Briggs! who, in order to look about him at his ease, was standing upon a chair, from which, having singled her out, he was regarding her with a facetious smirk, which, when it caught her eye, was converted into a familiar nod.
She returned his salutation, but was not much charmed to observe, that presently descending from his exalted post, which had moved the wonder and risibility of all the company, he made a motion to approach her; for which purpose, regardless of either ladies or gentlemen in his way, he sturdily pushed forward, with the same unconcerned hardiness he would have forced himself through a crowd in the street; and taking not the smallest notice of their frowns, supplications that he would stand still, and exclamations of "Pray, Sir!"--"Lord, how troublesome!" and "Sir, I do assure you here's no room!" he fairly and adroitly elbowed them from him till he reached her seat: and then, with a waggish grin, he looked round, to show he had got the better, and to see whom he had discomposed.
When he had enjoyed this triumph, he turned to Cecilia, and chucking her under the chin, said "Well, my little duck, how goes it? got to you at last; squeezed my way; would not be nicked; warrant I'll mob with the best of them! Look here! all in a heat!--hot as the dog days."
And then, to the utter consternation of the company, he took off his wig to wipe his head! which occasioned such universal horror, that all who were near the door escaped into other, apartments, while those who were too much enclosed, for flight, with one accord turned away their heads.
Captain Aresby, being applied to by some of the ladies to remonstrate upon this unexampled behaviour, advanced to him, and said, "I am quite _abimé_, Sir, to incommode you, but the commands of the ladies are insuperable. Give me leave, Sir, to entreat that you would put on your wig."
"My wig?" cried he, "ay, ay, shall in a moment, only want to wipe my head first."
"I am quite _assommé_, Sir," returned the Captain, "to disturb you, but I must really hint you don't comprehend me: the ladies are extremely inconvenienced by these sort of sights, and we make it a principle they should never be _accablées_ with them."
"Anan!" cried Mr Briggs, staring.
"I say, Sir," replied the Captain, "the ladies are quite _au desespoir_ that you will not cover your head."
"What for?" cried he, "what's the matter with my head? ne'er a man here got a better! very good stuff in it: won't change it with ne'er a one of you!"
And then, half unconscious of the offence he had given, and half angry at the rebuke he had received, he leisurely compleated his design, and again put on his wig, settling it to his face with as much composure as if he had performed the operation in his own dressing-room.
The Captain, having gained his point, walked away, making, however, various grimaces of disgust, and whispering from side to side "he's the most petrifying fellow I ever was _obsedé_ by!"
Mr Briggs then, with much derision, and sundry distortions of countenance, listened to an Italian song; after which, he bustled back to the outer apartment, in search of Cecilia, who, ashamed of seeming a party in the disturbance he had excited, had taken the opportunity of his dispute with the Captain, to run into the next room; where, however, he presently found her, while she was giving an account to Mr Gosport of her connection with him, to which Morrice, ever curious and eager to know what was going forward, was also listening.
"Ah, little chick!" cried he, "got to you again! soon out jostle those jemmy sparks! But where's the supper? see nothing of the supper! Time to go to bed,--suppose there is none; all a take in; nothing but a little piping."
"Supper, Sir?" cried Cecilia; "the Concert is not over yet. Was supper mentioned in your card of invitation?"
"Ay, to be sure, should not have come else. Don't visit often; always costs money. Wish I had not come now; wore a hole in my shoe; hardly a crack in it before."
"Why you did not walk, Sir?"
Did, did; why not? Might as well have stayed away though; daubed my best coat, like to have spoilt it."
"So much the better for the taylors, Sir," said Morrice, pertly, "for then you must have another."
"Another! what for? ha'n't had this seven years; just as good as new."
"I hope," said Cecilia, "you had not another fall?"
"Worse, worse; like to have lost my bundle."
"What bundle, Sir?"
"Best coat and waistcoat; brought 'em in my handkerchief, purpose to save them. When will Master Harrel do as much?"
"But had you no apprehensions, Sir," said Mr Gosport drily, "that the handkerchief would be the sooner worn out for having a knot tied in it?"
"Took care of that, tied it slack. Met an unlucky boy; little dog gave it a pluck; knot slipt; coat and waistcoat popt out."
"But what became of the boy, Sir?" cried Morrice, "I hope he got off?"
"Could not run for laughing; caught him in a minute; gave him something to laugh for; drubbed him soundly."
"O poor fellow!" cried Morrice with a loud hallow, "I am really sorry for him. But pray, Sir, what became of your best coat and waistcoat while you gave him this drubbing? did you leave them in the dirt?"
"No, Mr Nincompoop," answered Briggs angrily, "I put them on a stall."
"That was a perilous expedient, Sir," said Mr Gosport, "and I should fear might be attended with ill consequences, for the owner of the stall would be apt to expect some little _douçeur_. How did you manage, Sir?"
"Bought a halfpenny worth of apples. Serve for supper to-morrow night."
"But how, Sir, did you get your cloaths dried, or cleaned?"
"Went to an alehouse; cost me half a pint."
"And pray, Sir," cried Morrice, "where, at last, did you make your toilette?"
"Sha'n't tell, sha'n't tell; ask no more questions. What signifies where a man slips on a coat and waist-coat?"
"Why, Sir, this will prove an expensive expedition to you," said Mr Gosport, very gravely; "Have you cast up what it may cost you?"
"More than it's worth, more than it's worth", answered he pettishly "ha'n't laid out so much in pleasure these five years."
"Ha! ha!" cried Morrice, hallowing aloud, "why it can't be more than sixpence in all!"
"Sixpence?" repeated he scornfully, "if you don't know the value of sixpence, you'll never be worth fivepence three farthings. How do think got rich, hay?--by wearing fine coats, and frizzling my pate? No, no; Master Harrel for that! ask him if he'll cast an account with me!--never knew a man worth a penny with such a coat as that on."
Morrice again laughed, and again Mr Briggs reproved him; and Cecilia, taking advantage of the squabble, stole back to the music-room. Here, in a few minutes, Mrs Panton, a lady who frequently visited at the house, approached Cecilia, followed by a gentleman, whom she had never before seen, but who was so evidently charmed with her, that he had looked at no other object since his entrance into the house. Mrs Panton, presenting him to her by the name of Mr Marriot, told her he had begged her intercession for the honour of her hand in the two first dances: and the moment she answered that she was already engaged, the same request was made for the two following. Cecilia had then no excuse, and was therefore obliged to accept him.
The hope she had entertained in the early part of the evening, was already almost wholly extinguished; Delvile appeared not! though her eye watched the entrance of every new visitor, and her vexation made her believe that he alone, of all the town, was absent.
When the Concert was over, the company joined promiscuously for chat and refreshments before the ball; and Mr Gosport advanced to Cecilia, to relate a ridiculous dispute which had just passed between Mr Briggs
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