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- Cecilia vol. 2 - 60/63 -
"You don't consider that I have got this sweet little dog to carry, and he is such a shocking plague to me you've no notion. Only conceive what a weight he is!"
"Pray, ma'am," cried Morrice, "let me take him for you; I'll be very careful of him, I promise you; and you need not be afraid to trust me, for I understand more about dogs than about any thing."
Miss Larolles, after many fond caresses, being really weary, consented, and Morrice placed the little animal before him on horseback: but while this matter was adjusting, and Miss Larolles was giving directions how she would have it held, Morrice exclaimed, "Look, look! that man is coming back! He is certainly watching us. There! now he's going off again!--I suppose he saw me remarking him."
"I dare say he's laying in wait to rob us," said Miss Larolles; "so when we turn off the high road, to go to Mrs Mears, I suppose he'll come galloping after us. It's excessive horrid, I assure you."
"'Tis a petrifying thing," said the captain, "that one must always be _degouté_ by some wretched being or other of this sort; but pray be not deranged, I will ride after him, if you please, and do _mon possible_ to get rid of him."
"Indeed I wish you would," answered Miss Larolles, "for I assure you he has put such shocking notions into my head, it's quite disagreeable."
"I shall make it a principle," said the captain, "to have the honour of obeying you." And was riding off, when Cecilia, in great agitation, called out "Why should you go, Sir?--he is not in our way,--pray let him alone,--for what purpose should you pursue him?"
"I hope," said Mr Gosport, "for the purpose of making him join our company, to some part of which I fancy he would be no very intolerable addition."
This speech again silenced Cecilia, who perceived, with the utmost confusion, that both Delvile and herself were undoubtedly suspected by Mr Gosport, if not already actually betrayed to him. She was obliged, therefore, to let the matter take its course, though quite sick with apprehension lest a full discovery should follow the projected pursuit.
The Captain, who wanted not courage, however deeply in vanity and affectation he had buried common sense, stood suspended, upon the request of Cecilia, that he would not go, and, with a shrug of distress, said, "Give me leave to own I am _parfaitment_ in a state the most _accablant_ in the world: nothing could give me greater pleasure than to profit of the occasion to accommodate either of these ladies; but as they proceed upon different principles, I am _indecidé_ to a degree which way to turn myself!"
"Put it to the vote, then," said Morrice; "the two ladies have both spoke; now, then, for the gentlemen. Come, Sir," to Mr Gosport, "what say you?"
"O, fetch the culprit back, by all means," answered he; "and then let us all insist upon his opening his cause, by telling us in what he has offended us; for there is no part of his business, I believe, with which we are less acquainted."
"Well," said Morrice, "I'm for asking him a few questions too; so is the Captain; so every body has spoke but you, Sir," addressing himself to Mr Meadows, "So now, Sir, let's hear your opinion."
Mr Meadows, appearing wholly inattentive, rode on.
"Why, Sir, I say!" cried Morrice, louder, "we are all waiting for your vote. Pray what is the gentleman's name? it's deuced hard to make him hear one."
"His name is Meadows," said Miss Larolles, in a low voice, "and I assure you sometimes he won't hear people by the hour together. He's so excessive absent you've no notion. One day he made me so mad, that I could not help crying; and Mr Sawyer was standing by the whole time! and I assure you I believe he laughed at me. Only conceive how distressing!"
"May be," said Morrice, "it's out of bashfulness perhaps he thinks we shall cut him up."
"Bashfulness," repeated Miss Larolles; "Lord, you don't conceive the thing at all. Why he's at the very head of the _ton_. There's nothing in the world so fashionable as taking no notice of things, and never seeing people, and saying nothing at all, and never hearing a word, and not knowing one's own acquaintance. All the _ton_ people do so, and I assure you as to Mr Meadows, he's so excessively courted by every body, that if he does but say a syllable, he thinks it such an immense favour, you've no idea."
This account, however little alluring in itself, of his celebrity, was yet sufficient to make Morrice covet his further acquaintance: for Morrice was ever attentive to turn his pleasure to his profit, and never negligent of his interest, but when ignorant how to pursue it. He returned, therefore, to the charge, though by no means with the same freedom he had begun it, and lowering his voice to a tone of respect and submission, he said, "Pray, Sir, may we take the liberty to ask your advice, whether we shall go on, or take a turn back?"
Mr Meadows made not any answer; but when Morrice was going to repeat his question, without appearing even to know that he was near him, he abruptly said to Miss Larolles, "Pray what is become of Mrs Mears? I don't see her amongst us."
"Lord, Mr Meadows," exclaimed she, "how can you be so odd? Don't you remember she went on in a chaise to the inn?"
"O, ay, true," cried he; "I protest I had quite forgot it; I beg your pardon, indeed. Yes, I recollect now,--she fell off her horse."
"Her horse? Why you know she was in her chaise."
"Her chaise, was it?--ay, true, so it was. Poor thing!--I am glad she was not hurt."
"Not hurt? Why she's so excessively bruised, she can't stir a step! Only conceive what a memory you've got!"
"I am most extremely sorry for her indeed," cried he, again stretching himself and yawning; "poor soul!--I hope she won't die. Do you think she will!"
"Die!" repeated Miss Larolles, with a scream, "Lord, how shocking! You are really enough to frighten one to hear you."
"But, Sir," said Morrice, "I wish you would be so kind as to give us your vote; the man will else be gone so far, we sha'n't be able to overtake him.--Though I do really believe that is the very fellow coming back to peep at us again!"
"I am _ennuyé_ to a degree," cried the Captain; "he is certainly set upon us as a spy, and I must really beg leave to enquire of him upon what principle he incommodes us."--And instantly he rode after him.
"And so will I too," cried Morrice, following.
Miss Larolles screamed after him to give her first her little dog; but with a schoolboy's eagerness to be foremost, he galloped on without heeding her.
The uneasiness of Cecilia now encreased every moment; the discovery of Delvile seemed unavoidable, and his impatient and indiscreet watchfulness must have rendered the motives of his disguise but too glaring. All she had left to hope was arriving at the inn before the detection was announced, and at least saving herself the cruel mortification of hearing the raillery which would follow it.
Even this, however, was not allowed her; Miss Larolles, whom she had no means to quit, hardly stirred another step, from her anxiety for her dog, and the earnestness of her curiosity about the stranger. She loitered, stopt now to talk, and now to listen, and was scarce moved a yard from the spot where she had been left, when the Captain and Morrice returned.
"We could not for our lives overtake the fellow," said Morrice; "he was well mounted, I promise you, and I'll warrant he knows what he's about, for he turned off so short at a place where there were two narrow lanes, that we could not make out which way he went."
Cecilia, relieved and delighted by this unexpected escape, now recovered her composure, and was content to saunter on without repining.
"But though we could not seize his person," said the Captain, "we have debarrassed ourselves _tout à fait_ from his pursuit; I hope, therefore, Miss Larolles will make a revoke of her apprehensions."
The answer to this was nothing but a loud scream, with an exclamation, "Lord, where's my dog?"
"Your dog!" cried Morrice, looking aghast, "good stars! I never thought of him!"
"How excessive barbarous!" cried Miss Larolles, "you've killed him, I dare say. Only think how shocking! I had rather have seen any body served so in the world. I shall never forgive it, I assure you."
"Lord, ma'am," said Morrice, "how can you suppose I've killed him? Poor, pretty creature, I'm sure I liked him prodigiously. I can't think for my life where he can be: but I have a notion he must have dropt down some where while I happened to be on the full gallop. I'll go look [for] him, however, for we went at such a rate that I never missed him."
Away again rode Morrice.
"I am _abimé_ to the greatest degree," said the Captain, "that the poor little sweet fellow should be lost if I had thought him in any danger, I would have made it a principle to have had a regard to his person myself. Will you give me leave, ma'am, to have the honour of seeking him _partout?_"
"O, I wish you would with all my heart; for I assure you if I don't find him, I shall think it so excessive distressing you can't conceive."
The Captain touched his hat, and was gone.
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