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- Cecilia vol. 3 - 30/64 -


"Home;" answered he with an aspect the most benign; "I will not wear out thy pity by rendering woe familiar to it."

Cecilia, though at this moment more disposed for acts of charity than for business or for pleasure, remembered that her fortune however large was not unlimited, and would not press any further bounty for objects she knew not, certain that occasions and claimants, far beyond her ability of answering, would but too frequently arise among those with whom she was more connected, she therefore yielded herself to his direction, and returned to Soho-Square.

Again, however, he failed not to call the time she had appointed for re-visiting the invalid, to whom, with much gladness, he conducted her.

The poor woman, whose disease was a rheumatic fever, was already much better; she had been attended by an apothecary who had given her some alleviating medicine; she had a nurse at her bedside, and the room being cleared of the children, she had had the refreshment of some sleep.

She was now able to raise her head, and make her acknowledgments to her benefactress; but not a little was the surprise of Cecilia, when, upon looking in her face, she said, "Ah, madam, I have seen you before!"

Cecilia, who had not the smallest recollection of her, in return desired to know when, or where?

"When you were going to be married, madam, I was the Pew-Opener at---- Church."

Cecilia started with secret horror, and involuntarily retreated from the bed; while Albany with a look of astonishment exclaimed, "Married! --why, then, is it unknown?"

"Ask me not!" cried she, hastily; "it is all a mistake."

"Poor thing!" cried he, "this, then, is the string thy nerves endure not to have touched! sooner will I expire than a breath of mine shall make it vibrate! Oh sacred be thy sorrow, for thou canst melt at that of the indigent!"

Cecilia then made a few general enquiries, and heard that the poor woman, who was a widow, had been obliged to give up her office, from the frequent attacks which she suffered of the rheumatism; that she had received much assistance both from the Rector and the Curate of ---- Church, but her continual illness, with the largeness of her family, kept her distressed in spite of all help.

Cecilia promised to consider what she could do for her, and then giving her more money, returned to Lady Margaret's.

Albany, who found that the unfortunate recollection of the Pew-Opener had awakened in his young pupil a melancholy train of reflections, seemed now to compassionate the sadness which hitherto he had reproved, and walking silently by her side till she came to Soho-Square, said in accents of kindness, "Peace light upon thy head, and dissipate thy woes!" and left her.

"Ah when!" cried she to herself, "if thus they are to be revived for- ever!"

Mr Monckton, who observed that something had greatly affected her, now expostulated warmly against Albany and his wild schemes; "You trifle with your own happiness," he cried, "by witnessing these scenes of distress, and you will trifle away your fortune upon projects you can never fulfil: the very air in those miserable houses is unwholesome for you to breathe; you will soon be affected with some of the diseases to which you so uncautiously expose yourself, and while not half you give in charity will answer the purpose you wish, you will be plundered by cheats and sharpers till you have nothing left to bestow. You must be more considerate for yourself, and not thus governed by Albany, whose insanity is but partially cured, and whose projects are so boundless, that the whole capital of the East India Company would not suffice to fulfil them."

Cecilia, though she liked not the severity of this remonstrance, acknowledged there was some truth in it, and promised to be discreet, and take the reins into her own hands.

There remained for her, however, no other satisfaction; and the path which had thus been pointed out to her, grew more and more alluring every step. Her old friends, the poor Hills, now occurred to her memory, and she determined to see herself in what manner they went on.

The scene which this enquiry presented to her, was by no means calculated to strengthen Mr Monckton's doctrine, for the prosperity in which she found this little family, amply rewarded the liberality she had shewn to it, and proved an irresistible encouragement to similar actions. Mrs Hill wept for joy in recounting how well she succeeded, and Cecilia, delighted by the power of giving such pleasure, forgot all cautions and promises in the generosity which she displayed. She paid Mrs Roberts the arrears that were due to her, she discharged all that was owing for the children who had been put to school, desired they might still be sent to it solely at her expense, and gave the mother a sum of money to be laid out in presents for them all.

To perform her promise with the Pew Opener was however more difficult; her ill health, and the extreme youth of her children making her utterly helpless: but these were not considerations for Cecilia to desert her, but rather motives for regarding her as more peculiarly an object of charity. She found she had once been a clear starcher, and was a tolerable plain work-woman; she resolved, therefore, to send her into the country, where she hoped to be able to get her some business, and knew that at least, she could help her, if unsuccessful, and see that her children were brought up to useful employments. The, woman herself was enchanted at the plan, and firmly persuaded the country air would restore her health. Cecilia told her only to wait till she was well enough to travel, and promised, in the mean time, to look out some little habitation for her. She then gave her money to pay her bills, and for her journey, and writing a full direction where she would hear of her at Bury, took leave of her till that time.

These magnificent donations and designs, being communicated to Albany, seemed a renovation to him of youth, spirit, and joy! while their effect upon Mr Monckton resembled an annihilation of all three! to see money thus sported away, which he had long considered as his own, to behold those sums which he had destined for his pleasures, thus lavishly bestowed upon beggars, excited a rage he could with difficulty conceal, and an uneasiness he could hardly endure; and he languished, he sickened for the time, when he might put a period to such romantic proceedings.

Such were the only occupations which interrupted the solitude of Cecilia, except those which were given to her by actual business; and the moment her affairs were in so much forwardness that they could be managed by letters, she prepared for returning into the country. She acquainted Lady Margaret and Mr Monckton with her design, and gave orders to her servants to be ready to set off the next day.

Mr Monckton made not any opposition, and refused himself the satisfaction of accompanying her: and Lady Margaret, whose purpose was now answered, and who wished to be in the country herself, determined to follow her.

CHAPTER vi.

A DISTURBANCE.

This matter being settled at breakfast, Cecilia, having but one day more to spend in London, knew not how to let it pass without taking leave of Henrietta, though she chose not again to expose herself to the forward insinuations of her mother; she sent her, therefore, a short note, begging to see her at Lady Margaret's, and acquainting her that the next day she was going out of town.

Henrietta returned the following answer.

_To Miss Beverley_.

Madam,--My mother is gone to market, and I must not go out without her leave; I have run to the door at every knock this whole week in hopes you were coming, and my heart has jumpt at every coach that has gone through the street. Dearest lady, why did you tell me you would come? I should not have thought of such a great honour if you had not put it in my head. And now I have got the use of a room where I can often be alone for two or three hours together. And so I shall this morning, if it was possible my dear Miss Beverley could come. But I don't mean to be teasing, and I would not be impertinent or encroaching for the world; but only the thing is I have a great deal to say to you, and if you was not so rich a lady, and so much above me, I am sure I should love you better than any body in the whole world, almost; and now I dare say I shan't see you at all; for it rains very hard, and my mother, I know, will be sadly angry if I ask to go in a coach. O dear! I don't know what I can do! for it will half break my heart, if my dear Miss Beverley should go out of town, and I not see her!--I am, Madam, with the greatest respectfulness, your most humble servant,

HENRIETTA BELFIELD.

This artless remonstrance, joined to the intelligence that she could see her alone, made Cecilia instantly order a chair, and go herself to Portland-street: for she found by this letter there was much doubt if she could otherwise see her, and the earnestness of Henrietta made her now not endure to disappoint her. "She has much," cried she, "to say to me, and I will no longer refuse to hear her; she shall unbosom to me her gentle heart, for we have now nothing to fear from each other. She promises herself pleasure from the communication, and doubtless it must be some relief to her. Oh were there any friendly bosom, in which I might myself confide!--happier Henrietta! less fearful of thy pride, less tenacious of thy dignity! thy sorrows at least seek the consolation of sympathy,--mine, alas! fettered by prudence, must fly it!"

She was shewn into the parlour, which she had the pleasure to find empty; and, in an instant, the warm-hearted Henrietta was in her arms. "This is sweet of you indeed," cried she, "for I did not know how to ask it, though it rains so hard I could not have walked to you, and I don't know what I should have done, if you had gone away and quite forgot me."

She then took her into the back parlour, which she said they had lately hired, and, as it was made but little use of, she had it almost entirely to herself.

There had passed a sad scene, she told her, at the meeting with her brother, though now they were a little more comfortable; yet, her mother, she was sure, would never be at rest till he got into some higher way of life; "And, indeed, I have some hopes," she continued,


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