Cecilia, by Fanny Burney

Chapter 8

A Tete a Tete.

The two following days had neither event nor disturbance, except some little vexation occasioned by the behaviour of Sir Robert Floyer, who still appeared not to entertain any doubt of the success of his addresses. This impertinent confidence she could only attribute to the officious encouragement of Mr Harrel, and therefore she determined rather to seek than to avoid an explanation with him. But she had, in the mean time, the satisfaction of hearing from Mr Arnott, who, ever eager to oblige her, was frequent in his enquiries, that Mr Belfield was almost entirely recovered.

On Thursday, according to her appointment, she again went to St James’ Square, and being shewn into the drawing-room till dinner was ready, found there only young Mr Delvile.

After some general conversation, he asked her how lately she had had any news of Mr Belfield?

“This morning,” she answered, “when I had the pleasure of hearing he was quite recovered. Have you seen him again, sir?”

“Yes madam, twice.”

“And did you think him almost well?”

“I thought,” answered he, with some hesitation, “and I think still, that your enquiries ought to be his cure.”

“O,” cried Cecilia, “I hope he has far better medicines: but I am afraid I have been misinformed, for I see you do not think him better.”

“You must not, however,” replied he, “blame those messengers whose artifice has only had your satisfaction in view; nor should I be so malignant as to blast their designs, if I did not fear that Mr Belfield’s actual safety may be endangered by your continual deception.”

“What deception, sir? I don’t at all understand you. How is his safety endangered?”

“Ah madam!” said he smiling, “what danger indeed is there that any man would not risk to give birth to such solicitude! Mr Belfield however, I believe is in none from which a command of yours cannot rescue him.”

“Then were I an hard-hearted damsel indeed not to issue it! but if my commands are so medicinal, pray instruct me how to administer them.”

“You must order him to give up, for the present, his plan of going into the country, where he can have no assistance, and where his wound must be dressed only by a common servant, and to remain quietly in town till his surgeon pronounces that he may travel without any hazard.”

“But is he, seriously, so mad as to intend leaving town without the consent of his surgeon?”

“Nothing less than such an intention could have induced me to undeceive you with respect to his recovery. But indeed I am no friend to those artifices which purchase present relief by future misery: I venture, therefore, to speak to you the simple truth, that by a timely exertion of your influence you may prevent further evil.”

“I know not, Sir,” said Cecilia, with the utmost surprise, “why you should suppose I have any such influence; nor can I imagine that any deception has been practiced.”

“It is possible,” answered he, “I may have been too much alarmed; but in such a case as this, no information ought to be depended upon but that of his surgeon. You, madam, may probably know his opinion?”

“Me? — No, indeed? I never saw his surgeon; I know not even who he is.”

“I purpose calling upon him tomorrow morning; will Miss Beverley permit me afterwards the honour of communicating to her what may pass?”

“I thank you, sir,” said she, colouring very high; “but my impatience is by no means so great as to occasion my giving you that trouble.”

Delvile, perceiving her change of countenance, instantly, and with much respect, entreated her pardon for the proposal; which, however, she had no sooner granted, than he said very archly, “Why indeed you have not much right to be angry, since it was your own frankness that excited mine. And thus, you find, like most other culprits, I am ready to cast the blame of the offence upon the offended. I feel, however, an irresistible propensity to do service to Mr Belfield; — shall I sin quite beyond forgiveness if I venture to tell you how I found him situated this morning?”

“No, certainly — if you wish it, I can have no objection.”

“I found him, then, surrounded by a set of gay young men, who, by way of keeping up his spirits, made him laugh and talk without ceasing: he assured me himself that he was perfectly well, and intended to gallop out of town tomorrow morning; though, when I shook hands with him at parting, I was both shocked and alarmed to feel by the burning heat of the skin, that far from discarding his surgeon, he ought rather to call in a physician.”

“I am very much concerned to hear this account,” said Cecilia; “but I do not well understand what you mean should on my part follow it?”

“That,” answered he, bowing, with a look of mock gravity, “I pretend not to settle! In stating the case I have satisfied my conscience, and if in hearing it you can pardon the liberty I have taken, I shall as much honour the openness of your character, as I admire that of your countenance.”

Cecilia now, to her no little astonishment, found she had the same mistake to clear up at present concerning Mr Belfield, that only three days before she had explained with respect to the Baronet. But she had no time to speak further upon the subject, as the entrance of Mrs Delvile put an end to their discourse.

That lady received her with the most distinguishing kindness; apologised for not sooner waiting upon her, and repeatedly declared that nothing but indisposition should have prevented her returning the favour of her first visit.

They were soon after summoned to dinner. Mr Delvile, to the infinite joy of Cecilia, was out.

The day was spent greatly to her satisfaction. There was no interruption from visitors, she was tormented by the discussion of no disagreeable subjects, the duel was not mentioned, the antagonists were not hinted at, she was teized with no self-sufficient encouragement, and wearied with no mortifying affability; the conversation at once was lively and rational, and though general, was rendered interesting, by a reciprocation of good-will and pleasure in the conversers.

The favourable opinion she had conceived both of the mother and the son this long visit served to confirm: in Mrs Delvile she found strong sense, quick parts, and high breeding; in Mortimer, sincerity and vivacity joined with softness and elegance; and in both there seemed the most liberal admiration of talents, with an openness of heart that disdained all disguise. Greatly pleased with their manners, and struck with all that was apparent in their characters, she much regretted the prejudice of Mr Monckton, which now, with the promise she had given him, was all that opposed her making an immediate effort towards a change in her abode.

She did not take her leave till eleven o’clock, when Mrs Delvile, after repeatedly thanking her for her visit, said she would not so much encroach upon her good nature as to request another till she had waited upon her in return; but added, that she meant very speedily to pay that debt, in order to enable herself, by friendly and frequent meetings, to enter upon the confidential commission with which her guardian had entrusted her.

Cecilia was pleased with the delicacy which gave rise to this forbearance, yet having in fact nothing either to relate or conceal, she was rather sorry than glad at the delay of an explanation, since she found the whole family was in an error with respect to the situation of her affairs.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32