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"Mrs. Burroughs will you excuse my saying, that, as I called upon you with the firm determination of following up this inquiry to some positive issue, I cannot be deterred from my purpose by such studied evasion. You must either disclose the name of the party by whom the impostor was introduced to you, or you will find it difficult to escape from a suspicion which I trust you do not merit, and to which, therefore, I will not make a more distinct allusion.'

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"Suspicion! I do not understand you; but such is the gratitude of the world! When I presented him to you as not unlikely to prove a most eligible husband for your daughter, you confessed your obligation; and now, because I have been most cruelly deceived, as well as yourself, you give vent to insinuations equally ungenerous and unjust."

"I know by whom I was first deceived, or, at all events, misinformed; I came hither to ascertain by whom you were first placed in that predicament; but since you refuse to satisfy me upon this point

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"Do not misrepresent me, Lady Middleton; I refuse nothing. Being unconscious of offence, unless a venial indiscretion may deserve that name, I cannot have any wish for concealment. Not entertaining a moment's doubt, when this most plausible pretender gave himself out as such, that he was the real Sir Dennis, I introduced myself to him, and conceived that I was doing a favour to my friends, by presenting him to them."

"I suspected as much. Your friends are infinitely obliged to you; but as I have suffered so severely for being of the number, I hope you will excuse my withdrawing myself henceforth from the list. With a smile of the most ineffable blandness and amenity, and feelings of the bitterest exacerbation, Lady Middleton courtesied and withdrew, deaf to all the entreaties and asseverations of Mrs. Burroughs, who loudly protested her innocence of any interested motive, or of the smallest wish to deceive, in the part she had so unfortunately acted. In this she did but speak the truth. The pitiful vanity, often indulged at the expense of veracity, which prompted her to claim consanguinity with every Irish family that was rich or titled, together with the sordid desire of turning the acquaintance to some account, had led her to introduce herself to the fictitious Sir Dennis, and to assist in making up a match VOL. II.


with the daughter of Sir Matthew Middleton, whose house presented a most attractive foraging ground for herself, while his wealth and civic connexions might prove not less profitable to her scheming husband. But, like the generality of crafty and calculating persons, she had at last been cunning enough to overreach herself. Lady Middleton, convoking the female friends who had been present at the intended wedding, laid before them the result of her recent interview, and demanded their judgment upon the culprit, whose confession she had recorded. All were delighted to have found some one upon whom they could throw the whole blame of their own delusion, to which, however, some of the mammas had lent themselves from motives quite as selfish as those of Mrs. Burroughs. It was unanimously decided that her conduct had been most unguarded and unjustifiable, even if it could be cleared from suspicions of a fouler nature; and the whole party determined upon dropping her acquaintance.

Now that she was no longer in a situation to defend herself, every one had a charge to bring against her. The pickings and pilferings, the calculating contrivances and sordid manœuvres, the furtive beggings and borrowings, to say nothing of the more open rapine of this domestic Arab, who laid under contribution all that crossed her path, and never visited the drawing-room without an eye to the house-keeper's apartment, and the replenishment of her omnivorous reticule, were exposed and condemned without mercy. Poor Mrs. Burroughs! she was not only cut up by her friends, but cut up by her enemies. Tom Rashleigh, in one of his Sunday lampoons, entitled "a Dominical Letter to Mrs. Dominick," after making allusion to her reticule, and declaring that all was fish that came to her net, gave her the nickname of the cormorant, a sobriquet which proved equally adhesive and unfortunate. Its very applicability soon rendered it inapplicable, for it occasioned her character to be so thoroughly known, that the cormorant, had she devoured nothing but such prey as she could collect by her own foraging, might rather have been termed the chameleon.

On the day after the holding of this conclave, Lady Middleton received an unexpected visit from Sir Matthew's nephew and clerk, the demure, cold, formal, and priggishlooking Caleb Ball, whose thatchy mud-coloured hair, finical neckcloth, and leaden puritanical countenance, seemed to have remained immoveable and immutable since she had

last seen him. "I have taken the liberty of calling upon your ladyship," said the visitant, bowing humbly, and not presuming to take a chair, "because I have tidings which I think your ladyship will be glad to hear."

"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Ball, but I cannot hear any thing until you are seated," replied Lady Middleton, whose habitual politeness overcame even her dislike of this city grub, as she sometimes contemptuously termed him.

Keeping at a respectful distance, and placing himself upon the edge of the chair, where he sat stiffly upright, Caleb continued, "I am just come from Bow Street, and I thought your ladyship would be gratified at learning that there is a fellow now in Newgate, whom we believe to be one of the ruffians that attacked my cousin Gale. Ever since that dreadful affair, I have been indefatigable in endeavouring to discover the villains and bring them to justice; but, in spite of the reward offered, I have never till now, had the smallest hope of succeeding."

"The name of our family has been so much before the public, of late," said Lady Middleton, slightly colouring, "that the fresh notoriety of a trial would be particularly disagreeable at the present moment."


Truly so, madam; your ladyship's remark is exceedingly just; but the Old Bailey Sessions will not be held till the twenty-fourth proximo. I am going immediately to Newgate to interrogate our informant, who is one of the felons in the prison,, and if we find reason to believe his statement correct, I shall write to my cousin to come up from Brookshaw, that he may see whether he can recognise the party accused."

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Your diligence, Mr. Ball, is praiseworthy, and I trust you will succeed in your object," said Lady Middleton, coldly; "but if you have nothing else to communicate, I shall be obliged to wish you good morning, as I have a particular engagement."

"Truly so; I would not presume to detain your ladyship for the world, but if I might venture to take such a great liberty, now that I am here, I would humbly prefer a petition on my own account. I would respectfully beg your ladyship's interest with Sir Matthew to get me taken into partnership without waiting for the expiration of the present articles. Mr. Hobson has no objection, and if Sir Matthew could be brought over, I am sure Mr. Thwaytes would follow."

"These are matters, Mr. Ball, in which I never interfere. Sir Matthew, I know, entertains the highest opinion of your integrity and commercial abilities, and you had better, therefore, apply to him."

"I have received so many favours at Sir Matthew's hands, that I feared I might be thought pushing and importunate. Business is my only pleasure; a partnership in the house of Middleton, Thwaytes, and Hobson, my only ambition; and your ladyship's influence is so great with Sir Matthew, that if I could prevail upon your ladyship


"Well, well," said Lady Middleton, rising, "I will take an opportunity of mentioning the subject to him."

After a profusion of thanks, each accompanied by a cringing bow, the visitant replaced his chair against the wall, and took his departure, making another profound bow at the door before he quitted the room.


'Low, servile, vulgar fellow!" exclaimed Lady Middleton, as he withdrew. "What have I to do with advancing his interests, which, I dare say, was the sole object of his visit? I have no desire to see such a thorough grub in partnership with Sir Matthew."

In compliance with the earnest solicitations of Cecilia, her mother now agreed to withdraw from London; but, submitting to the absurd regulations of fashion, even while she professed to have thrown off its yoke, she would not betake herself to the sea-side, though it was recommended as best adapted to restore her daughter's depressed spirits, because it was not yet the modish season. A retired cottage was accordingly hired at a few miles' distance from London, so that Sir Matthew could occasionally run down to them. Here they passed three months in tranquil seclusion, Lady Middleton, who carefully eschewed the perusal of the scandalous journals, wherein she was still condemned to figure, doing her best to forget the mortifying failure of the soirée musicale, the insult she had received from the Duchess and her friends, the still more annoying slights of the overreaching Lady Barbara, and the manifold and humiliating vexations heaped upon her by the sham Sir Dennis. Cecilia, little sensitive as she was, could not so easily recover from the shock she had experienced. Her late distressing and degrading disappointment seemed not unlikely to entail consequences that might cling to her for the remainder of her life; few suitors, she suspected, would face the ridicule or the contempi

of the town by claiming a hand which had so nearly been bestowed upon a valet; and, as she referred mournfully to the past, she regretted that, under the direction of her ambitious mother, she had given so positive a dismissal to her worthy and unassuming admirer, Ned Travers.


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