“It was not altogether to stimulate Mr Harcourt to bring you back, which induced me to refuse to answer his question, Japhet. I considered that your return had rendered it necessary that it should be deferred until I saw you. I have not forgotten, Japhet, and never shall forget, what I was when you rescued me; and when I think what I might have been had you not saved me, I shudder at the bare idea. I have not forgotten how you risked, and nearly lost your life in Ireland for my sake—neither has my mother. We are beholden to you for all our present happiness, and I am eternally indebted to you for rescuing me from ignorance, poverty, and, perhaps, vice. You have been more, much more than a father to me—more, much more than a brother. I am, as it were, a creature of your own fashioning, and I owe to you that which I never can repay. When, then, you returned so unexpectedly, Japhet, I felt that you had a paramount right in my disposal, and I was glad that I had not replied to Mr Harcourt, as I wished first for your sanction and approval. I know all that has passed between you, but I know not your real feelings towards Mr Harcourt; he acknowledges that he treated you very ill, and it was his sincere repentance of having so done, and his praise of you, which first won my favour. And now, Japhet, if you have still animosity against Mr Harcourt—if you—”
“Stop, my dear Fleta, I will answer all your questions at once.” I took Harcourt’s hand, and placed it in her’s. “May God bless you both, and may you be happy!”
Cecilia threw her arms round me and wept; so did everybody else, I believe. It was lucky for Harcourt that I was in love with Susannah Temple. As soon as Cecilia had recovered a little, I kissed her, and passed her over to her right owner, who led her to the sofa. Lady de Clare and I went out of the room on important business, and did not return for a quarter of an hour. When we returned, Cecilia went to her mother and embraced her, while Harcourt silently squeezed my hand. We then all sat down, and I gave them an account of all that had passed during my second excursion—how I had nearly been hanged—how I had gone mad—how I had turned Quaker and apothecary—which they all agreed, with what had happened to me before, made up a very eventful history.
“And, Japhet, if it be a fair question about one so fair, was that Miss Temple who was at church with you yesterday?”
“Then, Cecilia, if ever she appears in the same circle, except in my eyes, your beauty will stand in some danger of being eclipsed.”
“How can you say, except in your eyes, Mr Harcourt,” replied Cecilia, “the very observation proves that it is eclipsed in your eyes, whatever it may be in those of others. Now, as a punishment, I have a great mind to order you away again, until you bring her face to face, that I may judge myself.”
“If I am again banished,” replied Harcourt, “I shall have a second time to appeal to De Benyon to be able to come back again. He can produce her, I have no doubt.”