Saturday, July 26, 2014

A pivotal moment in Cecelia

About midway through the story. 

Captain Wood knocked on Miss Arnold's door. “My dear, the concert, it's getting late. Miss Catalani is giving one of her farewell concerts. You so much wanted to hear her before she returns to Europe.”
Miss Arnold did not even feel up to opening the door, “Not tonight dear, I have this dreadful headache. I've had it all afternoon.”
“I'm sorry, is there anything I can do?”
“Just go. Go and enjoy the concert with Miss Wood. I may join you there when my headache improves.”
“How will you get there without an escort?”
“Mr. Ames was planning to inquire after my health. He escorted me home from the parade when I fell ill.”
George was not sure what to make of this. Mr. Ames was being far too familiar with Jane for his tastes. On the other hand, the light of his life gave him an express command to take Miss Wood to the concert. The more he thought about that the better an idea it seemed.
He found Cecelia reading under the light of a guttering tallow candle. “Miss Wood, at least trim the wick on that candle.” Cecelia looked up and noticed that the 'thief in the candle' had been at work. “Here, let me do it. Why are you using such a miserable light? We have wax candles.”
“The smell reminds me of home.”
“How melancholy. Do you miss Penyclawdd?”
“A little, but Bath has its diversions. Now tell my why you're here? It can't be just to trim my candle.”
“No. Miss Arnold is feeling poorly and suggested I take you instead of her to the concert. It's Mozart's Arias, sung in their original Italian by Miss Angelica Catalani.”
“That would be a treat, but I don't speak any Italian.”
“I'll translate for you if I may.”
“I'm in my day dress, not suitable for the assembly. If you'd send for my maid, I could be ready in a very few minutes.”
“Thank you. I so much wanted to hear Miss Catalani and it is much pleasanter to listen in company.”
While Cecelia and her maid did their best to get her quickly changed, George fretted in the front hall. He called up, “Come on, hurry up, we'll miss the first part if you're much longer.”
“I'm ready!” Cecelia joined him and the walked the few blocks uphill to the assembly rooms.
The concert, like all such concerts, was excellent if you liked operatic sopranos singing in Italian, and better than sitting at home and reading a book if you didn't. George was entranced, and some of his enthusiasm rubbed off on Cecelia. It helped when he could feed her a rough translation of the lyrics. Eventually it came to an end and they walked back to the townhouse. As the mounted the stoop he turned and held Cecelia's hands then gave her what he thought was a brotherly kiss. “Thank you for accompanying me to the concert.” Cecelia, overcome with emotion since nice girls didn't even hold hands outside of wedlock, simply nodded. Then when the door opened she floated upstairs to her room.

Cecelia awoke late in the morning, and her maid brought her the portentous news. “Miss, you'll never believe what's happened.”
“Miss Arnold's run off.”
“No! Why?”
“No one knows. There was a letter left for the Captain. He read it and ran off too.”
“Oh, I hope it was nothing to do with last night?”
“No Miss, remember Miss Arnold asked you to go to the concert. Not like you did anything wrong, was there?”
“The Captain was very nice to me, helped me to understand what Miss Catalani was singing. Brought me some punch in the middle. Nothing that was improper, even in the fevered imaginings of the worst Bath gossips.” Unfortunately this was not quite true. Could Miss Arnold have seen them kiss?
“Miss this was left for you.” Her maid handed Cecelia a sealed letter. “I meant to give it to you last night, but you were so late and I forgot.”
“Well, hand it here and let me see. Better late than never.”
It was a short note in Miss Arnold's handwriting.
Miss Wood,
I am breaking my engagement to Captain Wood for reasons that are personal and private. Since I've long seen how he looks at you, consider this missive an invitation for you to pursue him. I wish you as much luck as I've had. Try to keep your surprise when I sign my next letter as Mrs. A.
Yours &c.
Jane Arnold
Cecelia almost fainted with the shock, but quickly rallied. “What must Captain Wood think of me?”
“Calm yourself Miss Wood. I'm sure he doesn't think badly of you. Miss Arnold ran off with that Mr. Ames.”
“I introduced them to each other. Surely this couldn't have happened if I had paid Mr. Ames more attention myself.” The thoughts came unbidden, “Why did I let him kiss me? That must be the reason she left. I've broken their engagement.”
“No miss, you're not to blame. You couldn't have foreseen that.”
“Yes, yes. You are right, of course. Could you get me some chocolate?”
“Yes Miss.” Her maid left on her errand. As soon as the door shut behind her maid, Cecelia frantically dug her purse out and counted her money. Ten pounds, not enough for a post-chaise, but enough to get to Swansea with some to spare. She might need to take the stage, or even walk a short distance, but she could get to her aunt. More importantly, she could get to her aunt's home tomorrow or at worst the next day. Then she would not have to meet with Captain Wood ever again.
By the time her maid returned with fresh chocolate, Cecelia had thrown on some clothes, packed a small bag, and vanished into the streets of Bath.