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- Cecilia vol. 3 - 2/64 -
"This is insupportable!" cried Delvile, with vehemence, "turn, I conjure you!--my Cecilia!--my wife!--why is it you thus abandon me?-- Turn, I implore you, and receive my eternal vows!--Mrs Charlton, bring her back,--Cecilia, you _must_ not go!--"
He now attempted to take her hand, but shrinking from his touch, in an emphatic but low voice, she said, "Yes, Sir, I must!--an interdiction such as this!--for the world could I not brave it!"
She then made an effort to somewhat quicken her pace.
"Where," cried Delvile, half frantic, "where is this infamous woman? This wretch who has thus wantonly destroyed me!"
And he rushed out of the church in pursuit of her.
The clergyman and Mr Singleton, who had hitherto been wondering spectators, came now to offer their assistance to Cecilia. She declined any help for herself, but gladly accepted their services for Mrs Charlton, who, thunderstruck by all that had past, seemed almost robbed of her faculties. Mr Singleton proposed calling a hackney coach, she consented, and they stopt for it at the church porch.
The clergyman now began to enquire of the pew-opener, what she knew of the woman, who she was, and how she had got into the church? She knew of her, she answered, nothing, but that she had come in to early prayers, and she supposed she had hid herself in a pew when they were over, as she had thought the church entirely empty.
An hackney coach now drew up, and while the gentlemen were assisting Mrs Charlton into it, Delvile returned.
"I have pursued and enquired," cried he, "in vain, I can neither discover nor hear of her.--But what is all this? Whither are you going?--What does this coach do here?--Mrs Charlton, why do you get into it?--Cecilia, what are you doing?"
Cecilia turned away from him in silence. The shock she had received, took from her all power of speech, while amazement and terror deprived her even of relief from tears. She believed Delvile to blame, though she knew not in what, but the obscurity of her fears served only to render them more dreadful.
She was now getting into the coach herself, but Delvile, who could neither brook her displeasure, nor endure her departure, forcibly caught her hand, and called out, "You are _mine_, you are my _wife_!--I will part with you no more, and go whithersoever you will, I will follow and claim you!"
"Stop me not!" cried she, impatiently though faintly, "I am sick, I am ill already,--if you detain me any longer, I shall be unable to support myself!"
"Oh then rest on _me_!" cried he, still holding her; "rest but upon me till the ceremony is over!--you will drive me to despair and to madness if you leave me in this barbarous manner!"
A crowd now began to gather, and the words bride and bridegroom reached the ears of Cecilia; who half dead with shame, with fear, and with distress, hastily said "You are determined to make me miserable!" and snatching away her hand, which Delvile at those words could no longer hold, she threw herself into the carriage.
Delvile, however, jumped in after her, and with an air of authority ordered the coachman to Pall-Mall, and then drew up the glasses, with a look of fierceness at the mob.
Cecilia had neither spirits nor power to resist him; yet, offended by his violence, and shocked to be thus publickly pursued by him, her looks spoke a resentment far more mortifying than any verbal reproach.
"Inhuman Cecilia!" cried he, passionately, "to desert me at the very altar!--to cast me off at the instant the most sacred rites were uniting us!--and then thus to look at me!--to treat me with this disdain at a time of such distraction!--to scorn me thus injuriously at the moment you unjustly abandon me!"
"To how dreadful a scene," said Cecilia, recovering from her consternation, "have you exposed me! to what shame, what indignity, what irreparable disgrace!"
"Oh heaven!" cried he with horror, "if any crime, any offence of mine has occasioned this fatal blow, the whole world holds not a wretch so culpable as myself, nor one who will sooner allow the justice of your rigour! my veneration for you has ever equalled my affection, and could I think it was through _me_ you have suffered any indignity, I should soon abhor myself, as you seem to abhor me. But what is it I have done? How have I thus incensed you? By what action, by what guilt, have I incurred this displeasure?
"Whence," cried she, "came that voice which still vibrates in my ear? The prohibition could not be on _my_ account, since none to whom I am known have either right or interest in even wishing it."
"What an inference is this! over _me_, then, do you conclude this woman had any power?"
Here they stopt at the lodgings. Delvile handed both the ladies out. Cecilia, eager to avoid his importunities, and dreadfully disturbed, hastily past him, and ran up stairs; but Mrs Charlton refused not his arm, on which she lent till they reached the drawing-room.
Cecilia then rang the bell for her servant, and gave orders that a post-chaise might be sent for immediately.
Delvile now felt offended in his turn; but suppressing his vehemence, he gravely and quietly said "Determined as you are to leave me, indifferent to my peace, and incredulous of my word, deign, at least, before we part, to be more explicit in your accusation, and tell me if indeed it is possible you can suspect that the wretch who broke off the ceremony, had ever from me received provocation for such an action?"
"I know not what to suspect," said Cecilia, "where every thing is thus involved in obscurity; but I must own I should have some difficulty to think those words the effect of chance, or to credit that their speaker was concealed without design."
"You are right, then, madam," cried he, resentfully, "to discard me! to treat me with contempt, to banish me without repugnance, since I see you believe me capable of duplicity, and imagine I am better informed in this affair than I appear to be. You have said I shall make you miserable,--no, madam, no! your happiness and misery depend not upon one you hold so worthless!"
"On whatever they depend," said Cecilia, "I am too little at ease for discussion. I would no more be daring than superstitious, but none of our proceedings have prospered, and since their privacy has always been contrary both to my judgment and my principles, I know not how to repine at a failure I cannot think unmerited. Mrs Charlton, our chaise is coming; you will be ready, I hope, to set off in it directly?"
Delvile, too angry to trust himself to speak, now walked about the room, and endeavoured to calm himself; but so little was his success, that though silent till the chaise was announced, when he heard that dreaded sound, and saw Cecilia steady in her purpose of departing, he was so much shocked and afflicted, that, clasping his hands in a transport of passion and grief, he exclaimed. "This, then, Cecilia, is your faith! this is the felicity you bid me hope! this is the recompense of my sufferings, and the performing of your engagement!"
Cecilia, struck by these reproaches, turned back; but while she hesitated how to answer them, he went on, "You are insensible to my misery, and impenetrable to my entreaties; a secret enemy has had power to make me odious in your sight, though for her enmity I can assign no cause, though even her existence was this morning unknown to me! Ever ready to abandon, and most willing to condemn me, you have more confidence in a vague conjecture, than in all you have observed of the whole tenour of my character. Without knowing why, you are disposed to believe me criminal, without deigning to say wherefore, you are eager to banish me your presence. Yet scarce could a consciousness of guilt itself, wound me so forcibly, so keenly, as your suspecting I am guilty!"
"Again, then," cried Cecilia, "shall I subject myself to a scene of such disgrace and horror? No, never!--The punishment of my error shall at least secure its reformation. Yet if I merit your reproaches, I deserve not your regard; cease, therefore, to profess any for me, or make them no more."
"Shew but to them," cried he, "the smallest sensibility, shew but for me the most distant concern, and I will try to bear my disappointment without murmuring, and submit to your decrees as to those from which there is no appeal: but to wound without deigning even to look at what you destroy,--to shoot at random those arrows that are pointed with poison,--to see them fasten on the heart, and corrode its vital functions, yet look on without compunction, or turn away with cold disdain,--Oh where is the candour I thought lodged in Cecilia! where the justice, the equity, I believed a part of herself!"
"After all that has past," said Cecilia, sensibly touched by his distress, "I expected not these complaints, nor that, from me, any assurances would be wanted; yet, if it will quiet your mind, if it will better reconcile you to our separation---"
"Oh fatal prelude!" interrupted he, "what on earth can quiet my mind that leads to our separation?--Give to me no condescension with any such view,--preserve your indifference, persevere in your coldness, triumph still in your power of inspiring those feelings you can never return,--all, every thing is more supportable than to talk of our separation!"
"Yet how," cried she, "parted, torn asunder as we have been, how is it now to be avoided?"
"Trust in my honour! Shew me but the confidence which I will venture to say I deserve, and then will that union no longer be impeded, which in future, I am certain, will never be repented!"
"Good heaven, what a request! faith so implicit would be frenzy."
"You doubt, then, my integrity? You suspect---"
"Indeed I do not; yet in a case of such importance, what ought to guide me but my own reason, my own conscience, my own sense of right? Pain me not, therefore, with reproaches, distress me no more with entreaties, when I solemnly declare that no earthly consideration shall ever again make me promise you my hand, while the terror of Mrs Delvile's displeasure has possession of my heart. And now adieu."
"You give me, then, up?"
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