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- Cecilia vol. 3 - 60/64 -
When again, however, he beheld Cecilia,--senseless, speechless, motionless, her features void of all expression, her cheeks without colour, her eyes without meaning,--he shrunk from the sight, he leant upon Dr Lyster, and almost groaned aloud.
The doctor would have conducted him out of the apartment; but, recovering from this first agony, he turned again to view her, and casting up his eyes, fervently ejaculated, "Oh merciful powers! Take, or destroy her! let her not linger thus, rather let me lose her for ever!--O far rather would I see her dead, glad in this dreadful condition!"
Then, advancing to the bed side, and yet more earnestly looking at her, "I pray not now," he cried, "for thy life! inhumanly as I have treated thee, I am not yet so hardened as to wish thy misery lengthened no; quick be thy restoration, or short as pure thy passage to eternity!--Oh my Cecilia! lovely, however altered! sweet even in the arms of death and insanity! and dearer to my tortured heart in this calamitous state, than in all thy pride of health and beauty!"--
He stopt, and turned from her, yet could not tear himself away; he came back, he again looked at her, he hung over her in anguish unutterable; he kissed each burning hand, he folded to his bosom her feeble form, and, recovering his speech, though almost bursting with sorrow, faintly articulated, "Is all over? no ray of reason left? no knowledge of thy wretched Delvile?--no, none! the hand of death is on her, and she is utterly gone!--sweet suffering excellence! loved, lost, expiring Cecilia!--but I will not repine! peace and kindred angels are watching to receive thee, and if thou art parted from thyself, it were impious to lament thou shouldst be parted from me.--Yet in thy tomb will be deposited all that to me could render existence supportable, every frail chance of happiness, every sustaining hope, and all alleviation of sorrow!"--
Dr Lyster now again approaching, thought he perceived some change in his patient, and peremptorily forced him away from her: then returning himself, he found that her eyes were shut, and she was dropt asleep.
This was an omen the most favourable he could hope. He now seated himself by the bedside, and determined not to quit her till the expected crisis was past. He gave the strictest orders for the whole house to be kept quiet, and suffered no one in the room either to speak or move.
Her sleep was long and heavy; yet, when she awoke, her sensibility was evidently returned. She started, suddenly raised her head from the pillow, looked round her, and called out, "where am I now?"
"Thank Heaven!" cried Henrietta, and was rushing forward, when Dr Lyster, by a stern and angry look, compelled her again to take her seat.
He then spoke to her himself, enquired how she did, and found her quite rational.
Henrietta, who now doubted not her perfect recovery, wept as violently for joy as she had before wept for grief; and Mary, in the same belief, ran instantly to Delvile, eager to carry to him the first tidings that her mistress had recovered her reason.
Delvile, in the utmost emotion, then returned to the chamber; but stood at some distance from the bed, waiting Dr Lyster's permission to approach it.
Cecilia was quiet and composed, her recollection seemed restored, and her intellects sound: hut she was faint and weak, and contentedly silent, to avoid the effort of speaking.
Dr Lyster encouraged this stillness, and suffered not anyone, not even Delvile, to advance to her. After a short time, however, she again, and very calmly, began to talk to him. She now first knew him, and seemed much surprised by his attendance. She could not tell, she said, what of late had happened to her, nor could guess where she was, or by what means she came into such a place. Dr Lyster desired her at present not to think upon the subject, and promised her a full account of everything, when she was stronger, and more fit for conversing.
This for a while silenced her. But, after a short pause, "Tell me," she said, "Dr Lyster, have I no friend in this place but you?"
"Yes, yes, you have several friends here," answered the Doctor, "only I keep them in order, lest they should hurry or disturb you."
She seemed much pleased by this speech; but soon after said, "You must not, Doctor, keep them in order much longer, for the sight of them, I think, would much revive me."
"Ah, Miss Beverley!" cried Henrietta, who could not now restrain herself, "may not _I_, among the rest, come and speak to you?"
"Who is that?" said Cecilia, in a voice of pleasure, though very feeble; "is it my ever-dear Henrietta?"
"Oh this is joy indeed!" cried she, fervently kissing her cheeks and forehead, "joy that I never, never expected to have more!"
"Come, come," cried Dr Lyster, "here's enough of this; did I not do well to keep such people off?"
"I believe you did," said Cecilia, faintly smiling; "my too kind Henrietta, you must be more tranquil!"
"I will, I will indeed, madam!--my dear, dear Miss Beverley, I will indeed!--now once you have owned me, and once again I hear your sweet voice, I will do any thing, and every thing, for I am made happy for my whole life!"
"Ah, sweet Henrietta!" cried Cecilia, giving her her hand, "you must suppress these feelings, or our Doctor here will soon part us. But tell me, Doctor, is there no one else that you can let me see?"
Delvile, who had listened to this scene in the unspeakable perturbation of that hope which is kindled from the very ashes of despair, was now springing forward; but Dr Lyster, fearful of the consequences, hastily arose, and with a look and air not to be disputed, took hold of his arm, and led him out of the room. He then represented to him strongly the danger of agitating or disturbing her, and charged him to keep from her sight till better able to bear it; assuring him at the same time that he might now reasonably hope her recovery.
Delvile, lost in transport, could make no answer, but flew into his arms, and almost madly embraced him; he then hastened out of sight to pour forth fervent thanks, and hurrying back with equal speed, again embraced the Doctor, and while his manly cheeks were burnt with tears of joy, he could not yet articulate the glad tumult of his soul.
The worthy Dr Lyster, who heartily partook of his happiness, again urged him to be discreet; and Delvile, no longer intractable and desperate, gratefully concurred in whatever he commanded. Dr Lyster then returned to Cecilia, and to relieve her mind from any uneasy suspense, talked to her openly of Delvile, gave her to understand he was acquainted with her marriage, and told her he had prohibited their meeting till each was better able to support it.
Cecilia by this delay seemed half gratified, and half disappointed; but the rest of the physicians, who had been summoned upon this happy change, now appearing, the orders were yet more strictly enforced for keeping her quiet.
She submitted, therefore, peaceably; and Delvile, whose gladdened heart still throbbed with speechless rapture, contentedly watched at her chamber door, and obeyed implicitly whatever was said to him.
She now visibly, and almost hourly grew better; and, in a short time, her anxiety to know all that was passed, and by what means she became so ill, and confined in a house of which she had not any knowledge, obliged Dr Lyster to make himself master of these particulars, that he might communicate them to her with a calmness that Delvile could not attain.
Delvile himself, happy to be spared the bitter task of such a relation, informed him all he knew of the story, and then entreated him to narrate to her also the motives of his own strange, and he feared unpardonable conduct, and the scenes which had followed their parting.
He came, he said, to England, ignorant of all that had past in his absence, intending merely to wait upon his father, and communicate his marriage, before he gave directions to his lawyer for the settlements and preparations which were to precede its further publication. He meant, also, to satisfy himself, of the real situation of Mr Monckton, and then, after an interview with Cecilia, to have returned to his mother, and waited at Nice till he might publicly claim his wife.
To this purpose he had written in his letter, which he meant to have put in the Post-office in London himself; and he had but just alighted from his chaise, when he met Ralph, Cecilia's servant, in the street.
Hastily stopping him, he enquired if he had left his place? "No," answered Ralph, "I am only come up to town with my lady."
"With your lady?" cried the astonished Delvile, is your lady then in town?"
"Yes, sir, she is at Mrs Belfield's."
"At Mrs Belfield's?--is her daughter returned home?
"No, sir, we left her in the country."
He was then going on with a further account, but, in too much confusion of mind to hear him Delvile abruptly wished him good night, and marched on himself towards Belfield's.
The pleasure with which he would have heard that Cecilia was so near to him, was totally lost in his perplexity to account for her journey. Her letters had never hinted at such a purpose,--the news reached him only by accident,--it was ten o'clock at night,--yet she was at Belfield's-- though the sister was away,--though the mother was professedly odious to her!--In an instant, all he had formerly heard, all he had formerly disregarded, rushed suddenly upon his memory, and he began to believe he had been deluded, that his father was right, and that Belfield had some strange and improper influence over her heart.
The suspicion was death to him; he drove it from him, he concluded the whole was some error: his reason as powerfully as his tenderness vindicated her innocence; and though he arrived at the house in much disorder, he yet arrived with a firm persuasion of an honourable explanation.
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