Cecilia, by Fanny Burney

Chapter 8

A Parting.

The next morning Dr Lyster called early, and having visited Mrs Delvile, and again met the two gentlemen of the faculty in whose care she was to remain, he took his leave. But not without contriving first to speak a few words to Cecilia in private, in which he charged her to be careful of her health, and re-animate her spirits. “Don’t suppose,” said he, “that because I am a friend of the Delvile family, I am either blind to your merits, or to their foibles, far from it; but then why should they interfere with one another? Let them keep their prejudices, which, though different, are not worse than their neighbours, and do you retain your excellencies, and draw from them the happiness they ought to give you. People reason and refine themselves into a thousand miseries, by chusing to settle that they can only be contented one way; whereas, there are fifty ways, if they would but look about them, that would commonly do as well.” “I believe, indeed, you are right,” answered Cecilia, “and I thank you for the admonition; I will do what I can towards studying your scheme of philosophy, and it is always one step to amendment, to be convinced that we want it.”

“You are a sensible and charming girl,” said Dr Lyster, “and Mr Delvile, should he find a daughter-inlaw descended in a right line from Egbert, first king of all England, won’t be so well off as if he had satisfied himself with you. However, the old gentleman has a fair right, after all, to be pleased his own way, and let us blame him how we will, we shall find, upon sifting, it is for no other reason but because his humour happens to clash with our own.”

“That, indeed,” said Cecilia, smiling, “is a truth incontrovertible! and a truth to which, for the future, I will endeavour to give more weight. But will you permit me now to ask one question? — Can you tell me from whom, how, or when the intelligence which has caused all this disturbance ——”

She hesitated, but, comprehending her readily, he answered “How they got at it, I never heard, for I never thought it worth while to enquire, as it is so generally known, that nobody I meet with seems ignorant of it.”

This was another, and a cruel shock to Cecilia, and Dr Lyster, perceiving it, again attempted to comfort her. “That the affair is somewhat spread,” said he, “is now not to be helped, and therefore little worth thinking of; every body will agree that the choice of both does honour to both, and nobody need be ashamed to be successor to either, whenever the course of things leads Mr Mortimer and yourself to make another election. He wisely intends to go abroad, and will not return till he is his own man again. And as to you, my good young lady, what, after a short time given to vexation, need interrupt your happiness? You have the whole world before you, with youth, fortune, talents, beauty and independence; drive, therefore, from your head this unlucky affair, and remember there can hardly be a family in the kingdom, this one excepted, that will not rejoice in a connection with you.”

He then good-humouredly shook hands with her, and went into his chaise.

Cecilia, though not slow in remarking the ease and philosophy with which every one can argue upon the calamities, and moralize upon the misconduct of others, had still the candour and good sense to see that there was reason in what he urged, and to resolve upon making the best use in her power of the hints for consolation she might draw from his discourse.

During the following week, she devoted herself almost wholly to Mrs Delvile, sharing with the maid, whom she had brought with her from the Castle, the fatigue of nursing her, and leaving to the Miss Charltons the chief care of their grandmother. For Mrs Delvile appeared every hour more sensible of her attention, and more desirous of her presence, and though neither of them spoke, each was endeared to the other by the tender offices of friendship which were paid and received.

When this week was expired, Dr Lyster was prevailed upon to return again to Bury, in order to travel himself with Mrs Delvile to Bristol. “Well,” cried he, taking Cecilia by the first opportunity aside, “how are you? Have you studied my scheme of philosophy, as you promised me?”

“O yes,” said she, “and made, I flatter myself, no little proficiency.”

“You are a good girl,” cried he, “a very extraordinary girl! I am sure you are; and upon my honour I pity poor Mortimer with all my soul! But he is a noble young fellow, and behaves with a courage and spirit that does me good to behold. To have obtained you, he would have moved heaven and earth, but finding you out of his reach, he submits to his fate like a man.”

Cecilia’s eyes glistened at this speech; “Yes,” said she, “he long since said ’tis suspence, ’tis hope, that make the misery of life — for there the Passions have all power, and Reason has none. But when evils are irremediable, and we have neither resources to plan, nor castle-building to delude us, we find time for the cultivation of philosophy, and flatter ourselves, perhaps, that we have found inclination!”

“Why you have considered this matter very deeply,” said he; “but I must not have you give way to these serious reflections. Thought, after all, has a cruel spite against happiness; I would have you, therefore, keep as much as you conveniently can, out of its company. Run about and divert yourself, ’tis all you have for it. The true art of happiness in this most whimsical world, seems nothing more nor less than this — Let those who have leisure, find employment, and those who have business, find leisure.”

He then told her that Mr Delvile senior was much better, and no longer confined to his room: and that he had had the pleasure of seeing an entire reconciliation take place between him and his son, of whom he was more fond and more proud than any other father in the universe.”

“Think of him, however, my dear young lady,” he continued, “no more, for the matter I see is desperate: you must pardon my being a little officious, when I confess to you I could not help proposing to the old gentleman an expedient of my own; for as I could not drive you out of my head, I employed myself in thinking what might be done by way of accommodation. Now my scheme was really a very good one, only when people are prejudiced, all reasoning is thrown away upon them. I proposed sinking both your names, since they are so at variance with one another, and so adopting a third, by means of a title. But Mr Delvile angrily declared, that though such a scheme might do very well for the needy Lord Ernolf, a Peer of twenty years, his own noble ancestors should never, by his consent, forfeit a name which so many centuries had rendered honourable. His son Mortimer, he added, must inevitably inherit the title of his grandfather, his uncle being old and unmarried; but yet he would rather see him a beggar, than lose his dearest hope that Delvile, Lord Delvile, would descend, both name and title, from generation to generation unsullied and uninterrupted.”

“I am sorry, indeed,” said Cecilia, “that such a proposal was made, and I earnestly entreat that none of any sort may be repeated.”

“Well, well,” said he, “I would not for the world do any mischief, but who would not have supposed such a proposal would have done good?”

“Mr Mortimer,” he then added, “is to meet us at — for he would not, he said, come again to this place, upon such terms as he was here last week, for the whole worth of the king’s dominions.”

The carriage was now ready, and Mrs Delvile was prepared to depart. Cecilia approached to take leave of her, but Dr Lyster following, said “No talking! no thanking! no compliments of any sort! I shall carry off my patient without permitting one civil speech, and for all the rudeness I make her guilty of, I am willing to be responsible.”

Cecilia would then have retreated, but Mrs Delvile, holding out both her hands, said “To every thing else, Dr Lyster, I am content to submit; but were I to die while uttering the words, I cannot leave this inestimable creature without first saying how much I love her, how I honour, and how I thank her! without entreating her to be careful of her health, and conjuring her to compleat the greatness of her conduct, by not suffering her spirits to sink from the exertion of her virtue. And now my love, God bless you!”

She then embraced her, and went on; Cecilia, at a motion of Dr Lyster’s, forbearing to follow her.

“And thus,” cried she, when they were gone, “thus ends all my connection with this family! which it seems as if I was only to have known for the purpose of affording a new proof of the insufficiency of situation to constitute happiness. Who looks not upon mine as the perfection of human felicity? — And so, perhaps, it is, for it may be that Felicity and Humanity are never permitted to come nearer.”

And thus, in philosophic sadness, by reasoning upon the universality of misery, she restrained, at least, all violence of sorrow, though her spirits were dejected, and her heart was heavy.

But the next day brought with it some comfort that a little lightened her sadness; Mrs Charlton, almost wholly recovered, was able to go down stairs, and Cecilia had at least the satisfaction of seeing an happy conclusion to an illness of which, with the utmost concern and regret, she considered herself as the cause. She attended her with the most unremitting assiduity, and being really very thankful, endeavoured to appear happy, and flattered herself that, by continual effort, the appearance in a short time would become reality.

Mrs Charlton retired early, and Cecilia accompanied her up stairs: and while she was with her, was informed that Mr Monckton was in the parlour.

The various, afflicting, and uncommon scenes in which she had been engaged since she last saw him, had almost wholly driven him from her remembrance, or when at any time he recurred to it, it was only to attribute the discontinuance of his visits to the offence she had given him, in refusing to follow his advice by relinquishing her London expedition.

Full, therefore, of the mortifying transactions which had passed since their parting, and fearful of his enquiries into disgraces he had nearly foretold, she heard him announced with chagrin, and waited upon him in the most painful confusion.

Far different were the feelings of Mr Monckton; he read in her countenance the dejection of disappointment, which impressed upon his heart the vivacity of hope: her evident shame was to him secret triumph, her ill-concealed sorrow revived all his expectations.

She hastily began a conversation by mentioning her debt to him, and apologising for not paying it the moment she was of age. He knew but too well how her time had been occupied, and assured her the delay was wholly immaterial.

He then led to an enquiry into the present situation of her affairs; but unable to endure a disquisition, which could only be productive of censure and mortification, she hastily stopt it, exclaiming, “Ask me not, I entreat you, Sir, any detail of what has passed — the event has brought me sufferings that may well make blame be dispensed with; — I acknowledge all your wisdom, I am sensible of my own error, but the affair is wholly dropt, and the unhappy connection I was forming is broken off for-ever!”

Little now was Mr Monckton’s effort in repressing his further curiosity, and he started other subjects with readiness, gaiety and address. He mentioned Mrs Charlton, for whom he had not the smallest regard; he talked to her of Mrs Harrel, whose very existence was indifferent to him; and he spoke of their common acquaintance in the country, for not one of whom he would have grieved, if assured of meeting no more. His powers of conversation were enlivened by his hopes; and his exhilarated spirits made all subjects seem happy to him. A weight was removed from his mind which had nearly borne down even his remotest hopes; the object of his eager pursuit seemed still within his reach, and the rival into whose power he had so lately almost beheld her delivered, was totally renounced, and no longer to be dreaded. A revolution such as this, raised expectations more sanguine than ever; and in quitting the house, he exultingly considered himself released from every obstacle to his views — till, just as he arrived home, he recollected his wife!

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32