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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSandra Belloni - Book 6 - Chapter 41. She Is Found
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Sandra Belloni - Book 6 - Chapter 41. She Is Found Post by :rthur Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :1177

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Sandra Belloni - Book 6 - Chapter 41. She Is Found

BOOK VI CHAPTER XLI. SHE IS FOUND

"Sei buon' Italiana?"

Across what chasm did the words come to her?

It seemed but a minutes and again many hours back, that she had asked that question of a little fellow, who, if he had looked up and nodded would have given her great joy, but who kept his face dark from her and with a sullen "Si" extinguished her last feeling of a desire for companionship with life.

"Si," she replied, quite as sullenly, and without looking up.

But when her hand was taken and other words were uttered, she that had crouched there so long between death and life immovable, loving neither, rose possessed of a passion for the darkness and the void, and struggling bitterly with the detaining hand, crying for instant death. No strength was in her to support the fury.

"Merthyr Powys is with you," said her friend, "and will never leave you."

"Will never take me up there?" Emilia pointed to the noisy level above them.

"Listen, and I will tell you how I have found you," replied Merthyr.

"Don't force me to go up."

She spoke from the end of her breath. Merthyr feared that it was more than misery, even madness, afflicting her. He sat on the wharf-bench silent till she was reassured. But at his first words, the eager question came: "You will not force me to go up there?"

"No; we can stay and talk here," said Merthyr. "And this is how I have found you. Do you suppose you have been hidden from us all this time? Perhaps you fancy you do not belong to your friends? Well, I spoke to all of your 'children,' as you used to call them. Do you remember? The day before yesterday two had seen you. You said to one, 'From Savoy or Piedmont?' He said, 'From Savoy;' and you shook your head: 'Not looking on Italy!' you said. This night I roused one of them, and he stretched his finger down the steps, saying that you had gone down there. 'Sei buon' Italiano?" you said. "And that is how I have found you. Sei buon' Italiana?"

Emilia let her hand rest in Merthyr's, wondering to think that there should be no absolute darkness for a creature to escape into while living. A trembling came on her. "Let me look over at the water," she said; and Merthyr, who trusted her even in that extremity, allowed her to lean forward, and felt her grasp grow moist in his, till she turned back with shudders, giving him both her hands. "A drowned woman looks so dreadful!" Her speech was faint as she begged to be taken away from that place. Merthyr put his hand to her arm-pit, sustaining her steps. As they neared the level where men were, she looked behind her and realized the black terrors she had just been blindly handling. Fright sped her limbs for a second or two, and then her whole weight hung upon Merthyr. He held her in both arms, thinking that she had swooned, but she murmured: "Have you heard that my voice has gone?"

"If you have suffered, I do not wonder," he said.

"I am useless. My voice is dead."

"Useless to your friends? Tush, my little Emilia! Sandra mia! Don't you know that while you love your friends that's all they want of you?"

"Oh!" she moaned; "the gas-lamp hurts me. What a noise there is!"

"We shall soon get away from the noise."

"No; I like it; but not the light. Oh, my feet!--why are you walking still? What friends?"

"For instance, myself."

"You knew of my wandering about London! It makes me believe in heaven. I can't bear to think of being unseen."

"This morning," said Merthyr, "I saw the policeman in whose house you have been staying."

Emilia bowed her head to the mystery by which this friend was endowed to be cognizant of her actions. "I feel that I have not seen the streets for years. If it were not for you I should fall down.--Oh! do you understand that my voice has quite gone?"

Merthyr perceived her anxiety to be that she might not betaken on doubtful terms. "Your hand hasn't," he said, pressing it, and so gratified her with a concrete image of something that she could still bestow upon a friend. To this she clung while the noisy wheels bore her through London, till her weak body failed to keep courage in her breast, and she wept and came closer to Merthyr. He who supposed that her recent despair and present tears were for the loss of her lover, gave happily more comfort than he took. "When old gentlemen choose to interest themselves about very young ladies," he called upon his humorous philosophy to observe internally, as men do to forestall the possible cynic external;--and the rest of the sentence was acted under his eyes by the figures of three persons. But, there she was, lying within his arm, rescued, the creature whom he had found filling his heart, when lost, and whom he thought one of the most hopeful of the women of earth! He thanked God for bare facts. She lay against him with her eyelids softly joined, and as he felt the breathing of her body, he marvelled to think how matter-of-fact they had both been on the brink of a tragedy, and how naturally she had, as it were, argued herself up to the gates of death. For want of what? "My sister may supply it," thought Merthyr.

"Oh! that river is like a great black snake with a sick eye, and will come round me!" said Emilia, talking as from sleep; then started, with fright in her face: "Oh! my hunger again!"

"Hunger!" said he, horrified.

"It comes worse than ever," she moaned. "I was half dead just now, and didn't feel it. There's--there's no pain in death. But this--it's like fire and frost! I feel being eaten up. Give me something."

Merthyr set his teeth and enveloped her in a tight hug that relieved her from the sharper pangs; and so held her, the tears bursting through his shut eyelids, till at the first hotel they reached he managed to get food for her. She gave a little gasping cry when he put bread through the window of the cab. Bit by bit he handed her the morsels. It was impossible to procure broth. When they drove on, she did not complain of suffering, but her chest rose and fell many times heavily. She threw him out in the reading of her character, after a space, by excusing herself for having eaten with such eagerness; and it was long before he learnt what Wilfrid's tyrannous sentiment had done to this simple nature. He understood better the fear she expressed of meeting Georgiana. Nevertheless, she exhibited none on entering the house, and returned Georgiana's embrace with what strength was left to her.

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