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The Children of the Abbey

CHAPTER XX.

A crimson blush her beauteous face o’erspread,

Varying her cheeks by turns with white and red;

The driving colours, never at a stay,

Run here and there, and flush and fade away;

Delightful change! thus Indian iv’ry shows,

Which with the bord’ring paint of purple glows;

Or lilies damask’d by the neighb’ring rose.

Dryden.

The wished for night at length arrived, and Amanda arrayed herself for it with a fluttering heart; the reflection of her mirror did not depress her spirits; hope had increased the brilliancy of her eyes, and given an additional glow to her complexion. Ellen, who delighted in the charms of her dear young lady, declared, many of the Irish ladies would have reason to envy her that night; and Fitzalan, when he entered the parlour, was struck with her surpassing loveliness; he gazed on her with a rapture that brought tears into his eyes, and felt a secret pride at the idea of the marchioness beholding this sweet descendant of her neglected sister’s,

Into such beauty spread, and blown so fair,

Tho’ poverty’s cold wind, and crushing rain

Beat keen and heavy on her tender years.

“No,” said he to himself, “the titled Euphrasia, if she equals, cannot 177 at least surpass my Amanda; meekness and innocence dwell upon the brow of my child—but the haughty marchioness will teach pride to lower upon Lady Euphrasia.”

Amanda, on reaching Grangeville, found the avenue full of carriages; the lights dispersed through the house, gave it quite the appearance of an illumination: it seemed indeed the mansion of gaiety and splendour; her knees trembled as she ascended the stairs, she wished for time to compose herself, but the door opened, her name was announced, and Mrs. Kilcorban came forward to receive her. The room, though spacious, was extremely crowded; it was decorated in a fanciful manner with festoons of flowers inter­mingled with variegated lamps; immediately over the entrance was the orchestra, and opposite to it sat the marchioness and her party. The heart of Amanda beat if possible with increased quickness, on the approach of Mrs. Kilcorban, and her voice was lost in her emotions; recollecting, however, the scrutinizing eyes of Lord Mortimer and her imperious relations were now on her, she almost immediately recovered composure, and with her usual elegance, walked up the room. Most of the company were strangers to her, and she heard a general buzz of “Who is she?” accompanied with expressions of admiration from the gentlemen, among whom were the officers of a garrison town near Grangeville. Confused by the notice she attracted, she hastened to the first seat she found vacant, which was near the marchioness.

Universal, indeed, was the admiration she had excited among the male part of the company, by her beauty, unaffected graces, and simplicity of dress.

She wore a robe of pale white lutestring, and a crape turban, ornamented with a plume of drooping feathers: she had no appearance of finery, except a chain of pearls about her bosom, from which hung her mother’s picture, and a light wreath of embroidered laurel, inter­mingled with silver blossoms round her petticoat. Her hair in its own native and glossy hue, floated on her shoulders, and partly shaded a cheek, where the purity of the lily was tinted with the softest bloom of the rose: on gaining a seat her confusion subsided: she looked up, and the first eyes she met were those of Lord Mortimer (who leaned on Lady Euphrasia Sutherland’s chair) fastened on her face with a scrutinizing earnestness, as if he wished to penetrate the recesses of her heart, and discover whether he yet retained a 178 place in it; she blushed, and looking from him, perceived she was an object of critical attention to the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia; there was a malignant expression in their countenances which absolutely shocked her; and she felt a sensation of horror at beholding the former, who had so largely contributed to the sorrows of her mother. “Can it be possible,” said Lady Euphrasia, replying to a young and elegant officer who stood by her, in a tone of affectation, and with an impertinent sneer, “that you think her handsome?” “Handsome!” exclaimed he with warmth, as if involuntarily repeating her ladyship’s words, “I think her bewitchingly irresistible; they told me I was coming to a land of saints;” but glancing his sparkling eyes around, and fixing them on Amanda, “I find that it is the land of goddesses.”

The marchioness haughtily frowned—Lady Euphrasia smiled satirically, tossed her head and played with her fan: the propensities to envy and ill-nature, which the marchioness had shown in her youth, were not less visible in age: as they were then excited on her own account, so were they now on her daughter’s, to engross praise and admiration for her, she wished beauty blasted, and merit extirpated; nor did she ever fail, when in her power, to depreciate one, and cast an invidious cloud of calumny over the other. She beheld Amanda with envy and hatred; notwith­standing her partiality to her daughter, she could not avoid seeing her vast inferiority in point of personal charms, to her young relation. True, Lady Euphrasia possessed a fortune, which could always ensure her attention, but it was that unimpassioned and studied attention selfishness dictates, the mere tribute of flattery. How different from the spontaneous attention which Amanda excited, who though portionless and untitled was beheld with admiration, followed with praise and courted with assiduity.

Lady Euphrasia’s mind was the counterpart of her mother’s; but in her figure she resembled her father; her stature was low, and her features contracted, and though of the same age as Amanda, her harsh expression made her appear much older; though blessed with the abundant gifts of fortune, she was unhappy, if, from any one’s manner, she conceived that they thought nature had not been quite so liberal to her. In the domestic circle, constant flattery kept her in good humour: but when out, she was frequently chagrined at seeing 179 women infinitely below her in rank and fortune, more noticed than herself.

At the ball she supposed she should have appeared as little less, at least than a demi-goddess; art and fashion were exhausted in adorning her, and she entered the room with all the insolence of conscious rank and affectation of beauty. As she walked she appeared scarcely able to support her delicate frame, and her languishing eyes were half-closed. She could, however, see there was a number of pretty women present, and felt disconcerted; the respect, however, which she was paid, a little revived her; and having contrived to detain Lord Mortimer by her chair, and Sir Charles Bingley, the young officer already mentioned, who was a colonel of a regiment quartered in an adjacent town, she soon felt her spirits uncommonly exhilarated, by the attentions of two of the most elegant men in the room: and like a proud sultana, in the midst of her slaves, was enjoying the compli­ments she extorted from them by her prefatory speeches, when the door opened, and Amanda, like an angel of light, appeared, to dissolve the mists of vanity and self-importance. Lord Mortimer was silent, but his speaking eyes confessed his feelings. Sir Charles Bingley, who had no secret motive for concealing his, openly avowed his admiration, to which Lady Euphrasia replied, as has been already mentioned.

All the rapture Sir Charles expressed, Lord Mortimer felt; his soul seemed on the wing to fly to Amanda, to utter its feelings, to discover hers, and chide her for her conduct. This first emotion of tenderness, however, quickly subsided, on recollecting what that conduct had been—how cruelly, how ungratefully she had used him,—fled in the very moment of hope and expectation, leaving him a prey to distrust, anxiety and regret: he dreaded some fatal mystery, some improper attachment, (experience had rendered him suspicious) which neither she nor her father could avow: for never did he imagine that the scrupulous delicacy of Fitzalan alone had effected their separation; he still adored Amanda: he neither could or desired to drive her from his thoughts, except well assured she was unworthy of being harboured in them, and felt unutterable impatience to have her mysterious conduct explained.—From Tudor Hall he had repaired to London, restless and unhappy; soon after his arrival there, the marquis proposed his accompanying him to Ireland: this he declined, having 180 reason to think Lord Cherbury meditated an alliance for him with his family. The earl expressed regret at his refusal; he said he wished he would join the marquis’s party, as he wanted his opinion relative to the state of Castle Carberry, where a man of integrity then resided: who would have any alterations or repairs he might think necessary, executed in the most elegant manner. He mentioned the name of Fitzalan; Lord Mortimer was surprised and agitated; he concealed his emotions, however, and with apparent carelessness, asked a few questions about him, and found that he was indeed the father of Amanda; she was not mentioned, nor did he dare to inquire concerning her; but he immediately declared, that since his father wished it so much, he would accompany the marquis. This was extremely pleasing to that nobleman, as he and Lord Cherbury had, in reality, agreed upon a union between him and Lady Euphrasia, and meant, soon, openly to avow their intention. Lord Mortimer suspected, and Lady Euphrasia was already apprised of it, and from vanity was pleased at the idea of being connected with a man so universally admired: love was out of the question, for she had not sufficient sensi­bility to experience it.

He, cautious of creating hopes, which he never meant to realize, treated her only with the attention which common politeness demanded, and on every occasion seemed to prefer the marchioness’s conversation to hers, intending, by this conduct, to crush the projected scheme, in embryo, and spare himself the mortifi­cation of only rejecting it; had his heart even been disengaged, Lady Euphrasia could never have been his choice: if Amanda in reality proved as amiable as he had once reason to believe her, he consi­dered himself bound, by every tie of honour, as well as love to fulfil the engagement he had entered into with her. He resolved, however, to resist every plea of tenderness in her favour, except he was thoroughly convinced she still deserved it: he went to Castle Carberry, purposely to make a display of indifference, and prevent any ideas being entertained of his having followed her to Ireland; he deemed himself justifiable in touching her sensi­bility (if indeed she possessed any for him), by an appearance of coldness and inattention; but determined after a little retaliation of this kind on her for the pain she had made him endure, to come to an explanation, and be guided by its results, relative to his conduct in future to her.

181

The character of a perfect stranger, was the one he was to support throughout the evening; but her loveliness and the gallantry of Sir Charles Bingley, tempted him a thousand times to break through the restraint he had imposed on himself.

The marchioness and Lady Euphrasia were not the only persons displeased by the charms of Amanda; the Miss Kilcorbans saw, with evident mortifi­cation, the admiration she excited, which they had flattered themselves with chiefly engrossing; their disap­pointment was doubly severe, after the pain, trouble, and expense they had undergone, in ornamenting their persons:—after the suggestions of their vanity, and the flattering encomiums of their mamma, who presided herself at their toilet, every moment exclaiming, “Well, well, heaven help the men to-night, girls.”

They fluttered across the room to Amanda, sweeping at least two yards of painted tiffany after them: assured her they were extremely glad to see her, but were afraid she was unwell, as she never looked so ill. Amanda assured them she was conscious of no indisposition, and the harmony of her features remained undisturbed. Miss Kilcorban, in a half-whisper, declared the marchioness had never smiled since she had entered the room, and feared her mamma had committed a great mistake in inviting them together. The rudeness of this speech shocked Amanda; an indignant swell heaved her bosom, and she was about replying to it as it deserved, when Miss Alicia stopped her, by protesting, she believed Lord Mortimer dying for Lady Euphrasia. Amanda involuntarily raised her eyes at this speech, but instead of Lord Mortimer, beheld Sir Charles Bingley, who was standing behind the young ladies. “Am I pardonable,” cried he, smiling, “for disturbing so charming a trio; but a soldier is taught never to neglect a good opportunity, and one so propitious as the present for the wish of my heart, might not again offer.” The Miss Kilcorbans bridled up at this speech; played their fans, and smiled most graciously on him, certainly concluding he meant to engage one or the other for the first set; passing gently between them, he bowed gracefully to Amanda, and requested the honour of her hand; she gave an assenting smile, and he seated himself beside her, till the dancing commenced; the sisters cast a malignant glance over them, and swam off with a contemptuous indifference.

Lady Euphrasia had expected Sir Charles and Lord Mortimer 182 would have been competitors for her hand, and was infinitely provoked by the desertion of the former to her lovely cousin; he was a fashionable and animated young man, whom she had often honoured with her notice in England, and wished to enlist in the train of her supposed adorers. Lord Mortimer could scarcely restore her good humour by engaging her. Almost immediately after him young Kilcorban advanced, for the same purpose, and Lord Mortimer sincerely regretted he had been beforehand with him. The little fop was quite chagrined at finding her ladyship engaged, but entreated the next set he might have the supreme honour, and extatic felicity, of her hand; this, with the most impertinent affectation, she promised, if able to endure the fatigue of another dance.

Amanda was next couple to Lady Euphrasia, and endeavoured, therefore, to calm her spirits, which the rudeness of Miss Kilcorban had discomposed; she attended to the lively conversation of Sir Charles, who was extremely pleasing and entertaining. Lord Mortimer watched them with jealous attention; his wandering glances were soon noticed by Lady Euphrasia, and her frowns and sarcastic speeches evinced her displeasure at them. He tried to recollect himself, and act as politeness required; she, not satisfied with fixing his attention, endea­voured to attract Sir Charles’s; she spoke to him across Amanda, but all her efforts were here ineffectual; he spoke and laughed with her ladyship, but his eyes could not be withdrawn from the angelic countenance of his partner. Amanda’s hand trembled, as, in turning, she presented it to Lord Mortimer; but though he extended his, he did not touch it; there was a slight in this which pierced Amanda’s heart; she sighed, uncon­scious of doing so to herself; not so Sir Charles; he asked her, smiling, to where, or whom that sigh was wafted. This made Amanda recall her wandering thoughts; she assumed an air of sprightliness, and went down the dance with much animation. When finished. Sir Charles led her to a seat near the one Lady Euphrasia and Lord Mortimer occupied: she saw the eyes of his lordship often directed towards her, and her heart fluttered at the pleasing proba­bility of being asked to dance by him. Sir Charles regretted that the old-fashioned custom of not changing partners was over, and declared he could not leave her, till she had promised him her hand for the third set; this she could not refuse, and he left her with reluctance (as the gentlemen were again 183 standing up), to seek a partner. At the same moment Lord Mortimer quitted Lady Euphrasia; oh! how the bosom of Amanda throbbed, when she saw him approach and look at her; he paused—a faintness came over her—he cast another glance on her, and passed on;—her eye followed him, and she saw him take out Miss Kilcorban.

This, indeed, was a disap­pointment; propriety, she thought, demanded his dancing the first set with Lady Euphrasia: but if not totally indifferent, surely he would not have neglected engaging her for the second; “Yes,” said she to herself, “he has totally forgotten me; Lady Euphrasia is now the object, and he only pays attention to those who can contribute to her amusement.” Several gentlemen endea­voured to prevail on her to dance, but she pleaded fatigue, and sat solitary in a window, apparently regarding the gay assembly, but in reality, too much engrossed by painful thoughts to do so. The woods, silvered by the beams of the moon, recalled the venerable shades of Tudor Hall to memory, where she had so often rambled by the same pale beams, and heard vows of unchangeable regard—vows registered in her heart, yet now without the hope of having them fulfilled. The dancing over, the company repaired to another room for refresh­ments. Amanda, absorbed in thought, heeded not their almost total desertion, till young Kilcorban, capering up to her, declared she looked as lonesome as a hermit in his cell, and laughing in her face, turned off with careless impertinence; he had not noticed her before that night; he was indeed one of those little fluttering insects, who bask in the rays of fortune, and court alone her favourites; elated by an acquaintance with the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia, he parti­cularly neglected Amanda, not only for deeming them more worthy of his attention, but from perceiving he could take no step more certain of gaining their favour. His words made Amanda sensible of the singularity of her situation; she arose immediately, and went to the other room. Every seat was already occupied; near the door sat Lady Euphrasia and the Miss Kilcorbans; Lord Mortimer leaned on the back of her ladyship’s chair, and young Kilcorban occupied one by her side, which he never attempted offering to Amanda; she stood, therefore, most unpleasantly by the door, and was exceedingly confused at hearing a great many, in a whispering way, remarking the strangeness of her not being noticed by so near a relation as the marchioness of Rosline. A general titter 184 at her situation prevailed among Lady Euphrasia’s party, Lord Mortimer excepted. “Upon my word,” said young Kilcorban, looking at Amanda, “some ladies study attitudes, which would be as well let alone.”—“For the study of propriety,” replied her ladyship, who appeared to have unbended from her haughtiness, “she would do admirably for the figure of Hope.” “If she had but one anchor to recline on,” rejoined he. “Yes,” answered her ladyship, “with her floating locks and die-away glances.” “Or else Patience on a monument,” cried he; “Only she has no grief here to smile at,” returned Lady Euphrasia. “Pardon me there,” said he, “she has the grief, not indeed that I believe she would smile at it, of being totally eclipsed by your ladyship.”

“Or what do you think,” cried Lord Mortimer, whose eyes sparkled with indignation during this dialogue, “of likening her to Wisdom, pitying the follies of human-kind, and smiling to see the shafts of malice recoiling from the bosom of innocence and modesty with contempt on those who levelled them at it.”

Amanda heard not these words, which were delivered in rather a low voice; her heart swelled with indignation at the impertinence directed to her, and she would have quitted the room, but that the passage was too much crowded for her to pass. Sir Charles Bingley, occupied in attending the young lady with whom he had danced, observed not Amanda till this moment: he instantly flew to her: “Alone and standing?” said he, “why did not I see you before?—you look fatigued.” She was pale with emotion.—“Kilcorban,” continued he, “I must suppose you did not see Miss Fitzalan, or your seat would not have been kept:” then catching him by the arm, he raised him nimbly from his chair, and directly carried it to Amanda; and having procured her refresh­ments, seated himself at her feet, exclaiming, “this is my throne, let kings come bow to it.” Her lovely unaffected graces had excited Sir Charles’s admiration: but it was the neglect with which he saw her treated, diffused such a soothing tenderness through his manner as he now displayed; it hurt his sensi­bility, and had she even been plain in her appearance, would have rendered her a peculiar object of his attention; he detested the marchioness and her daughter for their rancorous envy, as much as he despised the Kilcorbans for their mean insolence. The marchioness told him a long tale of the shocking conduct of Amanda’s parents, 185 whose ill qualities she declared her looks announced her to possess, and endea­voured to depreciate her in his favour, but that was impossible.

“Lord!” said Lady Euphrasia, rising as she spoke, “let me pass, this scene is sickening.” Lord Mortimer remained behind her: he loitered about the room and his looks were often directed towards Amanda: her hopes began to revive: the lustre rekindled in her eyes, and a soft blush again stole over her cheek: though engaged to Sir Charles, she felt she could be pleased to have Lord Mortimer make an overture for her hand. The company were now returning to the ball-room, and Sir Charles took her hand to lead her after them. At this moment Lord Mortimer approached;—Amanda paused, as if to adjust some part of her dress: he passed on to a very beautiful girl, whom he immediately engaged and led her from the room; she followed them with her eyes, and continued without moving, till the fervent pressure Sir Charles gave her hand restored her to recollection.

When the set with him was finished, she would have left the house directly, had her servant been there: but after putting up the horses, he had returned to Castle Carberry, and she did not expect him till a very late hour. She declared her resolution of dancing no more, and Sir Charles having avowed the same, they repaired to the card room, as the least crowded room they could find. Lady Greystock was playing at the table, with the marquis and marchioness; she beckoned Amanda to her, and having had no opportunity of speaking before, expressed her pleasure at then seeing her. The marquis examined her through his spectacles—the marchioness frowned, and declared, “She would take care in future, to avoid parties, subject to such disagreeable intruders.” This speech was too pointed not to be remarked: Amanda wished to appear undisturbed, but her emotions grew too powerful to be suppressed, and she was obliged to move hastily from the table. Sir Charles followed her; “Cursed malignity,” cried he, endea­vouring to screen her from observation, while tears trickled down her cheeks; “but, my dear Miss Fitzalan, was your beauty and merit less conspicuous, you would have escaped it; ’tis the vice of little minds to hate that excellence they cannot reach.” “It is cruel, it is shocking,” said Amanda, “to suffer enmity to outlive the object who excited it, and to hate the offspring on account of the parent; the original of this picture,” and she looked at her 186 mother’s, “merited not such conduct.” Sir Charles gazed on it; it was wet with the tears of Amanda; he wiped them off, and pressing the handkerchief to his lips, put it in his bosom.

At this instant Lord Mortimer appeared; he had, indeed, been for some time an unnoticed observer of the progress of this tête-à-tête. As soon as he perceived he had attracted their regard he quitted the room.

“His lordship is like a troubled spirit to night, wandering to and fro,” said Sir Charles, “I really believe everything is not right between him and Lady Euphrasia.” “Something then,” cried Amanda, “is in agitation between him and her ladyship.” “So says the world,” replied Sir Charles, “but I do not always give implicit credit to its reports: I have known Lord Mortimer this long time, and from my knowledge of him, should never have supposed Lady Euphrasia Sutherland a woman capable of pleasing him: nay, to give my real opinion, I think him quite uninterested about her ladyship; I will not say so much as to all other females present; I really imagined several times to-night from his glances to you, he was on the point of requesting an introduction, which would not have pleased me perfectly. Mortimer possesses more graces than those which merely meet the eye, and is a rival I should by no means like to have.”

Amanda, confused by this discourse, endeavoured to change it, and at last succeeded; they conversed pleasantly together on different subjects, till they went to supper, where Sir Charles still continued his attention. Lord Mortimer was, or at least appeared to be, entirely engrossed with Lady Euphrasia, who from time to time tittered with the Miss Kilcorbans, and looked satirically at Amanda. On quitting the supper-room, she found her servant in the hall, and immediately desired him to have the carriage drawn up. Sir Charles, who held her hand, requested her to stay a little longer, yet acknow­ledged it was self alone which dictated the request, as he knew she would not promote her own pleasure by complying with it. As he handed her into the carriage, he told her he should soon follow her example in retiring, as the scene, so lately delightful, in losing her, would lose all its charms; he entreated and obtained permission to wait on her the next morning.

How different was now the appearance of Amanda, to what it had 187 been at her departure from Castle Carberry; pale, trembling, and languid, her father received her into his arms; for till she returned, he could not think of going to rest, and instantly guessed the cause of her dejection. His heart mourned for the pangs inflicted on his child’s. When she beheld him gazing on her with mingled woe and tenderness, she tried to recruit her spirits, and relating a few parti­culars of the ball, answered the minute inquiries he made relative to the conduct of the marchioness and Lady Euphrasia. He appeared unutterably affected on hearing it; “Merciful power,” exclaimed he, “what dispositions: but you are too lovely—too like your mother, my Amanda, in every perfection, to escape their malice—oh! may it never injure you, as it did her; may that Providence, whose protection I daily implore for the sweet child of my love, the source of earthly comfort, render every scheme which may be formed against her abortive; and oh! may it yet bless me with the sight of her happiness.”

Amanda retired to her chamber inexpressibly affected by the language of her father: “Yes,” cried she, her heart swelling with pity and gratitude to him, “my sorrow in future shall be concealed, to avoid exciting his:—the pain inflicted by thy incon­stancy, Mortimer, shall be hid within the recesses of my heart, and never shall the peace of my father be disturbed, by knowing the loss of mine.”

The grey dawn was now beginning to advance, but Amanda had no inclination for repose: as she stood at the window, she heard the solemn stillness of the scene frequently inter­rupted by the distant noise of carriages, carrying home the weary sons and daughters of dissipation. “But a few hours ago,” said she, “and how gay, how animated was my soul: how dull, how cheerless now:—Oh, Mortimer, but a few hours ago, and I believed myself the beloved of thine heart: but the flattering illusion is now over, and I no longer shall hope, or thou deceive:” she changed her clothes, and flinging herself on the bed, from mere fatigue sunk into a slumber.

Errata: Chapter XX

this sweet descendant of her neglected sister’s,
, missing

who would have any alterations . . . executed in the most elegant manner
text has make any

This, indeed, was a disappointment;
text has disapointment;


At the expected time, the marquis and his family arrived


The next morning brought Sir Charles Bingley to Castle Carberry

Introduction and Contents

 

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.