The Children of the Abbey
And to be plain, ’tis not your person
My stomach’s set so sharp and fierce on;
But ’tis your better part, your riches,
That my enamour’d heart bewitches.
A month after the departure of Lord Mortimer, the Rosline family left Ulster Lodge. Amanda sighed as she saw them pass, at the idea of the approaching meeting, which might, perhaps, soon be followed by an event that would render her fond remembrance of Lord Mortimer improper. Many of the families about the castle were already gone to town for the winter. Those who remained in the country till after Christmas, among whom were the Kilcorbans, had so entirely neglected Amanda, from the time the marchioness arrived in the neighbourhood, that they could not think of renewing their visits, 206 confident as they were, from the proper dignity of her and Fitzalan’s manner, that they would be unwelcome.
The weather was now often too severe to permit Amanda to take her usual rambles; and the solitude of the castle was heightened by her own melancholy ideas, as well as by the dreariness of the season. No more the magic hand of hope sketched scenes of flattering brightness, to dissipate the gloominess of the present ones. The prospects of Amanda’s heart were as dreary, as desolate, as those she viewed from the windows of the castle. Her usual avocations no longer yielded delight; every idea, every occupation, was embittered by the reflection of being lessened in the estimation of Lord Mortimer. Her health declined with her peace, and again Fitzalan had the anguish of seeing sorrow nipping his lovely blossom; the rose forsook her cheek, and her form assumed a fragile delicacy, which threatened the demolition of his earthly happiness. He was not ignorant of the cause of her dejection, but he would not shock her feelings by hinting it. Every effort which tenderness could suggest, he essayed to cheer her, but without any durable effect; for though she smiled when he expressed a wish to see her cheerful, it was a smile transient as the gleaming of a wintry sun, and which only rendered the succeeding gloom more conspicuous.
At this period of distress, Lady Greystock, who continued her visits to the castle, made a proposal which Fitzalan eagerly embraced: this was to take Amanda with her to London, whither she was obliged to go directly, about a law-suit carrying on between her and the nephew of her late husband.
Change of scene, Fitzalan trusted, would remove from Amanda’s mind the dejection which oppressed it, and consequently aid the restoration of her health. Of Lord Mortimer’s renewing his addresses, he had not the slightest apprehension, as he neglected the opportunities he might have had in the country for such a purpose. Fitzalan, it may be remembered, knew not that his lordship had ever deviated from his indifference, and he believed it occasioned by a transfer of his affections to Lady Euphrasia; he was also ignorant of the great intimacy between the Rosline family and Lady Greystock, and consequently of the probability there was, from such an intimacy, of Amanda’s being often in the way of Lord Mortimer. If she met him, he was confident it would be as the husband, or favoured lover of 207 Lady Euphrasia; and in either of these characters, he was , from the rectitude and purity of her principles, she would be more than ever impressed with the necessity of conquering her attachment; whilst the pain attending such a conversation would be lessened, and probably soon removed by surrounding objects, and the gay scenes she must engage in, from being the company of Lady Greystock, who had a numerous and elegant acquaintance in London.
Her ladyship appeared to him, as she did to many others, a pleasing, rational woman; one to whose care his heart’s best treasure might safely be consigned.—He was induced to accept her protection for his Amanda, not only on account of her present but future welfare. His own health was extremely delicate; he deemed his life very precarious; and flattered himself Lady Greystock, by having his beloved girl under her care, would grow so attached to her, as to prove a friend if he should be snatched away, ere his newly obtained independence enabled him to make a provision for her: in indulging this hope, his heart could not reproach him for anything mean or selfish. Her ladyship had frequently assured him all her relations were very distant ones, and in affluent circumstances, so that if his Amanda received any proof of kindness from her, she could neither injure nor encroach on the rights of others.
This, however, was not the case, though carefully concealed from him, as well as many others, by her ladyship. Her education had either given birth to, or strengthened the artful propensities of her disposition. She had been one of the numerous offspring of a gentleman in the southern part of Ireland, whose wife, a complete housewife, knowing his inability of giving his daughters fortunes, determined to bring them up so as to save one for their future husbands.
At the age of nineteen, Miss Bridget, by her reputation for domestic cleverness, attracted the notice of a man of easy independence in the neighbourhood, who, being a perfect Nimrod, wanted somebody to manage those concerns at home, which he neglected for the fields and kennel; and in obtaining Miss Bridget, he procured this valuable acquisition. His love of sport, with his life, was fatally terminated the second year of his marriage, by his attempting to leap a five-bar gate. A good jointure devolved to his widow, and the office of consoling her to the rector of the parish, a little fat elderly man, who might have sat very well for the picture of Boniface. So successful 208 were his arguments, that he not only expelled sorrow from her heart but introduced himself into it, and had the felicity of receiving her hand, as soon as her weeds were laid aside. Four years they had lived in uninterrupted peace; but too free an enjoyment of the good things of this life undermined the constitution of the rector: he was ordered to Bath, where his mortal career was shortly terminated, and his whole fortune was left to his wife.
In the house where she lodged was an ancient baronet, who had never been married; his fortune was considerable, but his manner so strange and whimsical, that he appeared incapable of enjoying the advantages it would have afforded to others. Notwithstanding his oddities, he was compassionate; and as the fair relict was unaccompanied by a friend, he waited on her for the purpose of offering consolation, and any service in his power. This intention instantly inspired her with an idea of trying to make him feel tenderer sentiments than those of pity for her. His title and fortune were so attractive, that neither his capricious disposition, nor the disparity of their ages, he being sixty, and she only eight and twenty, could prevent her ardently desiring a connexion between them. Her efforts to effect this were long unsuccessful: but perseverance will almost work miracles: her constant good humour, and unremitted solicitude about him, who was in general an invalid, at last made an impression on his flinty heart, and, in a sudden fit of gratitude, he offered her his hand, which was eagerly accepted.
The presumptive heir to the baronet’s large possessions was the son and only child of a deceased sister. At the period this unexpected alliance took place, he was about twenty, pleasing in his person, and engaging in his manner, and tenderly beloved by his uncle. This love, Lady Greystock saw, if it continued, would frustrate her wish of possessing the baronet’s whole property. Various schemes fluctuated in her mind, relative to the manner in which she could lay the foundation for Rushbrook’s ruin; ere she could determine on one, chance discovered a secret, which completely aided her intention.
In the neighbourhood of the baronet’s country residence, Rushbrook had formed an attachment for the daughter of a man, against whom his uncle entertained the most inveterate enmity. An union with this girl, she was well convinced, would ruin him. She therefore 209 gave him to understand she knew of his attachment, and sincerely pitied his situation; encouraged his love by the most flattering eulogiums on his adored Emily; declared her regret that hearts so congenial should be separated; and at last intimated, that if they wished to unite, she was convinced she would soon be able to obtain Sir Geoffry’s forgiveness for such a step. Her artful insinuations hurried the unsuspicious pair into the snare she had spread for them; the consequence of this was what she expected.
Sir Geoffry’s rage was unappeasable, and he solemnly vowed never more to behold his nephew. Lady Greystock wished to preserve, if possible, appearances to the world, and prevailed on him to give her five hundred pounds for Rushbrook, to which she added five of her own, and presented the notes to him, with an assurance of pleading his cause whenever she found a favourable opportunity of doing so.
He purchased an ensigncy in a regiment on the point of embarking for America, where he felt he would rather encounter distress, than among those who had known him in affluence.
Her ladyship now redoubled her attention to Sir Geoffry, and at last prepossessed him so strongly with the idea of her affections for him, that he made a will bequeathing her his whole fortune, which she flattered herself with soon enjoying. But the constitution of Sir Geoffry was stronger than she imagined, and policy obliged her to adhere to a conduct which had gained his favour, as she knew the least alteration in it would, to his capricious temper, be sufficient to make him crush all her hopes.
Fifteen years passed in this manner, when a friend of Rushbrook’s advised him no longer to be deluded by the promises Lady Greystock still continued to make of interceding in his favour, but to write himself to his uncle for forgiveness, which the duty he owed his family, and the distress of his situation should prompt him to immediately. Rushbrook accordingly wrote a most pathetic letter, and his friend, as he had promised, delivered it himself to the baronet. The contents of the letter and the remonstrance of his visitor produced a great change in the sentiments of the baronet. Tenderness for a nephew he had adopted as his heir from his infancy, began to revive, and he seriously reflected that by leaving his fortune to Lady Greystock he should enrich a family unconnected with him, whilst the last branch of his own was left to obscurity and wretchedness. Pride 210 recoiled from such an idea, and he told the gentleman he would consider about a reconciliation with his nephew.
The conversation between them, which Lady Greystock had contrived to overhear, filled her with dismay: but this was increased almost to distraction, when an attorney being sent for, she repaired again to her hiding-place, and heard a new will dictated entirely in Rushbrook’s favour.
Sir Geoffry was soon prevailed on to see his nephew, but Mrs. Rushbrook and the children were not suffered to appear before him: they were, however, supplied with every requisite for making a genteel appearance, and accompanying the regiment (again ordered abroad) with comfort.
Soon after their departure, Sir Geoffry sunk into a state of insensibility, from which no hopes of his ever recovering could be entertained. The situation was propitious to the designs of Lady Greystock: none but creatures of her own were admitted to his chamber.—An attorney was sent for, who had often transacted business for her, relative to her affairs in Ireland; and a good bribe easily prevailed on him to draw up a will she dictated, similar to that before made in her favour. The baronet was raised in her arms, whilst the attorney guided his almost lifeless hand in signing it; and two clerks set their names as witnesses. Sir Geoffry expired almost immediately after this scheme was executed.
Rushbrook’s friend, who had been appointed to act for him, if this event took place while he was abroad, now appeared. A will found in Sir Geoffry’s cabinet was read, by which it appeared Mr. Rushbrook was his sole heir. The exultation of the peruser, however, was of short continuance; her ladyship’s attorney appeared, and declared the will was rendered null, by one of later date, he had drawn up in Sir Geoffry’s last moments by his express desire. Consternation and surprise pervaded the mind of Rushbrook’s friend; he saw the will was too well attested for him to dispute it; yet he suspected foul play, and lost no time in communicating his suspicion to Rushbrook.
Her ladyship settled her affairs most expeditiously, and returned with delight to her native country, after a very long absence from it. Most of her near relations were dead, but she had many distant ones, who prompted by the knowledge of her large fortune, eagerly 211 reminded her of their affinity, and vied with each other in paying her attention. This was extremely pleasing to her ladyship, who was fond of pleasure at other people’s expense. For herself, she had laid down rules of the most rigid economy, which she strictly adhered to. From the many invitations she received, she was seldom a resident in her own house: she judged of others by herself, and ascribed the attentions she received to their real source, self interest, which she laughed secretly to think she should disappoint.
She was remarkable (as Miss Kilcorban informed Amanda) for asking young people to do little matters for her, such as making her millinery, working ruffles, aprons and handkerchiefs.
The tranquillity she enjoyed for two years after Sir Geoffry’s death, was a little interrupted by his nephew’s arriving from America, and commencing a suit directly against her, by the advice of his friends and some eminent lawyers, on the supposition that the will, by which she inherited, had been made when his uncle was in a state of imbecility.
Lady Greystock, however, received but a trifling shock from this; she knew he had no money to carry on such an affair, and that his advocates would lose their zeal in his cause when convinced of the state of his finances. On being obliged to go to London to attend the suit, it immediately occurred that Amanda would be a most pleasing companion to take along with her, as she would not only enliven the hours she must sometimes pass at home, but do a number of little things in the way of dress, which would save a great deal of expense.
Amanda, on the first proposal of accompanying her, warmly opposed it: she felt unutterable reluctance to leave her father, and assured him she would, by exerting herself, prove that a change of scene was not requisite for restoring her cheerfulness. Fitzalan knew her sincerity in making this promise, but he also knew her inability of performing it; his happiness he declared depended on her complying with his request: he even said his own health would probably be established by it, and during her absence he would partake of the amusements of the country which he had hitherto declined on her account. This assertion prevailed on her to consent, and immediate preparations were made for her journey, as the invitation had not been given till within a few days of her ladyship’s intended departure. As she went to Holyhead, Fitzalan determined on sending 212 Ellen to her parents, till Amanda returned from England, which determination pleased Ellen exceedingly, as she longed to see her family, and tell them particulars of Chip. As the hour approached for quitting her father, the regret and reluctance of Amanda increased: nor were his feelings less oppressive, though better concealed: but when the moment of parting came, they could no longer be supprest; he held her with a tremulous grasp to his heart, as if life would forsake it. On her departure, the gloom on his mind seemed like a presentiment of evil; he repented forcing her from him, and scarcely could he refrain from saying they must not part.
Lady Greystock, who in every scene, and every situation, preserved her composure, hinted to him the injury he was doing his daughter by such emotions, and mentioned how short their separation would be, and what benefits would accrue to Amanda from it.
This last consideration recalled to his mind instantly composed him, and he handed them to her ladyship’s chariot, which was followed by a hired chaise, containing her woman and Ellen; he then sighing her a last adieu, returned to his solitary habitation to pray, and in spite of all his efforts, weep for his darling child.
Amanda’s tears streamed down her pale cheeks, and never did she experience a pang of such sorrow as that she felt when, the chaise descending a hill, she caught the last glimpse of Castle Carberry.
She perceived, however, that her ladyship had no relish for a gloomy companion, and therefore endeavoured to recover her spirits and enter into conversation.
Lady Greystock had a number of friends in that part of Ireland, and therefore never stopt at an inn.
“I always, my dear,” said she to Amanda, “make use of the friendship professed for me, and thus endeavour to render the great road of life delightful.”
They arrived the third day in Sackville-street, where her ladyship had a house, and two days after embarked for England. They slept the first night they landed at Holyhead, and the next morning pursued their journey.
in either of these characters, he was certain,
text has certian,
one of later date, which he had drawn up
text has which,
Lord Mortimer had, in reality, departed with sentiments very unfavourable to Amanda
The dejection of Amanda gradually declined, as the idea of seeing Lord Mortimer again revived.